“Hello...Is this Mr. Sagar Verma’s residence..? This is police and we have an emergency here.” There was a strong voice on the other side of the phone. “Yes…sspeaking.”Mrs. Verma was startled at the sudden ring of her landline phone. She checked the digital wall clock hanging in her king size bedroom. It was around 3:17 a.m. and Mr. Verma had not returned yet. She had tried his cell phone numerous times by now, which was not reachable since the last three and a half hours. She had something important to tell him; in fact nothing could be more urgent right now.
“Hello…Are you there? Actually… we have found a body …with the identity of err... Mr. Sagar Verma…we checked the driving license that was found in his wallet. Madam, I would like you to come over to the police station right now...You need to identify the body.” Inspector Gaikwad gave a sigh of relief as he finished. It was never easy to break these kind of news.
“What??! What are you saying?? Have you lost your mind…That must be someone else.. Sagar… Sagar has gone out of station inspector….He is not in the town…He…He..was supposed to…..” Anaita pounced on the inspector. This was the even harder, to convince the aggrieved and to face their pointless arguments. “Madam.. you might be right, err.. but please just for the sake of clearing my doubt, can you just come and give your confirmation by not identifying the body. We will be very grateful madam. You understand it’s my duty. Please madam. It’s a request.” He had to use all types of tactics.
“Ok. Ok. I will take half an hour inspector.” Anaita slammed the damn phone. She went to the wash basin, just realizing that she was trembling. She splashed the cold water on her face…. No..No …this can’t be true….I will just go and not identify it…yes that’s it…its easy…not identify the body….She changed, took the car keys…she stopped before her son’s bedroom…he was finally asleep…the sleeping pill had worked.
Anaita drove very slow…as if something very bad was waiting for her at the other side… She didn’t want to reach there. However, the car reached there in forty five minutes.
The inspector was waiting for her. “Show me the body inspector.” Anaita spoke with a clear fake audacity. “It was an accident Madam…You know how these youngsters drive nowadays… Their license should be….” “I..I don’t want the details inspector.” Anaita tried to hide her anxiety but failed. Her memory flashed a picture very recent which she badly wanted to forget.
The Inspector stood beside the body. A bag, wallet and a broken I-phone 6 lied beside it that captured Anaita’s attention. She identified them immediately. She fought her tears back….don’t identify…don’t identify….she spoke to herself….The inspector lifted the white cloth on the body….There was absolutely no choice. Anaita had to identify it.
After about an hour…the inspector spoke… “It was a hit and run case madam.” “Didn’t anyone take him to the h…hospital?” Anaita broke down. He then shared the other details to her. Anaita got the shock of her life.
She suddenly stood up and started walking… “I am not feeling well inspector… I think I need to go home ….will come tomorrow….I don’t know what to do…I I just…don’t know…”Her eyes were red and she continued shivering. “I understand madam...my driver will drop you madam… you are not in a position to drive right now.”The inspector signaled his driver. In twenty minutes she was home.
Anaita hurried into her room almost collapsing everywhere her foot landed. She threw herself on the floor. This was the most disastrous day of her life. She knew she didn’t have much time…only this night to mourn…only this night…Her mission would change from tomorrow.
The whole night was a series of scenes running through…of her life with Sagar. Those blissful eighteen years. He would be no longer there….no longer to share her happiness, sadness, fight with, play with….and the list was endless. Everyone had to die one day…but this was certainly not thought of in her wildest of imaginations.
It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He was gone. And, soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half grown mango tree they had planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever.
It was 8 in the morning. Anaita took courage and pulled herself up for the sake of her only son, Ishaan. She slowly came out of her room. Asha bai, their maid had laid the breakfast on the table as usual. But nothing was usual now. She had to be a woman that she was never one till now. She sent Asha bai to the market and rushed in Ishaan’s room. I have to talk to him now.
Anaita slipped into Ishaan’s room and woke him up. The pills had a bit strong effect. Anaita thought as she was waking him up. After about fifteen minutes he was ready for a life changing discussion.
“You don’t worry Ishaan…You trust me ..I will sort this out…You understand …u do right??” Anaita cupped his face in her soft palms. “Mom…no…no...this is not true ….there should be some mistake….i mean….no..”Ishaan’s state was even worse. He was just sixteen.“You have to accept it beta…Now listen to how we are going to deal with it Ishaan.” It was the toughest decision of her life.
At about 11:30 the same morning, Anaita and Ishaan turned up to the police station for the pending formalities.
“Inspector, do you think you will be able to find out about the accident…the hitter?”Anaita seemed nervous. “Well, you see Mrs. Verma, as I informed you yesterday that it was late in the night…and almost no witness as such…but yes, there are two things that was noticed…there was one who happened to witness it from a distance who just got to know which car it was…a BMW X6…and there was something written on the back of the car screen…. ‘DAD’S GIFT” and the number plate was in a particular design…the numbers were in a designer font…a bit different than the usual…Also the way it was hit…the car must be damaged too…we will take our lead from that to start with….we will reach them very soon madam.” Gaikwad sounded pretty confident. Anaita got as much details possible from the inspector. They returned home later in the evening.
Later, they both were in the balcony of her room. Ishaan was either in shock or sleeping, there was no visible other state of his after Sagar’s death. “I know what to do Ishaan. You leave it to me.” Anaita spoke the last sentence and gave sleeping pills to Ishaan. After Ishaan was asleep, she left the home.
After about two hours, she returned home in the midnight. She took double the dose of sleeping pills.
The next day Anaita went to the police station again to get the latest updates on the case. “We got the list of the BMW X6 owners of the city…there are only fifty four of them. We are reaching them out and believe me we will get to them soon.” “What if...if you don’t find the car inspector?” “We will find them Mrs. Verma… trust us…we...”“Yes I… I trust you but what if you don’t?” Anaita sounded impatient. “Well, in that case, we will have to find some other lead…since the car is the major way out…and if we don’t find the car…there will certainly be doubts but we won’t be able to frame them as the culprits without the car….we will have to find a stronger evidence than the car..and it might take some time..I hope you understand….” “Yes …I do…I do inspector. Okay…will take your leave now and please do keep me informed.” The inspector nodded .Anaita took the car keys lying on the table.
Ishaan was staring outside the window with his pale eyes, as if he has lost all the connections with the world. Anaita’s voice was in the background. Are you sure we are not forgetting anything beta? But a larger voice was echoing in Ishaan’s mind. He just nodded his head, unsure of everything around. Here have these parathas Ishaan…you must be hungry right…But he kept staring outside….his mind had turned into a CD player and the CD of that terrible night was stuck inside ,replaying a video constantly. Anaita then fed him with her own hands….everything will be fine Ishaan…trust me…I will take care of everything. It was my mistake….and she started sobbing.
Anaita woke up suddenly hearing a loud bang on the front door. Inspector Gaikwad was at the other side “Where is the car Mrs. Verma?” “Which… which…car?” Anaita spoke coldly as if she didn’t know. “That car which killed Mr. Verma!!” “What rubbish inspector!! Ishaan is sleeping…please can you stop this….he should not hear all this…” “Oh…then we should wake him up…we have come to arrest him.” Gaikwad suspended the handcuff in this hand. Anaita was clean bowled. She didn’t know how to handle this. She was not a professional at this. “But you… you haven’t found the car….have you inspector…then you cannot….”Anaita fumbled. We don’t need to Mrs. Verma” “What do you mean? You said that the car is the prominent evidence…and if you couldn’t find the car…” “I also said we can frame the culprit if we get a stronger evidence. Have a look at this.”Ishaan was out now with the loud noise outside. Anaita was flashed with three photographs.
The first image was Ishaan and Anaita posing outside the BMW X6, with a tagline of –posing with my favorite BMW X6 with mom- @11:01 p.m. Ishaan was pointing towards the brand written at the car. Just above that two words were written on the car screen- “DAD’s GIFT”. Of course the number was written in a particular design confirming the doubt.
The second one was Ishaan on the driving seat and Anaita sitting beside her taking a selfie-with a tagline of-my first drive in the BMW on the express way…@11:17 p.m.
The third one was Ishaan on the driving seat, the mobile outside his side of the window...obviously he was taking a selfie…@11:26 p.m. with no tagline…but the interesting thing is to check the expression on your face Mrs. Verma….seems like you saw something terrible happen…didn’t you? The accident that killed your husband. Yes Ishaan killed his father!! He is responsible for the death of his father.
The BMW car was not found…of course you got rid of it…you did what you could to save your son…but look what these selfies did …Ishaan had uploaded the proofs himself. On checking with all those owners of BMW, we found one with Mr. Ahuja, yes Mr. Verma’s client. Further, he disclosed that he had to go out of India for an urgent work and had left his car with Mr. Verma that day. So that solved the first part of it…and the second was solved by these evident photographs…the same night, same time and same place….now Mrs. Verma do you want to add something before we arrest Ishaan.”
Anaita had nothing to say…she knew she could no longer save Ishaan…she had lost the two pillars of her life at the same time…”I take the responsibility inspector…can you spare him? He is just sixteen…I should not have let him drive…I …I am at fault. He was just an enthusiastic young boy …all his friends drive…so…I should not have given away to his demands….” Anaita was inconsolable now. Ishaan had heard everything. Five minutes later Ishaan was in the police jeep.
After three years
“….so, that night changed our lives and my son landed up in the jail to serve for three long years…so don’t ever let them drive before the eligible age and license...”Anaita concluded her story to one of the thousands of listeners, with a smile on her face. The smile was because it was the last serving day of Ishaan in the jail. He would be out today. She had repeated this story thousands of times after Ishaan had gone to jail. Ishaan had served his punishment in the jail, but what about her. She was equally a partner …she should have had stopped him…had only she could have….but that could not be changed. She took a pledge to go to each and every house in Delhi and give her story as an example so that nobody have to suffer due to carelessness of the young generation….by driving without the correct age and license and not use the phone for useless life taking photos which can only be used to hang the garland or go to jail.”
Anaita stood outside the juvenile jail. He was nineteen now. Tall and all grown up. As they were walking towards the parking, a young boy bumped into him. Without looking towards him, the boy waved a sorry and continued typing in his cell. Ishaan kept looking at him for two seconds and immediately ran towards him grabbing his hand he pulled and threw him on the floor. A speeding car had missed him by a fraction of second. The young boy was unaware that he was walking on the middle of the busy road while his head busy in the phone. He gave Ishaan a hug and thanked him for saving his life. As he was coming back, Anaita’s face was filled with pride, tears rolled down her eyes. It was a lesson well learnt. Now he knew the value of life. Ishaan was a better person now.
She sat in the Starbuck’s café, staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. She had conquered the pain now. She let pain kill pain. She glanced at the digital wall clock hanging beside the modern abstract art paintings by Osnat Tzadok, which enhanced the coarse walls of the cafe. It was 2.57 a.m. The café looked scary without people. ‘It will all be over, just few minutes more to go.’ She pacified herself.
Priya Agarwal was slender with pale brown eyes filled with despair, which matched her hair color. Gazing outside the large glass windows of her own café shop, she was not surprised by the effortless smile on her face that his memories brought to her. That was about 6 years before. She was 31 now.
How happy she was when he had proposed her. Priya had met Rudra Singh at a party via their common friend Nisha Saraiya. Rudra had a muscular body and passionate black eyes. After dating him for two years, she believed his love for her was unadulterated. She had tried to test him faking Cancer, but he stood by her side. That was it when she decided she would marry him. Little did she know she would have to succumb to her father’s fake heart attack act in order to get her married to a rich suitor of their caste.
The clock started buzzing, as it struck 3.00 a.m., aloof of whatever was happening. Certainly time does not care for time. The curve of her lips suddenly took a downturn as the horrifying memories started to pour in.
First few months of her marriage were blank. The ache of separation from her love was apparent. Time will heal everything, she kept telling herself. Sahil Ranka had a personality to die for, but it was the indifference from him that bothered her more. It started to turn hell. He would not come home days and nights together. On interrogation, he would not respond at first, but later he would blow her. She was devastated. Her in laws would do nothing. They would be busy in their artificial life-socializing, partying, etc. Her own parents were helpless. ‘You have to deal with it’, they said. She was trapped.
A year and half passed by traumatizing her every second. One night, she was half asleep, when she heard the latch of the bedroom door open. Mere sight of her husband sent shivers to her brain, blocking it to send any signals further, as if she were brain dead. She was in her white satin night gown, with white net and lace work around the neck. His eyes were heavy, revealing the number of drinks he had gulped down. The stench of alcohol ushered in the room in a fraction of second. Priya got frantic at his state and stood there bewildered. He plodded towards her as if she were a chunk of jaggery and he, the Red ant. For the next few minutes, Priya had turned into a stone-with no emotions. As he forced himself on her, she laid there lifeless. Eleven months later, she gave birth to a baby boy, Aayan. She was gifted the ‘Starbucks’ and paid off.
Her love for Aayan was baffling. His birth was out of force and not love. She would sometimes wonder whether Aayan deserved a mother like her, but she could not recover what happened that night. It was a marital rape- but did she have the guts to file a case against him? No. He was too powerful. No one would entertain her. She kept mum.
Aayan was two years old now. He was at Priya’s parent’s place that day. Usually, Sahil would be away-in business meetings, pubs, to the other bitches …she didn’t care, but surprisingly he was home that day. She had just left but had to come back because she forgot her cell at home. She heard Sahil speaking to someone on the phone. She eavesdropped inadvertently, while searching her phone. She was perplexed as she heard him speak Spanish, “chick and adios”, which meant “girl and bye”. Luckily she had learnt basic Spanish in her college. She couldn’t understand the rest as she had forgotten most of it. ‘So the bastard needs an imported one now!’ She frowned.
Priya found serenity at the café. As the day passed by, she saw lovely couples and families laughing together. This day could never be a reality for her. The couple on the side table was so much in love that the hot chocolate on the table was unattended since it took birth. She could see her reflection in that girl. ‘Only if Rudra was here….’ She was forced to go in a trance. She could not hold her tears back. That time was over. Unwillingly she toddled towards home, recalling the morning ’Spanish’ episode.
Priya was surprised to see Sahil’s car in the parking. ‘He is at home this hour?’ It was 7.00 p.m. She came upstairs to their penthouse on the 11th floor of “the Paradise” at Cuffe Parade. He was at the bar. Something was fishy. Priya felt her woman instinct overpowering her. But she felt petrified to meddle in his business. Sahil was unaware about Priya’s presence in the house. ‘Saab was at home the whole day’, her full day maid said. ‘Let him be why I should be bothered.’ Priya went to have a bath. Two minutes under the shower, she heard Sahil locking the bed room from inside. His phone was on the speaker as he shaved his beard. ‘Spanish again!’ Priya wondered. The voice from the other side said “Tenemos a las chicas de la nave antes de la medianoche de manana. Adios” She had a premonition that something was wrong. She made no further noise. She bathed perspiration till Sahil had left the room. Grasping for breath, she came out.
Priya tried to be out of it but couldn’t help. ‘Ok, the only way to find out is to check his phone if there are any messages related to it. If none, I will back off immediately.’ But how? She had an idea. But if it doesn’t work she would be in grave danger. She needed a confirmation. She went to check where Sahil was. He was at the bar again. The daily maid was rushed out for an errand. His phone was lying on the bar table. She waited till he had to attend the natures call, then she pounced on the phone. With a sigh of relief she checked the cell. ‘Damn it….password.’ Suddenly she remembered the little red diary in which he stored all his passwords. He had asked her to check before. God bless him for that. “Holy crap…there is no password for the month of May. He must have forgotten to store it.’ She trembled. Was it a sign? May be there was nothing wrong. Was it all in her mind? She could take 5 chances off which two were taken. Three left. She studied the previous passwords for a minute and was about to give up when, it struck her. She jumped with joy. There was a pattern in which the passwords were crafted. She had two options. One had to be right, if she understood the pattern correct.
MAY- had to be either 1905 or 0519.
Priya typed 1905. It didn’t unlock. 0519. Click...Unlocked. It was a combination of the month and the date in the descending order. This was no achievement. Sahil would come to know any moment that the phone is missing. She had to check the messages faster than the racing horse. That was the task. Priya quickly checked them. “Hello tunes, stock broker, darling!! some bitch….ummm..here….a message in Spanish.”
“Tenemos a las chicas de la nave antes de la medianoche de manana. La demanda es mayor. Estan dispuestos a pagar mas. Adios.”
Attached to it were 15-20 pictures of young girls. Sahil had not come yet. She captured a photo of that message in her phone quickly and placed the phone again.
Priya quickly browsed the internet and translated the message. She was flabbergasted on finding out the translation. The screen flashed-we will have to ship the girls by tomorrow midnight. The demand is increasing and they are ready to pay more. ‘So this was it…he is involved in sex-trafficking!! That son of a bitch!! He is involved with the mafias.’ Till now she was a victim of domestic violence. Her marriage was on rocks, may be like many other marriages. Priya didn’t expect anything out of him. After Aayan she had nowhere to go, so she was bearing the ordeal. But this was too much to gulp down without a scar. Her husband was a criminal. Her eyes started raining blood. Priya was losing her mental state. Her heart started palpitating faster. She would break down any moment. To call the police and inform would be useless because of Sahil’s strong connections. Her life and Aayan’s would be in danger. Her conscience didn’t let her live with a criminal. ‘If he comes to know that I know, he will get me killed too.’ She sighed. There was only one way out. It was decided.
She was wearing a blue and white silk dress with a chiffon white dupata. She went to the kitchen. Took a sharp knife. Hid it under her blue silk scarf, took the keys of her car and the Starbucks café. It was 1.30 a.m. then.
The digital clock at the Starbucks displayed 3.17 a.m. now.
Dr. Nisha stormed into the Starbucks. She screamed “Priya!! What made you….!!! Oh my God!! What is so wrong….that…that …” Dr. Nisha discovered her as blood was pouring slowly from her left hand wrist. It was twenty minutes since she had attempted suicide. By now, Priya had changed her position from sitting to laying down with her legs upwards. She signaled the doctor to help her. To help her against all the odds to make her live. The doctor examined the cut. Thankfully it was horizontal and thin. May be she didn’t actually wish to die. She cleared the blood and tightly bandaged her wrist with her dupatta which changed its color to red now, so that blood would stop flowing. Her condition was not critical. She could be saved.
Dr Nisha took her to her clinic which was nearby, gave her the correct medications and sleeping pills so that she would go to sleep peacefully. She took her to her home.
The next morning, as Priya woke up, she explained Nisha everything. She started weeping uncontrollably. Dr Nisha understood that the matter was grim. But she could not help asking her as to what made her call her if she had actually attempted suicide? Priya said “I could no longer bear the pain, so I cut the wrist, I went into a spell; the first minute was very peaceful and happy while it turned ugly later. In the beginning I felt as if I was cut from all the sufferings. I will no more have to deal with it. They will all realize tomorrow when they see my body. As soon as I thought about it….I pictured my son Aayan, I could see the faces of those young girls whom I could have saved. I realized if I die, nothing will change- those girls will be sent to a life sentence outside prison, Sahil would remarry and Aayan would get a another mother. What will I gain if I die? Two minutes of silence, that’s it! How stupid of me. So, I messaged you to come and save me. You gave me a new life Nisha.”
“So what is your plan now?” Nisha spoke as she sipped her coffee. “I have the information about the girls, but I don’t trust the police.” Priya said. “You don’t worry about the police.” I know someone who will help us. Dr Nisha dialed a number and he was at her residence in the next half an hour. Priya was astonished to see Rudra. Rudra was working as a crime reporter in the Times of India group. She could not believe her eyes. He was there standing. His eyes glowing as ever. She reprimanded her for having left him. Dr Nisha broke the air of silence “Ok. So, let’s save the girls first. We have ample time later for the romance.”
Rudra was fed the required information. He had connections with some trustworthy policemen. Priya was unconsciously glowing with joy. Rudra explained his plans to all. All were good to go. But Priya had to be at her house first.
At around 11.30 p.m, Sahil started leaving, only to find his car’s tyre punctured. He had no choice but to hire a cab. Dr. Nisha and the police men were in Tavera. Within a minute, Dr Nisha and Priya got a message on phone about the destination-Nahavasheva Shipyard. As Sahil reached the destination, he paid off the cab and went ahead. A tempo arrived in no time. The driver was black and hefty. The ship crooned as it was ready to sail. Dr. Nisha and Priya met each other half a kilometer away from the destination. The driver opened the gate and one by one beautiful young girls stepped down. Sixteen. Priya counted. They were signaled to board the ship.
It was the time. Rudra, Priya, Dr. Nisha and the policemen leaped at them. The policemen caught hold of Sahil and the driver. Others protected the girls. Sahil stood there astounded and puzzled. How did they ever come to know?? Sahil mumbled “I am not involved…I..I..am pulled into all this. I …have no clue…” Priya came forward and slammed on his face the photo of the message that she had taken from his phone. Sahil was dumbfounded. He shouted “Priya, you will have to pay for this.” And the policemen arrested them.
The police asked out of curiosity, “How did you know the destination?” Rudra smiled “Priya had punctured his car and we paid other cabs off so that only one cab with me as driver would be available for hiring.” The police men gave them a salute and left.
Nisha knew exactly what was to be done now. She left with the policemen.
They both looked into each other’s eyes without uttering a word. Suddenly Priya took her eyes away; Rudra took her face in his hands. Priya quivered ‘Are u still….?” Rudra smiled and finished the rest…’Yes. I am still single.”
To this they both shared the laugh like never before. They secretly got engaged by sealing their lips.
Indeed Priya was blessed with a second life.