Life at Bhabiji’s


Double click! Double click! Double click!

“Such beautiful fabrics.” Said Pallavi.

A boutique owner in posh Greater Kailash pocket 1, Pallavi Bansal was in her mid-forties. She was fine-looking woman, slightly plump, and full of bling in her clothes, and in her jewellery. She loved decking up.

She was wife of Mr. Pramod Bansal, owner of Bansal & Sons. Based in the industrial area of Ghaziabad, the company dealt in gear shafts and EOT cranes. Bansals were all about getting orders, delivering orders, marrying off daughters with grand weddings and executing Jagran once a year during Navratri.

All Bansals in the family had similar built up – short height, dusky, signature Baniya belly, and shrewd eyes well blended with money mindedness. Life of Bansals was like this. Pallavi was nothing different but just that there was a sudden wave of empowerment hitting her. Ever since she got married at 19, she never thought of doing anything constructive other than laying 2 kids. Now in 20s, her son and daughter were pursuing higher studies. Life of Pallavi was sorted.

But, time was no more getting killed on its own. Neither was Pallavi having any job. She never had any. Guess she never pursued any degree after intermediate. She had the best of her life before and after marriage.

Renaissance then! Sudden rush of authorization!

Thus came Bhabiji’s Boutique – Designer Wear an year ago. Meticulously procured from different parts of North India, Pallavi got the best fabrics she could assemble. Fluorescent coloured walls were echoing potential of the boutique. Mannequins were set up, Saint Gobain glasses were put, designs and prints of all choices were installed in a queue like they waited for someone. Chotu was hired to put a full stop to all the preparations. He was specifically asked to wear an inch tape around his neck to make ‘always-ready-to-measure’ feel. A 22 year old boy, Chotu worked previously in Shahpur Jaat for a wedding themed boutique. Thin boy with beard growing irregularly, Chotu had two pairs of shirts and pants and three t-shirts but a fancy Chinese smartphone.

He was a caretaker cum local designer cum masterji cum client persuader cum everything after Pallavi at Bhabiji’s.

Clientele was limited but seemed glossy. A handful was seen during the house warming ceremony and for a few months after that.  Some high-class women did come who were fancied temporarily and bought a few cloth pieces. Mr. Bansal and the kin were last seen at the boutique some months ago. Daughter had made a Facebook page, a Twitter account and an Instagram profile. Needful was done.

“What did you find now?” Asked Chotu while tracking flies during his customary cleaning process.

“These young fashion bloggers I tell you. They wear all dresses. Lot of old world charm coming up.” Said a swooned Pallavi while fiddling with her Instagram account on iPhone.

Just when both were talking on recent fashion trends emerging on Instagram, a classy lady entered Bhabiji’s with her Gucci’s first copy bag. She was fat, fair and fake. She entered like a gush of heavy water and quickly submerged in the apparels that hanged in line.

Adjusting her pearls, Pallavi gestured Chotu to go after her. Chotu wore his inch tape hurriedly and decided to transform into a guide. Pallavi pretended to be busy while she wasn’t at all.

“Yes! Madamji, how can I help you?” Inquired Chotu.

“Umm! Something for a wedding?” Answered the lady.

“Oh yes! We have just got a new collection for the upcoming wedding season. Florescent is in.” Guiding light Chotu was in his full form.

“Oh 5K, pretty economical. I got some stuff from my last UK trip. Spent a fortune.” Said the lady while reading the price tag.

“Han. Mehenga hoga. Hmm.” Murmured Chotu analysing the names she mentioned.

The fair and fake lady toyed with the fabrics with no intention of buying. Pallavi observed everything in utter and helpless silence. Chotu walked behind the lady like an innocent pup.

Pallavi suggested, “Did you find us on Instagram? We have our account and we keep showcasing our latest collection. I have been so busy with my clients all this while, I couldn’t share our Kalamkari products. You see, clients keep buzzing me for my supreme quality material.”

The lady nodded in affirmation and continued walking.

Just when the fair and fake lady zeroed-in on an orange colour cloth material, her phone buzzed. She picked the call and said, “Oh! You have come. Yes, yes, Bhabiji’s is the landmark. I am coming out.”

She left in hurriedness and the orange fabric lay as it is.

“Oh not again!” Responded Chotu in a disappointment.

————————————————————————————————————————————

Life at Bhabiji’s was this – minimalistic visitors and rare clients. Pallavi was putting her relentless efforts in finding the most preferred assortment of fabrics and apparels of different designs. She handpicked ‘stuff’ as she often addressed the material like that. To accelerate the engine of sale, she did everything:

Discounts

Home delivery service

Gift wrapping

 Cloth material of all prints

Chotu did the rest. He did the cajoling part.

Pallavi was super social, she knew how to brag her outlet and she least understood how it got the reception. She often strategized with Chotu on how beautiful she could make her outlet or do something with the mannequins. And like that, her day used to end in Bhabiji’s with just words of wisdom.

 

It was just another day at Bhabiji’s  and the ever seemingly busy Pallavi arrived at her boutique.

“You got hurt again Madamji.” Inquired concerned Chotu.

“Oh! I tripped at the edge of the door.” Answered Pallavi, while trying to hide her wound in the right toe.

“Acha!” Curious yet calm Chotu answered.

The day passed by in aimlessly roaming around the boutique. Chotu cleaned the place at regular intervals and brought food for himself and Pallavi.

The day ended just like another day. Nothing in glory! No clients! And thus, no show.

 

Another day arrived.

Another bruise appeared and this time way more noticeable.

“Madamji, where did you trip today?” Asked Chotu.

“Don’t ask. I didn’t realise while walking. there was a stool in front. I tripped and fell flat. Got hurt in the forehead.” Explained Pallavi while sorting the packets of her new fabrics.

“I see.” Chotu retorted in slight anxiety.

Just when the conversation was going ahead, a young and pretty woman entered.

Sunglasses and make-up laden, the woman was assisted with someone, may be that was her sister.

“I am getting hitched in a matter of week. Bought nothing. I want to buy some stuff quickly, enough to manage the ceremonies.” Said the young girl while looking around.

Delights and smiles could be seen on the faces of Chotu and Pallavi. Both looked seemingly ecstatic as if flowers had blossomed on a barren land. How glorious life looked now!

Without wasting anymore time, Chotu got seats for the guests. Pallavi sat with her notepad on the things they needed. Bhabiji’s was never this busy.

“Let me get you something from our Patt silk collection.” Pallavi said as she got up and moved towards the shelves dedicated to silk.

The phone buzzed.

“Chotu, pick the phone. Your sahab must have called, tell him I am busy.” Pallavi commanded as she continued shuffling the sarees.

Chotu touched the call button and even before he could say “Hello”, there came a loud reply:

“Repay the loan I have given you for your stupid boutique. No profits ever since you have opened. If one more time you ask for money, I will beat you black and blue just like yesterday. Hope you haven’t forgotten? Stay at home, I say.” The brash call got cut instantly.

Just a few eye conversations at Bhabiji’s and nothing more.

 

 

 

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Gajodhar’s just another day


Paddling with full force, Gajodhar took a U turn, balanced his isometric strength and moved his rickshaw toward the DLF Mall of India. “Bhaiyya! Stop at the gate number 1 please”. Said one of the two ‘just-out-of-Instagram’ girls sitting on his rickshaw. The sun rays were sharp and piercing, like a bunch of needles penetrating deep inside human flesh. Men, women and annoying children were passing by. Busy populace!

The upscale girls got down from the vehicle in their frocks and heels. Almost tripping on the uneven road, one of the girls handed over Rs.30 to Gajodhar. He wiped off his sweat and took the money. As the girls continued their fluctuating ramp walk, Gajodhar called from behind, “Madam, only 30 rupeeeej? 50 madam, pleeejj.”

“What bhaiyya! you are asking for too much.” Said one of the ‘just-out-of-Instagram’ girls.

“Madam, 50!” Gajodhar demanded.

“Sorry! It takes only 30. We will not pay a penny more.” Said one of the girls and the small brigade continued the ever fluctuating walk.

Gajodhar frowned, he wanted to argue a little more but there were more people in the audience and lesser participants. There was no scope for impromptu debate performance. He looked at those girls walking toward an outlet, that had a mammoth banner.

It read – ‘ZARA sale! Get a dress worth 5000 at just 4999.’

One of those ‘just-out-of-instagram’ girls exclaimed, “Oh! Sale. Such bliss.”

Zara – 1 Gajodhar – 0

——————————————————————————————————————————–

Gajodhar Dhasa, a thin man in his early forties had come from Chapra in Bihar several years ago to Noida. Nestled in a slum area near sector 18, Gajodhar had been pulling rickshaw for several seasons now. Average looking, dusky, moustache laden, sheepishly smiling sometimes and over-smiling, Gajodhar often felt, little bit of extra money could make his life better. Just a little extra.

His rickshaw would be located mostly at the gate number. 02 amongst several other rickshaw walas. Pedestrians came mostly from that gate and they would call for public transport. He would often claim to the fellow rickshaw walas while waiting for his passengers, “When I have an extra money, I will go to that fancy restaurant with my kin.” He would point out at 5 star hotel – The Unison Hotel, right next to the DLF Mall of India. His fellows would chuckle in the same rhythm like that of bobble heads for some time.

And he would only answer one thing, “Unimaginable things happen when you dream”.

——————————————————————————————————————————–

Sharp and piercing sun rays were mellowing down, sun was setting in steadily. People were hastily walking, driving for their cabs or waiting near the mall. It was just another day for service men, daily wagers, elites and the shopkeepers.

Gajodhar at gate number.02 was resting on his rickshaw. He was busy digging his nose and seemingly looked disappointed at the performance of his fingers. Just when big blob was on its way, a young man came to him.

He asked, ” Chaloge? See this address and drop me here.”

Gajodhar quickly rubbed his painstaking hand on his dhoti and craned his head at the small piece of paper to understand the gibberish. Scratching his head, he successfully pretended for straight half a minute and sheepishly smiled. The young man quickly got it. He said, “Oh! OK! Let me read it out to you.”

Universe-1 Gajodhar-0

It is real!


 

syria
Pic courtesy – CBS News

“50 children died in a chemical attack in Syria – Oh! How sad!” Meera read the headlines of a leading newspaper and flipped to other pages. She then went to the vending machine and got herself a cup of Latte. Meera and her colleague, Liza later fiddled with the supplementary piece, which had colorful pictures of celebrities rejoicing. Both the women had a small session of chat on why so and so actor ditched his girl. It was their daily customary ritual to sit in the cafeteria for a cup of coffee before commencing to work.

 

The day was going on really well – Meera was handling client calls, attending meetings and gossiping with colleagues during lunch. It was a usual day. Just when it was time for evening coffee, suddenly Meera felt a slight shudder. In no time, she realized everything was shaking around her.

“EARTHQUAKE GUYS!” – A colleague from nearby cube screamed his heart out.

In a matter of seconds, the teams left their seats and ran for their lives. Meera pulled Liza and went out of the office. As the entire office population ran towards the campus area, Meera and almost everybody hastily called their families. Meera called her mother, “Run ma, run! Earthquake. Go out to the park”.

After ten minutes, it seemed everything was all right. All people in the office felt a sigh of relief and after sometime, they all went back to their respective seats.

The news said, “Richter Scale measures 3.0, not massive.”

Liza, “Did you ask your parents to go out Meera? I called mine. They are fine.”

“Thank god! Everything is fine. God! I went nuts!” Meera felt highly relived as the Earthquake was over and the fact that her parents were fine.

As the day was ending, Meera thought of having a cup of coffee with Liza.

Both the women sipped through hot coffee and shared their concerns about why Earthquakes were becoming so frequent in their region.

While Meera held her favorite coffee mug in one hand, her another hand again picked up the newspaper.

“50 children died in a chemical attack in Syria – It is real!” Sighed Meera as she felt a lump in her heart.

Janani’s Pride


Part 1

It was a busy day at TVC Bureau and Meera was jetlagged between congratulatory messages and emails. Her print and online coverage on Samastipur children was a huge success. Everybody read it and felt it was covered keeping in mind every detail and most importantly welfare of the children.

“Great coverage, eh! Congrats.”  Said, Rahim, Meera’s colleague and a well acclaimed reporter at TVC Bureau who handled political news.

“Hey thanks! How have you been?” Asked Meera

“Well! Nothing much. You see politics, same old pit of dung – politics.” Answered a cynical Rahim.

“But you love politics, isn’t it? You specialize in that.” Said Meera

“Ya! Like always Meera! Quite an interesting pit it is than development communication. You know better than clicking pictures of children and their leaked nostrils.” Rahim cleverly commented back.

“Oh I see! You just saw their nostrils it seems and didn’t hear what they said.” Meera didn’t take a moment in giving back either.

“By the way, Jatin was calling you. Please meet him.” Rahim left the room in a hush hush manner.

“Thanks!” Meera chuckled.

Part 2

Jatin, chief editor at TVC Bureau was a lean man with a French beard, handsome and wise. A middle aged man, Jatin was widely recognized for his dedication towards his work and agility.

Meera knocked the door, “May I come in Jatin?”

Jatin whimsically answered, “Big people don’t need permission, do they?”

Meera said, “Stop pulling my leg. You called me it seems.”

Jatin said, “Yes, I did. There is something much more fascinating thing waiting for you. I am sure you are the ideal one who will do justice to the project.”

Meera became curious and asked, “Spill the beans please. Quick!”

Jatin said, “Well Meera, how about covering an aging hooker?”

Meera slightly surprised, “What?”

Jatin, “There is no rocket science to understand this Meera. Through our resources, we got to know about Janani. She is over 75 years now and is not doing too well in her life. Her health is deteriorating. I want you to write a story on her and even make a documentary. Trust me, it’s going to be one of a kind project.”

Meera answered, “I understand. Sounds interesting. Let me give it a shot.”

Part 3

As per the information given to Meera from TVC, she finally decided to go on the “Janani hunt”. The team involved Meera, Rahul, the camera man and their driver. They were told that Janani resides in Behlam, a town near Nidaam, a city in Telangana.

“Looks like one dingy place. Google Maps don’t work here it seems.” Rahul said while fiddling with his smartphone.

“We will get through.” Meera responded calmly while they drove to Behlam.

The driver coaxed, “Madamji, the place is not very good. Please be safe.”

“Why?” Asked Meera

“Bhelam is mostly populated by hookers, old, young and abandoned. Well to do people don’t come here.” The driver answered.

“Hmm! That I could easily guess. Let’s see what is in our store.” Meera sighed.

The car got some jerks through the uneven roads and slowly took way towards the residential area of Behlam.

“Madamji! Car won’t go beyond this. The lanes are too narrow and it will only cause damage to it.” Said the driver.

Meera looked visibly annoyed while Rahul arranged his equipment.

“It’s ok Meera. The place anyway doesn’t offer too much infrastructure.” Rahul encouraged Meera.

“Yeah. I know.” Meera looked at the driver to see if he was joining in.

“Madamji, shall I come with you? Or should I take care of the car here?” Asked the driver

“You take care of the car.” Commanded Meera

The due graduated steadily towards the inner lanes. Small huts, common toilets and underprivileged population dominated the region. There were accented pavilions with torn curtains, they were made to make room for privacy. It looked like they were mostly one rooms sets having more than five people living in each. Kids were roaming and playing with tyres and it was obvious they didn’t go to school.

Women clad in sarees mostly were busy filling water or washing clothes. They wore heavy makeup that was unlike for the environment. Meera struggled to make way towards Janani’s home.

Rahul and Meera, both spoke to local people to track the address.

People gathered to see both of them and wondered what brought city people to their place. While there was mild commotion in the crowd, Meera voraciously searched for Janani’s home. Rahul meanwhile spoke to people and tried to match older women’s faces with the picture he had in his phone.

“Look at that green door, shall we knock?” Asked Meera

“Did Janani call you from there?” Rahul answered in a cynical manner.

“C’mon! The address says near Bihaal’s well and there is this well. We haven’t found any so far.” Justified Meera.

“Ok! Let’s see if we can find her.” Said Rahul.

They knock the door and find some young woman coming up. They ask about Janani’s whereabouts but somehow do not fetch any information. The due tried to look out at the places nearby and the people also could not give any concrete answer.

They walk another few kilometers to check if they missed out on the exact address. In the peak hours of afternoon when the sun was bright, it was getting difficult to walk anymore.

Rahul and Meera were tired and wanted to get back with no results in hand. Both felt disappointed with zero outcome and also, dangling deadline.

“We need to work on the address again Meera, I guess, we screwed up there big time.” Said Rahul while wiping out sweat.

“I second you.” Answered Meera.

Part 4

It was a day later when Rahul and Meera decided to go on hunt again. This time, they took extra information regarding the landmarks and the location. While last time they went to the Bihaal’s well and found someone else’s house, this time they decided to take the nearby lane and check the place.

As they entered a very narrow lane, a pungent smell made the search tough. Rahul and Meera covering their faces moved forward. While Rahul spoke to people, he realized many refused to even help.

Right across the lane, next a forgettable well, there stood a dilapidated house. Looking at it, one could figure out, no one maintained it for several seasons.

Both of them without a second thought decided to give the house last shot.

After knocking for several minutes, the door was finally opened. An older woman probably in late seventies who struggled to walk was finally at the threshold. Hair almost white, she wasn’t much tall but was fair like peach. Through her wrinkles, her expressive eyes curiously scanned Rahul and Meera. She was not in her best of looks and it seemed she did not have too many clothes either.

“Hello! We are from TVC Bureau.” Informed Rahul.

“Hmm!” Confused Janani looked at them.

“Janani? Right? We have come to interview you.” Rahul tried to convince her.

“Are you sure, she is the one?” Murmured Meera

“Yes, she is.” Said Rahul.

“It’s been ages someone visited me.” Said Janani.

Part 5

“We are thankful, you trusted us.” Smiled Meera.

Rahul was looking at the location and trying to set up his camera. While he looked around, he realized the house was not kept well may be because she wasn’t fit enough for the household chores. The curtains were rugged and torn and the floor seemed uneven. There was bedding by the side of one room set, some utensils were kept aside with a gas system and the shelves had some old photos.

“How long have you been here?” Asked Meera

“Don’t remember how many years, I managed to have this small abode long ago from my savings.” Janani answered.

After some brief talks on surroundings, Meera decided to talk to Janani as a person and as a woman. She asked, “Tell us about yourself, we mean YOU! Your life, your childhood, your youth, and everything about you. I will write about you.”

Janani smiled, “ME! No one ever asked about me all these years.”

Meera, “We are all ears. People will read about you.”

Janani said, “People will know about my deeds. But at this stage, I do not bother anything.”

Meera asked, “Time has changed and your voice should go out to the masses. Let the world know what you have been through.”

Janani paused for a while.

She began bearing thin lines on her forehead about her childhood and smiled for a jiffy.

Flashback

Janani was born in a village in Andhra Pradesh. Born to poor parents, Janani was one among the eight children. She never went to school. To beat poverty, her uncle promised a job to her at the age of 13. Little did she and her parents know, she will be sold and will be never seen again in the village.

From there began a new story. She was in a town called Jamna, a modern place for her background. New people everywhere, voluptuous women with heavy make-up roaming around men, dingy lanes, small places to live in and scores of filths.

It was her first day there and she continued to live for next three decades. She was charismatic, men drooled for her. She was the most beautiful of all the women in the vicinity. Her voice, her gait and the persona, everything together made her a woman worth chasing for but the chase was only lust driven. She served several men.

People say her aura was so powerful that once a businessman wanted to marry her. He had almost decided to let go his wife and children for her. Janani on the other hand thought that this time, she is going to have a life of dignity. But, everything remained part of big words. The businessman never turned up and one day he went absconding.

It was her brief marriage that got her some happiness but it was not destined to stay long. Her husband died of excessive alcohol consumption, no one knows the amount of fortune she spender to save him.  Her only son was taken by her relative who promised to give him a good life.

Time passed by and Janani started aging. She wasn’t the most attractive anymore, new girls in the locality had taken the stage. She was the last choice for men now. With the passage of time, she wasn’t healthy either. She caught diabetes and acute spinal ache. People said her smile had lost the charm. Not many knew, she had lost money too and was supposed to lead her life on her own.

Present    

Meera asked, “Your son doesn’t come to see you?”

Janani smiled again, “He comes occasionally and offers me some food. He doesn’t like the place and prefers to come in dark.”

Meera, “Oh! I see.”

Rahul, “How did you manage to have this house?”

Janani smiled way more brightly this time, “Long ago, during my hay days, I knew my beauty and youth will not go in the long run. From my savings then, I got this place. Today, I am living my way in whatever possible form.”

Janani offered some puffed rice to Meera and Rahul. She looked at both of them and answered, “I am doing good”.

Part 6

It was dusk and it was time for Meera and Rahul to bid goodbye. There was lesser light across the lane and both of them switched on their phone lights.

Meera said, “I am going to write about you and share with the world. Let people know the struggles you made and how you overcame them. I promise, people will learn a lot from you especially your smile. I will come back to you with the print copy and the video and show you the fact that you look beautiful still.”

“Can I ask you something?” Meera said.

Janani nodded.

“What makes you smile all throughout?” Meera questioned.

“My pride.” Janani said and smiled relentlessly.

Meera extended some money while saying bye to her and told her she will be coming soon to meet her.

Part 7

“Another hit eh?” Rahim exclaimed.

“May be, maybe not. But a lifelong lesson to live and smile.” Meera answered while she packed her bags.

“Where are you off to?” Questioned Rahim.

“To meet Janani.” Meera smiled and answered.

“Janani? Who?” Asked Rahim.

“I wish, had you read the story.” Meera said.

Part 8

It was another day at Belham. People continued to do their mundane activities and nothing seemed different. Meera and Rahul walked through the same lane and kept looking around to make sure they didn’t confuse with houses.

And there it was, Janani’s house. But it was locked. They looked around to see if Janani was around. They wondered, she wasn’t doing too well, it wasn’t possible for her to walk much.

Rahul went to closest neighbor and asked her whereabouts.

“She passed away sir.” Said the neighbor who didn’t want to reveal too much.

Meera and Rahul gazed at the locked door.

 

 

 

 

The limping girl at NH-64


Part 1

Rajeev always had an inclination to travel alone. Just a backpack and his bike – he knows no world. This time wasn’t anything new to him. He had decided to take a stroll through one of the most isolated highways, NH-64 and in the night! Narrow lanes around the Gandhaari Hills like that of a reptile, the highway is usually steep, and used by truck drivers looking for shortcuts or may be rare travelers who look for an adventurous ride.

NH-64 rarely has lamp posts and eating joints are negligible. So travelers especially bikers eat enough before the ride or keep nibbling while they are driving. Bikers are usually recommended not to stop in the middle to eat or meet nature’s calls until it’s urgent. Such warnings are not given because the place is haunted but because the environment is not fit for people to survive if anything goes wrong. Moreover, the local inhabitants live at a distance so help would anyway arrive late which would make situations worse.

Middle of the night, balmy winds, rustling leaves, mild coolness in the air and that zing of uncertainty in pitch darkness, Rajeev was having the time of his life. Like nature would have it, Rajeev had to meet his call this time. He had been looking for a lamp post for some time and finally found one after 2 hours. He parked his bike near shady light and walked near the bushes.

Just when Rajeev was relieving himself, he saw an image. Near his bike, a half clad woman stooping low, was checking the lights. Usually nerved Rajeev, this time felt shaken. He always researches about places before he goes anywhere. How come this time, he wasn’t much informed? NH-64 was never in news for ghost sightings or did he miss some news of late? The image continued to stroll around the bike, occasionally limping, thumping the ground and dancing. It was a woman that was visible but half nude. The lamp post light was now dim making it difficult to analyze the image. In the checkered lights, Rajeev saw the image limping back into the eternity. In moments, the image was vanished. It was no time to pause and think but to run. Rajeev boarded his bike without looking back once.

Part 2

Headlines on major newspapers were big and wide.

“Decomposed body found of a middle aged woman. Rape suspected.”

“Half naked body found of a woman near Gandhaari Hills.”

“No actions taken yet for the raped woman who was found dead at the Gandhaari Hills.”

“Dude, I am telling you again. What you saw was a ghost sighting of the same woman. Trust me. Man! What major adventure you had ah!” Said Vivek to Rajeev.

“I have hundred times told him not to travel to such places. Who listens to mom after all. There is nothing to encourage here, Vivek.” Exclaimed a concerned Rajeeta, Rajeev’s mother.

“Aunty….”, Vivek murmured but decided to keep quiet.

“She didn’t seem to be a ghost to me but a human.” Said Rajeev looking at oblivion.

“So, tell me you are planning to go there again. Aren’t you?”, inquired a fumed up Rajita.

“No mother, I won’t. Don’t worry. Promise.” Rajeev said with a faded smile to his mother.

“Are you in love with that dancing woman or what?” Asked Vivek.

Part 3

Within no time of the body being found in the Gandhaari Hills, news started floating in the market about the ghost sightings. People especially the truck drivers started coming up with haunting stories of a limping woman.

“We mostly avoid the lane. The place is firstly cold and also not easy to travel through. I did see a woman eating leaves. I didn’t look back and ran for my life.” A truck driver Ramadip was overheard telling fellow mates at a Dhaba.

Rajeev wanted complete detail of the story as it was simply getting inquisitive to him. He spoke to the Dhaba owner that was the only eating joint nearest to the Gandhaari Hills.

“Sir, what do you expect to hear if such disastrous news come to you? Like a woman being raped, killed and thrown in the hills? These are negative energies sir, negative energies. I have suggested the local authorities to make a temple.” Said the Dhaba owner.

While making a small puff in the air, Rajeev asked, “Did you experience anything yourself?”

“Sir, after that incident, we have started closing the Dhaba early and these day vehicles don’t come as earlier. I didn’t see anything but yes, I heard cries of a woman. The volume is clear as water to my ears and they do give a chill down the spine. Do you think, I would want to stay back here?” Answered the Dhaba owner.

“Hmm.” Responded a cold Rajeev.

Rajeev went around the place to a distance to figure out the story in detail. There was numbness in the environment and an uncomfortable silence. Leaves were rustling as usual, there was sunlight which gave light to unknown meadows in the hills and the mountains that gave a disturbing gaze. Things looked incomplete to him like a puzzled riddle.

Rajeev burnt his half puffed cigarette on road and drove back to the town. The nearest town was mahino, a small town with mostly farmers in the population. The place was peaceful, clean and lush green.

Rajeev decided to speak to the local police.

“Sir, we found the body in a decomposed state. We have submitted the file to the city headquarters and we do not have any hands in the case.” Answered local police constable.

“See, I want to look into the detail. Have you inquired about the people involved?”  Asked Rajeev.

“Sir, the case is shut from our town. The girl wasn’t from here. We have other cases to handle too. Please understand. May I know what did she mean to you? Asked the constable.

“A human.” Rajeev answered and came back.

Part 4

Mahino, the town was suddenly in news again after missing report of a woman was filed.

“This case looks older to me. Why is it that it coming to light now?” The head constable asked his team.

“Approximately, 8 days older sir. Actually, the girl’s parents were not willing to come forward. They initially thought she ran away with her lover. But, now they are doubting a case of kidnap.” Answered the junior constable.

“Hahahaha! Looks like, she is already married by now. Check out the nearby places. I doubt, it’s simply a matter of love marriage or something. Youth these days just want to run.” Said the head constable.

Part 5

Headlines flash on TV

“Mysterious death of a woman registered at Gandhaari Hills. No investigation done till now.”

“Another woman found dead in half naked position. Rape suspected.”

“Half clad woman found dead, rape and murder suspected. Serious injury found in one of the legs.”

“Half naked woman found dead. She jumped from one of the cliffs to save her dignity.”

Rajeev sat calm at the news and switched the channels.

Without a blink of an eye, he continued to watch his favorite movie “Cast Away.”

Oh! Silly you!


Part 1

Kapoors were finally on a holiday this time. Finally! Navneel was packing bags along with his family. It was a trip after so many years with dad, mum, sister and her husband. The family was TOGETHER. Navneel was just out ofBarbary-on-Lake-Taupo college and was yet to find out his goals. Though, everybody knew he was game freak and loved being on his phone across the day. The entire day consumed him in playing games, chatting and networking.

Ritu, Navneel’s mother was mostly annoyed with her son’s habit. She would frequently ask him to keep the phone away and socialize. After boarding the flight, Navneel decided to take a nap for an hour till the attendants would allow people to switch on mobiles again.

Part 2

Picturesque New Zealand was here.

Lush green meadows, clear blue sky, birds chirping and scores mountains at various distances, the place had abundance to offer. The travel package all that Kapoors had put in checklist – sightseeing being the primary.

Navneel was on phone. Nayna (Navneel’s sister) was juggling with here attires while her husband fiddled with the DSLR camera. The parents on the other hand decided to eat snacks and leave for travel at the earliest.

“For god’s sake, leave that phone. See the world beta!” Cried Ritu.

“Yea!” Navneel answered with his head down almost piercing the screen.

Part 3

Navneel was still busy in updating his checkins, managing comments, Whatsapping, changing DPs, playing games so on and so forth. Hours and hours, minutes after minutes and days after days, Navneel was updating his virtual friends with what he was upto.

Rest of the Kapoors were on crazy mode. They took deep breathes, laughed like crazy, clicked pictures, basked under the sun and ate fresh fruits. They couldn’t have asked for more.

Part 4

Nayna while boarding their flight back felt sad. She and her husband planned their second trip keeping New Zealand on mind.

“I can’t keep my mind away from those blue waters of Lake Tuapo and those mountains.” Sighed a mesmerized Nayna.

“Mountains? What mountains?” Inquired a curious Navneel.

Everybody flabbergasted at the question.

“Oh! Silly you!” Said Nayna with a complete thwarted look.

 

 

 

 

Picture courtesy – Internet

Road to Salvation


Part 1

Just when Umesh was running down the stairs from one of his branch offices, he heard a huge scream.  Shaken at the volume, he quickly went out to see what had happened.

A young man was lying in a pool of blood. Large crowd surrounded him making the entire street choked as people put their vehicles on side to view the disaster. In next few moments, an ambulance and police jeep had arrived. One of the constables was seen questioning the witnesses and jotting down the notes. Some people were kind enough to put the man in ambulance and call his relatives.

Umesh viewed the entire scenario from some distance. He came to know, a speeding car had hit the young pedestrian. It was being driven by a young boy probably a minor. Some fellow pedestrians could manage to get the car number to the police.

Struck by sudden memory, Umesh felt uneasy and restless. He immediately left the location.

Part 2

One week had passed, Umesh was still struggling with the last week’s accident. Something had hit his mind strong, he knew he had to settle the matter. Umesh decided to find the whereabouts of the victim and reach out for some help. He went to the nearest hospital and police station to learn about the victim.

Name: Rajeev Vishnoi

Profession – Software Engineer

Age: 30 years

Address: Sayog apartments, Vivek Vihar, New Delhi

Hospital: Nexus Hospital

Umesh came to know that Rajeev was still in coma and battling for life. Being the only bread winner of the family, Rajeev’s family was struggling to meet the treatment expenditures.

Umesh quickly made his way to the hospital. It was time for redemption.

Part 3

11 years ago

Plush bungalow, scores of cars and swish infrastructure, Dhimans where known for their horticulture business in the Delhi circuit. Their wealth and high profile lifestyle spoke volumes about them. Umesh was their youngest son. A frivolous 17 years old boy, Umesh was enjoying his life to the fullest. He had just finished his senior secondary exams and it was time to celebrate.

Saturday evening, Umesh had called up his friends and decided to have a bash. A group of five boys was all set to hit the nearest club in a BMW. Umesh knew there is no tomorrow when there is a party. He only knew speed, speed and speed and alcohol.

10:30 in the night, Umesh and his gang decided to go on a long drive to the outskirts of the city. High and carefree, the young men just wanted to have fun.

100km/hr – go go go!

A huge cry – blood – sudden chaos – spot death

A young man was lying in a pool of blood. Large crowd surrounded him making the entire street choked as people put their vehicles on side to view the disaster. In next few moments, an ambulance and police jeep had arrived. One of the constables was seen questioning the witnesses and jotting down the notes. Some people were kind enough to put the man in ambulance and call his relatives.

Umesh and his friends fled the scene in a jiffy.

Part 4

‘A young man of 32 years was hit by a minor in a BMW’, ‘Businessman’s minor son kills a man’ and many more such headlines flooded the newspapers.

Exasperated at the furor in the society, Mr. Dhiman was walking to and fro in his bedroom when Mrs Dhiman entered.

“It’s not the first time Abha! Not the first time.” Exclaimed Mr. Dhiman

“I understand but then he is a kid after all. Let’s put bail application. Everything will be alright. I will ask him to drive carefully next time.” Cajoled Mrs. Dhiman.

“I do not have so much time to simply run after my son and leave my business in a mess.” A furious Mr. Dhiman shouted.

“I am sure, it was just in the heat of the moment when this must have happened. You know Umesh, he doesn’t drive that fast.” Mrs. Dhiman claimed.

“I will send my lawyer and ask him to settle the matter. Guess, some money will go to the victim’s family too. Just see, what all places my hard earned money is going. All thanks to your son.” Mr. Dhiman said while leaving the room.

Part 5

11 years later

Umesh was sitting right next to the ICU cabin in Santosh hospital where the hit and run victim was admitted.

“Thank you so much Umesh ji. You are our savior in disguise.” Said Mr.Vishnoi, father of the victim.

“Please do not thank me. Let me know how else can I help you?” Asked Umesh.

“Had you not paid the fee, I wouldn’t have been able to see our son alive today. I didn’t have enough money. Sonu is our only son.”  Said a tearful Mr.Vishnoi.

“Please do not get weak. I will help you wherever areas possible.” Supported Umesh.

Part 6

A DDA flat situated in Vivek Vihar was Rajeev’s den. He lived with his parents and younger sister. It was a three room set where the furniture and other infrastructure was settled in a synchronized alignment.

Rajeev Vishnoi, the victim managed to recover from his injuries after eight months of chronic treatment and medicines. Umesh stood by the family in these trying times.

Still on bed rest, Rajeev thanked Umesh. The entire Vishnoi family tried their level best to be courteous towards him and treated him like a god.

“I do not know how to thank you, Umesh.” Said Rajeev.

“I would again say, please don’t.” Umesh politely replied.

“I would like to ask you a question.” Said Rajeev.

“Please do.” Answered Umesh.

“Why did you help us? We are strangers to you, isn’t it? Inquired Rajeev.

“Redemption may be.” Umesh patted on Rajeev’s shoulder with a gentle smile.

Umesh left for work after bidding bye to Rajeev and promised to meet him the next weekend.

Part 7

It was middle of the night when Umesh was struggling to sleep. Palpitations kept him awake throughout the night. He wanted to relax and sleep. He stood up and drank a glass of water. His wife sleeping next to him woke up and asked what was wrong with him.

“Nothing Reema, please sleep. I guess business deals are taking a toll on me.” Replied Umesh.

“No, it’s the Rajeev’s case that is keeping you so drained. I don’t understand what made you go to that length and help the family. You didn’t hit him! Did you?” Asked Reema.

“Stop this! It was my duty.” Said Umesh.

“Don’t know what is wrong.” Said an annoyed Reema. She stared at Umesh in search of some answers.

Several moments of silence were witnessed. Receiving no response, Reema lied and went back to sleep.

Part 8

It was just another morning when Reema was making breakfast and she knew Umesh must have gone for his customary morning run. She asked her help to call him.

“Madamji, he is not picking call.” Said Manoj, the help.

“No idea what is happening. Isn’t it late for his work? I know he must have stayed back talking to some society senior.” Complained Reema.

Manoj and Reema continued to work in the kitchen till they heard a huge scream.

Part 9

“Crane manufacturing businessman hit by a minor driver during early morning walk. Driver arrested.”

“Leading businessman killed in a hit and run accident in the early hours of Tuesday.”

“Businessman spot dead in a road accident. Suicide suspected.”

“Businessman killed in an accident. Murder suspected.”

Said the headlines.

 

 

 

The Bobby Pins!


Part 1Forest

Mrs. Rai Bahadur had just tucked some Bobby pins into her bun and was busy getting ready for the feast when suddenly she heard a thud in the backyard.

“Oh! Good lord! These monkeys.” Mrs. Rai Bahadur screeched in shock.

“Madam, please calm down. I will just chase them away.” Said Dyal, a loyal staff of Mrs. Rai Bahadur. He had been serving the Rai Bahadur family for last two decades.

Mrs. Rai Bahadur was known for her radiant beauty, poise and gait in the village of Samantra. Even though her husband, Mr. Rai Bahadur was a highly esteemed zamindaar in the village but his wife always won more hearts of people. It was her grounded colloquial skills, wit and intelligence that made her achieve fame across people of Samantra. People were in awe with the striking beauty and her kindness.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Rai Bahadur were in the early forties blessed with glorious sons. Their age had no effect on their appearance rather they seemed more in love with each passing day.  While Mr. Rai Bahadur seemed to be a strict gentleman who spoke less and minded his own business, his wife seemed softer and more approachable.

It was their sweet and sour relationship that made them a favorite in Samantra.  Once in every year, the couple with their sons Rudra and Abhishek would give free food to the poor in their palace. The feast would follow distribution of clothes and blankets. Both sons were in their early teens and were considered the most well behaved and well brought up children. The family seemed to be a connoisseur to eyes of common people.

It was that feast day today and Mrs. Rai Bahadur was leaving no stone unturned in the preparations. She had ordered the clothes and had checked with cooking preparations.

Just when she felt she was ready, she called Dyal.

“Dyal, I think the monkey left her baby in the backyard. It is crying. Could you just take it and leave it in the woods.” Suggested Mrs. Rai Bahadur.

“Yes, madam! I shall do it.” Dyal answered.

For some reason Mrs. Rai Bahadur felt a lump in her throat.

Part 2

“Sir, it is a dead body in a very bad position. It has bites in several places in the body and the case seems to be just like the previous one.” Said Khempal, a constable from Samantra village while trying to wade off the foul smell and fiddling with his handkerchief.

“So, are you going to take this case again as a matter of animal bite?” Asked a worried Soham Singh towards his fellow officer Vikram.

There followed a detailed discussion on both the bodies found. Soham was a police commissioner at the Samantra police station and while Vikram was of his age but junior by designation. The village of Samantra was vastly known for its fertile land and the dense jungle. Most of the villagers survived on farming and used to reap major profits. They specialized in wheat which was later supplied to other parts of the country. The jungle remained a dreaded center where least people wanted to go. As a matter of fact, the forest of Samantra was famous in North India for its heavy density, tropical climate and the wild animals.

Both the officers were in debate trying to keep their opinions first.

“Instead of debating, we need to get deeper to the case I think.” Suggested Vikram.

“That seems to be much better justification than the ones you have been giving me since the time we have come back.” Said Soham.

“I didn’t aim to offend you but it is quite unusual to believe that if it’s not animal bite then what?” Asked Vikram.

Just when Soham was about to give his point of view, Dr. Rajesh appeared with his reports.

“It’s a human bite.” Said Dr. Rajesh, a forensic officer.

Struck with shock, both Soham and Vikram couldn’t contain their emotions.

“It’s nearly impossible! Why on Earth will a human bite someone like an animal?” Asked an agitated Soham.

“Humans are a kind of animal too.” Answered Dr.Rajesh.

“It’s not a very good time for a joke doctor.” Soham retorted back.

“Peace!” Vikram tried to intervene and calm down both men.

“We have to peacefully handle the case. Four deaths have been reported already.” Vikram tried to explain them.

Part 3

“There seems to be some commotion in the village. Have you tried to get any news about it?” Inquired Mrs. Rai Bahadur.

“Yes! There seems to be some death of a young man in the village. He was bitten by some animal it seems.” Said Mr.Rai Bahadur as he turned another page of his book.

“What? When did this happen? How can you be so calm at this, Rai Saab?” A stunned Mrs. Rai Bahadur reacted.

“What do you expect? Did I let him go in the woods? We have several times alerted villagers not to go near the jungle. Is it my fault?” Mr. Rai Bahadur put his opinion in the best possible manner.

“What about his family? What will happen to them?” Asked a concerned Mrs. Rai Bahadur.

“Are you seriously this worried about that family?” Asked Mr.Rai Bahadur.

“What do you mean? I am definitely concerned. I shall go to meet the family tomorrow.” Answered Mrs. Rai Bahadur.

“As you wish.” Mr. Rai Bahadur replied.

The next morning, Mrs. Bahadur with Dyal and other two staff went to see the bereaved family. She was distressed at the sight and found it difficult to contain pain for the family.

Seeing the mourning mother, Mrs. Rai Bahadur quickly went to her so as to console.

“I am really sorry to hear this. You have to be strong.” Said Mrs. Bahadur.

“I do not know madam, what happened overnight? Everything ended.” Said the inconsolable mother.

“Why did you let him go to the woods? You know there are so many animals there.” Asked Mrs. Bahadur.

“He was telling me for a last few days that he could hear some humane voice. I asked him not to pay attention to it. But he didn’t.” Responded the mother. Just as she said this, she fell unconscious and some of the other members came to support.

“Human??” Shocked Mrs. Rai Bahadur tried to collect herself after hearing this.

“Madam, let’s go back. It’s getting darker. People are here to take care of her.” Dyal tried to comfort Mrs. Rai Bahadur.

Vikram and Soham gave their greetings to her while she left for her palace.

“Did you hear what the mother said to Mrs Bahadur?” Confirmed Vikram.

“Yes, I did. I am perplexed at the reports given by the family.” Answered Soham.

“So am I. In fact, the same thing was said by a relative in the last case. Where do we begin the investigation from?” Vikram asked.

“We need to start from the scratch.” Answered Soham.

“It’s quite difficult to fathom such a case. I have never come across like this.” Said Vikram.

“I think it’s too early to call it a weird case. Until, we do thorough investigation, nothing can be said. Till now, we were either calling it an animal bite case or something done by vultures. But, it doesn’t seem anything either.”  Said Soham.

“Let’s get to the basics then.” Responded Vikram.

Part 4

“These deaths are not natural Rai Saab.” Said Mrs. Rai Bahadur

“What makes you feel so?” Responded Mr. Bahadur

“Police spoke to village people and it seems, the deceased were attracted to some human voice.” Said Mrs. Rai Bahadur

“Are you kidding me? The jungle is dense and no man goes there. We have even restricted any kind of wooden work too. Have you forgotten the lion attack years from now that happened?” Mr. Bahadur

“Yes, we lost one of our staffs in that incident. I don’t want to remember the blood curdling roar.” A terrified Mrs. Rai Bahadur said.

“You even dread to remember that and you call these deaths unusual. This is a simple case of animal attack.” Mr. Rai Bahadur tried to justify.

“But, something hits me bad.” Mrs. Rai Bahadur said.

“You are simply worried and stressed. I think you should rest now.” Said Mr. Rai Bahadur. He helped his wife to calm down and go to sleep.

While leaving the room, Mr. Rai Bahadur asked, “Or are you thinking something else?”

Part 5

Several months passed by but the entire police team could not resolve the mystery of those deaths. Meanwhile, they collected information from the bereaved families and the one staying closer to the jungle.

“What does your research say Vikram?” Inquired Soham.

“If I start elaborating them, you may again call it a matter of fiction. So, should I?” Answered Vikram.

“Well, again I should tell you, I am not here for fun. No gimmicks as well. Better come to the point.” Said Soham.

“Ok. As we spoke to the bereaved families first, they said, their son was talking about a human voice coming from jungle and that it was more of womanly nature.” Said Vikram.

“No wonder why they went to jungle. Because it was womanly. Good grief!”  Chuckled Soham.

“Who is joking now Soham?” Taunted Vikram.

“I am not really. But this information seems to be gibberish. Never mind carry on.” Said Soham.

“The residents near the jungle who are mostly untouchables said that they occasionally listen to howling voice. Once, the voice was right at the border. Over the period of time, the voice calling has reduced due to our police constables and guards doing the rounds at the location.” Informed Vikarm.

“I see. I think, Vikram, it is time to take weapons in our hands and reach the location ourselves and find out what is the real deal?” Said Soham.

“I understand, what is the plan but?” Asked Vikram.

“We will have to hit the jungle ourselves. With a team, we can start the hunt. We just can’t sit at the border and inspect the case. Can we?” Said Soham.

“Fine, we shall. When do you want to?” Asked Vikram.

“Tomorrow morning.” Said Soham.

Part 6

“Hope you all have the guns and knives. You are not supposed to attack till I command.” Announced Soham.

Soham had created a team five people and among them, two were the natives of the village. Loaded with arms, the team paved their way towards the jungle. Surrounded by greens in all angles, the team took a leap of courage. The team kept their arms ready even at the slightest move of a leaf. Seeing their presence, may deers and antelopes were seen running away in fear.

“We shouldn’t go much deeper because we don’t know the routes. We may get lost. Need to understand which ones are the routes.” Said Vikram.

“First analyze this section. Hope, we get some clue within this range.” Said Soham.

“I don’t hear a morsel of voice humanly voice these country people said. Just tadpoles and ants talking to each other.  Said Vikram.

“Don’t you remember, Khempal said that due to human commotion around, these voices just vanish? Said Soahm.

“Yes! Then! They bit humans too. What you mean by that?” Said Vikram.

“That means the animals are highly shrewd and know how to hide themselves.” Said Soahm.

“Men, it’s getting dark. Let’s get back.” Announced Soham to the team.

Eyes from the middle of leaves glared at the team walking towards the village. Hands glided down to a fruit hung around a bark that low in height.

Part 7

For next few days, the team kept doing the investigation and would locate the team members in different location. Investogation was in full swing till one day Khempal was attacked. In the middle of bushes, Khempal was lying in a pool of blood. Crying for help in agony and pain, he pointed towards a certain direction in the jungle.

Vikram supported Khempal’s head and helped him feel better.

“We are taking you to the nearby medical help. Don’t lose hope. Ok?” Said Soham in support.

“No sir! It’s too late. I may not survive till then. Please just listen my last words on whatever I saw. May be it will help.”  Said an ailing Khempal.

“You cannot say this. We will do everything for you. What did you see?” Asked Vikram.

“An nude woman in long hair. A witch, aaaa….aaaa.” Khempal lost his breath and never regained it.

Part 8

“That loyal constable, yes yes Khempal, oh! He died? ” Shocked Mrs. Bahadur screamed.

“That’s why I never want to tell you anything. Please calm down. The team went too deep in the forest and something like this was probable. Please do not stress yourself.” Mr. Rai Bahadur tried to comfort his wife.

“I need to speak to the head of the team before they start on their voyage.” Mrs. Bahadur said.

“What will you speak about?” Mr. Rai Bahadur interrogated.

“I want to know in detail that actually killed him.” Mrs. Bahadur said.

“Well, disturbing elements are coming up. Even I am little baffled. But, we need to keep patience till the Vikram and Soham tell us.” Said Mr. Rai Bahadur. “It cannot be a woman.” Whispered Mr. Rai Bahadur within himself gazing at the window.

“Woman? What did you say? Tell me.” Asked a curious Mrs. Bahadur.

“Calm down! We shall meet them the day they come from their next round of investigation. Till then peace!” Mr. Rai Bahadur.

Part 9

“After Khempal, this is our next voyage and probably, the last. My people, this is it! Don’t lose hope, keep calm and be alert. Do not get swayed by anything mythical. Keep your ammunitions ready.” Announced Soham.

“Yes sir!” Said the team in chorus.

Soham and Vikram lead the team deep in the forest. This time, they went in the direction Khempal had pointed to. This region was largely dominated by wolves and maximum amount of howling voices would come from here.

The team walked with as minimalistic noise as possible.  Their guns were in their hand, they were small steps to reach the interior. Suddenly, there was a noise of thud.

“Sir, Gopal has fallen it seems. Please stop.” Said another constable Dina. Immediately, the rest of the team rushed to Gopal who could be heard crying in pain.

“Who is that? Who is there?” Screamed Soham after he sensed something unnatural.

Dina tried to divert Soham’s attention towards ailing Gopal. The team tried to give some medical aid and console him.

“Sir, it’s a woman wolf. Please run to chase her.” Said Gopal.

“There is something really notorious happening in here!” Exclaimed Soham.

While Dina was asked to stay with Gopal, Vikram, Soham and Kaushal head to the bushes to catch hold of creature. With all arms set, the team went in the Dina pointed to.

“Look at that!” said Kaushal.

“Ssshhh! Do you understand the cost you will have to pay for being this loud?” Said Vikram.

The team sensed a creature in their vicinity. At pin drop silence, the team decided to be a silent spectator and all set to attack. Just when they readied their guns, they were stunned and shocked.

A nude woman walked on her four limbs, those nails went a foot long. Her waist length hair was messy, she didn’t bathe in ages it seems. She was eating a dead rat, moving like an animal to and fro. She could have been mere 18, she was sniffing the ground occasionally and making noises. Her fist more like an animal smartly moved around the bushes. One could easily claim, she was sparkling white but the dust and dirt had covered her all.

Before, the team could settle what they had seen, a family of wolves came near her. They murmured in their language, and suddenly they howled. The woman howled too just like the rest.

“It’s beyond my assumption what I am seeing.” Said Vikram.

“We can’t be here anymore. It’s time to attack.” Said Soham from another set of bushes.

And in no time, there was a noise of huge gun firing. Within no time, the herd of wolves and the woman were dead.

“Take the body to village. We need to investigate.” Order Soham.

“Cover her!” Added Vikram.

Part 10

Almost entire village had come to see the body of woman wolf. That is how people were addressing her as. Traumatized to see a woman’s body covered in a white sheet, villagers couldn’t fathom the fact there lived a woman in the woods. People spoke in hush hush tons about how beautiful she was, she had long hair and if she was a witch. Talks went on among men and women while children with their curious eyes observed her.

“Please calm down! Please! In the war with the wolves, we came across this. She is also responsible for killing our constable Gopal. I am sorry about that. We made several gunshots and instantly killed her and the rest. We are yet to investigate what made this woman reach here.” Announced Soham.

Just in the rush, both Mr. and Mrs. Rai Bahadur made way to the place. They staff helped them get inside and have a closer look. Pushing people aside, Mrs. Rai Bahadur finally came near to the body.

She fell on her knees and felt something unusual. To peoples’ surprise, Mrs. Rai Bahadur cried at the loudest like no other. Disturbed and unprepared, Mr.Rai Bahadur tried to console her. He kept his eyes low and hoped, no one should realize anything.

“What happened ma’am?” Asked Vikram.

“My daughter! I abandoned her.” Answered an inconsolable and guilt stricken Mrs. Rai Bahadur.

 

Pic courtesy – Internet

 

 

 

Who did the treachery?


Part 1

Close to the city of Paithan, in a small village called Sauviragram, which lay along the banks of the great river Godavari, lived a woman named Ilaa. Being cotton farmers, her family was well to do, but not among the richest in their area. It was the harvest season, and cotton had to be picked from the plants. The wholesalers and traders from Paithan would be arriving in just a few weeks, carrying gold and goods for barter. They would exchange what they carried for the cotton that the farmers grew. The bales of cotton had to be ready in time! Work was at its peak!

But Ilaa was not to be found in the fields. She wasn’t working. Instead, she was sitting by the banks of the great river Godavari.

‘I am sick of this!’ she grunted loudly.

‘What is troubling you?” asked her mind.

Ilaa did not respond to the questions her mind had asked. Her hair swayed in the air, giving gentle slaps on her cheeks. Her aimless posture, closed eyes and bare feet, everything was just basking in the glory of nature which just had got drenched in the rain.

She sat peacefully by the banks listening to the stream.

“Look! There she is!” said a villager Setu from Sauviragram.

Part 2

(Story in Flashback)

“Shadab is dead!” Exclaimed Bhalasahab.

A chaos across the village had spread. Everybody who heard the news accumulated near Bhalasahab’s house.

“Bhao! What happened? What did we hear?” eagerly questioned a villager.

Blood stained clothes of Bhalasahab spoke volumes of what must have happened inside. But Bhao (as villagers fondly addressed him) was too humble for a heinous crime, he was a man of words, wisdom, and generosity.

“I killed him.” Bhalasahab said with face hanging in utter shame and guilt.

Villagers, to whom Bhao was someone they looked for advice, someone who had seen several ages of war and love in Sauviragram. His greying hair and wrinkles stretching till the temples elaborated that he had seen the thick and thin. A man who had keen sense of trade, who had been the most instrumental reason behind the village’s cotton bales business stood in front of them – pale and sad.

“Bhao! Tell us for god sake. Is Ilaa ok?” Inquired an eager Jagan.

And with that question, some more curious eyes raised high. After all, with the killing of Shadab, there died the major source of income for the cotton manufacturers in Sauviragram. The strong trade of cotton with the wholesalers reduced down to almost zero.

Shahdab, a wholesale trader in cotton was a regular visitor in Sauviragram. This year, he was more handsome and seemed wiser. A man in his forties, Shahdab was the most successful and constructive trader of all who used to visit the village every year. For the farmers, he was the best cash cow who would never cease to do his transactions with the village at the highest prices.

This was the tenth year which marked the consistent and healthy business transaction with the villagers.

But, the silence had deeply castrated several hearts and minds by now.

Part 3

(Flashback)

(Bhalasahab’s drawing space, a big room with adequate things kept in all places. Serene house with bedding on the either sides made it a cozy and a comfortable place)

Shadab entered the house to have a meeting with Bhalasahab and settle this year’s cotton supply.

“10 years and counting, sir!” Bhao complimented with a doting smile.

“Hahaha! Yes, yes! It’s all your service Bhalasahab. You have never ceased to disappoint me.” Said Shadab.

Ilaa appeared from inside with sherbet.

With some noise of bangles near the other door, Ilaa entered the room carrying sherbet for the guest. She was another year older and more beautiful. Her partially covered face and the nose ring showcased from the other side. The floral prints added to her gait and grace. She seemed taller this year and her hair reached the waist. According to Bhalasahab, she had reached 19. Adjusting gently her veil, she placed the sherbet cup in front of Shadab.

A momentary but a conspicuous eye contact had happened. Shadab was smitten, to the depth of those sharpness in her eyes, he could barely keep away. Those sharp eyes! How shrill! Those could kill someone.

Ilaa could easily feel the cacophony in her heart.

As she moved back to another room, she sneaked back to verify if the eyes were still looking for her. Another friction of four eyes and Ilaa quickly went inside.

Shadab stood blank till he was given a gentle jerk by Bhalasahab.

“That’s Ilaa!” Bhalasahab introduced his daughter.

“Well! Ya. Ya. She is all grown up!” Shadab responded like he had just woken up from a dream.

“Hahaha! Yes. Let’s get back to business, sir!” Answered Bhalasahab timidly yet sturdily.

Part 4

(Flashback continues)

Another business meeting between Shadab and Bhalasahab had been happening for over an hour.

Today, Ilaa again entered the room with Sherbet and this time, her face was visible. The veil covered only the forehead. Shadab could see every inch of her face. The peaches and cream skin, that round red bindi, the nose ring and those earrings which just complimented everything. And in the middle of those imitated ornaments, were the piercing eyes. Seemed, they hid something, really mystical.

While her soft hands gently picked the glasses, her bangles made some sound that felt like sweet music to Shadab. This time, the friction between the eyes had some message, there was more of a war than any affection. The eyes were defending. Ilaa walked inside.

“Shall we seal the deal Shadab sir like other years!” Asked a curious Bhalasahab.

“No. I refuse. No cotton this season.” A stern voice came from Shadab.

“What happened?” Inquired a shocked Bhalasahab.

“Yes. I am true to my statements. What is so unique in cotton that you can offer me?” Asked Shadab.

A shocked and anxious Bhalasahab asked, “But why sir, why? Did you face any quality issues?”

“Why are you blaming those poor cotton bales?” Shadab was smooth as silk as he spoke.

“What is that you are looking for?” Asked a concerned Bhalasahab.

“Ilaa or the business shall cease.” Shadab answered sternly.

A pin drop silence in the environment and an absolute void could be felt across the room.

Part 5

(Flashback continues)
Sun had set and villagers had returned to their huts after a hard day at work.

“If that is your decision, Baba!” Ilaa’s voice choked.

“It’s the case of entire Sauviragram.” Bhalasahab.

Ilaa was quite. Her edgy eyes were soaked in tears.

Entire vacant space echoed in pain and synced in chorus with Ilaa’s mourning.

“Dear, Shadab wants to cease the entire business with the village and also restrict other merchants. I am speechless at this.”  Bhalasahab tried to justify.

“Baba! That is how it is, if you have decided already.” Ilaa was pale as yellow.

“This barter has been the heaviest.” Bhalasahab claimed while he looked out for consideration.

Part 6

(Flashback continues)

Ilaa was just drying up her waist long hair when she suddenly heard a thud. Her wet hair had droplets dripping from various hair strands and eyes were trying to track the intruder from the spaces.

“Who is it?” gasped Ilaa.

“You can’t just ignore me.”

The voice seemed familiar and in no time, Ilaa knew it was Shadab, who had invaded the house without any permission.

“Are you not mine now, darling.” Shadab reciprocated to Ilaa

His feeblish smile, cunning gestures and his slow gait towards her were intimidating. She didn’t move an inch, stood firm to her position.

“Treachery in thy eyes,

Lust in your arms

Sanctity lost

Lost in the woods”

Just when Shadab was about to attack Illaa with grit and grudge, with deceit in his eyes, just when he was set to disrupt her dignity, touching her – came a sound of a thud.

Ilaa found Shadab falling like a cascade of water and a flood of blood came gushing from his body. She crouched herself like a baby, her blood curdled, eyes tightly shut and murmuring something.

“Open your eyes darling! Everything is fine.” Said Bhalasahab.

With pouncing heart, Ilaa opened her eyes, Shadab was dead. Her father saved her, saved her for life.

Peace and tears in the room.

Part 7

(In continuation to Part 2)

A huge commotion in the crowd as people were hushing and murmuring. People were questioning who killed Shadaab, the only merchant of Sauviragram.

“What happened Bhalasahab?” Asked a villager.

“I shall answer the question.” Came Ilaa in the light with guts and courage all in her heart.

“No Ilaa, you shall not. It is me and the fellow villagers. Let me speak to them. I trust them and the real justice shall turn up.” Bhalasahab waved at her and asked her to move inside.

“I killed him. This chisel was the defense tool to save my daughter. All I can say.” Bhalasahab shared all he could.

The commotion in the crowed was louder now; one could hear more voices and screams. There was a chaos of opinions as people were asking for their future. Who will associate with them now? There could never be a merchant like Shadab. “

“That was unfair Bhalasahab. Utterly unfair to kick our food.” Came a voice from the crowd.

Ilaa felt something was wrong. She hurriedly came out only to find her father being groped and attacked by a mob. She came running to defend. But, by the time, she could push the mob, Bhalasahab was in a pool of blood. He was hit in the head.

Ilaa screamed, “Babaaaaa!!!!”

Nothing was left while she sat teary eyed and blank in front of her dead father.

Crowd had left, there was a disturbing silence around. Ilaa stood, collected herself walked towards Godavari. She murmured her last words as she took the last leap in the river.

“If there was a path,

Where else would I go?”

But you Oh! Universe.

I surrender.”

Part 8

(In continuation to Part 2)

“Look! There she is! That is the only sighting we have of hers in the entire day. She will vanish in a while. I have heard she doesn’t harm anyone.” Said Setu, the young villager from Sauviragram.

“Slowly, speak slowly! Is that the spirit? This is where she died” Aghast at the sighting, inquired Ranaj.

“Yes.” Said Setu.

Those widows of Shivoham


Part 1

“Kanha sang khelu holi,

Is biraj me rang jaaun main

Rang jaaun

Kanha aayenge sakhi”

Meera was searching for her diary when these soothing vocals came to her ears.  Amused almost, Meera just couldn’t fathom the fact how beautiful someone could sing.

In those narrow lanes of Varanasi, where folks and canines struggled to walk simultaneously, there lied the Ashram ‘Shivoham’ for the widows. So many widows of all ages clad in white lived together, breathed together. Sandalwood tilak on the foreheads, beads in hands and chants of so many Hindu gods filled the environment with strange yet tranquil sentiments. While the traffic snarls outside made the ambience little more chaotic yet Meera could feel a sense of contentment.

Meera’s boss at the bureau had asked her to cover the story of Nadiya in the Ashram. Just a day before four day Holi celebration in the Ashram, Meera knew, she wanted to cover the celebration, the interview and click umpteenth pictures. Lot of homework awaited for the newspaper.

Part 2

“Hi, I am from ‘The Chronicales’, Mr. Tejas spoke to you. I am here for the four day celebration and news coverage.” Meera informed to the officer at Shivoham.

“Yes, yes. I have the letter with me as well. Hope, your lodging and bearing arrangements have been made.”  Keshavji, a 70 years old at the office responded to Meera as he checked the old registers and letters.

“They have been done. Could you please let me know the timings and the regulations, I suppose you have some in Shivoham.” Inquired Meera with sheepish smile.

“Well, a lot of journalists and filmmakers come each year at this point of time. We do not allow everyone. Since, you have come from ‘The Chronicales’, we are permitting. We have some rules definitely. See, we appreciate the privacy of the Vidhwas here, we do not like them to be publicized outside. But, the media doesn’t seem to let them live free……” Keshavji was abruptly stopped by Meera.

She said, “Sorry to stop you in the middle but I think the women inside have the right to speak to the world even if the medium is media.”

Keshavji while adjusting his spectacles, “Lady, this is why I do not let all the media agencies come here as I know, you will start all that debate on independence and freedom of speech and stuff. Majority of women inside are old. They want to lead a peaceful life before they die. With your all that provocation, I wonder where will our tradition go.”

Meera, “Sir, women today have equal rights to have an independent life even if the husband dies. Why should they be in shackles?”

Keshavji,”Keep your modernity with you woman! I don’t have time for that.”

Meera, “Fine sir! Just tell me the rules, I will be done may be in a day or two.”

Keshavji,” Well, you are not supposed to be here after 5 O’clock, you cannot ask personal questions like if their family comes to meet, if they want to seek the city life, if they want another man in life or what they think about man women relations. I don’t like that. In past, we had troubles with the journalists. You people should understand that they have left home after their husband died and they are now leading a complete non materialistic life following celibacy.”

Meera, “Wow! Looks like you are making the entire format for me to cover the story. I am not here to do any school homework. I am creative person and will interview the women in the most resourceful manner. Otherwise, I could have just Googled everything.”

“Keshavji,” Googled????Eh! What? Lady, I have mentioned my things.”

Meera, “So have I sir! Let’s get started.”

Keshavji, “Whatever.”

Keshavji leads Meera to the interiors of Shivoham.

Part 3

Day 1 of Holi Celebration

A world of whites eagerly awaited Meera. Women across diverse eternities thronged to see Meera. Some peeped from the windows of their quarters while some stood at the doors to check how city women in trousers and make up look like.

Most of the women were in 70s or plus but Meera was amazed to see a few young women of approximately 35 living there too.

“Whom are you searching for?” Asked an old women woman adjusting her veil.

“I am looking for that old lady who sings. I heard her singing Krishna Bhakti Geet while I was at the office.” Meera answered.

Keshavji from behind just came barging in the conversation,” What? The lady who sings! C’mmon! Aren’t you here to interview Nadiya Devi? And she doesn’t sing for your information. The lady is bedridden; you can just ask a few questions, click some pictures and get away.”

Meera, “I understand sir but there was something very intriguing in that voice. At least, just let me see her once. I assure, I will not breach any rule that you mentioned. I swear. I give my word.”

Keshavji,”Huh! You journalists, your degrees, goodness. Please go and I hope you wind up. And yes, no personal questions. I repeat no personal questions.”

Meera, “Thanks a ton.”

Keshavji leaves while directing her where she could find the woman who sings.

Part 4

“Dekh Girija dekh, koi tera geet sunkar milne aaya hai.” (See Girija, someone has come to see you after listening to your songs) Announced a woman with wrinkles, clad in a shabby white robe.

Meera eagerly waited in front of the small quarter with her pen and diary while other women glared her in amusement.

Girija was busy in arranging her bedding and utensils when she heard the announcement. Carrying her beads and adjusting the veil, the lady peeked out of her dilapidated door.

“Who is it?” Inquired the lady.

In last 30 years, no one had come from home to see her. The last time someone came was her brother who wanted to give her the utensils. Girija was inquisitive this time just like she did in her hay days when someone would knock her door in her native.

“Hey! Hmm….I am Meera. A journalist from Mumbai. I heard you singing outside. So, wanted to meet you.” Meera answered to all the inquisitiveness that had built up by now in the environment.

Girija Devi came out of her quarter after much of hesitation. Well draped in a milk white saree, the woman with well combed hair instantly covered her head, wore the beads and carried another in hands. Her Sandalwood Tilak was freshly put on her forehead in a fine shape just as other Krishna devotees put. One could clearly feel the wrinkles emerging beneath the Tilak and making it apparent how old she must have been. What beauty those creases still held! She had sharp eyes big enough to capture all that the big world had to offer. The dusky color and that broad face cut clearly proved how attractive she must have been in her youthful days.

As she neared Meera with reluctance, a few women in near distance were overheard, “Guess, they will talk about our Puja. You remember, we had someone similar last year, it was a ‘man’, and he clicked us.”

Meera initiated the talk,” Hi! I am Meera. I heard your voice and found it terrific. You have learnt it is it?”

Girija,”No, I just sing from my own will. I have embraced Krishna and I write for him.”

Meera, “WRITE??? You write songs?”

Girija, “Yes, I do. After I surrendered myself to Krishna, I just could write in his name.”

Meera,” Wonderful! Could you sing a couplet for me. What voice you have.”

Girija smiles coyly,” No no, Krishna is sleeping now. I will not disturb him. I will sing during Godhuli.”

Meera,” Godhuli means?”

Another widow making a garland says, “Young woman! That’s the time when evening and night meet.”

Girija nods and seconds the information.

Meera, “Oh ok! I get it.”

Older women sitting behind giggled in chorus and exchanged messages in whispers. Some stood by the pillars awed by a modern woman in their vicinity, and another few got up to do their daily chores.

Girija looked at her camera, “Will you click me?”

Meera, “Do you like getting clicked? I will. You are so beautiful and blessed with talents. You should be out.”

Girija laughed gently and answered, “Who will take care of my Gopal then?”

Meera, a little unconvinced, “Well, take him along.”

Girija smiled and waved at the thought.

Part 5

Day 2

Meera ran to Shivoham in hassle as she wanted to capture the early morning happenings like the puja, the chants and other ceremonies before Holi took place.

What joy today at Shivoham, widows were seen arranging the colors. Those colors they see once a year. It seems widows get sweets to eat from outside. They are all joyful today, two more days for their fun to remain. One could hear Girija from distance singing:

“Holi ke rang anek

Rang anek,

Is baar Kanha aayenge

Nahi maanungi main,

Nahi manungi.”

Meera all exclaimed and ecstatic at the vocals, “Your music takes me to another world! Keep singing and I shall just vanish in the thin air.”

She continued, “I have so many questions to ask, let’s sit somewhere.”

Girija leads her to a decent section in the Ashram. A bedding adjacent to the wall with chair and tables aside, Meera preferred to sit on one.

Meera asked, “Tell me something about you. Don’t you feel, you have a life beyond this widowed life?”

Girija replied,” I am not a widow.”

Stunned at the response, Meera inquired, “Wait! What? What did you say?”

Girija,”Yes! My husband is alive.”

Meera took some time to come to sync with the response, “Then why are you here? Do people know in Shivoham?”

Girija,”No one but Keshavji.”

Meera,”Ah that man!”

Girija,”Wait, I will bring something to eat. It’s Holi season so we have some special things. I will share with you.”

Meera,”No, I want to hear your story.”

Girija, “There is no story. I am here ever since I could actually remember my hay days.”

Meera,”No! There is a lot behind you. I want to know. Don’t worry about Keshavji, if you are thinking about that nutcase.”

Girija,”No, you cannot speak that way. He is the one taking care of us since so many years.”

Meera,” Ok ok! C’mmon now. Tell me about who you are?”

While bells ring behind and a chorus can be heard, widows walk in groups, rejoice as they see Holi colors. Right in the middle of the Ashram, arrangements have been made for Holika Dehen.

Girija in her usual soft voice recollects, “I come from a small village near Debnathpura in Varanasi. I was 15 when I was married. My husband was a farmer. My husband used to be well built, dusky and tall. I could see my Krishna in him. We had a blissful marital life of ten years.”

Curious Meera intervened, “Then what? What happened then?”

Girija continued, “It was the time of Godhuli when I was singing a bhajan and suddenly we received news. My husband died in an accident. His body was found burnt in the meadows.”

Meera didn’t speak a word. There was an uncomfortable silence in the atmosphere for sometime.

Girija said, “After completing the last rites, my in-laws send me here.”

Meera gasped at the response, “Oh! And your children”

Girija,”I have two daughters and a son. I saw them last when I was coming here. I do not know where they are now.”

Meera, “But! I mean what went wrong later?”

Girija,”I came to know after few years that my husband did not die in the accident. It was a body wrongly identified while my man had minor injuries.”

Meera, “You didn’t go back?”

Girija,”No one came to take me. I as informed that my husband remarried.”

Meera, “What nonsense! How can you bear that? He has no right to abandon you. You have no right to live in a recluse and eat boiled rice.”

Girija smiled,” It’s been several years now child! He has forgotten me now!”

Meera, “I still cannot accept it. I cannot! A beautiful woman like you doesn’t deserve a life like this.”

Girija smiled again, “Come! It’s time to sing for Krishna again.”

Part 6

Day 3

Widows accumulate to sing and dance with each other. Many are wearing garlands and many are flapping aabir in the air. Maroon, green, blue and so many colors right in the air!

All the white saree draped women were now in smeared in colors. All happiness could be felt in the eyes, the smiles and in the aroma of marigold. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna!” Across the air, one could hear. What a treat to eyes it was! Meera was fully amused while her eyes kept searching for Girija.

Meera ran to her quarter to see the old woman flipping torn pictures of her family. All she had was this. From behind, Meera could hear Girija sobbing.

“You cannot do this! You have to fight for your right!”

Girija hastily started to keep the pictures in the cupboard and wiping away the tears simultaneously.

“Let’s go out! Keshavji will be here anytime soon. He shouldn’t see this.” Said Girija.

Meera responded,”I will put your story in the papers and let the world know of your pains.”

Girija shocked, “No! No for heaven’s sake, you cannot. It is Holi. Nothing can be more beautiful than this. Even my Gopal is in colors today.”

Meera and Girija swiftly made a move in the portico where all women were dancing, tossing hair and flinging colors at each other.

Girija sang in her own glory:

“Sakhi, sringar ras kahe kije

Mere to Girdhar Gopal

Kanhe hue mohit

Jab nainan na ho kajal

Sakhi, kahe kije sringar.”

Meera observed Girija while she danced in the middle of other women. Happy and ever smiling! The coy and docile Girija just whiffed some colors at Meera.

Keshavji came from behind and asked Meera to meet her next morning before she finally leaves.

Part 7

Day 4

“So I suppose, you had a good time at Shivoham. And I assume, you really got close to someone at the Ashram.” Asked Keshavji.

Meera answered,” Oh yes! Let me tell you women here are blessed with talents. Let them come out.”

Keshavji, “I see young lady you have been advising me since you have come here. Enough has happened. And you cannot write especially about Girija. I overheard everything. Dare if you do that. Shivoham doesn’t allow its women to be spoken in papers in detail.”

Meera,”Even if it is a matter of one’s human rights?”

Keshavji, “Yes! As you gave a word, you will not breach any of our rules. You are bound to keep your notes with us.”

All teary eyed Meera, “Yes, I gave a word. I will keep it!”

She keeps the notes at the table and leaves Shivoham.

Keshavji called Girija.

“I have a bad news for you Girija. Your husband passed away on the eve of Holi.”

Girija leaves the office in utter silence. One could hear her sing from her quarter as other women broom the leftover colors from the doorway:

“Kanha sang khelu holi,

Is biraj me rang jaaun main

Rang jaaun

Kanha aayenge sakhi”