Me and my team Inspirati are participating in the Game of Blogs contest by blogadda and we’re writing a serial story. We’re right now in Round 2 of the contest and this is the last post from our side for round 2. I’d like to thank all my lovely teammates for just being there. I’ve made some great friends during this contest and I am thankful to Blogadda for that. Thanks guys!
Aryan looked in disbelief at those two plane tickets. ‘So, Tawde wants to take Roohi with him? This whole kidnapping, the human trafficking racket operation, it all was a big lie then?’ But it all didn’t add up. Tawde was an honest cop. Sure, he had taken bribes and ‘compromised’ with the system but that was just to fit in. Aryan could not fathom the possibility of Prakash being a criminal with intentions of selling a little girl. ‘Is Tawde in trouble? Is someone making him do it?’ Aryan stood still holding the tickets; he stood there in a trance-like state as a gush of breeze made the curtains in the room flutter and only snapped out of it with the sudden sound of a lamp smashing on the floor.
He put the tickets down on the mattress and reached for his gun sensing a tense encounter. He then swiftly turned around only to find a cat making its way to the kitchen. Wiping the sweat drops off his forehead, he shooed the cat out the kitchen window and bolted all the doors again. His heartbeat was up. He then looked at the gun that he had taken out just at the thought of Tawde entering the premises. The realization that his subconscious no longer trusted his old mate- Tawde dawned on him and his heart began to beat with emotions that he himself didn’t quite understand.
He then pictured a helpless Roohi on her way to Dubai with a man unknown to her, namely- Prakash Tawde. The faces of her helpless parents flashed in front of his eyes. Tara’s screaming, Shekhar’s blank, sorry eyes haunted Aryan. Why did he agree to this mission? He knew there was a risk of losing Roohi in the mission as it was but, he counted on Tawde’s wily intellect to plan for any emergency. He could have said ‘yes’ to anything that Tawde proposed. He was comfortable letting Tawde steer the mission and had comfortably settled with the role of the second fiddle. Now that he had proof in his hands that Tawde himself might be a compromised party in his team, the uneasy feeling of the onus of finding and rescuing Roohi falling on him slowly pinched and pulled Aryan out of his thought process.
He carefully put the tickets back in the folder and put it under the mattress. The worst of his fears had come true. He wiped the sweat off his brows and adjusted his collar. It was time to do something and that too, soon.
‘Kamla aunty, can I sleep here?’ Roohi said pointing to the floor. Kamla, a woman with a heart that had hardened for the small sorrows of life, smiled and asked in Hindi ‘Why beta? This is just a rug. You are a princess, you get to sleep on fluffy pillows and a bed of your own.’ The sarcasm in Kamla’s words was lost on the little girl who sought nothing more than some peaceful sleep. Roohi replied in a monotonous voice with a lowered gaze, ‘They are squabbling again and the voices are low right now but I know they are about to scream at each other. I think this is one of those days where the fight ends with Mom shouting and crying and Dad leaving the room angrily, slamming the door on his way out. The door makes a really scary sound on being slammed. I really don’t like that sound aunty.’ Roohi raised her gaze as she finished that difficult revelation and found Kamla looking at her with pity in her eyes. She continued, ‘I would have hidden under my bed but it really messes up his fur’, she said pointing at her teddy bear. Kamla smiled. The innocence was amusing and it tugged at places in her heart she didn’t know existed but there is one organ which is more important than the heart. Organ that guides the brain to do things it doesn’t want to do, organ that helps one override every emotion other than the one that arises from it. The name of that selfish organ is ‘stomach’ and that mean emotion is ‘hunger’.
Kamla had seen hunger, it had terrorized her, it had lurked in her kitchen, her chawl and as all doors closed around her, it had climbed inside her bones and enslaved her. She knew that this girl was her salvation, her ticket to a relatively convenient life. Heck, she could finally forget her growing up years. She was sold too. She fought her way, earning the trust of the very teeth that picked her apart. What makes this kid so special that she shouldn’t go through all that roughening?
Roohi’s parents sleep in different rooms and let Roohi fight her own monsters. Kamla’s parents had no different rooms to sleep, they had only one room. It wasn’t as if they never fought but they had their reasons to bicker. Real reasons, unlike these rich peoples’ reasons. Reasons that involved hunger and helplessness. They even slapped each other, Kamla often tried to stop them and go slapped too, but after the fights, they had no where else to go so, they would sleep on the same mat with Kamla and her three sisters by their side. They slept like a unit, connected to each other and it was so hard to tell where the somewhat softer mat ended and the rough, hard floor began. Even the slaps, the cries, the pain was put to sleep in the night. After everyone was asleep, Baba would ask little Kamla in a hushed tone if the slap really hurt and when she nodded, he would laugh and say that it was really not smart of her to come in the middle of the fight. She would nod and smile; and then they all would fall asleep. It was not a perfect world but it was a happy family and Kamla didn’t deserve the pain of the separation that had followed after the monsoons forgot to show up in their village. Father committed suicide and mother fell sick. Next, stomach took over heart and then the rest of the memories went blurry. The rest of her life can be summed up as the feeling one gets just seconds after a slap. Just a blank resonance. Who brought her to Mumbai? How did she forge the connections with people who sell girls? Her heart wasn’t there to answer those questions. The stomach had filled in for the spot and it was hard to argue with its eloquent replies.
So, when Roohi came scared to Kamla, Kamla had promised her a land full of dreams. To describe that land to Roohi, Kamla perhaps didn’t really use a lot of creativity. She might have just dug deep in her heart and described the place little Kamla wanted to go to. A place where no parents fight, no teddies get their fur dirty hiding under the bed from all the noise; and where every little girl is treated like a princess. She lured Roohi that dream world and swiftly put a tape on her mouth and whisked her away. It was Kamla’s way of declaring to Roohi that the place was not real. The real life is what follows after you’ve hit the bottom. She knew Roohi was helpless and in her heart, as a toughened survivor, she wanted to bestow her life wisdom onto Roohi. When she tore down Roohi’s dream world, she felt somewhere in her heart that it was only for her betterment.
The speeding car hit a speed-breaker and Kamla woke up from the memories. A frail Roohi lay in her lap, her neck flailing from the jitters of the journey. The earlier plan included the usual – taking the girl and supplying her to a bunch of people much like a grocery item. The new plan had made her weak. This close approximation with the victim of her actions, all those childhood memories rushing back were new to Kamla. She tried to support Roohi’s neck and looked at the gentlemen sitting in the car. They said they were headed to Delhi but they got frequent phone calls and they always kept discussing among themselves. The unfamiliarity, the hushed tones, the whispers and the sneaky eye contacts among them had made Kamla further uncomfortable. She wished she could ensure where they were going, she wished she could read the signs on the road. She wished she knew how to read.
She sat motionless looking at Roohi for a while and then resolved something in her mind. Clearing her throat, she called out to the guy driving the car, ‘Bhaiya, please stop at the the next dhaba or petrol station, I need to use the washroom.’ Her head was spinning with a sudden rush. She was going to do something which was not very smart… after a very long time.