Saturday, August 4, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 20 - In the Past

Mr.Gupta could not bless the Sardarji enough! For the past four days, they had been looking for Khushi everywhere. She had gone missing. And no one knew how, nobody knew when. Payal had come back from home and found her gone. Her phone wasn’t unreachable. None of her friends knew where she was. Even Debs and Annie had been called in. They too, knew nothing. Anna had been falling apart, every night she and Payal had gone to bed crying.

It was as if the world had swallowed her up. They couldn’t put her face out in the media – there would be too many weirdos out there, who could react differently to her plight. The police had been informed the very first day. They’d been told about the phone calls and the packages. Debs and Annie were able to provide very little information. Even though they had severed relationships with the Guptas, the Malhotras and the Banerjees had rallied around them. Mrs.Bannerjee and Mrs.Malhotra had been a constant support for Anna. Mr.Malhotra and Mr.Bannerjee had tried putting their collective and not inconsiderable influence at work, to help find Khushi. But she had vanished.

And now all of a sudden, here she was at their door!

Anna and Mr.Gupta carried her to her room. The inspector was right on their heels. ‘Mr.Gupta, Mrs.Gupta. I know you must be very worried about her; the doctor is on her way. But in the meantime, please do not undress her or anything.’

‘What?!’ said Anna. ‘What do you mean?’

‘It’s like this, ma’am – there might be evidence on the clothes she’s wearing and her body. We need to collect that evidence…’ his voice trailed off as he saw the look on their faces. Mr.Gupta looked at the unconscious girl in his arms. He nodded.

‘If it helps in catching the bastard who did this, then I’ve no problem with not changing her’.

Luckily, the doctor arrived soon after, and they went upstairs to Khushi’s room. The doctor did a thorough exam. She bagged all the clothes that Khushi had been wearing (much to Anna’s discomfort when she saw the suggestive lingerie). The doctor asked her to step outside as she did a preliminary rape exam. Satisfied there were no such signs, she was however surprised at the bruises on her face and body. They seemed to be made at different times. And then there was this big gash on her back. She stitched up the cut, noticing the whip lashes, which had been cleaned and dressed. She frowned – strange! It was only when she was about to give a shot to help revive her that she noticed the puncture marks in her left elbow. Drug tracks. Could this be drug-related? Before she could give Khushi the shot, she drew some blood for tests.

The doctor went down to the inspector and gave him the paper bags containing all the evidence. She then sat down with Shashi, Anna and the inspector and gave them her report. ‘Mr.Gupta, Mrs.Gupta,’ she began, ‘Your daughter was not raped, she was not sexually molested. That is the good news. The bad news is that she has been beaten in the past twenty four hours. There are bruises made at different times on her body and face.’ She hated this part of her job. ‘I have to ask you this: Does your daughter take drugs of any kind? Does she have any vices?’

They answered as most parents do under similar circumstances, ‘none! No – she would never do drugs’! They vehemently denied. The inspector made a silent note to speak to those friends of hers, in the meanwhile. Parents were usually the last to know about drug abuse!

‘Mrs.Gupta,’ she tried to break it as gently as she could. ‘I found needle marks in her arms’. They looked shocked! ‘I’ve drawn some blood for tests. We should be getting the results soon. We’ll let you know what our findings are. Meantime, I’ve given her a shot to bring her out of unconsciousness. The inspector will need to question her then.’

They nodded, still too stunned at what had happened to their daughter.

***

Khushi opened her eyes to her own room. For a moment, she felt disoriented. A small bedside lamp was burning and Anna was dozing in the chair by the bed.

‘Mama?’ she said, reverting to her baby name for her mother. Anna jerked awake. ‘Mama, I am thirsty,’ she said. Her mother poured her some water and held it for her to drink. She sat up. ‘Mama, how did I come here?’ she asked.

‘The auto driver brought you.’

‘What auto driver?’ she asked.

Her mother sat down next to her, slowly stroking her hair. ‘It’s okay, baby. Go to sleep.’ She nodded and snuggled back down, wincing a little at the pain in her back. An hour later, she woke with a piercing scream. Her mother jumped up. She was screaming incoherently, tears sliding down her eyes which were closed tight. Anna hugged her daughter, trying to control her. Shashi and Payal rushed into the room to see her slowly rocking her daughter to sleep. After a while she calmed down and fell asleep again.

The next morning the police came back. They had posted protection for her round the house, although they hadn’t mentioned it to the family. Khushi sat up in bed dressed in a nightie that covered her from neck to toe. The inspector needed to hear the story from her. Her mother sat by her holding her hand as she haltingly told her story.

‘So this Rani Sahiba,’ he said. ‘Can you describe her?’

‘I never saw her face,’ she said. ‘but the rest of her’..

‘Any distinguishing marks?’

‘I don’t remember.’

‘What about the Shyam Manohar Jha. Can you describe him.’

She shuddered as she tried to put his face into words. It wasn’t easy, she broke down a few times, as she relived those last few moments. A lot of it was blurry right now.

‘It’s okay, Ms. Gupta,’ he said, seeing how distressed she was getting. He knew there was stuff she wasn’t remembering right now. It takes patience to get at the details and time - which they didn’t have much of, right now. It’s also a fact that the more latent the memory, the less reliable it is. His cell rang, and he excused himself.

‘Saab, there is an auto driver here. He says he has some information about the Gupta case,’ his sergeant said.

‘Okay, I’ll be down there in fifteen.’ He turned around and said gently to Khushi, ‘Ms Gupta. I’m sorry, I’ll have to talk to you again, maybe tomorrow, okay?’

She nodded, glad that she wouldn’t have to relive those memories for now. It was enough that she was having nightmares all the time. She was afraid to go to sleep. But the sedatives that the doctor had given her were taking care of that problem.

****

At the police station, the Sardarji was waiting for the inspector. They shook hands.

‘Sardarji, have you remembered something?’ the inspector asked.

‘Yes, sir.’ He was nervous and the inspector gestured for someone to bring some tea for them. They waited until the tea arrived. The driver took a sip, seemed to collect himself and say, ‘Saab, when I picked up the girl and was driving away, I saw a man come running out of a house. He seemed to be looking around. I don’t know if it makes any sense or it helps you, but, this is what I saw.’

The inspector felt his heart rate accelerate. This is what they needed right now, a break. ‘Can you come with me?’ he asked. The driver nodded. They went out to a jeep, where a couple of constables joined them, and drove towards where Khushi had been picked up. His cell rang again. He picked it up, it was the doctor. ‘Yes, doctor?’

‘Inspector, the Khushi Kumari Gupta case, tests came back positive,’ she said.

‘For what?’

‘Heroin. Small amounts. I don’t think she’s a user. The track marks were fairly new. They drugged her. They knew how to inject her. They’ve done it before.’

‘Okay, thanks,’ he said and hung up.

They were drawing up to the point where Khushi had been found. They drove slowly down the street the Sardarji craning his neck to see each of the houses. Suddenly, he pointed, ‘That one!’

They halted the jeep where they were, and decided to head out on foot to the door. They walked up and rang the bell. The house was silent like an empty house. They rang the bell again. Still no answer. The inspector took a quick decision. They walked around the house, but it had the air of an empty house. He made a call. ‘I need a warrant,’ he said.

An hour later, the warrant arrived. They broke through the door and entered. All was still in the house. They drew guns and started moving to the upper floors. A broke glass table stood on the landing, shards of glass everywhere. But there was nothing else in the house that pointed to an inhabitant. No sign that Khushi had ever been in the house. No clothes, no handcuffs, no nothing. The inspector was frustrated. Now all they had was Khushi’story. He’d have to contact the CBI. They had better forensics than he had at his disposal, and they needed good forensics on this one. He made the call.

***

Khushi woke up to another pounding headache. She seemed to have these headaches every day. It had been five days since she had come back home. She was able to stay awake longer, and feel more alert, but she didn’t want to. She just wanted to stay in bed and gaze out of the window.

Anna came in just then. It broke her heart to see her little baby in so much pain. It wasn’t the physical pain, she knew that much. It was the mental anguish that she was going through. She didn’t know the whole story, because the police had not allowed them to be there, while she was being questioned. From the bits and pieces that she knew, she was furious that someone would even do that to an innocent like Khushi.

‘Khushi,’ she said. ‘You know Anne is getting married in three weeks.’ Khushi looked dully at her mother. ‘Would you like to go?’ She shook her head. ‘We’ve been invited, you know.’ Khushi nodded.

She couldn’t face going out with people again. She was afraid. They had escaped, she knew that. All she wanted to do was go away, somewhere far away from here. It was her mind though. It wouldn’t let her.

***

A month later, the Guptas left for America. Khushi never went out during that time. If she had to, she clung to her mother or sister or father. No one else. She trusted no-one! It was a sad realization for someone as young as she.

****

The CBI continued their investigation, even after the Guptas left. With the judge’s permission, a statement had been recorded by Khushi.

Shyam Manohar Jha was captured and convicted of felony kidnapping. Khushi's statemet was used to do so. But he posted bail and was released after six months.

6 comments:

  1. HMMM ok .. SHyam was convicted .. GUD GUd . But released . OK .. so who is Annie's husband .. or is it me over analysing again .. :)

    Ur on a roll though .. loving this .. everytime ur mail arrives with update message .. my heart starts to pound .. thats how much i have been weaned into this story ..
    Love it ..

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  2. Hey Madhu, thnks for the pm. Superb update. He shouldn't have got bail!. Felt bad for Khushi though!

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  3. Its so sad to know that all that u have written here is actually true of many Khushi Kumari Guptas around the world. I am really crying at this moment. Khushi was probably one of the luckier ones to have escaped, but many do not. I sometimes wonder, what do people get by doing all this, but wounding the body and breaking the spirit of women and girls and even children. How can someone be so soulless and how can their hearts be so literally blood thumping machines. If only they were actually alive... if only they could feel the pain...

    Anyways lovely story and thanks a lot for saving Khushi :)

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  4. Oh the shortcomings of our judiciary system... How the criminals and transgressors get away with everything, where the honest victims get punished...
    Thank God Khushi was one of those very rarely lucky ones to have escaped... But the scars never fade... Those of the body heal, but the ones inflicted on the soul, they never leave u... Poor girl, her and all those who have gone through this violent crime...

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    1. Totally agree, tbere are some harrowing stories out there, I hope and pray that your story is an eye opener for all girls, not to believe in fate people do not meet coincidentally, and ehen the guy says he , likes ger she should be wary, and make sure she is accoanied at all times. WITHOUT FAIL. there are too many men and yes women who will take advantage of innocents.

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  5. Yes I know this is the second time im reading this! Its a rest story, written by a good writer, it bookmarked for a reason. Almost a year it took me to come back o this story and ive tried to leave a comment after each chapter... im a bit paranoid about leaving my details over the net sorry but im getting over it now. ;)

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