My story that won Muse of the Month on Womensweb.
The cue for this month was from the movie Dirty Picture, in which Vidya Balan tells the male lead that society’s sense of honour is skewed and unbelievable.
My story that won Muse of the Month on Womensweb.
The cue for this month was from the movie Dirty Picture, in which Vidya Balan tells the male lead that society’s sense of honour is skewed and unbelievable.
Kavya checked her phone for the 30th time in the past half an hour.
Kunal – Last seen today at 11:48 p.m.
She put her phone away. She then willed the universe:
Make him call me!!!
She checked her phone again. No call. No text.
Maybe he lost his phone… But then how come he was online at 11:48?
Something would have happened… He must be really sick.
Maybe he got a call in emergency, and had to leave town.
Or maybe I should just go make tea. By the time I am done, he would have texted.
Kavya had been dating Kunal for the past six months. He was everything she could have ever asked for. Good looking, suave, and charming. But something was not right. He would never introduce her to his friends, or meet hers. He would disappear for days, only to come back saying that he had been awfully busy. Kavya always chose to believe him despite her friends saying that she was dating a ghost.
Why did she always believe him? Because it was easier. She was not protecting him. She was protecting herself. Protecting herself from accepting the blame for poor judgment. Protecting herself from feeling unworthy of love. Protecting herself from being alone.
She was lost in her thoughts. Until the doorbell rang. Her roommate, Sanaya who was almost 10 years older had returned from her business trip. Her boyfriend, Amaan had picked up her from the airport and dropped her to their place. Kavya felt a pinch of jealousy. Kunal would have never done that. He never even stayed back at her place at night because he had to get up early in the morning.
What made Sanaya such a worthy girlfriend? Where did she lack? Kavya thought feeling bitter. She was pretty, smart, caring, and loyal. What more could Kunal possibly want? Why did he keep saying he did not want to commit?
She would not pressurize him. She was afraid of losing him, after all these months! If only she would stick around, one day he would realize her worth.
“You are so lucky, Sanaya. Amaan really cares for you. Why can’t I get a guy like that?” Kavya told Sanaya as she checked her phone again.
“Because you settle for guys like Kunal who do not value you. You think ALL the guys I ever met were really into me? But once I realized that they were not, I had the courage to move away from them, even if it meant being alone.
Someone good will turn up, Kavya. But you have to create some space.”
Three weeks later
Kunal looked at his phone. It had been quite a few days since Kavya had texted him. Strange. A girl as clingy as her would just disappear? Had she found someone else. So soon? Had she blocked him?
Her profile photo was blurred. He clicked it. It was a picture of some animated, fairy-tale like character. Where had he seen that before? His niece had made him buy a school bag with that blue picture….
He zoomed. There was some text also:
Yes, I am alone. But I am alone and free.
Originally published on yourstoryclub
“Charu, were you touching my make -up? Look, you closed it without rotating it and now it is broken,” said Sadhna holding the misshaped lipstick.
“Sorry Didi, I was just looking,” said Charu sincerely. “Look, I have made your favourite upma today. Just like Kakimaa!”
Sadhna’ heart melted as the 13-year girl served her upma. She tasted a bite, her eyes welling up.
“Please don’t send me away,” Charu started crying.
Sadhana put the spoon back in the dish and stormed to her bedroom. Why God? Why?
5 years ago
Sadhna, a sales manager lived with her widowed mother, Neerjala in a posh apartment complex. Sadhna’s job involved travelling and she needed a trustworthy person to take care of her mother and stay overnight in her absence. She found that trust in Chhaya. Chhaya was a hard-working and devoted housemaid, who would slog to earn two square meals a day for herself and her little daughter, Charu, only to get beaten up by her drunkard husband. Charu was a sweet kid, and Chhaya brought her to work regularly. Neerjala had taken an instant liking towards her. While Sadhna was away on business travel, Chhaya and Charu would keep her company in their otherwise lonely 3 bedroom apartment. The trio would watch movies together, go for walks, and chat and laugh about little nothings.
Chhaya wanted her little girl to live a life of dignity, and was struggling to give her an education. Neerjala would assist her financially in any way she could, being an emotional and compassionate person. Sadhna did not mind as she was earning well, and her father had also left enough money for them to live comfortably. She did not care what it cost her to retain Chhaya. She just wanted her mother, her only family left to be healthy and happy. But one mundane Tuesday night, when Sadhna was outstation for work, their lives changed forever.
There was a sudden power cut. Neerjala called out to Chhaya who along with Charu was sleeping in the servant’s room. Chaaya found a candle but could not figure out why there was no electricity when all other flats seemed to be fine. She called the security guard, who had been hired recently, to come and check. He told them that the invertor seemed damaged. It could not be fixed unless they pay Rs 8,000 for repair. This was a big amount and Neerjala refused to give it to him unless he called the electrician. He seemed drunk and started abusing Neerjala, forcing her to pay her atleast some money. Chhaya intervened, seeing Neerjala being disrespected and they got into a scuffle. The guy refused to leave the house. Neerjala struggled to find the estate manager’s number who lived in the same building. Sadhna had sent it to her through an sms. But she never understood how to save a contact, despite Sadhna teaching her repeatedly. Frantically, she called Sadhna who contacted the estate manager.
The guy finally left when Chhaya threatened to call the police. The estate manager came with the electrician and their problem got fixed in an hour. However, the two women were completely agitated. Chhaya complained against him, and he was called before the management. Chhaya accused him of cheating and misbehaving with a senior citizen. She also believed that he had deliberately switched off their main connection to extract money, seeing the vulnerability of the women. He was fired immediately.
A week later, as Chhaya was walking home alone at night, he came out of nowhere. He asked her to take the complaint back, as he was in dire need of a job. He was having difficulty finding another job in the neighborhood as people had heard that he had some “issue” at the previous job. Chhaya insisted that it was not her fault. It was his own wrongdoing and there was nothing she could do. He started calling her names and grabbed her by her hair. She screamed for help. He covered her mouth. She resisted. He strangulated her. She died on the spot.
The news of the tragic and horrendous murder spread like fire. Neerjala was shattered. How guilty she felt! The poor woman died because of her. Had she not been in her house that day, she would have been alive. She could not bear to think of the burden she would carry all her life.
Few days later, one of Chhaya’s relatives brought Charu to their home. The child looked so different from how they had known her! So weak, so malnourished. Such sad eyes! Neerjala’s heart went out to the little girl. The relative told Neerjala that Charu’s father had sold her to a 60-year-old man. He locked his house and left town. Now nobody knows his whereabouts. Charu escaped and came back to relatives but nobody wanted to take responsibility for her.
“How to leave her on the road, Kaki. She is a girl. I already have 4 children. How can I feed one more? Please put her in some orphanage,” said the woman before leaving her.
Sadhna started looking for shelter homes where they could send Charu. But Neerjala did not want to send her away.
“What is she becomes a human trafficking victim? What if she starves?”
Sadhna tried to convince her that she would look for a verified and safe place for her. But Neerjala was inconsolable.
“My Chhaya! How she died, screaming for help! I will take care of Charu like my daughter. Then only her soul will rest in peace.”
Neerjala would keep mumbling all day. Sometimes talking to herself, sometimes to Chhaya. Sadhna was worried that her mother would lose her sanity. She decided to keep Charu till the time that her mother became stable. She transferred Charu to a better school nearby.
Charu was always a well-behaved kid but a good atmosphere at home and school did wonders for her. She was smart and did reasonably well in studies. Sadhna got her good clothes and Neerjala taught her good manners. As time passed, nobody could distinguish that she was not part of their family. Sadhna continued to search for foster homes for her. But it was difficult because most people were not interested in adopting an eight-year-old girl.
A year later, Sadhna mustered up the courage to speak to her mother.
“Maa, I have got in touch with an NGO. They give a place to stay to girls like Charu and even teach some vocational courses. I am thinking…”
“Over my dead body!” interrupted Neerjala. “Her mother died because of me. She came in my dream and told me now she is at peace because I am with her. Till I am alive, she is going nowhere. She goes, I go!”
Neerjala got so hysterical that Sadhna did not dare to bring the topic again. She was annoyed, having to support another human being, who was not her blood relative. She had nothing against Charu. She was a loving child. She would have supported her financially. But was there any need to keep her in their house?
Meanwhile, Charu had become a fan of Sadhna didi. How pretty she was! What nice clothes she wore! How she went to office! How fluently she spoke English! She was always trying to impress her. Even though she was still a kid, she loved cooking and she especially loved cooking for Sadhna didi. Kakimaa, as she fondly called Neerjala would teach her to make Sadhna’s favourite dishes.
They all lived peacefully together for the next four years until tragedy stuck this home again. Neerjala passed away after a sudden cardiac arrest.
As Sadhna looked at her mother, lifeless and cold, she felt a pain so strong that she was sure she would die too. Charu clung to her like a baby as they both hugged and cried for the only person in this world who loved them true and pure, who was now gone. They were alone.
The next few days were unbearable, living in the haunting emptiness of this house without Neerjala. Sadhna would think she saw her mother or heard her only to realise that the reality was so hopeless. Her only solace was Charu.
It is surprising how intuitive kids are. She was not even a teenager yet, still she believed that now she was Sadhna’s caretaker. She would do the things that Kakimaa did for Sadhna didi. Morning she would ask her if she kept her lunch box and what time she would come back. At night she would remind her to drink milk. She would also convince her to go out for movies and shopping, something Sadhna had lost interest in. Charu was there for her, when her world had collapsed.
Life was looking up for Sadhna. She had finally found love with her boyfriend, Kunal. They were planning to get married.
“You have to get rid of that maid, okay? It is so annoying; I can’t even come back to your apartment because she is there. Just put her in some orphanage for God’s sake.”
But, how could she? Charu was like family now. They had been living together for 5 years. She was distressed because Kunal even objected to support her financially.
“You want to continue spending on her? We will have home loans and car loans and our own kids. Don’t be an emotional fool.”
Sadhna had mentioned to Charu about her marriage and that she would find her a good place where there would be other kids her age. Charu had cried and cried and begged her to let her stay.
Sadhna felt horrible. But was she being selfish? Was she not supposed to think about her future? Kunal would be her husband. She could not just disregard his opinions. She did not want to end up alone…
Kunal had arranged for Charu’s stay at an orphanage in Orissa.
“How can we send her so far? Let us find her a place in Kolkata only. Atleast I can keep visiting her.”
“Let me make it clear, Sadhna. I don’t want this maid in our lives!”
The day had arrived when Charu had to leave. Charu who had been pleading and crying was now completely silent. It was as if she had resigned to her fate. She had packed her suitcase. Kunal and Sadhna would drop her to the railway station where somebody would accompany her.
Charu looked at one of the photo frames of her, Kakimaa and Sadhna.
“Didi can I take this, please.”
Sadhna felt choked with emotion as she nodded. Charu hugged her and cried uncontrollably.
Over my dead body! Over my dead body! She goes, I go…
“Can we go now?” said Kunal irritated. “The train will not wait for her.”
“No!” Sadhna broke down. “I can’t!”
“Not again”, said Kunal shaking his head. “This girl is not even your blood relative! She is your maid’s daughter!”
“Stop calling her maid! Maa treated her like her own child! Maa wanted her to stay. If she goes, Maa goes..!”
“Your mother is dead!”
Sadhna gave him a tight slap. Charu who was still hugging her, held her even more tight.
“I don’t want to enter into new relationships with people who cannot respect my existing ties.”
“Stay with her, you *****. Remain a spinster. Which man will be willing to adopt a 13-year-old girl with you?”
“A man who is a bigger person than you. If not, this home has always had self-sufficient women. Goodbye!”
That night both Sadhna and Charu dreamt that Neerjala was in the house. She looked happy and healthy, the way they liked to remember her.
My story that won ‘Muse of the Month’ on Women’s Web:
The cue for this month was from the movie Queen, in which Kangana’s reel granny tells her that instead staying back in the hotel and watching TV and feeling bad for herself, she should go out and meet people, go sight-seeing…who knows she might find someone interesting too!
It was a regular night at Hard Rock Café. Ashish and Rehan were hanging out. Every Friday these two would catch up here (except ofcourse when they were with their girlfriends). Ashish had been dating Sanaya for the past 10 months.
She was a single mother with a nine-year-old daughter.
“So where is Sanaya this weekend,” asked Rehan.
“She is travelling to Delhi for a wedding.” Said Ashish.
“Oh, so no action this weekend!” winked Rehan. “When are you telling her about Avanti?”
“I will now, once she is back”.
“Hahha, hope she doesn’t get clingy and start blackmailing you,”
“Nah, I never promised to marry her! If she expected something more, her fault!”
For the first time, Ashish’s life was going perfect. He was settled in his career, and had just been promoted to Senior Project Manager. Ashish was always the geek in school and college. He envied other guys as they went out with the hottest girls with the shortest clothes in the biggest cars.
It took him a decade since then, but here he was living the dream! A good house, a good car and a girlfriend his friends drooled at. Somebody has said it right, women are like wine, they get better with age. At 41, Sanaya had the body to die for. Ashish had joined the gym to get in shape to impress women. But how did he get lucky enough to woo the gym owner, the most sought after Sanaya Sarin, his friends still wonder?
Ashish’s parents were visiting from Dhanbad. He must get married by the end of this year, his mother had announced. He was turning 32, high time. Ashish had told his mother he wanted a girl who is fluent in English and well-educated but not career minded. She should be able to bend as and when required for family. Avanti was perfect. Fair and slim, 23 year old with a degree in sociology. Avanti and Ashish had been talking on the phone for over two months. When he had met her in Dhanbad along with her family, he knew she was the one. Young, innocent, pretty, traditional small town girl just the way he liked. Always marry a girl who is much younger, so you can mold her your way, his mother would say.
The Roka had been fixed for November. It was still three months away! Ashish had been showering Avanti with presents. He loved pampering her. Avanti never confessed her love for him, though. Must be shy, he thought. Unlike these confused, Westernized city girls with no values!
Back in Bangalore, Sanaya had been hounding him with her phone calls and texts.
“Please Ashish, come back. I really love you!”
Ashish had never promised to marry her. Where did she get the idea that this would be something long term? All women are the same, he thought. He did not want things to end so nasty with Sanaya but she was behaving like a needy psycho now.
“I am not the first man in your life, anyway so don’t tell me you can’t handle this!”’ He texted back after some more ugly exchange of messages.
Sanaya was eating up so much of his time and energy that he did not even get time to buy an outfit for the Roka. He selected a blue sherwani, Avanti’s favourite colour. He also bought a necklace for her.
Finally, it was the big day. Even though it was not such a big function, some of his friends had still made to Dhanbad. Ashish was looking just like Hrithik Roshan, his mother said. His friends were already drunk and dancing. Avanti’s family was late much to their surprise. The girl’s side is supposed to host, how can they arrive after the groom?
Avanti was not picking up her phone. She must be still at the parlour. Ashish’s father got a call following which there was a lot of commotion. Ashish’s mother almost collapsed. What the hell was going on, did something happen to Avanti?
“Beta, Avanti has eloped with her boyfriend!”
Three weeks had passed. Ashish was back to Bangalore. To say that he was shocked was an understatement. How could she? He was so good to her… If she did not want to marry him, why did she talk to him, meet him, and agree for the Roka? She was playing with his feelings all this time. He was heartbroken and humiliated.
He had been wanting to contact her, but had restrained himself. But today as he saw her whatsapp DP, smiling as if nothing had happened, he could not hold himself back.
“You, bitch!” he typed and pressed send.
He kept waiting to see when the ticks would turn blue but she did not come online. He does not remember when he passed out, the drinks were too much.
Next day at work, there was a flash on his phone. Whatsapp message from Avanti:
“Mind your language, you idiot.
And FYI, I never promised to marry you!”
Ashish was fuming. Look at the nerve this woman had! Another notification came. What else does she want to say?
It was a message from Sanaya.
“You are such a loser! I deserve better.”
It was a big day for Kavya. Today she was meeting her fiance’ Samir’s extended family for the first time. They say opposites attract. It is such a cliché! But it could not be truer in the case of Samir and Kavya. Samir had his own advertising agency which he had started after being a model for nearly a decade. Kavya taught Social studies to students in 8th to 10th grade. Samir was drop dead gorgeous. Kavya was average looking with a kind smile. The two had met at a common friend’s house and remained in touch. Their friends still wonder how and when they fell in love and decided to get married with nothing in common…
It was Samir’s second marriage. He was previously married to a fellow model, Ayesha. Samir’s friends still spoke about Ayesha, and how she was such a beauty. It was bad enough that Kavya felt that Samir was much better looking than her. Every time she met his friends, she knew that they were silently comparing her to his ex and felt sorry that Samir found less of a match. She had got used to their comments:
“You are so different from her!” Different was just a nice way of saying plain and ugly, she thought.
“She was perfect for him, but it was not meant to last!” If she was perfect and it did not last, how long will I last will all my flaws? She would wonder.
Kavya was academically brilliant, intellectually inclined and a loving and caring person. Samir loved her but that didn’t change her self-doubts and insecurities. She always felt that she would get dumped sooner or later. After all, everywhere we keep seeing and hearing that men only fall for physical beauty. Samir teased her about how he was the more attractive one in the couple, though not in a mean way. It was meant to be a joke. But it was the truth and it pinched her. The past year of dating Samir had been financially exhausting for Kavya. She used to spend way out of her means on dresses, and beauty treatment to look good.
Kavya started her day by buying a lovely evening gown for the evening meeting with Samir’s family, after getting personalized attention from an enthusiastic salesgirl.
“Ma’am would you like to buy heels?”
“No”, replied Kavya firmly.
“But Ma’am you are short, this kind of dress looks nice on tall girls, please take a look if you like something”.
Samir was so tall… Kavya gave in and bought a pair of stilettos.
Next, she was at the beauty parlour. She asked for a fruit facial which she thought would be mild for her sensitive skin.
“Ma’am, you are looking very dark. Please try the de-tan facial, it will make you two shades lighter.”
I must be looking like a beast, she thought and opted for the de-tan.
On her way back home, Kavya thought that Samir’s family would now be looking her up on social networking sites and WhatsApp. She must put up a nice DP.
She searched through the gallery and selected a picture which was her best, but she was looking fat! She edited, illuminated and changed angles in photoshop until she looked like a slim, plastic doll and uploaded it, pleased with her creativity.
Finally, she and Samir arrived at the venue. Samir’s family was already there. They were all good-looking. Samir’s cousins who were barely 16-17 years old were very stylish and so were his sisters/ sisters in law who were in their 40s. Kavya was nervous but she was managing. Most people were welcoming and nice. After dinner, the cousins gathered around the bar for more drinks and to get to know Kavya better. They were asking about her education, her family and Kavya was starting to get comfortable. This was no so bad, she thought to herself.
The DJ announced the last song. “Noooo!”, screamed some kids negotiating for one more.
One of Samir’s older cousins, who was very drunk, put one arm around Kavya and the other around Samir and started talking at the top of his voice, attempting to make himself audible despite the loud music.
“Well, after meeting Kavya, I have understood one thing!” he said.
“What?” asked Kavya smiling shyly.
“That love is blind!” And he burst into laughter. Other people, half drunk and very loud by now, also started laughing.
“What do you mean, that Samir Bhaiya was wearing shades when he saw Kayya?” asked a younger girl.
“No not shades, otherwise she would have looked even darker!” said somebody else. There were some more laughs.
“From Ayesha to Kavya, Samir Bhaiya ki sad kahaani!”
“Oh come on! Kayya is brainy. She can give free tuitions to our kids!”
Oh home tuitions! Adi’s current teacher takes Rs 500 for an hour. Kavya I will give you Rs 1000! But you should come early morning. I feel bad for these people no, running around the city to make a few bucks..”
Kavya did not remember when the DJ stopped playing. She just wished that she could disappear. All her insecurities and her fears were right here and she was facing them. She felt naked. She knew she was not a beauty queen. She knew she was not rich. She knew Samir was everything that she was not. And here it was: Her worst fear coming true. The person she loved the most was being given reasons of how she was not good enough for him. She had tears in her eyes. Oh God, I can’t cry now!!
Samir did not react. He was also laughing, not mockingly, but more of a polite laughter. He looked at Kavya. He held her hand, and asked, “You okay?”
“I am okay. Just did not know I was signing up for such humiliation.”
“Oh come, on Kavya! Don’t be so sensitive. They are just kidding. They really liked you…” He offered her a drink.
“How would you feel is someone said such insulting things to you?”
They were interrupted by the drunk guy who had initiated the chain of nasty comments. He started pulling Kavya. “ A toast from Kavya.. Say something dear…”
Samir nodded to Kavya and whispered, “Looks are not everything. I still love you. They came all the way to meet you. Say a note of thanks to them atleast.”
Kavya went forward and smiled. She gulped her drink down.
“I am so glad to have finally met you all today. I really wanted Samir’s family to like me.” She paused. “Not because I care about any of you, but because I love Samir.”
Samir looked a little scandalized, but remained silent.
“I know I am not beautiful or rich like Ayesha. But if she was so perfect, why did she and Samir break up? If only beauty and money could sustain relationships…. You all are blessed with money and claim to be so modern. Yet in this day and age, you think it is shameful to be dark-skinned? Are you the kinds who put matrimonial ads desiring “gori” women and apply Fair and Lovely! So regressive!!
I teach kids and I can proudly say that not a single student of mine has ever failed in my subject. I build their future. I am not just a mentor to them, but also their friend. They talk to me about their problems, and I help them in whatever way I can. They stay in touch with me, even after they have passed my classes. I love my job and I make an honest living. I know the ways in which some of you have made big money, let me not even get into that.
Samir liked me for the qualities I have, as a person. Yes, a good-looking man can fall in love with an average looking woman. Why is so difficult for your peanut sized brains to accept?
Actually I can’t blame you. I found it hard to accept myself. The world loves to feed off people’s self-doubt and all this while I let them. When I don’t love myself for who I am, how can I accept that someone else would?”
She leaned on the table and removed her heels. She became a foot shorter.
There was pin drop silence in the room. Samir’ relatives were shocked. She looked at Samir and continued:
“I love you Samir with all my heart. You flunked in 12th grade. Still I love you. Your vocabulary and spelling is worse than the fifth graders in my school. Still I love you. The only book you have ever read is 45 pages of Chetan Bhagat’s One Night at a Call Centre. Still I love you. You cannot hold a conversation with my friends on any social issue. Still I love you.”
She raised the toast and said,
“Yes, every love is blind, or it wouldn’t exist!”
August 25, 2015
Times of India “36 Year old found dead in his posh apartment. Body battered beyond recognition”
Mumbai Mirror “City in shock — IT Techie bludgeoned to death in the elite Santacruz neighborhood. Preliminary investigations indicate no sign of forced entry”
Hindustan Times “Slain SantaCruz resident identified as Rizad Syed, father of 2, family lives in New Delhi”
August 28, 2015
Shailaja Gupta, Hindustan times reporting live from B-18, Silver Heights, Santacruz, Mumbai: “Just to update our viewers who have just joined in. We are in conversation with Saira Syed, wife of Rizad Syed who was found brutally murdered in his lavish Santacruz apartment on Monday. Reports suggest time of death was appropriately 1 am — 3 am.”
“Saira, Third day since the death, still no leads have emerged in this case. I know this is a tough time for you and your family. What would you want to say, what appeal do you have to those watching this?”
A light skinned, slim woman wearing a black salwar kameez appears on screen. She seems to be in a trance.
“What would you like to say? What kind of person was your husband? Who could have killed him?
Saira hesitates for a moment, then looks straight into the camera, her eyes blank and her face expressionless. Behind her is a picture of a very handsome man, with a perfectly symmetrical face, soft, brown eyes and a very contagious smile.
“Please if anybody has any clue in the”. “If anybody has seen anybody entering this building on the day of the” …. “day before yesterday, please help us. Rizad is a good person. He did not deserve this. Was. Thank you”.
Saira rushed towards her bedroom and locked herself, away from the fleet of the reporters, and the flock of the visiting mourners and sympathetic friends, away from chaos of this unbelievable, surreal “place of crime” which in what seems like another life used to be her husband’s home.
Saira — Until 3 days back
Saira had grown up in Lucknow where she studied till B-Com. When she was 22, her uncle had arranged her marriage to Rizad, a software engineer working in New Delhi. Rizad and Saira had been married for 10 years now and had two daughters — Saba and Sana. Rizad had recently taken up a project which required him be in Mumbai 3–4 days a week. He used to fly back to Delhi every Thursday night and spend the weekend with his family. Although the project was meant to be for a year, Rizad had accepted to extend it for another 6 months, much to Saira’s reluctance.
Off late, Rizad had been working over weekends as well. Saira was emotionally very dependent on Rizad found it difficult to manage alone by herself in Delhi, although she had the support of parents and in-laws who lived in the same city.
Saira was in her house on Monday morning 15 minutes before she received the call. Saira hated mornings. She despised the way every morning the struggles of life strike the very moment one wakes up. Just like the last thought before falling asleep is always the responsibilities and anxieties of the following day, or the uncertain days ahead which nobody has seen. The known anxieties and the unknown fear of the future always seemed to engulf Saira’s mind when she went to bed at night.
The morning of August 25th was no different. Saira woke up at 5 am. She was going through the mundane tasks of every day.. waking up the girls, getting them ready, preparing the lunch, packing their lunch, switching on television and shuffling between her favorite English and Hindi news channels when the phone rang…
Saira does not remember the exact words of the caller. All she remembered was “Rizad” and “dead” in the same line. It is peculiar how a news like this shakes up her entire universe and yet the world seems to be going on. The faucet is still running. The birds outside are still moving. The television is still on. Why is this news reader still talking? Did she not hear? “RIZAD IS DEAD”.
The days that followed were torturous. Saira was experiencing a kaleidoscope of emotions — shock, anger, helplessness, numbness, denial. The grief was too prodigious. The only tragedy Saira had witnessed in life prior to this was her 80 year old grandmother’s death from an illness. Her grandmother had ‘passed away’ after living her life. But this was so harsh, so brutal! Her husband was 35! He was so young, handsome, intelligent, so incredibly successful, so lively. How could God let this happen? It seemed like she was paying for a past life sin. How could his life be cut short like this? She was to live the rest of her life alone without her partner? Her girls would grow up without a father? The permanence of what had happened was catastrophic.
People were trying their best to take care of Saira, to help her feel better. Saira knew they had the best intentions but the magnitude of pain was so much that she could not appreciate anything. She could feel a pinch of jealousy for these people whose lives were not ruined, whose spouses were still alive, whose problems were still redeemable. This was not like failing an exam, it was not like missing a promotion, it was not like a break-up. It was simply the end of any and every happiness that Saira could ever feel in this life.
September 1, 2015 — The Times of India
“CCTV footage shows a person in a burka enter the building at the night of the murder of slain techie, Rizad”
Hindustan Times ‘“Telephone records indicate chats and phone calls with a woman named Janet”
Mumbai Mirror “Is Janet the woman in the burka?”
Mumbai — Rizad’s house — 11 am The police have come to investigate further with their recent findings — transcripts of Rizad’s chats with a woman named Janet, his phone list and some pictures that were exchanged. Janet is an exceptionally beautiful, Caucasian looking woman with exotic features. She looks like a model, posing in a bikini outside a pool! The chats start out from being flirtatious, to suggestively titillating to outright obscene.
Janet says she is an American ramp model who has come to India to try her career in Bollywood movies. The phone bills indicate late night calls for hours. They seem to have known each other for 2 months. Janet was the one who had initiated the talks, apparently through a social networking site, indicating that she found Rizad’s Indian looks irresistibly aboriginal and that it has always been her fetish to sleep with a man of the Indian subcontinent. After teasing him for two months, she had seduced him into a meeting at his apartment with the intention of finally fulfilling her dream.
CCTV footage shows a burqa-clad woman enter the building who leaves after 45 minutes. There are no signs of robbery. The email id, whatsapp account, social networking site profile that belong to Janet have all been deleted, and the phone number is not traceable. Rizad’s friends, neighbors, colleagues have been questioned. Nobody could think of any motive for murder.
While the police is engaging experts to retrieve all of these vitals clues to track Janet, they have approached Saira first to ask her if she has any seen or heard of Janet. Saira’s brain seems to be exploding. Some American woman allured her husband at the pretext of a memorable affair only to kill him? Saira is furious. Not just because her husband was flirting with another woman or planning to cheat on her. But because he was stupid enough to even fall for her.
“You look like Shah Rukh Khan, Indian men so hot, I always wanted to **** one”.
“I will show you true India”
These were some of the crass exchange of messages. And yet, life just got even worse if at all it was possible. Three days later the media had somehow released Janet’s pictures!
Mumbai — Rizad’s house — September 5, 2015 — Times of India
“Prime suspect in the murder of Rizad Syed, a woman named Janet identified as Miss Kosovo 2014!”
“The only lead in the Rizad Syed murder a big sham”
“Picture of the alleged murdered retrieved by the police turns out to be a fake profile”
Saira answers the phone. “Miss what?” she repeats.
Police inspector: “Miss Kosovo 2014”
Saira: “Miss Kosovo killed my husband?”
Police inspector: “We are extremely sorry ma’am. The picture that Janet shared was a fake one, of a celebrity — Miss Kosovo 2014. Infact that was taken at the Miss Universe Contest that took place in Bangkok in November last year. This picture has been viral on the internet for quite some time.”
What followed for the rest of the days was a complete circus of the media. The entire story had become a joke, immensely popular on social media. People were making fun of Rizad’s gullibility and his lasciviousness. Rizad was not around to speak up for himself, and he was being judged in the most undignified manner. Any lay man had an opinion on him and what happened. Everybody had their own theories. Saira had heard that one person’s misfortune is another man’s gain. But people’s insensitivities was just unparalleled. People would not even spare a dead man!
Days passed, turning into weeks, into months. Rizad’s murder was soon to be another addition into the list of unsolved crimes. Even the media had found new entertainment pieces. Saira did not know what hurt her more — the unwarranted publicity following Rizad’s death, or him being forgotten completely.
Suddenly, out of nowhere Saira received an sms. It was a confession. It read:
“I killed your husband. Meet me at the back gate of the old Fort, tomorrow 12:00 am. If you involve the police, you will never know what happened.”
Saira had been waiting for this day. She wanted closure. She wanted to know how and why her husband died. But now that the moment had come, she was completely dumbstruck. Meeting the person who took her life away from her, to go through the gory details of her beloved husband’s death all over again, was giving her shivers.
Saira drove to the Fort. As she stepped out of the car, she saw a girl waiting there whose face was covered with a scarf. She was very short and very petite. She looked too powerless to have executed a crime like this. Saira wanted to look at her straight in the eye. She wanted to tell her how she had ruined her life. How she had deprived her of all her happiness. She wanted to tell her she that would never forgive her. She wanted to slap her, spit at her, crumble her into pieces until she became as negligible as her Rizad, gone forever.
Her face was still covered with a scarf in shame. She was covering her eyes with sun-glasses, possibly because she could not look Saira in the eye. Saira reached out to her purse and took out a family photograph taken on her younger daughter’s birthday. As she looked at it, she could not control her tears and broke down.
Saira sobbing:” You have destroyed us completely.”
Lady in scarf: “I am sorry”.
Saira: “That’s it! Sorry? Who are you? Why did you do this?”
Lady in scarf: “I wish you and your kids did not have to suffer like this. You had to suffer for his sins. Saira: What did he do to deserve something so harsh? I need to know”.
Lady in scarf: “My name is Zeenat. It was 1997. My father used to work in Rizad’s house as a gardener. I used to accompany him to help. One day, while I was alone, Rizad tried to touch me. He said he had fallen in love with me. I told him to get away. I had no romantic interest in him. He said he was completely mesmerized by me and would not be able to forget me. I told him to leave me alone and let me do my work, and that I would inform his parents if he misbehaved with me again. After that incident, I stopped going to his place. But he did not take this rejection well. It was a big blow to his ego — that a woman, that too a poor one hurt this pride and he decided to teach me a lesson”.
Zeenat paused for a moment. Saira was trying to visualize the whole scene — a 17–18 year old Rizad wanting to fool around with a domestic helper. And Zeenat, taking revenge almost two decades later. It was all so unbelievable, like watching a bad movie. But then everything was so surreal since Rizad’s death. Why was she even trusting this woman?
Saira: “Then, what happened?”
Zeenat removed her scarf and her sun-glasses. Saira gasped in horror as she stared at what she saw. It was not even a face. She had one eye, the remaining eyelids were burned off. The nose was completely shrunken and deformed. The lips were partly present, exposing the teeth. The skin tissue was scarred, every visible part of it. She was wearing a high-necked top but the burnt neck was peeping out her sweater.
Zeenat: “This was my punishment. Your husband threw acid on my face because I rejected him. I have gone through 13 reconstruction surgeries in the past 20 years. My mother died a year after the attack, as she could not see me hide from myself every day. And my father left me two years back. I did go to the police but Rizad was a minor. And throwing acid was not a crime recognized by law anyway. He went scot free and moved on with his life, even forgot about me while I lived each day, knowing that he was alive, breathing, and happy in the same world in which I had become a shadow of who I was. Rizad died once while I died every…”
Zeenat was interrupted as a man in civil clothes appeared and flashed his police ID. Saira had informed the police it seems. He started interrogating Zeenat. Zeenat started to mislead him until…
“The caller did not show up. This is my friend from school. I had called her here for support. I could not handle it alone”, Saira said.
The police officer gave a good look to Zeenat and then to Saira, wondering whether to trust any of the two woman. But he had no reason to doubt late Rizad’s wife.
No progress yet, another misleading clue he complained as he went back to his job to resolve other “crimes”, the ones that have succeeded in finding a place in law.
Originally published at yourstoryclub.com.
Everybody has a story to tell. Some stories remain untold in a thousand pages. Some can even be conveyed in 3 sentences, with the words not failing the meaning. Here are 10 such stories with myriad reflections:
1. A wise tyrant commonly known as mother-in-law once welcomed her new daughter-in law in her household, and passed on the hereditary wisdom, “A woman’s family after her marriage is that of her husband’s, I do not want you spending hours on the phone with your sister, or visit your mother every alternate day.”
“I am sorry, what?” replied the disinterested daughter-in-law, playing with the wedding dress selected and imposed on her by her husband’s sister, “I thought you were talking to your daughter.”
2. “I am a self-respecting man, I will not attend your cousin’s wedding unless I get a personal invitation from his father,” he yelled at his wife, and slammed the door, returning to his bedroom to watch the India-Australia cricket match on the 200.66 cm 3D Smart 4K Ultra HD television set gifted by her father.
3. “Our family is very progressive”, said the proud father. “We allow our women to study further, and build their careers. They should be independent. We are all for women empowerment!”
Everybody at the table nodded in agreement, until he added “After all, today men want qualified and working wives, how will she find a good husband?”
4. She was feeling guilty at work, leaving her sobbing child at school who she forgot to dress up as an elephant. When did she miss to check his diary amidst the cooking, cleaning and client calls?
Back at school, her husband received adulation for being a great father — He showed up to pick him up, first time in 6 years!
5. “Why the hell are you wearing sleeveless, want to seduce boys in college? Go and change immediately.” He yelled at his younger sister, who was now in tears.
Back in office, he was not able to concentrate on work. Every time he tried to look at the laptop, the shapely legs of the new intern exposed by the short black skirt, distracted him.
6. “You put on too much makeup, want to impress boys?” Jiya made fun of the friend she considered shallow as they pouted for a Facebook worthy selfie.
3 hours and 15 minutes later: only 10 likes.
Jiya thought to herself, disappointed, “No matter how much cleavage I show, the opposite sex does not seem to care.”
7. A double-chinned, voluptuous woman stared at her reflection in the mirror of the trial room and complained to her petite friend, with her hand placed on her navel, “I still look pregnant, Aghh! After 11 months of gymming, since Arya was born….You still look like a model, the way you did in college.”
“Thanks”, she replied with a bleak smile, imagining herself with a protruding belly. Her fourth round of IVF had just been unsuccessful.
8. He was glancing through the pages of the matrimonial site for his brother, as he came across an interest sent by a widow. “Why would my unmarried brother marry a widow? We want a virgin bride!”
His wife smirked. Even after 4 years of marriage, her 2 abortions prior to her marriage remained a secret to her foolish husband.
9. We do not want dowry, just a Five-star wedding, concise 3 day functions, decent gifts for our 500 guests, and a 10-day honeymoon in Europe. After all, it’s all out of love for your daughter!”
Somewhere in Haryana, a farmer woke up from the nightmare and strangled his newly born daughter, who he was incompetent to love.
10. The bald woman wearing a halter top and torn shorts was sitting on the opposite table, her legs full of tattoos. “These women have a skewed sense of fashion,” he said to himself.
She smiled sipping her latte. It was the first time since the chemo ended that she felt confident to leave the house.