Joined: 14 October 2006
Maan Singh Khurana came out of the Mumbai High court with mixed feelings of contentment and regret. After cooling his heels as an under-trial for a year behind the bars of a dingy cell, he could finally walk as a free man; but that was not the source of his contentment. What pleased him was that justice was finally served in the imprisonment of the rapist, to whom he had meted out his own brand of justice a year ago by breaking his bones. Although the judge found him guilty of taking law into his own hands, he released him considering that he had already served the punishment in staying imprisoned for the last one year while awaiting trial. When his lawyer, Mr.Contractor and his friend, Aditya, congratulated him for having won the year long tussle, he merely smirked. He may have gained his freedom but has lost his world, his wife Geet. He wondered what this freedom was worth without her by his side.
As he did not want to go back to their two bedroom apartment at Andheri as it would only make him feel her absence more acutely, Aditya took him to his own house at Malad. Aditya's wife, Pinky welcomed him warmly and served him tea. Aditya tried to cheer him up but to no avail. He was quite bitter about the fact that his wife failed to be by his side during his most trying times. Yes, he was no model husband and she had her fair share of miseries being married to him, but he still expected her to visit him when he was in prison, to atleast vent her anger on him for what he had put her through. Her refusal to meet him even after he sent word through his friend Aditya annoyed him at first, but saddened him later. He spent the last one year in the hope that she would change her mind and meet him atleast once but she never came. All he got was a curt letter saying that she did not want to live with him anymore and if he cared for her at all, he should let her go. His real strength was his friend, Aditya who stood by him through thick and thin. He had arranged for the best criminal lawyer to defend him and ensured that the culprit, the twenty-three year old rich, spoilt and influential son of a sitting Member of the Parliament, was put behind bars for the heinous crime he committed. The huge outcry from the women's welfare associations also helped his cause.
"Thanks Aditya," Maan said, his voice heavy with emotion, "Thanks for standing by me when my own wife deserted me. I never realised that Geet would do this to me. Anyway, I am happy that this case has brought out her true colours," he said bitterly.
Aditya squirmed uncomfortably in his chair, hearing his friend speak ill of the woman who had been his real but unseen support all along. Although he had promised her that he will not reveal the truth to Maan, Aditya's conscience did not permit him to sit back and let him think the worst of Geet.
"No, Maan. The person you should really be thanking is Geet. She had been the one who had arranged for the services of Mr.Contractor. She had to beg her father to use his influence and resources to get Mr.Contractor accept your case and defend you. Knowing how strained her relationship with her father has been ever since she married you, you can well imagine how much of self respect she had to give up to do that."
Maan was shocked by this revelation. "I thought you had engaged the lawyer," he whispered.
"That is what she wanted you to believe. Although I was reluctant to be her front at first, I could not refuse her when I heard her point of view. Anyway, I had to get you out and could not afford to pay the huge fees charged by Mr.Contractor. She still loves you but is very disappointed in you, Maan. You had let her down very badly this time."
Maan put his head down in shame. He had repeatedly put her in problems because of his inability to control his cursed temper. He had attempted several times to reign in his mindless fury which erupted every time he witnessed injustice but he had failed miserably. Aditya was right. Things had really gone too far this time. He did not regret bashing up that unscrupulous brat but he regretted the huge price he paid in the process.
"Where is she?" he asked hopefully.
"I don't know, Maan. She left the city more than ten months ago and has not been communicating with me ever since. Your lawyer's bills were directly settled by your father-in-law, Mohinder Handa, under strict anonymity. I tried to get her address from your father-in-law but the man wouldn't even speak to me. You know how much he despises you. As I am your friend, I guess he despises me too."
Maan was crestfallen. He suspected that she must have bartered with her father their married life for his freedom, for he knew Mohinder never accepted him as his son-in-law ever. After dinner, he left his friend's house but did not return to his house immediately. Instead, he walked aimlessly in the Madh Island beach, contemplating his life.
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Joined: 14 October 2006
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Joined: 14 October 2006
Joined: 14 October 2006
Joined: 14 October 2006
He had first seen her five years back at the entrance to Nizamuddin Railway Station in Delhi where she was standing with her group of friends. She was the chirpiest one in the group of six. Their eyes briefly met but he hurried to the ticket counter to buy his ticket. As he stood in the queue, he dipped his hand in his hip pocket to retrieve his wallet but could not find it there. He started perspiring as he desperately searched all his pockets but found them empty. It finally dawned on him that he had been robbed of all his money and he was left stranded without a paise in a city where he knew no one.
For a moment he just froze, wondering what to do. Should he return to his hometown, Hoshiarpur? But then he did not even have money to buy the ticket back home. Only an hour earlier he had come to Delhi in a crowded bus to board the train to Mumbai where he had a job interview. If he goes back, he will miss this interview and may well not get another opportunity for a long time. The menial jobs he was doing in his hometown did not pay enough to take care of Meena Maasi, the seventy-year old cancer patient, who had raised him ever since his nameless and faceless mother discarded him as soon as he was born. Meena was a middle aged spinster nurse in the hospital at that time. Having no family of her own, she gave him her own surname and put in all her energy in raising him up, using up all her meagre resources to give him a decent education. He did not know that he was an abandoned child until his teens when one of the school bullies called him a b******. He had flown at him in rage and punched him till the boy screamed for mercy. Later that evening when Meena Maasi came to know of his behaviour from the boy's mother she sat him down and after admonishing him for his lack of control over his temper, she revealed the truth that his mother was a rape victim who was forced to give him up because of the social stigma attached to a young unwed mother.
Over the years, his rage only seemed to increase as the surroundings he lived in served to fuel it further. He always ended up bashing someone or other for the injustices meted out to the inhabitants of his locality. Meena Maasi had grown tired of scolding him. Anyway she did not have much energy left after she was diagnosed with cancer only a couple of months back. Maan who, in between in his violent brawls, was content earning just enough to take care of his modest needs, suddenly required large sums of money to treat the woman who had taken care of him. Although he was reluctant to leave his town, he knew that opportunities were limited there. He applied for several jobs, but his graduate degree in commerce and lack of experience did not get him the salary he was expecting. The job interview as a marketing manager in the cosmetics wing of Handa Group of companies in Mumbai seemed to be the answer to his problems as it was a well paying job. He was confident of getting the job as he had the gift of the gab but that seemed a distant dream if he cannot reach Mumbai and attend the interview.
He hesitatingly approached the group girls he had noticed earlier and asked them if they can lend him Rs.300 to buy the ticket to Mumbai, explaining to them that he had to get to the city to attend a job interview and he had been robbed of all his money. The girls merely jeered at him and whispered amongst themselves that beggars have turned sophisticated in their begging these days, concocting such unbelievable stories to extract more money. He was hurt by the ridicule and although he seethed in anger, he turned away abruptly to leave without a word as he did not want to lash out at the weaker sex. Before he could leave, though, he felt a soft hand tugging his arm to detain him. He turned around to see that the hand belonged to the chirpy girl whom he had noticed just a few minutes back. As he gazed into her beautiful almond eyes, she parted her soft supple lips and said, "Wait."
She dug into her handbag and pulled out two five hundred rupees notes.
"You'll need more than just Rs.300. After all you need some money to move around the city and also to buy your return ticket back to Delhi."
He couldn't believe his eyes and ears. Returning one five hundred rupee note to her, he said, "My friend, Aditya works in Mumbai. He will take care of me once I reach there. So I'll be able to return this money back to you as soon as possible. Can you give me your address? By the way, do you live in Mumbai or Delhi?"
"I live in Mumbai but you don't have to bother about returning the money," she said.
"No, I insist. I'll accept the money only if it is a temporary loan."
"OK, then. You can give me a call at this number. I'll let you know where you can meet me." She quickly wrote down her cell phone number in a chit of paper and handed it over to him.
As he was leaving, he could hear her friends admonishing her for trusting the words of a stranger and handing over not only cash but also her cell phone number.
One of them said in a loud voice, "Geet, you are too dumb. You are not going to see that money again. I only hope he is just a cheat and not some pervert who may pester you or blackmail you now that he has your number."
He heard her say confidently, "I trust him."
Those three words sounded like music to his ears as he briskly walked up to the ticket counter to buy his ticket to Mumbai. He did not see her again during their journey as he was travelling in the unreserved coach. As soon as he reached the Mumbai Central Station, his friend Aditya rushed up to meet him. He narrated to him the whole incident of losing his money and being helped by a young college girl. Aditya couldn't resist teasing him about his guardian angel and Maan tried hard to hide his blush.
His interview went off very well and he got the job. As soon as he stepped out of the office he hurried to the nearest telephone booth and called her up. She asked him to meet her at the Horniman's Circle garden. That evening he paid her back with the money Aditya lent him. They exchanged names and she told him that she was a first year history student in St.Xavier's college, one of the reputed city colleges, and was returning from a study tour to Delhi when they had met at the station. When he mentioned where he had got his appointment, he noticed that her eyes widened a little but she did not say anything. Blissfully ignorant of her identity, he chatted with her. He found her to be a simple, down-to-earth girl. They talked about each other's interests and found that they shared the same taste in music and books. He kept in touch with her after that meeting and over the days and weeks, their friendship bloomed and developed into love. He did not probe her about her family for fear of having to tell her about his own. What mattered to him was her and not her family and he was happy to note that she seemed to think the same way about him.
On the career front too he was doing well. He had pushed up the sales by over 50 per cent within the first six months of joining the company and earned two out-of-turn increments. Pleased with his success, the CEO, Mr. Mohinder Handa himself sent him a personal invite for one of his banquets. It was only there that he came to know that the woman he was in love with was his boss's only daughter. He was at first upset that she had not revealed who she really was even after he told her where he was working but she managed to convince him that all that mattered was that they both loved each other and nothing or no one can change that. They continued to see each other and their love only strengthened. She became his moral strength after Meena Maasi died a year later.
Two years ago her father found out about their relationship and all hell broke loose. He was kicked out of his job and she was warned off him but she had rebelled against her father and married him in a quiet ceremony attended only by his good friend Aditya and his wife, Pinky and her friend, Malathi Raghuram. Her father had severed all ties with her, despite her mother begging him not to, as he was disappointed in her choice of life partner.
Maan had, in the meantime, managed to find another marketing job. As he had earned quite handsomely in the Handa Group, he was able to save quite a good sum. He used this along with a bank loan to book a flat in Andheri. Although they lived quite happily for about a couple of months, the cracks soon surfaced. His fiery temper had always been a bone of contention with her even during their courtship days but living with him, she realised his problem was much more acute than she imagined it to be. Although she was rarely subjected to this rough side of him, she was upset that he ended up getting into problems because of it. He was forced to change jobs faster than the turn of the months in the calendar, as he got into trouble for either physically or verbally abusing people. Once it was his corrupt boss and another time it was a corrupt client. A third time it was a customer who duped his colleague by palming off counterfeit notes. He even slapped his neighbour's son for indulging in eve teasing. Soon people in his neighbourhood feared him and refused to mix with them. Geet always ended up trying to retrieve him from the situations he kept putting himself in.
After the last big brawl he was involved in, prior to this case, she had threatened to walk out on him if he does not curb this violent streak of his. That had some calming effect on him because he did not want to lose her but within a couple of months he was forced to break his own promise.
While returning home late from work one night he saw a wounded and bedraggled young girl, staggering down the road. He immediately parked his motor bike on the side of the road and took her by cab to the nearby hospital where it was found that she had been raped. Although the girl was fearful of speaking up at first, he coaxed her into telling him what had happened. He found out that she was a housemaid in the MP's house and the MP's son had raped her taking advantage of the fact that the whole family had gone to Haridwar on a pilgrimage and he was alone with her in the house. Furious at what he heard, he had gone straight to the MP's house, knocked down the security guard who refused to let him in and barged into the rapist's room to give him the thrashing of his life. The result- the MP's son landed in the hospital and he, in jail. Medical evidences which implicated the MP's son in the rape case mysteriously disappeared and the case was put in the back burner. On the other hand, the MP saw to it that the case of assault and battery against him was strengthened by bringing in all his past victims as witnesses. His history of violent behaviour went against him. If it had not been for the skilful arguments of his lawyer and the reopening of the rape case, he would have been serving a much longer sentence in prison.
End of flashback
Close to midnight he returned to his empty flat and spent a restless night tossing and turning, unable to dislodge his wife's image from his mind.
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OMG 300 completed pages - CONGRATS
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