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Madhu woke up to find herself in RK's bedroom. Incidents of last night came rushing back to her like a tsunami. She abruptly sat up and covered her bare shoulders with her kameez. She tried zipping it up but then realized that the zip was ripped off the cloth.
Madhu looked around in despair, thinking of what to do. She got out of bed, put her hair up in a bun and opened RK's closet. At this point of her life, privacy could go to hell. Ransacking his wardrobe, Madhu settled on a black hoodie.
Wearing it, she snuck out of RK's home.
Padmini jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning around, she saw it was just her daughter, Madhubala. Seeing the bruise on her forehead, she instantly thought of RK. As of late the root of all their problems has been the one and same.
"Madhu… yeh tere sar par kaisi chot lagi beta?" Padmini gingerly touched the purple bruise.
Instinctively, Madhubala winced and tilted her head away from her mother's touch.
"Kuch ni hua Maa," Madhu reassured her mother vainly.
"Aur yeh jacket," Padmini inquired upon inspecting her attire. "Yeh jacket kiski pehan raki hai?"
"Maa, tum inn sab cheezon ki fiqar maat karo. Aur yeh batao, Maalik kaise hai." Madhu asked trying to avert Padmini's attention.
"Maalik…" Padmini trailed off looking back at the ICU window.
Madhu walked up to the window and looked at her living God, resting on a stretcher with the help of a life support. She blamed herself for all that has happened. If she hadn't been so adamant about bringing justice to Mukund then Maalik wouldn't be in such a state today. Trishna, Roma, Bittuji, the Inspector, even Mukund's mother had repeatedly told her to take back the case. But no, she had to prove a point. She had to make RK realize that no matter how powerful or rich he is, he is not above the law.
However, tonight she realized that she was wrong. Yes, she had succeeded in sending him to jail for four days, but what good did that do? In the end she had to suffer through more humiliation and torment than he did. At the end, it was her who was defamed in public not him. All he got was a few days' worth of coverage in the news and some more publicity that just added to his fame.
Madhu broke out of her reverie as her mother shook her.
"Tu sun bhi rayi hai ke mein kya kari hoon." Madhu turned around to face her mother. "Maalik ke ilaaj ke liye humhe kam se kam 20 lakhs chahiye."
"20 lakhs?" Madhu whispered the amount as if saying it out loud will make her worst nightmare come true.
"Nurse kehri thi ki humhe chaubeez ghaante hai. Varna Maalik ko yaha se shift karna pare ga." Padmini's forehead creased to reveal the long, deep lines.
"Maa, tum fiqar maat karo. Paiso ka intezaam ho jayega. Main… main abhi bank jaa kar lekar aati hoon. Hmm?"
Reassuring her mother, Madhu left the hospital to arrange for the money.
"Bittuji, kaam hua kya?" RK asked his manager, in between his bites of pancakes.
"Yes Chief. Aaj subha 7:30 baaje har ek news channel mein telecast ho jaaye ga." Bittuji informed.
"Good. I want every single frame of that video to be etched deep within her mind, heart and soul. Jab jab woh jaage, jab jab woh soye, Madhubala ke aankhon ke saamne yeh video replay pe hona chahiye."
Bittuji smiled to himself while RK continued eating anticipating the moment when Madhubala's destruction will reveal itself to the whole world.
Madhu emptied out her whole bank account and she still didn't have enough money for Maalik's operation. Putting the amount that she does have in a handbag, Madhu starts to head back to the hospital to deposit the money.
As she was walking along the dirt road, Madhu noticed some men were eying her down. She looked at them and they averted their eyes. She turned back and sped up her walk.
Madhu stopped at a small shop to buy herself a bottle of water. Since morning, she had been running around from place to place looking for ways to accumulate enough money for Maalik's operation.
Madhu paid the man for the bottle and opened it. She stayed in the shade of the shop and drank till her heart was content.
It was 7:28 a.m. The street was crowded with bustling workers hurrying to get to their respective jobs.
Behind her the shop owner turned on the mini-TV to listen to the daily news that came on at 7:30 a.m.
Madhu was just about to leave the shop when she heard a high-pitched female voice say her name. She whipped her head around and looked at the mini-TV. The words BREAKING NEWS flitted against the TV screen. At first the pictures of RK and her taken at the engagement flashed repeatedly against the screen.
"Ji haan, yeh wohi Madhubala hai jisne superstar RK ke kilaaf police mein complaint karva kar chaar dino ke liye jail mein daal diya tha. Wohi Madhubala jisse RK ne sa re aam apna pyaar maana." Madhu thinking it was the same old news started to leave when the reporter announced, "Issi pyaar ko aur mazboot karne aayi yeh video."
"Video?" Madhu whispered to herself.
"Madhubala, I'm making you famous. Look." His eyes twinkling, he pointed towards the camera.
Madhu's eyes widened in horror and looked at the mini-TV again. There on the small screen was worst nightmare displaying itself for the whole world to see.
There he was ruining her image once again, the devil whose name was RK. Scenes of him advancing towards her, kissing her, taking off her clothes and more were being telecasted without any censorship whatsoever.
Madhu's head felt light but her feet were as heavy as lead. She clenched her fist around the handles of her handbag. Not wanting to see anymore of her humiliation, Madhubala wiped her tear and marched her way back to the hospital.
If she was getting dirty looks before then she had no words to describe the way people were looking at her now. Vulgarity and cheapness dripped from the very pores of the vile men that were staring at her.
Madhu sped up to avoid the four men that had begun to follow her. She stopped a taxi and got in. Upon giving the address, the taxi driver turned around and looked at her with a wicked smile. Scared, Madhu quickly got out and started to run.
Mrs. Dixit's eyes popped out of her socket when she saw RK lying on top of Madhubala.
"Haaye daaya re daaya. Maine kaha tha na ki yeh Madhubala humare Mukund ke liye theek nayi hai. Ab dekho iske laachan. Dekho dekho." Mrs. Dixit angrily pointed at the TV screen. "Main abhi keh deti hoon, yeh Madhubala iss ghar ki bahu bilkul ni ban sakti."
Mukund remained frozen. Unable to move, unable to think, and unable to comprehend exactly what was going on with his fiance. Who was the woman on the TV? It surely can't be his Madhu. Albeit he knew her for four days, but it was enough for him to know that Madhubala will never do the things she was being accused of. After all wasn't it her who adamantly fought against RK to give Mukund justice? Then why is that all the evidence is piling up against her? Why is it that despite his judgment he is being forced to believe what everyone else is saying against her? At first when RK claimed to love Madhubala, Mukund scoffed at it. But how can he scoff at the video? How can he disregard Madhu willingly falling into RK's arms?
"Ab aaye hum baat karte hai Madhubala se." the reporter turned around to face a disheveled Madhu. "Madhuji, RK ne toh apna pyaar bayaan kardiya. Aap iske baare mein kya kehna chahengi?"
The female reporter put the microphone close to Madhubala's lips. Madhu opened her mouth to speak but was just not able to form words. Even if she does what can she say that will be able to save her already tarnished reputation?
"No comments." Madhu closes the hospital doors on the reporters' faces.
"Darshako, yeh thi Madhubala jino ne kuch bhi kehne se saaf saaf mana kar diya. Ab hum iss khamoshi ko samje? Kya Madhubala aur RK ka chakar chal raha? Kya ek junior artist ki beti apne saagai ke din kissi aur ki bahon mein apne pyaar ka izhaar kari thi?" Mukund turned off the TV.
"Madhu, yeh sab… yeh press wale kya keh re the?" Padmini shook her daughter's arm.
"K-kuch ni Maa. Tum toh jaanti ho na. Bakwaas karte rehte hai." Madhu stammered.
"Press wale bakwaas kar re hoge par woh jo video baar baar dekha re hai, kya woh bakwaas hai?" Roma yelled. "Bol na!" She shook Madhu violently. "Woh teri, meri, teri Maa ki, Maalik ki izaat ko baar baar kichad uchad re hai, aur tu keh ri hai ki yeh sab bakwaas hai?!"
"Video? Kaunsi video Roma?" Padmini asked clueless about the latest happenings in her daughter's life.
"Bahar jaa kar dekh Padmini, teri yeh beti kya gul chaade uda ri hai. Jaa!" Roma pushed Padmini out into the hospital corridor so that she can see the video being telecasted first-hand.
"Aur tu," Roma pointed a finger accusingly at Madhu. "Agar tu sach bol ri hai, toh puri raat kaha thi tum? Jab hum yaha," she now pointed at Maalik, "apna sar por por kar Maalik ko dhoond re the, tum kaha thi? Uss RK ki bahon mein?!" Roma pointing in the air spoke with gritted teeth.
"Roma nayi," Madhu tried to defend herself but Roma raised her hand.
"Chi… tu, tu ne pi rakhi hai kya?" Roma pinched her nose to stop the smell.
"Maine," Madhu mumbled to herself thinking why Roma thought that.
"You've gotten so dirty. Let's clean you up." He stood up and poured the whiskey over her head.
"Yeh kya kare ho! Stop it!" She screamed at him.
Madhu straightened up remembering the whiskey incident.
"Roma, yeh main nayi. Woh RK –"
"Toh tum kal raat RK ke paas thi." Padmini stated.
Madhu turned her attention to her mother and saw her disheveled state. Her hair were strewn all across her face, the dark circles under her eyes started to resemble like craters and her Banarasi sari hung loosely from her left shoulder.
"Sach sach baata Madhu. Kya tu kal raat RK ke saath thi ya nahi?"
Tears spilled down from Madhu's lowered eyes.
"Madhu, yaha se chali jaa."
"Maa! Aap, aap meri baat ka yakeen ki jiye. Jaisa video mein dikhaya jaara hai vaisa kuch ni hai Maa!" Madhu clung to her mother's arm, pleading her.
"Mujhe tujh par pura yakeen hai Madhu." Padmini cupped Madhu's face in her hands. "Par tu abhi ghar jaa. Tera yaha rehna teek ni hoga."
"Teek? Maa tujhe yeh sab kis angle se teek lagra hai?" Trishna yelled. "Iss Glycerin ki vaaja se aaj Maalik ki yeh haalat hui hai. Aur yeh Maalik ke saath hone ki bajai woh RK ke saath na jaane kya kya kari thi." Trishna now turned to Madhu. "Bol na Glycerin. Apne aap ko bech kar aayi ho kya?!"
"Trishna!" Padmini screamed, horrified that one of her daughter will accuse the other of something so vile.
Numbed, Madhu slipped out of the corridor while her mother and Roma handled her sister.
Not knowing where her feet will take her, Madhu stepped out into the city where packs of flashing predators were waiting to attack.
Joined: 31 January 2012