Read #1 book on Hinduism and enhance your understanding of ancient Indian history.
Read #1 book on Hinduism and enhance your understanding of ancient Indian history.

A Soul For A Soul

A Soul For A Soul

29 mins 660 29 mins 660

***** The Exposition *****

New Delhi railway station. The sun was yet to rise, the sky above everyone's head was dark, gloomy and full of clouds. It was drizzling a little too. The day had not start yet.


Though the place was crowdy as always. Full of people coming from all over the country, porters, rail polices and taxi and auto drivers, shouting to every passersby, “Paharganj, Kashmere Gate, Rajiv Chowk, this side, this side”. The day had been started for them already.


It is Aniket's first time in Delhi. He has read all about this place from his childhood, the history of this great city, serving as the capital of India, from the time of Mahabharata. Though he has not any time to roam and wander this place, as he has very little time to spare. He has to board a train at 6:45 AM. And it's already 5:30.


When Aniket came to the platform no 16, he felt disgusted, with all the garbage and filth littering everywhere in the platform. All the seats were full with the waiting passengers. Aniket smiled in his mind, seeing this striking dissimilarity between this station and the New Delhi metro station, just accross the street, where he is coming from. 


Aniket put down his rucksack on the floor and sat on a pillar base. He has to wait, he will have to wait.


Around 6 AM, when the sky started turning from black to a blue one, the train came. Aniket's train. Dehradun Shatabdi. He boarded the train, along with his luggage. The interior of this train was good, clean and beautiful. He found his seat, C2-45. Just when he lifted his bag to put in the upper cabinet, he saw there was already a suitcase, a big red one. No place for him to put his bag there.


Feeling a little annoyed, he tried to shift this suitcase to his left, suddenly he saw a girl startling at him. He asked her, “Is this your luggage?”. “Yes”, said the girl. “Can I shift it to the left? I don't have any room left for my bag to keep here.”, said Aniket. 


“Sure, sure”, said the girl. Aniket thanked her and shifted her suitcase to the left and put his bag in place. Then he sat on his seat. The girl sat on the seat next to him.


“It was quite heavy you know, your luggage”, Aniket said to her, smiling. She looked at him and smiled back. “Sorry for the trouble! I know, it's too heavy!”


“No problem”, said Aniket. He realized the girl was very good-looking. She would be around his age, Aniket figured.


The girl also had a hand-luggage, a small bag with her. She brings out a book from there and started reading it. “A Week In Paris”, Aniket could read the title. Never heard of this book. “Must be another romantic novel, by someone named Rachel Hore!” Aniket thought and laughed in his mind.


“Going to Dehradun?” The girl stared at him when Aniket asked this question. She was reading the book attentively. “Yes. And you?” She asked him back.


“Yes me too.”, answered Aniket. 

-”Travelling?”

-”Yes. Trekking rather.”

-”Wah! You trek?”

-”No, not really. This is my first time.”

-”Going alone?”

-”Yes. I mean, alone as in no friend with me. I am going with a travelling group.”

-”Oh nice!”, said the girl. She smiled in such a way, Aniket liked it very much. Few people are there on this earth, nothing but only their smile can make others happy, comfortable. She was this kind of person.


-”And you? Travelling too?”

The girl looked at him again, closing the book, “No. Going home. My father lives there, in Mussorie. Going home after a long time!”


“That explains the super heavy luggage”, Aniket laughed. The girl laughed too and nodded in agreement. Then told him, “What's your name?”


Aniket said his name. “And what's yours?”

-”I am Rimsha”. Aniket never heard this name before. “Rimsha? What does it mean? Pardon my curiosity!” Aniket shied.


“Hey, chill! It means bunch of flowers, in urdu”, Rimsha replied. “Wow, beautiful name”, said Aniket. A fitting name for such a beautiful girl, he thought.


The train is running furiously. The sun is out, though the weather is a bit hazy. It’s 7:30, the train has already came out of the city. Only lush green fields, stretching miles after miles are running backwards. It is spring time.


An old couple is sitting beside Aniket's seat. They are French, Aniket guessed. Because the lady was reading a book named “Inde”. French name for India. Must be a guide book of India. The man is sitting beside the window and is sleeping.


“Is it raining in Dehradun?” Aniket asked Rimsha. She answered, “Raining is very common there. You could get a downpour anytime. The weather is very unpredictable there. But this time of the year, the rainfall is rare. You don't have to worry.”


Aniket was surprised a bit. “How did you know I was worried!”, asked Aniket. “Isn't it obvious? You are going in the mountains, trekking. Rain should be the last thing you want.”, Rimsha replied, “and also, I could tell from your voice.” She smiled, looking at his face. Aniket was perplexed by her analysis power.


“Inquisitive mind you have, and observer too”, he praised her. Rimsha smiled, “Well that helps me in my job.” ”What are you? A detective?”, Aniket laughed. She laughed too, “No Aniket, I am a writer.”


The pantry-boys served tea to everyone. While mixing the sugar with the tea, Rimsha asked him, “And what about you? What do you do?”

-“I work in Oracle, in Bangalore.”

-”Nice!” Rimsha took a sip from her cup. “It will get cold, drink it fast”, she said to Aniket.

-”Thank you, but I don't drink tea”


A baby started crying from the seat in front of Rimsha. The French lady looked at the baby and then got up from her seat and took her in her laps. Then she comforted the child in her own language. When the girl stopped crying she handed her over to her parents and then got back to her seat. Aniket and Rimsha was looking at her, so she looked back at them and smiled. “Hello” she said.


“Bonjour”, said Rimsha. The lady was astonished. “You know French?” “Just a few words”, Rimsha replied. The French lady smiled happily. Then she asked, “How did you know I am French?”

-”Your book title. Inde.”

She looked at her book, then looked at Rimsha with a smile, “I love India. This is my third time here.”

-”Where are you going now?”

-”Hardware. Did I say it correctly?” She smiled again.

-”Haridwar it is.”

-”Yes yes. We visited Jaipur, Udaipur. Then visited Agra. Now going to Haridwar.”

-”Wow, must have been travelling for quite a long time now!”, said Aniket

-”Yes, 15 days have passed already”. The lady brought out her phone, “look at these photos”


Aniket and Rimsha saw the photos. She and her husband, standing beside forts, Tajmahal etc. “What is this flower called?” She pointed out to a photo, some vines full of red flowers on a wall. She was standing beside the wall in the photo. Must be from a hotel where they stayed.


Rimsha could not answer this question. But Aniket knew this flower. His grandmother had hobby of gardening. “Bougainvillea it is”, he said.


“Bugavee” she exclaimed in her French accent, as if she couldn't remember the name for a long time. “Thank you son” she told Aniket. Then she resumed reading her book.


Aniket asked Rimsha, “You live in Mussorie?”

Rimsha turned to Aniket. “No my father lives there. He runs a hotel there. We originally belong to Lucknow. I do a job in a newspaper company in Delhi. Not in the hardcore journalism. Mostly it's writing stories for their weekly magazine. Now going back to my father after a long time.”

-”I have heard Mussorie is a very pretty place”

-”Yes you should definitely come there.”

-”I will. I have to.” Aniket said. Rimsha sensed a bit of sadness in his voice. She said to him, “They have chosen a groom for me, father said. That is the another reason I am going home.”


Aniket was surprised, “You are to be married? How old are you!” Then he realized, “I am sorry, I didn't mean…”


Rimsha paused him, “It's ok. I am 24.”

Aniket said, “Same age as me. Why are you marrying so early then?”

Rimsha was shocked, “Early! 24 is quite late already. In our society people marry at younger age. My father has been telling me to marry for ages! I was not listening. Always told him, let me build my career, let me settle down. Now that I've got a stable job, settled down in Delhi, I've said okay for marriage.”

-”Do you know this man you are marrying?”

-”Nope. They have chosen him for me. Only things I know about him is he is 27, works in defense. Now posted in Dehradun. Will see him first time tonight.” She blushed a little, Aniket realized.

Aniket asked again, “Do you love travelling?”

Rimsha replied excitedly, “Very much! Last month we went to Udaipur. Met my college friends there, after 3 years. The month before that we went to Goa with friends from my school.”


Aniket said, “Oh nice, I also went Goa at the same time! Where did you stay?”

-”In the south Goa. Near Palolem.”

-”Oh. We stayed in the north, near Calangute”

-”I didn't like the north Goa. Always crowded, too much noise. South Goa was perfect for me. It was so peaceful, much less crowded. Could have sat and read on the beaches for hours and hours, noone near you, noone to bother you.”

Aniket smiled sarcastically and said, “Well, technically speaking, noone goes to Goa for peace. They go for partying.”

Rimsha smiled, “I know, but I love this, serenity. Calm beaches, only the sound of the waves thrashing on the sandy shore, and the sound of seagulls. I know I am a bit odd”, she smiled awkwardly.


-”No no, not at all. There is no harm if you don't like parties. You love reading, I reckon. A Week in Paris. How is it?”

-”Oh, it's nice. About a girl who was born on the day the WW2 broke out. She cannot remember her childhood in London. She heard her father died in an air raid. While she went to Paris, with a band of musicians that she was in, some strange things happened to her. She remembered she spent her childhood there, in Paris. I recommend you to read this book. You will like it.”


Aniket felt ashamed. He thought it would be another boring brainless romantic novel. He developed a sense of respect for her.


Rimsha asked him, “Do you love trekking?”

-”I told you, it's my first time. I don't know now if I will like it or hate it”

-”Where are you going by the way?”

-”There is a peak called Rudrashir. The road goes through Mussorie.”

-”Never heard of this peak. Some of my friends do trekking regularly. Tells me to go with them, but no man! No way! Instead, I come to know about different places from them. But never heard of this one.”

-”I also never heard it before. I mean not before 15 days.”

Rimsha gave him a doubtful look. “An IT guy, never has trekked the Himalays, is going to an unknown expedition, that too with only 15 days’ planning! Why?”


Aniket was astonished again with her inquisitive mind. He answered, “I have to find someone. A girl.”

-”Someone close? Someone you love?”

Aniket nodded. “She went on this trek last month. She loved trekking. And she loved mountains. Oh God! How many times she had told me to come with her. But I never came. Not once. I always said I am beach person. Mountains are pretty, but I hate hard work. Trekking was not for me.”


Rimsha felt something was wrong. She asked, “What happened then? Why come now?”

-”Because I cannot find her. Noone cannot find her, not since she left Mussorie. She was travelling with one of her friends. Like your fiancée, he was also in defense, I heard. They planned to trek Rudrashir together. But somehow the contact lost after she left Mussorie. It has been more than one month. Her parents are worried to death, police can't find her. Maybe she got trapped in snow, maybe she is in danger. That's why I need to find her.”


Rimsha was feeling sad to hear this. “It has been more than a month you said. I hope she is still alive. What was her name, may I know?”


-”Her name was Niharika. I liked her name. She said in Bengali it meant the galaxy of stars. She was really full of wonder. I always could find her in new ways. Never stopped amazing me. And look at now, I can't find her at all!”


Rimsha looked at Aniket's face. No, he was not crying, though his voice choked when he said the last word. She hold his hand and said, “I am sure you will be able to find her. Maybe she is injured and is admitted to some hospital.”

-”If that were true, why didn't she try to contact anyone? I still remember her last call to me. She called to let me know that she has reached Mussorie. She was staying in a hotel there. The next day she was supposed to leave for trekking.”


The sky outside has become more gloomy. It was only 11 o'clock in the day, still it looked like it was evening. Train has just left the Roorkee station. Now it was heading for Haridwar.


Rimsha asked Aniket, “If you don't mind, may I know the name of the hotel where she stayed?”

-”Sure! Even I am going to stay there myself. Here, let me check the hotel name, I wrote it down in my notes. Ummmm….here it is. Hotel Orchid Palace.”


Rimsha was awestruck, “Hotel Orchid Palace? Are you sure?”

-”Quite sure she told me this name. Though it was hard to remember the name after more than a fortnight. Still pretty sure that was the name. Why?”


Rimsha replied, still in awe, “That is my father's hotel”.


A little shower started. Haridwar station was coming. The French couple was getting ready to get off the train. It was nearly 12 o'clock, yet looking at the sky one would guess it's 6 or 7 in the evening.


Aniket and Rimsha both were sitting on their seats, stunned. Rimsha first opened her lips, “Well, if we are going to the same place, you can go with me.”


Aniket said, “Sure! No problem. One more thing, I forgot to tell you. Someone from this hotel, I mean your father's hotel, he told to the police, that Niharika was planning to visit the Yamuna river in between. She also mentioned a village, what's it's name!...Ummm...Kungri.”


-”Kungri, yes,a small and beautiful village. 50 km from Mussorie. Yamuna river runs beside the narrow road on the lap of the mountain. Beautiful place, but dangerous too, as the road is very narrow and the river is around 500 feet below from the road, and the water there is very deep, I've heard. They say it's over 80 feet deep at some places.”


Aniket said to her, “You have quite a knowledge about the place it seems. Can I ask you a favour? Will you go there with me? I mean...you don't have to if you don't want. I only meant…”


Rimsha had to stop him midway, “No problem. I will go with you. I will help you find her as much as I can. I promise.”

Aniket gave her a look that could mean surprise and happiness both. Though she was a writer herself, Rimsha couldn't remember what this feeling should be called.


***** The Confrontation *****


Hotel Orchid Palace. A beautiful 3 star hotel on the lap of himalaya. Though it is not situated in the proper town of Mussorie, many visitors come to stay at this hotel, due to the marvellous sight that the hotel rooms offer. On a fogless day, one can see the whole Kempty falls in front of him while sitting in a balcony of this hotel. The food is delicious and rooms are big, clean and properly maintained. No wonder they charge so much for one night.


The owner of this hotel is an old man, Anisur Ahmed. Widowed, living his single happy days in the lap of the beautiful town of Mussorie, the queen of Himalayas. Everyday he stays busy tending to the daily works of his hotel. But today he is lot busier than usual, because his daughter is coming to visit, after a long time, maybe 3 or 4 months. She will stay here for 15 days. In the meantime, Anisur has planned to fix her marriage. He has also found this guy from Dehradun, Prameet for her. Nice guy, works in defense, often comes to visit this hotel. He loves the mountains, often goes for trekking in the peaks of Uttarakhand. 


Prameet will be coming here tonight, his daughter will be here also. They will meet tonight for the first time. 

Hope she will like him, and he her. When Anisur talked with Rimsha about him, she was not revolting as she does always. Now the time has come for her to become a wife, even she realizes that, Anisur smiled.


Suddenly he heard some noise from the reception. Then a boy, Pintu, came to him to tell that Rimsha didi has come. Anisur ran towards the reception. 


When he saw her daughter, her mind filled with joy. They both hugged each other. Rimsha was smiling, Anisur was so happy to see her face after such a long time.


Another man has come. It seems he has come with Rimsha. But he is signing the register, oh, he has booking already.


Rimsha brought Aniket with her to her father. “Abba, this is Aniket. We met at the train, he sat beside me. He had the booking in our hotel, so brought him witn me. He wants to go to trek the peak, what was the name of the peak?”, she asked Aniket.


“Rudrashir” Aniket replied to Anisur.

-”Rudrashir! Yes yes, Prameet went there, just a month back. But unfortunately he couldn't complete the trip. Heard one of his friends went missing.”


Rimsha asked him, “Prameet? You mean…?”

Anisur gave an affectionate smile, “Yes my child, your Prameet. Your fiancée!”


Rimsha's face turned red when she heard it. Aniket asked Anisur, “Prameet, you mean Prameet Chatterjee?”


Anisur turned to him and gave him a doubtful look, “Yes that's him. But how do you know him? Are you his friend?”


Aniket smiled, “No sir, just heard his name, same as your daughter.”


Room no 301. Aniket just got freshed after a long journey. From Bangalore to this hotel room, it has taken 14 hours. He was tired. But he was also feeling some kind of excitement. He cannot name this emotion, this feeling can only be described by someone who was chasing his goal for a long time, and finally he has been able to see the goalpost.


Suddenly he heard the knocks on the door. As he opened the door, Rimsha came inside.

-”Sorry, am I disturbing you?”

Aniket nodded sideways. Rimsha continued, “Abba said Prameet will be coming at 8 PM today. I should be ready to meet him.”


Aniket smiled, “Then what are you doing here? Go! Put on your best dress and prepare yourself for him! You should be looking gorgeous tonight.”


Rimsha said, “No mister. I don't want to give him a false notion about me at our first meeting. I will go to him as I am, as I have been always. You say, am I not looking good now?”


She gave him a sweet smile. This is the time Aniket felt attracted to her. She was already looking gorgeous. Unknowingly, he started feeling somewhat jealous for Prameet. For the second time in his life. Suddenly someone else's face came to him. Niharika, the girl he loves, from all his heart, is missing in this hills. He has come here to find his lost love, not to find a new love. Anyway, she will be married to someone else in no time. So, no foolish thoughts.

,

Rimsha suddenly came near him and ask, “You said to my father you have heard Prameet's name. Where did you hear his name?”


Aniket brought out a newspaper from his bag. It was folded in such a way that page no 5 was in the front. Rimsha read the headline, “Bengali girl missing in Uttarakhand while trekking. Friend is held for questioning.”


Rimsha looked at his face. Aniket signaled him to read further. 


“Niharika Dutta, 24, from Kolkata is reported missing in Uttarakhand on 6th of October. Parents informed she was going for a trekking in the peak of Rudrashir, along with her friend Prameet Chatterjee, 27, also from Kolkata. When questioned Prameet said they were to meet in Mussorie. “But she never came. Since then noone has been able to contact her”, said Prameet.”


Rimsha couldn't read any further. She looked at Aniket, “Are you sure this is the same Prameet? The man I am going to marry?”


Aniket replied, “100%. At first I was sceptical. But when your father said those words about Prameet, I got sure this is the same person.”


-”But he is telling lies.”

-”Clearly. He said to the police that they were supposed to meet in Mussorie, but they never met. But from what your father said, it's evident they stayed in this hotel, together. To be absolutely sure, I need to ask him.”

-”Or you can ask the man himself.” Rimsha's eyes were gleaming, “Prameet is supposed to come here at 8:30. It's 6:45 already.”


Prameet came. Though at one hour late. He was stuck in the heavy traffic as it was raining heavily in Dehradun. Until he came, every second was feeling like one hour to Aniket and Rimsha. But Prameet came, atlast.


A fine gentleman, Aniket thought when he saw Prameet for the first time. He has heard about him many a times from Niharika. He knew how they met for the first time, in a trek, maybe Valley of Flowers or Rupkund, he doesn't remember. But by the time they were going for the second trek together, to Har ki Dun valley, they had become best of friends. All the time Niharika talked about him, how they met, how he rescued her when she fell down in the 6 feet snow, how they felt alive while sitting beside a bonfire after a 10 km hiking. Every details she has told to him. Once Aniket even had doubt on her, whether she has fallen in love with him. Love or not, Aniket felt jealous about him.


But he has never seen him before, until today. Until now. At this moment Prameet is standing in front of him, with a smiling face, with all his good looks and friendly attitude, without having any idea who the man is standing in front of him.


Aniket gave him his name. It seemed it didn't ring any bell to Prameet. Hmmm...Niharika hasn't told anything about Aniket to Prameet. 


Anisur has made all arrangement to welcome the guest in his own drawing room. He has also invited Aniket there too, at his daughter's request. When Aniket looked at Rimsha, he couldn't find the shame that he saw in her everytime she was hearing Prameet's name before. Now her inquisitive look has returned. 


After the formal meeting of the two parties, when everyone got busy with helping themselves to RuhAfza and samosa and sweets, Aniket came to Prameet.


“Can I talk to you for a moment?” Prameet was surprised to hear Aniket's question. Then he smiled at him, the same gentle smile he has been giving to everyone since he has come. “Certainly”, he replied.


-“Did you know anyone named Niharika?”

Prameet's smile didn't take a split second to vanish after hearing this. He asked, “Why?”

-”Nothing. Just curiosity. I read about Niharika and your incident in the newspaper. So asking.”

-”Yes we know each other. She was my very good friend. But she is missing at the moment. Noone has any information about where she is, whether she is even alive or not, nothing.”

-”Noone but you, I suppose?” Aniket gave him a sarcastic smile. 

-”What the f*** you are saying? How would I know?” Prameet said a bit loudly. Everyone stopped talking and stared at them. 


Rimsha came to rescue. She said to her father, “Abba, can we talk in private? We need to discuss something.” Her father agreed instantly and allowed her to take Prameet with her. Rimsha took him to her bedroom. Just before she entered the room, she looked back at Aniket and gave him a smile. It seemed a smile of assurance, Aniket reckoned.


While both of them were inside the room, Aniket looked at his surrounding. Everyone was laughing, gossiping. For a moment it felt like the hotel had transformed to someone's home. 


Aniket came to the reception. No one was there. Everyone is busy inside, with Anisur. Aniket saw the visitor's book is laid open on the desk. He started browsing through its pages. Suddenly he remembered something. He started to go backward, until he reached the page on the date of the accident.


“Prameet Chatterjee + 1. 05/03/2019, 06:12 PM.”


HE IS LYING. Aniket knew it from the very first day when he saw the news, where Prameet had told the police that story. That he was coming from Dehradun and Niharika was coming from Kolkata. She came the night before, by train, while he came in the next morning, driving his own car. They were supposed to meet at this hotel, but never met, Prameet said to police.


All this is a lie. A shameless lie. Here is the proof, laid open in front of him, thought Aniket. Why on earth police doesn't know this? The hotel staffs knew about the truth. Why haven't they told the police?


Suddenly his eyes went to the drawing room. The door was open, everyone was inside was busy in celebration. He looked at Anisur, he seemed so happy. Aniket realised why the police didn't get to know about this lie. 


Because Anisur has hidden the truth. He agreed to the lie that Prameet has said. Couldn't risk the man's life who would become his son-in-law. Police believed the hotel owner's testimony, as they had no reason to doubt him. Probably they didn't know that Anisur and Prameet were going to become relatives in no time, very close relatives rather.


Aniket felt sad as well as angry. His heart was burning with hatred and wrath. This beast, who has killed Niharika, look at him now! So happy he is, and why wouldn't he be? Escaped the justice, and as the reward he is getting married to a beautiful girl.


When Aniket came back to the drawing room he saw that Prameet and Rimsha were there too. Though his mind was raging with fury, he didn't let others to sense that. Why did he kill Niharika? What could possibly she had done to him?


To his relief, Prameet went to washroom. Instantly, Aniket came to Rimsha and whispered to her, “He is lying. I have proof.”


Rimsha looked stunned to him. He continued, “I need him to confess. Help me please.” Rimsha took his palms in hers. “I will. I promised you. Tell me how.”


Aniket said to her, “Tell him we are going for a tour tomorrow morning. You, him and me will be going. We will go to Kungri, where he possibly have murdered Niharika.”


Rimsha's face turned pale immediately. “Murder! What are you talking about?!”


Aniket replied, “Not sure though. That's why we need his confession. He is from army, right? These guys always remain ill-tempered, can do anything. Maybe she did or said something that he didn't like. Anyhow, we need his confession. Please make him to come with us tomorrow, will you?”


Rimsha put her two hands on his shoulders. “I will. I have promised you.”


***** The Resolution *****


It is 5 in the morning. The sky has just started turning lit. A car is moving on the bumpy mountain roads. Aniket is driving the car. Though he cannot run the car at higher speed, as the road is a winding climb up on the mountain, there are hundreds of feet deep cliffs at one side of the road, and it is foggy everywhere.


Prameet is sitting beside Aniket. Rimsha was at the back seat. It is evident from Prameet's expression that he is not very happy with the fact that he has to come with this unknown, annyoing man. 


Aniket sensed this. So he opened his lips first, “Sorry for yesterday. I was just curious about…”


“It's okay”, Prameet said in an unimpressed tone, interrupting him. Rimsha said to Prameet from the back, “Don't mind my friend's intimidating questions, dear! It's his job!!”

Prameet looked surprised, “Why? What does he do?”

Aniket answered, “I am a journalist, my friend. Didn't I tell you yesterday!”

Prameet still was in awe, “No I believe you didn't.”

-“Apologies! Apart from being unimaginably inquisitive, my friend is quite forgetful as well!”, Rimsha managed carefully.

Prameet seemed a bit convinced. Just as he turned his head towards the window, Aniket told, “So, you didn't answer my question from yesterday.”


-“Which question is that?”

-“What happened to Niharika?”

-“I told you yesterday, I don't have an answer. She went missing, somewhere in these hills.”

-“Okay, let me ask you something else. How did you know her?”


Prameet looked somewhat relieved now. He smiled and said, “We met while trekking Valley of Flowers. We belonged to different trekking groups. It was her first time, she seemed quite exhausted. She was lagging from rest of her teammates every now and then. Once she fell down on a patch of ice and got cramp on her left leg. I was nearby. I ran to her and helped her to stand again. I carried her luggage also to the base camp, as she was hardly able to walk. From that day we became good friends.”


Aniket was driving and listening to him silently. Then he uttered, “Uh-hum. Then?”


Prameet continued, “Then we found out that we share many similarities, common interests between us. Both of us loved trekking, so we went for another trekking at Har ki Dun valley. Rudrashir was supposed to be our third trekking together.”


He paused a bit, then again continued, “Not only trekking, we shared so many interests. We loved hanging out together, we started seeing each other whenever I came to her city.”


Rimsha opened her mouth after a long time, “You fell in love with her?”


Prameet got shocked hearing her question. Then he blushed a bit and smiled shyly, “Not that, maybe she fell in love with me. She told me that once or twice too. But…”, he looked at Rimsha and said with a convincing tone, “I told her, I am already engaged to someone.”


Aniket's heart was burning from inside. Niharika was cheating on him! He cannot even imagine that. She never let him know how she felt for this guy. Or maybe Aniket was too blind to see. 


But he didn't let them to know his feelings. He smiled at Prameet and said, “That was a very sweet romantic story! You could have make a wonderful couple together!”


Prameet shied, “That's what she always tried to convince me. I told her repeatedly that I am betrothed to someone else. It was not that she was single too. Still she insisted.”


He looked at Rimsha. Rimsha was staring at him. Suddenly her eyes gazed out of the window. She shouted, “Kungri! This is Kungri! We have reached.”


Aniket stopped the car. It was freezing cold outside. The sun hadn't risen yet, though it seemed it will happen very soon. The road where the car was parked was near the peak of the mountain. Beside it, a steep cliff is going down upto the Yamuna river, which is flowing at a mindboggling speed below. The roar of the river was echoing through the mountains. But on the other side of the road, it was a vast valley, filled with lush green grass. It looked like a garden. Here and there were some snow patches lying. 


Aniket looked at the cliff. Atleast 500 feet, he thought. Then he looked at Prameet. He was acting awkward from the moment they got out of the car. Looked like he was feeling nervous. Why is he nervous? He was babbling constantly until now. What happened now? Has he seen something? Or has he remembered something?


Rimsha came towards them and pointed to somewhere distant. “That is the Kungri village.” It looked like a small village, 2-3 kms more from where they were standing. 


Aniket said to Rimsha, “Look at the cliff below us. Doesn't it seem we are hanging?”

Rimsha replied, “It reminds me of one place. Babylon's hanging garden”


Aniket was impressed. “Yeah, quite similar! You are right! Babylon! What a great empire it was! You reminded me the childhood history!”, He smiled.


Prameet had come towards them. He was listening to their conversation. He said, “Hamurabi. Isn't it the name? The emperor of Babylon?”


Rimsha replied, “Yes! The first emperor in the world to introduce law and order for the first time.”

-“But if you look at the rules, they seem ridiculous! Such primitive rules!”, Prameet smiled sarcastically, “An eye for an eye, a teeth for a teeth!”


-“A soul for a soul”, Aniket said without an expression.

-“Exactly!”, exclaimed Prameet.


The whole place was silent, except for the roaring river flowing hundreds of feet down below. Generally sun rises late this time of the year. It was freezing cold, everyone was shivering, despite of their warm clothes.


Aniket looked down at the cliff and said, “If someone falls from here, nothing will be left of him!”

He looked at Prameet's face. That nervous blank face has returned. Aniket asked him, “Why are you looking so pale? Why are you so nervous?”


Prameet tried to hide his nervousness with smile, “Nervous! Me? Not at all!”

Aniket continued, “Are you nervous because you lied to me?”

-“Lied...lied to you?! What are you talking…”, Prameet stammered.

-“You told me you came to the hotel next day morning. But that's a lie! You checked into the hotel the night before. Why did you lie Prameet? Why did you have to hide the truth?”, Aniket gradually stepped towards Prameet, growing bigger and bigger on him. 


“I didn't lie! I didn't lie!!”, Prameet tried to explain, but couldn't. Because in front his face a paper is hanging. A page from the visitor's register of the Hotel Orchid Palace. Where one could see the entry, “Prameet Chatterjee + 1. 05/03/2019, 06:12 PM.”


Aniket took away the paper from his face and folded it and put it back in his pocket. Then he said in a cold voice, “Now tell me all, and tell me true. What happened to Niharika. What did you do to her? Is she even alive?”


It seemed Prameet had lost all his confidence. He was stammering about that he did not know anything about her, but then Aniket whacked him at his cheek. Prameet was so shocked by this he forgot to hit him back. 


“Tell me the truth! Where is Niharika? What did you do to him?”, Aniket shouted to him, grabbing him by his collars. As Prameet continued stuttering more and more nervously, Aniket was putting more pressure on him, “WHERE IS SHE??” His voice echoed in the mountains.


-“I KILLED HER! I killed her!” Prameet shouted at desperation. Aniket let go of him, he was shocked to hear this. Prameet continued, “I didn't mean to kill her. I didn't even want to hurt her. But she was not listening! She never listened”, Prameet cried.


Rimsha was standing at a distance. Dumbfounded to hear what he said. Aniket was standing with his face down, like he had lost everything. 


Prameet was weeping while standing. Aniket came towards him, grabbed him by his shoulders and asked, “What did you tell her? That she didn't listen to?”

-“She wanted me to marry her. I told her I couldn't. I am already engaged. But she didn't listen. She became desperate to marry me. Couldn't make her understand in any way. She quarrelled, requested, there is nothing she left to try! I was not able to handle all this pressure.”


Prameet took a pause. Then he continued, “That night we had a fight. I was furious. She even more so. On the next day when we were going through this road, we stopped here. She got out of the car to click some photos of the cliff. While she was busy clicking photos, I pushed her from the back.”


Aniket couldn't understand what should he do. He was feeling furious, sad, vengeful, simultaneously. At the same time, Rimsha couldn't comprehend what she just heard. He is a murderer! She was going to marry a murderer!! 


Aniket looked at her. He said to her while going towards her, “Your father knew all these. But he didn't tell it to the world. He saved you to escape justice”, he turned to Prameet. 

Prameet was crying, “I am sorry. I didn't meant to hurt her.”

Aniket shouted, “No. But You killed her. I LOVED HER! I loved Niharika, and you murdered her.”

Prameet looked surprised, “Who are you?”


“Justice.” Aniket continued, “You were talking about Hamurabi. Do you know what was the punishment for killing someone's daughter at that time? That killer's daughter will be killed in the same way. That was justice.” 


Suddenly Aniket pushed Rimsha from the front. She fell down the cliff, into the river. Only her scream echoed through the mountains.

“WHAT DID YOU DOOO!!!!” Prameet came running towards Aniket. Aniket grabbed his collar and uttered the words, “A soul for a soul.” Then they both jumped.

***** The End *****



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