An Encounter: Chapter 4
An Encounter: Chapter 4
Like a prison guard, an aging madam came to the front of the brothel and unlocked the large padlock with her set of keys. I was taken into the reception area of the brothel, space where the customers are taken to select a girl. On the ceiling I could see a small, open trap door. The madam disappeared into the curtains at the far right end.
A tall fat lady with curly hair and gaudy clothes came out of the same room. She held a tall barrel like thing in which she spit her paan. Her rigid eyes were fixed on me and she raised her brows in question.
"Aapa ye.. Woh.." [Aapa, he.. He's..] The girl tried to explain."Rockishtar Rihaan hai.. Malum hai mereko. Isko idhar kaiko layi? Tere se khush nai hai kya? Dusri chaiye?" [Rockstar Rihaan. I know. Why did you get him here? Isn't he happy with you? Does he want another girl for the night?]"Nai aapa.. Woh.. Isko na picture bananeka hai. Idhar ko ek baar dekhna chahta hai." [Aapa, no, he wants to make a movie. So he wants to look around.]"A Haramzadi.. Terko malum nai hum iske aage janeko nai dete kisiko. Teri himmat kaise hui?" [You bitch, don't you know we don't permit people to go beyond this point. How dare you!]
She was about to say something but just then, a man came in hurriedly and whispered something into aapa's ears. She froze for a second and then looked at us. She looked at the door and then at us. I could hear footsteps and I knew someone was coming. Aapa looked like she didn't want our presence around and looked irritated."A chokri, leke jaa isko andar aur dikha.. Lekin bahar mat aana jab tak mai na bolu samjhi. Yaad rakh. Bahar aayi toh kya haal hoga." [Hey woman, take him in and show him around but dont you dare step out. You know the consequences if you do.]She swiftly nodded and led me into one of the old broken door. My curiosity was at its peak and I really needed to know what was going on.
"Kya tha ye? Mujhe yahan kyu laya? Movie banana hai ka kya matlab? Kon ho tum? Kya chaiye tum log ko? Mujhe jana hai yahan se." [What was that? Why did you get me here? I wanna make a movie? Who are you? What do you guys want? Let me go..] I bombarded her with questions."Shh.. Saab.. Bas mai bolu waise karna. Kuch nai hoga tereko. Tereko mai bahar nikalegi. abhi ke liye ekdum chup. Jitna ho sake utna uss kamre ke paas rehna aur awaz mat karna. Us darwaze ki piche chupna. Mai udhar rahegi, uss palang ke piche. Bas chup rehna."[Shh.. Saab.. Just do as I say. I assure you nothing will happen to you. I'll make sure you get put. For now, just be silent. Stay behind that door. I'll be behind the cot over there. Just stay very still and silent.] she said pointing towards a door at the corner of the room and a cot next to it.
I could hear some movements around and she gestured me to stay shut. I nodded. There was so much I wanted to ask her, but this was not the time. I needed to get put of the mess and my only hope was her. I had followed her so far and was safe. I knew she would stay true to her words. Though I didn't believe people easily, I somehow formed a connect with her that was beyond my understanding.
We quickly positioned ourselves as planned and listened to the conversation happening next door. I could hear Aapa and two more male voices discussing something about bringing 'maal' into business and breaking them in. I was not very sure of what they were talking about but knew 'maal' meant women. What exactly was the breaking in process, I didn't know.
I noticed a small crack in the old wooden door and decided to peek in. I slowly moved closer to the crack and tried to see what was going on. I could see Aapa sitting on the sofa. A tall dark man, looking typically like a villain in a 'C' grade movie in his white kurta pyjama was sitting across her. They went on with the discussion for a while. I was getting tired of standing in the awkward position and decided to step back. Just then, I caught a glimpse of another man walking in closer to the duo.
I felt anger course through me as I saw the man I hated with all my heart. The man who cost me my only family. The man who destroyed my happiness. The man who was responsible for my loneliness. The only man I wanted to kill but could never find after that night. I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around with fury. She took a step back looking at my reaction.
"Saab tu thik toh hai?" [Saab are you alright?] she asked me but My mind was working on something else. I wanted to kill that guy right now. I wanted to kill Neil Thakur at that moment and nothing else mattered more. I could hear her voice but her words never registered in my head. With an uncontrollable anger, I kicked open the door and launched myself at him.Things happened in a rush and before I knew it, Neil was on the ground and I was punching him left right and centre. Within seconds, I could feel myself being pulled up and held captive. Two hefty men in black held me pinned to the wall. I struggled and kicked to free myself from their hold but they were too heavy for me. Neil got up and walked towards me. He was about to punch me when the other man stopped him.
"Isko andar wale dabbe me bandh karo." [Lock him up in the box inside] I heard Aapa say. The men led me through the same door I entered from. I immediately looked around for her, hoping that she was safe and she managed to hide. I had acted on an impulse and I didn't want her to bear the brunt. I swiftly surfed the room for her presence but she was not to be found. I let out a sigh of relief.
The men led me through the trap door we saw earlier in the common room and then further up through a narrow passage and another flight of stairs. They led me through a dark and dirty room and then into another. I saw three boxes made of wood right below a flight of stairs. The boxes were shut with huge padlocks. The men opened one, pushed me in and shut the box. I could hear them bolt the door and lock it.
Darkness engulfed me. I blinked my eyes a couple of times to get used to the surroundings. I sat down in one corner and let my mind wander to the past. Seeing that man had brought back a lot of memories from that night.
I lost my parents in a car accident some 7 years ago. I had just celebrated my 20th Birthday and my baby sister, Aaliya was 16 then. We had no other family. Just the two of us for each other. We had a strong bond ever since childhood. We were each other's best friend, partners in crime in fact. I would always save her from mom when she would do something wrong. That didn't mean I encouraged her to commit the mistake. I made sure she always learn her lesson.
We would share everything with each other and the other's opinion always mattered the most. I was a fiercely protective brother. One small scratch on her would make me go crazy. I would take the whole house down with panic and she would laugh at me. She loved it when I would play the guitar. She always told me she wanted a Rockstar brother.
"Bhai, someday, I want you to be a star. I want the crowd cheering for you. I want them to look at you with awe. I want to be a proud sister, showing her brother off, not that I'm not proud of you now. You're the best Bhai in the world. But I want the world to love you!" She'd said on one particular raksha bandhan when I asked her what she wanted.
When we lost mom dad, we remained strong. We decided that we'd be there for each other, no matter what. We would always support each other and never let anything come between us. I was still studying then. Maa and papa had left us enough to survive and study.
In another 4 years, I completed my education and took up a job in a leading MNC. Aaliya had just completed college."Bhai, tomorrow is the convocation and I want you to meet someone special." she'd told me. She had been behaving different since a few days and I wasn't able to figure out why. Now I knew. Maybe she'd found someone for herself. I wanted to meet the guy and make sure he was right for my sister. I wanted to make sure she was not in trouble."Show me his picture at least. Let me see if he looks better than I do.." I teased her."Bhai.. You guessed already! Okay I will. But you're the most handsome man I know and I love you the most. So you don't have to be jealous." She explained and I chuckled.She scrolled through her phone and showed me a picture of the two of them. "That's Neil Thakur" she said.A fair, good looking guy stared back at me.
He was smiling broadly and dimples formed in his cheeks. His hair fell slightly on his forehead and he held Aaliya around her shoulder."Bhai.. What do you think?" She asked me."Nah.. I didn't know your choice was that bad Aalu" I teased her more.She sulked and pouted and I laughed."I'm kidding, baby sister. You look really good together. But before anything else, I need to meet him to know if he's good enough for you alright?" I asked. She nodded and gave me a hug."Bhai, the convocation begins at 3. Don't be late." She announced before leaving to meet her friends the next day. I was about to leave for the same on time but some urgent discussion came up and I couldn't leave the office. I made a quick call to Aaliya to brief her about the situation."Bhai.. You're kidding right? I hate you for this." She whined on the phone"Bacche, I'm sorry. I really am stuck. I know you're mad at me but I'll make up. Meanwhile, why dont you invite Neil for dinner tonight? I'll be home by 8. We'll order""Okay Bhai. I understand. I'll tell Neil" she said and cut the call.
I walked out of the office and realised that it was raining heavily. I struggled to see the road as it poured. The thunder and lightening made the situation worse. The roads were jammed. I tried calling Aaliya to inform her but there was no network.
I didn't know why but I had started getting scared. Aaliya hated thunderstorms and she would always get scared. 'I hope Neil is with her.' I thought. I didn't know I was wishing for the worst then. My heart raced and banged in my chest. I tightened my hold on the steering. My fingers were white because of the tight grip. I called Kabir and Meera to reach home as soon as possible too. I had a bad feeling about this.
I parked the car and rushed towards the building. Kabir and Meera were already waiting, tension lines evident on their faces."She's not opening the door, Rihaan." Kabir said as soon as he saw me. I quickly pulled out the keys and unlocked the door. I was greeted with darkness and silence. I quickly rushed in and called for her but there was no response. I went into her room and mine, checked the hall and balcony but she was nowhere. My eyes fell upon something behind the kitchen counter and I ran there.
She lay there, still, covered in a pool of blood. She had been stabbed and her head seemed to have banged somewhere. I tried to call her and wake her up but she didn't respond. "Take her to the hospital, Rihaan. I'll ask someone from the police station to reach there too. This is a police case and hospitals generally create issues. I'll also look around here for traces of what happened. You guys get going." Meera instructed, the inspector in her already taking charge. I looked at her gratefully as I lifted Aaliya and rushed to the car. Kabir took the wheels as I lay her on backseat, holding her head in my arms. Tears made way through my eyes and I broke down holding her hand.
"Mr Rihaan, your sister has been severely injured and i'm afraid, she has lost a lot of blood. We hae begun preparing for an emergency surgery, but I don't want to give you false hopes. We will try our best." the doctor had said. I barely registered anything that happened after that. All I remember was Meera coming to me a few hours later, Aaliya's cell phone clutched in her hand."Rihaan, we found a recording on Aaliya's phone. Maybe you would like to hear." she placed a comforting hand on my shoulder. I look up at her and then at the phone in her hand. Taking in a deep breath, I hit the play button.
A male voice floated in the air coaxing Aaliya into sleeping with him. I could hear her denying. I could hear various random sounds like they were fighting. I could hear her address him as Neil. I could hear her scared voice telling him to stop and not come ahead. I could hear her panicked voice telling him to come back to his senses and throw the knife away. I could hear her screams as she was stabbed. I shut the app, not able to take it anymore. Every scream pierced through my heart like a million needles. I saw his picture as her wallpaper and I knew, that was the face of the man I'd never forget.
"Do you know this Neil?" Meera enquired as we went through the recording again. I briefly told her about my interaction with Aaliya and that he was the man oh her wallpaper. Since I had not met him ever, his photo and the voice recording was all I had about him. Aaliya had not told me anything else. I cursed myself for being so careless. I should have been a responsible brother and found out about Neil as soon as I saw Aaliya being different.
"It's all my fault." I cursed myself again and let out a cry. A few hours back, I had no idea that I was going to have such a night and face my past like this. The old wounds were opened up again and I felt all the pain and all the anger I had felt that night.