Colors Of Life
Colors Of Life
Every resident, young and old, of Durga street in the small town of Khandalapur, were out throwing color at each other. It was Holi and no one was spared. People ran around in white dresses adorned with multicolor patterns from the rangoli powder. Their faces appeared as if they were wearing a colorful mask. A huge crowd danced to the loud music playing. People from nearby areas, friends and relatives joined the fun. People shared delicacies and food, ate together, danced hard and the festivities went on till late evening. As the sun began to go down, everybody returned to their homes tired and exhausted. Meena was waiting by the door for her children to come back. After a while, her elder son Shiv came running with a few friends. Gasping for breath he stood near the gate. Meena asked "Where is Radha?",worried."She was with me a couple of hours ago when the procession was going on. I had her on my shoulders, after a while it began to ache so I let her down a couple of minutes. When I looked down again she was not there. We have been searching for her ever since then. We looked everywhere along the street, checked in all the friend's house, market, Ramu chacha's shop, everywhere."Why didn't you come to inform me earlier, Oh my God, where did my child go. I asked you not to lose sight of her, didn't I? It is getting dark. Where will I go look for her?", Meena began to panic and started running on the street looking for her child."I am sorry Ma, it was only a minute and she was gone", Shiv began to cry."How can you be so careless? I will deal with you later", Meena shouted back and went off. Shiv sat down in front of his house surrounded by his friends, looking helpless. His friends were suggesting other places to go look for their sister. Meena's neighbor Sumanth had heard the commotion and inquired Shiv about what happened.Shiv narrated the events. Sumanth along with Shiv and his friends set off to continue the search. It was late in the night and still there was no sign of Radha anywhere. Meena and her neighbors decided to go to the police station.
With petty robbery cases, property disputes, harassment, and family law cases, the evening was quite busy at the Khandalapur police station. Ranjith Thakur, the Superintendent of police was new to the station. He was transferred from Rewa only a week ago. The constable sitting outside stopped the crowd who had come to report the missing of Radha from barging in and asked them what the problem was. Sumanth gave him all the details. Ranjith's attention fell on the huge crowd and he stopped looking at his files and came out."What is the issue?", he asked. He quickly glanced at Meena in tears and listened attentively to the Additional Superintendent of Police Pande about the missing girl.
"You are her mother?", Ranjith asked Meena. Meena nodded yes."Who is this?", he asked Sumanth."I am her neighbor, Sumanth", he replied.
"Where is your husband?", asked Ranjith looking at Meena.
"He is working in Bhopal, Sir. I have informed him, he is on the way", said Meena.
"You and Sumanth, come in.", Ranjith went in, followed by Meena and Sumanth.
Ranjith sat on his chair. His table was covered with files and papers. He asked both of them to sit down on the chairs across the table. It appeared to Meena that
Ranjith was sincere in his work and it gave her some hope. He was a very dedicated officer and has a very clean record.
"When did you last see your child?", he asked.
"I saw her in the morning around 10 AM when she left with my son Shiv to play Holi."
"No elders accompanied them?"
"No, generally everybody is out on the street, elders, young people, children."
"How old is she? Can you describe her for me? What was she wearing today?"
"She is five years old, about 40 inches, fair. Her hair was plaited, she has a very long her. She was wearing a plain white gown today."
"Do you have her photo?"
"I have a passport size photo in my purse sir", she got it from her purse and gave it to Ranjith.
Ranjith looked at it."She is beautiful", he said. Meena began to cry again.
Ranjith soon asked Pande to make copies of the photo, send it to nearby police stations, traffic control and gave search orders to look inside every vehicle that goes
out of Khandalapur.
"Is Shiv here?", Ranjith asked.
"Yes Sir. Shiv!!", called out Meena. Shiv came in.
"Come here."Ranjith held him close."What are you studying?", he asked.
"I am studying in sixth standard", he answered. His voice was very low.
"When did you last see your sister?"
"I don't know the time. The procession was going on and all of us were playing. I had her on my shoulders, after a while it began to ache so I let her down a couple of minutes. When I looked down again she was not there.", he repeated what he told his mom.
"Were all your friends with you when you found out that she is not there"?
"Anything unusual or anybody strange you noticed stand next to you. Was everybody familiar?"
"Yes, I was surrounded by my friends and people from the street"
"Did anybody you don't know talk to your sister?"
Shiv thought for some time and answered, "No".
"We will find her soon, ok? You don't worry. She will come back", Ranjith smiled at him.
He came out and questioned everyone in the crowd of any stranger or unusual activities they had noticed on the street but no one had anything to add.
Meena's head was swimming. She was shattered by the time she reached home. She wanted to keep searching but Sumanth forbid her. The police will take care, he had said.
Shiv cried a lot that night. He started blaming himself for not keeping an eye on his sister. Though Meena was initially angry and pissed off at him, she knew it was not Shiv's mistake. They somehow passed the night.
Meena's husband Rohith came in the morning. He was dying to know all the details. He refreshed soon and hurried to the police station with Meena and Sumanth.
"You please go home. We will inform you if we hear something.", said Pande.
Ranjith and Pande set off to the spot where Radha went missing in Durga street and questioned the residents and the shopkeepers around the area.
They did not get any leads."It was Holi Sir. Usually, the air would be filled with color, nothing would be visible clearly. The street would be buzzing with people dancing and playing. You can't blame, it is not very easy to notice if someone goes missing. This is a very planned Kidnap".
"What is the motive Pande?. They are not a well off family. Come let's understand the kids father a little better", Ranjith said and both of them walked to Rohith's
"Please come in. Both of you please sit down", Rohith invited them in."Did you get any clue, Sir?", Rohith looked at Ranjith eagerly.
"No Mr.Rohith, but I would like to know a few more things from you. What is your job? Who do you work for?"
"I work as a teacher in a government school in Bhopal. I got recently transferred there, a couple of months ago. We were waiting for the academic year to get over so
that we could all move to there".
"Any issues with your co-workers here or in Bhopal?Anybody who might be carrying a grudge against you?"
"No Sir, No way. I have always had a good rapport with my colleagues and my students. You can check"
"We will, Please give the address and details of the school headmaster of both the schools to Pande. Your wife is a homemaker am I right?"
Ranjith got up, pulled his pants up, looked around the house, and said, "Can I have a word with Shiv"?
"Shiv!!", called out Rohith."Both Meena and my son are exhausted crying".
Shiv came out. Ranjith went to him, put his arm around Shiv's shoulder, and walked outside."Can you show me your friend's house? All your friends who were with you
yesterday?"Shiv nodded. "We will be back in some time, I am just taking him to his friend's house", Ranjith informed Rohith and left with Pande and Shiv. After about half an hour Ranjith dropped Shiv back at his house and left to the station. The CCTV footage from most of the areas in Khandalapur had come in by the time they reached the Station. Ranjith set off to look at them one by one. He gave order to check the local hospital admissions. With permission from his higher authorities, Ranjith arranged for a press meet appealing for help from the public. Radha's photo was published in all the news channels and the news spread like fire.
"Excuse me, Sir, We went to the school where Rohith worked when he was here and spoke to the headmaster. There seems to be nothing fishy about him, He was a very friendly and intelligent teacher. Nobody has any complaints against him. We got a similar kind of report from Bhopal too".
Ranjith looked at Pande, deep in thought, and then said, "Anything from the hospitals?"
"No sir, nothing that matches the description of the child. The search is on".
"I will leave for home now Pande. I will be back at 8 in the morning. Call me if you hear anything"
Yes Sir.", Pande saluted.
On the way back home, the only thing running in Ranjith's mind was this case. A little girl goes missing from the streets when everyone was engaged in playing Holi. No one sees her after that.No suspicious activity on the street.No motives so far. He was running through all the facts and statements again and again in his mind. He was distracted when his mobile rang. It was DIG Shakthi."Hello Sir", Ranjith said picking up the call.
"Any leads on the missing case Ranjith?", he asked.
"Not yet Sir"
When Ranjith stopped at the gate of his house and got down to open it, somebody was waiting for him.
"Let me know if you get anything", said Shakthi.
"Sure Sir, will do", saying that he hung up.
"Good evening Sir", the man said. He was an old man in his mid-sixties.
"Good evening", Ranjith looked at the old man.
"I came to tell you something regarding the missing child Radha", he said.
"Do you know any information about her?"
"Yes Sir, I saw her "
"I work as a security guard in Paradise Apartments nearby. I saw the child with a man who lives on the fourth floor. His name is Karan. He comes here only once or twice a year and keeps to himself all the time. His hometown is Pune. I was going up to the fifth floor yesterday afternoon with a plumber to address a complaint from one of the residents when I saw this man going into his house with a child. I thought it might be his relative. Just five minutes ago, I was watching news from the shop around the corner and I was shocked. I immediately came down here to inform you."
"Get in. Take me to the apartment. What is your name? Who was at the gate when you went up yesterday afternoon"?, Ranjith asked.
"I am Vishwas Sir. There are three security guards, two of us work in the morning and one person takes the night shift. Kumar was at the gate that time", said Vishwas.
"Do they not check these things at the gate? When a person who hardly stays there comes in with a small child, why didn't he question the guy?"
"We question only people who are not residents there Sir."
They reached the apartment."Where is Kumar?", asked Ranjith.
"His shift is over Sir. He must have left home", answered Vishwas.
"Call Kumar and the night watchman and ask them to come here immediately. Take me to the house. Do you have spare keys to the house?"
"No Sir, we don't".Ranjith followed Vishwas to the elevator. Vishwas made a call to Kumar and asked him to come.
"Do you have CCTV cameras? I want the footages immediately", ordered Ranjith.
"No Sir, we don't have. This is a small apartment with only 12 houses and everything is managed by the residents", Vishwas tried to justify.
"Seriously? Why didn't you use the elevator the other day?", questioned Ranjith when they were inside the elevator.
"The lift was busy, so both of us used the stairs".
Ranjith called Pandey and asked him to come immediately to the apartment.
Ranjith knocked on the door 4B, rang the bell. Ranjith broke in since nobody answered. It was dark inside. He asked Vishwas to wait outside. He searched for the switches and turned them on. What he saw was something that he least expected. The floor of the living room and the walls were sprayed with rangoli powder. There were several footprints of the man and the child everywhere in the house. There were some drawings of some goddesses and signs he couldn't understand. Ranjith looked around trying to figure out what this all meant and then saw traces of blood on the wall."Oh God", he exclaimed.
Forensic people soon arrived and started collecting evidence and fingerprints."Does he own a vehicle", Ranjith questioned Vishwas. Pande and a head constable were
present at the scene."Yes, sir, he owns a white Hyundai xcent".
"Any other details? Do you happen to know the registration number?"
"Pande, send a message across all the police stations around here, toll booths and traffic control to look out for this car"
"Yes Sir", he said and left to the station.
The other security guards had come by then."What were you doing
when Vishwas went in with the plumber?"
"I was at the gate Sir", said Kumar.
"Did you see Karan come in with a child?"
"I saw a child in his car Sir"
"And you didn't ask anything?"
"No Sir", Kumar replied.
Ranjith looked the night watchman and asked for his name.
"Satheesh", he said.
"Did you see Karan go out in the night in a car?"
"Yes Sir", he left yesterday night.
"Did he speak with you?"
"No Sir.", replied Satheesh
By 1 AM the next day, Ranjith found out the owner of the apartment. His name was Jaykanth and lived in Pune."But the security said, his name was Karan. He used a fake name?", Ranjith said to Pande. Using the fingerprints retrieved from the apartment, they ran the database and got the details of the suspect. His real name was Kamalnath, a businessman in Pune. The photo of Kamalnath was circulated across all the police stations and a thorough check was being done at airports, railway stations, bus stands. The media was informed. Vehicles were searched.It was 3 AM. Ranjith went home, refreshed, made himself a quick cup of coffee, and left for Pune with Pande. They reached Jaykanth's house and enquired about his Kamalnath. Jaykanth was Kamalnath's elder brother. He gave the address of Kamalnath in Pune. Jaykanth and his wife were taken into custody for questioning. After that they went to the Kamalnath's house. His wife was there. She didn't know where he was. They took her also and questioned all of them. No one was aware of Kamalnath's visits to Khandalapur.
"It is your house, how come you are not aware that he goes there?", Ranjith asked Jaykanth.
"He has a spare key. But I was not aware he was using the house", he swore.
"He leaves telling me that he is going on a business trip. He travels a lot. In the news today morning I saw about the murder and only then I came to know that
my husband was a suspect. He wouldn't do anything like this Sir", his wife Sheela was crying.
"Do you know where he is now?", he asked her."We will find him even if you don't tell. If you can make our job easier tell us where he is".
"No Sir, I have not seen him for three weeks. He called me a week back. That was the last time I heard from him. The phone was switched off after that."
"What did he say when he called?"
"He told me that we will have a kid soon and that he had made all arrangements for it. He even asked me to pray"
"What does that mean?"
"It didn't make any sense. We are trying to have a child for a long time. Did he kidnap the child? I don't want a child like this. I never thought he would do this.", she was screaming.
Ranjith got a phone call. It was the Shakthi."Sir", Ranjith said attending it.
"We have had some new developments here. Can you come immediately?", said Shakthi.
"What happened, Sir? We are questioning the family members of the suspect. The search is on for Kamalnath everywhere around Pune and Khandalapur.
"We have found the dead body of a girl. We suspect it is Radha. Her parents have been informed and the forensic team is working on the corpse"
"Oh!. I will be there Sir". he said.
Ranjith turned to Sheela and said furiously, I don't think he stopped with just kidnapping Radha. Pande, you continue with the interrogation. Inform me immediately if there are any leads in the search. I have to leave for Khandalapur. Looks like they have found Radha's body.
About 18 kms from Khandalapur, there is a small village Bandalpur. Ranjith knelt near the outline of the body. Why this place, he thought. Does this temple signify anything? He thought about what he saw in the apartment and tried to make a connection. Shakthi was standing next to him."What do you think?", he asked.
"I have a feeling that this is a human sacrifice Sir", Ranjith said.
"What??. Are you sure?", Shakthi was shocked.
"The visuals in the apartments, the last phone call that Kamalnath made to his wife and this burying of the dead body in front of a temple, everything makes me think so. I cannot be sure unless I hear from the medical examiner and look at the forensic reports. Shakthi and Ranjith sped to the hospital lab. As soon as they entered, Ranjith got a call from Pande."Yes Pande", he said.
"His wife gave him away, he is hiding in a family guest house in Lonavala."
"Great, send forces soon. I don't want him to get away".Ranjith cut the call and told Shakthi, "Looks like he is hiding in Lonavala".
"His family is aware of this?", asked Shakthi.
"Yes Sir, this information was given by his wife."
"How did he manage to get the dead girl out of the apartment and bury her?"
"There are no CCTV cameras around the apartment. All he had to do was wait until the town slept and sneak out."
They went up to the lab and waited for Dr.Riya to finish with her examination. She said, "Radha was murdered three days back. Today is Friday 9 AM. If I am not wrong, he killed her on Tuesday between 6:30 and 7:00 PM. She has been cut in two places. It looks like a portion of her was flesh was cut off from her right hand two hours before the murder. It appears very strange to me".
"Not to me", interrupted Ranjith."Sorry please go ahead, doctor".
"At around 7 PM, he slit her throat using a butcher's knife. There are signs of struggle in her arms. Her hands were tied by a rope. No signs of rape.", she confirmed.
Ranjith and Shakthi thanked the doctor.
Meena and Rohith were waiting in the hospital lobby along with Sumanth. They were devastated. Meena was still sobbing. As soon as she saw Ranjith, she went running to him and shouted, "Why did he do this to her. What wrong did she do? Where is he now?"
"We found out where he is and we are on our way to arrest him Mrs.Meena", Ranjith didn't know how to console the poor parents. The things I have to see in my job, he thought.
"We are sorry', added Shakthi.
Rohith came and tried to calm Meena down."We have to hurry Mr.Rohith. We don't want him to escape", said Rohith hurriedly and both of them left to Pune.
Kamalnath was arrested and held in the interrogation room by the time Rohith reached Pune. Shakthi and Ranjith walked in. Kamalnath looked like a very simple person, there was no air of a rich businessman around him.
"So can you start by telling us why you did this?", asked Ranjith.
"Me and my wife are trying to get pregnant for years now. I read about this ritual, got blessings from the Baba at the temple in Bandalpur and decided to do it"
"You killed a child so that you can have a child? How mad are you? And you thought you would get away with it?"
"This is not madness, this is science"
"Yes and she will go to heaven for the sacrifice she did and I would have gotten away if my stupid wife hadn't turned all sentimental and confessed."
Ranjith couldn't take it anymore."I think we got what we need Sir", he said to Shakthi."I am done here. I will submit the reports and evidence by tomorrow. I will also trace whoever this Baba is and have him arrested. Can I take leave now Sir?".
Ranjith quickly turned around and punched Kamalnath's nose real hard. He saluted Shakthi and stormed out of the room.
Six months later Ranjith, Shakthi, Pande, Meena, Rohith, Sumanth were all in the courtroom. It was the final hearing and all of them were awaiting the verdict. It was not an easy six months. Kamalnath used all his power to reduce the punishment but he failed to succeed. There was so much pressure from the media and people were reacting from every nook and corner and the evidence were strongly against him. Everybody wanted justice for poor Radha. The verdict was out - Kamalnath to be hanged until dead. People cheered. The country celebrated. Ranjith walked to Meena and Rohith and said, "We can't bring dear Radha back, but this the least we could do for you".
"Thank you, Sir. Our Radha would have wanted this and I am sure she is happy somewhere", Meena said with tears in her eyes.