Revenge13 mins 512 13 mins 512
She checked her bag once again to ensure that the sealed bottle was intact. She kept the bag aside, stood in front of the mirror and slowly removed the long dupatta that she had used for covering her face, except for her eyes.
She removed it ever so slowly to reveal a horribly disfigured face staring back at her; the skin had peeled to reveal, almost, the muscles and bones of the face. There were two holes where there was once, a beautiful nose existed. Her eyes welled up and water dripped slowly on the teapoy below where she had kept newspaper cutting dating back to 12 years. She realized that the paper was getting wet; she removed it and put it inside her bag.
She recollected how she found the way to trace him; she still had bandage when her friend visited her in the hospital; she could only hear and speak. Her close friend wanted to know how she will find the identity of the man who spoiled her life. Then she heard it; a song penned by Gulzar….’naam bhuljeyaga…. chehera e badaljeyaga…. meri awaaz hi pehchan hai…’ playing in the back ground.
She found her way!
The girl waited for six months before she embarked on her journey to find out about the man who threw acid at her face.
The policeman looked at the girl who had covered her face completely and listened to the explanation of the purpose of her visit. Without an iota of sympathy, he said. “Madam, every day, lots of people are rounded off by us. You say that you closed hour eyes at the impact of acid on your face and didn’t see the man when the acid was thrown on you. How are you going to identify him?”
The girl pondered over the situation. “Do you, by any chance, record the audio conversations while interrogating those whom you apprehend?” The policeman guffawed, “audio…ha ha ha. no chance. But in some cases, we do it under camera and audio also gets captured. But they are all confidential and we can’t make it available to the public.”
The girl pleaded with the policeman and finally with the station inspector who eyed her from head to toe. After checking her body closely, the inspector said, “Well, maybe I can make an exception and give you a chance to see the video. What will I get? Do one thing come tomorrow around 7.30 in the evening and keep your face covered but not….ha ha ha “
The girl closed her eyes when the video was played, focusing on the sound and after going through and listening to 7 persons, she pinned it to the last man, a 25-year-old youth nabbed by police for picking up a quarrel with another man and breaking his legs on the same day when she was injured.
The girl said to the inspector, “it is him. I could hear the shrieking sound he made after he threw the acid at my face. It matches. Give me details of this man.”
That was just the beginning of a long and arduous journey.
The girl shivered at the memory of the hardship she went through to trace that man. Now the time has come to conclude the ordeal of 12 years.
She looked at the clock on the wall which showed 10 minutes to 4 pm. The bus would leave at 8.30 pm and she needed to pack her clothes and most importantly, all the paper cuttings she kept in the file.
By the time she left, after packing her bag and grabbing a sandwich and cleaning the kitchen, it was 7 pm.
She settled in the plush comfort of the luxury bus; she had booked the single sleeper to ensure that she would be left alone. She kept her bag on the space provided and stretched. She was staring at nothing; her mind uncoiled the struggle of last 12 years and effort she had put in to trace the man who, god knows why, spoiled her entire life in less than 2 minutes!
She trembled at the thought; the gory details of the aftermath of getting acid thrown at her face made her body shiver and became stiff.
It was exactly 12 years earlier, to date, that incident happened. But for the last 12 years, every day, she lived through the incident as if it happened today. She was wearing the same salwar and kameez that day also; a wry smile crossed her face at the irony. She had searched for a dress to wear, earlier in the day; but only now she realised what her subconscious mind has done! Without planning for it, she wore the same dress on which her life was shattered.
She was woken up by the driver who informed that the last stop has come and everyone has already alighted.
She picked her bag got down and ignoring the auto drivers who virtually surrounded her, she made her way and looked for a hotel to freshen up.
She sat sipping her tea and mentally checked her plan once again, ticking all the boxes; things she needed to say and do when she met that man.
She took out her diary and checked the address she had written and the route she needed to take to reach.
She got down from the auto, paid him and waited for him to move on. Once he disappeared from view, she walked back for a couple of yards, took out the book to re-check the address.
The gate did not make any sound.
She gently closed it and stood in front of the door; this is the moment that she had been waiting for the last 12 years!
Her face was completely covered with just eyes visible, but the steel grey eyes were on fire!
She knocked on the door and waited.
She knocked again.
She heard the sound as if some was walking with a heavy shoe.
The door opened and a middle-aged man wearing a lungi and lose jabba was standing. He had worn oversized dark glasses and was sporting a beard, untrimmed.
“Yes? Whom do you want?” The man looked at the girl and spoke.
The girl didn’t pay close attention to his face but was listening to the voice. Satisfied that the voice appeared to match with that of the person though, age has caught up with him.
She pushed him aside and entered. The Man, surprised, slowly turned around and followed her.
She could see that the house was small with just one-bed room and an open kitchen. There was a worn-out sofa with springs visible on sides. The teapoy was dirty. The house appeared not to have been painted for ages; cracks appeared virtually, all over the walls. The kitchen had very few utensils and most of them were in the sink.
There were no pictures on the wall.
The girl needed confirmation that she has indeed come to the right place. The man followed her and sat down on one of the broken sofas facing her.
The man had a walking stick which he rested when he sat down and the girl hadn’t noticed it earlier. Now she realized that the sound she heard was obviously coming from the stick as the man was barefooted. He had only one leg and a stump for the missing leg was now visible through the dirty lungi he wore.
“Who are you? Why did you barge inside my house? And…” the man paused, ‘What do you want?”
The girl listened to the man’s voice and realised that she has indeed come to the right place.
“You want to know who I am? How will you recognize me? I have covered my face completely, like how I have been covering it for the last 12 years.” The girl spoke and she slowly unwinded the dupatta to reveal her face.
The man looked at her but didn’t’ say a word.
“Don’t tell me you don’t know who I am.” The girl virtually shouted at the man.
His silence made her blood boil. She slowly pulled the vanity bag she brought along with her, slowly, ever so slowly so that the man does not see what she is doing, she opened the bag with one hand and pulled the sealed bottle containing acid and hid it under the dupatta she kept on the sofa next to her.
“Can you see now what you did in less than 2 minutes, 12 years ago?” the girl laughed out loudly. “I am sure, I am not the only girl whom you have attacked with acid in your life.”
She glared at the man and continued.
“Do you know what happens when the acid touches the soft skin on the face? It is like putting hundred pieces of burning coal on your face!”
The girl started crying loudly.
The man just sat very still and looked at her and said nothing.
The girl wiped tears with her hands. “God knows how much I suffered, every day for the past 12 years; I dreamt of killing you with my bare hands. Then one day, I realised that the best lesson is to do exactly what you did to me; splashing your face with acid.”
The girl slowly put her hands under the dupatta and pulled the bottle and held it in her hands for the man to see.
The man simply kept staring at her.
Lines of confusion appeared on the girl’s face. She was expecting a fight of a sort. But the man simply sat there without any expression and didn’t even move.
“Tell me? Shall I pull the cork from the bottle and splash your face with acid? Remove your goggles. I want you to see how the entire process takes place, even as you recall the ordeal 12 years ago.”
The girl stood up, pulled the cork, raised her hand with the bottle and waited for the man to remove his goggles.
The girl who was about to splash the acid on the man’s face, even as the man removed his goggles, stopped.
She brought down her hands slowly.
The man sitting in front of her was completely blind and two holes appeared where there were eyes once.
The girl put the cork on the bottle, kept the bottle near her bag, sat down and looked at the blind man.
The man spoke, for the first time in a quivering voice.
“As you can see, I am completely blind and have only one leg to walk. Do you still want to throw the acid at my face? Go ahead. I won’t stop you. The sin I committed, as you said, 12 years ago, can’t be washed away even with acid. You may not believe me. After that incident, I searched for you everywhere.”
The girl recovered from her shock now said mockingly.
“Why did you search for me? To splash acid on my entire body?”
“No”. the man said in a calm voice. “I searched for you to beg your pardon, to surrender myself in front of you for any punishment that you deemed fit.”
The girl looked at the man closely as if to search for the truth in what he was talking.
The man spoke as if he could read her mind. “I know it is hard for you to believe me now. But God knows: I am telling you the truth. I also knew that one day you would find me. How I wish I could turn the clock back and undo whatever that I did. “
The man sat down silently even as water starting trickling from his dead eyes.
The girl, only for a brief second, felt sorry for the man.
But when she spoke, the harshness of her voice, unmistakably, was unforgiving.
“You haven’t told me why you did it? I don’t care what you went through. I have hardly slept for more than 2 hours a day for the past 12 years. My marriage was canceled. My mother, who was the only person left for me, committed suicide.
I wanted nothing but revenge! Do you understand me?” Shouted the girl.
The man spoke in a gentle voice. “The best way to take revenge is to kill me. I have no desire to live anyway. Please go to the kitchen and in the drawer, you will find a knife. You can kill me with it. I won’t resist. I deserve it.”
“Oh? Do you want quick justice? Kill you? Ha ha ha”…. Guffawed the girl.
“No way. I want you to suffer, just like what I did, every day for the rest of your life. You should beg for death…. And that’s the revenge I want.” Said girl in a harsh voice.
“You chose your method of punishment. But don’t you want to know why I did what I did? Don’t you think I deserve a patient listening at least for a few minutes before you take your revenge?” The man spoke, again a calm voice which only irritated the girl.
“What could be the reason? I had never met you. How can you do that kind of thing for a total stranger?” The girl said in an irritating voice.
“Trust me when I say this. I had never seen you before; only your picture was shown to me. I was told when and where the contents of the bottle should be thrown at your face. I simply obeyed the orders.”
“What?” The girl shouted. “You did this heinous crime just for money?”
“No. Not for money.” For the first time, the man raised his voice and shouted.
“He held my younger sister in captive and threatened to……” The man’s voice trails off. “Trust me when I say this. That man gave me a bottle of urine, I smelled it. It was urine. Later he must have switched the bottle.” the man started crying, loudly.
The girl stood speechless; later she spoke, in a low voice.
“Are you telling me the truth? Please tell me? You did it to protect your sister? Are you also telling me the truth about urine?”
The man wiped his tears and spoke. “Why should I lie now? I am desperate to die not live.
You may not believe me. But God knows. What I said is absolute truth.”
The girl threw her hands in desperation.
“I wasted 12 years looking for you. Do you know what kind of sacrifices I had to make to get information from the police about you?” She laughed out loudly. “They told me to cover my face… all they wanted was my body.”
The girl cried without sound.
The man put out his hand and searched for the girl’s hand. She extended her hand and he clasped her hands and cried.
“I am really sorry. I am really sorry. I had never seen anyone who had been attacked by acid. Believe me, I didn’t even know the bottle contained acid. I was told to throw the liquid and he convinced me it contained urine! The act was to insult you in public, he said.”
“Only when you shouted and I saw what happened to your face after I threw the liquid, I realised what I did. That’s when I cried out loudly. I don’t deserve even your pardon for the heinous crime that I committed. Please, if possible, please forgive me.”
The man got up and stumbled and fell at the girl’s feet.
The girl looked in disgust at the man who was lying at her feet. She never anticipated anything like this. She forgot the dialogue she had rehearsed; her plan has gone haywire. Years of preparation went waste.
She stood up, took her bag and spoke in a voice which appeared strange to her.
“Do you at least know who instigated you to do it?”
The man stood up and found the sofa and sat down and spoke. “I found out later. It took me three years of search to track the man who blackmailed me to commit the heinous crime. He didn’t spare my sister too.” The man was crying. He recovered and spoke.
“I also found out as to why he wanted me to disfigure your face.”
The girl stopped in her stride, turned back and with a quizzical look on her face spoke.
“You know who and also why? Who is it? And why did he do it?
The man stood up and faced the girl and spoke in a calm voice.
“The man who made me do it wanted to marry a rich girl and you were a stumbling block.
He was none other than your fiancé with whom you were supposed to get married!