Shadow Of Time
Shadow Of Time
“What’s the guarantee that you will get him back? There’s none. You are just depriving yourself of all the brighter side by giving yourself a false hope” I shouted
“Umm Hmm,” Bhavana replied while sobbing. I could hear her long breaths. I could almost picture her laying herself in the corner with a handkerchief taking rounds between wiping her eyes and nose.
“Look Bhavana, when you go through a breakup, the feeling that you are having is natural. You feel hopeless, worthless, useless but it’s all temporary. It lasts for a week, maybe more but eventually better people and opportunities come your way. Just give yourself some time”
“Time? This time appears endless. How long do you expect me to hold on to myself like this Ritika?” she asked.
I sipped my black tea which I had almost forgotten about being held in my hand. After a brief pause, I walked towards the kitchen with Bhavana still on the line.
“Ritika??” she cried
“Ya, I am here, sorry, my tea has gotten cold,” I assured.
“Okay,” she said.
“Some things aren't decided by us. Sometimes you have to make efforts to make yourself happy. Ever tried watching a movie alone or maybe having a meal at a good restaurant all by yourself. Just you and your soul” I asked her while seeing my tea boiling.
“Who does that?” she asked.
“It’s not like it sounds. If you can't be happy with yourself how can you imagine others to be happy with you? Right now it’s late, have breakfast with yourself tomorrow morning, regain your confidence, then maybe we can catch up in the afternoon to discuss how it all went with you” I said. Honestly, I felt she was stretching the conversation unnecessarily so I had to give her concluding advice.
“Alright. Tomorrow afternoon” she said, her sobbing voice sounded a little relaxed now.
“Yes, but before that, breakfast with yourself,” I said while getting ready to hang up.
“Yes,” thankfully she said that. I would have possibly freaked out if she further would have been reluctant and attempted to overstretch the conversation.
It was the first time she had a breakup. A girl who is already insecure due to her average looks gets heavily affected by anxiety when she realizes that she was just a filler in her ex’s life.
Long-distance relationships are hard to maintain. The distance between the love birds is nothing compared to the insecurities that tend to grow naturally. This thought is very much true in our case, the case of us, me and Ishan. The good old days are old now, they are just a part of nostalgia to escape from the negativity that the relationship has brought upon us.
“Let’s not disclose what we have between us to our families. Tomorrow when your business is flourishing and I am working in a reputed ad company, we’ll be self-sufficient and will be able to stand strong against our family prejudices” I had assured him a year ago, a few days later I was about to pursue my diploma in designing. I remember him agreeing to me reluctantly. I had been observant of the fact that all the luxuries he had gotten since his childhood never made him having a serious approach towards life. Nevertheless, I did had a hope that he will realize the worth of being self-dependent someday, everyone does.
Before this realization to him could happen, destiny played its bitter game or as Prajwal would explain, destiny took a bitter test of us. The irony is, this same destiny took the best of him too.
In a long-distance relationship, no matter how much you convince your partner to not worry about the random guy you have casual friendship with, the insecurities being the termite they are, leaves you hollow, and Ishan was a soft target to it anyway.
In our case, Prajwal was that random guy whom I didn’t even imagine sitting alongside the hill cliff and discussing how big our marriage event is going to be. For all, I regarded him as a simple, down to earth college buddy who was always of great help when needed and an entertaining companion when not needed. One wouldn’t have expected an innocent face like that of him to be planted as a bait by the destiny in order to screw up my relationship. The round cheeks full of fat casting a shadow on his eyes would never allow anyone to have negative intentions towards him.
“I remember when I was in the sixth standard, my class teacher told me, Prajwal, whenever I think of you, I feel like thrashing you fifty times in front of the whole class but I don’t know why, whenever I look at you, I feel like, ‘Leave it, never mind’” he said to me once.
I wonder if he had purposely maintained that face structure for the advantage he is having from it? He is aware of his innocent face? Am I overthinking? Whatever, it’s just a matter of a few months now. We wouldn’t be in touch ever after that or would we?
The months passed by like a stream of the Ganges. I got a job as an interface designer at a small design firm. No, I couldn’t make it to any ad company. It turned out our college had promised way more than they could deliver. Prajwal had got a job at a publishing firm that was located nearby the place where I lived. Contrary to his claims, I don’t think it was a coincidence because seeing his portfolio, he would have had better opportunities for his craft.
“I hate relocating. I wanted to work somewhere nearby” Prajwal said on the phone after giving me the news of him relocating to a boy's PG near our hostel.
“Sometimes, do you even listen to yourself?” I asked
“What?” he said.
“Nothing. Leave it” I said and disconnected.
For some reason, the feeling that he may be thinking of me as more than a friend didn’t feel alright. I remember him being rude to me the first time after a few months. He was in a bad mood because he was not enjoying his job. I felt happy for a fact that maybe this could prevent the closeness between us that he was attempting to achieve. But the next day he called to ask for forgiveness, which I accepted but again he asked me to meet him. I refused by making up an obvious excuse.
“I have my periods,” I said
I had been refusing his offers to meet him for a while now. Sometimes I had periods, sometimes I had to go to my hometown, sometimes overtime work etc.
He eventually became rude to me. The problem with men is if you reject them, they overthink it by taking that on their ego. The person who once used to lecture me about destiny and how it tests people was himself failing at his test. Eventually, he stopped talking to me. I didn’t feel a void as by that time I had made enough friends in Bangalore.
Three days ago, however, I received a text from him
“Hey” I replied.
I did see the blue ticks under my message which indicated that he read the message but still I got no reply from the other side although he was online. I saw his profile picture which he changed just now, it was a selfie which showed his round face glowing like a blue moon due to mobile flash, I thought maybe that was the reason he was taking time to reply but that wasn’t because his reply came after a long half an hour; and that reply in spite of being a text message, eroded my ears like a thorn.
‘Since I am gone, your true colors have started getting exposed, passing time with those losers have become your favorite hobby isn’t it?’ his text said.
I had almost forgotten that he had left Bangalore a month ago to settle in Noida.
I waited for some time in order to collect my calmness. He did scare me though because Prajwal never talked to me like this. There was no question of me calling him, the alcohol did act as a catalyst to the devil hiding inside him. He must have checked my Instagram profile because that’s where I share my pictures with friends when I hang out with them anywhere.
‘You must be drunk right now, go to bed, even I am sleepy, will talk tomorrow’ after typing this message I blocked him temporarily. The next day when I woke up I unblocked him. I wanted to get over with all this once and for all.
‘Now tell me what happened?’ I texted him. My message did get received in the server but not to his device. Maybe his internet was off, but before sleeping at night I again checked my phone, my previous message was still not delivered.
Finally today I have received his reply
‘nothing, I was not in a good mood and was drunk anyway’ his text said.
‘I knew it’ I texted back
After ten minutes, I again got a text from him saying
‘Who was that guy with you in a yellow t-shirt?’
He was talking about Sameer with whom I went to a nearby park in the evening. But what’s shocking is that I haven’t shared any pic with him on Instagram or any other social network. Maybe this was one of those tricky hints by Prajwal to imply that he spotted me.
‘Are you in Bangalore?’ I texted
‘That thin dark jumpsuit totally complimented your figure, but next time makes sure to wear it just for me’ his reply said.
Before this reply from him could make me boil in anger, I got another text from him
‘I wonder why you never had snickers with me’
He followed me till my locality without me noticing him because from the grocery shop down the lane I bought snicker chocolates for Sameer and me. Suddenly I heard something from the kitchen. When I reach there and switch on the lights, utensils lay scattered. I saw a gift box resting on the floor.
By this time my hands were shaky which I felt while opening the gift box, inside the box were kept a glossy looking sleeveless upper thigh gown and a letter which read
‘Take off the purple t-shirt and the old pajama’
This scared me to an extent where I could even sense my tears trickling down my cheek
“Why are you doing this to me?” I shouted with a shivering voice.
My phone rang with the message alert tone
Seeing this text from him in capital black letters made me drop my phone on the floor and run downstairs towards the phone booth from where I tried calling Sameer. He doesn’t usually pick up calls from unknown numbers and that too in the night time. I ran towards the nearby Marathalli police station and told them everything. Policemen accompanied me back to the hostel and enquired about the situation from my landlord.
Since the lazy landlord was asleep, his wife opened the door and stood in shock after seeing me with a man in his mid-forties clad by the uniform.
“Wh...What’s the matter?” she asked
“This girl is saying someone is stalking her. That someone even entered her room and kept a gift for her” he explained.
The women adjusted her dupatta which she had worn on an orange loose t-shirt.
“No, no trespasser” she replied while switching her sight between me and the uniformed man.
“Can I have a look at the CCTV footage?” the policeman asked while indicting his index figure towards the security camera.
“Actually sir, the camera isn’t working,” she answered while looking down and adjusting her hands into her pajama pockets.
“Didn’t you get it fixed?” he asked.
“Actually it’s just to attract tenants by giving them an assurance of security” she answered while her eyes still pointed downwards.
“Are you even for real?” he asked and turned away.
I led the policeman and the landlord’s wife towards my room to show them the gift box. What happened after that was something I predicted seconds ago and also feared. There was no gift box, all the utensils, and everything was kept at their respective places; it was like a room that had spinsters possessing their regular routine. My phone which I had thrown on the kitchen floor was kept on the side of the bed where I was sitting earlier.
The policeman and the landlady must be thinking of me as if I am some sort of paranoid lunatic.
“You told me something about text messages. Are those chats saved in your phone?” the policeman asked.
As expected the chats were deleted.
“A person who can enter your room, invade your privacy, leave a gift box and then undo it, keep the phone back to where it was, for him, deleting some text messages would not be that big of a deal,” I said while showing him the blank WhatsApp screen. “Throwing the phone on the kitchen floor proved to be a big mistake.”
My landlord ordered me to leave the room by next month anyhow. The policeman was still hopeful so he asked me for Prajwal’s number which of course I gave him.
That night I stayed at Bhavana’s place, I told her the complete story, after listening to which she asked me to show her Prajwal’s photo. I had his WhatsApp selfie saved in my device before blocking him.
“Ritika, do you see this?” she brought the phone screen closer to me before I could get curious. Here’s a thing about Bhavana, she had an eye for detail, something that I at certain times envied about her. What she showed me, if it wasn’t for her, I would have never noticed. The blue-colored moon-like face of Prajwal in his display picture.
In that selfie, there was a dark human-shaped being whose face was not properly visible due to darkness and poor quality of the front camera, but that shape appeared like it’s moving towards Prajwal. From that day on I remember there were no status updates or messages from Prajwal for 3 days. Moreover, there was also no social media posts or updates about him. There is a huge chance that he may be dead and me being an utterly foolish person doubted him the whole time of being the stalker. This reminded me of something Prajwal used to tell me in class, It takes years to build trust but trust is brittle just like glass, you never know whose gonna shoot the hammer.
Along with a sense of remorse came the stalker fear with a new face, and this time that face is unknown. I don’t know who is stalking me; I just know that I am in more danger than ever. These mixed-up thoughts made me sick, so sick that the next day I had to see a doctor. He told me that it’s a weakness due to depression since I am already very weak; skipping a meal for long hours and that too without the intake of water has resulted in making me vulnerable.
As I was coming back from the clinic with the prescription in my hand I received a call from the police station. They asked me to come over. As I and Bhavana reached the Marathalli thana, we saw that the stalker has been arrested and kept in the nearby small cell. They told me the whole story.
Ishaan got to know about the place where Prajwal stays through a college friend of his. Posing as an unknown woman with a profile picture of Mia Khalifa, he was able to extract Prajwal’s address and reached his place to kill him. At that very moment, Prajwal was drinking and taking selfies. While he was clicking a side profile of his face, he spotted Ishan from the corner of his eyes, he also saw the knife held in that right hand, the fact that it was a kitchen knife made him relax a little, Prajwal quickly built up a strategy to protect himself, he looked towards the whiskey bottle kept on the small stool and guessed the steps of Ishan approaching towards him, for a moment he completely lost the lyrics for the song that was playing in his JBL and turned around from the other side of where Ishan attempted to attack. Ishan got a loud smash of liquored glass pieces trying to pierce through the back of his head after which when he turned around after some struggle, Prajwal had disappeared from the scene. Ishan was not completely unconscious but also he was not in the condition to follow Prajwal. While struggling with pain, he saw my Instagram picture in Prajwal’s phone which probably Prajwal was checking out earlier, and then he sent me the rude text on WhatsApp about me hanging around with other guys.
Ishaan got to know about the place where Prajwal stays through a college friend. Posing as an unknown woman with a profile picture of some unknown women, he was able to extract Prajwal’s address and reached his place to kill him. At that very moment, Prajwal was drinking and taking selfies. While he was clicking a side profile of his face, he spotted Ishan from the corner of his eyes, he also saw the knife held in that right hand, the fact that it was a kitchen knife made him relax a little, Prajwal quickly built up a strategy to protect himself, he looked towards the whiskey bottle kept on the small stool and guessed the steps of Ishan approaching towards him, for a moment he completely lost the lyrics for the song that was playing in his JBL and turned around from the other side of where Ishan attempted to attack. Ishan got a loud smash of liquored glass pieces trying to pierce through the back of his head after which when he turned around after some struggle, Prajwal had disappeared from the scene. Ishan was not completely unconscious but also he was not in the condition to follow Prajwal. While struggling with pain, he saw my Instagram picture in Prajwal’s phone which probably Prajwal was checking out earlier, and then he sent me the rude text on Whatsapp about me hanging around with other guys.
This investigation came to track when there was an FIR reported by Prajwal about his phone being with the convict. Prajwal obviously wouldn’t take the risk of going back to his place to take the phone, and that’s why he reported it. Later on, he told the complete story to Noida police. When I had provided Bangalore police with Prajwal’s contact number, they eventually got to know that Prajwal had already reported that number. When the policemen searched at Prajwal’s house, they found the phone missing and the packaging box of the phone had the IMEI number which was found to be being used by Ishan in Bangalore.
Ishan’s punishment is yet awaited but I am sure, on charges of attempt to murder and stalking he would go for a long time behind bars. That psychopath with his wounded head between both the hand was still staring at me with wide eyes.
I tried a lot to inquire about Prajwal’s whereabouts but no success. There’s no update of him anywhere be it Instagram, Facebook, or even twitter. Maybe after the Ishan incident, he just doesn’t want to keep any link with me.