Tanvi16 mins 401 16 mins 401
I was tired.
I was banging on the key board since morning and now it was close to 9 at night.
The sandwich I ordered on-line, lay on the table.
I looked at the file and without thinking twice, deleted the five odd pages I had written, re-written and written again; it was writer’s block!
I just couldn’t write what I actually wanted.
Exasperated, I was about to get up and eat that sagging sandwich when I heard the knock on the door.
Who would be coming at this hour? I wondered even as I made my way through things lying on the floor; there were carton boxes, towels, used tea cups oh, I thought of clearing the room before opening but thought it might be my nosy neighbor who must have come out with another extraordinary plot and must be dying to narrate.
As I opened the door, I just stood there staring at her with, a gaped mouth.
Prakriti stood there in a light blue saree; her hair was unkempt and face looked as if she was tired. She stood there staring at me without speaking.
I recovered and spoke. “Prakriti? What a surprise? What brings you here, after, let me guess, six years?”
“You can’t remember anything right? It is seven years, Vivek. Are you not asking me to come inside?” she spoke.
I once again recovered from the shock of seeing my ex-wife after six, sorry, seven years and didn’t know what to do and spoke in a halting tone.
“Sorry, please come. Here, let me take your bag.” I took her suitcase and lead her inside.
She came inside and stood staring at the unkempt room as thick lines appeared on her forehead.
I ignored her looks and lead her inside to the big room, which, incidentally was clean as I rarely used it.
She sat on the sofa even as I went to kitchen and brought the water bottle from the fridge and gave it to her.
She gulped the cold water without talking and heaved heavily as she kept the empty bottle on the teapoy and looked at me and spoke in her husky voice.
“Do you know why I am here?”
“Honestly, Prakriti, I have no idea. I had promised the publisher that the completed manuscript will be submitted latest by last week. I am struck; in fact, I have not even gone outside of my house for the last six days or so. Tell me?” I looked at her face.
She looked very much tired; apart from that, I could make out that something was bothering her.
Her beautiful grey eyes were red; maybe because of travelling or maybe she had been crying.
I remembered our last meeting six, sorry again, seven years ago.
It was raining heavily when I made my way home from the publishing house where I had gone to discuss publishing my first book.
Prakriti was standing near the door though it was raining and because of heavy wind, water sprinkled on her face.
She stood still and didn’t allow me to enter the house; I was annoyed. As it is I was fuming with anger because my meeting with publishing house didn’t go well.
“Why you are blocking me?” I virtually shouted.
“Because, you have done it again, Vivek. You got immersed in your personal glory so much that you didn’t even bother to answer my calls? What kind of father you are? You very well knew that Tanvi was not well when you left house in the morning. Do you know how severe the fever was? I had to admit her to hospital and had to struggle all the way as it was raining and you had taken my car.
Are you not ashamed of yourself to behave this way?” Prakriti spoke and her eyes were burning with rage.
“What? You admitted Tanvi? Oh my God! Prakriti believe me; I forgot my mobile in the car and went in a hurry to the meeting. When I came back to the car it was raining and I just…..” I couldn’t complete my dialogue when Prakriti burst out again.
“Stop this nonsense Vivek. I am fed up with you. Every time you make mistake you justify it by giving excuse after excuse. Leave alone being a responsible father, you don’t even have basic human courtesy. You are unfit to be a father, Vivek.”
I was standing in rain listening to my wife and though every sentence she said was true, I was annoyed that she forgot that I was getting drenched and didn’t allow me to go inside the house.
I left my cushy job in pursuit of my writing and god knows, I have become a recluse. I was obsessed with stories and ides whirring in my head, I slowly moved away from house hold responsibilities which included not paying attention to my growing daughter and submerged myself in writing. I was hell bent on reaching my goal and though, I had sat with my wife and daughter and explained what I was about to do, they never expected that level of madness.
I am a middle aged man married to my wife for over 20 years with a teen aged daughter. I got sucked in to this life long ambition of seeing my name in print that I forgot everything else.
“Look Prakrit, I am definitely guilty of not answering your phone as it was not with me. But, since you knew I was meeting the publisher, could you not have called me on the land line of the publisher?” I spoke almost justifying my attitude.
“Look at your behaviour, Vivek? You don’t even say sorry. Instead, you are trying to find out escape route! To put matters at rest, I did call the land line of publishing house and in fact, the receptionist said that she went and told you that there was call for you from your house and to quote her, she said “ sir is too busy and will get back”. Is this not what you said to her? Look at my eyes and answer you stupid, idiot?” Prakriti shouted at me.
“What are you thinking? Prakriti looked at me from sofa and I came back to present.
“You have not changed even an iota, Vivek. I feel sorry for you.”
I recovered and spoke earnestly
“I am sorry Prakriti. The shock of seeing you after all these years, I just don’t know what to say. Please tell me. Is everything all right?”
“No Vivek. Nothing is right, that’s why I am here. It is about….my daughter…” Prakriti couldn’t continue.. she started crying softly.
I was shocked to say the least; I had never seen her cry before.
I got up and stood near her and slowly sat next to her and held her hand, hesitatingly.
I thought she would withdrew. She didn’t. Instead, she hugged me and cried, now loudly.
I allowed her to cry for a while and after few minutes, she recovered and immediately, moved away from me.
I looked at her and realized that she had lost lots of weight and looked very sick.
“Are you ok, Prakriti? You look sick and appear to have lost lots of weight? What’s happening? Please tell me.” I spoke worried.
She looked at me, wiped her tears and without speaking, got up opened her vanity bag which was lying on the teapoy. She removed an envelope which appeared to have her name and address on it and then handed it over to me without speaking.
I took the envelope and removed a single sheet of paper. It was a typed letter in English and didn’t bear any date.
Even as I read the letter, I was shocked and with disbelief, I looked at Prakriti who was watching me. It took me a while to realise the essence of the letter.
I lost my balance and fell down heavily on the floor.
When I opened my eyes, Prakriti was sitting next to me and was wiping my face with a wet cloth.
After, what a long time, I recovered and water dripping from eyes I looked at Prakriti and spoke; I barely recognized my own voice. “Is this true?
she just nodded her head, water streaming from her eyes.
The letter which was handed over to me by Prakrit was written by a man called Sajjan and in simple ten sentences, he said that he has kidnapped my only daughter and threatened to kill her if we went to police. The letter also said that we have to wait for his next instruction which will come on phone.
My heart was beating so fast that I thought it would burst.
With my eyes full of tears, I held Prakriti’s hand, squeezed it and spoke in a voice I couldn’t recognize.
“Who is this guy. What’s his name? Ah, Sajjan? And how did this happen?”
Prakriti looked at me and in a voice that spelled insult spoke harshly; “When was the last time you spoke to your daughter, Vivek? As it goes, all girls are close to their father; but, a grown up girl never opens up in front of her father. She confides only with her mother. Tanvi has a boy friend. He too is studying medicine with her. She told me she likes the boy and brought him home.
Sajjan is an orphan. A brilliant boy who takes care of Tanvi and loves her very much. I too liked the boy and he kept coming home frequently. He knows that we live separately and not divorced. Believe me Vivek, he has been both friend and almost a father figure to Tanvi. In two years both of them will be practicing together. He is specializing in neurology and wants to go abroad for further studies.
I just cant believe why such a nice boy like Sajjan would do a thing like this? It beats logic. May be, some one else is doing it in his name. I don’t know. We will know the truth when we receive the phone call.”
I simply couldn’t find anything to say. I just stared even as Prakriti’s phone rang.
The mobile was in her vanity bag and she stumbled to get it. When she answered, her face went blank and mobile fell from her hand.
I took the mobile and spoke. “ Hello. Who is this? I am Vivek, Tanvi’s father.”
“Oh? Father? Are you really Tanvi’s father, Mr. Vivek?” The voice thundered. “For Tanvi’s sake I accept you as her father. Now listen carefully. I don’t have all the time in the world. You daughter is in my custody and even if you think of approaching the police, you will not get to see the body. Do you understand?” thundered the voice again.
“I want you both to go to Mangalore immediately. I have reserved a hotel room for you. After reaching, wait for my call. And please, don’t do anything stupid.”
“Please? I want to hear my daughter’s voice. Please let me talk to her?” I pleaded while water gushed from my eyes.
“You want to talk? Ha ha ha…" guffawed Sajjan loudly. “You never spoke to her when you had all the time in the world. Now? Because she is held captive you want to talk?”
I heard Tanvi’s voice. “Please Sajjan, please let me talk to them at least once. Oh, my god.” Cried my daughter loudly even as my heart started pounding. “at least free me… it is hurting me, please…..” her voice trailed off.
The line went dead.
I cried loudly even as I imagined my lovely daughter’s hand tied to the chair and could see her wincing face.
I packed in silence and called my publisher and told him that I will not be in town for few days and even before he could say something, disconnected the call.
We reached Mangalore and went to the hotel mentioned by Sajjan and found that a room in my name was booked.
We were tense, sitting in hotel room together; there was only one double bed and we sat there awkwardly waiting for the call.
Prakriti jumped when her mobile rang. She had kept it on dressing table.
She picked it up and put the phone on speaker mode, nodding her head.
Sajjan’s voice thundered.
“Good. If you keep behaving like this, there is every chance that you may get to see your daughter alive again. Of course, after you meet all my demands. Now listen carefully; a messenger will come and meet you in the theater exactly opposite to your hotel just 5 minutes before the closure of the movie. Buy tickets for the last show which starts at 9.30 pm.
Book four seats; occupy only the middle seats and my man will come and sit next to you in the empty seat and hand over a list of things that I want.
Don’t speak to him.
All you need to do is take the list, read and start complying without delay. Understood? Now, I hate to repeat that under no circumstances, you should either approach your other family members, friends or police. Now onwards, I wont even say these things. Ok.”
As the line went dead. We simply stared at each other.
There was enough time left for the last show. So we decided to have dinner and then it was decided that both of us will go out and buy ticket. Prakriti insisted that I should never venture out without her.
We hardly enjoyed the movie, Joker, though it was good.
I remembered the days when we used to watch an English movie almost every month and like Sajjan said, I used book four seats many a times so that we could enjoy each other’s company without the neighbor’s breathing on us.
In the last seven years ( hey, I got it right this time), I had not seen any movie; there was no TV in my two bed room house either.
As told by Sajjan, I had taken four tickets and we sat in the middle seats leaving a seat empty on either side.
A man came just before the movie ended, sat next to me and handed over a sealed envelope and without speaking, left.
The movie ended as soon as the man left.
We moved back to hotel room and in a hurry, I tore opened the envelope and removed a single sheet of paper and few attachments.
The attachment was car hiring confirmation! Sajjan had hired a car in my name!
I looked quizzically at Prakriti and she stared back at me with blank face. After a while, she recovered and spoke.
“Vivek, Now I remember. Sajjan once mentioned that his grand parents were from Goa. May be he and my daughter are in Goa. But? Why Mangalore? And he could have simply sent us directly to Goa, right?”
I simply did not know what to say.
But I did remember an incident involving me and Prakriti way back when we were in relationship before marriage. We had come to Mangalore to attend her friend’s marriage. Honestly, marriage was just a reason to tell to our parents. We had come to sped time together. Oh what fun we had! Then it struck me. From Mangalore, we indeed went to Gao and spent two days, freaking out.
Prakriti was staring me with a wide eye and spoke.
“What’s happening to you Vivek? Our daughter has been kidnapped and you are smiling!”
I looked sheepishly at her and spoke, hesitatingly. “Sorry, Prakriti. I was remembering our trip to Mangalore and Goa many years ago. I couldn’t help it."
For the first time since we met, Prakriti smiled.
“Oh yes, the circumstances were different. How we enjoyed each others company. Looks like ages.” Suddenly her voice hardened. “But, Vivek, let us not get carried away with memory. We have a task on our hand. Why don’t we call my friend who is still in Mangalore? She is a corporator now. May be we can use her influence and silently get help from police?”
“No Prakriti.” I raised my voice without realizing. “sorry. No police. No friends. If Sajjan can find a man to deliver a letter to us here, he may have already employed people to keep a tab on our movement. Let us not endanger our daughter’s life.”
Prakriti just nodded and went to pack things for us to move towards Goa.
I looked at the car and my mouth opened in surprise.
Though the amount was way beyond my limit, I just paid and completed the paper work.
The journey from Mangalore to Goa is an amazing experience but in the circumstance we were in, we hardly enjoyed though, every now and then we looked at each other remembering our last trip as we passed some of the places where we had stopped when we drove last time, a million years ago.
Honestly, without showing it on my face, I enjoyed driving the beast on that wonderful road.
I couldn’t remember when was the last time I took Prakriti for a long drive.
Prakriti got the call, directing her to another hotel in Goa.
We both were tired physically and mentally. We just wanted to go and sleep and think of what to do next morning. Other than giving the details of hotel, Sajjan did not speak anything.
The hotel, looked like one of the costliest and when I saw the amount debited to my card, I almost lost my balance and fell down. All my savings of the last few years, would be spent in three days, I thought to my self and yes, hid my face away from wife.
The room was in 10th floor and we freshened and were about to order food when the intercom rang.
I picked it and listened.
Prakriti was staring me with a quizzical look. “It is Sajjan, he want us to meet a guy who is in room next to us. He said we should wait till mid night and shouldn’t venture out.”
I set the alarm for mid-night 12 on my mobile.
I lay there staring at the ceiling while, Prakriti slept. She was tired. I kept looking at her face and realised what fool I had been. In the last years of our separation, we must have hardly spoken a dozen times. How she must have been struggling to bring up our daughter? I felt ashamed.
I kept staring at her when she, in her sleep, moved closer to me and hugged me.
The phone made horrible sound when the clock struck 12.
I got up and found Prakriti was still sleeping. I gently woke her up and we both left our room and went to the next room
I stood in front of the room hesitated. Should I knock? Is my daughter there in that room? Prakriti was staring at my face as she twisted the door knob and the door opened.
The room was dark.
I put my hand on the side wall searching for the light switch but couldn’t find one.
The door behind me got locked.
Some one was walking towards us.
We both stood still; I clasped Prakrit’s hand and she held my other hand tightly.
The we heard it.
“So, what will you offer to get your daughter back? Fifty Lacs? Or is your daughter more valuable that that?”
I could recognize the voice of Sajjan.
“You name a price, you dirty fellow. I will do anything. You name the price, you will get it. But first, please, I beg you, show us our daughter. We desperately want to see her.”
There was silence and my heart started pounding.
“Not money, dad. We just want our parents back.” The voice unmistakably was that of Tanvi.
Even before we could react, a blinding light exploded.
The we heard it. “Happy Valentine’s day, dad and mom.”
A smiling Tanvi and a handsome Sajjan were standing and clapping in front of a huge cake.
I stood speechless and stared at my lovely daughter who was glowing with radiance. She came close, hugged me and spoke.
“I have been watching mom for the last seven years dad, she was suffering without speaking. She missed you very much because she loves you.
What better gift one can ask for? “ Tanvi held my hand and Prakriti’s hand together, beamed at Sajjan and spoke. “Thank you Sajjan for a wonderful valentine day gift. Valentine day is celebrated as lover’s day. Today, you made these lovers unite again. Thank you.”
Prakriti spoke with amusement in her voice.
“But why drag us to Mangalore and then to Goa?”
With a mischievous smile on her face, my lovely daughter replied.
“Mom you spoke several times about you both spending time in Mangalore and how you missed going for long drive with dad. So, we planned it. Do you know today's date dad? it is 14 February!"
I prided myself as a man who can write reams of paper with words. But now, I stood speechless; I could utter only one sentence even as Prakriti hugged me.
“Thank you Tanvi.”