This is the twenty first chapter of Memory Intrigues , a mystery series in the “Game of Blogs” for the team “ Dynamic Word Weavers” as a part of # CelebrateBlogging campaign by Blogadda.
The story so far:
Next morning, Shekhar wakes up with a severe headache, the sofa creaks every time he moves. He acts like nothing has happened. He does not want to give Tara the pleasure of seeing him distressed. Tara’s usual yelling for Roohi gets on his nerves. After a while, he hears Tara scream for him, “Shekhu, Roohi-she’s gone.”
He hurries towards Roohi’s room, but he is certain Roohi is hiding somewhere. Her bed is strewn with crumpled bits of paper, Shekhar picks them up and reads them. It doesn’t make sense to him. He also finds a sketch of a dress Roohi has drawn. Panic wells up in his throat. He searches the entire house, even under the beds but finds no sign of Roohi.
He overhears Tara on phone with her mom, “Has Roohi come there?”
“No, it’s just that....”
He dashes out of the door; his baby doll is wandering on the streets. He has to find her.
Shekhar dashes out of the door. He does not have the time to wait for the lift and runs down the stairs like a man possessed. He bumps into a neighbour and looks through him. The neighbour looks at this man who looks like he is half-crazed and wonders what has happened to the normally sauve, smiling man today.
A security guard is sitting inside the tiny cabin at the gate. Shekhar stops.
“Security, aapne hamari bacchi ko dekha kya?” (Did you see our little girl)?
The man looks up and shakes his head “Nahin saab.” (No sir).
“Aap din bhar yahaan baithe baithe sote rahte hain kya? Ek bacchi bhi nazar nahin aati?” (Do you keep sleeping all day long? Can’t you even notice a little girl?) Shekhar snaps back unreasonably. The security guard looks at him flabbergasted, wondering what on earth this man is on about. He is normally so nice and polite!
Shekhar rushes out onto the streets and stops for a moment, wondering which way he should go. He suddenly feels very helpless when he realizes Roohi could have gone in any direction and he just has to search all over. What if she has gone the other way? By the time he gets there, she would have gone even further. “God knows if she will be safe. The poor little child! Why did she do this? She is so naive. Oh God, please, please be with my Roohi and take care of her. I’ll be eternally grateful to you and never ever lose my faith in you,” he pleads desperately while trying to bribe God in the same breath. He just hopes she will not talk to any stranger, or even if she does, he can only hope that the stranger would turn out to be a Good Samaritan.
He decides to first look for her on the road leading left. It leads to the park. Maybe she has gone there? He rushes down that road. He bumps into passersby who turn around and curse him: “Aankhein nahin hai kya?” “Aankhein hain ke button?” “Saale, ghar mein ma bahen nahin hai kya?” (Don’t you have eyes? Don’t you have a mother or a sister at home?”)
He comes to a few side roads which he has to cross and runs across, holding his hands sideways to stop the oncoming traffic. Two wheeler-, auto rickshaw- and car drivers honk and yell out “Marna hai kya? Marna hi hai toh aur kahin ja ke maro.” (Do you want to die? If you do, go elsewhere and die.) Shekhar gets a taste of the entire range of litany that the “Great Indian Public” has at its disposal.
He goes about 4 kms in that direction till he reaches the park. The park is closed and there is no sign of Roohi as far as he can see from the gate. He is tired as well as desperate and manages to get a ride from a sympathetic ‘rickshawwallah.’ They drive back slowly through the side lanes and then back to the main road in the other direction. They spend about 3 hours just searching. No luck! Shekhar is totally shattered. He decides to go back home.
Tara has been desperately calling a lot of people, including friends and relatives whom Roohi knows, as well as Roohi’s friends.
“Hello Sanjana, has Roohi come to your house?”
“Hi Devika, has Roohi by any chance come to your house?”
“No, Tara. What happened?”
“She is missing since morning. I can’t imagine where she could have gone. This is very abnormal behaviour for her.”
“Oh no! Have you informed the police?”
“No, not yet.”
“Please do that immediately. They can help find her faster than you could on your own. Hurry up! Don’t delay!”
“OK Devika, thanks a lot. Will put the phone down now. Need to make more calls.” Tara is a bit miffed at this bit of unsolicited advice.
So it goes on. There are no leads to help her. She sinks down into a chair and sits there her head in her hands, stifling her sobs. Just then Shekhar walks in looking haggard and all dishevelled. Tara does not need to ask him anything; it is evident that his search has yielded nought.
“Why would she do something like this? It is so unlike her” sobs Tara.
“.....” Shekhar does not answer.
“I know it is all my fault. Say so, if you feel so too. You don’t have to be diplomatic. Tell me, you blame me for this, don’t you?” she explodes.
“Did I say anything? Tara, have some sense! Is this the time to get into all this? I am as worried as you. Stop being a nag!”
Tara bursts out into another hysterical bout of sobbing. Shekhar walks over to her and puts his hand around her shoulder.
“For Heaven’s sake, pull yourself together Tara! This is not the time to sit and cry. We need to do something soon if we want to find our little Roohikins. The more the delay, the greater the risk to her life. Oh God! Please, please keep Roohi safe. The world is such a dangerous place for an innocent kid like her to be out alone on the streets.”
Tara takes a few deep breaths, gets up, goes and washes her face and comes back. She reaches out for her mobile.
“Hello Mr. Murthy. I am urgently in need of your help. My daughter Roohi has gone missing. Could you please spare a minute’s slot before the next programme to make an announcement to that effect? We are willing to give a reward of Rs. 1,00,000 to anyone who finds her. I shall mail you a copy of her photo right away. She is 9 years old, fair, chubby and has her curly shoulder length hair in two ponytails. She is wearing a pink night suit with a pink panther patchwork on the front. She has taken her fluorescent pink backpack and her pink teddy with her.”
Promptly at 1 pm, the news of Roohi going missing is announced on “Ab Tak”. The fact that she is the daughter of Tara Dutta, a senior reporter with the channel is also mentioned. Just that should draw more attention to the news.
Shekhar goes out to the local police station and tries to file an FIR. The police officer on duty looks disdainfully at him and informs him:
“Nahin saab! Report abhi darch nahin ho sakta. 24 ghanton ke baad hi darch kar sakte hain.” (Sorry sir, we cannot file an FIR right away. A missing complaint can be registered only 24 hours after a person goes missing). It is now Shekhar’s turn to mutter the choicest of abuses under his breath.
It is 1.30 pm. Shekhar is back home from the police station. Tara has not cooked anything that morning. Neither of them has any appetite either.
“Tring tring.....tring tring.....tring tring”. The sound of the phone ringing makes Shekhar jump up. It is 1.45 pm.
“Hallo, Shekhar ....”
“Abe o Shekhar, Waker ke bacche. Maloom hai. Aapun ne hi tumko phone kiyela.” (I know that already since I am the one who called you).
“Who are you? What do you want?”
“Eh, Shekhar ke bacche, chup chaap sun. Tumhari bacchii aapun ke kabze mein hai. Kaayko TV pe itna shor gul macha raha hai be? Aapun ko wo memory card chahiye.” (Just listen quietly. Your daughter is in my custody. Why do you have to go and make a noise about this on TV? I want the memory card.)
“Eh shanya, aapun ko maloom hai, card tumhare paas hi hai. Zyaada shahaanpan nahin dikhene ka, kya? Main phir se phone karega. Jagah aur time batayega. Chup chaap aake woh card de deneka, samjha kya? Agar puliss ke paas gaya, to tumhare gudiya ki dead body mil jaayegi.” (Hey, you smart guy! I know the card is with you. Don’t act too smart. I shall call again and inform you of the time and place. Come there and hand over the card without much ado. If you go to the police, you will receive your daughter’s dead body).
“Kaun ......” (Who.....)
Click. There is a dead tone from the other end. The call has been cut.
“What’s the matter Shekhar? Who was it?”
Shekhar stares as if he’s seen a ghost. Tara repeats her question.
“They have kidnapped Roohi. They want the memory card.”
Tara’s jaw drops and her eyes go round with fright.
“Give it to them. I want Roohi back safe and sound. Damn that memory card. It has been the cause of so much trouble in this house.”
Shekhar listens and remains silent for a while. He is deep in thought.“And what if they take the card and don’t return Roohi?” he thinks out aloud.
Read the next part of the story here.
Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.