Her father’s number was flashing on my screen…
I didn’t want to take this call. I didn’t want to at all. What did he want from me now? Why call me when he knew I had left her? I knew why, of course. He would blame her leaving home on me and call me names. Nothing new. So I let it ring.
But it rang again, and then again, and again, and then I just had to take the call.
I regretted it the moment I heard the first words, “Saale haraamkhor (scoundrel)! I am going to gut you alive if I get my hands on you!“
His tone riled me, made my blood boil, but I controlled my response, “Excuse me Mr. Malhotra, please control your tongue. You can’t speak to me that way…”
“I don’t want to speak to you either… you think I’m calling you out of any choice? I hate you intensely. And I hate you even more for playing my daughter so…. “
“Mr. Malhotra, I didn’t play your daughter. I left her and she was the one who took the decision to leave it all behind; I didn’t force her…”, I was off my bed now, pacing furiously across the room.
“I don’t believe a word of it! You played her, right from the start you played her. You first forced her to go against us and now, pretending to have left her, you forced her to leave us too. I know what you’re trying to get at…”, he lowered his voice to a menacing growl, “I know you’re trying to force her into something…Like marrying you so you can lay your filthy, low life hands on her money and her property…”
“That’s enough! Enough of your abusing…”
“NOOO! That isn’t enough…. But I’ll tell you what will be… I’m going to kill her and kill you…“
My breath was stuck in my chest. A sudden numbness was overtaking my senses, while he continued menacingly, “Sunna raha hai na, saale?! You better understand me! I’m going to kill the both of you. Tell that to my good for nothing daughter that I’m coming for her… I’m coming to strangle her with my own bare hands…” In the background I could hear Suhana’s Mother’s hysterical crying and pleadings to stop her husband from making threats.
WTF! I couldn’t believe the things he was saying! And for his own daughter too!
“I’ll kill both of you, rip out your limbs and feed them to the dogs… you hear me?!”
My blood had reached the boiling point it seemed and I lost all sense of decorum, “Shut up! Just shut the fuck up! How dare you threaten me? How dare you? You’ll kill me? I’ll kill you myself if you threaten me or call me again…. I should have never, never, never, never fallen for your daughter. She’s the biggest mistake of my life because I had to suffer at your hands, thanks to her…. well be happy, Malhotra, I left your daughter…. threw her out of my house… “
“What?” He sounded incredulous as if he thought I wasn’t capable of it.
“Yes! I turned her out. I don’t want anything to do with her anymore, or with you…. So don’t you dare call me again, EVER!”
“Where is she then?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care. Find her yourself”, and I hung up on him. Contrary to how guilty I was feeling mere minutes ago and contrary to what I had told her father, now all I had was rage and a growing fear for Suhana’s safety. A death threat? A fucking death threat?! That was waaaaaay below the belt, even for him. God help daughters who have fanatics for fathers.
Sushant was banging on my door furiously. I opened it and he launched into a torrent of questions, “What the heck happened? Why were you screaming? And what was that about killing? Who’s killing who?”
“Stop… stoooop! Lemme take a breath.” I lowered myself gingerly on the bed. I had started shaking feebly as the adrenaline rush began to ebb away. I didn’t know when I started to sweat but my hands were clammy and sweat had begun to drip down my forehead.
“Dude, you’re scaring me now…”
“Ha..ha! Ha, haha haha…” I coudn’t control it, the laughter. A nervous reaction. I was laughing so hard so suddenly that I started coughing right after.
“Dude you’re really scaring me now… The heck is wrong with you?” Poor Sushant.
I said prophetically when I could recover a bit, “Don’t ever fall for a rich woman, Sushant… Ever! Or you’ll end up like me”, I walked past him, to the refrigerator to get something cold to drink.
“WHAT?!” he trailed after me.
“Suhana’s Dad wants to kill me… and her,” I said it matter of factly. But the look on Sushant’s face was precious.
“I have to alert her. Tell her he’s looking for her,” I ran past him again to fetch my phone from the room. Thank god I hadn’t deleted her number. Providence be praised!
“You can’t be serious, dude. Kill you?” He slumped against the doorjamb, trying to wrap his head around the information he had just received.
“I have to be sure she’s safe. I have to alert her.” I dialed her number. But she wasn’t picking up. “Dammit Suhana, pick up the phone!” I screamed even as the third call went unanswered.
“Sushant, hand me your phone. Maybe she doesn’t recognize this number.” I stretched a hand out to him and he numbly handed me his phone. I dialed Suhana’s number through it, but same response. Dammit! How was I supposed to tell her?
I had even deleted her office numbers but they should be available online. It was past office hours but it didn’t hurt to try. I quickly pulled out her company’s number from the internet and called it. Thankfully, after 2 rings a secretary picked up, “Hello, Indus Alchemist… “, I couldn’t wait for her to finish with her greeting so I cut in, “Is Ms. Suhana Malhotara here?”
“Uhh, who’s this?”
“A friend of her’s. She isn’t taking calls at the moment. I need to speak to her urgently.”
“Uhh, Sir, I’m not supposed to divulge inform…”
“This is a very urgent matter, please!”
“Sir, please hear me out. She’s not even here. She never logged in today.”
I hung up. Now what? I had exhausted every means of finding her. I was cursing my actions more than ever now. I wish I had the scruples to make her stay so I could ensure that she was safe but it was too late now. How was I supposed to trace her? Where was I supposed to go? I didn’t even have her friend’s or any other numbers!
“Tu mujhe kuch batayega ki nahin, ho kya raha hai? Why won’t you tell me anything?” Sushant was getting even more worked up but I had no time to sit down and explain things to him.
“Please Sushant, not now. I have to find Suhana!” Then an idea came to me.
I ran out to the main door, unlocked it, and made straight for the exit of the building where an autorickshaw stand was. Night time meant almost no rickshaws would be there but someone might have seen her. A woman with so many bags could not be missed. I gave her description to them and asked them if they could recall anything about her.
“Bhaisaab, rickshaw toh she did take, but we don’t know where for. Par bahut ro rahi thi. Crying a lot!” They collectively nodded their heads and looked me up and down. They could put two and two together.
“Do you have the number for that rickshawala? Did you see the number plate?”, I asked them, frantically praying for something, anything.
“Nai Bhaisaab, he wasn’t from here”, they shrugged collectively and returned to rubbing their tambaku and smoking their bidis.
I slumped against the perimeter wall to our building. I couldn’t believe I had been so heartless to throw her out. If only I had shown some compassion, if only I had not been so reckless, she would have been safe with me. I wanted desperately to turn back time and keep her with me. I wanted desperately for her to be safe, for in that moment I truly endorsed the notion that I would forever care for her, even if I would never love her again.
That night I prayed for the first time in years.
To be continued….
©Pradita Kapahi, 2017.