I woke up to sounds of thudding and a pounding head….
It took me a few seconds to realise that the thudding was Sushant at the other end, and that he was screaming something too which my fuzzy brain was still unable to grasp. Somewhere between frantically searching for Suhana and wailing over my foolishness, I had fallen asleep in my room last night. Sushant had my back all along. Right from making phone calls, to calling nearby hotels, down to my nervous breakdown, he was there to help me through it all. Didn’t I say he was like a younger brother? Last night, he became dearer than that.
“I’m coming, I’m coming…” I shuffled out of the bed towards the door.
“Jaldi khol, what are you doing? Open up!”
What was the urgency about? Had he found her? I wrenched the door open in anticipation and he grabbed me by the shoulders. The look on his face told me things weren’t good. But nothing had prepared me for what he said, “The police is here for you…”
Stunned silence from me. The pounding in my head got stronger and my ears had begun to ring. The police is here for me? But why?
“But…why?”, I asked him knowing the answer in my gut.
“Suhana’s… dead. They found her… wrists… slashed … I’m so sorry…”
My knees gave way and I collapsed on the floor. Was that me saying ‘no’ over and over again? I never thought anything could affect me so much in life. Not since I’d left my family. But it did. And why? Because my worst fears for Suhana came true. And do you know what’s the worst part of it?
I killed her…
My recollection of the events after I received the news, till I reached that smelly dungeon of an interrogation cell at the Police Station are hazy at best. I just recall snippets – the police barging into the apartment, dragging me out to their vehicle, the monotonous ride and being thunked down on a bench.
I really started remembering only when the Officer slid a picture of me and Suhana towards me, on the table between us. It was from back when we were still ‘we’ and we were deeply in love. We were hugging tightly at some New Year’s Eve bash. We looked happy and drunk.
“Haan toh... Ladki ke baare mein batao ji…” (So then… Tell me about the girl). He was a grubby, small, pot-bellied man with pudgy, bejeweled fingers that he irritatingly kept looking at, as if to impress on me how rich he was. He fixed his beady eyes on me.
“How did she die?”, I asked instead. I saw his nose twitch.
“I’m the interrogator, not you. But just to humor you, lover boy, I’ll tell you…”, he lowered his torso towards me, held up one of his hands and made a fist, and with the other he made a motion of slicing through the fisted arm. And he added, “Suicide note bhi mila hai” (There’s a suicide note too).
I just couldn’t believe it! I could never believe that Suhana was so weak willed to end it all in a slash. I couldn’t believe that she had been so broken up about our break-up. How was I going to ever look at my own reflection now, knowing that I was the reason she did it? I was never going to forgive myself for what I had done… or rather, not done.
“What does it say?”, I asked him about the note.
“Again, I’m the interrogator here. You tell me when you saw her last and how you two know each other.”
I told him all. I had to because there was no point in lying about it. People who’ve been together for as long as me and she have a lot of history. Someone else would have told him if I hadn’t. Besides, last night many people had seen her leave, at least, like the Rickshaw-walas. But I kept you out of it. Had someone seen you come in with me? I didn’t remember the guard being at the gate or any neighbors peeking out. It was a sparsely populated building occupied by working bachelors mostly. So, many of them had still not returned home till then. I knew it would only complicate things for you if I told him about you, so I just kept mum about it. He seemed to believe it. I hoped it would stay that way.
“So her father threatened to kill you and her last night? What time was the call made?” He jangled his bracelet-ed wrist at me, as he made a questioning motion with his wrist.
“About 8.30 or so…”
“And you had no communication with her at all since you two broke up about a month back? She never tried to call you or you never tried to get back? Sahi?“
“No Sir, I was done. I didn’t want to have any more connections with her or her family. I had no idea she would leave everyone behind after this long. She never gave me any warning of it. She just appeared last night with her bags. And… then I asked her to leave.” I hung my head back down in shame as I recalled my mistake.
“Ek minute… So she was upset over the fight with you? Did you suggest to her in any way that she should end her life?” He waggled his eyebrows at me. I could see where this was going.
“No Sir, never! I thought she would go back to her parents or something like that. I never wanted this to happen to her. All I wanted for her was to move on with her life and be happy…” I stopped right there before I could further say ‘just like I had moved on‘ and invite more trouble. It was a good thing not many people knew about me and you, not even Sushant.
“Okay!” He held up his hand at me. “We’ll check your phone records, Malhotraji’s too and we’ll interrogate your room-mate as well…”
“…and I’ll need your absolute cooperation in this because let me tell you… I smell something fishy here… Dekh riya hoon mai tujhe (I’m watching you).“
He rose up to leave, and I felt a sense of relief. “Can I leave now?”
“Not now. Not before your roomie is brought in and interrogated too. And of course, your ex-would-be-Father-in-Law…“, he guffawed at his stupid joke and carried on, “That’s a very serious allegation you’ve leveled against him!” He looked at me forebodingly. I had a feeling I wasn’t getting out of here anytime soon.
He motioned to one of the constables in the room, “Idhar aa, oye (come here)”, and he pointed a pudgy finger at me, “Ise bahar le jaake bithao. Dhyan rakhiyo kahi jaane na paye. Phone bhi lelo iska…” (Take him out and make sure he doesn’t go anywhere. Take his phone too).
He went out and one the constables urged me to walk out of the room into the main hall of the station. I was walking in the corridor leading upto the room when I saw Suhana’s father sitting at one of the table’s in the hall, wife in tow, the Officer who had interrogated me talking to them. He noticed me too and the air in the room suddenly became super-charged with adrenaline.
We both leapt at each other’s throats, “Saale, mai tujhe maar dalunga…” (I ‘m going to kill you), he cried even as his wife and the constables tried to restrain him. “Look what you did to her… I’ll kill you, I swear, I’ll kill you!”
“Haan, jaise toonei apni beti ko mara. Iss se pehle mai na maar du tujhe? (yeah, just like you killed your own daughter. Won’t I kill you before you even try?)”, I bellowed back at him, even as some men wrenched us apart.
The officer who interrogated me thundered behind us, “Oye… oye! Thana hai yeh, akhada nahi hai. Chup chap baitho yahan pe! (This is a police station not an arena. Sit down you two)“
Then he took Suhana’s father aside and spoke to both him and his wife. They made me sit down at another table at the far end of the room. I could barely make out what he was talking about but Malhotra’s agitated look at my face, and his wife’s fresh spate of tears told me he had told Malhotra about the threat he made at me last night.
Well, serves you right asshole, I chuckled.
Just then, my phone, which the constable escorting me had taken away, began to ring on the table. It’s loud cacophony attracted the officer’s attention too.
Shit! I cursed inwardly. I knew it was you. What a time you had picked to call me!
I looked at the Officer and made puppy eyes at him, “Please sir, it’s important!”
He seemed to adumbrate over it, but nodded his head at length, “Just one call.” He returned his attention to Malhotra.
I snatched the phone and said a hasty ‘Hi!‘ to you. You sounded angry, understandably. I was supposed to call you. But I had no time to waste and I didn’t want anyone here catching up to who you were for me so I spoke low and rapidly into the microphone, “Listen Pihu, I’ll have to call you back later. I’m very, very busy right now…”
“You never called me… I got worried….”
“I know! I’m sorry but please Pihu, just hang up. I really can’t talk right now.”
That didn’t help matters any. Human nature. Does exactly the opposite of what you expect at a time of crisis. “What aren’t you telling me? What’s wrong? You sound scared…”, you were alarmed.
“Pihu…”, I looked around to check if someone was listening in on this, “Suhana’s dead… and I’m at the police Station.”
To be continued…
©Pradita Kapahi, 2017.
Image Credits: http://www.pixabay.com