On the morning of Independence Day. the roads were deserted and Shiv could drive the tractor down from Alwar to Jaipur in just two and half hours. He had planned to surprise his sister Vandana by making this sudden trip. It had been a year and half of her wedding to the family of rice merchants in Jaipur. During this period, Shiv had come only once to meet her during rakhi last year. His younger brother Raj had probably fallen asleep at the rear end of the tractor. After losing both his parents within a period of six months, Shiv had single-handedly taken up the responsibility of his younger siblings. His father, a poor farmer who toiled in other’s fields hadn’t left behind a single penny.
Shiv started working odd jobs eighteen hours a day to finally buy a piece of land for farming. He had been saving up for Vandana’s marriage simultaneously. Raj had started helping him on the fields. After Vandana got married, the brothers started pulling up money to purchase a tractor. The microfinance firm had lent them a tractor loan three months back.
His heart had always been set on meeting his sister but it was she who kept encouraging him to focus on his work instead. She had always been very proud of her Dadbhaisa (elder brother). He was relieved that she had been married to a decent family that cared about her happiness. That’s what she always told him.
Shiv looked at the boxes of sweets that Raj had bought for Vandana and her in-laws. They had reached the destination. He parked the tractor on the opposite road of the lane where lay Vandana’s marital home. Waking Raj up, he washed his face with the water from the nearby municipality water tap. There were three to four people who were probably on their way to celebrate the day through flag hoisting.
The car had been stuck in the middle of the road long enough to create a heavy traffic jam near the dockyard. The local inspector examined the two dead bodies inside the car. It looked like a case of a sudden heart attack though he kept wondering about the possibility of it happening to them simultaneously.
Only after the ship had moved farther away from the shore did she sigh a breath of relief. Breastfeeding her month old baby, she ran her fingers over the bag full of Indian currency that was meant to secure their future. She whispered to the baby,
“Since you were conceived through surrogacy, the people who paid for my womb had come to take you home last night. Legally, I couldn’t refuse, so I added the deadly medicine in their cups of tea. We had barely traveled for half an hour before both of them succumbed to death this morning. I managed to get on board with you unnoticed. Now you, me and the money will always be together.”
Every morning Col.Joshi walked to the nearby park and sat on the bench gazing at the serenity of the lake. A year after retiring from the Indian army, he had discovered this place. Most of the faces here were familiar to him yet he avoided them today as he loathed the sympathy in their eyes. Besides this was his time for planning the day, especially if the date meant a trip to the court.
It had been five years since the night of his daughters’ demise. Death by accident had been the verdict by the investigating officer. But he knew better. Her in-laws had exercised political influence and were granted bail immediately after he lodged a case of murder against them. Despite evidence of years of domestic abuse, the courtroom drama stretched endlessly.
Friends and family had assumed that he would give up after losing his wife last week. But they were unaware that he was actually preparing himself for the court hearing today for he had resolved to bring justice to his dead daughter.
“The red stiletto heels will look gorgeous on your feet Ma’am.” the salesman at the shoe shop was eager to close a sale deal before calling it a day.
Tshering looked at the case that boldly displayed 12000 INR. It had been nothing less than a dream to own the pair. She glanced at the cheap black heels purchased with her first salary at just 1100 INR from the local Shillong market.
Seated on the shop bench, Kodor fondly looked at this girl who had been employed as his house-help two years back. A freak accident in the city lake would have killed his mother hadn’t Tshering dived in to save her. As a swimming coach, he had spotted her talent and immediately taken her under his wings for training. He proudly beamed at the National level swimming champion today as she proceeded to pay the bill for those red heels.
“Coach, shall we leave?” Her voice broke his reverie.
It was already time to head towards the State conducted felicitation ceremony for their contribution to sports.
Riju stood up perturbed by his daughter’s exuberant voice from the next room.
“She is crazy. She declares herself as the winner of tic tac toe despite playing alone.” Lavina sounded annoyed.
“Keep your thoughts in check woman. ” Riju spoke angrily.
“And if I don’t, I am sure you will murder me just like you killed her mother.”
Riju walked away. He had started an extramarital affair with his wife Ravina’s sister Lavina two years ago. Once Ravina had got a whiff of this during the Diwali last year, he had to get her out of his way. A freak car accident was the perfect cover-up for his planned murder.
As he peeped inside his daughter’s room, he saw Tia speaking to the chair in front of her. It almost looked like Ravina sitting there talking to Tia. He felt a shiver run down his spine. If only he could see through Tia’s eyes, he would have known that Tia was indeed speaking to the spirit of her deceased mother.
Hidden behind the bushes, she kept an eye on the house with green window panes. It had taken her three years to discover his recent address after he escaped from the previous city. She had stalked him endlessly for the last two months to understand the pattern of his schedule.
Years ago, he had made her pay a heavy price for rejecting his marriage proposal. The police had failed to trace him while she fought for her life in the hospital. The attack had destroyed her physically but her indomitable spirit sought revenge.
As she touched the burnt skin on her face under the veil, she felt anger rising within her. The deserted lanes were an indication that her wait would come to an end today. As she heard a soft sound of the designated house door opening, her grip on the bottle of acid in her bag tightened. She had chosen the same modus operandi as her target. To see him suffer had been the sole reason for her survival.
Mihika was irked to see the dreaded mail in her inbox. This was the third assignment and her boss, the Regional manager Arya Chawla had yet again sent it on a Friday evening with forty-eight hours deadline. This meant a working weekend once again. Arya would chill out with his friends while she had to prepare the quarterly review slides and projections. She had been considering finding a new job but didn’t want to leave this organization without teaching this manipulative man a lesson.
As she started collating the figures, she assessed the way her corporate dreams had taken a beating. She had been one of the brightest students in her management college. Thus it wasn’t a surprise when FinGo, a leading Financial advisory firm in Bangalore recruited her from the campus. Her aspirations of becoming a top Financial advisor had been eventually crushed under Arya’s ambitions. He rarely gave Mihika her due credit for the research, analysis and presentations.
As she rushed back home after mailing the final version of the power-point presentation to Arya, she received a call from her younger brother Manav, a second-year M.B.B.S. student in Mumbai. Despite the four-year age gap between them, the siblings had always been best friends.
“Did I disturb you amidst a crazy Sunday night party?” Manav asked cheerfully.