Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Night I Spent In Tihar

The image of her lying next to me kept flashing as I tried sleeping in that 6x6 cell. I still didn’t know where I was, I wasn’t fully asleep neither was I awake. I was somewhere in the middle, a trance, but a really disturbing one. I kept turning and twisting trying to figure out the mystery of how I’d landed on this cold rough floor in this tiny, stinky room. I tried to wake up, tried to get up, but fell on the floor with a bang and I blacked out. BOOM! BANG! I remembered how it all started.

Coming back from work with Rita, we were travelling in those shared autos which can seat up to 8 people but the guys manage to get in 15 just so that they could get in some more dough. She never really did like travelling those bloody things but we didn’t really have a choice.  Strapped of cash, struggling to make ends meet, this is what we had to go through every single day. I got a seat in the middle amongst the labourers, while she always preferred to sit at the door so that at least one of her sides wasn’t rubbing against a stinky, cement clad man smoking a bidi.

It was a Sunday, we had some students coming in for an extra class at the music school we used to teach at, and in return we were getting a day’s salary extra. Fair deal, I’d thought. We got free at noon, and were heading back home, hungry as always. It was a particularly special Sunday for us as today was the night of the Khyber Music Fest where we’d met for the first time a year back. Although it took me a while to actually ask her out, but I still remembered that magical night like it’s happen just last night. There was excitement on the road; people from all across the country had come to witness this grand event, today being the final day.

Amongst the merrymakers were these young kids in a car who I’d noticed drinking while we overtook them. We made slight eye contact and I noticed how they kept driving around our auto for no reason. I wasn’t too worried since they even had a girl amongst them, seemingly not forced, chilling with them and even enjoying a beer herself. Even I’d done all this crap back in the day. Life moved on.

As we were about to reach home, stuck at a red light, I was just staring into the oblivion wondering why life was so tough. I kept telling myself I’d be happy tonight and not let gloom take over, but frankly, it was difficult. Completely forgotten that there were people around me, lost in my own thoughts like I’d always be, I suddenly heard a loud cry and I snapped and looked on my left where Rita was sitting. It was all slow motion after that as I saw the same black Swift in which those kids were travelling parked right besides the auto on the other side. Before I could jump off from the opening on the right side, they’d forcibly taken Rite in the car with them and sped off. I tried to run behind them but all I could see and hear were cars from all sides honking at me as I stood there like a lost puppy in the middle of the intersection.

I rushed home and made some calls to a couple of friends who instantly came over for help. I was sweating although it was December, and fairly cold. I couldn’t stop shivering, or smoking. We were still trying to figure out who they were or why they’d kidnap Rita, if that’s what they did. The kids looked completely harmless when I’d seen them earlier. I was in shock and couldn’t think straight. It felt like someone was playing a game with me. A game I wasn’t enjoying much.

One of my friend suggested we should call the cops but I didn’t want to get into the hassle of dealing with the corrupt cops here and get Rita into more trouble. We were all divided by our opinions but in the end it’s me who had to decide since Rita was my girl. And we decided to deal with this ourselves and give it a shot before we called the cops. I knew where those kids were headed so we took off for the Khyber Music Fest.

Armed with leather belts around our waists and leather boots on our feet, we were on our way to the hippy fest to look for Rita amongst the 10000-odd strong crowd there. Rite loved dubstep so we headed directly to the dub arena on the terrace where there wasn’t much crowd as the genre still had to catch the fancy of the masses. All 4 of us, me and my friends, stood at the entrance and scanned through the crowd to see if she were to be found. I tried hard to remember those kids’ faces and started walking towards the DJ console. We all spread out and as I slowly neared the main stage, I saw her, I saw her giggling and laughing with the kids who’d apparently ‘kidnapped’ her. I stood there in astonishment and couldn’t move. Everything and everyone got blurred except her. She was laughing like a child, her hair bouncing as beautifully as ever. I hadn’t seen her this happy in quite some time. For a moment I thought I should let her be and just walk away. She seemed happy, after ages. But, alas, love wouldn’t let me do any such thing.

I marched right towards her, my belt in my hand, ready to hit the kid who was driving the car and who was now sitting next to Rita, his arm around her shoulders, both sipping beer, something me and Rita hadn’t done in so long. I got close, Rita still hadn’t noticed me and I wacked one at the guy. The music stopped, everyone gasped and I hit him again. On the floor, writhing in pain, he cried for mercy and I stopped and shifted my attention towards Rita. She was just standing there, beer bottle still in her hand, aghast. As I took a step towards her, a few hands grabbed me and pulled me back. Everything was a rush after that.

A huge ruckus followed with people from both sides trying to maintain the peace. We found out that those guys were her college friends from where she studied and had come to town for the fest. This was all just a prank for them and they’d though they’d have some fun with the boyfriend. I tried to comprehend how kidnapping someone I loved a prank!? Rita had taken their side which had completely destroyed me. She said I didn’t know how to have fun anymore. This whole thing was still beyond me as this was a grave crime and ideally I should’ve called the cops. They still didn’t want to understand what I had to go through and they maintained that I was a sour loser. I had agreed to let it all go and did what the authorities there had asked us to do, leave. They had instead threatened us that they’d call the cops if we didn’t leave that very instance. I’d reached the exit gate but I stopped and looked back at Rita once. She had gone back to being happy like this had never happened before. As I wiped a tear off my face, I turned around and saw a cop standing right in front of me. He hit me with a stick and slapped around a couple of times before handcuffing me. What had started off with Rita being the victim and me considering calling the cops, the tables had quite turned. They dragged me away and as I got a last look at her, I saw her smiling viciously towards me and showing her phone to denote that it was her who had made that call to the cops.

I had never been betrayed like this before. Even the cops wouldn’t listen to me. I begged my friends to get help. They dragged me inside the police van and beat me up again. Next thing I saw... was the dirty floor. I could taste the sweat and blood and the dirt on the floor. My head was hurting so bad, I kept coming in and out of consciousness. A blur, the day had been. Last thing I remember was the nasty smile she gave. I knew it would be etched in my mind forever. And I fainted... Again...

Lights, is what I saw next, and a comfortable bed is what I felt. My baby lying next to me, in my arms, it all looked unreal. A few seconds I took to see what was happening, and I saw my own room. Floyd was still playing on the system and candle was still lit. I got up a little, slid my arm away from under her head, and lit the cigarette. Resting my back up against the wall behind me, I took a long drag and looked at my baby. I felt a tear roll down my eye. But this tear was no tear of sadness or grief. I was happy because it was all a dream.