Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Perfect Woman. Prologue

It was past 12:00 AM as I walked home in the rain. Typical coastal monsoon. Thundering and pouring in a shameless narcissistic display of  power. That was when I saw her for the first time, sitting huddled for shelter on the steps of the ATM outside my society. She looked like she was from a well-to-do family. Young. That indecipherable range between 25 to 35 years. She glanced at me and then looked away into the rain. The watchman at the ATM was dozing away. A stray dog slept under his chair.

I smiled inwardly as I thought to myself that line from the movie 'Jab we met': Akeli ladki khuli tijori ki tarah hoti hai.

Social activist, writer, blogger, freelance journalist that I am, I couldn't just let her be there at this hour of the day. Cautiously, I walked up to her. And did my best 'friendly' smile, "Do you need help? Do you need to make a call to someone? Or call a cab or something? The bus depot is not far, and the last few buses leave by 12:35 am. I can walk you up to there with my umbrella"

She kept looking into the rain. "I... uh...I...", and suddenly began to sob uncontrollably. I was taken aback. And more than a little flustered. Women's tears, especially in the absence of any obvious reason, have a very unnerving effect on men. We are genetically inept at measuring and analysing lachrymal litres.

I tried again. "Would you like to go to the police station? I can help you file a complaint. I am a journalist. If... uhh... If you've been wronged, I can help you reach the people who can... ummm... help. Do you want some water?" And I offered her my bottle.

She had a sip, and sobered. Inhaling deeply, she looked up at me. Suddenly, I was staring into her eyes. Big, black eyes. Classical Indian eyes, despite the tears. Deep. Mesmerising.

"I can't remember anything. At all." she blurted.

Startled by that announcement, I snapped out of my reverie.

There was a pause for one full minute, before either of us spoke again. I was allowing that bit of newly acquired knowledge to sink in. She, on the other hand, probably didn't know what more to say. The watchman continued to sleep (honestly! I could have raped the girl right there, and he would have snored through her screams! What do they hire these guys for?! I made a mental note to write a story on this. Or at least a blogpost, if the papers didn't think the story was worth publishing).

"Soooooo..." I said slowly. "You cannot remember anything at all?"
She shook her head.

"Not even your name?"
"I can remember just one name. Purshottam. But that... it can't be my name, can it?"

"No. It cannot. It must be your father's. Can you associate a face with that name? We could make inquiries. Someone by that name will be your family. The police can help, I am sure" I said.

"No. That name. It doesn't make me feel happy. It instils a sense of dread in me. I cannot explain it. I don't feel happy thinking of that name. It makes me feel depressed and unnerved. I don't want to think of it, but yet it is the only name that I can find in my mind." Her eyes had a hunted look.

Things were getting rather complicated here. The rain continued its barrage mercilessly.
I said again, "Let's go to the police station."

"No. No. No... I will NOT go there. I will wait here. I will wait till I can remember. It is a matter of time I guess. I will remember. I will be fine... I will be fine... I will be fine..."

Her words were forceful, even as her voice trailed. Suddenly, she appeared more strong-willed than a moment ago.

"I'll get you something to eat".

Without any more bright ideas to handle this 'situation', I walked into the housing society, while she went back to her foetal, huddled position. I returned after 15 minutes with some food and a blanket. I told her I lived in Flat no. B-301, incase she needed any help, and that my name is Ratnakar.

Patrakar Ratnakar. I've always liked the sound of that. I came to Mumbai to become an investigative journalist while my family continued to stay in our small fishing village in Konkan. My father loved his boat too much. He said he'd die on the fierce, open seas, rather than waste his final years in a small flat in Mumbai. But I wanted more. I wanted excitement. Not for me, was that small village life and the monotony of going to the sea each day, praying for a good catch and a safe return. Armed with an M.A. in English and the youthful restlessness of making life big, I left for the Maya Nagari of India at the age of 22.

Life had been good. Even adventurous. Six years since I arrived here. Plenty of freelance journalistic assignments (sting ops, as they are called) came my way. I shared a flat with some other aspiring 'immigrants'. Mumbai is like that. It lets you be whoever you want to be. And if you love your work, you have already converted to a Mumbaikar. You are no longer an 'immigrant'. Work is worship here. I loved my work. And I had luck on my side. I covered news scoops with recklessness and cunning.

Along with these assignments, I also blogged and had a rather big online fan following. Not to be immodest, but I had a few film personalities following me on social media too and responding to my blogposts and tweets. In fact, I wouldn't mind telling you at this point, that one of these popular, "new age" directors who happened to read some of my fiction posts, had actually approached me to write an exclusive story which, if he really liked, would be made into a big budget movie. This was just a week prior, and I was already losing sleep over concepts for this story that would be my truly big career break!

That young woman in the rain. She was fascinating. She could be a story. The watchman and the woman and the stormy night. Bah! Crude!
But she was undeniably fascinating.

With ideas muddling up my tired mind, I fell asleep.

It was already 10:30 AM when I woke up. My flat-mates had left for work.

Hurriedly, I dressed and entered the kitchen to gobble up the monotonously insipid food prepared by the cook+cleaner maid. As I packed a few rotis and some sabzi for lunch. As I was stepping out, I suddenly remembered the woman. Maybe I should carry some food for her. I shrugged and grabbed a packet of Marie biscuits and a couple of apples.

No. She wasn't there at the ATM. My blanket had been kept neatly folded near the watchman's chair. There was a different watchman now. The day-shift chap. He had no idea about the woman or the blanket. I told him to leave the blanket outside my flat when he did his rounds of the society. Perhaps, she remembered. Or someone must have found her. She seemed sane. Lost, confused, upset, but definitely sane. Even sensible.

"Oh well...!" I thought, optimistically, as I jogged to the bus depot.
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NEXT PART: The mystery of Shivsharan Pandit




25 comments:

  1. Great. Waiting for the next part.

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    1. Writing! writing! Suddenly with all the comments and expectations, the pressure on me has increased! :D

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  2. Awesome blog Malavika!! Very well conceptualised!! Waiting for d next part!!

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    1. Thanks! Coming soon! I promise! :D

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  3. This is so beautifully written. Come out with the next part soon, I command you!

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  4. Replies
    1. Jaldi likho part 2.. Before I forget part 1 ;)

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  5. Great job Malvika.. Keep writting👍
    Wow... Was tottaly lost in it... Cant wait to read rhe next part...

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  6. You have me intrigued, eagerly waiting for the next part !

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    1. Thanks! Working hard on the parts to follow! :D

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  7. I absolutely loved it.Something about it makes me feel reluctant to leave the page.A craving for more perhaps.Keep going,and keep writing,girl.

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  8. Woow malu....lovely.....reeeaaallly gettin curious to kno wats gonna happen next....write soon!!

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  9. So intriguing and your write was very intricate too. I must say I hate incomplete ends so do write as soon as you can. Can't wait 😀

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  10. Agga Bai.....I want to know more.....please keep writing......

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  11. Awesome.... I'm hooked. Superb penwomanship Maalu.

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  12. Awesome.... I'm hooked. Superb penwomanship Maalu.

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Itna sannataa kyun hai, Bhai?