Theme: In the end…
What drives us? More often than not, the answer falls under the ambit of ‘a zest to complete a quest’. The eternal mysteries of the unknown beyond, spurn explorations, thus making life interesting and involving.
Thus, we are perhaps at our imaginative best when there is no conclusion, especially since the gross realities of life offer none. Authors who pen inconclusive stories engage the readers at an individual level, pushing them to ponder new dimensions to enhance creativity, based on their individual personalities.
This is a story with an inconclusive end that allows readers to conclude whatever seems obvious or comfortable to them.
He is here! In this city! I know it. I just know it, as surely as I’ve always known that there is no escape for me. And he is following me, only a few paces behind this crowd of people separating us.
I feel the rise of panic in my gut. Panic, laced with utter despair, bordering on defeat. How long would I have to run?
Three years, seven months and eighteen days. That’s how long I’ve been on the move, constantly dodging his relentless stalking. How had I gotten myself into this mess?
One is rather stupid when one is a twenty one. Stars in my eyes, dreams in my heart, how carefree, how naïve I had been on that fateful day I’d landed in this city of horrors.
Bengaluru…the city of dreams, atleast for glossy-eyed, small town people of Arasikere. I’d thought I’d fled from a horrible life when I packed my meager belongings and set out from the slum where I had lived all my life, from that hell-hole called home on that night in August. My step mother was only too happy to see the last of me. She neither attempted to stop me nor enquired where I was going. If only dad were still alive…Thank God, he had managed to give me a decent education before he passed on.
It took me exactly five days to run out of money in the posh metropolis. As it turned out, my school friend Suguna, who had married a guy in Bangalore and moved to the city a few months ago, had been grossly exaggerating the wonders of the city, that made hundreds of hapless innocents flock to its shores in the hope of making something out of their loser lives. Suguna worked as a maid in one of the swanky apartments and told me unceremoniously that I had to find my way around if I had to survive here. She did set me up in one of the PGs for a month, although the advance swallowed most of my lifelong savings of hard-earned pocket money.
My average scores in the tenth grade landed me a job as a receptionist in one of the real estate agencies, where Mohan was the sole agent. I should have heeded my instincts the first time I met him in the reception of the tiny office. My mind had screamed ‘Run’. But of course, I hadn’t. Where could I run to anyways?
Mohan had made his shady intentions amply clear within the first week. He’d keep brushing his arms against mine, passing too close in the narrow corridors, asking me out and ogling at my breasts shamelessly, even as I fumed in utter revulsion. After all, why would a young, fairly good looking girl want to have anything to do with a short, paan-chewing man of fifty eight? His large lusty brown eyes had a disgusting way of popping out of their sockets, while he kept smoothing his grey, oily hair over his balding scalp. An adam apple the size of small fist, bobbed up and down every time he spoke my name in that raspy voice ‘Anjum’. I never hated my name more than when it was uttered by him.
My boss was an aging lady who treated him with utmost respect not only because he sourced out regular customers for the agency, but also owned a lion’s share of the company’s stocks. Not to mention the fact that he was her distant nephew, her only relative in the city. It was useless trying to complain to her about his unwelcome advances. Besides, what options was I left with?
It had been on a rainy Friday night a week later, that an inebriated Mohan had banged on the door of my PG. I’d tried to call the owner in panic before I realized that the family that lived below our row of tiny rooms had gone away for the weekend. And the females who lived in the adjacent rooms pretended not to hear anything, even as I screamed my lungs out in fear. I had known that this was a common occurrence in this part of Shivajinagar, where you could get a room with non-existent security for a mere 1100 bucks a month…but I’d been left with no choice at that point of time.
It had taken all my strength to fight off Mohan’s claws that fateful, pouring night. The door had burst open on its hinges within the first five minutes of his jamming on it, but I’d been ready. I’d already slung my rucksack with five pairs of my clothes, a couple of books, certificates and the last of my money, over my back. I grabbed the large black umbrella the lady downstairs had given me the previous week and jammed the sharp end into his bulky belly with all my might. Long story short, I managed to get away with only a few scratches on my face and bruised elbows when he flung my thin frame against the peeling walls…
I spent the night huddled in the store room of the building under construction next door. I knew I had to leave the city if I had to escape from this demon. But I had no intention of leaving empty handed.
The next morning, I slipped into the office long before the cock had risen to his daily song. I knew Mohan had handed over three stacks of two thousand rupee notes a customer had paid him, to Ma’am, for the new deal on airport road. He told her to keep it with her for safe-keeping over the weekend, before the buyers arrived on Monday. Being the first one assigned to open the office before Ma’am came in at her own convenience, I always carried the keys to the office in my bag.
It took me a mere five minutes to unlock the office, then the door to the inner chamber and key in the combination to her safe. The old lady, bless her soul, never bothered to be careful while she used it. She was unaware that her receptionist had long since noticed and memorized the set of alphabets and digits that were typed in…
I smuggled the bundles into the last pouch of my rucksack, and left the office locked as before. I then headed to the Majestic bus terminal to board the first bus to Belgaum.
I wasn’t a thief, not until that day of utter weakness, at least.
Sometimes, desperation drives us to do things that we normally wouldn’t even dream of doing. In my case, it was a sense of revenge coupled with hopeless despair…
Besides, I’d been so confident of getting away…
Obviously, fate had other plans for me. That day had only been the beginning of the perpetual horror. What followed was a long series of moving from one place to another all over the state, while my stalker turned my life into living hell. I’d even considered surrendering to the police, before good sense kicked in. I knew that this man had greased more palms in the police department during his crafty real estate dealings than the number of hands I had shaken in my lifetime. I knew that he hadn’t lodged a police complaint against me, for reasons more devious than I want to consider. It would only be a giant leap from the frying pan into the fire…I’d heard enough stories about him to know that I’d only land up in his den instead of jail.
Mohan had never let me go. He’d persued me relentlessly with the agility and cunning of a wild cat hunting its prey. No sooner would I find a job and begin to settle in one place would he make an appearance in the vicinity. If only I’d had the means to shift into one of those swanky apartments that offered some semblance of security for its women. If only I’d known someone in this town who would be willing to protect me…But then, it takes very little time for a lone woman in a big city to realize that the world is full of more predators than do-gooders.
It took more than three years of this dubious hide-and-seek game, before I finally relocated to Mangalore, having landed a job, over a telephonic interview from an ad column in the newspapers. I’ve been overjoyed to have achieved a promotion to an office assistant for a slightly higher salary, with accommodation only a few blocks away from the premises. My office isn’t too fancy, but offers me a breathtaking view of the ocean from my seat, through the window on the first floor. The three lakhs I stole from Mohan is secure in an FD, in an SBI account in Belgaum…
Merely three weeks later, which is today, I see the one person that makes frosty chills run up my spine. My mind has been so engrossed with an imminent sales proceeding documentation this evening, I fail to notice him following me from the exit of my office. It is while crossing the water logged streets, fifteen minutes into my journey towards home, that I glimpse those terrifying brown eyes glaring at me from over the heads of the swarming crowd. I begin to run, without thinking, towards the beach.
The light drizzle that had begun when I left the office is now a heavy torrent. The beach is deserted. I trip over the sand, my legs sinking into its soft depths, but I cannot stop. He catches up to me just as I reach the sloping rocky stretch beyond the broad sandy region.
He makes a grab for my arm, while yelling my name along with a few expletives, above the din of the downpour. I bend down to pick up a rock, with both my hands and smash it against his head with all my strength. He lets out a shriek, clutching his head, even as a red stream adorns the side of his face. The waves lash against our feet, I know that the tide would be coming in fast now. He falls then, on his face, over a stray patch of sand, his legs draped in an awkward angle over the rocks.
I dash blindly back towards the road, over the slippery shore, without looking back. Wet sand granules have filled into my loafers sending prickles of pain shooting up my feet. I reach the top of the slope, panting for breath. Is he following me? I hazard a glance backwards. The supine body lies in the same grotesque manner that he fell in.
Is he alive? Or is he dead? I can’t stay to find out. I don’t dare the risk of getting caught by him again.
I shift to an obscure hotel at the other end of town and wait it out, pondering my next move for three days.
I wait impatiently for some news of an unclaimed body found on the beach, but none is forthcoming.
Was he washed into the sea when the tide rose during the night? Or had he regained consciousness after I left and lived to hunt me another day?
I begin to pack my belongings all over again, clueless about my next destination.