25th March 2012
Ram returned home from office. He was super excited thinking of the company he had purchased for Priya and anticipated the look in her eyes when he would show her the actual papers. He was about to mount the stairs, when his mother called him.
Niharika : Ram, how was your day?
Ram, surprised : Good, normal, like every other day.
Shiney : Sweetu, only Ram's attire has changed. Why should the day be any different?
He turns to Ram : Isn't that so?
Ram, still puzzled : Yes, but I don't understand..do you want to say something?
Niharika : I was just wondering Ram '. If you want to wear casual clothes, I can pick them up for you. But maybe you should ask Priya not to visit downmarket places to try and pick up cheap clothes for you.
Ram : I don't understand. Priya buying clothes? From where?
Niharika : Ram, come on, she must have told you that she was going to Penkerfaut Road! I know Ram, that Priya is a mature woman, and dislikes taking any advice from me or discussing anything with me, but I feel she should have taken a car from the house. Its not correct going to such places in an auto. It is only for her personal safety and security, After all, we are responsible for her safety now. But Ram, don't repeat all this in front of Daadi. She'll be hurt that the eldest bahu of this house is deliberately trying to malign your image by travelling in an auto, being seen in seedy places, even if it is for a good cause. There is a certain image you need to maintain in front of the media, in front of society and '..
Ram did not want to hear any more. He nodded briefly and went up to his room. He had no idea why Priya would have gone to such a notorious locality on her own but was sure that it would have been for a valid reason. He just felt exasperated that she did not use any of the family cars and unnecessarily exposed herself to criticism from his mother. He decided to discuss the issue with her once she came home and to tell her to strictly stop using auto and other pblic means of transportation.
Priya entered a few minutes later. She had been sitting with Daadi since the time she had returned and had not even had time to come up to to their room. At the sight of her, Ram's worry and tension evaporated. There was something magical in her smile, he thought again, as he tried to pull her towards him. But she was smarter and rushed off to the changing room. He heard the sound of water running and wondered how he could torment her and tease her, in return.
After a brief while, Priya opened the bathroom door slightly.
Priya : Mr.Kapoor
Ram : Haan?
Priya : Can you please go outside for some time?
Ram : Why?
Priya : I've forgotten to bring my clothes. Please go.
Ram had got the opportunity he was looking for.
Ram : No, I will not go.
Priya : Why are you behaving like a child?
Ram : I'm not.Oh, by the way, how was your day today?
Priya : Good, normal day. I had some extra classes also today and hence got delayed a bit. But we can discuss all that later. Now can you kindly leave the room?
Ram : No. I'll give you something to wear. Wait. But I'm not going anywhere.
Priya : Ok
Ram started looking for something in her cupboard.
Priya, after some time : Can you please hurry up?
Ram : Yes, I've got it. Take it.
Priya extended her hand and Ram handed over something. Priya closed the door with a bang before Ram could do anything further.
Ram stood outside and waited, smiling.
Priya : What have you given? Where did you get this?
It was the famous red nightie .. the one Priya had been forced to wear in Australia for the 1st night. Though they had shared so many intimate moments together, Priya was still embarrassed to wear it and come out to the room.
Ram continued to wait when suddenly his conversation with his mother came back to his mind. But Priya just said that she had been at her classes all day ! Why did his mother say that Priya had visited an unsavoury locality all alone?
Ram : Priya, did you go anywhere today? I mean, apart from your classes?
Priya hoped Rishabh had not spilled the beans to Ram and answered bravely : No.
Ram was puzzled. But he shrugged it off, sure that his mother would have been mistaken. If Priya had categorically confirmed that she had not gone anywhere, there was no chance that she was telling an untruth. He would discuss it with Niharika the next day.
Finally the washroom door opened and Priya came out. This time she didn't have any dupatta covering her and she stood shyly by the door, suddenly coy in full light.
Ram looked at her and wondered for the hundredth time how lucky he was.
Just then, his phone rang.
Ram : Hello ..
"Hello, is that Mr.Ram Kapoor"
Ram : Yes, who is this?
"Mr.Kapoor, I am a well wisher of your family. Your late father was a good friend of mine. I just wanted to inform you that a lot of wrong things are carried on in Kapoor Industries now, things which you or your father would never have allowed. If you do not trust me, please reach your office and wait in the alley, a liitle way from Gate Number 3. You will understand what I am talking about. But do not, I repeat, do not alert any of your family members or you will not get the proof you require"
With this the caller hung up. Ram stood still for a moment, wondering what to do. The voice on the other side had seemed very eduated and courteous. Was it a crank call or was it really a well wisher, someone who knew that invoking the memory of Ram's late father would immediately convey the seriousness of the issue? Ram missed the presence of Vikram in his professional life.
Priya was still standing by the door. By now, she was also serious, her eyes seeking reassurance from him that all was well. He wanted to tell her, share with her ' but for one, there was no time, and also he did not want her to worry.
Ram : Priya, I need to go. It seems urgent. Please..?
Priya nodded : Yes, of course. Is everything fine?
Ram : I hope so '''.. Main jaake aata hoon''''
With a brief hug to Priya, he was gone. As he was leaving the house, Niharika and Shiney watched him go.
Within half an hour, Ram had reached the alley near Gate number 3. It was totally dark by this time and there was no one around. He parked his car and switched off the headlight. What should he do now?
Suddenly he saw a few men in the distance carrying out something from the gate. It seemed to be office files from the distance. Who were they? And where was the guard, dammit?
Ram got down from the car and started to walk towards the office. He didn't even hear the footsteps of the people who silently came up from behind him. It was just an instinct which made him turn back .. to see one of the men raise a club high in the air and bring it down on his head.
Ram fell down on the ground and lost consciousness.
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