It's interesting dear
Very interesting narrative dear. You simply carried me with you to witness those events with your unique way of storytelling. Best wishes to you.
In the small town of Rishikesh, was an orphanage, wherein resided a young girl of 6, Tina. The orphanage matron had found her as a 5-month-old infant. As she grew up, Tina saw some of the children being taken away by families. The matron said that these blessed children had found homes. Tina, too, dreamt that one-day, someone might deem her worthy to take her to a place that would be her home.
And one day, it happened. A man came by. She hid behind the matron's skirt and studied him.
"Hello," he greeted Tina.
"Hello Sir." She answered in a rehearsed voice that the matron had taught her.
The matron informed her, "Mr. Goenka will take you to his home. Say goodbye to your friends and bring your bag."
An ecstatic Tina ran out to tell the other kids that she was, finally, going home. When she returned with a small backpack that held all of her earthly possessions she saw the man handover a suitcase to the matron.
"Hope the compensation is enough," the man spoke to the matron who nodded, peering inside the open suitcase. Tina was unable to see what was in the bag.
"What I've done is not official, Mr. Goenka," the matron replied, "I am sending her with you without any paperwork, or due diligence. This could cost me my job and reputation."
"This," the man pointed at the bag, "should more than suffice for any inconvenience."
"This is a lot for someone like her..." the matron eyed him with curiosity. "What makes her so special that you yourself had to come? You could've sent anyone-."
He interrupted; "I've been searching her for a long time. I had to make sure nothing went wrong. Not this time."
The matron's curiosity was cut short when she saw Tina. Calling Tina inside, she said, "Be good and don't give Mr. Goenka any trouble."
The man addressed Tina, "Let's go, Naira."
"It's Tina," she corrected him. The matron had bestowed this name.
The man laughed and it worried her. "There's so much that you don't know." Tina and the matron scrunched their eyebrows.
"There's time for that," he added, "For now, let's go."
The matron gestured her to follow Mr. Goenka's retreating back. Tina gulped and followed him.
In the span of a day, Tina had done many things that were a first for her. For the first time in her life, she sat in a car that took her from Rishikesh, to the nearby city of Dehradoon. For the first time, she boarded an airplane that flew from Dehradoon to Mumbai, where Mr. Goenka lived.
Despite of being scared when the flight was taking off, Tina kept a brave face. She didn't want Mr. Goenka to think that she was a scared little cat. He hadn't spoken another word to her. Sometimes, he would look at her, shake his head, and smile. Tina wondered if it was a good sign.
Once he addressed her as Naira. She corrected him, "It's Tina." Why did he keep calling her Naira?
On landing in Mumbai, they'd gone to Mr. Goenka's house. His house was something straight out of a fairytale that a girl in the orphanage had read to her once. It was huge and white with a big lawn, which had swings. She saw 2 children- a girl and boy, playing. That made Tina smile.
At the threshold of the house, an old lady, was standing with a golden plate adorned with a lit lamp and flowers.
"Welcome home, Manish," the lady spoke. Mr. Goenka bent down to touch her feet. Tina's attention wavered to the two kids who had stopped playing and were walking toward the mansion to see who the new comer was.
"I hope your project was a success," she spoke as Manish Goenka followed her into the huge drawing room. Tina's eyes took in the dcor. Everything was big and shiny.
"Yes, mother," Manish addressed the lady. Manish gently pushed Tina forward. His mother's eyes tailed Tina who felt conscious.
Tina muttered, "Good evening, Ma'am."
The lady eyed her, "Who is this?"
"The project," Manish answered. "This is why I was away for so long. The search that I began 5 years ago has come to fruition, mother. This," he gestured at Tina, "is Naira."
The lady's face contorted in confusion. Manish spoke, "The last of Singhanias."
The reply changed the lady's face from puzzlement to anger, "You are still stuck in the past! This obsession of yours has cost us a lot."
"It's over now," Manish replied. "Once and for all."
"What will you do with her?" the lady questioned.
Tina couldn't fathom what they were talking about only that they were talking about her.
Is this what the children in the orphanage were so excited about? Till now, no one had even greeted her. She started to miss Rishikesh.
Taking his time, Manish replied to his mother, "I'll think of something. I've nothing but time."
As days turned to weeks, weeks to months and months to years, Tina, who had now been renamed Naira, began to understand what was really happening. The dream of a 6-year-old to find a place to called home' was just that, a dream.
Manish's mother was Suhasini Goenka, the matriarch of the powerful Goenka family of Mumbai. She had 2 sons- the elder and head of the business, Manish and the younger, a reliable and loyal shadow of his brother, Akhilesh.
Naira learnt over the years that the Goenkas had a front where they displayed themselves as hoteliers but beneath all the faade the reality was they were into organized crimes like extortion, smuggling and even drug trafficking.
To Naira the opulence of their lifestyle, their huge mansions, their designer clothes couldn't hide the fact that underneath it all these people were evil.
Suhasini was a deeply religious woman. The irony was she would engage in something as holy as worshipping God whereas in the same house, her sons would be signing off on some man's death order.
Manish, the man who had bought her from the orphanage was the head of the syndicate. When he came to Rishikesh, Naira had deluded herself into thinking that her life would be better now. Years later, she realized that she was in a prison, she couldn't do what she wanted, she couldn't leave. She was trapped in their house.
Naira didn't know what Manish wanted from her. He just let her be. Neither did he interact with her, nor did he harm her. Naira knew that he must have some plans for her. Maybe it had taken a backseat but sooner or later, he would come for her.
The person who scared her more than Manish was his younger brother, Akhilesh. Akhilesh was the consigliore, the biggest support of the syndicate and very loyal to Manish.
Once late at night, while wandering the hallway, 8-year-old sleepless Naira heard screams from Akhilesh's study. Out of curiosity, she pressed her ear to the closed door. She heard a loud wail and then footsteps. Hiding underneath a table nearby, she waited in the dark. 2 men left carrying a limp body of a 3rd person, followed by Akhilesh. When no one else exited, she took a peek inside.
The floor tiles were smeared with the unmistakable color of blood. Naira realized that the limp body being carried was that of a dead man. Her insides twisted and before she could stop herself, she puked out a bile liquid, which burned her throat. Gathering her nerves, she ran to her room, jumped on the bed and shut her eyes, hoping the morning light would diminish the nightmare that she had witnessed. She was shaking with fright and couldn't sleep a wink that night.
Over the course of years, Naira was careful and avoided ever witnessing another such episode. She had understood how to be invisible in the house, to not stand out in anyone's sight.
Naira was sent to the same school where Manish's children studied. The two kids- the girl and boy she had seen on her first day here, were Manish's children from his first and deceased wife, Soumya. The elder was a girl, Keerti (three years older than Naira) and the younger, a boy Kartik (a year older than her).
There were many stories surrounding the death of Soumya. She was the love of Manish's life. Born in another mafia family, Soumya was a perfect fit as a Goenka daughter-in-law. The couple was happy but how can happiness built on graves of others last? Soumya was shot dead by a rival gang, when Keerti was 3 and Kartik, 1. The death of Soumya had driven Manish insane. He was so hell-bent on revenge that he completely sidelined work and his children till Suhasini intervened.
Suhasini arranged Manish's marriage to Soumya's cousin, Suwarna. It was an alliance only on paper. Their wedding was a duty, bereft of love and both of them were aware of it. Suwarna bore Manish a son, Shubham. When 6-year-old Naira had set foot in the house, Shubam was a babe in his mother's arms.
Naira's relationship with Suwarna was non-existent. They never spoke to one another. Naira didn't mind. The adult Goenkas scared her. There was something unsettling about them. She tried to avoid all of them as much as she could and was successful in her endeavor.
Her only solace in the madness was her growing friendship with Keerti- a mousy girl with a heart of gold. Naira had once saved Keerti from being bullied by two boys in school and ever since, Keerti was grateful to her. A friendship stemmed but Naira knew her limits. Keerti was a Goenka and she, their prisoner.
Keerti's lack of confidence and a weak attitude made Manish realize that she could never take the reins of the empire from him and so he started molding his 2nd child, Kartik. Kartik would one day step in to fill Manish's shoes.
The 3 of them (Keerti-Kartik-Naira) played together as kids. As time progressed, Kartik's interaction with Naira reduced since he'd spend his time learning the know-hows from Manish. Hence to Naira, Kartik was now just the brother of her friend, Keerti. Their adventures of childhood were a distant memory.
It was not only the time spent apart that distanced them. After getting involved with Manish and Akhilesh, Kartik's demeanor had also changed. Gone was the innocence of a child. His eyes, which once shone brightly, had lost it's sparkle. An overbearing shadow was perpetually cast on his face.
When she was 15, Naira once decided to talk to Kartik. He was getting more and more involved in the business and had missed a few days of school.
She went to his room and found him standing near the window, facing the lawn with his back to her.
"Hi," she greeted softly.
"Did you want something?" he asked grimly.
"No. I..." she hesitated, "I just came to... check on you. Is everything fine?"
He didn't respond. His back was still turned to her.
She continued, "You have missed school. You don't spend time with me-," she paused and added, "and Keerti. With me and Keerti. She misses her brother." And I miss my friend. She thought but didn't say.
Kartik's shoulder slumped, "Remember the games we used to play when we were kids? That game of police and thief. I would always be the police, the good guy who'd save the day."
Naira wanted Kartik to turn around so that she could see his face.
He continued, "We had plastic guns. It was so easy to pull the trigger of a fake gun and play dead."
He inhaled sharply, "It's so easy when the gun is fake..."
Naira slowly strode to him. Gently placing her palm on his shoulder, she whispered. "Kartik?"
Kartik's slumped shoulder straightened and he cleared his voice, "You should go Naira." He hadn't spared her one look.
"Talk to me." She pleaded, "I want to help."
He scoffed, "You can't. You wouldn't understand."
She didn't back down. "Let me try-." Before she could talk further, he had swiveled around. His eyes were red. "You can't do anything!" He bellowed. "These hands," he lifted his shaky palms, "...they are tainted."
She furrowed her brows trying to understand. Kartik balled his open palms and shut his eyes. "Leave Naira." He ordered, turning his back to her.
"I want to help-," she began when he interrupted in a stoical voice, "I don't need your help. You're not my friend. You're nothing. A nobody."
His words hurt her. "You don't mean that," she put up a weak defense.
"Leave Naira," he repeated his order.
She exhaled through her mouth, "Kartik, I-."
"Get out!" He yelled and it startled her.
Hot tears pricked her eyes. Without saying anything she left his room. The next few days, she thought that once he calmed down, he'd talk to her but it never happened. Kartik got more and more invested in the business and a void grew between them. Their childhood companionship was forgotten.
Naira thought it would be difficult to live under the same roof as Kartik and purposefully avoid him. Turned out it wasn't that hard. Kartik spent most of his time outdoors with Manish and Akhilesh and when he was home, he'd be holed up in Manish's study.
Sometimes when they came face to face, they'd avert their eyes and walk away like strangers. At first Naira had to act that she was indifferent to him. It wasn't easy for her. Keerti and Kartik were her only friends, her solace in this world. Later, however, it became more and more easier till being indifferent to him came as second nature to her.
To an outsider, they'd look like strangers. No one would assume that once they had been friends. That once she even had a crush on him. He was gentle and kind to her. Spending most of her time with him, had made a teenage Naira develop feelings that were beyond friendship. She was sure he reciprocated too. When their eyes would meet or hands would brush, a whole new range of emotions would burn in her. Sometimes, in his company, she would be shy; even blush. And he acted the same around her. But then they were young... two teens. Years later, only a faint remnant of the feelings remained.
[Chapter 1 word count- 2413]
Chapter 2 - Last Christmas
Naira didn't know her birthday. The orphanage matron had found her on a May night. Making a mental calculation, the matron had assumed her to be 5 months old. Her birth month was recorded as December 1998. The accuracy of her birthday didn't matter since she didn't celebrate. How could her birth bring joy to anyone when her own parents had abandoned her?
Every December, she would wonder where she came from, who her parents were. Why did they leave her? Why did she end up alone?
During the 1st year of Naira's stay in Goenka house, 9-year-old Keerti was shocked that Naira didn't know her birthday. For Keerti, who had lavish birthday parties, the idea of not celebrating it was unimaginable. Every Christmas, the Goenkas threw a massive party. So Keerti decided that the party would also be Naira's birthday.
Of course the only people who knew were Keerti-Kartik and Naira. A piece of the Christmas cake became her birthday cake. Keerti lit a candle that Naira blew out as the siblings sang "happy birthday." They stealthily got away from the party, unseen by the elders, to celebrate in Naira's bedroom. Suhasini forbade them to enter the staff's residence so no one would look for them there.
For many years this small secret celebration went on. But on her 14th birthday, only Keerti showed up. Kartik couldn't sneak away from the party since Manish kept him close. He was being introduced to all the guests. Since then the trio was reduced to the duo of Keerti and Naira. Initially the absence of Kartik bothered her but after that day, when he screamed at her and thereafter avoided her, she became accustomed to his absence.
This year, Naira would turn 20. She had finished school 2 years back. Keerti, now 23, was pursuing a Masters in economics. Naira wanted to go to college too. But she couldn't muster the courage to ask anyone. Whom would she even consult? The Goenka adults and Kartik were apathetic to her. Keerti never had the guts to ask anything for herself, let alone for Naira. So Naira spent her time coaching 15-year-old Shubham for his school exams.
2 days before Christmas (and her secret birthday), Naira was called in Manish's study. He had sought her after forgetting' about her existence for almost 14 years. Naira racked her brain thinking why he had summoned her. Was she in trouble?
Bracing herself for the worst, Naira went to his study. He gestured her to take a place across the table. Naira sank into the chair, her heartbeat rising with each passing second.
"Are you scared?" Manish questioned.
She didn't respond. Her eyes were lowered and she kept her gaze on the floor.
"When I found you in Rishikesh, I couldn't believe my luck," Manish reminisced, "I had been searching you for years."
"Why?" She asked the one question that she had been wondering for ages.
Manish chuckled, "It's a long story. I will tell you one day... soon."
She wanted to prod him but she knew better. In the Goenka house, one would get what one deserved at the right time- not before, not after.
"How old are you now?" he asked.
"20," she answered timidly.
"How time flies... You were only 6 when I bought you. And now look at you," he commented, "All grown up."
The comment made Naira uneasy. "Did you want something?" she asked, still not meeting his gaze.
Manish declared, "This Christmas will be your last one in Goenka House." [3000 words]
Naira immediately looked up to face him. "What?" From her experience, she was very wary when someone used "last in their sentences.
Her panicked face amused Manish. "I am sending you to college. Outside India."
She furrowed her brows. Did she hear him correctly?
"What?" she repeated.
"Isn't that what you want? To go to college? It's what you told Shubham while tutoring him," Manish replied.
Naira had rambled to Shubham about wanting to attend college. Shubham did what Keerti couldn't- informed his father. And now Manish was letting her leave?
"Is this..." she hesitated. "Is this for real?
He nodded, "A client of mine will come from Bucharest for the Christmas party. He'll take you when he returns. It'll be taken care of."
It sounded surreal. Tears clouded her eyes and she sniffled, "Mr. Goenka... I... I don't know what...to say," he spoke in fragments. "Thank you."
There was sincerity in Manish's voice. He really was sending her away, setting her free. In that moment of sheer happiness, she didn't bother to ask why he was sending her abroad, or with that particular client. These questions seemed trivial. Her freedom was in her grasp.
She was processing this news when he bombarded her with another, "Come to the party." In all these years, she was never invited to the Christmas soiree. "Wear something nice," he added.
Naira could only nod enthusiastically. She was too shaken to speak. Taking his leave, she rushed to Keerti's room. She had to share the news with someone. It was the best thing that had happened to her in ages.
Overjoyed, Naira barged into Keerti's room without knocking only to find Kartik.
"Where..." Naira panted trying to catch her breath.
Kartik understood the question. "Keerti just left."
"Okay." She muttered, turning to exit.
"What happened?" Kartik's sudden question made her swivel around.
For the first time in 5 years they were in a room, alone.
"You seem flustered," he added.
Also for the first time in 5 years Kartik spoke directly to her.
"Nothing," she lied.
The disbelief in his eyes was apparent though he silently exited the room.
If things were fine, she'd have told him even before telling Keerti. But things weren't. Naira shut the negative thoughts. Today was a happy day. She wouldn't let old memories spoil it.
Naira spent the next 2 days in a daze. She was invited to the exclusive party and more importantly, was going away for college. She kept pinching herself to ensure that it wasn't a dream.
For the Christmas party, Keerti had lent Naira a sleek black gown. She paired it with golden heels. Once she was ready, she took a peek at the mirror. Naira couldn't recognize the reflection of the girl who was staring back at her. She looked and felt like a princess.
Manish had told her to make an effort, to look nice and she had. A hopeful yet nervous Naira trailed behind Keerti to the ballroom where the party was held.
A huge Christmas tree was set up at the centre. Female servers, dressed in skimpy santa outfits, were serving hors d'oeuvres and champagne. All the guests looked like a million bucks.
Keerti went to socialize with the guests and Naira found a quiet corner. She scanned the room searching Manish. He was supposed to introduce her to a guest, who'd be her benefactor.
She spotted Manish with Kartik surrounded by guests. They were drinking and chatting. Naira waited patiently for him to take notice. After sometime, Manish, Akhilesh, Kartik and a guest left the ballroom. Naira debated if she should follow Manish. Maybe he forgot about her. She didn't have to wait for long. A staff informed that Manish wanted her to come to his study.
Taking a deep breath, she entered the study. Manish sat on his chair; Akhilesh stood by his side. A man, whom Naira had never seen before, was on the couch. Kartik, who stood near the door, was shocked on seeing her.
"What are you doing here?" Kartik asked, visibly displeased.
"I called her," Manish responded. "Come here Naira. Meet Mr.Andrei Vasile."
Naira avoided Kartik's lingering gaze and walked to the Romanian. The man stood up and towered over her.
"Hello Mr.Vasile," Naira greeted him.
The man eyed her from head to toe and smiled, "Call me Andrei." He had a heavy accent. There was something unsettling about the way he stared at her. Naira nervously took a step back.
Manish spoke, "Andrie will take you to Bucharest. He is a big hotelier. You'll be his guest."
"Thank you," Naira said, her glance wavering between Manish and Andrie, whose eyes had never left her face. There was this tug in her belly. Something about the way he eyed her, was making her uncomfortable. She tried to set the feeling aside.
Manish asked to make a drink for them and Naira dashed to the liquor cabinet in the other room, grateful to be at a distance from Andrie.
Naira set 4 glasses on the counter. She was uncorking a bottle of whiskey when she heard footsteps. Her heart started drumming thinking that it was Andrie who had followed her. Relief washed over her when she saw Kartik.
"What did my father say to you?" he asked, pointedly.
"About what?" she questioned, confused.
"About Mr. Vasile."
Naira poured the whiskey in the glasses. "Nothing important," she lied.
When Naira turned around with a tray of glasses, Kartik had covered the distance and stood in front of her. The tray was the only thing separating them.
His eyes bore into hers, "Whatever it is," he clenched his teeth, "It's not happening."
He snatched the tray from her and before she could respond he ordered, "Go to your room."
He immediately exited the room with the tray. Naira stood still in the dimly lit room. As Kartik walked away so did her freedom. She was in a fix. She knew from experience that she should never disobey a Goenka. Yet she couldn't let her one chance of freedom be snatched away.
Gathering her nerves, she made a swift decision and followed Kartik back to Manish's study. Kartik had just set the tray on the table when he saw Naira enter. He was furious but it didn't matter. If tonight went well, Naira would be out of this hellhole and then none of these people would matter.
The 4 men picked up one glass each from the tray. Manish made a toast, they clinked their glasses and took a swig.
"Naira," Manish called her. He took a sip before speaking, "Andrei has agreed. Tomorrow when he leaves he will-." Manish paused and coughed, "he will take you-." He coughed again. This time more violently.
Akhilesh poured him a glass of water. With shaky fingers, Manish took the glass and gulped down the water. The next moment, he retched it out along with blood.
"Father!" Kartik exclaimed and rushed to Manish's side. Akhilesh and Kartik supported Manish, who had begun to shake violently, retching out more blood.
"Call the doctor!" Kartik yelled at Naira who stood shell-shocked. "Naira!" Kartik shouted and his voice brought her to the present.
Naira rushed to the telephone and dialed the doctor's number. The phone was still ringing when Naira heard a loud thud. Manish had fallen from Kartik and Akhilesh's grip. He laid on the floor, his white shirt drenched in blood. His eyes were open but he didn't make a movement.
"Hello," boomed the doctor's voice in Naira's ears. The receiver fell from her hand and her jaw dropped open.
In the mid of the carpeted office floor, lay the lifeless body of Manish Goenka.
[Chapter 2 word count = 1871]
[Total word count = 4284]Edited by ErisedWitch45 - 2019-02-13T23:35:45Z
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