A/N: Bhavika/Santosh's exit wasn't satisfying enough thus this story aims to give me some sort of closure.
Playlist: Always by Gavin James
The shoreline of this station had become a figment as if it was wiped away during spring cleaning. Maybe it evaporated in the heat of warnings, arguments and hopelessness.
Perhaps that is what happens when one remains fearful of change. They let it consume them whole, only to be left adrift at sea- the waves move freely, gathering an unfathomable pace of destruction that is to come. Following the winds that come to bring some sort of grounding sensation of physical contact - a touch from the angels, a warm greeting from nature and a soft goodbye from familiarity.
Constable Santosh Sharma has one thousand and one days moments worth remembering, one thousand and one new things discovered, one thousand and one vicissitudes, one thousand and one days spent at the Mahila police thana and with its occupants.
A setting sun is envious of a raising moon because it is in companionship with the stars, a million uncountable stars- with countless possibilities for career advancement.
A sinking moon is envious of a rising sun because it comes with a new beginning, a hopeful new beginning- saving the station from being shut down.
So what should I choose? A sinking sun, or a sinking moon? Because either way someone is going to lose.
Disconcerted, she watches the broken tap drip water into the cup. One thousand and one days have passed and yet not a single plumber has been able to fix it. Perhaps, this bedraggled apartment is the one thing she will be more than delighted to leave behind.
Two hundred and thirty-seven drops later the shabby plastic cup is filled to its brim. The utensil managed to decide how many drops of water it could contain before letting the rest unfortunate ones crumple into the sink beneath it, knowing it was too much of an ask to hold more than it could.
What is my capacity?
Before the two hundred and thirty-eighth drop could fall, a scream, low from her throat made its way past her lips. The thought of transferring- leaving everything she ever grew to love behind- doesn't sit well with her.
The change was tough but it's the rule of life. Nothing is permanent- not even peace. Peace isn't the presence of happiness. It's the absence of sadness.
Sadness- it skated over her pale skin. just when she thought she had filtered enough to keep what was pure and that the dirt was out the gates, it drained her, leaving an emptiness save for the anxiety.
Somehow the idea of death because a little less bleak because death is like an older brother- annoying but welcomed in the face of melancholy.
Death is not an option, never was and never will be.
Her anti-depressants, however, were always a viable option.
---One Thousand And One Days---
"Is there something you want to tell me?" Station House Officer Haseena Malik asked, an unfamiliar strain in her otherwise calm tone as she struggles to keep it even.
Santosh Sharma stares, mouth slightly agape, wondering if she had found out the secret she desperately tried to keep. It's too early. Too fast. I am not ready.
She takes a second to gauge Haseena's posture- back straight and hands out of sight- before she formulates a response. "N-no madam sir." she lies through her teeth but the stammer gave it away.
Haseena gives a curt nod. "It would have been better if you said it yourself," the station head brought her hand out ever so slowly in between them. "Your transfer orders."
Santosh drops her gaze to the papers and manages to spare a fleeting glance at Haseena. Keeping her sight on the piece of paper she waited for the chastisement to follow this revelation.
Instead, Haseena grew teary-eyed and apologised. "I know this is all my fault. I failed. I failed my own team..."
That admission made the cyber expert snap to attention, a reassurance falling from her lips as if on autopilot. "No, no, Madam sir. You can never fail. You have never failed. You are the best boss. You are the best leader and..." she trialled off, voicelessly moving her lips trying to think past the threads of sadness that wrapped around her mind.
"I am sorry," the senior shook her head. "I am very sorry. I- I am under a lot of pressure. All of this is very difficult. I couldn't say it to anyone."
After one thousand and one days, Haseena confides in someone other than head constable Pushpa Singh. After one thousand and one days she breaks under the burden of saving the station from closure time and again. After one thousand and one days, she admits that this isn't easy- it never was.
Santosh briefly wonders if it's too little too late. There wasn't a point in strengthening the attachment she had formed. It would only make her transfer all the more insufferable.
"Mujhse keh dijye. Ruk ja, Santu." she pleaded, hoping against hope that Haseena would stop the inevitable, that she would be able to fix this too. To her dismay, Haseena gave her a ghost of a weary smile, her lip barely twitching upwards.
"Toh ruk jaogi na tum. Isliye toh nahi keh rahe," she reached forward and placed her hands on Santosh's upper arms, beckoning her to keep eye contact. "Lekyn santosh tum jao. Go make your career. This is very important for future and growth." she said calmly. When the younger woman nodded, she continued. "You will be going somewhere better than here anyway," seeing the girl succumbing to her tears, she began running her thumb back and forth. "and always remember one thing. I am very proud of you and I always will b-be." The station house officer finally cracked, her own tears cascading down those rosy cheeks.
For a second, it looked like Santosh would throw herself into Haseena's arms and the latter stood ready to hold her forever and never let go.
Only she didn't.
The file in Santosh's hand clattered to the ground and she did the one thing she could, run.
"Santu! Wait!" Haseena shouted.
But the girl was already out the door, hand covering her mouth to stop the sobs from escaping.
She made a promise to Haseena and the team. She promised to always stand by them and bring the station back its pride and glory. She couldn't renege now.
A/N: Don't forget to R&R!
Chapter 2: Loose ends
She didn't get very far after leaving the station.
Just outside the precinct, Constable Cheetashwar Chaturvedi’s tall frame halted her to a screeching stop. She haphazardly wiped her tears. His callousness currently was beyond her comprehension and she didn't have the conviction to decipher it.
But she had unfinished business with him.
“Santu Ji, are-are you crying?” he asked, reaching out to wipe the tears that had fallen past her eyelashes.
“No,” she denied instantly swiping her hand at her cheeks. Making the mistake to look at his face, she bit her lip. There stood her boyfriend? She wasn't sure what to call the man since they went on a break. She barely recognised him and the cold eyes that stared back at her.
When a picture becomes too blurred due to close proximity, it is best to take a step back and re-evaluate its beauty. Sometimes the beauty of it turns out to be an illusion, a concoction of expectations and rose-tinted truths.
Given the nature of their jobs, it wasn't counted as much of a break or a step back since they still saw each other every day. Thankfully, she did have some time off in between her training period and medical leave of absence to give her relationship with him serious thought.
“We need to talk.”
For the first time in weeks, it seemed like he was serious about something. Morbid that it has to be this of all things. Not even the station closure news derailed his stubbornness.
“If this is about my change in attitude that everyone keeps pointing out and talking about, I don't want to hear it.”
“It's not about your behaviour, Cheetah. It's about us,” she said firmly, walking past him and gesturing to the crowd around. “I don't know about you but I don't want to do it where we have an audience.”
He nodded and the pair silently made their way to a nearby park. They found a secluded spot amongst the small afternoon picnic visitors.
Cheetashwar stood stiffly staring at the junior constable expectantly. “I am all for surprises but now I am getting worried. What is happening?”
Santosh made it a point to look him in the eye as she spoke. “I have been thinking about us and our relationship,” she noted the twitch of his eyebrow and slowly forming crinkle. “This isn't healthy. We are two individuals with different goals in life…”
He was quick to cut her off. “I know my recent behaviour hasn't been the best or up to your standard…”
“I'll go back to being the same old me. I promise…”
“This isn't about that, Cheetah.”
“Then what? What is this about?” he asked, running a shaky hand through his tousled hair. “Throw me a lifeboat here because I am lost.”
Seeing as there was no point in cushioning the blow, she went in straight to the issues in their alliance. “You were the one who locked me in my house that day wasn't it?”
The question caught him off guard and silenced his rambling. “What?”
“When I was supposed to go meet sunny that day, you were meant to be guarding the wedding apparel. Instead, you came all the way to my place and locked me in,” the anger she kept buried over this incident came bubbling to the surface of her composure. “There is no point denying, Cheetah. I saw the CCTV and I know that the wedding gown went missing.”
“If you knew, why didn't you confront me earlier?”
“Because I was waiting for you, to be honest with me. Clearly, I expected too much. I am not someone’s property. I am a very capable human being who can make her own decisions and choices. You had no right to do that.”
Cheetah lowered his gaze to the grass beneath, kicking aimlessly. “I m sorry, Santu Ji. I was insecure and desperate. I made some really stupid decisions. But I still love you. I always have,”
“I wish that was enough for this relationship.” she sighed. This was her first serious relationship and it almost didn't seem fair for it to come to such a tragic end especially since it barely even began. However, it was better to fix her mistakes now rather than regret them later. “But it's not.”
“Then tell me what I need to do. I'll do anything.”
“Just like how you went up to the rooftop and wanted to jump off to prove your love. How does that prove anything?”
“It proved that I am willing to do anything to show you how much you mean to me.”
“By traumatising me time and again. Do you have any idea how painful it was looking at your supposed dead body or how terrifying it was to see you about to commit suicide? And for what? To show your love? That's not love… that's obsession and stupidity.”
Cheetahwar gave a sad smile. “You think my love isn't true,” he stated with hands stuffed into his pocket.
Real love is a protector from one’s own self-destructive tendencies, a defender from unseen threats, and a ride-or-die connection that sticks with one regardless of disturbances. It is undeniably raw and it will roar when called upon. It will stay with her in the quietness of grievances and be her comfort from the agony and disappointments of life. Real love will celebrate her success, and raise her beyond where she is right now. Real love would accept her bouts of sadness and kiss the scars she carved on her skin and hid from others.
This isn't real love.
“I think your idea of true love isn't the same as mine,” It sounded insulting but was really plain facts. She wished there was a way to put them down gently but it didn't matter when Cheetashwar himself seemed unfazed by her words. “I live in fear every day wondering when your next unforeseen move will come and I’ll be left picking up the pieces again. so we both need to take a minute and sort our lives out before we are ready to be in a romantic relationship.”
“Wow, that's awfully convenient, isn't it? I have one setback and suddenly you are unable to handle this change. You ran through fire and now your love for me is ashes.”
“Your current indifference comes from a place of hurt, anger and pain. Maybe in some way shape or form, it's justifiable. I want to understand it but I can't do that if you are going to freeze me out. Boyfriend or not, I still care about you.”
“Then why are you doing this?”
“Because we are not ready. Because a relationship is more than what I can take right now. Because we are not as compatible as we would like to think. Because I cannot stand waking up every day and feeling like there's a weight on my chest restricting my ability to breathe.” she listed, each reason causing her eyes to well up even more than before. The last one coming almost like an epiphany. I felt suffocated. Relationships were best when people were not the same. Opposites attract as they say. But people needed to be complementary.
“Cheetah, you need to sort out your priorities and I need to work on my trust issues.” seeing him defeated, left a pang of guilt but she knew this was the right thing for the both of them. “I am not saying that I am completely blameless for this situation we are in right now. I was blinded by gratitude when I proposed. That was disgraceful of me and I am sorry. It wasn't fair to you and I am sorry. I am so sorry, Cheetah. But I am not going to apologise for putting both our mental wellbeings before anything.”
“My mental health is perfectly fine,” he argued, stubbornly crossing his arms in front of his chest.
“The man you once were, the one I fell in love with would have kicked your ass all over the ground for talking to me like that and for behaving the way you did with everyone else. You were someone. You were that guy with ethics, principles and compassion.”
“Yea and all I have to show for that kindness is a hand-sized bruise on my face and hundreds of meme pages on social media platforms.”
“It sucks. I know,” Santosh sighed and copied his actions. “I am no psychologist. Hell, you’d know better than me,” Cheetashwar was a women's phycologist specialist after all. There would have definitely been common interdisciplinary modules that he took. “But it doesn't take a degree to know that you've been through a lot and it has affected you. You need help, we both do. Unfortunately, we can’t help each other.”
She prayed with all her zest that he would say something- liberate her from this crushing amount of guilt that caused her shoulders to slump.
“You are the best thing that ever happened to me,” Finally, a crack appeared in his otherwise composed exterior. Cheetashwar let his tears drip down his cheek all the way to his chin before they tumbled to the ground. “I love you, Santosh. I am sorry that it wasn't enough, that I wasn't enough.” he acquiesced. The old Cheetashwar had reappeared after weeks of an empty shell wandering around aimlessly. “I am blessed for the time we had, for the love we shared, and the best of you will remain in my heart.”
Santosh despite herself, leaned in for a final embrace. “You're a good man and a good friend. Any girl would be lucky to have you. I am sorry but I am not that girl.”
The male constable didn’t have any words left to say as he detached himself from her and walked back to the precinct. This breakup would be how he rediscovered himself, through the challenges he encountered as he entered new spheres of life.
Santosh stood there, arms empty and frame shaking with the force of her sobs, taking moments of solitude to compose herself.
For the time being, In the wake of this excruciating heartache, the sun won't shine. The bird's song passes begrudgingly through the air as if the melody can't glide like it once did before. She would let this pain be her mentor and motivation to hear her once playful soul rise above the ashes. She'd rather face this discomfort than comprise her self-respect.
It takes courage to put oneself before others. She needed a relationship that was secure and didn't drown in the eye of a storm- a relationship that sailed no matter the weather.
They are a two-way street, something based on love, trust, certainty and consistency. She needed to get real before she became lost and lonely in this pursuit of happiness. Cheetashwar and Santosh loved each other. That definition of love however differed. If there is no reciprocal love, they would become alone. Now that she knows, Santosh can become a person with a solid connection to her own feelings, a person in control of her own life and a person able to seek something more akin to genuine and good.
Chapter 3: By the edge- Easy on me by Adele
Station Inspector Karishma Singh had understood something wasn't quite right the second Cheetashwar came into the station looking like his heart had been ripped from his chest. Before she could ask him any questions, she had been summoned by the Deputy superintendent of police to his headquarters stating it was urgent. Judging by how Santosh came in just as she left with the same glumness surrounding her, Karishma accessed that the two had probably gotten into a nasty fight.
She returned a couple of hours later only to find out that Cheetashwar had taken half day's leave due to personal reasons. She asked Pushpa Singh through hand gestures but the old woman merely shrugged with similarly concerned eyes.
“Santu,” she called to the junior constable. “Is there something you want to talk about?”
Santosh didn't feel like diving into the subject of her breakup just yet. So she pulled out her transfer letter from the drawer, shoved it into her senior's hand and left to isolate herself in the gym room. At least that gave them something else to focus on for the time being while she nursed her heartache.
As she slams the door shut, the decaying brick walls come into view. They had cocooned her in dire times and provided sanctuary as and when needed. She runs a trembling hand over them, the colour of it stains her hands but she doesn't care. This is a mark of the station that grew with her. Her eyes wander the rugged clay surface- the colour bleak yet earthen. Leaving this home was not going to be easy, but she will let these emotions, memories of joy, comfort and sorrow take residence in her heart of hearts.
Karishma read the letter twice over, wishing that her eyes had deceived her the first read-through. The words were there, written as clear as day and yet her mind couldn't understand their true meaning. When she finally did, her eyes grew damp because this wasn't how she imagined her Monday afternoon to go.
Santosh was being transferred to the cyber department- away from here, no longer coming to this place every morning, leaving.
To bid the girl she had come to see as a younger sibling with a wave of the hand would break her carefully constructed walls. She had learned that goodbyes could be easy or they could shatter a soul. Yet in those moments of anguish, there was proof of loving bonds.
The proof of love is always so damn expensive.
“My tolerance for patronising your stupidity is scarce.”
“Don't worry. You won't need to do it much longer.”
Station inspector Karishma Singh peered carefully over the edge as she took a seat beside Santosh. “How many times have I told you not to come up here on your own, especially at night?” for someone with acrophobia, the cyber expert sure loved a rooftop as high as this. “I swear it's like you are purposefully ignoring my warnings. Repeated warnings might I add. And what happened to coming up here when it is too dark?”
“Bachpan mein jis andhere se dar lagta tha abh ussi andhere main sukoon milta hain.”
“Bachpan aur ajj main kya fark hai?”
The constable didn't answer. There wasn't much of an indication that she heard her senior at all. Less than seven months ago, they were here, on the same rooftop, in the same position, drenched in rain, chilled to the bone and in some ways, for the same reason- love, lose, grieve.
Grief, in its turbulence, feeling anything akin to love is plaintive and disenchanting for the memories bring a tender calm over an addled mind. She begs to feel the same numbness and indifference that had taken residence in her months ago. This love, this affection and this desire leave her emptied and hankering for more.
Her life was unravelling in a very short amount of time and she could barely knot her fingers in the threads of fate.
She was a puppet, stringing any which way someone pulled the rope tied to her limbs. The department first threatened to take away their station and they were scrambling to find one single case to save- pathetic, absolutely pathetic. Then that same department decided that she was still valuable, just not in a station that was most likely to shut down in the coming days. So they plucked her out and dumped her into the cyber department.
“Bachpan main faisle lena bohot asan tha. Aur ajj faisle lena saza lagti hain,” she sighed. “I don't want to transfer to the cyber department,” when she spoke, it felt like there was gravel in her mouth- raw and despondent. “I want to stay here, with you, with madam sir, Pushpa Ji, Cheetah and Billu Ji. I don't want to go.”
“I don't want you to go either,” Karishma responds, a heaviness in her usually stoic disposition. “You drive me up the wall all the time. Your clumsiness despite being twenty-four is concerning. You are almost always saying stupid things and annoying the hell out of me.” with each word that left her mouth, she felt the smile etching across her face grow as Santosh increasingly offended.
“For your sake, I hope there is a but in that sentence.”
Karishma chuckled at her response and glare. “But,” she stressed. “you are also extremely smart and observant. You are dedicated to your country. There's something about maintaining a balance between your emotions and practically that neither madam sir nor I seem to have. The sincerity in your eyes has the power to move mountains.” she said earnestly, trying to put all the faith she had in those simple words. “You, Santosh Sharma, have grown so much in the last two years and I couldn't be any prouder.”
Santosh snorted in amusement. “Madam sir said the same thing.”
“Well, she is a smart woman.” the older of the two nodded.
“I sense an and not a but.”
“And she is right. The only way for you to grow is to go out there and hone your skills. To nab the opportunities thrown your way. This is that opportunity.”
The pragmatic side of her agrees in an instant. “It's an opportunity that comes with a price that I am not willing to pay.” the sentimental side seems to be more pronounced, however.
“When I was about to quit the force, you told me to decide if the 9 to 5 desk job was worth losing all that I had accomplished thus far. At that time, I wasn't sure,” Karishma sighed a little, staring down at the street food vendor. He always came by around this time of the night, probably to entertain the late-night walkers. “You know there are still moments where I think taking that office job was a better choice.”
Santosh turned her head towards her seniors, a curious glint in her brown orbs. “I never knew that. What keeps you going?”
The station inspector chuckles a little. “The insignia on my uniform and the little flag on my table.” That was enough to convey what she meant or so she hoped.
“My mind is too muddled to read between the lines right now. What is your point?”
“My point is sometimes we don't know if a decision we are making is worth it or not. There are times of certainty and insecurity. But we won't know until we try. I understand the attachment you have to the station and us. That's not going to go away just because you work in a different department.”
“But,” the cyber expert dipped her head again. “I made a promise to madam sir. We have to save the station.”
Karishma smacked the younger woman's head fondly. “You are such an idiot.”
“Madam!” she pouted, rubbing her head.
“Who said you have to go now? Your transfer isn't until two weeks later. That's more than enough time to save the station. We’ve been here a hundred times before. Like every other time nothing is going to happen.”
“Promise. Aur yeh toh pura shehar janta hain ki…”
“Karishma Singh apne vade ki kitni pakhi hain.”
“Stop stealing my line,” The station inspector let out a fake irritated groan but embraced the girl either way when she leaned in.
“I already told you, it’s old get a new one,” she chuckled. “I’m gonna miss this,” she whispered against her shoulder.
“Me too, Jarbhudhi, me too,” Karishma pulled away after a second, playfully shoving the cyber expert. “Besides, you are only changing departments, not states. We will still meet each other and anytime you miss us, just come visit.”
“Like when you were transferred to the jankipuram thana?”
“Exactly. You saw first how Pushpa Ji made excuses all the time to come see me didn't you?”
“How can I forget.” she chuckled dryly. “I still think she swapped the lunch boxes on purpose.” They sat for a while with the cyber expert twiddling her nervously. “I,” she cleared her throat awkwardly. “I broke up with cheetah.”
Karishma spun her head to look at the girl, a look of surprise colouring her features. “I am sorry, what?”
“I broke up with him earlier today. I just…I realised that it wasn't healthy for either of us. Somewhere down the road, our relationship started coming in the way of our duty,” she admitted. “And the thing that I regret the most is that it took me this long to get that reality check. I was losing myself and so was Cheetah.”
The senior struggled to find words of comfort and consolation. They weren't her strong suit when faced with the subject of her words of affirmation. “Are…are you okay?
“It hurts like a bitch,” Santosh snorted. “This guilt, I can’t displace this guilt I feel for doing this to Cheetah. I saw it…the rage, the pain, the regret. I did that to him.”
“It's not your fault…this pain and heartache it’s normal.”
“A vase that had fallen to the ground and has cracks is broken. whether it was knocked down by a cat or a bird or a strong gust of wind, the result is still a broken vase, is it not?”
Karishma sighs knowing there wasn't much of a point in arguing. They two had to go through the stages of grief to heal. “Do you need anything?” she asks instead, focusing on an aspect that she could control.
“All I really need is time and distractions until this wound isn't so raw anymore.” scars may not heal but wounds do. Santosh refused to let this break-up scar her- consequently, preventing her from pursuing another in the far future.
“Whatever you need,” Karishma nodded giving her hand a gentle squeeze. “I respect your choice and I am proud of you for making one that was best for yourself.”
“Thank you,” Santosh leaned her head on her senior's shoulder. They turned their attention back to the only witnesses to this exchange; the stars blanketing them with their warm light. “Stay with me for a while?”
“Always. The universe may have pulled us to wither end of this earth. But there will be a time that comes to bring us all back together. I don't know how or why. But I know it will happen. So until then, just hold on.”
Santosh found and intertwined their pinky fingers as a sign of a scout's honour. “I will. Pinky swear.”
Santosh may be leaving a place she had called home for One thousand and one days but the bonds she created remained the same. They travelled different paths of life but remained interwoven in ways only the divine could truly comprehend.
“I want ice cream.” the cyber ardent girl announced all of a sudden, disrupting the peace that had fallen upon them in the last hour.
Karishma jumped on her spot, startled from the daze she was in. “yea say that a little louder why don't ya?” she mocked, secretly thankful for not allowing her to completely doze off at the edge of a twenty-story building. “Take a louder speaker and announce it to the whole building.”
“Karishma madam, I know Pushpa ji annoys you to no end and it makes you want to scream and shout like a witch. But, why do you want to disturb all these residences by being a public nuisance.” Santosh blabbered, genuine confusion lacing her voice. “I thought you were against such inconsiderate acts?”
The station inspector didn't know where to bang her head so she settled for face-palming instead. “It's my fault. I am sorry I asked.”
“It's okay,” she responded much to Karishma’s chagrin. “Let’s go get ice cream,” she repeated.
Karishma spared a glance at her wristwatch. “Now?”
“Santu, it's 1 am in the morning. The only people selling ice cream at this hour are serial kidnappers.”
“That is pretty stereotypical of you,” Santosh chided while Karishma rolled her eyes. “But ill have you know that Baskin-robbins is open 24 hours.”
“Yea and the nearest outlet is an hour away.”
Santosh smirked at her in a way that spelt trouble. “Not for you it's not. You're the speed devil.”
“No, it's late. You need to sleep and so do i.” she stood up to dust her pants and looked at Santosh. “I am not Pushpa ji who likes to be late every morning.”
“But Pushpa ji is late every morning because she stops to eat golgappas from Chandu’s stall every morning right? What does that have to do with sleep?”
Karishma felt an overwhelming urge to jump off the building they were standing on. she rubbed a finger on her forehead. All her earlier sentiments were turning to dust and it haven't even been a full day.
“Forget that. I am sad and depressed so it’s my legal obligation to eat ice cream,” she grabbed Karishma’s hand and started shaking her like a dummy. “Please,” she whined with a pout.
Karishma never stood a chance against those doe eyes, to begin with. “Fine.” she conceded with a defeated sigh.
“I love you!” Santosh happily pecked her cheek and skidded out the rooftop door, drooling at just the thought of the sugary dessert.
Karishma followed behind with a fond shake of her own head. “Love you too.”
For a bird that is grown and matured, there is a natural time for it to leave the nest, and that is healthy and right. Leaving is a part of loving, of showing that one is strong enough to do what is best for them.
As such, our loving bonds are ever there, ever strong, ever tangibleEdited by rinki_99 - 1 months ago
I love this Rinki... make sure I bawl my eyes out in the Santu-Karishma chapter because their bond was my most cherished. Santu was the only girl who could tone down her kadak Karishma madam with her masumiyat!
XD, i hope managed to do so with chapter 3! hayeeeee i miss my karitosh/yuvika
There's something magical about tidal waves. Throw a stone in and the tides rapidly wax and wane. Then it settles and that's probably how her life has been. "Go away."
"I've been there before. It's not pretty and it is definitely not fun."
"Gladly. Although I can't exactly leave a homicidal hot mess unattended now can I?" Santosh questioned calmly, observing the woman before her.
"Oh, how noble of you. Maybe this is why the public is ready to bend over backwards for the station at every back and call." Binni Chaudhary remarked, sarcasm quoting her words. "What should I do to repay this debt you bestowed upon me?"
"For starters, you could get off that edge," the constable said as if she wasn't freaking out on the inside. She took a cautious step before deciding to stop and forgoing the risk of further pushing Binni's limits.
"Then maybe we can talk about lunch."
"You really are an airhead." Binni quipped a little in disbelief. She had just come up here for some fresh air and quiet time. Apparently, the cyber expert had found her way here too and assumed she was suicidal. Before the situation could escalate, the vigilante cautiously scooted away from the edge.
"Well there's something we have in common." the constable retorted.
"You are entitled to your incorrect opinion," Binni groaned. "Why are you even here?"
"Call from a resident living in the opposite bundling. She said someone was about to jump. I take it she misunderstood your intentions." Santosh pulled out her walkie-talkie and turned around. She spoke in hushed tones into the walkie-talkie, reporting that the situation was diffused and dealt back to the headquarters.
"No shit Sherlock."
"Geeze, you are grouchy."
"So I've been told many times before."
Santosh sat beside the woman clad in black and red, making sure to keep a safe distance in case she chose to react violently. "Self-awareness is admirable."
"You are not," as Binni turned her head to give Santosh a warning to leave, she found said girl sitting beside her and it didn't seem like she planned on leaving anytime soon. "What do you think you are doing?"
"I thought you were smarter than that. I am sitting down." Santosh smirked seeing the other woman's annoyed getting out teeth.
"You know when I woke up this morning, the first face I saw was Saira Tai. Normally, I wouldn't be thrilled about it but my day usually goes well after that. Which begs the question, which black cat crossed my path today that I have to sit here and have this stroke-inducing conversation with you of all people."
"I thought the west side of town had a ban on cats. How could you have come across them?"
"If you don't stop talking in the next two seconds, I will push you down from this ledge myself."
The constable mimicked zipping her lips and throwing the key away. In all honesty, she wasn't sure why she was sitting here in the first place. The report turned out to be a mere misinterpretation, the situation was diffused and everything was the way it should be. She should be heading back to the station and spending all her remaining time with the Mahila Police Station- her found family. Instead, she spared a timid glace at Binni and she knew instantly why she had chosen to sit here.
She knows what it feels like to be in her shoes. She knows there is no escape except one- heaven- when the demons start taking over, screaming words of despair and pushing in an almost tangible manner. The magnitude of which, sometimes floats over her head when they become overpoweringly loud.
There is a corner in her heart reserved for an intense longing for peace- a feeling of being all alone in the dark, searching for the one candle whose light still burns.
She knew and to a certain extent understood what Binni had gone through. Karishma had explained it to her when she came back from training. A crowd doesn't have a face, she had said. But every crowd has a lost wanderer who can't do anything but keep searching for the end of the tunnel, a way out from a heap of people who know where their destination is and how to get there- a position she had been as a teenage victim of sexual harassment. And maybe today Binni happens to be that wanderer.
"From one wanderer to another, sometimes its better to just stay lost in the shadows because it feels safer. But other times, we need to step out to become the people we were meant to be."
"What drug are you on?" Binni questioned dumbfounded by the sudden words of wisdom from the cyber expert who distributed their quiet agreement. "I swear it's like all you Mahila thana people escapees from the halfway house."
"What happened to you wasn't your fault. It's easy to think that way but it's not."
Binni stiffened, a little realisation creeping into the permanent glare. Of course, they looked up our background. Stupid itchy hands peasants. Can't leave things as they are. "How would you know?"
Santosh ruefully smiled at her. "We aren't that different." when she saw Binni's curious eyes back on her she continued. "Our path out of the crowd may be contrary but we are not."
The vigilantes clicked her tongue and smirked mockingly. "And is your path the right one because the government says so?"
"I don't know about the government but it is for me because my principals agree with it. There aren't necessarily a lot of right ones but there are a lot of wrong ones."
Binni turned her eyes to the building in front of them. What the hell? "How can it be the right one if it fails to give justice to its people."
"You haven't watched rang de Basanti have you?" Santosh quipped.
"Tell me honestly, were you dropped on the head as a baby or just born this way?" Binni rolled her eyes. "What does a movie have anything to with this?"
Santosh raised her chin, flatted her stomach and spoke in a deep voice. "Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota. Usse perfect banana padta hain."
Binni took a moment to let the words sink in before she finally gained the courage to ask. "At what cost?"
"Time, effort, blood, tears and the one that rips you up into the rawest of forms, grief."
Time was of the essence when she tried to seek justice because as they say, a crowd doesn't have an identity. Her offenders escaped before she had the chance to get her hands on them. The effort was wasted trying to get the police officers assigned to the case to actually work on it. Blood was lost when she when on her knees to get her aggressors convicted of their cruelty. Her tears had dried up in the wake of waiting for a new dawn, for a moment when the pain didn't overwhelm her reading a single breath impossible to take.
"My time, effort, blood and tears have all been spent to make this country a better place for women like me, like us." the wind refused to manifest the howling anguish that tore through her as memories of a forgotten past came back to haunt her in broad daylight.
The constable willed the world to melt away and dissolve around her. Yet, she could still feel the December chill and weeping rough rooftop floor through her khakis. "And grief?"
Bereavement has been her reliable companion in the passing of time. It came in waves and she feels like they can cry an ocean. But they never blinked, only watching the world continues in this numbing sense of sorrow and disgust.
It ebbed over time. A dark gruesome shadow that has lessened until it becomes a fading silhouette of past memories- the ghost of a floating soundless cloud. Where it once was, holding her hand, she find the hand of countless other women grabbing on tightly, not letting it touch the ground. Where there was pain, so much pain, there is now a form of joy and pride for whom she was and what they achieved together.
"Greif is a passing cloud, miss Sharma." without much warning to her own anonymity, her insides had become wooden, and she turned her officer with the face of a mannequin. "You don't have to agree with our method but surely you can understand it."
"Maybe someday I will," she stood up and dusted off her pants. "Until then, I will continue doing my job and you can do yours."
"You can bet on it."
Santosh nodded with a genuine smile. "This isn't the final destination. It can always change. We all deserve to give ourselves a second chance." she grabbed her walkie-talkie from where it rested on the ground. "In moments of unbridled rage and pain, we owe it to ourselves to be better people. What defines better is then in our hands." She turned and left the building- vigour radiating through her skin.
Leaving home is so very bittersweet. It is part of growing, of moving onward into new challenges. It is important, to give thanks for what has been, and tie up loose ends for in doing so the future walks upon a clean pathway.
As the constable left, Binni tuned to the cloudless sky, begging for answers to her now confused self.
What defines right? What defines the right path? what does it mean to be a better person?
It was in the stillness of the late evening that she could understand the movie's quote. On the same still evening, she let the first of many tears drop. It was more than crying. It was the kind of sobbing that comes from a person with renowned hope of a country worth saving. She imagined this scenario to be a photograph- static and two-dimensional. It was a spectacle. Her mind was a wave of peace because the transformation of a safer country wasn't gone. it was simply out of reach, for now.
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