15 years ago....
“Vikram make it fast, before father catch us.” she shrieked looking around with alarmed eyes making me do her dirty work by fetching his gun and cap.
“Shut up Ranu. Don’t disturb me.” I mumbled nervously as my hands shook while pulling out the gun. Father was still in shower and mum was in kitchen, preparing meal for evening. Ranu scoffed and pouted. I love my sister and will do anything for her, even take the scolding from father for breaking the rules.
Let me tell you something, he is dangerous, hot headed and grumpy man with zero patience level. Mum usually say that his profession and stressful job made him like this. He is disciplined and control freak. Whenever he is at home, all the cheerfulness and laughter evaporates from this house leaving a dark aura behind. Being a police commissioner wasn’t an easy job, but he was still there at holidays for us.
Pulling the gun out and grabbing the hat kept beside his uniform, we ran out of the house and moved to the backyard. It was evening and summer breaks has just started. My 10 year old sister let out a giggle and ran throwing her hands in air at our little victory of stealing from father. Her little happiness mattered so much for me. I smiled and shook my head.
“Okay. Since I stole the gun, I will be the cop and you will play thief.” I declared to which she gave me puppy dog eyes and pouted. I rolled my eyes scoffing and wore the cap raising the gun ignoring all her attempts for making me bow to her wills.
“Ranu Singh, you are under arrest for eating the cookies of my share at last evening, secretly.” I said in a gruff voice trying to match it with that of a scary man making her let out a surprise giggle and raise her hands in surrender.
“But….. but officer Vikram, I am innocent. That’s a lie.” She said blinking her eyes innocently to which I smirked.
“Liar! I saw you with my own eyes while mom was combing my hairs.” I said and pulled the trigger of empty gun making her scream in surprise and duck, then ran away giggling all the way towards swings. I laughed as well and ran after her. “Run as far as you want thief, but the long hands of Vikram will always catch you.” I hollered and pressed the trigger again chasing her making a fake ‘boom’ voice. She squealed laughing and ducked again throwing a small pebble at my way which strike my nose making me halt and wince. “You are going to regret that, thief.” I screamed in fake anger and pressed the trigger again. The evening was fine and warm, as the gentle cool air blew. Sun was about to set and moon peeked in the sky. Birds were flying back to their shelter and I heard mum humming a tune in kitchen while stirring the soup.
“You are so slow, brother.” Ranu said panting making me smile and shoot her again. She gasped and brought a hand on her chest faking death then laughed and ran again as I neared her.
“Children get inside. It’s getting late now, dinner is almost ready. Wash your hands.” Mum called from the kitchen making both of us groan in disappointment.
“Let’s go inside Ranu.” I said pointing the gun to ground but she pouted and shook her head.
“A little more brother. 5 more minutes, it was so much fun.” She said and I rolled my eyes smiling secretly and ran after her. She saw it coming and ran as well. I pulled the trigger and it clicked empty again while she ran towards father’s car and stopped. She has nowhere left to go now and turned towards me with wide eyed.
“Caught you.” I said and whistled. She shook her head annoyed and raised her hands.
“Let me go officer Vikram, I swear I will never eye your cookies ever.” She said biting her lip making me raise an eyebrow.
“You promise.” I asked lowering the gun.
“Pinky swear.” She said offering me her pinky finger and I shook it with my own. Suddenly she pushed me on the ground and ran away laughing.
“Oh brother! You are so dumb. I swear for not eyeing your cookies ever alright but not for touching them and savouring their sweet taste.” She squealed making my eyes widen in shock and I screamed in annoyance.
“You monkey, you fooled me.” I yelled and ran after her pointing my gun while she ran towards the front door of our house where mom was waiting. Without thinking and still playing I pulled the trigger again and our world collapsed halting me.
A loud ‘boom’ echoed all around and my breath hitched in horror, the ear piercing scream of my mother ringed tearing the calmness of evening. The sound of breathing from my sister overpowered the flapping wings of scared birds as she fell on ground with a loud thud and a red liquid trailed down from the hole at her back which was just made by the gun in my hands. Everything was happening in slow motion as my heart stopped with my legs and I froze at a place with gun hanging in my shaky hand.
“RANU” My mother wailed in agony running at the unmoving figure of my small sister lying on the green grass. My vision blurred and I kept standing their immobilized looking at the soul shattering view. “RANU. MY BABY.”
Listening to the commotion, father and neighbours came out of their houses and surrounded us.
“What the hell?” a shaky whisper left from my father’s lips followed by a tear from his eye. His eyes widen as saucers and he gulped bringing a shaking hand to his hairs and then looked at me. The gun in my hand immediately caught his attention and he swore loudly taking long strides in my direction and for the first time ever, raised his hand on me. The impact was so hard that I fell on ground and my lip split open. Everybody gasped and took a hold of him before he can attack me again and someone yelled for ambulance. My mother was sobbing loudly and calling for help clutching an unmoving Ranu to her chest.
After few moments I heard loud sirens and a big white van stopped in front of the gates. White uniformed men came forward and snatched Ranu from mom’s hold and rushed to van again with her limp body in their arms. I ran after them as well and saw them pressing two iron like wired thing on her chest again and again. With each touch of that satin thing, her body raised high from bed then fell again. Mom sobbed quietly in father’s arms, both of their eyes trained on her as well. After few struggles, eventually the man stopped removing his mask and shook his head making mom to scream loudly and extending her hand in my sister’s direction in attempts to hold wailing her name, but my cruel father pulled her back crying himself.
“She is gone. She is gone…..” he chanted those words like a prayer making me cry as well, but in confusion. Where did she go? She is laying right here in front of us. Were they all blind?
“Where did she go?” I asked looking at him. But like my words have poked him hard, he growled and lunged on me.
“You bastard! You killed your own sister. You killed her. She is dead.” He screamed again and again as few men from neighbourhood pulled him back and mum fell on the floor unconscious. I gasped cupping my mouth as tears streamed down from my 12 years old self.
I killed her? In real?
After that whatever happened was in blur. I was already lost behind the curtains of darkness that even didn’t noticed the days changing and numbing my mind. I didn’t notice that when two man grabbed my arm and threw me into a dark place. I winced as my knees hit a cemented floor and the flesh got scratched. My mind was so overwhelmed by my mother’s wails and father’s hatred that I didn’t noticed them locking the bars and moving away after kicking a plate full of rice and curry in front of me.
I was just staring. Staring in nothing. Staring in the darkness. Darkness of my heart and mind caused by god and destiny.
Everybody registered it. Every single soul registered the fire of gun, even if they were somewhere else in their houses doing daily chores, or minding their own business. But nobody noticed the innocent tears and silence behind those dead eyes looking blankly at night sky glowing with stars.
It was just a scary accident, wasn’t it?
I peeked from behind my uncle at the two burning bodies in middle of nowhere. Everybody were crying and praying to god for the two departed souls. I gulped scared and clutched Mr. Brownie, the cute brown teddy bear, to my chest which pa gifted me on my 6th birthday. Why were they all crying? I thought frowning and looked among the crowd searching for the familiar faces which can soothe my heart and chase all the fears away. I was looking for ma and pa, but they were nowhere. I have not seen them since last 2 days. Where did they go? Uncle said that they were on a small business trip, that’s why I have to stay at their place for sleep over. But those two days are already over and they have not returned yet. This was the longest they were gone leaving me alone. I miss them and was so angry on them for not calling me once.
I pouted in anger and glared at Pooja, that was standing in front of me. She is my cousin sister, uncle’s daughter and 4 years older than me. She and her brothers were such big bullies. They used to push me away and pull my hairs. Let pa come and I will complain about it to him and then he will scold them. But where was he? My eyes searched for him and ma once again. Tired and scared I tugged uncle’s white shirt and he looked down at me with his scary bloodshot eyes.
“Where…. Where is pa and ma uncle? Why haven’t they called me yet?” I asked with a sad pout and suddenly he broke down in tears kneeling in front of my 7 years old body. He held both my hands and brought them to his lips kissing them gently.
“Princess. They are gone on a long trip.” He whispered hoarsely making my bottom lip quiver and tears blurred my vision.
“When are they going to come back?” I asked to which he shook his head breaking my heart.
“I wish I could tell you but I have no idea dear.”
“I miss them. I want ma.” I whispered and he hugged me as my own tears descended down my cheeks and I hiccupped eyeing the two burning things and people wearing black and white surrounding them.
“Let’s go home.” He announced clutching my hand and we walked towards the car.
Later in the evening I had my dinner but with a sad mind. I kept looking at entrance expecting it to open anytime and see the two familiar faces around which my life revolves but nothing happened leading to a trail of tear from my left eye. This didn’t go unnoticed by my uncle and he cupped his eyes rubbing them.
“Tara, dear. I have something to say.” He said looking at me with teary eyes. My ears perked in his direction and I nodded.
“Your parents…. They…. Um…. They will be not returning soon.” He whispered making me stand from my chair in shock and glare at him. What was he saying? This is not happening. I can’t stay with them. I want ma. Aunt Meera came from kitchen and kept the expensive cutlery on the table so loudly that I can see a crack over the side. This made uncle flinch and he glared at her.
“Stop with the riddles Shekhar and tell her the truth already. You and I both know that some day or other she is going to know about it. Reveal it today and let her accept the reality.” She spat angrily and sat on the chair beside him. His eyes widen and he shook his head.
“Meera, she is just a child. She is innocent to know such harshness of life. I don’t have guts to do that.” Uncle said pleading making me hiccup and look at them confused.
“If you can’t, then I will. After all, this piece of shit is going to stay here all our lives now. Listen bitch, your parents are dead. They will not come to get you from my house at all.” She spat and stood up abruptly rushing towards her bed room.
Her statement left me stunned, I felt the earth beneath me shaking and body felt like all the energy has been sucked away. Tears blurred my vision and it became hard to breathe leaving me thrashing and shivering over my seat. They are dead! They are gone and will never come to get me. They really left for long this time. A bloodcurdling scream escaped between my lips piercing the deathly silence of this hell hole which these rude people call their home.
“They can’t leave me alone, why didn’t they take me with them?” I yelled running towards the door and opened it with a force making it bang against the wall loudly. At the back of my mind, I heard uncle yelling my name. With bare feet I ran outside in the darkness of night covered with dark clouds as they cried in pain with me.
“No. No. Ma… Pa…” I screamed looking around like maniac ignoring the heavy rain. I ran on the streets looking for the two people who are my world.
“MA…. PAPA……” I screamed and wailed their names crying at this cruel game of destiny. Ignoring the fact that I was fully drenched, I wiped the water blinding my vision and looked around thinking it some kind of sick joke. My parents can’t leave me here. They love me.
“I promise god, I will be a good girl and will never steal chocolates from cupboard and Pooja’s bag. Please return my ma and pa. Please. I will do anything you ask. Please give them back or take me where you have kept them.” I yelled looking at the sky when from nowhere a large hand came and engulfed me in a tight hug.
“Tara. Baby you will get sick. Let’s go inside.” Uncle’s soothing voice reached my ears and I let out a loud sob hugging him back.
“I can’t go there uncle. You all hate me. I want to go where ma and pa has gone. If they can’t come to get me then I will go after them.” I said crying making him tighten his hold around me.
“Shhhh…….. Dear you have no idea what are you saying. Quite child.” He said rubbing my back and then held me up in his arms and started walking back in the house with a shivering me.
Later in the night I woke up hearing shouting and yelling. Someone was fighting. Pulling the quilt away and slipping into my sponge bob slippers, I went out of the room rubbing my eyes to see what was happening. From the stairs I saw uncle and aunt quarrelling in living room of mansion.
“Curse our fate dammit. It’s all hers. Even after the sacrifices we made and things you did for your brother, it’s all hers. We don’t have even a single penny on our names, not even this mansion. I can’t believe this; your bastard brother did that? All the sacrifices and planning went waste.” Aunt Meera screeched in a high pitch voice making me cringe while uncle sat on the couch defeated.
“Relax sweetheart, we will find a way out of it. Don’t forget that she is still under our roof, thanks to god, otherwise her maternal family was ready to take her with them. For some reason a voice in me screamed to never let her go.” Uncle said rubbing his forehead and she nodded.
What are they talking about?
“What should we do now, Shekhar?”
“Simple. Keep the bird under your hand as long as possible, either by love or force. We will give her what she asked if that’s appropriate and in return take favours we please. How does that sound?” he asked to which she nodded with a faint smile.
“You are a genius. That’s why I love you.” She said sitting on his lap and that’s when I decided to stop eavesdropping and retired to bed.
Next morning I woke up by a chilled water bucket which did little good to my burning body. At midnight, I caught fever, due to running in heavy rain.
“Get up bitch, we need to leave for school in an hour.” Pooja spat dumping the now empty bucket at the corner and left me shivering and crying. I always feared her, maybe because she was little violent.
Rushing to bathroom, I brushed my teeth and dried my soaked body. As soon as I saw the school dress, I burst into tears. It will always remind me of what I have lost. I have lost mum and the affection with which she used to dress me every morning. Slipping into it I ran downstairs to have breakfast.
“Fast children, you will make me late.” Uncle hollered tying his shoe lace from the living room.
I shoved pancakes down my throat and rushed after my cousins.
The whole day went in blur and I didn’t interact with anyone, not even with my friends. They tried to talk to me but I didn’t answer back. I was so tired.
Later when we got dispersed, I ran out of the class like my life depended on it with a wildly beating heart in excitement. As soon as I reached the main doors my eyes expectantly searched for her. I looked around, everywhere my sight can reach. But the hopes started to shatter when the warm brown eyes, full of love didn’t greeted back. A stone settled on my chest and I fell on my knees with quivering lips. Will I see her ever again? Oh mum, I miss you so much.