This is part five of a story that I am writing in collaboration with some very talented writers
on Blogadda. Our team name is 'Tete-a-ten'.
Please read Part 4 here
Mumbai – 19:25
Jennifer banged the table in frustration. Why couldn’t she get through to the Duttas?
looked around helplessly, running her fingers through her long wavy hair, absentmindedly fingering her tattoo. She scanned Tara Dutta’s Facebook
page once again hoping to see some activity from her, but there was
none. She was exhausted, having spent the better part of the two hours on this seemingly futile attempt!
Her eyes strayed on a little pink card peeking out of her folder. “Ammachi’s prayer
to St. Philomena!” she exclaimed to herself. She got down on her knees
and fervently prayed from the leaflet to the saint known for her purity
and childlike nature, often believed to intercede in impossible
situations. After a moment of silence to draw in strength
and courage, she vowed that she wouldn’t still idle hoping the Duttas’
would finally call back. That picture didn’t look good…”What if…” She
didn’t dare think about it.
With new-found determination,
she Googled Tara Dutta and realized that she worked at Ulka
Communications. She quickly dialled the office, and when she told them
that it was about Tara’s daughter, she was immediately put in touch with
Ritwik, the executive who worked most closely with Tara.
The Dutta residence Mumbai – 19:00
and Tara’s home was abuzz with activity. On hearing about Roohi’s
disappearance, their friends had come over hoping to help in some way –
food, scouring the news, and forming search teams.Shekhar’s techie
friends quickly set up a station to monitor the search operation. They
would be the point of contact, and anyone with information on the street
was to report to to their group immediately. About 20 of them formed
small search teams and headed out to scan the various streets, with
instructions to relay their locations and updates to the monitoring
station at home.
Tara was on the phone, calling up Myra’s home
for what seemed like the nth time that day. “Any updates? You are sure
she didn’t turn up at the party? Did Myra remember anything in
particular? Okay, thanks!”
Roohi’s friends hadn’t noticed
anything suspicious, and none of them had seen her after school! Tara
tried to stay calm. She looked around for Shekhar and saw that he was
busy brainstorming with the guys who were manning the communication
Tara’s head ached. It was one thing getting lost in broad
daylight, but with darkness approaching, Tara’s heart echoed loud drum
beats of fear and desolation. She feared that Roohi would be
harmed...thoughts of the big bad men approaching her little daughter
made her shake with fear. She went to the window and scanned the streets
as if doing so would suddenly reveal the pudgy little form of her
daughter. She realized now that her work was meaningless without Roohi
to come home to.“If only…,”she thought, guilt wracking her for changing
plans and putting work ahead of her daughter. She peeked a glance at
Shekhar. His face was grim and worry lines creased his forehead. She
went over and squeezed his hand, and he looked at her urgently, thinking
she had news of Roohi.
But one look at her guilt-ridden
expression, and he enclosed her in his arms, pulling her tight against
him. He tugged her chin gently, forcing her to look up at him. He spoke
to her gently, “Tara, snap out of the guilt! I am not blaming you. I
should not have asked you to pick Roohi up today knowing how busy you
get at that time.I should have rescheduled my online class – I should
have checked my messages! But please, let’s not think about what could
have been done, let’s find our Roohi. Remember when Roohi first came
into our lives? We are going to find her sweetheart, don’t lose hope!”
Tara smiled at him gratefully, and leaned on his shoulder, trying to find the strength that was leaving her
and making her sink into despair! Shekhar was always good-natured and
smiling, but she never imagined that he could stay so focused, alert and
level headed in a catastrophe. “He is the strong one,” she thought,
“not I. He was strong to volunteer to stay at home and look after
Roohi...sacrifice his dreams...and he lived up to his responsibilities
of a dad so well!”
She remembered her own selfish demands, excuses to
spend time, even weekends spent in the office... ...the curtness she
often showed Shekhar. She realized with a shock that she had even
thought less of him for all that he did - how wrong she was! “I will
make it up to you both Shekhar, I promise,” she decided fiercely.
phone buzzed again. She saw the office number, and almost didn’t pick
up. Staring at the phone, she reluctantly answered the call. “Ritwik, oh
it’s you! Please tell Senthil that I just can’t manage any work now.
What? A photograph? Where? Wait a minute!” Her voice rose audibly, and
the others, sensing something was up quickly surrounded her.
you pick the girl up and come over to our home? No, wait! Give me her
number first!” Tara frantically gestured for a pen and pad, and
scribbled down a number. She told the others the gist of the
conversation and with trembling hands dialed the number Ritwik had given
When Tara's phone beeped with Jennifer's whatsapped picture of Roohi, the room suddenly went quiet. They crowded around Tara. While
their friends tried to place the exact location where the picture was
taken, Shekhar and Tara’s eyes lay transfixed on the man in the
photograph with their Roohi! “Hurry Tara, Shekhar!” their friends yelled,
pushing them out of the house. They ran to the car and got in. But
Shekhar was in a daze. Their worst fears…who was that boy?
the car moving at top speed, Tara could sense the clutch of fear that
overcame her husband. She suddenly remembered the times Shekhar had sat
down with Roohi and told her about good touch and bad touch. How she,
Tara had laughed it off telling him, “Just teach her karate instead...or
we will give her a can of pepper spray...”Roohi’s little voice rang in her head...“Is it like your hair spray mummy” “Does it freeze the pepper into behaving? She
remembered that Shekhar and she had laughed then at the innuendo their
daughter had unwittingly thrown on them...and she remembered how their
laughter had delighted little Roohi.
Remembering that day too,
Shekhar looked at Tara helplessly. His eyes were wet and he looked
afraid. It was Tara’s turn to comfort him – “Don’t worry Shekar, I have
faith. You taught Roohi about strangers, and you taught her to handle
horrible situations....please don’t lose hope, Shekhar!”
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