Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Prison of the Mind

"How could you do it?" Ankita asked as she was clutching her trembling hands under the table, staring at the handcuffed Tarang Ker. The dark dimly lit room was making it difficult for her to see Tarang clearly and Ankita regretted it.
She needed to see him and satisfy herself that the man was in pain. She needed to know it. Ankita was almost sure that that was the only way, the pain in her own heart, which she felt every day for the past seven years would lessen.
And as Ankita spoke, a dark vicious hatred spread through her heart. Though Ankita did not stop this hatred usually, but right now, Ankita was struggling to beat down her emotions. Being too close to the bastard was bringing back memories...Memories which Ankita had been trying to forget for the past seven years. Unsuccessfully.
As her eyes adjusted to the dark, Ankita could see Tarang's features clearly. The man was cuffed to the horizontal bar affixed on the table and his hands and face were scarred. His brown eyes looked dead and sunken, like he had not been getting enough sleep and his full lips which laughed readily once, were now shrivelled and his sickly skin hue was making him look ghastly.
And for the first time, Ankita felt slightly better. The man deserved more, but at least, prison life had taken a toll on him. The bastard was suffering at least a little for what he had done. That was when Ankita realized that Tarang with his sunken eyes still looked at her with a strange expression. It was not an expression which Ankita could identify. And Ankita was not the least bit curious to know what it meant either.
Ankita beat down her hatred and felt strong enough to look at Tarang again. She had come here to tell him what he had taken away from her life. To make Tarang understand, how he had just snuffed out a beautiful life, without a single shred of remorse. To make him understand, what her sister meant to her. Ankita always felt that among the two of them, Shreya was the more beautiful and the more talented one. And Ankita adored Shreya because Shreya had never let Ankita feel that ever.
To Shreya, Ankita was her baby sister. A baby sister, whom Shreya had protected fiercely from the bullies at school and to whom Shreya never hid anything. They told each other everything - right from the things at their school to Shreya's first crush.
And that kind of a girl was now not here. Her life brutally cut short....
Ankita could feel her hatred almost threaten to consume her, as her eyes were getting blurred.
She could not appear weak before this pathetic excuse of a human being, Ankita told herself fiercely, as she ignored her stinging eyes and cleared her throat forcibly. Tarang needed to know what he had taken away from her life. "She was so...." Ankita started speaking and stopped immediately because she hated her own voice right then. Her voice was trembling with hatred, with anger and...from fear. And she looked weak. Ankita's voice trailed away and there was a very numb part of her brain wondering how she could complete the sentence. Shreya was so ...Beautiful? Bubbly? Chirpy? Smart? Trusting?
How could Ankita describe Shreya? Ankita was almost horrified as she realized that she really did not know why she had dragged herself here to see the bastard. She could tell him nothing. She could explain absolutely nothing to him. Ankita realized that Tarang was a disease. A sick disease, who was trying to ruin her life. He had already destroyed her sister and he was doing the same to her now. Just more slowly. Very, very slowly and painfully.
Disgusted, Ankita looked at Tarang wondering how he had done it. How could he convince Shreya so well with so much evil inside him? How could the usually astute Shreya who noticed everything misjudge a man so badly. How could....
The questions swirling in Ankita's mind could never end and they brought the one phrase which Ankita had come to despise. The phrase which always left her with a bitter taste in her mouth. A phrase which was as sickening as the man before her...If only...
And suddenly, Ankita was finding it impossible to breathe as everything around her was getting blurred. Ankita was afraid that if she stayed in the room any more, the darkness was going to infect her in some way. The memories which she thought she had buried, surfaced almost drowning her as all Ankita could remember was the red colour flashing before her. The memory was as terrifying now as it had been when she had seen it first. The bloodstained curtains, Shreya's lifeless body and Tarang bending over clutching Shreya's dead body in his hands....Ankita was struggling to get her breath out, as she pushed herself away, trying to get out of the room.
Ankita made a sickening discovery that she had made a huge mistake in coming here. An atrociously stupid mistake. She had genuinely thought that after seven years, the wounds would have healed and that she could be brave enough to look at her sister's murderer.
That was the reason she had approached the cop who had been handling her sister's case – Nataraj Manohar. When Ankita first met Nataraj, Ankita was glad that Nataraj had asked her no questions when she said that she wanted to visit Tarang. Because Ankita was in no position to articulate why she wanted to talk to Tarang. One look at Ankita, and Nataraj had immediately agreed to take her inside the prison to see the man. But then Nataraj himself had a personal interest in the case. He was known to Ankita's family and there was a time when Ankita thought that Nataraj was going to marry Shreya. But that talk had never progressed any further, because Shreya never encouraged Nataraj. Despite that, Nataraj had still remained a good friend of the family.
And right now, Ankita desperately wished that Nataraj had stopped her.
She was not prepared for this. Nothing could prepare her for this...
Seeing Tarang's sunken eyes and watching the handcuffed wrists, the very same wrists which once wore a Rolex, did not give Ankita the vicious satisfaction which she had expected to feel. Burning inside her now was not just her hatred. As Ankita saw Tarang, she became aware of another painful emotion churning inside her – Guilt. Tarang was paying a price for the crime that he had committed. And it crashed into Ankita's head that she was the one who was in prison – her mind never let her forget and all she had done in the past seven years was replay the murder scene as she had seen it, in a continuous loop. No matter how far away from the country she had gone, how much distance she put between herself and her people, the truth was that she had never let her past go. She had never even known how the past seven years had gone and she was captive of her mind. And she had not even done anything wrong.
At least that was what she kept telling herself.
Ankita's hands were trembling so badly, as she realized that her mind would never let her forget the five missed calls which she had had from Shreya, that evening seven years back.
Her sister had been calling her for help. Despearately. And Ankita had heard none of it. Worse, Ankita was attending the party, enjoying herself. The very party that Shreya had refused to come to because Shreya had fought with her long time boyfriend and Shreya had wanted some time alone after it.
And what really hurt Ankita was that she had spoken with Shreya just before entering the party. Shreya was in better spirits and she had wanted to tell Ankita something important and Shreya had promised her that everything was going to be alright and even promised to tell Ankita some important news when Ankita came home.
After the call, Ankita had put the phone inside the purse and had entered the party feeling happy, ready to enjoy herself, thinking that everything was alright with her sister.
Now, seven years later, Ankita could not even figure out what Shreya had wanted to tell her. That secret also died with Shreya. Because while Ankita was enjoying herself, someone had killed her sister. Not just someone...this very bastard, Shreya's boyfriend, the man whom Shreya had wanted to marry – Tarang had killed Shreya. He had killed Shreya with his own hands. Because Shreya had walked away from him.
"Anki, please listen to me, I never confessed to the murder," Tarang's words were desperately hoarse and it almost seemed like Tarang had not spoken for a long time.
And when Ankita heard what he had said, something inside Ankita snapped. Tarang did not even admit to putting an end to a life...."You son of bitch!" Ankita's scream was almost feral.
Nataraj, who was behind Ankita, was shocked as Ankita pushed herself back and her chair fell back with a thud as she moved ferociously fast to the other side of the table and slapped Tarang viciously. In the same move, Ankita brought her hand back in another slap.
And her blows were so hard that the cop saw some blood in the killer's mouth as the killer's head whipped hard on both sides as he looked badly jarred. Tarang was cuffed which was why he could not protect himself and he winced as he shook his head. But he said nothing more, bending his head down, taking deep breaths as his hands were trembling.
Ankita was breathing hard and raised her hands again, as Nataraj came forward, coming before Ankita, ready to stop her. Before things went too far out of hand. With Ankita in this mood, Nataraj had no doubt that things would get ugly real fast. But then, Nataraj seriously did not mind what Ankita was doing. Nataraj genuinely believed that the man languishing in prison deserved this... and a lot more.
"I didn't...." Tarang's voice was broken and he was struggling to breathe properly as Ankita pushed Nataraj out of the way and hit Tarang again.
Tarang gasped as he was struggling to protect himself as Ankita snarled angrily at him. "You were leaning over my sister's body and the knife had your fingerprints." Ankita spat out angrily as she realized that the son of a bitch pretended to not understand what he had done. But she knew. She knew the entire case of the prosecution. She had attended every single day that the case went on in court. Her parents had tried to stop her from going to court, but Ankita had never listened to them. But the bastard needed to know.... That was the main thought in Ankita's head as she could not stop herself. "And you just had a fight with her the day before...." Ankita screamed angrily, but she could not continue as she chocked on her words.
The smug bastard was just driving Ankita mad with hatred. Ankita moved forward clenching her hands tightly in a fist as Nataraj looked at her with a sad expression shaking his head, trying to stop her in case she did something that she was really going to regret.
Ankita looked at Nataraj's face and nearly cursed but she was trying to control herself as she was trembling from head to foot. Ankita pushed Nataraj away and snarled pulling her hands back in another vicious punch.
"S..S..She was talking to you about her pendant that day." Tarang said, suddenly stammering slightly, as he swallowed painfully as he stared at Ankita with a pretty pathetic expression on his face.
The bastard was telling her this now. In a swift move almost defying physics, Ankita shoved Nataraj out of her way again, as her face went ugly.
But Tarang was not done torturing her, "You took Shreya's pendant without telling her. I was there at that time that you were talking." Tarang said in a pained voice.
Ankita felt a red film around her and a hatred envelop her. Hatred the likes of which she had never even felt as she pushed Tarang hard on the table, as she chocked the life out of the man. Slowly, painfully...
Ankita suddenly felt herself being pushed back hard.
"Kid, relax!" Nataraj looked at Ankita holding her hands tightly as Tarang was retching behind. No one paid attention to the criminal as Ankita was trembling struggling to control herself.
"Anki, I came there to apologise for our fight."
Nataraj swore viciously and honestly he looked like he was going to kill Tarang himself, but Tarang showed no signs of stopping, "I apologized and I proposed!" Tarang was almost sobbing for breath, "She accepted. As Shreya was speaking with you, I had to attend a phone call. It was a business deal and I went out of the house to talk through the deal. When I came back, half an hour later...." Tarang chocked shaking his head. "I love Shreya!" Tarang said swallowing looking painfully at Ankita. "With my whole heart. She was the only love of my life. Why would I kill her?" Tarang was looking at Ankita with a pathetic expression and he was struggling to get the words out as he tried to get near her, but his cuffs were preventing him from doing anything.
Nataraj snarled and would have punched the man but the girl needed his attention. She looked like she was going to hyperventilate. Her dark face suddenly became unbelievably pale and her whole body was trembling.
"No one believed my story. They did not even hear me!" Tarang was trying to come forward looking only at Ankita.
Nataraj heard Tarang perfectly fine and he did not like what he heard. In a fit of anger, Nataraj turned and slapped Tarang hard as Tarang collapsed falling down the ground and hitting himself on his head, on the table.
"You were convicted!" Nataraj blazed angrily at Tarang. "But not before you made a mockery of the entire legal system. Your lawyer tried to make us look like fools," Nataraj nearly kicked the man who was blindly pushing himself back trying to protect himself. "Your lawyer kept saying that there had to be a third person in the scene!" Nataraj sneered angrily. "What stranger could come to that house? We found you with the murder weapon in your hands. There was no need to look any further. I was in the outskirts of the town and I was the first one to arrive at the scene and I found you holding Shreya. And I am more than sure that if I had not come, you would have killed this child too." Nataraj said looking at Ankita angrily. Nataraj looked angrily at Ankita, "Go home, kid!" he said with cold anger. "I thought I was doing the right thing by letting you see him. I thought I was giving you closure. I made a mistake." Nataraj could barely control himself as he kicked the fallen man again who winced terribly trying not to cry out in pain. "This man is still lying. All these years he was in prison and he still denies it! I wonder what he did with the ruby ring he gave her, when he proposed to her!" The cop yelled kicked Tarang again.
"What ring?" Ankita asked in a sullen tone, shaking her head. Nothing anyone said was making sense to her anymore. She could not process anything any more. She just wanted to go home and she wanted to cry herself to sleep like she had done all these years.
"I didn't do it," Tarang gave a strangled gasp, pushing himself back. Tarang gave a sobbing breath, not able to say anything else.
Nataraj looked at Ankita and looked vicious. "That is the only reason I did not want you to meet him. That sick bastard deserves to be killed. Mercilessly. And just as I feared, if you let such bastards talk, all they will do is bleat about their innocence and..."
"Please sir, I realize that coming here is a mistake," Ankita interrupted Nataraj looking at him with pleading eyes. There were tears in her eyes and she did not even seem aware of it. "I want to go home."
"I am telling the truth," Tarang managed.
Nataraj snarled turning as he flexed his fingers angrily but Ankita clutched him loosely and she looked like she was looking like she was going to collapse anytime.
"I will take you home, kid," Nataraj said angrily, spit flying from his face, trying to lead her out of the prison room.
Ankita stared blankly at Tarang unwilling to move and her haunted expression unnerved even Nataraj. "Ankita?" Nataraj asked shaking her gently, pushing her out.
Anktia looked at Tarang and there was an impossible look on her face. One that could not be defined.
"I didn't do it, Anki!" Tarang said swallowing painfully.
"I want to go home," She whispered and almost no one could even hear what she had said.
After that Ankita just refused to say anything as she was just staring blindly at the walls. Nataraj saw that she regretted coming to the prison and genuinely felt sorry for the girl.
As he led her out of the prison and Tarang was bleating about his innocence as the prison guards pulled the man away.
Ankita seemed like she just could not understand anything and as she seemed to be in no condition to even drive her car, Nataraj drove her to her new home – her new flat in the city.
Through, the entire rise, Ankita was glazed, broken and tired. Ankita did not even look like she knew that her home had come and she was stubbornly staring out of the glass window, unwilling to talk.
"Ankita?" Nataraj said gently as they had come to her home and she showed no signs of getting out of the vehicle.
Ankita looked startled suddenly and without a second glance, she walked away from there, stumbling. She did not even wish Nataraj. Nataraj would have been very surprised if she had. The kid looked like she was not going to surface for a really long time.
Ankita was desperately trying to make sure that her hands did not shake as she dialled the number of the lawyer – the one who had been engaged by Tarang. She did not know the lawyer personally. But from the proceedings, she knew that the lawyer had tried. He had really tried hard to prove Tarang innocence and tried to prove that the murder was done by a third person. But the man had nothing to prove his claim. Nothing at all other than surmises.
And seven years back, Ankita had wanted nothing more than to kill the advocate, for trying to represent an excuse of a human being. And Ankita really thought that she was going to kill the lawyer, if she ever saw him again.
Until now.
"H..Hello!" Ankita was stuttering.
"Yes?" the voice on the other side was guarded.
"Tarang Ker?" Ankita said in a rush. "Do you remember his case?" Ankita was still stammering.
"Who is this?" The lawyer sounded exasperated.
"I am Shreya's sister and I think...." Ankita said as she was gasping for breath.
"Ms. Sen, I am sorry for your loss but please I do not wish to..." The lawyer interrupted her firmly as he continued.
"I think Tarang is innocent!" Ankita shouted because honestly she could not control herself.
There was a silence. A huge silence.
"What..." The lawyer's voice was a whiplash.
"The third person!" Ankita yelled. "The third person who could have been there at the scene." Ankita said still heaving, "The murderer was there the whole time that Tarang was there. And that person waited for Tarang to go out of the house and then killed my sister."
"I found no proof of it, Ms. Ankita Sen," the lawyer said angrily. "I tried finding all the proof about it..."
"You could find no proof because the murderer was the very cop who was investigating the case!" Ankita screamed suddenly as she could no longer stop the tears in her eyes.
There was a silence. A deep silence.
"What are you...?"

"The ruby ring!" Ankita wailed. "Nataraj said he was on the outskirts of the town. Then he could not have been the first one to come to the scene. But Nataraj was the first person in the scene. That means he was lying. Nataraj told me that Tarang proposed to Shreya and gave her a ruby ring. And the ring was found no where in the scene. There was no mention of it anywhere in the case. Nataraj should not have known about it. Not unless...."

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