DREAMS BARRED

Listen Neeru, You better agree to what I say, else you know the consequences’’!! Abir was looking intently at Neeru waiting for a reaction.

Neeru was aghast at his proposal- she could not imagine Abir, her distant first cousin would stoop to this level, he was 12 years elder to her and was supposed to be her protector and not her predator.

Neeru steeled herself and with voice calm as ice disagreed to his lecherous proposal. Abir gave her a lecherous grin and responded with a threat – “Ok, your choice, I wouldn’t hesitate to upload your X- rated video on the internet along with your phone number and yes, another step I would take to make your life more colourful is to morph my face with that of your dear friend Kaizad and pass on that MMS to Kaka (uncle) and Kakima (aunt) – I guess they would be proud of their daughter’s performance’’.

With this threat hanging in the hot, humid air of a sultry afternoon in mid- March, Abir turned on his heel and left leaving Neeru bewildered and devastated. She could not believe the ominous threat that Abir had just proclaimed. She could not fathom as to whom she should approach for help. Her grandparents were least bothered about her since her birth, her only fault being she was a girl. They were very fond of Abir and would refuse to believe her. Her parents and brother were software professionals and were too busy achieving their monthly targets and scaling the corporate ladder. With a sinking heart and a throbbing temple she realized her life, her dreams to be a  fighter pilot was now completely doomed- in fact she had a premonition that her life would never be the same since that fateful afternoon a week back.

Abir, had been a regular visitor to her home since he was her Jethu’s (father’s elder brother) son. Though distantly related the relations between the two families were cordial and there were frequent visits to each other’s house. Infact, Neeru had interacted with Abir since her birth so there was never any question of distrusting him. They had spent quite a few lazy afternoons together playing carrom or just listening to songs of Kishore Kumar. It was after Neeru’s eighteenth birthday that Abir had started behaving strangely. Abir’s father suffered a massive stroke and could never stand on his feet  again, so going back to work was out of question. Jethu spent days together on his bed wallowing in self-pity and cursing the world at large. Neeru’s father had to take on additional responsibility of providing for Jethu’s brood – Jethu had seven daughters and a son.  Abir left his studies and started mingling with the local goons. Quite a number of times Neeru caught Abir chasing the local girls, but ascribed it to usual behaviour of a young guy, she never bothered to inform her jethima (jethu’s wife) or any other elder. Neeru was busy with her college and chasing her dreams of becoming a fighter pilot. She dreamt of soaring high in the blue skies and her friend Kaizad propelled her dreams further by bringing in vital inputs regarding the various tests she would need to clear and the subjects she needed to score well so as to be eligible for the entry-level test etc.

One particular afternoon, her grandparents were not at home due to a family function which they had to attend. Neeru, came back from college and after having her lunch switched on the music player, Kishore Kumar’s mellifluous voice wafted in the room and lulled her into a daydream. Neeru awoke with a start when she was jolted out of her reverie due to the persistent ringing of the door bell. She opened the door to see Abir casually leaning against the wall. She beckoned him to come in. Abir looked a bit different, his eyes were blood shot and he seemed to be tottering. He walked straight to her room and said- “I see, you are enjoying your solitary afternoon in the company of Kishore Kumar-cool’’!!

Neeru followed him inside the room unsuspectingly and sat down on her bed, they after all had spent many afternoons together listening to songs. Abir suddenly got up from the chair he was sitting on and sat next to her on the bed. Abir held her hand and said – “Neeru you have suddenly grown up so much, you look like a young woman now, though I am your cousin brother I can’t help but admire your blossoming beauty, after all I am a man too isn’t it’’? Suddenly Abir’s palm brushed past her bosom and Neeru shivered. She didn’t know how to react to Abir’s action and kept quiet. Taking her silence as a sign of acquiescence, Abir said- “I have always wanted to hold a woman close, but have been unable to, but today I am unable to hold myself off any longer, I want to feel you and I assure you nobody would come to know about it, it would be our little secret and you will enjoy to the hilt’’. Neeru felt her limbs grow cold and weak once Abir’s intentions dawned on her. She somehow got to her feet and ran out of her room. Abir quickly got up and grabbed her hair. She shrieked in fear and cried for help, but her cries went unheard in that posh multi-storied building where everyone was too engrossed in minting money and chasing corporate dreams. No one was around to rescue a eighteen year old from the clutches of an incestuous cousin brother.  After satisfying his lust Abir left and Neeru lay crumpled on her bed (the bed on which she had spent countless hours dreaming about donning the uniform of a fighter pilot)writhing in pain and tormented by the recent scenes graphically playing in her mind like flashbacks. Her grandparents, parents and brother came back home late at night to find her sleeping on her bed crumpled like a rag doll. They didn’t wake her up thinking she might have fallen asleep after her studies, they were used to seeing her fall asleep haplessly on the bed after long hours of study for her college and preparing for the Entrance examination for Air Force Academy, Dundigal, Hyderabad where her dreams to be a fighter pilot would turn into a reality. Neeru had later woken up with a start at dawn and felt persistent pain in the lower limb. She had thought of going to her parents and telling them about Abir’s dastardly behaviour but could not muster enough courage to narrate her ordeal. Her grandparents she knew would be of no help, they would simply refuse to believe her ordeal.

For the entire week Neeru could barely eat, sleep or be at peace. While Neeru was pondering on her situation, her mobile screen lit up, unmindfully she checked her phone, what flashed in front of her eyes drained her breath away, she could not breath for a minute. The entire beastly act of Abir was being replayed in front of her eyes and to add to her horror she realized that Abir had recorded the entire act using his smartphone without her being aware of it and the entire clip clearly showed her face and Abir’s blurred image.  Before she could get a hold on herself, her screen lit up again, this time it was a SMS threatening her with dire consequences if she didn’t meet him that afternoon in his friend’s place nearby.  Neeru realized she was caught in a quagmire with no route of escape. Her parents had failed to notice her listless appearance throughout the week, caught us as they were in their official commitments. That day too, they along with her brother left for office, her grandparents also hadn’t bothered to at least talk to her since their daily routine of watching the idiot box was of more importance and they were very busy with that.

Neeru switched off her mobile and dragged herself to the bathroom; she stood under the shower trying futilely to cleanse her soiled body and her broken heart. The moment she came out of the bathroom, her grandmother arrived to inform her that Kaizad had called multiple times on the land line since her mobile was switched off also she hadn’t contacted him for a week; grandmother  expressed her disapproval regarding boys calling up girls as such things tarnish the reputation of a young girl. Neeru had no strength to refute her grandmother’s comments as she usually did. She wondered what was left of her body and mind to tarnish by anyone for that matter. She called up Kaizad a few minutes later and he immediately sensed she was not her usual self. After much prodding from him, Neeru could hold back no longer and narrated her ordeal to him. Kaizad advised her to stay calm and wait for him and together they would file a police complaint against Abir.  As soon as she hung up, the doorbell rang and a few seconds later Abir appeared again in her room along with grandmother. Her grandmother was already complaining to Abir about Neeru and her constant chatting with boys like Kaizad over telephone. Abir eagerly agreed with grandmother that young girls should refrain from talking to boys let alone meet them. He sought permission from grandmother to take her out for an ice-cream treat which grandmother whole heartedly gave. The moment Grandmother was out of ear shot Abir wickedly grinned and told her that as she had switched off her mobile phone he knew she might not come to meet him so he had  come again to escort her for their rendezvous. They left in her father’s extra car.

Neeru had no choice but to leave with Abir before Kaizad could arrive. The moment they entered Abir’s friend’s place Neeru could sense her horrifying ordeal was not over, there were four lecherous looking men in the room whose eyes glittered the moment they saw Neeru. Abir turned towards her with a leer and threatened to upload that MMS on the internet if she refused to comply with their demands. Before Neeru could react, all five leapt towards her and their nails dug into her flesh. Her tender soul and body was sluiced through and through and when she could take it no more she lost consciousness.  When she regained consciousness, she saw Abir sitting with a knife pointed towards her menacingly. He threatened to kill her if she ever opened her mouth or refused to comply with his future demands and insisted that he would not hesitate to tarnish her image completely on the internet as told to her previously. Neeru mustered courage to ask him why he committed such a heinous crime on her, as she had always respected him as an elder brother. Abir, scorned at her choice of words and replied “ But I never considered you as my sister, you were a ticket for me towards freedom from poverty,  I was just waiting for an opportunity to carry out my plan, since the day my father lay like an invalid, we have been living a hand – to-  mouth existence while you and your family were lapping in luxury. Your father doling out some money every month was never enough to fulfil my needs, my new friends have introduced me to so many forbidden pleasures and for that I need money and henceforth you will provide me with that money since today’s act has also been caught on mobile camera, so there is no escape for you Neeru, just too bad. Now that you know your future course of action, arrange for fifty thousand rupees next week. By the way, I forgot to inform you that our first clip has been sent to your parents and with the benefit of modern technology Kaizad’s voice has been incorporated in the clip in place of mine, so you can expect a grand welcome once you reach home. Neeru, don’t take any chances with me and arrange for the specified amount else I would not think twice before sharing the next clip with the world at large’’. After dropping this new bomb shell, Abir dragged Neeru up and  kicked her out of the door. Neeru could barely stand and somehow crawled to her car. She was totally bewildered, in immense pain and shock. She prayed to God to deliver her from this torment and as if in response it started drizzling suddenly. The cold water provided some succour to her parched throat and her  innocent eighteen year old soul. She wanted to escape from this pain, this trauma and brutalization that she had to endure for no fault of hers, her dreams to fly seemed now to be barred from her and all she could think of was to somehow erase this humiliation from her life. She opened the car door and after much painful efforts slipped into the driver’s seat. Her trembling hands could not even fire the engine as the keys kept slipping from her hands. After much struggle she started the car and drove to the main road.  The pain eventually overcame her senses, her hands slowly lost their grip and she drifted off finally to sleep.

The next day’s newspaper only carried a very small headline- A TEENAGE GIRL DIES DUE NEGLIGENT AND RASH DRIVING.

© Paromita Mukherjee Ojha 2015

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