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Prey on the Prowl - A Crime Novel
Wanting to strategize Radha’s defense in the impending trail as Dhruva reached the Chanchalguda Jail with Kavya and Pratvadi in tow, she sent word to him that even as she was ashamed to see him, she was averse to recounting her crimes to any lawyer, but if Kavya were willing, she would love to see her. As Kavya was led away to meet Radha, Dhruva pleaded with Prativadi to bear with Radha’s reluctance until they got her around into proper groove.
While Kavya set out with empathy, Radha awaited in repentance, and when they made an eye contact, they couldn’t take their eyes
off each other; but finding themselves together, Radha was unable to lift her downcast eyes. When Kavya lifted Radha’s head, as if for an emotional encounter, the latter presented a tearful face to her, and as the former’s eyes too welled up with tears, Radha wiped them with a feeling of oneness. When Kavya took her into her arms to convey her empathy, she could feel in Radha’s quivering frame, her resurgent hope for life, and when Kavya said Prativadi was sure to save her skin, Radha said she would like to entrust herself to Kavya’s care. But as Kavya made her privy to her own sensitivities, Radha said she would have Prativadi if only Kavya was on hand to support her. By the end of that evocative meeting, they had discovered the latent fondness they had for each other, and when it was time for them to part for the day, Radha gave Kavya the missive, which she had penned for Dhruva.
As Prativadi was led upto Radha to take her brief, Dhruva began reading Radha’s letter.
I am ashamed that I let you down. Oh, how I betrayed your trust and belittled my love! Seized by revenge, I was not my own woman then, but now burdened with guilt, how can I show my face to you? I know how hard it could be for you, and so I do not want to bother you anymore, but if you could forgive me that would help me to await the noose with fortitude.
What with the fake-note case bringing Pravar and Shakeel into the spotlight, I came to you to test the waters of avenge. But even as I was shifting my goalpost of life in the arena of our ardor, my fate played foul with my love as Ranjit too came into the setting. It was as if fate had chosen to place in my hand, an axe to grind on the anvil of revenge, forged by the poison of abuse. How sad that I had allowed my bitterness towards him to eclipse my life that I was recasting in the mould of your love.
Shamefully I pried upon Mithya’s cupboards, in which I chanced upon her personal jottings and her long lost daughter’s photograph. Later, when I showed it to Natya, she identified it as hers and I felt like I was her own mother. Thereafter, I was more determined than ever to see Pravar’s end, if only to end her misery. Mine, as well as the fate of those who abused me, seemed to have been sealed when I discovered the poison that Mithya acquired, you know for what. Why my urge for revenge got the better of my love for you I would never know.
Believe me; I wanted to come out clean with you after I was done with them, in the hope that you would own me as you had owned Mithya, in spite of everything. Probably you would have, for you have a peculiar weakness for feminine criminality, if not the murders had pushed Kavya into your fold. But after that ménage a trios with Pravar and Natya, how odd it would have been for Kavya as your woman to have Natya as her daughter. Maybe, to save Kavya’s life from that oddity, fate had ended Natya’s tragic life. Why is my life any less ironical than Kavya’s - as Ranjit jilted me for her, I lost my Dhruva to her. Is there a parallel by way of fact or fiction?
Perhaps, you and she deserve each other better, and I want to see you tie the knot (for that won’t you earn a day’s parole for me) as I pray for your married bliss. I seek your forgiveness, not as barter, but to end my agonizing life in peace.
Yours not to be,
While he broke down reading the letter, seeing Kavya’s concern for him, Dhruva gave it to her to let her comprehend his position herself.
When she too finished reading it with tear-filled eyes, he said that had he acted upon the empathy he felt for Natya that day, perhaps, he could have saved her life, and as Kavya leaned on his shoulder for his emotional support, he took her into his arms for his own solace. As she recalled her association with the unfortunate Natya, he made her privy to Mithya’s inimitable life.
Mithya was the youngest of three siblings in an orthodox family and by the time she matured, her sister got married, and her brother entered college. When she was sixteen, her mother went to the U.S to assist her sister at her delivery, and their father’s job kept him out of town for most of the time. That left her brother and her together most of the time, which happenstance, in the formative years of their sexuality, ushered in an unusual togetherness that insensibly led them into an incestuous relationship.
The horror of her mother, on her return, at seeing her four month-old pregnant daughter only amplified as her errant son had hanged himself, leaving Mithya to bear their shame, for abortion by then became out of redeem, forcing her parents to let her deliver her sin in secrecy. As her father gave away the girl child to an orphanage, given the abnormality of its being, she too could discern the dichotomy in its separation; even as the deprivation of her child afflicted her maternal condition, at the same time, it eased her from the grip of guilt complex, and as a way of psychic escape for all of them; her father sent her out to let her pursue her higher studies.
While the nuptials with Ashok erased the shame of incest in her subconscious, as she was morally constrained in rearing a child having orphaned one, the prospect of conception instilled in her a sense of guilt. But while she was coming to terms with her life, her man lost his moorings in moneymaking, and though she tried to stop him from entering into the rat race of life with a no-win goal, he was bent on becoming somebody in the society never mind the sacrifices they might have to make. So he left for Dubai for raising the capital for a grandiose venture, leaving her to fend for herself, and to engage herself, she took up a job but as his letters failed to fill her emotional void, for they failed to pen his longing for her, she saw the futility of holding herself anymore. Pondering over how to go about her peccadilloes, she opted for one-night stands for they wouldn’t be intrusive, but as her escapades though catered to her sexual needs, yet failed to address her emotional owes. Added to that, but for his yearly sojourns, as her man showed no inclination to return into her arms, she felt as if she were reduced as his distant mistress. As if to address the emotional neglect and to shore up her self-worth thereby, she started an affair with a colleague she fancied, which ended abruptly when his distressed wife committed suicide, and she fared no better with her next paramour, as he deserted her, when his spouse threatened to divorce him.
Wearied of wooing married men, she sank into a bachelor’s arms at the next turn, and as his virgin ardor matched her craving for love, she felt that she was in the seventh heaven. But as his innate need to have a family of his own broke their affair in time, she was back to square one, and vexed with the vagaries of liaisons with peers, she thought of a live-in with a lowly a la Bona Sera, Mrs. Campbell the movie she happened to see. Like Bona Sera did before her, she too set up a grocery shop, and took the young Dilip to assist her at work and cater to her in the bed.
When she all but forgot about Ashok, he returned with loads of money and an ambition to make a mountain of wealth out of it, but it didn’t take her long to realize that he was into smuggling and that he returned only to head his gang’s operations in the country. While she was ill at ease with his escapades, Ashok was restive at Dilip’s presence in his house. Dilip too resented Ashok’s return as that reduced him as a mere servant of the house though Mithya allowed him to reign in her bed. But matters came to a head after they shifted into the newly acquired bungalow at 9, Castle Hills, when Ashok wanted her to fire Dilip and she insisted that he be allowed to stay put in their A.C. Guards house.
While Ashok decided to bide for time, Dilip, seeing the writing on the wall, played up her man’s neglect of her, and made her believe that there was an other woman in his life, out to take her position. Soon, he contrived to convince her that Ashok entertained the idea of arranging a supari to eliminate her and played upon her weakness for him by hammering that if she were killed, he would be left high and dry. Goaded by Dilip to act before it was too late, she pondered over the ways and means to eliminate her man and get away with it as well. By way of distraction, so it seemed to her, she came to know of her father’s death, well after the obsequies were over. Though her family had disowned her for her amoral liaisons, she had informed her parents about her change of address to 9, Castle Hills, just in case.
In that poignant meeting between the mother and her daughter, after a decade long separation, being at a loss for words, they lost eyes to each other. When the mother opened her arms in reconciliation, the daughter closed hers for a hug of self-solace. Amidst their myriad emotions in their prolonged embrace, as the ethos of motherhood came to the fore, the mother savored her daughter while the daughter thought of her own daughter. As the spasms of her daughter’s heart conveyed her resurgent craving for her child, the mother, in that moment of self-fulfillment, felt that her daughter too should experience the same. Even as the daughter’s craving to hug her own daughter had increased, the mother turned skeptical about the chances of finding the girl sixteen years after she had abandoned her there. Whatever, as the mother wanted to take her to the orphanage, the daughter felt it would be wiser for her mother to first trace her girl, and then prepare her before she herself took her under her wings.
Mithya hoped that once her mother rediscovered her daughter, she would redeem herself by adopting her own daughter, but shortly after her return to the Castle Hills, when her mother informed her that her girl had left the place without a trace, only the previous month, she was truly devastated. While that development had put the clock back on her life, the fascinating picture of her teenage daughter that her mother sent seemed to take it forward. Though her daughter was not to be traced, but after Dhruva came into her life, stirred by the resurgent maternal impulses, Mithya wanted to have children, but, sadly, her conceptions ended in miscarriages.
When Dhruva finished that recap of Mithya’s disturbingly fascinating life, Kavya said that while every life was unique in its own way, as Mithya’s reveals, some were more unique than the rest. He said that the way Mithya came into his life would only illustrate the truism of that, and, anyway, that was for some other day, and if not for her untimely death, instead of Radha, she herself would have discovered Natya, and that would have been a different story. If only Mithya had made him privy to the poison in the bosom of their home, maybe, Natya would have still been alive, for Radha would not have come into its possession. That Mithya kept him in the dark about the deadly thing would only prove that even in the closest of relationships, there was a limit to the openness, and as Radha’s ruse to trap Kavya showed, there was no limit to the mischief, the sense of insecurity could cause.
Dhruva recounted his tryst with Rani, and said that if only he had allowed her to accompany him to the Tank Bund that evening; she would have recognized Ranjit and spilled the beans on Radha as well. Then that would have enabled him to nip Radha’s urge for revenge in the bud, which would have saved her soul besides the lives of all those, and how fate had played hide and seek with Ranjit’s life again as he visited 9, Castle Hills, when Rani was there! Had he insisted that she met him, what a difference it would have made to him and the rest of them! But it was not to be.
While Kavya lamented that Radha’s paranoia of losing him to her should have undone Natya, he said that her apprehensions were not unfounded after all; as she glowingly took him into her arms, solaced in her embrace, he confessed to her that he loved her like none else. As she said that she would ever think aloud with him, he said, in jest, that his ears were wide open, and she crooned into them that she loved her rival too. When she said as and when Radha came out of the cage, he should make her nest at 9, Castle Hills, for their threesome life, he locked her lips that he released as Prativadi approached them with Radha’s vakalat.
Dedicated to those women,
whose loving glances
have made my life’s journey a joyous sojourn.
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