Chapter 5 The letters…

Chapter 5

Nitya sighed as she looked around the excuse of a house. Her life at the moment felt as fragile as a pack of cards. It was on tenterhooks and she was hanging by a fragile thread of hope. Hope that things will turn out well…. For Naman’s sake. She always had that lingering hope whenever things went downhill or whenever her mother had her depressive attacks…. because Naman had been doing well in the computer academy. The owner, Mr. Sandhu was a kind-hearted man who helped Naman settle into the chaotic structure and he was the one who recently told her about Naman’s exclusive hacking abilities.

Nitya often wondered what was cooking up in her brother’s complex brain. She always knew he was wired differently than the rest of them, but what was brewing in there as he sat huddled in front of that machine developed by their father?

Was he building a program? For what? And this ‘Hacking’ ability both made her feel happy and scared. How could she handle this? And what on earth was her brother … hacking? She knew her father was a genius in the field and her brother would have probably inherited the traits, but given his volatile state of mind, would he be able to handle it all? She wished she could communicate this with her brother.

Mr. Sandhu had given Naman an opportunity to develop programs for the classes. Because of the common passion between them, somehow the man was able to communicate with Naman. There was name calling and other students often passed snide remarks, but Naman never bothered anyway. He went on his rituals like clockwork.

Nitya smiled; her lips wobbly as she choked up with emotion. How much she loved her brother… he was more like a son to her. She instantly knew her decision to break up with Sajid was a good one. Speaking of which, she checked her phone. Sajid had seen her text but had not replied. He must have been upset at the abrupt end to their relationship, or whatever remained of it. But nothing was abrupt… was it? There was nothing there in the first place. No passion, no love… she barely knew the guy. She didn’t know anything about his family; now that she thought about it, she hadn’t bothered to ask Sajid. She was never curious…

Nitya chuckled at the ridiculous stream of events…. How could she be in a relationship with a guy whom she didn’t know?

For that matter, her parents seemed like strangers too. Her attention went back to the bag and she decided to keep it locked away for a while. She couldn’t get herself to throw away her mother’s stuff. Then there were those letters… her mother must have hidden them away for a reason. But her mother wasn’t herself for many years now.

I am sorry Amma but I must read these… appa’s last and only memories…

The envelopes that were white at some points of time were now yellowed and spotty. They were crumbled as well. She carefully picked them. They were disintegrating and she carefully took them apart. Appa definitely wrote it; the written ink was smudged, but it was addressed to her mother. He had tiny handwriting but wrote very neatly and despite the spread of ink; it was neat.

She placed the pieces of the first letter on the carpet and strained to read in the dim light. Somehow, the sun had decided to hide behind the clouds for today and the area was plunged into darkness. The flickering tubelight wasn’t enough for her, but at the moment the surge of emotions overshadowed everything else.

Dated: 29/11/05

Dear Prema

I hope you are all doing fine. I am doing good here. I think the money must have reached you. In our last call, you mentioned Nitya had a fever. I hope she is fine now. I don’t want to send emails because they get tracked hence the letters. Don’t worry… nothing is amiss. It’s just that this is a high-security premises so they take extra care.

I will call you soon… whenever I get the opportunity.

Love to Nitya and Naman.

Yours,

Parikshit

 

Nitya remembered this was the time when her father had been gone to Yemen for a few months. This was probably his first letter. She had never gotten to speak with him if and when he had called.

She spread the second letter. The date was faded off totally but she could make out it was in 2007.

Dear Prema

Why didn’t you speak with me over the phone? Do you know how tough it is to get a hand on a phone here? And what is this about moving homes? Don’t do that… how will I be in touch with you? I miss you all so much… particularly Nitya and Naman. Naman still doesn’t speak, does he? I couldn’t wire the money like I did earlier but I am saving it all somewhere. Don’t worry. It will reach you soon. You can use those FDs meanwhile. It’s just a matter of a few months.

Please don’t shift… please Prema. You don’t know what I am going through here….

But all will be fine… We will meet soon.

Yours,

Parikshit.

Nitya sat slumped on the floor wondering what was going on… she didn’t know anything that had transpired between her parents at that time. What happened to Appa? What was going on in his company?

Another letter was completely crumpled and addressed to her mother. The date was unclear.

Prema

Its… bad here. Things are going downhill. I should have listened to Colonel Deshmukh and most of all I should have listened to you. I messed it all up… I am in deep trouble and I hope this doesn’t affect you. I have started working on rectifying my mistakes. Please forgive me, Prema. I haven’t been a good husband… but trust me, I tried. I am still trying…

I don’t know when I can write more. But please trust me…

Only Yours,

Parikshit.

 

Nitya’s heart was pounding as if it were racing a marathon and wanted to win. There was a final letter. It was relatively neat and unopened. And it was addressed to wait… it was for her.

Her hands were trembling as she opened it.

Dated: 29/10/2008

Nitya,

I don’t know when this will reach you… I am sending this… secret channels. It’s not… well here… I can’t help it, child… Sorry for everything… You must save all… Take help. Read carefully….

Qui totum vult totum perdit

De omnibus dubitandum

Factum fieri infectum non potes

Pisces lethale in aquis profundis

dona felis summis

missio non perficitur

circulorum ut nec in aquis usque

Here lies it all….

Please do… Get the gift-circle completed…

Love

Appa

She held a hand to her chest to stop the pounding. What was all this? What language was this? Nothing made sense to her. Her father spoke many languages and that was a unique ability he possessed. His flair for languages got him side jobs for translations till he was established in the field. But what did he want to share with her… he was definitely in trouble.

And why had amma not given this to her. What exactly had happened? Her heart quickened its pace again… Appa was wronged for sure. Her gut feeling was right. Appa wasn’t involved in anything… There was no way to get any information now… the case was closed. The perps were apparently apprehended even across the border. India had executed the man caught… But what about justice for her Appa and the ruin their family faced?

Where could she find information? Would Kamble kaka know something? There was no one else to ask. What did Appa mean by ‘take help’…. What did he want to convey over 15 years ago?

Her headache intensified as if someone was running a road roller inside. The adrenaline rush at the moment was identical to the one she faced years ago when her best friend betrayed her… in those woods in Himachal.

She sat down with a thud holding the letter close to her heart. Tears streamed down her cheeks even as she remembered that day crystal clear. It seemed like it was the beginning of her agonising period…

They had run through the forest, all of a sudden. Maanav had apparently sensed something. But what? He had held her hand so she had felt secure. Initially, she thought it was a part of the camp challenge, but later as Maanav held her hands behind the tree she realised something was truly amiss. Maanav tried to hide from her but she knew it all… She was strong and tried her best to support him.

Once behind that tree, he had promised to get back. But as she waited with her heart thudding loud enough for her to hear it, there was a blast… she wasn’t sure what happened but she had fallen on her back. There was chaos and fire a little away from where she was hidden. She was too stunned to cry and was suddenly worried about Maanav. Did something happen to him?… No … no… she didn’t realise it until it stung. Her leg…a burning branch had fallen on her leg… She kicked it away but the pain was terrible. Yet she worried about finding Maanav. But as she stood, a wave of nausea took over and there was someone who held her as she fell. She didn’t know anything except that it was a man… a strong man.

“Don’t worry, beta. You are safe…” the gruff voice had said and just before she lost consciousness she saw something hazy at a distance in the smoky inferno. Two people hanging from a helicopter… wait… was that, Maanav? Did someone kidnap him…?

 

The cooker whistle brought Nitya back from her memory lane. She wiped her tears and reflexly touched her leg where the scar still existed, a reminder of the time when Maanav left her alone. She was surprised that she wasn’t angry with Maanav anymore… But maybe it had to do with the passage of time. Or maybe because of her life struggles she had no time to think about it… she no longer resented him per se… Just the situation.

She had found that Maanav was saved as well…  Someone from the army had saved her then, but she only remembered the informer’s voice because by the time she came to her senses in the hospital, he was gone. He was the same man who had saved her.

Maanav didn’t betray her, did he? Somewhere in the passage of time she probably realised he had tried to save her hide. She was slowing them down that day and if he had taken her along, they both could have been killed…He was barely a teenager after all… But what happened at that time? Who were the enemy?

She sighed wondering if she would ever get answers. Over the years, she had tried to search Maanav on social media whenever she could. But there was no one closely resembling him… To her surprise, she always hoped and prayed that he was fine… wherever he was. Whenever she was in turmoil all these years, she often thought about him. She never had a friend like him… in fact, given her situation, she never had friends at all. But she was sure, despite everything if Maanav was around, he would always be her friend.

She dragged herself to the kitchen and checked in on the menu for the day. She had gone overboard today, getting Nama’s favourite food ready. He wasn’t choosy but liked some specific foods stuff more than others. Shutting off the gas burner she looked around at the tiny cubicle she called the kitchen… the black soot and grime covering the walls for ages hadn’t been cleaned at all… Naman couldn’t stand the strong smells of the cleaning agents. She also never had the time from multiple jobs to get food on the table and take care of her mother’s and Naman’s expenses.

I swear to God… Naman… I shall make things better. We will move out for sure… She resolved to work harder and get a decent abode for them.

She realised she had gripped the letter tightly and walked back to the old bag. She kept all the letters and the album with her and decided to give away the bag soon. She kept the letter for her separately in her accounts diary in the cupboard.

As she freshened and tidied Naman’s study, she realised it was past Naman’s regular hours. Where was he?

Worry gnawed at her insides.

Suddenly her phone buzzed startling her. It was Mr. Sandhu… he never called her, only texted. But why was he calling today?

Worried she answered the call.

“Nitya you should come here ASAP…” Mr. Sandhu’s worried voice was cracking up in the commotion in his background.

“What happened Sandhu ji? Is Naman alright…?”  Oh God please keep him safe…

“…Just… just come Nitya… and soon…” Mr. Sandhu disconnected.

If she thought her heart had been racing to its peak level, she couldn’t have been more wrong.

Oh God…. please…please… Naman be alright, bhai…. Were her thoughts as she clutched at her heart and stumbled outside the house.

 

©priyanayakgole

(Disclaimer: This is a piece of fiction using the backdrop of the attack that happened and any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental. This doesn’t attempt to change history or facts.)

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