Chapter 6 Naman distressed

Chapter 6

Nitya slipped on a pair of jeans and T-shirt quickly and taking her wallet and a bunch of keys she rushed outside. She began to palpitate even as the auto crackled on the potholed road. She had requested the driver to take the shortcut through a ‘basti’ that would save 15 minutes that a walk took but the road was rough. She was unmindful of the driver swearing at the stray dogs, and a few stray people not bothering to give way to vehicles on the road.

Despite all her bravado, Nitya was a weakling when it came to Naman. Was he alright?

Mr. Sandhu knew everything about Nama’s condition and had taken efforts to read up and speak with Nitya regularly to understand Naman. He took care to see no one bullied Naman and Naman stayed away from people on his own accord so there was no way he would get into a fight.

Was there any accident?

She had always been frugal to save money for Naman and her mother’s treatments and pay for Naman’s classes and therapies. But at that moment as the auto sauntered ahead, she felt guilty… She should have splurged on Naman… whatever she could afford. Give him his favourite black forest pastry more often…. She aggressively wiped away the stray tear that escaped her eye despite her firm resolve not to break down.

Naman, didi is reaching soon… just hang in there, bhai.

Nitya barely took in a breath as she rushed to the floor of the enormous commercial building housing the computer class. As she approached the wing, she saw a crowd had gathered outside. There was some banging noise and she immediately knew it was Naman… given the pattern of banging. He was obsessed with rhythms….

She rushed separating the crowd.

Her heart stopped with the scene before her. Naman lay on the floor beside the overturned desks, banging on one of them with his mouse. His laptop lay next to him as he hugged it… there was a bruise on his head and he was crying. He was muttering something under his breath like a mantra… But that’s how he usually spoke, whenever he did. His speech was not clear and was in a singsong pattern. And… his shirt’s top button was put. This was bad… he couldn’t put on his buttons and couldn’t tolerate the top button shut. She had taken care every time. Was he bullied? Did someone button him up there?

But that wouldn’t have caused such a huge meltdown…

She had to know what triggered his meltdown, for the first time in public after years. But she had to calm him down first. She sat next to him and tentatively placed a hand on his back.

“Naman… sweetie… look, didi is here. Let’s go home, shall we?” she spoke softly.

Naman stopped what he was doing and turned towards her. The very next instant he hugged her and began to bawl. Nitya heard murmurs where people called him ‘pagal’ and giggles around but she was used to such humiliating and insensitive public reactions.

Ignoring them, Nitya patted him on the back just the way he liked, to calm him down and in the next instant he was quiet.  She immediately unbuttoned his collar, and Naman sighed and sat straight next to her.

Mr. Sandhu dispersed the crowd and walked in with a first aid box while his men upturned the fallen desks.

As Nitya dressed Naman’s wounds she asked Mr. Sandhu. “What happened… why did Naman do this? You know he doesn’t react like this in public… never done for a long and he loves this place…” her anxiety was choking her up.

“I am sorry Nitya…” Mr.Sandhu sighed. “…I forgot to tell you. A few days ago, a day after your mother passed, I saw a man trying to talk to Naman while he exited the building. As you had requested, I was keeping a watch. But Naman ignored the man and went ahead. The man didn’t follow him. This happened the next day as well… but the man wasn’t seen for a while. It slipped my mind totally. Then today I got late to class and as I approached the wing, I saw that man had called Naman out and was talking to him holding his shoulders… before I could get closer, Naman pushed him and …reacted the way he did. The other students were terrified and rushed out of the class and the man disappeared in the chaos…”

“Who… who was the man… any idea?” Nitya’s heart began to pound. Who must have found them after so many years?

Did someone from the past find out who Naman was? Rather, who his father was? What would she do now? How much more did they have to pay for being their father’s children?

“I don’t know him, nor did any student identify him…” Mr. Sandhu replied. “…Some said, he first buttoned Naman’s collar… but wait… the exit CCTV captured him. The image is grainy, but maybe it can help…”

She nodded and after helping Naman who had got back to his laptop with a vengeance, to sit on one of the desks, she walked with Mr. Sandhu to the office.

The plush office had a strategically placed monitor with the camera feeds. Sandhu typed in something and turned the monitor towards her.

The man had worn a cap and his face wasn’t clear at all.

But his body language was a giveaway and particularly seeing Naman’s reaction to the man, she instantly knew.

It was Sajid. What was he doing here?

“Was he the same guy who had spoken to Naman earlier as well?” She asked Mr. Sandhu.

“Yes, Nitya. I am sure, it was him. Do you know him? Should we report this… I mean, in the police station?” Mr. Sandhu sounded sceptical, and Nitya knew he wouldn’t want any negative publicity for his classes. But Nitya didn’t want attention towards them either.

“No Sandhu ji… I don’t know him. Must have been a mistaken identity… Naman must have … ov… overreacted.”

She returned home with Naman on autopilot even as she served him lunch. She checked her phone for the nth time. Sajid hadn’t replied to her message. But her break-up message was much after her mother passed… what was Sajid trying to do?

As Naman went back to his desk to get back to whatever he did usually, she sat on the lone bed in the hall. Her mother lay on it ever since they moved here and had eventually become a permanent fixture along with the bed, till she passed.

Nitya shook her head as if driving away painful thoughts as she thought about the first time, she had met Sajid.

Five years ago, she was a body double for a popular actress for an action scene. The shooting was in Film City, Goregaon, and the travel from Bhandup where she now lived, often tired her out. However, because of her vigorous workout regime, she had great stamina and shot the scenes with elegance throughout. However, that particular shot was extremely complicated and despite innumerable retakes, Nitya wasn’t able to execute it and eventually had bruises all over her arms and legs because of the harness that pulled at them. She was attended to by the on-site doctor and given painkillers. But unlike the actors she didn’t have the luxury of a vanity van and waited in the shade for the shooting to resume.

Nitya was feeling giddy and just that morning she had an argument with her mother who wasn’t answering her calls. Her mother was barely coherent these days and she was more worried for Naman, since her mother was his caregiver when she was away at work. He was manageable but if he had a meltdown triggered by something new then her mother would have a tough time and may just give up. The stress was taking its toll and she was on the verge of a breakdown.

It was then Sajid had come as a God-sent. He was the new technological unit assistant for the production house and was on on-site duty that day. He brought her a glass of Glucon D and also an umbrella which he held for her as she sat on the cloth recliner chair, he had arranged.

They got talking and after the shoot that day which was eventually moved by a couple of days to give Nitya the needed time to recover, Sajid dropped her home. He stayed somewhere in Goregaon but rode his bike all the way to drop her. Nitya was usually a reserved person always aloof given her past, but that day she was too tired and stressed to refuse him.

After that, he was often seen during her shoots whenever the production house called her, till the movie got over. Sajid would take care of her like he did most of the junior artists on the set and Nitya was impressed. She had been in the industry for a while and no one cared about her ilk.

After that, one day, after a month Sajid called her.

“Hey Nitya… Sajid this side.”

“How… how did you get this number?” Nitya wondered since she rarely shared her number with anyone.

“The production house has your details, remember?”

Nitya wondered why she was being so paranoid… but that’s what life had taught her.

“Oh..ok. So, what’s it Sajid?” Nitya came straight to the point. She didn’t know any other way.

“Uh Nitya… I left that production house and have started my firm… different production houses outsource their technical requirements to me….”

“Wow, Sajid. That’s awesome news. But it must have needed a lot of investment. The instruments are so expensive.”

“What are loans for?” Sajid quipped and Nitya was surprised by the ease at which Sajid spoke about loans. There was not an iota of worry in his voice.

“Ok then… bye.” Nitya had to rush.

“Wait Nitya…”

“Um… what is it Sajid?”

“Can we meet?”

Her guard was up as soon as he spoke those words.

“Why Sajid, you know I am busy and…” Nitya tried to put him off.

“Wait for a second Nitya, I won’t pressurize you but I wanted to talk to you about work. You can help me since you are from the industry in a way.”

“I am just a body double and know nothing about technology or computers for that matter…” It was true and Nitya often wondered if she was her parents’ daughter who were computer experts… her father was a genius till everything fell apart…

“Nitya… let’s meet just once. Please… your decided place and time?” Sajid pleaded and Nitya didn’t have the heart to refuse him given the help he had showered upon her during the shoot.

“Ok, Sajid. I shall text you the location and time…” Nitya had relented.

What began as a simple work-related meet resulted in many more meets where Sajid got her work offers and good pay as well. Nitya wasn’t complaining and she reduced the working hours at the gym taking up only select personal training accounts. It worked well because she was able to focus on Naman and her mother who had by now taken to bed after being heavily sedated.

She barely shared personal details with Sajid. He only knew her father had passed years ago and her mother was suffering from mental health issues. She hadn’t revealed much about Naman’s issues. Now that she thought about it, Nitya felt she barely met Sajid in the last 3 years. She tried to recall how much she had mentioned about Naman’s condition because she had brought him home once when Kamble Kaka was around and no one liked him. But the worst was Naman hated him. That was strange so she actively refrained from mentioning Naman whenever they spoke or met. In fact, it now dawned on her that she had reduced their meetings because of Naman.

Nitya began to pace the tiny confines of the room, thinking hard about what she had ever mentioned about Naman to Sajid. It then struck her like a thunderbolt.

Naman had a huge meltdown once when she was at her shoot and Sajid had dropped her off at the doctor’s clinic where Kamble kaka had taken him. Sajid too had rushed inside and she had immediately reacted seeing Naman’s collar button tightened. She had struggled to calm a flailing Naman and eventually had to pluck the button off.

Sajid would have known for sure. But why did he have to do this…? Why did he visit Naman in the first place? Nitya couldn’t point her finger at the cause as yet. What was she missing?

A headache made its feeble presence felt, and she rushed to the kitchen to make tea.

She checked in on Naman as the tea was boiling. The day’s excitement must have tired him out. She had given him the additional dosage of his meds so with the cumulative effect of the two, the boy was asleep on his bed, curled up in fetal position. His glasses were still on him and he had hugged his laptop. The laptop was falling apart and it was a crude second-hand one she could afford at that time, but he loved it more than anything else… No… it was in second position. On the first was that machine, or whatever it was that her late father had gifted.

Innocence stared at her from his sleeping face and she instantly teared up. The sense of being betrayed wasn’t new to her, but this time her brother was involved. The guy couldn’t fight back and yet… No this was not done. Sajid had to answer for his deeds. Was he that upset at his proposal being rejected? She had barely been seeing him for crying out loud… she hadn’t committed or promised him anything.

There was only one way to get answers. She had to meet Sajid in person. She straightened as she sipped the hot tea almost scalding her tongue. Her confidence was back… the tigress in her was striving to be let free. That was Nitya when her protective instincts were up. Whether it was years ago in that forest even though Maanav was older and stronger and knew what he was doing… or now when she had to protect her brother though he didn’t even know what was going on.

She knew Naman would sleep for the next 3 hours or so. She kept his food ready and texted Kamble kaka. He replied that he would be there in 15 minutes.

She realized it was time she faced demons instead of hiding from them….

 

©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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