Ria shattered…

Chapter 30

Ria entered the safe house and walked straight into her room… It was the last night here and tomorrow she was to go back… but where…? Appa had told her he didn’t want to see her again… He must be definitely watching the news channels… not to mention the talking going on. Actually she had thought, like in typical such cases the trial would get dragged for weeks or maybe months and that would give him time to cool down. But thanks to Swara’s outburst it was the shortest rape trial in the history of fast -track courts… Khatiyal must be laughing his way to the bank. Speaking of Swara, the woman seemed relieved to be going to jail… really? She didn’t even put up a fight…something was amiss here.  Ria freshened up and got back to the drawing room where Keith served hot filter coffee. Gaurav was still in his room… he must have been relieved… the double edged sword hanging over his head was finally taken off… or… was it…?

Gaurav emerged out of his room on the phone. “…yes Manek… wait… I am on it right now…” He disconnected the call as he switched on the TV. The news channel… Oh God what did they want now… the trial was over for heaven’s sake. Ria was suddenly worried all over again… as she held her mug between her palms, the aroma of the coffee beans and the warmth calming her racing heart.

‘…in the history of the country’s rape trials, here was a record created with the fastest court trial where the case stands dismissed in two days.  As per report available to the media, the complainant and the apparent rape survivor by the name of Swara Sawant made up a false claim against the Chopra scion Dr. Gaurav Chopra. However, in a drastic turn of events an employee of the hospital, a counsellor, Ms. Ria Narsimhan’s testimony nailed it. According to the witness she had spent the night of 29th July with Dr. Chopra in the old hospital building where in he apparently saved her life. To those uninitiated, the Chopra group completed twenty-five years of being in the industry and there was a party at the old hospital building thrown for the employees. There is talk whether the ‘prime’ witness was someone pre-arranged by the Chopras to save their hide…? We have with us in the studio, Mr. Vikram Iyer the ex-fiancée of the key witness in the case. So Mr. Vikram what do you have to say about the verdict…?’

That sleazeball was sitting with a smug face and Ria banged her half-drunk coffee and stood up even as Gaurav and Keith watched her, she walked close to the TV. She wanted to see how much lower could her father’s golden eyed boy stoop to.

Vikram gave a side smile and spoke. ‘well I was one of the testifiers from the prosecution. I had agreed to get engaged to Ria because she was this docile, sweet, innocent young woman and her innocence had appealed to me… but she always had a problem with everything about me… I had a doubt if she was involved with someone… you see, we barely had any dates in the months that we were in a so-called relationship… she always had this excuse of being caught up in the hospital… well… now you all know why… that Chopra was turning his charm on my fiancé… while I waited for her… He was preparing for his rainy days… and that helped him clinch the biggest fight of his life… he got away with a heinous crime…’

So Mr. Iyer, the court has dismissed the case… Swara the complainant herself admitted to wrong doings…’

‘…oh the rich and the powerful… who knows how much Swara was paid to take the blame on herself…? Its just two years now for her if she doesn’t make it out before that after which she will be compensated heavily I am sure. Small price to pay for saving ones reputation… The Chopra group played a big game here. They first washed their hands off the case and then paid off the complainant itself… how very convineant…’

‘…But Mr. Iyer, what do you think happened on that night… did the rape happen or not…? Were you in touch with your fiancé…that night…?’

Bloody asshole was partying when she lay injured…

‘…Uh… I don’t know about the rape… like I said she never shared her life details, schedules anything at all with me… I was away at work… by the way let me share this fact… Ria never ever partied…so what the hell was she doing at that office party where the booze flowed and then suddenly, she lands up in the third floor washroom where she falls and no one knows…? Isn’t all this strange…? History is witness to these tactics used by the rich to bury their black deeds… they use gullible, poor or middle-class women like Swara, or Ria and they in turn walk in with eyes wide open but with the blinders of dollar signs… and then fall into their trap. Swara is done with and I am now worried about Ria… she may not be my fiancé but she belongs to a good family… I wonder what her parents must be going through…’

“…BASTARD… HE IS A LYING BASTARD… HOW DARE HE…” Ria screamed, as tears blurred her vision of the asshole who once was engaged to her. Her head reeled and she would have collapsed on the floor if not for the strong pair of hands which held her. Gaurav supported her and made he lie down on the couch. She held her head which refused to stop spinning… as Vikrams words haunted her… Gaurav had switched off the TV and she felt something cool on her head.

“…Keith get my kit…” He barked the order and she heard Keith go somewhere. She was feeling better but she wasn’t able to control the surge of emotions bursting through the seams… she felt she was drowning… actually in quick sand… just like Swara had told her… Oh God was it true…? No… No… and darkness claimed her.

Someone sprinkled water on her face… God she hated to play in the water…except if t was rain and she didn’t have to go to work next day… Pune rains and the traffic snarls had ruined her experience… wait… water again… it isn’t raining…

“…Ria… Ria… open your eyes dear… Ria…”

Who was calling her… Appa…? No. He never woke her up. Oh… Gaurav… and then it all came back as she slowly opened her eyes to a worried looking Gaurav. She sat up even as the bile rose from her stomach but she stood on wobbly legs and swayed. Gaurav held her… “… Ria… don’t… be careful…”

“…WHY… WHY SHOULD I BE CAREFUL… and how can you say that…? Didn’t you hear my ex-fiancé who knows everything about me…?”

“…Ria he is just a dog… barking on the road… don’t pay attention…”

“..No Sir… there is indeed NO SMOKE WITHOUT FIRE… and today if that slime has the audacity to malign my character after what he did to me…? Then you are also to blame… you have… had  made my life  a living hell… especially in the last month… I never could reach home before 9 PM or so and again leave for work next day by 8AM…”

“…Ria… I…”

She held up her palm and stopped him, still swaying as she held the table for support.

“…Let me finish Sir… You… never understood what I had to go through… first that goddamn promotion which alienated me from my frinds and then that month long torture of waiting outside your cabin as my… anxiety increased with every second flowing away because i would miss my bus… But you… you never understood that, Did you…? You knew Tara mavshi’s troubles even before she gave you an application… but me…? Just to point out some stupid errors in my report…? You made me wait after hours… and that me the fodder for gossip… I have become the talk of the town…the …the star topic of discussion in such two-bit news channels… NOT because I spoke the truth but because… you had your stupid misplaced notions about correcting me… by troubling me… But… sir… enough… I… had enough…”

“…Ria please listen… your BP has…”

“…I DON’T CARE IF MY ARTERIES BURST OUT… anyways what more damage is left to happen… do you know sir…? I had bid adieu to my folks…literally… they asked me to choose between giving my testimony or staying back and I chose the former… I… I have been through hell the last few months always caught between the devil and the deep blue sea…” She held her head and bent forwards as a huge wave of nausea claimed her and she had to struggle to control it.

“…Ria for God’s sake please… take care… just feel better and then you can continue to accuse me… but first… take care…” Gaurav’s voice was leveled but she knew his control was at the end of it’s tethers. But her emotional outrage had already crossed its boundaries as she relived the days she had to struggle balancing the job demands, face her narcissist fiancé and then at home the ire of her folks … all for no fault of hers… The real Ria was lost somewhere and she didn’t know if she would ever find her.

Ria wiped her eyes and took in deep breaths to try to regain her sanity amidst the conflicting emotions brewing in her heart threatening to destroy everything she believed in. “…I am sorry Sir… I know I have overstepped my boundaries… as an employee…”

“…Ria…”

“…Please… sir… the reality of… a situation… doesn’t change…does it? I don’t know how many more interviews Vikram may give away or how many news channels will make me the topic of discussion and debate on…what happened that night…I don’t know …maybe up next for interview will be another staff who supposedly knows me like Vikram… and everybody will now have a freehand to twist reality which is eons away from their versions and then malign my character… I don’t deserve this sir… do I…? And my only fault…?”

“…Ria…” He looked at her frowning…

“…My only fault Sir…” She didn’t bother to let him talk. “…Is that I had given my everything to a job which I thought I loved…I thought i was making a difference in the lives of those people i treaed. I thought I deserved the promotion eventually, though I never expected to get it… I didn’t aim for the skies…sir… I am… I am…” Her voice broke. “…I am a simple girl with little regular dreams. I belong to a typical middle-class family where my reputation is my only wealth… I have been brought up with that conviction in place… and today… its in shreds…I…and the reason isn’t the night of 29th July… but the days and months prior to that… I don’t know sir what was your problem with me… but now… I am in murky waters because of you…” She wiped her eyes. “… I am leaving for my home right now, because I can’t let my folks face the world and the crap been spewed because of me… I will face everything… they don’t need that…”

“…RIA WILL YOU PLEASE STOP…?” Gaurav bellowed in a voice she had never heard before and she was startled and stunned into silence. “… Just halt your tirade and listen to me…will you…?”

Ria folded her hands at her chest and looked away blinking tears as she dreaded even the anticipation of what was in store for her later.

“…Ria… I apologise for being an asshole of the greatest order and yes… you are right…you don’t deserve this bullshit. As for your parents they have left for somewhere yesterday morning itself all packed up… our man was on duty and had followed them till the railway station. There was no paparazzi then nor anyone now outside your home or the locality for that matter. Our man is still keeping watch… Look… let me handle this OK…I promise your reputation will not be tarnished… Tomorrow I am holding a press meet myself where I am going to give the clarity…”

“…NO…SIR…NO MORE… ENOUGH… enough is enough…” she said in an anguished voice. “…its going to be futile benevolence… my parents had to leave town because of me and now your press meet, well…you throw stones in the sewage its your dress which will be ruined… and here its my dress metaphorically…”

“…Ria this will all die down on its own… I promise…”

“…Sir… please for God’s sake do not promise something you cant keep… this…” she said waving at the TV…isn’t in our hands now… I don’t think you understand… in our archaic society it’s the girl or the woman who had to bear the brunt of these events… I know I got into this with my eyes wide open… but…but I didn’t know it would take this turn… you sir… have always been a recluse… but me…? I was a goody two shoes and now speculations are on about the skeletons in my closet… I don’t care anymore what people say about me… that’s water under the bridge… but my parents… my sister… No… I have to go home NOW…”

 Saying she turned and ran to her room to pack her bag… even if she rushed now she would be at her home by night time and then she would call her parents… they would forgive her eventually she was sure and then she would lie low for a while before going on a job hunt again… Well…it was easier said than done but now she had no other option…

As she packed her bag tears flew freely and blurred her vision. She had to keep wiping her cheeks frequently… she realised it wasn’t the hurt of what was transpiring that broke her heart but the very fact that she was going away from Gaurav and probably never going to see him again…since she was quitting her job. Her heart sank further as fresh tears gushed out of her swollen eyes and she plonked down on the floor crying her heart out… She felt her life falling down like a pack of cards…

There was a knock on her door and the knob clicked open. She didn’t know how long she lay on the floor… She saw his long feet from below the cot and more tears followed.

“…Ri…Ria…” he called out in his soft voice which always made her heart flutter… all the million pieces of it… “…Ria…” He came on her side and sat next to her. She didn’t bother to get up but curled on her side in a foetal position… hugging herself. “…Ria… please have something… your health will be ruined… I am so sorry… tell me what I can do to make things right…anything… anything at all… And I just got off the phone with Khatiyal… And we will send a notice to the news channel which did Vikram’s interview… They will tender an apology…” He paused probably to see her reaction but she just lay there. Tears had stopped but she didn’t have the strength to sit up straight. She felt his hands supporting her and she made an effort to get up. “…Ria…? Are you… Ok…Lets get you to eat something… come on…” He helped her stand and held her close to him and she leaned on him gathering his strength as she smelt her favourite scent… She was feeling much better when he brought her outside and helped her sit on the couch. She saw a kit on the table which he got to her and removed the Sphygmo to check her BP. “…Ria… your BP is down…lets get something into you… Keith…? Get her dinner…”

Dinner…? It was then she realised it was dark outside and a loot at the wall clock suggested 9PM… but what the hell was Gaurav still doing in the safe house… He could have dropped her home and returned back to his house. “…Sir… why are we still here…?”

“…I didn’t want you to be moving out when you were…uh…we will leave tomorrow morning… earliest…OK…?”

He helped her reach the dining table and he joined her as Keith served them a simple dinner of Aalu parathas, chana masala and curd. She felt better after the little meal they had in silence.

As they sat on the couch watching the TV, Ria realised she was right to be anxious… every news channel carried details on the fastest trial in the history of the country and all spoke about the trial reeking of influence right from the complainant to the key witness and how the Chopra scion may have influenced the complete case from the go… But where other channels only had mentions, the channel which had interviewed Vikram was pretty harsh and critical of Gaurav and slandering involved Ria as well… they spoke about her job at the hospital and the pre mature promotion. Ria was now even determined to go ahead with her decision.

“Sir…” As Gaurav muted the TV and looked at her she said. “…I quit… the hospital…I will tender my resignation tomorrow morning via email… will put you in CC….” As she began to stand, a visibly shocked Gaurav spoke. “ …Ria… don’t do that… this will pass and no one will speak anything in the hospital… please trust me on this…”

“…Sir… my decision stands and it wont change… I am sorry…”  her voice broke on the last work even as she struggled to stay strong…

Copyright Disclaimer: All content posted here is a work of fiction and original work based on the author’s imagination. There is no intention to disrespect any person or faith. Any resemblance to any person living or dead or any community is purely coincidental. No part of the content can be copied, reproduced or posted anywhere else either entirely or in parts, without the consent of the author.

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