Anshuman tried talking to the boy again. His sobs had reduced to hiccups and the tide was also setting in. He wanted to reach back to his condo before being caught by the officials. He also wanted to drop the kiddo at his home. “…buddy… are you alright…?” He asked softly and this time the boy didn’t shirk away. He nodded bobbing his head in quick succession and Anshuman found it way too endearing. He didn’t have experience with kids but gave it a shot nonetheless. “…so, what’s your name buddy…? Are you from around here…?”
The boy gave him a guarded look and Anshuman watched a play of different emotions passing the cute round face. The boy turned towards him. “…mmmmm ….my name… is…. Mmmman… ppppppreet…” he stuttered and immediately looked away. Aman’s heart went out for the kiddo.
“…Manpreet is it…? Lovely name buddy… so you are not from Goa…?”
The boy nodded again. “….aaaai…. sssstay…. Heeere…” he pointed towards the rock.
“…. You stay in a rock cave buddy…? What about your parents…?” Anshuman was now curious.
Manpreet shook his head and gave him a tentative smile the dimple in his left cheek suddenly coming to life. “….aaa…. aaaafter the rrrrock…”
Anshuman stood up and held his hand. “…come on buddy… time to go home… let’s get going….”
The boy looked down and away and it was then Anshuman’s eyes fell on his shorts. They were wet. So was the area around it. The boy had probably wet himself. “… was this why those boys were bullying you…?”
Manpreet suddenly looked up at him and his saucer-like eyes well up once again as he nodded. “…mmmmy… sss…ssss… speech… and tttthis…” he looked away again.
Anshuman didn’t know what got over him but there was something about this kid that tugged at his heartstrings. “…listen, buddy… I will drop you home… I promise no one will say a word about this to you… that’s a promise… alright…?”
The boy stared unsure about what to do and then slowly stood up on wobbly legs. Anshuman dusted the sand from the rest of his body and held his tiny hand in his. This time the boy didn’t pull away. They walked together towards the rock.
“…so, buddy… who is home now…? Mom…? Dad…?” He asked wondering what kind of parent left their kid unattended especially given his issues.
“…Ma… not tttthere… work…”
“Ok…and what about dad…?”
Manpreet tightened his grip on his palm and spoke softly. “…nnnnoo dddad….”
Anshuman was forced to silence. There was no father in the picture? He felt guilty about judging the existing parent. As they crossed the huge rock, Manpreet pointed towards the secluded house and stuttered. “…mmmmmy ha…ha… house…” Anshuman nodded wondering how could the family stay aloof with a kid. Was the mother alone in this creepy place…? They walked towards the house and as they reached the gate covered with creepers, a plump lady in salwar kameez opened it. She had a worried look on her wrinkled face her grey hair all over her face as if she had been busy with strenuous physical activity.
“…Mannu puttar… where were you, beta…? Nani was so worried…” She walked up to them and it was then she realized Anshuman was there as well. Her expressions changed as she dragged Manpreet towards her. “…Puttar go inside… I will come right after…” Manpreet nodded and with a last look at Anshuman scampered into the rabbit hole they called house. The woman looked at Anshuman wringing her nervous fingers. “…er..who are you…? I have never seen you this side…”
“…My name is Anshuman… I have recently moved into my condo right there…” He pointed towards the direction of his home. “…Actually, I was running when I saw Manpreet crying and being bullied by the older boys… so I got him home… I shall take your leave now…”
“…Er… thank you for helping him… its because he stutters badly… he is teased and ridiculed around here… I am trying my best but…” She looked away blinking tears. Anshuman didn’t know what else to say to her and nodded as he left. He felt as if he had left a piece of his heart behind him.
He rushed into his condo and freshened and preparing a late breakfast of scrambled eggs for himself he picked up his tray and went to his favorite spot in this house, the huge balcony. It overlooked the sea and he felt in alignment with mother nature. He had set up a rocking chair there and had most of his meals right there. The balcony had been a witness to his drunken bouts a couple of times. He was ashamed about it but he couldn’t help it. Sometimes emotions surpassed all rational thought. Back at Hissar, it was forbidden to talk about Meera let alone grieve for her. Even the news of her death didn’t make a dent in their opinions and that was when he had decided to move out. His father had been unhappy but he didn’t care about others anymore. He was broken inside and before the dark emotions crushed him totally, he wanted to break out of the shackles and do his best to find out more about Meera’s last days.
He picked up the day’s newspaper. There was the same old news about politics and sports and of course the pandemic. But nothing interested him. There was time he would be glued to the stock market news but no more. Right then his eyes fell on the opening event of a new night club Passion. Goa was filled with the types and he wondered who wanted to enter the cutthroat market during the pandemic lull. However, the picture of the nightclub took him back about 5 years ago when he had met that gorgeous woman in the shady nightclub in Mumbai. Angie… she was angelic. He still saw her in his dreams and woke up the full mast. No woman interested him at a carnal level as Angie did. He had even tried to date Nirvika Goyal, Keshav’s sister last year, with a hope to rekindle any passion left in him. But she was in love with Amandeep and had conveyed it to him. Nonetheless, she turned out to be an amazing friend, and even now she often texted to find out how he was doing. But his fierce attraction towards Angie remained even to date. He chuckled as he looked away. He sighed as he looked back at the advertisement. Something about it intrigued him as if drawing his attention towards the club again and again. His eyes moved around the different little pictures in the advertisement collage and it was then it clicked in. The location was very close to Baga beach.
He stood up making his mind. Would this rendezvous tonight give him the needed direction…? He didn’t know. He was going tonight for the party…
©priyagole. No part of the story can be copied or shared anywhere without the consent of the writer.