…father…?

Chapter 17

Anshuman rubbed his face as he stared at the sea spread before him. The old men had left a  while ago and he was in a chasm of doubts… probably without any means to vindicate anything. His mind drew a blank whenever he tried to think about what the man had told them… was Meera alive? But would his little sister stay away without any contact for a decade? How could the SOP go wrong in their information?

He wondered if he should tell Rewa about this development. Would the SOP be interested in helping him find the truth? Because if anyone had the resources to do so…it was the SOP. But currently, they were busy with the terror cells and they wouldn’t bother about something not related to national security. Just then Kader sat next to him on the lounge chair chugging water out of a bottle, and placing the bottle on the table he wiped his mouth.

“…I am sorry man…I couldn’t help you much… but the information was… don’t you think you should work on it…?” He spoke.

Anshuman didn’t know how much to trust the guy but now he was the only option he had. “Uh… yes… but I cant approach anyone without proof… so…”

“…I will help you, man…” he straightened on his chair as he spoke.

“…Why Kader…? Why are you doing all this…?”

Kader sighed and looked away. “…I know what it means to lose someone you love… you feel like the end of the world only to realize you have to drag in the treacherous breath every day to survive because they would have wanted you to… life just goes on…but the wounds don’t heal… every time you encounter the similar path the band-aid is ripped open to give you the pain of the same intensity…”

Anshuman stared at Kader. The man had a forlorn look as he gazed at the horizon. What was his story…? Kader had hit the nail on the target… Despite a decade passing, Anshuman’s wound still felt raw… engulfed by guilt. “…Fine… so how and where do we start…?”

Kader turned towards him. “…if… if your sister is alive… we can first check out her whereabouts in Goa… I don’t think she has left the place… I mean… where would she go…? She was docile, wasn’t she…?” he rolled back his sleeves and it was then Anshuman saw his heavily tattooed arm… there was a strange design that didn’t make any sense. It seemed vaguely familiar though. But then artists made abstracts all the time and mostly it didn’t make sense.

Somehow his hopes sored a bit. He nodded slowly. “…so you mean… she could be in… Goa… then how would we know…?”

“…Wait…I have an idea… a mini carnival…look… a major attraction here is the local carnival which is usually held in December on the road to Christmas… but because of the pandemic we didn’t have it… let me organize one this weekend… the whos who around here will flock the place…there will be rumors…I will spread my staff to gather information… what do you think…?” Kader seemed excited.

“…But… I don’t know Kader… I don’t know even if she is alive… my sister was never into parties or socials dos… she was a very private person…”

“…I am not saying she would be here… but there would be some news… some thing to point us in the direction of beginning to search….look… she was last seen in Baga… so who knows she must… she must be somewhere closeby… or may have been for a while…”

Anshuman nodded. At that moment it seemed like a good idea. “…So what kind of carnival are you talking about…?”

“…Oh… it’s mostly dancing on the streets… and I will extend it to the beach fun too… arrange merry-go-rounds for young kids … have stalls for games and food… that will help us attract the crowd of ur sister’s age group…”

“…Wow… you seemed to have planned it all…sounds good…”

“…whatever happens at the end, the children will have a blast… they usually do such times… poor kids barely got a respite in lockdown… no schools… stuck at home… this will be a change for them too…”

The passion in Kader’s eyes was palpable in the gleam shining as he animatedly spoke about the program. Anshuman couldn’t help himself. “…Kader, you seem to love children…”

Kader smiled and nodded. “…Yes… I do… children are very innocent with malleable minds…” His smile faded as he continued. “…But then these children often are molded into something that they shouldn’t be… and misused… abused… left to…rot… or abide by the monstrous elders…” he began to hyperventilate and Anshuman only stared at the man who had changed right before his eyes. Gone was the suave businessman he knew… in its place was a man who looked defeated and lost to a different universe.

Kader recovered from the momentary fudge and smiled rubbing his face. “…I am sorry Anshuman… I am burdening you with nonsense… So do you like my idea…? There is nothing to lose though…”

Anshuman remembered Manpreet right then. Would Simrat allow him to bring Manpreet to the carnival..? That boy would have a blast. He would try and convince her… he decided.

Later after discussing the plan with Kader, Anshuman was in high spirits as his vehicle approached Varca. He almost ran to Manpreet’s house hoping to catch Simrat. But she wasn’t there… however Manpreet rushed into his arms the moment his grandmother answered the door. Probably the boy had seen him coming. There were still two more days for the carnival and Anshuman hoped to convince Simrat to take the kid. He knew Simrat would be away for a while so brought a chirpy Manpreet back with him to the condo and they spent the rest of the day solving maths problems, playing board games that he had purchased recently, and of course, sketching. Manpreet unlike his apparent diagnosis of a learning disabled was very quick to grasp whatever Anshuman taught him.

Later that evening Anshuman served him dinner of his favorite chicken soup with floating eggs. Manpreet regaled him with his tales from school before the pandemic and Anshuman realized the boy missed being there. Soon it was time to drop the boy home but Manpreet refused to move from the sofa.

“…Come on buddy… we have to go… your nani must be waiting…”

“…No…i…I  ddddont wa…wa…want to gggo…” He stuttered for the first time in hours leaving Anshuman surprised. The boy’s anxiety levels had risen. He sat next to him and gathered the boy in his arms. Manpreet held on to him tightly as if his life depended on it.

“…Buddy what is it…? Are you upset…? Has something happened…? You can tell me … you know that don’t you…?”

Manpreet nodded. “…I don’t like…mmmm….mmmom….”

Softly rubbing his hand over the boy’s head, Anshuman said, “…you don’t say that buddy… your mom works hard for you… that’s why…”

Manpreet jerked away from him and moved to the sofa corner pouting and crossing his arms at his waist as he stared at the wall in front. The wide eyes filling with unshed tears. This was so unlike Manpreet.

“…Buddy what’s wrong…? I promise I will keep it a secret… what happened…?”

Manpreet shook his head and looked down tears now flowing freely. Anshuman’s heart broke. The boy was hurting… but what had happened? “…Ok… buddy… did mom scold you…?”

He shook his head. And Anshuman asked again. “…Did your mom raise her hand…?”

Manpreet replied in the negative and Anshuman sighed. “…Buddy please tell me… so I can help you…” He held Manpreet’s hand softly and moved closer to the boy.

Manpreet looked up and said. “…mmmom on…on…only… cccrying…”

“…When…?” His heart fell. Simrat was fine till the little argument that morning.

“…Mo…. Mo…. Orning…Shhe th…th…thought I wwwas assslee…eep….”

“…But why was she crying, buddy…?”

“…I…I…don’t….dont…nnnn…know…but…she touched mmmmy…fff…face and sssaid … ‘So…so…sorry …I…am nnnot a gggood mmmom ttto yyyyour ssson…’… ttthen sshhe held the llloocck…locket in hher hhand… and cried…”

Anshuman stood up. Did Simrat cry for Manpreet’s father…? Did she still miss him…? He hesitated and asked,“…Manpreet… do you know anything about your father…?”

Manpreet shook his head. “….mmmom gggets Aa…aangry when aaasked… she said… hhhe wwwas bbbbad mmman… Hhhit mmmy mmom…”

Anshuman was angry at the monster who scared the woman and his child for life. Was that also the reason why Simrat kept Manpreet hidden…? He held Manpreet close to him and said. “…I promise you, buddy… I will take care of you and your mom too… you won’t have any problem… no one will hurt you…”

That night as he dropped an unwilling but drowsy Manpreet back to his house he had made up his mind. He decided to ask for Kader’s help in locating the boy’s father and settling the bill once for all.

©priyagole. No part of the story can be copied or shared anywhere without the consent of the writer.

14 thoughts on “…father…?

  1. Woww yaar… Amazing.. Kader is bad news… Amshuman must understand. SOP guys were going to kill him so why is not thinking on that front. He had a doubt also that how kader knew that her name was meera. Why is Angie keeping meera in hiding when she knows that anshuman is looking for her.. Whats more is she hiding. Man so many doubts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hope he doesn’t go to Kader with news of Manpreet…that would be dangerous. Kader is hiding something. He must be the missing father of Manpreet but he is definitely dangerous for the child. Waiting eagerly for more to unfold

    Like

  3. Oh God finally I found u r posting ur story here. I was wondering what happened. But I am happy to have got to read the story again.
    I was missing reading it. Just in love with ur writing skills.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Omg.. Kader is threat.. And telling about manpreet to him is more threatening…. I just hope simrat knows all before the blunder is already done…

    Liked by 1 person

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