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Distant Silhouettes - Chapter 4

by Tanuja Chatterjee
(Kolkata, India)

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Chapter 4

The Retreat

It was early hours of morning, that day! Anya was jolted out of her sleep by Apu and Iti. She opened her eyes amidst the sound of mindless commotion. And the girls were crying out of fear. Beside her Ramy slept blissfully,ignorant of all that was going on around.
Sitting up on bed she said,"This is papa, isn't he Apu!"
"Yes" she sobbed.

Something was really wrong, sensed Anya. Nirmal's voice was predominant. Looking at the two girls she said,"You two stay just right here and watch over Ramy till I come back. Don't budge from here. Is that understood?" She asserted and swiftly got hold of her shawl and went out of the bed-room. She didn't wait to see that her daughters nodded in 'YES". Poor little things, they were very frightened indeed.

Wrapping the shawl around, to stay warm from the morning chill, Anya looked towards the place where the commotion was.
"It seems to be coming from the drawing room." she said to herself.
"What could it be!" she thought and rushed through the corridor.

With one gentle push, the door of the drawing hall swung open and she entered quietly to come face to face with a nasty situation. There were two men talking in a low sober tone to which Nirmal's reaction was extremely violent. She had never seen him so till then. "What could it be!" she thought. The men looked quite familiar to her. Where could she have seen the two! She thought intently. Not at the hospital, not at market place! Then where? She thought hard and then it dawned on her "Oh Yes! They were here in her house that day ! Sitting beside the fire place there, they had decided to abandon the child in the absence of her parents. They had twisted Ramilla's fate that day."

How could she forget! But, their sight today, frightened her as well! She reached for Nirmal's closeness, with her heart thumping rhythmically. As she overheard their rustic murmur, her head reeled and had it not been for the pillar she would have been badly hit. Now things began to fall in place. Now, she knew what the commotion was all about!.

With her high intensity intellect, she quickly gathered herself and caught hold of Nirmal's arm and led him towards the chair. "You have had enough. Just sit here. Can't say, relax for I know why! Let me handle them" she was as assertive as she is with her children.
The two men with strongly starched turbans and dressed in their best attire stood tall with pride.
"Yes, what do you have to say!" she looked at them as she began to talk.
"We've said enough, now, it's time to take her along with us", said one of them, barely in his teens.
"Who are you and What do you want?" asked Anya
"I'm Kanta's brother-in-law and this is our uncle" said the boy.
"We've come to take back the baby to her mother." he added.
"Hope you will not refuse as it'll be against the law" replied the middle aged man.
"Baby! What baby! Whose baby have you come looking for!" questioned Anya
"Kanta's baby girl" they said in unison.
"We don't know any Kanta. You're made some mistake." she said politely knowing well whom they were talking about.
"She has our blood and we'll take her back. We'll use force if the need be." said the boy with great temper.

The uncivilized gesture made Nirmal furious and he rose from his chair and kicked him hard. The boy fell down with great force and was hurt. His turban flung to even a greater distance.
"Bahadur!" Anya called for the security guard. "Call the police. Right now!" she asserted.
'Ji behtar!(Yes I will surely) said he.

Just then, the elderly man, who had been enjoying till then, rose from his seat and came forward, holding his turban in the joint palms of his hands. He seemed to be making an offering to a deity. Underneath his turban there was money in Indian paper currency....lots of it and all in one hundred rupees denominations. Probably he had thought that if the talks failed he would trick the doctor with money. How little he knew of them! Ramilla was their child now, their little girl and like Apu and Iti they would be protecting her without begrudging their lives.

With one swing of his left arm, Nirmal let the turban fly out of the clasp of man's hands. Loosing it's spiral grip, it lay spread out on the floor, and the hundred rupee bills rained from thin air of the room, fluttering and swinging before settling on the

The two men were taken aback. They hadn't seen a man of integrity so far. They looked a bit puzzled. "How could a man not get lured by money!" they thought.

They hadn't known Nirmal well enough! He was a man for whom money wasn't everything. Of course, he too knew that in the present age money ruled the world and also the hearts and minds of the people. But to Anya he always said,"Money is not god!", whereas in his heart he too knew that if money wasn't god then it was the next thing to god today!

The elderly man now came and fell on his knees and begged Nirmal but he remained undaunted and so was Anya. Then the man began "Galti ho gaya saab!(We made a mistake, sir!). We had brought money not to give it to you on returning us our girl but to Thank you for saving Kanti."
Nirmal could make out that he was lying and said, "Just get out of this place or I'll call the Sarpanch (the head man of the village) and get the matter settled once and for all, right here! Right now! Just get out of my sight."

Anya came in after regaining her strength and courage and said "Will you tell this boy of yours to behave and get civil at least?"
Then Nirmal added,"Don't show us your face ever!"

The two picked up their belongings and quietly left with bruised hearts and never came back.

.................To be continued..........

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