by Nirupama Akella
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“She stopped crying then….well she told us that it would have been impossible for Shiksha to leave and go anywhere else….she was in the Old Church all the time….and disappeared inside the building…”
“Where was Parul?” said the Principal, pinching the furrows on her forehead.
“Outside, at the back…they were collecting material for Shiksha’s project….and than Shiksha shouted she found something…and when Parul got up to go in she got this sharp sting in her back….she has this back problem and it has been worse for a couple of days now…”
Sister was nodding as the incoherent verbal torrent continued. She could see that Matron was clearly upset.
“…so she couldn’t stand and when she did go in two minutes later the girl had simply vanished….no trace of her…What are we to do now?”
Sister got up and paced worriedly.
“Strange! Isn’t Shiksha Malhotra the granddaughter of the Chief Election Commissioner?” she said.
Matron nodded and said, “Four weeks back Shanta disappeared….”
But the Sister was still lost in the thoughts of Shiksha Malhotra’s affluential parentage. “Now we are in trouble. The Election Commissioner will cause a ruckus over this matter… bad publicity Matron… Shanta is a completely different case. She probably has run off somewhere…” she paused looking at Sue Danely’s slightly disapproving face. “What are you driving at?’
“Are the two disappearances related?” said Ms. Danely thinking that the Sister had got her piorities wrong – this was not a time to be thinking of publicity issues but a time to search and find the girl. But then maybe this was the Principal’s way of dealing with bad news.
“I am not the police and I don’t wish to conjecture at this point… but don’t talk about this to anyone…..bad publicity will be disastrous for us….specially now that the granddaughter of a Chief Election Commissioner has disappeared… Oh, why did that girl have to be at the wrong place at the wrong time…”
Matron gazed curiously at her.
“'Please don’t upset yourself, Sister. I will tell the teachers to keep mum…. But I cannot stop the girls from telling their parents and guardians…”
“I don’t want any girl to be on her own in any building from now on…no more disappearances… tell the girls to be where they are supposed to be…not run about sticking their noses where it does not belong.” Sister began moving towards her office – “I better ring up the police,” she took a step forward. “I mean it Matron -- I don’t want any girl to play detective anymore….and I don’t want to see this disappearance as front page news in tomorrow’s newspaper…”
To be continued ......