Chapter 2 : Confusion
Vijaya got out of the auto after paying the fare to the driver, opposite the entrance of her building, after a short journey of about 15 minutes. She had to cross the road to enter her building and hurried inside her building. She rapidly started climbing the stairs to reach her second floor apartment of the building in a low income locality of the city.
The man following her had to make a U turn of the road to come to that side of the road where the building stood and stopped his vehicle directly in front of the main entrance of the building. He did not get down from the vehicle, nor did he switch off the ignition, but sat on the vehicle with both his legs touching the ground.
He looked at the entrance of the building and tried to find out which way Vijaya would have gone.
He did not have to wrack his brain for the answers, since the structure of the building made it easy for him to follow her movement inside it without any difficulty.
On entering the building, one would find the staircase going up to the five floors. The staircase was visible from the road. Each floor had 10 flats on either side of the staircase, so that the total number of flats in the building was 100, with 20 on each floor, ground plus four upper floors, the fifth and last floor being the terrace.
That being the case, the man on the motorcycle could easily make out that Vijaya climbed two storeys and turned to her right and entered the second flat, whose main door was open. She went inside the flat and closed the door after her.
The building was in the first parallel road to the main east-west highway, with the moderate sized low income colony being developed on one side of the highway.
The ground floor of the building had a number of shops on either side of the staircase, such as a provision store, a medical shop, a laundry, a xerox walla, a photo studio, a beauty parlour for ladies, a hair cutting saloon for gents, 2 real estate agents, a shop where wheat and other grains were ground for cooking purposes, a cakes and pastry shop etc.
There were two doctors also - one a general practitioner and the other a dentist. There was also a pathological lab. Another shop was a circulating library containing a huge collection of books, magazines and periodicals. The shop also had a cyber cafe inside it.
On one end of the row was a gas cylinder distributor and near his shop there was always the traffic of lorries carrying gas cylinders in to the shop and taking empty cylinders out while several small tricycle vehicles were used to deliver the cylinders to the customers and bring back the empty cylinders.
Some of the other shops were an electrician’s, a plumber’s and a welder’s, who was busy carrying out grill work for his various clients, spreading out the grill work on the pavement also. The welder’s shop was on the other end of the building as compared to the gas cylinder shop.
In front of the building on the pavement, there were a number of street vendors dishing out mouth watering snacks, such as pav baaji, idli-dosas, bhel puri, sev puris, while some others were making different types sandwiches and other bakery items for their clients, with the result that during the evening time there were lots of people on the street.
Such makeshift eateries compensated for the lack of a restaurant in the location.
On the other side of the road in front of all these shops and the endless crowds such shops created, there was a large rectangular playground for youngsters and kids with swings, see-saws etc, as also a joggers path for enabling people to have a walk without being disturbed by vehicles, beyond which there was a big open plot of ground for people to relax and play. There were a number of boys playing tennis ball cricket, hockey, football or just some guys trying to practice running for 100 meter dash, kabaddi, kho-kho or simply running around all over the open plot of the ground.
There were several concrete benches with backrests around the boundary of the open ground for people to sit and relax. There was a two and a half feet high wall covering the entire open ground providing a sort of a boundary wall for the ground.
On the various floors of the building where Vijaya entered, many people were standing on their respective floors’ corridors in two and threes in front of their own flats, resting their hands on the 4 feet high wall looking down, following the people’s movements and chit-chatting and spending their evening time. There was a steady stream of vehicles on the road, with the result that noise level was high.
Vijaya’s close friend Smita, who lived on the fourth floor of the building, was also standing on the corridor of their floor with her mother, when Vijaya entered the building in a great hurry. Smita watched her with curiosity and with a bit of concern.
Both she and her mother noted that a motorcyclist had made a U turn and parked his vehicle in front of their building and was observing Vijaya, as she entered their building. They exchanged glances and wondered who that fellow was and what he was doing.
Smita’s mother asked her, “Who is that fellow on the motor cycle? Do you know him? Was he following Vijaya?”
Smita said “No mummy. I don’t know him. Following Vijaya? Do you think so?”
Mummy said, “Who knows?” and left it at that.
Smita said, “I will ask Vijaya about it and tell you about it”.
Without waiting for her mother’s response, she quickly ran to the staircase, ran down two stories and reached Vijaya’s flat. On finding the flat door closed, she pushed it a little firmly and it immediately opened inward.
Smita found Vijaya lying down on the cot on one side of the front room with her eyes closed and her right hand covering her head, with her wrist lying on her forehead and with the palm facing the ceiling. She did not notice Smita’s arrival.
Smita said “Hey Viji, what happened? Are you tired? Where are you coming from and in such hurry?”
Vijaya removed her hand from her head, opened her eyes, looked at Smita and said that she was a bit tired and so was lying down. She did not get up.
Smita asked her with a bit of excitement, “Was somebody following you? Me and my mummy found that some man in a motorcycle was just behind your auto and was watching you entering the building. He was standing there for some minutes looking at our building. Now he has gone”.
Vijaya got up in a jerk and asked Smita in an irritated voice, “A man following me? What are you talking? I don’t know anything about it”.
Smita got a little puzzled about it when Vijaya replied that way. She felt a little deflated on getting that reply and felt her excitement dying down.
To make sure that there was really no man following her, Smita asked Vijaya, “Are you sure? There was nobody following you? Where were you coming from?”
Vijaya replied “I was coming from my boss’s house. I don’t know about anybody following me. But how can you say that he was following me?”
Smita got a bit unsure when Vijaya posed such a question and said defensively “I don’t know. Me and my mummy felt that that man was following you. That’s all. If you are sure that no one was following you, it is alright”.
Vijaya said “Arre, what can you say about such worthless chaps, who have nothing else to do? Such people must be the sons of some monied guys, with a motorcycle or a second hand car, lot of cash and they think that they are heroes. All they do is to chase girls and make a nuisance of themselves. Useless fellows”, she said with contempt.
Smita said “Yeah” and kept quiet.
After sometime Smita asked Vijaya, “Why you had gone to your boss’s house? As far as I knew you never went to your boss’s house in the past?”.
Vijaya said, “Yeah, this was my first visit to my boss’s house. Normally my boss never calls any staff member to his house. But Meena madam (boss’s wife) visits the office on some occasions and she had been calling me to their house for some time. So I went to their house today. That's all”.
But she did not tell Smita about what appeared to be her terrifying experience of listening to somebody speaking about sending 2 crores of rupees in suitcases to carry out some fishy job.
The voice she heard was not that of her boss, since she knew that voice very well. Secondly her boss would not have been in his house at that time of the evening on a weekday. He used to work late hours and reach his house around 9.30 or 10 pm only most of the days. On some saturdays, he used to go home early but not on weekdays.
“Then who could that man be in the house?”, a puzzle which Vijaya could not solve.
She wondered whether she could ask Meena madam about it when she would meet her the next time. After thinking over it for some time she felt that it would be unwise to ask her about it. Meena madam may not like a question like that from her staff member.
Vijaya could do nothing but sigh. But the mere thought of the man talking about sending suitcases containing 2 crores sent a shiver down her spine and made her very nervous.
(To be continued) Back to Chapter 1 Back to Novel - Main page