Davanagere railway station seemed to buzz with locals today. The clock showed 11:30 pm, Urvashi jittering around with her unsteady movements was waiting to take a train to Hubli.
Her father Ranga Reddy is a renowned agriculturist in Davanagere. His chateau in the middle of his fields gives a panoramic view of the village. Belonging to the oldest upper-class family in the village, Ranga Reddy is a strict follower of casteism. Lower caste people dread to do displeasing acts due to his rugged nature. Urvashi, his only daughter is the apple of his eye, he would do anything for her. He also adored her for the fact she resembled his long-deceased sister.
Hailing from a notable family Urvashi was now travelling in a train to Hubli, clutching her shawl tight around her. Her curly hair covering her chubby face, her doe eyes looked startled as the train moved. She was a fair voluptuous young girl who will be turning 19 next month.
Urvashi was excited to meet the man of her dreams. Rajesh who was expecting his visa to work in the US; allured her through his modesty and kindness. Rajesh’s father was a bank clerk, with his skimpy salary he managed to give Rajesh a good education. They both lived in a humble home in Davanagere, Rajesh lost his mother when he was two. He never wanted to live a mediocre life, his tenacity landed him in IIT Delhi. After graduation he remained unemployed for two years, he did not want to settle down for an ordinary career. As a part time job, he tutored school kids, he imparted easy methods for effective learning. Urvashi was one of his students, she admired his smartness and fell in love with him.
She still remembers her first-day class of her evening tuition, a young coltish man in his early twenties writing on the board. Her friend Kavitha who was taking notes was fighting to catch up with his speed. Urvasi was awestruck; all she could see was a pair of almond eyes moving swiftly teaching Matrix. She waited for his eye contact every time. At the end of the class, Rajesh in his husky voice told: “Hope you all got your basics today, tomorrow’s class we will have a doubt clarification session and a small test”.
All the students left the class mumbling about tomorrow’s test.
“He is so mean, how could he expect us to take a test the very second day itself”, Kavitha miffed. Urvashi who was still in her dreamland responded nothing, she got into her car and left home.
Her father enquired about her first-day class. “Appa this teacher is the best, he is so sharp and teaches the subject easily, now have to go brush up for tomorrow’s class”. On saying that she stormed upstairs to her room. Her room always looked tidy, book racks neatly arranged and her clothes sorted occasion wise in her closet. Turning on her computer, she searched for Rajesh Ravikanth on Facebook. She clicked his profile and started viewing his profile picture and more about him. She felt ecstatic that his status showed single and signed out downloading few of his photos. She slept late preparing for the test.
The day seemed too long at school, she could not concentrate in classes, she kept gazing outside the window. The hysteria of meeting in the evening drove her crazy. Normally she goes with the school uniform but she wanted to look at her best, she took 30 mins to choose her best attire. She arrived late to the class, Rajesh popped a quiz at her and told if she could give the right answer she could join the class. Urvashi answered right and Rajesh was impressed, she took the first row. Days passed, her fondness for Rajesh grew stronger. Kavitha released something strange in Urvasi “You have started scoring well in maths, you don’t talk to me very often like before, you have changed a lot”.
“Nothing like that, I have just realised the seriousness of board exams. I want to score more and get into IIT like Rajesh sir” replied Urvashi.
She went early to classes to spend more time with him pretending to clarify her doubts in maths, she could not control her emotions. She got butterflies in her stomach every time he looked into her eyes.
One day she decided to reveal her feelings for him. Exams got over, she plucked up her courage to go meet him. He got a job offer from an American based Fortune 500 company, he was leaving to Hubli to take his flight from there. Knowing this her heart was thudding and felt bad about losing him, she prepared to divulge her love for him before he left to the US. That week Sunday night she packed her bag, grabbed some money and left home stealthily when her parents had gone to their relative’s’ wedding.
The train started moving, she took the train in the last minute and got into the unreserved compartment. Luckily, she found herself a window seat on the side berth. The compartment was overflowing with locals and was filled with their cigarette stench. Urvashi was controlling her disgust, she thought all this would end by 3 in the morning when she reaches Hubli.
The train arrived at Hubli, the crowd skedaddled out of the train. Urvashi could not move her leg as she had kept her legs crossed in the same position for 3 hours; somehow, she got rid of the numbness and slowly got down the train. Hubli railway station was big unlike Davanagere station there were many shops open at 3 in the morning. She knew Rajesh stayed at Gayathri residency near the railway station, he will be taking his flight tomorrow. She planned to freshen up in the railway station and then meet him by 8 in the morning. Her stomach was grumping in hunger, she went out and guzzled some biscuits from a shop. It was June 3rd 2016, the same day last year she had met Rajesh. She killed time roaming around the railway station.
Shanthana, Urvashi’s mother was banging at her door as it was getting late for the pooja at their temple. Tired of banging, Shanthana went down to bath asking Urvashi to wake up unknowing the fact that her daughter left to Hubli last night itself.
It was 7:30 in the morning Urvashi was excited to surprise Rajesh. As she was walking towards the hotel, Rajesh also was on the way, he was surprised to see Urvashi. He said, “Hi Kavitha, how are you, what are you doing here?”. The very few words shook her, he did not even get her name right. In dismal she replied, “Sir I am Urvashi, the 1st bench student, I came here to my cousin’s place”.
“Oh, Ya sorry Urvashi I get confused with my students’ names, nice meeting you Urvashi, I hope you flair in your Board exams. I am leaving to the US tomorrow I got my work permit. Today evening I am having a small get together with my friends, if you’re interested you can join us by 7 in the evening, you will have a chance to meet many IITians”.
Urvashi behaved as if she never knew about his visa approval, “Wow great sir, I am happy for you. And one more thing sir I want to discuss something with you….”. Before Urvashi could finish he got a phone call. Gesturing he had to leave, he gave the address of the restaurant and asked her to meet him in the evening. Urvashi thought she had to wait till evening. She squandered her time at boutiques selecting greeting cards.
In Davanagere, tension triggered as they could not find Urvashi anywhere. It has been 12 in the noon, they had no clue where Urvashi was. Ranga Reddy and Shanthana were devastated, they didn’t know if their only daughter was abducted or she fled her home. They decided to wait for her until evening and then register a police complaint. Ranga Reddy now regretted denying Urvashi a cell phone when she asked one for.
Urvashi came to the restaurant half an hour early. Her mind was racing back to home, the idea of going back to her parents scared the shit out of her. She was contemplating and devising various theories to validate her uninformed departure from home.
Rajesh came along with a girl, the girl looked sleek, tall and pretty. Rajesh introduced her as his girlfriend and told they belonged to the same batch. Urvashi ‘s heart stopped for a moment, tears came running down her chin. She was fighting to smile she said she was late and she left abruptly.
Eyes filled with tears she lost track of her way, she tore the card and threw it in the gutter. She cried so hard as if her life sank into a deep sea. Sitting at the end of a deserted street, she was weeping terribly. Street lights were flickering, there were liquor bottles rolling around, she felt something strange and wanted to get back home immediately. The street ended at an old cemetery. Lights were burning in the railway station, if she crossed the graveyard she could get to the station back gate. She could go back the same way she came, but she did not want to face Rajesh again. She walked through the graveyard, it was dusk just before the darkness. Urvashi felt she was being stalked, so she walked fast. The sound of the trees waving disturbed her, from childhood she was Phasmophobic. Even before she could reach the gate a hand pulled her back and shut her mouth.
Ranga Reddy was distressed, he had no hint where Urvashi was. Shanthana was hospitalised. She had been crying all day, she developed fatigue wheezing and collapsed on the floor. Police had already started probing in all areas and tracked down that Urvashi had travelled to Hubli. They had faxed her photo to Hubli city police and they had started the search. Next day her photos made the headlines, Rajesh saw the news he wanted to inform police that he encountered Urvashi the previous day. He was in a hurry for his flight, so he asked his girlfriend to inform the police. Shaksi, Rajesh’s girlfriend intimated police that the previous day evening she had met Urvashi near Purple leaf hotel in Hubli.
DGP Meera Kumari sent her team for the hunt. They scanned places near the hotel, the police spotted a purse near the graveyard exit and found Urvashi’s ID in it. Police inquired about Urvashi in nearby places they got no lead. Shanthana was recuperating, Ranga Reddy and Shanthana planned to come to Hubli to get in touch with the Police, they stayed in Ranga Reddy’s brother Suman Reddy house. Shanthana found Urvashi’s diary filled with pictures of Rajesh. Urvashi’s parents’ suspicion grew and they contacted Rajesh who was working in the US. Rajesh explained that he coincidentally met Urvashi, he did not know about her agenda as she told him she came to visit her cousins in Hubli. He assured he would do any help to find her and ask Shakshi to assist them.
Days passed, it had been nearly a month since Urvashi vanished. Ranga Reddy and Shantha got really depressed about their only child, they did not know even if she was alive. One of the most diligent and resilient officers in the city Inspector Kamalnath was appointed to handle the case. Kamalnath was 40 years old, his assertive eyes and well-built body were always a threat to lawbreakers. He was putting his best efforts to find Urvashi, he thought the only mistake Urvashi did was to go to the graveyard. For some reason, his instincts told Urvashi was abducted that evening because they had no trace of her after she passed through the graveyard. Every day he waited in the same place at the same time to get a clue. He vowed to himself that he will find Urvashi as he knew the pain of losing one’s daughter. Shanthana lost hope, Ranga Reddy still had hope and knew his daughter was somewhere out there waiting to be saved.
Urvashi was unable to get off her bed, her back was throbbing. She had heavy bleeding due to abortion. She winced for passing through the graveyard that evening, which changed her life upside down. Darkness surrounded her, the room was filled with semen odour. Every night her body was ravaged by two men and her body was too frail to heed her mind’s signals. Urvashi was not given proper food, she was being drugged half the time and had no access to the phone. A guy named Sapan treated her with sedatives.
“We have to shift her to a different place, enough of playing around”, said Sapan.
“Yes Sap, like Veera said we will take her to Mumbai make some bucks and get rid of her”, said the other guy who was tall. They were in a small house, Urvashi, in her semi-conscious state, was eavesdropping their conversation. The drug did not work properly on her today, she thought she had to elude from them.
“We are in Arabhavi, how the hell are we gonna take her to Mumbai?” said Vikram, who seemed perturbed about taking this risk albeit it was his idea.
“We can’t board a train or bus, we are going by car and we need a middle-aged woman who would make a perfect mom for this girl. This time I will give a heavy dosage so that she is asleep for 8 to 9 hours.” Sapan sounded confident.
“I dunno how Veera does it all the time”.
“It’s simple if you act cool and don’t the draw attention”, said Sapan
A stout woman who was nearly neckless in her late 40’s knocked the door, her baggy patiala pant made her look frumpy.
Vikram opened the door. She said, “I am Pinky, Veera sent me”.
Vikram asked, “How do you know Veera?”.
“I do businaay with him, he said you wanted me to take care of your mendal cousin” replied Pink.
Vikram: “Well yes, she is under medication. I and Sapan are planning to take her to Bombay for treatment, so we were looking for a person to nurse her.”
Pinky peeking inside the house said, “Ok, I give company for 7 days, you must buy me food and give me 30,000 cash for my job”.
“Veera said the deal was for 25,000, food and accommodation will not be an issue”.
“I will have to pay Rs 5,000 commission to Veera so only Rs 30,000”
Vikram agreed and let her in.
The house had a small hall and two rooms. Photo frame marks were there on the wall, but the photos were missing. A small TV was there in the corner of the hall and the house gave the fresh smell of phenol. It looked like the house has been cleaned for occupancy after a long time. In the bedroom, there was a girl lying on the bed. Sapan had got all the medicines required and insisted that they start by 6:00 am the next day.
It was 5:45 AM in the morning, Pinky had stuffed all the luggage in the boot. Sapan lit the headlights of his black colour Baleno, the car vroomed out of Arabhavi. Sapan had given a heavy dosage to hibernate Urvashi.
Inspector Kamalnath was convinced that Urvashi did not commit suicide, as per the investigation he came to a conclusion that she went missing in the graveyard. Locals in the area told the graveyard had been deserted since last 5 years, they also said there were a few guys using it as a place to smoke weed, but after Urvashi’s disappearance, those guys never came there. He interrogated the weed suppliers in the vicinity and narrowed down a few suspects.
Raja’s head was still wet, he was bathing when police nabbed him along with his friends. He knew they would come for him.
“So, you are the head, where have to hidden the girl then?”
Raja was perplexed about Kamalnath’s question; he thought he was arrested for smoking pot.
“Sir, I don’t understand your question, who is the girl are you asking about?”.
Kamalnath showed the picture of Urvashi to him.
“Sir, I don’t know who is this, I know we have been arrested for illegally smoking weed, we have no idea about this girl.”
“Nice acting, I am not convinced, now tell me what have you done to her?”
“Frankly speaking, I don’t know this girl ,“ replied Raja with an innocent face.
Infuriated Kamalanath “I knew you were smoking weed on 3rd July in the graveyard and the girl went missing that night. Now without playing games, answer my questions before I break your limbs”.
“Sir, it is true we smoked weed that evening but we were caught by three officials, they asked us to vacate the spot leaving the material behind. Ever since then we wanted to maintain a low profile and never returned to the graveyard.”
“You want me to believe all this shit? Ok then, who are those officers?”
“I don’t know sir, they were in mufti (not in uniform). One guy had a scar on his right side of the face, I don’t remember anything else. I guess they were from north India, they were talking to each other in Hindi about going to Gokak.”
Kamalanth came out of the interrogation room and was discussing with Meera Kumari whether to buy their story or not.
Pinky could not help her grumpy tummy, ever since her breakfast at Kolhapur, her stomach was letting out stinky burps. At a point she wanted to use the restroom more frequently, halting at restaurants for using restroom irked Sapan and Vikram.
“Why don’t we ditch her and leave, I am tired of this shit. I knew this would happen when she guzzled those masala dosas. Stupid bitch would eat anything for free.” Vikram was peeved since they were running out of time.
Sapan dismissed the idea shaking his head, “We will need her at the check posts, the girl looks like a minor and if we are unaccompanied by a middle-aged woman we would be under suspicion”.
Pinky got in the car and burped again “ Sapan ji, I think diz girl has got up, see she is blinnking her eyes”.
Sapan turned around in bewilderment to see Urvashi awake, he immediately shut her mouth and gave her another dosage before she could scream.“I don’t know how the drug’s effect faded out so quickly, it lasted only for 5 hours”.
“I think we are wasting our time stopping at hotels. Pinky ji what is happening? My sister is not herself lately, I hope you don’t delay her treatment”.
“Vikram ji, I don’t want to go to the toilet but I cannot help it, I am trying my best not to pee in the car you see”. Vikram gave a grunt and drove the car.
Kamalanath was appalled to know about the call Shanthana received. Shanthana received a call from a person staying at Hotel Vijay in Gokak, she was told that in the hotel bathroom it was written “Help me” with her mobile number below. The person told it was written in blood. Shanthana was sobbing to know her daughter was being tormented. Kamalnath and his team left to Gokak immediately.
The hotel manager told there was no one in the name of Urvashi. Looking around Kamalnath was able to sense that Hotel Vijay was encouraging prostitution, he said he wanted to meet the proprietor. Though the manager informed that his boss was not in station, he said he will wait and meet his boss before leaving. The manager understood there was something fishy going on and informed his boss.
A hunky guy in his early 30’s entered the hotel. His wheatish skin tone and engrossing look would have definitely landed him in Bollywood if not for the scar on the right side of his face.
“Sorry for the delay, I was not in station, I am Veera Bhadra, my manager told you wanted to see me, Inspector”, the man said in a polite tone. His eyes seemed to be deceiving for one cannot interpret his thoughts.
Kamalnath was now somehow putting the broken pieces back together “Hello, I am inspector Kamalnath, I received an information that a young girl named Urvashi who went missing in Davanagere was in your hotel”.
“I don’t think we have any guest in that name in our records. If you want you can check our system.” Veera gave a bold answer.
“Well then, if you ever get any information about a girl named Urvashi, please let me know.”
“Sure, do you have a picture or something?’
“Yes, this is her picture.”
“Oh, I have not seen her, I will call you when I get any information about her”. They both exchanged their cards, Veera’s crooked smile caught the inspector’s eyes as he left the place.
The short story continued here....