Vanished Girl - Chapter 3
by Lakshmi Menon
Back to Chapter 2
After disconnecting the call, Mahesh found it impossible to sleep. He just couldn’t get his mind off Akila. Where could she have gone? What could’ve happened to the young girl?”
It was true that they weren’t blood relatives, but Mahesh and his wife treated her like their own daughter. During a telephonic conversation between Akila’s mother and her sister in Ahmedabad, Akila’s mother mentioned that her daughter had found a job in Bangalore and was moving there. Her sister said she would speak to her relative to find her suitable accommodation. When Mahesh discussed the matter with his wife Shobha, it was she who suggested that they accommodate her in their home, since their own children had already flown the nest.
Mahesh too welcomed the idea. In fact, he wanted to suggest that idea first to his wife, but he was apprehensive about the idea, since some women might mis-interpret his intentions, and that he didn’t want.
“If you think Akila’s presence will be good for us, I don’t have any objection,” he said when approached by his wife.
“Not only for us, but it will be a great help for the family at this time. Her father is not well. He is battling cancer. If she stays with us she can save on the hostel fee,” said Shobha, taking away Mahesh’s newspaper to get his full attention.
“So, you’re going to keep her here for free? Not going to charge her anything?” Mahesh was surprised to hear such an offer from his wife, who usually was known for her penny-pinching ways.
“I want only one thing from her. “ She replied with a warm smile. “She has to get up early and get ready to go to office. That time I can tell her to make a cup of tea for us, so that I can have a little more time to sleep. It will be a luxury to come to the kitchen and take a hot cup of tea from the stove.”
Mahesh laughed heartily. “So that was your gain in this arrangement?” He asked with a wide grin on his face.
“Why? Is it so bad? You don’t realize it because I get you the morning tea,” Shobha said.
She returned the newspaper to him with one final comment. “I’ve got one more selfish idea.” She observed him without his knowledge. “On weekends and when she is not going for work, she can give me a hand with the household chores. I’m sure she won’t want to see me doing it all alone. What do you think?”
Mahesh admired his wife’s selfish motive in accommodating Akila with them, on the pretext of helping her save her some money.
When Akila realized that she was going to get free accommodation in Bangalore, she was not the only one who was thrilled. The whole family was happy and thanked God for the couple’s generosity.
“They may not charge you for your stay with them, but you must return their favour in some way. When you get your salary, buy them something for the house. They may ask you things like, ‘why did you spend your money on these things? There was no need for this.’ It doesn’t matter what they say, just keep doing it every month,” advised her father before she left home for Bangalore.
Damodar and Padmaja gave their daughter their blessing, knowing that she would be in safe hands so far away from home.
Mahesh owned his own grocery shop in that area and also dabbled in real estate to supplement his income. His customers regularly came to him for advice when contemplating purchasing a property, and trusted him enough to take his opinion. Through his wide contacts, he always knew someone or other who wanted to sell a property. Sometimes the requirements would be for a rental home, and that too was not a problem for him. In either case he was paid sufficiently for referring potential customers. In the beginning, he was not collecting any cash for his advice, and his wife advised him to collect the commission which otherwise they would have paid to someone else.
Shobha and Mahesh were a happy couple, and this extra income helped them provide for their sons’ further studies abroad. Their elder son was in the final year of his MBA in England, and the younger one too joined for MBA in another University in England, just two months ago.
Shobha woke up in the middle of the night, and found the place beside her empty. She wondered where her husband was, and when she switched the light on, saw him sitting deep in thought on the sofa.
“Why are you awake at this time?” she asked.
“I’m worried about Akila. What has happened to the poor girl? Where has the delay taken place? Of course, she was on board. I saw her get on the train.”
Shobha sat down beside him and put her arm around him.
“You told Nikhil, no need to worry, because she would reach home in the morning. Didn’t you?”
just to console him temporarily. What will happen if she doesn’t reach in the morning?”
Shobha had no answer to that question. She stood there watching him for a minute.
“Come and sleep now. No use of sitting and worrying here. Wait till the morning to hear the news,” Shobha said, leading him back to bed.
Though Mahesh obliged his wife he didn’t get a wink of sleep and wanted to get up and call Akila’s house as early as possible. He was very eager to know if she had arrived, but sometime in the early hours of the morning, he slipped into a deep sleep.
Shobha came to the room with his usual cup of black coffee, which he loved. Seeing him still fast asleep she returned to the kitchen without waking him up. She was aware that he didn’t have enough sleep in the night, and waited for him to get up on his own.
At half past eight, the phone in the drawing room rang and Shobha immediately picked it up.
“Uncle, Akila hasn’t come even in the bus,” said a distraught voice on the other end.
As there was no immediate response from the other end, Nikhil asked, “Uncle, now what should we do? I have no idea. Mother and grandma are very upset.”
“Wait for the morning trains which pass through your station,” said Shobha.
Only then Nikhil realized that Mahesh was not on the phone.
“Aunty, please give the phone to uncle," said Nikhil.
“He is still sleeping as he couldn’t sleep the whole night. When he wakes up I will tell him.” Shobha said putting down the receiver, without waiting to hear anything further.
It was almost 9 0’ clock when Mahesh woke up. He was so worried about not being able to know, anything about Akila. After all, she was a member of his family when she stayed in Bangalore.
“Shobha…..” he called out for his wife.
Shobha came out with the warmed up black coffee, after about two minutes. She knew what her husband wanted to know at this moment, so she said immediately.
“Akila’s brother had telephoned just about ten minutes back and said Akila hasn’t come even in the bus.”
“Oh my God!” he said in utter despair. “Why didn’t you wake me up early?”
“What can you do sitting here? I’ve told him to wait for the trains which pass through their place.” She sat beside him, with the coffee cup.
He looked at his watch and said, “It is already 9.30 and by now all the morning trains also would have come. It means she was neither in the train. I don’t know what has happened to the poor girl!”
Mahesh was making some mental notes in the night when sleep had left him alone. When he thought of the gravity of the situation he became speechless and he didn’t have the guts to call Akila’s home again. What would he tell her brother, when they were already bereaving for his father who left them the previous night. Akila was the only one they were looking for consolation. What would be the condition of the house? At this time, Damodar’s loss would be tormenting them. In addition, how would they tolerate a daughter’s missing? Would she be alive now? If she was alive she would have at least called them from wherever she was. Except for her, who would understand the condition of her dear ones better?
“Do you think you’ve to go to her house?” asked his wife, seeing his pathetic look.
“My going there is not going to help them in any way. I don’t have anything else to share with them than what I have already told them.” He took the cup from his wife’s hand.
Shobha too agreed to it, and sat thoughtfully gazing at the window.
“Since she was last seen in Bangalore it is my duty to lodge a complaint in the police station about her missing. I should not delay it anymore.” He said suppressing his anger and despair that welled up in his mind.
Mahesh had a quick bath and was ready to leave. His mind was grappling with a dozen contradicting images of the missing girl.
The phone rang again. This time it was his mobile, and not the landline. “Uncle, I’m Raju, Nikhil’s friend. His sister has not yet come home. We neither have any news from her. He is just down, completely shattered. Inside, his mother and grandmother are weeping bitterly. What can we do now?” he said without leaving a minute for the other person to speak.
Finally, he stopped and then Mahesh, who was by then too sad, said. “I’m very sorry to know Akila hasn’t come home. I really don’t know what has happened to her between getting into the train and reaching home. However, I’m going to report to the police here. I hope they will be able to trace her soon.”
“Okay uncle, Thank you,” said Raju and disconnected the mobile. He immediately conveyed the news to his friend. *** Chapter 4 Chapter 1 Chapter 2