Nirmala had been waiting anxiously for a message from him for the past 4 days or so. When the message ultimately reached her as indicated by a musical note on her smart phone a little while ago, she was in confusion about whether to read it immediately or gather some courage to do so.
After spending a few nervous moments she took out the phone from the table and read it with a little shiver running through her nerves.
The message simply stated that her husband Sharan has been arrested with no further information.
Terribly shocked and agitated, she stood up and shouted in disbelief,
“Arrested? For what?”
Frantically she tried to contact Rohit, who had sent that message, but his mobile phone was continuously engaged.
He was following up on her husband for the details. Rohit was a journalist like her husband and he was quite friendly with Sharan even though he was working in some other competitive media firm.
Sharan had gone missing for the past few days and there was no information about him. His mobile was either ‘switched off’ or ‘unreachable’ whenever she tried to contact him.
She was thoroughly frustrated since she could not get any help from whichever source she was contacting, whether it was the press or the police.
She had even lodged a ‘missing person’ complaint with the police after waiting for him for a day in vain.
The police as usual was unwilling to take her complaint sidetracking the issue by saying that he would have gone on a sudden mission away from Mumbai without having the time to inform her or that he was under pressure to keep his mission secretive even from her or their usual barb that he would have gone away with some other woman and hence would have hidden the matter from her and so on.
But after she relentlessly fought with them rubbishing all of their excuses for not initiating any action for it in spite of her repeated visits to the police station, they reluctantly agreed to accept it but only after 2 days, since he had not turned up and even they started feeling that perhaps he was really missing!
Nirmala was naturally in great turmoil.
She rang up Sharan’s office numbers to get any help but found that none of the numbers was available. She knew a few lady staff members of the company but was not very friendly with them. She did not have their mobile numbers also.
She made up her mind quickly and rushed to the police station once again, where she had lodged her complaint to find out the status from them.
But to her surprise, they said that they did not have any information about him so far and promised her that they would inform her as soon as they came to know about him.
Did that mean that the information given by Rohit was wrong?
Her spirit started rising . . .
. . . But dipped again with the thought -
‘Did the police have the same information but they were not willing to share it with her? Or that they really did not have any news?’
She wondered whether she should tell them that she received a message from somebody that Sharan had been arrested and would they please find out whether it was true or false?
But she got worried immediately with the thought that if she asked them about the arrest, would they tell her to find out from whomsoever she had received that message and wash off their hands?
She was wringing her hands in confusion and tension unable to decide the course of further action. She went back to her flat after spending a miserable hour at the police station.
After thinking over the matter for several minutes, she phoned her father Krishna Kumar with a lot of hesitation and told him about the news of the arrest of Sharan and asked him what to do.
He was furious with her and asked her “Did you bother to listen to us parents when we told you not to marry this man in the first place? We knew that you were going to face problems with this fellow but you were least bothered about our fears at that time. So, you face the problem now and solve it yourself” and banged the phone down.
She sat down with a sinking feeling.
A quick recap of the events that happened from the time she met and fell in love with Sharan told her that certain aspects of his thinking and behavior were a little difficult to understand.
She told her close friends in a restaurant over dinner some three years back about her love for Sharan.
Meena asked her, “What attracted you to Sharan?”
She replied, “I don’t know” followed by giggles all around by the other girls around her.
Usha said, “Hey, you are a psychologist, you must definitely be able to understand the reason for falling in love with him.”
Nirmala said in all seriousness, “As per psychology, you like some people instantly, like to approach them, make friendship with them and retain that friendship. But in the case of some others, it does not happen that way. You somehow dislike them and stay away from them. But why and how all these things happen, psychology cannot explain properly.”
Her friends were amused by her “intelligent” answer and Preethi said, “Yaar, don’t invent reasons.”
Nirmala pleaded “Sachchi yaar. That’s how psychology is.”
Tarini asked her, “Sharan is also head over heels in love with you, naa?” with an overly innocent face to which the other girls replied in chorus, “Definitely yaar, otherwise, how could the affair go on?” followed by some more laughter.
All the fun and frolic went on for some weeks between them and Sharan who was also introduced to them. He was very sportive in taking their friendly jibes at him and Nirmala whenever they met at parties, malls, cinemas or at the beaches.
But life keeps changing isn’t it?
What he was before marriage and what he turned out to be afterwards made him appear as though he was two different persons.
A sweet, polite and considerate person before marriage turned out to be a very selfish, arrogant and bullying type of person afterwards, which shocked her and made her furious many times.
At those times they had lots of fights with each finding fault with the other and sticking adamantly to their own stands. Later on, they used to patch up and carry on with their lives even though the hurt egos took some days to heal each time.
“Who is Sharmila?” she asked him after she had been hearing rumours and comments from different persons about them.
Sharan said, “She is the daughter of our chairman, Mr. Bhaskar Goenka. She is also a director of the company.”
“What do you mean so what? I have to keep myself in her good books to rise higher in the organization, attain a status with a high salary and all the perks.”
“She has a lot of say in HR matters of the company and her recommendation in my favour would help me in getting up the ladder. Won’t you like that?”
She mockingly asked him, “So, how do you keep yourself in her good books?”
Sharan said that Sharmila was interested in getting favours from the ruling party; like getting quicker clearances from the environmental and forest departments and with easier financial options from public sector banks for their newsprint company’s expansion plans against competitors and she felt that he could help her in that since he knew many politicians from both the ruling and the opposition parties. It was one of their group companies.
That’s why he had to meet her on many occasions including late night meetings some times.
Nirmala was not willing to buy that argument.
As the daughter of the company’s chairman with a good public image, Sharmila would know many persons in the ministries of the government herself and she may not need Sharan’s help in the first place. Secondly, how much Sharan could help them as compared to their own chairman who was a very powerful person in the society.
The government would also be looking at their expansion plans with sympathy as compared to their competitors, whose reputation may not be high.
So she felt that something was fishy in their relationship and that Sharan was cheating her.
At such times she would quietly ask Rohit to find out the exact position. But it was not of much help as he was not able to give any useful information about Sharan whether positive or negative.
She was getting anxious as to whether the current absence of Sharan also pertained to his finding out some ‘useful information’ for Sharmila.
‘Has she also gone along with him on his pursuit of such information? If that was the case, how am I going to find out the truth?’
Questions like these tormented her. But the suspense did not last long.
Soon, Nirmala learnt from Rohit that Sharan was arrested as a suspect in a huge money laundering scam involving many people including certain influential politicians. It had been going on for more than a year but was detected only now!
But it did not become sensational news since the police kept it low key, arresting only non celebrities, while keeping a strict watch on the famous people who were on their list of suspects, hoping to trap them at the appropriate time.
Although she was aware that Sharan was a very ambitious man with dreams of making it big in his profession resulting in sacs of money, this information came as a jolt to her.
She just could not believe it and felt strongly that some politicians and other influential people must have used him for their benefit and made him a scapegoat so that they could escape.
But she was struggling to find an answer to the question - ‘how to overcome this problem and prove him to be innocent in the court.’
When Nirmala’s family friend Ramachandran heard the news of Sharan’s arrest, he quickly rushed to meet his friend Rangachari to discuss the matter.