Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Shock and betrayal...

Kaya was so shocked to hear that voice, and specially its cold tone, that she almost missed the words that were said. Do not be hasty, how can the fire chief confirm Kaya’s death? Her death? Kailash Pradhan wanted a confirmation of her death? What was going on?
“Arre Kailash babu, they have found a body on the top floor. On that floor, only one room was occupied. And that was Kaya’s. So the body has to be hers. And it’s a female body, that much they have confimed.”, said an oily voice that again seemed familiar to Kaya.
“Aur nahi to kya? Now what more do you want, a DNA test?” , this voice was immediately recognizable. It belonged to Nalini- Nalini Kumar. And that meant the oily voice had to be her husband. Paras.
What were the Kumars doing here? And talking with Kailash Pradhan, Kaya distinctly remembered the looks on the faces of the Kumars when they saw Kailash Pradhan in Veena. And his own face had shown no pleasantness at their site. And now they were sitting her in this place, discussing her death, like partners in crime. The fact that they were indeed partners in crime was revealed to Kaya by the next words spoken by the lawyer.
“You people make unnecessary haste. What was the need for you Paras an Nalini to come to Veena. Especially since I told you not to? The fact that you are the last living relatives of Kaya would’ve escaped everyone’s mind till the trust was actually transferred to you. Why couldn’t you people remain quiet? And did you have to wail and make that show of grief in front of Kaya?”
The cold tone was gone. He now seemed agitated and the was nearly shouting.
“Kailash bhaiya, any bhala to sab bhala!”, it was the voice that had earlier spoken about the fire chief confirming Kaya’s death “And with a brilliant scheming mind like yours, we’ve actually killed three birds with one stone. The girl gets out of our way; We get all her money and the land to build a new spa; and I get rid of my old hotel building. You are an absolute genius. Telling that girl that the accidents were probably murders, getting her out of the village, putting her on the top floor of my hotel, and then getting that good for nothing rogue Bhandari to create the fire from the diyas. Even if there is an enquiry, it will look like an accident. An absolute foolproof plan.”
This flattery had its effect and Kailsh Pradhan seemed to mellow down.
Kaya had heard enough and she didn’t need her intuition to tell her that she could not be seen by these people. She needed to get out of this place. She crept out of the room, and fighting the urge to run, walked out of the dharamshala as fast as her feet could carry her. And all this while, one question loomed in her mind. “Whose was the body that was found on the top floor?

Friday, February 04, 2005

Fears justified...

Kaya knew she should’ve felt relieved at that, but somehow she didn’t. She was uneasy even as they were led into a dormitory. A few cots were aligned against the walls, which were filled up soon, and most of the crowd stood huddled in the centre of the hall. Kaya walked to one of the windows and looked out into the night, trying to gather her thoughts. The initial shock and panic was wearing off, and Kaya thought about her next move.
“I should get in touch with Kailash Pradhan”, she thought, “I should’ve done that, instead of drifting with the crowd and coming here”
She left the room in search of a telephone, silently thanking him for making her memorize his office and residence numbers. Outside the room, the corridor was deserted. The diyas that were perhaps lit for Diwali celebrations had extinguished and a faint smell of burnt oil lingered in the passage. The sound of an occasional firecracker could be heard in the distance. Kaya reached the end of the passage, where a large sign was hung on a wooden door. It said Balwant Pradhan. The door was shut, and Kaya turned back. Her tired feet seemed to walk on their own to the dormitory, where mattresses had been brought in and strewn about the floor. Kaya fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow, but she slept fitfully. Her sleep was punctuated by strange dreams and visions, and finally she did wake up. She was surprised to learn that it was early morning; she had tossed and turned nearly the whole night. Many people had left the dormitory, and Kaya guessed they had gone to check on the fire.

She decided to call Kailash Pradhan and then go back to the site of the tragedy to get news of Kajri. She went down the same passage that she had seen the previous night. This time, the door was slightly ajar and Kaya peered inside. The room was dark, and looked like a small office. Kaya was about to leave when she caught sight of a small ray of light. It appeared to be coming from under the opposite wall. S could make out the shape of a large door, and the light was creeping out from beneath it.
“ This must be the outer office, probably the secretary’s. If someone is there in the inner office, I can probably get to use a phone.”
She moved towards the door, and as she approached it, the voice from inside the room became audible. Kaya paused, and lifted her hand to knock when the she heard her own name. Her hand stopped in mid-air and she strained to catch the words of the conversation.
“This is good news Bhaiya, the fire chief practically confirmed her death. She is now out of our path”
Kaya froze as she heard the words. Who was the she that was being referred to?
“Do not be hasty. How can the fire chief confirm Kaya’s death?”, said a cold voice. A voice that Kaya recognized immediately. A voice that Kaya had been hearing for the last two days. It belonged to Kailash Pradhan.