My team Inspirati and I are participating in BlogAdda’s #CelebrateBlogging activity Game of Blogs, We are writing a serial story.
I am writing Episode 8
The story so far:
Shekar and Tara Dutta’s daughter, Roohi is missing. They file a complaint with police Inspector Tawde.
Jennifer, a photographer and Cyrus, a law student, are a young couple who are going through relationship problems.
Jennifer and Vijay are colleagues at work and are currently on an assignment investigating child trafficking in Mumbai. Vijay loves Jennifer.
Cyrus, who lives in Delhi, travels to Mumbai with the intention of patching up with Jennifer.
Inspector Tawde suspects the Duttas’ maid, Kamla and is hot on her trail.
Kamla makes it with a drugged Roohi to her getaway vehicle only to find it is the wrong one.
It turns out to be Cyrus heading for the airport. In the nick of time, Cyrus recognizes the child as the one in the photograph Jennifer showed him before their tiff and phones her, who tells him to call Tawde. Tawde instructs Cyrus to keep an eye on Kamla and Roohi and says he’s on his way to Hotel Tawera.
Tawde started sprinting towards Hotel Tawera. He could see the garish red neon lights beckoning. Soon, it would all be over. The chase would end. And he’d have one more feather in his cap – case solved. Victim arrested. Child returned to grateful parents. And he would be on the next case.
His ears picked up the faint sound of drumbeats, which seemed to grow in decibels by the second. Too late, he remembered that today was the Ganpati visarjan procession! He had to reach the hotel before they got there, or he would be stranded on the wrong side of the road for the rest of the night!
Increasing his pace, he broke out in a sweat as he continued to jog towards the hotel.
Cyrus was trying to decide whether it was better to hold on to the taxi or let it go. All he had to do was keep an eye on the woman and child until the policeman got there. If he rushed, he could head out to the airport and catch his flight back to his empty life. If he let the taxi go, heaven knew if he’d find another. He had heard that in Mumbai, one could get a taxi any time but who knew what would happen? The day had gone downhill for him. Filled with hope he had impulsively made the trip from Delhi expecting to reconcile with Jennifer. And now, he had squashed all his chances of ever getting back together with her again. Imagining Fate laughing at him, he decided to let the taxi go. He only had a backpack and paying the taxi off, he quickly hitched it up and adjusting the straps, took off after the woman with the child.
In a couple of seconds, his phone vibrated. He had put it in silent mode and was about to ignore it when it occurred to him that it might be the policeman Tawde calling. Maybe he had reached the hotel already? He answered the phone. It was Jennifer.
“Hey Cyrus. Where are you now? Did you speak to Tawde?”
“Yes, Jen. I told him about the woman and the little girl and he’s coming over. I am keeping an eye on them until he gets here”
“Oh! Look, Vijay and I are coming over. Just tell me where you are”
This is what it felt like when they say caught between a rock and a hard place, thought Cyrus. Dejected, he told her what he had told the policeman.
“No problem! We are not far from there. We’re leaving right away and should be there in less than 10 minutes”, she said and disconnected her phone.
Wow, he thought. Bad enough he had to stress over visions of her and Vijay living happily ever after and now, he was going to have to see it live and put up with Vijay gloating over his victory?
As he pocketed his phone, the sound of drumbeats getting louder by the second reached him. Wishing he had never thought of coming to Mumbai, Cyrus quickened his pace as he saw the woman hurrying away towards the hotel. He prayed the policeman would reach there soon. If he left in 15 minutes, he could still make his flight!
Kamla was panting with the effort of the past half hour. She was furious at herself for being careless. First, the girl had almost escaped and it was a stroke of luck that she had been able to bring her back to the hiding place. She had thought she was clever by using that new SIM card. Fortunately, their mole in the police department had warned her just in time. If only that pickup had been the one she had been waiting for! Now she was anxious to contact her accomplice somehow so she could get out of this place safely with the girl. As she hurried, sweating and groaning under the strain of having to carry the girl, she heard the sounds of a procession, increasing with each step she took.
Tawde was exasperated. He was just a few meters away from the Hotel and there seemed no signs of the man who had phoned him. It got him thinking. Was it a ruse on the kidnapper’s part? Had they deliberately misled him? Why should he trust an anonymous caller? The doubts plagued him as he got closer to the hotel. The procession was in full swing. He heard screams of “Ganpati Bappa Moreya” from the crowd. The men with the “Dhols” or the drummers were in high spirits, literally, and beat ceaselessly to the groups dancing in front of the massive idol of Ganpati, which was being dragged on a giant raft with wheels. The crowds thronged around the vehicle moving at snail’s pace and stopping every few seconds so people could get an eyeful of the deity who removed all obstacles.
Tawde half-smiled to himself at the chaos that was approaching. Soon it would be pandemonium. These processions lasted several hours as they sent off their beloved deity on its way from Chowpatty beach, which was quite a long way from here. Enthusiastically, the volunteers moved around the vehicle, inviting the onlookers to participate and dance together. Flowers were flung in bunches at the idol. Prayers were offered. Tawde shuddered at the thought of the stampede they caused. Deaths were not uncommon in these processions. Families were separated in the confusion and it was not unusual for a family member to reconnect with a long lost loved one, although these instances were rarer.
The crowd seemed to grow crazier by the minute, shouting themselves hoarse. Looking around, Tawde noticed people gathering around their doorstep. The slum-dwellers had no appointment to keep, nowhere to rush to. They settled down to watch the scene unfold, just as they did every year of their lives.
Cyrus was having a tough time keeping track of the woman as she swerved this way and that. Considering that she was carrying the weight of the girl, she was moving fairly fast. Moreover she was familiar with the area, which Cyrus was not, and that put him at a disadvantage as he struggled to keep her in sight.
Kamla cursed her luck. She was beginning to wish she hadn’t gotten into this whole mess. They had promised her that all she had to do was deliver the girl. She’d get paid handsomely and could return to doing what she did. They had assured her it was safe. She had been tempted by the money. Everything had been going so well until the stupid girl had run away, making her miss the first pickup. And now, she was going to have to somehow find a way to deliver her as planned and get her money.
She slogged on, a plan slowly forming in her mind. The police would soon catch up with her and if she didn’t hurry, she could bid her life goodbye and she had no intention of giving up so easily!
Jennifer knocked on Vijay’s door urgently. He opened the door to see her tense face and listened as she quickly told him what had happened. “Let’s go, Vijay” she said. Vijay picked up his bag and keys from his table and followed her. Both of them were excited at the prospect of the chase. As they sped towards their rendezvous they heard the sounds of the procession.
Cyrus saw the sea of human faces approach. It occurred to him that if the woman reached the procession, there was no way he could keep track of her. He hurried after her. Since he had no idea how Tawde looked, he hoped he would identify him in his policeman’s uniform. He expected that Tawde would be looking out for him, too and hoped he’d find him soon as it was getting increasingly difficult to keep the woman in sight.
Kamla was trying to make a phone call as she hung on to Roohi adjusting her weight. Oh, how much longer would it be before she was on her way to freedom! She waited for the phone call to be answered. As she wearily plodded on, she took a quick look around. That man with the backpack, was he following her? She saw him walking in the same direction and recognized him as the man in the cab. She panicked and with renewed energy, hurried to the fringe of the crowd in the procession. If she could get lost in there, nobody would find her. There was hope!
Tawde was desperately trying to spot Cyrus as the crowd got closer. Soon they would fill the road. The sound of conches split his eardrums and he realized that even if he did see Cyrus and shouted, he might not hear him. Cursing under his breath, he looked everywhere trying to figure out where he could be. It shouldn’t take him this long to get there, unless the idiot had ventured out in strange territory on foot. What if that Kamla had gone in a different direction and not towards the hotel?
Tawde hit his thigh in exasperation. Just then, he saw Cyrus waving at him. Ah, his uniform! He hurried towards him. Cyrus frantically pointed at the crowd and Tawde turned just in time to see Kamla and Roohi swallowed by the mass of humanity.
Beckoning to Cyrus, he ran after them. Cyrus followed.
Kamla let the crowd move her. She knew that she should somehow manage to get across the road to the other side. She let the girl slide and held her close. She was getting too heavy for her. Oh, not long now, she thought.
The process grew rowdier.The noise reached a crescendo.
“Ganpati Bappa Moreya” they screamed over and over, inviting the deity to return next year.
The drumbeats drowned out the voices. The people were in a frenzy, dancing, shouting, inching along with the idol.
Tawde looked around helplessly, and saw Cyrus being pulled away by the moving crowd. He wondered how they were ever going to find Kamla in this melee.
Kamla was now sure that Cyrus was after her. Who else would be stupid enough to mingle with a Ganpati procession? Desperate, she decided to take matters in her own hands.
Cyrus felt miserable. What the hell had he gotten himself into? He bitterly regretted his childish outburst with Jennifer. If only he had been a little more patient and understanding, he would not have been heading to the airport. He would not be where he was now. Jennifer and he would have probably been enjoying dinner together happily, by now.
Reality bites, he thought. He tried to catch sight of Kamla and Roohi, but realized the impossibility of the situation now. What was to stop him from just giving up and leaving? He had broken up with Jennifer. It didn’t really matter. Why should he care what she would think?
Immersed in his thoughts, Cyrus had no inkling of what was about to happen. Suddenly, he felt something hard impact the back of his head. Shocked, he turned, already losing his balance with the pushing crowd. His eyes opened wide in surprise, then shock to see the face that looked back at him, smiling nastily.
The skies opened up and raindrops fell rapidly. The crowd cheered on, unaffected by this little blessing from nature. It was normal to experience showers at this time and they sang and shouted, happily.
Suddenly there was a commotion. Sparks flew from one of the electrical wires. What happened next, nobody knew. A loose live wire came in contact with a puddle on the road. Fear spurred the crowd into action as they started running helter-skelter.
In the uproar, a loud wail went up. Someone had stepped into the puddle. And got electrocuted. Unable to control itself, the crowd gathered around. It seemed there was not one, but two victims!
Cyrus found himself falling slowly. Tawde stood in front of him, staring at him. He could hear people shouting. He caught the words “Two people…..woman and child…electric shock….” …and his face glazed over with fear. He watched Cyrus, his hand stretched towards him, going down, as if in slow motion. His eyes pleaded. And then he just collapsed.
Gun drawn, Tawde tried to get a look at the victims. His mind raced. This was not how it was supposed to be. He pushed and shouted at the crowd, hoping they’d let him go through when they saw his uniform. As the rain continued to fall, he caught sight of the bodies. The woman half shielded the child with her own body as they lay still and lifeless.
Is this what it had come to? Tawde snapped into action and pulled out his phone to call the ambulance for Cyrus.
Somewhere in the distance, a speeding van screeched to a stop.
Even before it fully braked, its sliding doors opened.
A limping woman hurriedly got in after ensuring her “samaan” was safely inside.
No one heard the van speeding away into the night.
Stay tuned for updates!
Special appreciation and applause to Abhydaya Shrivastava, our “team leader” and my team members for their awesome encouragement and support and proactive interaction. I love them! Drop by our Facebook page!
The story so far: (click the titles to read)
8.Pandemonium (you are here)