Saturday, October 02, 2004

I would do anything for love…

By Aishwariya Laxmi

The house loomed large against the black stillness of the night. Clouds obscured the moon and Aakanksha had to strain her eyes to keep sight of the muddy, godforsaken road. The cold damp air gave her goosebumps. She wondered if this was a good idea after all.

When she had received an e- mail from Sohan she had been overjoyed. As her entire school had known, Sohan had been her first and only true love. Sohan had studied with her till the first term of Class XI and then had left for the U.S to continue his studies there. His parents however lived here in Anand Nagar. She had been crazy about Sohan from the time she could remember her existence in this world. She called it existence, because it would be a life only if Sohan were in it. But, to Sohan , she was nothing more than another number on the class register. Notwithstanding the battering to her ego, she was sure that this was love and that some day he would recognise her feelings for what they were and love her like no other. Talk about wild dreams and flights of fancy.

Now, there was this e-mail from Sohan, saying he was coming down to Anand Nagar for his holidays and would be here for two weeks. Sohan-and writing to her? It was a dream come true. He wanted to meet up with her and had even left an address. Her excitement was palpable as she scribbled it down on her writing pad. With her fingers trembling a little with excitement, she wrote out a quick and effusive reply. No. That sounded too desperate. She wanted to play it cool. She rephrased herself so that she sounded less needy and clicked on send. The whole day she kept checking her mail for his reply. At 3.30 p.m. she received a reply confirming the date.

She spent the next couple of hours at the parlour doing up her hair and nails. She was lucky since it was only a half-day at work. She went back home to change into her favourite blue dress-the one that looked great on her complexion, and lied to her mother saying that she was staying at a friend’s house. And sure she picked the friend who didn’t have a telephone in her house and lived miles away from her. At last…things were beginning to happen. Her life was picking up. As she drove down the pot-holed roads, she sang in her heart and played her favourite songs. So caught up was she in her ebullience that she didn’t realise how lonely the road was getting. It was twilight and her mother’s oft-repeated warnings about the twilight hour being the most dangerous for drivers sprang up and nudged their way into her consciousness. Pushing these niggling anxieties away, she tried concentrating on the road ahead.

The house loomed large against the black stillness of the night. Clouds obscured the moon and Aakanksha had to strain her eyes to keep sight of the muddy, godforsaken road. The cold damp air gave her goosebumps. She wondered if this was a good idea after all.

Something swooped down and landed on her windshield. She heard herself scream. The car swerved out of control and crashed into a tree. Suddenly, a burly figure appeared out of nowhere. A man in a trenchcoat with a scarf over his mouth grabbed her by the arm and took her out of the car. She was blindfolded and gagged. Panic rose within her and she tasted bile. For a fleeting moment she thought she was going to throw up. A rough calloused hand closed in around her neck and fear gripped her with thin icy fingers. A horrible thought flashed across her mind. This man-what was he going to do with her?

As she struggled against his vice like grip, he hit her. She could taste the blood on her lips. Oh God - where was she and who was this horrible man? What in the world was happening? This couldn’t be true. Suddenly, her feet felt cold. He was taking her to the beach. The icy cold water gnawed at her ankles.
Before she knew what was happening, the blindfold was pulled off and she was pushed rudely into the water. Falling face forward into the wave, Aakanksha could feel the salty, muddy water in her eyes. They burned but she couldn’t wipe them. Her hands were still tied. She blinked in pain and confusion and tears started falling uncontrollably. The shrill siren of an ambulance pierced the quiet night air. She struggled in the water and managed to crawl toward the shore. Leaning against the wreck of an old boat that was stationed there, she looked around for signs of her abductor, but he was nowhere in sight.

He had left her in the sea, with her hands tied and had disappeared. Probably the ambulance had scared him off. Once she got her bearings, she realised that things could have been worse and started running, afraid that he would reappear. She ran like she had never run before. It seemed like forever, but was probably for about ten minutes. She spotted a small shack and hurriedly ran towards the dim light. Just as she started yelling for help, a black gloved hand clamped her mouth shut and she felt searing pain as cold metal sliced through her…

Three days later, a small item in the local newspaper announced Aakanksha’s murder. Two fishermen who had seen it floating towards the shore had found her body. It was slightly bloated but the wound inflicted on her back could be seen. They reported their find to the police, who searched the area for clues. The investigation went on for a week before a bloodstained knife was found near a run-down shack. A broken key chain with the initial P was found along with a torn piece of cloth near the knife. The cloth matched the dress Aakanksha had worn the night of the murder. Her colleagues at her office were questioned. They had known Aakanksha for only a month, as she had just finished school and joined the advertising agency as a copywriter.

Aakanksha’s close friends from school, Rekha and Aditi were then questioned. They revealed that Aakanksha was a very friendly girl but was hugely infatuated with Sohan. Almost everybody in school knew of her crush on Sohan. A couple of other boys had been interested in her and about seven months ago, a boy named Paul had proposed to her in front of the whole class, but she had been rude to him and had laughed at him. She had also slapped him in front of everybody. He had felt very insulted and had grown very angry. Afterward, a group of boys had taunted him about the incident and he had been ragged by some of his neighbours as well (who had heard of the incident from the school boys.). His father was an alcoholic and mother was dying of cancer. After his mother’s death, he had dropped out of school and had not written his board exams. The police followed up this story.

Paul was suffering from depression and he was also of unsound mind ever since the incident. He had been brooding over Akanksha’s insults for a long time. When the police went to his house, he was frightened and trembling. He broke down and confessed to the murder. He said that he had known of Aakanksha’s feelings for Sohan and had tricked her into meeting him pretending to be Sohan, since he knew that she would surely come, if Sohan’s name was used. He had played on her Achilles heel and murdered her. He was sentenced to imprisonment after being referred to a psychiatrist.

Sohan, who was in the U.S, was contacted by email. He was astounded to hear that a girl had been so in love with him. He felt very sorry for the girl and told his friends that he had been totally clueless about her feelings for him. He had been interested in getting a seat in an engineering college abroad and had been studying hard to do well in his entrance exams.

When he did come down for his holidays to meet his parents in Anand Nagar, he visited her parents and offered his condolences. They broke down and cried as the pain of losing their beautiful, only daughter was still fresh in their hearts. Aakanksha’s colleagues at the office paid their tributes as well….

To this day, the very name Aakanksha brings a stab of pain to all those concerned….

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