Chapter 7

Written by: shriram2.iyer2

‘Beside you like a rock.’

Many crave to hear such words being spoken to them. Words that are meant to soothe the pain. But for Lakshmi, they only intensified the pain, magnified the raw terror she felt as a little child.

But things looked set to change in the July of 1983. Lakshmi had first spoken to Vishnu on that night, the night of their wedding. There was something about him - soft spoken, measured and eyes full of kindness.

The terrible secret that she had been carrying for all those years…should she tell him?

She cleared her throat. "I have a confession to make. A horrible secret that I need to share."

Vishnu listened on. All thoughts of a night of passion were quickly replaced with an urge to listen to the woman he had just married, but barely known.

Lakshmi recounted how her father would often whip her and her brother mercilessly. Unemployed and forever intoxicated, he had never been able to cope with being a single parent. And when she would burst into tears, her brother, Swaminathan, would comfort her.

"Beside you like a rock." she remembered him saying.

She recalled with horror the night she saw a giant rock lying beside her father’s bleeding head. Everything had unfolded rather quickly, right before her eyes. Swami had smashed their father’s head, while he lay inebriated on the floor. She could still smell the stream of blood that ran across the floor.

She remembered a calm Swami pressing his finger to her tender lips.

"Sssh little sis, tell no one."

Vishnu hugged his terrified wife the entire night. He wanted to protect her at all costs, even if it meant destroying Swami in the process.

***

Munira had fallen in love with Ahmed’s photo the moment she saw it. The attraction she felt went to another level when she first laid eyes on him. On their wedding night, she lay in bed next to Ahmed, blissfully unaware that Mumbai burned and that the world would remember their wedding night for the wrong reasons.

Eight years on, Ahmed and Munira had established a home automation business. A foreign company had expressed interest in buying a stake and helping their business grow. But Ahmed’s brother, Salim, was the real brain behind the technology. So it was imperative that he attend the conference and seal the deal.

***

In a bar in Tokyo, a woman picked up Shweta’s call.

"Hello."

On the other end, Shweta asked, "Who is this?"

"Bhabhijaan! This is Munira. Salim bhabhijaan has gone to the washroom."

"Sorry its very noisy. I can barely hear you."

Shweta sighed in relief. At least Salim was safe with the family.

"Munira, listen to me very ..."

Munira interrupted her. "We have great news. They have signed the contract and they were very impressed with Salim bhabhijaan’s presentation."

"Munira!’ Shweta hissed. ‘His life is in danger! All of you are in danger. Swaminathan knows where you are. Leave!"

Comments

Terrific work Shriram - great pace, dialogue is snappy and is not used for exposition as dialogue often is. And the ending was great! I'm looking forward to the next chapter.
Thank you so much Suraya! Great feedback, appreciate it. Thanks for the opportunity too.
Excellent reading, Shriram. Imaginatively moving the story forward.