little sonya

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic


i wish i could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop

Submitted: January 04, 2018

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Submitted: January 04, 2018

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Little Sonya

“Shalu, I am leaving. I will purchase fruits on the way” I shouted as I climbed down the stairs of our chaal in the suburbs of Mumbai.

“Have you taken the Debit card and purse?” Shalu alias Shalini screamed from the kitchen.

I didn’t respond, instead started ascending the stairs again. Without Shalu’s timely reminders I wouldn’t be completing half the errands that I undertake.

Seeing me coming back she smiled a wicked “Without me you are zero” kind of smile. She immediately went to the TV Cabinet and came with the purse and debit card neatly placed in its socket.

Just as I thought I was let off quite kindly today, she commented “You don’t remember things now a day’s Rakesh. Growing old? Better stay at home.”

She was right. My memory has been failing me these days. Though at my age of 64 these things are quite common, the number of missed instances have increased over the past year and half, may be due to my long association with diabetes.

“What do you expect me to do sitting at home? Listen to your taunts and lectures. I am better out, than here”. I retorted. I had to.Else, I would be taken for granted. Not that I am not as of now, but still I do not want to lay down my arms easily.

“You won’t change nor listen to what I say. In all these years you haven’t changed a bit. Adamant fellow”

I didn’t want to continue the arguments further. Hence, I moved out and started stepping down the stairs. In the meanwhile, I ran through my pant pockets for the vehicle key. Luckily, I didn’t miss that.

I removed the stand, started my scooter (scooty) and raised the accelerator. Though the vehicle wasn’t at its best condition, still she was able to understand my commands and acted. Within 5 minutes, I was in the highway and moving steadily towards the fruit market. After 10 minutes of driving I stopped short of “Jan Seva Fruits Bazaar”

I parked my vehicle in the narrow by lane besides crockery shop and turned around to enter the Fruits bazaar.

“Dada, get me apples tomorrow. Bored of eating banana’s daily” I recollected the request from Sonali aka Sonya.

“Okay… today you have this. Tomorrow, I will get Apples”

I last met Sonali was 10 days back. Since I was also a volunteer for assisting central government employees in helping and complete processing their pension forms, it was hectic during week days to spare time for the kid. Moreover I was also down for a day or two with diabetic complications.

Sonya was a sweet, cherubic and an intelligent child of 6. She used to stay in a shanty behind the Fruit market. Her mother was engaged in the business of body trade and since her partners change overnight, name of her father was anybody’s guess.

“Bhaiyaji, how much for a Kg of apple?”

“180 per Kg sir. For you will give at 160. How much to pack?”

“Pack a Kg. Where is Radhamma”?

“Haven’t seen her for over a week now, Saab”

I took the bag of apples, came back to my vehicle and started the same. Driving past the fruit market towards

Laal Galli, where the likes of Radhamma used to stay and do business, I felt some uneasiness. I feared for Sonya as she wasn’t as active as she normally used to be even during my last meet with her.

The place where Radhamma used to stay was a make shift tent with overflowing gutter nearby. The place was infested with mosquitoes, flies and scores of other unknown insects. If this was the situation in Dry season, monsoon had those flies and insects shifting their residence within the makeshift tent. Since her place was off limits and I didn’t want to get sick, I normally used to meet Sonya and Radhamma near the confectionary shop at the end of the street.

I soon reached the Confectionary stores and stopped the vehicle opposite the shop to have a look at the road ahead.As expected the road was visible only in bits and patches between potholes and was dangerous for me and my vehicle to safely commute in the patches visible. Moreover, the potholes were filled with wastages from the nearby hotel, stinking drainage over flows and puddle created due to rains 3-4 days back. It was difficult for me to make out the depth of the craters and decided against experimenting it. 

I parked my scooter besides the shop and informed Sadiq, the sales attendant to take care of the vehicle, and stepped inside the shop to meet Mr. Shabbir Khan who was seated behind the cash counter.

“Welcome Sirji. Long time... you don’t frequent here these days?”

“Khanji, I came here 10 days back. Sadiq told you had gone to Mumbai. By the way, how are Radhamma and Sonu”?

“I met Radhamma a week back. She wasn’t talking much... guess some problem with either the police or any of her customer I guess. Asked me 2000 for some medicines. I Gave her Rs. 1200. Sonya was not around with her then and frankly I also didn’t ask.”

“Oh... I brought her apples which she asked me. Keep it with you. Let me visit her place and check”

“Sadiq was there yesterday afternoon, Rakeshji. He said, there was none inside and her shanty was deserted”

“That’s okay, Khan Sahab. Let me visit and see”

“It’s up to you, sir. How is your work going on? Seems you have put down weight considerably”

“Not much... was down for 2-3 days in between. Hence couldn’t come back here earlier. Let me go and check”

I started walking briskly towards the Shanty. As quoted by Sadiq, the shanty was deserted. A half made Bed; some empty medicine strips along with used condoms greeted me. The room was rather empty except for a rusted gas stove, gas cylinder, some utensils and a tin presumably for storing grains / rice. Clothes were bundled and kept at a corner of the house. Sonya’s clothes were strung for drying on the wire suspended across the house.

The drainage nearby was over flowing and water was seeping inside the house. The stench emanating was unbearable and I had to come out get a breadth of fresh air.

Where did Radhamma go with Sonya and without informing anybody? She doesn’t frequent customer house for such business and even if she does, haven’t taken Sonya along in the past. I wasn’t comfortable with the present situation and I needed an answer.

I came back to the shop. Khan wasn’t available and Sadiq greeted me with a wry smile.

“I told Khan Sahib. Radhamma and her child have gone away from here. Good riddance.”

I preferred to ignore his comments. Asked for my fruits bag, collected it and made my way out from the store. Just as I was starting my vehicle, saw Khan returning back to the store.

“Khan, I was there. As you told, the place is deserted. Things have been just as it is but no sign of both of them. If Radhamma comes back, ask her to call me. And also do me a favour, please give these Apples to Sonali when she comes in.”

“Sure Rakesh ji. Will do and also call you and inform”

“Thanks Khan Bhai. “

I started my vehicle again and in a span of 5 minutes reached the highway and turned left to meet the link road to my office. It was hectic work as usual with hardly any time to think on the day’s happenings. As evening was paving way for the night, my restlessness grew. The call from Khan Bhai never came and I was lost in finding the reason or whereabouts of Sonya.

Even at home, dinner didn’t find the usual taste and I got up in between.

“Arey Rakesh, finish dinner properly. You also have to take Medicines for Diabetes”

“Bas... Not hungry. Keep me a glass of warm milk and medicines”

“You waste half your salary on grocery.... why you take provisions if you are not going to use it?”

That was a bit exaggerated. it was her way of making me talk, and I currently wasn’t in the right frame of mind to converse.

I laid back on my bed and started to recall the day’s happenings. I momentarily thought about approaching Police... but Radhamma’s business didn’t leave me with a viable option. I didn’t have answers to many of the questions that Police would ask.

I didn’t realize when I dozed off, but when I got up clock showed me 10 minutes past 6 am. I walked towards the door and slowly pulled it open. Shalu was already up and having her cup of coffee.

I quickly brushed and put on the TV for a news update. As usual the anchor was updating about the political situation in the country and had invited some renowned people from across parties for impromptu debates.

“Rakesh, what happened? Why didn’t you have milk and medicines yesterday?”

Sipping coffee I retorted, “You didn’t keep it”

“I came with medicines, but you already were snoring. And, waking you up it is next to impossible... “

“I was damn tired. I had been to Laal Galli. Radhamma’s place was deserted. Don’t know about Sonya”

“Hmm... Did you call that NGO lady... what’s her name?”

“Brinda...”

“Oh yes... did you call her. If not, call and check if she can help you?”

Brinda Tarte was the chairperson of the NGO Group “Respect”, which helped people in flesh trade to come to mainstream and lead a normal life. She was close with Rakesh as he was into caring for such under privileged children.

My conversation with Brinda was short and specific. She declined having any knowledge of Radhamma and Sonya. However, she was willing to help me with any police complaint if I opt for that. I thought long and hard and realized that without the assistance of authorities, I personally wouldn’t be able to track it.

I called back Brinda. Updated her about my decision to approach police and sought her help. She assured me of her help and asked me to reach Laal Galli Police station by 1100 am.

As habituated I reached the station well before 1100. I checked with a constable who directed me to the inspector.

Inspector Kulkarni was busy discussing with his seniors over phone. He was a rather dark and handsome person. His pencil moustache and athletic physique underquoted his age by 10 years. More than his physique it was his keen, prying eyes which goes within your skin and shreds the lies.

Brinda came by 1140. I had,by then rehearsed once the likely questions and their probable answers.

“Namaskar, Kulkarni Saheb”

Inspector Kulkarni acknowledged her presence with a wave of his hand and pointed to an empty chair opposite him. As he was still busy with his superiors over phone, he requested Brinda to give him 5 minutes and looked at his constable, who nodded his head and went out to place order for 2 tea.

“When did you come?”

“A bit before 1100. I was tensed sitting at home and waiting. “

“Can understand. When did you last met the lady, Radhamma and her daughter”

“10-12 days back… was to meet them the next day. Unfortunately, was caught up and couldn’t meet. Yesterday went there. But the place was deserted and no one knew about them”

“Let see… I am sure nothing would have happened”

Kulkarni, kept the receiver down and started to clear his ears.

“Yes Brinda Madam. What can I do for you? If you are here personally, it does seem something is amiss?

“Don’t know, Sir. That you will have to check. This is Rakesh ji. He takes care of Sonali, daughter of Radhamma, a lady from Lal Galli.”

“Okay. Where is the problem?”

“He last met them 10-12 days back. Yesterday again he went to meet them, but nobody seems to know her whereabouts”

Kulkarni, turned his direction towards me. “What was the reason you frequent her, at this age?”

I was expecting this question, but the bluntness made me squirm. “I know her for over 4 years now. I frequent Lal Galli, not as a customer, but as an activist to support these under privileged children. Here is my ID, which confirms that I am a social activist”

“Okay…when did you last see that vamp and her kid?”

“About 10-12 days back. I had been to see the kid. She wasn’t doing well then. She asked for apples and I said, I would get them the next day. Unfortunately, had some work for the next one week. Didn’t find time to visit them. After that was down with complications from high sugar. Yesterday, I found time and went there. But they weren’t available”

Inspector kept nodding his head and asking his writer to take notes of my statements. Once I finished, he gave a sarcastic smile and looked at Brinda for approval.

“Yes Sahab. Need your help to trace the kid and her mother. You also know how this world is… I fear more for the kid than her mother… Please help.”

I didn’t notice any emotions or concerns from the inspectors face. Probably he is trained to not show emotions. But his next question to me confirmed his thoughts about such deprived community.

“Rakesh ji, if you want to support, you can very well do to Govt. authorized orphanages and old age homes. Why should it be that you visit only this female and her kid? Somewhere…something is wrong or ‘right’”.

“Sir… I told you what happened. Also, my concern is the safety of the kid first. This is not my first such association. I have been in social service for the last 35 years and have helped close to 100+ families and their kids. If you want more information, you can check back with relevant authorities at different NGOs”

“Sawant…take details of the associations that Rakesh sir is saying. Take his contact number. Brinda ji, need time to check on these. You know the complications…Give me 2 days… will update you on the progress”

“Sir, please make it fast... I fear more for the kid...”

“Let me see... Chala… mala ata baher jaichse. Tumhi itumsa phone number sawant la deun java. Will call you back once I get anything”

Brinda motioned me to move out. “Rakesh ji, let us give him some time. I am sure nothing would have happened. I will be in touch with Kulkarni over phone. Also, if nothing comes up, we have other options too. Don’t worry.”

Taking the complaint copy and with heaviness in my heart I returned home. I wasn’t sure if anything would be done by the police. These things weren’t new for them and they have their own interpretations about such people and their families. Not to undermine, but a few officers themselves used to frequent the likes of Radhamma.

Time was close to 01:40. Shalu, was pestering me for lunch… and I wasn’t interested. Instead, I took an Orange, peeled its skin and had its fruit for lunch.

Shalini was furious. “This is the 2nd time in as many days that you skipped food. What do you think of me to be? Your servant?”

Though I have been in such service for over 30 years, I have never been so attached to a kid other than Sonya. May be the recent loss of my son and grandson over a freak accident made me emotional and attracted to this kid.

I went to my room, changed to casuals and laid down on my bed.

I recalled the last conversation that I had with Radhamma.

“Bhai, next year I want Sonali to get to a good school. If not here, can you arrange for a school far away…may be Pune or Delhi. I don’t want my background to impact her studies”

 “Let me see Radhamma. I have few acquaintances at Pune. A missionary school run by my School friend. Let me check and let you know”

“Dada, get me apples tomorrow. I am bored of eating banana’s daily. Sadiq uncle also said, he would give me banana tomorrow but asked me to come after 9 near the shop. I am not interested in Banana anymore”

“Okay... Okay… today you have this. Tomorrow, I will get Apples”.

I wasn’t comfortable despite lodging a complaint. I was restless over something which I wasn’t able to pinpoint. Was I missing something? What did I Miss? I again went through days happenings… again recollected my last meet with Radhamma and Sonya….

Somewhere…something isn’t right….

Sonya…”come after 9”… Sadiq.

Bloody hell… I wasn’t able to understand the reality then and what Sadiq was upto. The confectionary shop closes by 8 pm… why would Sadiq ask Sonya to come by 9.

I suspected and in-fact feared the worst and stormed out of my room to the phone at the hall. Called up Brinda and told her of my suspicions and requested her if she can drop by the Police station in the next 15 minutes.

Though, my suspicion was just a hunch… my fear was real. I somehow felt, Sadiq to be the person responsible for anything that might have happened. I also recalled that Sadiq had paid visit to the shanty 2 days back too.

Brinda reached station within 10 minutes of my reaching. Immediately, we approached Kulkarni and appraised him of my last conversation with Radhamma.

Contrary to my belief, Kulkarni was agile and responded positively to my hunch. He asked me to call up Khan and inquire tactfully whether Sadiq has reported for work. I immediately dialled Khan’s store number…

“Hello…“ Khan voice resonated

Khan bhai… kaise ho? Any news of Sonya or Radhamma. Did you deliver Apples?”

Arey, nahi bhai. Abhi tak kuch pata nahi chala hai. Don’t know where they went”

“Can you ask Sadiq to again visit and check if they have come?”

“Sure Rakesh ji. Sadiq has gone out. Once he comes in, will ask him to check and call you back”

“Thanks Bhai”. I neatly placed the receiver on its holder and conveyed the conversation to Kulkarni and Brinda.

“Let’s go Rakesh ji. Guess… Sadiq will be able to help us more… personally”… so saying Kulkarni got up from his seat and moved towards his jeep.I sat with Brinda and a SI at the next row, followed by 4 constables (one female) at the back.

As we neared confectionary shop, Sadiq who was standing out was surprised to see me coming accompanied by police. He on the pretext of having a delivery stepped out but was intercepted by the constables.

Kute Jato re...?” Sawant asked while pulling Sadiq by his collar.

“Delivery Sir...” was the reply...

“Aat ye. Tujashi bolaycha ahe”
Inspector Kulkarni stepped inside the shop along with 2 other constables.

“Khan bhai... kya chal raha hai?”

“Kuch nahi Sir. Kuch khaas kam?”

“Sadiq ko kidar bhej rahe they. Toda time chahiye uske saath”

“Kidar nahi sir... idar hi tha abhi tak”

Knowing that his lie was caught, Sadiq tried to slip away. Inspector reached him in two long strides and gave him a stinging slap. Sadiq didn’t expect it and lost his balance and fell back hurting his head. A resounding kick at his abdomen made him sit up.

“Madarchod, where is Sonya?”

“Sir...maaryie mat. I will tell....”

6 Days back…

Radhamma had been to the stores to purchase few items. During discussion she pointed out to Khan that Rakesh ji hadn’t come over in the last 4 days and she wanted to speak with him. Khan, affirmed her that he would pass on the information to Rakesh ji.  As usual, she borrowed Rs. 1200 from Khan and left.

At the steps of the shop, Sadiq met Radhamma and inquired about her and Sonya’s wellbeing.

“How is Sonya? You haven’t got her here?”

“No… she is sleeping”

Radhamma despite her business was adept at understanding characters… she suspected Sadiq and didn’t want his presence near her or Sonya.

“What did you come here for?” persisted Sadiq

Radhamma didn’t respond and moved away. Sensing that she wouldn’t answer, Sadiq retraced his steps to the store and started a conversation with Khan.

“Khan bhai… Radhamma was here?”

“Oh yes… she just left”

“Ok… saw her going…she came to purchase or beg”.

“Ya… she wanted to purchase fruits… Sonya, I guess is pestering her for Apples. As usual, borrowed money”

“Khan bhai… you shouldn’t encourage such worthless females. It has become a habit with them and live on alms”

Muje pata hai…Tera kaam kar tu” snapped Khan which silenced Sadiq

That evening Sadiq made a visit to Radhamma’s place. Slippers outside her tent indicated that, she was busy with a customer. Sonya was playing with some of her friends outside.

“Sonya… aye Sonya… come here” Sadiq called out.

“Kya mama…”

“You were asking for apples na… did your mother get it for you”

“No mama… she said Rakesh dada would send it”

“Ok… I just spoke with Rakeshji… he asked me to give you… I haven’t brought it now here. Come to the shop after 9. Will give you… okay?”

“Ok mama….”

“And don’t tell your mother. She will scold you for taking it again from me”

“Ok mama… I will come… how much Dada has left”

“1 kg… 6 Apples”

“Hiyaaa… 6 apples… I will come…Now shall I leave”

“That night, Sonya had come to the shop. I was waiting with my friend Gulal who wanted a child for the night. I took Rs. 3000 from Gulal and handed over the bag of apples to him. I was there only for 5 minutes so that I can direct Sonya to Gulal. After that what happened I don’t know”

Present Situation

More than me or Brinda it was Kulkarni who was agitated by the narration. He gave another slap which broke a tooth and made Sadiq taste his blood.

“Maaro mat sir… I really don’t know what happened.”

Madarchod, you pimps will not even allow a kid…you fucking bastard should be shot” so saying Kulkarni drew his service revolver and pointed towards Sadiq.

Seeing such a reaction, both I and Brinda started to perspire. Sadiq immediately fell at his feet and acknowledged that he knew where Sonya was.

Sir, muje pata hai. Gulal ko 3000 me bech diya tha. Gulal, yahan Sion par rehta hai. I know his place….”

“Take us there then…”

Within the next 40 minutes we reached Gulal’s residence and caught him. Though initially he rejected knowing Sadiq, inspector’s “Hit” language brought forth conviction. My eyes, were still tracing for Sonya….

At the instruction of the Inspector, Sawant clasped a bunch of hair on Gulal’s head and started dragging him... “Bho*****... Porgi kute?”

“Sahab... at Pathan’s chaal” screamed Gulal in agony...

“Gheun zaa...”

It was more like a scene from any Bollywood movie. Gulal and Sadiq were literally pushed and kicked by Kulkarni and his men the entire route. It was just under 15 minutes that we arrived at Pathan’s chaal. Gulal and Sadiq by now were bleeding profusely from their face, hands and knees. Their clothing’s were torn and hair scattered.Sadiq was asked to remain seated in the vehicle along with 2 constables and Gulal was asked to accompany them to the room.

The room was a 1X1 room with just a bed and a chair nearby. There was no other furniture present. Luckily for everyone, there was no guard and we found Sonya sleeping at the corner of the bed with just enough clothes to cover her privacy. There were scratches on her face and elbows. It seemed she had slept crying...

The plight of Sonya made me cry. Kulkarni got wild looking at the girl, and kicked Gulal in his groin.

Gulal’s agonizing cry, made Sonya twinge further. She slowly got up and looking at so many men, moved to the corner of the bed. Brinda immediately moved forward and pulled the girl close to her, slowly passing her hands through her curly hair. Tightly clutching Brinda, Sonya slowly looked up to find me and constable standing near the chair.

“Dada, why did you lie to me...”

“No Beta “was all that I could muster.

“Dada... Muje Apple nahi Mila. Sadiq uncle ne bola tha ki aap leke bhejen hain”

I couldn’t listen further nor could I speak. I stepped forward and pulled Sonya closer to me.

“I am sorry dear”

“Dada... it hurts here” and showed the legs and hands where there have been bruises.

“Did any one misbehave with you darling” I asked

Sonya’s didn’t seem to understand. How could she. She wasn’t even at that age to understand these.

Brinda, without even waiting for the answer from child, took the child from me and got her to an adjacent room along with a lady constable.

Five minutes later, she emerged carrying the child in her arms and redness in her eyes.

“She is safe, Rakesh ji. But she was tortured and beaten. Animals they are”

Two constables who accompanied us again kicked Gulal so heavily that he dashed against the side of the bed and blood started oozing out from the cut near the temples.

Gulal and Sadiq were taken to the station and case registered.

As regards Sonya, she was taken to Children care and treated for her wounds. She was spoken to by a Psychologist who confirmed that she wasn’t subjected to any undesirable incidents.

Radhamma, who was frantically searching for the kid near the locality and with her acquaintances and customers, was also updated about Sonya’s condition. Slowly, Radhamma was also counselled by Brinda to leave her profession. She was given training on vocational courses and a small tailoring and beautician classes was set up for her at Pune.

I adopted Sonya in consultation and acceptance from Government authorities and Radhamma. She now goes to school and has been as cherubic as before.

I mentally prayed to God for his kindness and profusely thanked Brinda and Kulkarni for their support.

I still sometimes have sleepless nights, thinking about the ordeal that Sonya had to undergo at this tender age. Things could have been far worse for the child, had it not been the hint that she reluctantly provided. Though a bit relieved, I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop, so that Sonya could have avoided this bitter experience of life.

 


© Copyright 2018 J.Adkar. All rights reserved.

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