Samir threw his head back and laughed uproariously. His brown eyes danced with playfulness and his laughter echoed in the shabby, dingy room of the police station. He was sitting in front of the inspector, oozing confidence, his legs akimbo, his hands held loosely on the table.
His man bun, clean-shaven face, stylish and trendy clothes, augmented his dashing personality and his ruggedly handsome looks. He was of medium build and height.
“Inspector, do you seriously believe that I have something to do with Baskar’s disappearance? Ha! Maybe you think I have killed him? Our very own Baskar the black sheep? Let me tell you something about him before I explain to you why I couldn’t have killed him. Not that I haven’t thought about it, mind you.”
He bent his head backward, lidded his eyes, pursed his lips, and thought for a while before sitting straight to continue, “This Baskar is an egotist and a loner, but pretends he is very friendly and outgoing. He is an awful, lousy person, rotten to the core. Even that is pardonable, but he has this habit of corrupting good people and adding that dollop of poison into their minds and influencing them in a bad way.”
He was silent for a while and then with a sigh, he continued “Sadhana, Saloni, and I are great friends. We have known each other since childhood. We all hang out together and have great fun. We think alike and have the same ideas of fun. We do not do drugs, do not smoke, drink moderately, and stay healthy and happy. Then this guy Baskar appeared suddenly and joined us. Initially, it was all good. We were happy that such a helpful guy like him had become a part of our small group.”
After a small silence, when Samir continued, the tone of his voice had changed. The frivolity had been replaced by gravity. As if he was reliving some bad memories.
“Sadhana was his first target. She was a very vulnerable young girl. Coming from a broken home, she had low self-esteem, could easily be influenced, and would cry at the drop of a hat. He slowly worked on her, breaking her morale, filling her with hatred, and alienating her from Saloni and me. Sadhana was reduced to a miserable, self-loathing individual.”
Samir took a hankie from his pocket, wiped his face, and sat back to continue.
“Saloni is a cool, level-headed person. Chic and classy, well turned out, she is a hit with all her friends. She also has a wise head on those elegant shoulders. I have myself wept on them a couple of times, when I was going through rough patches in life. But our Baskar found a way to undermine her sang-froid and disturb her composure. Constantly criticizing her, berating her, he broke her shell of equanimity and created mayhem. He called her poise idiocy, her contentment became foolishness and her sense of harmony was her weakness.”
He paused to take a sip of the tea from the fragile paper cup placed in front of him, holding it carefully without spilling it or getting burnt by it. When he continued, his ebullient voice had tapered down to a self-effacing murmur.
“His next target, of course, was me. Whenever we were together he would call it man-to-man bonding time. I never realized till it was too late that it was also the time he slowly made me hate the girls. He brought out everything negative about them, all the while implying that we both as men had to fight them to keep together. Within a few months, we were all split up and hated each other. Whenever all four of us met, one of us would flare up and it would all end in a brawl with Sadhana bawling her heart out, Saloni becoming coldly angry, and me screaming at everyone. Baskar would be quietly triumphant, enjoying the mayhem from behind his hateful smile.”
A couple of days later, Sadhana sat in the same chair. She constantly fussed with her dress, pinching at the sleeves of her top and pulling the T-shirt over her pants. Her fingers unconsciously touched her nose, pressed at her lips, or slid through her hair making it messier.
She was of average height and build. Her hair was slightly ruffled and she wore no make-up.
She wet her lips with her tongue and started “Inspector, Samir asked me to come and meet you. I have not seen Baskar for at least six months. So I don’t know how I can help you. I have no idea where he is or what happened to him.”
She was quiet for a minute. She sat looking at the fly-blown photo of Mahatma Gandhi with a dried garland, that hung on the wall behind the inspector. Then, reluctantly she brought her attention back and continued, “Baskar is a dreadful guy. He was very good at finding people’s weaknesses and exploiting them. Did you know? Because of him, I lost a year at college. He would keep telling me I was not good enough and I did not have the intelligence to crack the exams. I became a mental wreck and did not even write the exams. At the same time, he had alienated me from my friends, Samir and Saloni. I was so alone and lonely and depressed.”
Huge blobs of tears developed in the corners of her dark brown eyes and flowed out. She clumsily rummaged in her bag to produce a shabby hanky and used it to swab at her eyes.
“It was Saloni who realized what was happening. She talked to me and Samir and convinced us that we should get out of Baskar’s clutches. At first, I did not agree. I wanted to wallow in self-pity and continue with my miserable life. I was so defeated and pathetic, I did not have the energy to get out of the wretched world he had created for me. But with a lot of help from the other two, I managed to shake off my gloom and come out of my fugue.”
Still talking, Sadhana reached out for the teacup, placed on the table. The disposable cup disfigured and spilled some tea on the table and also scalded her fingers. She used the hanky to clean her hands and wipe the table and clumsily finished drinking the tea.
“Baskar did not let go so easily. He would force himself amongst us. But we did not encourage him. Even when he was in our midst, we ignored him and did not respond to his friendship. Then he tried talking to me alone and convincing me to let him be my friend. Even when I weakened and felt sorry for him, the others made sure he did not talk to me alone. One day he announced that he was very unhappy with the way we were ignoring him. So, he had decided to join a college in another city and he would be leaving soon. None of us cared. This happened almost six months back.”
Sadhana leaned back in her chair as if all that talking had drained her out. She began looking out of the curtain-less window. There were some benches occupied by people waiting for the attention of the inspector. There was an old, sad-looking woman sitting patiently.
Sadhana continued “Inspector, will you let me know if you find him. I am so scared, he will come back and continue to make my life miserable. He had threatened me before he left, that he will not take it lying down. He would have his revenge on all three of us. I am the weak one. He would target me first. So please, please help me and call me if you find him.” Her eyes once again filled up and she began sobbing.
Saloni did not look much different from Sadhana but her personality and her way of dressing were very different.
Her shoulder-length hair was neatly combed to a shine. Her coolers perched stylishly on her head. Her warm brown eyes twinkled with joy. Her light blue kurta and the multi-colored stole she had elegantly draped on her shoulders gave her a ‘cool’ look. She carried a tote bag in her arms. She oozed self-confidence and poise.
She deftly placed the bag on her side, sat on the same chair, gracefully crossing her legs, and looked up at the inspector with a smile.”I guess our cry baby, Sadhana, and smart-aleck Samir have already spoken to you about Baskar and how he played havoc in our lives. Even though he only spent a couple of years with us he caused enough damage to last our lives.”
She delicately flicked back the lock of hair that had slid onto her face. Then her hands came back to rest together primly on the table.
“Baskar was very secretive about himself. He never answered questions about where he was from or who his parents were.” She thought keenly before continuing “I think in a private conversation with me, once, he had referred to himself as a child of ‘necessity’. Other than that I have never heard him talking about himself.”
She paused to thank the boy who offered her the customary cup of tea. She accepted the disposable cup carefully, took an appreciative sip, and placed it gingerly, on the table.
“After our massive showdown with him, he left in a huff. He was very angry with all three of us because we had wizened up about him and his attempts at alienating us. The other two refused to talk to him. But unknown to them, he did meet me once. He told me that he wanted to be away from us and that he had found himself a new college far away and was moving there. After that, for a long time, I met neither him nor the other two.”
She picked the cup and slowly sipped on it. Once she finished, she got up from the chair, crushed the cup, and dropped it into the wastebasket.
Once she was back on her chair, she carefully fished out a dainty hankie out of her bag and dabbed at her lips.
“Inspector, Samir told me that Baskar has been reported missing from his hostel. No one knew anything about him as he had not made any friends at the new college. So where he was or what happened to him remains unknown. His contact address in the college records gave Sadhana’s address. That’s why you had called her to the police station. But our cry baby sent Samir ahead of her. All three of us indeed hated him enough to have killed him. But the truth is that we have never seen him after he left.
Doctor Vyjayanthi looked up from her notes.
She closed her pen and put it into the tray. She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes for a second as she collected her thoughts.
“When you called to ask me about Sadhana and her friends, I was worried about breaking the doctor-patient confidentiality. But as the case is a serious one, involving a missing person too, I discussed it with my superiors and then agreed to talk to you.”
She paused for a minute and then went on “Sadhana has undergone a lot of childhood trauma. She had been living with her parents who were addicted to drugs and alcohol. As a kid, she had been abused in every possible way- emotionally, physically, mentally, and sexually. But when she was around eight years old, she was rescued by an NGO and put in an orphanage. But bad luck continued to dog her. Babushankar, a middle-aged man at the orphanage continued to abuse her. He was a control freak and a manipulator. He exploited her body to make money. That’s when she attempted suicide and was brought to me. After a battery of psychological tests, I diagnosed her as psychotic and Schizophrenic. She responded to drugs and counseling and things went on well for a short time.”
Vyjayanthi paused and took a deep breath.
“The orphanage sacked Babushankar and took good care of her. They helped her to continue with her studies. But school became huge stress for Sadhana because she had undergone too many traumas by then. To cope with the outside world of which she suddenly became a part, she developed a split personality or Dissociative Identity Disorder, to give it the medical term”
Vyjayanthi waited for a few seconds, letting the Inspector assimilate the information.
“She realized that she had a lot of difficulties in making friends. She did not know how to be charming or interesting. That’s when the alter with the name ‘Samir’ emerged. He had all the qualities she longed to have. He was an open, outgoing, happy-go-lucky personality. Whenever she grew frustrated with her inability to deal with the outside world, she switched to being Samir.”
Vyjayanthi took a sip of water from the clean sparkling glass of water that sat on her table and continued “Soon she began college and noticed the other young girls- fashionable, composed, chic and classy. Her deep desire to be like them and her inability to do so resulted in frustration. That’s when this alter, Saloni emerged. She was the embodiment of everything Sadhana wanted to be- Classy, swanky, and trendy.
When she came for her sessions the other characters too sometimes made appearances. I am familiar with the alters.”
Vyjayanthi closed her eyes for a moment as if what she was going to say needed some thought.
“Now, about the elusive Baskar!
In psychological parlance, an introject is an alter, who assimilates the bad qualities of an aggressor.
Babushankar, at the NGO, was supposed to be a friend and a guide. Someone Sadhana looked on as a savior. When he began abusing her, the kid was shocked and dismayed. It is at times like this that an introject is born, imbibing the same bad qualities as that of the aggressor. The victim believes that someone with the same qualities as the aggressor is needed to keep her safe.”
She looked at the inspector to make sure he was following her.
“That’s when Baskar with manipulative and scheming qualities was spawned. You can see the similarities in the names of Babu Shankar and Baskar too. Baskar was, in fact, the first alter. But he knew how to keep himself hidden. When he saw the friendship between the other three alters, he suddenly came out and tried manipulating them. But when they did not fall for his cunning ways, he decided to hijack the ‘body’ and went on to make an identity for himself, getting admission into a new college. The other three could not get possession of the ‘body’. But when he realized that he could not provide identifications and other documents at the college, he was defeated and the other three took over the body and continued with their life.”
“Meanwhile, when the college authorities found him missing from classes and his hostel, they gave a police complaint which led to all these inquiries.”
Vyjayanthi said lightly, “Baskar is definitely not dead. He is hiding and biding his time. But I trust the other three. They will be able to keep him under control with my help. Inspector, I am very sorry you couldn’t find a suspect, but then I guess, you don’t really have a crime!”
This story is also available at “Pint of a Story” by StudioCacofunny
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