Line of Duty

Line of Duty

A wealthy neighborhood in Mumbai.

Omkarnath sat on an elaborate swing chair in the portico of a palatial bungalow, with a glass of whiskey in his hand. Sea breeze ruffled his hair. He was dressed in a nightgown. The low lighting in the portico could not hide his ruggedly handsome looks. 

An old forgotten Hindi melody floated up from one of the houses. A garage door being raised could be heard in the silence of the night followed by the quiet purr of an expensive car rolling in and stopping. 

After a taking deep sip, he placed the glass on a side table and leaned back. Suddenly his face scrunched up into an angry frown and he growled in a low, terrifying voice “Pramod! How dare you go to the police and rat on me?  Did you think I will not come to know? You seemed to have forgotten that I have most of the policemen in my pocket.”

His eyes shone evilly as he sneered “I know where to hit you. Your most precious possession in the world is your beautiful young daughter Taruni. She is the one who is going to get punished for your fault.” 

His weather-lined face showed a smirk as he continued “I am going to enjoy this. Punishment for you and pleasure for me. And Ohhhh. Pain for Taruni, I guess…..”

Suddenly he heard Pallavi, his daughter opening the door and come towards him. He quickly rearranged his face and exhibited a warm sweet smile.

Pallavi had tears in her eyes. She plonked herself next to him on the swing chair and sobbed, “Pappa, You have to help me. You have to take my side against Mumma and Dadi. They have been looking for alliances for me and I have a feeling they are fixing something up.”

He dried her tears, placed a hand around her shoulders, took her chin in the other, and said lovingly, “Beta, of course, I will definitely take your side. Always and always. I will just make sure you are doing the right thing, though. Tell me why do you think they are wrong?”

Pallavi brushed away her fresh tears and looked at her dad with flashing eyes. “I have got admissions into some very good universities in the US. You know how well I have been studying the last couple of years and how much hard work I have put in. Now both Mumma and Dadi are forbidding me from going abroad for my studies and want me to marry and settle down.”

Omkar leaned back, took his hand away from under her chin, and said in a placatory tone, “Pallavi, you know why they are forbidding you from going abroad. It was your own mistake that has brought this on you. After all, when we did let you have your way, you behaved irresponsibly.”

Taruni wailed in frustration. “Papppaaa, That was so many years back. I was a kid and I did not know better. After that, haven’t I grown up and become sensible? Haven’t I listened to all your advice? Haven’t I worked really hard at college and got very good GPAs? Now if you don’t let me go, I will hate you all for the rest of my life.” She finished petulantly and continued to weep, her eyes turning redder and snot running down her nose. 

Omkar brought out a hanky from his pocket and lovingly wiped her face.

“Don’t cry Pallavi. I agree that you, that have been sensible and reliable. I guess you do deserve a second chance. I will think about it.”

***

The next morning as Omkar came out of his room, dressed for going out, he saw his mother finishing her puja. The god’s room was well lit, with fresh flower garlands on all the photos. There was a divine smell of incense sticks and jasmine flowers emanating from the room. Omkar stood for a minute in front of the Gods and prayed with his head bent down and hands clasped together.

They were at the dining table when Jyoti joined them, still talking on her mobile. She cut the phone and looked at them with a happy smile on her face.

She announced “That was the boy’s parents. This guy lives in the USA and he is ok with her continuing her studies after marriage. This means all of us will get what we want. Isn’t it the best solution?”

His mother began “Who will tell Pallavi? She is adamant that she doesn’t want marriage and that she will go to the university abroad.”

Omkar demurred respectfully, “Ma. I want to allow her to go abroad and study. She has worked hard and got very good marks and has secured admissions into some very good schools in the USA. I think she deserves to go.”

Jyoti cut in angrily, “Four years back, when she got admission into engineering college, both mummyji and I did not want to let her stay at the hostel.  After all the college was just an hour away from home. But you did not listen to us and let her go. The first time she got freedom at the hostel, she began smoking and drinking and we had to bring her back home. Now again you are making the same mistake.” 

The cook placed a bowl of oats topped by fruits and nuts in front of him. He served both the ladies with some hot poha from a bowl. 

All three of them continued eating as an uneasy silence hung over them.

***

He was getting into the car when Jyoti followed him and asked angrily, “What do I tell the boy’s parents?”

Omkar paused with his hands on the wheels and said “Let me think about it. You know today is a very busy day for me.”

*** 

The car left the busy streets and turned into a side road. The bungalow was set in a remote part of the city outskirts. A lush green lawn surrounded the white stucco building.

The security guard swung open the wrought iron gates and let Omkar in. His car rolled to a stop right in front of the steps leading to the door.

He got out of the car, padded up the steps jauntily and entered the swanky bungalow. Jangling the keys on his fingers, he lightly ran up the stairs taking two at a time. 

There were two thugs guarding the door of a bedroom. He looked up at them questioningly and they nodded pointing inside.

Omkar opened the door and looked in. Taruni was tied to the bed, with her arms pinned to the head post. She was struggling to free herself. She looked so heartbreakingly beautiful, despite her tangled hair and her smudged kohl-lined eyes.

Her eyes blazing with anger she screamed at him “Are you not ashamed? You are my dad’s age. And you plan to rape me. I am happy my dad went to the police. Now whatever you do, you will end up in jail.” Her body heaved against the ropes as she panted.

Omkar walked up to her languidly. Gone was the suave, sophisticated, man about the town. Instead, the person who stood there looking at her with lust-filled eyes was devil incarnate.

“Come on Taruni, don’t be childish. If you let go of your anger and smile at me and enjoy what is inevitable, it will be fun for both of us. But if you continue to cry and not cooperate, then it will be pleasant only for me.”

Taruni looked at him with hate-filled eyes and said “I would rather die than submit to you meekly. But don’t think this will be the end. This is just the beginning. Beginning of how I am going to take my revenge on you. This is the first step in how your life is going to unravel.”

His lips grinning in a lascivious sneer, Omkar ignored her anger and slowly and sensuously moved towards her, as his hands languidly unfastened his shirt buttons.

Her angry shouts slowly changed into helpless sobs.

The two thugs outside, who were guarding the room exchanged knowing, libidinous smiles.

***
The office occupied a huge space in a multi-floor complex. The classy, spacious premises was decorated all in white. Huge windows opened outwards to the stunning view of the marine drive and the sparkling blue Arabian Sea beyond. The muted sounds of the traffic floated up. 

A magnificent colorful painting adorned the pristine white walls, just behind the set of swanky handcrafted furniture.

Omkar entered the office room when his mobile began ringing. He checked the incoming call and signaled to people waiting for him that he needed to take the call. He went back into the corridor and spoke. “Yes, Pallavi?”

“Pappa, did mumma and dadi talk to you? What have you decided? Today is the deadline for some of the universities. I have to accept by tonight or I will have to forfeit the admission.”

“Beta, mummy has found a guy for you who lives in the USA and is willing to let you continue your studies. Isn’t that great? Now all of us can be happy.”

There was ominous silence at Pallavi’s end. Then she spoke out in a steely voice, “No pappa. I can’t be happy with this solution. I have great ambitions. I want to get my MS and later a management degree and work in the corporate sector for some time. I want to break the glass ceiling and achieve professional success. I am not saying I won’t marry. But I think 22 is too young. Marriage is not my priority right now.”

“Pallavi, listen…..”

“Pappa, let me finish. The most important thing is that when you are forcing me to marry as a compromise, it means you still don’t have faith in me. You are holding a childhood mistake I made, as a young teenager, against me. Pappa, give me a second chance. I want to prove to you and maybe even to myself, that I am trustworthy. I promise I won’t break your trust. I want to show the world that Pallavi is not that silly little girl who drank and smoked to show her independence. Pallavi is the girl who did well in life because she is focused and disciplined. Just give me a chance pappa please, please… “

Omkar heard her sob as she disconnected.

***

Omkar came back to the office room and slid into his chair. The change in his demeanor was chameleon-like. All the love and softness fled from his face, to be replaced by brutal anger and animosity. 

He called Pramod on the phone. When it was picked up, he spoke flippantly into it. His voice gloating, his head nodding in false sympathy and his tongue clucking, he purred, 

“Pramod…  Pramod… Pramod… I feel so sorry for you, my friend. How it must hurt?` Did she reach home? Your precious, cherished daughter? Did she tell you what I did to her? Believe me, I feel very sorry for her. After all, I have no anger towards her, no enmity for her. But I know the only way to hurt you is to hurt her.”

He waited patiently as Pramod poured out his anger in a furious tirade. His expression never changed from the happy, contented smile. His peaceful look only increased his depravity.

“Pramod, my dearest,  the policeman whom you had gone and complained to, is with me right now. He is sitting in front of me, drinking the tea I provided. I have told him what a pleasant evening I had with Pallavi. He is smiling at me and says I have his blessing. I know your heart is broken. I feel bad for you my dear, I do! This is life, my dear.” His suave voice sounded philosophical.

***

It was late evening and the smooth green lawns outside the bungalow were crowded with set designers, make-up artists, and costume specialists. Technicians were milling about going about their businesses. There were cameras with power cables snaking all around. The assistant director and others were looking at the rushes on a laptop. 

Far away, under the shade of a multi-colored umbrella, Omkar sat next to the famous Bollywood director Shyam. Both had mugs of tea in their hands. The assistant director came up to them with a pad in his hands. “Sir, our heroine Puja wants to go home. She says she will be back early tomorrow for the next shoot.”  Shyam nodded at him.

Puja walked over to them, covered in a shawl. The kohl still smudged her eyes and her hair was still in disarray.  She addressed Omkar, “Sir, your performance was wonderful today. I actually got scared of you, despite knowing you were only acting. That should prove to you how convincing you were as the villain.”

Omkar smiled at her affectionately,  bent his head with his hand at his heart, accepting the compliment gracefully. “Thank you beta.”

She left towards her caravan to change.

Shyam said in a reminiscing tone “I remember the first time I saw you when you came for auditions. You did not do well. All others wanted to fail you. But I saw some spark in you and I knew you had it in you. That’s why I told you to come again the next day after a little more practice.”

Omkar replied “I have always been thankful to you that you gave me a second chance to prove myself. I had been very nervous on the day of the auditions and that had affected my performance. I still remember clearly what you told me. You had stressed the importance of hard work. You explained to me how rehearsal and spontaneity went hand in hand and I should let my instinct decide how I should play a role. You asked me to come back and do my audition once again. If you had dismissed me like all the others, I am sure I would never have set my feet in a movie set again. I would have lost out on my acting career. You know how much I love the film world and the magic of movies. I am happy I have a minuscule role in Bollywood, even if that is of a villain.”

Shyam replied “I am happy and thankful that I decided to believe my instincts and gave you the ‘Take two’ option. Otherwise, Bollywood would have lost a talented actor. I have seen you grow leaps and bounds. I love how you methodically practice the dialogues but at the same time, you can improvise when a situation demands. You are both methodical and also spontaneous. It’s your talent, hard work, and dedication that had brought you to this level.”

Something suddenly hit Omkar. He knew what he had to do. He excused himself and moved away to pick up his phone and call Pallavi. “Beta, go ahead and accept admission from the best college on your list. I will always support you, my sweetie. I understand what you said about a second chance. I will talk to mummy and dadi and convince them. You go ahead and win the world. You can break the shackles and the glass roofs. I am there with you all the way to cheer you. I will see to it that you go ahead and become a rockstar.”
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2 thoughts on “Line of Duty

  1. 12th paragraph – Pallavi’s name changes to Taruni. Big mistake. The bollywood angle was so forced upon. Certain portions were just to increase the number of words. The ending, again forced. It is difficult to imagine such a sudden change of heart without speaking to or convincing the wife or mother.
    Sorry, but it seems you did not give the required time to edit the story.

  2. The story plot is wonderful. It is very engaging till the end. I hope you take this comment in a positive spirit, but this time your story didn’t have that spark, like other famous ‘Sudha Ramnath’ stories normally have.

    Some areas you would like to double check. Let me know what you think.

    //After a taking deep sip
    After taking a deep sip

    //I have got admissions into some very good universities in the US.
    use of ‘some’ undermines the credibilty of Pallavi. Make it a solid argument, by giving names of few colleges

    //flipping the name Pallavi to Taruni was confusing throughout.

    //“Papppaaa, That
    upper case ‘T’ is wrong

    //Don’t cry Pallavi. I agree that you, that have been sensible and reliable.
    sentence structure is confusing.

    //He served both the ladies with some hot poha
    He served both the ladies some hot poha

    //He called Pramod on the phone. When it was picked up
    He called Pramod on the phone. When he picked up(Passive sentences should be avoided whenever possible, use active sentences)

    //You are both methodical and also spontaneous
    I think there is no need of ‘also’ just ‘You are both methodical and spontaneous’ will do.

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