It has been eighty two days since Arvind went missing, reflected Niti as she drank her morning coffee in peace for one more time.
There was no rush or madness, just peace as her little daughter Ruhani slept. Niti went to check on her mother-in-law who needed help with her daily chores since she suffered a brain stroke. She too was sleeping. Niti was fond of her mother-in-law as she never had parents growing up.
Niti had lived all her life in an orphanage. She never knew of her real parents and never felt the need to go looking for someone who could leave a new born girl at the church door.
She had always been a bright child even in her early years. She loved the little children she lived with. She had violently protested against being adopted, “This is my home, don’t make me go away.”
Being a bright student she was soon tuitoring all the little kids around her. She did good for herself too. She was able to pursue MBBS, to become a doctor. Again, she refused to move out of the orphanage, infact she taught students in her free time and helped her orphanage with the money that she earned.
Life in college was splendid. It opened unknown avenues for her. Nobody asked her about her parents and those who did, did not seem to be bothered by the fact that she was an orphan. She was amongst the top students in her class. She loved the course she was doing and Anatomy or Anat, as they called it, was her favourite subject. Many students flinched in the Dissection Hall or DH, but Niti had the best hand there. Even her teachers complimented her, they saw a future surgeon in her. Everyone admired the way she conducted herself. Amongst her many admirers was her senior Arvind.
Niti noticed Arvind when she was being lauded for her marvellous work in DH. He was neatly dressed and was being breathtakingly handsome, he walked confidently into the hall. She watched intently at this boy whose body seemed as well sculpted as his face. She was acutely conscious that she was staring at him yet she could not take her eyes off. On his part Arvind too was as smitten as she was.
What followed was a whirlwind of romance. Arvind showered her with presents and most of all his love and attention. He even began helping her with the work of the orphanage.
She loved the way he told her to keep her hair tied as she looked more attractive. She liked it when he was jealous and told her to stop talking to her friends. He suggested that she should stop wearing jeans and skirts as he found her irresistible in suits, and her heart just melted. Slowly Arvind had taken over her completely and she loved all the attention. She spoke to his mother over the phone several times in his presence and on her urging him, he took her home once. She appreciated the way he never left the side of his mother who was on a wheelchair.
It was Arvind’s suggestion to get married soon. He had just completed his degree and Niti had one more year to go, but he asserted that he could not stay away anymore. Niti and everyone at the orphanage was very happy. Even in college everyone envied Niti’s luck, though by now she hardly had any friends left as Arvind was always around. They decided to have a small ceremony in the orphanage itself, one winter evening. Niti had never been this happy. She was finally going to have a family and a home of her own.
Niti, Arvind and his mother reached home late night after the wedding. Arvind took his mother to her room and then guided Niti to his. Niti was tired after an entire day of ceremonies. She wanted to quickly change and rest. To her surprise Arvind would not have any of it. He told her rather coldly that it was their first night together and he wouldn’t let her just sleep. She laughed and said they were going to be together every day and night. But, Arvind told her in no uncertain terms that he wanted her here and now. She still thought he was joking till, to her horror, he forced himself on her. Rape, like Death happens to others. Niti was broken beyond measure as she saw him turn into this monster. The pattern repeated itself the next day too. He did not let her out of that room. She was to numb to even react. She lay on her bed like a corpse.
By evening the demon in him seemed satisfied and he let her go out to eat for the first time since she entered the house. She went to the kitchen and he observed her every move. She looked around for her mother-in-law deseperately seeking some relief, but could not find her anywhere. He told her to get ready for he would take her to the movies.
She felt intense hatred rising inside of her but did not know what to do. He had taken her phone, and she realised that he had over the course alienated all her friends. She thought of running back to the orphanage, but he never let her out of her sight. She realised he had married her because he knew she would have nowhere to go and no one would come asking about her well being.
While outside he was the same Prince Charming she had met in college, and now it hit her hard the real meaning of his jealousy and possessiveness. She did not want to enter that house of horror again, but seems she had no choice left.
Once home she looked around and rushed to her mother-in-law’s room and saw her crying and shivering. Arvind came following and pulled Niti out. The night of horror began for her once more.
It was almost after a week that Arvind left home to join back at the hospital. He stopped Niti from joining back. Infact he locked her along with his mother in the house.
Finally she got a chance to speak to his mother. She told her that she could only sympathise with her as she was in no position to help her. Niti asked her about the sudden change in Arvind. Her answer shocked Niti. She told her that Arvind had been like this since he was a teenager. He never had any friends and he never went out of the house either. His father had left them when he was young. Arvind sat in the living room watching lewd movies all day. He even touched himself right in her presence. When she tried to correct his obnoxious behaviour he hit her so hard that she lost her ability to walk.His regressive behaviour took a turn for the worst when he started bringing random women home.
She told Niti that the first time she spoke to her she hoped that love might change him. The very fact that he wanted to get married made her believe that Arvind had changed, but it seems that the barbarian was alive and ticking. He had just changed his ways. She said she felt sorry for her but could not help her.
Niti cried till her tears dried up. She didn’t know how to escape this hell. She was a prisoner in her home, a slave to the demon.
Soon enough she was pregnant but that changed nothing. When she was to give birth to her daughter she left home after months. In the hospital everyone envied her luck at finding such a handsome and considerate husband who never left her alone. He even assissted the birth of their daughter. Only Niti knew the reason why he never left her alone. He feared she would run away or tell someone the truth.
Niti wanted to feel happy at the birth of her daughter, but all she felt was pity for the little child. She wanted to leave her at the orphanage door where she would be safe. For the first time she forgave her mother thinking, maybe she too was saving her from a similar devil.
Coming home was beginning of a nightmare. Arvind had made sure that all means of communication were closed for Niti. Locked up in the room she could hear her daughter crying in the arms of her mother-in-law. She could not let Ruhani grow up in this hell hole. She had to stop Arvind for the sake of her daughter.
Arvind came home one day and announced that he is calling his colleagues from the hospital home as they have been insisting on a party. He said he would give the grandest party so no one bothered him again.
Niti saw this as an opportunity to do something for her daughter who was only eleven days old. She started planning. She had to escape from here come what may.
As the day of the party came near Arvind got busier. Finally the D day was there, guests began arriving bringing gifts. Niti had prepared everything just as Arvind had asked her to.
But Arvind was no where to be seen. Doctors said he had not come to the hospital either. Niti was surprised as well, she said he had left at the usual time. Maybe he got caught up at some place. The guests thanked Niti for her awesome hosptitality and congratulated her on having found the perfect husband and home. Arvind hadn’t arrived.
Niti began clearing and picking up the garbage. She told her mother-in-law that she was going out to the garbage dump to clear everything out. She picked up huge bags of garbage and as she burnt them, she cried and cried. She was finally free of Arvind. She had afterall, been the best student in her class and anatomy had been her favourite. Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.” Yes it was Niti, she had to fight against this evil and she did. It was for her daughter for her mother-in-law but most of all for herself.
Next day she went to the police station and reported Arvind missing.