Editor: Read Chapter XXXI here.
The morning after Ravi’s visit, Swapna packed a small suitcase as per Tarun’s directions and told everyone in the chawl that she was off to Chiplun to visit her maternal grandparents. When she got off the local train at Borivali, Tarun was waiting to collect her in his old Toyota Corolla.
‘Where are you taking me?’ she asked him, her eye lashes wet with tears, her faced puffier than usual, her long hair tied up in a strict braid.
‘I have rented a flat at Mira Road, by the highway.’
‘Why didn’t you tell me? I could have taken the train till Mira Road. Would have saved you some time.’ Technically Mira Road is not part of Mumbai city, but Western Railway’s local trains from Churchgate go past Mira Road and beyond.
‘I was in Borivali on some work and so I thought I would have the pleasure of your company for a bit longer. Do you mind?’ Tarun asked gently.
‘Oh Tarun!’ Swapna burst into tears and covered her face with her hands.
‘Shall we stop for a bit?’ Tarun felt forced to ask.
‘Oh no. I will never get used to life without Daddy. I just can’t believe I will never see him again.’ Before Tarun could respond, they were at the Dahisar Check Naka where they paid a toll fee as they left Mumbai city limits and entered Thane District.
‘Always remember that he died for a cause he believed in and that we may still achieve our goals. Oh Swapna, we have to have a revolution for the sake of your Daddy.’ Swapna kept sobbing as Tarun drove on.
The building he took her to was twenty storeys tall and was still under construction. It stood by the highway as a lonely sentinel, dwarfing all other buildings nearby, its grey facade pockmarked with protruding iron bars crying out for a few coats of paint. Two flats had been completed on the first floor, to serve as marketing samples for future buyers and Tarun had the keys to one of them. The flat was unfurnished and bare, except for a few stools and a mattress in the bedroom. Once the door was locked, Tarun swept Swapna into his arms and kissed her, ‘I will stop whenever you want me to. If you would rather not, I can understand.’ Swapna’s response was to press herself to Tarun closer.
After they were done, Tarun said, ‘I still can’t believe Ravi is not on our side. I thought he was in love with you.’
‘He still is, but he is a changed man. He doesn’t trust you or me. I don’t think he trusted Daddy either. What’s more, he has babbled everything to a friend of his.’
‘Wow! Why didn’t you tell me yesterday night when you called me? What’s this friend’s name?’
‘And what does Holambe do?’
‘I am not sure. I haven’t seen him in ages. He used to attend Marxist Thoughts meetings and then one day they found that he had misappropriated some money he had collected for the common cause. Daddy expelled him from the Group. I don’t know what he got up to after that.
‘Do you remember where Holambe stays?’
‘Can you ask someone?’
‘How can I? Everyone’s dead.’
‘Only the current members of Marxist Thoughts are dead. Holambe was an old member. I’m sure there are other old members you can call.’
‘True. I can. Let me think.’
‘But first, I need to talk to Ravi. Why don’t you call him and ask him to come over?’
‘He won’t. I don’t think so.’
‘Tell him that I am holding you prisoner, that you have seen my true colours and that he should rescue you.’ Swapna laughed at Tarun’s joke till Tarun said, ‘I am not joking. It may work.’
‘What should I tell him?’, Swapna asked without much ado.
‘Tell him that you are with me still, but we have quarrelled. All of a sudden, I seem to have turned nasty and I have locked you up and gone somewhere. Tell him to come and rescue you.’
‘What if he turns up with those men who attacked your Chembur flat?’
‘That’s fine with me. I am not planning to fight him or his friends, sweetie. I only want to reason with him.’
‘Tell me, what exactly should I tell him,’ Swapna asked and Tarun coached her. Swapna then dialled Ravi’s number.
‘Swapna, it’s you!’ there was no doubt that Ravi was thrilled and overjoyed.
‘Ravi, I am in trouble,’ Swapna said in a wooden voice as Tarun gave her an encouraging smile.
‘You may have been right about Tarun. He may not be all that he claims to be. We had a quarrel. He slapped me.’
‘What? Are you okay now?’
‘Yes, he’s gone out, but I am locked in.’
‘Make some noise. Scream. This is Mumbai and there’s always someone nearby. Are you in a flat?’
‘Yes, but I don’t want the police to turn up. Can you come over and rescue me? I think you will be able to open the lock. It looks like a simple one.’
‘Of course, I haven’t been making duplicate keys for the last fifteen years for nothing. I will come right away.’
Once Swapna had given the address and ended the call, Tarun gave her a hug and said, ‘I will win him over, you know me. If the police get hold of him, then it’s goodbye to our plans for a revolution.’
‘If only Ravi had some brains. He was always like an idiot, very good natured, but prone to doing things which are senseless and stupid.’
‘Now call a few old members and ask them about Holambe.’
‘Not necessary. I just remembered. Holambe stayed with his brother Opesh. Opesh has a bangle shop at Dadar, near Victory Cinema.’
Tarun gave Swapna a hug and then ordered three pizzas. ‘Let’s offer Ravi a pizza. Should calm him down.’
Swapna crossed her fingers, bowed her head in a simple prayer and went to the bathroom for a shower. Tarun then dialled a number and a woman answered.
‘Is he coming?’
‘Yes, he’s promised. You’ll do the needful?’
‘Of course, the bastard’s going to pay.’
‘Good. It’ll be over soon.’
‘Hmm. Why do I get the feeling that you had some fun once again? When there is so much shit going on?’
‘I had to. Or she would be suspicious, wouldn’t she?’
‘You bastard. And she’s just lost her father.’
‘I’m sure you’re sorry for her.’
‘Yes, I am. When this is over, I’m going to hand her over to the boys to have some fun before we kick her upstairs,’ the woman declared. Tarun was at a loss for words, but he was saved by the bell which announced the arrival of the Domino’s Pizza delivery man.
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