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Through the Open Window
She lay dead, covered with blood which formed a red brook across the mahogany door of her deserted room. The ceiling fan slowed down and her eyes were left wide open in astonishment. The blood stained her Jade green dress, which she bought this fall. The blood stained the crisp winter for now…
Spring arrived late this year. The bees began to hum in late April. The ardent butterflies began having their part of nectar from those little elegant peonies. Those scarlet coloured apples hung down from the woody branches gaily.
It is eleven in the morning and I am standing outside the Bombay High Court, waiting for my turn.
“Dr. Singhania, Mr. Rastogi would like to meet you, please come with me,” said a man with a cacophonous tone. He was a dark-complexioned, stout fellow, doing his job mechanically. The voice still reverberates in my ears.
“Sure.” I replied.
I began walking through the dusty corridor. It was a very squalid place, cobwebs hanging down like the chandelier and mosquitoes wandering like the soldiers on duty.
At last, we reached Mr. Ashish Rastogi’s cabin. It was quite a good cabin, better than that haunted corridor. Fresh Dahlias kept in the flower vase with those fat books arranged in the finest manner.
Mr. Rastogi was a senior lawyer who was involved cryptanalyzing the infamous case of Kuhu Mangeshkar. He was a smart, tall, fair-complexioned young man who had very sharp features. He had worn a brilliant black coloured shoe, the ones which you can easily see outside the railway stations and on footpaths.
“Yes, Dr. Mihir Singhania, good to see you. I heard from my colleagues that you wished to speak to me on the Kuhu case, please be seated. Be comfortable” he said in a deep, matured voice.
“Thank you, Mr. Rastogi. Yeah, I was waiting for this moment for a long time” I replied instantly.
“Please tell me” he said.
“I want to meet Kanak” I demanded.
“What? That is not at all possible Dr. Singhania! You know the matter very well. She is a killer, a murderer, she should be given the life sentence,” he said in a rampageous tone.
“She is not a killer! She is a psychopath! Have you ever noticed her behaviour? No! Why should you notice her behaviour? You only know to punish people. Mr. Rastogi, please for heaven’s sake be benign, be benevolent. She is also a human being!” I cried out to him as the sweat drops dripped on my shoulder.
He stood silent. The velvet curtains swayed in the mild air and there was complete silence…complete…
Next morning, I got a call from Ram Babu, the man with the cacophonous voice whom I had met yesterday. He informed me that Mr. Rastogi would like to meet me in his office this afternoon. I was thrown into the millpond of misanthropic thoughts.
Mr. Rastogi had sent me home yesterday and told me that he would inform me soon about the matter after speaking to the police and had asked me to wait till that time. I didn’t expect a call from him for I thought he would now take me lightly and leave the matter then and there but time hadn’t wished the same.
That afternoon, at the time when my shadow began to get smaller and smaller, I walked through the dusty roads onto my way to the Court. Mr. Rastogi was eagerly waiting for me then. Till that moment, I didn’t know why.
“There is some good news for you Dr. Singhania,” he spoke softly in my ears as we strolled together onto our way to his cabin. I didn’t ask him what then.
I saw 5 gentlemen sitting in his cabin, it looked as if they were waiting for someone for a very long time and I think I knew them. I even saw some of the policemen and recognized one of them as our commissioner. Sanguine thoughts started pouring in.
I sat down on one of the cosy chairs and then I heard my name. It was the commissioner who uttered it.
“Dr. Singhania, we are elated that you understood the matter so deeply. We are proud to have you. Hats off to you and we are even ready to allow you to meet her at the Arthur Road Jail but…but…but how do we know you would be fair to us and would not help her out to escape?” interrogated the commissioner in an incredulous tone.
“You can send some of your police officers who would be protecting her cell. I would have no objection,” I told him firmly.
“We trust you. I don’t think there’s any need of it. You are a famed psychiatrist, one of the best in the city. Tomorrow from the break of the dawn till the dusk steps in you can be with Kanak but I would inform the jailer to keep an eye so that you are protected, in case she gets violent. We have a lot of expectations from you Dr. Singhania,” he replied jovially.
I nodded my head and waited for the dawn to break in.
That night, I stayed awake for a long time envisaging the next day. I was gratified but also afraid to meet Kanak.
I still remember the dreaded day of December the Ninth last year. Kuhu Mangeshkar, the adopted daughter of Mrs. Mita and Mr. Atul Mangeshkar resided with her real mother Meena who was actually the maid at the Mangeshkar house and Kanak her half-sister, who was the real daughter of Mrs. and Mr. Mangeshkar.
Kanak was a tranquil-natured girl in her childhood. Nobody then knew that she would be a psychopath, a sociopath. It was on ninth of December last year, when the red colours bloomed.
She and Kuhu were alone at home that day. The Mangeshkar Bhawan on Peddar Road was an unparalleled mansion. Intricate carvings on the walls of the house and traditional ebony and mahogany wood decorated the house. The flooring was done by an architect who was an Italian and the chandeliers were bought from Paris. They were the admirers of Mary Cassatt and praised her style of painting. They often praised her work in her painting ‘The Reader’. A copy of that was hung in their home but now the dust had found a suitable place.
Nobody knew how it happened but everyone condemned the incident. The worst thing was that no one wanted to know the reason. Everyone jumped to conclusions. Kanak had stabbed Kuhu 17 times in her room while Kuhu was reading ‘Vanity Fair’. She was an admirer of Thackeray’s style of writing. Kanak left Kuhu in her room and ran away from the house only to be caught by the police and kept behind the bars. Kanak as young girl was always told that she has to grow up, get married and look after her young ones. Kanak was deprived of the rights that men of her family usually got. The privileged ones.
4 months have passed since then and Kanak is in the Arthur Road Jail waiting for her next hearing on 27th May. I was going to meet this girl for whom the world is blind and the world who thinks she is blind.
The Next morning I woke up early. I wore my favourite shirt gifted to me by my mother during her last days. I was expecting for some surprises from Kanak because it was the first case of such a type that I was going to examine.
I took the road near to the Mahalaxmi railway station and finally reached the prison. The jailer asked me to be seated and offered me a cup of tea which tasted like turpentine oil but still I had it.
Few minutes passed by and I had finished having the turpentine oil. The jailer came to me walking with pride and amour-propre coruscated in his eyes. He asked one of the jailers then to take me to Kanak’s cell. The jailer reluctantly took me to her cell. This time the corridor journey was much more haunted than the last time at the court. You could see people sitting inside their cells with tranquility but the hands are coloured with blood…blood of the unforgettable times…times when they lifted the knives for the first time…
Then we stopped walking. We had reached Kanak’s cell. Long brilliant black hairs with an earring in the right ear, wearing a white sari with a strip of blue border, holding a glass from which drops of water dripped on the floor and nails which looked uncut for a long time. She had an oval face with sharp features and eyes where rage resided.
I went inside the cell and the jailer stood outside for my safety and protection.
“Good Morning, Kanak?” I wished her morning ebulliently.
“Are you again from the court? Why don’t you give me death sentence? I have killed Kuhu…I am a murderer!” She shouted and her rage coruscated in her sharp eyes as she glanced at me for the first time, “If you have come to tell me that I have done something wrong then let it be for I know whatever I’ve done is right! Get away now; I want to take a small nap.”
“Kanak, I am neither from the court nor a Judge to judge your actions. I have come to ask you the reason that made you murder your own sister whom you loved so much! Tell me Kanak…tell me…” I compelled her to answer me.
“Why should I answer you…eh…? Why?” She began to get rampageous. She came running to me, held my collar and said, “I loved her so I killed her. Women have no right to live in this world! Did anyone ask me why I killed her? Why? Why? Why?” She squalled at the top of her voice. She then moved back and tears ran down on her cheeks.
“But men are good. They...” Before I completed she interrupted me.
“Men are good? Eh…? Are you joking?” She cachinnated, “They are good? Really? Did you read some of the jokes from the book…Eh…?” She cachinnated again, “They are the nefarious roses and the women are the supple lilies and lilies always love to be the elegant roses for roses have dignity…do you know?
“Why” I asked her curiously and instantly.
“Why…Is that a question?” she giggled a bit, “Men are like the elegant roses which bloom in spring and die in the crisp winter, like the bracts of dandelion that soar away with the mild winds of monsoon. They are carried away with the aroma of the coins and the fragrance of the worldly opulence. They are like the ostentatious sunflowers which sway their heads with the mighty sun. They hide their thorns under their tender petals and when the supple lilies live with them they are crushed under the hidden thorns, they bleed, they cry, they die and are fed upon by the ruthless worms. Why wouldn’t then the lilies be the elegant roses?”
I was taken aback by her statement.
She cried, she laughed, she got rampageous at times and then I knew the reason after 26 days.
Discrimination affected the mind of the young girl and she learnt that she doesn’t have any opportunities here then why let her sister be tormented. To protect her dignity, she stabbed her. For her, feminism was dead…
They say, money cannot buy knowledge and aristocracy doesn’t come through rosewood.
I still remember my last moments with her. She was crying out to me and suddenly she heard the voices of the children playing on the ground. Summer break had begun and everyone was returning from the school. Portulacas had begun to grow. She kept her ears on the walls to hear those mesmerising voices and grinned. Tears fell from her eyes as she longed for freedom…freedom…freedom…from her life…