THE RED TRUNK
Somu lived with his wife Rani and his father, Brijmohan in Kanpur. Brijmohan was a true patriarch who took pride in taking all the decisions for his household. He was a widower, having lost his wife, few years ago, to a life-threatening disease . Somu’s wife Rani was three months pregnant.
Brijmohan had a small factory of leather goods which made belts, wallets, purses etc. He sold them in the nearby town. All his efforts to make Somu help him in the factory, went in vain.
“Why don’t you help me instead of loitering about here and there and wasting your time? You useless scoundrel.” Somu’s blood would boil every time his father said that to him, especially in front of his wife. Rani would listen to all the regular wrangling with her head bent down and tears in her eyes .She hated it when her father-in-law insulted her husband . But she couldn’t muster up the courage to speak up .
‘’I‘m not made to slog in that small factory. I‘ve better things in mind,” howled Somu. For the first time he had spoken so loudly in front of his father.
‘’Really! May I know what you have in mind”, growled Brijmohan, grinding his tobacco stained teeth.
‘’I‘ll go to Delhi and start my own venture. Only if you give me some money.”
Brijmohan picked up his walking stick and thrashed his son black and blue, as the bewildered Rani looked on, aghast.
“Here you are. Take as much money you want,” bellowed Brijmohan.
At night, while applying a paste of turmeric on his bruises , wiping her tears with the sleeves of her blouse, Rani asked, “Why are you so stubborn? Why don’t you do as Babuji wants?”
Somu glared at her angrily. “Why doesn’t Babuji stop being so obstinate ?’’ He rolled over and closed his eyes. Rani knew that it was futile talking to him now.
Brijmohan had to go to Lucknow for some urgent work. He was packing his bags. Seeing Somu standing at the door, Brijmohan asked sarcastically, “Now what do you want?”
“Babuji, I am sorry for my behaviour. I don’t know what came over me. Please forgive me. I won’t repeat it in future. I have realised my mistake. I promise to help you in the factory. I will accompany you to Lucknow and help you to finalise the deal .”
Brijmohan was happy that his son had turned over a new leaf. Rani thanked God that all animosities had ended and everything had been sorted out amicably between father and son.
“How can you leave Rani alone in this condition ? “
“Don’t worry Babuji, I’ve asked Jamila to stay with her till we return.”
Next morning, they left for the bus stop to catch the early morning bus to Lucknow, Seeing the big red trunk Somu was carrying, Rani laughed and said, “ You are going for just two days. Why did you waste money on buying that big trunk? There are so many bags at home.”
“It’s not mine. It is Moti‘s. An acquaintance of his lives in Lucknow. Moti has requested me to give the trunk to him. They left for the bus stop.
After two days, Somu returned home.
‘’Where is Babuji?”
‘’He had some work to finish. So, he stayed back. I offered to be with him , but he was worried about you.’’
“Why have you got back the red trunk ? Didn’t you meet Moti’s friend.”
‘’Yes …yes …. I met him.‘’
‘’Then why didn’t you give that trunk to him.‘’
‘’Why are you bothered?‘’, screamed Somu agitatedly, thumping the trunk down. ‘’Dare you touch it .”
‘’It’s heavier than before.’’
‘’Who told you to lift it up in this condition?’’ shouted Somu. Rani gave the trunk a quizzical look and went to the bedroom to sleep. Somu was soon snoring away beside her.
Next day, while cleaning the room, Rani noticed that the trunk was gone.
“Where is the trunk Somu?’’
‘’Moti had come when you were away.”
“ OK! ‘’
‘’Rani, babuji had called up to say that he will return next week .’’
The doorbell rang. Rani went to open it.
“ Rani , who is it ?
“ P….oli……ce!”, said Rani. Her throat went dry.
“Is this Somu Mohan Vashishtha’s house?”
Hearing the voices , Somu came to the room , rubbing his eyes
“Y…e….sss ! I am Somu”, he stuttered.
“I am Inspector Raghu Verma. I want to speak to you . It’s urgent’’
After introducing himself the inspector said. “You had phoned us that your father has been kidnapped. We want to interrogate you about it.” He began asking a few questions to Somu.
“ But you told me that Babuji has been held up due to some urgent work.’’
‘’Y…e….ss….,I said that so that you did not get tensed. Go inside Rani.”
Inspector Raghu’s alert eyes and ears caught every conversation between husband and wife .
Rani went to her room while the two men talked. But she could hear them clearly.
“The watchman at your factory called up the police station. He said that he had seen a red trunk in the bushes in the park behind your factory. You have to come with us .’’
Inspector Raghu looked at the trunk with interrogative eyes
A big black ferocious looking police dog was also put into action. Suddenly, it stood still with its tail stiff. Then growling loudly, it ran towards the bushes. The others followed him. The dog sniffed harder. Then it began to circle around the leaves covered pit violently.
“ Havaldar clean up the area.”
Somu broke down and confessed his crime.
He had killed his father in the hotel in Lucknow, as he was fed up of his father’s regular insults and taunts. He had fabricated the kidnapping story to avoid suspicion.
Then finding an opportune time when no one was at home, he came to the dark and deserted park to dispose off the trunk .
Rani cried inconsolably as Somu was handcuffed and taken away.
A roaring storm was raging . Frightened by the loud thunder, Rani clung on to Nikita. Nikita closed the windows.
The flashes of lightening almost blinded Rani. Through the drawn curtains, she could see faint streaks of red .
“Bl…..ood ! Bl…..ood ! ……. R…..e…..d Trrrr……..unk !”
Rani was lying on the bed with high temperature. Her daughter, Nikita was sitting beside her and doing her homework. Rani closed her eyes and tried to sleep . She felt a hand on her forehead . It didn’t feel like Nikita’s . She put out her hand from the sheet covering her, but there was no one . Rani got up with a start, wiping her sweaty forehead .
“ What do you want ma ?’’, asked Nikita.
‘’Nothing dear.’’ She drank some water and lay down again.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang. As Rani extended her hand to open it , the door opened by itself. It was Nikita. Rani almost stumbled and fell. Hearing her screaming, her neighbours came running, wondering what had happened . Nikita had no clue.
“Jamila, its him. I saw him.”
‘’Rani, he is dead long back. It’s been twelve years now. We all cremated him.”
A few days later Rani went to her factory. After taking her usual morning round, interacting with her employees, she began reviewing some files for an upcoming audit. As she got up to go to the cupboard, she saw a shadow uncomfortably close to her. She could hear the faint tapping of a walking stick . She turned round. There was no one in the room. When she turned a page to write, she saw that it had already been done .
“I haven’t written this , she cried . Thhhhh……iiii….sss is not my handwriting . It is…. it is ……..” She was stammering . Her hands were cold and clumpy. The file fell from her hand. Before she could bend down to pick it up , it was already on the table. She kept staring at it incessantly. And then there was darkness.
When she regained her consciousness, she was lying in the hospital ICU . Somu had been released on bail. Tears of repentance rolled down his eyes . ‘’The guilt of her husband’s crime is deeply etched in her mind. So, it is causing hallucinations.’’ explained the doctor.
Written By MOUSUMI BISWAS
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