The Scribbler's Orchard: Part 10

Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5    Part 6    Part 7    Part 8    Part 9 

Shekhar’s mind was in a whirl. If he had been told a few days back that his life was about to change drastically, he would have laughed back at the person. Nothing dire ever happened in his staid life of freelance writing. It was always the steady tap-tapping of the computer keyboard that broke the stillness of his small study room. And Roohi’s laughter. 

The study had been exceptionally quiet the last few days while his whole life had turned upside down. There was no peace to be had now, a cold silence prevailing over the Orchard. Roohi’s abduction, Jennifer held in a false charge, Cyrus being captured and his consequent unraveling of the conspiracy plot regarding bombing of the Prime Minister, Arjun’s report on yesterday’s events.…

Shekhar held his head, willing his mind to keep shut.

“This is just a nightmare,” he told himself feverishly. “I will wake up from it and Tara would be sleeping beside me. Roohi will come running to the room to wish us good morning. Everything will be alright. This is just a nightmare.”

Shekhar got up from his seat and glanced around the house. Tara was still not home. He decided to go out for a walk, away from the stifling environment of the Orchard. Perhaps the outside air would clear his mind and bring him some rays of hope.

He pulled on his favourite pair of tees, track pants and sneakers and set out of his home. 
It was dark outside, even though dusk was still some time away. Mumbai monsoons were still not over and thick gloomy clouds hung ominously over the horizon.

“Should I have brought the umbrella?” Shekhar mused and then decided against it. 

He looked around him as he began striding at a brisk pace along the pathway. The buildings and houses seemed unfamiliar and forlorn in the dimmed light. Shekhar realized that in all his years spent in Orchard he had never looked around his own neighborhood properly. In fact, he hardly knew any of the neighbours. He had always seen the houses briefly as he passed by in his car, never more than a cursory glance.

Now, he found himself admiring the facades of a few houses, stopping now and then to look up at some architectural magnificence. Some houses even had lavish terrace gardens and Shekhar could see foliage overflowing through the trellis. There were some that had narrow ventilators near the bottom, implying the presence of basements in those houses.

Shekhar observed that most of the house-owners had swanky cars in their premises, some of them parked outside. He himself dreamt of owning a Porsche one day, though he knew it was not possible with his freelancing fees. 

“But a man can dream, can’t he?” Shekhar mumbled to himself, as if in consolation.

Suddenly he was aware of a few rain drops falling on him and a loud grumbling of the clouds above confirmed his fear of an impending downpour. Shekhar decided to end his walk and return to the Orchard. He had just turned around when a pink object caught the corner of his eye.

There was a black Honda Civic parked by the side of a large, imposing mansion and its back seat had a splash of pink. Perhaps a child’s toy, thought Shekhar. And yet a niggling doubt in his mind led him to peer at the pink object closely through the window of the car.

He had never in his wildest dreams expected to see what he saw lying on the back seat of the car, and it blew his mind away. 

For, it was Roohi’s school bag.

Read the next installment here.

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