Updated: Oct 1, 2021
As the early rays of the sun began to pierce the light mist that had engulfed the city, Mandira turned her side and blinked at the window. She pulled out her watch from under the pillow. It was a little after 8 am. It was a second Saturday and her office was closed. Another half an hour of sleep would be fine, she thought. She got up to draw the curtain a bit when she spotted him across the street. She broke into cold sweat. Now, he has found her house! Until now he had stalked her only around the office area. She was apprehensive. What does he want? He is a serious stalker!
Barely six months after her wedding to Ajit, Mandira was widowed. Those six months were the best period of her life. Ajit, an IT professional had proposed to her after a short courtship. They had moved into a small apartment in Gurgaon.
The bolt came when they were returning from work one evening. She got off the two-wheeler to get some vegetables. A tempo whirred round the corner and lost its control knocking off Ajit who was waiting on the stationary bike. The end was instantaneous. Post mortem and other formalities later, Mandira had decided to get on with her life and resumed her work as a web designer.
Once, when she was at a mall shopping with her friend she spotted this man in his thirties perhaps, fair and of medium built staring at her. Did he know Ajit or me? A passing thought but she could not place him. And now his presence near her house was unnerving. He could ring the bell and force his way in, she shuddered. She drew the curtain and sat staring at the wall which had only one photo frame-that of Ajit and herself on their wedding day.
Mandira thought that since it was a Saturday today, she would go early to the temple. She got ready and crossed the road and walked right past him without turning her head. She heard steps behind her but they were not close. “Let him catch up and he’d learn the lesson of his life today!” Mandira had made up her mind to break this stalker today.
As she walked a few steps, she heard a voice which resembled that of Ajit’s. “Mandira, please don’t turn. Keep walking. Please listen carefully to what I am saying. I am not your enemy, please. I mean no harm. My name is Vikram” Mandira could hear her heart pounding. She slowed down a bit while he talked.
“Your husband Ajit was killed on purpose. He was working on a secret defense project of a friendly country. Some miscreants were out to get that programme. Ajit and I were colleagues at his previous workplace. Please continue walking and please understand that Ajit has narrated this to me after his death. How I don’t know. As I talk, he talks.” Mandira breathed deeply and stepped slowly towards the road to the temple. If he tries to be nasty, there would be enough people to tackle him near the temple, she thought.
“These guys will target your house shortly and harm you now as they have not found the CDs containing the progrramme.” He spoke softly. “Ajit had been warned and threatened many times. He had kept this as a closely guarded secret. The discs are in the frame of your wedding picture on your bedroom wall. Tomorrow, take the photo to your parents’ place as early as possible and pretend to be sick and don’t come to work for three or four days. Stay put. I’ll tell you where to take those discs afterwards,” he was quiet. She heard him turn and walk away. She turned slightly to be sure. He wasn’t there! Was this some trap? May be he wants that programme!
When she went home, she took the frame and found the back cover had two layers. She undid one and then the next. In between were spread three discs marked A,B,C!. Ajit had scribbled some name which was not legible. Her hands quivered as she took the discs and placed them in a plastic bag. Everything that the stranger said was right!
She packed a few clothes in a haversack and called her brother asking him to pick her up at night as she was unwell. The brother knew that Mandira was going through a bad patch and agreed. He came to her apartment picking up her bags while she held the frame tied loosely with a few twines. “What’s this?” he enquired. “Oh. While cleaning it fell down and the packing came off. I’ll take it at the shop on our way if possible,” Mandira tried to explain. He shrugged and they both drove off.
Mandira’s mom came to her with the cordless telephone saying that her neighbour was on the line. “Mandira,” a shrill voice shouted, “Your flat has been broken into while you were away,” she screamed. “We have called the building secretary and he has called the police. Come please even if you are sick,” the neighbour was yelling. Mandira told her parents about the incident.
She was uneasy and felt that there was some truth in what the stranger was saying. After registering the complaint, Mandira returned feeling more helpless and more threatened.
The stalker was not seen for a couple of months. The discs were in her bag which she had left at her parents’ place. Mandira spent more time with her parents now. A few weeks passed and she saw the stranger at a mall.. He didn’t stare at her. As she got on to the escalator, he was a few steps behind. This time too she was apprehensive. ”Now at least you believe what I say. I hope you do. You have an offer to go abroad. Take it up.” He got off the escalator and walked towards the food court. She too followed him and sat at the same table taking her coffee with her. Her look was enough to make him speak almost inaudibly.
“Mandira, since my childhood, I have this strange power. I don’t know what to call it- may be a medium. Many spirits- benign-mind you- talk to me and ask me to convey to their loved ones to do something that has been left incomplete. Hope you understand,” he mumbled. She too mumbled a weak thanks and got up without looking behind. She knew she would be heading to new shores shortly. A year passed and Mandira was well-settled in her new job in Singapore. Her colleague had shifted to a new job and invited her to her new office. Mandira went at an appointed time. The board read ‘Vikram-Raj Associates.’ Sitting in the lobby, she noticed a picture on the wall that almost choked her. Her friend saw her pallid face and asked if she was ok. Mandira looked at the wall. Her friend explained, “Oh, Vikram was the founder of this company. He had set up another office in Europe too. He is no more. He died two years ago.”
Vrunda Moghe Dev