Shraddha gazed at the face for quite sometime. That guy interrupted,” Hi, I am Sidharth. I met you a few days back?” He extended his head and said,” Philosophy 3rd year?”
Shraddha turned merry and shook his hand,” Ah yes yes! I remember. You came for your friend Harshita’s Psychology assignment.”
“You got it right.”
“But what made you come here? And wait, how did you get my address?”
“Actually, I asked Harshita for your survey paper and I got your address. Actually I wanted your friend Harshit’s address but Harshita had misplaced some of those sheets.”
” I was in Tigambagoda village today. You might be knowing, it’s outside the suburban area.” After a pause he continued,” I am in the Photography club of the college and was there for my task with some of my colleague-members. Behind the village is a forest. There I saw your friend’s bike.”
Shraddha gaped and asked,” How do you know it was Harshit’s bike?”
“You have forgotten everything, dear. You were chit-chatting on that bike when I met you that day.” Sidharth said with a grin.
“Oh. Yeah, right!” Shraddha replied.” Harshit’s bike was there! He was frantic about it.” She exclaimed then calmly asked,” Did you get the bike then?”
Sidharth sighed,” I saw the bike and wondered as to what that guy might be doing there. One of my friends spotted me there and took me away. Then I was grossed in the project task at hand because the work was supposed to have been done till evening. Then we got the news that the forest had caught fire and all the villagers went there with buckets of water. We called the fire brigade and some time ago, I got to know from one of my friends that one bike also got burnt.”
“But one thing the fire brigade ascertained is that the fire was not accidental. Because the weather has been cool since morning. It must be deliberate.”
Shraddha nodded with concern.
“I am feeling very guilty about it. Had I probed the matter, this would not have happened.”
“It’s alright. You were doing your work.”
After a pause, Sidharth said, “ I may take your leave now.” And he left.
Shraddha was thinking about the situation till Yogita called her.
She rushed to Harshit’s place after that.
She met Yogita first and asked “ Where are your parents?”
“They’ve gone to attend some marriage. It will take them an hour or so to come back.”
“Where is Harshit?”
Yogita led her to Harshit’s room where he was looking at the ceiling as he was half sitting on the bed.
Harshit looked at Shraddha.
“What are you doing here?”
“I called her.”
Harshit stared at Yogita.
“Will you tell me what happened?”
“”I was waiting for a rickshaw to go to Sanjay’s place. Till a group of boys came on bikes and begun to hit me. I shouted for help but no one reached out. Then I came back home.”
Shraddha raised her brows. She narrated the whole chain of events which led to the burning of his bike. Harshit was stunned and begun to moan “ My bike!” And held his head within his palms.
“What would I tell to Mom-Dad. They’ll beat me up.. No I can’t afford to be beaten again”, then he grimaced in pain.
“ I think they were sent by Nisha.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“ There was this guy. I’m forgetting his name. Ah yes, Akram. He often rode Nisha to meet me, I remember. He claimed himself as his sister. Poor bro-zoned guy.”
Shraddha got a call from her Mom and she left hurriedly.
Shraddha decided to leave. She got a rickshaw but the driver was reluctant to go but after Shraddha’s roaring, he decided to drop her.
There was crowd in front of her house. She saw her parents full of anxiety, standing at the entrance along with a police inspector. She made her way through the crowd and went to her parents and the Sahnis were also there
“A group of young boys came and vandalized the living room and our bedroom. They were about to destroy your things as well but thanks to Mr. Sahni, he saved the house from full destruction and they ran away,” Her mother was frightened then she added “ A girl was also there who was supervising their actions. I couldn’t believe this. Everyone is same in committing crimes. And I am very sure that I have heard that voice of that girl.”
“ Shraddha, I remember she’s one of your friends only. She was calling you one day on the phone since the phone was on speaker.”
“My friend? No Mumma, that cannot be the case.” Then an idea struck her head “ I have some voice recordings, listen them and decide then. But I’m sure that it won’t be the case.”
After certain voices, she recognised that voice.
“Yes! This is the voice!”
Shraddha stared at her “ It is Vijaylakshmi, she cannot do such a thing! She’s a good friend of mine!”
“I may be bad in recognising faces but not the voice.” Her father further added “That girl’s back was in my view and her shout was very similar to this voice.”
Shraddha could not believe this. After the probe got over, the officials went away. But the aftermath of the mayhem remained. The photographs, showpieces, lamps- everything was destroyed. Sahnis went with them and assured them that everything would be okay.
Until a familiar face came and the anger if Shraddha’s father knew no bounds.