Runjhun Noopur is an ex-corporate lawyer who has been following her dream to build a life around her passion for writing. While her professional compulsions take her all over the map, she makes sure she always comes home to the magnificent city of Lucknow, India. She has written for several prominent national and international publications including the Times of India, the Huffington Post, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Thrive Global and Arre. She has a thriving blog on Medium, and self-published a collection of blog essays called Urdu—A Sufi Celebration of Life in 2017. She is currently working on two novels and a forthcoming non-fiction that juxtaposes spirituality with humour and pop culture.
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Braid of Honour
“They killed her, Sahib.”
The young boy, barely eighteen, broke into wheezing sobs. Murugan handed him another tissue, awkward and at loss for words.
“Sharma.” Murugan addressed her subordinate, who had been staring at the boy with a practised apathy. “File an FIR against the culprits. I want them named in detailed charge-sheets within this week.”
Sharma’s nonchalance bled away instantly. “All 2,000 of them?” He spluttered.
“Yes, Sharma.” Murugan looked at him, daring him to defy the order. “Is that a problem?”
“No, Madam.” Sharma slunk back. “Not at all.”
“Good. Please get down to work immediately.” Murugan dismissed him.
Sharma took a moment to glare at the boy who had buried his face in his hands, before he turned around to leave. The boy was motionless except for the involuntary sobs that racked his lanky frame.
Murugan placed a comforting hand on the boy’s shoulder. “We will catch them, son. I promise you. But, you should go home.”
The boy looked up and fixed his red-rimmed eyes on Murugan.
There was a moment of absolute, dreadful silence, before the boy whispered.
There was no quiver in the boy’s voice, but Murugan felt an involuntary shudder run down her spine. She wasn’t sure if it was a question or an answer. But she knew it for a fact that those vacant eyes were going to haunt her for the rest of her life.
“Freaking newbies,” Sharma muttered angrily as he shuffled papers around his desk. “Over-eager lady officers.” He spat. “They think they are here to change the world!”
Saxena, Sharma’s colleague, walked in and looked around. He spat out the paan he was chewing, which hit the corner wall with a remarkable accuracy, adding a new pattern to the growing graffiti on the yellowing facade.
“What happened?” Saxena asked, wiping the remnants of the paan juice from his lips. “Not having a good day?”
“Week. Not a good week,” Sharma muttered through clenched teeth. “Ever since this new ACP Madam has joined, my life has been hell.”
Saxena gave a long suffering sigh. “What does she want now?”
“Detailed charge-sheets. Against 2,000 people.”
Saxena slumped on the wobbly stool next to Sharma’s table. “Didn’t you tell her it takes months to file a proper charge-sheet against one person?”
“Do you think there was a point?”
Saxena groaned. “I hate working with these new joinees. Especially women. Too much enthusiasm. Too much to prove. Not enough realism. And zero information about the ground realities. Always a recipe for disaster.”
“Yeah.” Sharma bit out. “Tell me about it.”
“Don’t worry.” Saxena stood up and stretched. “This is a short lived phase. The system will get to her. It always does.”
“Yes.” Sharma wiped his brow tiredly. “But it better get to her before the end of this week. Or I am surely dead.”
“Did you hear about what happened in Basai?” The old man Sarju scratched his leg.
“About the old woman that those Basai people beat to death?” The other man Shyam puffed on his hukka. They were a bunch of elderly men sitting under a tree, whiling the day away under the pretext of keeping an eye on the fields.
In truth, there was nothing to keep an eye on. The rainfall had been dismal this year, and the produce was scarce. The younger men were struggling to make the best of whatever the rain gods had sprinkled on their fields. A lot of them had started looking for work in the nearest urban settlements although work in the cities was not what it used to be. It was hard to find, almost always demeaning, and never paid well. But they had to do whatever they could. Survival is a compulsion that no human can escape, no matter what the cost.
“Why did they kill her?” Babu, one of the other men in the group, asked.
“They believed she was Chotikatwa,” Shyam informed them.
There was a collective gasp of horror.
“Was she?” Babu asked.
Shyam shrugged. “Who knows?”
“This is terrible,” Sarju, who had brought up Basai in the first place, ruminated sagely. “Even beasts behave better than this. Mobbing an old, helpless woman. Lynching her to death.”
The group nodded in unison, a collective display of a sense of self-righteous morality.
“Easy for you to say,” Sriram, a young man who had just joined the group, commented. “What would you do if they told you someone here, in our Deori was Chotikatwa? Will you let the person go? Will you do nothing about it just because she is a woman or old?”
Humans are predisposed to act in packs, and a mob is a mob because collective violence is as easily accessible an instinct as collective morality. Maybe more.
The hum of agreeable disagreement that echoed across the group was, hence, loud and clear. They knew what they’d do. And why Basai wasn’t really at fault.
As for the old woman, she was going to die soon anyway.
Sonal’s chapattis were always rounded to perfection, a flawless circle, just like her face. Or so her mother insisted. But that was before they married her off to Sriram, a no-nonsense man of stern disposition who had no inclination or time for appreciating Sonal’s chapattis, or her beauty.
But at least he was a young man close to her age. Unlike Neela, whose husband, if you could even call him that, was of the age of her father. And at least her folks had waited until she had turned eighteen before they got her married even though the wait was clearly excruciating. If they could, they would have probably married her off before she was born. Which wasn’t as unlikely as it sounded. After all, Sunita’s parents had done just that.
The point is Sonal’s life wasn’t the horror show that it had the potential of being. But it didn’t mean she was entirely happy. Happy, in any case, isn’t a luxury that is accorded to women in these parts. Happy is an art that they learn and practise and cobble together from stray, accidental moments.
It still didn’t mean Sonal did not want more. She did. But then, she was still young. Over time, she was going to grow into the cynical, undemanding pessimist that women are supposed to be.
At the moment, however, Sonal wanted her husband to look up and for once look at her.
Sriram, predictably, remained oblivious to his wife’s inner tirade, and continued to devote the same intense concentration to his food that he reserved for searching jobs and tilling fields.
Sonal sighed and turned her attention back to the chapattis on the stove.
“Stop braiding your hair.”
A startled Sonal dropped the steel tongs in her hands with a loud crash.
“What?” She spluttered, not believing she had heard what she had heard.
“Don’t braid your hair.” Sriram’s voice betrayed no emotion as he barely glanced at her from the corner where he was washing his hands.
Sonal’s hammering heart leapt into her throat. “You want me to leave my hair open?”
“Do whatever,” Sriram said dismissively, “just don’t braid.”
Sonal’s unvoiced question echoed in the empty kitchen. Sriram had left.
“He doesn’t want me to braid my hair.” Sonal informed her friends that afternoon at the village’s dilapidated community centre. It was where her group of girls gathered every day for knitting and sewing sessions.
Knitting and sewing were merely an excuse. An excuse for the young, married girls of the village to escape their houses, their husbands, and the scrutiny of their in-laws for a few blissful hours. Because even without the urban vocabulary that could supply them with words like girls’ gang and kitty parties, these girls had found a way to bond and unwind and find their own personal bubble of joy, however small.
Resilience is an undeniable human condition that finds roots everywhere. Sometimes it manifests as grand survival stories. But often, it finds its place in small stolen moments of life, lived above, beyond, and despite its limitations.
Moments like the ones that Deori’s young women stole every afternoon.
“Why?” Neela giggled. “Does he like you with your hair open?”
“Lucky woman,” Sunita sighed. “Forget my husband, my mother-in-law would kill me if she found as much as a strand out of place.”
“Your mother-in-law would kill you even if she doesn’t,” Sheila said, her eyes fixed on the needle that she was currently threading through a cloth in small flowery patterns. “I don’t think our mothers-in-law need a reason to kill us if they want to.”
“Don’t be so morbid,” Neela chided her.
Sheila, who also happened to be the oldest in the group and suitably careworn for her age, frowned. “I am not being morbid. I only tell the truth.”
“Girls,” Sonal whined, “you are way off the topic.”
“Yes.” Neela sobered up. “Why doesn’t he want you to braid your hair?”
“Chotikatwa,” Sheila informed them gravely. “I think it is because of the Chotikatwa. Everyone in the neighbouring villages has been talking about it. They killed some woman in Basai because they thought she was Chotikatwa.”
“Was she?” Sunita asked.
“I don’t know. But I don’t think so.”
“Wow.” Sonal was impressed. “How do you know so much Sheila didi?”
Sheila gave them a triumphant smile. “WhatsApp.”
“WhatsApp.” Murugan bit out. “WhatsApp is fuelling these rumours and making them worse. We have to curb this menace before we have another Basai on our hands.”
“What do you propose to do, Sahib? Shut down the internet?” Saxena said, his tone mildly amused and almost mocking.
Murugan, however, was not in the mood. She gave Saxena a look which had him shrinking back into the farthest corner of the room.
“What the hell is this Chotikatwa anyway?” Murugan wondered aloud while everyone in the room maintained a studied silence. “Is it a gang? A serial predator?”
“Madam,” a young, over-zealous constable said as he stepped forward, “there was a message on my WhatsApp…”
Murugan’s eyes snapped up and the poor constable instantly lost his nerve.
“I mean,” he stuttered, “there has been news all over that it is some sort of a bug. An insect that feeds on hair.”
“An insect that chops off women’s braids with scissors?” Murugan asked.
The constable hung his head and stepped back.
“Does someone else want to share their latest WhatsApp update with me?” Murugan said and looked around the room.
There was pin drop silence.
“We can’t shut down the internet. But we can at least control the media. Saxena, get in touch with the local media houses and ask them not to overplay the rumours about Chotikatwa. And the rest of you, I want eyes and boots on the ground. Get me real information about whoever or whatever this Chotikatwa is.”
“Yes, Sir.” The room echoed with a practised affirmation and everyone turned around to leave.
“And guys,” Murugan sounded tired, “please, no more WhatsApp.”
It was only a matter of time before Chotikatwa reached Deori.
That morning, the sleepy village woke up to an unprecedented commotion in the village square. Sheila’s mother-in-law, a robust woman in her early sixties, was screaming bloody murder loudly enough to wake up the entire village and the deaf man two villages over.
“Chotikatwa,” she chanted like a horrid, terrible mantra. “Chotikatwa.”
Her long and luscious braid had been chopped off sometime during the night while she was asleep on the roof of her house. The sad remnants of her treasured tresses were found scattered around her cot.
It was a scandal. The biggest scandal Deori had seen in a while. Everyone was obviously excited. There was a carnival at Sheila’s house, with everyone and their grandmas eager to get the juicy details.
“This is worse than my worst nightmare,” Sheila grumbled to her gang of girls once she had managed to sneak out of her house teeming with curious guests and make her way to the afternoon commune.
“What happened Sheila didi?” Sonal asked as the rest of the girls abandoned their sewing needles and gathered around Sheila. “Chotikatwa spared your hair, didn’t it?”
“Yes,” Sheila groaned, “I wish it hadn’t.”
The comment was welcomed by a loud gasp from the group.
“What are you saying Sheila didi? You really wish your braid was chopped off by a monster?” Neela asked, incredulous.
“It is just hair, Neela. It will grow back. But did you see the attention it has been getting for my mother-in-law? She is a celebrity now. Everyone is hanging on to her every word. Everyone wants a piece of her story.”
“It is a huge story.” Sonal couldn’t help commenting.
Sheila glowered. “I know. I know it is huge. But does it really mean that my mother-in-law now has the license to treat everyone like slaves? Not that she treated me any better before. But, you know, I have not had a minute’s rest the whole day today.” She slumped on the ground. “My feet hurt.”
“Calm down, Sheila didi.” Sunita placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “It is a short-lived excitement. It will die out soon.”
“Yeah.” Sheila’s shoulders sagged further. “Not before my mother-in-law enjoys every second of this limelight.” She sighed. “If that god-awful Chotikatwa had to chop off someone’s braid, why couldn’t it be me? I was sleeping next to her last night. And I have better hair!”
“I think this Chotikatwa has a terrible taste.” Sunita agreed, while the rest of the gang nodded in unison. “Picking old hags over young blood. What was it thinking?”
“It is not about tastes, Sunita,” Sheila said, her tone weighed down by sorrows beyond her age. “It is the bad luck. Even Chotikatwa does not favour the wretched.”
The wretched of Deori, however, were in for a treat. Chotikatwa had, for some blessed reason, decided to focus its precious energies on this little hamlet and the bounty of braids that it held within.
Sheila’s mother-in-law’s braid was followed by the braids of three older women, much to the chagrin of the younger ones.
Predictably, Deori soon found itself at the centre of a media circus and administrative display of post facto efficiency. Officers camped outside the village day in, day out while the media went into frenzy, spinning out facts and conspiracy theories at a rate where the distinction between the two lost all relevance.
Murugan arrived in Deori after the fifth incident was reported in less than a week.
“This is ridiculous,” she said with barely contained anger, while the rest of the team stood around quietly. “Half my department is currently in Deori, and yet there isn’t a single lead on Chotikatwa. Meanwhile, the media out there is making a fortune out of stories that even I am not sure are entire lies. Saxena, had I not asked you to get in touch with local media outlets?”
Saxena bristled. “I did, Sahib. But, we can’t gag the media.”
“Did you even try to?”
“With due respect, Sahib,” Saxena said, his annoyance hidden underneath layers of well-rehearsed deference, “this is a free country. We can make requests, but we cannot dictate our media.”
“This is a free country of convenience, Saxena. Besides, if this is really a free country, why aren’t we making sure those women are free to keep their braids? And nobody gets killed by a mob?”
“We are trying, Madam.” Sharma cleared his throat and intervened. “But this Chotikatwa is sneaky beyond imagination. And besides, we have nothing to go on. The villagers have no concrete information. And the victims keep fainting.”
“The victims, Ma’am. Every time our team tries to interrogate them, they faint.”
Much to the delight of Sonal’s gang of girls, Chotikatwa finally found some semblance of sense and shifted its attention to the younger women of the village.
Neela was the first among Sonal’s friends to be graced with Chotikatwa’s nightly visitations. The resulting ruckus was massive. For some reason, a young woman losing her hair was a greater slander to the collective masculinity of the hamlet. Perhaps because the younger the woman, the greater the quantum of pride held by her existence. And her hair.
A woman’s braid is a symbol of pride maintained at no cost to the menfolk, and easily appropriated at the expense of women’s wishes and convenience. Like a moustache, but with a lot less hassle. For men anyway.
No wonder braids were so important to the men of Deori. No wonder, when a young woman lost her braid, it shook up the village at a whole new level.
Neela’s trauma was rewarded by attention and care that most women in the village would kill for. Not only did the entire village congregate at her house to lend support, even her husband and mother-in-law seemed to show levels of concerns that were unprecedented.
“This Chotikatwa is a blessing,” Neela shed her persona of hapless victim for a few moments and whispered to Sonal, who had come to meet her after the incident. “I don’t think I have ever had a better time in my entire life.”
Sonal smiled and shared her friend’s happiness. It was only on the way back that she wistfully stared at her own un-braided plait and wondered if Chotikatwa would be willing to make an exception. And if it was worthwhile to risk the wrath of her husband in order to tempt Chotikatwa.
By the time Sonal arrived at her house, she had also arrived at a feasible solution. Ultimately, it all boiled down to the lengths she was willing to go for Chotikatwa’s attention without infuriating her husband.
So, from that night onwards, long after Sriram had gone to sleep, Sonal would wake up and dutifully braid her hair, only to wake up again early in the morning to un-braid it. It was a strenuous routine, but Sonal knew that it was worth it.
Despite Murugan’s vigilance and meticulous patrolling by her team, Chotikatwa’s reign continued unabated. Determined to put an end to the menace, Murugan got involved in the investigation personally.
The result, however, was not what she had hoped for.
In the three days that she went door to door in Deori, interviewing witnesses and victims and looking for a lead on Chotikatwa, she ended up getting involved in at least two land disputes, three suspected cases of severe domestic abuse, and referred a dozen major and minor issues to the concerned authorities.
It was like being an agony aunt, but with considerable authority and administrative back-up. Murugan did not mind it. But there was only so much time she could spend in a single village out of the 127 that were supposed to be under her supervision. And there was no way she could leave until there was some progress in the Chotikatwa case.
Not because it was going to smear her career record. She knew it wasn’t. If that were the case, three quarters of the law-enforcement officials in the country would have never seen a promotion in their lives.
If there was one thing the system was always sympathetic towards, it was the limitations of that very system in nearly every crisis situation.
Pity that sympathy rarely, if ever, got extended to the victims of those very crises.
Murugan’s career was in no immediate peril because of the Chotikatwa. Or because of what happened at Basai. In the larger scheme of things, this was too minor an incident to blot even a lady officer’s career.
Her conscience, however, was a different story.
Basai haunted Murugan’s dreams, staring at her through the vacant, red-rimmed eyes of the boy who had sat in her office that day. The boy who lost his mother because there was a mob of people whose fear was compelling enough to make them commit a cold-blooded murder.
Murugan could not leave Deori while the reason for that murderous fear was still on the loose. She could not leave while there was another Basai waiting to happen.
It was a happy day for Sonal’s friends. Sheila’s prayers had finally been answered. Chotikatwa had, at last, chosen her braid.
“This is a dream.” Sheila gushed, flaunting a new hair cut that she had acquired at the nearest salon once Chotikatwa had done its job. The rest of the girls wiped happy tears from their eyes.
All except Sonal, who had reasons of her own to shed those tears.
Despite her earnest prayers and gruelling braiding routine that left her sleep-deprived and groggy during the day, Chotikatwa had simply refused to turn its attention towards her humble abode.
Maybe Sriram’s famous temper was notorious enough to have dissuaded Chotikatwa. Or maybe she was just that unlucky.
“Is it too much to ask?” She all but sobbed before Neela. “I did not ask for the Moon. All I wanted was a little attention. Not from anybody else. Only my husband. I thought at least Chotikatwa will finally make him look at me.”
Neela’s eyes brimmed with tears at her friend’s plight. She took a deep breath and said, “Give me your hand.”
Puzzled, Sonal extended a hand. Neela pulled out something from under her bed and placed it on Sonal’s open palm.
“What is this?” Sonal asked, astonished.
“Chotikatwa,” Neela whispered, closing Sonal’s fingers around a shiny, sharp pair of scissors.
“Remember,” Neela said, her voice low, “If they ask you anything, feign ignorance. And if they ask you too many questions, faint.”
Murugan’s Chotikatwa investigation kept hitting brick walls. Or rather consistently fainting victims.
There was something unsettling about the behaviour pattern of Chotikatwa’s victims. But it wasn’t until Murugan arrived at the tenth victim’s house in Deori that she was finally able to put a finger on it.
The tenth victim was a woman named Sonal, who along with her husband, lived in a small two-room house with cemented walls and a thatched roof. The very husband, who when Murugan arrived, was busy being torn between showing concern for his traumatised wife and berating her for not listening to him.
“I told you to stop braiding your hair. But you women, you never listen, do you? Alright, alright… don’t cry. It is going to be fine.”
The flip-flop was hilarious. But Murugan was not laughing. She was examining the room, the latest scene of crime, with an air of intense curiosity.
Almost all the victims who were allegedly attacked by Chotikatwa had been sleeping in the open, outside their houses or on their roofs. If they weren’t, there was usually a point of entry, a window or a skylight, which could be reasonably considered a way in for whoever or whatever Chotikatwa was.
Sonal’s room was an exception. The only window in the room was latched from the inside and going by the dust that had gathered on the locks, it had not been opened recently. The only way in was through the door which Sonal’s husband insisted was locked during the night.
There were only two possibilities that were presented by the current scenario. Either Chotikatwa was actually an incorporeal monster. Or…
Murugan bent down on her knees and lowered her voice to a tone she rarely used, reserving it exclusively for hardened criminals. “Sonal,” she said, “did you cut your braid yourself?”
The question was a barely audible whisper. But it did its job.
Sonal’s face turned ashen. She stared at Murugan, eyes wide with fear so visceral Chotikatwa would have been jealous.
And then, she fainted.
Periodic incidents of localised hysteria based on rumours and half-baked stories are common phenomena in this country. A couple of years ago, there was Munhnuchwa, some beastly entity that liked to scratch its victims’ faces. Then there was a monkey man who, as the name suggests, was a terrifying entity that resembled a monkey and appeared in the dark to scare people. And more recently, stories have been doing the rounds in several parts of the country about Chotikatwa, a braid-chopping monster.
Sociologists argue that incidents of mass hysteria are symptomatic of deeper distress, economic or otherwise, in the society and become an outlet for the population when it is too suppressed or traumatised and believes that nobody is listening.
Entities like Munhnuchwa or Chotikatwa may be subconscious projections or a deliberate construction, but the root cause remains underlying stress and unvoiced misery that has nowhere to go.
Murugan tore her eyes away from her laptop’s screen and rubbed her face.
“You look tired, Sahib,” Saxena said, as he entered into her office. “You are stressing too much about this case.”
“It is Basai, Saxena,” Murugan confessed. “It is Basai that doesn’t let me sleep.”
“You are new to this,” Saxena said, not entirely unsympathetic. “You will get used to it.”
‘You are also a woman’ remained unsaid and deliberately unheard.
Murugan looked up and smiled. “Somehow, that doesn’t sound like a noble idea to me.”
Saxena gave a throaty laugh and slumped on the chair across Murugan. “No good deed goes unpunished, Sahib. And no nobility leaves its patron unscathed.”
“You are a wise, worldly man Saxena.” Murugan stared at him intently. “What do you think is going on here?”
There was a brief pause.
“What always goes on, Sahib,” Saxena said. “There is a rumour. A horror story that takes a life of its own. Soon, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Facts merge with stories, and stray incidents become a chequered, ghastly pattern where truth and lies become impossible to segregate. People fuel it, consciously and unconsciously. Everyone wants a piece of the rumour pie to serve their own ends. In the process, a few people get hurt. Sometimes, a few die. And then one day, the rumour dies. Just like every rumour is destined to.”
“You don’t think Chotikatwa exists?”
“I don’t know. But I think women are cutting off their own hair to cash in on the rumour,” Murugan said. “Maybe not all of them. But a lot of them.”
“I am not surprised. As per our investigation, at least one of those women had her hair chopped off by an enraged husband. Chotikatwa became a ruse to protect the honour.”
“Figures,” Murugan said. “Still, the fear lingers. And I am worried Deori may become the next Basai.”
Saxena huffed. “Sahib, Chotikatwa is a story that serves many purposes. Deori has its purposes. And Basai had its own.”
“What do you mean?” Murugan leaned forward.
“The woman who was killed was a Dalit.”
“I know,” Murugan said. “So?”
“She was a Dalit who, by some fluke, happened to own a coveted piece of land along the boundary of the village.”
There was a stunned silence that greeted this revelation.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“The file came in this morning.”
“What happened to the boy?”
“He registered the land in the name of a couple of upper caste landholders and left the village. I think he is going to live a long if not entirely happy life.”
Murugan slumped back in her seat. “Not sure if that is the kind of happy ending we should be looking for.” She looked up. “What happened that day? Was that mob killing planned?”
Saxena sighed, “A mob is a ticking bomb Sahib, a feral beast, a weapon ready to be unleashed at the slightest of provocations. All you need is a well-timed trigger to ignite the rage. A few rowdy elements mixed in with the unsuspecting mob are usually enough. Even fewer if the mob is sufficiently scared and fewer still, if the said scare emerges from a perceived threat to their honour. Because for a mob that has nothing else to hold on to, hollow pride and ideas of honour are the only things that matter. And if the target is someone from a caste or a religion the mob is conditioned to despise, everything becomes terribly easy. Mobs are murderers waiting in the wings, ready to strike right around the corner. Unfortunately this time, Basai was that corner.”
Murugan buried her head in her hands. “Are you saying we can do nothing to prevent Basai from happening again?”
Saxena stood up. “No, Sahib. I am saying we can only do our best. But our best may not always be enough.”
“And the Chotikatwa?”
“Is a story that will eventually die its own natural death. If you let it.”
Sharma was frantically assembling the papers on his table. A week had long been up, and any day now, Murugan was going to summon him to ask about the charge-sheets.
“What are you doing?” Saxena sauntered in, thrusting a fresh paan into his mouth.
“Trying to do the impossible. Filing charge-sheets against 2,000 people.”
Saxena smiled and flopped down on a chair. “Don’t worry about it. Those charge-sheets are never going to get filed.”
“Are you kidding me? You know ACP Madam is like a dog with a bone. She will never let this go.”
Saxena smiled and said nothing. On cue, Sharma’s phone started ringing.
Sharma shivered with more than a little trepidation as he stared at his phone’s screen. It was only after several rings that he summoned the courage to take the call.
It was a surprisingly short call. Saxena observed keenly as Sharma’s face did impressive somersaults through a whole gamut of emotions ranging from fear to surprise before finally settling for relief.
“What happened?” Saxena asked as soon as Sharma got off the call.
“Madam wants to leave Deori tomorrow,” Sharma said, looking a little dazed. “She didn’t even mention the charge-sheets.”
“And she won’t ever.” Saxena gave him a triumphant smile as he wiped the paan juice off his stained lips. “I told you the system will get to her.”
“In good time.” Sharma grinned. “In real good time.”
Read the other two winning entries from the DWL Short Story Contest 2018.
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