In the night, the road seemed endless in the car’s headlights. It was the only car running on the road like a drop of water on a smooth surface. It passed zoomed every tree, leaving the leaves and flowers baffled. The tyres seemed like as they were not even moving due to the extreme rotation. Suddenly the car left the lane and shifted to its left. Again it left the lane shifting to the right. It followed this sequence in zigzag pattern. It seemed like it was shaking giving the fellow travellers enormous jerks. The pattern now showed uncontrollable. The zigzag became wider. The car touched both the extreme sides of road while running ahead. In no time, while shifting to left, the sheer voice of breaks pierced into the ears, and the car banged into a tree on the left of the road. It tripped over 4 to 5 times and fell into a pit. The sound of collision was extremely high. But it was the only sound which was heard. Nobody spoke.
The car was upside down in the pit. Only hands were out of windows. It was covered in the mud of blood. She could figure it out with the help of the shape of the hand. It could be seen that the bodies were harshly crushed; unable to move leaving her thinking of horrifying possibilities. All the glasses were crushed to dust. Even through the gap of broken glasses, nobody could be seen clearly. All she could see was who was where. She could not believe just an hour ago, her father called her informing that they would reach home in 20 minutes, from that left front seat. Her mother and aunt were on the back seat. It was her uncle who was driving. She pressed her eyes closed. She felt that her eyes were bleeding. She went numb. She didn’t faint nor did she cry out loud. She stood like a statue covered in skin.
The phone rang. Yuvika woke up from the sleep. She could feel the heat in her body. She was sweating. She saw it again what she had been trying to forget since years. She sat in the bed for a second and took a deep breath. She picked the phone up.
It was Manav. He was trained under her and now was working in her team. Even after her promotion, she chose him to work with her. He was very much aware of her working pattern. And she also trusted him as much as she trusted her own efficiency. She knew that confidential matter would stay confidential with him. He had called to inform her that he had emailed her the documents which she had asked him to prepare based on research. It was of Dalal’s story. She figured out that Manav had worked all night so she told him to come to office after the lunch break. The rest she would manage.
By this time, she forgot about the nightmare. She had got used to it. Before going to bed, she chose to read books or go through next day’s schedule. Her mother used to say, ‘The things which float in our minds before going to sleep, appear in dreams. So always have pleasant thoughts. You would dream always well.’ But sometimes, her mother’s theory didn’t work.
Dev’s cabin door got knocked and pushed open. He found Joe standing there. He stood up, “Joe, what a pleasant surprise! How are you?”
“Great. How are you?” asked Joe. They shook hands.
“I am a good man. Please have a seat.” He went back to his chair.
“No. Actually I have to rush. Here I have just come to invite you to the inauguration of my art gallery.”
He handed him a rectangular ivory card which had his name printed in burgundy colour on it. It read the information of the event, schedule, date and venue. It was on the day after tomorrow.
“So the day has come,” Dev exclaimed.
“Yes.” Joe seemed excited but had a nervous smile.
“Who? Me? Oh, no,” said Joe, throwing his hands in the air.
They both laughed. He wished him luck and patted on his shoulder.
“Is Yuvika in her cabin?” asked Joe, reaching for the door.
“Yes. She must be. Let me see.”
They both reached to Yuvika’s office. Dev opened the door. “Here she is.”
Joe had surprised her too. He came in the office while Dev stood at the door, leaning on his right to the door frame, with hands in pockets. Joe gave her the card and informed her about the inauguration. They all chatted for a while in her office when Joe said, “I am now going to leave. So much work is pending.”
“Let me know if I can be of any help,” said Yuvika.
“You guys just be there. That will be all.”
Joe left leaving Yuvika in thoughts.
The day of inauguration had come. It was scheduled to 7 in the evening. But Yuvika reached the venue in the morning before going to the office. Joe was busy arranging things when he spotted her at the entrance. She was looking for him. He came to her, “Hey, Good morning.”
“Morning. You left so early,” said Yuvika with a glimpse of a question.
“Yes. For some finishing work.”
“So I guess I am late!”
Joe didn’t understand. Before he could say anything, Yuvika stepped forward in the hall, looking around. Basically it was oval in shape with large walls. Some people were arranging the paintings of different size while the other were handling the lightings and testing it. She reached to a central wall, which semi intercepted the oval; its back faced the entrance of the hall. It had a few paintings on it but a large area was empty.
“This,” she said, pointing to the empty area, “place the painting here.”
Joe was still in confusion when he saw four men entering the hall with a large board like thing, covered in paper. She saw them and signalled them to come where they were. They put the board down and started uncovering the board. It was the blank wooden at first. Then two of the men lifted the board from both the opposite corners and re-positioned themselves walking half circle opposing each other. Now the front of the painting could be seen. It was Yuvika’s grandmother’s giant portrait. It looked more grand now from this close.
Joe stared at the painting as if he was lost in the beauty of it. He, then, looked at her. She was enjoying his expression, but couldn’t say exactly how they were. She smiled and asked, “Do you like it?”
He pressed his lips. He could not say anything. He again looked at the painting. What makes him so emotional about the painting? She could see the same amount of happiness on his face which she had felt it for the first time when she had seen it. She cursed herself for refusing his request for the painting initially. She did not have any idea that it mattered to him so much. But why? This was still unanswered.
As soon as she entered her office, Yuvika noticed a file stated ‘Bakshi’ on her table. She could see that it was a new story which she was supposed to work on. Manav called her informing that he had gone through the file which was given to him. Once she would take a look at it, they could start working on it.
She sat on the chair and started reading the file. After a couple of pages, she closed the file and went out with it. She knocked on Mr Dixit’s cabin.
“Yes Yuvika,” said Mr Dixit as soon as he saw her at the door. He signalled her to come in. She didn’t sit.
“You saw the file?” asked Mr Dixit.
“Yes,” before he could say anything further, she continued, “are you sure you want to cover this story?” She lifted her hand with the file.
“Look, I know, it is alright.”
Her sudden response made him forget what he was going to say.
“No we are not,” she said again.
He sighed. “Well, Vinod Bakshi is opening a school for slum kids. It is going to be a great story against the issues like starvation, illiteracy and many more. And it is your job to bring it to people.”
“And what about the other issues he is involved in?”
“Shouldn’t we appreciate someone who does something good?”
“Good? Really? Sir, he is the biggest human trafficker in India. There were allegations against him. You and me, we both know that they were true. But still he is roaming free on the roads, sir. He is a dangerous man.”
Mr. Dixit kept quite. She said further, “I was told to close his story. Why? Because it was too controversial for our magazine. I also suggested to, at least, use the information and help those children, who were victims, we could have taken help from authorities. But again I was quieted saying it was not our job. And now what are we going to do? Portraying him as a noble man? I am sorry sir, but my job doesn’t ask for being unethical.”
Manav knocked the door, opened it. “Ma’am, here is the draft. Please go through it.” Yuvika pushed it away without looking at it. She left the cabin. Manav looked at Mr. Dixit. More than confused, he was tensed. Noticing his blank face, Manav, was about to leave the cabin but he heard Mr. Dixit’s voice calling his name. He stopped and turned around.
“Manav, give this file to Batra. They will handle this story.”
Manav hesitated. Batra was trained under Dev and had been working under his supervision. So automatically, the story was supposed to be handled by Dev and his team. “Will Dev Sir agree with this?” he wanted to ask, but couldn’t.
“Sure sir,” said Manav and left the cabin.
It was half past seven. The gallery was filled with people. But Joe was eagerly looking for Yuvika and Dev. After another half an hour, Dev reached the gallery. As soon as he reached the entrance, he saw the portrait of Yuvika’s grandmother on the front wall; Joe had chosen a different place for this masterpiece, obviously! It looked magnificent. No other pieces could be seen. One could not take his eyes off it. He realized that Yuvika had changed her mind. He was happy for Joe.
Dev was standing in front of the painting, even though he had seen it many times, it looked amazingly different now. Joe tapped on his shoulder.
“Hey! congratulations!” Dev greeted Joe with a big bouquet.
“Thanks.” Today, Joe’s happiness was on another level. He excitedly asked, “Has Yuvika come with you?”
Dev said, “No. I thought she had already reached. I didn’t see her in the office to when I left.”
“Oh. Okay. She must be on her way. Anyway, you please enjoy yourself. I will join you in some time.” Joe left to welcome other guests at the entrance.
Dev took a stroll in the hall. Again he came and stood in front of the grandmother’s portrait. He took out his phone and called Yuvika. The call dropped. It happened for several times. Joe again came and asked for her. But Dev had nothing to say. Now he was worried for her. He took Joe’s leave. He left the event. While he was driving towards home, he got a call from Batra, informing about Vinod Bakshi’s story. He stopped the car. He was lost in thoughts. He was aware of the fact that Yuvika was going to handle it and he could also understand why it was with them now. “Yuvika must have clearly rejected,” he thought.
He had to talk to his father. He started driving towards his home. When he reached home, everybody was in the dining area. Everybody in the family took dinner together. It was an unwritten rule. Mr. Dixit, his wife Leena Dixit and Dev’s grandfather Ashok Dixit were there. Domestic helpers were taking cuisines from the kitchen and serving them. Leena was a decent and extremely intelligent lady. She was simple yet very elegant. She had a very successful career as a communication manager in one of the top companies. But after her marriage with Mr. Dixit, she left everything behind and completely dedicated herself to the family. She had chosen to stay away from the office and office matter. She was definitely not someone who could not balance between household duties and profession, then why she took such a decision? Dev was never happy with this fact, he could never grasp it, but he respected her mother a lot. There had been one unanswered question ever since his childhood, why a man like his father would ever encourage a talented person to leave something he or she is very good at? And to add more into his surprise, at that time, his grandfather had also kept quiet. This fact always frustrated Dev. So he chose not to speak about it often.
Leena came near to Dev, “Come Dev, join us.” She spoke very gently. Dev sat on the chair. His plate was also served. But before he ate, he asked his father, “Dad, why have we got Vinod’s story?”
Mr Dixit put the spoon down in the plate and said, “Dev, we are not supposed to discuss office matter at home. Not at the dining table at least. This can be done later.” He started eating.
“But dad,” said Dev when his mother interrupted, “Dev, eat something first. I know you, must be hungry. Let the work rest too for some time.”
Dev did not want to refuse his mother’s gentle request. Yes he was hungry. But he did not feel like eating anything, though he ate something and finished the dinner hurriedly.
After the dinner, Mr Dixit was in his library, sitting on his rocking chair when Dev came, “Dad, we need to talk now.”
Looking up from the book, Mr Dixit said referring to chair near the writing table, “Sit.”
“Dad, do we need to do this?” Dev asked.
“If you are also not doing it, tell me. There are many teams working there. But just don’t be stubborn in the name of being ethical.” Mr. Dixit was clearly pointing to what Yuvika had said. Dev had figured it out. Ignoring it, Dev said, “But Dad, we cannot let the facts go unseen. He is not that noble which we are going to portray him as.”
Removing his glasses, putting his book on the side table, Mr. Dixit leaned forward and said, “Dev, what is wrong with you? I am not taking anybody’s side, but at the end, we have to think about our magazine, right? We need to be practical. And to do that, sometimes we have to put the ethics aside if required. Yes Vinod was a criminal but we are not the ones who should fight him. We are businessmen after all. Facts are important to be conveyed but if it is anywhere harming the magazine and the business, I will clearly not allow it. And I am the one who decides what is harmful to the magazine.”
Being more precise, he added, “And I am afraid, Dalal’s story is also one such wound which I may not want our magazine to have.”
Dev looked down. He had seen it coming. He always knew it. But how would it take place, he had no idea about it.
You can read all the episodes here: https://faceoffiction.wordpress.com/consecutive-story/
The story is a complete fiction. Any resemblance to the real world is a pure coincidence.