Thursday, April 21, 2016
‘I Was Kidnapped’ - Part Two
I reached home dog tired around 6 pm. Not only had we walked a lot, there was the added weight of guilt and anxiety.
My mother was waiting by the door, worried sick. We lived at King’s Circle and I usually came home by 4.30 or so. “Where were you?! Why are you so late?” she screamed at me as I staggered home. “Where have you been? Why are you looking so dead-beat?"
She shook me up. I could see her worry had transformed into fury. I didn’t know what to say. How could I tell her I had walked out of school at lunch and wandered over all the way to Reay Road? No way.
“I asked you something. Why don’t you answer me?!” She was really furious.
“I was kidnapped,” I sobbed.
She was stunned. “What?!! What did you say? You were kidnapped?! What happened? Tell me what happened!” She held me by my collar and shook me. Her eyes were wide with residual anger and surging anxiety.
Now there was no going back. “There was this guy outside the school gate,” I stammered. "He offered me a sweet. And then I don’t know what happened. I started walking with him. Then we walked to an Irani restaurant on the main road near Reay Road station. The restaurant had green walls. There he gave me a cold drink and after that when he went to pay the bill I slipped out and ran. I walked all the way from Reay Road station home."
By now a small crowd had gathered in the house. My two older brothers, neighbouring kids and their parents. They were all firing away questions at me.
“How did he look?”
“How old was he?"
“Was he tall or short?”
“What was he wearing?”
“Did he do anything to you?"
And I had answer. I had to provide details for them to believe me.
“He was a young sardarji. Not very tall. He was wearing a baingan-coloured turban and light green shirt. (Baingan is Hindi for aubergine. I had filled in violet in my alleged kidnapper’s turban). He was wearing worn brown shoes. No, he wan’t wearing spectacles. No, he didn’t do anything to me.”
Now the inquisitors were even more puzzled. Why would anyone kidnap someone, make him walk on a public road all the way to Reay Road, offer him a soft drink, then let him escape so easily? “But just look at the little fellow. He looks so shaken and tired. He is damn lucky to have escaped."
Dad was called up at his factory and he came rushing back in an Ambassador cab. The excited circle of inquisitors quietened down. Now it was dad’s turn to ask the questions. He looked at me and spoke softly. “Tell me everything. Right from the beginning."
I took a deep breath and repeated the story all over again, filling in an extra detail or two. Dad asked a few supplementary questions just to get the details right. Then, with a sigh he got up. “We need to report this to the police."
My heart leapt into my mouth. Police? I gulped.
“Yes,” said dad. “You were lucky to escape. Some other kid may not be so lucky. The police should nab this guy. Come on, wash up and change your clothes. You are coming with me."
I nearly died. “I am so tired!” I fussed. "I don’t want to go anywhere. I just want to rest!"
My mom’s heart melted. She looked at my dad. “He’s been through a lot. Does he need to go?"
“Of course. The inspector would like to ask him questions. How else will they find their man?” He looked to me, “Come on, get ready."
It was dark by then. My dad, I and a neighbour walked to the nearest police station. My heart was beating furiously. Weaving stories to mom was one thing but to a police inspector…?!
The senior inspector was a fifty year old, heavy-set man with bushy eyebrows and a thick moustache. He heard out my father then turned to me. “Don’t be scared, son. Tell me everything. Every small thing. Don’t leave out anything at all. There have been reports in my area of some kids who have been kidnapped. He is a bad man. We need to catch him. You understand?"
I nodded. And then he asked the questions and I answered them to my practised best. Even I was surprised at the finer detailing that flowed out spontaneously from my mouth. It was almost as if I wasn’t speaking but words were just popping out by themselves. The Inspector’s assistant took down pages and pages of meticulous notes.
Then it was over. The senior inspector, heaved himself up from his chair with a sigh, and walked round to where I was sitting. “You have been a brave boy,” he said patting my head. Then he turned to my father. “I must say your son has an excellent memory for details. Half the folk who come here don’t remember a thing. They waste our time hemming and hawing. Fortunately for us, he is sharp."
We three – my dad, our neighbour and myself – walked back home slowly. Each of us was drained by the events of the day. All we wanted to do was have a quick dinner and go to sleep.
But I didn’t know there was more to come. Had I known I wouldn’t have slept that night.