1.30 pm; 27th March'15:
--- "Preeti Menon Roy; Preeti Menon Roy …"
I jumped up from the sofa elated. The smartly dressed Receptionist in her mid-twenties nodded to me with a smile.
“Ma’am you have an appointment?" "Yes, I do".
--- "Go straight and then to the left, take the lift to the 27th floor", she said with a practiced smile.
--- "Thank you", I blurted and scooted.
The envious glares of the five interview candidates signed me with their disdainful sneers. As I whizzed past them I chuckled inwardly attempting to gauge their simmering rage at what they presumed to be my “SC/ST RESERVATION QUOTA PRIVILEGE”.
Following the directions of the receptionist I reached the 27th floor of the Kanishka towers. The lift doors opened and I was greeted by another Receptionist sitting tidy on her counter of extravagance; this one was in her early forties. She greeted me with a grave studied smile. Her eyes bore deep as if searching for the reason of my excitement.
I could not prevent the excitement streaming down my eyes. It was Mr. Sanjay Dikshit, the M.D. of Poushin Illusions, Sole Management Solution brand of India, who had manifested himself like the spring rain in the arid Thar. I could not restrain my enthusiasm at the prospect of my impending success. They seemed to be oozing out through each of my pores. I realized I was perspiring profusely.
--- "Straight through the lobby, fifth room to the left" - the lady smiled again, gazing into my soul.
--- "Thank you" - and I leaped within, and walked with more strident steps. My wild ecstasy echoed through the louder clippety clops of my heels on the matted wooden floor of the lobby.
I reached the ivory white door which bore the name plate of "Managing Director" in capitals.
I felt my racing pulse throbbing through my thoughts and my dreams. Unconsciously my hands rose to tidy my hair. I tucked in my blazer, looking through my spectacles at an unfolding glory as I knocked on the door.
--- "You may come in Ms. Menon," a deep subtle male voice answered.
I confidently opened the door, and entered the room.
--- "Good afternoon Mr. Dikshit" - I opened the conversation.
The Man was in his mid-forties. He was not at all that old as he should have been. I had not been prepared to face such a person. My thoughts raced -He looks younger; the small double chin subtly proclaiming the rich filth of his success; the joined eye brows are crooked by origin; the healthy tan; the clean shave the grey suit; black celluloid framed glasses; a soul full smile on his brown lips. I had not faced such a handsome man in such close quarters. My thoughts were getting mixed up.
'Focus Preeti, Focus!' A small voice piped in. The tremendous surge of blood ebbed gradually.
--- “Sir, I am from 'New Focus India' and I want to make a story on you.”
--- "I know your details “Pretty lady". Dikshit spoke with an alluring grin.
--- "Sir, should I start on my Interview then?"
--- "Would you mind doing it with a cup of coffee with me?" he was deluging me with charm and I was drowning. Were all the rumors about him true? This man was a!!!
I was whipped into my senses! I hoped I had not made a fool of myself! I steeled my nerves.
--- "I don't take beverages. I have migraine, and my doctor advised me not to have stimulants “I purred yet assertively.
Dikshit looked through this glasses, "Ok then, let it be over a glass of Whiskey, or would you prefer Port? Though I don't drink during working hours, but interviews are like dates, you know. And when the reporter is such a beautiful lady of Keralite origin -- you are Keralite aren’t you?"
--- "Yes, my dad is a Keralite and my mother is a Bengali".
I was getting impatient -- my head was about to explode with a thousand invectives. I panicked if my lambasting combativeness betrayed itself. I turned on an extra degree of feline charm secretly breathing in deeply smile, to keep my female blood pressure in check.
Dikshit lifted himself from the chair and Grinned. "You must be getting impatient. I know… when I came from Gurgaon in 2001 at the dawn of the IT industry I was impatient just as you are, and inexperienced too"--- Dikshit played on with a hint of pride at his success. “But girls are good at home you know, or else they need to pay a lot for every fare in life” he teased and sermonized.
My appointment had been scheduled for 45 minutes. This Flirty Forty had already consumed up my 15 minutes with his driveling. The dazzling image of the man had evaporated my interest in the interview.
The bar was packed with various alcohols, kept showcased behind a glass door. I observed him carefully as he walked up to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and stared counting in reverse under my breath.
"Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four …
There were four blasts! Smoke! There was smoke and flames! The man standing there was ablaze! Up in flames!
The Alarm started ringing --
Water showered down. I saw the misty view of the Room. I felt helpless and scared. I curled down on the floor. Benumbed, in the misty haze of all that was happening. I was surrounded by guards. Why were their guns pointing at me? The Guards were frowning down at me. They pulled me up by my hands, and dragged me along.
“I…I… I was here, for an interview. What happened?" I feebly protested. “
“Stop it young lady” they curtly cut me off!
"I work in News Focus India, check my ID card”, I kept on weakly but none bothered.
All the people in the lobby were staring at me. I closed my eyes. I could feel the blaming eyes ripping me bare. I was dragged into the security room. The locks turned outside. I was shut in. My… my mobile…. my hand bag was taken.
"This is wrong, I am a journalist, a lady journalist, this is harassment, leave me please … can anybody, hear me!” I was speaking to the walls closing in.
The doors were hurled open. I heard crowds, camera, police, media, the ambulance siren! Cameras flashed into my soul. Questions, allegations pummeled and lacerated my dazed conscious.
“That is Preeti Menon Ray the prime suspect in the murder of Mr. Sanjay Dikshit, MD of Poushin Illusions, Sole Management Solution brand of India. She entered the MD's room in a guise of a reporter, working in News Focus India and burnt him alive. She used a lighter as murder weapon… within 15minutes of the allotted time for her interview… she could not escape from the crime scene…investigation is on…" The reporters spoke agitatedly into the cameras.
“I am innocent…I have not done anything” I tried feebly.
"Why did you kill Mr. Dikshit? ..."How much did the other management solution Junkies pay you to kill”… “Is this the face of woman empowerment?”….my ears were ringing.
I could only remember the feeble voice of my Grandmother over the phone last night – how hurriedly I had booked my tickets for Delhi. She must be waiting for me.
I was being dragged into a van. I was pushed and jostled and elbowed. I was in the police station. A boy was being beaten severely. I was hustled inside a cell. And then calm, tranquil darkness relieved me.
7:15pm; 27th March 2015;
New Town, Kolkata
The inspector slapped me hard on my left ear deafening me for a while. He was ramming me with his baton right into my ribs—his filthy digs and vituperations lacerated me like a knife… I could feel the raging female blood pumping through my aorta…
--- “I did not do anything' -- I screamed.
--- "The CC TV footage showed that you threw three paper weights and then the lighted lighter at the MD? We saw the bar blast. Did that happen just by itself you bitch? Miss Menon"
--- "I did not throw" -- I resisted and screamed.
--- "Kamala Di take charge of this bitch, beat her till she admits -- the CCTV is proof and she is still resisting", the inspector slammed down his boot on my feet snapping orders.
I howled in pain!
-- "Kamala Di …I have told repeatedly what actually happened…Please understand,” The lady constable choked hard on my neck. Dark breathless pain exploded into darkness.
When I came to it was night. My head was a little clearer now. I knew that within 24 hours the suspect had to be produced in front of the court, as per the writ (Habeas corpus) so I had to be produced before a Judge. Prime evidences needed to be produced -- I had to call my boss.
---"Inspector, I need to contact my lawyers and family -- I must be given that much freedom." I shouted from behind the bars.
--- "Yes Miss Menon, we will surely let you,” jeered the Inspector. But thankfully let me out of the cell. I made the necessary few calls and my boss told me --"I will try to help".
--- "Hello Ammi, I am in a bit of a problem, so I cannot make it back tomorrow. It will take a few days, but you don't worry" -- I assured her.
--- "Beta, I may die soon". Her feeble voice was blinding me with tears.
Kamala Di pulled me back again and shoved me into the cell. I had no other option than to go inside.
I could not sleep. There was a different lady constable for the night shift. She was not hostile. I cried for hours, until 3 o'clock when I slept off on the dirty floor of the lock up.
The next morning broke with the clamors of a pick pocket, apprehended in his morning business. The Sub-inspector brazenly let him off on the promise of a hefty share of the loot and a ₹ 500 fine laced with a few invectives. The clock seemed to have stopped.
"A trainee Journalist blazes the corporate Mascot of India" -- The Inspector read out the news as he entered the police station.
The jeering lechery of his tone set me ablaze. That irritating Kamala Di was there again. She was to hand cuff and drag me to the police van. I was to be produced in court.
11:30 am; 28th March 2015;
Barasat, West Bengal
As I stepped out of the van my eyes hungrily screened the crowds for a familiar face. I expected my office colleagues and the legal officer of Focus India to come to my rescue in this bedlam. No one had visited me at the police station strangely enough!
It was utterly embarrassing to sit with a rope around my waste inside the criminal cage. The disheveled man next to me moved away a little. I heard whispers of awe – “Murder case…terrorist...” So I was an untouchable in the criminal world! What was I? Why was I even here?
The files in red cloth, the old wooden benches, the man in the black coat, the swirling, shifting crowds seemed to swim in an eternal timeless vacuum. "My grandmother will die in a few days...I must be with her!” The words kept echoing through and through.
A voice cried out the arrival of the judge. I was nudged to stand. And again words and people and sounds from an unknown world sucked me into a vortex of confusion.
“Miss Preeti Menon versus the State of Bengal in the matter of the murder of Mr. Sanjay Dikshit!” I jolted back into the courtroom.
"My grandmother will die in a few days – I must be with her"—I blurted out before I was asked anything.
“Silence! Order!” The man in the black coat was looking sternly at me.
"Sorry My lord, we were late to arrive. We are from News Focus India", I heard Satish’s voice above the din of the crowd! I knew that was him the only man who could be my savior. I saw his grave and kind face emerge from within the crowd.
In a hushed tone he spoke in front of the Magistrate, “M’lord, she is a Dissociative Identity Disorder also called multiple personality disorder patient, and she is under medication. It is a condition through which Preeti breaks the connection between herself and the outside world, and she distances herself from the awareness of what is occurring. It is only her Grandmother or Ammi’s presence that calms her. ”
“Dissociation serves as her defense mechanism against the physical and emotional pain of her traumatic childhood experience…Her parents were killed gruesomely in an incident of an assault on her mother. Her father succumbed to his injuries sustained in trying to protect his wife. As a child she was in the car and had witnessed it all. She was looked after and brought up her Ammi.”
“The "alters" or alternate personality state that takes control over her behavior is completely distinct and different from her as a person –Any manifestation of male coercion trigger’s Preeti’s alter… the victim must have triggered her through offense we suppose. M’Lord, we need some time to gather evidences in support as proof -- we request five days’ time to collect evidences to support the case and help the patient …"
My fingers were clenched around Satish’s wrist all through the ride back to the police station.
---“Can you handle it all Mr.?” I heard the Inspector asked Satish.
“Perhaps…” Satish nodded in reply, "This mark on my cheek, is a dagger scar. She gave it to me.” Satish smiled softly as he kept down the pen after signing my bail papers.
He took my hand gently and led me out from the police station.