Pride

Truth & lies 3.4/5 (5)

Abhay whimpered, in the dark corner of his cell. Life can be cruel behind the bars. Just two days inside, he could not get over the trauma he went through.

Deceit. Lie.

“Why he did this to me?”

He was still trying to find answers.

For the first time in life, he thought he had found his soulmate. But his lover had other intentions. Evil intentions.

“Hey, fresh fish! Ain’t you gonna sleep?” his cell mate said breaking his train of thoughts. “Now don’t be a cry baby or I’ll break your nose this time.”

He would come up with fresh bruises everyday. Some visible and some not.

His past memories too stayed with him and often showed up in the stillness of the night.

********

“Abhay, stay with me,” Vikrant Ahuja, his CEO, had said after the party three years ago. He was surprised, but he stayed. He had been promoted as Manager on that very day.

That night Vikrant had confessed his feelings for him. He had a family, a wife and two kids. But he conceded, he is dead inside. Abhay had instantly connected with him. Though he had received a lot of flak but was never secretive about his orientation. At last, he thought, someone understood him.

They kept their affair under wraps. They would meet secretly. They would make love in hotels. Abhay, at 34, was having the best days of his life. So he thought.

One day, two years ago, their construction firm got an over bridge contract. It was under Abhay’s unit. After the meeting on finalisation of tender was over, Vikrant asked him to sign the papers related to the contract.

Two months after the construction of the over bridge, Abhay’s name was all over the news. For all reasons wrong. Some people had taken shelter on the over bridge during a sudden downpour. It was then that the over bridge had collapsed, killing nine of them and severely injuring the rest.

Vikrant’s assurance to fight for him proved to be hollow when he released to the press, “Our company has zero tolerance for corruption. Abhay Saxena, the man responsible for using substandard material for personal gains has been fired and hope he gets punished in due course of law.”

Abhay was sentenced to five years in prison.

***********

A week passed by. Anwar, convicted for involvement in a political murder, was one of the new entrants. In his fifty years of life, he has been in and out several times. Each nook and corner was known to him, so were the guards.

“Salaam bhaijaan,” greeted the constables as he walked past the prison corridor.

His kohl rimmed hazel eyes lacked empathy. As he entered his cell, he sat on the bed, took off his skull cap and kept it in the pocket of his kurta. A servile inmate, started massaging his shoulder.

“Tonight it’s time to tenderise the fresh meat,” Anwar said in a cold tone. “Gather others when the lights go off,” he added. It was his way of providing a cue for ragging the new comers.

Abhay was dragged to the corner, forced to remove his pants and made to bend turning his back. Anwar and his accomplices surrounded him.

“Bhaijaan, iska story malum? Ye ladij mafik hai.” Said an inmate with a snicker. Suddenly, Anwar frowned and raised his hand to direct others to back off. He ordered Abhay to get up.

Abhay put up an indomitable expression to conceal his vulnerability. The moment Anwar looked into his eyes, something changed in him.

“Let him go,” Anwar said.

“But Bhai….”

“I said let him go.”

Anwar had seen those eyes. 35 years back, in the mirror.

“Abbajaan, please forgive me,” he had cried for help coiled in a corner, when his father beat him up relentlessly with a plank.

“Don’t you know it is haraam? You have to pay for your transgressions.”

“But abbajaan, I can’t control my feelings.”

It angered his father even more. His seething rage was showered as further lashes.

Anwar was married twice, had no kids. His life was a charade. For society. For religion. For family. Also his profession demanded subservience from his men. His orientation, if revealed, would have made a mockery of his status.

In the next few weeks, Anwar started to extend small favours towards Abhay. He was no more attacked by other inmates. Sometimes he would find a cell phone slipped under his pillow for contacting his family. And sometimes, a few cigarettes or food stuffs.

One day, at the dining hall, Anwar sat beside Abhay and slided a newspaper towards him.

It read: “Vikrant Ahuja, CEO, BuildTech, in the soup, after his sex tape with a prostitute went viral”

“Why are you doing all these for me?”

Anwar replied, “Because you had the guts, which I lacked.”

During the five years they built a strong bond of companionship. Anwar’s closeness to Abhay, was frowned upon by his men. But, Anwar didn’t pay heed to their suspicion neither did he clear their doubts.

Abhay’s prison term ended. He bid goodbye to Anwar, who had two more years to serve.

“I’ll wait for you,” Abhay said before leaving.

Two years later, when Anwar was about to be set free, he received a letter from Abhay. It had an address of a remote town.

“Rafiq, arrange some money for me.” Anwar asked his closest aide outside.

“But why bhaijaan?”

He said in a heavy tone, ” it’s time to end my pretence, Rafiq. I want to leave. I have found my true love. He is waiting for me….”

Two days later when Anwar stepped out of the prison gate, he felt a searing pain in his chest. A biker fled after shooting two bullets aimed at his heart. He crouched to the ground.

“Abhay…..You’ll be proud of me.” Mumbled his dry lips before he lay dead with a tranquil face.

***

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