N.B.– This is the second chapter in Week 3 of the ‘Game of Blogs’ by the team ‘Bards of the Blogosphere’. #CelebrateBlogging
Read the previous chapter (1) here.
Wake up, dragonfly!’
‘Oh, Papa. Can I not go to school today?’
‘No, Priya. I’ve allowed you the tattoo because you came first last term. You are not going to be able to repeat that if you start becoming late for school, dragonfly.’
‘Ohkay. Five minutes more of snooze, please?’
I had laughed at her vivacity. My little one, my Anupriya, was turning into a mirror image of her mother. While that lady chose to leave us early for God’s abode, dragonfly and I had stuck together. Or so it seemed to us, but God had other plans. How I’ve been writhing in pain all these years, away from Priya, crying for her every day, hoping to find her in the unlikeliest of places. I had become her father and her mother and amazing, as she grew up, a curious role reversal had started to occur; she had started to become a mother to me – making sure I ate with her and did not skip a meal, ensuring I took my cholesterol pills every night, removing my glasses when I fell asleep in bed while reading. I cannot lie: I was proud of her, equally excelling in academics and dance. Even with the loss of the one who brought us together, we had managed to still become complete once more.
Everything changed That day, that cursed Monday. The worst day in my life. Priya woke up after her customary comfort snooze and got ready for school.
Dropping her at school on time, I rushed to office. There was a lot of work to be done that day and I turned busy in no time. I had called Priya once during lunch to check on her. Oh yes, I had gifted her a basic mobile phone just in case. I couldn’t be away for her for a long time and her safety was of prime concern to me. Little had I known that it would eventually be futile!
Working like a madman, I had lost track of time.
‘How did it get so late so soon?’
I was asking myself as I shut down my computer and left the office. I was supposed to collect Priya from school and get dressed for a wedding invitation we had later in the evening. When I reached there, she was nowhere to be found. As the watchman informed me that all children had left the school, a chill started to run down my spine.
Where was my little princess, my dragonfly?
I rushed from one watchman to the other at all the gates. I pleaded to the Principal to find my Priya. They checked each and every corner of the school building, but she had disappeared into thin air. I had lost my mind completely. I went to the Police Station to lodge a missing complaint but they told me I had to wait 24 hours before it could be considered missing. I had been late by less than an hour. That hour cost me 24 hours of finding her. A few hours of separation had taken her away from me.
I turned inconsolable; searching for her on nearby streets and getting the neighbours to help, knowing it was of no use. In 24 hours, by the time I entered the station once more, a voice inside my heart had already begun to whisper what I did not wish to hear.
She is gone forever.
And that was before the superintendent started to speak.
‘How do you know your daughter hasn’t run off with somebody?’
‘Officer, are you crazy? She’s only ten years old. Not old enough to run away with some random guy.’
‘Girls these days are not what they used to be. Did you ask her friends if there was a hint of anything, any love affair?’
‘I can’t believe you to be are being so insensitive. A ten year old, innocent urban girl having a love affair at such a tender age?’
‘Well then, there’s only one option left, she might have been kidnapped and sent away.’
I burst into sobs inside the Police Station. How could they speak of her in such a manner? Priya hadn’t matured enough to have an affair and run away from home. She was still innocent, pure as a white lily and sincere to her family, her only living family, which is me. I had inquired her friends and one of them confirmed having seen two men taking them with her.
The Police treated me like a hapless father, which I was anyway. They tried to shove off their work and turn this into a runaway teenager incident. I toiled for days, months, even a year running from one inspector to another. When I was almost sure that my child was taken away to be sold for flesh trade, I went to several NGOs that worked against human trafficking. They searched records for me; added Priya’s name into their database of children abducted and trafficked, lost forever to their families perhaps. I met several people there, families of these lost children, all in the hope of finding their loved ones. I met NGO workers and volunteers who were students of law and other employees. They gave me hope, but that was something I had already kept kindling inside me, fighting the inevitable fact that my dragonfly might have had her wings cut off.
I had only one contact in the CID, an old school mate who was actively working in the Crime Branch. He was a friend in need, and he jumped into my rescue. He had a kid too, and he felt my pain despite his heavy work load. Turning his jacks around, he searched for Priya among the human trafficking racket, though it was futile. His informers gave snippets of information after intervals, possible abductors in our area and the syndicate they belonged too.
It became my obsession, compiling all the information I could get and assembling the jig saw puzzle. When days turned to months and the leads began to dry up, my friend in CID suggested an alternative way. He did not have the nerve to look me in the eye as he suggested it and when I heard it, I realised why. We were hitting roadblocks along our progress because all our informants eventually wore the tag of being exactly that – informants. To break through that barrier, they needed a new face and more importantly, a new angle.
Searching for my daughter to save her, I could not enter the chakravyuh. To have any hopes of seeing her, I needed to become what they needed – a buyer, mingling with them gradually over days and earning their trust till they allowed me in showed me their ‘wares’.
Somewhere, deep in that chakryavyuh, a battered dragonfly lay, waiting for me to come for her.
Read the next chapter here.
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