An astute lady had once said – All of us live with our past. But some of us know how to shrug the past.
I agree with the lady. I think that is who I am…..
But why do I say that? There is an extraordinary story.
It is dawn today and I narrate this while sitting in the Police Station!
Let me begin by telling my yesterday’s predicament and my dubitable past; both of which have a bearing on this narrative.
Yesterday was Sunday. A time for relaxation and holiday. Nonetheless in the morning, suddenly and disturbingly, a great peril descended upon us.
I got a call; a coarse male voice in my mobile was threatening, “Vajramani – listen carefully- your daughter is in my custody….” My instant reaction was like a thunderclap, my breath seemed to stop…my ears refused to hear, but that voice continued to hit me, “…. come to the northern outskirt of the town near the abandoned Majestique – farm house at precisely 3.30 a.m.- this night – alone- with Rs. 20 lakhs and take your child. If you bring police, you will never see her…. we don’t have to tell you that we have access everywhere and will know if you go to them.”
Then I heard her cries for help; her voice was unmistakable. Then there was deathly silence. The mobile was disconnected. I felt as if I had been stricken by a catastrophe!
To unfold this unusual story further, my past will now need to be revealed.
Where would I begin? Perhaps I would start from my strange mental disease- Kleptomania- an impulse control disorder; my inability to refrain from the urge to steal stuffs. God knew that this was the original cause of my strange individuality and all the attendant problems. This was plain and simple thievery! It was shameful! I always felt that this was a curse of devil on me! God was not kind to me!
My disorder had minor repercussions over many years; my thefts were confined to lifting small things from shops or other homes, but all that drastically changed about three months ago, when I visited my extremely wealthy Aunt, Jayalaxmi, in Bengaluru. It was last November.
There I set my eyes for the first time on a magnificent rare gem with its bloodshot hues – a “Red Diamond”. I was told that it weighed more than ten carats. It was so stunning that on seeing it something peculiar happened inside me. Somehow, I wanted it desperately. Was it my Kleptomania again?
My Aunt had proudly shown that spectacular Gem to a gathering of relatives and friends during a party. She then kept it back in a Jewel box and put it in her steel almirah which I noticed she didn’t lock. It was callously thoughtless of her especially when servants were around. For me it was an opportunity. Little later, when nobody was around, I opened the almirah and then the box; there were two such beautiful Gems but I picked one; that sufficed and satisfied my urge. It was so easy. Nobody could guess that it was I, the culprit!
I should admit that my craving for gems was already there- for many years. I was an avid collector of much smaller gems such as amber, ruby, emerald, topaz, sapphire, et al. But the Red Diamond brought out the worst of my craze fueled by Kleptomania. It became my most prized possession, the pinnacle of my passion. Its red hue fascinated me.
Strangely, along with my fascination, somehow, I felt that I had no claim to that stolen Gem. It was my sin. It would do me no good. It might be a jinxed stone for me.
Leaving aside that love and fear of the Red Diamond, I could say that rest of my gems were purchased with my hard earned and honest money.
Well, I did wear the facade of honesty barring that manic moment of stealing the Diamond and many instances of small stealing. To the world, I was still a respectable gentleman, professionally qualified and holding a government post of some stature. I did have some credibility in the society.
But that credibility had no meaning before this twist of fate. This danger which had befallen. Many thoughts were crossing my mind. Why was this happening? How to come out of this danger? Perhaps the Hell’s misfortune was enveloping me! God was not a benefactor! What prayers could help me?
I now unfold my story from where I had left. The Sunday had started leisurely with a steaming cup of coffee. Subhalakshmi, my dear wife, was in the kitchen preparing “dosa”, and our daughter, Rukmini, a sweet girl of nine years, was impatiently waiting at the dining table.
“Amma… I am hungry… how long?” Rukmini called her mother.
Subha came in with a plate of “dosa” and gave to her daughter. My spouse was a slightly built lady with dark but chiseled features and long curly hair. On seeing my famished look, she told me to wait for my turn.
Smelling the food, my dog, Tommy, a German Doberman Pinscher came in and sat near me. He was an extremely trained and faithful animal. His food would also come.
After breakfast Rukmini left for her tutorial class. She would come back with her friend, shortly.
An hour later with my hunger satiated and nothing else to do, I was drifting off to sleep in my chair, when my mobile rang.
My predicament had begun!
On hearing the rough voice demanding ransom for my kidnapped daughter, my tranquil world came crashing down.
I started calling my wife frantically. I was panicking. She came out from the kitchen.
“Subha…just now I got a call from some man …he has kidnapped….” I then, choked on my voice, “…our Rukmini…. he wants Rs 20 lakhs ransom… “
My mind refused to think, my eyes became moist in anxiety.
Subha stared at me dumbfounded with a disbelieving look. Tears swelled out of her eyes. She stood there transfixed for long, then cried out hysterically, “No… it can’t be. No….”!
When I told her all, she wept, “Why…why … this should happen to us…what sin did we do? God, please help us…” The trauma was intolerable. She went into her bedroom with faltering steps.
Time seemed to stand still. But the pendulum clock was relentlessly ticking away.
Thankfully my initial shock was receding and my mind went into a whirl. In some way, I was getting this feeling that the Divinity wanted me to atone my unrighteousness, purify myself from that cursed Red Diamond…then I would be free of this danger.
I thought about it, for many minutes! My subconscious mind seemed to be suggesting that I should pay the ransom of Rs 20 lakhs by giving away my Red Diamond which would amount to that much or more. I couldn’t remember that the Kidnapper wanted only cash.
I decided ultimately, “So, this be it! If God’s decree was that handing over my stolen Gem to a criminal would be my redemption, then why not?”
Then my feelings meandered, that Diamond was my lifelong passion – but – after all it was illegally possessed through my sin. It was not more important than the life of my daughter.
I would unquestionably sacrifice my passion for her!
I had to tell my plan to my wife. But then she would need to be told how that Red Diamond came into my possession. Unfortunately, she knew nothing about my questionable background.
Entering the bedroom, I saw her lying on the bed, sobbing. Running my fingers gently through her hair I said reassuringly, “Subha… we will face this danger together, have faith in me …we will get her back, safe.”
She looked up into my eyes, “From where will you arrange such a large amount of money?”
I gulped and said, “We don’t have so much cash…but we have a precious asset… a Red Diamond.”
She stared, she was surprised, “What are you saying? Where is it? From where did you get it?”
Now my transgression had to be revealed. I couldn’t meet her eyes; this was a situation which no husband would ever want to be. But it had to be done. Stammering I said, “Subha …I …I must confess to you… now… my secret … ” I gulped. “The Red Diamond is a stolen one… I am the thief…. since childhood I have had this bad habit of stealing …”
I stopped as I saw the expression on her face; she then covered her mouth with sari pallu.
I hastily continued, “No… no… it’s not what you think … I am not a common thief… I believe this is due to my suffering from a disease called Kleptomania … this has been happening for many years ….and now this Red Diamond…my ultimate passion …”
I again stopped and regarded her with bated breath. She was stunned.
Then haltingly I divulged everything to her! I didn’t omit any detail.
She slowly sat up on the bed, her eyes were burning…. then she slapped me – a stinging slap, my cheek burned, my eyes watered in shame and pain.
Her voice rose, “How dare you… can’t you control yourself, don’t you have any conscience, don’t you have any soul, don’t you fear God …?”
I looked away… time appeared to crawl… there was nothing else to say. But I seemed to be taking control of myself; her reaction was anticipated; this was not the time to react to her slap; in fact, I deserved it. I had to now move decisively to save our daughter and that too with my precious Red Diamond. This would be my penance to Lord!
Subha had gradually quietened. My plan was acceptable to her. There was no other way. She was a brave lady.
Late in the night, she and I were in the car with our dog, Tommy. We couldn’t leave him locked up alone in the house. We had planned that I would park the car in the adjoining forest area near the abandoned farm. She and Tommy would remain there and wait for me to return with Rukmini. We had not informed the Police. We wanted our child back; safe.
I walked towards the farm with a small bag; it contained the Red Diamond.
The cloak of the darkness had been pierced by one dimly lit bulb hanging from a temporary wooden pole, illuminating a small area. I walked towards it and stood near a shrub on the open ground; waiting.
The time was ticking away. My luminescent watch showed – 3.27 a.m. I heard a faint sound near the right end of the diffusely lit area. I looked with alacrity, but saw nothing.
Then a man with his face covered in black cloth entered.
He had a gun pointing towards me.
“Have you brought Rs 20 lakhs?” He hissed, barely audible, “Are you alone?”
I nodded, “Yes, but first show my daughter – that she is unharmed.”
He waited for a few minutes staring at me, then after looking around, listening intently, stepped back in the darkness and pulled forward a girl … my Rukmini…! Her hands had been tied behind and a tape fixed over her mouth. She looked at me and became agitated … started struggling… but the masked man started hitting her neck.
Initially a quick sense of relief passed through me; at least she was alive; but my temper started to rise when I saw him hitting her.
“Take your ransom, this precious stone – a rare Gem worth more than what you want and release my daughter”. I held forward the bag; my voice came out jaggedly.
He stopped with an expletive, “What? There is no cash…only gem! Who wants it? You fool, you can’t understand that this is not acceptable…. You have no brains!” He spat on the ground, then lifting his gun and pointing towards Rukmini, said haltingly, “I want cash, just now, or else…” his finger started curling on the trigger.
Momentarily my mind went blank then I shouted, “Wait…wait…” but my voice died down at an incredible sight which was unfolding before me.
I saw an animal was materializing from the darkness and jumping onto the masked man. It was so unexpected that the man toppled to the ground and his gun fired indiscriminately, a bright blaze in the darkness and a resounding sound echoed far and wide. The sleeping birds woke up and fluttered out of various trees around. The dogs started barking at distant places.
The man was on his knees, shrieking in pain. His gun was thrown out of his hand; it landed little away from my feet.
That animal, then barked …so familiar… it was none else than my dog, Tommy!
A Doberman was not a small dog; Tommy had a height exceeding two and half feet and weighed more than 35 kg. A ferocious attack from him could waylay any adult. This man was no exception. Tommy had already caught his right wrist in his large-mouth lined with vicious scissor bite teeth.
In the blink of an eye I understood the changed scenario and rushing forward picked up the gun.
Rukmini came running towards me… I hugged her and started opening the tape and rope.
Surprisingly within minutes a Police vehicle arrived on the spot with a scream of sirens and flashing beacon light. They were moving on the main road at that time when they heard the loud noise of the gun.
Things were just happening so fast. That man, badly injured by Tommy, was arrested and taken to the local hospital for first aid treatment after which he would be shifted to the police station. He was a dangerous fugitive.
I went to the Police station with my family and Tommy. I wanted to surrender and open my misdeeds about the Red Diamond. When God had helped me to get my daughter it became my pious duty to wipe out all my sins in return.
It is very early morning today; the darkness of the sky is lightening up with first rays of golden sunlight!
Waiting for the Inspector to come, suddenly my mobile rings. It is my Aunt Jayalaxmi from Bengaluru, her voice comes in clearly, “Vajramani, sorry to disturb you so early in the morning… but I can’t stop myself from sharing the good news with you….”
Too much has been happening and my mind refuses to take any information, but she doesn’t know that and continues, “…. Late last night Police had recovered the Red Diamond which was stolen last November… remember…. I was so much upset about it…. It was taken by Biju, you recall that old servant of mine… who I thought was so honest!”
My mind becomes numb …. what is this? A cruel joke of my fate? The Red Diamond is with me! What is happening?
She is continuing, “Although not known to many; in my Jewel Box, I also had an imitation of my original Red Diamond; strangely that paste diamond was also stolen; by whom we don’t know… but not by Biju…. Well it really is of no significance or value …so I don’t bother about that fake….”
She happily goes on and on.
But the realization has dawned on me…the Red Diamond I have with me is not a real one! How did I miss this startling fact all these months?
Nevertheless, truly, a new dawn has arrived in my life!
As of now, the Inspector has not yet met me.