Saturday, 13 September 2014

Missing (Chapter-1)

This is the first part of the latest short story that I am writing in collaboration with some very talented writers on Blogadda. Our team is 'Tete-a-ten'.

Class IV-B
Radcliffe School
Juhu Vile Parle Scheme, Mumbai
14:30 hours - 16:30 hours

She chewed the pink bubblegum for five full minutes as she watched the dark plaits of the girl who sat in front of her. When the taste of raspberry turned bland, she stopped chewing, and used her fingers to stretch the pink sticky mass into a string. She glanced at her bench-partner and threw him a warning look with her large, round eyes. Then she deftly wrapped her pink chewy waste around one of the plaits she had been eyeing closely. Roohi Dutta smiled mischievously, only to herself.

Right then, the last bell for the day rang in Roohi's ears. She excitedly unzipped her schoolbag in preparation to leave her yellow-walled classroom after another boring school-day which had begun with Math and was now ending with Science.

"Class 4-B! Who asked you to close your notebooks? I haven't finished giving homework!" The Science teacher admonished the students, using her red marker pen as a baton. She then faced the whiteboard and penned four questions on 'Deficiency Diseases' and underlined Vitamin-C.

Roohi Dutta stuck her tongue out and distorted her fair, cherubic cheeks to mock at her strict teacher when she wasn't looking. Clad in starched cotton sarees, the B.Ed in Biology scolded whichever class she taught. Roohi dragged the blunt HB pencil across her single lined notebook with one hand as she twirled one of her ponytails with the other. She did not look up until the teacher had left the class. "Thank you, ma'am", the class stood and sang together in gratitude.

"Hey, Roohi? Wanna see my new roller skates? Daddy got those from Zurich last night." Little Soumyajit, Roohi's benchmate, was a jovial boy.

"Nah! I'm going to Myra's birthday party in the evening. Need to go home now." Roohi fastened the clasp of her orange backpack and flipped it over her back, careful not to get her ponytails stuck in  the shoulder-straps. "Bye!" She waved her pudgy hand at Soumyajit and gave him a toothy smile.

*  *  *

Forty minutes from the school, a cellphone vibrated on a Rexine sofa. Shekhar Dutta lifted his round, bespectacled eyes from his laptop and frowned at the name that flashed on his phone-screen. He disliked being disturbed when he was writing articles, not that there were too many to write these days. Freelancing wasn't a bed of roses as he dreamed it to be.

"Yes, Tara", a deep baritone answered the phone with a forced smile.

"Shekhar, has Roohi finished her lunch?" Tara asked curtly.

"I think she finished the teacher's as well!” Shekhar chuckled. “Weren't you supposed to pick her up and buy a gift for Myra? Roohi's attending her birthday party today, remember?" He straightened his tee and dusted a biscuit crumb off his blue track pants.

"No, Shekhar! Don't you ever check my messages? I have a client presentation in a couple of hours." Tara's sharp voice rose.

Shekhar sat up in his sofa. "What! You didn’t go?”

“How callous can you get, Shekhar? I am fed up of your constant indifference!”

“Don't be so generous with your praise, your Highness.” He smoothened his French beard.

“Shekhar, this is no time to be sarcastic. Can you go to the school now?” Shekhar sensed a tone of desperation in Tara’s plea.

The phone had disconnected in just forty five seconds. For a moment, Shekhar reminisced how those hour-long calls weren't enough many moons ago. Had twelve years of school, three years of college and fourteen years of married life taken away fifty nine minutes of talk-time? Shekhar shook his head and left for Roohi's school immediately.

*  *  *

"This is absolutely unacceptable!" Shekhar thundered as he banged his fist on the Principal's desk. "How can your school let my daughter walk away without a chaperone?"

“Sir, please calm down. We have five hundred students in the school and Radcliffe has an impeccable safety record. We will find your daughter.” The Principal reassured the light-skinned, lanky man sitting across his desk.

The school had finished at two thirty and it had been two hours since. The reality gradually dawned on Shekhar as he slumped in the chair at the Principal's office with his bald head in his hands.

His mobile had five missed calls now and it was ringing for the sixth time. This time, Shekhar decided to answer, “Tara, Roohi is missing.”

*  *  *

Read Chapter-2 here.

My team and I are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us!


Let me hear your thoughts!