“Where is she?” I screamed upon arriving home.
My mother was seated beside my bedridden father, giving him his medications, whilst my children stood in a corner confused.
“I don’t know chote. I haven’t seen her since you left for the office. I thought she was out but in the neighbourhood until someone asked if she was headed to her parents. That’s when I realised she’s gone. Chote, she left, she left home.” My mother reported dull and weak in voice.
“What do you mean you don’t know Maa? Maa what do you do at home that you’re ignorant of even this much information? And what did you do Maa? What did you do to make her leave? What kind of torture did you place upon her that she decided to up and leave without even a word?” I hurled at my mother, both enquiring and accusing her at the same time. In response Maa just breathed heavily with every jab of my sharp tongue. Unable to control myself at suddenly losing my wife, I even turned on my own kids to level a portion of blame.
“And you two, you accursed children. For what reason were you born that you couldn’t stop your mother from leaving? Are you that selfish? Do you only care about yourselves? What about her? What about me?” I shouted at my frightened kids.
They had never seen me so angry. I love my kids. To me they are the most wonderful of events to happen. Yet despite knowing their importance and cherishing memories of their first moments, all good reasoning left me that moment.
“Maa…you here? Bhai, you’re here as well? That’s even better! Now I can share my happiness with all of you at once.” My recently married sister waltzed in with a dazzling smile.
“Guess what Maa, you’re going to be called Grandma by one more little angel because I’m expecting my own little one soon. I’m pregnant maa,” She announced on top of her voice in sheer joy, oblivious to the atmosphere or my pain. Any other day and I would have pampered her upon hearing this good news. Today the words dug at me deep and raw like salt on an open wound. Today I felt like she was indirectly laughing at her brother’s misfortune. My wife was missing and she was celebrating. The unfairness hurt.
It wasn’t long till she picked up on the mood. My mother’s sobs were quick to alert her something was amiss.
“What happened Maa? Maa why are you crying? Maa please take deep breaths, it’ll help you drink with more ease. Here have some water. And kids why are you cowering there? Come here. Bhai, what’s happening here? What happened?” She asked me. That was her mistake.
“Why? Why do you want to know what’s wrong? There’s nothing wrong for you, your life is pretty good at the moment. Do you really want to spoil that? Or are you asking because you want to celebrate my tragedy? Are you guys so blinded with pursuing your own sadistic desires that you had to hurt me in the process? Instead of you asking me, I ought to ask you what have you done to make her leave!” I screamed again make my kids jump.
“Bhai, what are you even trying to say? I can’t understand any of it especially when you’re shouting so loud!” She replied confused.
“Well let me break it down for you then,” I shouted even louder, incensed by her. “Because of this ignorant lady and these spoilt brats my wife is missing. They couldn’t even keep an eye on her for a few hours and now she’s gone! Do you get it now or not!” I yelled.
“Wait, Bhabhi is missing? When and how?” She asked dazed at the news. But she didn’t stay for an answer. My sister took it upon herself to comfort my shaking and panicked mother. She was having difficulty breathing now.
Seeing her suddenly toss aside all care for my missing wife’s well being made me pass the final line out of sheer frustration.
“I can’t believe the lot of you, are you so unsympathetic to her plight? Why didn’t you guys disappear instead of her. Why don’t you guys just disappear or even better just die -” I cried before the sheer force of my sister’s slap numbed me to silence.
“Enough! Just enough with it all! Can’t you see what’s happening here? Are you so blinded by the so called innocence of your hypocrite of a wife that you’re not only hurting your kids but insulting our mother? Open your eye Bhai and listen to the truth that you said yourself, she’s not missing – she left. Do you get it? She left.” She scolded back furious at my unbecoming behaviour.
“How dare you call your Bhabhi a hypocrite? Is that how much respect you have for her?” I reprimanded her.
“Respect? Bhai, till today the only respect she got from me was for being your wife. But from this moment forth neither does she have my respect nor do you.” She replied angrily.
“Forget your respect, if anything happens to her I’ll make you all -” I warned.
“You’ll make us what? You’ll hurt and insult us, is that it? Bhai you’ve already hurt Maa, Baba and your kids – you don’t need to do anything else so go. Please go and check on your saintly wife and see where she is. Go, your concern is only about her so go. What are you doing here? Go, go and check where she is. Let’s start with her house and see where she is.” She firmly replied back, anger and hatred dripping from her words.
“You think I’m taking you with me over there. I already have nothing to say to them as to why she felt so hurt that she wanted to leave. No, I’m going straight to the police station to file for a missing person,” I told her and hurried out the house.
Before I could switch the engine on she had assured the kids and my parents to remain calm. She had also found a neighbour to watch out for them before settling beside me. My concern for my wife was so great I did not even argue any further with her.
“Please find her as soon as possible. I can’t live without her.” I pleaded to the police when handing over the missing complaint.
“Don’t worry Saab we will try to find her as soon as possible.” They assured me and all I could do was nod.
After filing the complaint, I started searching for her along with my sister at every possible place I knew. Bus stops, railway stations, Airport, the main roads, the streets, CCTV systems and what not. I didn’t know what I was exactly trying to do but I tried all that I could.
I stopped each and every person to show them her photo and see if they knew or had seen her anywhere. They knew nothing. My sister, though mad, tried to calm me down at seeing how broken I was.
2 days later
It’s been two days since my wife left the house and I still couldn’t find her. I didn’t go home nor pick up calls from there. I was lost in searching for her whereabouts.
Seeing my pregnant sister calmly handle me, my parents and her own in laws made me feel apologetic for my unreasonable behaviour. When all this blew over I knew I owed her an apology.
Suddenly I heard temple bells ring and turned to my right side to see a temple.
“Come let’s pray for her safety.” My sister and pulled me along with her.
I agreed to go because I didn’t want to leave out any possible avenues of hope.
After praying to God, around 8 pm, my phone rang. Having ignored it all day I don’t know why I picked it up. I guess I took it as a sign of God.
“Hello.” I answered.
“Hello Mister we are speaking from the police station. Where are you right now?” I heard from the other line.
“Yes, I’m in the temple at present.” I said honestly.
“Oh so are you thanking God for removing your wife from your life?” The person drawled sarcasm.
“Excuse me?” I asked confused.
“Your wife is with us here at the police station. Come here and we’ll discuss further details.” They said and end the call.
I felt lighter upon hearing my wife’s whereabouts. I flew to my car to reach the police station, not listening to what my sister was trying to say at the time.
I saw my wife sitting along with her sister and mother. I felt my eyes heavy with tears at seeing her safe and sound.
Before I could speak with her I heard the police say something that pulled the ground away from under my feet.
“Sir, we have to inform you that your wife has filed a 498A … against you.”
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