The Prodigal Son
Abhinav Mathur lay groggily in a hospital bed and stared blankly as the nurse inserted the IV.
“Where am I?” He tried to think. He was under the influence of heavy, repeated doses of anaesthesia under the guidance of doctors.. He was moving in and out of consciousness.
“Is he conscious now?” It was a male voice. “Give him another mild dose. Nandini Mathur has left strict instructions that he should be kept under constant sedation, otherwise, he can turn violent.”
Nandini Mathur was a popular and well-loved leader of the masses, at whose command they were ready to die or even to kill.
The nurse felt a touch of sympathy for her. Such a beloved, influential leader was unlucky to have a crazy, violent son who needed to be sedated! And yet, something nagged her.
“Sir, I have been watching him from the beginning. He seems to be more frightened and timid rather than violent,” the nurse said to the male in the room.
“Don’t argue or analyse anything, just do as you are told,” reiterated the male voice.
Abhinav felt nauseated and ill. He pretended to fall back into a deep sleep.
Now he knew where he was— in the Mental Asylum — sent by his own dear mother for he had dared to raise his voice against her.
She had been threatening to send him there if he interfered with her actions and plans or tried to sully her reputation. He closed his eyes and feigned unconsciousness.
Events of the last few months started pricking his conscience once again. He hated himself for remaining quiet even after witnessing atrocities that his mother was perpetrating on the housemaids.
Most of the girls who worked in their household were from the orphanages that she frequently visited.
They were badly beaten,mentally tortured and had to go without food and water for days together. She even forced them to lick the floor if she found it dirty.
She brought those girls home on the pretext of giving them a better life and a good education. The authorities ignored her crimes to hide their own or out of fear of her power and influence in the government.
Moreover, the poor orphans were children of a lesser god. Nobody bothered or cared about them. Abhinav knew of at least three of these unfortunate souls. They were sent back with broken spirits, and often with broken bones. But who would dare utter a word against her?
She had maintained a glorified image of herself in social and political circles. She created a stir whenever she went to inspect any old age home or orphanage.
“What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to file a report against my mother, Lokesh,” said Abhinav Mathur
“Have you gone mad?”
Lokesh, Abhinav’s childhood friend and now a police officer, looked at Abhinav in utter disbelief.
Abhinav had reached out to his only friend, one he could trust, the only one who would believe him.
“I want you to inform the police. I can’t do it myself. They won’t believe me. Moreover, I don’t want to do it myself.”
“And you think they will believe me? I haven’t gone to your house since I joined the police force. I respect your mother and consider her my ideal. Nandini Mathur is the most popular leader of our city, charismatic and generous.
“I will bring you the videos and photographs that I have shot. Then you will know the truth about her.”
“But why do you want her to be arrested? After all, she is your mother.”
“I can’t see that maid tortured anymore. I want to shout loudly like a madman. My conscience pricks me. Lokesh, please, please, please help me otherwise I will commit suicide.”
He was pleading desperately while his friend gaped in disbelief as he gave an idea of how his mother worked.
Abhinav gave Lokesh the graphic description of the events of a night not long ago. He heard muffled cries and moans in the dead of the night. Previously too, he had mentioned this to his mother.
”It’s all the effect of watching horror movies at night.” She had mockingly dismissed his fears. “You are hallucinating! You need to be taken to a psychiatrist.”
“But mom, I don’t watch horror movies,” He had told her many times. She laughed it off every time but that night he followed the sounds which seemed to be coming from a spare room at the back of the house.
The room was locked. He peeped through the keyhole but nothing was visible clearly. He was appalled to see a dried-up streak of blood coming from under the door. He stifled a cry. He knew that his cry would awaken his mother.
Picking up a table lying nearby, he placed it close to the wall and climbed up to look into the room through the window. In the dim moonlight, he could see the beaten and bruised figure of the maid.
“It was a horrendous sight.” He reiterated his plea, “Lokesh, by reporting this to the authorities, you will not only be doing a favour to me and this hapless girl but my mom too.”
“How come?” Lokesh asked.
“ You will save her from becoming a murderer. I don’t think that girl will survive for long under such circumstances. Maybe my mother will become human again. Even otherwise she deserves to go to hell for what she has done to the innocent girls.”Abhinav was bitter and desperate.
“And don’t blame me for being a bad son. I have tried to reason with her but she is in no mood to listen. She has a lot of clout and influence right up to the topmost authority in the government. All doors are closed for me. You are the only hope, the only path I can pursue is to fight against my own mother and get the poor, hapless orphans justice.”
He was perturbed a lot and tears of fear, regret, and uncertainty flowed copiously down his cheeks. Caught in a dilemma of — To do or not to do, he was on the verge of collapsing.
He vaguely remembered some incidents of his childhood. How his mother had slowly distanced herself from him. There were times when his mother still cared about him. Soon he started feeling a certain coldness in her behaviour. Not just coldness, he felt a touch of cruelty.
“Mom!” He had called out to her when he woke up one night from a nightmare. He reached her parents’ room and heard some muffled cries as if someone was in pain. He trembled in fear and wanted to be near his mother.
He found her standing outside. But her face and body language did not from any angle look like she wanted to console or comfort her son. She was furious in stead . Perhaps there was someone else too in the room whom she was scolding or even beating up but she didn’t want him to see. It looked like she had chased the other person away.
“What’s it, Abhinav?” She had screamed angrily at him. “ You are not a child anymore. Go to your room immediately.” She had ordered. “Go to your ayah if you have something to say.”
Her coldness and cruelty increased from then on, and he lost touch with her slowly but surely.
Now when he had grown up he felt the lack of tender care a child expects from the parents. That had made him insecure and irritable.
He was almost always alone. His father never seemed to have time for him. His mother was making full use of her husband’s authority as an IAS officer. Being the wife of an IAS officer was no mean thing. There was no dearth of sycophants.
She had created an elite social circle around herself. The sycophants and false friends also used her services and knew they could get anything done through her.
He could never understand what made his father take a back seat and overlook the undue advantage his wife was taking of his position. Even at home, he never seemed to have any say in the household activities. Maybe he was too docile to fight or argue against his wife’s powerful personality.
After retirement, he almost fell into oblivion while the mother started shining like the sun, bright and opulent. She had joined politics and had soon risen to an august position because of her personality.
At one stage she had felt that her son’s presence was thwarting her ambitious political plans. From the very beginning, he had questioned her unjust, cruel behaviour and attitude.
She had decided to send him to a famous residential school near Kasauli. This was a matter of pride in her elite circle in addition to the fact that the absence of his pestering and questioning nature gave her ample freedom to pursue her social and political activities.
And that completely severed his ties of love and attachment to his parents. Circumstances made him a recluse and an introvert. Though to others, he appeared callous and indifferent.
Whenever he came home during school holidays, he generally woke up listening to muffled shrieks. Sometimes he heard curses being hurled at someone. At first, he didn’t bother about those late-night happenings because everything appeared normal in the morning.
He had thought he was hallucinating or that the house might have an evil presence. His ayah had told him so many stories of ghosts that it was easy to believe that ghosts and spirits existed.
His mother frequently visited orphanages and old age homes in the guise of doing volunteer work and exhorting other women to come forward as volunteers. Further, such actions helped to reiterate her influence in society as a dedicated social worker.
And most importantly, these places gave her a supply of little girls to work in her sprawling bungalow. She had an ulterior motive at heart but kept an honest and sympathetic facade.
Her visit to Manav Seva Sansthan was just one such incident.
There was a commotion at Manav Seva Sansthan, one of the many orphanages visited by Nandini. Her visit was in response to the rumours she had heard of ill-treatment meted out to inmates of the orphanage.
She, as the leader of the ruling party, had been given authority to personally raid these institutions whenever she liked and check the facts and quell the rumours.
The authorities at the institution were panicky. They were hurriedly working to cover the loopholes.
“ Radha! Ensure that no child opens his or her big mouth and blurts out anything!” The matron told all the workers.
These were the strict instructions to the workers of all the orphanages she frequented. This was just one example. Such was the fear and awe inspired by her.
“Don’t worry ma’am! I have warned them all of the consequences. They won’t dare to utter a single word.” They assured the matron.
Nandini had uncanny ways of extracting truth from the innocent inmates of the orphanages. With her coaxing sweet words, she made the children believe that they were safe with her.
Not one could hide from her eagle eyes. Her fans and followers were sure that young children, handicapped people and old and helpless people were safe in the orphanages because of her.
She had a god-like aura about her. Her impressive oratory skills could attract huge crowds. She had a tremendous fan following and enjoyed an excellent reputation.
This was her modus operandi and the matrons feared her influence so much that they had to agree to her demands without a whimper.
In addition, she had grabbed the prestigious position of being the Minister of the Child and Women Welfare Department.
It was rumoured that she would soon be made the spokesman of the party.
“But that is not the real Nandini Mathur, my mother,” thought Abhinav. “Like Janus,the Greek god, she is double-faced. Having one cute, kind face to show to the world, and another, almost a surreal incarnation of the devil that only he has an idea about.”
His friend finally agreed to do as he wished. He told him to be vigilant all the time as he had a fair idea of his mother’s prowess and reach.
Nandini Mathur somehow got a whiff of her son’s intentions. “How could he even dare to think about that? Such an ungrateful creature. Doesn’t he know that I have been doing all this to secure his future? “
Had it been somebody else she would’ve got rid of him. The only alternative left to her was to declare that he was insane. It wasn’t difficult for her to convince the psychiatrist, she was able to do so with a few bundles of crisp notes.
She used her stratagem to send Abhinav to a mental asylum.
Lokesh never stopped striving to help his childhood friend. He kept pestering his seniors and was finally able to persuade them to take action against her for her crimes. It could have political repercussions they knew. But after watching the videos and other evidence provided by her son, they decided to spring into action.
Early one Monday morning, the inmates of Vasant Kunj got up with the sound of police hooters. Kothi No.37,
the residence of Nandini Mathur was surrounded on all sides. People stood on the balconies, on the walls, outside her house out of curiosity. Soon her party workers arrived. They were shouting slogans in her favour.
She tried to threaten the officers with dire consequences for trying to arrest her. When that failed, she pleaded with them and feigned ignorance about any girl in the house. She declared it to be the handiwork of the opposition, a political vendetta.
All her rants fell on deaf ears. They raided every room. The lock of a spare room was broken to reveal a young girl, badly beaten and tortured. Her teeth were broken and she had no strength to get up.She was immediately sent to the hospital.
Meanwhile, they procured Abhinav’s release from the hospital. As he entered his home, to his utter relief as well as dismay, he saw his mother being taken into custody. She threw back a glance full of anger and hatred at him.
Nobody could gauge his feelings at that time. He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. After all, not many sons would have had to deal with wicked mothers!
Whatever the repercussions,his mind was filled with deep satisfaction.
I have based my story on a news item about the real life events of Seema Patra.
Prompt No. 31
The doors were closed for him/ her. Your MC saw nothing but darkness and disaster in front of him.Drawing a deep breath,yourMC firmly decided to pursue the only course open to him/her
A prompt proposed by Ink Slingers .