Fiction

A Second Chance

second chance
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Nikhil Rai sat completely still. In fact, he had been sitting that way for a long time. To any outsider, it would seem as though he was either dead where he sat, or somehow magically frozen into immobility. The only thing about him that indicated life was the stream of tears slowly streaming down his face, almost in a harmonic symmetry to the light shower outside.

 

He was sitting in one of the less crowded cafés in the city; the lack of crowd owing more to the time than the incompetence of the staff. The cup of coffee placed before him which had been piping hot was now as icy cold as the weather outside. It had been a dark and cloudy week with little trace of the sun, and today turned out to be no different. After what seemed like an eternity, he looked at his phone, and then slowly got up and made his way to the door. He stood for a moment, looked impassively at the dark sky and the sparse crowds outside, before walking out into what was slowly building into a steady downpour.

 

He had no umbrella, and for where he was going, he didn’t need anything. He slowly walked, taking in the sights around him, before gradually halting before a small building, perched on top of which was an unevenly slanted sign bearing the letters “ND Finance”. He stood staring at the building, which until a few days ago, was in perfect condition. Now though, the glass door was irreparably shattered and the inside of the building contained debris, papers and shards of glass strewn about in a haphazard mess.

 

As the rain strengthened, so too did the pace of tears running down Nikhil’s face. He trudged his reluctant feet and forced his mind and body to continue along the upward trek towards his destination. After a brief hike, he stopped when he saw that he had reached. The bridge was one of the highest points in the city, and looking down from it, he felt the way he had always wanted to feel- on top of the world. He looked at the resplendent colors of the beautiful city he had called home for almost 3 years- the flickering streetlights, the occasional flashing headlights and the serenity of a neighborhood in the middle of a normal night. It was indeed a normal night for most people. But for Nikhil, it was something completely different. Because on this rainy night at 3:00 AM, Nikhil Rai was preparing to die.

 

He closed his eyes. He was not afraid, he was just sad. It would be a messy end, he knew, but he didn’t care. At that very moment, several things happened. A bolt of lightning hit a car that was driving along the bridge at breakneck speed. The driver lost control of the vehicle and it skidded off track and in the direction of Nikhil. There was another flash of lightning, the sound of tires screeching against the tarmac, and the headlights blinded Nikhil. He heard a woman scream, and then there was complete darkness.

 

Nikhil opened his eyes. He had no idea how long he had been out for. It may have been mere seconds, or whole hours. His eyes took a while to adjust to the surreal brightness in the room. It was completely, purely white. He could see three walls, an endless hallway, but no door or window. Nikhil furrowed his brows, trying desperately to recollect the events. He remembered the hastily approaching headlights, he knew he couldn’t have reacted quickly enough to take evasive action, but how on earth did he end up wherever he was? And who was it that had screamed?

 

“Hello? Is anybody there? Where am I?”

 

There was silence for a few moments before a voice answered. It was beyond a doubt the most indescribably strange voice he had ever heard. It was both deep and soft, powerful, yet pleasant. Nikhil was curious, but he was also afraid. There was nobody else in the room. Where was this voice emanating from?

Here, you decide the answer to the questions. You make the choices. Where would you like to be?”

 

This was strange. First a bodiless voice. And now it was asking him where he wanted to be. Nikhil’s curiosity was replaced by bemusement.

 

“Uhh, I wanna be at Niagara Falls” he ventured, feeling slightly silly.

 

Immediately, the scenery changed. Nikhil was transported instantly to the middle of one the largest waterfalls, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. Its beauty was undeniably breathtaking and the sheer force generated by the incessant falling of the water was indeed a sight to behold. But there was something weird. He was still all alone. Nikhil had read somewhere that nearly 14 million people visited the Falls every year. There was no way he could be there, isolated. He knew it had to be a trick.

 

Why is no one else here? Where are you? Who are you?” Nikhil asked, almost to himself.

 

Again, with the questions. There can be people around if you like. But I think this is something that better be done alone. As for where I am, I am everywhere. You can see me anywhere and everywhere. I can be anyone who you want me to be. Who should I be?”

 

Nikhil was beginning to get annoyed now. This conversation was clearly heading nowhere. The man, or the voice or whatever it was, continued to speak in riddles, much to his confusion and irritation.

 

“You can be Amitabh Bachchan for all I care. Just show yourself already!”

 

In the next second, the towering, powerful presence of one of the greatest Indian actors had appeared before Nikhil. And when he spoke, the indescribable voice too had been replaced by the legendary, inimitable baritone.

 

Are we comfortable now?”

 

Nikhil blinked. He then rubbed his eyes hard, and then smacked himself on the forehead. But the actor remained before him, solid and unwavering.

 

“Okay, please, whoever you are, this is freaking me out. Can you please just tell me why I’m here and just let me go?

 

Let you go? I thought you chose to be here?”

 

I chose to die. Not come to some place to be entertained by some freak. Seriously, enough now! Who are you and why are you doing this to me?”

 

There is no answer to who I am. That is irrelevant. What I am here for, is to give you one more chance. To go over your life, your choices, your mistakes. And to give you one final chance. And for your comfort, I will adopt a form with which you are more comfortable.

 

And saying thus, he changed his form once again to adopt the tall, lanky, bearded and bespectacled face of Jaydev Devaraj.

“Jaydev?! It can’t be. And you look so, so young. Almost like you did on the first day I met you.”

 

I thought you would prefer this. It would make things easier for both of us. Now, Nikhil Rai, you said that you had decided to die. Do you think you made the right choice?”

 

I don’t want to think about it. I just want to die. Why are you making me suffer like this? Haven’t I suffered enough?”

 

Suffer? You, who were born with a silver spoon, lived life with the best of luxuries, complaining of suffering?! Just look!”

 

In one fleeting second, he began to get a recollection of the events in his life, the ones that had brought him to this peak, this tipping point. As the scenes around him shifted from the secluded Niagra, in his mind, Nikhil gradually coursed through the various familiar faces that had made an impact in his life.

 

At the same time, the scene around them seamlessly shifted. They were both at a fancy hospital now. Nikhil could see his father, Rakesh Rai pace about near the room, and despite his attempt at feigned nonchalance, Nikhil could tell he was tense. He was smoking his pipe, dressed in his three-piece Armani, looking like he had just stepped out of a business meeting, which he probably had. As the first rays of the sun shone through the window at the end of the hall, the screams of a baby were heard and Rakesh Rai let out a huge sigh of relief and flashed a rare smile.

             

It’s a boy, Mr. Rai. Congratulations! Hema ma’am is also doing well.”  

 

Nikhil looked at his father, as he held his newborn child in his arms for the first time. He placed a kiss on the forehead of the baby who opened his eyes. He couldn’t remember the last time his father had smiled. Or the last time he had kissed him.

 

Once again, the scene changed around them. It was like watching a movie on fast forward. The years passed by quickly, in hazy flashes before them, and Nikhil had passed through the phases of being a new-born, infant, toddler and was now of school-going age. Nikhil could vaguely recollect these days.  As expected, he had been enrolled in the best school, where his education was to be looked after by the crème de la crème of tutors and professors. On that overcast day, as Hema took her son for his first day of school in the chauffeur-driven Mercedes, she could see apprehension on the young face.

 

Nikhil remembered his early days of school. He rarely made trouble for teachers and was liked by all his classmates. He was neither exceptionally popular, nor remarkably talented at anything but this did not bother him. He knew from very early on that he would not be proficient at studies; it was not because he couldn’t, but simply because he did not feel motivated to be dedicated to his schooling. He knew his interest lay somewhere else, but what exactly it was, he did not yet know. So Nikhil spent his days playing games, watching movies, sports and effortlessly passing through his school years, with performances well below his potential. His mother tried to urge him to take a greater interest but her plea fell on deaf ears. With his father, Nikhil had an almost formal relationship. Rakesh Rai loved his only son dearly but was not very adept at expressing it, and therefore, conversations were often kept to the bare minimum between father and son. While Nikhil was going through each of his thoughts, they reflected in the form of various images in front of him. It was as though someone had connected had a projector to his mind, and his exact thoughts were being displayed. Nikhil was so mesmerized by it that he nearly forgot about his companion.

This series of images continued until it paused at a certain point, while he was in the seventh standard, when Nikhil’s life had changed completely. The school frequently invited famous individuals from various professions to interact with the students in order to give them a better idea of the world that lay ahead of them. Even though most students came from well-to-do families and had little need or interest to step outside the familial financial empires set up awaiting their takeover, they looked forward to the break from regular studies. On this day, the speaker was Jaydev Devraj, the famous theatre actor and director. As he walked into the classroom on the stifling hot, sunny day, wiping beads of perspiration off his face and thick beard, Nikhil recalled being instantly fascinated by the man’s presence and charisma. The scene paused before them as Nikhil glanced at both reflections of Jaydev Devraj- the one in the scene before him, and the one standing beside him. He knew one thing for sure- neither could be real, and had to have been part of his imagination.

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The scene before them began to play on like a movie as Nikhil glanced at his own young, fascinated face watching raptly as Jaydev patiently explained the erratic nature of his profession where one hit made a superstar and a flop killed a career. The various stories, gestures, expressions and mannerisms used by the master story-teller only served to captivate him further.

             

“You know guys, and I get a lot of arguments about this, but drama is the best form of art. You know why? Because drama is the only form of art that makes you use all parts of your body. In dance, your speech is restricted, while singing, your body is not used, while painting or drawing you use most of your senses, but again, no speech. Drama is, quite simply, the most complete form of art. In order to be a good actor, you need to be aware of your surroundings, and a good way to do that is to engage voraciously in reading. It doesn’t matter what you read, or how quickly you read, but you must read. How many of you read?”

             

Nikhil was not among the few who raised their hands.

             

“Not a problem. For those of you who don’t, here’s a new technique. It develops your imagination and also helps you acquire a taste for reading. The next time you pick up a novel, imagine yourself as the main character. Imagine that you are actually going through everything that the protagonist is going through. Now, additionally, imagine that the other characters are people you know. Give them the faces of your friends, enemies, relatives, neighbors, anything, anyone. And then, play out the book in your head as if it’s a movie, or a performance. And see the magic.”

 

There were then a few workshops conducted about confidence, body language and mannerisms until finally, it was time for him to go. Even though there was hardly any direct interaction between the two, Nikhil felt as though he was losing a dear friend. Within just a couple of hours an indelible impact had been made in Nikhil’s life. He knew now what his passion was. He knew exactly where his heart lay. It was time to see if he had what it took.




Over the next few months, Nikhil became an active reader of anything he could lay his hands on and it had a profound influence on his thinking, perspectives and vocabulary. He began to take Jaydev’s advice to heart and his thirst for books were soon very hard to quench. He had also started to take a keen interest in observing the mannerisms of the people around him. The servants who tended to him were often amused and rather curious about their young master’s newfound interest in them and wondered why he kept trying to mimic the way they spoke and behaved.

 

The change did not go unnoticed by his family either. His mother, while ever supportive, silently urged her son on by getting him more and more material to read, and while his father took a considerably less liberal stand to the artistic aspirations of his son, he did not interfere since the boy’s academic performance wasn’t affected.

 

The series of visual flashes continued as Nikhil and Jaydev stood watching. As the years passed, Nikhil had begun to grow taller, and more muscular, almost proportionately to his interest in and passion for drama. Finally, after the results of his 12th standard exams (he finished with a competitive 84%), he expressed his interest to take up his passion professionally to his parents. The scene shifted to the Rai family living room on that eventful day. There was a slight drizzle outside and the sign of impending thunderstorms.

             

I want to take up drama professionally. I think I’m pretty good at it. And I like doing it.” Nikhil began, when his parents had enquired of him about his future.

             

See Nicky, drama is good. But it’s a very erratic profession. It takes a lot of time to get recognized and for the monetary benefits to kick in. So, why don’t you take up a professional degree, and then you can proceed with drama if that’s what you want” his mother tried to reason.

             

“But I don’t need money. We have more than enough. And dad has quite a few contacts to get me started and to make sure that I get settled in. It’s not like it’ll be a serious favor either. I know I have the talent to make it big in the industry. If anything, they’ll be thanking him.

             

Both glanced at Rakesh Rai who was immersed in a newspaper, although it was clear that he was paying undivided attention to the conversation.

             

Look Nikhil, if drama is the way you want to go, then I have no problems with that. But like your mother said, find a more secure form of livelihood first. You should be ashamed to have to want to live off your parents’ money at this age. And as for my setting you up, that’s not going to happen. I don’t know too many people as it is, and even if I did, it would affect our friendship if I asked them for such favors. They may expect similar favors in return which I may or may not want to repay in kind.”

 

Nikhil was shocked. The feeling slowly made way for indignation and then anger. He had barged out of the room, disgusted as the first bolt of lightning struck outside and claps of thunder were heard.

             

“This was a rather disappointing day, wasn’t it, Nikhil? The beginning of a series of bad decisions for you.”

 

“It’s all my father’s fault. He ruined my life. He’s responsible for my life being in this state.”

 

“It’s rather unfortunate that you think so. Your mother tried to support you, even after you left that day you know.

             

Nikhil looked at Jaydev with a bit of surprise. Even though he knew his mother had loved him, he had never known her to go against his father. The scene continued to unfold before their eyes, after Nikhil barged out of the room.

             

“Rakesh, why are you being so cruel to him? You know we have more than enough money, and that it’s all for him anyway. And what’s the problem with asking for a few favors? Sometimes I think you’re unreasonably stubborn” Hema told her husband.

 

You’re speaking more out of motherly affection than rational thought, my dear” Rakesh said with a wry smile. “If I help him out now, and yes, I’m more than capable of it, he will depend on me for the rest of his life. Whereas if he works for the money he earns, and towards his passion, he will forever respect and cherish it. He’ll thank me in the long run, don’t you worry.” Rakesh went back to his newspaper.

 

The scene froze as did Nikhil. He looked at his father, seeing him in a different light for the first time. As a thinking, caring man than as a mean and heartless father. A few silent tears of remorse rolled down Nikhil’s cheeks.

 

The visuals began to change again. Nikhil was now working part time at a small accounting firm, while dedicating all his spare time to theatre work. The latter part was often menial work, and he hunted desperately for a substantial opportunity. Finally, after almost a year after the argument with his father, Nikhil got an opportunity to audition.

 

For the first time, Nikhil looked away from the scene that was unfolding before him. It was fresh in his memory. Even though it had been hardly a couple of months since it happened, Nikhil knew that for the rest of his life, that day would remain freshly etched in his memory, no matter how hard he tried to forget.

 

Rakesh had gone off for a conference a couple of days ago. He was only expected back on the evening of the audition. Nikhil knew he had plenty of time to go and make it before his father returned. It was important that he did so because Hema’s health had been on the decline since the past few years, and Rakesh Rai had left his servants and his son with explicit instructions to look after her. As the time for the audition drew closer, Nikhil was left with a dilemma- he knew he would never get an opportunity like this quite so soon again; but at the same time, he didn’t want to leave his ailing mother home alone. Hema helped him decide. She stubbornly refused to allow him to miss the audition due to her, and insisted that he leave as soon as possible to make it on time. Nikhil, initially reluctant, thanked his mom, dressed, and stepped outside. Meanwhile, it had just begun to drizzle slightly.

 

Nikhil made it well in time for the audition, and his performance was well appreciated by the jury. Even though the results were not yet declared, a couple of the jury members gave him a reassuring smile and double checked his phone number. As Nikhil left the auditorium, he smiled to himself. Finally, he was going to get an opportunity to prove himself. He stepped out into a torrential downpour and heavy thunder. Nikhil retreated toward the shelter of the auditorium, and whipped out his phone to call his driver. He was worried when he saw ten missed calls from his landline and mom’s mobile numbers. He tried calling back but to no avail. Both numbers were engaged. Worried, he frantically looked for an auto or cab, but in vain. Finally, braving the rain, he walked the entire four-kilometer distance towards his home.

 

He had a feeling something was amiss long before he reached home. The driveway leading to the Rai residence was overflowing not only with water, but also with automobiles and a throng of people. Nikhil, confused and scared at the same time, ran the last few meters into his home before stopping abruptly at the door. His father sat in the armchair, facing the door. His shirt was untucked, hair disheveled and eyes bloodshot. He glared at Nikhil as he came in, but didn’t utter a word. Nikhil broke contact with the cold stare and headed upstairs to look for his mother. There were several people in the house, and each of them looked at him, murmuring silently. It was dark as he entered, but with a clap of thunder, the room shone brightly for a moment. That was all it took for Nikhil to see his mom’s face and realize that she would never open her eyes again.

 

Once again, the scene froze. Nikhil was now weeping openly while Jaydev looked at him sympathetically. There were a few quiet moments, within which Nikhil had regained his composure. Again, the scene changed. It was the Rai living room, eerily silent. A few days had passed since the last rites of Hema had been done. Rakesh Rai had started to take to the bottle regularly during this period. On this night of heavy rains, he had had a few pegs too many. He walked into the room and fumbled for the light switch. As light spread around the room, Rakesh squinted to adjust to the sudden brightness. His eyes fell on Nikhil, holding a photo of his mother in his hand. He had fallen asleep clutching the framed photograph near his chest.

 

“How can you possibly sleep?!” Rakesh barked at his son.

 

Nikhil was quite taken aback by the literal rude awakening.

 

How can you..? When I left, all I told you to do was take of her. ONE SIMPLE INSTRUCTION! And here you are, having done everything, sleeping peacefully?! How can you?

 

Nikhil was shocked. But he realized that it was quickly making way for another emotion-anger. He clenched his fists and forced himself to keep quiet.

 

You’re drunk. Just go to bed and leave me alone please.”

 

“Shut your mouth! How dare you talk to me like that?! After everything you’ve done, you have the audacity to raise your voice against me?!”

 

“Please, please just go lie down…”

 

“You shameless little.. I know you’ve never cared for me or respected me. But your mother? Didn’t she attend to your every little whim and need? And when she needed you most, you just abandoned her and ran off for your silly little drama. You..you killed her.”

 

Nikhil was now absolutely livid. Whatever little self-control he had struggled to maintain had now dissipated instantly.

 

I killed her?! If you hadn’t gone off for your silly little conference halfway across the world, you could’ve stayed here and taken care of her. If you’d made that one bloody phone-call and got me the chance I’d wanted, then I wouldn’t have had to go for that damned audition in the first place. It’s YOUR fault, not mine.”

 

Rakesh Rai was dumbfounded by this unexpected outburst. There were a few awkward minutes of silence before Rakesh uttered his next words in a quiet, heartbroken whisper.

 

“Get out. Get out of my house. I never want to see you ever again. Just go wherever you want and never come back. GET OUT!”

Yet again, the scene froze. The expression of outrage was identical on the faces of both the real and “reel” Nikhils.

 

“He didn’t quite mean it you know. It was the alcohol and all the pent-up anger. He took it out on the only person he could.”

 

“I don’t care. He knows it wasn’t my fault. Even if I was home, there wasn’t much I could do to help mom. And yet he accused me of killing her. I’m glad I never saw him again. Are we, uhh, are we done here?”

 

“You know quite well that we aren’t, Nikhil.”

 

Once again, the scene shifted. Nikhil had left home that very night and moved into a motel. Soon from the classifieds, he found a small two room apartment to stay in, closer to the city. His roommate was a man named Das Gupta, a short shout man, who seemed like a jolly character. When questioned about his work, however, he made excuses and beat around the bush. Nikhil had come to know that his mother had left all her savings in his name and that he would be able to inherit it directly without any interference from his father. It wasn’t a substantial amount, but it was good enough to start a modest business with. Das suggested that they start a finance company with lending rates at par with the bank. He promised to take care of all the paper work and formalities and assured Nikhil that he only needed to invest the capital. Nikhil, for want of better ideas, agreed and within no time they had acquired a small little office and one slightly overcast morning, ND Finance had begun operations.




It had started off blissfully. Das was the active partner in the business, which meant that he handled just about every aspect of business. Nikhil only had to invest the capital, and as for time, he was free to spend it entirely pursuing his theatrical interests. As the days began to pass, however, Nikhil started to notice that Das seemed to spend more and more time away from office, and that his lifestyle had become more and more lavish. One day, Das made an excuse of going to his hometown to visit his family, and he disappeared. Unbeknownst to Nikhil, he took all the money that was at ND Finance with him.

 

Looking at the scenes as they played out before him, Nikhil seethed with anger. But he knew that there was no one to blame but himself. He should have been a lot more careful with his trust and he ought to have invested a more reasonable amount of time at work, and kept a more watchful eye on his partner. Das had found an easy target and taken advantage of it. A few days after Das’ disappearance, news about it began to spread. Anxious investors crowded outside the office enquiring about their money. Gradually, the polite anxiety made way to ruthless mob mentality when they realized they had been swindled, and they took it out by destroying the office premises. By this time, Nikhil had slipped into severe depression and had started resorting to alcohol.

 

Once again, the scene froze. Once again, Nikhil knew what was about to happen without looking at the visuals unfold before him. It had only been a few days ago. He was walking around the streets, with a bottle in hand, ambling aimlessly, wondering what to do next. He knew the sensible thing to do would have been to call his father, but his ego didn’t permit it. His frame of mind was not right to present himself on stage, so he had to forego the option of theatre as well. It was around midnight, there was the imminent sign of heavy rainfall, with regular audible claps of thunder, and he was walking through the almost deserted outskirts of the city, with bottle in hand, mind and body wandering. He was passing through one of the many by-roads when he heard muffled voices. Nikhil walked towards the sound, barely in control of his senses. He reached an abandoned alley where he found two men struggling with a woman. They held knives and the woman was fighting to break free from their grasp. Nikhil stood for a moment, surveying the scene. He was easily bigger than both the thugs and he knew he could help the woman. The two thugs seemed to realize it too. They looked at Nikhil, apprehensive about their next step. Nikhil walked away. He thought it would be a mere case of mugging as was common in the newspapers where the men would take the woman’s belongings and flee. There was no need for him to get involved and injure himself. He remembered hearing the woman’s desperate plea for help as the distance between them grew.

 

It wasn’t until a couple of days later when he chanced upon a morning newspaper that he realized he had been completely wrong. “Young woman assaulted and murdered” was the title of article. Feeling a sense of alarm, having seen a photograph of the location accompanying the article, Nikhil picked it up and skimmed through it. He was utterly horrified when he realized that the timing and location matched exactly with the situation he had encountered a couple of days ago. Hands shivering, he dropped the paper with disgust and walked away. He couldn’t help but think to himself that he was responsible for the death of two women. And amid all the depression, of the failed business and falling out with his father, he decided he had lived enough of his wretched life. Nikhil had decided to put himself out of his misery.

 

“Is this the way you want it to end? As a complete failure?”

 

What choice do I have? You’ve seen for yourself. Almost every decision I’ve made has been a bad one. What else can I do?”

 

“Given a choice to make amends, would you?”

 

“I would do anything to be spared of the guilt. Can you help me? Please?” tears were once again streaming freely down Nikhil’s face.

 

Suddenly the room went pitch black. Nikhil struggled with the abrupt descending of darkness.

 

“Nikhil Rai, you have now got two choices- if you close your eyes and keep them closed, you decide to resign yourself to your fate. If you close them and decide to open them again, you will get another shot to rectify several wrongs. Choose wisely.” The voice had changed back to earlier indescribable tone and texture.

 

“Wait, wait! You didn’t tell me who you are! And is any of this real or is it happening inside my head?”

 

“Good luck and goodbye, Nikhil Rai”.    

 

Nikhil closed his eyes and opened them again as quickly as he could.

He was now back at the bridge. The rain that had been an indispensable feature for the past week or so had disappeared completely. Nikhil opened his eyes and surveyed his surroundings. The car that had been headed directly for him had crashed into the slightly elevated footpath on which Nikhil stood, and there was now a steady stream of smoke rising from its bonnet which had automatically opened.

 

From the inside of the car, he heard the scream of a woman. Nikhil rushed towards the car to try and assist the woman, who seemed to be in distress. He stopped, shocked, as he reached the door. The two men whom he had seen assaulting the woman at the alley a few days ago were seated at the front of the car. Clearly, their intentions towards this young woman was not noble either.

 

Feeling a sense of power and rage, Nikhil pulled the two men forcefully out of the door. The crash had still left them a little dazed but they were slowly recovering now. There was a minor scuffle, during which the second of the two men punched Nikhil from behind while he tried to tie up the first one using his jacket. Recovering quickly, Nikhil pulled up the first man and threw him onto the second one before he could land another punch. Both were momentarily stunned by the impact of colliding with one another. Soon, however, they got to their feet and charged at Nikhil, together. Nikhil deftly stepped aside and the two ran headfirst into the raised bonnet of the car. Quickly, Nikhil brought the bonnet crashing down on their heads, knocking them out.




He quickly made his way to the back of the car, where he found a young woman with her hands and feet bound by rope. There was a dirty rag stuffed in her mouth. Nikhil helped her undo her knots and to her feet. She hugged him tightly out of joy and relief. Using the same pieces of rope, Nikhil bound the two unconscious assailants before calling the cops.

 

He enquired about the woman about where she lived, and offered to walk her home. She agreed with a smile. Nikhil couldn’t help but notice that she had exquisite features and a beautiful face. He dropped her home and gave her his phone number, in case the police asked for it. He then asked for hers, mumbling up an excuse about needing it for some or the other purpose. She gave it immediately and smiled at him after thanking him once again.

 

As Nikhil was about to replace his phone in his pocket, he saw a missed call from his father. He dialed back immediately.

 

Hello. Daddy?” Nikhil almost choked on the word.

 

“Nicky! Thank God, you’re all right! I was out of town for a conference. I just heard about the company going out of business. Is everything okay?”

 

“Daddy, I’m so sorry. For everything. I..I just..”

 

“Nicky, just come back home. We’ll sort it out together okay?”

 

Nikhil Rai smiled amongst the tears as the first ray of sunlight hit his face.               

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