The Price of Freedom – A Short Story

Inspired by real events


August 19, 2019, 9:20PM

Aditi

Tonight is going to be a long night. I look at the clock and I know it’s showtime. My father laying still in front of me. Ah, what a sight! His chest heaving up and down to the rhythm of his torpid breaths. I almost want to paint this tranquility. I want to capture this serenity, this moment. The tables have turned. Today, I am in control. Today, I am spoiled by choice. I could talk to my boyfriend, I could be out till late at night, and I could watch a movie. I could do any goddamn thing under the sun. Today, I am a bird and I will spread my wings. I think I want to dance.

Overwhelmed by choice, I decide to play some Frank Sinatra. Music calms my nerves. It’s time to examine the subject. I go near my father and slap him just to ensure that the sedatives have kicked in. He doesn’t move. Impulsively, I slap him again. This one’s for taking away my phone. Then another, for throwing away my skirts. I am enjoying this now. One more, for forbidding me to fall in love and for hitting me. One, for being alive instead of my mother. And last one, for taking away my freedom. His cheeks have flushed red at this point but he doesn’t move. I know he won’t move for a while.

The first time I wished to be away from my father was when I had to go through a whole year without buying a single new piece of cloth because I hadn’t scored all ‘A’s in my third standard. When my grades didn’t improve, the cable connection was cut off next year and this feeling of wanting to be away from him intensified. I felt like a dog on a short lease. I was only rewarded when I performed. Worse, I felt like a circus animal. A performing animal. But I really wanted him to be dead when he almost beat me to death for falling in love. There is this boy with who I want to spend my life, make babies and my father almost kills me for that. I remember laying in a pool of blood. My blood. I felt molested as there was no part of my body, his belt hadn’t touched. The scars were all over my body. My flawless face wasn’t so flawless anymore. My reflection almost irked me. He not only took away my beauty, but also a part of my life. Today, it’s my turn.


August 20, 2019, 5:59 AM

Dad

The rain is relentless. I hear it thrumming on the metal roof and running down the broken pipe into the mud, and I moisten my cracked lips with my tongue. I wonder if they’ll bring me food and water. I wonder if they’re coming at all.​ The last thing I remember was going to bed and the next thing I know I am here, waking up from a hazy cloud of numbness. I am wearing the same clothes that I had worn to bed last night, my white ​kurta pajama which are now mildly soiled as if I have been dragged through my bedroom to the living room to the porch and further down my garden until here. I feel paralysed with my limbs tied and my mouth taped shut. My mouth feels as parched as it gets on the morning after a continuum of inebriation. My head weighs like a hundred kilos. I realize I may have been drugged.

I could hear the thunder ripping the sky outside. It seems even the Gods are furious. It hasn’t rained like this in New Delhi during the past six years.

I am almost certain that this must be a case of robbery as I do not have any enemies that I know of. I suddenly remembered my daughter and wondered where she was. A current jolts through me and I become fully alert. I realized that she was not here so she must be inside the house. Has she also been left to die somewhere like me? But goons don’t just tie up little girls. She could be raped. She could have been gang raped and then killed. No. No. No. No. No. ​Dear God, may they not touch her. Dear God, may Aditi be safe.I​ tried to call out her name but I cannot. There were just stifled cries.

Almost 10 feet away from me, is our backup LPG cylinder that we keep here, as it is safer to keep it outside the house. Next to it stands an antique wooden cupboard that contains a whole arsenal of weapons: a tool box with a hammer, pliers, handsaw, screwdrivers, and knives amongst other things that would have helped me untie myself right now, if only I could reach them. I know this because I assembled this kit myself over a span of 14 years that I have lived in this house and today, I have been held captive in my own garage. I have been tied to a hinge that I planted myself almost ten years back. I helplessly looked around. I observe that there are two sets of muddy shoe prints all over the floor. One must be around size 10 and another it’s half. Probably a male and female.

I must have been dreaming because I see the door storm open and Aditi walks in. She glides in like an angel in her spotless white school uniform. I almost jumped with happiness to see that she’s alright and unharmed. Hot tears once again streaming down my cheeks. ​It’s over.


August 20, 2019, 3:00 AM

Aditi

You know you are soul mates when even your thoughts are in sync. I remember seeing Praveen almost three weeks after the incident. My whole body melted when we embraced. With my best friend’s help, we managed to meet after school at her place. I wept that day in his arms. His strong protective arms almost felt like a warm blanket. He stroked my hair and softly kissed my scars. He told me everything will be alright. “Nothing will be alright till that man is alive…” I said somewhere between my cries. “Then let’s get him out of our way,” he said. I looked at his face to fully understand what he was saying or to search for any traces of humour but there were none. I knew he was suffering too. Praveen and I are not just any high school sweethearts but we have actually battled hardships together. We are endgame. He was the only person by my side when my mother succumbed to her illness and father drowned himself in alcohol without a care in the world. I knew Praveen truly cared for me. We hadn’t been with anyone but each other in past three years. In my heart, I knew I couldn’t live without him. No one else matters. In life, I know you are either a hunter or the hunted. I choose not to be hunted. I choose life.

I have to admit that this was the day when the seed was planted. This was almost two months back. But when last week, he found out my secret phone inside the pillowcase, he not only smashed it against the wall, but also declared that I will be sent off to an all-girls boarding school, almost 5000 miles from Delhi. That was the exact moment when I decided to kill my father and I am not sorry about it. Only I have the decision to choose my own life. No one else can choose for me. Not even “my father”. With Praveen by side, I knew I could do this. Nothing is invincible.

I thought about this decision for days. My decision only became stronger when I realized how much there was to gain from it. After all, one cannot put a price on freedom. I may not have been a class topper, to my father’s plight but this time, I had done my homework. I had watched at least a hundred documentaries and read at least a dozen books on the subject. I am almost excited for my future for the first time in years. I know I will get away with this. I had called Praveen from a friend’s phone and asked him to be here tonight. He should be here any moment now. Outside, the rain hasn’t stopped pouring for hours. It looks like God’s on our side. Amen.


August 20, 2019, 6:15 AM

Dad

I see that Aditi has carefully locked the door behind her. Her angelic face looks eerily calm and composed. I felt a pang of guilt for treating her the way I had been for the past few years but children tend to be lost and they need to be guided. Her grandfather wasn’t the one to spare a stick and that made me what I am today. I am thankful to my father and I know in my heart, one day she will thank me too.

“So you are up, huh? Sooner than we expected.” she says as she looks at me without blinking. “The pills were supposed to knock you out for at least 15 hours.” She continues speaking as if it’s business as usual. She crinkles her nose as she comes closer. “Did you piss your pants, Dad? Ewww!”

I realize the questions were rhetoric. My mind’s running haywire now. Why hasn’t she untied me yet?

“Praveen will be here soon. He’s probably late because of the rain.” She announces. For the first time, it begins to dawn on me that perhaps it is not a case of robbery and maybe, I have been held captive by my own 15 year old daughter. “This must be a joke.” I thought.

“What now? Why do you look so shocked? Don’t act like you didn’t see this coming.” she says as if reading my thoughts. Her voice laced with childlike rebellion. “Did you really think that you could get away with trying to sabotage my freedom? Not-going to-happen. ​Dad.​ ”

There have been a lot of times in the past 41 years when life hasn’t made any sense to me such as when the only woman I ever loved died a slow, painful death right in front of my eyes and there was nothing under the sun I could do to save her but this moment definitely takes away the prize. I hadn’t felt more futile in my whole life. After each chemotherapy, I could see my wife withering away until there was nothing left of her. I knew that life would never be the same. And now, it seemed like my own daughter, the only thing left from my wife, had trapped me in my own house and is on some kind of childish mission to teach-me-a-lesson.

It wasn’t long before I heard another knock on the door. Aditi unlatches the door and strides in the boy whose face is etched in my memory. He too is in his school uniform which is drenched from the pouring rain outside. He’s the boy who took away my little girl. The animal in me awakens, I want to tear him apart. He’s the boy who’s fucking my daughter. Period. There’s no other way to put that.

I still remember the night I first saw this scumbag. I had come back home after a hard day at the shop around 10:30PM. As I parked my car outside, I could hear the music coming from my house. This was unusual. Aditi usually slept around this time and almost never had any friends over. As I walked inside my home, the music got louder. I realized that it was coming from Aditi’s room. I opened the gate at once and there he was, merrymaking with my daughter. The room was filled with cigarette and Aditi was smoking one herself. The room was lit by fairy lights. She was draped in only a bed sheet. It seemed like a scene from a movie. I did what any father would. I grabbed the little bastard by his neck and kicked that piece of shit out of my house, naked in the middle of the night. No warnings were left to be spoken. The message was clear. I wondered for how long all this had been going on, under my own nose. In my own house. I wondered if the maids and the neighbors knew before me.

My daughter, as beautiful as she is, like her mother, walks up to me and rips off the tape from my mouth. That hurt but I didn’t make a sound. I realized I was choked.
“What’s with the tears now, Dad? Do you really expect me to buy all this drama especially when you never gave a shit about my feelings? Huh?”

“Are you going to kill me now?” I asked, sarcastically. She wouldn’t, I knew. We were blood after all. But I felt like I had to ask.


August 20, 2019, 6:47 AM​

Aditi

Praveen was finally here and he had brought everything that we would need today. I looked at my father who was looking at me intently. His face was almost unreadable. I didn’t like that. I wanted him to be scared. Like I had been of him all these years.

“What’s in there?” Dad asks looking at the container.
“Just petrol.”
“What the hell are you thinking? Release me right now, you dumb goat!!” He yells, just as he always does. Yelling is his first reaction to everyone and everything.
“How does it feel to be tied up, father? To feel that your life is in someone else’s hands.” I asked playfully. I could finally afford to be playful after all.
“You have gone mad. Release me right now!” He commanded again.
“Why did you had to be so strict, Dad? Why couldn’t you just let me be? Let us be?” I wanted to know. “He is just using you, you dumb girl. Boys use girls like you and then they leave when they find another one. You think I don’t know anything? I had lived in a boy’s hostel for 8 years. I know how young fuckers think. Your naivety almost terrifies me.”
“You terrify me!” I yelled back but realized now is not the time to lose my cool. “It’s too bad, these will be your last words.” I told him.
“Open the fucking knot…” He almost pleaded. His voice almost begging. I looked at him and for a moment, it all seemed too unreal. He didn’t seem like a man who could hit anyone, let alone his own daughter. He looked so sweet. So vulnerable. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. But it’s not like I had a choice. If he lives, I suffer. I become the hunted.

“Don’t look at me like that, Dad. This story is real. Maybe, a bit too real. No one is going to come in to rescue you. It will be short and simple. You will die and I will get my life back. It’s really that simple.” I told him calmly. I did not want to be angry at him in his last moments.
“Wouldn’t you wish me Happy Independence Day, Dad?” I asked, as I lit a cigarette.


August 20, 2019, 14:59 IST. Times News Network.

Delhi: Businessman killed after fire breaks out at residence in West Delhi

A 41 year old businessman was killed after a fire broke out in his garage at his West Delhi residence on Tuesday morning. The victim lived with his daughter in the house. As reported by his daughter, the victim had gone to fix the garage door early morning when the fire broke out due to a faulty cylinder, supposedly after he lit a cigarette.

“The fire department received information at around 7:30am regarding the fire. We rushed to the spot with two fire tenders. The fire was doused before it could spread to the rest of the house,” said a senior Delhi Fire Services officer. The victim was a widower and is survived by his 15 year old daughter.


29/9/19.

PC: Unspalsh. elijah-hiett-ISUqlGMU7o0-unsplash. ❤

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