ArunavaDey lives in the city of Guwahati , India. He is currently pursuing his doctoral program in “Management” from IIM, Indore, India. He loves writing articles and research papers and two of his papers received awards from Insurance Institute of India. Writing short story is his hobby and his first fiction story captioned “Hijacked Flight No. 3333” is available in amazon kindle.
“Jasmine… Jasmine…,” whispered someone. She tossed and turned uncomfortably. Who was it? Who was calling her? Was she dreaming? Was she trapped inside an eternal nightmare? As soon as her eyes opened, she sprung up. Where was she? She looked around; it felt as if she was in a trance. Her mind was muddled and confused. She rubbed her eyes and touched her cheeks. Her hands were freezing; a bit of warmth from her cheeks felt a little relaxing. She tried to sit up straight but was still feeling groggy. She folded her knees and placed her hands on them to gain support to sit up straight. She looked around the dark room, which was nothing more than a rundown shanty. Thick cobwebs and spider webs hung from the ceilings; some torn rajnigandha flower petals were scattered on the dirty floor; the bed she was sitting on made her stomach churn—it was sticky and was streaked with tea stains. There were two pillows on either side of the bed; the tattered pillow covers tried their best to play their part but it was all in vain. The torn pillows obstinately gaped from within the pillow covers. Beside the bed was a small table covered in thick layer of dirt. On top of it was placed a flower vase which was so worn out by the age that no one could make out what beautiful patterns were drawn on it once upon a time. A pungent smell came from the flower vase, a suffocating smell of rotten flowers. This smell may be foreign and unwanted for a human nose, but that same smell attracted several ants to it. Jasmine stared blankly at the busily scurrying line of ants for a while. She was still unable to recall which place she was brought to and by whom. Her gaze slowly moved toward herself. She ran her hands on her shoulder and then hugged herself tightly. Who made her wear such an unsightly and ugly-looking top? Her well-rounded breasts were prominently showing in that tight-fitting top. She tried to pull up the top to hide her bare cleavage. She felt cold, helpless, and disgusted. In that shabby little room, she was nothing but a mismatch. A 16-year-old girl; she had unblemished fair skin as soft as white lily. Her shining silky black hair reached to her hips. Her soft brown eyes had such long eyelashes that she resembled a doll. Suddenly, her eyes fell on the window at the far end of the room. The window was decorated with a shabby curtain, which was full of holes and was almost in the verge of being tattered to pieces. What was going on? Could she hear someone speak? Who are they? Who was speaking outside? Jasmine strained her ears to hear more. All she could hear was some quarrel. She did not understand what the quarrel was all about but she could make out some abusive slangs. Amongst all this, her ears caught the faint Hindi music coming from afar. And at last it dawned on her; her unfortunate fate has landed her into a hideous brothel. Tears rolled down her cheeks, she went on sobbing uncontrollably, but not even a single sound came out of her throat. As if fear was strangulating her—she wanted to scream, howl, cry her heart out, she wanted to scream for help; but all that came out of her throat was a muffled choking cough. She felt that her nose and ears were burning; the rundown room’s damp rancid smell made her stomach churn violently and she went on retching now and then. Suddenly, the faint Hindi song that was being played outside changed to another song, Que sera sera , Whatever will be will be…….. Jasmine’s heart welled with shapeless emotions; that very song was her Mom and Dad’s favorite. They had always been fans of Doris Day songs. She started to fill dizzy; maybe the drug she was injected with still remained in her system. She lied down on that dirty bed as her strength gave way. The song went on playing in the background while Jasmine went into a trance. “Look! She is the girl,” said someone. “Yeah yeah! She is the one,” said another. “Hey! Are you really adopted?” asked a boy. “How lame! You were abandoned by your parents. So lame! So pitiful!” laughed a girl. Who were they? Jasmine could not recall their names but she knew their faces. She was surrounded by these ugly smiling people all around her. Yeah! She remembered… they are her schoolmates! Then why were they laughing at her? Why…?
“Jasmine! Jasmine…,” called her mother. She came near the little Jasmine and picked her up. “What do you want for dinner?” she asked and planted a kiss on her forehead. Jasmine was 7 years old at that time. She could still remember the day when 2 years back her mother and father went to pick her up from the orphanage. She was just 5 years old back then—new to the world and filled with curiosity. Her parents were unfortunate enough to not receive a child of their own. But God gave them a blessing in the name of ‘Jasmine’. Her parents’ happiness knew no bounds when Jasmine came in their life. Her parents gave her the name ‘Jasmine’ because her looks were no less than that of a princess. Jasmine’s happiness became the first and foremost priority in their life. They laughed when she laughed, they cried when she was sad, and they became restless when Jasmine was angry or sulking. Their world revolved around their only daughter, Jasmine. They gave her a home, which she could proudly refer to as ‘Home Sweet Home’. They gave her all the luxury they could possibly afford. Her parents hailed from an ordinary middle-class family, but Jasmine was their precious daughter. And thus, they treated Jasmine like a princess of their own little happy world. Her parents dwelled in Guwahati, Assam, which is situated in the northeast part of India. Guwahati is situated in between the banks of River Brahmaputra and foothills of the plateau of Shillong. The city is one of the most beautiful among all the other cities in India. Jasmine was grateful to her parents for presenting her such a beautiful gift called ‘family’. Whenever Jasmine fell ill, her parents never left her side. They spent sleepless nights tending to her. Her pain was their own pain and unless and until she recovered, they basically went insane with worry. Jasmine knew very well that no one could love her more than them. She was so grateful to the Almighty for blessing her with such loving parents. After being adopted, she was admitted to a reputed co-education school in Guwahati. Her parents chose one of the best schools in Guwahati; after all it was their princess’s school, so it had to be one of the best. Both of them worked really hard so that they could fulfill all the demands of their princess. Jasmine became very popular in her school; she was a smart girl and excelled in her academics. Her looks were so divine that many boys secretly had a crush on her. She was not like any other girl; she was ladylike, strict in her morals, and was hard to approach. She had a mysterious aura around her; and that is why many were tempted to know more about her, many wanted to unveil the truth behind her mysterious aura. On one hand, her male classmates became her admirer. But on the other hand, her female classmates were jealous of her. And, thus, like any other story, Jasmine too had a particular villainous vamp in her life who was up to no good. There was a girl called Sheetal in her class who was extremely jealous of her. From the day of Jasmine’s arrival, Sheetal was always second best. No matter how hard she tried, she could never beat Jasmine in anything—not in academics, not in sports, and, most importantly, not in looks. Sheetal’s jealousy grew as the years passed by and the children attained puberty. One fine day, Sheetal decided that she will dig up about Jasmine’s background. She was determined to unveil all the mysteries around her. Once and for all, she wanted to demean Jasmine by any means possible. Jasmine was never ashamed of being adopted. In fact, she was always grateful to God for making her the special person chosen by her parents. It was not that she was hiding the fact of her adoption, but it was that this truth of her life was very trivial for her. But her destiny took a fateful turn when Sheetal started to gather information about her background. She was so hell bent on teaching Jasmine a lesson that she even went to the extent of enquiring about her details in Jasmine’s neighborhood. Hence, she was lucky enough to receive the news of Jasmine’s adoption. The very next day was Jasmine’s birthday—September 2. Being a Virgo born, Jasmine was strong, cheerful, loyal, passionate, and a perfectionist. It is known by all that when a Virgo enters your life, everything around you seems to get better with the passing days. So Jasmine has always brought smiles on others’ faces. She was 12 years old at that time when her life took a twist; the class was ready to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for her, when Sheetal stood up and said, “Happy birthday Jasmine. You are so lucky to be adopted by such generous parents. Hope you will be happy forever.” Sheetal couldn’t help but her face broke into a sarcastic smile. The class went completely silent for a while. The class teacher stood up to take control. “Alright children. Let’s sing for Jasmine.” After the song was over, the teacher said, “Children, it’s nothing bad in being adopted. Jasmine was adopted into such a loving household. This shows that she is God’s special child.” But from that point onward, everyone started to look at Jasmine differently. Palash, the most popular boy in her class, who was determined to propose to Jasmine someday in future, was now like a different person altogether. Jasmine couldn’t help but hear hush hush gossips all around her. The news of Jasmine being adopted became the hottest topic in the school. That day, on the auspicious day of her birthday, she was made fun of for the first time in her life. During the recess, Sheetal came near Jasmine with her girl gang. Jasmine always used to prefer eating alone flipping through the pages of her favorite story books. Sheetal came and sat beside her. Jasmine looked up and gave her a surprised look. “Aww…, are you surprised princess? So cute! Anyways, we wanted to know something from you,” she said in a mocking tone. Jasmine closed her tiffin box, sighed, and looked straight into her eyes. “What do you want to know, Sheetal?” she said in a loud, clear voice. Her confident attitude made Sheetal a bit taken aback. She was expecting Jasmine to be depressed by the fact that everyone knew about her background. But Jasmine was a girl with a brave heart. Her parents brought her up very carefully and gave her all their love and care to make her a good human being. Thus, Jasmine was never scared to speak or accept the truth. Sheetal felt anger swell up in her gut. “Jasmine, don’t you think that you should be ashamed of yourself? Look at you, all high and mighty. But in reality, you are nothing but a pitiable filth who was discarded by her real parents. Look at us! We all live with our real parents and they love us immensely. Don’t you think you are a lowlife? How dare you come to the same school and study with students like us who hail from good families! You should be asham…,” Sheetal was blabbering away when Jasmine interrupted her. “Shut the hell up Sheetal! It is true that I am adopted. So what? I am really grateful to God that he made my parents choose me. Didn’t you hear what our Miss said? I am special. And another thing Sheetal, try to remember this forever. My parents taught me proper manners and that is why I know how to respect others, and they taught me not to judge them by their caste, creed, and background. Don’t you think you should be ashamed of yourself? When you are using your venomous tongue, you are demeaning your parents’ reputation. So I think you should go now, and yes! From the next time, try to win against me with your brains and strength. Don’t you dare try to demean me ever again!” Saying so Jasmine got up and went to the garden to finish her lunch. Sheetal was dumbfounded and was shaking with anger. But somewhere in her mind, Jasmine could not help but feel an urge—an urge that she never felt before, an urge to meet her real parents. Were they still alive? If so, why did they abandon her in the first place? Was there any truth behind what Sheetal said to embarrass her? Will she ever know anything about her real mother and father? These questions kept agitating her. That evening in her home, when her parents were celebrating her birthday, Jasmine felt very restless. Her parents bought a huge blackberry and chocolate cake shaped like a star. The whole house was decorated and loads of gifts were prepared for her by her parents. It was a custom in their home to celebrate her birthday with special preparations and to spend quality time only among the three of them—Jasmine, her Mom, and her Dad. When Jasmine was asked to put off the candles with a single blow and ask for a special wish, she said, “I wish to meet my real parents….” For a while, her parents became quiet. Then slowly her Dad asked, “What is wrong Jasmine? Why did you make such a wish?” Jasmine remained silent; she kept looking at the floor. Now it was her Mom who came close to her and hugged her. “What’s wrong baby girl? Are you unhappy with us? Are you angry on us? Why do you want to meet your real parents?” Her Mom’s voice almost broke as she was trying her best to stay calm and not break down into tears. Her parents were always scared that Jasmine might want to go back to her real parents someday. How can they live on without her? Jasmine was their life, she was their soul. But Jasmine could definitely be obstinate at times. She looked up and said, “Mom, Dad, I want a gift from you. I want to know about my real parents. Can you tell me more about them? I am really curious to know who they are, and why did they leave me?” Her parents could say no more; they knew at the core of the heart that Jasmine has attained her rebellious stage. They knew it very well that if they deny to her request, she will become much more adamant and obstinate. So they thought of handling the situation in an adult-like way. Her Dad let out a big sigh and said, “Listen to me Jasmine, listen very carefully. Your wish is very important to us and it will always be so. If you want to know who your real parents are, we will definitely find that out. But please give us some time. Many years have passed since you were left in the orphanage. So we need to track down properly to know the truth. So please….” “Yes dear,” began her Mom, “grant us some time. We will definitely let you meet your real parents. But do remember one thing. You are our precious princess; and no matter what, you will always be our daughter.” Jasmine felt sad and depressed. She knew that her Mom and Dad were hurt to know her demands, but she couldn’t help it. She needed to know the truth or else she won’t be able to move forward in life without any worry. After this, life went on peacefully. School was as ordinary as usual. The classes went on regularly—periods ended, periods began, the recess bell rang, the bell rang again loudly when the school was over for the day. Everything was normal, a bit too normal; but Jasmine could feel a huge gap that was created between her and her classmates. Everyone maintained a distance with her; they looked at her as if she was someone else—an alien in her class. Jasmine paid no attention to it and carried on with her studies. This awkward incident made her focus more on her academics. She excelled in all her works, be it academics or sports. Her parents were so proud to hear wonderful comments about her during the parent–teacher meetings. They loved her even more and tried their best to make her forget about her real parents. But as days passed by, Jasmine became more and more curious about her real parents. Her urge to meet them grew stronger and harsher. Each and every year, the same thing went on happening. Whenever her birthday was celebrated, she would ask for that same gift—to know who her real parents were. Her Mom and Dad were reluctant to know about them as they were insecure that Jasmine would leave them after finding out the identities of her real parents. They were also hurt that they were unable to win over Jasmine’s heart completely. Days went by…; months went by…; slowly but steadily, 4 years passed by. Jasmine grew up to become a fine young lady. She attained her sweet 16s. She was not mocked anymore by her friends for being adopted. She was not upset about her friends’ indifferent behavior toward her. Her only goal in life was to build up a career and become independent as soon as possible. Though she asked for the same gift every year on her birthday, she could understand her parents’ reluctance very vividly. But she never wanted to blame them; she knew that it was natural for her parents to be insecure as they helplessly loved her more than their lives. But what could she do? All through these years she understood that unless and until she could know the truth, she won’t be able to breathe peacefully. Her urge of meeting her real parents almost left her cranky at times. One day Jasmine was going through some newspaper articles for her school project work. It was a soothing autumn evening of a lazy Sunday; but the day was a bit drab as it was raining since the morning. Jasmine was at her study table engrossed in the articles. Now and then, she was cutting out the articles which caught her eye and would be helpful for her project. As soon as she reached the middle page of the newspaper, her moving fingers stopped on a particular spot of the newspaper. She immediately sat up straight as if on alert and bent down over the paper to read it carefully. It was a ‘missing’ news for a boy of 14 years old. The news was given by his family members and they said that they could go to any extent to bring their boy home. They even said that they would like to hire a detective if possible. Then they gave their contact number. Jasmine kept the newspaper away and immediately switched on her laptop. An idea just clicked in her head and she knew that, for the time being, it was her only hope to find her real parents. And she also knew one thing—she would have to keep it a secret from her Mom and Dad. She went on searching through the internet frantically. Suddenly, she found what she was looking for—a detective agency in her own city. The company’s name was ‘Gautam Babu Detective Co. Pvt. Ltd.’ which seemed a bit out of place. But all the other places were very far from her home. So she had no other choice but to choose this one. She quickly noted down all the details and searched the internet to learn the directions properly. She knew that she needed to execute the plan as soon as possible before her Mom and Dad get a hint of what she was up to. Thus, she decided to act the very next day; the first time in her life, she decided to bunk school. The next morning was a regular one with no unusual happening. She got up at 6:00 AM, had her bath, had her breakfast, packed her bag, kissed her Mom and Dad before leaving home and then as soon as the school bus arrived, she left for school. She always used to leave for school at around 7:15 AM. That day it was same as well, but some things were a bit different. When the bus was halfway toward her school, Jasmine suddenly went to the bus driver and said, “Uncle, please stop the bus. Actually, I left an important project file at home. I texted my Mom to bring it to me. She said to get down the bus and wait for her. She will be coming in her Scooty, so I will go to school with her.” “Ok!” said the bus driver and the bus came to a halt. Jasmine got down and the bus sped up and left. She waited patiently until and unless the bus was out of sight. And then, she took out her phone, checked the GPS direction, and jumped inside a nearby autorickshaw. She paid the driver and told him the direction she wanted to go to. The driver looked at her from head to toe; she was wearing her cream and maroon skirt and blouse—which was her school dress, her hair was neatly plaited, and her shoes were shining. The autorickshaw driver understood that she hailed from a good family, so he did not make any fuss and started the engine. Jasmine arrived at her destination within 30 minutes or so. She got down and looked around; she was standing in front of an old two-storeyed building. A signboard was placed on the front door which read ‘Gautam Babu Detective Co. Pvt. Ltd.’, and there was no one around. By then, the autorickshaw driver too had left and Jasmine started to feel a bit uncomfortable. But her mind went on screaming, “Jasmine! This is your last chance…, go for it!” She took a deep breath and dialed Mr. Gautam Babu’s number which she had saved in her phone. As the phone began to ring, Jasmine felt her heart racing faster and faster. Someone picked up the call at the fourth ring. “Hello,” said a hoarse voice. “He… hello! I… Actually, I wanted help…, I am Jasmine. Please can I speak to Mr. Gautam Babu?” Jasmine said; her voice was trembling a bit. “Yes. I am Mr. Gautam Babu. What help do you need?” asked Mr. Gautam. “I am standing outside your office. Can I come in?” said Jasmine doubtfully. “Oh! Yeah, come inside,” said Mr. Gautam. “Or wait a bit! I will come down myself.” Jasmine waited patiently and within 2 minutes or so, she heard the front door creak open. She looked up to see a middle-aged man standing there. He was medium height, was wearing white kurta–pajama, had wheatish skin color, had a prominent paunch, and was clean shaven with a bald head. His jaws were continuously moving as he was chewing betel leaves. Jasmine was a bit shocked; she had always been a fan of detective novels. The man standing in front of her was nowhere near to her imagination of a proper detective. “Come in,” said Mr. Gautam. Jasmine followed him inside the building as she didn’t know what to do. The man led her to a small room at the far end of the 1st floor. The house had a damp old smell. Jasmine’s nose itched but she controlled herself as she knew this was her last hope of finding her real parents. The room she was taken into was small and a bit disarranged. In the middle, there was a table on which a computer was placed. The table had two chairs on either side. Jasmine was offered one of the chairs across the computer and Mr. Gautam sat in front of the computer. “So, what do you want to say?” he asked. Jasmine didn’t know she could trust this man or not, but she had no other choice but to tell him everything. She decided to go with her plan for the time being; then her destiny would decide the path for her. “Actually,” she began, “I am a student and am 16 years old. I was adopted by my Mom and Dad at the age of 5. So I wanted to find my real parents. I didn’t know where to start from, so I decided to visit a detective agent. And thus, here I am.” “Hmm,” said Mr. Gautam. Then he started to scan Jasmine from head to toe. Jasmine felt awkward and uncomfortable. “So will you help me or not?” Jasmine said with a strict tone. Mr. Gautam stared at her for a while and said, “Of course dear! I will help you. You have just come in the right place. But I will need a payment. Can you afford that?” he asked. “How much do you want?” asked Jasmine. She knew it from before that any detective agency will ask for some fee. So she had brought with her some cash, which was the savings she had from the money she got as gifts during several occasions. But looking at this man’s behavior, she was very doubtful about her choice. She thought of asking the details and run home. “Not much. You will have to pay me five thousand or so. Is it ok?” asked Mr. Gautam. “Sure! But the thing is that I didn’t bring any cash today,” lied Jasmine. “So I will arrange the money and give you a call,” saying so, she was about to get up when Mr. Gautam gestured her to sit down. “Ok dear. You don’t have to rush. You can give me the money after I find your real parents. First, wait a bit. I will bring a writing pad and write the down the details,” said Mr. Gautam and got up. Jasmine didn’t know what to do, so she thought of staying for a bit longer. Suddenly, she felt a sharp pain on the upper part of her right arm. She turned her head to see Mr. Gautam injecting some kind of drug through a syringe and needle. “What are you do…!” before Jasmine could complete her sentence, she flopped down on the floor…. Jasmine sprang up and found herself in that dirty shabby room. She understood that her trance had led her to recall all that had happened to her. She understood that bastard Mr. Gautam was nothing but a fraud and had drugged her and sold her in this damn brothel. She cursed her fate; she knew that God was punishing her for hurting her loving parents. Her tears flowed like it will never end. Suddenly, she heard some more voices outside the window. She got off the bed and dragged herself toward the window. A man in his late fifties was negotiating with a woman around her late forties. The man looked like some rich businessman as he was wearing golden kurta–pajama and a gold watch. His head was dyed red and a rajnigandha garland was tied around his wrist. The woman on the other hand had a heavy makeup on her face. She wore a glitter saree in such a fashion that all her body parts were prominently showing and she too was chewing betel leaves. Jasmine understood that she was negotiating with a customer. After a while, the man pulled out a bundle of shiny notes from his pocket and placed it in the woman’s hand. Jasmine knew where he was headed to. She ran toward the door and pulled it open to run away as fast as possible, but she collided and fell flat. It was that very man; he had come to sully her innocence. Jasmine started to step back slowly. The man approached her and she could see the greedy look in his eyes. “Hey sweetheart, c’mon! Undress for me! C’mon! I can’t wait any longer,” said the old geezer in a lewd voice. “No! Leave me alone you pig! Get out!” screamed Jasmine. She was almost in tears and her heart was beating so fast that she felt like it would come out from her chest. The man smiled wickedly and ran over to her. Jasmine tried to move away but the man grabbed her abdomen and tried to kiss her. Jasmine struggled to release herself but could not overcome the demonic masculine power. The man lifted her up and threw her on the bed. Jasmine immediately got off the bed and tried to run toward the door. But this time the man grabbed hold of her hands and twisted them. Jasmine let out a cry in pain and struggled to free herself. Suddenly, she bumped into the nearby table which had the flower vase on top. The vase toppled down and Jasmine fell down with a thud. Her head hit the wooden edge of the bed and she started to bleed. Slowly her vision became blurry and she fainted….
Jasmine felt a soft hand brushing her forehead; then she heard a familiar voice. “Jasmine! Jasmine…! Wake up dear, it’s 8:00 AM already. Wake up baby girl,” said a sweet caring voice. Jasmine opened her eyes slowly; she found her Mom and Dad standing beside her smiling broadly. “Happy birthday baby girl! You are 16 years old now! Our princess grew up so fast,” said her Dad. Then they both hugged her and squeezed her as if she was a soft teddy bear. Jasmine’s heart filled with emotions. Yes… she had been dreaming all this while… she was having a nightmare! As she moved a little, her hand fell on the book that was lying beside her. She lifted up the book and stared at it for a while—Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes. She got her answer; she knew why she had such a terrifying dream. It was because of the story plot. In this book, Coelho describes the life of a lonely woman who had to lose her innocence and came face-to-face with the filth of patriarchy when she had to sell herself to provide food for herself and her family. Jasmine understood that there was no detective agency, no brothel, no dirty rooms, no wicked man… all these were the apparitions of her nightmare. But she also understood that God showed her what might happen if she keeps on being obstinate. Some truths are better to be left in the darkness. She began to sob uncontrollably; she hugged her parents tightly and wouldn’t let them go. Her Mom and Dad were alarmed. “What happened Jasmine? Are you hurt? What is wrong dear?” asked her Mom and went on brushing her head softly. “Tell us princess, who has hurt you?” asked her Dad and patted her back. “Nobody… nobody… I was having a nightmare…,” sobbed Jasmine. Her parents hugged her again and told her that everything was fine now. After a while when she calmed down, her parents looked at each other’s faces. Then they turned toward Jasmine. “Jasmine, we want to give the gift that you wanted for so long,” said her Dad. “Yes Jasmine, today let’s go to your orphanage to find out the details about your real parents,” said her Mom with a sad smile. Jasmine looked up with tear-stained eyes; her heart welled up with emotions, she pulled her Mom and Dad closer and whispered, “I don’t want that gift anymore Dad, Mom…, I don’t want to know who my real parents are. I only know one thing. Both of you are my present and I am grateful to God for blessing me with such loving parents. I never want to lose you and I promise that I will always be with you.” Jasmine began to cry her heart out. But these were tears of joy. Her Mom and Dad hugged her tightly and tears of joy rolled down their faces as well. On the auspicious day of her 16th birthday, Jasmine was reunited with her Mom and Dad once again. As the three of them hugged each other, they knew it in their hearts that this bond will last forever. And thus, the story comes to an end with a new beginning. Jasmine and her parents lived happily ever after.