The pub was not crowded, usually pubs in this area are not crowded on weekdays, being a Wednesday it was thus relatively empty with only a handful of people scattered all over. Preeti entered the pub carefully. She had come to this part of the city for the first time. She was wearing a short black dress and had carefully done her makeup. Her hair was tied high up in a ponytail. She had put eye shadow and mascara highlighting her beautiful arched eyebrows. The red lipstick was making her lips appear bold, full and voluptuous. Her toned body looked incredibly sexy in the dim light of the pub.
Preeti went to a corner seat and started waiting for her blind date. This was the first time she was meeting anybody through Tinder. She was excited and nervous. She saw a young guy enter the pub and assumed that it would be Bryan. The guy after entering looked here and there to his left and right and then straight walked up to Preeti’s table. With a mild hesitation he asked ‘Are you Preeti?’ His accent was British and he rolled the R in Preeti’s name while pronouncing and called her Pretty instead of Preeti.
Bryan was of medium height. He was wearing a baseball cap, full sleeve cardigan and blue loose denims. His eyes were blue and he had blond hair. He was wearing white Reebok sneakers. Preeti noticed Bryan had a tattoo on his neck and presumed that he would be having few more tattoos on other parts of his body as well. He had a small earring on his left ear and another small piercing above his eyebrows. Preeti didn’t like his eyes. They were half closed and droopy. She also noticed he slurred while talking.
Bryan sat opposite Preeti. They started chatting. Preeti was telling him about her college and syllabus while Bryan was talking about his music. He said he was a huge fan of Justin Beiber. After awhile Bryan insisted that they go to another pub which was few blocks away. Initially Preeti was not willing but Bryan requested her a lot as that pub was boring. Bryan also said that few of his friends were already there in the other pub so they can have fun.
They went to the other pub and four friends of Bryan joined them. Preeti felt all of them looked similar with same kinds of clothing, tattoos and piercing. She started feeling bit uncomfortable in the presence of Bryan’s friends. They seemed intoxicated and probably high on drugs. Bryan brought a drink for Preeti. All of them started chatting. Preeti was sitting surrounded by Bryan and his four friends. After taking few sips of the drink Preeti started feeling dizzy. She also felt that Bryan and his friends were coming closer to her. She also felt couple of hands on her body. A hand cupped her breast and she felt a pair of lips trying to force her mouth open. She doesn’t remember much after this. She only remembered losing her consciousness inside a moving car.
London Police found Preeti in the wee hours of morning naked and freezing. She was bleeding and her whole body was covered with bite marks and bruises. Police took her to the hospital. After initial investigation they informed her father Rakesh Singh Bedi who immediately rushed to the hospital. When Rakesh entered the hospital room he couldn’t look at his daughter. Her face was swollen and she was pale. He was a protective father who adored his daughter. Finding his darling daughter in such a miserable condition was unthinkable for him.
Rakesh Singh Bedi shifted to London twenty years back. He started his own automobile business and is now considered one of the wealthiest Indian in London. He is respected by the Indian community and he is an influential person. Preeti was born few years after he shifted to UK. He raised his daughter as a British and gave her enough independence unlike other Indian families. Preeti started dating three years back when she was barely 14 years old. Her mother Harleen was comparatively conservative and she often fought with Rakesh over Preeti. However Rakesh never listened to Harleen.
Sitting next to Preeti’s bed Rakesh couldn’t hold back his tears. He took out her hand from below the blanket and held it tight. He felt pathetic for the first time in his life. So far he has always been successful in whatever he did. This was an unimaginable setback for him. He sat there holding her hand and crying for a very long time. In his mind he was also thinking of the phone calls he needed to make to assure that the culprits get punished. He would not leave a single stone unturned to get her daughter justice.
Preeti was peacefully sleeping. The sedatives were working. Looking at her Rakesh thought of the time when she was a small girl and how he used to carry her on his shoulder and take her to the park. He remembered her first day in kindergarten when she was not ready to leave his hands. He had not thought even once that one day he would be sitting like a helpless father next to his bleeding and bruised daughter.
Suddenly after almost twenty five years a face flashed in front of his eyes, the face of an old farmer with wrinkled skin and a helpless look in his eyes. Rakesh tried to remove the thought of that face from his mind. He had not thought about that face in last twenty years and today is the worst day for that memory to come back. Rakesh tried to divert his mind from that face and looked at his iPhone for new messages. However that face was not leaving him. Rakesh tried to remember the names of his other four friends who were with him when he met the old man. He was not in touch with anyone of them. Avaneesh was the last with whom he had contact. He was not able to recollect the name of the fourth boy was it Vishal or Vikas? Rakesh started getting restless. He rose from his chair and thought of taking a walk down the hospital corridor but Preeti was holding his hand. It was almost 1 am and there was pin drop silence. Rakesh didn’t feel like leaving his daughter so he sat down again on the chair. He leaned back, closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep. The moment he closed his eyes the face of the old farmer was back. Rakesh immediately opened his eyes. As if he saw some ghost and someone passed electricity through his body. He saw the helpless face of the old man, tears rolling down his wrinkled face.
In those days, Rakesh used to be known as Rocky by his friends. Rocky was the first boy in his batch to own a bike. Rocky’s father was illiterate but wealthy man and when Rocky secured his admission in a college his father became so proud that gifted him a motorcycle. Rocky shifted to his college hostel from his home in Punjab. Overnight he became a stud. He became friends with Avaneesh, Arjun and Vikas. All of them eventually got a bike. During weekends the gang of four used to go on long bike rides that used to be accompanied by biking stunts, alcohol, marijuana, drugs and women. They started frequenting dance bars in nearby places.
During one such biking excursion Rocky and his three friends were going through a lonely stretch. It was dusk and the road was getting dark. There was no hotel nearby and the nearest town was almost 30kms away. All of them were high on drugs at that time and their bikes were slithering eccentrically. Suddenly they noticed an old farmer was carrying the load of his crops on his head and walking on the road. He was accompanied by a 16-17 year old girl. She was also carrying crops on her head. The girl was young and tempting. She was thin and short, her rough and dry hair was tied up in a knot, she was wearing a torn and worn out frock tied in various places with safety pins. Both the man and the girl were walking barefoot. The road was empty and there was jungle in both sides. The nearest hut was almost 500 metres away. Avaneesh was riding one bike and Rocky was on the other bike. They slowed the bike and started trailing the poor duo. All four of them were high on drugs and horny, they had plans to visit a dance bar that night but this girl almost came in a platter. All four of them got down from their bikes and surrounded the man and the girl. Vikas grabbed the girl from behind and started pulling her towards the jungle. Rocky slapped the old man so hard that he fell on the ground. All four men left the old man and took the girl into the jungle. The small fragile girl was pleading desperately but these men were high on their lust.
The old man came searching for the girl and even tried to put up a fight with these rowdy men but he was no match to them. Rocky kicked the old man so hard that he clenched his stomach and fell on the ground. After they were done with the girl they took out few 100 rupees notes from their wallets and threw it on the face of the old man. Rocky and his friends hurriedly left the place on their bikes leaving the naked and bleeding girl alone with that old helpless man inside the jungle. Rocky never went back to that place and not even thought about that incidence ever again. For a year or so he was worried that Police might catch him but his friends assured him that the old man would not have gone to the police because it was shameful to report such cases and even if they did police wouldn’t bother to search culprits. There was also a possibility that the girl might have died as she was badly injured.
Not even once in his life Rocky alias Rakesh bothered to enquire about what happened to that small girl who was his daughter’s age then. However today he was sitting in a London hospital holding the hand of his daughter exactly the same way that old man was sitting that evening and probably holding his daughter or granddaughter. Tears ran down Rakesh’s cheeks and perhaps his face looked as helpless and wrinkled as that old man.