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My children return from school at 4 p.m. and then we all sit together for our meal. It was the last days of November. I had prepared late lunch and was waiting for my children to arrive when the doorbell rang and my 16 year old daughter, Shreya entered. We were still waiting for Souvik, my 12 year old son and it was getting late which doesn't happen usually. The clock ticked fast and it was 5:30 p.m when I called up Gaurav's (Souvik's friend) mother to inquire. To my shock Gaurav was at home who accompanies my son on his way from school to home. Gaurav said to me on phone,"Aunty, Souvik was absent today. Why didn't he come to school today?"
My husband and me rushed to the school Principal,narrated entire story and we headed to the school for checking the attendance register. But Souvik was marked absent for all the hours on that day. I talked to all his friends but everyone had the same thing to say,"Souvik was absent today." We lodged a police complaint and came back home.
We are a middle class family of 4 members residing in a small town. We do not prefer going out after it gets dark. That evening, My neighbours accompanied my husband and me to the nearby market area in order to look out for my son. But he was nowhere.We did not get any clue of him for the next 7 days. Meanwhile some people kept pelting stones in the dark with chits of ransom for my child since this news was out in the newspapers. I realised how opportunist humans can be.
And then one day the landline phone rang. I said,"Hello." The other side was a firm male voice saying,"Aapka beta hamaare pass hai. Agar wapas chahiye to ek crore rupaiyaa taiyaar rakhiye. Hum fir phone karenge."(Your son is with me.If you want him back then have Rs. 1 crore ready with you.I will call back.) By the time I could react he had disconnected. I was bewildered.One crore!!!!! Even if I sold my entire property , jewellery and whatever I had I could not get this amount. We immediately informed the police. What kept hindering me was my sons daily updates which he used to share once he was back from school. There was one thing unusual for the past one week. My previous driver used to meet him everyday on his way to school. I had informed the police about it but they just interrogated the driver and let him go before. Now my belief that somewhere my driver is involved into this got stronger. This time he got arrested and was given a third degree torture after which he accepted that he did help a gang in kidnapping Souvik. Next step was to tap all our phones..mobiles landline...the kidnapper could connect in anyway.
A week after that my husband got a call on his mobile from the kidnapper. My husband explained it out to him how we are a middle class family and it's impossible for us to pay such a huge amount to which he replied ,"tab thik hai, aapke beta ko kaatke fenk dete hain." (Ok then we will cut your son into pieces and throw it off). Since this conversation used to take place with the speakers on ,I heard this and my tears knew no bound. I pleaded the guy to let me talk to my son. He said he will call us later. Every call we had to wait. Phone numbers were different. They could not be tracked as well. The next few calls were just negotiations on the ransom. And finally there was an amount that we agreed to pay. It was already 45 days and we could not wait for the police to take action and catch the criminal. My son was at stake. I was also made to talk to my son in which he could just say," Mummy please paisa de do uncle ko warna mujhe bahut maarenge."( Mummy please pay the money to uncle else they will beat me a lot).
It was my brother-in-law who went to pay off the ransom to the kidnappers since people thought my husband and I will be too weak emotionally to take any firm decision, if required. The kidnapper collected and counted the money in front of his parents, wife and a six year old daughter. He in fact called the police to come and take their share.We had always heard about these things and saw in bollywood movies but had never imagined life can be so ruthless.
After all this, we got our son back who was physically and mentally far better than what we had expected. Everyone's prayers did work for him. But he had few marks on his back which was given by the drunk caretakers. They used to beat him every night with bamboo sticks!!! It did take a few months for my son to get back to his normal life although the trauma and those memories will always be there in his mind. Here whom should I blame??? You cannot accompany your child everywhere else how will he develop and grow as an individual.
Please Note : This is based on a true story that took place in my family. My intention is not to hurt anyone's emotion but to bring out the situation around us. I just narrated what happened with the child and the family. Mention about police is totally about a particular region at that particular time. I do not intend to hamper anybody's reputation.