Rohit sat bolt upright in his seat. He felt his nerves tingle with excitement as she moved between the tables to the corner of the restaurant by the window. Even before she could sit down, the waiter followed her with a steaming cup of coffee and a medu vada that blinked up at her from a stainless steel saucer.
‘Probably a regular customer, who comes here for her mid-morning break,’ he thought.
Rohit was inBangaloreon behalf of a client, whose case was being heard at the local court. For the last three days since he had arrived in the city, Shanthi Sagar was where he had his breakfast before rushing off to court. The girl had come in everyday almost at the same time. Tall and willowy, her sari neatly draped and pinned, showed off her well proportioned figure
‘Those large black eyes outlined with mascara are singularly striking. But I see a deep sadness mirrored in its depths. Or is it fear?’ he wondered.
The more he looked at her the more he was convinced that he had seen her before.
‘Where have we met? In court? At a party? Or am I just imagining things?’
And the more he thought about it, the greater the desire to discover her identity. As a lawyer, he didn’t like loose ends. Every thing had to be neatly filed away in his mind.
‘I must recall where I have seen her before,’ he thought for the umpteenth time.
He waited until she had finished, then followed her out at a respectable distance. She entered Janardhan Silk House, a sari shop patronized by the rich women of the area. Through the glass front, he saw her take her place behind a counter.
‘A sales girl!’
He watched her for a while, then realised that he would be late if he lingered.
She was at the restaurant again on the following day. There she sat, brooding over her cup of coffee. On an impulse, he got up and moved to her table. The stark fear in her eyes made her hand tremble, and her cup clattered down to her saucer, spilling part of its contents on the table.
“Who are you?” she asked, rising from her chair and ready to flee. “How did you find me? No…no…I’m never going back….Please, please leave me alone.”
Rohit’s voice was reassuring.
“Sit down Ma’am before everyone in the restaurant looks this way. I don’t know who you are hiding from. But I certainly didn’t come in search of you.”
“Then why have you invited yourself to my table? What do you want from me?”
“I have seen you before, but can’t remember where. Can you jog my memory?”
Latha lowered her eyes and refused to look at him
“Don’t be afraid. I’m not going to harm you. But why are you so jittery? Are you in some kind of trouble? Perhaps I can help. Here, take my card. I’m a lawyer. Phone me if you need advice. And if you remember where we met, could you please let me know? It will put my mind at ease.”
Latha ignored the card on the table. She had no appetite now for the rest of the medu vada on the plate. The coffee too– what was left of it – had grown cold. She walked up to the door, then changed her mind and came back to retrieve his card. “Rohit Rangarajan, LLB, Advocate,” it read. She slipped it into her wallet.
That night, she locked herself into her room earlier than usual. She pulled the curtain across the window after making sure that no one was prowling outside. She was a paying guest in the house of an elderly couple, and had felt safe and secure for the last four years, ever since she had run away from the maternity ward of a private Nursing Home inMysore.
‘I was so sure that no one would hunt me down in this crowded city.’
She sat down on the single chair in her box-like room and burst into tears.
‘Have they sent the man to find me and take me back?’