I have already published three of my books through Amazon.com:
I intend blogging the first few sample chapters of the novel for everyone to read. Every alternate day, a new chapter will be released through my blog. Avid readers may please read and send me their comments.
I would appreciate if readers can indicate their preference about using their comments as part of the book
Here you go with the chapter 3.......
They talked after their dinner. Sharmilee talked in bits and pieces. She was very much distracted when she talked and every now and then, she would go very remote. Mani Shankar posed the questions slowly, patiently and listened to her, even more patiently.
Where were you born? No idea. Who are your parents? She didn’t even know who they were and whether they were alive or not. Do you remember them? No, she didn’t. How did you come to Joshimatt? She came here along with a gypsy group, by an army truck. They were good people. The gypsy group had abandoned her long back. Had you ever gone to a doctor? Not that she ever knew. Do you remember any of your relatives or friends? She remembered some aunt in Delhi. She couldn’t describe Delhi, but Mani Shankar made out from her description of the place. She mentioned a big lake. He couldn’t guess where. How do you manage yourself daily? Begging, mostly. At times, the young hotelwalah (Mani Shankar remembered him as Gopi) used to give her the leftover food from the hotel. How old are you? She blinked. ‘She couldn’t be beyond twelve or thirteen’. Do you remember anything significant about your life? She tried to describe some army man whom she remembered, but Mani Shankar couldn’t make out anything.
It was quite clear that she was mostly oblivious of her past. She was mostly unafraid being alone and never really tried to find her past. She was very comfortable with Mani Shankar. She had no other contacts. She had never been medically attended to by a doctor.
‘I have inadvertently taken up a big responsibility.’
They went to bed in their separate rooms. He decided to check with Gopi about Sharmilee, the next day. Whatever he knew about her!
Sometime in the mid of night, he sensed the door to his room, opening. He opened his eyes and saw Sharmilee entering his room.
“What Sharmilee, any problem? Do you need anything?” He felt troubled by her sudden entry into his room at midnight.
“I feel lonely and I am afraid to sleep alone in that room.”
Mani Shankar got up and switched on the feeble light.
‘She was used to sleeping all alone, in that abandoned car. What happened to her tonight?’
“Come and sit here. You must have had some nightmare.”
She came closer and sat on the bed. Her dress was in disarray and he adjusted them. She didn’t object. He didn’t know how to handle the situation further. She looked like a small child, looking for some parental love and caress.
He first hesitated, but then thought, ‘To hell with it.’
He drew Sharmilee closer to him, rested her head on his lap, and gently hugged her. She threw her arms around him and hugged back passionately. He thought she was going to crush his bones.
“Something happened sometime ago,” she said huskily.
She didn’t remember clearly. She seemed to have no sense of date, or day.
It must have been a New Moon day. She hadn’t seen the moon that night.
“Two men, young, dressed in boots and green clothes, a lot of colored patches on their dress, took me in their van, promising me food. But I didn’t know what happened after I got into their van. But I found myself in my car later.” Her description of the events came laggardly. Mani Shankar listened intently without interrupting her.
“Did you dream?”
“No. It happened.”
‘O my God! They could be some army men. What did they do to her?’
She knew or remembered nothing more. She became silent and soon, slept away on his lap. She gently put her on the bed in his room. Mani Shankar sat worried and was alarmed at what he was supposed to be doing with this girl. He didn’t get sleep for the rest of the night.
He walked outside the lodge. It was biting cold. It didn’t trouble him. He gazed at the stars as though looking for an answer from them, to his dilemma.