“Read the previous part of the story here – Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 , Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10 ,Chapter 11 and Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, and Chapter 15.
Curse the Mumbai taxiwalas. This was the sixth taxi driver who had refused to ply to Bombay Hospital. He needed to go see Kurien… his body. He needed to see if he could get in touch with Kurien’s family too. The news piece last night had left him shaken to the core.
If another taxi driver refuses to ply, I am going to shatter his cab’s windshield! He swore to himself.
At a distance he saw a young girl with a backpack arguing with another taxi driver. From their heated exchange, he gathered that she had wanted to go to Bombay Hospital too.
Shekhar finally got a cab to ferry him to his destination. He called out to the girl.
“Hey, I am going to Bombay Hospital too. Do you want to share the cab?”
The girl, at first a bit dubious, gave in. She quickly sprinted over to his taxi, and got in with him.
They didn’t speak much through the journey. Each seemed to be lost in their own thoughts.
Jennifer was overcome with a surge of emotions as she alighted from the taxi in front of Bombay Hospital. The large looming building of the hospital bore a somber look about it. She stood outside for a moment, undecided. Suddenly her bag seemed too heavy for her.
Her mind was in turmoil. She had seen the news on TV and when she was still digesting the information, she received a phone call from the police.
“Please come to the Bombay Hospital to identify the body.”
The body. The body.
He was now reduced to just a body. She didn’t know what to feel. On one hand she was furious with him. Why had he done this? Why had he cheated on her mother and her? What had they done to deserve this? They had always been a good family to him. She had done everything in her abilities to prove herself a good daughter. And yet, it had all come to this. Nothing. Naught.
Yet, he was still her only living family. She was now orphaned.
Orphaned? It is better to be an orphan than have him for a father.
She had taken the taxi from the airport. The driver though had stopped abruptly in between and asked her to get off. Thanks to this stranger who had helped her out.
She steeled herself. She had to do what needed to be done. As she walked towards the morgue, she was pervaded by the smells that house themselves in every crevice of a hospital. The overpowering smell of the disinfectant reminded her of the time when her beloved mother breathed her last.
She heard a patient retch in the nearby room. A wave of nausea ran through her too. She just wanted this to get over as soon as possible and leave.
Outside the morgue, she saw that a small crowd had gathered. There were several policemen and a few journalists waiting. One of the policemen accompanied her inside the morgue.
The policeman lifted the white sheet off the body and asked her to come forward. She felt her heart thumping as she inched her way across the room.
She saw the mangled remains of a person lying on the table. His body was charred beyond recognition. The face was puffed up and disfigured. It was marked with bruises and cuts everywhere.
It is him.
She just knew it was him. In the creases of his face she saw him. The wounds had turned black and purple, but in them she saw the colors of her childhood. Happy colors. Yellow, bright blue. Days when he had taken her on outings. Pink. Her favorite ice cream.
In his half-opened unseeing eyes, she saw the way he had looked at her when she had come first in the running race in school. He was always around then. Despite his busy schedule, he had always found time for her.
His jaw was broken now, but in it she saw him smiling at her the way he had when he used to call her his princess. He had promised her that he would always keep his little girl happy. And she was.
She couldn’t bring herself to complete that sentence. She hadn’t understood his absences when she was younger. She hadn’t understood even now. What she took as “never being there anymore” was in fact something else. His affections had shifted from them to someone else. She was no longer his Princess. Someone else was. And she was determined to find out.
“Yes. It is him,” she said to the police officer. He covered the body with the sheet again and asked her to step out with him. He said something to the resident at the morgue, and he in turn motioned to the nurse on duty.
Sister Pillai beckoned her to come to her desk.
“Kurien, eh? Are you a Malayali too?”
“Ee formsil sign cheyanam. Ente koode varu.(I need you to sign some forms),” she spoke to Jenny in Malayalam.
While she was signing, the nurse asked her, “Marichu poya aal kuttyude Achan aayirunno?(Was he your father?)”
“Kurachu varshangalku munpu Ammayum marichu poyi. (She passed away a few years ago).”
“Oh, Sorry! Ellaam vidhi aanennu karuthy samaadaaniku.”
The nurse gave her a sympathetic look and took away the papers to the police officer.
It’s all a part of God’s plan? Ha! God’s trickery indeed.
She saw to her surprise, the stranger who had shared his taxi coming towards her.
“Hi, my name is Shekhar Dutta. Are you related to Mr. Kurien?”
“Yes. He… he was my father,” she gulped.
Jenny saw the expression change on his face for a split second.
“I am sorry for your loss, Miss..”
“Jennifer. Thank you.”
“I understand that you must be in trauma right now. Mr. Kurien was… a close friend. I was too shocked to hear about his accident on news yesterday. Here is my number, just in case you need any help. Please just buzz me even if you feel like talking.”
Jennifer inspected the card he had given her. It was plain, no-nonsense looking. Just like this man. He accompanied her outside the hospital.
“Will you be okay?” he asked her, genuinely concerned.
“Yes. Thank you.”
More than okay as a matter of fact.