THE UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT
“This is ridiculous,” blasted Police Chief Ranade. “This is the fifth kidnapping in a month.” “We have to do something before the matter escalates to another level.” Inspector Shyam Talpade spoke up, saying, “We are doing our best to trace them.” Ranade shook his head and said, “The press and the public are desperate to know whether these people are dead or alive.” Shyam responded, “We do understand your position, sir.” My men tried to trace the location of their cell phones, but without any success. Whoever kidnapped them was too clever to leave behind even a tiny clue.
Ranade snorted, “How can you crack a joke at this moment?” Do you honestly think that any criminal in his right mind would leave behind some clues for us to follow and implicate himself? “Our eyes and minds should be sharp enough to find out his error.” Shyam felt ashamed and mumbled a quick apology. The entire Mumbai Police had assembled for an emergency meeting to discuss the recent spate of kidnappings. Five businessmen had been kidnapped since February 15th, 2023. They were Ghanshyam Das (manufacturer of plastics and plastic-related products), Ashok Bhinde (chemicals), Suresh Mehta (sound systems), Mohan Shastri (construction company), and Paritosh Kumar (leading cosmetics manufacturer).Inspector Shyam continued to speak, “Sir, I find it weird that the victims’ families haven’t yet received any calls for ransom.” It might be an act of revenge. “We have to dig up the dirt on these people and find out who might want to settle their scores against them.” The rest of the officers agreed with him. They discussed how to handle the media while simultaneously working on tracing these men, and the meeting ended after an hour.
Inspector Shyam returned to his table and asked SI Diwakar to join him for a cup of tea, as he was experiencing a severe headache. While they sipped tea from their respective glasses, Diwakar told, “Sir, all these guys have PILs filed against them that were subsequently dismissed due to a lack of evidence.” Shyam felt excited and said, “Excellent.” “Who filed the petition against them and why?” Diwakar said, “It was Mr. Kiran Kumar, a journalist from the Daily News in Mumbai. He was concerned about their companies causing all kinds of pollution and leading to various health hazards. But they seemed to have teamed up together, and not only did they get the PIL quashed, but they also filed a defamation suit against him, causing him to lose his job.” Shyam said, “Do you have the address of this guy?” It’s time to have a little chat with him.
Shyam and Diwakar went to visit Kiran, who was writing an article for a magazine. “Mr. Kiran,” said Shyam, “I am sure you would know the purpose of our visit.” Five businessmen have been kidnapped, and we don’t have any clues as to their whereabouts. I was hoping you could help us out. Kiran simply shrugged and responded, “How the hell would I know where they went?” “They must be faking their kidnapping to get more publicity for their ruthless businesses, which are destroying Mother Nature.” Diwakar asked, “The kidnapper abducted them with a timeframe of 3 days between each kidnapping.” Mr. Ghanshyam Das was the first person to go missing on February 15, 2023. Can you give us your alibi? “Where were you during all these kidnappings?” Kiran chuckled, “It’s been a month since I lost my job, and to make matters worse, these wealthy idiots sought more money from me by filing a defamation suit.” I think justice is already dead in this country. The wealthy criminals flash money, and they are scot-free. On the contrary, an innocent person who cares for the welfare of society is punished. Well, if you think I could kidnap them, wouldn’t I have demanded half of their wealth as ransom? I don’t care a fig if they are safe or dead. So, please don’t expect cooperation from me.” Kiran gave them the details of his whereabouts on the days these people disappeared.
A couple of days later, Inspector Shyam was busy following up the leads on the kidnapping cases when Sunanda, Ghanshyam Das’ wife, turned up at the police station. She was frantic and burst into tears as she addressed Shyam: “Inspector, my 11-year-old daughter, Tanika, is missing since last evening. She went to attend her mathematics coaching class but didn’t come back.I called her friends, but no one claims to have seen her after school.” Inspector Shyam offered her a glass of water and asked her to sit while he filed an FIR. It so happened that the children of the kidnapped men were also missing from their respective residential areas.
Meanwhile, the kidnapped men were struggling to cut through the ropes that held their wrists and legs together. The kidnapper who was dressed in an all black attire with a mask, laughed at their plight. He pulled out the gags from their mouths to listen to their pleading. Ashok Bhinde, whose company produced chemicals, almost cried out, ” Please spare our lives. Name your price and you shall have it. My friends and I promise not to mention you at all.” His friends merely nodded. The kidnapper yelled at them, ” I don’t want your pieces of paper scraps that you call money. Shove them up your asses. I have to show you something to demand what I actually want. “
He switched on the big LED screen and a picture came into view. It was Ghanshyam’s daughter, Tanika. She had a plastic bag wrapped over her head and struggling to breathe. Ghanshyam screamed, ” Nooooooo…… Please take all my money but spare my baby. She’s my only kid. What did she do to deserve this kind of treatment? ” The kidnapper retorted, ” She’s simply paying the price for your misdeeds. You are manufacturing plastics and plastic products. Have you ever realized that your company contributes to the environmental damage? Poor stray animals who search the garbage dumps for food, either get their heads or throats stuck in those non- biodegradable covers and choke on them, losing their lives. People dump plastic water bottles in seas and rivers. The marine life gets hurt. Do you know what choking means? How does it feel when your daughter is gasping for breath? You are not concerned about others and other forms of lives that are affected by your business. You will do anything to protect your daughter because she’s your blood. Have you ever cared about Mother Nature? Everyone has a right to live. Your company products are hazardous. You also manufacture plastic toys which if swallowed by a toddler would cause his death. If I am not mistaken, one of your employees’ lost her one year old son after you gave her a plastic toy as a birthday gift, and he put it in his mouth.” ” But,” replied Ghanshyam, ” I gave her ₹1,00,000 as the monetary compensation.”
The kidnapper was furious, ” Don’t justify your barbaric actions. Is the value of a human life, only ₹ 1,00,000? In that case, let your daughter stop breathing. I will transfer double the amount in your bank account.” Ghanshyam pleaded, ” No, please. Her life is more precious to me than your money. I promise to change my business and open a restaurant instead. I will provide high quality food at reasonable rates to all.” The kidnapper smirked and gave him a paper to sign. When Ghanshyam finished signing, he returned the document. The kidnapper picked up his phone and shortly, Tanika, was freed. She ran to hug her father who was kissing her on the forehead. The kidnapper said, “You have to wait here until I finish my business with your friends too.” He turned to face Ashok, who almost peed in his pants waiting to find out what was in store for him.
Ashok’s son came into the picture. He was hardly 9. A mean looking guy was pointing a gun at his forehead. He forced the boy, Akash, to pick up the glass of the contaminated water, ordering him to drink it. Ashok screamed, ” Don’t let my child drink that contaminated muddy water. He will fall sick or even die.” The kidnapper retorted, ” You never thought about water contamination and how it would affect others while dumping the chemical wastes freely in the sea. Do you have any idea of the damage that you caused? Nearly 20 turtles were washed ashore with toxins in their bodies. Hundreds of dead fishes led to food poisoning among the fishermen and their families. Don’t they deserve to live?” Ashok hung his head in shame. He chose to promote nursery and gardening. He, too, signed the papers and got his boy safe and unharmed. Ghanshyam and Ashok waited as it was Suresh Mehta’s turn. Another video came to replace the previous one. It showed his three year old twins, Pari, and Aniket crying over the thunderous sound of music. It was blaring loud enough to cause an ear splitting ache for the adults. Suresh begged him to stop torturing his kids. He said, ” I understand what you are trying to convey through this video. Please don’t strain your vocal chords. I will open coaching classes instead of causing noise pollution through these sound systems.” The kidnapper smiled and released his kids after obtaining their signatures. Mohan Shastri had contractors who would chop down the trees mercilessly to build tall skyscrapers. He saw his children, Monica and Arjun, gasping for breath as they were locked in a room completely devoid of oxygen. The kidnapper said, ” Your children are merely enacting what would happen if you continue deforestation. Trees give us oxygen and help in maintaining the ozone layer. You would know this if you ever went to school in your life. We drained out oxygen from the room. They are choking over the carbon dioxide that’s coming out of their nostrils.” Mohan promised to promote Wildlife conservation and plant more trees. He signed along the dotted lines like his friends. Finally, it was Paritosh’s turn. He was too stunned to speak as the kidnapper turned on the next video where one of the men was forcibly applying the face cream manufactured by Paritosh’s company.
The kidnapper said, ” Don’t worry. We are simply testing the cosmetics made by your company on your darling teenaged daughter, Meena. Let’s see if the cream makes her skin glow. Because I heard you test your beauty products on innocent animals and the girls belonging to a poor family. How does it feel when your daughter has pimples, zits, and acnes developing on her beautiful face? It’s the use of chemicals like whitening agents and bleaches, right? ” Paritosh begged him to spare his daughter. He promised to turn over a new leaf and open a fitness center cum gym instead of selling defective cosmetics. He signed up the paper and got back his daughter too. Ghanshyam spoke, ” Are you Kiran, the journalist? “
The kidnapper replied, ” My identity is none of your business. If you value your lives, just go back to the hell that you call homes. Arrange for a press conference and make the announcement of your new business plans. Tell them that you were briefly away to discuss a new business opportunity. If you ever try to mention this kidnapping businesses, you will lose your reputation in the society. I have some of your juiciest secrets which I won’t hesitate to share over the social media.” The five men had learned a lesson and made their way out from their temporary imprisonment. The kidnapper removed his mask and stood before the mirror and the Police Chief, Ranade, stood smiling at him.
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2 thoughts on “SHORT STORIES FRIDAYS ( 80)”
Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wonderful story! Dear Aparna I´m biting my nails…
You are an amazing writer. Thank’s for share dear friend. Have a lovely day full of blessings and happiness!! Cheers!!!