The Wounded Hearts by Vijay K Kerji

“Oh, my God, you f****g guys,” Nitin moaned.

Punita turned her head back, and her boyfriend Nitin was being beaten by a group of youngsters with hockey sticks. Nitin had been trying his best to defend his foes but the strength of six armed people overpowered his struggle to escape. Her adrenaline rushed into her veins, and she sprinted towards the scene.
The Wounded Hearts
The Wounded Hearts by Vijay K Kerji
“Hey, please leave him alone.” She held a guy’s arm, and stopped him from kicking Nitin. “Hey, you,” Punita said, holding another man’s hand from beating Nitin. She pushed him aside, and the guy looked at her with a knitted brows. Another man in his black t-shirt with a hockey bat in his hand stared at Punita. “Hey guys, let’s stop. He had enough.” He stretched his hands wide to stop his men from assaulting Nitin. “If you ever come near her, you will face the dire consequences,” a man in yellow soiled clothes shouted, and they walked towards a black Scorpio. Nitin was bleeding with his teeth broken and lying on the ground. Punita sat beside him. “Nitin, who are they?” She wiped his teeth soaked in blood with her nylon scarf. Nitin moaned in pain and sat on the ground. “I don’t know. They started beating me soon after I stepped down from our college bus with you. I remember two of them came from your brother Mohan’s car.” “Mohan’s car?” Punita’s heart raced. “Are you sure?” “Yeah, it was a black Ford Fiesta with Mohan in the driver’s seat. He wore red checked shirt,” Nitin said, rising from the ground. He wiped his dust covered pants and his shirt. Punita remembered her spat with Mohan in the morning over her love affair with Nitin when she had left her home to the college. Mohan had sternly advised her not to hang with Nitin in the college. I know you’re in love with that nerd who is good for nothing. You still have time to get out of your friendship before it is too late to regret later. Otherwise he will face severe consequences if you continue your affair. A cold shiver went down Punita’s spine. “Punita, I’m not able to walk,” Nitin said, limping while he walked. Punita held his arm around her shoulder and walked him to a nearby bus stop. She sat him on the metallic bench inside the bus stop, and waited for the bus to arrive. “I never expected Mohan would act like this,” Punita said, staring down. “I am sure it’s your brother who is behind this.” “I know, he argued with me today morning about our love affair, but I ignored his warning,” Punita said. “What did he say?” “He doesn’t like our togetherness.” “Anything else he said?” “He whines about our caste difference,” Punita said. “But how he realized we’re in love with each other?” Nitin asked. “Someone from our college must’ve informed him, and being an active member of a political party, he has many sources to get the information about me,” Punita said. “I will discuss the matter with our classmate Gopal and ask for his help to protect us from him,” Nitin suggested. Punita held his hand. “You don’t worry, Nitin, I will speak with Mohan and try to convince him.” “I don’t think your parents and Mohan will consent for our togetherness.” “Why?” Punita asked. “I would have hoped if we belonged to the same caste. Our castes being poles apart, I don’t have any hopes for amicable solution,” Nitin said, gazing at expanse. “Yeah, I agree with you. We can only hope for our classmates to help us,” Punita said. “Gopal is the perfect person to seek help. You remember Swati and Rishi? Our seniors in the college, and passed out a year ago?” “Yeah, I remember, they used to always hang together in the campus.” “Swati’s parents were against her intention of marrying Rishi, and Gopal helped them,” Nitin said. “Do they belong to the same caste?” “Yes, I think so. But after their marriage, their parents remained quiet,” Nitin said. “Do we face any legal complications if we go against our elders wishes and get marry?” Punita asked. “Well, we are not minors. It’s legal to get married since we have crossed the age limit,” Nitin said, looking at her. “Do you think Gopal is strong enough to protect us from Mohan’s intervention?” “Gopal is a vice president of a labour union, and he is close to our family. Moreover, he is studying with us,” Nitin said. Punita’s chest lightened. “Okay, let’s talk to him in private, and convey our intention before Mohan acts further,” Punita suggested. “We can wait for our exams to be finished next month,” Nitin suggested. “No, Nitin, let’s not wait. You don’t know the kind of person my brother is,” Punita said. “But I suggest…..” “No, No, you listen me else you lose me forever, you act immediately and talk to Gopal.” “Sure, I will,” Nitin said. Punita walked out of the bus stop to an approaching auto rickshaw. She negotiated with the driver to go to the hospital to treat Nitin for his injuries. The driver took them to the hospital amidst evening heavy traffic. The smoke emanated from the vehicle choked her. “How are you feeling now?” Punita held his hand. “I think my left wrist is broken, I’ve severe pain in it.” Nitin said, dangling his left hand in the air. “We almost reached the hospital, please be patient for few more minutes,” Punita said. The driver stopped the auto rickshaw in front of the hospital. Punita stepped down, and paid the metered amount to the driver before walking Nitin inside through the ramp. A medicines and disinfectant smell wafted in the air, and the main hall was crowded with people. They watched a television mounted on the wall. Before going to the front desk, Punita paused and looked at Nitin. “Let’s not reveal the actual fact. We tell them you met with an accident.” “Yeah, it makes sense, otherwise they may ask us to register a complaint in the police station which will complicate the matter,” Nitin said, staring into her eyes. Punita handed Nitin’s identity card to the lady at the front desk who wore a pale blue sari and had a fair complexion. “Where is the patient?” The lady asked. “He is seated there,” Punita said, pointing to Nitin in front of the front desk. After a couple of minutes of paper work, the lady said, “Please take him upstairs to ward number twelve. An attending doctor will examine him and guide you.” She handed few papers to Punita to sign. Punita signed the papers and walked back to Nitin to take him to the ward number twelve through an elevator. An attending doctor was examining the patients who stood forming a small queue in front of his room. When Nitin’s turn came, the doctor told him to lay himself on the bed. He carefully observed his bruised face, bleeding teeth, and broken wrist. “What had happened?” Nitin remained silent, and curled his eyebrows. Punita came forward. “Doctor, he met with an accident.” “The injuries don’t look like they are caused by an accident,” the doctor said, examining his wounds. “He should be admitted for a couple of days.” Punita’s heart raced. “Um…do you strongly suggest to get admitted?” “Yes, we need to examine the x-ray of his wrist and treat for the wounds.” The doctor held his stethoscope hung around his neck. “All right, doctor, we are ready to get him admitted,” Punita said. “Please be waited outside, I’ll tell a nurse to arrange a room for you,” the doctor said. Punita walked outside the doctor’s room with Nitin. “Should we call your parents? I must go home before my brother comes here and takes me home.” “Yeah, I need someone to stay with me during night. Please tell my parents that I met with an accident,” Nitin said. Punita took her phone from her purse and called Nitin’s dad. After a couple of rings, he answered. “Hi, are you guys still in the college?” “No, Uncle, you please come to Central Hospital at Mount Street.” “Why? What happened?” “Um…Nitin met with a minor accident, he is being treated here,” Punita said. “Oh my God, is he all right now? When did it happen?” “A while ago, and Nitin is perfectly alright. Please speak with him,” Punita said, handing over the phone to Nitin. “Dad, I’m all right, please come to the hospital with Mom soon,” Nitin said. “All right son, we’ll be there in no time. Please tell Punita to stay with you till we come,” Nitin’s father said, disconnecting the call. A nurse in her white sari approached Punita. “Please come with me.” Punita walked Nitin behind the nurse and entered a room. The room had two metallic cots placed apart, with a cotton mattress on each. A metallic saline holder had been kept beside the bed. A disinfectant odour wafted inside, and a cold breeze from a small ventilator made Punita shiver. The nurse spread the bed sheets on the mattress and walked out. Nitin laid on the bed, and Punita sat on a chair adjacent to his bed. “I hope they make it fast since you’re suffering from pain,” Punita said, looking at Nitin. “Yeah, I too think so.” “It’s better if I leave the hospital as soon as your parents arrive,” Punita said, staring at Nitin. “Otherwise, Mohan will get me from here, creating much chaos in the hospital.” “Sure, my Parents may arrive in any moment,” Nitin said. “Once you become all right, we together speak with Gopal. I am hurt by the way Mohan had behaved,” Punita said. “Sure, I will contact Gopal as soon as I’m discharged from the hospital,” Nitin said. A couple of minutes later, Nitin’s parents entered the room. His mother sat beside him with her eyes welled. “What happened, my son? You need to be careful while you’re on the road,” his mother said, wiping her tear drops on her cheeks. “You don’t drive but still you met with an accident,” Nitin’s father said, keeping his bag on the table. “A bike hit me when I got down from the college bus, Dad. I am all right, just minor injuries,” Nitin said. “Please be seated. “ Punita rose from her chair and sat on the bed. Nitin’s father sat on the chair. “What the doctor said?” “Well, the doctor…..” Meanwhile footsteps of approaching people heard outside, and Punita’s stomach churned. She sensed Mohan’s guys must have arrived, and immediately sprinted to the attached bathroom and locked the door inside. A bang on the cot was heard from outside. “Where is she?” Mohan said. “Hey, who are you guys? What do you need?” Nitin’s father raised his voice. “You first answer me; otherwise you will face the consequences. Where is my sister?” Mohan asked. Someone knocked hard on the bathroom door. “Mohan, Punita must be inside. The door is locked.” A hard bang and kicks pounded the bathroom door. Punita held her hands to her ears and slid away from the door. She nauseated to the toilet smell, and closed her nose with her right hand. “Hey, you, what are you doing to him?” Nitin’s father shouted. Nitin moaned in pain. Punita felt a knot in her stomach. Someone must have hit him! The reckless pounding on the bathroom door continued and the latch inside unfastened to the outside force. When the latch fell down, Mohan wide opened the door. “You are hiding here, don’t you get ashamed of yourself.” He held her hand tight and dragged her outside. “Hey, leave her alone. Don’t you know how to behave with women?” Nitin’s mother came on Mohan’s way. Mohan pushed her aside. She fell on the ground with her glasses broken. Nitin tried to wake up. “Punita, I love you. Mohan, please leave her with us.” One of the guys hit hard on Nitin’s head. His father held him from falling down from the bed. Mohan pulled Punita away from the room. With his hand firmly held to her arm, Mohan pushed Punita inside his car and locked the door before sitting in the passenger’s seat. His men followed his car in a separate van. Chapter 2 Punita threw herself on the bed, unable to control her sob. Teardrops rolled down her cheeks, and she wiped them with her hand, consoling herself. The way Mohan behaved had hurt her, and her belly fluttered when she remembered what had happened since this evening. Is falling in love wrong? Nitin is smart and intelligent. What if he belonged to a different caste? Her mother, Bela entered and sat beside her on the bed. She put her hand on Punita’s head and wiped her tears. “You must listen to elders; otherwise you face such untoward consequences.” “What crime I committed to punish me like this? Nitin is my friend, and classmate. Shouldn’t I speak with my classmates?” “May be Mohan has certain reasons to behave like this,” Bela said, taking her hand away from Punita. “Can I know the reason? Why should he beat Nitin? What crime he committed?” “Listen, you don’t understand the social stigma’s associated with such relationships. You must chose your friends wisely,” Bela suggested. “I don’t understand what…..” Meanwhile Mohan entered briskly twirling his car key in his hand. “Mom, don’t let her go out for at least couple of days. I want to give stern warnings to the that nerd, and make him forget Punita once for all.” Punita sat on the bed, and adrenaline rushed through her veins. “Don’t do anything to Nitin, he is innocent.” “Don’t talk nonsense, it’s he who brainwashed you and made you as his finger-puppet,” Mohan said, with his eyes wide open. “You’ve mistaken, Mohan. We are just good friends and you know, Nitin helps me in several ways in my studies,” Punita said, stepping down the bed. “Why do you need his help? Can’t you study on your own and get through the exams?” “It’s not the exams, he helps me in teaching difficulties whatever I fail to grasp in the class,” Punita said. “You better take help of any of your other classmates, and try to forget that nerd. It’s my warning, and don’t regret later,” Mohan said. “Punita, you listen to what Mohan says, it’s good for all. If not Mohan, your Dad will not entertain your friendship with Nitin,” Bela said, stepping down the bed. “No, Mom, I can’t forget Nitin, he is a nice person. You try to understand his good nature,” Punita said, wiping her tears from her cheeks. “Okay, if you are so adamant, do what you like and I take care of him,” Mohan said, walking out banging the door behind him. “Mohan, listen don’t do anything to Nitin,” Punita shouted, sobbing uncontrollably. Bela wrapped her hands around Punita’s waist, and pressed her hip. “Why are you so melancholic about Nitin? You rest for a couple of days, and you’ll become normal.” Punita sat herself forcibly on the couch, and covered her face with her hands. * Later in the night, Punita locked her bedroom door and grabbed her phone. She tapped on it to call Nitin but the phone was switched off. Damn it! How if I call Nita? She may help me in this crisis, and tell me about Nitin’s condition. She searched her classmate Nita’s name in her phone book and tapped on her number. After a couple of rings, Nita answered her call. “Hi, Punita what’s up?” “Nita, I need your help, Nitin is admitted in the Central Hospital in Mount Road. I would like to know his condition,” Punita said. “Okay, but what happened to Nitin?” Nita asked. Punita’s eyes welled, and waited for a couple of minutes. How can I tell Nita my brother has beaten Nitin? I feel ashamed of it. “My brother Mohan is after him, and he beat Nitin in the evening after the college hours.” Punita swallowed. “Oh, my God! I will go immediately to the hospital and call you from there,” Nita said. Punita’s chest lightened. “Yes, Nita, you please do the favour, and I appreciate your help.” “You don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything,” Nita said. “Thank you so much, Nita.” “Are you coming to the college tomorrow?” Nita asked. Why is she asking so? Is there anything important in the college which I’m going to miss? “I may not, I am quiet upset, and my brother may not allow me to go for few more days. Why are you asking so?” “Don’t you remember tomorrow is the last date for paying exams fees? I can pay for you and Nitin if you wish,” Nita said. “Yes, it will be great, Nita, and at least you pay Nitin’s fee. I don’t want him to waste a semester because of me,” Punita said. “All right, I’ll pay both of your exams fees, and I’m leaving now,” Nita disconnected the call. Meanwhile, someone knocked on the door, and Punita hid her phone under the mattress and strode towards the door to open it. It was her father, Jagan. He wore a white pyjama and had applied a sandalwood paste on his forehead. “Why have you locked your room?” He asked, knitting his brows. Punita remained silent, and walked towards the bed. Jagan sat on the couch and waved Punita to take her seat. Punita made herself comfortable on a chair. “Mohan told about your closeness with your classmate, is it true?” Jagan asked. Punita remained silent, and she rolled her eyes. “Don’t you know our family status? You will ruin our fame by indulging in these affairs. I will not be able to face my colleagues if you behave so,” Jagan said, with his brows knitted. Punita inhaled a heavy breath. “Is it a mistake if I’m friendly with my classmate?” “Mohan said you always hang with that guy, and don’t you fear what people will talk about you and us?” “Well I don’t care what others say about us,” Punita said. “But we do care for our status, and if you become so adamant, you have to leave us forever,” Jagan said in a stern voice. “I don’t mind leaving all of you for my happiness,” Punita said. “Don’t talk nonsense. Do you think you’ll be happy if you leave us and stay with that nerd?” “Dad, I don’t like calling my friend like that, and everyone has their own respect.” “Punita, you’re staring at destruction of yourself and loss of our status, try to be rational in your thoughts,” Jagan suggested. Punita remained silent and clasped her hands together, staring at the floor. “Don’t be adamant in your behaviours, and listen to what I suggest.” Jagan walked out of the room. Punita felt a knot in her stomach when her dad left the room cautioning her of the incident. She needed Nitin and wished to know how he is doing. It is better to act faster as my parents and Mohan may not leave us to live in peace. She waited for several minutes for Nita to call her in eagerness, and when she didn’t get her call, she decided to call. She tapped on Nita’s name and waited for her to answer. “Punita, I’ve just parked the vehicle and about to enter the hospital. I will call you in few minutes,” Nita said. “Okay, let me know how Nitin is doing when you reach his place.” “Sure, I will,” Nita said. Punita paced in her room for a couple of minutes and her phone rang after a few seconds. It was Nita. “Hi, Nita, any update?” “Nitin is being treated in Intensive Care Unit. A security guard told me Nitin is hit badly in the head by one of the men from Mohan’s group.” Punita’s chest tightened. “What? Intensive Care Unit? Is he alright now?” “Yes, serious but out of danger.” “Where are his parents? Are they all right?” Punita paced in her room. “Yes, they’re waiting outside, and are worried.” “Can I speak to them for a minute?” “Sure, I will give them the phone,” Nita said. “Punita, how are you? Please don’t put us into trouble by speaking with us,” Nitin’s dad said. “No, Uncle, I’m sorry for whatever has happened.” “You need not be sorry, and please leave my son alone. We don’t want your brother to trouble him anymore.” Punita felt a knot in her stomach, and she rose from the couch. She wanted to convince Nitin’s dad further but decided to remain silent, and switched off her phone. Moments later, she felt sympathetic towards Nitin’s parents and called Nita. “Nita, please help them in whatever way it is possible. I meet them when I get out of my home. I am stuck here as my parents are not allowing me to go out,” Punita said. “All right, I’ll help, and you take care of yourself.” Nita ended the call. Punita sat on the couch and her eyes welled with tears. What should I do now? Nitin is being treated in the hospital, and I’m in my home locked up. I will teach a proper lesson to Mohan when Nitin is discharged from the hospital. We will speak with Gopal to help us to find a solution to our love affair. Chapter 3 After two days, things settled down, and Punita sensed leniency in her brother’s and her dad’s stern attitude. One afternoon when both were not at home, she made a plan to visit Nita’s home to discuss her problem. She longed to meet someone but meeting Nitin at hospital would hurt his parents. And perhaps, provoke Mohan to take untoward action towards her and Nitin. Before going out to meet Nita, she called her. Nita answered after a couple of rings. “Hi, Punita, where are you now?” “I am at my home, and, I wanted to meet you,” Punita said. “All right, you can come at any time.” Punita’s chest lightened, and she straightened her posture. “I will start from here in next twenty minutes.” “Sure, I’ll wait for you.” Nita ended the call. Punita walked out of her bedroom and strode to the living room. Her mother was seated on a couch watching a television channel. “Mom, I’m going to a nearby shopping mall.” “When you’ll be back? Your Dad may arrive soon,” Punita’s mother said. “I will come back soon after purchasing my clothes.” Punita walked out of her home. She wiped the dust covered on her scooter and drove it to the main street. Amidst heavy traffic and the smoke whch emanated from the vehicles, she reached Nita’s home after ten minutes. Nita opened the door for her and took her to her study room in upstairs. Nita sat on a sofa and waved Punita to a seat beside her. “You have gone down since I saw you last in the college previous week.” “Yeah, it had been a bad experience for me to see Nitin beaten by Mohan’s men. How is he now?” “I met him yesterday, he is recovering fast. In next couple of days, he may be discharged. Why don’t we go and see him?” Punita’s brows knitted. “I don’t want to disappoint his parents, and when I spoke to them last, his dad was angry at me.” “Oh, in that case, let’s not go there,” Nita said. “Can Nitin talk over phone?” Punita asked. “No, he still lay on the bed with saline injected in his veins. Perhaps, you may have to wait for another couple of days,” Nita said. “I’m worried about our future. Mohan had hurt us by behaving so harsh on us. We want to go somewhere away from bad guys,” Punita said. “Where do you go? Do you want to leave your parents?” Punita pondered for a minute. She had to be firm in her decision to leave her parents if she wanted Nitin in her life. She loved her parents but she needed Nitin as well, and it was a tricky situation for her. “My dad is also not interested in Nitin. I love Nitin and I need to do something before we two are separated permanently.” “Have you planned well so that you can go away and settle somewhere with Nitin?” “No, not yet, but I need all of your support to achieve my goal. Nitin mentioned our classmate Gopal may help us in such matters,” Punita said. “Yeah, I remember he had helped our seniors to get married amidst their parents’ opposition.” “What help he offered to them?” “Well, he supported them morally during their wedding, and he had few men with him to tackle if someone stops the wedding.” Punita sighed in relief. “Oh, it’s great, and I need such man who can help us to come together in need of emergency. Mohan may prevent us from marrying together and I hope Gopal can tackle him with his men.” “Yeah, he should, and that is what I heard from my friend who attended the marriage last year.” “Do you have his phone number? We can talk to him,” Punita said. “Well, I suggest let Nitin get well, and we all go together to meet him.” “No, that’s a dangerous move. Mohan is keeping a close watch on me and Nitin. I shouldn’t meet Nitin within our city and manage everything remotely with you help.” “Oh, I see but how is it possible?” Nita asked. “We can communicate through mobile phones and plan our mission.” “Okay, that sounds great.” Nita smiled. “So, do you have Gopal’s number? We will contact him now,” Punita said. “Well, I can get you from one our seniors who attended the marriage. Do you want it now?” “Yeah, it will be better if you can get the number now,” Punita said. Nita called her friend and requested Gopal’s number from her. She later gave the number to Punita. Punita called Gopal and he answered her call after a couple of rings. “Gopal speaking.” “Hi, Gopal, I’m Punita.” “Hi, Punita, how are you?” “Not so well, I need your help.” Punita crossed her arm. “Why? What happened?” “Can we meet today at some place? I want to talk to you in person.” She looked at Nita. “Is it a confidential matter that you don’t want to tell over phone?” “Yeah, you’re right,” Punita said. “All right where do you want to meet?” “Can we meet at Lumbini Park at four in the evening?” “Sure, I can come there,” Gopal said. “Okay, I’ll be there with Nita at sharp four.” “Sure, see you, bye.” Gopal ended the call. Punita’s chest lightened and she sighed in relief. She kept her phone on the table and smiled at Nita. “Gopal has agreed to meet us at Lumbini Park at four.” Nita straightened her posture. “Sure, we will go together at four.” * Punita walked inside Gopal’s home along with Nita and he waved them to couch in the living room. A flower pot was kept on the table with fresh roses inside it. “So, tell me what happened?” Gopal’s eyes darted between Punita and Nita. “You know, my brother is after me and Nitin. His men have beaten Nitin who is recovering in the hospital. I need your help.” “Well, do you love Nitin?” Gopal asked. Punita was embarrassed and her face reddened. She waited for a few seconds before she answered. “Yes, we love each other.” “So, your parents and bother are against your marriage,” Gopal said. Punita nodded. “How is Nitin now?” Nita looked at him. “He is getting discharged tomorrow, and will be all right in a couple of days.” “Okay, you can decide to marry each other at the temple in the city outskirts. Thereafter, we’ll immediately register your marriage and later on you can seek your parent’s blessings,” Gopal suggested. “I too think we need to speed up the things. Otherwise, your brother can do anything to you and Nitin.” Punita pondered. She needed to give her consent at this moment. She didn’t want to lose Nitin, and it was wise for her to marry Nitin earliest possible. “All right, coming Sunday, we will try to assemble at the temple at sharp ten.” Punita rose. “We will go now, and if Mohan gets to know that I’m here, he may do harm to us.” Nita rose and Punita walked out of the main gate towards her scooter. * Punita readied herself with a dark red sari woven with gold threads and kept her ornaments inside her bag. She didn’t want her mother to be suspicious of her by wearing them. She walked downstairs and her mother was busy in the kitchen. Mohan and her dad were not around, and she paced outside the living room towards the veranda. She started her scooter by taking it outside the gate and headed towards the city outskirts. When she crossed the main street to join a country road, her phone rang. It was Nita. “Hi, Nita, I am on my way to the temple,” Punita said. “Yeah, it’s good. But I’m sorry; I will not be able to make it for the event. I have told Nitin and Gopal to be there by sharp ten. They must be already waiting for you,” Nita said. “Oh, Come on, Nita. Why’re you not coming?” “I am sorry; I’m going out with my Dad to my estate. I can’t avoid it,” Nita said. “It’s okay, but you try to make it for the registration office by noon. We will meet there.” Punita disconnected the call. Punita started her scooter again and drove to the temple. The temple premises were deserted with no around. She walked inside and offered her prayers to Lord Hanuman. She looked around for Nitin but neither Nitin nor Gopal were present, let alone the priest. When she walked back of the temple her heart missed a beat, and adrenaline rushed through her body. She held her face covered with her hands. Nitin was hung to the tree branch with a noose around his neck. His stomach was mutilated with knife marks. Punita’s glance shifted to a nearby well.

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