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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Gripped In Doubt

As I switched on the television, the announcer said, “This dangerous man escaped from the jail and is believed to have-”

I couldn’t hear anymore. My ears seemed to have turned deaf. I blankly stared at the photograph of the man who had escaped from jail. He was a man around forty, with an almost bald head, and slightly overweight build. He wore perfectly round glasses, projecting his perfectly round eyes, on his perfectly round face. And, who was this? None but I. It seemed impossible.

I pinched to check if it was a nightmare. No such luck. I was fully awake. I was already feeling a tinge of an inexplicable mix of fear and guilt, for reasons I couldn’t understand why. I partially froze in panic, but my mind was racing. Thoughts of approaching the police were instantly countered by a steady, growing fear that they would turn a deaf ear to me, and simply throw me behind bars. That was not how things happen, I knew, but seeing my photo on a wanted list was also something I could have sworn wouldn’t happen, a couple of minutes ago.

Or, is that how things happen? Warrants are needed for an arrest, but are those rules followed? I would have the right to call a lawyer, but I don't even know one. What about bail? I knew nothing of those laws, and nor did I have the money. Could they beat me up? Could I seek justice in our courts of law if they did? And, what if the courts take several years to deal with my case? Would I be in jail if I couldn't pay up for the bail?

What did I do? I am innocent, but will they believe me? What if someone has framed me? Can I talk to the news channel? Should I tell my wife? Should I close my windows? What if someone from this flat has already called the cops by now? I hear a siren wailing, my heart pounds faster, but the noise fades away into the distance as the vehicle passes. I squint through the window- it was an ambulance.

What will the society think? What will I tell my wife, children? Will they believe that I did something wrong, too? Will it come in the papers? Would my son be ridiculed in school? Will my wife be taunted by family? What if they take me away and not release me? Who will earn for the family? How can I prove I am innocent?

Looming paranoia cut my voice to a dead silence. Sweat rolled down my forehead. Wiping it off, I went and switched on the fan, and took a look at the news again. 

Minutes later, I mustered enough courage to contact the news channel office, and tell them that I was no dangerous man. When I did so, there was nothing but a surprise and what felt like a voice I would associate with wide eyes. It turned out that their enlarged pupils were not due to the fear of a call from the ‘dangerous man’, but because they had no clue what I was saying. Each time I tried to explain and they didn’t understand, I grew tenser. My racing grey cells even started suspecting them of killing time until the cops, whom they must have tipped, arrived. Finally, one of the persons from the channel understood what I was speaking about, and then the next moment there was hue and cry on the other side of the telephone. And, now, it was my time to feel astonished.

They simply stated that my image was wrongly embedded into a wrong news piece. The accused was not me. I had won the 8 PM quiz of the channel, the previous night, and the winner with his/her image was to be displayed. She apologized, and asked me to check the news channel again. I turned to the TV, and there it was- the image of another man under the head-bar 'dangerous', and mine at the bottom right corner under the head 'Quiz Winner: 03 March'. She apologized again, a little more profusely, informed me that the clarification shall be put up by the news channel immediately, and hung the call. 

I sat down in front of the TV staring at their 'clarification'. My eyes unfocused, my heart pounding, and my mind still. I felt like I had lost my life and then had it returned to me.


  1. Well written Sanddhya. Having seen your progress as a writer since you were lot younger makes me proud. Thanks to your Dad Varadh for persistently sending me links to your write ups.

    With this, however I have one little comment to make- When you build up suspense like the way you have, don't let it drop in a hurry.
    Even when you do, there's more fun in challenging the imagination of your readers.
    Ambiguity tears the reader apart, rip'em up. Let them ask for more.


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