It is a time of rejoicing for the family. They are finally able to afford the renovation of the house.
They are not very rich. The mother works as a maid, the father as a driver. They have four daughters. The first is married with a kid; they married her off when she just turned eighteen. The second daughter has had problems; she tried to take her own life a few years ago, but now she’s managed to turn her life around and get a job at a call center. The third daughter is ordinary, and follows in her mother’s footsteps as a maid. It is the last daughter T. that they are all so proud of. She excelled in school, she’s very good at her studies, and she’s just turned sweet seventeen. They intend sending her for her degree too. The first daughter to get her degree — what a proud moment that would be!
They have taken a small room for rent during the renovation. It is quite stuffy and crowded for five of them to share. Their aunt, who is visiting, invites T. over. Why don’t you come down and stay with me during the holidays, she says. T. is delighted to go, and the mom fondly sends her off.
A few days later, the aunt calls. Look, there’s an excellent job opportunity in a nearby showroom. Can I take T. there to join? She can earn nearly four thousand rupees, that would be great, wouldn’t it? The mom and dad agree. After all, T. is such a smart girl, and the money will come in handy for her degree. T. is happy too. She joins the job, she seems comfortable, and she has made good friends with another girl who works there.
Meanwhile, back home, they are preparing for a pooja. The pooja is on a Monday, and they want T. to come back on Sunday. However, T. calls on Saturday. It’s a very busy weekend at the showroom, she says, so I don’t think I’ll be able to come. However, I’ll ask for permission to take Monday off, and come on Monday. Is that ok? The mom and dad agree, they can understand the reason all too well.
It is Sunday evening when the call comes. It is the aunt, and she is terribly worried. T. has disappeared!
It turns out T. never went to work on Sunday. The good friend she had from Mysore has also disappeared; her accommodation is locked; her bio-data at the showroom is at best sketchy, and they don’t even have her photograph — apparently she kept promising to submit it but never did.
The family is thrown into turmoil. They hire autos and Tata Sumos and search everywhere, every place, every nook and corner they can think of. There are endless debates. File a police complaint, say some. But the family is reluctant. Involving the police is a matter of disgrace. They will be subjected to intrusive investigations. Who knows, even the TV channels might turn up to cover this affair. And then, the family honour will be reduced to dust. Two daughters are still to be married; who will marry them if folks come to know that the police were summoned to investigate the disappearance of a daughter?
The mom is beside herself with tension and anxiety. She cannot stop crying. She goes to consult an astrologer, who takes one look at T.’s horoscope and pronounces that she is going through very difficult times and she may not return any time soon. This only disheartens the mom even more.
Where is her beloved daughter T.? What is she doing? Has she eaten? She does not have any dress save the one on her, how is she managing? What has happened to her? What can they do?
The mom returns to work after nine days of futile searching. She does her job mindlessly, her thoughts elsewhere, pleading with God to keep T. safe.
Who knows what the real story is? Who knows what is missing between the lines? Your guess is as good as mine.
All I know is that my heart goes out to my maid, whose daughter T. is missing.