Brown and Blue Eyes

Nanima stared thoughtfully at the man. One eye was a deep muddy brown, while the other the shade of the stormy sea. What a curious phenomenon, she thought. She had never quite seen anything like it. It almost took attention away from the ugly scar by his lip. It was a tiny one, but very noticeable; or she thought so at least. She held up the yarn and continued to knit a woollen sweater for her grandson, Rohan, so that he would be able to brave the Dilli ki sardi. He was going to come over for his winter vacations, and she was eagerly looking forward to it. He was the apple of her eye after all, her only grandson. An adorable little bundle of energy, he would run around the house like a whirlwind. She smiled as she thought of all the fun that they would have.

Soon, the temperatures had started dipping to their usual 2-3 degrees, and Nanima was finding it harder than usual to navigate her wheelchair successfully around the house. Thankfully, her son Rahul was here, Rohan in tow. Nothing could dampen her spirits. She had made chole bhature, both the father and son’s favourite dish, for lunch that day. The entire day was spent in a maze of storytelling and lion imitations. As she went to bed that night, Nanima was smiling from ear to ear.

The next week or so passed in this same happy haze. One day, Rohan wanted to visit his friend in the neighbouring society, so Nanima dropped him off at the park, wheelchair and all. As she bid him farewell, she noticed a curious sight. His friend’s mother, Mrs. Ahuja, too, had that odd combination of blue-brown eyes. Nanima waited, surprised for a few seconds. How curious it was that she had never before seen such a thing and now she had seen it twice in the span of two months. Shaking her head, she muttered something about genetic experiments and how robots were going to get the better of humans, and then wheeled away.

At 5 pm, she went to pick Rohan up. There was no sign of Mrs. Ahuja or the two children in the park, so she waited around for a while before wheeling around to check. They were not in sight. At this point, Nanima began to worry. She called up Nilima, her daughter in law.

“Where is this Mrs. Ahuja? It is 5:20, and I can’t see her or Rohan anywhere.” she complained.

“Mrs. Ahuja? Who?" Nilima replied.

“Arey that one, the one whose son Rohan is friends with, he always meets him, can't remember the name. A chubby, curly-haired boy with that striped shirt of his.”

“But… there is no such little boy nearby that we know, or Rohan is friends with. Ma ji, are you feeling alright? You did take your medicine today, didn't you?”

“Of course I did! You and these medicines. Now tell me, where is Rohan? We have to find him.”

Nilima paused. “Ma ji, you wait there, I will come to the park.”

Nilima joined Nanima a few minutes later. There was no Mrs. Ahuja, Nilima was sure of it. So that left a very worrisome question - where was Rohan?

By the end of three hours of futile searching, Nilima was near tears. They lodged an FIR, and returned tearily home. Nanima, however, was not crying. In fact, she seemed furious.

“I am telling you, it is that Mrs. Ahuja who did something. I know it in my gut.”

Nilima and her husband brushed it off as denial, used as a coping mechanism. They were worried that Nanima was not thinking clearly, but that was a problem for another time.

A day passed, and then two. Soon, it had been a week, and then, a month. There was no news of Rohan. Absolutely none. He had seemingly vanished. Tensions in the household ran high. Nanima knew that something was amiss. Foul play was practically a guarantee. However, there was no ransom, no calls. It was very curious.

After two months, Rahul and Nilima made a short trip to Lucknow, their home, to get some essentials. Nanima was left alone in the Delhi house.

Two days later, Nanima met Pearl, or Pammi as she fondly called her. Neighbours and best friends, they would meet daily for a cup of chai.

“Did you hear about that man?” Pammi gasped as she lowered herself into the chair.

“What man? You can't be so vague with your taazi khabar, you know. Sab batao.” Nanima replied.

“Arey, that one. There was a murder, you know!” Pammi squealed.

“So what? Murders toh happen all the time. What makes this one special? Kuch naya batao. People think rich people don’t do all this, but we know that it happens all the time. This area toh loves scandal!” Nanima replied.

“This one is interesting because the man is handsome. Looks like a star.”

“Pammi, you are 70 years old. Give up handsome boys now at least,” Nanima laughed.

“Even you will see how handsome he is. Oh, his eyes! I am sure you have never seen anything like it.” Pammi beamed.

“Eyes? What about his eyes?” asked Nanima sharply, sitting up at once.

“Ohho, now you’re interested.” Pammi grinned.

She pointed towards the newspaper. Nanima stared. Muddy brown and sea blue.

The rest of the morning went by quickly. Nanima was oddly silent.

Rahul and Nilima returned in a week’s time. One afternoon, Nilima opened the door. Two policemen stared down at her.

“Madam, we have come to make an arrest,” they said.

“An arrest? Oh, did you finally find my dear Rohan?” Nilima began to weep.

“No. Please move aside” saying so, the policemen brushed past an emotional and confused Nilima.

“Where are you going? That is my mother-in-law’s room!” Nilima called out.

“Madam, you are under arrest.” The policemen handcuffed Nanima. Nilima was shrieking. “She is an old woman, can’t you see? What is wrong with you? What is this justice system? What harm could she possibly have committed?”

“Murder” gravely replied the policecman.

Neelima fainted.

It was a dark, foggy day. Nanima was dressed in her favourite blue shawl. She sat in the courtroom, waiting.

“They do not stand a chance. Their allegations are rubbish. They will pay for how they have treated you. Even better for us, the plaintiff has not shown up for a single session” said Rahul reassuringly. “And when this is done, we will have to go to the doctor, haan Ma ji? We need to check on your memory.”

“Do you remember Mrs. Ahuja yet?” asked Nanima.

“Ma ji, there really is no Mrs. Ahuja. We-”

Nanima wheeled her chair forward to the stand. It was time.

“72 year old woman confesses to cold-blooded murder of grandson’s killer in spectacular court case” read The Deccan Herald’s headline, glinting off the spectacles that protected a pair of brown and blue eyes.

Author: Ananya Chaure

Editor: Saptaparna Chakraborty

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