It was a Sunday. I got a call at around 6 in the morning, informing me about a car crash on the Express Highway. The lone occupant, a khaki clad man had succumbed to his injuries. I went numb with grief! Rajat had died, I had to go see him. I quickly got ready. By the time I was down my apartment a police jeep had come to escort me to the site. All the way, all I could think was this cannot be happening to me. Rajat and I were supposed to get married. I was finally about to get my happily ever after, that’s what Rajat had said, and now he was gone. Why was this happening? Why was he travelling in the morning? We were to meet at lunch and then spend the day together. The call said he was in uniform, probably he had some work in the city. Questions which had no answers muddled up my head and left me numb.
We reached the station and the police inspector there, Inspector Ismail Rana took me for identification. As I saw Rajat’s badly bruised face I couldn’t control myself and I broke down. He had a handsome face, wheatish but clear, a beautiful lingering smile and innocent eyes. The badly bashed up face was a far cry from what I knew. I could no longer hold it together and crashed near the body.
When I came back to my senses, I was in a hospital room, with an IV attached. As my eyes got accustomed to the surroundings, all the events suddenly came flooding back and eyes welled up with tears. Inspector Rana was waiting outside the room and he walked in just as I was brushing my tears off. He looked perplexed but it hardly made any difference to me. He informed me that my BP had dropped, and hence had been admitted to the nearby hospital for observation.
“I am really sorry for your loss, but there are some things that need to be clarified, so I need to speak to you,” said Inspector Rana apologetically. I simply nodded and he started asking me questions like How well I knew Rajat? Did he ever take me to his work location? How did we meet? I was irritated with the questions. I burst out, “The man has died. He was an inspector at Neral station, shouldn’t you guys be preparing for a honorable cremation or something? He was one of your own, died while completing his official duties. Why are you acting as if he is some thief?”
Rana looked around uncomfortably. His voice was low and calm, but what he said made my world collapse. He said they had checked the police database, based on his badge number and there was no Rajat Dubey listed in their records. Based on the information I had provided they had even checked separately with Neral station, but there was no Rajat Dubey. They even checked his belongings and there was nothing in it to indicate that he was connected to the police force. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What was going on? Nothing made sense. I told Inspector Rana that there must have been some mistake. I had visited so many places with Rajat like Lalbaugh Ganapati, Siddhivinayak, Mahabaleshwar etc and wherever we went the police on duty had saluted him. We got special darshan at religious places. I even saw his ID card when we first met. Was that all a farce? Or is this some cruel joke?
Inspector Rana was old enough to be my elder brother. There was kindness in his eyes. He genuinely felt bad for me. As I looked at him for answers, he simply shook his head. He simply asked if I had any recent photographs of Rajat. I took one out feebly from my wallet. He looked at the picture for a moment and then got up to go. “You will be discharged by today evening. Please meet me before leaving,” he said. I was in a daze. My life had suddenly turned upside down. I remembered the day when I got a request on the matrimonial site that I had registered. “Dear Madam, I don’t really know how to approach someone on matrimonial site and I apologize beforehand. I really liked your profile and am interested in talking to you. Would you be interested in talking to me?” I found the awkward message cute and decided to reply. Also it wasn’t that I was getting proposals by the dozen. After chatting for nearly 4 months we decided to meet. We met at a coffee shop. I was stunned by his graciousness and enamored by the way he expressed his love. He had a boyish face and didn’t look a guy nearing 40. He listened, and believed in small gestures to express love. Nothing fancy and out of the world, but things that make your heart flip. He would remember your favorite song and request it to be played at the coffee shop, get you cards with beautiful messages. In the world of internet and whatsapp, he still believed in cards and handwritten notes. I fell head over heels in love with him. I never suspected that he wasn’t what he said he was. Why would I? He even showed me his ID card the first time we met, saying that it is important that I be assured of his identify and nature of his work.
My head was still spinning when the nurse told me that I could be discharged. I picked up my belongings and went to the police station. A part of me still believed that all this was a big mistake and everything would be cleared in a moment. Inspector Ismail had a grim look on his face. He asked me to sit down and gave me a glass of water. He suddenly asked “Had Rajat ever asked money from you?” I started to answer in negative, when I suddenly remembered, “He did ask me once for Rs.5,00,000 as he planning to buy a home for our future. But I didn’t have that kind of cash. We decided to save and then look for houses 6 months later. That is the reason we even pushed our wedding date.” His next question was even more confusing “How many people are there in your family and where do you work?” “I live alone. I don’t have much of a family. Father was bedridden for nearly 10 years. I started working early in life to support our family of three. My salary went into medical expenses and running the home. After father died, mother too died within 2 months. I was feeling lonely and though it was late I thought of registering myself at a matrimonial site and see if I can find love.” As I was answering I suddenly started getting a bad feeling about it all. Inspector Ismail consoled me and said, “You should be grateful as you were saved from a big fraud. Rajat Dubey was a conman and nothing else. He had good acting skills and well forged documents because of which the havaldars and police assumed him to be one of their own and you saw the special treatment. He has no family and hence we could find only your number on the cell phone he had on himself. It was his scheme to befriend woman on matrimonial sites, pretend to fall in love with them and then ask them for money on some pretext or the other. Once he got the money he would vanish into thin air. As I circulated his photo all over the state we have found atleast 3 such cases registered against him. He was coming to the city to book a house under special scheme available for police forces. I am sure his plan was to show you the house and then cancel the booking without informing you but keep asking you for money and then vanish.”
My heart ached. It felt as if someone was raining blows on my heart and I couldn’t breathe. I never had very high ambitions. All I wanted was a little love and support in the form of a companion, a husband with whom I would find my happily ever after. Inspector Ismail said I was lucky that I escaped, what he didn’t know was that day I lost something far more precious than money, I lost hope, I lost trust and I lost Love.