Mumbai Coffee Morning
Hema looked round the front room of her Mumbai home, smiling to herself as she looked at the low table laid out with sweets and coffee cups. As one of the lead wives in the area, she had organised the coffee morning to give those she considered her friends a chance to meet and discuss the burning issues of the day in their local community.
Her dark hair was swept back and held in a bun at the base of her neck, while she wore a red short sleeved top, with a patterned tunic over it. The sleeves were brown with red spots, while the front and back reversed the colours, the garment wrapped as if it was a saree over her upper body. Red pantaloons and gold sandals completed her outfit, while a silver and opal necklace hung round her neck.
“The first quest should be here soon,” she said quietly as she made her way into the kitchen, stopping to pour fresh hot water into her tea pot and start the coffee machine.
She didn’t hear the door to the kitchen from outside open and close, or the soft footsteps from behind her, until a rough and calloused hand was clamped over her mouth and an arm wrapped round her waist.
“Whtssgnnnnn,” she mumbled as she struggled, and then saw a young man walk past her and into the main body of the house.
“Not a word lady,” the man holding her whispered into her ear, as the second young man came back.
“Looks like she’s got guests coming – what do you want to do?”
“Not a problem – we’re just going to be here a little longer than we planned. You,” the first man whispered into Hema’s ear, “are going to do exactly what we tell you to do, or else...”
The man in front of her took a switchblade out of his pocket and waved it in front of the older women, Hema’s eyes widening as she nodded and said “lddwhtffrussee.”
“Good – here’s what’s going to happen...”
“Looks like I may be the first to arrive,” Vani said as she walked up the path to Hema’s front door. The twenty two year old was wearing a pink saree with a gold and brocade edging wrapped around her body, a matching cap sleeved crop top over her chest, and a large gold necklace at her throat, as well as bangles and rings. Her long dark hair fell down her back, as she rang the door bell and waited.
“Hema,” she said as the older woman opened the door, and she smiled, “thank you for inviting me this morning.”
“Thank you for coming, please, enter,” Hema said as she opened the door, waiting for the younger woman to come in before he closed it and said “I am so, so sorry.”
“Sorry for what?”
“All right, lady,” one of the two men said as they both appeared from the doorway, one pointing a knife at her, “not a word. Come in here.”
“Oh my goodness – you’re been robbed?”
“I am afraid so,” Hema said as they walked in, and the second man pulled Vani’s arms behind her back, crossing them before he started to use rough brown rope to secure them together, the cords biting into her flesh as it was wrapped tightly around and between her arms.
“That hurts,” she said as Hema looked on, the man then taking a longer length of rope to bind her arms to her sides, stretching her saree over her chest as it was forced into her body above and below. “Who are they?”
“I do not know, they would not say,” Hema whispered as Vani was forced to sit on one side of a wooden two seater couch, watching as they tied her ankles together, and then her legs together above her knees, further trapping her garment in place.
As she wriggled round, she was horrified to see the first man take a long length of white cloth from a bag, and tie a knot in the middle before he walked towards her, the cloth taut in both hands as he said “open your mouth...”
“Hmgdddtsrlll,” Vani mumbled as the cloth was pulled between her lips, the knot sitting on her tongue as it was wrapped round her head and tied tightly in place, just as the front doorbell rang again.
“Answer it and bring her in here,” the man said to Hema, who simply nodded as she walked to the front door. She opened it to a tall woman in her early thirties, wearing a long sleeved tunic made from grey cloth with a brown pattern printed on it, fawn coloured leggings and sandals with a three inch heel. A brown dupatta with the same pattern as the tunic printed on it in grey hung loosely over her chest and down her back.
“Lali,” Hema said as she held the door open, “please come in.”
“Thank you – did I see Vani heading this way a short while ago?”
“You did indeed – she’s in the front room.”
Hema closed the door as Lali walked in, and she heard her say “What the hmgdddwhstsggnnnn...”
As she came back in, she saw one of the men sitting astride Lali as she lay on the floor, holding her arms in a box as the second man sued cords to bind her elbows to her wrists. He then turned round and crossed Lali’s ankles, Vani crying out into her stuffed mouth as she watched her friend have her ankles secured tightly together, and then her legs below her knees, before her ankles were pulled back and tied to her forearms, the other man taking her dupatta and using it bond her upper arms tightly to her sides.
“Please,” Hema said with a tear forming in her eye, “do not hurt my friends anymore...”
“Quiet lady,” the man said as he stood up, watching as his partner pushed a rolled up cloth into Lali’s mouth and used a length of cord tied around her head to hold it in place.
“WHhhruuu,” she said as she looked at Hema, and then at the two men, trying to kick her ankles free.
“Sorry to disturb your coffee morning ladies,” the first man said again as he looked round, “but have some business to conduct here, and we need to keep you all out of the way. How many more?”
“Tttttt two more,” Hema stuttered as she looked at her friends.
“Right – just as we said, not a word...”
Janki stepped out of the taxi and paid the driver, replacing her white saree over her left shoulder as she walked up to the front door. The silk had a crest and a pattern of red dots on it, the right sleeve of her blue top the only other thing that was visible as she stopped and knocked with the ornamental brass hanging.
“Hello Hema,” she said as the door opened and she came in, “I hope I’m not too...”
“Hands behind your back lady,” the man in front of her said as he held a knife in front of her, the dark haired woman nodding as she moved her arms behind her, and felt someone else remove her handbag, before the rough fibres of the rope were pulled tightly into her skin.
“Where is Hema,” she said as she felt her wrists been bound together.
“Not your concern,” the man said as she watched the brown rope been passed around her, pulling her arms into her sides as it was wrapped above and below her chest. As it was tied off, she was pushed into the front room, Lali and Vani shaking their heads as they looked at her with red eyes.
“Sit down,” she was ordered as she sat in the same seat as Vani, watching as her ankles and legs were secured with more brown rope. “Where is Hema,” she asked again.
“None of your business,” the first man said as he pulled a red cloth into her mouth, wrapping it twice round her head before securing the ends together, the band forcing her lips apart as it sat in her mouth.
“Thttkhrpstrs,” Vani said as she indicated the door, “fwwmmsngg.”
Lali nodded as they heard the door again, and the two men stepped out. When they came back, they had with them a woman, with lighter skin and long black hair, wearing a short sleeved brown tunic, olive green pants and blue sandals. A pale brown dupatta hung over her neck.
“Oh my god,” she whispered as she saw the other three women, and then felt her own wrists been bound.
In the bedroom, Hema was crying as she heard Priya, the last of her guests, asking what was happening. She was lying face down on her bed, a blue cloth tied between her lips and forcing them apart as it slowly soaked up the saliva in her mouth.
Her arms were spread above her head and secured to the top of the bed with rope, while her ankles were lashed together and then secured to the foot of the bed. The contents of the furniture in her room were scattered around the floor, as were the empty jewellery boxes they had found when they searched the room.
She felt humiliated, drained, upset at what had had happened, but relieved nothing worse had happened, as she wondered what was happening downstairs.
Priya screamed into her dupatta as it sat between her lips, wrapped three time round her head as she felt her jewellery been removed from her body. She was sitting against the wall, her arms pulled into her sides by the rope above and below her chest, her legs secured at the ankles and knees, her hands behind her back. She watched the two men as they walked round the room, checking the other three captives, before they threw her gems into a bag and walked out, the four women looking at each other.
Lali was crying, the dark stain between her teeth as she wriggled on the floor, while Vani and Janki twisted round, too scared to move.
“Gsttssptmmtthn,” Priya said as she started to twist her ankles, uncrossing them and then pushing herself up the wall, until she was in an upright position. As she looked at them, she started to jump towards the open door, stopping to catch herself and stop herself falling before she went through the doorway, and towards the kitchen, the knife block the focus of her attention...