“Is something wrong, Papaji?” she asked, as Mulayam Singh Yadav wiped his forehead and sat down heavily on the sofa.
“Nothing beta, don’t worry about it,” he smiled weakly at her.
She smiled back, but she knew something was wrong.
What could it be? Some local leader messing with him? A BSP leader perhaps? No, that can’t be it. Mulayam was unflappable, and as strong as a bull. No political event and no political leader could perturb him. What else could it be? Was someone hurt? Perhaps someone close to him? Even if he or she was, why was he being so secretive about it?
Her heart skipped a beat, as a terrifying thought hit her. She whipped out her mobile phone and dialled her husband’s number.
“The subscriber’s phone is currently switched off. Please try after some time,” informed a voice.
Panic gripped her. With trembling fingers, she redialled his number a few more times, but received the same automated reply everytime.
No… not that…. please, she thought desperately. She turned towards Mulayam.
“Papaji, where is…” she began, when Mulayam’s cellphone rang out loudly. Mulayam leapt up from the sofa and rushed to the adjacent study, shutting the door behind him, mumbling into the phone as he did.
Dimple crept closer to the door. Through a tiny gap between the door’s hinges, she saw him open the safe, take out several bundles of cash and throw them into a green bag.
Dimple stumbled backwards as if she’d just been hit by a truck. Her knees buckled, her trembling hands grasped the arms of a nearby chair. She sank into the chair, and stared straight ahead, eyes wide open in shock, as realization sunk in.
Akhilesh Yadav had been kidnapped.
That explained Papaji’s multiple phone conversations since morning and his demeanour after each call. The money in the green bag must be for the ransom.
The door to the study flew open, and Mulayam emerged with the green bag. His eyes met Dimple’s, and he paused. Two seconds later, he looked away and strode towards the door.
She watched him walk out of the front door, and onto the street.
Then something weird happened. Mulayam did not summon his driver and hop into a car, as she expected him to. Instead he walked right into the middle of the street, reached into his green bag and began throwing wads of cash all around him. Within seconds, pandemonium ensued, and through the melee of people jostling with each other to gather as much cash as they can, Mulayam crawled out, made his way back into the house, and without a word to his stupefied daughter-in-law, strode into his study and shut himself in.
An hour later, he emerged from his study again, harried and angry. He put his cellphone back into his pocket and took the stairs to the terrace. She followed him upstairs, unseen. When he reached the top, he unbuttoned his shirt, removed his vest and threw them aside. He climbed onto the parapet wall, stood erect and to Dimple’s utter bewilderment, beat his chest like a gorilla and screamed, “I am Mulayam, the king of Uttar Pradesh!”
Another hour later, he strode to the road outside again, this time with his mobile phone loudly playing the tune ‘O Balma… O Balma’, and to the shock and amusement of the onlookers, performed a few steps of the item girl from that song.
This happened several more times that afternoon. Mulayam would receive a phone call, within minutes of which he’d rush out of his study and do something crazy, something utterly ridiculous, after which he’d get back to his study, only for the entire charade to repeat again an hour later. At one point Mulayam visibly lost his composure with the caller. “IS THERE NO END TO YOUR GAMES, YOU SICK F**K?” he screamed into the phone, before retracting his outburst and apologizing profusely to the caller.
Dimple watched all this, frozen with shock, confusion and utter bewilderment. What kind of demands was the kidnapper making? What should she do to help her husband? What can she do?
At that point, Akhilesh Yadav walked in through the door. Dimple’s eyes widened in surprise and she uttered a cry of sheer relief. She ran towards Akhilesh and embraced him in a bear hug.
“Oh! Thank God, you are all right!” she cried.
“Huh? What happened to me?” asked Akhilesh, puzzled by the ferocity of her embrace.
“I thought you were kidnapped!” she exclaimed.
Akhilesh laughed. “Darling, I am the frigging Chief Minister of this state. I move around with Z+ level security. It’s not all that easy to kidnap me,” he said patronizingly.
“Then why the hell weren’t you picking your call?” demanded Dimple.
“Arey, I was in a meeting baba,” he said and kissed his wife’s forehead. “Chalo ab khana laga do. I’ll be back after a quick shower.”
Akhilesh flung his briefcase onto a couch and walked out of the hall. Dimple continued to stand there, wearing a puzzled expression on her countenance.
“If Akhilesh is fine, what is going on with Papaji?” she wondered to herself.
Her eyes then fell on the Mulayam’s mobile phone on the coffee table. She walked towards the table and picked it up. She pressed a button and fetched the phone’s call history. Mulayam had more than a dozen calls from the same number that day. After a second’s hesitation, she punched the digits of the number on her phone and held it to her ear.
After two rings, a voice answered on the other end.
“Central Bureau of Investigation, how can I help you?”