THE LUCKY TICKET | CH:01

DELHI

26-12-2015
10:32 am

The loud cacophony of the honking vehicles irritated her. She was already late to work and a traffic jam was the last thing she wanted at this time.

Above that, the two co-passengers in the share rickshaw in which she was currently stuck in, were staring right through her, unapologetically.
One was a guy in his teens and the other seemed like a local goon. She wasn’t comfortable with all the unwanted attention she was currently getting.

“Calm down Jazz..just a bad start to the day…you can handle this!”,she reminded herself.

That’s when a little girl came and asked her for alms. Her wet eyes demanded some respite. But she was out of any luck.

Jazz refused and looked away as usual. She felt bad for the little girl,but couldn’t do anything.

“Fate”,she thought to herself.

That word reminded her about her life till now.
How she and her friends had so much fun during college days,how she managed to clear her exams somehow, how her life has been easy till date,devoid of much struggles.

Except this job.

She didn’t want to put much pressure on her parents. Her Dad worked at a local bank and is nearing retirement. Her Mom conducts regular tuitions. But she didn’t want to spend her life till her marriage doing nothing. She wanted to be self dependent, although for a small period of time. The job at this call center assured her of that wish, although that meant living away from her family.

“Had I studied a bit seriously, I would have landed at a way better job.”, she reminds herself everyday, only to cringe at the very thought.

Meanwhile, the traffic was still moving at snail’s pace which irked her even more. To distract herself,she opened her Instagram account and uploaded a selfie which she had clicked half an hour ago. The very reason she is late now.

The moment she uploaded her picture, she received a notification-
which she knew was bound to come.

“rahul.sharma7 liked your photo.”

That brought a wide smile on her face. But then she realised that she was missing him badly. The engagement ring on her finger made her miss him even more.

Rahul is a smart guy who works at Delhi for a top software firm. She got to know Rahul through their common friend Ashika at a party exactly a year ago. And slowly, things fell in place and finally,she told her parents about him. They were more than happy for her since Rahul seemed the perfect guy any girl can get. (His MBA tag too helped him very much.)

Soon both the families met and a month ago they got engaged happily. But Rahul is currently at Mumbai for some project that his team has undertaken and will return only after a few weeks. That made her feel lonely. She didn’t have much friends now. Her neighbour and colleague Swati was the only friend she made here.

Swati was beautiful and style conscious as Jasleen herself. They shared common interests (main being they loved Brad Pitt more than anyone else) and that made their bonding process easy.
Both these glam divas made everyone’s heads turn wherever they went. Also, they had been in more than 10 relationships till date. And as expected, none of them lasted more than a month. But then Jazz found Rahul and since then things went fine for her. Even Swati ditched her drunkard ex Karan for a more settled and smart Manav and they have been going steady since 2 months now. So all in all, their love lives weren’t in turmoil.

She smiled to herself at such thoughts. But then the traffic and her job made her sulk again.

Even Swati has taken a holiday today to attend her cousin’s wedding. That made her feel even more bitter.

“Hell! I just want to go home and sleep!”,her mind kept on repeating, in vain.

As more such depressing and helpless thoughts entered her mind,she reached her office.

The two people inside the auto were still in awe of her. She forced herself not to look at their direction,
paid the auto driver,and marched towards the gate of her workplace.

•1:30 PM

Jazz managed to drag herself to the office canteen at the ground floor. The day had been extremely boring for her. The dumb questions that she has to answer over phone made her life even worse. But slowly, she was getting the hang of it. The main reason she was feeling low was Swati’s absence. She would have distracted her with her gossiping skills and dumb jokes. But not today.

She was in no mood for lunch and tried distracting herself with her smartphone. The selfie which she had uploaded this morning had already garnered 1457 likes on Instagram. That stat managed to bring back some of her lost smile.

Soon, her hunger won over her smartphone and finally she gave in to her stomach’s pleas and
ordered some piping hot paranthas, promising herself that she’ll hit the gym tomorrow and burn these calories.

Post lunch, she noticed that she still had 10 minutes to go as usual. During this time, she and Swati used to go round the huge office campus. But today, she was alone. So, she decided against it. But there was nothing much interesting to do either. She was staring at her watch which still showed her the same time as before.

To kill some time, she decided to observe people, a thing she does when she has nothing else to do.
Even that bored her too soon and she was now fiddling with her phone.

She was so lost in some random thought that she lost control over the phone and the rest was taken care by gravity. The phone fell flat on the ground.

“Dammit!”

She bent over and checked her phone, which now lay on the floor, as if it’s dead.
She was relieved that her screen had survived the fall. That’s when she spotted a small crumpled piece of cardboard lying below the table.

That caught her eye. The entire company campus was known for its cleanliness and this was highly unusual.

She took the piece of cardboard and unfolded it back to it’s original shape.

“THE LUCKY TICKET” said the bold centered title.

“Get a chance to fly to New York!” said the subtitle.

“What’s this now?”,she mumbled to herself,as her eyes widened in surprise on seeing the word ‘New York’.

She flipped the ticket and saw some instructions written in those typical small font size in which companies write their terms and conditions.

1) Each Lucky Ticket has a unique 6 digit code on the upper right hand side  called the ‘ticket code’. Scratch the silver area to reveal the code. If all the six digits are the same, you win a free trip to New York.

She flipped the ticket again and scratched the silver area carefully with a coin. The number was 333333!

She almost screamed out in joy and had to stop herself from doing so.
Her hands started shaking in excitement.

“What if it is all a prank?”,her mind warned her.

She flipped back and skimmed through the other conditions and at the end was the contact number of a travel company who called themselves as “Wanderlust Tours and Travels.”.

She carefully dialled the number and the next few seconds, she waited for her call to get connected.

“Hello,Wanderlust tours and travels here..how can I help you?”,a female voice with a heavy fake American accent took her call.

“Actually I wanted to ask about this scheme of yours.. something called ‘The lucky ticket’… is this offer still valid? Can I redeem it?”

“No ma’am. We never made such offers which you are claiming.”,the female voice answered her query promptly.

“But then.. why does it have your company name and contact details?”,
a confused Jazz shooted out another question.

“Well,it might be a fake one then. Have a nice day ma’am.”

“But….”

The next second she realised that the call has been disconnected.

“This is so weird.. Something’s wrong..”,her mind warned her.

“There’s always an angel called Google to help you whenever you are stuck!”,she came up with a solution to look into this matter.

But that’s when she noticed the time on her phone’s lock-screen.

“Dammit..I’m 5 minutes late already..will check this stuff later! ”,she picked herself up, paid the canteen bill and left towards her cubicle in a rush.

She kept the piece of cardboard with herself so that she can show Swati what she got her hands on.

6:30 PM:

Jazz was fully tired. Her head ached and she badly wanted some sleep.

This was her toughest day till date at this place.

No Swati.
No gossips.
No stupid jokes.

Death would’ve been better.

At one point,she was so bored that she almost slumped down after answering a call.

The fact that she would now how have to brave the peak hour traffic made her feel pity for herself.

“No share rickshaw this time!”,she made up her mind.

So,she ordered a cab via an app on her phone.

7 minutes later,the cab arrived.

25 minutes later,she reached her home.

She was so tired that the first thing she did was put her handbag aside and surrendered herself to her bed.
Her favourite place. She didn’t care whether she was still wearing her formal attire and heels. All she wanted was some sleep. Nothing else.

08:30 PM

Her head still hurt but she felt better than before. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock that Rahul had gifted her on her previous birthday. It had all those cute photos of them collaged together.

She made herself a cup of coffee as she checked her phone for any missed calls from Rahul or Swati.

But the phone screen didn’t light up.

“Always dead at the wrong time! I was about to check about that weird ticket too. Useless gadget!”, she grumbled to herself.

“You know what Jazz? You look too cute when angry..”

“No. Don’t try your cliché dialogues on me Rahul. I won’t fall for them! ”

She still remembers the small minute things that Rahul said to her.

Sipping her coffee, she started the elusive search for her charger, but in vain.

She searched almost every nook and corner,still she didn’t get it.

That’s when it struck like a bolt of lightning to her. Swati had borrowed her charger the day before and she didn’t return it. Meanwhile, she still hadn’t returned from the marriage function.

“Anyways..I have the spare keys to her room.. Now where is that!”

After trying some random drawers,she finally found the key.

“Here it is!”

Playing with the keys,she closed her door and went to Swati’s room which was located a few seconds away from hers.

She was about to insert the key in the keyhole when she noticed that the room was already open.

“Swati is back? So soon?”

She opened the door and stepped inside, only to find herself engulfed by darkness.

“Hey..Swati..are..you..”

Suddenly she felt someone groping her around her abdomen.

“What the fuck! Who are you? Leave me!”,she was startled at this sudden intrusion.

The next moment someone closed the door,making it clear that there is no escape.

She started kicking and tried all sort of methods to free herself, but she just couldn’t.

“HELPPP! SOMEONE PLEASE..”,she started to scream.

But the next moment, her screams were converted to silent sobs. Her hands were tied violently by a rope and her mouth was stuffed with a piece of cloth.

The lights were turned on.

4 strong burly goons stood in front of her.

The person who held her dropped her down.

She looked back at the guy and she was dumbstruck.

“Karan..you?..but..why?”,she spat out the clothing which restrained her from yelling.

“See..you weren’t my target at all Jazz. But you know for whom this trap was set.. Don’t you? ”,he flashed his evil smile.

“I gave her everything Jazz. I loved Swati more than anyone else. I fulfilled each and every wish of hers. And what did I get in return?
Nothing! She just went away with another guy! Great!”,he was visibly drunk, clapping and laughing at his own statement.

Breakups hurt people. This was one adverse example of that case.

“So..tonight..me and my chaps had planned to give her a big surprise. But alas! She couldn’t make it at the correct time. But you did! Haha! So lucky!”, his evil grin made Jazz shake in fear.

“Even you…yes you Jazz..had a hand in her taking that stupid decision. You influenced her bitch! And now,you gonna pay for that!”,he guffawed.

Jazz tried everything in the book to get out of the situation.
But she couldn’t do anything. She was tied. She was helpless.

She was about to scream once again when Karan kneeled down and gifted her a tight slap. That numbed her.

“Even Rahul will be happy knowing this. Won’t he?”,he came close to her face and roared, badly imitating those yester year Bollywood baddies.

One of the four baddies took out a handkerchief and forced her to inhale the chloroform present on it.

She struggled her way, kicking legs,shaking her head, but to no avail. She was bound to suffer. Perhaps, this was in her ‘fate’.

Soon,her head felt heavy. The chemical had started it’s effect. Everything slowly started blurring out. She saw the five men hovering around her like vultures, ready to pounce, through her tear filled eyes. She knew what’s in store for her.

Deep inside, she wished never to wake up again.

And this time, the Almighty did hear her plea.

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