The entire court was on its feet, as was the judge, who asked everyone to keep calm. He asked Raima if she was all right. Raima apologised for losing control and said that she was now ready to continue.
Gaitonde stood up and thanked Raima for her testimony. “Over to you,” he added, looking at Joothmalani.
The defence lawyer walked towards the witness box where Raima stood, looking him straight in the eye.
Joothmalani had not seen such confidence in anyone he had questioned in court before. He proceeded with caution.
“This is an emotional story you have conveniently made up,” he charged.
“There are times when the truth seems like a story. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is the truth,” she replied.
“Why should the court believe you?”
“I speak the truth; it’s up to you to believe me or not.”
“Did you blackmail Rathin Nandi?”
“I only warned him not to ill-treat my aunt, who is his wife.”
“Answer to the point; yes, or no!”
A murmur ran though the courtroom. Joothmalani had his tail up.
“Now that you admit to blackmail, tell us how you seduced him and got into bed with him.”
“Objection, my lord,” charged Gaitonde.
Raima continued. “I will answer that. Are you saying that I seduced a worm for his money? Please do your homework before speaking in court.”
The courtroom burst into laughter and the judge had to bang his gavel for order.
“Miss Raima Sengupta, please stick to the point,” he said.
Raima nodded and continued. “I did not seduce him for his money because he didn’t have any. All the money he spent was mine and he had the power of attorney.”
“Please substantiate,” said Joothmalani.
“The bank account of my father’s estate reveals that Rathin Nandi withdrew most of the funds before I became the primary holder on attaining maturity. Today, my income is many times in excess of his income. Why would I seduce a penniless drunkard and whoremonger?”
This courtroom was abuzz with murmur.
Changing tack, Joothmalani posed the next question. “That doesn’t take away from the fact that you blackmailed my client. The blackmail explains why you did not tell your aunt Anuradha Nandi about her husband raping you.”
“I used this opportunity only to make him mend his ways with my aunt and to never abuse me physically again. Also, to ensure that my money would only be given to my aunt.”
“What you say sounds like a fairy tale. The court needs evidence.”
“I had the same hold over Rathin Nandi as Monica Lewinsky did over Bill Clinton. Just as her dress was stained with his semen, so was mine. The dress was safely preserved with Ashish, the boy next door, who, as my uncle knows, is the son of reputed criminal lawyer Suresh Kulkarni, and a law student himself. My uncle was completely shaken up by my possession of evidence and came under my control; he became an obedient husband and uncle. My purpose was served.”
“Where is the stained dress?”
“That was sixteen years ago. Ashish Kulkarni and I burnt it later.”
“Did you have sex with Ashish?”
Gaitonde shot up immediately. “Objection, my lord!”
“Sustained!” the judge replied.
Joothmalani continued. “I must compliment you on your story-telling. But it has no bearing in a court of law.” Turning to the judge, he said, “Tomorrow we will have my last witness Mrs Anuradha Nandi give her testimony.”
Joothmalani and Rathin Nandi were confident that Anuradha would dare not testify against her husband.
The media buzzed with the proceedings of the case. With reporters thronging the courtroom, the public got a blow-by-blow account of the happenings in the courtroom. Raima would be accosted by the media every time she stepped out of court. It would take much effort on Khush’s part to ease her out of the crowd and get her into the car.
Harry informed Gaitonde and Raima that the latter’s aunt and paternal grandfather Ravindra Sengupta were staying at his flat. Raima was apprehensive about her grandfather. He had always been more trusting of his son-in-law Rathin Nandi than of his own son and Raima’s father. But with Harry on her side, she felt reassured.
What happened next took Raima by complete surprise. Her grandfather came rushing to hug her, adding that he had completely misjudged her. He had distanced himself from his son Subroto after the latter had married Raima’s mother – an Assamese and from a different caste – against his wishes. Now that he had heard Raima’s version of events, he wanted to make amends. Alas! His son and daughter-in-law were no more. But he considered it a blessing that their only child, his beloved Raima was reunited with him.’
Harry remembered Subroto who, though his employee, had been like a son to him. Subroto had always been concerned about his younger sister Anuradha, he recalled.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?” demanded Raima.
“For the very same reason you did not tell you aunt about your uncle. He would have been behind bars for life, had Anuradha mentioned it to me. I regret not being in touch with her after your father’s funeral,” clarified Harry.
All fingers now pointed to Anuradha. Why had she tolerated her husband? Why had she not assumed the power of attorney for the assets bequeathed to Raima?
Anuradha’s face fell and grandpa spoke up. “Rathin Nandi was in possession of letters her boyfriend had written to her, revealing an affair between them. She was worried about my reaction, had I been told about it. It’s all my fault.”
“The bloody blackmailer,” Raima exclaimed in anger.
The next day in the court was quite an anti-climax. Anuradha Nandi’s testimony sealed the judgement in Raima’s favour. Realising that it was a losing battle, Joothmalani wound up his questioning quickly. Rathin Nandi was pronounced guilty of all the charges and given a life sentence. The crowd and the media went wild with joy. It was a shot in the arm for the MeToo movement.
To be continued…