An excerpt from the book, Shakti by Rajorshi Chakraborti.

In the fog of those moments, my mind couldn’t see any further pain I could wreak on this after-­all incredibly brave woman by sharing the glimpse I had had of her daughter’s undoubted gift of something, which I’d been calling ‘hypnosis’ only for want of a better term.

‘There’s nothing more that happened in here, but if you come outside for a minute . . .’

Five minutes later, motivated by nothing but helpless ‘compassion’, and with tears in my own eyes that Mrs Jalan would undoubtedly have noticed, as would have many others on the pavement around us, I had walked her from the Barista entrance back towards the children’s section of Oxford Book Store, around where I would have first been stopped in my tracks.

‘There’s the air conditioner I looked up at, completely mystified by what was happening and why only to me. And the next thing I knew, I was back outside the café.’

‘What do you mean, the next thing you knew? Did you pass out or something?’

No, not at all, I clarified, and rephrased. ‘I was in fact hyper-­aware every step of the way. I was pushed back, and the whole world could see me, but no one could see anybody pushing! Yet I had to yield and keep moving: there was no resistance I could have offered.’

‘But if you were so aware, why do you keep calling it hypnosis?’ Mrs Jalan asked with no attempt to keep the irritation out of her voice. She was also using her phone to either film or photograph the footpath back in the direction of the café.

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This is slightly odd, I did think. She is being totally pragmatic and I’m the one in tears.

She is still in angry denial of course, came the columnist’s practised answer.

‘Because I mean Shivani must have hypnotised me into walking backwards and not understanding what was occurring. I don’t know how or when she managed this while we were drinking our coffees, but there’s no other explanation.’

Karishma Jalan looked pained for a moment, perhaps in memory of her daughter, but more likely, it seemed to me right then, at the thought that such a person has taken it upon herself to be a guide and an adviser to the young. Someone so dense, so obtuse. She was suddenly out of patience with me.

I remember noticing about then the white BMW parked across the street in front of Giggles, the one in which Shivani had been driven off.

Wow, daughter and mother certainly don’t suffer fools, I thought. That’s one thing Shivani got from her, no matter what else she turned away from. The only other person who made me (and the rest of her staff) routinely feel this way was my principal, Mrs Dhanuka: the very creature who had forced me thereby into my single biggest lie.

‘Ms Bhowmick—’ I was brought back into the present — ‘please go now. I have nothing more to ask you.’ I was being dismissed, while Mrs Jalan seemed to be headed for the bookstore entrance.

‘Who’s Ravi?’ I called out as an afterthought.

She acted as though she hadn’t heard me, which genuinely might have been the case, but ten minutes later, when I was stuck in traffic near the Hazra crossing, she had a message for me.

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You’re very far from being off the hook, either with me or with the police. If I find out there’s anything you’re hiding,you can see how it looks for you. My daughter committed suicide after a meeting with a fucking impostor who manipulates young minds. You think about which part of that sentence is untrue,young qualified, unscrupulous bitch!

And do you know what clueless old me thought, with patronising pity? How people will clutch at anything to avoid facing their share of the blame.

And that this was just some sub-­par parent driven crazy by regret and grief.

Image Credit: Rajorshi Chakraborti/Penguin Random House

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Excerpted with permission from Shakti by Rajorshi Chakraborti, Penguin Random House.

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