You take the morning to think over your options. After tea break, you call in Rajiv and Isha and show them both the letter. After they read it, Isha with wide eyes, Rajiv with skepticism, you say firmly, “I’m sorry, but this story isn’t worth your lives.”
“You can’t be serious,” Rajiv says incredulously. “It’s just words. They’re just trying to scare you.”
“It worked,” Isha says. Rajiv frowns at her, and you think, startled, that this soft-eyed young man is willing to doubt gender violence if it means protecting his career.
“It did work,” you say. “But it’s too important a story, and you’ve done such important work on it, for me to can it now.”
Rajiv smiles. Isha looks alarmed. You hold up a hand before either starts speaking and continue, “So I’m taking precautions and firing you both.”
Isha gasps. Rajiv, angry for the first time you’ve ever seen, snaps, “You can’t do that!”
“I can and I am. Go home. I’ll write you both recommendations to The Times of India. They’ll want you when they hear what fearless work you did on this piece.”
That silences him. Isha looks on the verge of tears. He thanks you formally with a handshake for taking him under your wing. She hugs you and whispers, “Be safe, Radhika.”
“Of course,” you say, though you have your doubts.
At home, your mother scoffs when you say you have your integrity; she says, “You say that, but wouldn’t you rather have your life?”
You notice you are followed by strange men before and after work. Subramanyam starts taking you to work and you feel even more imprisoned in your all-too-female body.
Three days later, you arrive at your offices to find the building on fire. Policemen and fire fighters are standing idly around. Your livelihood, your passion, burning to the ground. Subramanyam has to hold you back from running into the flames. The police tell you no one was inside, no one was hurt. His tone says, You should have been, for tarnishing those boys’ names.
Later, your mother asks, “Was it worth it?” You think no, because you lost the newspaper you loved. You think yes, because you can work elsewhere, you never compromised, no one was hurt, information stayed free. But you were lucky. You know that. No one is lucky forever.
Maybe it’s time to try your luck back in London.