Mumbai : The first time Nisha Samson came face to face with her stalker was when he handed her a rose in her office, with the words, “I really like you, Nisha.” Nisha, a former managing editor at Spenta Multimedia who currently works with the online portal of the Times of India, has had her life turned upside-down and her peace shattered over the past few months by the stalker, Pune resident Prashant Masrani, 37, who sent her thousands of messages on Facebook, travelled from Pune to her office in Mumbai several times, and refused to quit even when he was arrested and let out on bail.
Thought their families have since spoken and Prashant hasn’t tried to contact Nisha since March 28, her fears are yet to subside. “I am always looking over my shoulder. What if he comes back with a vengeance? I tried so hard to get him booked for stalking, a non-bailable offence, but the cops talked me out of it. Now I always try to get back home on time, in spite of late working hours.” The police have charged Prashant with outraging the modesty of a woman and criminal intimidation, both bailable offences.
How it began
Nisha told MM, “One afternoon in December 2012 the receptionist called, informing me that I had a visitor. Being a media professional I thought it was probably a PR agent or an event organiser. But when I went out I found it wasn’t anyone I knew. Extending his hand with a rose, he confessed his love for me. And replying to the invisible question mark on my face, he said, ‘I had sent you a Facebook message informing you about my trip from home (Pune), only to meet you’. Maintaining my composure, I asked him to leave. I brushed off the idea of even taking alook at my Facebook inbox.”
Unbeknownst to Nisha, events that led to this strange meeting had kicked off a year ago, when she had commented on a common friend’s Facebook status. Prashant instantly ‘liked’ her picture and subscribed to her profile, which gave him access to some of her status updates and photographs. He wrote to her regularly – often up to twice a day. His messages, which began as comments on her writing and wishing her a good day, quickly became confessions of his ‘love’ for her. However, since he wasn’t on Nisha’s friends list, all his messages would go to her ‘other messages’ folder, which she never accessed. Nisha, therefore, had no idea that the man who had given her the rose had been stalking and messaging her online for months.
Then in January, Prashant landed up at Nisha’s office for a second time and she quickly realised the gravity of the situation. “He was right there, waiting again, but the guards didn’t let him in. It was only then that I took the time to read everything he had sent,” she said. “I was in absolute shock. He had sent me literally thousands of messages. It took me two days just to read all of them.” According to one of his letters to Nisha, Prashant had worked as a tech writer till 2000, after which he joined his family business. “He kept telling me, ‘I am not a stalker and I am waiting for you to realise that and one day come to me’.”
By the middle of January, Prashant’s visits to Nisha’s office had become more frequent. Each time, he would inform her before he made the trip from Pune to Mumbai “just for her”. “We had two exists to the office then. So while he waited for me at the front gate, I would sneak out through the back,” she said. Valentine’s Day, however, remains etched in Nisha’s memory. She said, “He claimed to have bought me a gift but was very upset when he couldn’t get through to me. He waited outside my office for the entire day, and turned up again three days later, on the 17th.” On that day Maneck Davar, Nisha’s boss and owner of Spenta Multimedia, took matters into his own hands and warned Prashant to back off.
Blocked on Facebook by now, he began spamming Nisha’s Gmail inbox. On the insistence of her boss, Nisha then decided to approach the police. “I met a senior inspector, who asked me to file a complaint at N M Joshi Marg police station. The stalker would always let me know when he was about to come, so on February 26 a plainclothes constable was stationed outside my office and he caught the stalker as soon as he arrived.” “This was followed by a round of questioning and recoding of statements, after which his mother got him out on bail. My life was a mess, but the worst was yet to come. I would know that only later.”
During his interrogation, Prashant told the police that the two of them were madly in love. Nisha said, “The cops were really helpful but they kept saying, ‘Madam kya kare, sirf pyaar mein hai woh, kuch kiya toh nahin na?’ My head was throbbing. I wanted to scream, ‘He is messing with my head!’ He didn’t look madly in love to me, he scared me.” After Prashant was let out on bail, it took him just four days to get back to his old ways. He sent Nisha emails confessing his love and complimenting her on her looks. Then on March 14, he wrote to say he would visit on the 28th.
“I think he knew that this time there was no way back, because he sent me a mail saying ‘Let me live a little till the 28th’. The cops would be waiting for him this time as well,” Nisha said. “I told the police just one thing: ‘I don’t want to see his face again’.”
That night Prashant’s father phoned Nisha’s home to get them to to drop the charges. “When my mother answered the phone, the first thing he asked he was, ‘What is going on between these two?’ Shocked at his audacity, my mother gave it to him left, right and centre,” Nisha said. Prashant, who remains on out bail, hasn’t tried to contact Nisha since that night. But her nightmare is far from over. “We all wait for things to happen. No one is interested in preventing something from happening. Stalking is mental harassment and should be unacceptable,” she said.