“No! This.. this can’t be! Please say the truth! ”, I shiver in fear as I hear the news.
“Sorry to say.. But that’s the truth..”
Tears flow down my eyes, uncontrolled.
I try to shout out my pain but the lump formed in my throat doesn’t allow me to do so.
My Mom tried her level best to control me and my raging emotions.
She hugged me tight and slowly caressed my scar-ridden face and made me feel better.
But unfortunately, that couldn’t change the grim reality that we were forced to deal with.
I fall down on my knees and place my right arm on the hospital floor,looking at my mutilated left arm. It hurt.
“Even I don’t want to live anymore!
How can I live my life without him..?”,I break down again.
“Beta please control yourself..please”, my Mom wailed as she tried bringing me up.
“There’s no point in living..I want to meet him Maa..I just want to die..I just just..want to..”.
I look ahead near the front door.
I could see him!
But I didn’t understand why he was a fairer version of himself.
He smiled and indicated to be strong and get up with his hands.
“Come here! Here ! Help me!”,I yell again.
“What happened beta? There’s no one there! ”
“No Mom! Just see near the door! See there.. ”,I tried pointing towards the direction of the door with my mutilated left hand, but failed.
“There’s no one there! ”, Mom repeated her earlier dialogue much to my dismay.
But this time she was correct.
“Where did he go now! ”,I cry again.
My Mom continued consoling me.
Slowly,the white hospital tiles start blurring out.
2 YEARS AGO:
“At last! This too is done with!”
I felt relieved as the six month long training session at TCS Bangalore came to an end.
Six months since I met my family and friends in Mumbai!
Even I couldn’t believe myself that I sustained myself so long.
That very day itself I boarded my train back to Mumbai.I couldn’t wait to meet my family and my best friends for life – Abhishek and Aditya.
I met these two idiots when I joined engineering at PIIT Panvel. Since then we have never looked back. Our friendship grew stronger which each passing day. We were inseparable.
Currently, Abhishek- the university topper is well placed at L&T at Airoli and Aditya..well,he’s in the Mumbai Ranji Cricket team!
But,how luck played with Aditya was quite unfair.
In second year,he joined the PIIT cricket team as a wicketkeeper. Third year-he got selected as the team captain due to his match winning knocks and eventually, he led the team to its first ever league victory. At last,he had carved his own name,in his field of interest.
But destiny had some different plans for him. The day the placement drive was conducted, he got a call from the Mumbai Ranji team for the role of wicketkeeper.
He was in a dilemma. His family urged him to chose the placement over cricket. His mind too said the same. But his heart was somewhere else. And as expected,he chose to follow his heart and passion and opted for cricket. But that opened the doors for new problems in his life.
By opting for cricket over engineering,he let his family down. His father had painstakingly earned money by doing odd jobs here and there for his education and now he realised it was no use. His relatives kind of disowned him. This stressed him out and that resulted in his going out of form. He struggled to get double digit scores and goofed up many dismissal chances behind the stumps.
Soon,he was dropped from the team.
He rented a home at Thane and chose to be alone, away from the prying eyes of his family,who now even scorned at his shadow.
He practiced hard and somehow managed to get back in to the team-albeit as a substitute wicketkeeper. He was just given the job of warming the benches and carrying drinks.
Eventually,stress got the better of him and he resorted to drinking and drugs. We persuaded him to go to a de-addiction center,and he went too. But I’m sure,he would have stopped going the day we went back to our busy lives.
I just hoped that he’s alive now. There had been no conversation with him since the past 4 months. He threw away his phone after his break up with his girlfriend with whom he was in a serious relationship since 6 years. He was ‘destroyed’.
The train reached Mumbai one hour late. No surprises as such. Even though it was 2019,the Indian Railways still doesn’t give a damn about punctuality.
My parents were glad at my arrival. The next day,I decided to give Abhi and Adi a small surprise by meeting them.
Abhi first,I decided.
By 6pm,I reached near the gate of his office. I knew that he leaves around this time. As soon as he came out,I called him on his number.
“Hey bro…what’s up? How’s you? All fine? ”
“My training will end this week. Yours is done na? When are you coming here? ”
“Look behind Abhishek ’10 pointer’ Pandey! ”
As he looked back to spot me,the look on his face was worth to be photographed and framed.
Without saying another word,we hugged each other.
“When did you reach here?”
“..and I notice that #srj is still not over his habit of giving surprises huh!”,he playfully punched on my arm.
“Acchi aadatein choddni nahi chaahiye.. ”
“Bhai! Maaf kar de! Please don’t open your Bollywood dictionary now!”,he joined his hands and mocked me.
“What next? Does Adi know you’re here? ”
“No..how will he?”
“Let’s meet him tomorrow morning.I can join you too since it’s Sunday.”
The next morning:
After constantly knocking for about five minutes, he opened the door,rubbing his eyes.”
“Kaun hai be itni subah?” (Who’s this so early!? ”
“It’s 10 am you idiot! ”
“Huh!? You here? How? ”
“Don’t pinch yourself to test if its real or a dream. ”,I say as I went ahead and hugged him.
“So happy to see both my besties together after such a long time!
What are you waiting for? Come inside!”
His room was in a pitiable condition. Clothes lay on the floor here and there, some sports equipments lay on his bed,few old pirated CD’s thrown away,some neatly stacked bottles of Old Monk and Kingfisher. I spotted an old framed photo of we three on one of the walls.
After talking for about an hour regarding our lives, our busy schedules, the way ahead, I kept forward my plan.
“Abhi’s training ends this Thursday. Let’s meet over a movie the next day. What say?”
“Which movie?”,Aditya enquired as a matter of fact.
“Don 3!”,I squeal in excitement.
“Man! You still his fan? Seriously? You gonna shell out 500 bucks to see that 60 year old man fight 100 villains at the same time? ”,Abhishek waved his hand in disbelief.
“He’s 54 mind you!”,I retort.
“Whatever! Done! We know there’s no point arguing over your idol who woos ladies just by spreading open his arms! You are still so adamant ha! Over these years you’ve hardly changed Sooraj.”,Abhishek pointed out.
“Whatever! So Friday! December 27th.7pm. PVR Mulund. Don 3!”,I declared as if I had won a war.
“PVR Mulund? Nah! Their service is so poor! Big Cinemas at Bhandup is better!”,Adi suggested.
“No. PVR Mulund it is!”
“But I have experience dude! The last time I went there with my teammates, we had to look out for those rats below the seats!”
“No arguments Aditya Shetty. You’re bound to come with us! ”
“You’ll never improve!”,he stormed out of his room in disgust.
“He gets hyper very easily. Never mind.”,Abhi said.
We never even imagined in our dreams that the coming Friday, our lives will take a huge turn.
A turn towards tragedy.