CHAPTER 13: THE TURNING POINT.

06:22 PM
VIKHROLI RAILWAY STATION

Somehow, I managed to get in to the 6:22 train to Thane. Peak hours always meant hanging on the footboards dangerously. But since I valued my life more than those idiots,I always tried my best to squeeze inside. Once inside, I tried taking out my earphones from my pocket, but in vain. The train was so crowded that I couldn’t even move my hands! Dammit!

Hence, the only mode of entertainment was to look around like a maniac. I liked observing people, but it was one of those days where I preferred some background
music in addition.

An elderly person behind me was busy chanting verses from the Hanuman Chalisa. The rich obese guy in front of me seemed to be lost in dreams,with those skull candy earphones plugged in carelessly. Two men in their formal attire stood in front of me,discussing market revenue and stuff like that which I simply didn’t comprehend.
My mind in turn went back to the pending work I still had to finish.

Everyone was busy in their own world, at ease with the monotonous life and waiting for their destination. That’s when I noticed a guy around my age looking around frivolously. He was in a state of panic as well as peace,at the same time. His deep brown eyes demanded answers and had a glint of guilt in them. His face was marred by too many cuts and marks. The red marking on his forehead meant he was a devout and believed in God.

He was busy murmuring something to himself when our eyes met.
He smiled at me and murmured something again.

“Next stop: Thane”

The typical voice from the speakers filled the compartment.

Slowly, everyone in the compartment started stacking near the door. But this guy didn’t move.
The man standing next to him politely asked him to move ahead,but he didn’t oblige.

“It’s the last stop. Move ahead. Don’t obstruct the way.”,the man repeated. He turned a deaf ear to his pleas. Again.

I felt his behaviour slightly odd, but didn’t mind.

As the train reached the station, men who were on the footboard started alighting even before the train stopped ,as usual. I could see the next set of commuters standing at the edge of platforms, ready to  plunge to war. I mentally prepared myself for the assault.

Behind me,I heard the man shout at the guy for his stupid behaviour again. I looked back only to see him with his eyes closed, as if he was in a deep meditation. The next second he opened his eyes and smiled.

BOOM!

An earth shattering explosion resulted in me going blank.

“NO!” I shout out and open my eyes.

The next moment, Mom turned on the lights and came besides me.

“You okay beta? Another bad dream?”,she looked worried.

“Umm..yes..”,I shivered in fear.

“What was it this time?”,she smiled so as to ease my nerves.

“Let go Mom.. I’m okay now. I’m.. I’m fine..”,I act.

“Have this and sleep. Keep your mind unoccupied sometimes.
”,she offered me a glass of water and went to her bed opposite mine.

The decade old analog clock on the wall showed 2am.
My mind was hustling with so many thoughts that it was impossible to close my eyes even for a minute.
I wanted to be alone for some time and think clearly. I knew what I had to do.

“I’ll be back in 10 minutes.”,I told Mom as I opened the door.

“Where are you going now? It’s too late! ”, she asked confused.

“Just here..near our ground.”

“Be back soon.”

“Yup!”

I slip in to my sneakers,close the door and put on my hoodie. As I reached the ground,I went to my favourite spot- the last bench at the southern end. The place where I used to spend most of my free times during my college days
-with a book as a company.
The huge banyan tree still stood there,with its arms wide,its leaves fluttering in the slight wind, as if welcoming me.

As I sat down on the bench, a strong rush of nostalgia engulfed me. But I didn’t have time to think about the past.

Flashbacks from the just experienced nightmare haunted me. The reason for the dream to occur was obvious. My mind was always occupied with thoughts regarding Junaid and our next moves. But still, I didn’t know what to do next.

Should I hand him over to the police officials or…Nah, I can’t do that! I can’t break the deal now. He has given me so much info till now..but..but what if it is all false! How can I come to know?

I noticed that even on this cold night, Iittle drops of perspiration formed on my forehead.

There should be some way to get out of this mess.
But leaving Junaid free would be a big mistake.

Mumbai people, be ready!,an echo played in my mind.

The next moment,I called Adi.

“Ya..say”,a sleepy voice answered from the other side.

“Just called you to ask about.. ”

“….our future actions right? ”,Adi perfectly guessed my statement.

“Yes. I’m confused now. Also,I have a question for Junaid. Is he awake?”

“Nopes. Should I wake him up?”

“No,it’s fine. I’ll come there in a few hours. I’ll ask then.”

“Fine,but what about our next steps?”,he asked the question to which I didn’t have an answer.

“I’m thinking the same. I’ll text you if I get any idea.”

“Cool then. Take care and now let me sleep! ”, he disconnected the call.

As I sat on the bench with perplexed emotions, variety of solutions clicked my mind. But none of them were sensible enough to be executed.

“There’s no way to destroy JeM.”, my pessimist mind kept on reminding me.

But I had one solution which I tried to forget, but couldn’t. A move that can badly alter our lives. A move that I may regret my entire life.

I opened our WhatsApp group that we had formed during our engineering days. I had titled it
“The 3 Dimensions” then. Till date,it remained the same. It was not difficult for me to imagine their reaction after my idea. It would be a simple “NO!”. Still,I decided to take a chance.

“I’ve got an idea..our next actions”.

The double tick on my message surprised me a bit.

Abhi is online? At this time? Weird!

But then,my mind reminded me of his ‘friend’ Avantika.

As this thought crossed my mind, his message flashed.

Abhi: Yes. Do say!

Me: Let Adi come online. I guess he’s deep in sleep.

2 minutes later,Abhi replied to my message.

Abhi: As expected.

Me: How’s Avantika?

Abhi: She’s fine. You say.

Me: I guess he won’t turn up online soon. I’ll conference call you guys. Wait a minute.

I decided not to wait for his reply and called them directly.

Abhi received the call in the first ring itself.

“Say”

“Let Adi wake up. I hope his phone isn’t in silent mode.”,I reasoned.

“Seriously, you think he’ll get up? Lol!”,he laughed.

“Yaa..say!”,Adi received the call at the perfect moment. His voice made it clear that he was annoyed with me waking him from his slumber.

“I….I have an idea…”,I stutter a bit. The cold wind made things worse.

“Proceed!”, both of them commanded.

“There is only one way to clear out JeM.”

“What way?”

“Be them.”

“Whatt? Are  you out of your mind Sooraj?”,Abhi shouted, laughing at the same time.

“Man! You just ruined my sleep! Won’t forgive you idiot! ”,Adi immediately disconnected the call.

Expected reaction.

Abhi didn’t even say anything before disconnecting the call.

That made things worse for me.

How can I make them understand that I really meant it?

I decided to meet them up the next day and try my best. Even I was unsure of what I was doing. But something inside me said that I was doing the right thing.

I stood up from the bench and slowly walked off to my house.

The ground which is always active during day time now looked desolate. A few broken castles on the sandbed caught my eye. The slow wind caused the swings to move slowly.

That’s when my phone beeped.

“Messages (1)”

Adi: I get your point bro. I think you’re correct from a certain point. Let’s discuss this tomorrow. Don’t stress much. Everything gonna be fine. Good night. 🙂

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