Dedicated to my deceased friend Shyam Bhagat and all my Orkut friends.
** This is a work of fiction; all the characters and incidents as described here are fictitious; any resemblance with anyone living or dead is purely coincidental**
Part 1 : Moment of grief
I died sometime back. Two hours almost! And they noticed that I was missing only a while ago and started ransacking the entire hostel for me, until they broke the door of my room open. Was I that famous? I don’t think so! But yes, I could see then, that people were so concerned after finding me hanging from the ceiling fan. Of course, there was a reason for showing concern. You don’t get to see someone in that pose every day! And yes, especially when someone had died in your hostel.
My body was laid on my bed, after they pulled it down. People were trying to figure out if I’d left a suicide note or something. And there was Karan, utterly confused brat like ever! Haroon couldn’t believe his eyes and was crying out loudly. Nigel and Anuj were not talking, they were petrified, literally; they’d broken down so much. The hostel warden had arrived along with the Dean of student affairs, the Director and some other professors They hadn’t informed my parents that far. My ‘so called’ other friends were all shell-shocked. There were many rounds of discussions and speculations going on around the hostel. And never in my lifetime had so many people ever gathered near my room! No-one was able to figure out why I had done that to myself. Anuj and Nigel tried calling up my parents.
“Hello?” Dad echoed.
“Hello uncle, I’m Sutirtho’s friend Anuj here.”
“Yes son, how are you?”
“Uncle, Sutirtho’s condition is serious; he is sick; we need you here.”
“What happened?!” Dad’s tensed voice reverberated across the line.
“All we can tell you is that he’s ill, and he needs you as soon as possible; please try coming soon, we are very sorry to pass on this news and asking you to come all of a sudden, but the situation is very urgent.”
Nigel tried stopping Anuj from relating the information with such a tone; he made so many signs and distractions, but Anuj had a blank mind; he couldn’t figure out a clear way of speaking, hiding the salient details!
“But tell me something at least?” Dad was eager and his voice spelt signs of tension.
“He had fallen down from the third floor accidentally; he’s in the ICU, and doctors are trying to resuscitate him!” Nigel snatched the phone from Anuj and said that in a single breathe. He knew that sudden news of death could cause complications. So it was always necessary to tone down the bad news.
“You should have done the entire talking Nigel; I just couldn’t handle it properly!” Anuj mumbled.
The dean was talking with the principal, and they decided that they’d inform the police. So, Mr. Manjunath Gowda, Inspector, Yehalanka Police station arrived along with two constables. Our dean filed an FIR in order to start up proceedings with the case. They blocked my room for a search, to find clues. And then they started questioning the hostel inmates.
Anuj, Karan, Haroon and Nigel were the ones that were the closest to me, so they were held up with the police for sometime.
It was Nigel’s turn after Karan.
“Nigel, so, what do you think could be the cause of this?” Mr. Gowda asked.
“Sir, I don’t find a reason; he didn’t have enemies in the college; that’s one thing I’m sure about.”
“Did you see any change in him yesterday? Was he depressed?”
“He was a bit uncommunicative yesterday, but that’s his normal self, whenever he’s thinking deeply, he hardly talks.”
“But, don’t you think that could be related with this?” Mr. Gowda mused.
“Umm.. I’m sorry sir; I don’t know how to relate things.” Nigel had never come across a police inquiry. He didn’t have an idea about things he could communicate, and those he should not.
“Ok, how was he in studies?”
“He was good; he was one among the top five students.”
“Was there any kind of competition, enmity because of that?”
“No, I think, that’s because he used to help everyone with studies.” Nigel replied.
“How was Sutirtho as a friend? How did you people form the famous-five?” Anuj-Nigel-Karan-Haroon-Sutirtho: we guys were referred to as famous-five. That was because we were always together in every venture. We couldn’t get rooms near to each other in the final year, because, it was awarded merit-wise. But still we would hardly stay away from each other. We used to study together, even when Karan and I were classmates, and so would Haroon, Nigel and Anuj.
Nigel spoke about our deep bond of friendship, right from the first year. “Sutirtho, was one my dearest friends in this college. It’s a personal loss for me, and I am absolutely heart broken.” He started crying bitterly.
Mr. Gowda let him go; he then called in Haroon, Anuj and few other guys. He decided to retain my body for an autopsy; however, he needed a formal permission from my parents. The police couldn’t allow it to be taken for cremation until the reports came up. He talked with the dean of student affairs, the Director and few other professors. He also talked with the working staff of the hostel, i.e. the guards, canteen boys and watchmen.
My parents arrived in the evening. They were in for the most devastating piece of information of their lifetime. My mother fainted immediately, and my father was frozen. Words could hardly, perfectly, commiserate such a loss. I was their only son. They had so many dreams and expectations on me. They wanted me to prosper in life. For me, they were the best”est” parents in the entire world. I couldn’t even touch them, talk with them. I felt so enervated; this gap between life and death was killing me once again. It made me a disparate taciturn entity. No one on earth could possibly provide a satiable reason for my death to my parents. It was growing heavily difficult for my friends to talk with them at their moment of grief.
My tongue was sticking out at the time they pulled me down. There were little blood marks on my face and eyes due to burst capillaries. The post mortem reports came. It said: death due to strangulation leading to asphyxiation. There was a cervical fracture, in my neck, that caused a traumatic spinal chord injury. The hyoid bone was also broken. The death happened at 5:00 am. My body was available for claim from the morgue. I couldn’t look at my parents’ faces in their bereavement. Hardly anything could comfort them, and they started doubting all my friends; Nigel, Karan, Anuj and Haroon. The college was closed for a day, and the previous day everyone had gathered at the porch to attend the condolence meeting. Our Director, Mr. Arora made a speech, followed by Professor Sameer, and some other professors, the ones who closely knew me. I saw my dear friends all in tears; I saw Anuj holding Nigel and trying to comfort even when he found it hard to stop his own tears. I saw Haroon, his eyes were all swollen and red, and I knew he couldn’t ever think of losing me.
After my cremation, my parents decided to stay back till they could find out true facts about my death. The case was anyway under investigation by local police.
Part 2: New life! New Beginning!
I joined a very famous engineering college in Bangalore. I selected a branch which had fascinated me for quite a while; Information Science. I met Karan at the admission office. It was by chance. Some papers had fallen from his hand and I helped him gather those.
“Thanks buddy, I’m Karan. I’m in Information Science (IS).”
“Wow! You are my classmate! I’m Sutirtho!” I said.
We then talked about hostel room allotment, books, ragging and stuff. He said that four persons were supposed to stay in a single room in the first year. In the second year, however, everybody had his single room. At the hostel I met Haroon, Anuj and Nigel. They were my roommates. All of them were in Electronics and Communication engineering (ECE). The breaking-of-ice part was done, and we talked about our background, marks, options we got at different colleges etc.
“Sutirtho! Kewl name buddy! What does that mean?” Nigel asked.
I was quite familiar telling people about the significance of my name. I loved my name and was really proud that my mom chose it for me. I started explaining the meaning.
“Sutirtho is the ‘Bengali’ version or rather pronunciation of the Sanskrit word ‘Sutirtha’. It has a mythological significance. It was a place that was the part of the Kuru Kingdom. It was situated on the banks of river Amvumati. If one bathed there and worshipped the gods, he would gain the merit of Horse Sacrifice or Ashwamedha Yogya. ‘Su’ means ‘auspicious’ and ‘tirtha’ is ‘a place of pilgrimage’. So Sutirtha means ‘auspicious place of pilgrimage’.” I completed my lecture.
“Er. Umm. Okay..so Mr. Pilgrim.” Nigel smiled, “Thanks for sharing your mythological knowledge.”
“And what does Nigel mean?” I asked.
“Oh! That’s simple, no Indian mythological connotations here! My name has its origin in Irish and Gaelic, and it means ‘Champion’ or ‘Knight’. Nigel replied with a smile.
“Who’s next? Haroon?” Anuj chipped in.
“My name? Well.. er.. there’s an interesting piece of information to share. Haroon was a prophet as mentioned in the Quran. He used to exist during biblical times. In the Bible, however, he was mentioned as ‘Aaron’. And you know what? It’s ama-a-a-zing. They say Haroon lived for 122 years!!” Haroon’s eyes grew big as he talked.
“Haroon in Quran was Aaron in Bible?” I was intrigued.
“Yeah, there are so many other examples you know? For example, ‘Yusuf’ in Arabic is ‘Joseph’ for the Christians, ‘Mary’ i.e. Mother Mary for the Christians is ‘Maryam’ in Arabic. And then ‘Jacob’ in English is ‘Yaqub’. And these characters have high significance, in Bible and Quran.” Haroon said eloquently.
“Hey guys! That’s really interesting! By the way, as you should know, my name is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘younger brother’,” Anuj tried making his ‘common name’ look important.
“Yeah, we know that, we wouldn’t have asked you anyway!” Karan giggled.
I commented at that, “Hey co’on Karan, it’s not like that, we were just zeroing on to Anuj’s name; everyone should get the hot seat! And, how about you Karan?”
“Yeah, tell us, let me see what’s so uncommon about your layman name,” Anuj smirked.
“Karan IS Karan, Karan signifies me, isn’t that reason enough? You need a leader? Follow me!”
“Aahaa!! We have a VIP here!” Anuj laughed out loud and so did others.
“On a serious note, it’s derived from ‘Karna’ to give it a modern touch.” Karan said.
The chat was funny; it had been long since I’d got to know new guys, and make friends. I was, kind of, fed up of seeing the same set of faces at school, and discussing more of studies, than anything. The environment was much relaxed out there at college. It was a new life, a new beginning!
Nigel was very slim and almost the same height as me. He had a cute face; he looked no more than a sixteen year old. He hailed from Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. Karan and Haroon were taller than me. Anuj was a real stud. He had a typical V shaped boy, boyish charm and a square jaw. I really envied such a physique and looks. Haroon had a naïve and bland face, that would look the most unattractive of the lot, but somehow I found him very interesting; probably because I liked his intelligent and witty comments at times; intelligence was indeed a major turn on for me. Karan was from Mumbai and Anuj was from New Delhi. Haroon’s hometown was a place named Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh. People from five different parts, Hyderabad – New Delhi – Ratlam – Mumbai & Kolkata had become friends and that was amazing.
Haroon came back from the dinning room. He had plenty of things to share. He started, “Guys, we have so many instructions to follow. You people better make a note of things I’m sharing.”
“What’s that all about?” Karan asked. He stayed in a room opposite to ours.
“Well, it’s about how you behave with your seniors!”
“What the hell! They’ll teach us how to behave? Those buffoons!” Karan looked disgusted.
“That’s all part of the ragging buddy. You got to follow rules, else you are screwed.” Nigel pointed out.
Haroon continued “You will address any senior as ‘sir/ma’am’. You won’t look at their eyes while speaking; rather you should see the third button of your shirt from the top. You will append ‘Excuse me Sir/ Ma’am’ every time you speak! There are other instructions as well, but burn these in your brain; else you are in for trouble!”
“Are we allowed to say ‘Excuse me Sir, can I screw you sir!’?” I chortled. Everybody laughed boisterously at that.
“Ha ha! That was well said, but I guess if you replace ‘sir’ with ‘ma’am’ that question would be more significant!’ Karan remarked with a wink.
“Hey, I heard there’s some dress code we have to follow for few days?” Anuj asked.
“Oh! Yes, I know that, light coloured full sleeved shirt and dark coloured formal trousers. I have a pair for myself, how about you guys?” I asked.
The guys had managed those formal clothes. I was attending college straight out of school, so I had a strange feeling from wearing coloured clothes; I was used to the school uniform till then. We had to walk around 1.5 km to the college main building, four times everyday, i.e. two times to and fro. I expected to reduce my weight a lot because of that! The college timings were from 9:00 to 12:30pm and then 2:00 to 5:00pm. Karan used to sit with me initially. But soon we had more friends and we’d normally sit wherever we got a sit, as I’d be late to classes at times.
I befriended my roomies and Karan, slowly, as we started studying together and also saving each other from senior’s ragging. The courses in the 1st year were almost common for three branches; ECE, IS and CSE (i.e. Computer Science & Engineering). I started enjoying the hostel life, as I could see numerous guys, scantily clad going to the bathroom, or even gathering for a chat while inside the room. It was quite natural for lot of them to stay bare bone, but for me it was quite impossible to avoid a boner, as I saw them. The scenes inside a boys’ hostel were truly aphrodisiac, good enough to excite me into hand jobs daily. I wondered how curious girls could have gotten about us. Boys were in front of me, they were in my mind, my heart, and my thoughts. Guys, guys everywhere, not a girl to see. It was paradise! I ogled at them, and I didn’t feel there was anything else I could do. Boys’ hostel is the best place to survive. You get to see what you always wanted to see! And you get to smell, what you’d always liked, i.e. if you have a liking for male sweat smell. More things excited me: feet, hirsute legs.
Haroon helped me in everything. I got good vibes whenever I talked with him. He didn’t mind helping me even at that cost of his time, energy or anything. We started gelling well. Whenever I talked with him, I felt that he was one person who’d always understand me. Haroon, Anuj, Karan, Nigel and I used to go out on weekends for dinner and also to visit places in and around Bangalore. We formed a friend’s circle that made other people jealous. It was a closely knit group, and we were all family. We were the famous-five. That was the pet name given to our group.
Nigel brought the first desktop in our group. We were all so happy. We wouldn’t have to go to anybody else’s room to watch movies and erotic flicks. We inaugurated it with a ‘straight’ porn named milkman. We also saw a series of other pornos to placate our everlasting and ever-evolving lust. They commented lasciviously on the voluptuous girls with large breasts. I, however, was busy seeing the guys, and based my comments on them, replacing ‘his’ with ‘her’.
Ragging period, as they called it, was in full swing. There were some distinct groups in which the entire 1st year hostellers were divided into. Those were groups of ten and were given special names. That was done to all the 1st year batches; so, there was a hierarchy in the four batches year wise. For example, if a person belonged to say “Mughal - e - Azam” group, he had to memorize the name of all the seniors of the same group in all the years. Haroon, Karan & I was in the “Ashoka” group. It was our final day of ragging, as the seniors had told us that they wouldn’t continue after that, and we would be accepted as the part of college, unofficially, with the seniors treating us and calling is an ‘unofficial fresher’s night’. (There was a rule, that unless you were ragged you were not considered a part of the college hostellers.) We had to chant the names of all the seniors one by one, without default. If we missed a name or fumbled we’d get slapped. I had written down all the names and the places from where they’d come in order, starting from final year to 3rd year. I kept that piece of paper in my pocket; Karan told me not to do it, but still I kept it, so that while going to the seniors’ hostel I could see them on my way and try remembering names. We were dressed in full sleeved shirts, black trousers and we had to wish every senior coming on our way, “Excuse me Sir! Good Afternoon Sir!”
We reached the room where we were called. We were a bunch of ten guys. The questioning and things began as usual and we were doing well. Suddenly, one of the seniors, named Roshan, found out the piece of paper inside my pocket.
“Ho – ho ho! Look what we have here!” Roshan was absolutely amused.
And then when he read out that piece, and in the process he discovered something which I had written purposely. I had associated his name with a place named Sonagachi, near Kolkata. That place is a prominent red light area in the suburbs of Kolkata, famous for prostitutes, and the sex business. Roshan was from Kolkata as well, and he knew the significance of that place totally. He was infuriated and started slapping me, hurling abuses at the same time. Other seniors came and stopped him. They tried to cool him down. One of them came to me and told me to explain. I kept quite and repeated “Excuse me Sir! Sorry Sir!” The seniors gave us a warning. They said that we wouldn’t be freed from ragging if a proper explanation of that was not given to them. They gave us ten minutes to think and decide.
Haroon had an idea impromptu. He whispered to Karan and me, “Sutirtho! Let’s solve it this way; we will tell him that you never knew of that place and its significance before. We were just discussing things and somebody had joked and said that Roshan had come from that place. It was a joke and you didn’t understand it; you were preparing that list at that time and you wrote down. We’ll portray you as geek, bookworm types where you didn’t have ideas of these things.”
I was impressed with that. Haroon indeed handled the crunch situation so well; and I just said “Yes” every time the seniors asked me a question. This made me more attached to him; I had started developing faint likeness for him.
It was the end of 2nd Semester; the exams were round the corner, and I was down with tremendous fever. My room mates were concerned about my health. They admitted me to a nearby hospital. It was the one that was tagged for treating guys and girls from our college. Haroon stayed awake for me, the four nights I was in that place. Nigel, Anuj and Karan would visit either in the morning or evening, taking turns, but Haroon did the hard thing of staying with me at night. He’d help me with the medicines, fruits and dinner, and slept on the sofa besides my bed.
When I came back, I found out that I had to complete a ‘Digital Electronics’ assignment. There were around six questions to be written and other people in our batch were ready with their stuff. Karan had convinced the rest of the class that they would submit the sessional assignment only after I would complete it. Haroon brought some fruits for me.
“Doctor’s advise, I can’t help it.”
“Thanks Haroon, you have taken so much care of me, like my parents. I will repay you some day if I can.”
“Don’t you say that Sutirtho, there’s no repaying back between best friends.”
“I know Haroon! You have been the best guy I’ve ever had as a friend. I’m just worried that you spoilt so much of time for me. I guess, your studies have been hampered soooo much.”
“You know, studies happen only during the preparatory leave (PL), and that has started just two days back. By the way, I have written your sessional, you can go ahead and submit that.”
“Really? My.. My… Why? I could have managed well.”
“You couldn’t have managed well; you and I know that very well! It will take at least one more week to fully recover and feel strong, and while recovering, it will be good if you just try and concentrate on your studies rather than trying to figure out solutions to weird problems!”
“But Haroon, this is not done! You are being so selfless buddy!”
“I care for you.”
Haroon didn’t say a word more. His last statement and the silence that followed were clear indications of how he regarded me as a friend. I had already developed so many feelings for him, but I was scared about telling him things as I didn’t want to lose him as a friend. I knew I couldn’t get anyone better than him, if I lost him. I was being selfish to myself and selfless for him, and I buried my feelings deep within an unfathomable depth in my heart. His presence used to make me very happy, and the smile on his lips mesmerized me. I thought to myself, I analysed my luck, I couldn’t have asked for something better to happen. When I came to the college, I desired for a very close friend with whom I could share all my feelings, emotions and secrets. I never got such a friend in school. The ones I trusted so much betrayed me, and for them the entire class came to know about my homosexual aspects and I was cornered. I always wished to share things with someone. I didn’t know when I began trusting Haroon so much, but still I stopped myself from expressing everything I could say. Just one thing stopped me, I didn’t know what would Haroon’s reaction be if he would ever come to know the truth about me; that I was interested in guys and not girls; that it was something weird, and that’s what I always felt, that I had some mental problem. That was so ‘un-straight’. I couldn’t take my eyes off the bare guys in the bathrooms and toilets. I couldn’t think of anything erotic about girls for my hand job. Could I ever tell these things to Haroon? Could he ever be the vent for my feelings? I sighed.
It was my birthday after three days. Karan somehow came to know that. He sent an SMS to everybody he knew. He didn’t mind forwarding it to girls!
“Hey! It’s Sutirtho’s birthday on 24th August. Please join me in the celebration with a grand GPL at room number 6125 on 23rd night at 11:55 pm.”
He forwarded a copy to me! The stretched form of GPL was “Gaand Pe Laath” or “Kick on butt”. That was the best way of celebrating anything. Be it birthday, good results, campus placements, or anything that’d be a reason of celebration; the person had to undergo a GPL by all his friends. And god it was so painful. You can’t sit for a few days properly, because along with the legs, guys also used belts, shoes, or sandals for the cause, and you’d contort with the pain in your arse for sometime.
“Hi! Sutirtho! I’ll come to wish you,” I could see many guys saying that whenever they’d meet me. As if my birthday was a festival to celebrate. I couldn’t imagine, what my condition would be if 200 guys gathered on the occasion of my birthday.
I made a secret plan; I decided to turn off the light and stay quiet inside my room. I also locked the room from inside using the internal lock. I thought I was pretty safe. At around 11:30 pm, Anuj and Nigel came searching for me, as if they’d initiate the process. Even friends turned enemies, if it was a matter of celebrating someone’s birthday through GPL. Nigel was a shrewd guy! He found out that I was inside, through the small mesh near the bottom of the door (I always wondered why it was there in the first place!); he warned me, “We’ll break open your door, and don’t you worry!”
That assurance injected some fright in me. I quickly switched to another plan that I regarded as Plan ‘B’. And, that plan was made impromptu! It was second year. There were four wings in the hostel: A, B, C & D. My room was in B – First wing. There were three floors in every wing. The first floor of each wing was connected to every other with a connector. Every room had a balcony. One could easily cross balconies one by one, from the back side of the rooms, and go to the nearest connector between two wings. I could not do that! It was nearing midnight and guys were already coming in, and if they found me on the connector they wouldn’t leave me. So, I thought of something else. I could jump from the balcony to the ground floor, and the area I’d land on was not accessible from the ground floor, and it had a way out from the hostel directly. Nobody would notice. There was a frail neem tree near my balcony. I had seen a small video clip where the person, from the third floor, clung to a pine tree that bent and landed him on the ground floor. I recollected that, and crazily expected the neem tree to behave the same way! I stepped down on to the sunset near the balcony to get nearer to the neem tree; clung to it and let go!
I landed face down in the puddle that had gathered there due to incessant rains for the past few days. The neem tree failed to meet my expectations, it didn’t bend to let me down, I just slipped off, and I landed awkwardly, and it pained, but not much as the pool of water acted like a cushion. I moved away from that place quickly; I could hear shouts of guys wanting me to open the door for them, and then I hard those bangs; they were trying to break open the door with kicks. It was ‘kick-the-door-at-will’! I knew I could trust Haroon to escape the infamous GPL, and hence I called him up from the common phone at the entrance of the hostel. I couldn’t risk my mobile when I had chances of getting drenched entirely, so I had left my mobile in my room, unfortunately. His room was in the A – Ground wing; near to the entrance of the hostel. I asked him to come back to his room. He agreed. I knew people were busy near my room! They still expected to find me inside! I ran across from the backside of the hostel towards the front and went to Haroon’s room in a hurry. And, I was saved. My face was covered with bruises. He cleared the wounds with Dettol and applied some ointment on them. He also gave me clothes to wear as I was completely wet due to rains and the puddle.
“I can’t stop laughing Sutirtho! You jumped face down into the puddle with the help of that neem tree! Such a valiant act on your birthday!” Haroon laughed hysterically.
“I mean, neem tree! Wow! You anticipated that it could take your weight?” Haroon couldn’t stop. I laughed at myself for that, it was really funny.
I slept in Haroon’s room that night. The following morning, when I went to my room, I saw that the door was almost broken; the interlock bent in such a way that the door could never open, and to add more to my woos, I couldn’t find my mobile when I went inside my room from the back side, by hopping over the balconies from the connector! Karan told me that it was with Anuj and I heaved a sigh of relief. But, I also came to know that someone had messaged and received calls when I was away. They were more interested in calls from girls, and they sent in funny messages as responses. One of them was, “Hi babes! I’m fully drunk, wanna party?”
Part 3: The ‘dare’ behind the ‘truth’!
It was a Sunday afternoon. Anuj, Nigel, Karan, Haroon and I planned to go out to Hoganekkal falls, in Tamil Nadu, a place of tourist interest near Bangalore. Unlike other times we had new additions to our famous-five group. Nigel had someone in his life, whom he loved more than anyone. Amrita! The girl, who was a very difficult person to placate, with loads of attitude and hints of female chauvinistic views, gave way to Nigel. I don’t take anything away from him for that. Obviously, to get a girl, who’s so popular that every one in the college wants to date, requires some intellectual capabilities. And Nigel had those. He was smart, decent, communicative, witty and stylish as well. He had a magnetic personality that would attract so many girls, and also me. But, I’d never ever shown anything to him, I didn’t want to make my behaviour look conspicuous. I didn’t want to lose my friends. So, I could hardly ever stop acting straight in front of them. I feigned a lot, but that was how I could survive.
Rita was a ‘very good friend’ of Anuj those days. Both Rita and Amrita were Nigel’s classmates. People didn’t really understand what would stop them from taking the next step beyond ‘good friendship’. Anuj and Rita never discussed that with us, and we would always get roundabout answers whenever we asked. As for Karan, he had just initiated conversations with Nisha. She was an open minded girl. She used to join us on dinner on weekend unlike Rita. Amrita and Nisha were hostellers; Rita was a localite.
We arranged a Qualis for the eight of us and left for the spot at around 7:00 am. The place is around 130 Km away from Bangalore. Our driver said that it would take around four and half hours to reach. We saw everyone brimming with excitement and mirth and started off with “Three Cheers!!” and “Hip – Hip Hurraaaaaaaaaaaay!!”.
Nigel had taken the seat beside the driver with Amrita; she had placed her arms around him. They used to get mushy publicly, making people jealous; however, I was never jealous. Anuj, Rita, Nisha and Karan were seating in the middle, and hence, Haroon and I were relegated to the back seat.
“Hey guys! Let’s play a game! Everyone’s so quiet!” Nisha suggested.
“What do you want to play? Dumb charads? Antrakshari?” Rita asked.
“Oh! No! They are such boring and common place stuff!” Karan was disinterested.
Amrita proposed, “Okaaaaaayy, let’s see, I have an idea! Let’s play ‘truth’ and ‘dare’?”
“Umm…. That’s interesting, but do you think we can figure out the dare part? Especially, inside the Qualis?” I asked.
“That’s a point, but, we can just start and see if it works?” Amrita replied.
We agreed. Amrita wrote everyone’s name on pieces of paper, folded and jumbled them. She would pick up one piece randomly and keep it separate, and the person was supposed to choose and start speaking. She picked up the first one. It was Nisha and she chose ‘truth’. It’s always easier than ‘dare’ anyway. Anyone could ask a question.
So, I asked, “Have you ever been in love? If yes, then who?”
“Well yes, I had been in love more than once! I was in love with Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Aamir Khan, SRK.. The list continues you see!”
“Co’on Nisha, this is not done, be a game!” Rita was annoyed.
“Ha ha .. was kidding. Anyway, yeah I have been in love once. His name is Niraj.” Nisha said.
“Niraj, you mean the Mechanical guy in our batch?” Karan was surprised.
“Oh! No, not that guy, how could you think? He’s plain obnoxious! Well, Niraj was in my school. He was a year senior to me.” Nisha replied.
“So, what happened? How did you guys break up? He left you or you left him?” I asked.
“Love left us!” Nisha replied philosophically.
“Interesting! Here we go again.” Amrita picked up Nigel. He chose ‘truth’. People feared choosing ‘dare’.
“Tell us the most embarrassing moment of your life with a girl.” Haroon asked.
“Have to think.. umm .. hmmm….” Nigel said.
“Take your time we are not in a hurry.” Karan winked as he spoke.
“Ok, here I go …. I was in standard seven; there was a girl named Vidya in our class. And we were playing the same game in a free period; I had unluckily chosen ‘dare’. And I was asked to raise the skirt of Vidya! I slowly went there; she was busy talking with other girls, and I raised her skirt. Other boys had noticed that and they started laughing. Vidya turned around and slapped me hard. I was embarrassed like anything.”
“God! You were such a pervert!” Amrita exclaimed.
“He is one even now; you don’t have to use the past tense!” Karan made a sly comment.
The people in the Qualis burst out into feats of laughter. Nigel’s face grew red. “Oh! No my sweetie is not like that, are you naughty boy?” Amrita pulled Nigel’s nose and kissed on his cheek as she said that.
“I guess that’s the reason Nigel never chooses ‘dare’ again!” Anuj chuckled.
“Ok, now enough of pulling my baby’s leg. Let’s concentrate on the game. Who’s next..? Umm.. Okay now we have …drum roll …Anuj.” Amrita announced.
“Dare for me!” Anuj smiled.
“Propose Rita right away, and properly!” It was, as if, Haroon was just waiting for that moment.
Everybody became silent. Anuj and Rita were looking at each other. Karan was smiling. Nisha and Amrita found it funny.
“Haroon.. co’on, what was that? You can’t do that to me!”
“Anyone has a problem with that ‘dare’ here?” Haroon smiled and asked.
The tone was unanimous, except Anuj and Rita of course, “No problem!”
Anuj remained silent for a while. “Rita’s waiting!” Amrita said. Rita blushed.
“Yes Rita! It’s just you and you whom I love! Every time I breathe, I find you there; every time my heart beats, it reminds me of you. You are present at every moment of my life. Rita! I believe, deep down the inner chords of my heart, that I was born just to love you, and you, for becoming a part of me someday. You are mine, and if you ask your heart, you will know that I am speaking the truth. Will you marry me?” Anuj was an Akash in DCH.
Rita’s eyes grew wide in wonder. She just couldn’t believe whatever she heard. But everyone out there knew it was all a joke, but still, everyone feigned as if it were real.
“Hurray!! What more Rita? Don’t make your man wait!” Nisha was excited.
“Co’on guys, I’m not supposed to react to Anuj’s ‘dare’, am I?” Rita let out her scepticism.
“Hey, that was a joke, you wanted me to propose her, and I did.” Anuj said. All of us laughed for a while. Then, we changed the game; we decided that we would continue the game later.
Antrakshari, Dumb Charads and stuff followed along with regular talks and the music. We had our breakfast at a roadside restaurant. The 15 km descent from Pennagra, to Hoganekkal had just begun. It was a serpentine route, the terrain was rugged. It was summer season, so there was not much of greenery en route. The trees had shed their leaves and looked completely bare and dry. Such trees are dangerous and cause forest fires quite often. As we reached more near to the falls, the soft rumbling of running water became clearer. Cuckoos were singing intermittently in their mellifluous tune.
Hoganekkal falls is a collection of many falls. There were short height gorges through which one could ride a boat or a coracle. Coracles are round shaped boats made of waterproof material stretched over a wicker or bamboo frame and are pretty flimsy. They are often kept propped against the trees or upturned on the banks of the river.
We walked to the boat spot and found two boatmen waiting for us. Four of us were accommodated in a single boat. The boatman made the boat go in circles. That was the way they used to row it, I thought. The Cauvery tributaries were gushing in water into the falls. We went near one, misty spray hit our faces, and we felt the first surge of excitement. There was a small water bed where one could stand for a while with one of the falls directly above it. We decided to go in there behind the curtain of water. It was fun, the water thumping on your body, face and your back. For some time, you could forget all the worries; enjoy a bath that you would never do at home, even with the most sophisticated bath equipments. We screamed in joy and made a lot of noise. We were a crazy, boisterous bunch of people out there, with a sudden surge of adrenaline, rushing through our opiate veins. We also took some snaps; one tourist helped us with that. Anuj and Karan started spilling water on the girls; we too joined, and it was a war with water.
We got into the boat and followed a lovely stream of water flowing through a gorge. The boatman explained us that there was an island up ahead. The rugged rock walls on both sides reminded me of the dance sequence of ‘Raat Ka Nasha Abhi’ from the movie Asoka. The only difference being, there were no marble rocks there. And that dance sequence of that song was actually shot at Bhedaghat, near Dhuan Dhar falls in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. The song sequence “Choti Si Asha/ Chinna Cinna Asai” from the film “Roja” was, however, shot at Hoganekkal. It reminded me of the absolute brilliance of the song and the music composed by the maestro A. R. Rehman. The azure sky and the zephyr were complimenting each other in perfect agreement.
“How many of you know swimming here?” Rita asked.
Anuj and I knew swimming; others were scared. Nigel too raised his hand half heartedly.
The island was in sight, and we guessed the water to be shallow, and hence jumped off the coracle. Nigel too joined us, others were still apprehensive. I began swimming into deeper waters, and suddenly, I noticed Nigel struggling and slowly going down. I heard his shouts, and everybody became concerned and terrified. I started swimming fast towards him; Anuj also came from the other way. I managed to reach quickly; Nigel had already drunk so much of water by then and was drowning. I shouted at him and laid out my shirt so that he could catch hold of it. It’s dangerous to go towards a drowning person as he can make you drown even if you know swimming! When Anuj and one of the boatmen joined we could save Nigel and we pulled him out of the water. Amrita started crying as Nigel was not speaking. His breathing seemed to have stopped. I tried the CPR i.e. cardiopulmonary resuscitation; I had learnt those during the ERT demonstrations at our college. I pinched his nose, covered his mouth with mine and started blowing in breathe. Haroon tried doing some chest compressions after that, and that helped. Nigel started coughing after some time, and puked some water out.
Nigel was feeling better then. Amrita and Karan started scolding him. “If you were not confident why did you jump in?”
“Cool down guys, lets forget things, we shall try to be safe now. “ Haroon said.
The island was encompassed by hillocks all around, some were green and some were bare. There were lots of hawkers selling fish and we bought some to help ourselves. We also got into water once again, but that time we were very careful and tried staying very close to the bank. After bathing we changed clothes and sat on the sand and had another round of antrakshari along with fish.
Then what followed was our ride to the famous fall of “Roja” fame. The red evening sky, birds flying back to their roost, the trees, hillocks and splashes of water created an ambience akin to pristine earth. Those elements encircled me; I was sitting right in the middle. We were exceptionally quite and were absorbing, what we saw and heard, skin deep. When we reached that place, I could just utter the word ‘awesome’ reiteratively. The falls were absolutely mesmerizing.
We were late and decided to stay in a hotel. We booked three double rooms. One was occupied by Nisha, Rita and Amrita; another was taken by Anuj, Karan and Nigel. The last one was left for Haroon and me.
We decided to gather on the terrace of the hotel after dinner to start off again with the ‘truth’ and ‘dare’ game. We had five people still left for it.
Amrita once again opened the paper pieces. She chose one out of the remaining five. “We have Karan next. Are you ready Karan?” Amrita smiled.
“I choose ‘dare’!” Karan said.
“Here you go, call Roshan and hurl ten abuses at him,” Nigel gave Karan his ‘dare’.
Roshan was our senior; the one that slapped me hard during our final ragging call. When we were in 1st year, he was in final year. He belonged to Mechanical engineering stream. After he had passed out, he chose to stay with the college and pursue a career as an ad-hoc lecturer there.
It was really tough; Roshan could just get mad at such a thing. But, to our utter surprise, and to Roshan’s dismay Karan called him up and started, “You son of a bitch, you marauding arsehole, you insignificant bastard, you lousy faggot, you inscrutable piglet …..” and he continued till he could remember some censored boys’ hostel argots as well. But he didn’t mention those in front of girls. He used euphemisms instead. And then, he switched off his mobile.
Anuj started clapping, and so did others. “That was a real ‘dare’, great guts buddy!” Anuj said.
“Roshan must have gone mad!” Haroon commented.
“Well done Karan, let’s move on guys, we …. have … umm .. ‘Rita’.. that’s wow!” Amrita was excited.
“I’ll play it safe; ‘truth’ for me!” Rita took her pick.
“Do you love Anuj?” Karan asked that time. The Rita-Anuj duo was facing another uncomfortable question.
“Why on the earth are you guys after us? Isn’t this getting a little serious?” Rita blurted out.
“Change that question please Karan, don’t spoil the game!” Anuj pleaded.
“Sorry! We can’t change that question, sportsman’s spirit Rita, show it!” Amrita said as a support to Karan.
“Yes, Rita, you got to tell us this now!” Nigel and I said that together. Haroon nodded in support.
“Rita.. Rita.. Rita.. Rita..” Amrita and Nisha began to cheer her up.
“Ok guys, let me get this absolutely clear; Anuj is a very good friend of mine, we are comfortable in each other’s company, but I think we are not mature enough to call this love yet. Does that answer it?” Rita conceded.
“Oh! Rita, Baby! That’s an absolute spoiler. I thought you will say ‘yes’ and with that our confusion will be clear, I’m so heartbroken for Anuj, boo hoo hooooooo ,” Karan feigned a sad face and hugged Anuj, as if to comfort him.
“Shut up, Karan! You are never serious!” Anuj complained.
We laughed at that. Amrita continued, “Now we have… Sue…….. Sue ……….Sue… …… Yes! SU --- TIR ---THO!”
“Truth,” I said.
“Okay Sutirtho! We never heard anything about a girlfriend of yours, we can, sort of guess, that you don’t have one. But, is there someone you love?” Anuj asked.
I thought for a moment. Could I fake it again? Could I say that I didn’t have a crush on Haroon, or I didn’t love him? But, Haroon doesn’t know about it, so it won’t matter if I didn’t take his name. He won’t mind.
So, I thought I’d fake it one more time and hence I said, “Yes, I used to love a girl in my school, her name is Shruti. But, I never proposed her!”
“Why?” Haroon asked. Was he asking, why I didn’t take his name? Or, was he really asking what it meant as per context? I never knew, but I replied, “I feared a rejection!”
“You keep things to yourself; you never give yourself a chance, what if the other person also had feelings for you?” Haroon continued. It seemed as if he was scolding me.
“I’ve already forgotten her, anyway ..” I said.
Nigel interrupted, “Cool down guys, it’s a game, and it brings out something about us, but we shouldn’t take things seriously!”
Amrita chose herself the next time she picked up a piece. “Daaare!” She said.
“Kewl! The first time a girl is going for a ‘dare’!” Anuj commented.
Amrita quickly replied, “Of course, I believe women are all powerful!”
“We will see the powerful part of you now! You will kiss Nigel in the French style and it should last a minute at least.” Karan spoke encore.
Amrita didn’t mind doing that; in fact Nigel was really embarrassed. They kissed for more than a minute.
“Time’s up Amrita!” Rita laughed as she spoke.
“Thanks Karan!” Amrita said. “My pleasure ma’am!” Karan winked.
“With that we come to Haroon; what are you choosing?” Nisha asked.
“Truth! The ‘dare’s you’ve given scares me!” Haroon said.
“Okaay! So Haroon lets try a simple one, who’s your best friend?” I asked.
“You!” Came the reply. Wow! That was so fast. I thought, and then I said “I won’t thank you; you are also my best friend!” With that I hugged Haroon.
“Sob! Sob… what love?! Brings tears to my eyes!” Karan cracked. Everyone chuckled.
It was getting late, and so we decided to break up for the night. We wished each other goodnight. When Karan was leaving us at our room, he joked once again “You guys have a great night together!”
Haroon changed his dress to a three quarter and a t-shirt. There was an unperceivable silence in between us. I didn’t know why we were not communicating. I changed the channels’ none of the programs seemed interesting. Something was going on in my mind. Haroon lied down on the bed close to me. I was having a feeling that I never had before. The impromptu reply from Haroon had indeed taken me to the stars for a while. I noticed him; he was not watching the television; he was looking at me. Those eyes were as deep as the Pacific Ocean; I wished I could swim through. They had in them a strange attraction that I couldn’t neglect. I looked at Haroon; he came near me.
“Listen Sutirtho, I wish to tell you something. I hope you won’t misunderstand me?”
“Go ahead, buddy!”
“Promise me you will not leave me after hearing this?” He put his hand on mine as he said that.
“I take out my heart; place it on my palm; and hold it out to you and say ‘I Promise’” I flirted.
“I’m not in the mood to joke buddy. This is something I always wanted to tell you.”
“Tell me please, and you needn’t be so formal!”
“I love you! Will you be mine, forever?” Haroon proposed me.
Wasn’t that just the moment I’d been dying for all my life? I blushed. I literally, honestly, felt tears in my eyes. I was unable to move my hands; they started shivering. I held Haroon’s hand and hugged him tight. That was the best”est” moment of my life. The person whom I loved so much had proposed me.
“Yes, Haroon I was always yours, I had always loved you!” I sobbed.
My words came straight from my heart. I was speechless, dumbfounded, spellbound. I hugged him again; I felt his warm tears on my shoulder. Those wear tears of success, joy, peace. I felt bliss; I felt blessed. Cupid had stricken.
I tried speaking yet again, “I had dedicated myself to you long back from the depth of my heart, I want to stay with you forever; I want to be with you for the rest of my life. I love you soooo much, I just needed a push to say you all these; you have given me that opportunity. I’m yours truly, emotionally, mentally, heartily, physically all yours.” I let out my feelings in one breathe. I had been dying to say those things to Haroon for such a long time.
“Haroon, the person I talked about, in the ‘truth’ and ‘dare’ was you; I just replaced you with a girl.”
“My instincts said so! That’s why I replied,” Haroon said.
“I wanted to tell you how I loved you all these days; you really made things easier for me,” I kissed Haroon on his cheek.
The one mental block, that I had in my mind for long was gone; I could be very frank to him. He was already a great friend, and now I could discuss everything about me and my orientation with him. I’d never felt that I was in peace of mind before. I could trust Haroon all my life. When the love is two way, it works wonders. It was a-dream-come-true. The dream that I had pursued for so many years since the time I had discovered I was not straight. A dream to have a person in my life, who’d love me, comfort me, provide me as shoulder to rest my head on when I needed to cry. How I’d craved for that till then. Although I’d dream about Haroon, I never thought it’d be true one day.
“I just wished we came out to each other bit earlier; anyway, better late than never,” saying this Haroon put his arms around me and I clung to him. It was a warm and comfortable hug; I felt secured in his arms. Our bodies were united, his chest to mine, his legs intertwined with mine, I felt his breathe on my shoulder. His lips touched my neck; I felt scintillation throughout my body.
I ruffled his hair and then I said “Put your hands on me Haroon.” My words were an epitome of myriad viscous emotions, as those rekindled within me at that point of time. His lips began moving close to mine; and then they locked the next instance. I’d a craving for that since long. I thought of pinching myself. It was true and it was happening. I thought as if I was saying to him,
"For the first time I felt
This true love in my heart
It is buried so deep
And that I would always keep
All through the darkest night
You’re the brightest star in my sight
Always been at my side
Even in a grisly fright
You clothe me when I shiver
With your ever warm embrace
You’re the moon that lights my way
That makes me feel very gay
You wipe the tears on my cheeks
The tears of joy that I’ve seek
And it’s you, my love, my divine
That makes me shine so bright
You’re the sun in my sky
Staring at me with all your might
Guiding me with your ever shining light
For the first time in my life
I found my love and my life
Without you I will cry
For you my love I will die!"
We took a step further, as our lips met each other. The principles of lust are not easy to understand. Do what you like, do it, until you find love! And I’d found it. I tasted him for the first time. I explored his mouth with my tongue passionately. He bit my lower lips and I sighed. His hands started exploring my body, my chest. We rolled the bed sheet over, and he got over me. His tongue started to visit every nook of my mouth like a snake, and I demanded more. I felt the warmth of his breathe, and the musky smell of his body. I felt my first flush of love hormones flowing through my veins as I got more and more intimate with him. “Love was when I loved you, one true time I hold to, in my life, will always go on.” The lines from the famous song by Celine Dion echoed in my mind. My soul was not mine anymore; it belonged to him, and my body was, but, a means to get near to his soul. My body was on fire, I found newer means to satisfy myself. I wished the lips were locked for an eternity; I wished I stayed forever in Haroon’s arms. He possessed me, and I let him do that, we traversed each other continually, moved our unclad body sensually, and I surrendered to him. I got addicted to his virile fragrance. I couldn’t let go his arms. I held, in my breathe, the dream of his lips. His eyes were filled with brightness like never before; they glowed in enchantment. I wish I could stop time. Haroon’s hand touched me the same way the waves touch the shore. We entangled ourselves completely.
The air was filled with sounds of passion as we ensconced in each other. The fact that, we were close and intimate mattered a lot. He took me along the path of love and passion, the one I was always ecstatic about. The journey was through a tangential curve of elements from different spheres, through passion, lust, smell, scent, taste, pleasure, fantasy. The excitement reached the zenith tumultuously; we moaned, we gasped for breathe; we went mad on each other. I rode the convolutions of his body, seeking every possible chance of satisfying him. I reached his navel, and then went down further, feeling every inch of him in me. I traversed the corners of his foot and he moaned with pleasure. We went over each other couple of times; we continued dissolving into a single unit, two souls, and one body. Just being together, sharing one space, one being, sharing each other, not thinking of what to do, what to say, where to go, how to enjoy; all those things were gone. As we reached the peak of excitement, we just let ourselves out on each other. The first episode of love making was over and we slept in each other’s arms the rest of the night.
The following morning, I woke up and found out that Haroon was sleeping on my chest, caressing me halfway with his arms. I found divine peace in his facial expression; I felt, as if, he was sustaining a benign smile on his countenance. I ran my fingers through his hair and said “Sweetheart! It’s late!”
“Uhh…. Sutirtho! …. mmuuah,” He kissed on my cheek.
“Yaaaaayyyyyyyy!!” I was enthralled with joy and hugged Haroon. We kissed once again before we went out for breakfast. I was elated to think that I’d get many such nights as the previous one in future. But, what satiated me more was that I got a soul mate.
Part 4: Coming Out!
Haroon and I came much closer after that night at Hoganekkal. We’d go out to the city together, look at guys and comment on them. There was that sense and feeling of togetherness in whatever we did. I had a person in my life that I could talk to, yell at; release my frustration, love, and hate at times. Haroon never got livid on me. I didn’t know how he could maintain such equanimity. We started moving away from Anuj, Nigel and Karan. They were busy with their respective girlfriends and ‘good friends’ and we were busy with ourselves. However, we used to go out together sometimes. It was among those outings that we used to get uncomfortable about discussions on Haroon and my prospective girlfriends. We’d somehow turn the discussion towards something else. A sense of belongingness had gripped us in such a way, that, what seemed to be normal talks before, were becoming frustrating. Haroon once discussed things with me.
“Sutirtho! We aren’t comfortable anymore in hiding our relationship from them. They are good friends and I don’t want to keep them in dark anymore.”
“Do you think they will accept us? They are straight!” I was sceptical about Haroon’s proposal.
“We have been such good friends; don’t you think at least they’ll be with us?”
“Haroon, I don’t think they’d; Karan hates gays anyway; don’t you feel the way he speaks! His acceptability is doubtable.” I said.
I recounted the number of possibilities that could happen if we told them. They’d boycott us, they’d tell the entire college about us; they could even tell the teachers; they could call up our parents too; they’d make fun of us every time; they’d call us names, and we will be cornered. But what if they didn’t do things which we were thinking they’d? We decided to give it a chance. We were taking a big risk; still we believed in them. We thought we could build a premise before revealing facts. If the feedback was positive, we could go forward.
It was Rita’s birthday. We were supposed to celebrate that in a restaurant near M.G. Road. Rita was treating us. I’d called and wished at midnight, and so did others. If it was anybody’s birthday in our group, we’d be the first ones to call. So, we’d start calling five minutes earlier than midnight so that we wouldn’t get a busy line.
We met at the girl’s hostel. Rita came with her Honda activa. We wished her once again. Anuj and Nigel had planned a surprise gift for her, so they decided to meet us near Brigade Road.
“Happy Birthday! Rita,” Anuj said and then gave her a big teddy bear. Rita had a strong penchant for teddies. She would collect different teddies in different colours and decorate her room. I thought, girls in general liked teddies, but Amrita was different! She liked cricket and she freaked out every time there’d be a cricket match at the Chinnaswamy stadium. We had to accompany her anyway. I loved Cricket, but Anuj didn’t and he always used to get pissed off.
Rita was damn glad, “Thanks sooooo much Anuj, that’s a wonderful gift. Thanks so much, guys for making my day!”
We went inside the hotel and we told the waiter that we had a birthday girl. The waiter was dressed immaculately; he had a boyish charm. He arranged a big cake for her with candles.
We sang in unison “Happy Birthday to you….. may god bless you ….happy birthday Rita.” And then we clapped as she blew the candles. Everybody else in the restaurant also clapped with us. Rita loved it, and so did we. We settled in our seats and we started seeing the menu for starters as well as the main course, and everything was chosen after we concurred on a set of items.
We started a philosophical discussion about girlfriends, marriage and relationships.
Anuj and Rita were good friends; they feared entering into a relationship. They were giving each other some more time. Nigel and Amrita were doing well; they didn’t seem to have problems in theirs. Karan had proposed Nisha the previous month, and after some qualms she’d finally accepted it. So, everyone was happy with the scheme of things they were into. Obvious questions were asked about Haroon and me.
“What is it Sutirtho? You don’t like any girl in our college? What’s your problem?” Nisha asked.
Amrita added, “Yeah, Sutirtho, I don’t get it, is there a problem somewhere that stops you?”
Karan made a quick remark, “I think Sutirtho doesn’t think that anyone in our college is worth his intellectual level.”
“Let him speak, you guys are hurling questions at him as if you were a panel of judges!” Nigel came to my rescue.
“Why are you people after me? Don’t you have other stuff to discuss?” I was annoyed.
“Yes, we do, but since you are a good friend, we could help if you had a problem, so may be, you could discuss!” Anuj said.
“Guys, is it necessary that I discuss everything about myself with you? Can’t I have a personal space?” I asked.
“How open are you people?” Haroon asked.
“What do you mean? Open as in?” Karan said.
“Open as in say personal preferences, accepting things about people?” Haroon clarified.
“I’m not getting what you are trying to speak.” Amrita looked confused.
“Ok, suppose you had a best friend, and one day you found out something about him or her, that may look strange from a layman’s perspective, but you also know that it’s not his or her fault. What will you do? Will you accept him or her as he or she is, or desert him or her?” Haroon tried making things clear.
“So, what is it with Sutirtho? What’s your problem buddy?” Rita asked.
“Yes, tell us buddy, we will never leave you, come whatever may!” Nigel assured.
“I don’t have a problem, it’s all about the way I’m.” I said.
“What are you? You are an intelligent student, mostly busy in studies, and it is evident because of that you don’t have a love life! Face it dude, come out of your nerdish image! Don’t you think you need a special someone?” Karan said blatantly.
“What if I already had that special someone?” I asked.
“You do? Then why not tell us?” Nisha spoke after a long gap. I kept quiet for a while. People started pestering me, and I told them that they won’t like it, if I said that. They were really getting desperate to find out about me. I looked at Haroon, and he nodded in silent agreement. I had got the ticket for opening up.
I said, “Listen guys, I am hoping that you people will keep an open mind and try and understand my situation, my frame of mind and my preferences. Please don’t speak in between till I’m done saying things.”
“Agreed, please get going,” Everyone replied.
“When I was a small kid and I used to play with toys; I loved my cousin brothers and loved to cuddle near their feet. I loved to stay at their feet. My young mind didn’t have a question for that as I hardly could think. As I grew up, I found out, feet were my obsession and specifically boy’s feet. I looked at my friends at school, and I desired in my mind that one day I could sleep near their feet. I found myself looking at boys in my class, and somehow girls didn’t excite me enough. I had lots of friends as girls in school; I used to study in a co-educational school. But still I’d like to see boys.” I stopped for a while.
Then I continued again, “When things started making more sense, i.e. when I was in standard seven and eight, I found out that I’d always fantasized about good looking boys in my milieu, and not girls. I found this behaviour pretty strange. My friends would discuss about girls, and I’d always lack interest in such discussions. Somehow, I felt girls didn’t have enough in them to turn me on. In standard ten, my friends started discussing about homosexual behaviour and things related to that, and I could relate myself to such behaviour. Number of times I asked myself, if there was a problem with my thinking, was I acting strange. I couldn’t find answers to such questions. Whenever, I was on the street I’d always look at guys. So, under such mental turmoil, I came to know about people with similar interests as newspapers threw some light on the issue. I also found people in Yahoo! chat rooms and that was the time I came to a conclusion about myself that I am gay. It had to do with my sexual orientation. And its just not about being queer or lust for having sex, it’s just the way I’m, the way I feel, the way I think. I don’t feel I will be comfortable in a relationship with a girl. I can’t think of a girl as my life partner, and this has nothing do with stuff that I couldn’t get a girlfriend or something, it’s not out of frustration; it’s the way I’m. I never had problems chatting with girls, nor did I have problem making friends or spending time with them, it’s just the way I feel that my soul mate would be better if he is a guy, and not a girl.” I paused for a while.
There was pin drop silence; no one was speaking. Haroon broke it, “And you were talking about Sutirtho’s special one? I’m blessed, and you know why? Because, Sutirtho is the special one for me. Yes, I say it proudly, without qualms; he’s my boyfriend.”
“Yes! Haroon is my boyfriend; we are in a relationship. I love him the same way as Nigel loves Amrita and Karan loves Nisha. A gay relationship is no way different from a straight one. It’s my body, my choice!” I confirmed and looked at Haroon.
“It’s against the law of nature!” Karan remarked.
“I don’t care; neither do I care about section 377 of IPC that criminalises homosexuality, or rather sex against the order of nature. All I care about is that I’ve found my partner; all I care about is that I never ditch Haroon on commitments. You wanted to know about me since long, don’t you? Now tell us will you leave us since we are not straight?” I retorted.
“But, how do you think you will explain this to your parents?” Anuj asked.
“That is what I have to figure out! I’m worried about that!” Haroon said.
“Yes, I need to convince my mom that getting me married is not her ‘duty’!” I supported Haroon and added, “I can’t take the liberty of spoiling my own life as well as that of another girl. That’s ethically wrong!”
“I can’t believe this …. Sutirtho, Haroon… you guys are fags!” Karan almost screamed.
“Don’t cross your limits, Karan!” I warned him, “I already had people cornering me because of my sexual preferences, making jokes, calling me ‘faggot’, teasing me publicly, while I was at school. But I believe you guys are mature, and that’s why I told you about myself.”
“Calm down Karan, Sutirtho… I’ve grown more likeness for Haroon and you now,” Amrita said. She continued, “I am one of your trusted friends, and I know that you have considered us to be trustworthy and that’s why you have spoken out everything about yourself. Do you think I can break the trust you have put in me? Never!! Buddy, never in my life! I’m proud of you guys, you have just opened up about yourself … this.. this goes for a cheers,” Amrita stood up, walked across the table and hugged me.
I was really moved. I had tears in my eyes. Amrita was such a sweetheart. I’d never thought she’d respond in such a sweet way.
“Same from me, you guys can trust me! Sutirtho! I’m happy for you buddy! You’ve a soul mate and that surely needs celebration!” Nisha said.
“I’d remember this special birthday forever. Thanks Sutirtho for trusting me and speaking up; thanks again for choosing this day to tell us about you,” Rita said with a benevolent smile.
Nigel placed his hand on mine and blinked his eyes. Anuj hugged me too; he had tears in his eyes while doing that; he said “We are best friends buddy! We will never let you down; I promise.”
Finally Karan spoke, “I used to hate people with such preferences, but, the media and the net has changed my mindset a bit, and now that I have known about you, I will seriously put in more thought and seriousness on this issue.”
I smiled at him. I wished every gay guy had such loving and caring friends in his life. Earth would be the best place to live on, if that’d happen to everyone. I loved my friends because they cared. My parents didn’t know about me, so I had never ever found people who’d understand me and still care for me.
So, that was how we came out to our friends, describing them what we were all about; our ‘forbidden’ love as per societal norms and things that were running at the back of our mind. Karan had some initial mind blocks in accepting things, but later he too became neutral about us, and also stopped passing lewd comments about us. That solved the mystery surrounding Haroon and me, about the supposed lack of love in our lives. I thanked Haroon for trusting my friends.
Part 5: It ain’t known, till it’s reversed!
It was the sixth semester of our engineering course. Haroon and I came back from college. Professor Sameer Mohammad took one of the subjects of Haroon’s class, and none of ours. We had different teachers assigned to the same subject. And someone from our department taught us the same as the one Professor Sameer taught Haroon’s branch. We ensconced after snacks, and like ever, we would discuss things that would sound interesting to us. Incidentally, Haroon started off.
“Reverse Speech!” Haroon said.
“What?” I asked.
“I said reverse speech, professor Sameer was telling us about that in the class.”
“And what the hell is that?” I asked.
“It seemed interesting, the least, to me!”
“Hmm… then why discuss? “
“You are among those in the thinker’s community, so I thought, you might find it interesting!”
“Crap, tell me what that at least is!” I scowled.
“There you go! Ok… wait, let’s try with something basic. Suppose you are speaking, and somebody asked you to reverse whatever you said.”
“Reverse as in, the sense? Like, I say that I am not going home, and the reverse of that would be I’m going home?”
“No bud! Reverse as in you say ‘you are going home’, and then you reverse it saying ‘home going are you’”.
“So..? What’s special in that, you are just screwing up the idea you are trying to communicate?”
“No doubt it seems all screwed up, but according to some people it makes sense! They say that research on this area is of Nobel calibre! Well that’s the premise about this whole thing. Let’s get into more detail.”
“Hey, wait a moment; you said you were not interested in the idea!”
“I think I’m now getting some interest, as I’m explaining things to you! You are always special you know!” Haroon winked.
I smiled and he started explaining all about reverse speech.
“Now think of this, what happens if you play a song backwards, for the moment, just think that your CD player has messed up, it’s malfunctioning and playing your song backwards!”
“That’s what they call ‘reverse gear’ on FM radio; they play it backwards and ask the name of the song for a prize.”
“Correct! And on air that’s for fun, but here, according to David John Oates, its reverse speech, i.e. when a recorded speech is played backwards has some interesting and serious connotations.”
“Umm… let me think, you mean to say that reversed speech has something to offer?”
“Yeah, Oates presented a hypothesis on this; he said that a person communicates two ideas that are related, whenever he speaks, one backward and the other one forward. Whatever our conscious mind discovers is the forward speech.”
“Two ideas! Does that mean, he feels anybody just speaks a double entendre always?”
“No buddy! You are getting it wrong! It’s about a forward speech, the idea communicated by that, and the idea you get when the same speech is played backwards.”
“But, that would be a muffled tone or something? And anyway not everyone could communicate two ideas all the time he’d speak? That’s preposterous!”
“He says the ideas are communicated intermittently, say every 15-20 seconds of casual conversation. The second message, i.e. the backward idea is embedded unconsciously in the forward one. To make it clearer let’s say that the conscious mind of the speaker speaks forward and the unconscious mind speaks backward. You with me so far?”
“Hold on.. hold on.. I’m hell confused!” I frowned.
“You were talking about the muffled tone, right? There will be low voices, unclear tones and gibberish, but at regular intervals you can actually hear very clear statements that make sense!”
“Doesn’t help! How?”
“Ok, here’s an example: It’s pretty famous though, you heard about the controversies regarding landing on the moon?”
“Oh yeah, I watched a video, there were so many questions!”
“Yeah, so talking about Neil Armstrong, consider his golden words ‘ .. small step for man ..‘, if you play that backwards it sounds like ‘Man will space walk’, which tells us about his true feelings at that time, that man will never land on moon, that he will always walk in space!”
“My gawd!! What was that? I mean, okay, it might sound like that, but how do you think it proves what he was actually thinking so unconsciously? Or, rather his subconscious mind had such a thought?”
“There are whole lots of good examples of such things, not just the one I cited!”
“Like Hillary Clinton’s reverse speech suggesting ‘I surely would fit in’, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Governor Acceptance speech - reverse of that saying ‘soon I’ll beat the law.’” There are more such interesting examples that suggest that a person truly speaks what’s in his mind, when his speech is heard in a reversed direction! Isn’t that something really good to think of?”
“Umm… I’ll surely do some research on this, the concept is really cultivable, and hence entices me!”
“Yeah, I too am finding whole lot of interest in that! Especially after discussing stuff with YOU!” Haroon smiled flirtatiously. He put some extra stress on the ‘you’.
“Hey .. hey why don’t we try something right away,” an idea flickered in my mind.
“Shan’t we find some software on net which can play a recorded voice backwards?”
“Yes, yes.. I mean what a helluva idea! That is wow! Yeah, let’s try something.” Haroon looked excited.
We searched Google for that and found a site where a *.wav file could be uploaded and the site reversed it and played it backward. One could also save the reversed file on the local machine.
“Hence, thou shalt speaketh,” I chuckled.
“Umm.. what should we try? Okay, let’s try this – record it : ‘College life is fun’!”
As we reversed the sentence it sounded somewhat like “nnff ss ffila deglka!”
“Ha ha ha … that doesn’t make any sense,” I started laughing freakily.
“Hey wait, let’s play that again. Things don’t make sense much the first time you hear it.” Haroon suggested.
Encore: “nnff ss ffila deglka”!
“What the hell? You get anything from that?” I looked apprehensively at Haroon.
“Why can’t we make out something – let’s try … say ‘enough’ from ‘nnff’, ‘ss’ – take that as ‘is’; – it surely sounds like ‘is’ doesn’t it?”
“And what about ‘ffila’ and ‘deglka’?”
“Well, well let’s combine it – ‘ffiladeglka’”
“Philadelphia!” My eyes lit up.
“Enough is Philadelphia?? … Enough is Philadelphia!! Oh my god Sutirtho!! Enough is Philadelphia!! You get me?”
“No! Not even an iota!! I don’t get you!”
“You know my plan for higher studies?”
“Oh! Yes, so there’s some connection with Philadelphia?”
“Yeah BIG connection! I’m dreaming to get into Philadelphia University’s MS programme in Digital Design. You know I have a penchant for ICs and stuff, don’t you?”
“Oh! My God! This is fantastic! But do you think it meant that Philadelphia University is ‘enough’ for you to apply to?”
“Well, it might pretty well be the case that deep down my mind I want to apply just there, and nowhere else!”
“So you are, kind of, biased on that University, aren’t you?”
“There are other universities as well, but yes, I’m interested more in PU. Anyway, let’s cut down the MS stuff here, we’ve found something interesting to do here!” Haroon said.
“Umm… Okaay.. lets try this ‘Rock and roll’” I said.
The reverse sounded, “ell dorn cdo”. “Now, what’s that?” Haroon was surprised.
“It sounds like ‘El Dorado’ , I think,’ I said.
“What’s that el .. what ?” Haroon frowned.
“El Dorado – well that’s interesting! It’s a legend that tells about a place where there is abundance of Gold, Silver and other precious stones.”
“And how the hell do you know that?” Haroon was perplexed.
“Read that in one of the Satyajit Ray’s novels on the character Professor Shanku, the great scientist!” I replied calmly.
“For me and for you, El Dorado doesn’t make sense? Does it?”
“It might! It might! What if we had serendipity? If we, say, continued analysing sentences?” I said optimistically.
“You! And your serendipity!” Haroon laughed.
We tried out a few more sentences after that. In five out of ten cases we were able to make some meaning, and surprisingly three out of those five actually told something interesting about our thoughts. For example, I said ‘I love listening to rock music' and when reversed, it produced “kkssum kraw ut nnaisl val I” which sounded like “Exam screwed anyways well” and it was really a fact that I screwed up almost every exam the previous semester! In a similar way when Haroon said “The hostel food is so hell bad”, the reverse turned out to be “ddab llh os ss doof lethss ad” and when we heard it again it seemed as if he spoke “Doubles is duplex”, quite technical but made sense! We were enjoying that game pretty much, and we thought we’d continue that game for some time.
We discussed more at dinner, and we were, as if transported to a different world, we were not talking with other friends, just thinking about what we had just heard! Haroon wanted to go out for sometime after dinner, like every other day, and I had some important assignment to finish in ‘Analogue Communication’, so I decided to stay back.
I came back after dinner, I didn’t try to concentrate on my task, I kept listening to the reverse recordings, and I discovered a whole lot of things about reverse speech, as I found out more and more.
Haroon came back pretty late, I was waiting for him. His hair looked dishevelled and he seemed lost in thoughts.
“What happened?” I enquired.
“Aaaaah! Nothing.. just had a small fight with Anuj on that assignment submission stuff. Forget it; we always get into each other’s ways anyway. Hey… who’s that kid?” He pointed at the picture of one of my nephews on my table.
“He’s my nephew, isn’t he sweet?”
“Yes, he’s choooo chweet. I looove kiddies!” Haroon laughed. His smiling face and the twinkle in his eyes always mesmerized me; if among other features I had something to fall for, then obviously that’d be his smile.”
He seemed interested about my nephew, as he continued to ask about his school, whereabouts and other stuff. I felt bit uncomfortable answering so many questions, but I didn’t let that come over my face. But, when he kept nagging me about more, I had to stop him.
“Co’on Haroon, what’s the matter? You are asking too many things about Ryan!”
“He’s soo sweet; won’t I like to know more about him?” He winked.
“Anyway, will take you to my sister’s house someday, and you can meet him. For now, let’s concentrate on ‘reverse speech’”
“Oh yeah sure.”
And then I heard certain things that raised some doubts in my mind. The sentences Haroon spoke, when reversed sometimes had hints on children in them. The first one returned ‘Children are cute’, the second one was ‘Kiddies are nice’ and similar things. I was finding it tough not to sense something fishy in them. Though I couldn’t entirely trust the concept of reverse speech, as I’d not done much of research on that, but still an iota of doubt started lingering in me. I quickly recorded some more of his sentences and then he left my room as he had to work on the assignment as well like me. And since our set of questions was different, studying together wouldn’t have helped much.
After he was gone I reversed some of his sentences and I got ‘Sameer loves children’, ‘Kids play fine’. And those were stunning! Professor Sameer, well, he was one of my favourite teachers in the college. He’d taught us Digital Electronics, and I learnt a lot from him, when I started concentrating more in his class. There was absolutely no harm if he loved children. He was unmarried and had obvious reasons of loving them. I’d been staying with Haroon for the last three years, the first year in the same room, and that’s when we developed a relationship, but it’s still amazing to find that, even when I had known that guy for so long, still there were things about him that I felt I didn’t know! I couldn’t find what those reverse statements of him were referring to, but at the back of my mind I had something, and that was an eerie feeling that not everything was alright or proper! I also started thinking about his daily activities. A touché struck my mind; Haroon would go out every night for an hour or so, and nobody knew where he went. I never asked him, as I respected his privacy. There were couple of things necessary in a relationship, and he believed as did I, that respecting the needs of each other, and giving each other one’s own share of space was necessary. Similarly no one could become overly possessive, that was a definite invasion of personal space. But the discoveries that night made me think otherwise. What was that with Haroon, Professor Sameer and kids? Why everything he spoke had to do with kids?
I couldn’t work on my assignment; numerous questions started firing from nowhere, and that annoyed me. I kept tossing left and right on the bed the entire night. On one hand I found it quite preposterous to believe anything that reverse speech had to offer, on the other hand, I just couldn’t stop thinking and believe that everything was alright. I slept for an hour I guess and when I went to the college the next day, I began questioning every move of Haroon, though there were no kids in the college premise, still I doubted him then, I hated myself for that, but I did. I told to myself, I shouldn’t doubt the person I love, still I did.
I asked him directly “What’s with the kids dude? You seemed pretty much interested in kids last night?”
“What do you mean? I said I love kids, you think there’s any harm in that?” Haroon was disturbed.
“No, I don’t but why should everything point to children and kids?”
“Well, deep down my heart I might have profound love for kids, probably I will pamper my children so much,” He tried to make the discussion lighter.
I was not amused; I felt he was hiding something. I met Professor Sameer for some doubts, and I tried to get into a talk on kids.
“Sir, you know, I have a very cute nephew, and he wants to come to the college and meet my friends.”
“That’s so nice, why don’t you bring him here? And while you do that also bring him to me, I love kids anyway.”
I’d started hating that sentence - ‘I love kids’. Why everybody has to love kids?! I mean, kids are irascible, and why not get annoyed rather than loving them! I’m doubtless that kids are sweet, but wasn’t I finding that the people I was talking to were more inclined towards loving kids! Something, which once again doesn’t seem completely right!
I kept quiet almost the entire day; even Haroon tried talking with me quite a few times, but futile attempts for him all through. I made a plan for the night. I would surreptitiously follow Haroon when he’d go out that night.
Haroon came to my room after dinner; he wanted to talk with me as he sniffed some problem in my mood throughout the day. He tried all he could do to find out my problem, I produced circumlocutory replies to everything that he asked. I said I’d a problem that I’d discuss later and I needed some time of my own. He never got any clue for my ambivalence, and left for his daily nocturnal activity. I was ready for the espionage and I followed him discreetly.
He preferred walking, I guessed he did that everyday; I tried hiding myself in the shadows, and kept my eyes on him. He turned right after the play ground, and I wondered why he was going towards the back entrance of the college. I couldn’t completely decipher where he was heading to, but as I followed him I was assuming, he was going towards a professor’s house, probably Sameer’s. He reached the steps and slowly went up and knocked on the door. After a moment, Professor Sameer opened the door and he went in. I wanted to see more; I’d been to the professor’s house before so I knew that drawing room was visible from the kitchen window at the side. I peeped in through it after getting into his house compound stealthily. I couldn’t see anything or hear any noise. I moved in near the toilet in order to at least get some whispers, and what I could hear was some people sobbing very slowly. I tried to get a sneak peek through the little opening near the utility room; a small view port was luckily available to see what was happening inside. And what I saw inside caught me in jitters, I couldn’t believe my eyes; I felt fidgety! I pinched myself twice to absorb the truth that lay in front of me. My brain stopped working, it went completely blank, I was not able to process my thoughts for a moment; I’d lost the capability of thinking logically. I saw around six or seven small kids, all naked, shivering in fear, sobbing, crying, standing in front of Professor Sameer, who was teasing them physically, rather sexually! Haroon was ensconced at another corner with another bunch of kids. That was how they loved kids! My mind filled with hatred for these two creatures I adored in my life. I managed to take few snaps, using my cell, as proofs. Though, my power of thinking had gone to dogs, I thanked God for making me think in the right direction.
Part 6 : A posteriori
I ran to the front door of Sameer’s house and started banging it madly.
“Open up assholes!” I shouted, “You better open up before I call the police!” I planted kicks on the door with all my strength.
Sameer and Haroon came running to the door and opened it immediately. I stormed into the room like a juggernaut, pushed those mongrels aside and went straight to the bedroom. Sameer tried resisting my movements, but I found demoniac strength built up in me right at that moment.
“This is how you love kids you bastards!” I screamed at the top of my voice.
“Hey, co’ on we were just playing with them, it’s nothing serious, cool down Sutirtho,” Haroon tried to pacify me.
But that had a negative impact, I retorted immediately “Shut up!! You incorrigible beast! And yes …Philadelphia??!! You son of a whore, you are an unimaginable bastard, it said paedophile, not Philadelphia! Indeed it was ‘Enough I paedophile!’ and not ‘Enough is Philadelphia!’ It was pretty much of a forewarning, and you didn’t heed to it!”
I continued screaming “You are paedophiles, and professor, screw you!! It’s a shame to consider you as a teacher, someone whom I respect with all my heart, you don’t deserve that! You guys will land up in jail... Wait a minute… you guys should be stoned to death rather! How could you do this with the kids? How dare you?”
“Don’t you dare disrespect me, Sutirtho, I warn you! I won’t tolerate such audacity!” Sameer made a grim face.
“Screw You!! To hell, with your warnings, I am going to call up the police, the dean, the principal, all my friends…. I will see how you survive with such a corrupted deed; I will ensure you go to the jail immediately. You people are mentally sick! You should be canned to death!” I spoke with striking effrontery.
“You can’t do that! You love both of us! Hey co’ on we were not harassing the kids anyway!” Haroon provided an alibi.
“Nothing doing! Haroon …? Why? Wasn’t my love enough? Did I not give you my heart entirely and didn’t I dedicate myself completely to you? I feel defeated, completely defeated! Why did you do this to me?” It pained so much to find out facts.
“Listen Sutirtho, let me explain, please don’t get excited!” Haroon offered. His eyes started growing soggy.
“Sutirtho…. We can explain this, calm down please,” Sameer spoke.
“No… no you don’t have to explain this; everything is quite evident, I’m not a fool; you can just stop speaking right away; let me handle this!” I denounced. “You played with my emotions Haroon, you broke my trust, and I can’t believe that you turned out to be such a pervert!”
With that I instructed the kids to wear their dresses immediately. And then I started dialling Anuj’s number on my cell phone. Haroon ran desperately towards me; I kicked him real hard in his stomach; I tried running out of the room with great celerity; Sameer held me at the door, and he hit me hard with a wooden stand. For few moments I was completely blanched as I felt a sharp blow on my neck and I contorted in pain. I touched my neck to see if there were spurts of blood gushing out, but I knew I hadn’t cut myself; I collapsed near the gateway and fainted.
I came to my senses all of a sudden, and I felt I was struggling for breath. It took sometime to decipher what was happening to me. I could hardly see a thing as I opened my eyes. I felt something strangulating my neck. It was a rope. Then I saw that the rope was holding me tight from the ceiling fan. I discovered that I was made to hang from that; I couldn’t speak; I couldn’t shout; I felt an excruciating pain near my Adam’s apple. I was crushing under my body weight, like having an elephant on my neck! My eyes seemed to pop out from their sockets; my neck constricted so much that I could hardly swallow. My vision started blurring; I saw million stars appearing in quick succession and fading away. I writhed helplessly and tried freeing myself from that rope around my neck. It was so strong, I could hardly help it and finally let go without making a sound. Sigh! Was dying such a simple affair? You don’t need light to see your death! I died at the death of night but I didn’t want to; I wish I could have seen the last sunrise of my life yet again. I wish I could communicate with people of my previous world; I wish I could tell them what I’d seen, and how my loved ones betrayed me! I wish I could tell the police about them; but alas!!
Part 7: The discovery
Fifteen days had passed since my death. Things were growing almost normal in the hostel. Police had not yet given up the case, and inmates were told not to leave the hostel without permission. My room was sealed by the hostel authorities on police’s request. My parents were still there, and they were keeping an eye on the proceedings. They had been through so much already, and I still can feel out for them. My mom used to have dreams of me; she used to see me working in a big MNC, having a thick pay packet every month, living in a house of her dreams. She used to relate me her dreams and I used to promise her every time that I would definitely fulfil them one day. All in vein!
Back in the hostel, Nigel, Anuj & Karan mourned for me whenever they’d remember me in some context. Haroon couldn’t yet reconstruct himself. He had missed so many classes, and would hardly emerge from his room. He’d even skip meals sometimes. Nigel could hardly communicate with Haroon about anything.
It was night time and Nigel was deep asleep.
Nigel gasped for breathe, shivered and suddenly woke up, and pinched himself to cling back to reality.
“What a disgusting nightmare!” He thought.
He was sweating profusely, and hardly wanted to ruminate over the dream he had. He reached out for the water bottle on his table. It was empty. He moved out towards the hostel dinning room in search of water. The water coolers went lunatic at times and refused to work. He went passed room no: 6125, which had been locked after the unfortunate and acrid incident. It was 2:00 am; almost everybody in the hostel was in deep sleep barring few nocturnal brats. Those were the ones that were occasionally seen in the class, specifically at the time of the exams.
Nigel looked at the night sky through the dinning room window. A cool breeze hit softly on his face, and brought with it a popular fragrance, like that of a deodorant. That confounded him for a while, but he was happy to find that the water cooler was working. He looked askance outwards from the window once more. The moon was peeking through clouds scattered willy - nilly. The darkness of the night reminded him of the strange dream that woke him up. He saw me in it, babbling out something that didn’t make sense; I was floating inside a witch’s cauldron; only thing he felt he ‘heard’ in the dream was my obfuscated tone speaking ‘reverse’. Then he saw me popping up from the hot cauldron and crushing like an insect under a huge tanker running on reverse gear.
“God! Why does people’s subconscious mind have to think of such awry happenings?” Nigel wondered. He knew that everyone has something called a subconscious mind. It thinks a lot, works continuously, and one doesn’t even get to know that! But, those thoughts come to the person in his dreams.
There’s an open partially lit passageway connecting the dinning room with the hostel. It’s bounded from both sides by grills. As Nigel walked past through that area, he looked at the moon once again; it shone brightly and was as mesmerizing as a hypnotist’s clock, as if smitten by someone’s love. The sky was pitch dark spotted with white dots, quite surprising to think that, whenever one looked at the sky, one was looking at the past, as light that had started travelling millions of light years ago was then reaching earth and making those stars visible, and the trees stood like knights guarding the entrance of a colossal fort, bastioned by high rock walls. Anuj had once mentioned that ghosts are likely to be found at places where the quantity of light was very less and the temperature was cool. Nigel felt a shiver down his spine as he thought of that. He felt as if he saw something anthropomorphic and absolutely blanched in the distance. The following moment it was gone! Nigel cursed his sleepy eyes for that. He heard certain swishing sounds, coming from a distance that of the tree leaves brushing against the wind. The crickets were in concert in unison producing a timeless continuous crescendo.
“rheeeeshhh ----- rheee --- vaaaaaaaaaaaar----- shhhhhhhhhh……”
As if the trees spoke. Nigel couldn’t find a nexus. He was too sleepy to even think about it. Thunders cracked in the distance with sporadic flashes of light. As he was walking past 6125 yet again, he heard that someone was playing one of the popular Lata Mangeshkar oldies very softly.
Gumnaam hain koee.. (someone is anonymous)
badnaam hain koee (someone is ill-famed)
kis ko khabar? kaun hain wo? (Who knows about him? Who's he?)
anjaan hain koee (He's unknown)
kisko samze hum apna? (Whom shall I consider my own?)
kal kaa naam hain yek sapnaa! (Tomorrow's name is a dream)
aaj agar tum zinda ho, (If you are alive today)
to kal ke liye maalaa japnaa (Pray if you wanna live tomorrow as well!)
pal do pal kee mastee hain, (Its fun for a moment or two)
bas do din kee bastee hain (Its fleeting in two days)
chain yahaan par mahangaa hain, (peace is costly here)
aur maut yahaan par sastee hain (death is way cheaper!)
kaun balaa tufanee hain? (Who's the tempest?)
maut ko khud hairanee hain (Even death is confused!)
aaye sadaa viranon se,
He found the ambience very mystical, as if there was a link among all those subtle hints; everything uncannily suggested something that he couldn’t decipher. They seemed part of one big jigsaw puzzle. Were they signs of regret? The following moment, he thought he was too tired, he needed some rest, and probably he was thinking too much about me. He tried sleeping for a while, but the lines of that song kept resounding and reiterating at the back of his mind. Somehow life in the hostel after my death was like a place where nightmares lived!
It was the following morning, and Nigel had slept off late.
Anuj was knocking on the door for long. “Wake up lazy chum!”
Nigel opened the door, and Anuj hurled in.
“You know I had a pathetic nightmare last night! I saw Sutirtho crushing under something heavy!” Nigel said.
“What? How’s that possible?” Anuj was agape.
“What do you mean how’s what possible? I saw a horrendous dream, and am just telling, what takes on you?” Nigel was curious.
Anuj didn’t speak for sometime. He was thinking something.
“What happened?” Nigel asked.
“I actually don’t get it… I saw the same thing last night, and I couldn’t sleep well too.” Anuj revealed.
“Aaah! That’s nothing; we are heavily missing Sutirtho, that’s all.” Nigel said.
“No, but don’t you think there’s a connection between our thoughts?” Anuj asked.
“You mean telepathy or something?”
“Yes, telepathy is the word, strange, so strange! Yesterday night was really kind of weird.” Anuj mused.
“Okay, whatever, get ready now, be quick! We can’t miss Professor Sameer’s class.” Anuj was concerned.
In the class:
The college is placed on a plateau near the town. The campus is very large and the college was around 2 km away from the boys’ hostel. Girls’ hostels are closer though. The girls hardly took five minutes to reach there, and hence were always the first ones to arrive for attending a period.
The topic of discussion was “Reverse Digital Control Channel” as was written by Professor Sameer on the blackboard. Like always, he started off his discussion by giving out certain examples and making a basic ground of about the topic. He started speaking about TDMA – Time Division Multiple Access.
Anuj sat with Nigel in the class. They have been best buddies. Even though Nigel loved Amrita so much, but friendship was something, Nigel held above everything else. Karan would normally sit with Nisha; previously he used to sit with me in the 1st year. They were good friends, but were not in a stage where they could take the next step. Sameer faltered while trying to pronounce the word “Reverse”.
Nigel noticed that and pinched Anuj. He smiled back. That happened quite a few times; Sameer fumbled every time he tried speaking the word. Somehow, he got stuck, coughed a bit, and tried to gain back on again.
“He’s sick today!” Anuj grinned while making a remark.
Nigel, however, found it strange about ‘reverse’. Since last night it was, as if, that word had been haunting him down.
“Hey students, I’m sorry, just not able to carry on today. We will have the next round of discussion on rrrreevv …. rreverrrsssssee Digital Control Channel tomorrow.” Sameer faltered yet again.
Nigel and Anuj came out of the class. “I’m kind of worried about this word ‘reverse’,” Nigel said.
“Why? What’s with that word?” Anuj asked.
Nigel explained to Anuj about the previous night, the swishing sounds, and the reverse gear of the tanker, and about me uttering ‘reverse’ in an unclear tone. Anuj was surprised to hear all those things.
“Hey, lets try talking with Karan and if possible Haroon about this, what say?” Anuj offered.
Back to the hostel:
Nigel agreed and they came back together to the hostel. While riding back, Nigel still had an eerie feeling when a gust of wind blew past him, making a swishing sound. He thought that he was just associating everything that was coming his way.
He parked his bike, and went towards his room, unlocked the door, and then the one he saw on the wall of his room flustered him completely.
“REVERSE !! --- NOT ALONE!!”
Those words were engraved with red ink. Nigel flinched. He didn’t waste a moment in calling up Anuj on his mobile, and then Karan.
“Please… please come immediately to my room! Run!!” Nigel was overwhelmed.
Karan and Anuj hurried towards Nigel’s room. Nigel stood completely dumbfounded at the gate; he pointed at the words on the wall.
“What’s that? I didn’t see that today morning? What made you write that on the wall?” Anuj sounded curious.
“You think I wrote that? I just opened the gate and found that!” Nigel answered, looking even more pathetic.
“Oh! Co’on somebody might have played a prank on you.” Karan remarked.
“No way Karan! You don’t know what’s happening since last night. This word ‘reverse’ will kill me. And now, ‘not alone’! I don’t know what the matter here is, I get a strange feeling!” Nigel said.
Anuj went forward to comfort Nigel. The three of them gathered together for a while for discussing things.
“Nigel, buddy! I have no idea why you are relating your dream, yesterday night, Professor Sameer and these marks on the wall? I don’t find a connection. You gone crazy? What happened to you? Co’on this definitely is someone’s prank.” Karan tried to gain back on the normalcy of the situation.
“Anuj and I left the room in the morning. The room was locked, the key was with me, and the windows were closed. Still will you call it a prank?” Nigel said.
“How else will you associate it? Do you think an evil spirit did it? Preposterous!” Karan ridiculed.
“What if that was the case? What if Sutirtho was trying to communicate with us? What if he had to tell us something about his death?” Anuj tried to provide a logical explanation. He believed in the occult stuff.
“WOW, I mean Wow Anuj, you are a student of science, and you have started speaking all bunch of bullshit. I understand, we have lost a very close friend, but we have to move on buddy, life can’t stop at this. Personally, I didn’t like the idea of Sutirtho committing a suicide. I’m sorry if that hurts, but really!” Karan tried to be practical.
“I have doubts if Sutirtho really committed a suicide. What if that was a murder? Police has doubts, especially after seeing the post mortem report.” Nigel said.
“Why would anyone murder Sutirtho? He was a good friend of all of us. He was a bright student, and also a good person by heart. I can’t believe if he had enemies. I can’t buy that idea!” Karan sounded sceptical.
Haroon knocked on the door. Nigel had also called him, after he saw those marks on the wall.
“See that?” Anuj showed the words on the wall.
Haroon’s eyes grew wide with wonder seeing those letters. Nigel explained how he saw that, and also told him what they were discussing.
Haroon broke down into tears; he was mentally devastated after the death of his best friend. The one he loved more than himself. Anuj, Nigel and Karan kept quiet, allowing Haroon some time to re-compose himself and speak.
“We were discussing reverse speech the day before his death. How interested he was! I can still feel his excitement. Professor Sameer had explained the concept of reverse speech in his class the same day, and I was discussing the same with him.” Haroon conceded. He continued “We did play around a bit with the concept; it’s about reversing a spoken sentence and hearing the same.”
“There, you go! I guessed this! Now, do you believe Sutirtho is trying to explain us something?” Anuj made a touché.
Karan was still not convinced about things related to paranormal happenings, clandestine truths and similar things. Nigel kept quite and Haroon sobbed silently for a while. There was a long silence following that. Karan thought of speaking something, but even, for a moment he felt the paucity of words. Numerous thoughts were bubbling in the four brains for a moment, all simultaneously trying to make those guys mull beyond the obvious.
Anuj broke the silence “See buddies these ideas might seem so funny to you for a while. There are certain things that even science had failed to explain. Science has nothing to offer when asked to explain certain Near Death Experiences and things which might look paranormal to a human being. Being a science student myself, I would like to rationalize everything based on science. However, I also do believe that when I can’t explain stuff I’d assume them to be supernatural, and I have no qualms. I can never see my back directly, but that doesn’t stop me from believing that it exists! See, I’m not inspired by RGV movies or Ramsay brothers, I’m just trying to make little bit of sense out here.”
“So, what’s your proposition?” Karan asked.
“Why don’t we try and communicate with him?” Anuj proposed.
Karan looked in disbelief “How? You have gone nuts, completely!”
“Okay guys, I was thinking about this, first tell me: are you people with me?” Anuj looked on at everyone.
Nigel and Haroon nodded. Karan still had his reservations.
“Karan?” Anuj stared at him.
“Tell me, I will think.” Karan said.
“Okay, so there’s a way we can try. It’s called Planchet.” Anuj suggested.
“Oh my! …” Karan opened his mouth, and Anuj stopped him “Hold on, let me speak, you needn’t believe, but for the sake of us, you can be with us... can’t you?” Anuj raised his eyebrow as he made the point.
Anuj continued, “Fine then, let me explain. Planchet is a way of conjuring spirits of the dead and making them answer your questions. I had done some research on it, and I have never tried it. But, now we could probably try it out.”
“How do we do it?” Nigel asked.
Anuj replied “We will need a board with alphabets written all over it, ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ marked properly at diagonal ends. The rest of the board can contain arcane diagrams and mystique signs, which, according to some books have the power of attracting the spirits. We would require at least six persons to be present round the board. There should be minimal amount of light, and probably we could use a candle for our needs. A piece of wood or cork, called the concentration piece should be placed at the centre of the Planchet. All the six should place their index fingers on the piece of cork, and the person who’s the medium concentrates on the spirit who needs to be called by chanting his or her name silently in his mind.”
“You’ve done so much of research on that!” Karan remarked.
“Shut up Karan! Anuj; how do we know if the spirit had arrived?” Haroon asked.
“Yeah, there’s some sort of signal. You can ask questions, the spirit replies using ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ or spells out the answers. A seventh person is required to frame out the answers by following the letters.”
“And what’s the signal?” Karan asked, “I mean, is their some specific signal, or is it something anyone could notice?” He was finding the concept funny, but seemed interested.
“It could be anything, nothing specific for instance, depends on the spirit,” Anuj replied.
“And what if, just thinking, the spirit doesn’t leave?” Nigel asked.
“The spirit will the-e-e-en wail out woooooo …. Ooooooooooo oooo……… , sit on your neck and turn your head in the opposite direction, and take you along with it.” Karan started kidding.
“Stop it Karan, you are coming with us right? We will call Nisha and Amrita too, so that makes six of us, and how about calling Rita?” Anuj offered.
“Ahem.. ahem.. Rita, your special friend?” Karan winked.
Anuj blushed. Nigel and Karan smiled. Haroon couldn’t stop letting out a giggle.
“So what’s the plan, we won’t do it in the hostel I suppose?” Nigel pointed out.
“No way, we got to go in to the abandoned garage near the dam. We can go there say around 9:00 or so, after dinner, finish it up in an hour or so, and then the girls can easily get into their hostel by 11:00 pm. What say?” Anuj replied.
The four guys agreed on the plan and informed Nisha, Amrita and Rita. The girls found the plan quite interesting and exciting and hence acceded to their request. Anuj managed a hard cardboard and painted all weird shapes on it and also arranged the alphabets properly on a square section of the board. He engraved the words ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ at the corners. And then he arranged a cork, a pencil, few pieces of paper and a candle. The guys wore dark clothes, and ate dinner quickly to meet the girls at the telephone booth near their hostel. They had arranged four bikes. Haroon drove alone.
The abandoned garage is at the other side of the college campus, near a dam, secluded from the hostels and the main college buildings. It takes around fifteen to twenty minutes if someone tries to walk from the hostel that is nearest to the dam. The playfields are pretty near to the dam. But students hardly play there due to the scorching heat. Winter season is the time these fields loom with people. There’s a water treatment plant just close to the dam. The garage stood like a haunted house and the trees near it looked like its sentries. The shrubs and weeds near the entrance made the building inaccessible. It was indeed a matter of bets when students would challenge each other that they could visit the place all alone by themselves on a new moon night and stay there for two hours. Although, they were high on challenging, nobody actually gave himself a chance. But, that night it was full moon, so plenty of moonlight to decipher anything fishy happening in the surroundings. The lights from the hostel flickered intermittently. The vast expanse of the college campus was viewable. The moon was a dead white face slowly rising above in the inky starry sky. It had a strange halo encircling it. The wind was chilling, and it easily percolated through the gaps in the clothes like a serpent trying to constrict the body with its icy grip. The trees continued the swishing sound and crickets chirped relentlessly.
The guys opened the creaky weathered door and cleared the cobwebs; the girls followed. They went to the first floor where it was relatively cleaner. They settled down on newspapers after dusting the ground a bit. There was a small elevated wooden surface and it was used as filler for a table; the Planchet board was placed over it. The guys and the girls sat alternatively forming a circle around the board. Anuj lit the candle and placed it near an end of the table. He also decided to be the medium. Amrita chose herself to be the one who would note down the letters.
“If there’s anything that starts off, please ask questions guys!” Anuj said.
“Don’t worry Anuj, we will do that.” Nisha assured.
The pencil was given to Anuj and all of them placed their index finger on the cork placed at the centre of the Planchet board. The people started concentrating on the board and Anuj started enchanting ‘Sutirtho … Sutirtho …’ mentally. An hour or so passed on, and they could hardly notice a thing. Few minutes later, there was a slight movement of the cork; it started vibrating abruptly. The girls were scared, but they didn’t say a thing. People understood that something was about to happen.
“Sutirtho, are you there?” Nigel asked.
Anuj immediately pointed to ‘Yes’ with the pencil.
“What was that ‘reverse’ and ‘not alone’? Nigel continued with the questions.
Amrita noted few letters at which Anuj pointed. It read “Haroon.”
“What about him?” Rita asked.
“Children? You mean there’s a connection?” Nisha got curious.
That perplexed everyone. Haroon flinched. Karan didn’t have an expression on his face at that; he was nonchalant.
“Why did you commit a suicide?” Nigel asked again.
There was no answer. Nigel repeated the question. Anuj’s hand started trembling once again. Amrita scribbled again and it read “I still love Haroon.”
Haroon let out a sigh of grief.
“We know that, but why did you die?” Nigel reframed the question.
There was no movement. Then suddenly Anuj pointed at “No”.
Nigel looked puzzled “Does that mean you didn’t die yourself?”
“Who killed you?” Nigel asked.
Amrita noted the letters and couldn’t believe her eyes.
It read “K .... A ... R .... A.... N”.
Karan jumped up suddenly and kicked Anuj hard on his back.
“You think you are smart? Huh?! This is all bullshit, you guys want to get me all messed up, I’m not going to tolerate anything more. I had enouuuuuuuuuuuugh!” Karan turned livid.
Haroon ran to Karan, immediately, and punched him hard on his face; he placed a few more punches to debilitate him. Karan and Haroon got involved in a fight.
“Tell them you screwing moron, you killed my best friend, accept the fact, else, no one can stop me from killing you right here.” Haroon grunted furiously.
“What are you talking about? Have you gone crazy? Is this some kind of pathetic joke?” Karan screamed.
Haroon held Karan by his collar; Nigel and Anuj tried to free Karan from him. Haroon continued almost breathlessly, “Don’t you dare imitate innocence now, Karan! We decided to talk with him, you agreed on that, and still you killed him?”
Karan hit Haroon ruthlessly on his stomach and cried out in anger “Whatever you guys are thinking, I swear on God, I’d never do that!”
“Dare you swear on God? You liar!” Haroon grumbled and continued holding Karan with all force and slapped him hard. “Speak the truth Karan, else I swear on God you shall not live!” Haroon shouted.
The girls agglomerated in awe seeing the guys fighting; they had no clue of anything happening in front of them.
“You are the root cause you arsehole! You should have been careful.” Karan screamed on top of his voice.
Haroon started sobbing bitterly, “I wish I had stayed with Sutirtho that night; I don’t know why I trusted you! You killed my buddy! You are such a beast!”
The other guys and girls couldn’t decipher whatever those guys where talking about. Nigel tried to make sense, “Haroon, Karan… tell us right away what happened?”
Nigel held Karan tightly; he had already started hating him. Haroon took a deep breath and started explaining. He narrated everything to the point I went unconscious. “Sameer had called up Karan and told him about Sutirtho. Karan was also an accomplice in this crime. We decided to use chloroform to make him unconscious for a while; but we dropped the plan when Sameer pointed out that it could intrigue the police. Sameer and Karan had decided that Sutirtho shouldn’t live anymore. I pacified them and made them agree on discussing things with him the following morning. I also took the responsibility of making him understand things and persuading him to forget what he had seen by promising that we would not be involved again. Karan and I carried him to the hostel, and placed him on his bed and left his room.
Karan was still reeling under the blows from Haroon. Still he wouldn’t let go. Haroon hit him again; Karan couldn’t hit back, he was held firmly by Anuj and Nigel.
“Tell us!” Nigel shouted. “You better tell us now what you did to Sutirtho!”
He started narrating his part of the story, “Haroon and I brought him to his room; we decided to talk with him in the morning when he’d came back to his senses. However, we were scared about him raising an alarm whenever he would wake up. But we guessed that he wouldn’t be around sooner. I thought Sutirtho could screw up my career if I was ever caught by the police. I was absolutely panicked and I couldn’t control taking a decision. I came back later in his room. He was still unconscious. Professor Sameer had inflicted a strong blow. I wore gloves so that there were no fingerprints anywhere; I brought a rope and put it around his neck, and then I tied it down from the ceiling fan. I made him stand on a chair and adjusted the length of the rope appropriately, and then I removed the chair; closed the gate from inside and used the balcony to go out, again closing the balcony gate from outside by placing my hand inside through the grill above the balcony door.”
“Good that you accepted whatever you had done; I already had my instincts saying this! I was just trying to make you accept things in front of others and the police! The Planchet was a decoy!” Anuj said.
Everybody was dumbfounded with that latest piece of information from Anuj. “Yes, there is one more person in this room, and that person is Rita’s uncle Mr. Amit. He is an inspector at Koramangala police station. Here you go Amit uncle; you can take these two and our respected professor!”
“Anuj! How did you guess?” Nigel was too curious to know.
“Obvious question! Let me explain! I had attended the class in which Sameer spoke about ‘reverse speech’. Nigel, you were too lazy to come to the class. I found the concept very interesting. Then the next day, I found Sutirtho very quite and calm. We had a talk, where we discussed stuff about speech. He had mentioned that some sentences, that Haroon spoke, had to do something with children. I didn’t suspect these guys and I tried comforting Sutirtho as he looked somewhat disturbed. Then after dinner when I was coming back, I found him going out, from a distance. So, when we found out the unfortunate incident, I felt terribly bad for Sutirtho. I decided to find out if he had really done the suicide or it was a murder. That is actually an obvious question that strikes everybody."
Anuj paused to re-construct his thoughts. After a momentary gap he continued “The police had kept Sutirtho’s mobile with them, so I didn’t have a chance to find out anything from there. However, I noticed something that belonged to Karan when we were pulling down Sutirtho. You know, whatever way you try not to leave some details, you will definitely keep some hint unknowingly. And that’s what mattered. Karan is the only one among our friend’s circle who wears shirts; others prefer t-shirts. I found one of his popular Colour Plus shirt buttons on Sutirtho’s bed. The one you always wear whenever we plan to go to a disco, you are kind of branded with that shirt. I quickly hid that before anyone could notice.”
“What intrigued me after that was why Karan’s shirt button would be found there, unless there was a struggle or something. A button can’t just fall off on its own. I asked the guard if he had seen Sutirtho entering the hostel sometime. He replied that two guys were carrying him at night around 3:30 am. The hostel dinning room was deserted and most of the guys were sleeping, so no one noticed other than the guard. Then I showed him Karan, Nigel, Haroon and few other guys’ pictures. He recognized Haroon and Karan.”
“After I had done all those research, I was kind of confused as to why would even Karan or Haroon think of killing Sutirtho. We had a good friend’s circle that others were jealous off. I planned this Planchet thing. I told Nigel that I’d seen the same dream as the one he saw yesterday night. It happened, quite luckily, to fit into the scheme of things. I mean, I didn’t expect Nigel would dream anything of that sort. I also asked Niraj to get into Nigel’s room the same way Karan had left Sutirtho’s room the other night, i.e. through the balcony. I told him to paint those words on the wall. I could trust that Nigel was not involved in anything, because, he was studying with me, almost the entire night and he had also slept in my room. With that much done, the situation was created to talk and convince you guys about the decoy i.e. the Planchet; the rest of the things were very easy. I discussed all these things with Rita and requested Amit uncle to help me with this. So, she knew everything. I knew I couldn’t trust the police station that was handling this case, as they’d think as if I was involved in the murder.”
Anuj stopped and gasped for breathe.
“But, how did you guess it was me?” Karan quizzed.
“I had to take a pick between Haroon and you; my gut feeling or intuition, whatever you call it, said that Haroon couldn’t do this, as we all knew he had an affair with Sutirtho. So, I took a wild guess, a pretty wild I should say!”
“And why did Sameer falter while pronouncing ‘reverse’?” Nigel asked.
“I have no idea about that, may be Sutirtho was helping us, you never know! Sometimes certain things just fall into place at the right time! ” Anuj tried explaining.
Anuj continued “And you know what? The post mortem report also showed the fracture of the hyoid bone, which also sometimes suggests manual strangulation. The police had doubted that I guess.”
“Yes, and to add to it, there was a mark found on the neck, that couldn’t have been caused because of the rope; it was a mark of hitting with something tough, as per the reports, which obviously was a concern for the police to think that it was not a suicide.” Mr. Amit added.
“Anyway, I already had enough of all these, what I know right now is that I can continue hating Karan, Haroon & Sameer for the rest of my life!” Nigel looked at Haroon and Karan. His eyes showed deep hatred.
Amrita fulminated, “It’s beyond my dignity to talk with such incorrigible and detestable creatures! And I considered them friends! Poor me! Still, I need to know what made you do all these. You had a girlfriend Karan, and you Haroon, you had such a sweet boy as your partner! Why?”
“I hate myself for being with that beast!” Nisha repented and ran to Karan and slapped him hard and started crying. Nigel tried to help her.
“We want an explanation, we deserve an explanation to such crime; we deserve to know what was lacking in us, that you people had to resort to innocent children?” Rita asked.
“Tell us murderer! Tell us the truth, anyone of you?” Nigel shouted at Karan and Haroon.
Karan started explaining once again, “I don’t deserve to live; I don’t know where my ethics, moral compunctions were! I was, as if, in some other world where I couldn’t make a difference between good or bad. I used to take tuitions from Sameer. It was the end of fifth semester and I felt I needed some help in one of the subjects. You obviously know that, and also the fact that Sameer is unmarried. But, what I’m going to tell you now, was never known by anybody. I’d discovered one day that Sameer was involved with small kids; it was accidental the same way as Sutirtho discovered it. Sameer had given me various threats of failing me in the subjects forever; he also said that he’d tell the principal and my parents, things that are utterly untrue. But, to his surprise, he discovered that I found the concept of sexually interacting with kids interesting. You call it my perverted nature, or my lack of conscience, I was interested in that. So, I became involved in it, and I loved it. But I hate myself now; I hate myself for killing one of my best friends to hide my guilt!”
“And you, parasite, how did you land up with these criminals?” Nisha asked Haroon.
Haroon started saying, “One day, Sutirtho and I were sitting in the garden near the main entrance of the college. It was dusk and we were getting mushy, emotional and physically intimate. We were sitting at such a place where nobody could notice. Sameer had, however, unfortunately seen me, and I didn’t know that, neither did Sutirtho. Few days later I had to go to Sameer’s house and I found out again that Karan and Sameer were involved with the kids. Though they were inside the bed room, some soft cry sounds intrigued me. I went at the back of the house and through the glass in the bathroom; I saw what was happening inside. The door of the bathroom to the bedroom was open halfway. I knocked at his door immediately and went inside and directly charged them for such an abominable act. Sameer and Karan knew that they couldn’t give any explanation that could satisfy me and make me forget things. So, they resorted to blackmailing me. Karan reported to Sameer that I am a gay, and Sameer had already seen me getting intimate with Sutirtho. And, then there were tensions of passing the exams, and also that of reputation going bad and stuff if they announced everywhere about me. I was scared. So, I agreed to keep quiet. But, I had a moral obligation. I thought over it and decided to tell them that I also liked it, and in that way I could at least save the kids from the sinister harassment. I visited Sameer’s house every day and although I feigned that I was having fun, in some way I used to save them from Sameer. I hate myself that I didn’t go to police; I didn’t discuss things with you people or Sutirtho. I didn’t trust my good friends. I was plain scared about my career and my life in the college. I was, kind of, selfish if you guys call me that now. I was carried away.”
“That saves you a bit, but not entirely, as you were someway involved in the crime.” Mr. Amit said.
“But, Haroon, you must have known that Karan had killed Sutirtho! Didn’t you? Why didn’t you tell anybody?” Anuj asked.
“I was scared about everything; Karan and Sameer also scared me a lot… I .. I just got carried away, I just …. such a miserable wretch I am! I couldn’t save my friend, I wish I had stayed with him that night … I can’t forgive myself. Never!” Haroon broke down completely.
Part 8 : Adieu!
I could start my journey to the world beyond peacefully. The criminals had been punished, and the children saved from the demons. I wish everyone could find out, like me, people who did injustice to children. And my death has served a good purpose and I’m happy. I still feel for my parents, but then I’m contented to find out that it was all not in vain. I wish I could thank Anuj and hug him one last time. But, I couldn’t communicate, and even if I touched him he wouldn’t feel it. I wish he turns his special friend Rita into a wife very soon. Haroon, my soul mate? Well can’t call him one anymore, people just don’t stick to their promises. Karan? Never ever thought he could do this to me. Nigel: Too sweet and innocent like always, I wish him a happy married life with Amrita. Nisha: I truly feel for her, I’m very sad. Professor Sameer ? I wish he’s incarcerated for the rest of his life. He doesn’t deserve respect as a teacher should.
The power of Good bye!
For some moments I re-lived the days since my childhood. I saw myself as a small kid playing with toys. I saw myself answering questions in the classroom, sometimes correct, at other times wrong. I saw my teacher telling me the marks I had scored in the +2. I saw myself standing in the queue for the engineering college counselling. Then I saw my first day at college. I saw Haroon, Anuj, Nigel & Karan; the times we shared together as good friends. I saw Professor Sameer’s first class. And then, after some time I saw my ultimate moments; me struggling and letting go my last breathe. My whole life flashed back in front like a movie trailer, and I re-lived through it. I stood in front of a huge long tunnel. Although, I couldn’t feel wind gushing past my body; I felt I was travelling at a great speed through that tunnel. It was dark space, and I didn’t realise why I was flying through it. I wanted to reach my destination as soon as possible. The end of the tunnel was too bright. There, at the end of the tunnel stood an Angel, his arms stretched. I couldn’t feel pain, warmth or any such earthly and abstract feeling. His countenance was radiating happiness and glow. When there's nothing left to try, there's no power greater than the power of goodbye! I gave one last nostalgic look backwards and finally united with him to find Elysium.
Good bye! Dad, Mom, Anuj, Nigel, Rita, Amrita, Nisha, Niraj........ Haroon .....