Prologue: The accident
Her voice deadpan serious and her tone passive. This wasn’t Lata at her normal self. She was shivering as evident from her diction. The otherwise cheerful and naughty Lata must have come across something which Sandeep wasn’t able to gauge. He had been ignoring her since the time he met Neelam. His relationship with her was affable but there had been a rift, Sandeep was more attracted to Lata’s best friend and roommate Neelam. Sandeep even thought of ignoring the call even then but fortunately picked it up, it was something very severe. Choosing his words very carefully, Sandeep responded
“What is the matter Lata? You don’t seem well.”
She did not speak for few seconds; silence prevailed and berated the serenity of the circumstance, it was a terrifying moment. Sandeep had started to worry already. He spoke again
“Lata, please tell me what is the matter?”
“Can you please come at sector 10 hospital? Its urgent.” She replied and disconnected the phone. It appeared she might have cornered a tear or two.
Sandeep’s worry knew no bounds, his anxiousness increased manifold. He was sweating; he checked his mobile again to ensure it wasn’t a dream. He scurried throughout his room. He thought of discussing it with Mon – his roommate but hesitated. He kept thinking about his innate relation with Lata. Every intimate moment spent with her came back to him as a haunted dream, frightening him to his very core.
“This isn’t the right time for all this sh*t. I shouldn’t have done all that.” He thought
The level of unrest in his mind was unimaginable, the quantum of burden thinking and perceiving motive behind Lata’s untimely phone call at 4 in the morning, even more maddening.
Sandeep decided to rush to the hospital. He knew that situation might get worsened if what he was thinking came out to be true but he had to face it. It hadn’t been a while since they had been physical. The thought of Lata’s pregnancy flooded his mind. His thinking was clouded but it wasn’t his fault.
The truth however was way different from what Sandeep had perceived.
As he paced towards hospital in his bike which boasts of many unforgettable memories and unfathomable reality checks, a tiny drop of sweat managed to make its way all the way to his chin. Considering that the weather was dry and heat on the lower side those days in Bhilai, it was unusual. His weary look on the road and thought process in the back of his mind narrated all. The radiance of street lights jigged through his helmet with each stride forward; the white dividers on the road could be hardly be noticed owing to the scary speed that he was in, it was dangerous. The street dogs barked, howled and ran after him but his mind was fixated on the issue in hand, he could hardly notice all of that. The journey till hospital can be surmised as dangerous edging of broken roads coupled with precarious proximity and advances of flesh rupturing beasts.
“Lata…Lata…. Lata…” Sandeep caroled at the reception desk while he panted derisively. He had rushed from the parking space to reception in one breath. He was anxious and losing his mind.
“Calm down Sir, I will have a look, don’t worry.” The lady at the desk assured. She went through the hospitals database but in vain, she couldn’t find anyone named Lata admitted there. She browsed through all the details again but no luck. She lifted her head and said disappointingly
“I am sorry Sir, there is no one admitted by this name.”
A sudden rush of rage encapsulated Sandeep’s mind, he was furious at her as he was not able to fathom what was going on, he vented all the frustration on the lady
“What do you mean there is no one admitted by that name, am I lying? Do I look like a liar to you?” Sandeep screamed.
Sandeep’s voice echoed through the corridors and woke some sleepy heads who were with the patients. The balance of silence that hospitals usually enjoy was broken. Almost everyone in the surrounding and few passerby’s halted at this sudden upsurge of what seemed to be a grotesque emotional breakdown. Everyone’s eyes fixed on Sandeep, awaiting the series of events to be followed next.
“Please calm down Sir, there is no one by that name admitted……” she tried to explain but Sandeep cut her short
“Are you nuts, you really think I came all the way down here for nothing. Find where is she admitted right now. It’s not a request rather an order.” Sandeep roared again.
There was buzz in the hospital about it. The people staying with their admitted ones hardly could enjoy any action and their day usually would be tedious and at times hapless and disappointing. The little drama created just now had been an escape from the routine for them, everyone was watching all of it with silence in their mouth and curiousness in their eyes. The commotion spread to the ICU as well where Lata was seated, she started to walk towards the reception to ensure everything is alright only to find Sandeep brawling with the receptionist.
“I will have to request to keep your voice low. Our patients are getting disturbed.” Demanded the receptionist, her voice stern this time.
Lata rushed to Sandeep’s rescue.
“You couldn’t even find a simple thing……”
Sandeep was interrupted by Lata now
“What the hell are you doing? Why are you creating a scene here? This isn’t a Bollywood movie for heaven’s sake.”
“Oh my god, you’re alright, what happened?” Sandeep exclaimed. His rage palliated by his worry now. He waited for her answer but his mind had started to guess already.
Lata looked at him with blank eyes and said
“Tammy met with an accident, he is in ICU, he was with Taniya and she….” she choked and started crying.
“Tell me already god damn it.” Cried Sandeep, now a little bit alleviated knowing Lata is fine. But the story was yet to be unfolded.
“She is no more Sandeep; she is no more….” Wailed Lata and hugged him; she continued to sob and kept repeating the same thing. He comforted her but after few minutes another concern stormed his mind. He released Lata from the embrace and asked
“Have you informed Neelam?”
Her eyes numbed now and her sight envisioned secrecy, chokingly she said
“I couldn’t tell her this. I didn’t know what to do, so I called you.”
Sandeep looked at her and was able to feel the agony that she was going through. Losing her bestie in an accident had baffled her. The sole responsibility to inform Neelam was bestowed on Sandeep. He too was nonplussed and did not have the courage to face Neelam.
Location: Konnapa Agrahara, Bangalore
Date and Time: 10th Sept 2016; 11 am
I rang Sandeep for the seventh time in an attempt to locate him. It had been a hurdle that day. The scorching sun added the surprise element here in Bangalore and when combined with all over the map traffic, trust me it gets worse. Sandeep picked up and repeated the same thing
“I am waiting near Venkateshwara theatre.”
“I am also there, where the eff are you?” I cried trying to nullify the frustration of multiple failed attempts of locating Sandeep.
After two more minutes of extended search finally I was able to get hold of Sandeep. He was my colleague before I parted ways with that organization and moved to Bangalore. My equation with him always had been spot on as I was a writer and he, a fantastic story teller. There were numerous stories reeled off by him during those chai-sutta breaks in office or in those post drinks rendezvous however the aforementioned tale in particular was my favorite.
Sandeep too following my footsteps had come down to Bangalore in search of a better job. Being the torchbearer of the Bangalore movement grotesquely, I had to ensure his stay and be his guide in this job search.
“Shubham……” shouted Sandeep. I was able to hear his voice still searched hither and yon, but ultimately the mission was successful.
The meet up although was sudden and unplanned but it paved the way for more stories to be told and wrap up the unfinished.
(to be continued…. stay tuned……)