There was chaos everywhere. A few people had gathered. Some baffled, some curious. Though I was standing a bit far from the scene, I knew everything about the incident. I was the only one who knew how and why it had happened. But there was nothing I could’ve done as everything was over.
Four years ago, Abhilash and Manasvi were spending the happiest days of their lives. Everything was just perfect. Their career was going great guns; their parents had agreed to their relationship, there was not a single dull moment in their lives. They grew up together as neighbors, went to the same school, then the same college and were getting ready to spend the rest of their lives with each other. They were swimming in bliss.
It was during these days when Shashank came into their lives and their happiness got intensified. He was Abhilash’s old friend, but had lost touch with him ever since he had gone abroad to do his graduation. Now that he had come back he was very happy to be with one of his best friends. Shashank came from a filthy rich background. Abhilash had always liked him, for he was ambitious, well behaved, had good attitude, had good sense of humor and above all he was a person who valued friendship.
Over the next few months, the three of them met regularly. It was too common a thing for Abhilash and Manasvi to meet him once or twice a week. Whenever they met, they always had a blast. Shashank obviously brought more happiness in their already happy lives. He was a total party animal, and Abhilash and Manasvi were his regular guests.
A couple of months later, Abhilash got an assignment from his company and was asked to go to US for eight months. Though it made Manasvi sad, she was happy for him. “It’s just a matter of eight months, sweet heart”, he had tried to soothe her, but to no avail. She had just hugged him tightly.
The three of them had one big party before his departure. It was memorable for all of them. Soon came the day when Abhilash had to leave. Manasvi and Shashank went to the Airport to bid him adieu. Manasvi fought her tears for the nth time in 3 weeks. Finally he was gone. Abhilash and Shashank didn’t meet again until two years later.
Everything was going smoothly for Abhilash. Great job, a lovely would-be wife waiting for him to return home; He was very happy. But what he didn’t know then was that his happy days were about to come to an end - unannounced.
Six months later, Abhilash’s world came crumbling down when he heard the news on the phone. Manasvi had ended her life. He was so distraught, he couldn’t even cry. He had never imagined the world without her in it. For that reason, he still couldn’t believe that she was no more.
Life’s greatest sorrow is not when the person you love madly leaves you, but the very realization of the fact that you cannot live without that person.
He returned home from US, but decided not to go to the funeral. He had always kept her happy; he had always made her smile. Now the thought of seeing her lying in a morose atmosphere without life, let alone smile, sickened him. He wanted to remember her just the way she was – always smiling.
His life had come to a stand still. He was eating his heart out day after day. Nothing made sense to him anymore. He even wanted to end his life, but thought otherwise. There was only one reason to continue living: to keep her loving memories in his heart. As long as he lived, she lived too. He decided to start a new life.
And when he did, he did it with a new found energy. There was a delicious sense of repose in his face now. People close to him were a little surprised, especially his parents. He sensed it and said to them, “Phase of my dolor is over now. I am starting a new life.” His parents were just happy to hear that, for all they wanted was for their son to be all right. He got his job back and started working without a tinge of lethargy.
He changed drastically over the next year. He never brought up the topic of Manasvi again. He didn’t even talk about her on her Birthday or Death Anniversary. He lived as if she was never a part of his life. Though this bewildered his parents a little, they didn’t ask him. And he didn’t tell them.
Shashank was lying in the middle of the road, and was in severe pain. He had almost passed out when someone came to his rescue. It was around 11pm. He at first couldn’t recognize the face properly, for his vision was blurred. But when he did, he was more than surprised.
“What the hell happened to you, man?” asked the rescuer.
“I… I….,” Shashank couldn’t talk.
“Ok. Don’t say anything. Let me take you to the hospital first. Just stay strong, all right? Come on, let me pick you up. Put your hands around my shoulders.”
Shashank later told Abhilash that someone had hit him on the head with a steel rod, then robbed him and left him to die. Though a complaint was registered, the police couldn’t find out the culprit. But one good thing came out of it: the incident brought the old friends together again.
Both of them started meeting regularly after that. In spite of not having kept in touch for quite a long time, they realized that nothing had changed between them. But they still cursed themselves for not being in touch. But that was inevitable. A couple of months after Abhilash had left for US; Shashank too had left for Australia to take care of his father’s business. Both of them had got very busy in their own world. Now that they were together, they lived each moment as if it was their last. Abhilash started enjoying his life like never before, and without a doubt Shashank was the cause of it. Abhilash’s parents were very happy about it and treated Shashank like a son.
After a few months Shashank finally scrounged up some courage and asked about Manasvi. Abhilash said upon asking, “She is still alive in my heart, man. But you know I have to leave everything behind and move on with my life.” Shashank never asked anything about it after that, as he knew it would only make his friend melancholic.
Every day was a party. Weekends were a festival. Restaurants, pubs, bars, discotheques, there was not a single unexplored place in the city. It was an unalloyed pleasure.
Another one and a half years passed by and they continued having fun. One day Abhilash had to leave for Delhi for a couple of days on an assignment.
“So when are you returning?” Shashank asked.
“Well, I should be back by Saturday.”
“All right, man. Take care.”
And Abhilash took his leave.
Shashank had the habit of jogging very early in the morning. He woke up at 4 am daily and hit the Joggers’ Park by 4.30 am. After jogging for one hour he would go to the gym and be home by 7.30 am. On a Saturday morning when he reached the Joggers’ Park at 5am, he met with a surprise. Abhilash was waiting for him in his track suit.
“Hey, what a weird surprise!” Said Shashank.
“When did you get back, Abhi?”
“At around 3am. Couldn’t sleep. So thought of starting a new habit by coming here.”
“That’s wonderful, man. Come on, let’s jog.”
And they started jogging.
“You know, usually at this hour, there won’t be anybody here. The park starts to fill in after 5.45 or 6am,” said Shashank.
“I know. Which idiot, apart from you, wants to get up so early in the morning? And that too in the month of cold December
“Yeah right.” Shashank laughed.
After jogging for another 5 minutes, Abhilash asked, “Can we take some rest? I am tired.”
“I’m not surprised. This is your first day. Well, ok. There is a huge tree nearby. You can rest there, while I do my exercise.”
When they reached the tree, Abhilash asked, “Hey, Shashank, did the police find out the guy who attacked you two years ago?”
“No, man. Not yet. And I think they have completely forgotten about that case. But why did you remember it now all of a sudden?” Shashank asked while leaning against the tree.
“Well, I was wondering for the past few days if the Police can’t, I can find out who did it.”
“Really? How?” Shashank was curious.
But before Abhilash could answer, Shashank held his stomach and let out a sharp scream. It was a scream filled with horror and pain. He was in so much pain he couldn’t even say anything or scream louder. He couldn’t interpret what was happening.
Abhilash’s heart palpitated when he looked at Shashank’s horror stricken face. Never had he seen his friend in so much pain before. He was incapacitated for a minute. There were tears in Shashank’s eyes now and he signaled Abhilash to look down at his stomach. Abhilash took a look. A thin sharp steel blade of knife had passed through Shashank’s stomach and blood was oozing out continuously.
Although Shashank, his best friend, was bleeding to death, Abhilash at that particular juncture was not so eager to call for help – because the handle of the knife happened to be in his hand…
“How does it feel, you filthy skunk? How does it feel when death comes unexpectedly? How does it feel when a trusted friend betrays you?” Abhilash was talking in a menacing voice.
He then pulled the knife out of Shashank’s stomach and pushed him on the ground implacably. Shashank sagged down by clutching his stomach. He still looked befuddled. He finally managed to ask, “Why?”
“You are still confused, aren’t you? You should’ve seen it coming, you bloody monster.”
“Don’t…do this to…me,” Shashank managed to say, clearly his bemusement turning into trepidation.
“Oh, really? You don’t want me to do this to you? After all that you did to Manasvi when I was not here? After you made her fall prey to your lascivious desires? After all that physical and mental harassment she suffered from you? After she was forced to take her own life? You expect me to leave you alone?”
He paused for a moment and continued.
“You thought I didn’t know, huh? I always knew. And do you know who attacked you two years ago? It was I, but only to help you later. I had to get back in your circle of trust, you see.
Shashank was clearly stunned to hear this. He couldn’t get a word out of his mouth. There was a minute of silence. Then Shashank asked, “But why…..after all these…. years?”
“I was waiting for you to ask that question, you miserable twit,” Abhilash said as he punched his face again. Shashank gave a sharp cry.
He continued, “You see, like comedy, inflicting pain on your enemies is all about timing. And now is the perfect time. You are alone. You are lying helplessly on the ground. You are begging for your miserable life. When she died, she at least had me to avenge her. Whom do you have?” he paused for a moment and said, “Nobody.”
He then brought the knife to his throat. When Shashank felt the coldness of the steel blade, it scared him more than death itself.
“No… Please don’t do this… to me…,” Shashank begged again – for the last time. But he didn’t know he was speaking his last words. Abhilash tightened his grip on the knife.
“I waited for this particular moment patiently. And now, my wait is over,” Abhilash said, and slit his throat.
He stood there for a few minutes looking after the dead body while his hand still held the knife. He then looked towards the sky and kept looking at it as if he was trying to find something – or someone? That day marked Manasvi’s 3rd Death Anniversary.
It was around 6.10am. More and more people started gathering around the body. I was still observing the ongoing activities from a distance. Ironically, those activities were not called matutinal.
I didn’t need to ask a doctor to know how the man had died, so I didn’t call a doctor. There was no way the Police could’ve figured out who the murderer was and the motive behind the murder, so I didn’t call the Police. There was nothing I could do to change the circumstances, so I walked away.
I reached my bike, which was parked outside the Joggers’ Park; kick-started the engine and rode to the reservoir dam that was just around 5 kms away. The dam was approximately 40 mts in height. Once I reached there, I got off my bike, and went and stood near the barricade facing the east side. I stood there for a minute with my eyes closed and reminisced on my past. I then took out the blood stained knife from my jacket pocket, looked at it for a few seconds, and threw it into the reservoir.
I stood there in total silence of the virgin morning. A while later when the golden rays of the Sun fell on my face, it was crystal clear to me that she was smiling. And I smiled back.
Copyright © Karthik 2009