This is the second part of the previously published short story "The Limbo"
Friday, 22 April 2016
This is the second part of the previously published short story "The Limbo"
People began to gather at Peter's house the next morning. Manoj had immediately informed security and his superiors about the accident last night. Peter's disappearance was shocking and incomprehensible to everyone. Finally, they came to the conclusion that an immense heat from the sparks would have vaporized entire body of Peter.
Maria was crying miserably. Her relatives were trying to console her. The loss of a young son was a disaster for the family. She couldn't even get to see the dead body of her son. She had almost lost her sanity. Vishwas was sitting in the living room, staring into the distance. His face was deprived of any expression. There was so much he wanted to say to his son. He wanted to express his disappointment when his son had not attended his event. He wanted to tell how much he missed his son when he used to remain in the lab for days. He wanted to show him how much he loved and cared for him. But he could never get to do all these ever. He had to die with this regret. Tears welled up in his eyes and finally made its way out. His face was still blank.
Peter was sitting on the circular chamber floor hopelessly. He was staring at the ceiling but his mind was wandering randomly in the past.
Mr. Parallel universe, take out some time for your poor dad too. Peter remembered his father's words. He hadn't even looked at his father when he responded. I am more interested in discovering new life in Parallel universe rather than listening to the inconsequential discussion on the realms of the dead- The Limbo. How rude he was to his parents. He desperately wanted to go back and hug his father and mother. Apologize for ignoring them and hurting them. He closed his eyes in pain and regret. But he knew regret won't reverse the things. He had lost his family now.
Please help me God. Please get me back to my parents.
Human beings realize the true value of something only when they lose it. And when they lose all hope in their life, the only thing they can turn to is God! That's why despite there has been a fast paced progress in Science, people still have a firm faith on God.
People by now began to retreat. Maria was still inconsolable. Vishwas, on the other hand, had not spoken a word since morning. Manoj came from behind and put his hand on Vishwas's shoulder, 'Luck was not on Peter's side'. Manoj's voice choked with emotions. Vishwas did not pay much attention to Manoj.
Manoj continued. 'Till the last moment, he was indecisive of going ahead with the experiment or aborting it. Finally, he chose to stop the machine'.
A thought struck on Vishwas's mind as soon as he heard the last sentence Manoj had just said.
At every point of life, there are two outcomes of a situation. What outcome will exist depends upon what decision we make. What we experience is what option we chose, but there are other universes which would have born out of our universe, where the other outcomes also exist. Peter's voice echoed inside Vishwas's mind. Vishwas recalled Peter's video call discussion about Parallel Universe.
Manoj, on the other hand, continued. 'But it was his bad luck that the machine did not stop. I tried everything'.
'He chose to abort the experiment. He chose to abort the experiment', Vishwas murmured.
'Uncle?', said Manoj.
Vishwas looked at Manoj and said, 'He chose to abort the experiment. So, he shouldn't have died. The outcome of his decision should be life not death!'
Manoj feared that Peter's death had psychologically impacted his father.
'Uncle we have to be strong. I know it’s not easy. But we have to accept the truth', said Manoj worriedly.
Vishwas ignored Manoj and said, 'Peter himself had said that the moment we chose one option, a parallel universe is created were the other option also exists. If Peter had chosen to not to continue the experiment, he should have lived in this universe and another universe would have been created where the other outcome also exists which is, his death'.
'Uncle I don’t understand at all what are you saying!'. Manoj was finding it annoying now.
Vishwas stood up, 'He shouldn't have died. The moment he chose to abort the experiment, another universe would have been created. But the machine did not stop. It was not a bad luck. It was a Natural Exception!
'Natural Exception?', Manoj was absolutely confused.
'Yes. Good Luck or Bad Luck is nothing but an Exception in nature. You switched the machine off but it did not. Why? Because it was an exception created by Nature. The Natural Anomaly. Due to this anomaly, the machine continued to operate it would have opened the wormhole. Yes! The wormhole would have transported him from our universe to the Parallel universe. He would be still alive there!'
Manoj was getting anxious by now. He thought that Vishwas lost his mind completely.
'We can save him. We can save him Manoj. Take me to the lab!'
'Uncle I think we need to discuss. Peter's death has deeply impacted you..'
'TAKE ME TO THE LAB MANOJ', shouted Vishwas.
'Okay', said a frightened Manoj.
Manoj took Vishwas to the underground lab. The lab was sealed after the accident. But Manoj managed to access the lab, as he was the one who had made the lab along with Peter. Vishwas was sure that Peter had been transported to a Parallel Universe. He thought that he could still bring Peter back. And the only thing which could make it possible is Science, the same machine which was used to open the wormhole.
The machines had been broken and non-operational. Vishwas asked Manoj to restore the machines to operation. The control panel was fortunately operational. Only problem was with the machine setup inside the circular chamber. Manoj examined the machines and claws and found that it can be fixed.
'What do you exactly want to do?', asked Manoj, as he connected the wiring beneath the chamber floor to the machine.
Vishwas was helping Manoj by fixing the second machine. 'Open the wormhole so that I can travel to the Parallel universe. We have to recreate the circumstances in which Peter had disappeared'.
'Creating same circumstances means you have to continue the experiment till the explosion. If you chose to abort, the experiment will stop, the wormhole will close down. We are not sure that natural exception will occur every time. And if you chose to continue, you will die here. And if you say that you will die here but another you would live in a parallel universe, then I am not going to take that risk!'
'We don’t have to take that risk Manoj', said Vishwash, as he stood the machine upright. 'These complexities will occur only if I have to choose between two options. But I don't have two options available here. My decision is clear. Do not abort the experiment'.
'Then you will die!', Manoj left the machine and stood up.
'That’s where the Artificial exception would come into play!'
'Artificial exception?', Manoj was puzzled.
'Yes! We will create an exception. I will be waiting for the wormhole to open'.
Manoj cut Vishwas mid-sentence, 'But the very next second the machine will explode!'
'Exactly! And at that very second, you will shut down the machine and at that very second, I will plunge into the wormhole!', said Vishwas with gleaming eyes.
'Thats too dangerous!'
'I am ready to take any amount of risk to bring back my son. Let’s start!', said Vishwas, as he fixed the claw on the machine.
After the machines had been successfully assembled, Manoj took his place near the control panel while Vishwas stood in between the machines. Manoj switched the machine on and as per the procedure, increased the RPM of the claws gradually. The sparks began to produce at the centre of the claws and gradually began to lengthen. The flashes of sparks soon engulfed the chamber and machines started to shake. Manoj realized that he was nearing that moment when he had to switch the machine off.
Vishwas, inside the chamber, had his eyes fixed at the centre of the machine where the wormhole was expected to appear. The machines were trembling terribly. But he was determined to travel through the wormhole. The fixings of machine on the floor were threatening to give up. Still there was no sign of a wormhole. The machines were now almost oscillating. Suddenly, Vishwas saw a small sphere begin to appear at the centre of the two machines where he was standing. The sphere quickly grew up to his size.
'Yes!', shouted Vishwas.
The machines were about to explode when Manoj slammed the RED button on the control panel. The claws slowed down. Just at that moment, Vishwas plunged into the wormhole.
The machine stopped and calmed down. The sparks disappeared. Through the broken window, Manoj looked inside the chamber. The machines were intact but there was no Vishwas. He was not sure if Vishwas had successfully got into the wormhole. But he prayed to God for Vishwas's safety.
Vishwas saw nothing but flashes of sparks around him. The gravitational force seemed to be increased by multiple folds. He was getting pulled inside the wormhole rapidly. After a few moments, his body threw out of the wormhole and banged on a solid floor.
'Ahhh!', Vishwas groaned with pain. His spectacles had fallen off from his face. He picked up his spectacles and put it back on his face. As his vision got cleared, he realized that he was still in the circular chamber. He focused his gaze on the far end of the chamber. He saw an astonished and open-mouthed Peter at the other end.
Both stood at their respective place for a moment before they absorbed what they were seeing. Peter ran towards and Vishwas and hugged him.
'I missed you so much Dad! I missed Mom so much!', said Peter.
Vishwas hugged him back, 'I missed you too my son. I am here to take you back to our Universe. Let’s go back to our world. I can't explain what your mom is going through right now'.
Peter then showed him his dead body and also the lab which was a dead end. Vishwas was not expecting the Parallel Universe to be a dead end.
Peter said, 'You were right Dad! The Limbo exists!'
Vishwas frowned. 'But I thought it was a Parallel universe. And it is the theory of Parallel Universe, which you were explaining to your seniors, has brought me here!', said Vishwas and narrated him how, with the help of Manoj, he travelled through wormhole up to this place.
Peter's eyes widened as he realized something, 'Limbo and Parallel universe are nothing but same thing!'
'What?', Vishwas exclaimed. There was more of a surprise than question in Vishwas's "What".
'Yes! When we chose one option out of the two available options, we experience the outcome of the option we have chosen. But there would have been other option existed in a Parallel Universe. This was what I believed. And I was correct but only to an extent. The other option do exists, but only in the Limbo!'
Vishwas digested what Peter had explained and said, 'That means the outcome of the option we chose continues to exist in our universe but the other outcome has no chance of flourishing. The other outcome gets trapped in the Limbo'.
'Correct! Like in my case, the option which I had not chosen which was continuing the experiment would have leaded me to death. But I hadn't chosen that option so I lived. But the other outcome, which was my death, now exists only in the Limbo'.
'And because the wormhole had open, you got transported to The Limbo'.
'It seems so. But the question now is: How can we travel back to our world?'
Vishwas eyeballed the broken machines lying at the floor and said, 'The same way I had come here!'
'But it is not possible here. As you said, Manoj had switched the machine off just before the moment it was about to explode. We don't have anyone who can do it here!', said Peter.
Vishwas shook his head and headed towards the broken machine. He lifted the capsule and stood it upright. 'We have no other option. We have to start the machine and wait for the wormhole to open'.
'What if the explosion would occur before the wormhole opens?', said Peter, as he lifted the other capsule.
'We have to take this risk. Anyhow, I have travelled so far to take you and we would die anyway if stay here', said Vishwas, as he finished the installation which he had learnt from Manoj. Peter, on the other hand, too fixed the machine and claws.
Peter strode outside the chamber and checked the control panel. It was working. He wondered how it was working in this dead place. He then looked at his father for final approval.
'Go ahead son!'
Peter switched the machine on and rotated the knob moderately. The claws began to rotate. As the knob reached the "Max", he rushed into the chamber. Expectedly, the machines began to tremble and the sparks began to flash. Still there was no sign of the wormhole. The machines were now thundering. It seemed that this time the explosion would occur before the wormhole appears. Vishwas and Peter closed their eyes and prayed to God. A ray of hope appeared when they noticed that a minute wormhole began to form at the centre. It was growing but at a very slow pace. But the machines were giving up. Vishwas remembered this was the moment when Manoj had switched the machine off. But now, they did not have anyone to do that. If the machine continued to operate, it would explode by the time the wormhole grew big enough for them to dive into it. It seemed the end. They closed their eyes, waiting for the explosion to take their life. Suddenly, Peter noticed that the thudding of machines on the floor was slowing down. After a few seconds, he realized that the claws were now rotating slowly.
'Dad! The machine has gone off', shouted Peter.
Vishwas opened his eyes and realized it was true.
Peter held Vishwas's hand. 'C'mon Dad what are you thinking!'. Along with his father, Peter leaped into the wormhole. After a few moments, both emerged out of the wormhole and banged on the ground. Peter recollected himself and stood up clumsily. He saw a frightened Manoj staring at both of them.
'YES! We did it', shouted Peter in excitement and gave his hand to his father to help him to stand up.
The fear on Manoj's face had now replaced by the smile. He ran towards the father and son and embraced them.
'Thank God Peter. You are back!', said Manoj.
'I am here because of my Dad! He saved my life', said Peter and turned towards his father, 'However, It was our good luck that the machine had stopped by itself. Otherwise, we would have killed there at the Limbo itself'.
'Good luck or bad luck is nothing but an exception in nature', Manoj repeated Vishwas's word.
Vishwas smiled and said, 'Yes. It was a Natural Exception'.
Peter looked at the machines for a moment. Something was swirling in his mind.
‘What happened son?’, asked Vishwas.
Peter, still staring at the machines, said, 'A Natural Exception or A Divine intervention?'
Vishwas and Manoj looked at Peter questioningly.
Peter turned towards them and said, 'The crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection. But he descended there as Saviour, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there!' Peter recited the words from Catholic teachings.
Thursday, 14 April 2016
“How can I go forward when I don’t know which way I am facing?”
- John Lennon
‘In almost every religion on earth, the discussions on afterlife realms are majorly focused on Heaven and Hell. But I am particularly fantasized about The Limbo’, said Vishwas Narayan, a famous philosopher and theologian. He was invited for a guest lecture in a college of Theology in Delhi University.
The auditorium was packed with the professors and students while Vishwas was standing at the center of the stage. He was wearing a black bandhgala suit with a lustrous red pocket square. He was in his late fifties and his hair had gone grey. The wrinkles below his eyes were partially concealed by the thick spectacles he was wearing. ‘The term Limbo has been derived from a Latin word Limbus, which means, Edge or border. In the Catholic Theology, it is considered as a place which is at the edge of the hell’.
Vishwas glanced at the first row of the auditorium where his wife Maria D'Souza was sitting, alone. Vishwas was expecting his son Peter Narayan also to attend his lecture. But he didn’t come. Peter was a scientist in ISRO. He was an atheist and had absolutely no regard for religion. To him, religion was the major reason for the global terror. And he was correct to an extent. Vishwas knew Peter had no interest in theology and philosophy, but as a father, he wanted his son to be there. There was a hint of disappointment appeared on Vishwas’s face when he saw his wife alone. Maria too noticed that Vishwas had seen her alone and was disappointed. She smiled to comfort Vishwas a bit. Vishwas quickly shrugged off his sadness and continued. ‘The term "Limbo" is actually not mentioned in the Bible explicitly. This term was given by the European theologians of the medieval age, which is the period in between 5th to 15th century AD. The Bible mentions a place where the souls of those who had died before Jesus Christ had been detained. That place was neither Heaven nor Hell. The medieval theologians and artists named this place as "Limbo of the Fathers”’. Vishwas scanned the audience and found some students yawning while some looking at their mobile phones.
‘Okay. A bit boring right? Now let's move to Hollywood. Everyone must have watched the famous "Matrix Trilogy". In the final installment of the series, there was a train station named Mobil Ave. It was a place that lied between the Matrix and the real world. Much like a Limbo! If you look at the word Mobil carefully, you would realize that it is an anagram of nothing but Limbo!’. The audience now began to show interest.
‘Similarly in Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster "Inception", Limbo was a deep subconscious level where the human mind gets trapped forever!’
Upon gaining everyone’s attention back, Vishwas steered his speech back to his area. 'Similarly, the Limbo is described as a place where the souls of the dead were trapped. The teachings of Catholic Theology say that “The crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection. But he descended there as Saviour, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there”. This means, after the Crucifixion of Jesus, his soul descended to Limbo from where he freed the souls imprisoned there and the souls finally entered the heaven. The Concept of Limbo is not limited only to Christianity. In Greek mythology, there is a realm where souls were trapped who had neither achieved Heaven nor damned to Hell. Similar resemblances are there in Islam and Zoroastrianism as well’.
Vishwas’s speech ended which was then followed by Q&A. Until the last minute of the event, Vishwas was expecting to see his son. But sometimes expectations only bring disappoint.
Peter was sitting in his study room in front of a 40 inch LED screen. He was on a video call with his superiors who were sitting on a different part of India. He was explaining them the current status of his latest project on which a huge amount of investment was done. Today, his investor had also joined the meeting for the first time.
Peter said, ‘Parallel universe, as you know, has been a curious topic among the scientists but has been least talked about’.
Vishwas and Maria reached home and saw Peter's study closed. But they could listen to his loud voice. They understood that he was in a video conference. Peter used to spend most of his time in his lab. Whenever he was in home; he was mostly occupied by these video calls. Vishwas and Maria by now had become used to their son's busy lifestyle.
‘That’s the reason he hasn’t come’, said Vishwas.
Maria put her hand on his husband’s shoulder as a gesture to comfort him. They started their dinner as they knew Peter was not going to join them soon. Peter's voice was quite easily audible to them.
‘Parallel universes are not just any other universe comprising of galaxies and planets. They are born out of the existing universe. Many scientists and physicists have different theories. But my experiments are based on a particular theory’.
The people on the screen leaned forward to understand Peter.
Peter continued. ‘Let me explain you how these Parallel Universes are born. Ten years ago, my parents told me to prepare for medical exam but I chose to study engineering. Now, the moment I chose to study engineering, a parallel universe would have been created in which another self of me would have chosen medical and today he would be a successful Doctor in that universe. Similarly, at every point of life, there are two outcomes of a situation. What outcome will exist depends upon what decision we make. What we experience is what option we chose, but there are other universes which would have born out of our universe, where the other outcomes also exist. Imagine a world where Dinosaurs are still walking on earth. Imagine a world where Hitler had become the ruler of the world’.
Peter smiled seeing the disbelief in the eyes of his investor. 'Sounds too fictional? But it won’t be a fiction anymore. The machine on which you have invested is capable of creating an Einstein-Rosen bridge, or simply a wormhole, which will connect our universe to a parallel universe. And I am going to present it to you within a matter of two days’.
The discussion ended after half an hour. Peter came out of his study and saw his parents were waiting for him after finishing the dinner.
Seeing Peter, Vishwas said, ‘Mr. Parallel universe, take out some time for your poor dad too’.
Peter, texting someone on the mobile, said, ‘Dad you know very well how busy I am running now a days. Moreover, for a long time we have had dinner together’.
Maria said, ‘Your dad is not talking about having dinner together. You didn't come to his event’.
Peter shifted his eyes from mobile to Maria and said, ‘Mom, you know I have no interest in anything related to religion or philosophy’.
‘It was about your dad. You could have come at least for your dad’, said Maria.
Vishwas waved his hands towards Maria indicating her not to prolong the argument.
‘I am more interested in discovering new lives in Parallel universe rather than listening to the inconsequential discussions on the realms of the dead- The Limbo’, said Peter sarcastically. He put the mobile phone back in his trouser pocket and grabbed his coat which was hanging on a chair. ‘I am going to the lab, will get late. Don't wait for me’. Peter hurried out of the house. Vishwas’s eyes followed him till he went out.
Maria sighed and was about to speak when Vishwas said, ‘I am Okay Maria. I understand he is a very busy. He has a humongous task to accomplish’.
Maria knew Vishwas was not trying to convince her. He was trying to convince himself.
After an hour, Peter reached the Delhi Underground Research Facility. It was a research laboratory constructed about 1500 meters below the ground level. The lab had been made recently at the Aravalli hill range of the southernmost edge of Delhi. The obsolete mines of this area were used to construct the facility. Peter reached in front of the huge iron gate of the facility. He scanned his identity card at the gate. The system opened the gate upon successful identification. Peter then took the elevator which too him to the underground facility. He rushed out of the elevator and entered the section of the lab where his assistant Manoj was waiting for him.
‘Everything ready?’, asked Peter, as he removed his coat.
‘As soon as you texted me sir’, replied Manoj.
Peter glanced at a circular compartment within the lab. There was a single wide glass window which offered inner view of the lab. Peter could see the equipment kept inside. It took him five years to construct that equipment.
‘Why do you want to test the machine at this time sir? You could have done it tomorrow morning’, asked Manoj.
Peter adjusted a few controls on the panel beside him and said, ‘This equipment is not completely risk free. I don’t want to expose everyone here to a potential risk’.
Manoj stared at Peter questioningly.
Peter smiled, ‘Well Manoj, you were with me in this project right from the starting. That’s why I had called you. If you feel it is not safe for you to stay, you may leave’.
‘That’s not the case sir. I will stay here with you. I was just wondering how much you care for everyone else’.
Peter smiled and walked inside the circular chamber. The circular chamber had just one door to enter. It was a hydraulic door operated from the same panel. Inside the chamber, two capsule-shaped machines were fixed on the floor, ten meters apart from each other. Each machine had metallic claws fixed at the top. Peter stood in between the two machines.
‘Can you hear me Manoj?’, asked Peter.
‘Loud and clear’, Manoj's voice came out of a speaker.
‘Cool. Let’s start then. Switch on the machine’.
Manoj pushed a green button on the control panel. Beside the button was a silver coloured knob. On the surface of the panel, markings were made along with the circumference of the knob. On the left end of the marking was written “Min” while on the right side where the markings ended, “Max” was written. Manoj rotated the knob slowly. As Manoj rotated the knob, the claws fixed on the machines began to rotate.
‘No hurry Manoj. Increase the RPM gradually. The smoothly the RPM increases, the more the chances of opening of the wormhole’, instructed Peter.
The knob had now reached mid-way. The claws were now rotating rapidly. Peter noticed tiny sparks began to generate at the center of the claws. The machines were roaring loudly. ‘The sparking has begun Manoj’. Peter had to shout to make his voice audible to Manoj.
‘Shall I increase the RPM?’, asked Manoj.
As Manoj continued to turn the knob towards “Max”, the sparks on both the claws grew bigger. The entire chamber was ablaze with the flashes of sparks. After a moment, Manoj couldn’t see anything. But he could clearly hear the daunting sound of machines.
‘Sir I sense some danger here. Shall we continue?’, shouted Manoj.
Peter heard Manoj’s voice but his mind was occupied by what he was seeing inside the chamber. He was staring at the sparks on both sides which were growing huge. His heart was beating fiercely with both excitement and fear. He noticed that the machines had begun to vibrate. Soon, the machines were shaking terribly. He realized that the machines could any time go out of control. There could be a serious explosion as well. The fear was now overpowering Peter’s excitement. He thought to stop the machine. But if he would, the experiment would be a failure. He had to wait for the wormhole to open; if at all his machine was capable of opening one. He had spent years in making this machine. His superiors had shown immense trust in him. His investor had flown a lot of money in to this project.
Peter shouted back, ‘We have to Manoj! Stopping at this stage means a failure’.
Though Peter instructed Manoj to continue, he could also see the danger lying ahead. The machines were trembling ferociously. The machines were threatening to get uprooted from the floor at any moment. The explosion seemed inevitable. It could surely take his life. He was vacillating between the two decisions: whether to stop the experiment or continue ahead. He knew from the beginning that this experiment had a risk involved in it. The outcome of this experiment was revolutionary which could not be actualized without taking risk. But again what would happen if the experiment doesn’t succeed. He would lose his life. A shiver ran down his spine when he imagined about his death. How his family cope up with his death? How his mother going to deal with that situation? He couldn't bring this pain and agony to his family. He finally made the decision.
He screamed, ‘Manoj. Shut down the machine!’
Peter’s voice, along with the vibrations of machine, reached up to Manoj through the speakers. He immediately turned the knob to “Min” and pushed the RED button to stop the machine. He waited for the machine to slow down. Much to his surprise, it did not. Manoj pushed the kill button again but the machine did not stop. The machines were still roaring intimidatingly. He began to smack the button repeatedly. But the machine did not stop. He then tried to open the hydraulic door of the circular chamber so that Peter could come out of it. But the button which controlled the door was also not working. Suddenly, an explosion occurred inside the chamber, disintegrating the glass window in to pieces. He ducked to save himself from the darting glass pieces.
After everything calmed down, Manoj got up. The lab was filled with the white smoke. Through the smoke he walked towards the broken glass window. He could see the broken machines. He jumped through the wide window and entered the chamber. The two capsules were lying on the ground, half broken. The claws were also scattered at a distance. He Prayed to God for Peter’s safety. But he was astonished to find that there was no Peter inside the chamber.
Peter opened his eyes gradually. It was dark and Smokey. He was lying against a wall. His body was paining awfully. He understood that the explosion might have thrown him away and he would have banged on the wall. He observed the surroundings. He was in the same circular chamber. He noticed the broken capsules and claws were lying on the ground. He then found a body lying on the floor but he could not able to see its face, as the body was facing down. He was frightened to see the body. There was no one else in the chamber. Only Manoj was present at this time but that too outside the chamber.
Had he came inside during the explosion?, thought Peter, as he walked towards the body worriedly. He turned the body to see its face. As he saw the face, his heartbeats shot up by multiple folds. He stepped back instantly with horror. His legs were quivering. As he moved two steps backward, he fell on the ground. The dead body was him!
Oh God! What is this? How is it possible?
He ran up to the hydraulic door but it was closed. He then saw the wide glass window was broken. He jumped out of the window and saw there was no one in the lab.
‘MANOJ!’, Peter called Manoj. But there was no response. He called Manoj repeatedly. But he was a alone there.
It was dark outside. He could barely see anything. He ran towards the exit door. There was no Exit door! The lab was enclosed from all side with walls.
What is this place?, thought Peter, Panting.
Suddenly he remembered his father’s words. His father was once discussing with a professor when he was preparing for his speech on Limbo: "The crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection".
Peter’s eyes widened as he remembered his father’s words. He turned to see his dead corpse lying inside the chamber.
Am I in the realm of the dead? Am I in the Limbo?
TO BE CONTINUED....
Monday, 28 March 2016
"Every man at the bottom of his heart believes that he is a born detective"
I got my first real six-string, Bought it at the five-and-dime, Played it till my fingers bled, Was the summer of '69. Umesh Upadhyay listened to the song playing inside the Hard Rock cafe; Summer of '69, though he didn’t understand anything except for the phrase “Summer of '69”. It was a muggy and windless summer of Delhi at that time. He was sitting with his wife in the outdoor seating area of Cyber hub. Cyber hub- a three storey food and entertainment destination in Gurgaon. While the first two floors of the cyber hub complex consist of cafes and fine dining restaurants, the top floor is largely occupied by lavish pubs and bars. In front of him was Hard Rock cafe.
‘Huhh.. What a boring place’, complained Umesh's wife Sushila. ‘We could have gone to the “Ambience mall” instead’.
Umesh ignored his wife and was busy in staring at his watch. It was 10:50 PM. He was getting impatient for the clock's minute needle to reach the number 12. He noticed a group of drunken boys and girls coming out of the Hard Rock cafe; shouting and howling; staggering and stumbling.
Umesh smiled scornfully and said, ‘These are our 21st century youth of India. They think that spending their hard earned money on weekends on gallons of alcohol is the finest thing they achieve’.
Sushila too moved her eyes toward the group. She noticed a girl in the group wearing a black shorts which was ending a mere ten inches below her waist.
She looked back at her husband with disgust and said, ‘Now I understood why you brought me here in Cyber Hub’.
Umesh turned towards Sushila and said helplessly, 'Sushila why do you take everything otherwise. I have an important job here to do rather than ogling at girls of my daughter's age’. He then looked down at his watch. It was just a few minutes left for 11pm. He immediately stood up and excused himself from his wife. He then rushed towards the elevator. As he entered the elevator, he pressed the second floor button.
Right from childhood, Umesh had a fantasy of becoming a Detective. James Bond movies like “The spy who loved me” and “For your eyes only” introduced him to the world of Spies. When he was in his early twenties, the indigenous detective TV series “Karamchand” had sown the seeds of spying. However, Private Detective is a profession which had existed in scarcity in India. He was aware of this fact quite clearly and hence, didn’t have the courage to express to his parents that he wanted to become a private detective. He knew this profession was too fantastical and fictional for a common man. He knew his older generation parent would never approve of his radical thinking. If he had shared his feelings with anyone, he would have been a laughing stock.
He used to satisfy his desire of spying by doing silly detective jobs in college for his friends like finding the address and telephone numbers of the girls and leaking out question papers. He had to then curb his desire when he got in to a job and subsequently got married. But desires are like spring. The more you try to restrain them, the greater force they would bounce back with.
Six months back, an idea has struck him to resume his detective job, professionally. His daughter had gifted him a smartphone six months ago. She taught him to use Facebook. He didn't know what to do in Facebook other than just scrolling down the page and watching the posts other people shared. It is when he came across the concept of “Facebook Page”. Public and Private organizations, Service providers, Freelancers, almost everyone had their Facebook Page. His long lost desire of becoming a Private Detective began to resurrect. He thought that if musicians, dancers, Photographers, Software developers, LIC agents can have their Facebook Page, why can’t Private Detective too? This would enable him to attract some serious cases. He decided to make a Facebook Page of himself. But he knew couldn’t just name his page ‘Detective Umesh Upadhyay’. He knew he would definitely be ridiculed by his wife and relatives and would be a figure of fun among colleagues and friends. He had to think of an alter ego. So he came up with the name “Detective U”; the first letter of his first name and surname. Though he made the Facebook page, but he didn’t see any case coming. He used to keep on staring at his Facebook page all day, waiting for someone to message him. It was only a week before he got a notification in his inbox. It was a girl named Nisha. Nisha messaged him that she had a job for him and she would like to meet him at Cafe Coffee Day, Galleria Market in Gurgaon. It was a dream come true moment for Umesh. It was his first professional project which came only after the fifty years of his life. Better late than never, Umesh thought to take up this case with utmost sincerity. He went to meet Nisha at CCD, galleria market at the mutually agreed time of 9:00 pm.
Nisha was a software engineer working for an MNC. She was in a relationship with Vicky for past eight months. Her relationship with Vicky was, however, not very seamless. She always felt that Vicky was cheating on her and secretly involved with some other girl. To catch Vicky red handed, she decided to hire a private detective.
Nisha reached galleria market to meet her private detective, who named himself weirdly as “Detective U”. She was moving her gaze left and right to find him when someone whispered in her ears from behind. ‘Ms Nisha. I can’t meet you inside the Cafe. Let’s walk up to the back side of the market where not many people can see us’.
Nisha turned instantly with fear to see a man wearing a black overcoat. His head was covered with a hat and face was wrapped with a handkerchief. Only his eyes were visible. He was Umesh. He took his fantasy of becoming a Detective quite literally. When he was leaving from home, he thought to dress up as a typical detective to hide his identity; that’s what the detectives supposed to do! Though, he later realized wearing an overcoat was not a good idea in the summers of June.
Nisha stated at the strange dressing of Umesh and said, ‘Why can’t inside the CCD?’
‘Do you think I would be able to avoid the staring of people in this attire?’, said Umesh.
‘Then why did you dress up in this way?’
‘Youths of today ask such a stupid question. I obviously don’t want to reveal my identity!’
Nisha was amused. She could see the white hair below his hat and wrinkles below his eyes. She figured out from this that the detective was an old man; probably in his fifties. Both walked up to the back side of the market. Nisha explained Umesh the current situation of his relationship. She sent a few photographs of Vicky, his mobile number and his address.
‘Let me be very clear. I wouldn’t be able to pay you much'’, said Nisha.
Umesh squeezed his brows. ‘I don’t work for money kid. You will have the evidences soon’.
Umesh turned to leave.
‘By the way what does the “U” stands for?’, asked Shraddha, as she saw Umesh leaving. ‘Is it Detective Uncle?’
Umesh preferred not to answer and left.
Umesh secretly began to follow Vicky. He followed his schedule for a few days and made a note of his activities. Vicky used to reach office in the morning at about 9. He then used to remain inside his office building for the entire day till 7 in the evening and then straightaway go to gym. From gym, he used to get back to his home by 9. Exactly same thing happened for the next five days. Umesh didn't find anything suspicious and began to wonder whether there was anything to suspect at all or Nisha was just an over possessive jealous girlfriend.
It was Saturday. Vicky, following his regular schedule, returned from gym. After he parked his car on the porch, he was closing the wrought iron main gate of his house. Umesh disappointingly began to return when he saw Vicky’s phone ringing. Vicky picked up the call.
‘Hey! Whats the plan girl?', said Vicky, as he was going inside.
Umesh swiftly walked near the gate and quietly opened it. After the car, there was a wooden door on the right which lead probably to the living room of Vicky and stairs on the left going up to the roof. Vicky went beneath the stairs, probably to remove his shoes. Umesh tip toed up to the car and ducked behind it.
‘Cyber hub. Done’. Vicky was still on call. ‘The DJ of Sutra pub starts playing after 11. So will meet there at 11’. Vicky ended the call and went inside his house through the wooden door.
Umesh quietly came out of the house and called Nisha to check if Vicky was talking to her. Upon getting the negative response from Nisha, Umesh thought today was the day when he could gather some substantial evidence against Vicky. But there was just one problem. What excuse he would put up in front of his wife. He generally came back to home by 10. But today he had to be at Cyber hub at 11. Moreover, he was not sure when he would come back.
Umesh returned to home and convinced his wife, Sushila, to go to Cyber hub for dinner. Sushila was initially reluctant but then agreed thinking that she wouldn’t have to cook the dinner.
Umesh quickly finished the dinner at a restaurant in the ground floor of Cyber hub and then sat in the outdoor seating area; waiting for 11 pm. When there were a few minutes left for 11’o clock, Umesh rushed inside the elevator to reach the second floor where the Sutra pub was. As he reached second floor, he could hear the loud beats of the music being played in all the pubs. He was particularly interested in Sutra pub. The pubs on the top floor were connected by an open air walkaway. He reached up to the Sutra pub. As he was about to enter, the bouncers standing outside the entrance stopped him.
‘I have a team get together going on inside. My colleagues are waiting for me’, said Umesh.
The bouncer stared Umesh from head to toe and was amused by Mukesh's get up. Umesh was wearing a formal wear awkwardly combined with a white Puma sport shoes. The bouncers gave him way to enter the pub. As Umesh entered the pub, he saw a terrace seating area to his left and DJ dance floor to his right. The dance floor was absolutely jam-packed. He wondered how the boys and girls were managing to dance without hitting each other. He then tried to search Vicky in the crowd. He finally managed to spot him in a corner, holding a beer bottle in his hand and dancing with his group of two girls and a guy. Umesh jostled through the crowd and reached near Vicky’s group. He quickly took out his mobile phone and raised his hand upwards to click Vicky's photo.
‘Hey’, said one of the Vicky's friends to Vicky, ‘see that uncle is clicking our photo’. She had to scream to make her voice audible to Vicky, owing to the loud music.
‘I think this is uncle’s first time to a pub’, replied Vicky. ‘C’mon buddies, let’s give uncle some cool poses’. Vicky and his friends laughed.
Umesh smirked and kept on clicking the photographs. When he finished, he moved out of the pub and sent the photographs to Nisha through Facebook messenger. Umesh had successfully accomplished his first Detective case. With a proud smile on his face, Umesh returned.
Next morning, Umesh was again staring at his Facebook page, waiting for another case. It is when he received a message. The name of sender was Vicky. Umesh was a bit surprised to see Vicky's message. Vicky asked him to meet at MG road metro station.
First the girl hired me to catch his boyfriend red handed. Now, I guess the guy is hiring me to find evidences against the girl. Today's generation doesn't have any idea about handling a relationship, thought Umesh.
Umesh reached at MG road metro station and was waiting for Vicky. Vicky had called him in the evening. Umesh again adopted his detective avatar; in order to hide is identity. He saw Vicky standing at corner.
‘So you are the “Detective U”’, said Vicky, as Umesh neared him.
‘What do you want?’, asked Umesh.
‘Thats what I want to ask?’, Vicky raised his voice. ‘I know you had clicked my pictures yesterday and gave it to Nisha. You must have been paid well too’.
Umesh stared at Vicky.
Vicky continued. ‘Yes. Nisha told me that she had hired you to gather evidences against me. You did very well. You would be glad to know that Nisha left me. You have spoiled my relationship with Nisha; just for money’.
‘It is not me’, replied Umesh, ‘It is you who have spoiled your relationship. You youngsters don’t take anything seriously. Everything in this world is a joke for you. You think it’s really cool to take everything lightly. You and only you are responsible for your situation’. Umesh blurted out his frustration he had on youngsters.
‘Yeah.. I am wrong. I accept. But what did you do? Did you "wise and responsible" elder do anything to improve us?’
Umesh chose to remain silent. He had nothing to respond.
‘I accept it was my fault when I did not tell Nisha that I am going out with friends. She is a suspicious and jealous girl. I was not cheating on her. I just didn’t want to fight with her. But she hired you and you gave her exactly what she wanted. I am not expecting her to understand, I know her nature. But being an elder, at least you should have understood that what I was doing was not cheating. You should have collected a few more evidences before coming to the conclusion. Instead, you added fuel to the fire’.
Vicky waited Umesh to answer. But Umesh didn't.
‘The private Detective U has successfully solved the case by destroying a so called careless and useless youth’, said Vicky sarcastically.
Vicky shook his head and began to leave. He walked a couple of steps and paused. He turned back towards Umesh and said, 'You, like every other person from older generation, don’t like the younger generation. You think that we are your unworthy successors and you were far better than us. But did you ever ask yourself that when you were young, were your elders happy with your generation? I am sure that they must have the same impression of your generation as you have for us. But you are going to curse us the same way they would have been doing to you. Keep up the good work of making the life of youth hell Detective U. Good bye’.
Umesh kept on gazing at the retreating Vicky. He realized Vicky was right. He too used to think in his youth that he was a radical thinker and his elders were too orthodox. He realized that just to complete his job quickly and prove the youths wrong, he didn’t even evaluate whether Vicky was actually at fault or not. Umesh hung his head low with the guilt.
Nisha was leaving from office a bit late today. She was hurrying towards her car which was parked in the basement of her office building. As she reached near the door, she heard a voice.
She was freaked out by the voice coming from just behind her back. She turned quickly and saw Detective U. The panic on her face had now replaced by confusion. She smiled and said, ‘Detective Uncle, how come you are here?’
Umesh ignored her question and said, ‘So you broke up with Vicky’.
Nisha’s smile slowly faded away. She thought for a while and said, ‘Of course. He is a cheat. He doesn’t deserve me’. Nisha had absolutely no regret for leaving Vicky. She was quite assured that Vicky was dishonest to her.
Umesh sighed, ‘See Nisha, I have no right to interfere in your personal matters. But, I would say just one thing. It is very easy to end a relationship. It doesn't take much courage to break up. But, those who struggle through several differences and complications are worthy of being in relationship’.
‘What do you mean?', asked Nisha, though it appeared that she had understood what Umesh was trying to say.
‘You know what I mean. You cannot take a vital decision of leaving Vicky just on the basis of the photograph I have shared with you’.
‘But you yourself had given me the photographs; as an evidence of Vicky’s disloyalty’.
‘Yes. That was my mistake. Going out with friends is never a disloyalty. He is not cheating on you. His only fault is that he hid it from you. But he is not the only one who is at fault. You are equally wrong’.
Umesh continued. ‘Yes. The amount of suspicion and possessiveness you imposed Vicky had made him to hide the truth from you. But that doesn’t mean he is dishonest. He loves you a lot. And he is shattered now’.
Umesh told Nisha everything about his meeting with Vicky.
Tears streamed down from Nisha's eyes.
Umesh took his hat off and continued. ‘I should have been a bit wiser. But I just found one incident and handed you the photographs. Vicky was right, we older generation just curse the youth for being irresponsible and impulsive. In a hurry to prove them so, we ignore to do what we are supposed to do: To lead them to the correct path’.
Nisha bowed her head in remorse.
Umesh kept his hand on Nisha’s shoulder. ‘Love doesn’t need a Detective to seek the truth. Go and speak to Vicky. He is not as bad as you think’.
Nisha raised her head and smiled. Umesh put his hat back on his head and turned to leave.
‘Thanks Detective Uncle’, said Nisha. Her eyes were still filled with tears. This time, it was tears of happiness.
Umesh smile behind handkerchief and walked away proudly. The case, in its true sense, had now been solved.
Umesh exited the office building. He had by now removed his hat, handkerchief and overcoat. He took out his mobile phone to book an uber cab for his home when he saw a message.
Umesh read the message and smiled with gleaming eyes, ‘A new Case’.
Monday, 9 March 2015
"What we see depends mainly on what we look for."- John Lubbock
‘Can I have your boarding pass please’, said the flight crew standing at the boarding gate. She scanned the barcode on the boarding pass. I was about to board 6E-304 Pune to Delhi. I was on an official trip to Pune. The term ‘Official’ was a misnomer in the context of my organization. While one think of an official trip as a suited-booted employee sitting in an air-conditioned office discussing business strategies, my job was entirely different. I had to stand in a boiling workshop of the component manufacturer for the entire day, howling on its employees and watching the welding of steel tubes.
‘Thank You Mr. Singh’, she said as she returned me the boarding pass. The security personnel checked the security tag on my cabin bag and allowed me to pass through. I entered the aircraft and kept my bag in the overhead compartment. I sat on my preferred aisle seat and closed my eyes. My eyes were burning because of the welding it were exposed to. I quickly wanted to sleep because I have to straight away head to the office after reaching Delhi.
It would have been few minutes I had closed my eyes when I heard a female voice, ‘Excuse me!’
‘Sorry about that’, I said as I stood up and moved out.
She smiled and slid through the gap between the two rows of seats to her seat. The window seat. I quickly got back to complete my sleep when I heard a male voice,’ Excuse me’. I didn’t say anything this time and just followed the entire procedure again. The guy reached his middle seat. I knew this initial disadvantage of an aisle seat, but I couldn’t afford to sit on a window seat for I am a flight-phobic. I wasn’t, but the series of plane crashes happened to our southeastern neighbors had just induced a fear of flight in me.
When I thought everything has settled down and I could get a sound sleep, the guy said,’ Hi I am Rahul.’
‘Hi! I am Priya!’, said the girl shaking her hand with the guy.
‘So you live in Delhi?’, asked Rahul.
‘Yes and No. My parents live in Delhi. For the past 3 years, I am living in Pune.’
‘Ohk. So you are going to meet your parents?’
‘Yes. What about you?’
‘I work here in Pune. And I have got some work in Delhi. By the way, in which company do you work?’ asked Rahul.
‘I work with Accenture. And you?
‘Reliance Animation’ said Rahul.
They won’t let me sleep. I cursed.
‘So you are off to an official trip. Right?’ asked Priya as she leaned back to the seat as the plane started to take off.
I hated this term.
‘hmm.. actually No’, replied the guy, ‘My parents have seen a girl for my marriage. I am going to meet her’.
‘What a coincidence!’ exclaimed Priya turning to the guy, ‘Even I am going for the same purpose’.
‘Oh great! So who is the guy?’
‘Some MBA graduate working with Management consultancy. And who is the girl?’
‘Some Fashion Designer.’
‘Cool man! You together will make a creative couple’, chuckled Priya.
‘Hehe.. but I was not interested in meeting her. I told my parents if they like the girl, then its Ok from my side’ said Rahul.
‘Why so dude?’ asked Priya in surprise.
I sometimes wonder how such short conversations make strangers feel that they know each other for a long time.
‘I am not good at judging girls. I have left this job to my parents. I have already created enough mess for myself’, said Rahul.
After few right and left rotations, the plane stabilized and the pilot turned the seatbelt sign off.
The flight crew came with refreshments. We pulled down the tray attached to the front seats in order to keep the refreshment on it.
Pssst! Priya opened the Coke can with a hissing sound and asked, ‘It seems you went through some relationship turmoil?’
‘Yeah! It took me almost three years to get over her.’ replied Rahul.
‘So what happened?’
‘It’s a long story.’
‘It’s a long journey.’ said Priya with a smiling face.
They are not going to stop soon. I thought.
‘Shalini. I saw her first when I was in 12th standard. I won’t call it love at first sight. But, it was rather an attraction at first sight, which happens to almost every guy every now and then. I have managed to talk to her quite a few times. But never gathered the courage to ask her for friendship.’ said Rahul.
‘Oh hoo… childhood love!’ Priya teased him.
Rahul blushed and continued, ’We left the school and moved to different colleges in different cities. I thought I would never be able to meet her again. It's when my friend told me about Orkut. Facebook was not known to us in those days. And I am not sure it even existed at that time. I searched her in Orkut and sent her friend request. She accepted it. We started scrapping, then moved on to SMS. From Good morning to Goodnight, we kept on talking by SMS for the whole day. Then we escalated to the late night calls. Late night calling packs were boon for the couples.’
‘Typical lovers!’ said Priya.
‘And then came the day which I regret the most. The day when I proposed her. And she accepted. Everything went fine for few months. But I was feeling guilty from inside. It was not possible for me to marry her. I knew it. My parents would never agree. And I didn’t want to keep her in dark. The way she was attached to me, it was going to be very difficult for her to deal with this situation. So I decided to tell her the truth’.
‘Then?’ asked Priya resting her chin on hand.
‘I explained her that it is not possible for us to take this relationship forward. My parents would never allow me to marry you. But you are my best friend. I have never had a friend like you. And I will never have. I couldn’t stop myself from telling you that I love you. That’s why I proposed you. But I didn’t want to keep you in dark either. That’s why I am telling you the truth before its too late. I want us to be friends forever. I don’t want to spoil our friendship. And most importantly, I don’t want to lose YOU.’ said Rahul.
I didn’t look the expressions on his face, but his voice was clearly showing he hadn’t forgotten her yet.
‘Phew! What happened then?’ Priya raised her brows and asked.
‘She didn’t say anything. She didn’t say anything for the entire day. She messaged me next day. The message read: I always wanted to take our relationship forward. I won’t say I didn’t get hurt. But I know you are helpless. I won’t compel you to go forward for it would do no good to our relationship. But I don’t want to lose a friend like you either. We couldn’t make ourselves best couple. But we still are best friends and will remain forever.’ said Rahul.
‘Well, that’s a sort of Happy Ending! Where is the conflict then?’ complained Priya.
Rahul gestured with his palm and said, ‘Wait. It’s not over yet. We continued as friends for three more years. She couldn’t detach herself from me. She still cared for me the same way she used to do it before. This had worried me more. After college, I got a job and moved to Pune. She joined a software company in Bangalore. New environment, new friends. Our late night calls stopped. The number of sms reduced. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. But what I was not expecting was the message she sent me one day. It read: I want to end this Rahul. I want to end our friendship or whatever you may call it. I want to end this all. We, anyhow, have reduced talking. But, I want to cut it completely. I don’t want to keep any contact with you. I don’t want to talk to you ever.’
Rahul looked at Priya who was listening to him with her eyes widened. He continued, ‘I was astonished. I was shell shocked. What has happened to her suddenly? Why on earth she wants to end everything. I sent her several messages asking what happened. She didn’t reply. I then called her several times. She didn’t pick. When I was about to call her again, I received her message: Please Rahul. I said I don’t want to talk to you. If you call one more time, I will have no other option but to change my number.’
Rahul paused for a moment and continued, 'I thought she might be disturbed. That’s why she was behaving in this way. I waited for few days and sent her SMS. She didn’t reply. I waited for few more weeks and sent her a sorry-SMS. But she didn’t reply. If I had tried to call her, she would have changed her number. Three months had passed and we hadn’t talked to each other. I decided to call her one day. I dialled her number. The response I got was: The number you have dialed is out of service. I didn’t know when she changed her number. She had stopped using Orkut. In fact, we all had stopped using Orkut by then. We were friends in facebook. I quickly logged in to FB to message her. But she had blocked me there too. She told me before that she didn’t want to keep any contact with me. And she did it.’
‘You didn’t have any mutual friend’, asked Priya.
‘We had. But they were not in contact with both of us. After a year, I found once such friend who was in Bangalore. I requested her if she meets Shalini, try to get her number. Coincidentally, she met her the very next week. She gave me her number but said I shouldn’t contact her. She is dating some guy.’
There was silent for a moment.
‘It felt like a nasty blow in the stomach’, Rahul continued, ‘But I had to call her. I had to ask her why she left me. I dialled her number:
‘Hi’, I said.
‘Hi’, she paused for a while and said. She recognized my voice.
‘How are you?’
‘I am good. And you?’
‘I have been better’, I said. She didn’t say anything.
‘So it seems you are having a good time after our breakup?’ I asked.
‘hmm.. You can say so.’ she said
‘So are you going to marry him?’ I asked.
‘Wow! Then you would have better passed the time with me. Or did you just get a better option?’
‘Rahul Please! Why don’t you forget everything? Whatever happened between us is not more than a joke to me now. Why are you cribbing over same old thing? For God sake please move on.’ she raised her voice.
‘It was all a Joke to you! For the past one year, I was just thinking about you. I used to call you every day hoping that I would be able to connect you. I sent you numerous sorry messages hoping that they would get delivered someday. And it was all joke to you!’ I lost my calm.
‘Yes. It was all a bad Joke. If it was not possible for us to marry, so why shouldn’t I just pass the time with someone better? And I don’t care at all how you lived for the past one year and how you are feeling now. Please don’t interfere in my life again. I don’t want to talk to you ever.’ She said and hung the phone.
My sleep had disappeared. I was completely drawn to Rahul’s story.
‘It was bound to happen. It was going to end some or the other day.’ Priya spoke finally.
‘I know. But I never thought it would end in this way. I would have fooled around her for three years and then told her that I am not going to marry her. But I didn’t. I told her at the beginning itself. And remember we were best friends for three years. The truth is that the moment she found someone better, she forgot me. I was nothing more than a ‘Product’ to her.’
Priya patted his shoulder and said, ’If someone had called our relationship as a Joke, I would have never talked to him. In fact, I would have bluntly said F*** off! Don’t know why you still care for her. Or even think about her.’
Rahul hung is head low and said, ’Had she left me the day when I told her that I couldn’t marry her, I wouldn’t be hurt this much. But what she did after three years was more painful. She used to say she couldn’t live without me for a second. And it took not more than a second for her to leave me. I had never expected that she would change in this way.’
‘People do change Rahul. And it’s not their fault. It’s the mistake of people like us who trust them blindly. People do change. And who knows better than Me.’ said Priya.
Rahul turned his head towards Priya and said, ‘What happened with you?’
‘Leave it. It’s a long story.’ said Priya.
‘Well, someone told me it’s a long journey!’ said Rahul with a smiling face.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen! We are going through some turbulence. The seatbelt sign has been turned on. You are requested to get back to your seats and fasten the seatbelt’ announced an air hostess.
Had it been any other day, I would have been stricken with panic. But, on that day, the intriguing stories of the two beings sitting beside me kept my aerophobia at bay.
The airplane was cruising at a speed of about 1000kph towards Delhi and it was still about an hour left to land. An hour back, I was cursing their chitter-chatter. But, the same conversation had pulled my mind towards it. I was waiting eagerly for Priya to begin her story.
‘I never liked the idea of dating a guy, sending sweet SMS, late night calls. In short, what typical lovers do. I had no particular best friend. We had a group of 3 girls and 2 guys. One of them was Nitin. We all were in the same class in B.tech. We had quite fun time together. I never wanted to fall in to a relationship. In fact I hated to be in a relationship.’ said Priya.
‘So it was Nitin.’ Smiled Rahul.
‘I was equally attached to all the friends in my group. But Nitin was more involved with me than anybody else. Be it in the canteen or in a movie, he always chose to sit beside me. He started sending various friendship SMS which I used to found damn silly. He used to talk to me for the entire day in college. Slowly, we started the then famous SMS chatting. He used to come to my home and was friendly with my mother.’ said Priya.
‘Where is the conflict then?’ Rahul imitated Priya.
‘Shut up!’ said Priya and continued, ‘In four years, we grew from friends to best friends. Through campus recruitment, I had got placed in Accenture and moved to Pune while he got placed in a Mumbai based firm. After two months, he resigned and came to Pune. Jobless. The reason he told me was that he wanted to live in the same city as mine. This decision infuriated me. The reason was as silly as his decision. We had a heated conversation on this I didn’t talk to him for a week. I picked his call after a week:
‘Hi Priya. I am so sorry.’ he said.
‘What Sorry yaar! I have already told you why I am angry.’
‘I just can’t work there Priya. I was all alone there.’
‘What is the meaning of all alone? I was not your only friend in college. So how would it affect you if I was not there with you in Mumbai? You just ruining your career to spend time with me.’
‘I will find some job here soon. I have applied for few openings.’ he said.
‘This will not justify what you have done!’ I said.
‘Please try to understand Priya. It's just…’ he paused, ‘Its just I can’t live without you!’
‘Oh Please! Don’t behave as if you are my boyfriend.’
‘We are as good as girlfriend-boyfriend Priya. We have had a group in the initial years of college. But after that, it was just you and me.’
‘What nonsense!’ I shouted.
‘It isn’t. I know you hate being in a relationship and that’s what stopping you to accept the truth. I don’t think I would ever get a girl who can understand me better than you. And same stands valid for you too.’ he said.
I didn’t reply.
He continued, ‘I always wanted to say you but didn’t have the courage. But I have to say it today. I love you.’
‘I disconnected the call. My mind was boiling with anger. I decided to never talk to him again. he sent me several sorry-SMS for the next few days. His voice was echoing inside my head, It was just you and me. He was correct. After the first year of B.tech, we started spending larger amount of time with each other. Other friends were also there, but we were just too busy with each other. And I realized he was true. Even I wouldn’t get a guy who can understand me better than him.’ said Priya.
Rahul nodded just to confirm he is getting everything.
‘I called him after one month and told that I realized whatever he said that day was true. But the reality is that it is very difficult to take the relationship ahead. My parents won’t be very happy with our relationship and I would find it extremely difficult to convince them. He replied that even he would find it difficult to convince his parents but we both have to try our best.’ said Priya.
‘So you told your parents about him?’ asked Rahul.
‘Yes. Though my Mom liked Nitin, but his reaction was the most extreme when I told about us. My parents, like all parents, were strictly against love marriage. To worsen the situation, Nitin was unemployed. I lied that he is preparing for GRE and soon will go abroad for further studies. It took me a year but for my happiness my parents agreed. I wanted to share this with Nitin as early as possible. So I called him:
‘Hi Priya. How are you?’ he said.
‘I have spoken to my parents about us.’ I said.
‘What?’, he exclaimed, ‘Why didn't you ask me before speaking to them?’
‘You said we both should try our best’, I said.
‘But you should have asked me before speaking to them!’
‘Leave it. The good thing is that they have agreed.’ I couldn't hide my happiness.
‘What have you done Priya. Why were you in such haste? You should have consulted me before doing anything.’
‘What happened Nitin? Aren't you happy that my parents agreed?’
‘I had tried to convince my parents too. But they are strictly against our marriage. And I was about to tell you that it is not possible for us to take our relationship forward. Please try to understand Priya. It’s not possible for me to marry you.’ he said.
I felt a sense of déjà vu. I had heard a similar situation an hour back.
‘Holy crap!’ said Rahul as he thumped his hand on the armrest.
Priya leaned back to her sit. She closed her eyes and said, ‘I immediately disconnected the call. I couldn’t control my tears. I cried. I abused him. Cursed him. I didn’t talk to him after that. Neither had he had the courage to call me again. He messaged me one day: I know I hurt you Priya. But my feelings still hasn’t changed for you. You were my best friend and you still are. Please forgot whatever has happened. We still can be best friends. I left my job for you because I didn’t want to lose a friend like you. And even now, I don’t want to lose my best friend.’
Déjà vu again. I thought to myself.
‘What a jerk!’ shouted Rahul, ‘First he refused to marry you and then he is saying to be your friend as before? What does he think of yourself? An idiot?’
Now that’s interesting. Why Rahul is displeased? Hadn’t he also done a similar thing to Shalini? I thought to myself.
‘We were still friends though not as good as we were. We hadn’t talked about it again. I told my mom about it. She advised me to get married. According to her, marriage was the only thing which can help me to get out of my past. But I asked for one year. But I couldn’t avoid it for long. Marriage proposals started coming in and I had no reason to refuse. But I had to be done with Nitin.’ said Priya.
‘Exactly!’ said Rahul, ‘How can you go ahead in your life when Nitin is still inside your head?’
‘I told Nitin that I cannot continue being your friend. We were best friends. We thought to take it forward. I even had done my part. But the truth is we both have to move ahead. Separately. And it cannot happen if we cannot forget each other completely. At least I cannot move ahead. So, I have decided to end it today. I don’t want to speak to you again. I don’t want to even see you again.’ said Priya.
I was expecting a different opinion from Rahul. After all, more or less, a similar thing had happened to him.
‘Hmm… make sense. You had given a try. If he couldn't convince his parents, he had no right to be even your friend. What did he say then?’ said Rahul.
Now that amused me.
‘He was behaving as if he was shocked. As if I had betrayed him. He said how I could do this to him. How I could just leave him after so many years of friendship? It was he who had asked me to take our relationship one step ahead and it was he who backed out. In the end, it was me who was the culprit. Nevertheless, I never cared how he had felt. I never talked to him after.’ Said Priya.
‘He was a complete idiot!’ said Rahul, ‘Don’t upset yourself thinking about him. Just think he was a waste of time. A bad phase of your life and an experience to learn. Just forget him and move on.’
‘May be it was all my fault. Sometimes, I feel I had overreacted. We could have been at least remained friends. He would have been the happiest person when he had learnt that I was going to marry.’ said Priya in regret.
‘It’s not your fault Priya. Remember you said ‘People do change’. He was you best friend. True. But did he respect your friendship? No. He asked you to take your friendship to marriage. Then he himself backed out. It was all his fault.’ said Rahul.
Priya was about to say something when Rahul spoke again, ‘Rather I sometimes feel, it was all my fault because of which she left me. I was a loser. I couldn’t give whatever Shalini was expecting from me. This is why she left me when she found someone better. Someone superior to me. I am a loser.’
‘No you are not Rahul’, said Priya, ‘It was all her fault. You were still there for her when she needed. But she was not there for you when you needed her. She left you for someone else. She lost a guy like you. She is a loser. Not you.’
Both looked at each other and smiled. Their conversation had ended. But a series of questions started arising in my mind. Who was right and who was wrong. Rahul, Shalini, Priya or Nitin?
When Shalini left Rahul, as per Rahul and Priya both, Shalini was wrong. But when Priya left Nitin, Priya was right for both Priya and Rahul. Rahul’s and Priya’s story are more or less same. Then why do we have a difference of opinion?
It's then when a concept of physics struck in my mind. The Frame of Reference! For a person sitting inside a moving train, the train is stationary and the whole world outside is moving backward while for a person standing outside, the whole world is stationary and train is moving forward. The motion appears differently through different Frame of Reference!
Similar things happen to our life as well. Sometimes, we cry over little things. We feel hurt because of someone. It is due to the fact that we are watching from our Frame of Reference. It could be very much possible that what other has done is absolutely correct in his Frame of Reference.
In simple words, it’s all about Point of View. Priya watched Rahul’s story with his Point of View and found Shalini wrong. Similarly, Rahul watched Priya’s story with her Point of View and found Priya right.
While I was pondering over the concept of Right or wrong and Point of View, I heard a male voice, ‘Excuse me!’ It was Rahul’s. Rahul was standing beside me while Priya was still sitting in her window seat and staring at me. ‘We have already landed and I think we should move out’ said Rahul.
‘Oh, Sorry’, I apologized as I got up. I took out my bag out of the overhead compartment while Rahul and Priya were also moving out of their seats. I was about to head towards the aircraft exit when I stopped for a moment and turned back towards Rahul and Priya. They glanced at each other seeing me.
‘You know. In our lives, there is nothing Right or Wrong but…. Point of View’, I said. I turned towards exit again and left.
They both were wondering what and why have I just said.