An inhuman cry echoed in the early morning alleys of Mumbai. The owner of the shriek was a bald man on his knees, pulling out his lungs, looking at his tattered hand, blood dripping all over his arm and shirt. He wanted to retaliate but he realized too late that he was not a match to his opponent. On his knees, clutching on to his deformed right hand the bald man could smell the gutter stench on that lonely street of Mumbai. His midnight adventure had gone sinister and he wanted to get out of this and never venture out of his home. The scream of pain turned into a cry for mercy as he saw his adversary picking one of the loose pavement blocks and walking towards him. The blood shot eyes carried no identification – a guiltless smile spread across a stern face and cold-blooded threat.
The block hit the bald man on the ear with a rhythmic swing and he hit the pavement, blood slowly draining out of his skull.
‘You talk too much’, groaned the last man standing, closing his eyes in anguish.
I swung up on the bed, eyes almost popping out of their socket. Sweat dripped on to my t-shirt and I was breathing heavy. All I wanted now was someone to flip a pail of water on me. No one was coming though; I was living alone – alone for the past four years. I felt weak and dehydrated. The nightmares were mind-bending and it was recurring.
Even four years after the accident, the pain would still come afresh. I glanced over to mom and dad on the bedside table and was glad that it was over for them. I would eventually get over it, I reasoned. The alarm in the mobile went off again and pushed me to get on with the day.
I would try and speak to Professor today. Need to – before it gets worse. I would never survive a visit to a shrink.
I saw the gang at the gate, the usual spot and as usual, I ditched them and jumped into my English lecture. It was double dose today and for me it was ecstasy. I loved the play with words and how powerful and defining they could be. For me, it was a jam session with Professor Roy and more often he would pin me down with a smile. He was exceptional with words but I was getting there slowly.
‘I would like to see you in my office Raghav’, the Professor ordered on his way out. Touché, I thought.
Meeting the Professor was more of waiting and less of talk. He was a busy man and occupied with visitors after class. I would rather meet him at the coffee shop than spending time drooling over his collection of books which as a matter of fact I could not pick to read – not without his consent.
Finally, Mrs. Banerjee, our economics professor, stepped out and I was called into his office. I nodded greetings to her and stepped into Professor’s office. Professor was leaning by the window, a mug of coffee in his hand. He nodded for me to take the chair and he perched on his side of the table. I must admit, being in Professor’s office was a delight. He probably had the best collection of books in town and all of it was treasured in this beautiful office of his.
‘I’ve been getting complaints about your attendance for the other subjects. What are your plans Raghav?’ Professor interrupted my thoughts. I knew this was eventually going to come up and I was preparing to get the matter sorted out – coming up with a plan of sorts.
I nodded. I did not want to defend myself.
‘In order to appear the exams you will have to satisfy the attendance criteria, you know that right?’ Professor said looking over his spectacles. I nodded again, fiddling with my fingers.
‘I am having these weird nightmares’, I suddenly heard myself saying. It was just like I was practicing in my head, only that it came out at this time and caught me completely off guard.
‘I get these wrong nightmares but I feel the real stress and pain – the one I experience in my nightmares … or dreams. I am not sure how to place these.’
Professor peered into me trying to read me. Of the very few people I had around me, I believe he was the one who could read me – at least close.
I stood up to leave. Professor did not say anything. He gave me a customary nod which meant he understood me. I am sure he will have something for me in due time. Till then I was on my own.
On the way back from his office, dread was waiting for me in the corridor on the second floor. I slowed in my track and my basic response to threat emerged and I withdrew into my shell. Someone had tipped off the gang as usual. Was I getting used to this? The pain was sharp as ever, physical as well as scraping a piece of my mind every time. My subconscious had taken over and I could hear laughter and empathetic sighs from outside of my circle of vision. I realized my glasses were off -wished it did not get crushed in the chaos. And then it was over. Few more scars as trophies.
Post each mental rape, my sane mind would rationalize this as a funny story for the future. I had discussed this with Professor but at a relatively lower intensity. He was the one who had advised to avoid confrontation. I wonder what his suggestion would be if I had laid out the details.
Back home, it was a couple of hours of running through the subjects and then off to my books – my companions. The pain would start aggravating soon and I pulled my medical kit along to the reading chair. I had stopped seeing doctors after the first couple of times. Doctors were crazy and I would not trust any so I had dug out this stuff from the internet – highly efficient in relieving the agony. I hit a couple of doses and burrowed into my books. A slow transcend from the real world to the surreal world.
As the night grew dense, he stood there in his balcony gazing into the dark city with thousands of blinking lights. The city was buzzing collectively but he could feel the chill of loneliness. He could see people floating around their chores but he was non-existent. Deeper into the night, the darkness was inviting and it was now when he felt he was in good company – no one. Walking on the empty streets, he was reading stories the empty dark streets were offering. His floating thoughts were broken by distant whimpering – a subdued call for help. Closer to the source he saw animals dressed in civility trying to shred a woman of her dignity. He stood there in his subconscious. His basic response to threat emerged and he clenched his fists. He picked a loose pavement block and ran towards the pack – a guiltless smile spread across his stern face.
picture courtesy – http://www.deviantart.com – artbytheo