Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Stranger in My Room

It was very comfortable. The bed, the pillow, the room. The air-conditioning was set at a comfortably cool level and the fan on the ceiling whirred slowly. Waking up from a really deep sleep, I opened my eyes slowly. The world was a blur around me. I could make out the white walls and assorted tables and chairs around me. I tried to reach out to the nearest table to locate my spectacles, but I could not move. My hands and feet felt tied down.

Where the hell was I?

This surely wasn’t my room. There never was an air conditioner in my room and my bed was never so soft. I looked around desperate for some semblance of familiarity, but my myopic eyes failed me as they usually did without my spectacles.

Why am I tied down to this bed? Who has held me captive?

All of a sudden I heard footsteps. Out of nowhere, a figure appeared close to me. Despite my myopia, I could make out outlines of objects, though the details were blurred, and this was definitely a male figure. He walked slowly towards me, his footsteps echoing in the room.

“So you woke up at last eh?” he said in a sinister voice.

“Who are you? What am I doing here?” I pleaded.

“Calm down. You will get all your answers in due time. How are you feeling now?”

His calm composure made me angry.

“Oh I am f**king great. What else do you expect? I love being tied down to the bed.”

“Tch tch. Still the same foul language. I thought the sleep would have improved you a bit.”

“Why have you tied me down?”

“Oh, did I tie you down?” He chuckled.

I summoned all the strength I could muster and struggled to break free my hands. They didn’t move even a millimetre. I was tied too tightly.

“You can struggle all you want. It’s of no use.” He told me, in a voice that was irritatingly calm.

He came and sat on the chair next to my bed.

“Now stop this silly struggle and let us have a chat.” He lit a cigarette and began blowing the smoke in circles.
“Mr. Sunil Sethi, son of a hotel baron, an MBA degree holder and now about to get married next month. Do I have my facts correct?”

The hell you do, I thought to myself. I nodded in response.

“This girl, your fiancée, Sonali right? Do you love her?”

“What does she have to do with all this? Or for that matter, what do I have to do with all that’s happening right now?”

“You will understand what is happening and what everyone has to do with it. For the time being, just answer my questions. So do you love her?” He said sternly.

“Yes I do.” I replied.

“In that case, I have some really bad news for you. She is with me now.” He smiled.

My blood was boiling now.

“You should look at yourself in the mirror.” He laughed. “But I’m serious. We are together in our own small world now, and there is nothing you can do about it.”

“What the f**k are you saying? And who the hell are you?” The suspense was killing me.

“Oh, sorry I forgot to introduce myself. I am Sanjay Kadam, clerk in the Post Office. Rather, I was a clerk. Not now, thanks to you!”

“So this is some kind of a revenge for you, is it? Lost your job for some screw up from your end, and now you blame me and kidnap me for ransom from my father. Is that what this is all about?”

He started laughing much to my bewilderment.

“Get down from your high pedestal, rich boy! I don’t want anything from your father or anybody for that matter. I can’t get back what has already been taken away from me. I just wanted to have a chat with you, that’s it. So, how do you feel now that your fiancée is no longer with you?”

“I don’t believe you. I don’t need to believe you. I know Sonali and she will never leave me. How do you know about her anyway?”

“To be honest, I didn’t know about her till yesterday night. How I wish that night had never come.”

“She was with me yesterday night. We had gone to the discotheque together. What are you talking about?” I asked.

“That’s right. Both of you were at the disco together. But what happened AFTER you came out? Don’t you remember anything?” He started blowing more smoke rings.

“We were dancing together, and she pleaded me to stop the booze. After much debate I reluctantly agreed and we came out and I drove her back. Where do you figure in all this?”

“Is this what really happened or is this what you think happened? Let me make it easier for you. Do you remember dropping her at her house?”

“Listen mister. I was high with all that alcohol. I remember driving back with her, nothing else. And you are saying that she has left me for a post office clerk? Dream on!” A tiny headache was creeping up in my head.

“So you think all this is a joke eh? I’m not laughing and you won’t too very soon. This ego of yours is not funny. Getting drunk that night and making a fool of yourself was not funny. Driving a car in that condition was not funny. Killing me and my entire family was not f**king funny!!”

He got up from the chair and moved towards the window. My headache peaked as the memory streamed in.

“Drive slow Sunil, please. You’ll hit somebody.” Sonali was saying.

“Don’t worry baby. That bloody Merc driver thinks he can outrun me. Just want to teach him a lesson.” I said as my foot pressed harder on the accelerator.

“Just forget him okay. Please slow down.” She pleaded.

I looked at her. She was looking all flushed.

“Okay sweetheart. For you I will slow down. See, I am taking my foot off the accelerator and placing it on the ............................. “

The conversation was interrupted by a bang. The headache now threatened to split my head. My heart was working extra hard and I could feel my pulse rising.

“Remembered something eh?” he said. “I remember everything. I remember lying down on the road unable to move in the pool of blood. I remember my son calling out to me for help and not being able to respond to him. And I remember watching my wife breathing her last before I did so myself.”

“Sonali...” I stuttered. “You said.............”

“Yes, I stand by what I said. She’s in my world now.”

Realization dawned on me. I wished I was seeing a bad dream. I wanted to pinch myself, but my hands were unable to move.

“I think our chat is over now.” He said. “Goodbye, and I sincerely hope you would live this life of regret. Thankfully, I don’t think you would ever be able to drive a car again or kill someone else.”

He placed my spectacles on my face and his outline vanished in thin air. There was nobody in the room. Only the beeping sounds of assorted machines around me. I looked at my arms and legs.

They weren’t tied up, but however much I tried, I would never be able to move them again.