It’s impossible sometimes to just retrace our steps and re-position our lives just the way it were before. Before a life-changing incident or an epiphany that is. Looking back I saw a reflection of Rustam in Dhawal which was unnerving to one who had seen both at close quarters. That, the eventual outcome had not been appetizing added fuel to the fire that was my mind as I sat at Kalpana’s waiting for the enfante terrible. It was more out of a desperate attempt to make amends with my guilty conscience that I pursued my case with swarming thought skirmishes. As it turned out, my doubts were put to rest, atleast for the moment as I saw Dhawal work his way towards me that night.
He had an air of non-chalance that had seemed amiss during the last few days. You can tell from the way people take their strides of what state of mind they are in, assuming you have been in close contact with the subject and believe in your power of understanding people. The erratic unmeasured steps and the fluid hand movements talked of a return to equilibria which sedated my anxieties. He was his usual robust self that day, why, even more aggressively so as we sat there for hours drinking our way to sedation. While we talked and I maintained my cautious observatory microscope I slided into complacency. Call it the will of the loser or the deception of the object we were back in business.
I don’t really remember what transpired that day. I cannot seem to recall when I lost base with the ground and floated high above. But the next morning when I opened my eyes I had a deep-seated fear nestled solidly in my veins. You have those sensations sometimes. Unknowing fear, ignorant of the cause you are subjected to a trauma that refuses to let go-not until you have found your way through the puzzle, worked your way up the ladder, dug up the past. As I lay there on my bed I was consumed by a decaying loss, an unexplained terror and a building guilt. I had to see him this very moment without knowing why.
I ran across the tiny 1-room apartment and bolted down the 3-storey Aashiyana complex to the Azad Chawk residence of one Dhawal Pradhan, my past, my present and my future. It was a busy day, Sunday. People thronged the bazaars like there was no tomorrow. Not one square inch of the 1-lane potholed road was left for the open skies. Over-cast skies I knew it would rain. It was raining the day I lost Rustam.
I was numb to the cacophony that filled the road. Oblivious to the foot falls of the crowd that littered, out of the blue brief snippets of my conversation from last night forged its way to my conscious mind.
Dhawal: Have you sometimes felt the urge to surrender your fears and accept the consequences without making an effort? Does it occur to you that by succumbing to our worst fears we could be free of unwanted thoughts?
Me: Merlin’s pants. What in the devil’s name are you talking about Dhawal?
Dhawal: Nothing. It just crossed my mind that we are what we think we are. By moulding it the way it suits us we can, by our very own actions turn it for our good.
Me: Uh huh..hmm I guess..
Dhawal: Just remember one thing, IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT AND WILL NEVER BE. People are what their decisions make them. It isn’t in your hands to change what others think and do.
And with that I was back on the road. A sense of dread now replaced anxiety. My pace quickened to a jog and then to a full-fledged run till I was standing right infront of my destination. With bated breath and trembling hands I knocked on the dilapidated door which seemed to buckle under pressure from a mere knock. I knocked again after a minute had passed and waited, unsure of what lay ahead. I refused to let my mind wander and consider possibilities. It was not until 5-10 minutes had elapsed and I still had not received a reply that my hearbeat quickened in pace. I had to get in and see it with my own eyes.
I slammed my foot on the corroded door and it gave away with a single jab. As I stood there waiting for the dust to settle and my eyes to adjust to the darkness I had lost all hope. The anxiety had solidified into a sense of profound loss and it was through those tainted glasses that I rummaged through the room. The room was empty with nothing but the spiders for company. There was but a parchment that lay unconcealed on the floor begging for attention. It read thus:
I am leaving. This is as much for your good as it is for mine. You are not able to shake off the guilt which you have come to believe as a nondetachable part of your existence. It feels as though its a fetish you refuse to let go. I know it by the way you look at me-pitying searching eyes that begs for forgiveness. I know you look at Rustam when you are looking at Dhawal. Don’t deny it, it will only serve to extend the guilt. While I have always cherished your friendship and identified with the care I find it suffocating to constantly find myself under your watch.
What people do with their lives is of their own making and no one can push them the other way. You have got to accept the fact that Rustam was a weakling who just happened to have your company. His death in no way reflect your failures. On the contrary, the strength in your character is exemplified by the way you have proceeded to carve out a new life.
I am going away where you would not be able to trace me. Don’ t try to-both for me and for you. I wish you a lifetime of happiness and sincerely hope you do not let your past haunt your present and affect your future.
It so happens sometimes that happiness and sorrow comes in pair and you find yourself at loss understanding whether to laugh or cry. You end up doing both, in patches and spoiling both emotions, in turn. I had run out of sensations. Some more contemplation and deep thinking was in order. I had both lost and gained an immortal friend, at least for a lifetime.