Wednesday, 19 June 2013

A Gentleman Suicide - a short story

This is the first time I am writing a short story of this length (approximately 4000 words). I have ended the story with a tinge of humour. There may be a lot of shortcomings in the short story both grammatical and content wise. I am looking forward to your critical assessments. Here goes the story.


The venue was campus of the NGO `Rehabilitate’.  It was a proud day for the NGO as the first batch of 25 slum children whom they had adopted and housed in their campus had completed their intermediate and getting ready to take their next step in life. The NGO had a total of 300 students under its care. Their financial commitments are being met by a software boss who is renowned for his philanthropic activities across the globe. He encouraged his employees to take part in the activities of the NGO as volunteers and Mitali is one of them. She frequently gave motivational talks to the students. Her talk had ended and the Q&A session was just about ending when a student got up and asked `Madam, at times I want to do some thing but I keep thinking about and don’t do it. Later, I feel bad that I did not do it. What to do about it?”  Mitali’s pink cheeks turned red as she remembered Rahul. Shrugging aside her thoughts, she replied `Such an attribute is called Procrastination. Most times it is bad’. With these words, Mitali ended her talk, wished the kids all the best and hurriedly left for her car. Procrastination all times is bad so the word most times does not make sense. It makes sense only to Mitali.

As Mitali drove out of the NGO, she reached the highway. It had all that a highway in India has or doesn’t have. It had a lot of restaurants en-route but fewer trees. It had well marked lanes but very motorists to respect them. It had an international standard road but pedestrians who had no common sense. Mitali was a rule abiding driver. Her flats `Whispering Meadows’ was on the left side, 20 kms away from the NGO. She stuck to lane discipline mindless of the honking behind her. Once in a while, an angry driver would overtake her and mouth an abuse or two but she remained calm. All of a sudden, she had to hit the breaks as hard as she could, to avoid running over a young lady by the proverbial inch. The `victim’ unmindful of what had happened crossed the road with the same grandeur as the Queen of England would have done in her heydays.

The incident shook up Mitali till she reached `Whispering Meadows’ and safely parked her car in the slot meant for I-909. The lift of her block was under maintenance and the lift mechanic in broken English told `Madam, two hours I keep lift here only for repair’. Mitali could have spent her time in the in-house cafeteria but she would have none of it and decided to walk up the stairs. Being a fitness freak, she had no problem striding up the steps. The staircase was well built with wide steps but it created a lot of blind corners. No matter how much we ridicule superstitions, we all have a few fears lurking in our mind.  Mitali the rationalist too had a similar sentiment about blind corners. She checked her sling bag and ensured that the dagger was still there. She was ready to stab Rahul just in case he popped out of a blind corner as he usually did. Rahul never popped out of any of the 18 blind corners and Mitali without committing a murder reached her flat.

Mitali stayed alone in her 2 bed room flat. She latched the door from behind, hurriedly went into her bedroom, opened the wardrobe, and took out the portrait of Rahul, put the music on and started yelling abuses invoking his name, every now and then stretching her middle finger. This was not how you expect an IT professional and a motivational speaker to behave but then Rahul could evoke extreme emotions in her. He had not cheated her but played havoc in her life with his procrastination.

After a few minutes of this ritual, she was tired and reached for the beer bottle in her fridge. She ordered an Italian meal from the nearby restaurant; ate it and fell on her bed with a thud. Mitali wanted to sleep but could not close her eyes. A Zillion images of Rahul flashed across whenever she tried to close her eyes. She logged on to Facebook from her mobile and searched for Rahul Singh. Profile of every Rahul Singh on Earth got listed except the one she wanted. Dejected, she put the mobile on silent mode, threw it across the bed and closed her eyes to sleep. Whenever Mitali remembered Rahul, sleep would come to her as quickly as sense would come to a drunkard or hope would come to a convict about to be hanged in a couple of hours or common sense would come to the member of a religious cult . She had to stay awake recollecting the bitter-sweet-bitter memories about him.

Mitali got up realizing the futility of trying to sleep and went to the balcony overlooking the lake besides her apartment and relaxed on the antique rocking chair. She remembered her first meeting with Rahul. Mitali had just completed her engineering and was recruited by a famous IT company in campus recruitment. It was the first day of her orientation program and the inaugural session was in the third floor of their sprawling campus. Mitali was a chirpy girl who loved striding up the stairs with gay abandon. Suddenly, she bumped into a huge mass of body and was falling over. She stretched her hand and shouted `hold me’.

The guy with a perplexed look, stretched his long hands, reached for her hips and for some reason withdrew with a `sorry, I did not see you coming’.

Mitali landed on her back but luckily escaped with a few bruises. She got up angrily and yelled at him `Dude, what the hell is wrong with you? Why did you hold me and then let me go?’

He replied `I thought you would be offended if I held you by the hip’.

Mitali’s rage went out of control `Which age have you come from? Get real; this is not an Eastman color movie. I would not have fallen in love with you, if you had held me by the hip’. Saying so, she got up and went back to her room to attend to her bruises.

Later, she came to know his name was Rahul, a topper from another college. Mitali concluded that all toppers must be dumb. This was her first meeting with Rahul. Rahul as Mitali noted was technically sound but when it came to social aspects was hopelessly bugged by indecisiveness. He took endlessly long time to decide on what to eat; what to wear, etc. Soon a few friends brokered peace between Rahul and Mitali. They took lot of pains to explain to Mitali that if procrastination had a face it would resemble Rahul. Before peace could prevail, Mitali gave him a lot of cold looks, the typical girlish winces, etc.

After peace was brokered, friendship bloomed between the two. Rahul could not avoid gazing at Mitali’s face and many a times she caught him in the act. Immediately, he would turn his face away and she would giggle.  All these had a stimulating effect of Rahul and he started loving Mitali. Mitali too started liking Rahul but she wanted him to be a man and propose to her. However, the favorite procrastination’s favourite son never proposed to Mitali.

Rahul’s procrastination powers were on display on the last day of the orientation program. Each participant had to pick a chit from the bowl and perform what was written in it. When Rahul’s turn came, he took a whole of five minutes pondering which chit to pick. Finally, Mitali picked it for him and Rahul spent another five minutes deciding which song to render.
The time to depart came. Rahul mustered enough courage, blocked Mitali who was going to her room and hesitantly said `can we be friends?’. Mitali shrugged him aside, giggled and walked away murmuring `what are we now?’. Rahul wanted to pull her, draw close to his chest, plant a kiss on her lips and assert `this is what I meant’. He could not muster enough courage to do so, not even to yell back `I love you’. He froze and the occasion was gone. He was posted for an offshore assignment and Mitali to the Hyderabad Centre. They could not meet again

A year down the line, Mitali changed jobs and moved over to Bangalore. Living alone in Bangalore was one of the reasons why Mitali had chosen IT Engineering. Bangalore had all that Mitali wanted a city to have. It has great weather (when compared to rest of the country); sprawling malls, multiplexes, pubs, bowling alleys and above all a single woman could feel safe in the city. Her credit card company made a lot of money. Her family which was based in Calcutta had a huge income and monthly used to send money to her. Thus, clearing debts was never a problem for Mitali.

Mitali soon fell in love with a colleague named Kumaran. He was tall, dark and handsome. Those were the only good things about him. In reality, he was a leech. All that mattered to him was Mitali’s body. Mitali realized it late but it is never too late to break free from a parasite. Mitali did just that. Heartbroken, she changed jobs and continued to trudge along.  

One weekend, a few of the girls from her first job met up and had a booze party in a resort. Priya her best friend just had a divorce after she discovered her husband making love to a shop attendant. She was drinking uncontrollably.

Mitali who was still in her senses, shrugged her shoulders and yelled `Priya, what are you doing to yourself? There is life beyond that idiot. Relax, things will get better’

Priya `what better? My life is over. I loved that a**h*** so much. Who should I live for? Men are all the same, they just want to bed female after female after female’

Mitali hugged her, caressing her hair said `don’t cry sweetheart, not all men are bad. A good guy will come into your life. Just that you have to recognize and not let him go’

Priya mockingly smiled and replied `Yeah, I should not be foolish like you were with Rahul’

Mitali’s face turned pale. She slapped Priya on her jaw and asked `where does Rahul come into this?’

Priya who was on a high pushed Mitali on the ground, got on top of her, gently strangulated her neck  and replied in an  annoying tone `Don’t tell me that you did not know that Rahul loved you for his life? Don’t tell me you did not know what Rahul meant when he asked you to be his friend? He was madly in love with you. He could not say it you and you did not want to understand. Now, he is staying with Neha in this very city. Go, f**k yourself’’. Saying so, she passed out.

Mitali managed to lift Priya with help of friends into her car and reached her flat. Next morning was tense. Priya was expecting Mitali to ask about Rahul and Mitali expecting Priya to give Rahul’s whereabouts. Neither was ready to give up their egos. Both were such genuine Urban Hypocrites.

Mitali always knew that Rahul loved her. It was just that she wanted him to come and say that to her. She was desperate to seek comfort in his arms but ego never allowed her to propose to him. Soon priorities of career and glamour of leading an independent life took over and she almost forgot Rahul. Mitali was sad about loosing Rahul but she was equally anguished about him living with Neha. Neha was Mitali’s senior at college. Neha was a man eater. Material progress was what she cared for. Even when they worked together, Neha’s personal life and her closeness with certain managers were constant topics of office gossip. She could not believe that Rahul and Neha can be a pair. Mitali knew Rahul will find a place in Neha’s equation only as long as a bigger multiple did not come in her predatory vision.

Mitali wanted to find Rahul but she did not know where to look for him and she did not want to ask Priya. Meanwhile, she was hoping that Rahul sees the true side of Neha and gets rid of her. Having seen both, Neha’s manipulating skills and Rahul’s lack of it, she knew it was wishful thinking. Life meandered along for a few weeks and it was one of those weekends, Mitali had gone for a movie and a bit of retail therapy. It was around 11 pm and she was strolling towards her car in the basement parking when she could see a huge shadow following her. Mitali was scared but decided to fight back. She took a sharp turn at one of those pillars, raised her legs with all the might she had and was about to kick the stalker on his box when for some reason she saw the face and it was Rahul. She could not stop the momentum but diverted the kick on his knees.
Rahul cried out `Ouch! What are you doing? I wanted to call you but then thought it would not be manners. So I thought I will get close and talk to you and see what you have done, almost rendered me impotent’
Mitali screeched back `you have not get rid of your f***in indecisiveness, have you? Anyways, how are you?’
From behind, the familiar sluttish voice of Neha spoke `Now that he is in my arms, never mind, very soon he will be as decisive as a scud missile’.
Mitali thought to herself `Hope a few months down the line, he does not get desperate to stand in front of a scud missile’.
Mitali pretending that she did not know about their relationship hugged Neha, kissed on her cheeks and whispered into her ears `Neha, what an unpleasant surprise? Anything happens to him I will kill you’.
Neha with a plastic smile whispered back `B***h to your heart’s content, he is my puppet’.

Soon Rahul walked up to them. Neha just to increase Mitali’s bitterness kissed Rahul on his lip. Mitali could not stand this sight. With all her civility intact, she exchanged mobile numbers with Rahul and walked away in a huff. Neither she called Rahul nor did he call her.

A few weeks after meeting Rahul, Neha got an offshore assignment for six months in London and went away. After six months she came back to India, only to learn from Priya that Neha had dumped Rahul after doing away with a good part of his bank account. Rahul was more hurt because she had dumped his love and in that sorrow had become an alcoholic. Even Priya did not know his whereabouts because he had sold his flat and went to stay in an unknown place. Mitali was shell shocked and barely had she settled down after hearing the news, her phone rang and it was Rahul. She picked up the call and he poured out all his woes. He ended the call by saying that he was going to commit suicide. Panic stricken she called back his number but by then the mobile was switched off.

MItali and Priya set out to find the whereabouts of Rahul. Without much strife, they found the company he worked for but he had resigned the job last month. Finally, they managed to find the paying guest accommodation where Rahul stayed but he had vacated a week ago. It was already 12 hours since Rahul called Mitali. There was every possibility that he would have committed suicide. They decided to check the various Government mortuaries in the city. No dead body matching the description of Rahul had arrived. The security guard in one of the mortuaries said at times dead bodies arrived three to four days after the suicide. Mitali nodded in agreement and stuck a few hundred rupee notes into his hands and asked him to call her in case any dead body matching Rahul arrived at his morgue. She went back to all the morgues she visited early and stuck a similar deal with the security guards over there too.

Two days passed, three days passed but no news. On the fourth day, she received a call from the security guard whom she bribed first, that body of a young man who had committed suicide four days ago, was brought to the morgue in a highly decomposed state. The body according to him matched with the specifications of Rahul. To add credibility to the claim was the fact that the deceased had committed suicide in a lodge around the same time Rahul had called Mitali. This was it and Mitali broke into an ocean of tears. No amount of consoling by Priya could control her. Priya drove along with Mitali to the hospital. She haphazardly parked the car and they rushed towards the morgue. On reaching, the security guard informed that the dead body belonged to a localite and his relatives had taken away the dead body. Mitali thanked her stars and walked back to the car. However, the thought lingered in her mind, what if Rahul had gone to another city and committed suicide? There was no answer for the question and she could not travel across length and breadth of the country trying to find Rahul’s dead body.

For the next few days, Mitali became an avid reader of the crime beat column in every newspaper. She started watching all the crime beat programmes on the Kannada channels though she could not understand much of the language. There was no news about Rahul. All that she could do was drown her thoughts by visiting an old age home nearby and serving the elderly over there. Time flies faster than we think and in matter off time it was three years since she had stopped finding Rahul’s dead body. Mitali had moved on but there was no place for any guy in her life. Priya meanwhile got married the second time and was happier than before.

In addition to her professional commitments, Mitali got associated with `Rehabilitate’. She also developed a fascination for collecting antiques. Rocking chairs, lamps, wall hangings, daggers and any antique she would buy.

It was on a Sunday, when she read in a tabloid that a unique antique shop had opened in a nearby mall. She wanted to buy a particular dagger which the shop claimed was from the Mughal period. She purchased the dagger and was walking towards the cafeteria nearby. From nowhere, Rahul popped out. Mitali was taken aback and instantly asked `Are you not dead?’

Rahul with a regretful face replied `No, I could not commit suicide’

Mitali in an enraged tone, gesticulating her right hand asked `and why did you not care to inform me? Do you know how much of pain I went through after the incident? I went around the town searching for your dead body in every dirty morgue. Scoundrel, why the f**k did you not inform me that you were alive?

Rahul `it took me a lot of time and travel to decide not to commit suicide’

Mitali with her eyebrows raised and hands on her hips quizzingly asked `WTF do you mean by time and travel. If you wanted to commit suicide, you could have very well done so in your PG itself’

Rahul `Yes, I could have but that PG was the only livelihood of its owner, I did not want to disrupt it, so I hired a lodge in Gandhinagar’

Mitali `ok, why did you not commit suicide there?’

Rahul `I just did not like the doors there, they were too weak. If anybody heard me making any noise, they could easily break in and save me’

Mitali seething with anger `Continue’

Rahul `I moved to Chennai and took up a job. They accommodated me in their guest house. I decided to commit suicide on Neha’s birthday, wrote a suicide letter and pinned her photograph to it but…’

Mitali asked in a mocking tone `which divine thought saved you this time around?’

Rahul `I gave it up because it would spoil the image of the company. The local press over there is capable of making mountain out of a molehill’

Mitali was running short of words so she raised her right hand to suggest continue.

Rahul replied `Next I was sent to one of those gulf countries on an assignment. There was hardly any life over there. Again I harboured thoughts of committing suicide but did not’

Mitali asked sarcastically `why the flat you were staying in was not Vastu complaint for committing suicide?’

Rahul `look no jokes, this is serious stuff’

Mitali `ok, ok, I will stop joking. Please tell me why you terminated the gulf suicide project?’

Rahul `Anti-suicide laws of the country are very strict. Guys who attempt suicide and fail are flogged 500 times in public. There were no ceiling fans to hang in the room and given the medical facilities in the country, it is easy to rescue anybody who has consumed poison.’

Mitali checking sharpness of the dagger in her bag asked `Does your suicide story end here or is there more to come?’

Rahul `There is one last bit. I took up a job in US and there I met Neha with an American. I came back to my room and wanted to commit suicide but did not do so’

Mitali `why you were worried that the famous breaking news samurai journalist will grill Obama with the question “Mr Obama, India wants to know why Rahul Singh committed suicide in the US” and answer the question himself ?’

Rahul `No, I was worried that the American Government would  impose psychological assessment and brain mapping before giving HB1  Visas for Indians. Already people are stretched to the limits’

Mitali lost her cool, pulled out the dagger from her bag and said to Rahul `I am going to stab you, run if you can and save yourself’

Rahul had never seen Mitali so angry, not even when he let her go on the staircase, when they first met. He ran for his life with Mitali in hot pursuit. He came out of the Mall and the road was full of traffic waiting for the signal to turn green. He turned back to see Mitali was just a few feet behind him. He knew if he kept procrastinating any further, a dagger would land into his spine. Without a second thought, he ran across the road and reached the other end. Mitali tripped over a peeled banana skin and fell. Before she could get up, traffic had moved and Rahul was nowhere to be seen.

Mitali came back home dejected. She was angry at the pain Rahul had put her through earlier with a call that he was going to commit suicide. Mitali informed Priya about the incident and she shrugged it off by saying `you should be happy that he let go of his procrastination at least when you chased him with a dagger in hand’. Mitali could not control her laughter. The rest of the evening was spent mocking each of Rahul’s mannerisms on that day.

It was already 2 am, Mitali was done with recollecting her past. Her eyes were thirsting for sleep. She went to bed. Deep down in her heart she knew next time she met Rahul, she would not stab him but surrender in his arms.  

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