Tanuj held his breath and stared at his father’s face, hoping strongly that it wasn’t Hitesh who had betrayed him. More than his parents getting to know about the incident, he was worried about losing the only friend he had.
“There was this doctor from the hospital who came to check on your father,” his mother broke the silence. “He told us everything.”
Tanuj was sure that whatever the doctor had told his parents was in the light of praising him. He couldn’t think of a doctor who would project such a benevolent act in a negative way. This made him even more uncomfortable around his parents, who apparently chose to overlook his act of helping someone and rebuke him instead.
“I can’t believe you are treating me this way, instead of being happy that I saved someone’s life,” he found himself saying. “I have always felt that your money is of no use to me, and now I am getting more sure about that. If this money cannot do any good to someone in need, I don’t have any use of it. I prefer to let it all go.”
Tanuj stormed up the stairs, leaving his parents in shock once again. His head was reeling and he felt numb. Those few sentences he said had flown out spontaneously from his mouth, and he didn’t really think before saying. Above all, he had never spoken to them like this before. It is not that he didn’t want to. He just had no courage before. But somehow now, things seemed to have changed overnight. As sorry he was for talking like that to his parents, deep inside he felt proud of speaking his heart out – of saying what he always wanted to. He never wanted to stay trapped in a life like this, but he never really made an earnest effort to escape. But saying those few lines out loud got him thinking. Was this when his life would take a turn – a completely different turn? Was he capable of abandoning this life that he dreaded so much and be independent – so independent that would never regret these words that he just said? Was he strong enough?
Although he knew that if he would go and apologise after a few hours, things would eventually get normal, he didn’t want to. It had taken him a lot of time and incentive to finally say what he meant, and he did not want to throw it all away just like that. Turning things back to normal meant getting trapped once again, and giving his parents the impression that he was wrong as usual, and whatever he said was just an outburst and nothing else. Only that it was not. He never meant anything so much in his life.
At six in the evening, Tanuj went to see Hitesh, who welcomed him with open arms as usual. But this time he sounded happier, and had a hint of pride in his voice.
“I was just telling Megha about what a hero you have been,” he said.
“Megha?” Tanuj had almost forgotten about this good-natured girlfriend of Hitesh, but remembered her when he saw her smiling and waving at him from the sofa. “Oh thanks, it was nothing.” He managed to return a smile.
“And Megha has offered to help me choose a saree for your girl,” Hitesh said with a wink.
“Ragini. Her name is.. ” said Tanuj. He understood that Hitesh was trying to suggest that he had developed a little crush on her, but he did not protest. He felt too tired to do that. “I just came to tell you that things aren’t going well at home, if you know what I mean. My parents came to know about the whole thing, and we had a spat.”
Megha rose up as if she knew it was her cue to leave. But Tanuj asked her to stay. “You seem to be a nice person Megha. I want you to be a part of this conversation.” He finally managed to pass her an authentic smile. “I am not afraid anymore to open up about my feelings. I have said it to the people I have been most distant to as well as closest to. So it is totally okay if you stay.”
For once, Hitesh looked as confused as his girlfriend. “Okay dude, sit down. Let’s talk.”
Tanuj went over to the fridge at the corner of the hall and took out a beer. “Remember how I said that day that I wanted to run away, and you said I should just take a short break, and things would be okay?”
Hitesh nodded, as Tanuj took the first sip from the bottle. “Turns out that the break wasn’t meant to make things normal again. It was meant to show me how exciting it is to not have everything normal. When she woke up from her sleep, she was so damn fresh, even with those gaping wounds that hid behind those layers of bandage. She seemed to tell me, ‘Go Tanuj, get a life.’ She wouldn’t tell me what she has been through, but I only know she is in a lot of pain – a pain that she doesn’t want to show. I don’t know if she is really that strong, or she is just pretending. She gets me thinking, you know, if a woman like her can fight all the odds and still have all the humour in her while waking up in an unknown place in front of a stranger like me, why am I so afraid to live a free life? I mean, here is someone choosing not to bother me with the shit in her life, and here I am whining all the way, doing nothing. How is that even acceptable? She has this aura, you know, that makes you feel so tiny. It makes you think that all your life, you have been in this big house with your rich parents, and you don’t know the first thing about life, about pain. But you look at her, and she is only twenty-three, and she seems to know so much more than you. She has sensed so many things more than you could ever sense in your entire life, staying at that house. And then when she woke up, and I saw her face and her fingers move, I could not think of anything else except that at that very moment, I was meant to be there. I was meant to see her wake up. Somehow all the things that had happened to me until then, were meant to culminate in that one instant.”
Hitesh stared at his friend who had finished up more than half of the beer already. “What exactly do you want to do Tanuj?”
“He wants to move out of his house, Hitesh. He wants to start afresh. And he is in love with her. Simple.” Megha finally spoke.
(To be continued…)