When Siddhant came back from work he saw that the front door of his two bedroom apartment was wide open. He kept his office bag down on the couch as his eyes scanned through the apartment. He saw that the closets were ajar with clothes lying all over the floor. Even the fridge door open, kitchen cabinets emptied and house in a complete disarray. “Must have been in a great hurry”, he thought to himself. He went inside his bedroom and was not surprised to see that the locker was open and the cash was missing. He felt a knot inside his stomach.
He called his brother but his phone was switched off. He paced across the hall for a few minutes contemplating his next move. He reached out for one of the open kitchen cabinets and fetched an old bottle of whiskey which he used either when he was ecstatic or morose. He made himself a drink and finally dialed 100.
‘Police station.’ said a coarse voice across the phone.
Siddhant immediately disconnected the line.
Hundred and fifty miles away, twenty-year old Atharv sat tight in the train moving towards Mumbai from New Delhi. He held his bag close to his chest as he looked out the window, his eyes fixated on the moon. It was an hour past the midnight and everybody around him was asleep except an old woman sitting right across. She had been oddly staring at him as if studying his every move. Atharv had dozed for just ten minutes when the train stopped at a busy station and the station clock struck thrice.
“Son, where are you going?” inquired the old woman.
Atharv pretended not to hear and continued staring outside the window.
“Son, can you get me some water? Here, take the money.” Said the old woman handing out a hundred rupee note. “You don’t know yet how old age can be. It’s a suffering and renders you helpless. It will take me an hour to walk using this useless cane.” She said pointing at a wooden stick. “The kids these days, they abandon you..” she muttered under her breath.
Atharv rolled his eyes as he continued to look outside the window. He glanced at the old woman and he had to admit that she looked quite tired and worn out. He observed that the food stall was right in front of their coach, “Maybe I should get this stupid old fuck some water so that she would shut up,” he thought feeling irritated.
“Fine. Look after my bag” responded Atharv.
Five minutes later, when Atharv came back with a ‘Rail Neer’ water bottle, he felt his heart in his mouth. His bag and the old woman, both were gone.
The trees outside the hospital window were glistening in the sunlight that bathed them. Its bark was slightly arched in the middle but that did not mean it could be bent any further. The buzz in the air contrasted against the lull of the sky. The morphine in the blood stream made the heart beat a little louder which drowned the noise around and a sea of images flashed before Atharv’s eyes. The face of his mother. The time when he was eight and rode his bicycle in the narrow lanes of the city until he was convinced that he is lost. Then he would try to remember landmarks to reach back home as if he were in a new city. His fascination with puzzles. Then came a day when he realized he could stay in the conformity of the four walls and yet a kaleidoscope of thoughts could be unleashed by a piece of paper one-fourth the size of a postal stamp. He realized he could catch each one of these thread of thoughts which otherwise seem to slip away in consciousness. Soon reality lost its charm and started to appear a little shallow and a little tedious. ‘The rainbows in the head must not be diminished’ went the slogan. Somewhere between these layers, the fact that sub-consciousness arise from consciousness was misplaced.
He heard the faint voice of his brother at a distance and guilt washed over him.
“Would he be alright, doctor?” inquired Siddhant standing by Atharv’s bedside.
“He will take a few days before he can get back to normal. He consumed some extremely cheap quality substances which is more damaging to the body. Were you aware of his addictions?”
Siddhant sat quietly by the hospital bed as he saw his kid brother slowly blinking his grey eyes. He was confused if he knew or not about the events that led to this very moment of this day.
“I’m Sorry…” said Atharv in a meek voice.
“I am right here, buddy.”
“Oh my god! You stole from Uncle so that you could do drugs?” the thirteen year old gasped in astonishment.
“Yea, it was a phase.”
“Uncle must have been so angry with you.”
“He was relentlessly supportive.”
“But what made you give it up?”
“I just realized with time that there are other natural and sustainable ways to get high.”
“Like what? shrooms? Cheap and natural.” playfully teased the child.
“Like art. Like love. Like success. You just have to work a little harder for these good things and the rest follows.”
“Alright father, roger that.” the child grinned.
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