Thursday, June 6, 2013


Rajiv woke up with a start. It took him a few seconds to get his bearings right. Yes, he was in his bed, safely tucked in. He wiped the few beads of perspiration that hung on to his forehead.

'It was just a bad dream', he assured himself. He tried recalling what had woken him up, but it was only a blurring image of him falling down into an infinite, dark pit. 'I hate nightmares', he cursed.

Catching his breath, he looked outside his window. Early morning sun rays were streaming in,casting an aura of pale orange inside his small room. Realizing that sleep now was a distant possibility, Rajiv slowly got out of bed. He went up to the window and let the cool Nainital breeze calm him down.

'Why don't I wake up early more often?', he said to himself, cherishing the peace and quiet that enveloped him. Soon, hunger invaded his tranquility and he decided and go down and make himself a snack. He quickly got dressed and made his way down the stairs.

 Suddenly, sounds of wailing reached his ears. It seemed to be coming from the kitchen. Loud cries of anguish followed by incessant sobbing.Worried, Rajiv hastened down the stairs and ran to the kitchen. He saw his mother, bent over the counter, her head in her hands, crying loudly and shaking uncontrollably.

Rajiv stood there for a second, stunned. He tried to call out to her, but no sound came out from his mouth. Finally, he managed to get his speech back, and shouted, 'Maa! What happened?'

His mother continued to cry, almost choking on her tears. Rajiv called out to her again. Suddenly, his mother rushed from the kitchen and ran upstairs. Dumbfounded, Rajiv followed. She went up to her bedroom and slammed the door shut.

Rajiv banged on the door with all his might, begging his mother to let him in and tell him what the hell was going on. He could hear her cry inside, but she did not come out or let him in.  Rajiv felt his breath becoming labored, panic occupying each and every pore in his body. He tried to calm himself, forcing his mind to think logically. What could have happened to her? Why won't she tell me? Is it something I have done? Have I shamed her in some way? His mind was in a frenzy.

Out of all these confused thoughts, one stood out clearly. Dad! It was six in the morning. He had to be home. He went looking for him, calling out, screaming. No response. He searched the whole house. His father was not there. He felt real fear for the first time in his life. Where is Dad? Where could he have gone so early in the morning? Is he alright? Has something happened to him? Is that why Maa is crying?

He simply had no answers. He dashed out of his house, trying to think of the next step. The neighbors! He went over and rang the bell. Nobody came to answer the door. He tried again and again, but to no avail. He felt sick. Where is everybody?

Unsure of what to do next, he thought of calling the police. He went back home, and dialed 100. No one answered his phone! Where is the police when you need them! He could still hear his mother sobbing in the bedroom. He felt sure something really bad had happened to his father. But what? It was only yesterday that they had gone trekking, having a great time, laughing away to glory. All that seemed ages away now.

'I will call Sujit, he can help!', he said to himself. Sujit was his best friend. He surely won't mind if he called him so early. He picked up the landline and realized he could not remember Sujit's phone number. He frantically looked for his mobile phone, but could not find it. Where did it go? He searched all over, but it was nowhere to be seen. 'I lost my mobile?', the usually careful Rajiv was shell-shocked.

He ran out of his house and started running towards Sujit's place. It was across the Naini lake, so he had to go the entire way around the beautiful lake. Physically and mentally exhausted, he reached Sujit's house. To his horror and dismay, he found it locked! He felt as if the world was against him. His legs felt heavy and he sat down on the porch. His head was spinning, terrible thoughts clouding his brain.

'I better go home and check on Maa, only she can tell me what is happening'. He dragged himself home, feeling sicker every second. To his utter disbelief, he found the front door of his house open! He was sure he had closed it while going out. He rushed to his parent's bedroom, and was about to bang the door, when he heard voices inside.

'Please try to calm down, darling. You have to be strong!'

It was his Dad's voice. Relief came flooding into him and he felt himself drop to the floor, overcome and overburdened with emotions. His father was okay! He could still hear Maa crying. He heard his father's voice again.

'I went to the spot. There are no new updates. I am losing hope now. We should go ahead.'

Go ahead? Updates? What spot? Rajiv was confused. But, what he heard next stung like a thousand knives. It was his mother speaking now. She was shouting.

'Go ahead? How can we? You want us to have our own son's funeral without his body? I will not accept that! I will go there myself, where he fell! I will search for him myself! My God, why did you do this! He was right with us, laughing. Oh, he enjoyed trekking so much! And you took him away from us!'

And it all came crashing down for Rajiv. It all made sense now. His nightmare. Waking up. Images of him falling. Nobody acknowledging his presence. Yes, it all made sense now.

And with a sense of impeding doom, he realized what he had woken up from was not a nightmare. His nightmare had only just begun.

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