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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!—Part-5


Two yards more to overcome...and I would be a free man, at least for the time being. I could no longer hear his laughter and dared not look back. Perhaps he really appreciated my gesture in not using the opportunity offered by the falling gun; that he was only joking about ‘good guys’ and that he was not going to shoot me down at all. On the other hand, had any murders taken place at the hotel afterwards I would have been a prime witness as I had seen all three thugs from close quarters. In that eventuality I would remain a marked man for eternity. But there was no way to know it for a certainty. Anyway, it would be very clear very soon.

I nearly stopped at the final point of the curve, gripped by persisting tension and fear. Taking an instant resolve to make the final dash to escape I rounded the turning successfully. No shots rang out in the air. And then I ran...I ran like a rabbit in pursuit, releasing the built-up tension and relishing my escape. Surprisingly, I never got out of breath; running at that kind of break-neck speed seemed effortless for me. I didn’t bother about that. What I bothered about was to forego my supper, get back to the guest house at any cost and sleep out that horrible night.

And I lost my way. The landscape was entirely different; it seemed to be a forest road with dense overgrowth on both sides, and I had no indicators to find my way back to the guest house. Suddenly, I confronted a steep rise in the road ahead. I stopped running and started climbing, again effortlessly. As I reached the highest point of the incline I stopped, and looked ahead expectantly. However, a new world was waiting to greet me in.

There opened before me the vast expanse of modernity—a big city with multi-lane brilliantly-lit streets, flyovers, high rises, shopping malls and hundreds and hundreds of vehicles moving both ways. I was stunned, utterly failing to react. Basically because I never expected such a spectacle, and after being confronted with that I found absolutely no clue to recognize that city which seemed to have materialized out of nowhere. I never knew the existence of such a big city so near to the town of our known guest house. That was another point that night when my mind was finally about to get out of control. So I applied all the common sense available to me, and decided to act to the best of my interest.

I moved along the street controlling my intense urge to ask the faceless pedestrians the name of the city. Perhaps my ego prevented me from doing that, because I was supposed to be a frequent traveler, at least within India, and it was utterly insulting for me not to have any idea about a huge city just a walk away from my latest destination. I also reasoned inside my mind that I would find out very soon.

My expectations soared as I saw a sprawling bus stand on my right which to my mind seemed to be an inter-state bus terminus. I quickly crossed over to the other side of the road, and entered the campus looking for ticket counters with possible names of stations or destinations. I got angry, frustrated and depressed not being able to find any indicator that could have satiated my quest. I stood still in the middle of the expansive concrete floor, not knowing what to do. I thought of queuing up in a counter and talk to the booking clerk; but what would I ask him having no idea where I was or where I was to go. I could be an absolute laughing stock; I decided to drop the idea.

Somebody called me out from behind sending a cold chill down my spine. For some time I froze not daring to look back, not able to move a muscle, such was the shock and surprise inherent in that sound. Because the sound was very familiar; it had been an integral part of me; it was inseparable from me; there was no way not to recognize that sound. It was my wife, my dearest life-partner of more than twenty years calling me out in her sweet tone.

Finally I whirled around, and there she stood, smiling sweetly at me, with no mark of any tension or surprise or anxiety or indignation or sentiment. It was I who started having most of these emotions. What she was doing there? Why she was there? I left her at home hale and hearty only last evening, and suddenly she stood there before me like an apparition. Again I had to apply full control so that my already tortured mind did not go raving out. Her calmness and naturalness also had an impact on my future course of action.

I decided to act normally too. Of course, I asked her what she was doing there to which she gave some incoherent reply, and I decided against pursuing it. Instead, we walked together towards a marble bench carved out of the side wall of the building, and sat down talking about nothing in particular. And then my mind started talking, talking rapid, and raging insane...

                                                                                                              (To Be Continued...)

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