11.50 pm 1 June, 2010
“Ae Hi! You still not slept? And, by the way, why you calling me at this time?,” Aditi whispered on her phone. “Actually, neend nahi aa rahi thi. And, i also thought to wish you your birthday. I mean, who else is going to wish then,” I chirped joyfully. “Oh ho! Who else will wish me? I believe You forgot Aakash. And, Ravi. And Sagar. And… “, “Okay, okay! i know you have a huge fan list”, i did not let her complete, i was jealous, yes, so many of my class-mates were after her, but, it was i who finally won her heart.
If i remember correctly, I was never after her. For me, she was just a classmate, like any other classmate. And, may be, this was what made her notice me (all the boys were trying hard to woo her, but i never showed any interest in Aditi). I was good at studies and would help all my friends with maths. She was a dumbo in maths and perhaps, it was Maths which brought us two together.
I still remember that day. I was helping her with Integration. After making her understand some forumale, i gave her a question to solve. She instantly got on that. In those two minutes (which she took to solve that question), i don’t know why, but i kept looking at her innocent face, the way she was looking at the question and all those expressions that came on her face when trying to solve that question. And, the moment she solved it and i gave my wink to say that it is right, she raised her hand towards mine for a high-5. The next moment, she was in my arms (she was excited and i was happy, and we both cuddled together). Something had happened in those 2 minutes and in that cuddle, and we both knew this. From that day on, we became very close friends (or may be, more than friends!). We would sit on the same bench, would go to canteen together. I even made her join me in library. Spring was everywhere for two of us (though i couldn’t say the same for my mates!)
It was her birthday tomorrow and i wanted to wish her first (just like all stupid lovers in our country). We talked for hours, about her, about me, about the dress she would wear on her birth day, and loads and loads of practical-bakwas. I loved every moment of that conversation.
I had bought 2 kangans (hand-bands) for her. She loved them and wore immediately. I was the happiest guy on the planet then. We hanged around Sarojani Nagar Market. Then, we went to North Campus. And, we went to all these places, hand in hand. God! I still feel that touch, that hand in my hands. But, as they say, every good thing comes to an end. Ours also did.
We were in our third year. Companies had started their hunting operations. A brokerage firm came as a taker for me. But, Aditi had something else in her mind, which she never told me. That day was perhaps Friday, when we met in our college canteen. I was sitting on the corner seat (which we always used to sit on). She almost ran in the canteen to come to our seat and started jumping around. “Hey! I got that assignment. Now, you gonna see me on TV, on ramp. Hey you! Ha ha ha! Oh God! i’m so excited. Okay! i’ve no time abhi, i’m gonna tell this to Nidhi, Nisha, Amit, Raghav and all” she poured all this in one breadth and didn’t wait for my response.
Everybody in our class was talking about Aditi and how happy and excited she is about the assignment, she got from some local agency. I didn’t know why, but, i surely wasn’t feeling good. I wanted to stop her. I wanted to hold h er by her arm and tell her that you ‘re not going to do this modelling thing, that this is not something that a girl from a respected family should do, that all she need to do is be mine. I looked her in college, but, she wasn’t there. I phoned her but, her phone was switched off. I tried her number some 20-25 times, but, couldn’t get to talk to her.
I did meet her, later that evening. She seemed to be on 9th cloud, but, i wanted her to be on earth, with me, as my lover, as my wife. “Aditi, you really serious about this modelling thing” i asked. “Of course, i’m” Aditi replied with all that surety on her face. “i never told you about this. In fact, i never told this to anybody, because i wanted to be a super-model and no body would have supported me if i had told this to anybody, even my parents. Conservative souls!” Aditi continued. “Aditi, try to understand yaar! these things are not for us. if you want, join any company and show your worth. But, modelling! Aditi, what would happen to us, our love, our future? I want you in my life, as my life partner. I’ve already talked this to my mother. And, she has agreed.”
“Ashok, Ashok, Ashok! wait yaar! this is my life and i don’t want to ruin it after what you want. Becoming a super-model is what my aim is, and that’s my priority. And, yes, i love you, but that doesn’t mean that i’ll sacrifice my dream, my career for you, especially when i’ve this offer in my hand. Please yaar! don’t mind! but, i think, we should separate our ways. It’s gonna be difficult for both of us, but, i can’t even think of quitting this offer,” Aditi kept talking and talking, but, by then, i was lost somewhere; i was trying to find my Aditi; the girl i loved so much; the girl i can die thousand times for; i stood there for hours when she finally said goodbye and left. I stood there for hours!
It was kind of All-Over for us. I did try calling her on her number, but, she never picked up her phone. She would rarely come to college. And, even when we crossed ways, she tried to avoid me. She was happy in her world. in her modelling. Later, i heard that some of her pics had appeared in a local magazine.
I had to join my company in Mumbai. A big city with a sea of opportunities! Even that day, i called her up on her number, but her phone was coming busy, and it remained busy for all the time i tried her number that day. Later in the evening, i had to catch my train for Mumbai, and i did catch that, though reluctantly.
My office was something that i had never seen before. Laptops, access cards, amazing cafeterias, people in suits, and woman in hot dresses. I was a new bird here, but, soon got accustomed to it. My boss was especially very happy with my work, and would encourage me a lot. I got three promotions in succession, within a year!
Though, i was working really hard on my projects, i could never forget Aditi, my Aditi! I never forgot her, the expressions when she was trying to solve that integral question, the moment when she high-fived me and embraced me, i seriously couldn’t forget her. Days slipped into weeks, weeks became months and months turned into a year. Almost one year had passed since i last saw her. Even the hope of meeting her again had died in me. “She would now have become a big model, a super-model that she always wanted to become. Why would a super-model would call an Assistant manager of a small company?” i thought to myself one day. Just then, my new phone rang (someone had pick-pocketed my old handset which had all numbers, including Aditi’s)
“Hello……. ” someone said from the other end. “Hello! Yes, may i know who’s speaking?” i asked over the phone. There was no sound from the other end. “Hello! Ya, who’ this?” i again inquired. “Ashok!” the voice trembled this time while taking my name. A sensation ran through my spine, “Aditi”, i could say only this. I could hear the sobbing at the other hand. “Aditi! is it you, there?’ i wanted to confirm. The sobbing continued, and in my heart, i knew that it is Aditi. What if i didn’t meet her for a year, i could still feel her, even from such a distance. “Ashok” the voice again took my name, “Could you meet me? I want to say sorry to you, for everything that i did to you. Can you come please, just for once?” she literally begged this time.
All my anger, all my pain just vanished in that one moment. “Aditi! why are you crying? And of course, i’m coming to meet you. Where are you? But, first tell me, why are you crying this way?” i just can’t bear Aditi crying, no matter what she did to me. “Bangalore Central Mental Asylum” she could say only this and again, started sobbing, louder and louder.
“How did my sweet, innocent Aditi who wanted to become a model reached a place like mental assylum?” this question kept bugging me all day. I just couldn’t understand this; Aditi couldn’t say anything about this. I assured her that i’m going to take some days leave from my office and would meet her the very next day. I was immediately given leaves for 5 days, and i took a train that very day so that i could reach to my Aditi and pull her out of all the mes she is going through.
Morning 9.30 am,
I took an auto from the railway station and reached the central mental assylum in 20 minutes. I called back to the number, she had called me from. It was of her father. I had met her father before as well, during our college time. He picked up the phone and guided me for room no 13 on the second floor. He met me outside the room. A woman was also standing with him (and i could very well guess that it was Aditi’s mother).
Uncle almost rushed towards me, when he saw me in the corridor. Before i could say or ask something, he embraced me and started weeping. And, i couldn’t do anything but assure him that everything would be okay now. The family had been through a lot of pain in this short period and now that uncle saw a ray of hope in me, he couldn’t help but cry his heart out. Aditi was sleeping on her bed. Uncle told me that she had not slept peacefully for many months and would wake up several times, with all that pain that she was going through. I couldn’t muster up courage to go inside the room, so, i just peaked in the room. She was sleeping, and somehow, she was looking relaxed now. Two tears rolled down from my eyes, despite my trying hard to not to cry. My eyes moistened and throat choked. I just couldn’t speak anything, that time.
Hundreds of thoughts ran through my mind, just in those very few moments. I took uncle and aunty to the hospital cafeteria and make them drink tea, with some snacks. Uncle broke the silence. “Kaise ho beta? Aditi maafi maangna chahti hai, tumse. Jo kuch bhi usne tumhare saath kiya. Lekin beta, us bacchhi ke saath bhi to acchha nahi hua. Pata nahi, kab tak hai… kab tak,” Uncle couldn’t say more as i could see his throat choking.
After some time, we moved towards a small park, inside the hospital and that’s where, uncle told me the story which really shook me from head to toe.
In first few months, Aditi kept getting modelling work (though, most of them was for local soaps, apparel brands only). One small assignment after another! Aditi was very happy with all the things going around her. Once or twice, she did talk to her mother about you and that she misses you a lot. She wanted to have you back, but, her passion for modelling took the better half of her. She had once also tried to call you, but, it didn’t connect (it must have been after i lost my phone to a pick pocket in the Mumbai’s BEST buses). One day, her agency introduced her to a man from Mumbai. A fat chap with thick wide glasses on his nose, in his 40s. He asked Aditi to join him for an ad campaign for a big shampoo brand. Aditi just couldn’t believe her luck. She was so excited.
One Saturday, she got a call from this guy who asked her to meet him in the hotel he is staying in. They had some snacks and tea in the room. Within next 5-10 minutes, something happened to Aditi and she became unconscious. When she regained her consciousness, she found herself in deep pain. A pain that would haunt her all through her life. That bastard raped her. And, then, flew from there. Everything came to a stand-still for this girl who wanted to become a super-model, who wanted to fly high in the sky like a bird, who loved living each moment of her life. That evening, when she came back home, she was no more that Aditi again. We too understood the matter, but, didn’t report to the police.
The family tried to hide the matter and they did. But, Aditi couldn’t. She would no more go outside. She would no more talk like she once used to do. Her condition deteriorated rapidly and once known as a bubbly, innocent girl had now turned to a mere skeleton, with no hopes in eyes and no expectations from life. Aditi also had to go for an absorption after some months. That incident also doomed her further. She would now confine herself to her bed only, with no lights. Her friends came once and twice but Aditi would scare at the very thought of a person in her room. Only her dad and mother were the figures, she was somehow comfortable with. A neighbour advised to take her to a psychiatrist. And, uncle somehow saw a hope in this. In the next few months, Aditi was taken from one psychiatrist to another psychiatrist. This Mental Asylum came as her family’s last hope.
Aditi did regain some of her mental balance here. Doctors were happy with her progress and so were uncle and aunty. One day, she asked uncle to call me up. She wanted to meet me. Uncle couldn’t say no. He initially tried on my old number and when that didn’t work out, went to my home and asked my mother about my number. My mother had known about Aditi and how she broke my trust, my heart, but, when she came to know about her condition, she readily give him my number. And, here i was, in a mental asylum to meet the love of my life (though i had never imagined that i would meet her like this).
When we came back to her room, we saw her awake. On seeing me, she somehow managed to sit on her bed, with pillow on her back. Her eyes brightened up. I sat on a stool, next to her bed. She just kept looking at me, and tears started rolling from her eyes. I took her hands in mine, gave her a gentle punch on her nose, and embraced her. Till now, i was holding myself hard, trying to contain all my emotions, but that very moment, i just lost it. We both cried. “I’m sorry Ashok! I’m sorry! I’m really sorry. Please forgive me. Forgive me! I looked in her eyes which had turned quite red by this time. “You’re My Aditi! And, i’m not gonna leave you, duffer. Promise! Arai, how could i leave my Aditi! And, by the way, even if i do, who else is gonna wish you on your birthday” i tried to lighten the situation. Aditi smiled at this. A smile that had come on her face after many months! Even her parents looked much relaxed now.
“Milnai ka samay khatam ho gaya hai. Aap log ab kal morning me aayiye” a nurse broke the silence inside the room and i could see that Aditi had caught my hand more firmly. I patted her on her head (like i used to do when we both were in college) and assured her that she needed not to worry,that i would be back tomorrow morning. I gave her a quick glance while moving out of the room, and i could see a cute smile on her face and many stars in her eyes. Aditi seemed much relaxed now.
11.50 am, 1 June 2011
It was her birthday today. On my way to hospital, i reminded how i had wished Aditi last year and how happy we both were at that time. I couldn’t call her this midnight because she hadn’t any cell phone with her and also, it wasn’t allowed in the asylum. I wanted to reach at 9.30 there, but, this ugly and irritating traffic….
I reached there at somewhere around 11.5o. I had bought a bouquet for her (she loved roses, so i just made my bouquet full of roses, with a beautiful greeting card, with our college pic on top of it). From the end of the corridor, i could see uncle and aunty outside Aditi’s room. But, why were they looking so sad? Why were aunty screaming like anything, and uncle sobbing and at the same time, holding aunty from falling down? Some unknown fear arose in my heart. I increased my pace, and then, i literally ran towards them. Something in me had already started wrenching my heart. I stormed into the room. And….
Here was my Aditi lying peacefully on her bed. Life gone out of her body. But, the smile that i had seen on her face yesterday, was still there. I stood there for hours, looking at her, motionless.