It was a lazy feeling, the one that engulfs you on every Sunday morning. You wake up a good 3 hours later than your normal time and yet you feel, you were robbed of your sweet Sunday siesta. Without opening my eyes, I fumbled on the side table and managed to catch hold of the mobile. I pulled it in front of my eyes and peeked into it with only the right eye semi opened to avoid the glare of the mobile screen completely obliterating my sleep in case it was too early.
It was 8:55. “Oh no, that means I need to be up.” I thought with my tummy sending signals of extreme agitation. My upper gastrointestinal tract was crying for a refill and the distal end was pressing to evacuate. Up I went thinking, “Let her make the bed today. It’s first day of New Year. I’ve worked really hard through 2016. Hence let me relax today.” It didn’t really hurt my conscience that ‘She’ worked a lot more than me. I had to make this Sunday count by doing nothing, absolutely nothing.
I went to the bathroom and strangely, the urge to purge was gone. I wasn’t even feeling hungry and it was a totally fresh feeling and a drastic one. What a dramatic change! It was unbelievable. The New Year seems to be getting even better than 2016. I felt a spring in my feet, that floating feeling after you’ve done a good one hour of jogging. I walked out of my room carelessly. That was the shocking moment. My home was full of people; some known and many unknown. It was almost like I had stepped out of my room and landed on platform number 1 of Ernakulam South Railway Station.
“These must be some cinema or television people here to interview my daughter” was my first impression. But I saw some gloomy faces. Incredibly gloomy faces and my heart started pounding. I looked at the door of my long ailing father’s room. I could see he was there, muttering something as people were crammed in his room. I stepped out and looked at my mother in law’s room. It was brimming and I could hear people sobbing.
This was beyond me. I could not tolerate this anymore. I called out to my wife. I called her thrice, four times and no answer. With a throbbing head and racing heart, I walked down towards my mother in law’s room. There she was, my wife and my alarm clock wrapped in one. She was weeping and so was my mother in law. There were other people too. But why ? Why were they weeping ? I called out to her, but she wasn’t looking at me.
Now it was out of control. I hopped through the two flights of staircase towards my mother’s room. It was crowded too. There was my mother and my daughter had collapsed in my mother’s lap. They were there and safe. I heaved a huge sigh of relief. But why were all of them wailing ? I called out to my daughter and mother in turns. There was no response. I went and sat next to them and gave them a violent shake and asked, “Why on earth are you crying ? Someone please tell me.”
There was more din in the room as both my sisters barged in and joined my mother in wailing. It was really a miserable scene with all those I loved in so much of grief. But none of them were even looking at me and that hurt. What was my mistake ? It was the most desperate moment of my life and my own people weren’t talking to me.
I felt a soft tap on my right shoulder and I turned around to see a tall, bearded man wearing black dhoti and a black shawl. He looked as if he had arrived straight from Sabarimalai, with a long vermilion mark on his forehead. He insinuated to follow him. I left my mother, daughter and sisters and followed him like a mesmerised man.
He lead me back towards my room. There were people in my room now, in fact many of them. In a matter of a few minutes, a crowd had taken over my room. The Sabarimalai man asked me to look inside. I peeped in from behind the crowd and saw myself, in the bed looking ghastly and blue. I looked at myself and looked at the bearded man and asked him, “Who is that ? What’s happening here ?” He smiled and asked, “Don’t you understand still ? It is you. I mean your body.” I interrupted him and asked, “What do you mean MY body ? I am here. Who is this duplicate?” The Sabarimalai man smiled even more mysteriously and replied, “That WAS you. Now, this IS you.” He pointed at me and continued, “Your journey in that body is over.”
There was a shiver down my spine as I looked at the dishevelled body on my bed. I understood why my wife wasn’t responding to my calls and why everyone was gloomy. I realised, I was dead. Gone too soon ? I asked the bearded man, “Isn’t this unfair ? I mean I am just 46. My aged parents and mother-in-law are still around. How could I die ? By the way, who are you and how are you able to see me and talk to me ?” His mysterious smile got even more mysterious and he asked me to follow him.
We were in the hall and nobody was paying any attention to us. Well, I realised nobody was seeing us. I saw a maternal uncle talking to a stranger. “Well, this is not an age to die. I hope he has taken some insurance policies and such things. He was always profligate and there was no need to buy such a big house. Hope all these people will not become destitute now. I had told him to take some policies from me but he never gave me any policy. I don’t think he would have saved anything. Totally irresponsible boy. Though nobody knew, I had heard he used to drink a lot.” This was a shock of my life. Well, rather shock of my death. He had praised me and my new home when he had visited us in last July. He had emphatically declared, “You are the wisest boy in our family. No bad habits and no vices. Such a devoted family man with a wonderful home now. Really, your family is lucky to have you.”
We moved ahead. A small bunch of teenaged and preteen boys were chatting, oblivious to the atmosphere. They were upset by lack of Malayalam releases during Christmas vacations. One of them declared, “Instead of this uncle, that idiot responsible for this problem should have died. This uncle was fun on Facebook and wrote film reviews.” A slightly stout boy interjected and said, “Well, this fellow was another idiot. He didn’t like Pulimurugan. Such a tasteless guy. He’s better dead than write stupid reviews about mass movies.”
A squeaky voice came out from somewhere between the crowd, “I believe he’s not dead. I’ve heard only good people die early. This guy was one diehard RSS and Modi supporter. He was against us. He hated Communists.” I was wonder struck looking at the tall boy with that squeak. He was one of those neighbourhood boys who always used to wish me ‘Good morning’ and ‘Good night’ on messenger. Wow, I was immensely unpopular because of my political allegiance and posts. Soon there was an argument between the boys and they weren’t able to decide if this uncle was dead or not.
The squeaky guy suggested a toss to decide my fate. Everyone agreed as he pulled out an old five rupee coin and tossed it in the air. They agreed on head and he’s dead and tail and he’s alive. The thick coin went up and came down and started doing break dance on the ground and then slowly and steadily settled along a ridge on the ground and came to a halt, straight. It was neither head and nor tail.
A hitherto silent guy jumped up with joy to exhibit his knowledge. He declared with total authority, “It’s not head, it’s not tail. That’s a miracle. So he’s neither dead nor alive. He’s in suspended animation.” Other boys laughed. The stout guy made a vague face and declared, “Bloody idiot, animation is a technology with which they make those cartoon films in Hollywood. You are suspended from this group for your stupidity. By this time, the silent boy had lost his confidence and started dithering. He said, “Well, it is animated suspension I believe.” The squeaky boy passed his verdict, “If you are so unsure of your knowledge, you will be suspended from class and will become an animated cartoon soon. Shut up.” But all of them agreed this uncle was neither dead nor alive.
I left them there to move towards the room where my wife was busy emptying her lacrimal glands. She looked completely shattered. I was worried now. I had promised to take her out for dinner on the new year eve and then cancelled the program due to rumours of terrorist threats in Kochi. I felt really sad. I should have gone out with her. We should have spent that one last day and night together. Now it was too late. I was going to repent this as long as I was dead. I looked at the Sabarimalai man and asked him with all the misery at my command, “Is there no way ? Is this the end ? What will happen to me and my family ?” That cruel, mysterious smile appeared again as he replied, “Your journey is over. Everyone born has to die. Some go early and some late but all of you die. Your family will learn to live without you and you will remain a faint memory after some time. Don’t worry. Everything will be fine.”
“What nonsense, everything will be fine ? Here I am, 46 and gone well before my time and you are talking like Aamir Khan from 3 Idiots. You idiot, how can you say all is well when I am dead ?” His smile turned into a smirk and the beard just melted away. He became shorter, fairer, naughtier and there he was, the smiling Aamir Khan. He had the smirk of PK on his face as he replied, “Nobody comes here to live forever. You time is up and you are going with me now.”
Tears were rolling down my cheek. I had to leave my father, mother, wife, daughter, mother-in-law, sisters and Facebook. Now that was so cruel. I could not even post a dramatic message. I would have liked to post, “Kabhi Al vida na Kehena” as my last status with feeling, “I will come back, just remember that.” Now it was so late. Death had come like Modi’s demonetisation, all of a sudden and irreversible. Only difference was that I was the thousand rupee note here.
My cheek were wet as Aamir was pulling me towards him. Where am I headed? Hell or heaven? Knowing myself, I wished it would be hell. I didn’t want to miss most of my friends. I wanted to resist, stay back and not go. But the pulling power was getting stronger and stronger and I had to let go off. My cheeks were wet and it was feeling damp. I felt as if my skin was lost. It was getting cooler and cooler and I opened my eyes. I was back on my bed. My cozy Kambal was gone. My cheek were wet. I opened my eyes and peeped into my mobile and the time was 8:55.
Should I wake up and walk ? My tummy was grumbling. Am I reliving my death ? Ugh, am I going to re-die my death ? I jumped up, opened the door of my room and called my wife. Two calls and no response. My heart sank. Well, that’s going to be the end. Then I gave the third call and in she walked towards me like an Angel. “Oh, so you are up,” she said as she entered the room and started making the bed. I looked into the mirror and I could see myself. I looked at the bed and I wasn’t there. Wife asked, “Why are you looking so ragged ? Are you alright ?” She reached out to touch my forehead and muttered, “No fever”. I hugged her and told, “I love you!” She was surprised but calmly asked me to get ready for breakfast. I opened my Facebook and updated, “This morning, I woke up at nine.” Yes, that was my wake up call on this unbelievable Happy new year 2017!