New Delhi, October 12th
The rythmic splashing of rain drops against the windshield was the only sound breaking the disquieting silence of the autumn night. Rain is not common in this part of the year, but well then rain is rain. Inside the car, an instrumental version of “Addicted” playing against the backdrop of RK giving words to the music, casted a melancholy gloom over the night. A few road dwellers sat hunched along the pavement, their “bed”, drenched in water. Even at this late hour, a few kids clapped as their paper boats set forth on an uncertain voyage (just like their lives) down the drain. The scene brought on a sense of déjà-vu. It always does, to everyone, along with a sense of helpless pity. But Robbie’s mind was occupied with far-more perplexing questions to pay any heed to such minor details that God cared to throw in this entire mess he created, called Life.
Robbie, formally christened Ravinder Khanna, was the only son in an impoverished family of five. His two sisters were both elder to him. As Robbie watched the street kids, memories came flooding down. His sisters were actually his sole source of motivation and strength. They had foregone their studies so that Ravi could go to a good school.He had once accidently broken his father’s glasses. His father was fuming with rage. Geetu Di had taken the entire blame on herself. Whenever in a crisis, he always looked up to them to bail him out one last time. But he also realized his responsibilities, worked hard and always got good marks in the school. He actually topped his school in CBSE X. But now both of them were married, how could he possibly ask them for help without disturbing their peaceful lives. And even if he asked he knew there was nothing that could be possibly done now.
Soon after his sisters’ marriage, his father had passed away and his mother, unable to bear the shock, was taken ill. Now the entire responsibility of the household fell on his shoulders. He had just completed his second year. In this hour of crisis, he, on the advice of some neighbourhood friends, joined a call-centre. The job was a night-shift. With good fluency in spoken English, he made good progress. Here he came in contact with RK and Maxo, both belonging to rich families, but working so as to get some unaccounted money. Their friendly and fun-loving attitude attracted him towards them and soon they were the best buddies. As their shift started at 11 pm, they would often meet in the evenings and go to parties thrown by RK’s upper class friends. It was here that he saw Prachi for the first time. Wearing a white capri and a bright orange top, she looked as if an angel has descended down to the earth. RK introduced Robbie to her as his school friend. He was completely bowled over by her beauty. She also was attracted to his charming ways and free lifestyle. They started seeing each other. They came closer during the next few weeks. From hand-contact to kissing and then finally they made love in RK’s car….her supple breasts pressed against his manly chest as the fluids started to erupt from his organ into her virgin vagina…..soft music playing in the backdrop…..”have I told you how good it feels to be me when i’m in you….. “RK’s words brought him out of his reverie.
The rain had stopped leaving behind puddles of muddy water. Raindrops still lingered on trees even as another day of the same melancholy chores, filled with the same momentary happiness, the same sorrows started. Early morning strollers were out with their sticks in their hand. The milkman thanked raingods as his water supply, as usual was late and he was finding it hard to meet the demand of 40 litres of milk from his meager 20. Stray dogs wandering in their search of a dry lamp post to wet, but thanks to overnight rains, there were none left for them to bestow their tribute upon. An old lady in rags was scavenging the piles of a nearby garbage heap in search of some food for herself. The florist was busy plucking flowers. Flowers!!!!! ahhh…. Prachi was crazy about roses. Everytime they met, he would take a bouquet of fresh roses for her. Ofcourse he had to forego his one time’s meal to meet the expenses. But he was willing to throw away anything, even his life to see the cute innocent smile that these flowers invariably brought on her face. Life was all a stroll down a rosy aisle. Suddenly, dark clouds once again shrouded the budding morning light. The morning walkers ran for cover even as the dogs looked upward towards heaven complaining. The florist took shelter under the porch of the bungalow from where he was plucking the flowers. The old lady stayed where she was.Economic books may call food, clothing and shelter as basic necessities…….. But for the deprived classes, it is only Food. There was a flash of ligthning along with a thunderous storm His company had organised an AIDS awareness campaign. All the employees were given a free AIDS checkup. The reports came out today. Suddenly, he felt himself all alone in the entire world. Who could he ask for help??? And what could any help do now???
Even at this time, he was only worried about Prachi. He knew she would not leave him even after knowing about this and all this didn’t matter to her. But how could he spoil her life??? He decided to call her disregarding the impropriety of time. He listened to a stupid ringtone ten times before Prachi picked up the phone. With tears flooding his eyes, he told her everything in a breath. She remained non-chalant and simply said in a sleepy voice, “All right, we will talk tomorrow”. He felt she was not realizing the gravity of the issue. He redialled her number to tell her that this meant that may be she also had become infected as she was the only person he had ever sex with. Again the stupid ringtone…
…kajrare kajrare tere kaare kaare naina….
Prachi: Now what is it Robbie??
Robbie: Prach, you are not trying to understand me. Listen to me. You also could have contracted AIDS from me. Are you listening???
Prachi: I know I am HIV+.
There was another flash of lightning and a roaring thunder. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he again pressed the dial button on his mobile. It was raining everywhere, outside on the street, inside the car and his heart.*
…kajrare kajrare tere kaare kaare naina…
What??? Oh my God, what have I done??? I am so sorry Prach. I didn’t know about it. When did you go for the checkup?? And why the fucking hell you didn’t tell me….
There was an element of despair in her voice as she said “aaaa…mmmm HIV+ from the time when I didn’t even know ABCD, let alone HIV” and disconnected.
* I am not particularly sure if I read such a line somewhere.