The knife slashed through air, its motion fluid and visceral. It’s handle shaped like a strong arm, muscular and sinewy. The knife found its mark on the chest just as the shrill ringing of the alarm pierced through layers of sleep waking him up. “Fuck Fuck” Raman muttered as he tried to find the alarm clock on the table and struggling to open his eyes at the same time. His wild arm movements caused the clock to fall from the bedside table, still ringing. In the back ground a baby started crying. Raman’s flailing arms finally managed to locate the clock from under his bed and he shut it off. The baby’s cries had now reached the crescendo as if to compensate the silence created by the now mute alarm clock. His wife Devi woke up and muttered angrily – “Could you please go out of the room ? People have to sleep sometimes”. “OK , OK take it easy” he panted slipping out the of the blankets and moving out the room. He noticed his night clothes were all drenched in sweat as if somehow he ran half a marathon in his sleep.
He took his tooth brush and went into the bathroom, “The same dream fifth time this week” he thought to himself as he splashed ice cold water on his face, “and it always stops at the same instant when the knife pierces the heart and the alarm goes off”.
What does it mean ? His train of thought continued. He had tried analyzing the dream a couple times but had given up on the lack of specifics, Was he stabbing someone ? Was some one stabbing him ? Was he watching somebody being stabbed ? He couldn’t make neither head or tail of it. He put his questions on the back burner as the routine kicked in and he began to get ready for his busy day ahead.
Twenty minutes later he was ready in a crisp blue shirt and trousers eating bread toast and drinking his cup of morning tea, reading the newspaper. Today was going to be an important day, the project that he had been working on the last 2 years was finished and he was finally going to demo his work to the clients. He had submitted the reports to his supervisor and his manager two days back and they were highly impressed – not to mention a bit jealous. Well if they are not impressed then i’m going to have to know why ? Raman thought to himself, lighting the first cigarette of his daily two packs. The last two years had been a grind. Wake up at 5:00 get ready, catch the 5:45 bus to office , clock in at 6:30, work till 11:30 come back and go to sleep. This was pretty much what he did ever since he was put on the Artemius project. His manager had hinted promotion two years back if he successfully delivered the project, and the client had also promised a fat bonus. Calling the project successful would be an understatement now he mused to himself.
He had succeeded against all odds he thought to himself. Office politics and the usual back biting he was familiar with, but what rankled him was the lack of support he had gotten from his family and his wife. They just couldn’t understand that whatever he was doing was for their benefit as well. His wife didn’t miss out even a single chance to rub it in that how she was bringing up their child all alone as if the kid did not have a father, even though Raman was paying all the bills for the household. and his family also sided up to her – Ungrateful wretches. Well bad father, bad husband, bad son he could live with, he was not going to be a bad employee. Any ways they would all the see the error in their ways once he mentions the fat bonus in the offing. Or maybe he would just buy a seven seater Scorpio and take them on a long road trip and then break the news of his promotion. That should silence them all and make them realize who was having the last laugh. He put out the cigarette, picked up his bag and walked out of his flat, quietly shutting the door behind him.
Winters in Delhi is a bitch. Biting cold with Fog, Smog and zero visibility. But today there was a warm glow inside him which refused to be put out. Even a -40 temperature was not going to douse his spirits. The bus came up slowly, its dim lights piercing through the fog, and its horn cutting through layers of icy wind. It stopped around 20 meters before the bus stop. Raman and the few others who were waiting for the bus, broke in to a run – a sudden race unplanned to all participants underway to find out who will get the seats on the bus. They all seemed to be good runners Raman thought to himself as he saw them going past him and get in the bus. Huffing and puffing he finally clambered on to the bus and he couldn’t believe it!! there was still a seat empty , its my lucky day after all he thought to himself. And then he saw his adversary – A well built turbaned Sardarjee covered in a shawl who got into the bus from the back door and was now eyeing his precious seat with unabated lust. They both made the move at the same time, but Raman got his foot in – in the nick of time, the Sardarjee could do nothing but glare as he slid the rest of himself in to the seat gracefully and settled in for the next 45 minutes. He returned the stare to the Sardarjee as if mocking him and saying “Sorry Sud , today’s my day”.
He woke up with a start and realized that the bus is not moving. “I must have dozed off” Raman thought to himself, as he craned his neck to look outside to figure out where they are. It was dark outside and he could see huge trees on both sides of the road. “Bhai Sahab , where are we ?” he asked the old timer sitting next to him. “Keep quite , don’t get into trouble” the old man muttered back. “Trouble ? what trouble ? Why are we not moving ? Where exactly are we ? I want to get down right away” Raman stood up, the old man grabbed his hand and pulled him back to his seat – “Arrey!! what is your problem, i told you to keep it down. The bus has been hijacked, there are 3 or 4 people. One of them has a gun, sit quietly or you’ll get us all killed” the old man seemed afraid for both of them. “Oh fuck, please tell me this cannot be happening, today of all the day , please please” Raman thought frantically. His thoughts were interrupted as he saw 3 people climb back into the bus. One of them was the Sardarjee who was trying to get the seat from him earlier. He was looking at Raman’s direction. Raman stood up again – “Sir please , i want to get down now, today i have an important meeting, please sir , please please” he whimpered looking at the Sardarjee. “Sit down, i won’t ask you again” Sardarjee said. “Sir please i’m begging you sir, i have a conference sir, my presentation sir, i have to buy the scorpio sir, please let me get down” Raman continued. “If you do not sit down right now, you are not getting down , you are going down – Understand ?” Sardarjee roared back.
“Please sir, my presentation sir, family road trip jayega sir” Raman started to come out of his seat. With a roar Sardarjee threw away his Shawl and in two strides was next to Raman, he caught him by the collar and lifted him up. “Don’t you understand you fool ? I told you to sit down” He raised his right hand, and Raman looked up. The Sardarjee was holding a Knife in his hand – which looked strangely familiar.
The knife slashed through air, its motion fluid and visceral. It’s handle was shaped like a strong arm, muscular and sinewy. It found its mark on his chest, piercing down straight to his heart. Blood spilling forth, with torrents of pain. Raman fell down from the grips of his assailant on to the bus floor, writhing in pain. “No please god no, not like this, please not like this” he was crying now. He could hear somebody in the background screaming – “Gaadi Roko!!, Stop the bus Stop the bus”, He saw the Sardar picking him and putting him on his shoulder and getting of the bus. “Leave me alone , let me go you brute” Raman was saying , but his voice was not coming out of his mouth, it looked like a lot of strain to just keep his eyes open. He slowly closed his eyes, the last thing he remembered was his child crying. Blackness….
“But he was so young , Doctor” Devi said, her eyes brimming with tears. Its was around 9 in the morning when she got the call from the hospital that her husband Raman was serious and admitted into the hospital. She and Raman’s father rushed to hospital immediately. “Well his heart certainly wasn’t young, plus he seemed to be a chain smoker” the Doctor spoke kindly,”Such things happen sometimes, young people these days take so much stress and don’t maintain a healthy lifestyle, You have to be strong now for your child”, “But who brought him to the hospital” Devi continued still coming to grips with the fact that her husband was no more. “Oh, a couple fellow passengers who were with him in the bus, an old man and a Sardarjee, they said they saw him dozing off in the bus, suddenly he clutched his chest, fell down and started crying in pain”, The Sardarjee picked him up on his shoulders and ran to the hospital. The old man followed with Raman’s bag, it was too late by that time”. “Did he say anything in his last moments” Devi asked again trying to continue the conversation. “Well it was too late by the time they reached the hospital, but i did hear Sardarjee giving his statement to the police – he said Raman was mumbling something about the alarm clock not going off , they couldn’t make any sense of it, if it makes sense to you please tell police”, “Sure, thank you Doctor for all your help” Devi said wiping her tears.