“…but which one to press? The sound is irritating me. Tell me quick.”
“The power switch on the top right corner, ma’am.”
“Why would I ring up if I knew which one is the power switch? There are like a hundred buttons! Can’t u just have one for everything? Just note down this as a complaint.”
(To self: Argh! I hate these – these gori firangis are all dumb. Don’t know what makes these guys drool over these buffoons who can’t even switch off a dish washer.)
“Ma’am! The model you’re using is DC 2341. It has just 4 buttons to be specific. There’s just one switch on the top right corner. That’s the one which switches it off.”
“Tell me which one!”
“The red one, ma’am. It’s the only one in red. Below it in small letters, “power switch” is written in bold capitals. Could you find that?”
“Ah! You should have told me this before. You’ve wasted 20 mins. I’ll sue your company. You people need to improve your communication. Put this as a complaint.”
“(Arrgghhh…) Sorry Ma’am for the inconvenience caused. Looking forward to more calls in future. Have a good day!”
And I was so glad to disconnect. I get 20-25 such calls daily. All of them from beyond the oceans – each one of them was peculiarly dumber than the previous one. I had to do it everyday – for 12 hours daily. That’s my job.
It was already 11. I was done for the day. I forwarded the details of the day’s conversations to my boss, picked up my bag and was all set to leave.
“…Jai Ho…Jai Ho…” My cell was screaming the Oscar winner. A number was flashing on the screen. Just when I was about to answer, it stopped chillao-ing. Like always, I didn’t care to call back. Tired after a hectic day, I just threw it on the back seat. I was expecting it to ring again. But it didn’t.
After having parked my car, I thought of strolling around a bit on the deserted street. Walking has always been my favourite activity to rejuvenate a bit after such ‘wonderful’ days at office. There’s nothing so relaxing as a small walk on such wintry nights. The bustling crowds had disappeared. The fading light from the lamps blended well with the drowsy mood and the thick blanket of fog all around. The sombre night had engulfed the entire city in its frosty embrace before falling into deep slumber, covered under the cozy blanket of the serene night sky.
“…Jai Ho…Jai Ho…” My cell, now in my pocket, was ringing again. The same number flashed again. “Hello!” I greeted the familiar sound one hears when someone hangs up. I checked the time. It was already 12.30. I decided to return. On my way back, I felt a bit weird. I felt like I heard something – may be a whistle, may be footsteps. It wasn’t too clear. But, it freaked me for sure. “Nights are not known to be too friendly with girls”, the words of Ma, which I always ignored, were now echoing within me. It was a strange feeling. I never felt so unsafe before. I was no more walking. I reached home panting and huffing. Bang. I just slammed the door as soon as I stepped in.
Now within the cozy confines of my house, I felt a lot relaxed and relieved. I showered and slipped into my pink gown. I had just slithered under the blanket when my phone rang again, though it wasn’t my cellfone this time. Too tired and lazy to move out once in my bed, I ignored it the first time and the second time too. The third time, when it rang again, I decided to give a piece of my mind to that @#$%#^$ on the other side. But just like earlier occasions, the phone stopped ringing before I could pick it up. I felt a bit awry.
Thud! A flower vase had fallen from the roof. The fear in me was gaining roots. Now I could clearly hear someone moving on my roof. I heard the door to the roof creaking, like it always does when it’s opened. I picked up the knife from the dining table. There was a killing silence for a few seconds as my heart skipped a few beats. The deafening silence was followed by sounds of someone descending down the stairs.
Next I wake up to find myself on a bed in a hospital.
“Welcome back sweetheart!” Vipul said as he kissed my forehead.
“Thank God! Finally you’re here Vipul! I felt so afraid and lonely without you! But what am I doing here?”
Few feet away, I saw a doc and Nisha, my sis, talking to a cop.
“How is Alia related to the victim? How long have they known each other?”
“Vipul was didi’s fiancé. They’ve been seeing each other for last 3 years. They actually stayed together.”
“Ah! Same old story of cheating, I guess… and then ur didi Alia stabbed him as she couldn’t take it any more. Any quarrels between them that you know of?”
“But sir, they loved each other. They were actually planning a marriage next summer.”
“Yes or No?”
“No! Sir, why don’t you understand? Didi is just ill and she needs medicines and a bit of rest. But….”
“Don’t cook up stories. Your didi has been trying to convince me with hers since morning – missed calls, flower vase, car crash, and intruder-through-staircase – I’ve checked the whole scene of murder. Her phone is dead since last month. Incoming facility on her cell has been withheld since a weekend. There’s no sign of any car crash. And finally, there’s no access to her roof. Now c’mon! You should at least use your brains while making up those stories. You people sound like typical bollywood…”
“Why don’t you tell him doctor?”
“Yes, the girl is right? She’s ill. And in the frame of mind that she’s in right now, she has a different world around her.”
“What is it exactly?”
“Schizophrenia”, said the doctor.
I guess I’ve heard the word before.