He walked without a purpose, stumbling into people, his legs barely holding him up. The strong stench of country made alcohol, urine and human waste did little to make his alter his route. He squinted at the sun grinning mercilessly upon the forsaken world, yet there was darkness all around; engulfing him, pulling, suffocating, all encompassing…
‘Ma’ he croaked as the cold iron fist crushed his heart. Darkness, merciful, painless, an opiate… Thud! The sound his body made as he hit the dirty pavement was drowned in a sea of activity.
Theja Nagar Wednesday Market was abuzz, hawkers called out to prospective buyers, old ladies sat shooing flies from an assortment of questionable sweets, children with well oiled, neatly combed hair in old patched up clothes ran around with little cane baskets full of Jasmine Flowers, a cart puller squished rotten vegetables that littered the street under the wheels of the cart he pulled, his emaciated bull adding his share of compost to the melee. Vegetables, fruits and a great many spices heaped here and there tingled ones senses. People stepped over him, around him; Just another drunkard.
“Raja! Dei! Raja!” he heard his name being called… or so he thought… Was someone drowning? Was he underwater? Is that why there was no pain?
“Raja… Machan thooku da” the youth beckoned his friend over. Together they lifted him turned him over and wiped the paan and spit he has fallen face down on. One of them went to fetch water. The other kept talking to him.
“Naan dhaan da” Raja whispered before slipping back into the comforting arms of darkness.
The auto driver agreed to take them to the nearest hospital, after being promised three times the normal rate, but dropped them 100 yards from the gate. Hoisting their friend on their shoulders Prasad and Edwin rushed to the emergency room.
“He said he did it” said Prasad wiping his glasses as they sat in the waiting area. Gulp, Edwin swallowed. “Huh?” he blinked and shook his head to clear it. “Before he passed out, he said he did it”
Edwin tapped his breast pocket. His pack of Marlborough Lights had fallen out along with his lighter and some coins. “Come” he got up. Prasad looked at him; the hospital seemed as cold and impersonal as the staff who worked there.
The tea shop was just a small old rusted tin structure. Sweet hot milky tea was served by a boy in baggy trousers and brown rubber chappals. Like a warm bath on a cold December morning, the tea slowly thawed the icy numbness they felt.
“Bayama irukku da Edwin”
“Innoru tea sollu machi”
Edwin pulled out his cell phone dialled a number, the voice at the other end half screamed, half pleaded “Where are you guys? Police is looking for Raja and us, what the f…. I don’t know, enna da, enga?” it blabbered. Edwin gave him directions to the hospital “And Switch off your phone. We’ll see you here”
After two violent throwing up incidents they shuffled off to wait for Gangadhar. Prasad looked better after a cigarette and a smoke and a whole lot of retching. “I just saw blood… was she… I couldn’t tell, just blo…”