h2>Dating : HOMECOMING

Once in a while, everyone wants to just head home
Aviral Rathi

It was a beautiful summer morning in Mussoorie. After three years in Mumbai, working as a stock broker I’d had enough of that city. That was my problem. Apart from my parents’ home in Mussoorie, I was never able to stay in one place for long. After changing about six different jobs and almost as many cities, at the age of 29 I was tired. Tired of running around cities, tired of changing jobs, tired of multiple failing relationships, tired of being single. Coming back to my parents’ home, I wasn’t particularly keen on meeting anyone. My parents had died in a plane crash when I was 19 and had just moved to Shimla. My two brothers were well settled in U.S. and they had no intentions of returning. It worked well for me though, as I was never really close to anyone in my family. My family was one of the wealthiest in the country and I despised the fame that it attracted. I felt like I was all alone since my parents never had time for me and my brothers were all too eager to follow in my father’s footsteps. So I moved out the first chance I got and since then I have never taken help from my family in any way.

It is possible that deep down, the reason behind returning to my parents’ home was that it was time I needed help, and I didn’t know whom to turn to. My parents’ house is like those big mansions you see in movies, with a big oval garden in front decorated with a classic fountain in between. Back in the day when we used to live here, our cars would be parked around the circumference of the garden. Our house and the entrance gate are at the diametric ends of the garden. The exterior of our house is a mixture of Italian
and French architecture. Huge pillars showing out from the walls and roofs in proper semicircular arcs. It gave a pure vintage look to the house. On the contrary, from the inside our house was as modern as you can imagine. With 15 rooms and 17 bathrooms, a dining table capable of hosting 30 individuals at once, pool table, bowling alley, a complete floor dedicated to a movie theatre and a gym each, a fully functional bar, basically something for each kind of irk you might have on any normal day. One of the walls in the living room is completely made out of glass and is hollow from inside and a space as huge as a guest room is left inside. It was supposed to be converted into a big aquarium with glass wall serving as window to the marine world. It never happened. The glass wall is now covered with paintings worth billions. The backside of the house has a swimming pool and a diving pool which can pass all Olympic norms. After the death of my parents, our lawyer took care of the house till anyone purchased it or any of us brothers decided to stay there. I had not yet decided what I would do eventually but for now I was staying in my house indefinitely.

In the years away from my family, I’d had all sorts of experience. For instance, since I’d dropped out of college not many people were willing to offer me a job and I was reluctant to take my father’s help. So, I had to do various sorts of odd jobs which would gather scorns from the society my family belonged to.
For this reason I had cut all communications with my family and would contact them once in a while just to tell them I was ok. Doing some clerical jobs in Delhi I earned enough to move to next city, Shimla. There I worked as a tour guide for trekking enthusiasts who came all year round. It was during one of those treks that my parents died. The news reached me a full week after the mishap. It was too late by then, so I went on with my job. In the free time I used to read a lot of books, on all sorts of topics. Reading all those books gave me an insight on how some of the systems around the world worked. This knowledge coupled with the confidence I’d gained by changing places and undertaking different jobs encouraged me to take more advanced jobs. You can say at some level I was conning people, but I never harmed anyone in any way. I would falsely fabricate my resume and modify it every time I changed my jobs to best fit its requirements. Once I got the job I would learn the basic ways to go through with it and would stay only as long as I was able to cope up with the work without harming the institution. My last project was undertaking a job as stock broker in a brokerage firm in Mumbai. It worked perfectly and for three years I did a spectacular job being a broker. I earned quite a lot of money there. But then one day, everything came tumbling down.

During all these years away from home I realized various things. For starters, it was really hard to get any job done when you didn’t have any reference or approach per se, especially at the government offices. You would keep nagging them and they would keep ignoring you. It taught me a valuable lesson of patience. Another surprising thing was the way girls behaved with
me. Back in my home town, I was considered a hotshot among girls. They would grab on to any opportunity to be friends with me. Once I was out on my own it was surprising to see how few girls were interested to even look at me, let alone talking. I guess being rich does have its perks. When I think of it,
it’s not surprising that girls are not attracted to me, a feeble guy with big spectacles, no fashion sense and almost no money in pocket. As I advanced through my job profiles, I again started getting attention from people around me. I dated quite a few girls during these years but never got into any serious
relationship that was worth holding on to. My last relationship though, turned out to be a disaster. In Mumbai, while working as a stock broker, I met a young woman. Her name was Maya. She was a businesswoman who had recently inherited her father’s company and was reviewing all his investments. Professional meetings soon converted into casual outings and then we started dating. It was amazing. We bonded perfectly. Though we didn’t share the same hobbies or we didn’t like the same things, that in itself was the beauty of our relationship. We loved to debate on which movie was better, who was more daring or whose choices were better. At the end it would only bring us closer. For the first time in my life I started to feel that maybe this was going somewhere, maybe she is the one to stay, maybe now is the time I settled. I’d even started thinking about our future and how I’d start my own business and stop changing different jobs. Life couldn’t have been better for me. What I didn’t know then, was that she was married. I unknowingly had participated in adultery and when I got to know about this, it was way too late. Her husband was mostly off on foreign tours so she had her house all to herself. One night when I was in her house, her husband came back from his trip. He was a week early. He quietly crept into the house and caught us red handed. This guy didn’t wait for another second to listen to any kind of explanation and before I could understand who this guy was and what was he doing here, he was back with a gun in his hand. Before I could grasp what all was happening, I saw the man pull the trigger.

I can still hear the echoing sound of that gunshot. I can still feel the agonizing pain that shot up my body when that bullet pierced through my stomach. Everything had gone black after that. When I woke up, I was in a hospital bed, wearing patient’s gown with all sorts of wires attached to me. I passed out again. Next time I woke up I saw some doctors moving around my bed lost in deep discussion. Another phase of complete darkness. The time after that, I woke up and I saw a lot of movement around my table. Lots of people were in action, desperate hand gestures were made and lots of monitors were around my bed. Then what seemed like a pair of defibrillators started approaching my chest. Everything went black again. The next time I woke up, I was lying on a different kind of bed. It felt cold. A nurse came in and was checking the systems around me. I opened my mouth to ask her about my conditions when I was interrupted by another nurse standing in the hallway. She said, “What is he still doing here? Shouldn’t he be discharged by now?” The nurse near to me replied “The doctors are not done with him yet.” The nurse in hallway made a remark which didn’t quite make sense to me. She said, “What do they want with him now? I don’t think he would be of much help in this state.” The other nurse replied, “How would I know? I overheard them talking a bit and all I could grasp was something about the kidneys.” Hearing this last comment freaked me out. Maybe it was because I was heavily sedated or because I was still too scared of the Maya’s husband and wanted to run far away, my mind started to play games with me and I had this crazy idea that the doctors were trying to steal my kidney. I decided I would make a run for it. That night, I slipped out of that hospital the first chance I got, packed my belongings and prepared to leave the city first thing in the morning. Before leaving I had to quit my job here. So in the morning I went to the office to check with my boss and I realized I had been in hospital for almost a month and they had already kicked me out of the company and my table was assigned to a new guy named Jared. It worked fine for me as well and I left without interacting with anyone and came straight to Mussoorie.

So that’s how I ended up in my parent’s home. I still don’t remember how I got to that hospital. Maybe after shooting me he realized what he had done and took me to the hospital or it was Maya who helped me out. I would never know. I don’t want to know. All I can think of was that I came out alive from this messed up situation. I thanked God and moved on. Atleast that’s what I would say to myself every time this scenario crept up in my mind. Truth is, I knew I was broken. I was devastated. I actually loved someone for the first time in my life and she turned out to be a completely different person than what she posed to be. I guess it was only befitting that a con-man like me gets conned by a girl. Only difference being she had completely broken me and I had never harmed anyone to the best of my conscience. I felt like I was all alone in this world, again. It’s funny, last time I felt that, I left this very house to live on my own. This time I had returned back home hoping to find some solace in here. I never imagined that I would miss my family someday. With no one to talk to and no one to support me through this phase, I was just piling on the misery. I wanted someone to talk to me, to be with me and at the same time I wanted to be all alone. First, I decided I would stick with being alone. So for almost 2 weeks I remained shut in my house. Our lawyer had retained a maid to keep the house in proper condition. She lived in our house and she did jobs like buying grocery, cleaning house, mowing the lawns etc. In short, she took care of the house and she did that quite efficiently. I’d reached my house at night and opened the locks through the key I had in my pocket. I remembered it being with me from the time I’d left this house. I guessed it was the key to door everyone in my family had. It was a wild shot but that key still worked. It was weird because that key looked so much like a key of a vehicle. Anyways, I went in and headed straight to my room. It was surprising to see that my room was kept exactly the way it was when I’d left. I got lost in old memories and I don’t remember when I fell asleep. I woke up when the maid came in my room for dusting and cleaning. I recognized her. Her name was Kavita. She had been in our family for almost 30 years now. She was like family now. She must have recognized me too. But something was not right. She was unusually silent. She came in, did her job and went back. I think I
should have expected this kind of behavior since I ran away from home earlier and didn’t return even for my parents’ last rituals. She kept up this behavior forever. She would see right through me, wouldn’t cook for me or do my laundry. In all these years I had grown accustomed to doing my own chores so I didn’t mind her attitude towards me. It actually worked well for me as I wanted to be alone at that time. But after 2 weeks of continual ignorance I got fed up with her. She was a maid in our house after all. I didn’t deserve to be treated like this. It was too late when I got the information of my parents’ death and though I didn’t show it out front, I missed them. I repented not being present at their last rituals. I regretted that I wasn’t with them when they had left for their doomed journey. It was this guilt with which I would have to live for the rest of my life. On the surface I had learned to live with it but during times like these, when I felt alone and down in life, it was really hard not to curse myself for all the bad decisions I’d made in my life. On top of that, getting such a cold behavior from Kavita drove me nuts. My ego forbade me from trying to start a conversation and sort things out between us. I was not in a mood to make her understand why I wasn’t present on her beloved masters’ burial day. Initially, I liked the quietness and undisturbed hours that I had all to myself, but after 2 weeks of complete isolation, it was now time to go out and meet some new people.

My city had changed a lot in these years. There were big shopping malls all around the city now. Wider roads, less greenery and a vast surge in constructions: My city was growing quite rapidly. I roamed around the city in city-buses. In the years away from home, when I didn’t have any luxurious means to travel, I would often use public transport, so I was pretty familiar with them and it came pretty naturally to me to travel in city-buses then to take out one of the dusty old cars in my home which hadn’t been used for more than 10 years now. I had tried to slip out of the bus without paying money a lot of times before but it never came as easy to me as in Mussoorie. I travelled round the city and I hardly doubt I ever paid any money. I would always slip off the bus when the conductor was looking in the opposite direction. It was a confidence booster for me and I thought maybe it was time for me to get back in the game. I was in no rush though. I heard about this big party scheduled for the Saturday night next week. It was a grand opening of a night club and some popular DJs were called for the night. I decided to check
it out and bought its entry tickets online. The price of the ticket was sky high but by this time, I had stopped worrying about my financial status and I was ready to use my parents’ money if need be. After another week with absolutely nothing exciting in my life, that Saturday finally arrived. I dressed up and went to the place at sharp 8 p.m. which was supposed to be the time it started. There was a huge line outside the gates of the club and the gates were not open yet. I had again taken the bus as I was still not motivated enough to get one of the cars running. I hadn’t thought of how I would return home but I
guessed by that time I would figure something out, as bus services stopped at 9 p.m. I got in line and was waiting patiently when I saw her. With hair flowing till her waist and wearing a bright green frock, she looked pretty from behind. Of all the girls in the crowd, she was the only one who caught my attention. I felt drawn towards her. She turned and I saw her for the first time. She was a sober looking girl with minimal makeup on her face. She was like that next door girl we see in movies. She wasn’t very attractive. She didn’t have a voluptuous body and her clothes suggested that she was from a middle class family. What was surprising though, was the fact that she seemed to be alone and a bit nervous. It seemed as if she was battling with the idea of whether to stay or leave. I thought of breaking the line and have a chat with her. As luck would have it, the gates to the night club opened at the exact same moment and the whole crowd sprang into action. People were hurrying to get inside. There were disputes all around regarding who came first and who had the tickets. Many freeloaders were removed from the line by those Muhammad Ali like bouncers at the entrance. I was worried that maybe she was also one of those freeloaders. Her turn came and I saw her going in the club without any hassle. Involuntarily, I breathed a sigh of relief. There was still a chance of meeting her tonight. Just as my turn was about to come two people went into an intense battle of who should go first. To resolve this one of the two bouncers at the gate had to step down the stairs and intervene. This left the entrance manned by only one bouncer. It was a golden opportunity for many freeloaders. The bouncer at the gate was having a tough time fending off the sudden burst of attacks from the barnacles. In this chaos when my turn came, he allowed me access just by seeing the entry ticket. Where others were heavily checked for any harmful material they might be carrying I was allowed in without any checking. I was all the more happy because now I could start my search for that girl quickly. After hours and almost a thousand of different sound tracks, when I was about to give up my search, I spotted her sitting in the corner of a bar all by herself. With adrenaline pumping in my each and every vein, gathering all the courage I could, I approached her. “Do you mind if I join you?” She replied “Only if you join me in a dance afterwards!” We were together all night. We talked about almost anything from life to politics to universe to relationships. The whole night just went by walking around the city aimlessly. We were just walking to be together, with no destination to reach. It was six in the morning when we parted ways in front of an old abandoned looking house which she claimed to be her home. It was very weird to think that she was living in such a spooky old house all by herself, but I was in such a state of bliss that I was ready to ignore everything that seemed off relating to her. Her name was Arooshi and she had just completed her post doc in medical sciences. I’d had the best night since ages and I was desperate to cling on to it. I came back home tired and dozed off till three in the afternoon. When I woke up, I thought I would finally make peace with Kavita but I couldn’t find her anywhere. I figured she must have gone out to buy the day’s ration. I went to the kitchen and made myself an evening breakfast and switched on the news channel on T.V. What I saw next shocked me to my core. It was a picture of Arooshi in clothes exactly the same from last night. The news said that it had been six months now since the famous Arooshi murder fiasco and it seemed that her parents were the killers. It said that she was found one Sunday morning by her parents in her room with her wrist cut open. It looked like a clear case of suicide but on further investigation it became clear that it was a murder staged as a suicide. Further investigation led to the results that it was a case of honor killing and her parents were held responsible. It then showed the house on the news and that was exactly the one where I’d left her last night. The news said that the
house was abandoned and was under police department’s custody. I remembered how Arooshi grew distant when I asked her about the cuffs she wore last night. It didn’t go with her dress at all and when I asked her to remove it she denied and quickly changed the topic. I was going crazy by the minute. I read everything there was on internet to read about it. She had just completed post doc and had announced to her family that she was going to marry a muslim guy who was a year younger than her. I was having panic attacks thinking about last night when Kavita came in. I ran to her and called her to sit down and listen to me. She completely ignored me. It was as if I didn’t even exist. She didn’t even show a twitch on her face. She just went on with her work. It grew me impatient and wild with anger. Now was not the
time to show such attitude. I kept walking behind her calling out for her but neither did she turn nor did she stop. I was growing mad with rage now. I started throwing things around to get her attention. She was in the kitchen when I started throwing things around in the living room. That’s when my whole world went upside down.

I saw my mom picking up the fallen vase that I had thrown away. I saw my dad arranging the carpet back to where it was. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My parents, alive, in front of me. All those memories came rushing back and then the guilt I had felt during all these years of being absent by their side during their final time. I was having a breakdown. A couple of tears rolled down my cheek and then the flood gates opened. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. All the pain I had accumulated in my heart in all these years, I let it all go. My parents embraced me and I clung on to them and cried for what seemed to be an eternity. I kept trying to say I was sorry that I let them down and couldn’t live up to their expectations but all that came out of my mouth was gibberish mixed with cough. My throat was all jammed up. But in this moment, in my parents’ arms, for the first time in many, many years of my life, I found peace. I felt like I was home. My parents kept consoling me saying it was all right and it was time I realized and that I was ready now.

And truly enough, I started to realize why the bed at the hospital felt cold, what the nurses were talking about, why no one at my office approached me to talk, why I was able to unlock the door of my house with the key of my scooter. Why I was able to get free rides in the city bus, why the bouncer at the bar didn’t notice me. I realized why Kavita never realized that I was back.

I could see the toe tag dangling from my right toe now. It was time to go home.

If the reader in you is still hungry and you want to delve into a different genre, I have another article (A 5 min read) on Humans and Environment which might prove worth your time!

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