Not Just a Phone Call Away
by Malavika Roy Singh
“I don’t know what will happen, I shouldn’t have left without him”, said Amit. Rubbing his sweaty palms against his pants, he paced up and down in the corridor of the hospital. Rajeev, his colleague turned friend was admitted into the ICU.
There were around ten people from his organization, who waited with baited breath, awaiting a response from the doctor-in-charge. Rajeev’s condition was critical and chances of survival were dim, still the hopes were running high in the corridor.
Ashutosh, Amit’s boss sensed the restlessness and guilt in Amit’s voice. He slowly approached and kept a consoling hand on his shoulder, halting him in his tracks. “Stop feeling guilty. There was nothing that you could possibly do. It just had to happen.”
Amit turned his face away, hiding a pool of tears in his eyes and again resumed his restless stroll. He was still not able to come over last night’s events that led to his dear friend’s unfortunate fate.
He knew it had been his fault. If only, they had controlled their alcohol consumption, things would have been different. Amit remembered how his wife had constantly nagged him to get rid of his drinking habit.
“Why can’t you stop drinking for once!” she had shot back at one point of time. At a party, Amit had almost soaked himself in booze and was almost tripping over his own steps.
‘Why do you have to drink as if it’s the last day on earth? If you can’t behave sensibly, then don’t you ever bring me to such parties, nor should you come home. Better stay at some friend’s place or maybe a hotel.”
“Hey honey, I don’t drink and drive. It’s only when I know you’re there that I indulge”, and he hiccupped, disgusting his wife to the core. “I know you will drive me home, won’t you?”
“Yeah why not!” she shot back sarcastically. “If all the people drink like this, then who will take the responsibility to drive others home? Not everyone has a wife out here. That’s why I keep on telling you if not for self, then at least drink sensibly so as to be in a position to drive others home.”
Amit had simply ignored her wife’s taunt. “Things will never go wrong” was all he said then.
Amit burst into tears when he remembered about it. And now he was paying for it, rather his friend was paying for his mistake and it was a friend who had a six-month old baby and a wife, waiting for him to come back home. Amit thought if she had been informed about the accident.
Amit thought about every scene that was possibly taking place at Rajeev’s home. Right from his wife’s expression to his parents’ numbness, he could visualize everything without difficulty. The more he thought, the more he blamed himself.
He remembered about his own life at his work place right from the start till the end. The only steady thing that lingered was Rajeev, always.
Amit became close to him during the said years owing to his work, which spanned extensive travel throughout the western region of India and Mumbai, being the center of his work, worked in favor of everything. Since Rajeev used to hop in and out of Mumbai quite frequently, the friends managed to nurture their friendship in their working time.
Amit not just had a good working relationship with him, but he had shared a great camaraderie with him. Things were going great and the friends enjoyed a good and a significant phase in each of their respective lives. While Rajeev had a baby boy, Amit got married to his long time girlfriend. Even the wives became close and shared a friendly rapport with each others.
However, both knew that whoever left the organization first, would have to do away with other. The reason had been the hectic work schedules which hardly left them with any time to socialize apart from the ones whom they met at work and hence the feeling of a short-lived relationship, was alive.
Amit knew that with a work life that hardly left him with any time for his immediate family would naturally make him see less of friends, especially people who were a part of his ex-work life.
The apprehension soon transcended into truth. Soon Amit got through an elite business school, leaving him with no other choice but to resign. And it had been his last day in his office, his farewell party.
“Hey Amit, prepared your farewell speech?” called out a colleague named Prakash.
“What speech? I thought you guys had to speak good things about me”, jibed Amit good naturedly.
“We will provide you with a feedback that will be more of good speech” and he winked. Both the friends laughed at the small joke.
“Well, well we are supposed to tell no lies, at least not today”, said Rajeev joining him. He slapped on his back as he continued, “On the last day of your work, you better hear true things about yourself”
“Yeah, why not. I better run away then cause I know what all will come up then.”
Rajeev smiled and said,
“Chill out dear, we’re not going to let you go that easily. At least, not me. Wherever you go, I will catch hold of you, get you pay for all those times when you made me do extra work.”
“I’ll miss you yaar. We had such a good time together. I don’t know how well I will adjust to my new student life.” Amit said loudly over the blasting music speakers.
Rajeev was touched. He knew the day had to come, but he had never anticipated it to be this emotional. “Don’t worry yaar, you’re just going for studies, not dying. You can always call me whenever you want. I’m just a phone call away after all”, he reassured, but with a heavy heart.
Amit smiled but, deep down, he was falling apart. His decision to leave the firm was disheartening because it had become his family, where he was loved and cared for. But he had made up his mind and decided to not get affected by anything.
However, the finale made him cry. In a state of loss, the boys ended up gulping down gallons of alcohol, which was the trigger for the event that followed.
Amit reached home that night, in an inebriated state, where he was supported by Prakash and a couple of others. He was exhausted and empty after the emotional turmoil. But he was happy that he could part ways with all of his colleagues on a cordial note. He had just fallen asleep when the mobile rang and….
“Come right away to CC Hospital. Rajeev has met with an accident. I’m sending Prakash to pick you up” and the line got disconnected.
Amit stayed numb. “How could it be? He was fine. He just saw me off”, he thought out loud.
With shivering hands he switched on the light of his room, woke his wife up and started to get ready. As he was getting ready, he relived his moments with Rajeev over the years, over the workplace and even at the party. This was not for real.
He reached hospital and was taken to the ICU.
His friend Prakash filled in as he walked him to the ICU. “His condition is bad. His car hit a trailer and his upper body was badly damaged, especially the head. Unfortunately, he lay there without help for around two hours, because of which he lost a lot of blood.”
Amit was still blank. No word was making any sense to him. How was it possible that a guy, who was just there a couple of minutes before, in pink of his health, be in ICU, unable to respond?
He slowly moved and peeped in through the glass circle on the ICU door. Rajeev lay amidst a pile of bandages and pipes that went all around his upper body, around his head and neck. It took a long time for the seriousness of the situation to sink in.
“Amit”, Prakash called him, jerking him out of his restless stroll.
“Rajeev has been declared brain dead or better to say that he is no more”.
It was not news, but a declaration, suggesting the end of all futile medical attempts. He was disgusted why so many good doctors could not save a life with their modern medical equipments. He was distraught. No words came out of his mouth and he walked away in silence.
Next day, he went to his cremation where he saw his wife walking towards him.
Her ever smiling face had turned swollen, pale and blank. She smiled weakly and asked,” Did he say something? I mean something specific?”
“No”, he knew what was coming up. “I mean he was as normal as he used to be in other parties, but then drank a little more…”
She cut him abruptly, “Why didn’t you stop? Why did you let him drink? Why did you let him go home alone?”
A sense of vacuum filled inside. He had no answers for any of her questions. A brooding, depressive image of her future hung upon him.
Quickly realizing, that she might have been rude, she apologized and walked away, leaving Amit once again in a state of guilt and trance.
Time passed and soon it was a month since the day of Rajeev’s demise. Things were normalizing for Amit. He had got into his B-school. Life with students was again fun and frolic, at least for the initial days and once again accompanied numerous booze parties, but in Amit’s life things had changed.
He had given up alcohol. However, he started watching his friends getting drunk and kept vigil. He could not risk losing any more friends, not again. Rajeev’s loss had taught him a lesson.
At a similar party, Amit looked around the crowd that was going berserk with booze. Amidst all crowd and galore, he suddenly drifted into a state of emptiness. Unconsciously, he dialed Rajeev’s number. It no longer existed.
Amit had suddenly realized that not every friend was just a phone call away. He disconnected his cell phone and walked over to his new set of friends, who were busy merrymaking, unaware about the world that lost a life.