The price of friendshipHe dwelled in his imagination seeking solace, truth and happiness because reality offered him none.
The window pane was still wet due to last night’s rain. It was pitch black but you could make out that far away the wet street lights were glistening. It was darker than the twilights of winter.
At 3:45 in the morning, Anubhav Mishra was standing before his window with a desolate look on his face and a stream of thoughts flooding through his mind. He opened his window slightly to smell the petrichor but all Anubhav could smell were the cigarettes he had smoked last night. It wasn’t unusual for him to be awake at this time.
He usually woke up at 4:30 and got his yoga and exercise done by 7 o’clock. Mishra was a man who spent most of his time, both day and night, in contemplation, pondering over his life, be it matters of substantial importance or even trivial. He dwelled in his imagination seeking solace, truth and happiness because reality offered him none. He was born with his eccentricities and his life managed to bestow him a few more.
But seldom did he prefer a predawn dark morning for his deliberations. Today, the circumstances were exceptional. His solemn face manifested the madness in his mind. His wet eyes conveyed the message of his chagrined heart. His body dissuaded him from doing yoga and his lungs demanded a couple of cigarettes.
“What’s wrong, brother?” asks Saugat, with his eyes half-closed due to drowsiness.
Saugat is Anubhav’s cousin who had just arrived the day before from Pokhara. He works as a medicine representative in Pokhara and comes once in every three months to Kathmandu for official purposes. He is a year younger than his brother and a jovial person, unlike Anubhav.
“Have you ever woken up in the dark just to ponder over your life?” Anubhav answers with a question.
“What? What are you talking about?” Saugat replies in a confused manner.
“Have you ever been so lonely that loneliness has become your only friend? Do you ever feel helpless, vulnerable?” Anubhav continues with his questioning.
“I think I know what you mean. Don’t worry, brother. Everything will sort out.”
Saugat turns his back towards Anubhav and covers his face with a blanket to get back to sleep.
It all started two years back when Anubhav’s best friend Pratik introduced him to Narendra, a friend of Pratik who had a shop in Kathmandu and also earned his tax-free income working as an agent, providing visas of European countries through sources considered not to be completely legal.
Mishra had his doubts about such men and their illicit process of providing visas but Pratik’s persuasion set them at ease. They had been friends for eight years and he had faith in his best friend so they both applied for a working visa for Poland. Narendra demanded half a million rupees from each as advance. Pratik lived in Chitwan so he sent his money to Anubhav and told him to hand their money to Narendra by meeting in person because such shady deals should not be done through bank accounts.
Anubhav did as he was told but he had his misgivings. Seven months passed with no information. Finally, Narendra called Anubhav in the first week of the eighth month to inform him about the arrival of their visa and their flight to Poland a fortnight later. But he never called again. They had been duped. The money had gone without any corroborative evidence of it being paid for such purposes. But this was not the end.
Three months had passed since Narendra’s last call when one day Pratik called him to inform him that he was coming to Kathmandu soon to discuss this matter in person. Three days later, at 10:30 in the morning, just when Anubhav had finished eating his breakfast, there was a knock at his apartment door. He opened his door to find Pratik’s father and uncle. Anubhav was taken aback by his sight. Pratik had sent them instead.
The gentlemen bid goodbye to Anubhav leaving him with three empty tea cups and eyes full of tears. They made him sign an affidavit to pay the five lakh rupees within a year or else face legal action. The money was sent to his bank account. He was like an insurance to them in case Narendra absconded. Mishra was left with no choice. He was intimidated. He had no evidence to defend his innocence in the court.
Saugat couldn’t sleep watching his brother in such a quandary. So, he turned towards him and asked, “Are you scared, brother?”
“I am not ashamed to admit that there was a fear in my heart when I had signed those papers. I had acknowledged the fact that they would be leading me to my grave. The first few months were very tough for me but now it’s been almost a year and I have become inured to it. A lot of water has gone under the bridge.”
“How is this matter going to end? I mean, the consequences are surely going to be dire but what are your thoughts?”
“My thoughts trouble me more than the reality. I spent my days counting them. Not a single moment has passed when I haven’t thought about my debt. My imaginations have led me through all the court’s processes I will be going through. I visualise myself in handcuffs, sitting inside the blue van beside other inmates and guards heading towards the court where I will be standing on a wooden box pleading innocence before the judge. I envisage myself doing nothing but time. I wonder whether I would be able to complete my sentence and ever be a free man.”
“They aren’t going to profit from your incarceration, are they?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they are.”
“No one has seen the future though.”
“You are right, buddy. No one has seen the future but everyone has worried about it. Our past becomes more powerful when it’s a matter of vengeance. The seeds of revenge are sowed in the past for future galvanisation. Now, it has become a matter of rage and revenge. I haven’t paid a single penny all this time and I have wasted their year. All they want is revenge.”
“When does the given time period expire?”
Today, Anubhav’s given time period expires but he has nothing to pay them. It’s 6 o’ clock and Anubhav still stands there before the window waiting for the dawn to break, waiting for a new path in his crossroads, waiting for his fate to decide, waiting.