Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ctrl-Z (Part-III)

The phone buzzed. It was my wife. It was almost midnight and a call from her was the last thing I expected. I did not want the professor to stop but I was wise enough not to commit the grave sin of not picking up your wife's unexpected call. "Give me a second prof". I walked out and got myself into a small room that seemed like a small library with books spread all around. "Where are you? I tried the land line number and no one picked up" she said worriedly. I did not want to lie to her. "I am with the professor". She was furious. "I have asked you so many times to stay away from him". "He is a nice man Ankika. Besides you have met him only once so I am not so sure what have you got against him". I said turning few pages of an old book lying on the table. "I am never wrong about people. There is something mysterious about him, something about his eyes. Tell me, have I ever asked you to stay away from any of your friends?". "We will talk about it when you get back. I will leave from here as soon as I can. Please don't worry" I said calming her down. We exchanged pleasantries and I got back to the living room where the professor sat smoking a cigar. "Wives! I tell you, please continue prof". The professor offered me a cigar and smiled.   

Raatri's dead body was lying on the floor by the bedside brutally raped and murdered. Her eyes were open gazing at the ceiling fan. The head had almost come off after being slit by a sharp object. It was not the first time in his life that he saw a murdered body. As a police officer he had seen worse and had never twitched. This was different though. He crashed on to the floor and started to cry. He cried even after the tears dried up, even after the blood dried up.

The police investigations found that it was Babu's brother who had committed the crime to avenge his brother's loss. After spending a month at home, Control resumed his duties. It was only then that he remembered his key to unlock any universe, a key that had the potential to bring back his family from the dead. He knew that he could not cherry pick everything around him in the universe he would find himself in but he had the ability to pick at least one. At that point in time he wanted to see Raatri alive. He thought of travelling to a time from where he could avoid being face to face with Babu. His vanity did not allow him to. He did not want to be termed as a coward. He knew the risks involved in what he was going to do but then love is the strongest and purest liquor in the world. It gives you courage, it makes you take risks and break rules. It also does something that alcohol doesn't do. It gives you hope.

The gun battle was in full frenzy. He was lying sideways behind an old sofa shooting towards the kitchen from where the gun shots were coming from. He was certain that Babu was there. The plaster had completely come off from the wall behind him and was tormented by hundreds of bullets most of them still stuck in the wall. Most of the men on both sides were dead. He was ready to play the cat and the mouse game. Babu realized that he had to take a chance at some point as he would soon run out of the ammunition. The battle continued and suddenly there was complete silence, the silence of a storm just gone by. Babu was left with just one bullet. He dashed out of his hiding aiming towards the sofa and back stepped towards a window. He was in Control's line of sight. Control aimed at him and all it needed now was to pull the trigger. He did not. Instead he pushed himself farther back behind the sofa to ensure he was safe. Babu fired and jumped out of the window. A few splinters flew off as the bullet hit the edge of the sofa and one of them hit Control in his left eye. 

Raatri was sitting by his bedside gazing outside at the setting sun. He touched her to ensure that she was for real. His excitement was short lived as it didn't take him long to realize something was wrong with his vision. Control's career as a police officer was cut short after losing his left eye. He received a paltry sum of two lac Indian rupees and was offered a job as a government teacher which he promptly refused.

Raatri was irked with Control's decision to not take the job. "What will we do Control? We are running out of money" Raatri said. He ensured her that he will find a way. It was execution time. They had enough money to survive for a year but he wanted to get rid of Raatri's insecurity as soon as possible. He wore the OT, hid it beneath a hat and entered a bank. The plan was simple. Rob the bank. If he gets caught, he would undo the event and try again. He would keep on trying till the day he succeeds. After numerous attempts he did.

Money was no longer an issue, his life was. He found himself idle at home all day with virtually nothing to do. There was nothing he wanted to undo and nothing he wanted to do. He missed the adventures of his job, chasing goons, gun fights. It affected his marital life and he could feel a certain tension developing between him and Raatri. Making love if Raatri agreed was not as gratifying as it used to be. He missed Avakaash. All the pleasures dried up. "All my happiness lies in the past. What's there to do for me? I was so wrong. The real power is neither to undo, nor to do, the real power is to find a state of happiness. That's what Ctrl-Z will allow me to do. To relive the cherished moments of my life. I decide the universe I stay in and I choose a happy universe". From that point on Control was hooked onto Ctrl-Z twenty four seven. He felt love, made passionate love, chased thieves, beat up the rogues, won bravery awards, and enjoyed cricket games with Avakaash. The limited ten minute window was annoying but it was better than sitting idle and sulking. He felt blessed. He didn't need to alter a thing. Time passed.

He was making love. Was he or was he trying to make love? Raatri was irritated and pushing him away. "What happened?" he thought. He realized his dysfunctional left eye. "What is going on? This was not supposed to unravel like this? What happened to my left eye?" he thought. After ten minutes it struck him. He was in the present. He was not on any time travel. Over a period of time his ability to distinguish between reality and illusion had deteriorated. There is a thin line that separates right now and right now. He was standing on that line. Ctrl-Z was a drug that was chewing up his brain by the minute. He was losing it. Did he sleep with Veeraagana or not? Did Babu escape or did he kill him? Did he almost kill Zoraavar? Did he rob a bank or not? Was he caught robbing it or not? Was Raatri alive or dead? Was she still pregnant or had she given birth to their baby? Had he really lost one of his eyes? Was he promoted? Was he still in police force? Where was he? Travelling to the past or simply in the present? Was he happy or was he sad? He didn't know. He could not differentiate. There is a split second between when you wake up from your dream and when you actually come out of it. The mind needs that split second to conclude that it was a dream, to decide what's real. That split second for Control stretched for hours. He was living with his eyes closed and dreaming with his eyes open. He was addicted to it. Ctrl-Z was in control, Control was not. The journey that began with "undo", turned into "do" and finally became "relive" had taken its toll on Control.

He had realized he needed help; he needed to talk to someone. "May be my father had a friend, an associate who worked with him who can help me. I should be able to find his address from AIIMS and inquire further". Being an ex-policeman helped. He got through the patient record department. "Can you please share his address? Did someone come to take his dead body after he died?" Control asked. The old lady on the counter said "Died? He had complained of severe chest pain but the doctors could not diagnose a thing. Records say that he disappeared after staying for a day". Control's jaw dropped. He couldn't maintain his composure any more. "Can you look for anything else?" he said hurriedly. After scanning through the electronic records the old lady mentioned a small hand bag that was left on the hospital bed which was duly passed on to the lost and found section. Control got hold of that bag. The bag contained nothing but a small note.

"I knew you would find this. It was your destiny the day you accepted Ctrl-Z. It was my destiny to pass on the curse that you gave me".

Control stood in front of the mirror gazing at the dark circles beneath his eyes. The chocolate colored circles reminded him of the man he no longer was. He wanted to find the man he knew existed in a parallel universe. There was only one exit.

He was sitting in his new office. The murmurs of two constables talking outside about the world cup semi-final to be played that night could be clearly heard. His phone buzzed. He kept on looking at it but did not pick up. The phone kept on ringing.

"Out of Memory Error" flashed the small screen on the TC.

I did not utter a word, in fact I looked straight into professor's eyes trying to see through them. I couldn't see anything beyond that fake smile. I could not see what Ankika had seen. There was pin drop silence in the room. I could sense a certain contentment in his demeanor, something that I had never felt in him before. "I am sure you are a happy man being who you are in this universe. It's a blessing. Not everyone's got it". I never took his eyes of him and said "Most definitely I am. Can I ask you something professor?". "I am sorry but it's getting late. You should be headed home" he got up and extended his hand. My phone buzzed. It was Ankika calling again. I did not take the call and walked slowly towards my car. "It was not the first time that the transport controller threw that error message. Good Night Mr. Khurana" I heard him say.

My phone lying on the passenger's seat kept on buzzing. I decided to pick up the call thinking of my last conversation with Ankika. It was then that I remembered the library and the third grade science book lying on the table.

~The End~