I had to kill him. I had no choice, he asked for it. Trust me he did.
I still remember his warm hand wrapped around mine. I can't have that sensation tonight, even with the warmth of his blood on my hands. It's not that he was an asshole, quite the opposite really, he was a good man. I might have killed him but I am not a bitch either. It was late afternoon and he was dozing in the bedroom after what could be the last meal of his life. I walked gingerly into the room. Standing beside the bed I looked at him sleeping and found myself torn. There had to be another way out of this.
She walked in behind me and sensed my resolve running like the jelly in to my legs. She placed her hand on my shoulder and nodded, showing me I had to be strong. "It's time junior." she whispered in my ear. She was right, it had to be done. She handed me a handkerchief soaked in chloroform. I took a deep breath and pressed it on his face with all the force that I could gather. I knew he was a light sleeper and as he startled awake I saw the shock in his eyes. "What the fuck are you doing?" he screamed. He grabbed at my hand and tried to free up his face. I kept the pressure on. After about half a minute of struggle he was able to push me away. By then though the fumes had started to play their games. He got up from the bed, finding it hard to keep his eyes open, and his legs shaking.
She had so far watched the scene calmly standing with her back to the wall but at that moment she pounced on him and crashed her right knee between his legs. He crumpled back onto the bed, unconscious, shock and chloroform doing their work. We stood there for the next few minutes, motionless, her hand placed on my shoulder calming my nerves down. As my breathing slowed she handed me an ice pick. "Go ahead. This is the only way out."
I closed my eyes and once again gathered force from all the corners of my body and rammed the ice pick in to his neck. As I opened my eyes I saw the pick was buried four inches deep. Some vestigial urge for life shocked him awake but he was already dead, he just hadn't realized. Maybe the drugs had slowed down the impulse that told him to die. Blood spurted like a natural spring. She dragged me out of that room. She didn't want me to see him die. We went back to the bedroom after a couple of hours. We spent the entire evening and night cleaning up the room. Blood, I tell you is not an easy thing to wash away. It takes more than bleach to wash away someone’s life.
She left at 4 am. After she left I cut the body in seven pieces. Two legs, two arms, one hand, the head and torso. I stored the parts in my refrigerator like a busy day at the supermarket. By now the sun was out and I was already late for work. You must be wondering how just five feet of a skinny woman like myself could gather the strength and courage to kill a man with such disdain. As you saw I was not alone and for your kind information I'm a surgeon as well and that helps. More importantly, it was not the first time that I killed a man.
I am twenty seven. My name is Raatri Sanyal. And just like you I had no say in the family that I was born in. The Sanyals are a family of doctors. You aren't a Sanyal unless you are a doctor. I'm not kidding, everyone in my family is a doctor. My grandparents, my parents, uncles & aunts. Even our house maid could write a prescription for the most common ailments. All the god damn Sanyals are doctors including myself. I never met one who wasn't. When I was nine I learned about an uncle of mine who had married a teacher. I had never heard of him before because he was no longer from our family. He was the Lord Voldemort of our family - he-who-must-not-be-named.
I had two elder brothers. We were fourteen and eleven years apart. By the time I attained puberty the eldest one had started his own practice and the younger one was on his way to becoming a heart surgeon. My fate was sealed at birth, as soon as Sanyal was added to my Birth Certificate, they may as well have added Dr. I'd be a doctor one day. I thought I knew it even before I could spell the word doctor.
I knew myself better at thirteen and realized that one day I would become the black sheep of my family. The day I was told that there are two hundred and six bones in a normal human skeleton, the most exciting information for me was two hundred six. While some idiots in my class were worried about the constituents of a human bone, I wondered how God had arrived at that number. Why not two zero eight or two zero four? The human body is symmetrical so that implied one hundred three bones on one side. One zero three. That's a prime number. 27th prime number. 27 is 3 cubed.Was there some hidden agenda in there?
As you might have guessed this question of mine was snubbed as soon as it was raised. All I needed to know was what the number was. Morons!
My journey started with my first crush. My Mathematics teacher. Sahil Kumar Shastri. I was in Vth standard when I learned the formula for a + b whole square. It was him who in his smooth cursive had explained the formula to a class of thirty people. "The three two's" he had said.
To this date I still can’t say whether my heart fell for him because I had a thing for Mathematics or whether it was the other way round. My love for the subject didn't necessarily mean that I was good at the subject. In fact I sucked at it, I still do. It's a very strange relationship that I developed with the subject because of him. In my class a lot of students used to dread Mathematics. I used to as well and then came Mr Shastri. A knight in the shining armour.
No, he wasn't able to make me any better in Mathematics. I remained a resounding dud but I wasn't afraid of it anymore. I was far from his favourite student and yet I don't think anyone waited for the Maths class as I used to. No matter how hard I tried I barely scored enough to pass. I knew he didn't like me, his attention limited to the brilliant ones. It pissed me off. I wanted to hate him. However his rasping voice that made the numbers sound like soul music would melt the anger away.
I couldn't make sense of the formulas but did understand the most important voice, the beat of my heart. Someone who was afraid of heights was now finding solace on the edge of a roof top. For two years I tried my best to win his attention but it never worked. My last resort was to simply not complete my homework. It led to his wrath but at least I got the attention. He never understood my feelings despite of all my efforts. Then he dropped the bomb. The bastard decided to move to another school. How could he do that? He decided to move to another city simply because he was being paid higher bucks. What about me? I was heartbroken when I was told that he would be replaced.
On his penultimate day at my school he visited our class for the last time. He wished us all good luck. I waited, but he never even glanced at me, his eyes stuck with his favourite bunch, the 90+ lot. I had a storm brewing inside of me. It was that moment that the idea came to me.
The next day he was found dead in teacher's room, eyes open, white froth protruding from his mouth. A snake bite. No one knew how a snake got in there, no one but me. I had no choice. He had forced me.
The scar of his disappearance remained but the wound healed. It wasn't the clichéd time that did the trick, it was Abhay, Shastri's favourite student. In fact every one's favourite, he was Mr 100, the leader of the 90+ lot, a typical annoying front bencher who would raise a hand to every question. He was the brightest kid in the school, possibly the town, brilliant in every subject, extraordinary in Maths and I thought he smelt of nothing but arrogance.
He filled the gaping hole that had remained since Shastri left me. It all started a couple of years after Shastri had that unfortunate accident. The school Principal, a dumb ass, a Hitler who had every student pissing in their pants when he passed by, an ugly old and bald man with thousands of hair on his ears came up with a brilliant idea, an idea to improve the weak students, weak students like me. Make the dumb sit with the bright ones. The dumb won't remain dumb.
What a joke! I hated the idea. Didn't he care about the intelligent minds? What if they got poisoned? No matter how much I hated the situation in the beginning I realized it wasn't that bad an idea two weeks after sitting with Abhay. Abhay was everything you would want your bench-mate not to be, especially if he or she is a smart ass. Of course he hated the idea of sitting with a lowly moron like me as much as I did when it was announced. My feelings though had a completely different plan. They started traversing an unpredictable trajectory at a rapid pace.
I knew he hated me from day one, after all he was Shastri's disciple. Have you ever been with someone and they acted as if you weren't there, that you were nothing but vapourware that they couldn't see? Do you know the feeling? Maybe you don't, maybe you remember being on the other side of this equation, ignoring and whistling your way to glory. My heart burned. I wanted to talk to him, wanted him to hold my hand, to tell me that he'll help me in Mathematics, share my lunch with him. I wanted to be more than thin air. The arrogant bastard paid no heed. Did I ask for too much?
The Xth final examination was a month away. My parents had already picked the subjects that I would be opting for in XIth. No points for guessing. They were also busy finding the tuitions that I would need to attend in the three month break after the exams. For the last fifteen years I had lived with a time bomb ticking in my heart. I had never questioned them ever but it was time, even if it was pointless.
"I don't want to be a doctor." I dropped the bomb on the dinner table.
"What do you mean you don't want to be a doctor? Do you know how much money we have spent on your education?" my father asked lividly.
"I never asked you to."
Even as it left my lips I braced myself for the inevitable onslaught.
"How dare you talk to dad like that?" my eldest brother joined the party. He got up from his chair and rushed towards me jabbing his finger.
"Hey, stop. She's probably just stressed out because of the exams." my other brother intervened. Ajit always took my side. "You are lucky that your grandfather is out of town. You know how angry he'd be if he had heard that. Now go to bed. I don't want to talk about it again." my dad said and that was that. I was not going to get into a pointless debate with them. There was no way around them. I had to go down the dark path.
You'd laugh at what happened after that. I failed. Yes, I could only score a twenty three in my Maths exam. It sounds funny now, it sounded funny then. Raatri Sanyal, granddaughter of the most respected doctor in town, sister of a future award winning heart surgeon, a future surgeon herself, who claimed Mathematics to be her favourite subject had flunked in that very subject.
Not surprisingly I got the thrashing of my life. No, it wasn't my father, it was my elder brother. My father simply decided to not to talk to me. It could have ended there but for my brother who had a habit of acting like he was my father. Apart from some not so very nice words, I got a swollen face, no dinner that night and was locked in a room.
I had never cried as much as I did that day. I was in pain and vulnerable. It all seemed so worthless at that point in time. The thought of ending my life was playing in my mind but there was one last hope, one last raft that I could cling on to. I picked up the phone and dialled.
"Hello, Can I speak with Abhay?"
"Yes, can you please hold." a male voice said. It must have been his dad. Loud music played in the background.
"Hello, before you congratulate me, may I know whose this."
"Congratulate you for what?"
"What do you mean for what? For scoring hundred percent in Mathematics. Who are you?"
I put the phone down. I understood what was going on, he was celebrating his hundred. Can you believe that? I knew he didn't care much about me but the least he could have done on that day was to not go out and singing his glory song. Yes, I was going to end a life, his.
There was no other option. While he celebrated what would be the last hundred of his life, I was busy hatching the plan. There was a new hunger inside of me. Whatever I did it had to be swift. A snake bite was the first thing that played in my mind but it was not a viable idea. First, last time I had been lucky to have found a snake in the garden. Second, even if I searched for a snake and found it, it would be too much of a coincidence.
No problem. I would use the very thing all this had been about. Belonging to a family of doctors, you get to know many ways to kill that others don't. I thought of all the possible ways to get rid of the bastard.
I was fed and set free in the morning by my younger brother. In the family of tyrants, Ajit was the only one who had emotions. I loved him. There was no one who understood me better than him. He was the only one who had never forced anything upon me. I felt at times that just like me he didn't want to be a doctor but had given up to an authoritative father. May be that's why he understood me so well. "It's OK sister, it happens."
He held my hand tight. He always did when I felt down. He was always there.
"I'm sorry for what happened. Please forgive me." I said sobbing.
"It's OK. I'll talk to dad. You'll have to promise me that you will do your best this year. A rebel will not survive in this family." he said. I nodded.
"Why don't you come to the hospital with me?"
The hospital where my younger brother was learning practice, the same hospital where I would practice many years later wasn't very far away from our house.
"What will I do there?"
"You shouldn't be at home alone, no one will be home for hours."
"I'm going to be very busy today but still I think it's a good idea for you to come with me."
My mind was still sifting for that perfect idea and I wanted to be alone but I couldn't say no to him. We walked, the cool breeze calming down my mind. He did not take me to his office, instead he left me in the canteen. He told the waiter there to take care of me and handed me the remote control of a TV that was attached to a pillar. "Don't worry about me. You do your work, I won't disturb you."
"Send the waiter if you need me."
"Go now, you are getting late."
My mind got into action immediately after he had left. What better place than somewhere dedicated to life, to find death? The irony made the idea even more delicious. I got up and headed towards the elevator and the third floor.
The hospital was not new to me. My brother had taken me there before. I took a left and walked for a little bit to find myself in front of a long hallway with rooms to the left and right. I was confident that I would find what I was looking for in one of those rooms. The operation theatres were all on the third floor. I was told once by my brother that potassium chloride is at times used in heart surgery. I had no clue though where would I find it.
The commotion that erupted on the floor behind me was caused by an urgent surgery that had to take place. I saw my brother with a bunch of young doctors, all being led by a short man. He must have been a senior doctor at the hospital. There were a couple of nurses in the party as well. I rushed towards the first door I could get to in the hallway. Locked. My heart was pounding.
I rushed towards the next one. Locked again. I got lucky with the third room to the right. The door opened. There was a nurse in there pulling up the curtains. The room was not very well lit and it worked in my favour. I tiptoed towards the left and hid myself behind a medical instrument that looked like a Xerox machine.
The nurse switched off the lights and moved towards the door. Panicking I realized she was going to lock the door from outside. What was I supposed to do? To my utter surprise she didn't go out and proceeded to lock the door from inside.
"Come out. I know you are there."
"Shit, I'm dead. Even Ajit is not going to be on my side now." I thought. I inched out from behind the machine. Isn't it silly when we do that, like the inevitable terror will just get bored and walk away?
The room was dark and I could just make out her silhouette. She moved towards the bed and turned a lamp on. She was a plump lady in her early forties. "Come here and sit."
I moved towards the bed and sat at its edge. "You seem to be in distress junior. Shall I get some water for you?" she asked. "Please don't tell anyone that you found me here. My brother works here in this hospital. I just lost my way and got myself into this room."
"Don't worry. I'm your friend. Tell me what's troubling you. You are looking for something, aren't you?" she said caressing my hair. The tears started to roll on my cheeks. She sat beside me and put her arms around my shoulders. "Let those tears flow, don't worry. I will not tell anyone that you were here. It's OK. Cry. Let it all out."
I placed my head on her shoulder and cried for longer than I thought possible. I didn't know her but for some reason I felt the safer than I ever had with my head placed on her shoulder, her sleeves moist with my tears. No inhibitions, no insecurities, no fears, no baggage, you can let it all out on a stranger's shoulder. I didn't know when the tears dried up and when I slept.
I woke up with a heavy head. The room was completely lit now. She was standing there like an angel watching me sleep. I wasn't sure of the time. What all had I said in my moment of weakness? I got up from the bed. "Please don't tell anyone. I must leave now. My brother will be worried if he goes looking for me and doesn't find me in the canteen."
"Don't worry. I'm on your side. You are not alone. In this cruel world, no matter what happens, no matter where you are, always remember, I will be with you." she said. There was something about those words. It was one of those moments when time stops flowing. You can feel yourself flowing through the time. It's when you can separate yourself from the fourth dimension of the world. I had no idea of what I had said that had made this strong connection. I stood there, motionless.
"You should go now but before you go, there is something I need to give you."
"Junior, they call me Miss Gonsalves. Come here any time you need any help. You will find me." she said handing a small brown paper bag to me.
Worrying about the time I rushed to the canteen, not even stopping to check the bag. I opened it up once I got back to the canteen. I couldn't believe what I saw inside. Was it really what I thought it was? The hair on the back of my neck rose. I could hear my heart beat. I closed the small bad and put it in my pocket. Sweat trickled from my forehead. With my heart thumping louder than ever I waited for my brother.
Two things happened the next day. One, the sense of insecurity that had engulfed me all my life disappeared. Whoosh. Two, Abhay the dog died. Whoosh. No one ever found out why someone would poison such a bright student. Some people suspect jealousy, but they were wrong. It was love.
By the time I got into the final year of medical college and started my clinical rotations my life had changed significantly. There was only one person responsible for this drastic change. Miss Gonsalves. She was the mentor I had missed all my life. She was not someone who would impose herself upon me and yet she paved the way forward for me. She was the one whom I relied upon for anything and everything. If not for her I wouldn't have even passed my exam to get into the medical college.
She was a mother, a teacher, a friend, a bodyguard, a shoulder, a touch, a hug, an ear, all at the same time. She was my strength every time I felt the world was not worth it. She was always there, unconditionally. It was because of her that I was no longer the door mat I used to be. She gave me the sole that helped me trample all who got in my way.
I was a self-confident woman, even if I appeared to leading a life my parents wanted me to lead. I wasn't the brightest but Ajit helped me get into the hospital. The bonus of course was that now I could spend more time with Miss Gonsalves.
Why was she so kind to me? Why was she that possessive about me? I thought of the day I had met her often and tried to remember what was it that I told her that aroused this unconditional love. Every time we were together I had thought of asking that question but could never find the courage. Fearing that asking the question would lead to her realizing this was all a mistake and I would be alone again. I was confident, but only because she was there.
It's something that I still haven't understood. Many times I asked her about the story of her life but she didn't want to discuss any of that. My brother told me once that she was a single mother who had raised his son singlehandedly. The son however married against her wishes and had left her all alone. That was all he knew. My brother was a married man now. The place we had for each other in our lives had been overtaken but we still loved each other. He was the only man I trusted. He had moved out from our parent's house. He knew that I wouldn't survive in that suffocating place without him. I moved along with him and his wife Sunita.
I forgot to mention an important detail. I had killed two more men. Why they lost their lives is not important. They asked for it. They were no different than Shastri and Abhay. They deserved it. Obviously Miss Gonsalves had helped me.
I had never broached the topic of her son. I was rushing home one day late in the evening when she asked me to stay in the hospital, not something unusual, she often asked me. "I want you to do me a favour." she said holding my hand. "If you can't help me it's OK, just tell me".
"Please tell me. You know I'd do anything for you."
"I have always wished for my son to be dead. Will you make my wish come true? I want you to kill my son."
How cold had I become in her company? Was it her company or was it about who I was? She had probably just touched the right chords. I never gave it a second thought. It was done. That was the only option. The count stood at five.
"You should get married."
I was happy in my own world and wasn't really looking forward to get married. I had fallen in love once again after Abhay and the boy was dead now. She was however adamant that I should find the right partner. Ajit had found some matches for me, I never wanted to meet anyone but she persisted.
"It is important to find the right partner in life. I'm not going to be around all the time. Now I don't know what you think you want but I do know what you want. The guy who makes your heart swoop the first time you meet is not the guy you want to marry."
I took that advice and started going through the list of boys that Ajit had prepared.
I met him after a couple of dull meetings with boys who I thought were intimidated by my confidence. He not only swooped my heart but blew my mind away. Not at the first sight though. Samar came across as a timid character when I first met him. He lacked the confidence to be able to carry the conversation he should have lead. Slim, average height, average looking, short hair, flat faced, a small nose, black eyed and a curious look on his face. It took him five minutes to pick the coffee he wanted to order. He was an engineer and was working with a reputed IT company. For the first fifteen minutes we sat there like idiots looking in different directions, me waiting for the conversation to start, he waiting for the world to end.
"I'm sorry. I have never been in a situation like this before." he finally broke the silence. I smiled.
"Guess not everything in life can be faced like a Mathematics exam."
"I feel like it's an exam today for both of us. You will judge me. Have you already started giving me points? I always wondered why my friends pissed in their pants before Maths exam. I now know. This, right here is my Maths exam." he said sheepishly. His shyness along with the ability to speak out his heart got to my heart.
After that meeting we met again a couple of times and settled it. We were going to get married. It was not love but we were certain that love was waiting for us on the other side of the marriage.
Something extraordinary happened three months before the marriage. It was something straight from Ripley’s Believe it or Not. I vividly remember the day. It was one of those days that you don't keep a record of, at least that's the way it started. Late afternoon, I was at home going through a routine clean-up exercise when Ajit returned.
"Can you get me some water?"
I rushed to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water to him. "Sunita is going to be late today."
"Do you know who she operated yesterday?" he asked.
"Do you remember your Mathematics teacher? Mr Shastri."
Shastri! Of course I did. "Yes I do. Someone in his family got admitted?"
"No. He suffered a massive heart attack couple of days ago and needed a surgery."
The glass almost slipped out of my hand. "How can that be? He died several years ago when I was in 7th."
"Shastri died when you were in 7th? Are you out of your mind? He was my Maths teacher as well. I saw him today. You are possibly mistaking him for someone else."
I rushed to the hospital after my brother got to his room.
My brother surely was out of his wits. Dead people don't suffer from heart attacks, especially after ten years. I believe in ghosts but they don't suffer from heart attacks either. My heart was pounding and my mind raced back to the day when he had died.
He was leaving the next day and I was furious at him. How could he do that? I couldn't even breathe that evening. I came out from my house to fill in my lungs with fresh air. I was in the backyard garden. The sun was about to set when my eyes fell upon a green coloured snake. My sinister mind didn't need any further invitations.
It was a beast of a reptile, at least one and a half feet long. I tip toed towards it. It would become my first weapon. The snake remained still, unaware of my presence. My legs on either side, I stood right on top of it. In one swift motion I got the damn thing by its neck. The resolve to kill Shastri had blown away any fear that I should have had. My little friend turned out to be very supportive. It made no attempt to set itself free. I pulled it up and rushed inside.
I emptied the contents of my school bag with my left hand and shoved my green friend in. It curled around calmly as if waiting for its time to come.
The next day I hid myself in the teacher's room and waited for Shastri to make an appearance. At the right time, when he was alone in the room, I got the snake out from my bag, and came out from the hiding. He didn't even get the time to react. I threw the snake at him. It fell on his left shoulder, curled around his neck and bit him twice, first on his cheek and then the forehead. Did I err by not staying there to see his end?
"How can he be alive?" I asked. Miss Gonsalves had of course heard about him before. She was perplexed as well. "Don't worry junior. If it's really him, we will settle it once and for all."
"Wait here. I will be back in a hour." she said looking at her watch. I passed the next one hour counting the ticks of the wall clock to get my mind away from Shastri.
She came back with a small handbag hanging on her shoulders. "Let's go."
She led me to the single rooms located on the fifth floor of the hospital and stopped in front of a room. "Be quiet. Let's see if it is really him."
She used her key to open the door and opened it up slowly. I walked in slowly. The man on the bed was fast asleep, his face half tucked with in the blanket. I had no problem recognizing him however. He was Shastri. I was jolted, feeling an electric shock pass through my veins. How could he be here? I looked at Miss Gonsalves worriedly. My head was spinning. She put her finger on her lips asking me to be quiet.
She put her left hand in the handbag and with a jerk got a snake out of it. This one was coloured steel grey. She held it from the neck and handed it over to me. I was startled looking at the snake in my hand. It was shorter than the one I had held several years ago. I got it close to me and looked in its eyes. They were screaming out loud at me, asking me to do it all over again. I walked towards the bed and slipped the reptile under the blanket.
Whoever the man was, Shastri, his lookalike, his ghost, his shadow, was dead. It left me in a state of bewilderment for quite some time though. If not for Miss Gonsalves, I would have probably broken down. Samar was of no help. We hardly met as I found myself spending more and more time in the hospital. Things were getting back to normal. The marriage was only a month away.
"Miss Gonsalves died in an accident."
My brother dropped another bomb. My world came tumbling down in front of me. I felt like a hand passed through my skin, pounced upon my heart and pulled it out. Before the tears could come out I crashed on to the floor and passed out.
I woke up and found myself in a room. It didn't take me long to realize that I was in my hospital. My heart was aching badly. I wanted to cry but the tears won't come out. Going back to my unconscious state seemed to be the only way. How was I to live in this cruel world without her lap? It was a brutal joke that God had played with me. I lied awake on the bed consoling myself for a long time.
I heard a voice from outside the room. It was Ajit. I walked towards the door. "I understand your decision. I don't want to keep you in dark either. You shouldn't marry her. I will explain it to her."
To this date I haven't understood why Ajit and Samar ganged up against me. I was thinking of them as my support system after Miss Gonsalves. It's a savage world that we live in. I had lost my will to live. I came back to my bed. Darkness engulfed me, completely.
The creak of the door woke me up. She walked in smiling at me. Miss Gonsalves! I couldn't believe my eyes. I jumped out of my bed. Finally, the tears rolled down. "They told me that you died."
She put her hand on my head and kissed my forehead. "They lied. Don't you worry junior, we will deal with both of them."
"Look what I got for you she said holding an ice pick in her hand. "Ajit will be at home this afternoon."
"What about Samar?"
"Yes junior. He will also get the last lesson of his life soon. Go to sleep now."
I held her tight, and slept with the scent of her body.
"It's time." she said waking me up.