Charu stayed at a friend's house outside the college campus that night. She walked towards Mani's room and was surprised to find that the doors were open. There was no one inside. She grew anxious if her valuables were safe. "Where did these clowns go? Idiots," she said and walked inside the room.
I think Hari and Mani got into the trap that was laid for us by Sam. Anwar has traced the source of the video link to Sam’s computer IP address, but he has gone underground since last night.
Her phone and back-pack were on the table, exactly where she had left the earlier night. The phone's battery had been completely discharged. She took her belongings, looked around the room for a few minutes and ventured outside.
The cafeteria was surprisingly crowded and loud for a Sunday morning. There were lots of students talking in small groups and some even made snide remarks between themselves looking at her. As always Charu did not give a hoot to any one and walked straight to the counter.
“Hey," someone tapped her from behind.
“So what the hell happened?" the other student asked.
“What do you mean?" said Charu.
“About Mani and Hari? The video? Seriously, you don’t know anything?" she persisted.
“Sorry I don’t know. What about Hari and Mani? I haven’t met them since last evening. Are they okay?" asked Charu.
The other student looked at her as if Charu had lost it. She showed the video clip from her phone.
Charu’s eyes burned red seeing the video, and asked “how did you get this?"
“It’s all over the Net. A police complaint has been filed. I heard that the Dean maybe expelling both of them from college. I have been trying to call you from morning. Even Alex sir came a little while ago looking for you," she said.
“Fuck!" she exclaimed loudly which created a sudden drop in the noise level. “Can I take your phone for now? My phone is down," Charu requested and before her friend could respond,she was on her toes, running outside the cafeteria. She removed the SIM card from her phone and inserted inside her friend’s. She called Hari, his phone was switched off. Mani was not reachable.
“Alex sir," she called him and before she could continue he interjected.
“Where have you been? Anyways, I think Hari and Mani fell into the trap that was laid for us by Sam. Anwar has traced the source of the video link to Sam’s computer IP address, but he has gone underground since last night. We could not get through to either Hari or Mani. And no one knew where they both are. Did they tell you anything?" he asked.
“After meeting you, I went straight to Mani’s."
“Oh, shit. I had left my phone and laptop in their room. Fuck, this is crazy. Very unfair. I am going to personally kill Sam. Bastard. I am sorry sir," she was angry.
“Anyways look for them. I am meeting the Dean now to stop him from expelling them. Will be tough. Now go find Hari and Mani," he asked.
Charu agreed. She called both Hari and Mani again, but couldn’t get through.
TV news crews had begun to arrive steadily and were setting up their trenches near the college gates before their onslaught could begin.
In the meanwhile, Sam and Aditya had gone into hiding after they got to know of their misadventure. But Anwar along with the police were optimistic that they would be apprehended soon.
“Anna, one tea please," she requested an elderly gentleman manning the roadside tea shop. She sat on the lonely bench; “Where the hell did you guys go?" she spoke to herself. The last hour had been a whirlwind of confusing emotions that she wanted to compose herself before she figured out the next steps.
The phone rang suddenly and startled her. She wasn’t used to the rather loud ring tone from her friend’s mobile. It was from an unknown number. She was in no mood to speak to tele callers selling credit cards or insurance. She disconnected the call. The morning breeze was nippy and she wished she had worn a jacket. The phone rang again; it was from the same number, “halo," she said sternly. It was silent on the other end; she waited briefly before disconnecting the call again.
I always thought that something was going on between you guys. Rascals. I miss you guys already. Where the fuck are you boys?" she wondered.
“Maybe the call is from Mani, shucks," she thought and called the number back. It rang for a long time. No one picked up. She became anxious and worried.
The phone rang again and this time she picked up in no time, “halo, who is this?"
“Halo, this is Hari. Charu are you busy?"
“Bloody hell, where are you? I was so worried. Thank god you called. Where is Mani? Is he with you?" she asked.
He was silent for a brief moment.
“Can you tell my father, my mother, Anju that I am sorry? Can you tell them how much I loved them?"
She did not know what to respond. He spoke in a measured but slow voice. She felt something amiss.
“Don’t worry Hari. It was Sam who did the recording. It was a trap for me but you poor guys were caught in the web. We can handle that. Alex sir will help you get through. We are all there. Where are you?"
“Can you tell my parents that I am not a worthy son?" he continued.
“Why are you speaking like this? Are you drunk? Where is Mani?"
He was silent again. “Mani left for his village last night."
“Ya, I had a few drinks. I am feeling giddy. You know I learnt how to mix up a good martini," and he laughed. He was incoherent.
“I have never seen you drink Hari. Where are you? Please, now I am getting worried."
“You know, in the initial days I never liked you. I thought you were too hot headed, someone who craved for attention always. I also thought you were a slut. Sam, Mani, Alex sir," he laughed.
I don't have the energy and will to live anymore Charu. I am tired of being a failure. I am tired of being defeated. I am tired of being heartbroken.
She did not respond.
“But the more I got to know you, I really started liking you. Actually I am inspired by your free spirit. Your ‘don’t care a damn’ attitude. Wish I could be like you. But can’t. I will always be a loser. Someone who never had the courage to speak out."
"Hari, why are you speaking like this? I have always been fond of you. You are the kindest and sweetest boy I have ever met. You are a star. Now tell me please, where are you?" she pleaded.
"The star is burning into a black hole today," he laughed out loud.
"I am going to die Charu. I made myself a fabulous mix of vodka, cranberry juice, soda, ice and a generous helping of sleeping pills," and he laughed again.
"Hari, stop laughing like an idiot. Suicide is not a joke. Stop behaving like a juvenile," she said.
"I have become such a loser, that people don't even believe even if I say that I am committing suicide," he said. There was silence now.
Charu was nervous and anxious.
"I don't have the energy and will to live anymore Charu. I am tired of being a failure. I am tired of being defeated. I am tired of being heartbroken."
"Besides Mani I have not shared this to anyone. Charu, I was sexually abused by my own uncle. And I cried all alone so many nights. I did not have the courage to say it to my father or mother. They would not believe me. My father always said that I was imagining things."
"My uncle over time would bring his friends. One day I peed on his friend's shoes due to fear. He slapped me hard. Expensive shoes he said. Over time I got used to the pain."
"After a long time I felt secure with Mani. I felt loved. I loved him. But he also broke my trust. He broke my heart."
"My father last night said that I was a disgrace to the family and he wanted to commit suicide. Why should they, let me go instead."
"I have been scared all my life. I am done living," he said.
"Hari, please don't do this, please, I beg of you. Please tell me where you are? Please, please. We will help you. You need to go to a hospital. You need help," she screamed nervously.
There was no response from him. He was silent.
"Hari?" she yelled. The line had disconnected. She called him back immediately but the line did not go through. She called Alex and alerted him on the situation. She sent him Hari's current mobile number to track his location. Alex advised her to keep him engaged before they could locate him. "Don't allow him to sleep," he said before he disconnected.
‘Oh my god, rascal,’ she spoke to herself while trying to connect, ‘yes it’s ringing.’
"Halo," Hari replied.
"Please Hari, don't be a fool. We are all there for you, we all love you. Mani loves you too. I am sure it's just a misunderstanding. Please don't sleep, talk to me. Tell me your location. Are you inside the college campus?" she asked anxiously.
"What is there for me now? The whole world is laughing at me. I have nobody. I am ashamed of myself. I have no hope. I am a nobody. I am scared of everyone," he said incoherently.
He was now mumbling. Charu was getting paranoid.
"Hari, don't worry. We can win their hearts, everyone, including your parents. Please don't give up on life dammit. Well if everyone who has a problem decided to commit suicide, this world will be filled with only dead people. Stop being a whiner. There are people with problems far worse than yours but are still looking forward to a tomorrow with hope.Get up and prove that you are capable of something. Anything!Have faith. Have hope. Stop complaining!" she said and paused. "Hari!"
"Can you tell Mani that I loved him?"
And then he was silent. Forever.