Kajal was studying for her upcoming paper. She hadn’t turned the page in the last couple of hours.
The turmoil in her heart didn’t let her rest. The visit to KB’s home, the moments spent there, and then Ganpat kaka’s call… all did nothing to reduce her anxiety. But, besides that, she had the sense… some premonition of something going wrong somewhere…
What was it? Why was her heart beating rapidly… it was the same feeling she had that morning when her aai had hugged her for the last time. She shuddered.
Maami and Poonam were away shopping, and she had handed over the credit card and choice of clothes for the wedding to them. That they were ecstatic was an understatement. Maami was on the seventh heaven, and Kajal knew they would go overboard, to her utmost dislike. But she got a few hours of solitude, and that was important.
She saw the volume she had left to study, and her heart fell… how on earth could she appear for the exam? The exam for which she had her heart set on for ages didn’t hold much appeal anymore… nothing did, except for her heart which yearned to be with that enigma called KB. She longed to spend time with him and melt into his warmth… She knew by now he was struggling with something. She hoped she could help him find peace.
Just then, her phone rang. It was Mr. Mehta. Why was he calling?
“Hello, Mr. Mehta…”
“Kajal madam… KB Sir… he… he is…” Mr. Mehta was panting, and her heart beats increased.
“What is Mr. Mehta… what about KB? I can’t make out…”
“He got into… ac…accident…”
She dropped her book and stood as panic seized her. “Is… is he OK?”
“He is in surgery and… can you come here? I can’t reveal this to his grandmother… I have to take care of the media…”
“Where is he?” she already gathered her purse and the house keys to drop them with her neighbor.
“Winston Hospital… he is on level 4. I have informed them only to allow you… so bring an ID… take the service elevator. I have arranged that as well… I will see you upstairs.”
She didn’t wait to disconnect as she rushed out towards the auto stand. The diminishing sunlight resonated with her mood… She had lost too much. Was she a bad omen? Her maami had once said in a fit of rage that Kajal was unlucky and had the arrangement of her fortune stars was inappropriate. It brought calamity to whoever was associated with her. Kajal had often wondered if it was true. Her aai had left then her baba had been into that ‘accident’. Krunal was struggling… and now KB.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she realized how important KB had become to her in a short period taking the place of everything else in her heart. She did not doubt that she was in love with him. But she had brought bad luck to him… what would he now think?
Whatever it was, she only hoped he was safe as she desperately prayed to Bappa.
She reached the hospital and was spellbound to see the sea of scribes gathered outside the main gates. She rushed towards the service elevator, and a waiting ward boy took her upstairs.
Mr. Mehta was waiting outside the surgical ward, tension written on his face.
“Mr. Mehta… how’s it going?” she asked.
“Kajal madam, the surgery is almost done with… that’s what I heard a while ago. I have no idea how he is. The police have been handled, but the press got wind of it… you have to tell his grandmother… before she gets to know from the press. I have the driver waiting… please go to the estate.” Mr. Mehta rubbed his fatigued face, and Kajal felt for him too.
She only nodded and rushed towards the waiting car. How on earth was she going to console the fragile older woman when she herself was a mess.
“Come beta… what a surprise at this hour… all OK?” Ajji called out to her, adjusting her heavy-rimmed glasses. From the looks of it the lady had been unceremoniously woken up. Her tousled hair and wrinkled cotton saree spoke volumes about her fragile state, but the glow in her opaquing eyes was something Kajal looked for. She rushed to the couch and sat at ajji’s feet, placing her head on the woman’s knew.
Though she had tried her best, it wasn’t possible to hold back tears especially as ajji caressed her head.
“What happened beta?”
“Ajji… KB has been in an accident… and I am scared for him… ajji…” Kajal cried amidst fear gripping her.
“Beta…” Ajji’s calm voice surprised her. “…our Krishiv is strong… nothing will happen to him. He has you now to worry about him, to look forward to spending a life with… I am glad you are with us, dear…”
“…No buts, dear. I won’t be able to do anything, but you should be in the hospital. Don’t worry about me here. I am stronger than I look… its just that I have always been worried about Krishiv… he didn’t deserve anything that he has gone through.” Ajji sighed, her eyes filling.
Kajal rechecked her phone. There was no call from Mr. Mehta, which meant KB was still in surgery. What was happening? She wanted nothing more than to rush to be with him.
“Kajal…? Promise me one thing…” Ajji suddenly spoke.
“Promise me you won’t leave his side come what may… My Krishiv has lost so much… his mom, dad, friends, and being in this industry has alienated him from us too… he may be a part of showbiz, but he is all alone and lonely. I have never been his anchor whenever he needed me, but I saw how he looked at you… Kajal, I have never seen him happy ever since he came to live with us years ago….so promise me…” Ajji’s voice cracked as she raised a trembling hand towards Kajal.
Kajal held her hand and only nodded. Right then, her phone buzzed, and Mr. Mehta informed her KB was out of surgery in the ICU.
Kajal soon left for the hospital, wondering the strange turn her life had taken ever since she had met KB. Her life had never been a bed of certainties, but this kind of inconsistancy was killing her. Her anxiety was at its peak. She texted Poonam about the situation. As expected, there was no reply… such conceited people… she huffed.
Kajal sat on the hard steel stool next to KB, lying on the bed, all patched up. It looked like a sea of white, and his beautiful eyes were swollen shut. They had to do a craniotomy to reduce the pressure in the brain, and though he was out of danger, he was still in an induced coma.
The doctors had said that any neurological Issue would be known later, probably after he regained consciousness. His arms were fractured, but fortunately, the car driver was an expert and had put the brakes as soon as he got the hint of KB falling, and KB being actively into fitness, had tried his best to cushion his fall to save his head…
The doctors added that anyone else in his place would not have had it so easy. Kajal shuddered, and the very thought brought tears flowing down her cheeks. She had elected to stay back in the hospital, and Mr. Mehta had left after assigning a couple of bodyguards outside the private ICU. Kajal was allowed only after lots of pleading and after scrubbing and wearing the ICU gear. She didn’t mind wearing even the astronaut suit if it meant she could be next to KB.
Since when did KB become such an essential element in her life that she felt her breath halt totally… at the very thought of something happening to him? She shook her head. No, she had to be practical. She couldn’t let him know her true feelings at any cost. She didn’t want to make him feel oblidged… she knew by now he was a kind-hearted man.
Sitting amidst the antiseptic odor, she fell into a disturbed sleep with the instrumental beeps for a lullaby.
Somewhere in the night, she heard a creak… she opened her eyes a bit, trying to gauge the uncomfortable position she was in.
What was that sound between the monitoring beeps? She slowly moved her now stiff body and saw a silhouette of a man staring at KB. He held a …OMG a knife.
She screamed, startling the man who probably hadn’t realized her presence in the dark. Then, without thinking, she ran towards the man and pushed him away. She continued to scream…
“Help… is anyone out there?”
The man dropped the medicinal tray crashing the liquids all around, and Kajal waited in fear as the man stood up, his dark shadow heaving angrily, looking for what she thought was the knife. Right then, the door to the private ICU opened, and two burly guards got in. One of them switched on the lights…
Before anyone could react, the shadow in complete black barged out of the window shattering the glass… a trembling Kajal watched in horror at the scene unfolding, something she had only seen on TV. Right before he jumped his hand was exposed and she saw a blur vision of the unmistakable tattoo of the Swastika with the bent handle..
The police arrived soon following the angry doctor and Mr. Mehta, who was ruthlessly roused from his slumber. Fortunately, nothing happened to KB, who was lost into oblivion.
They were wheeled into another room, and Mr. Mehta increased surveillance, and the number of bodyguards beside the police constables gathered to keep a watch… it was now looking like someone was after KB… there were whispers around if the accident was also some kind of a sinister plot. The man had jumped to his death, the news sending the hospital into a frenzy. So what was the superstar doing at such a downmarket area?
Now that the adrenaline had subsided, Kajal’s heart fell… she sat in the room, her sleep-laden heavy lids forbidden to shut by her as she stared wide-eyed at the man. Internet news was filled with speculations. Krunal sent her a few links. Her poor brother must be worried about her. She had assured him she was fine and asked him to focus on his studies.
As another hour deep into the solitude of the night passed, she sat back on the couch, covering herself with the shawl Mr. Mehta had got her. It was pretty cold. Or maybe the chill she felt in her heart after the incident was seeping into the rest of her body.
Something troubled her, but she couldn’t point out. Sleep was now long gone… she was too worked up to sleep. As she stared at the tiny subtle shadows playing on the ceiling, she replayed the event. Something about that man had caught her attention. There was something familiar about him. But what could be familiar about a thug like that, who preferred to end his life than surrendering to the cops?
She sighed as she tried to catch a couple of winks. Her mind was now a mush with a wide array of intermingled thoughts. Suddenly she remembered her mother. Would that retired ACP know more about her aai? Even if her mother didn’t want to return, she would be happy to see the woman was doing well. At least she was safe…
Suddenly she sat up with a jerk as it struck like a thunderbolt. She remembered very clearly.
The man who was probably an assailant had the swastika tattoo, and Kajal had seen it before… on the hand of the man talking to her mother that evening on Ganpati Vsarjan day years ago. She clutched at her chest. What was happening? Was this a mere coincidence? No, the swastika, too, had the bent hand. So how was KB linked to this? First the musical lighter and now the tattoo… too.
She remembered reading somewhere, ‘there is no such thing as a coincidence.
Right then, KB stirred… probably not yet conscious but in pain. She buzzed the night doctor on duty, and he checked the vitals. She was relieved to know KB was now stable and out of danger. He would sleep away the anesthesia and wake up gradually. The doctor and the nurse left the room to its silent self.
As she tried to settle again on the couch, she heard him again. KB was whispering something. Was he in pain? This was more than just pain.. he was in a nightmare. She saw him try to flail his hands which were now in a cast. He could hurt himself. She rushed towards him and held him, whispering into his ears that all would be fine.
“Gyan… don’t drive so fast buddy… Ruhaan will throw-up and who is this dame yaar… she is trying to get into my pants…right from ‘President disco-club’. Gyaan look out…lookout…aaaaa…Oh God… Gyan? Ruhaan? Oh no… no… no… it cant be…. No… I dodnt kill them… so sorry… so sorry… ”
KB moved in his nightmare, tears rivulated down his palloured cheeks, and she held him. What was he talking about?
“KB it’s going to be ok… don’t worry… Just recover. For our sakes, just recover… please, come back to me… please,” She whispered into his ear, and suddenly he went still, slipping into a deep slumber.
She continued to hold him close more for herself than for him. He was in so much of pain… physically, emotionally…. From whatever had happened in his life. As her eyes welled up for the nth time and she prayed for his recovery and peace.
As you cement your place in my memories,
Accelerating its growth, snowballing everyday
The earth and wind and sun may change territories
Your imprints on my soul are there to stay.