The title says it. Yes, the incident narrated below is true. My best friend went missing after he left my place on my Birthday night. I have not altered a single fact of the incident and haven’t diluted a single emotion :)
Disclaimer : This post is long. But I hope it’ll be a good read. Pl spare 15 min for this.
Characters in this incident.
Vinay – my closest friend from my college
Mugdha – another closest friend from college
Harshad, Sushant – juniors from college and close friends
I am narrating the entire incident in present tense
So, here it goes.
My midnight b’day celebrations with some closest friends get over. We’re coming back from a snacks place in Chandani Chowk called “Jijai” to my place so that people can leave for their respective places. It must be 2 am. Vinay’s feeling sleepy. He has to drop Mugdha and go all the way to Katraj. I insist Vinay to not drive so far at 2am in the night. I ask him to stay back at my place for the night. I am of course worried, because Vinay has been telling me stories of late night mishaps that happen around his area of stay. His family won’t favor him driving back and it’s a weekend – he could easily stay back and go in the morning. He says he would be okay and wants to go. I don’t force him as much. Zyaada tokaa hua acha nahi hota. Wrong thoughts cross my mind. I shake myself off.
Everyone leaves. I settle down at my place. I clean some mess around and hit the bed. It’s been half an hour that everyone’s left. I message Sushant, Vinay and Harshad to check if each of them has reached home properly. Sushant replies that he’s reached. I don’t hear from Vinay and Harshad. Vinay must have kept his phone on silent and slept, I think! Harshad must also be sleeping. It’s 2.35 am. I can only sleep for another 3 hours since my younger cousin, Sanket is going to reach at 5-5.30ish to Pune from Beed, my hometown. I need to go and pick him up. I am also going to have to take care of some office work at 6am. So, I am barely going to get any sleep. I go off to bed.
Sometime later, my phone rings. It’s 2.55 am. Someone thinks of calling and wishing me at 2.55! Wow! And no – this is not Karthik calling Karthik. The number looks familiar. Shaayad Vinay ke ghar ka hoga. He must have reached, I think. A soft female voice on the other side of the phone – “Hello Pratik!”. I am not sure who the other person is! I reply – “Yes”. Other voice speaks – “Mi Vinay chi aai boltiye (This is Vinay’s Mom). Happy Birthday”. I say – “Thanks”. I am thinking – Vinay’s reached. But why would he make his Mom call me to wish me at this time? Maybe he just reached and his Mom wanted to wish me. What a sweet gesture, I must say. But then, the very next moment his Mom asks – “arre Vinay nighaala ka?” (Did Vinay leave from your place?). And I nod in disbelief. I am half sleepy. I look at the time. 3 am. I definitely remember the time he’d left. It’s been an hour. Kuchh toh gadbad hain. But I hide my anxiety from Vinay’s Mom. I lie to her. I tell her that it’s just half an hour that he’s gone and he must be reaching. I don’t want her to panic and get worried. I ask her if she tried his phone. She says, he’s not picking up. Now this suddenly puts my worry-meter on rise! I tell his Mom that I’ll also try his phone once. His Mom asks me to not let Vinay know that she’d called. Otherwise, he scolds her saying why does she have to worry so much and call his friends. I promise her that I won’t let Vinay know that she’d called.
I remember that he’d gone to drop Mugdha. I find some hope there. I think they must be chitchatting and he might not have left by now or might have left a little later. I call Mugdha. I ask her whether Vinay’s around or he’s left already. She says – “he left long back”. He dropped her and left immediately. I ask Mugdha – “how much time back?” And although I know it’s well above 45 min, I want her to tell me “half an hour” and I want to believe that. But Mugdha replies – “45 min or more”. Her voice sounds concerned now. “What happened?” she asks! I know Mugdha would get frantic if I tell her that Vinay’s not reached home yet. And I do not want that. But, this is not a stage to hide anything I think. I tell her the story. She shouts in disbelief. I know I also have to calm down, although my ass is on fire. We both decide to keep trying Vinay’s phone. I call first. He does not pick up. I call Mugdha again and ask her to call. She says ok. I wait for her call. Her phone rings. I pick it up with hope. I want her to say that she got through his phone. Alas!
Meanwhile, Vinay’s Mom calls again. I genuinely hope that she’s called me to tell that he’s reached! Alas again! She’s called to check if we could talk to Vinay. I tell her that I tried and Mugdha tried and that he left from Mugdha’s place long back. I realize that Vinay’s Mom’s definitely worried by now and she might just panic at any moment. I try to sound normal to re-assure her that he must be on his way. I can’t help but imagine what she must be going through. I try to pretend in front of her that nothing wrong would have happened and he should reach home sooner than later. I sound helpless in front of her. But at the back of my mind, I am already preparing a plan to take the car out and search Vinay. But I don’t want to let his Mom know that. She would not like our plan. She wouldn’t like to bother us. “Ok, I’ll wait for him” – Vinay’s Mom in a dryer tone. I do not react. Any sort of reaction would raise the pressure meter.
I call Mugdha. Both of us inherently know that we have to go out there and search for him. Mugdha asks me, “Pratik, usse dhoondhne chale kya?” I tell her that I am leaving from my house. You come out in 5 min. I quickly get out of the house. I also think of calling another common and close friend, Rishi. But he must be deep asleep. Explaining him the whole situation would be tough and time consuming. There’s no time. I chuck the thought.
I have all sorts of possibilities rushing through my mind. Is Vinay nabbed by some gang? Is he robbed? Is he caught by police for some checks? Has he met with an accident ‘coz he was sleepy? Or funnily, has he parked his car on the side and slept? Has his car run out of fuel? Has he gone to see a friend? But that’s absurd. Who would he go to see someone at this time?
I call Harshad. Maybe Vinay’s with him ‘coz both of them stay in the same area. But Harshad does not pick up. Aaj Amavas bhi hain. Amavas ke din baahar nahi jaate hain, meri maa kehti hain! (It’s a new moon day. I remember my Mom telling me that stepping out of the house on this day brings evil). Worse things are crawling in my mind. But my hopes are alive. “Think of the best, get ready for the worst”, I tell myself. I am preparing myself to face the worst possibilities and am thinking on how to deal with them. I picture a situation where he’s in the hospital and his family is coming rushing. I loathe myself. Kitni boori gat ka hoon main. Kitne boore boore khayal :(
While I am in the car, Mugdha calls twice. Hopes are rising with each call. But no luck! Mugdha called Vinay several times. Is Vinay’s phone robbed or something? He would have no means to communicate at this point of time. Even the STD booths are extinct now.
Is it safe for me to step outside at 3.10 am – I think? To hell with the Safety, I say. I will call Police for help if I am in trouble. But, what about Mugdha? Is it safe enough to take a girl along? People would stop us. They would imagine us to be the couple. Weird things may happen. But I just don’t think so much. I stop myself from thinking. It’s time to act. We’re not doing anything wrong. I’ll gather all the courage to fight odd situations. I will cry, I will shout, I will fight, I will do whatever it takes to make things happen. I feel proud of my spirit :) I think situations like these really bring the inner self out of everyone. They make you see yourself – situations acting as a mirror. I saw myself. I am seeing myself.
I analyse myself
- I am handling this pressure situation without any panic, although there are several thoughts crawling my mind like nobody’s business.
- My heartbeats are normal, but I am constantly doing an if-else programming in my mind. What would I do IF the situation is like this and so on!
- I am driving really fast. But I am totally in control of my driving. I feel really good. I feel I am really in good control of the whole situation, par jaan to meri bhi nikalti jaa rahi hain. Vinay kaisa hoga?
- The sheer desire and hope that Vinay is alright, is alive. But I feel sad that all this is happening because of my bday and on my bday. Would I be able to forgive myself if things go wrong? I mean, Vinay came all the way only because it’s my birthday. His family does not like his going out anywhere at night. But he came only because of me. He wouldn’t have gone if it was someone else’s birthday. And I don’t want any mishap to happen to him. And things will change here on. His family would become strict on him. And so on and so forth.
- I have lost a close friend in the past. He passed away on his most beloved and only sister’s birthday. I have a faint idea of how his sister must be feeling on her birthday. I could never dare to wish her on her birthday. So, there’s this selfish thought creeping in my mind that I don’t want any wrong thing to happen on my birthday. I don’t want to lose another friend. I don’t want my birthday to be remembered for wrong reasons. I feel like doing ARGHHH on this thought. I just met my selfish self.
- But deep deep deep down inside – I care for my friend. And I want him to be fine. I want to be instrumental in finding him. I want to hug him tight when I meet him.
Ok, back on track! I reach Mugdha’s place.
I see a call from Vinay’s Mom. Did he make it? But no, the climax is not going to arrive any sooner it seems. His mom is of course worried over the phone. I tell her that Mugdha and I are looking for him. But I can’t face Vinay’s mom anymore. I cannot imagine what she must be going through. I have no courage to speak to her. I have no answers. I give the phone to Mugdha to handle the situation. Mugdha promises Aunty that we would try to find him on the route he could possibly have taken. I hope Vinay’s mom is alright. She must have got the red alarm by now :( I ask Mugdha to ask Vinay’s Mom the number of his car. She does not remember. It’s a maroon car, she says.
We begin the hunt. I try to check every nook and corner of the street while driving. Did he take the highway or go through the city? He would have taken the city route, Mugdha says. So, Mugdha’s place at nalstop -> Mhatre Bridge -> Navi Peth -> Dandekar Bridge -> Swargate -> Satara Road -> Balajinagar -> Katraj -> Vinay’s place is the anticipated route.
I keep cursing myself and Vinay. I’d asked him to stay back. But he did not. And look, he has to pay such a big price now. I should have insisted more maybe. Logically, it was the right step for him to stay back. His family would not have minded it and in fact, would have preferred it. Pan sahebanna aikaaycha navhta (The dude just did not want to listen). I should really be persuasive about what I feel is right – from now on. Mala vaatat hota na ki Vinay ne thambaayla paahije mag mi strongly convince karaayla paahije hota. Pan aata kaay upyog? (I wanted him to stay, right! So, I should have really persuaded him hard. But what’s the use now?)
Anyway, we see some groups of people on the street. Random people. Kahin pe “Jaagran” chal raha hain. Thoda basti-badi wala ilaaqa hain. Idhar kuch dhokha to nahi? I ask Mugdha to constantly keep praying. I am praying too. We see a Police Station on the way. Should we go and complain? Ummm, let’s not do that without Vinay’s family’s consent. We’ll resort to police if our options get over. From Mugdha’s home to Mhatre Bridge to Navi Peth to Dandekar Pool to Sarasbaug. No signs. I see a Maroon Car hit on the trunk of a huge tree. Vinay’s Santro is also maroon in color. But it’s not santro. It’s WagonR. I feel a deep relief. Hushhh. If it was Vinay’s Santro, would I have been happy that we got him or be shaken that he met with an accident? I don’t have answer. There’s only this hope alive that we will get Vinay and he will be all fine.
At Sarasbaug, I and Mugdha are speculating as to which road to take. PVG wala road or Satara road. My gut feeling says – PVG wala road. But Satara road is a safer route. He would have taken that. We take that route. We come closer to Bibwewadi. No Signs so far. I ask Mugdha to call Harshad Sathe. He stays closer. We would need his support. He would add both physical and mental strength to us. Plus, 2 guys and a girl won’t be as odd a situation. If our families get to know about this adventure at this moment, I cannot begin to imagine the questions we would have to answer. It would be really tough to explain these things. What am I doing at 3.15 am in a Car with a very good friend who’s a girl? It would be the toughest question to answer. But we’re not doing anything wrong, I say. The force will be with us.
Harshad picks up the phone. His mom is in town. It would be hard for him to get out of the house too. Mugdha’s speaking to him. It’s okay if he can’t come. Don’t want his mother to start worrying. We reach Padmavati. I am really afraid now. No signs so far. Plus, Balajinagar and Dhankavdi is a vulnerable, danger zone. I see two people on a two wheeler. They look rowdy. I suspect them. Would they do something to us? I am constantly praying and driving. We reach Balajinagar – almost close to Vinay’s house. What do we do? What do we do? Mugdha again gets a call – from Vinay’s Mom. I almost hold my breath. This time I have no hopes. I am afraid Vinay’s family wants to step into this matter now. I am feeling numb and BOOM! Mugdha shouts “Vinay’s home!!!!”
I feel major relief. MAJOR MAJOR RELIEF.
So, what had happened? And this would be the stupidest thing to happen ever! Vinay was already home and was sleeping in his own room. He sleeps on the terrace usually. But today he was sleeping in the bedroom, after quietly sneaking in the house. His mom had not noticed that. She checked for him on the terrace and called me on seeing no signs of him. CLASSIC COMEDY OF ERRORS. This almost reminds of one quote that I absolutely believe – “Life is all that happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”
I turn the car back. On the way home, I and Mugdha couldn’t stop laughing/discussing over this. I must appreciate Mugdha for her courage to step out of her home at 3am in the night and for her willingness to do all it takes to make sure a friend is alright. I really admire her for her great strength of character and unconditional love for her friends. Vinay’s mom was feeling sorry that we had to uselessly get out of the house and go all the way to Balajinagar. But we did what we felt was right. Aamhi naahi karnaar tar kon karnaar? (Hum nahii karenge to kaun karega?) I asked Vinay to assure his Mom that we didn’t mind this. Dost ke liye kabhi bhi kuchh bhi karenge. (Sounds super cheesy, but true). I mean, Vinay ke jagah koi aur hota to yahi karte. But in this case, there were zillions of emotions attached.
I recalled Dil Chahta Hai‘s starting scene where Akshaye Khanna calls up Amir and Saif at odd hours at night. Both of them just drop everything and rush to his place. However, it was just a painting that Akshaye wanted to show them.
So – this was how my Birthday night was spent. Of course, our whole act together was too filmy. It was a great, thrilling ride and a happy climax. This was like the most memorable night – where it was a life and death issue. Could it be any more adventurous? Man, I love adventure and thrill. But – not this kind of thrill please. Insha-allah, everything was alright. What if it was not? Things do not go in the right direction always. We need to be careful!!!
I slapped myself before any more wrong thoughts would start coming in and I slept.
Would love to cross-post another one of my blog entries that I wrote 2 years back. It is about what Birthday means to different kinds of people. It received a lot of love too. http://pratik-munot.blogspot.in/2010/04/happy-birthday.html .