Name of Participant : Namitha Sugathan
Company : UST Global
Goutham Varma realized that his end was nearing. Come next day and all the goodwill he has built over the years would crumble before his own eyes. The IT godfathers and media who saw him as the new face of Indian IT industry would excruciate him. Quoting his enemy, Goutham would be proclaimed as the “Plagiarist who murdered for fame and gain”. The Enemy. Someone whom Goutham thought was gone for good, long ago. Ten years, to be precise. He had waited for ten long years in pursuit of the right time to strike.
Killing his enemy ten years back would not have been impossible for Goutham, but a proper investigation would have led the tracks to him. So the idea was to plague his enemy and drive him into instability. A lot of time and money was invested in it. Making his enemy’s brother Akash, the only family he had in this world, a druggie, was the first step. Calculating the moves to get Akash locked up in a mental asylum because of the “threat he posed to human life and/or property” required proper planning and execution skills. Even a small fortune was lost in influencing Akash’s psychiatrist’s young assistant to screw up his counseling sessions which eventually tempted him to take his own life.
Goutham perceived his mistake in thinking that his enemy would not return after all the psychological torture inflicted on him. After ten trivial years, here he has come with a bang offering two choices for Goutham to pick from – either, to surrender to the world or to surrender to death. And Goutham accepted the second option. He himself put the pistol to his forehead and pulled the trigger.
Not knowing the events of the night getting unfolded at Goutham Varma’s residence a few streets away, the two ladies, Meera and Ann, were in a heated discussion, which has become more of a ritual they perform every night before going to bed.
‘Ann, I have decided,’ said Meera. ‘I am going to talk to Arjun tomorrow’.
‘Meera, you have been telling me this for the past two months now, ’groaned Ann. ’If I had the slightest clue on who this Arjun was, I would have gone and talked to him for you. ’
‘Shut up, Ann. I am serious this time. I will definitely tell Arjun about how I feel,’ cried Meera. ‘It’s a Sunday and he will definitely be in the library in the morning. After all, that’s the place where the two of us met for the first time. Let that be the very place where I pour my heart out to him’.
‘Why don’t you call him up and tell him now itself, then?’ argued Ann.
‘It’s too late now and I am damn tired,’ yawned Meera changing to her night clothes. ‘I told you about counseling a tough couple today, remember? It was terrible. I need to get a good night’s sleep. Is it going to be another long night for you?’
‘Hmm. Yeah’, replied Ann. ‘I have an important session tomorrow. The girl’s situation is not that good. I need to prepare well. You sleep tight. Good night.’
‘Ann. Are you still awake?’
‘Yes Meera. What happened?’
‘I think I should go and talk to Arjun now. There is no point waiting.’
‘But it’s 2 a.m. in the morning now. Don’t you think it’s a bit too odd to go now? ’
‘Na. I’ll be fine’
‘Fine. But Meera, you went to bed wearing your formal clothes? So you had this plan even before going to bed?’
‘Uhh. Even I noticed it just now. I thought I had changed to my pajamas before going to bed. Or maybe I didn’t. Ah whatever. Let me go.’
‘Meera, you know what. I have a hunch that Arjun won’t be there at his apartment now.’
‘It’s your story. You find out.’
‘Story? Ann.. What are you talking about?’
‘Who is Ann? Is that you, Meera? Why are you here now? You shouldn’t be here now.’
‘Oh Arjun. Ann had warned me that you wouldn’t be there in your apartment. But which is this place? And why are we standing in the middle of the road?’
‘Again, who is this Ann?’
‘My roommate, of course. Now you tell me where we are. Wait. I think I know this place. That’s the Heritage Mall to the right and that’s, hey.. that’s the Vintage restaurant to our left side. That means we are right in the middle of the M.G Road. But why? ’
‘Meera. I am telling you again. You shouldn’t be seen here now. Run Meera, run.’
‘Run? What are you saying?’
‘Can’t you hear your name being called out? Don’t you think it’s time for you to wake up?’
‘Wake from what, Arjun?’
‘Enough, Meera. Leave now.’
Meera opened her eyes. The first rays of sunlight had barely crept into the room. She could see Ann’s silhouette closing in on her. Ann was so animatedly narrating about some breaking news she had just watched on television. About some celebrated IT giant being found dead in his apartment. She was rambling about the incident in such a way that she knew everything about it. Goutham Varma. Of course, she knew who Goutham Varma was. For the rest of the world, Goutham Varma was the man who conceptualized a new wave of IT in India. For her, he was an old client as well.
But what bothered her more was the dream from which she had just woken up. She could not help but wonder again about the kind of dreams she saw. Though while dreaming, everything that was happening seemed normal and real, she found it quite annoying to wake up and find out that there were times when the people and places in her dream got swapped without her even realizing it. There were even times when she herself would become someone else, mostly to someone she has a grudge on, and that in fact got her too much irritated and left her grumpy all the day. This, she knew, was something almost everyone who could remember their dreams could relate to. And she also knew that there was something about her dreams which the majority of people she knew, could not relate to. She didn’t know if it was a gift or a curse, but there were times when her dreams have actually happened. There was once an instance when she dreamt about her sister narrowly escaping a car crash and when she narrated the incident to her sister the next day when they met, it turned out that her sister did have a narrow escape the previous day, that too, just the way Meera had seen it. Not all of her dreams really happened but some did occur for real. Out of curiosity, she had once googled to find out about the cause of this strange gift of hers and was taken in for a surprise when she came across dedicated forums and blogs for strange dreamers like her. So, in a way, she was reassured when she found out that she was just one in a lot.
Meera was still trying to decipher what her dream had meant this time. Ann, on the other hand was still babbling about the incident, which has now shifted to the discussion on how she was once acquainted with the victim which made her comment on his strong taste for luxury, which Ann thought, was evident from the kind of automobiles he used or rather, his luxury apartment in the city, the pictures of whose interiors were leaked in the internet when it was getting renovated a few months back. That was when it suddenly struck Meera.
‘Ann, where did you say this man lived?’ enquired Meera.
‘Regal Apartments,’ replied Ann.
‘The one adjacent to the Vintage restaurant in M.G. Road?’ asked Meera.
‘Yes, the same’, agreed Ann.
The drive towards Arjun’s apartment was not at all a smooth one for Meera. The dream she saw that morning was indeed a weird one. This one was kind of different as well, when compared to the other strange dreams she usually see. She saw herself talking to Arjun in front of the building, someone committed suicide and it turned out that the incident took place at around the same time she had dreamt it. And in the dream, Arjun had warned her to leave the place as soon as possible. May be, it’s just a coincidence, but she needed confirmation. Confirmation from Arjun that he had nothing to do with Goutham Varma’s death.
‘What? You mean to ask me whether I killed Goutham Varma?’ laughed Arjun. ‘Are you crazy? Every night you read some stupid crime thriller before going to bed and see some weird dreams to come and tell me that I have murdered a guy I have only seen in television?’
‘But the dream..’ mumbled Meera. ‘It looked so real.’
‘Ha. Come on, Meera. Even if it looked real, what’s there in it?’ reasoned Arjun. ‘Look how sensible I was, even if it was your dream. I just warned you that it was not safe for you to be in the middle of the road in the middle of the night. And just imagine, if the place you saw was the Airport Road instead of the M.G.Road, would you have even asked me about this?’
‘Uh..No,’ replied Meera. ’But that’s my point as well. The place. How could I have seen it that way?’
‘OK,’ said Arjun. ‘So you really think that I killed Goutham Varma?’
‘Umm. No..’ cried Meera. ‘I am sorry, Arjun. I will better leave. I will talk to you later.’
‘You want me to drive you back home?’ asked Arjun.
‘No. I am all good. Thanks. In fact, I am just relieved to know the truth. I didn’t want you to be involved in this mess,’ smiled Meera for the first time, that day.
Arjun prolonged that smile on his face till the last speck of Meera’s car escaped his vision. Poor girl. She trusted him completely. Arjun knew very well that she liked him; she had even made many attempts to express it to him, but he has always been successful in pretending not to understand it and gracefully deviating from the situation. The truth was, he also liked her. But that was all. For the past few years, the only emotion which has made him survive the tests of time was his strong will to avenge for the losses he had suffered in his life. And today was the D-day.
If Goutham Varma was just a thief who had stolen Arjun’s brainchild to become one of the prominent leaders of Indian IT industry, Arjun wouldn’t have cared much, because Goutham could only steal his idea, not the brain that produced that idea. And Goutham knew it too. That was the reason he used Akash, Arjun’s little brother, the only family he had in this world, as the tool to destabilize Arjun’s life. And he did succeed. It took around three years for Arjun to come back to normal life after Akash’s unexpected death. In another two years, he was convinced of Goutham’s involvement and ever since that, he has been planning his moves, collecting evidences against Goutham, not just about his brother’s death, but all the possible wrong-doings he has done in his journey towards the top of the world. And today, Arjun saw it before his own eyes, the death of his arch-enemy, Goutham Varma, the plagiarist who murdered for fame and gain.
But what Arjun still did not understand was the involvement of Meera in this. Does her dream really have some meaning? Whatever it is, he just did not bother. All he cared was to get his final mission accomplished- to bring back someone from hiding and execute his final act of revenge.
Not knowing what was going to get unfolded before their own eyes a few hours later, the two ladies, Meera and Ann, were busy packing their bags for a trip they had planned for the next day, when Meera’s phone rang. Meera picked up the phone, talked for a few minutes and hung up.
‘Who was it?’ asked Ann. ‘I heard you saying ‘8 a.m. sharp tomorrow’. Don’t tell me you are not going to show up for the trip tomorrow.’
‘No, Ann. It’s just for a few minutes, 30 minutes to the max. After all, Syama and gang will be coming to pick us up at 9 a.m. only,’ replied Meera. ‘By the way, it was Anita who called, you know, Goutham Varma’s ex-wife. She just wanted to meet me. You remember, I was their counselor when their marriage was on the rocks some years back. Though my counseling was not effective, I and Anita kind of got along well with each other and we still meet up at times. ’
‘Oh God. I still don’t understand why, being a lawyer, you take up these marriage counseling sessions,’ joked Ann. ‘Why don’t you route such cases to me instead? I am a psychiatrist, after all.’
‘Ha ha. We’ll sort that out,’ laughed Meera climbing her bed. ‘Now that the packing is done, I think we should go to bed now. I have kept the alarm to ring at 5 a.m. Is that fine?’
‘Perfect,’ said Ann turning off the lights.
‘Hello, Meera? Where are you? When I woke up in between, I could not find you. I searched the whole apartment and there was no sign of you. Where have you gone at this time of the night?’
‘Uhh.. Ann, actually, I think I lost track of time. You know, I was supposed to have a meeting with Anita at 8 a.m. The alarm rang and without looking at the time, I just set off to her place taking just this mobile phone with me. Only when I was halfway, I realized that it was just 2 a.m. in the morning.’
‘Hmm. Good that you took your phone, so that I could call you one last time. So you are coming back, aren’t you?’
‘Yes, yes. In fact, I have even reached the apartment’s gate. Be prepared to open the door.’
‘But I am here on the terrace. How can I open the door?’
‘Oh. You went to the terrace looking for me? I am sorry; I should have woken you up before leaving. Hey Ann, if you are on the terrace, do you see that? I can see someone trying to jump off from the terrace. Oh my God. Please. You try to stop that person somehow.’
‘That’s me, Meera. You see me trying to jump off from the terrace. Can’t you see me waving at you?’
‘Hey. Ann. What are you talking about? Listen Ann, listen to me very carefully. You shouldn’t be doing this. Even if you have some problem, we will sort that out; you really don’t have to worry. Do you hear me?’
‘But it’s too late now, Meera. I am sorry.’
‘Hey Ann.. You just hold on. OK? I can see someone walking towards me. Let me talk to him. I think he can help us.’
‘No Meera. He has not come to help us. He is in fact the reason I am doing this.’
‘You shut up Ann. Let me talk to him. Hello Sir. Could you please come over here for a minute? Sir, please. Please come to this side so that I can see your face as well. I don’t know who you are but I really need a help from you.’
‘Meera? Is that you?’
‘Arjun? How come you are here?’
‘Meera. I don’t think you should be here at this point of time.’
‘What are you saying, Arjun? Hey, listen.. Do you see a lady over there? She is my roommate, Ann. I don’t know what happened or why she has all of a sudden decided to jump off from the terrace, but listen, I.. I want you to help me to save her. Somehow. Please.’
‘That’s it Meera. I want you to leave now. It’s time for you to wake up. This time, there is no one to wake you up, because, you know why. So you need to wake up on your own.’
‘Wake up from what, Arjun?’
‘Enough Meera. Leave now.’
Meera opened her eyes.