“Dude, they started again!” whispered Sahil, making a gesture to come over to both Raaghav & Gautam.
Gautam went near the window to hear what was happening. Raaghav just shook his head and continued trying to study despite the loud voices coming from the neighbouring apartment. It was an everyday routine. Raaghav had no interest in listening to what allegations were being made this time. He plugged in his ear phones and allowed A R Rahman to take over his senses.
On the other side of the wall, Chirag & Nandini were having an usual evening. Chirag had forgot to bring something from the list of groceries Nandini handed him in the morning while leaving for work. Now, all of a sudden, that one missed thing had become the most important ingredient in whatever Nandini had to cook for dinner. After the argument, Chirag left the apartment, banging the door close behind him.
“Two hours, bet!” said Sahil.
“No shit, less than fifteen minutes!” replied Gautam and the bet was made.
They usually made this bet on the time Chirag would take to come back home once he left after an argument. It had suddenly become quite a happening neighbourhood for the three boys who were living in the building for more than three years. Raaghav was in college, Gautam and Sahil worked in a call center for the night shift. Raaghav’s uncle owned the apartment and Raaghav was told to live with them during his college after few families reported complaints against Gautam & Sahil. Raaghav had been strictly instructed not to befriend any of the two and report their activities to his uncle on weekly basis. The move had made an improving effect on both Gautam & Sahil and the nuisances were minimal.
Gautam had tried his best to befriend Raaghav by offering him drinks, to go to movies or clubs but Raaghav had no intention to befriend anyone of them. Making friends would result in hiding their activity from his uncle and once his uncle would find out, he would send Raaghav back to his home. Raaghav didn’t want to go back to his parent’s house. He had welcomed the opportunity when his uncle had presented the idea of him living in his apartment. He had agreed immediately. He was dying to have some private space and there was no chance he was going to let the opportunity go waste because of his friendliness with the two. He promised his parents to make regular visits at home, and also that he will score better than what he scored in the previous year.
“You guys are going to get into a big trouble someday”, Raaghav said to Gautam. Sahil was still standing at the window, looking at the road. He was hopeful of winning a bet, fifteen minutes didn’t matter much against a bet in which he could make Gautam to do anything for him.
“Man, they fight too much!” Gautam replied, “I don’t understand how did they get together.”
“Is that your problem to figure out? Let them fight and break each other’s head, if anyone of them caught you guys overhearing them, I am sure they will forget their argument and make sure your ear drums are not in a working condition to hear anything in future.”
“Relax!” Gautam made ‘ITS OK’ gesture with his lips which meant he was not interested in discussing about neighbours anymore.
“He’s back! Come here you motherfucker! I won the bet!” Sahil said to Gautam.
Gautam ran towards the window and his expression changed from excitement to depression. He owed Sahil one.
Nandini was working in one of the reputed newspapers of the city as assistant to the editor. She had to deal with many things. Her husband’s carelessness was on the top of the list. They met in college six years ago. Chirag was the reserved types, lost in his own world most of the times. He longed to be a poet in Hindi, the language and the flavour of which was so out of fashion in the recent times. In a city where getting published was not a tough task provided one had a story, no matter how good or bad, Chirag faced multiple problems finding a publisher for his poems which dealt with philosophical subjects.
College makes one believe that everything is possible for everyone. Chirag used to held events for hindi poetry and it was a medium to showcase his talent to the collegemates, professors and sometimes some reputed guests of honour. Nandini and Chirag met during one of these events and soon were seen together both inside and outside campus. After final year, Nandini got hired by a major news publishing house whereas Chirag rejected every offer that came to him, in a bid to realize his dream of being a successful hindi poet.
Nandini was ready to give him time, they had time, but Chirag was losing it day by day and in the end he gave up. He took up periodic writing assignments from publishers in the market and began working as a ghost writer for some reputed and established writers. He stayed at home most of the time, happy in his own skin. Nandini was satisfied with whatever Chirag had decided for himself. Then one day, Chirag proposed her and she agreed. Though they had no problems with each other’s lifestyle, they decided to live together before marriage to see if it can be worked out. They rented an apartment in the outskirts of the city, so they can stay away from known eyes to avoid unwanted lips weave myths about them.
Living in the outskirts meant Nandini had to travel a long way to reach and get back from her workplace. Expenses rose as well and eventually they had to move into another apartment which was comparably very near to Nandini’s workplace. After all, what they all needed was time for each other. Chirag would take care of the household items and Nandini would take care of the household budget. They were happy, it was working and the future looked promising. But, future is and will always remain unpredictable.
After few weeks of love and compassion, the things began to get real. Love cannot feed the human body, it can only exhaust one. Chirag was not the one who would cook regularly. He would simply order food from a restaurant and Nandini preferred healthy home made food. Soon it became an everyday routine. Nandini would reach home and find some junk food in the fridge, left over in huge quantity for her. The arguments started over food, which later involved the points about Chirag’s laziness, his failure as a poet and his cowardice of hiding behind the names of successful writers. They would fight continuously before Chirag would leave the home in anger. He would come later though, but only when he was sure that Nandini was well asleep. He would eat the further left overs and sleep anywhere but not on the bed with her. Their anger had hijacked the charm of their love.
Sahil was the first one to know about a couple who had recently moved into the neighbouring apartment.
“Get ready for action Raaghav! Your lonely nights won’t be lonely anymore, I am sure there will be a lot of ooh aah coming from the next apartment, the chick looks red hot!” Sahil exclaimed.
Raaghav, as usual, shrugged his shoulders. The best way to make Sahil shut up was to not respond to his nonsense. Raaghav had understood this in the very first week. He and Sahil had got into a fight over the issue of Sahil making some obscene remarks about one of the girl’s picture Raaghav had in his mobile. For Raaghav, it was best to mind his own business. Things had settled, both Gautam & Sahil were getting used to Raaghav’s authoritative presence around them. Raaghav’s keen eyes followed every step of Gautam & Sahil while they were in the house. He had named them ‘DoubTroub’ in his head, a short form for ‘Double Trouble’.
Out of the two, Sahil was more trouble some. Everyday he would bring new stories from his workplace, about a girl who was making out with his boss in the parking lot, or the watchman jerking upon finding a lonely moment in his cabin. Raaghav would never understand which incidents were true and which were lies. After few weeks, he stopped listening to him altogether. He would plug into his mobile phone as soon as Sahil came from work in the morning and indulge himself in reading. But nevertheless, every human being is curious to know what’s happening around him. Whenever Raaghav would see Gautam & Sahil talking, he would simply pause the music and listen to their conversation. This was how he got to know about their plan.
One evening, after the neighbouring couple had had their argument and the man had left home in anger, Raaghav paused the music to hear what Sahil & Gautam were talking about.
“Dude, do you think she is gettable?” Sahil asked Gautam.
“I am not sure.”
“She fights with her husband, they would be having no sex life and I know girls man, they just can’t live without sex. He is a stupid guy, he should just fuck her nicely and she will forget her anger.”
“You think its so easy to have sex in anger? I think he would just kill her someday, they way she shouts, I salute that man to move out of the apartment and not fix a slap across her face.”
“Man! I have this fantasy of hitting a woman, everywhere! It turns me on big time. I think we should do this man a favour. Lets go into her house next time he leaves in anger, blindfold her and hit her. She would think her husband hired some guys to do this to her. She would file a report against him, we will be out of the picture.”
“Don’t even think about it! Are you nuts! What if she saw you, recognized you or something. Your life will be fucked!”
“We can use the masks. She will not even guess that it could be anyone else than her husband. We’ll tie her up, beat her, fuck her and leave, simple. I am sure she will file a report against her husband and we will be out of it, stealth mode. What say?”
Gautam raised an eyebrow towards Sahil and said, “I’ll think about it.”
Raaghav’s heart was pounding furiously, all he could do was resume the music, so did he.
Few days passed, Sahil would sit at the window and as soon as Nandini came back from work, he would begin to follow the movement. Most of the days it would be unlocking the door, closing the door, a few minutes silence, some low voices, a sudden burst of anger, loud shouts, Chirag’s words about Nandini’s possible affair with someone at her office, her accusations of him being a failure in life, his warning about not to drag his profession in the argument, his leaving home in an anger and a silence for an hour, sometime two hours, sometimes half an hour, but he would come back and luckily, there would be no more argument.
Sahil made Gautam take a three day off from work to carry out their plan. According to them, there was no way the couple wasn’t going to have an argument for three days. Sahil had brought masks and a packet of condoms. They were waiting for the perfect timing to carry out their plan.
“Here they go!” Sahil whispered to Gautam. Gautam ran towards him to hear what was going on between the couple.
“You are sitting on your ass all day, talking to I don’t know who, and your mobile bill shoots up to four thousand rupees! I am not your mother to take care of your mobile phone bill, let it be disconnected!” the woman shouted.
“Did I not paid the electricity bill for the last month? This number is with every publisher and writer Nandini, try to understand, I am asking for a loan, that’s it, I will return the money to you as soon as I get some payment”, the man’s voice was comparatively lower.
“Loan! You said that about the ten thousand rupees as well which you borrowed from me to attend a stupid literature festival. Didn’t you?”
“Goddammit Nandini! Why are you being so impossible? Do you think I am going to remain a failure all my life? Who will put faith in me when my partner does not!”
“Who the hell reads Hindi these days, tell me! Why don’t you do something else? Get a day job somewhere, I will fix you up at some place, go out. Your time is over now, you can’t be a poet!”
“You are no one to say that to me!” his voice rose suddenly, “Do not comment about what I write or not, you do not show any interest in that anyway, why are you worried?”
“I am worried because I am finding us in a financial crisis. My job is not enough to fund us both! You have to go out and work!”
“Well, I am going and I won’t be back until I find work!”
Sahil looked at Gautam, who grinned in return. They heard the bang of the door being closed and in a few moments, the man was out of the building.
“Now! Get your mask!” Sahil said to Gautam as he put his mask on. Raaghav shook his head looking at them. Raaghav didn’t want to be in any sort of trouble, so he got up and left the apartment. Sahil gave him a thumbs up as he closed the door and ran down the stairs.
It was eleven in the night, Raaghav walked out of the cinema hall and took an auto to go back to the apartment. In his heart, he wished everything to be well, for everyone. As he stepped up the stairs and reached his apartment, he saw the neighbors’ door was open. His apartment’s door was broken and there were some cops in the apartment. Seeing him, one of the policemen came out.
“You, what’s your name?” Cop’s stern voice ran down a chill in Raaghav’s spine.
“Where were you?”
“Tickets?” the cop extended a hand towards him. Raaghav shuffled his pockets and handed over the ticket of the movie he had just seen.
“You know what happened while you were watching movie?”
“Your roommates stormed into your neighbours’ apartment.”
Raaghav stood still. He didn’t know what to say to the cop. Was the woman raped? Was she hit? Was she tied up? How did the cop got to know that they were his roommates? Most importantly, where were his roommates now?
“For how long you have been living here?” Cop asked.
“Eight months, sir.”
“Eight months and you had no idea that your roommates could be criminals?”
“No sir, this is my uncle’s apartment. I am merely taking care of the apartment. I leave in the morning while they are here after work, they leave for work in the evening and I spend the night alone. I had no idea about their intentions.”
The cop gave him a long stare, as if to check the authenticity of his words. Raaghav didn’t lowered his eyes, there was truth in his statement, no matter if it was half of it, but it was only him who knew about it. He didn’t have to confess. Whatever had happened to Sahil and Gautam was none of his business. He had to come out clean out of it.
“Both of them are in hospital now, they will be charged with the attempt to rape and theft as complained by the woman.”
“Attempt to rape?” Raaghav couldn’t hide the surprising tone in his voice. The woman wasn’t raped?
“Yes attempt to rape. The woman had had an argument with her husband while she was cooking. As soon as the husband left the apartment in anger, your roommates stormed in. The lady thought it was her husband again who had come for arguing further. She heard the footsteps coming towards kitchen and threw the hot burning oil on your friends’ faces. Realizing that it was not her husband, she called up the police. By the time we reached, her husband was back as well, she must have called him. Their eyes are critically burned and I don’t think they would be able to see again.”
Raaghav looked at the cop’s face in amazement. He had three choices to make, to remain silent, to be sad to show that he understood the pain his roommates were going through or to laugh on the situation. He chose the third. There was going to be peace for sometime, in everyone’s life.