Excerpt

It is not everyday you sit in front of your computer on a Saturday morning and get emails like this:
From: [email protected]
Sent: 12/28/2005 11:40 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: A final note

Dear Chetan,
This email is a combined suicide note and a confession letter. I have let people down and have no reason to live. You don’t know me.  I’m an ordinary boy in Ahmedabad who read your books. And somehow I felt could write to you after that.  I can’t really tell anyone what I am doing to myself – which is taking a sleeping pill everytime I end a sentence, so I thought I will tell you.

I kept my coffee cup down and counted. Five full stops already.

I made three mistakes, I don’t want to go into details.
My suicide is not a sentimental decision. As many around me know, I am a good businessman because I have little emotion. This is no knee-jerk reaction. I waited over three years, watched Ish’s silent face everyday. But after he refused my offer yesterday, I had no choice left.
I have no regrets either. May be I’d have wanted to talk to Vidya once more – but that doesn’t seem like such a good idea right now.
Sorry to bother you with this. But I felt like I had to tell someone. You have ways to improve as an author but you do write decent books. Have a nice weekend.

Regards,
Businessman

17, 18, 19. Someone had popped nineteen sleeping pills while typing a mail to me. Yet, he expected me to have a nice weekend. The coffee refused to go down my throat. I broke into cold sweat.
“One, you wake up late. Two, you plant yourself in front of the computer first thing. Do you even know you have a family?” Anusha said. In case it isn’t obvious enough from the authoritative tone, Anusha is my wife.
I had promised to go furniture shopping with her – ten weekends ago
She took my coffee mug away and jiggled the back of my chair. “We need dining chairs. hey, you look strange?” she said.

I pointed to the monitor.
“Businessman?” she said as she finished reading the mail. She looked shaken up, too.
“And it is from Ahmedabad,” I said, “that is all we know.”
“You sure this is real?” she said, a quiver in her voice.
“This is not spam,” I said. “It is addressed to me.”
My wife pulled a stool to sit down. I guess we really did need some extra chairs.
“Think,” she said. “We got to let someone know. His parents may be.”
“How? I don’t know where the hell it came from,” I said. “And who do we know in Ahmedabad”
“We met in Ahmedabad, remember?” Anusha said. Pointless statement, I thought. Yes, we’d been classmates at IIMA years ago.
“So?”
“Call the institute. Prof. Basant or someone,” She sniffed and left the room. “Oh no, the daal is burning.”
There are advantages to having a wife smarter than you. I could never be a detective.
I searched the institute numbers on the Internet and called. An operator connected me to Prof. Basant’s residence. I checked the time, 10:00am in Singapore, 7:30am in India. It is a bad idea to mess with a Prof early morning.
“Hello?” a sleepy voice answered. Had to be the prof.
“Prof. Basant, Hi. This is Chetan Bhagat calling. Your old student, remember?”
“Who?” he said with nil curiosity. Bad start.
I told him about the course he took for us, and how we had voted him the friendliest prof.
“Oh that Chetan Bhagat,” he said, like he knew a million of them. “You are a writer now, no?”
“Yes sir,” I said, “that one.”
“So why are you writing books?”
“Tough question, sir,” I stalled.
“OK, a simple one. Why are you calling me so early on a Saturday?”
I told him why and forwarded the email to him.
“No name, eh?” he said as he read the mail.
“He could be  in a hospital somewhere in Ahmedabad. He would have just checked in. May be he is dead. Or may be he is at home and this was a hoax,” I said.
I was blabbering. I wanted help – for the boy and me. The prof had asked a good question. Why the hell did I write books, to get into this?
“We can check hospitals,” Prof said. “I can ask a few students. But a name surely helps. Hey wait, this boy has a gmail, may be he is on Orkut.”
“Or-what?” Life is  tough when you are always talking to people smarter than you.
“You are so out of touch, Chetan. Orkut is a networking site. Gmail users sign up there. If he is a member and we are lucky, we can see his profile.”
I heard him clicking keys and sat before my own PC.  I had just reached the Orkut site when Prof Basant exclaimed,“Aha, Ahmedabad Businessman. There is a brief profile here. The name only says G Patel. Interests are cricket, business, mathematics and friends. Doesn’t seem like he uses Orkut much though.”
“What are you talking about Prof Basant? I woke up to a suicide note, exclusive to me. Now you are telling me hobbies. Can you help me or…”
A pause, then, “I will get some students. We will search for a new young patient called G Patel, suspected sleeping pill overdose. We will call if we find anything, OK?”
“Yes, sir,” I said, breathing properly after a long time.
“And how is Anusha? You guys bunked my classes for dates and now forget me.”
“She is fine, sir.”
“Good, I always felt she was smarter than you.  Anyway, let’s find your boy,” the prof said and hung up.

Besides furniture shopping, I had to finish an office presentation. My boss Michel’s boss was due from New York. Wanting to impress, Michel had asked me to make a presentation of the group, with fifty charts. I worked three nights last week until 1:00am, but had gotten only halfway.
“This is a suggestion. Don’t take it  the wrong way. But do consider taking a bath,” my wife said.
I looked at her.
“Just an option,” she said.
I think she is overcautious sometimes. I don’t bite back.
“Yes, yes. I will,” I said and stared at the computer again.
Thoughts darted through my head. Should I call some hospitals myself? What if Prof Basant dozed off again? What if he could not collect the students? What if G Patel was dead? And why am I becoming so involved here?
I took a reluctant shower. I opened the office presentation, unable to type a word.
I refused breakfast, though regretted it moments later – as hunger and anxiety did not go well together.
My phone rang at 1:33pm.



Facebook Twitter