All of a sudden, there was a strange compulsion within me. A desire to jump into the river. As I stared at the swirling, surging water, the feeling grew stronger. I didn’t know how to swim. If I jumped in, it would be the end of me. The urge was getting stronger. If I stood there any longer, I might not be able to prevent myself to turn around and walk away from that dangerous spot. My legs had grown heavy and it was not easy to move.
As I walked towards Vrindavan’s house the urge left me. I was puzzled. Why had this strange desire come upon me? Why did it possess me so strongly? Was it because I had smoked a few cigarettes on the train? Because I had had too many cups of tea? It must be due to one of these reasons, I thought, as I increased my pace.
Vrindavan was very happy to see me after such a long time. Since it was a hot evening, he suggested that we should go up to the terrace and come downstairs only when dinner was ready.
There was just one room on the terrace, used by Vrindavan’s uncle. From the heap of bricks and bamboo piles lying in the corner, I guessed that the room was being renovated. We walked into the room, when again, the strange restlessness gripped me. I asked Vrindavan to get me a glass of water.
When he went downstairs, I began to pace the terrace, near the pile of bricks. I stood there, leaning over the parapet. Go on. Jump. I found myself thinking. It was uncontrollable, this compulsion. Yes, I should jump.
“Come on. Let’s go in. Mother is sending tea for us.” Vrindavan’s voice broke into the silence. “Why are you standing so close to the parapet wall?” he asked me, somewhat surprised. I did not reply.
We went into the room and continued chatting. Soon the tea and snacks arrived. A little later, Vrindavan went downstairs to find out how long it would be before dinner was ready.
It was quite hot inside the room so I went out. The urge was there again, growing more intense each minute. Now is the time to jump. There isn’t anyone to stop me. This is the moment, I thought. My brain went numb.
I was startled by a scream. It was Vrindavan. He grabbed my shoulders and dragged me away. “What were you doing? I thought you were about to jump. If your legs hadn’t got entangled in the ropes…”
I felt dizzy. “I don’t know,” I mumbled. Vrindavan took me inside and helped me to lie down on the cot. As I turned on my side, I felt something hard in my pocket. It was Sudhir’s medal. I had completely forgotten about it. I pulled it out and showed it to Vrindavan. Everyone in the house looked at it too and admired it. Soon after dinner was over, I took leave and started for home.
The moment I stepped out the fear was back. As I entered my house, it grew even more intense. I had spent several nights alone in that house but I had never felt like this before. I thought perhaps I wasn’t well.
To be continued
Excerpted from Lukose’s Church & Other Stories
Illustrations: Suman Choudhury