The stage was set for a grand reunion. The seven of them were last together in one room during their college days. And would be so today after 27 years. A few of them had kept in touch with each other but most had scattered away and gotten busy with their own lives. It was solely due to the efforts of Varun that they were getting back together again. He was the busiest and most active of them all in social media and tracked down each one of them and fixed up this meeting. These seven had been thick friends in college and like a rainbow they spread happiness and smiles amongst each other those days.
They decided to meet at Ishant’s place. He lived in the central part of the city and being a bachelor still, his apartment was always open and accessible to all. Bindiya and Gautam who were now married, after a tumultuous on-off relationship/friendship in their college days, lived closest to him. “Let us take care of the food for the evening”, they suggested. Ishant and the others readily agreed. They still remembered the delicious snacks Bindiya would cook up every time they met at her place during college days. Yatin decided to sponsor the drinks. He knew that Ishant was still a teetotaller and he didnt want to risk a “dry” evening. Neither did the others.
Friday 7pm was decided upon as the suitable time. All of them would meet up and the hands of time would be dragged back. Just like those golden days. When life was simple, fun and uncomplicated.
Although they all stayed in different parts of the country, they all agreed to fly down to the city and gather at Ishant’s place. Only Oindrilla stayed in Toronto, but she too happily accepted Varun’s invitation. Living farthest from the rest of the gang, she probably missed them the most. And of course there was Rishi. Everyone knew he had a special fondness for Bindiya and silently pined for her. So when she and Gautam finally hooked up, he was heart broken and stayed away from the gang altogether. In fact everyone was surprised that Rishi had agreed to come at all.
One by one the guests sauntered in. It was like a magical evening. A reunion in the truest sense as all seven of them were meeting together for the first time since college. Everyone seemed to be happy meeting each other. They hugged, laughed, reminisced about the good old days as the music played on. Wine flowed freely and Bindiya’s ho d’ouevres were getting polished easily. Even the shy withdrawn Rishi seemed to be at ease, talking and mingling with everyone including Bindiya and Gautam.
Suddenly in the midst of the merriment, Varun sat down on the nearest couch clutching his chest. In fact more than sit, he staggered there and fell. His breathing was heavy as sweatbeads formed on his forehead and around his neck. His breathing was laboured and he felt as if he was choking.
It took a while for the others to notice. In fact it was Oindrila who first noticed and instinctively let out a shriek. Everyone turned around to see what was happening. Instantly they all gathered around Varun who was clearly in a great deal of discomfort.
“Call a doctor immediately”, Ishant hollered.
“Someone get a glass of water”, Gautam shouted, as Bindiya rushed to the kitchen to fetch it.
“Are you…are you ok Varun”, Rishi asked.
Varun raised his head from the couch trying to say something but all of a sudden his body shuddered and then went limp. His head turned on the right side of the couch and there he lay lifeless.
Bindiya had rushed out of the kitchen with a glass of water in her hand. She looked at Varun’s lifeless body and froze. The others too stared at him in disbelief. They were all speechless.
After what seemed like an eternity, Yatin was the one to speak. “Let’s call a doctor”, he said softly, having still not come to terms with what just had happened. None of them had, in fact.
In the fifteen minutes or so that Dr Joshi, Ishant’s family physician took to come to his apartment, they all huddled around Varun’s body and spoke in whispers. No one could fully comprehend what had happened. Varun was such a health freak. He took care of what he ate, exercised, jogged regularly. What on earth could have happened to him, they all wondered in hushed tones.
“It was a massive cardiac arrest”, Dr Joshi announced, after having inspected Varun. “These things are unpredictable. Sometimes they can happen to the healthiest and fittest of us all”, he sighed as he got up and headed towards the door. “Ask his parents to come to my clinic tomorrow Ishant”, he said as he was leaving. “I will make a death certificate”.
Ishant shut the door as the doctor left. He turned back towards the living room where the others were all sitting silently. Bindiya was consoling Oindrila who was silently sobbing. Rishi too had tears in his eyes and stared vacantly from the verandah to the overlooking sea.
“I better make that call to his mum”, Gautam finally broke the silence that engulfed the room. The party that had started off with so much joy and fun was well and truly over.
6 hours earlier…
“Let’s surprise everyone”, Varun spoke excitedly to someone on the phone. “Let’s meet up now for lunch and then go there in the evening and announce that we’re together now”.
As they had lunch they held their hands and looked into each other’s eyes.
“You know I always thought you liked Gautam and not me. I wish I had known earlier, we could’ve been together all these years”.
“Timing is the key sweetheart”, Oindrila cooed as she gave his hand a slight squeeze gazing deep into his eyes.
“Let’s finish lunch and I need to go back to the hotel for some quick work. You head to Ishant’s place. I will join you there later and then we tell everyone about us”, she whispered.
As they sat together in the Uber, they held hands and kissed. As she was getting off the car, she put a couple of Life Saver mints in his mouth.
“You still haven’t forgotten”, he said, amazed at the fact that even after so many years she remembered his favourite mint.
“See you in the evening darling”, she smiled as she waved him goodbye.
The Next Day…
Oindrilla sat by herself in the first class lounge. Her flight to Toronto was delayed by a few minutes. She leafed through a magazine lazily, but her mind was ticking away actively.
“I didn’t forget anything Varun. I didn’t forget how I loved Gautam and Rishi loved Bindiya. I didn’t forget how both of us wanted you to help us. I didn’t forget how you did nothing but in fact encouraged Gautam and Bindiya to get together. Rishi might’ve forgiven you Varun, but I didn’t. I couldn’t”.
As the announcement for the Toronto flight came loud and clear, Oindrilla got up from her sofa and casually dropped the half packet of Life Saver mints and a small vial of crystal clear liquid (TC-16) in the first class lounge bin.
It was time to go back home.
PS: TC-16 induces a heart attack 8 hours after consumption.
Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar