For the third time in less than a year, he received an email from his company’s head HR asking the employees to leave earlier than usual because of the tense situation in the city. He just heaved a sigh of relief, because this was a Monday and there is nothing that feels better than leaving office early on the first day of the week, like a trend setter for the week. He watched others around him quietly leaving their desks .. some even left behind the company laptops because a laptop gave away their identity as Software engineers. For a change, they all wanted to not look like Software engineers that they all were .. Why ? because that would give a rioting crowd a non-kannadiga target.
In about half an hour, the office was pretty much deserted .. a few stayed back .. apparently too busy to read the mail or notice the leaving colleagues. He was amongst the last few to leave. Hoping that by the time he got home, it would be tea time and he could enjoy the crunchy snacks with the non-office coffee.
Almost absent-mindedly he had picked up his laptop .. following his daily ritual while leaving office, he even called up his wife .. to tell her that he will be home soon .. and then added with a touch of concern and melodrama that he loved so much “don’t go out anywhere .. stay at home till I come” .. and immediately regretted saying it .. “Did I scare her .. ??” ..
He had sold off his first car that he had bought within the first year of his job , because later on he regretted being too rash to rush into luxury while he could not actually afford it .. he had bought a bike after that .. It was lot less luxurious .. but definitely offered him the mileage and was a lot cheaper than the car he had .. Every time he got onto his bike, he would think about the day he finally decided to sell off the car , the day when he woke up to the realization that he just wasn’t earning enough to afford the luxury of a car .. Today was no different .. but with the year end coming .. he had more than just that on his mind .. Year end meant time for investments declaration and having not made any investments all through the year .. it also meant that he would have to spend a lot less this month so that he can actually invest something ..
Once outside the office on his bike, he decided to speed his way through the traffic .. hoping to reach his paranoid wife before she gets too worried about him .. and then .. out of the corner of his eye .. he saw a couple .. definitely not more than 22 .. either of them .. walking hand in hand .. the girl leaning on the guy’s shoulder while the guy probably explained to her his plans of the future he had planned for the two of them .. “Fools .. planning future !! .. is he even sure the girl will marry him” and then scolded himself for being too pessimistic and cynical .. and the word immediately made him smile .. wasn’t that the same word that she had used when he had told her a long time back “Eventually you will forget me and we will both move away” .. How true was all that he said that day .. and how hollow were her words ? .. but he liked to believe that she really meant it that day .. Probably she did .. probably she didn’t .. the bottom line is she is married to someone else today .. and he is married to this other girl .. and that brought him back to the reality .. he must rush home .. She will be worried .. !!
The traffic on the road was a lot more than he was accustomed to .. his timings were more from mid day to late evening .. and he preferred it that way .. because that meant he could sleep till late and come home late, and avoid the conversations that related to the boring life of soaps or back-log the relatives’ calls that he was supposed to answer back sometime. How did he end up being so bored .. how did he end up with a life like this .. as far as he could remember .. he used to be a live wire in his college days .. cracking jokes and being a shameless victim of pranks and jokes .. Having fun with friends .. bike trips .. excursions .. spur of the moment decisions .. when did he lose his identity as that guy ? and became this guy ? A loud honk of the horn from a car snapped him back to reality again .. he just gave the car guy a apologetic smile and increased his speed again before the car guy could reply.
He reached the apartment ground floor .. pushed open the lift door .. got in .. pressed the fifth floor button .. hoping that his wife won’t be outside to receive him .. this was not the kind of melodrama he liked .. wife crying at door steps and hugging him .. somehow it all seemed more inspired by the soaps than real emotions .. For the tenth time in the past five minutes since he came to his building premises, he looked at his watch .. making sure he was not too late to invoke such a reaction ..
The door to his house was closed .. and he could hear the loud TV inside .. “gosh .. when is she going to learn that loud TV is a nuisance” .. He rang the bell .. no answer .. he rang again .. again no answer .. He thought probably she dozed off .. he called her on the cell phone .. the cell dutifully rang for twenty rings and he could not restrain himself from loudly thumping on the door .. more out of irritation of being made to wait than anything else .. Must be in the bathroom .. god I hate her late hours of daily-work .. Why does she have to do all this when I am coming home .. He waited patiently for about ten minutes outside the door, not making any noise .. very sure that she must be in the bathroom .. Another quiet ten minutes pass .. a few nosey neighbors look out of the window time to time .. finding it amusing that the reserve-looking husband was being made to wait outside the door by the neighbor-friendly wife .. Irritated by all this drama and the waiting game .. he thumped loud enough on the door for the neighbors to come to the window again .. probably wondering if the door broke .. but nothing of that sort happened .. All of a sudden .. a vague fear gripped him .. was she alright ? .. she doesn’t take this long to get out of bath anyway .. and she must have heard the door bell even in the shower .. !!
He sat down on his knees and tried to look inside the house from the narrow space between the door and the floor . was definitely less than a inch of space .. but was wide enough to see what was inside .. a body lying in the middle of a pool of blood !!