Laxmi Natraj



Laxmi Natraj


The Sleeping Pills - Part I

The Sleeping Pills - Part I

7 mins

The friendly chemist packed the large volume of pills in two big packets. Venkat handed his debit card and as the shop boy was collecting the payment. The shopkeeper asked with a trace of envy, “So, sir, another visit to US and UK? You are really so lucky, sir. I wish I could also make at least one trip to the US”

Venkat smiled and said. “See by two years, your son will complete his graduation, and naturally he will move to the US, and then you too can make as many trips as you want”,

He pushed the medicine packet inside the large bag, he was carrying. He was happy he carried his usual vegetable bag. Hence, the shopkeeper might think, that the bag was bulging because of his purchased vegetables. Little will he know, that he had purchased the same medicines, from two other shops, giving the same excuse!

It was late in the evening, and he was watching TV listlessly. His maid Meena knocked at the open door. When he turned, she said, “Sir, I had placed the dinner on the table. But if you are packing for the US you will need some help to pick up those warm clothes from the top shelf. So Shall I start that job first, tomorrow?”

Venkat got up from his sofa and walked near to her and said, “Meena, before going to the US, I had decided to visit my friend in Pune, just for four days. So you take leave from tomorrow, and after I return from Pune, I will give a call you. Right?” He opened his purse and took out a bundle of currency and gave it to her, saying. “Here is your salary”.

She looked at the bundle and as her eyes widened with surprise asked, “Sir, this looks like three to four months’ salary. Why are you giving me so much money just now and ….?”

Before she could finish, he said, “Look Meena, when I would be back from Pune and start packing for the US, I may not have time to go to ATM, to draw the money. So you keep this as advance for my US visit. Is it OK?” She looked at him for a few seconds, a bit confused, but then nodded her head and left.

After she left, he called his driver and house security and repeated the same story. He told the driver not to come until he called him back. Then he paid some heavy cash for both of them. He told them that he will be leaving early in the morning by taxi and hence he was making the payment now itself.

He sat at the dining table and opened the hot case. The steaming idlies smiled at him. He started to take the idlies but changed his mind and closed it, He sat thinking.

Venkat had retired four years back, from his profession as the head of the Physics department in IIT. His students used to love him and no one ever missed a single lecture of him. But as he retired from his job, a sudden vacuum engulfed him. His wife had passed away a few years ago, so there was no one at home. Both his children were in the US and UK. They begged him to join them but, he refused to go and stay with them.

Some of his friends advised him to shift to a senior colony where all facilities are available, and now many seniors are moving there. He went and stayed a week there with a friend. But again he did not like the atmosphere. He hated the discipline that the coffee at 5.30 AM, then breakfast at 8.30, etc. He thought it was like a military reign, and he hated that rigidity. Moreover, when he walked around, he met the same old people every time and there were no new faces. He packed off and left and was happy that he did not shift there.

From the time Corona had happened, the whole city was under partial lookup. He tried to teach a few days online for the students, who wanted to write the IIT entrance test. But, the inability to be physically present among the children and their interaction made it too boring, and he left this.

Thus, for the past twenty days, he had gone to the limit of his boredom. Everyone said he was lucky- had enough money, a house. But the void, the empty feeling, was killing him. Finally, he made a firm decision. That was the reason for collecting extra medicines for blood pressure and depression and sending off the staff with payment. So no one will knock on his door tomorrow or maybe for the next two days, and he can go for a peaceful sleep.

He got a plate from the kitchen and patiently removed all the tablets from their foil and piled them on the plate. He took the plate and kept it on the side table of his bed. Not only that, but he kept the water bottle filled. He changed the sheet, pillow covers and made the bed look fresh. He changed into a fresh pair of pants and a shirt. Even the dead body should look good. He looked at the time. It was still 10 minutes to 8.00 Pm.

It is too early. He should wait till 10.00 PM. An idea came into his head. Why not visit the nearby Ganpathi temple and have my last darshan? He took his purse and key. As he was locking the door, for a fraction of a second, he felt dizzy. He held the door to balance himself. He remembered that he had missed out on his BP medicines twice today! But now who cares! Locking the house he started walking to the temple, which was just five minutes away from his home.

The old priest smiled and did an aarathi to God and showed the aarathi plate towards him. He took the aarathi with a humble hand and then dropped a five hundred rupee note on the priest’s plate. As the priest's eyes widened with a question mark, he said, “I am going for a journey. Please wish me luck”

The priest chanted some Sanskrit slokas and picking up a flower from the feet of God, handed it to him and said. “You will always have God’s blessing. Have a safe journey” Venkat pocketed the flower and walked out.

He reached the main road which he had to cross. There was no traffic. He started crossing. Suddenly, he saw a car on the road coming in his direction. He had enough time to cross and there was no need to walk fast. But, when he looked back at the car, his vision suddenly became blurred, and before he knew what was happening, everything around started revolving. His knees buckled and he collapsed on the road.

The lady who was driving braked the car a few feet away from him. She came out of the car and reached him. A crowd soon gathered. Someone checked his pulse and said, “Madam it looks like he had fainted due to some reason” She asked some people to help her, to put him in her car, and she drove towards the hospital.

After 24 hours passed, Venkat opened his eyes and immediately closed them due to the bright light. He heard a voice calling, “Hello Sir, Are you able to hear me?”

He opened his eyes partially and tried to answer but found his voice was too feeble. But, the doctor heard him and asked, “How are you feeling now, Sir?”

He moved his eyes all around and could make out that he was in a hospital, with many monitors connected to him, making a regular beeping noise. He asked, “Why am I in the hospital?”

The doctor said, “You were found on a road, and a lady brought you here. What is your name, Sir?”

Venkat blinked. He could not recall anything. Everything looked blurred as if his vision had dimmed. He whispered, “Doctor, I cannot remember anything. Even my name or who am I”

The doctor patted him gently and said, “Don’t worry. You had a high-pressure attack and the fact that you had survived it, is a miracle! You may be a bit drowsy, due to the medication. Take rest, and we will see tomorrow, how you feel”

A friendly sister came near and helped him to drink some vegetable soup. Then she gave him some tablet, and before she pulled and adjusted the blanket, he was asleep.

Three days passed. He was now able to move around with someone’s help. But, he could not recall even his name! He felt so strange. Who am I? Won’t my family people be worried and looking for me? But how will I communicate when I don’t know who I am at all? Why there was no ID, or cell phone, or valet when I collapsed? Did someone take it away?

Venkat was in a dark world where there was no present or past! What will he do without any memory? He sat, totally lost.

( To be continued)

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