She sat in the Café Coffee Day (CCD) sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay inside her handbag.
It was the afternoon of a hot summer month of July. Monsoon, as usual, was going to arrive late, as per the forecast. Outside, it was warm enough to melt even the hardest of stones, while in the Café it was cool. Yet, Prerna was sweating. She knew that inadvertently she had committed, what easily can fall in the category of a Crime. She was waiting for her friends from her college, her crime partners. She peeped through the corner of her pupils and observed that most of the people around were busy chatting with each other, placing orders or paying bills. A second later, she felt that everyone was gazing at her probably.
She was worried about the instrument laid in front of her. It was only five minutes that she had arrived there, but that seemed to be a hell lot of time, and the wait was getting prolonged.
A final-year student of the Vardhaman Medical Collage, VMC as they used to call it, otherwise loved to hop in to the Café, newly opened in Sangam PVR Complex. It generally used to take them fifteen minutes to reach there from VMC. Hence, even the waiters knew her and without waiting for her to place the order for her favorite Cappuccino, were already on the job for preparing it.
Today, however it was different. She had neither ordered anything nor was she sitting on HER usual table in the interiors. She was rather sitting on one of the tables facing the main entrance, so that she could have a full view of the export-import of people taking place from inside to the outside and vice versa across the Café gate.
“What am I going to do now?” she thought hard, as she had never imagined even in the wildest of her dreams that the plan could go so wrong. “After all, even I was ragged. At least, we did not made her do, what I had to go through.” she murmured.
She recalled how her seniors had told her to pick up a senior and to entice him. She did as was instructed hoping that the torture for her and the fun for seniors, might end with picking up a senior. However, there was something more in store for her. The senior told her to go out and buy a bottle of whiskey for him from the nearby medicine shop which secretly keeps the material on the request of VMC Students and sells it only to them under the disguise of “behoshi ki dawai”. While bringing it inside the premises of the college, thousands of thoughts crossed her mind, hoping blissfully that she might be checked by some efficient guard and she is caught, and is made to come out with the truth by the Authorities. But, she was not checked at all. She then kept her fingers crossed praying that this might be the end of it.
However, her ordeal was far from coming to an end. She was then, told to offer a glass to the senior and to dance like a bar girl. The horror continued till the time she was being molested and may had continued further had the Professor of Medicine erroneously not made an entry into the scenario. All her peers and seniors were a witness to the act, but none turned up to provide witness when she complained to the Principal.
She had cried her heart out that day, and the next day and the days to come. She dared not inform her parents who were already facing a lot of problems both financially as well as emotionally as her mother was in the last stage of Cancer.
Days passed, without her mother, and she did not really realize when life turned her into a ragger, from a timid little girl who was ragged so brutally once.
Life had come a full circle when she along with her peers decided to have some MED FUN (short for Fun for Medical Students) with the newcomers. After all, they were all wannabe Doctors, that is why, they were in VMC. She had become the leader of her gang, and had started firmly believing in “What’s the harm in getting to know your juniors?”
The newcomers had joined and they were celebrating “Fresher’s Day” or “FUTCHA’s” as it was called in their local lingo. This celebration was a kind of welcome party given by the seniors to the new comers. The hidden agenda, though, was to organize the official ragging party. The authorities including the Lecturers, Dean, Admin, all knew about it. However, none dared to take any action to stop it. The only precaution they had taken was to install a Police Patrolling Party inside the premises of the college. Even the Police knew about the welcome party, but being aware of the student power, they used to act only on receiving a complaint.
The party began, and after initial round of introductions, the ceremony to rag the newcomers was commenced. One by one, freshers were called and were forced to answer indecent questions or made to do something which they never wanted to do. All this was happening inside the closed doors of the Auditorium and the Authorities and the Police were compelled to ignore such incidents.
One young girl, who was trying to hide herself behind a tall guy, could not hide herself though from the shrewd eyes of Prerna. She called the girl in the front, and asked her name.
“Kusum”, she said timidly. Suddenly, Prerna had reminiscences from the past when she took a careful glance at her wet eyes. “Am I imagining it, or is it actually happening? She looks just as tender and fragile as me.”, thought Prerna, but in a fraction of a second immediately brushed aside her thoughts and got back to her usual hardened self.
“So Kusum, why do you want to become a Doctor?” she asked.
“Hmm………” Kusum thought about it and took longer that the time that should have been taken to answer such a simple question. This irritated Prerna further.
“I don’t know, may be because my parents want it to be that way.” Kusum finally managed to reply.
So you are a Baby, and now the baby will show us how to perform an Autopsy.” announced Prerna and the catch was out. Yes, this was their big plan, the plan of the Day. They had secretly caught hold of a dead body from the Hospitals mortuary, and Kusum was chosen as the “Bakra of the Year.”
She was given a knife. The dead body of a man lay in front of her.
“I can’t do it”, said Kusum instantly.
“Baby, no one can refuse.” said a senior Sunny. Kusum’s wet eyes had already started raining. She was not even willing to hold the knife in her hands, leave alone performing a full-fledged autopsy. The seniors started howling and Kusum was snubbed at. She really felt like running away from the scene. Had she had a chance to escape, or may be to ground herself like Sita, she would have done that, at that very moment. “I had never wanted to become a doctor, and now I am sure of it. How can the Doctors be so brutal? Rather than giving them a Hippocratic Oath, they should first be given an Emotional oath, an oath to be compassionate and kind towards others.” Kusum thought.
“What are you doing?” Prerna got up from where she sat on the table like a Gang Leader waiting for the amusements to begin. Prerna held Kusum’s hand, placed the knife in it, and tightened her own grip on her hand. She then, forced Kusum’s hand on the dead man’s body. While Kusum’s trembling hand was hanging in the air just above the chest of the dead man which had stitch marks on it, indicating that an Autopsy had already been performed on him, Prerna again gripped and forced her hand to pierce through his chest.
At that very moment, two things happened simultaneously, leading to a tumultuous situation.
Blood oozed out from the body. It was probably a fresh body. The knife when came out of the body also had blood on it. Kusum’s hands slipped from the knife. She just could neither absorb the sight of blood nor the situation she was into and passed out immediately falling with a loud “Thud”, loud enough to silence everybody present in the room.
All of them, the raggers and the freshers, got scared and the crowd of close to 150 wannabe Doctors themselves became Patients of FEAR.
What followed was a run away by Prerna and her gang, while others stood there like statues and the entry of two Policemen. The reason for the sudden entry of Police could not really be ascertained, it could be because they saw Prerna and her gang running out profusely or maybe it was because they heard the noises now coming out from the Big Auditorium Door.
The gang decided to scatter themselves and to meet an hour later at their usual meet point.
Prerna could not really understand where to go, hence ran straight to their meet point, the Café Coffee Day in RK Puram. She sat there with the blood stained knife covered with her blue scarf kept in front of her thinking when did she caught hold of the knife and why did she run away with it. “Probably, I was too terrified”, she thought while waiting for her friends to rescue her.
Prerna knew that she has screwed her life now, but she felt sorry for Kusum too. She had, not even in the wildest of her dreams, thought that what seems to be simple fun to them could lead to such a radical situation. She could not gather enough courage to look beyond herself as even without looking at others around, she knew now, that everyone was staring at her. With trembling hands, she held the Coffee mug brought to her by the waiter with inquisitive eyes, as if wanting to know the exact gossip detail. Before she could even take her first sip, she saw two lady constables outside the café. They were probably searching something or may be looking for someone in the hideout. The drops of sweat rolled out from her face onto the coffee mug. “Shit! They are here now. They will never leave me after all that I have done.”
“So you were hiding here.” Prerna heard and froze with her eyes closed, and could hear herself saying, “Please leave me, I have done nothing. I am sorry, I never meant to hurt her.” Suddenly, she could hear somebody else mincing the same words too. The sound kept on going further away from her. When she dared to open her eyes, she saw another lady being dragged away by her arm by the lady Police constables. She found herself still quivering with fear.
X X X
All of a sudden, she opened her eyes and saw her father trying to wake her up. He was holding her by her arm, when he saw her crying and pleading, “Please leave me, I have done nothing. I am sorry, I never meant to hurt her.”
“Prerna, what is it, please get up.” said her father.
She got up hastily and realized that it is a dream after all. Her father hugged her and asked her what the matter was. “Nothing Daddy, was just missing Mummy.” she said while still sobbing silently. She rubbed her eyes and thought about her dream.
Just like the walls of her room, even the picture of her Mother mounted on the wall of her room was caught up in dust, as if they have never been cleaned; as if over the years, Prerna never had the inclination to look at her mother’s picture. Probably she was just too bitter, for her mother had left her untimely, when she needed her the most. The fact that she could not share with her Mother, her closest pal, the excruciating pain which she had gone through when she was ragged despicably, had caused a black hole deep inside her heart, and hardened her so much so that she had stopped the entry of emotions in her system. The night’s dream though had played the role of a ‘Wake up Call’ for sure.
She quickly got ready for her Medical College, and went near her Mother’s picture on the wall of her bedroom. “I promise Mummy, I will turn a new leaf; I will become your Prerna again; one who is an inspiration for others to imbibe, which is why you named me so.” At that very moment, it started raining, as if even the God was pleased enough by the change in Prerna that as usual it decided to defy the Met Department’s predictions.
It was the first day of her fourth and the final year of her studies in VMC. That very day, she enrolled herself to become the student Volunteer in the Anti-Ragging Squad.
X X X