I had come back from the meeting early.
The chest pain was bothering me a little. The hands felt a little numb. I couldn't understand why would my physical self ail me so much, when everything seemed all right in the external hemisphere. The merger had been successful. My clients were happy, the boss even happier. I ordered room service for a small dinner and lay down on the hotel bed. I'd thought of calling Kruti, but those were different timezones we were in, and didn't want to ruin her sleep. I thought of calling Vinny, my son. But then he must have been out partying and i wanted to save him the embarrassment of receiving a call from his Dad at 2am, while he must be high and happy with his friends.
2 more days, and i would be back home, i said to myself. Must go for a check-up this time. Must quit smoking. Hell, must go for a holiday if possible...
I don't remember dozing off really (as if anybody does!!). But what woke me up was a shrill noise. A noise i had never heard before, a noise that made my ears go numb and i couldn't pick up any external sounds after that. My chest pained again, this time with a stubbornness. I clutched my heart with both hands...and i saw a figure in front of me. Certainly not the room service, i thought.
The vision cleared and i found a person in black and yellow robes sitting besides me on my bed. He looked aged, he looked wise and seemed to exude an eerie charm from his hollow eyes.
I felt cold. Not the sort of cold, that you feel on a winter night, a deep setting chill, that seemed to arise in me from within.
Excuse me, Who are you?
Me ? why dont you take a wild guess ?
I dont know, you certainly dont look like room service !!
The man lent a hollow laugh...Room service !! ?Well, i certainly have been confused for worser professions, but no..i'm afraid, your guess isn't correct !!
Did you sneak into my room ?
I dont sneak into rooms, Avinash, i sneak into life. Now before you keep straining your already weaker self, i will tell you who i am. I am your end.
Is this some kind of a joke? Do i know you at all? Please lets get rid of this nuisance, i really am in a bad condition to entertain reality TV goofers spoiling my sleep.
OK, then let me make it more "REAL" and evident for you. With these words, the man did something i could neither explain, comprehend or disbelieve. He changed his form into 5 of the most eerie visions i have ever experienced. The Satan, The Devil, Death, God...whatever it was....it was here !! And it was staring me in my face !!
What do you want from me? I was clutching the blanket now.
He had returned to his former self by now. "I didn't have a choice Avinash, but I had to make you believe me. A lot of people i meet pass away after this exercise is done, making my work much easier. But you are a brave man i must say.
What do you want ? I repeated
Well, what can i want ? I obviously havent come here to explain the new promotional campaign we have organised for a new health plan i would want you to invest into !! He smirked.
I have come for you, my friend. Your life. Lets depart...
What? Me? Now ? Why?
Well, so many questions... i wont want to answer all of them...but all i can say is It's time !!
How can you say that ? I just have a mild chest pain, I am 48 and i have a lot to do..what about my family?
The man/Death had a serious expression when he said this to me - "I, as you can see, do not wear a watch, my friend. I could be as delayed and as alarmingly early as you could possibly imagine. Think of your wife's great grand dad or your cousin's newly born. Tell me, would i have an answer if they asked me the same question ?
Why now.......? tears wet my cheek. There was so much still remaining to be done. I had to complete my book, i had to reach the CEO's post, a task i had set for myself in the next 3 years, i had to go for that Greek holiday i had so eagerly awaited, i had to see my son graduate from IIM-A, i had to see him get married, have children and Kruti, how can i drift away from her. She'd been my soul mate for the last 20 years. My mom, how would she feel..what about my friends...??? Too many questions....
It seemed as if he was looking right through me.
I know it's hard. Believe me, contrary to my work, i have the deepest sense of sympathy you would ever experience.
"I was there, when you had an inkling of a thought of jumping off the cliff, when Kavita dumped you in the school picnic. I was there, when you were staring emptily at the ceiling fan, having been unable to make it to the IITs. I was even there when you were speeding off at a 110kmph on your motorbike on the highway and managed to escape the truck by half an inch. I was there when you had lost your first job and thought your career was over and were walking drunk on the empty railway tracks near your rented flat."
I was there Avi, I was there...all the time....I never asked you this question, "Why don't i get you now??"
Because the strangest thing this world shall ever experience is - Time. You might try to capture it in a clock, in calendars, in years...but you shall be clueless as to how finite or infinite it can possibly be.
Therefore my friend, i tell you now, "It's time"
"It's time" - I had heard this so many times, from mom, trying to wake me up early, during the ending bells of examinations, from girlfriends wanting to move on, from bosses asking for end of year reports..... and all of that became so vague in comparison to what this person told me. I was dying. It was going to be over. I wanted it to end with happy thoughts...i started visualizing my life from as early as i could remember. Dad's cricket sessions, the university medal, the new motorbike on the day of the results, the first kiss with Sarah, my first paycheck, Kruti's face when i first met her, our awkward honeymoon in Shimla, Vinny, his tiny self in my hands in the maternity room, the hug he gave me on our holiday on top of the Eiffel tower, while shouting "My Daddy's the besttttttt".........The lights started to fade. They will be fine...God, bless them with a happy life.....
Image courtesy: Camille on Death Bed, by Monet