As the clouds collided with each other and as droplets the size of bullets poured down in Kuvempunagar, Mysuru, Kshitij drove his Corolla towards the pavement of his house and saw a man lying at gate. The man was all drenched and seemed to be out of his senses. He was resting his head against a pillar at the gate and Kshitij knew not what he was supposed to do.
Kshitij N. Aravind kept the engine running still, as the light from the car blazed against the stranger’s sullied face. The perplexed man behind the wheel soon picked up his iPhone from the dock in front of him and called his father, Dr. Arvind Narayanan. The doctor’s phone buzzed a few times, however, it went unanswered.
Meanwhile, the stranger at the gate severely coughed, as Kshitij looked at him with fear, for he couldn’t deduced if the squatter was drunk or was he even of a sane mind.
Oh! What do I do! Kshitij thought, as he slid open his phone open again and called his father. Again, the phone went answered. ‘Damn it!’ yelled the man who was oft teased of possessing the loudest and the most shrill voice, but his voice couldn’t reach the stranger’s ears, for it was ironically reduced into a trivial squeak owing to the banging of the beads of rain against the metal enclosure of the car. The rain really did muffle any sound at all that would have otherwise been heard in great detail.
In the meantime, the stranger shielded his eyes against the light with his left hand, as he murmured “help” repeatedly and by the show of his other hand, asked the man in the car to stop the light.
Kshitij saw the squatter for a few seconds and then on seeing him break into a fit of cough again, he gave up his guard and turned the engine off. He then sat inside quietly for another couple of seconds and eventually opened the door, hesitantly. The darkness of the night consumed the landscape and turned everything in sight into shades of grey.
The stranger clasped his hands together as a sign of praying and thanked Kshitij. However, Kshitij did not care to return the salutation. He was quick to ram the car door shut and run inside the house through another gate adjacent to the one on which the stranger was currently leaning.
Kshitij, the 22-year-old student of engineering from SJCE Mysore, had just finished his final examination and was keen on starting up his own company. He was out everyday working on his idea and meeting tens of people, but he absolutely had no intention of even enquiring of the man at his gate as to what his problem was.
The bewildered 22-year old quickly entered the house and locked the door shut behind him. His heart was pounding like that of a rat trapped inside a blistering bastille and he was drawing breath like a feverish dragon. He hurriedly threw his car key on the couch, kicked his shoes off and climbed upstairs to his room.
The stranger at the gate soon fell on his face and thence remained motionless. He breathed hard and he felt like throwing up, but he didn’t really have the strength to sit up, not did he have the vigor to find a place where he could shield himself from the hammering rain. So, like a man who had nothing to lose and whose only thought of peace was death, he just let the rain hit him and wash his spirit away, bit by bit until a point where there remained nothing but flesh and bones.
Inside, Kshitij undressed and put on a pair of clean garments. He brushed his hair with a nice towel and he walked towards a window in his room that faced the street from whence he had entered the house. As he dried his wet hairs, he saw the stranger still lying motionless at the gate and he, like before, didn’t want to do anything about it. He wasn’t even scared now. He was within the solid confines of his home where nobody could get a hold of him.
The tall, dark man of twenty-two drew the curtains shut and turned his computer on. He put on a pair of socks and then stretched his legs straight on the table, as he played the latest episode of the Game of Thrones. He watched it for about five minutes, the thought of the stranger relentlessly lingering at the hind of his mind.
The iPhone was picked up again and a call was placed to the doctor again. Again, there was no answer.
That man out there at the gate…he must be really cold and…but he looks real creepy. I don’t think I should let him inside the house, should I? Oh no, no. I don’t think letting a total stranger in at this hour is such a great idea. Maybe I’ll just open the gate and come back inside. He can come inside the compound if he’d like and sleep under the parapet. Yeah…that’ll keep him from getting hypothermia. Okay…Yes, I’ll do that…
Kshitij paused the episode of GOT and ran downstairs. He ran down two flights of stairs as fast his legs could carry him and then, as he reached the door, the legs contemplated the state of his mind and accordingly, it slowed down again.
The man in striped pajamas quietly opened the door, making sure that he pulled the latch open as nimbly and as quietly as a mouse. Clothes will get all wet again, he thought, but he firmly stepped outside. He stood under the parapet for a couple of seconds and then he quickly rushed to the gate, undid the latch, pulled the gate open and rushed back to the place from whence he had stepped into the rain again.
The gate rammed against a tree truck and gave out a loud pang, but the stranger didn’t move an inch. Kshitij patiently stood under the parapet, letting his socks get wet, and waited for the squatter to open his eyes see him, but in vain. ‘Hey! You! Open your eyes! Come in here!’ yelled Kshitij at the top of his voice, but the stranger didn’t move an inch.
What do I do? He is clearly in pain…he is hurt I presume. Or is he so drunk or drugged that he can’t even make sense of anything that is happening around him? Oh well, whatever it might be, I don’t think he has the strength to hurt me even if he wanted to. Even if he did try to get hold of me, I can send him down crashing…I wish he just wouldn’t throw up on me…Oh God! Couldn’t this man have fallen at someone else’s doorstep?!
Kshitij stood and started at the stranger for a minute and observed that the man was a rock in disguise. So he quickly went inside, grabbed a jacket, a hat and a pair of gloves. He covered himself with all the needed accessories and then he sprinted towards the gate. He made sure that he wasn’t the silent mouse anymore. ‘Hey you, get up!’ Kshitij kept saying, as his legs stamped against the stone pathway. If he wakes up before I get near him, then I will run back, Kshitij said to himself, as he inched closer to the stranger.
The man-with-a-pair…of-cycling-gloves now stood just a foot from the stranger. ‘Hey, get up!’ repeated Kshitij, again, in vain. Kshitij sighed with disgust and he hastily took the man’s hands in his gloved ones and dragged him inside the gate. Almost there, just a little bit more…almost done…Kshitij assured himself, as he dragged the stranger towards the parapet.
Eleven seconds hence, they went under the concrete canopy, away from rain and certainly without the slightest trace of any vomit or blood. Kshitij soon let go of the man and rushed back inside the house. His heart pounding, he locked the door shut and ran into the kitchen, removing his jacket, hat and gloves.
That was good, Kshitij, that was really nice of you, thought the brave young man, as he fixed himself a steamy cup of coffee and some cookies. He eventually picked his snack and climbed up the stairs to his bedroom and resumed watching the GOT. However still, he couldn’t completely shut the images of the stranger.
As he sipped on his hot cup of coffee, he heard the man cough repeatedly. Irked, Kshitij pulled open a drawer on the table in front of him and pulled out his headphones. He plugged it in his computer and listened to Tryion Lannister and Lord Varys.
Nothing can haunt a man more than his conscience. No matter how much Kshitij tried to forget about the stranger, he could still think of the coughing. The voice in his head told him that a fellow human was in terrible pain, and the centers of imagination and of paranoia in his brain painted a fantastic picture of the man spitting blood, choking on his own vomit and dying at his doorstep. Oh the human mind! What a wonderful place for building castles so brittle and illusory, but still appearing so concrete and real.
Kshitij was thus forced by his own conscience to once again pause the show and run downstairs. Annoyed, he made another cup of coffee and poured it into a nice porcelain glass. He then picked up two cookies and quietly walked halfway towards the door, when he realized that the porcelain cup wasn’t apt to dispose of to a complete stranger. So he went inside the storeroom and dug out a plastic cup and during his search, he also found an old, torn blanket at a corner with other such clothes and paper. Probably his father had meant to give it at the yard, but because of his really busy schedule, forgot all about it. Forget disposing of the rags, sometimes he doesn’t even remember my existing! Kshitij told to the air around him, as he went about surveying the contents of the bag of items at the corner.
In under a minute, Kshitiji picked up a blanket and a couple of other pieces of cloth and transferred the coffee from the porcelain cup to the plastic. He then quietly walked towards the door, opened the window next to it and placed the contents in his hand on the floor outside.
That’s it. You can go upstairs now.