“Yes. Okay. Okay, mom, okay I will. I got to go, I will call. Bye.”
She always does that. Every single time. Even before I can start talking, she is yelling at me.
“Is this a time to call? You don’t care about us.”
If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have called.
It’s Jimmy’s birthday today. We are in my car. I am driving. I had somehow managed to shut everybody up while I spoke to mom.
Tanya is in the back with Rohan. They have been “going out” since last week. That’s the phrase they use.
Manisha is sitting next to Tanya. She is unusually quiet today but she should return to her usual self after one or two drinks.
We are at King’s Circle. The signal is red. We wait.
‘Go, go shaawtie, it’s your birthday, we gonna party like it’s your birthday,’ fills the car as the RJ on whatever FM station the car radio is set to plays this song.
We sing along.
Damn that policeman. Shit, we are going to be late now.
Jimmy slips him a crinkled hundred. Free.
Finally, we are at Zenzi.
Adi, Sonia and Vivek have been waiting for us.
Manisha is looking gorgeous. As always. Butterflies in my stomach as she smiles back at me.
Inside, loud music greets us. Some French-African beats that would make no sense to me even if I tried to listen to it. Hot women in tiny clothes are all around us. Several firaangis.
We sit at our table and order our usual.
I don’t like this place too much. This is not my type of music – I am more of a lounge guy - and the food here is almost decent.
But Jimmy likes it. He likes the people who come here.
And of course, alcohol makes everything better. That is pretty much all you need.
Tanya and Rohan hit the dance floor.
Jimmy asks Manisha to dance with him. She smiles and nods. I know she doesn’t want to dance. She doesn’t like it. But it’s his birthday, so she doesn’t refuse.
She didn’t like to drink either. She used to try to talk us out of it.
‘I don’t understand why people drink. Just to get high?’
‘You know you will die sooner and faster because of it...’
But now, she spares us most of the speech. We are too high to listen to her anyway. After sometime, even she stopped caring. ‘We are going to die anyway…’
We have been here for 3 hours now; all of us are super high. All my senses are stimulated, though my vision is a little blurred.
Adi is talking about Red Indians, to no one in particular. Sonia has passed out and is sleeping at the table. Feet curled up.
Jimmy is still drinking,
I think I am passing out too.
I remember Navya, my cute 8-year-old neighbour. She is awesome.
She comes to our house daily. Sometimes, she asks me to play doll with her. I am a policeman and she is a doctor. I fight criminals and she treats my injuries.
Someone is flashing light into my eyes.
Yes, I had passed out.
I blink and open my eyes and look at my watch.
It’s 3.30 am.
“I think we should leave.”
Adi is still talking about Red Indians.
I can’t walk properly. My legs are trembling. My eyes are watery.
I get inside the car. Drink some water. Eat mints.
Yes, I can drive.
I put it in reverse and almost hit an SUV behind me.
It’s okay. I can drive.
I am on the road now. Speeding. 80 km/hour. No traffic. It’s easy.
I look at Jimmy next to me. He is resting his head on the window. Manisha is sleeping in the back.
I look ahead.
And brake hard.
I hear tires screeching; the car crashes into a wall.
My head hits the steering wheel.
Blood. My blood.
I close my eyes. I see mom.
‘I told you, don’t do it, you don’t listen to me. You never listen to me.’
I see Navya. She is waving at me.
‘You want to play doll? I am the doctor. Don’t worry, I will treat you.’
There is darkness.