That was the time Anant got up everyday. The radio clock on his cellphone started singing Ennaatha Solvenungo. He woke with a start. Of all the songs in the universe, why did it have to be this stupid song again? He finished the morning rituals and got into his suit.
Raincoat – Check. ID card that says NDTV – Check. He ran through the checklist in his mind, not even conscious he was doing it. Being a news reporter was a tough job but he loved doing it and besides, someone had to do it, right?
His cellphone rang. ‘Where the hell are you Anant?’ his cameraman shouted at him. ‘Outta the door, heading toward the beach, you already there huh?’, Anant’s reply was in an icy tone. So typical of her, he thought. Gets there 30 minutes early and calls me to spoil my beautiful morning. He caught a taxi from the hotel entrance.
‘Marina Beach ponga’.
‘So hows the weather today?’. Asha was always asking rhetorical questions. Yes, he’d been the ‘weather guy’ at the regional TV channel before going to NDTV, that didnt mean she could ask him about the godammn weather every friggin day!
‘Good morning Asha’, Anant replied.
She took her face out of the camera and grinned at him. His heart was aflutter. How could a beautiful girl like this be not married yet? And what was she doing behind a camera when she could easily be in front of one? Unanswered questions hung all around him, but he couldn’t say anything. ‘What a coward you are, Anant’, he told himself.
‘HQ called. You’re back playing weatherman today Anant. There’s a storm headed this way and we need to interview the corporation officials about the precautions taken’.
Asha gets all the calls from HQ, why don’t I? he wondered.
‘Lets get a shot of the cloudy sky and the bigger than usual waves and get the hell out of here’.
The interviews were boring, tedious and the corporation officials all had more important things to do. These were the times he hated his job. What right did the media have to disturb people anyway?
‘The helicopter’s ready Anant, lets go. We need to be in Bangalore to cover the concert at 5 PM’ Asha’s voice came in clear over the headset. That meant the rotor hadn’t started yet. He had time.
The bike was at the same place as usual. The Bullet’s engine wouldn’t start up on its own, he knew that. Pushing it for a couple of yards would start it. Anant rushed towards the helipad. Would he make it this time? He knew the answer.
He was on Mount Road. Traffic was light as usual. The signal changed to red and he stopped. Would he make it if he ran the red light? He didn’t know. He didn’t want to know. Running the red light would kill the kids who ran out into the road at the last minute. Or would it?
The signal changed to green. Anant speeded up, going through the motions. His cellphone rang. ‘Hello?’, he shouted into the headset. ‘This is Mehra, Bird Maintenance, NDTV HQ. Am I speaking to Anant?’ A virus had gotten into the helicopter systems during the last maintenance check. It would activate today and push extra fuel through to the rotor, blowing it up. But Anant knew that already.
He got to the LIC building. The helipad was on the terrace. The fast lift wouldn’t work. He headed for the service elevator, pressed 14. The lift started rumbling its way up, tears started rolling down Anant’s cheek. Why was this happening to him? Why was he being singled out for this punishment?
The service lift was slow. it reached the fourth floor. His phone rang. He knew who it was without looking at the display. ‘Asha?’ She was breaking up. But he knew what she was saying. ‘The pilot’s started up the rotor, where the hell are you Anant?’. he was tired of replying, but he did anyway.
‘Listen Asha. The copter’s about to blow up, get away from the terrace’
‘What?’ Asha screamed above the noise of the blades. ‘How do you know that? There’s no time for your practical jokes now Anant! Get your ass here’.
She wouldn’t believe him. Not new. He had played too many practical jokes on her and many others. They would never believe him. So he did what he could.
‘Asha, I love you too much to lose you. Please get away from the damn copter, Please!’
‘I am sorry Anant, you broke up, what did you say?’
The elevator reached the 13th floor. And screeched to a halt.
‘Hello? Hello?’ Those were always her last words. Anant sighed. Braced for the impact.
For the 214th time, the copter exploded.
It was like always. A small whump. Followed by a shock wave that knocked Anant out cold. He woke up early this time. The bald doctor was still in the room, flirting with that Malayalee nurse. Noticing Anant awake, the doctor came to his side.
‘You are fine, Mr. Anant. So severe injuries, no concussions either. Just some minor bruises. You can go home, but we recommend you stay here for a day under observation’.
Anant asked the question he knew the answer to. ‘Asha?’
‘I am afraid no one in the copter survived, Mr. Anant. You were lucky to be late I guess. Take it easy now. There are some painkillers here if you want them’
Anant decided not to go to the hotel this time. He had slept in the hospital many times, but always woke up in his hotel room, so how did it make a difference?
He drifted into a drugged sleep. He dreamed of Asha. Of telling her how much he loved her. Of marrying her. Of spending his entire life with her.
He dreamed of a little cottage in the Nilgiris, with so much mist around it, you couldn’t see what lay beyond the mist. Anant was in the cottage, alone. He went out, but couldn’t see anything because of the mist and fog. He dreamt..
That was the time Anant got up everyday. The radio clock on his cellphone started singing. Ennaatha solvenungo, vadu maanga oorudhungo..