These police rooms are weird. I don’t know what they call it. Its not the police station some special place. And I saw them all sitting there. Gunjy looked like he was about to cry. Sanjay sat in a corner with his left leg shaking violently (he did that whenever he felt nervous. You should have seen him during exams, it seemed his leg would fall off). Roshani was weeping already. I could tell from her eyes she’d been crying a lot. Sameera sat in a state of stupor. As if she had received the shock of her life. It was heartbreaking to see them like that. I just wanted to hug them and say it was all right but I too was scared. This was too big a problem and too huge a mess to get out of by having a campfire and drinking.
The shady door opened and this old policeman like man with a little brown moustache and balding head called out, “GUNJAN GARG, come inside. The chief wants to have a word with you. Do the rest of you need anything?”
Gunjan broke down. He was terrified. But reluctantly got up and started walking towards the door. Sanjay got up and put his arm around Gunjan giving him all the support he could muster. He asked the policeman, “Mister, how long will we be held here?”
The man replied, “Son, it could take a lot of time. This aint no piece of cake. If you people get hungry tell that orderly over there to get you some food. Your going to stay here for a long long time. Get comfortable!”
And just like that Gunjan disappeared into the room. I knew they picked him because he’d be the easiest to break. I wish I could be in there with him.
“you are Gunjan Garg?” came a voice.
Quivering Gunjan looked up at the two men seated right in front of him. One man had a friendly old face. The kind he’d smile at if he’d known him. The other had a scar right through his left eye giving him a sinister look.
The nice looking officer smiled at Gunjan and said, “ son, don’t worry. We are just going to ask you a few question about what happened. I am officer Prabhakar Alluhwalia and this is my colleague officer Mahim Apte. Just tell us what exactly happened there on the waterfall?”
Gunjan felt a sudden ease in the way this nice man spoke. And began describing what had happened that fateful morning. They repeated the same protocol with everyone. One after the other that incident was recalled. That dreadful incident that changed everything. Whoever said ‘well begun is half done never saw a terrible ending.
The first night was the best night. I remember it. The first night had to go perfect was what I was thinking. “well begun is half done” my old man had told me right before my final’s for my first year exams. He never stopped preaching. And I loved it about him.
We had been driving for almost three hours and within an hour more we’d reach our destination. Suddenly it started raining. And my semi- bored buddy Gunjan rolled down his window. He stared out at the beauty of everything around and proclaimed, “There is something about monsoons and lonavala. Monsoon for lonavala is like a boob job. It accentuates the beauty that has always been there but never gotten its due.”
All I could do was laugh in response to my buddy. He’d somehow combined mother nature and boobs in one simple line. All the windows in my car were rolled down. Sameera was awake. Roshini had finally set Sanjay free and we were all taking in the beauty nice cold shower. Something in me clicked and I parked my car in a little opening I found while driving through the mountains. All of us got out and started dancing in the rain. My car stereo supplied the music. Gunjan somehow found the beer stashed under the backseat and five of us danced like crazy. After a couple of killer dance moves, a photo and a mad video of how Sameera went wild all of us sat down. When your high and its raining your just in the mood to talk. Gunjan started with his philosophy about life. He started talking about how he’d join Osho’s Ashram. And change the world with his spiritual powers. But we all knew he only wanted to go there because rumours said that you could easily get laid. Spiritually high foreigners put out as easily as drunk ugly one’s do.
But Gunjan’s rambling was interrupted by Roshini, “ SEX, SEX and more SEX.. that’s all you want you foolish little boy ( Gunjan winced twice- he‘d been called a little boy by a small petite girl)! I want love. I want a guy to love me, hold me and just make me the happiest woman on earth. I am unusually small. Have pimple filled cheeks and my hair never grows longer than my shoulders. But I have a good heart. don’t I Sanjay?”
When high Sanjay only nods and smile. Sometimes he laughs hysterically as well. He nodded heavily in response to Roshini’s rhetorical question for two reasons- everyone is scared of a drunk Roshini and Sanjay really believed her.
“then why don’t you love me back? Huh Sanjay! Your nice to me. You listen to me. You bear with every annoying thing I do. You even play that stupid car game with me. You sit with me because you know no one else ever does. You were the first one out of these four to be my friend. You tutored me when I flunked a course. You care but you cant love me. It’s because I am not pretty. Am I? I am just your average nerdy weird girl. Who everyone needs but no one wants. Huh?”
Sanjay’s smile disappeared and he kept staring absently somewhere else. He didn’t say a word. Roshini’s infatuation with Sanjay had begun long back. Sanjay knew it and so did everyone else. Roshini tried hard to make him like her. He liked her. But as a friend. He was protective about her because of her excessive vulnerability. He’d once told me that he cared for her but couldn’t bring himself to love her the way she deserved. I just wish he’d once say it to her face. But he always silently beared her venting and then all of us would pretend as if nothing had happened. We all sat there in silence watching Roshini suffer.
In a perfect world Sanjay would have told Roshini honestly what he needed to. It’d break her heart but eventually she’d come to terms with it. And somewhere down the line they could be friends again. And all would be fine. But its not a perfect world. No one is honest. No one is frank. Everyone pretends to avoid altercations and most importantly to avoid what they fear. So after few awkward minutes of silence Gunjan broke the ice with a song, “ Gum hain kisi ke pyaar mein…” and we all joined in. Roshini sulked for a while but then joined in the celebrations. I could see how sad she was and I wanted to help her but I also wanted to avoid another of her emotional outbursts. So I chose comfort like I always do.
After wasting three good hours bashing professors, toppers and some seniors we crawled back into my red Indica. By midnight we reached our place of residence. A decent two star motel called ‘Jai Mata Di’. We rushed to the roof and had a night of pakodas, hot tea and a view of lonavala no other place could give. And then we slept like babies.
“How can you be so sure it’s not just an accident? What’s the use of taking their statements, Apte?”
“Prabhat, sir gave us orders and we have to follow them. We did interview these kids.”
“Sir, why are we wasting our time on this case. The body is lost. Their statements are pretty much in synch with one another. Then why can we not just shut this case and get done with it?” said officer Prabhat.
“Because we found the body!” said a stern voice that belonged to the chief.
“Yes the body was found by a local while you were interrogating these kids. And that anonymous call led us in the right direction. The body was found and an autopsy was carried out. Apparently this is cold blooded murder. A stab wound was found. They are analyzing it and we’ll soon know the weapon of murder. But this is murder. We need to investigate it. So you have all the statements?”
Apte replied, “ Yes sir. Their stories check out. Each of them has the same story. With a little changes. if one of them did it we need to uncover the motive. I have been going through the tapes and apparently this holiday tape they made has a lot more in it than we expected.”
“Either one of them is lying or all of them are lying. Whichever the case maybe. One person is dead and someone is liable. I think we should interview them together. But I will need to see their statements once. Send me the recorded statements Apte!”
“Yes sir. They are already on your desk.”
“So one of these innocent looking kids is a murderer. Apte, lets get them to start talking!” said Prabhat.
That room was a cold cold place. I could see fear in their eyes. That door had remained closed for hours. We knew that the three officers were discussing us. Our trip. They had confiscated everything. Our videos, our photographs and my red indica. Those videos held everything. Gunjan had made it a point to record every moment of this trip. From the first night to the last moment we were celebrating was held in that camera along with a lot of other things that shouldn’t have been there. And it was just a matter of time when everything would be out in the open. Our lives, our personal secrets and the grudges we held would all come out for the world to see. I knew my old man was disappointed I could just picture him giving me his disappointed nod with his lips pursed tightly together. And it hurt. But I was stuck. We all were stuck.