As Raghav’s car entered Mumbai crossing the Vashi flyover, he couldn’t help but notice that so much had changed, and also how so much still hadn’t. They used to stay in Chembur, along with his grandparents. He was very young when both his grandparents passed away. Probably a little too young to remember any of it. He had several childhood memories sprinkled all over Mumbai. Coming back here after so many years was like opening a box full of old toys, every one triggering a trip back in time.
He kept going back to that day in his mind.
He kept crying hugging Piyana Mashi (aunt) for hours. She held him and sat in the corner of that room. As much as she tried to take him away, Raghav just wouldn’t leave the room. May be he was hoping for a miracle. May be his Ma would just open her eyes one more time, and it will be all OK. It didn’t. Police and Raghav’s Uncle reached almost at the same time. There was a considerable crowd outside the flat by the time they reached. Some who had known Raghav and his family over the years, some who were just looking for gossip, but mostly everyone was curious. Chatter in the room kept repeating itself in a loop like a broken record.
“Where is Rohit? Oh my god! How come? What are the odds of that? What will happen to this poor boy? Was Sohini having marital trouble? Why did she do this? I met her just the other day, she seemed so normal…
Raghav blocked everything out. After a while, all of the commotion, police, relatives, his dad’s friends, his mother’s colleagues; everyone ceased to exist. He had blocked all of them out. He just kept looking at his mother blankly. Too surprised to think why or for that matter too shocked to think what next. Rohit’s remains reached them the day after. By the time they reached the crematorium, Raghav had reached a state of dazed disbelief. It was all so surreal to him. When he pushed the trolley in the chimney and saw his parent’s body go over the burning oven, was the time he realised that the time for miracles was over. It was real, and they weren’t coming back. Next few days were a blur. His maternal uncle and aunt adopted him. Coincidentally they were shifting to US the very next month. Raghav moved with them.
In fact moving to US was already on cards for Rohit and Sohini and hence most of Raghav’s paper works were already ready. It was towards the end of the year 2000, when Sohini was selected by a research team in MIT to join them. Sohini was a Senior Scientist with BARC, and her field of research was around producing electricity from Thorium; a dream which Indian scientific fraternity had been dreaming for decades. It would have been a once in a lifetime opportunity for Sohini. Realising this Rohit started scouting for jobs which allowed him to move to US with her. It was then that he got a job with Infosys as a project lead for their client based in Boston. Rohit’s 10 years of experience with Tata Motors helped him get it. While he was supposed to move out in early 2001, his project got delayed, which is when he had to start handling another Infosys client – Bharat Forge, and had to shift to Pune in the interim. As much as they tried not to be a long distance couple, in the end fate had something else in store after all. Raghav hated this of course, but Rohit tried to bribe him through the weekends to earn his absence over the weekdays.
It took Raghav long hours of counselling and a very loving uncle and aunt to not get lost in abyss of negativity. Piyana and Pradip didn’t have their own kid, and that in way helped them focus their love and affection on Raghav only. Once they moved to New Jersey, they soon became part of the NRI community there, and before Raghav knew a heavy dose of Bengali culture came his way in most unexpected of places. You can take a Bengali out of Bengal, however never the Bengal out of a Bengali. And it all helped in a way. Raghav could find his feet in his mother’s side of culture, and closely knit circle helped him deal with many issues which a kid of his age would have otherwise faced in a completely new country.
Pradip had been planning to sell Raghav’s parent’s flat in chembur for a while now. But that meant that Raghav would need to travel back to Mumbai. He wasn’t sure, if Raghav was ready for it. Eventually it was Raghav who asked Pradip on his 25th birthday if he could go see India on his own. Pradip was in touch with Rohit’s old friend from college who lived in Mumbai and told him about Raghav’s trip. He was nervous about Raghav going about on his own and he kept hoping that his brief encounter with his past will be all about revisiting his childhood years and not that day!
Raghav just couldn’t stop himself from thinking about his India trip. He had been thinking about it for months. But more so after he got that call.
“Is this Raghav Verma?”
Yes, this is Raghav Bose Verma. Who is this?
“Hi Raghav, You wouldn’t know me, but I knew your parents, at least your father.”
“Listen, I don’t have much time. However if you want to find out the truth behind your parent’s death, come meet me in Pune. I know you are travelling to Mumbai day after. It’s a short flight from there. And yes, if you tell your Uncle about this call, he will do everything in his power to convince you otherwise. So it’s really up to you. What do you value more? Truth or peace of mind?
Raghav was too shocked to react. “How do I find you”, he finally managed to say.
“I will message you the details. Raghav it’s important we meet, so don’t disappoint me”
To be continued…