Monday, July 15, 2013

Bounce : Chapter 04

Seeing Kumar return filled us up with some newborn hope. He was wearing an expressionless face, sort of still reeling from the shock of the whole debacle. He beckoned me and Yetoo to a corner of the hall. We got up and walked to him, wondering what new piece of explosive information he was going to bombard us with.

“I've asked a few people to lend us some money. It’ll be arranged in sometime and then we can leave from here. We would use it as a bail-out”, said Kumar.

“We owe these guys in lakhs Kumar, not hundreds. They won’t let us go till we’ve paid every single penny we owe them,” I shouted.

“I know that. But let’s give it a shot. I’m sure even they’ve come to understand that we don’t have that much money to repay them. Even they will try to milk out as much money as possible”, said Kumar.

“He has a point”, added Yetoo.

“Fine. Let’s go talk to Pankaj”, I said.

Pankaj was sitting in the coffee lounge, his tie loosened, sleeves rolled up. There were 3 empty cups of coffee lying on the table, an ash-tray with half a dozen cigarette butts in it. He was putting the butt of the last smoked cigarette in the ash-tray when we found him there.

“Come my kings and have a seat!” mocked Pankaj.

We looked at each other, sighed and sat down at the table. He ordered coffee for us and lit up another cigarette. Kumar joined him in the smoking as me and Yetoo sat there staring at our steaming cups.

“Pankaj ji, I’ve got in touch with a few people and we will have some money arranged in a couple of hours” said Kumar.

Pankaj’s face suddenly brightened up. “That’s excellent news! How much money are we talking about?” asked Pankaj.

“I think about 50-60 thousand rupees” said Kumar.

“Not bad! And I presume you’ll have the rest of the money arranged by morning” exclaimed Pankaj.

We exchanged anxious looks. We hadn’t thought about the rest of the money! We thought that this would be the end of it. We thought that the hotel’s management would accept the fact that these guys were simply not rich enough to arrange for more than half a lakh rupees.

“This is all I can arrange for now Pankaj ji. Give me 2-3 days’ time and I’ll arrange the rest of the money too” said Kumar.

“I don’t know if my manager would agree Kumar. But let me talk to him” said Pankaj, the glow clearly fading from his face.

We sipped our coffee silently for the next few minutes. No one exchanged a single word. It was Pankaj who finally broke the silence. He started laughing, not a good hearted laugh, but a cynical one. The one that makes you feel a bit more terrified.

“You guys have screwed me royally, you know that right?” asked Pankaj. “If only I would’ve followed all the rules and gone by the book, I might not have been in this situation.”

His words hit us hard. He wasn’t imposing an accusation but merely stating the facts. If he had gone by the book, indeed things wouldn’t have turned out this way. He finished the cigarette, rolled down his sleeve, put the tie back in its place and walked away. We finished our coffee and went back to join the rest of the guys out in the hall.

Pankaj returned after a few minutes and told us that his manager had agreed to accept this “token” and would let us leave. There was just one catch: Kumar would have to stay back. I looked from Kumar to Yetoo. Were the Gods finally paying attention to our feeble prayers?

“What good would it do to you if I stay here? Let all these guys go. And let me also go. I’ll be able to arrange the money if I am out!” said Kumar. There was a note of panic in his voice.

I excused myself to go to the washroom and motioned Yetoo to follow me. We both walked away from Kumar and Pankaj towards the washroom. Inside the washroom, Yetoo and I unanimously agreed that what Pankaj’s manager was asking for was the best thing to do. It was sort of a win-win situation. We all get to go home, and they can keep the main culprit, Kumar, behind.

Though it may seem shallow of us to think this way, we were considering the safety of the rest of the guys much more than that of Kumar. And to be honest, I don’t feel we did anything wrong. I am glad that we made that decision that fateful night. We both walked back to the hall to find Kumar and Pankaj still in conversation.

When we reached them, it was Kumar who spoke up first. “I’ve decided to stay back. You guys can leave with the rest of these guys. I’ll try arranging for money from in here.”

We both were surprised to hear what Kumar was saying. In that moment, I could not decide if I should respect this man for taking such a noble decision or feel that this is what he truly deserved.

“Ok. That’s settled then. The moment the money arrives, all but Kumar can go” concluded Pankaj.

“That sounds good to me. Who’s bringing the money Kumar?” I asked.

“Gujar is on his way. He’ll be here in half an hour I think” said Kumar and walked away to the smoking area. He dragged his feet, looking at the floor and definitely contemplating his future. We let him be with himself and walked back to the hall.

“I hope Gujar arrives soon. I can’t wait to get out of this place!” I exclaimed.

“Are we doing the right thing letting Kumar stay alone here?” asked Yetoo.

“Look brother, this is his mess. It was stupid and generous of us to stay along with him through the night, but I don’t want to be noble and sacrifice my life for his mistakes” I said.

“I know. I get your point, but he is our friend. But even I don’t think we can do anything more than this” said Yetoo.

“Good. And anyways, it’s your birthday today! I want a party!” I said.

“Haha! I don’t think you need any more parties after this night!” said Yetoo.

“Oh yes! I definitely don’t want any more parties! Just getting out of here alive is good enough for me” I said and we both started laughing.

The sky outside was turning to a shade of light blue and birds had started chirping when Gujar arrived on his bike. He had a wrapped packet with him, which he handed to Kumar. He smiled at us and took off. Pankaj, who was standing behind Kumar, took the package and ripped it open. Bundles of notes fell into his hands and he started counting them. I woke up all the guys and told them that we were finally going home. They immediately woke up and walked up to where Kumar and Pankaj were standing.

“This seems ok. You guys can go. Kumar, you need to come with me” said Pankaj as he walked away towards the reception.

The stewards, who had been barring our way till now, let us pass. Yetoo and I waited till all of our friends had mounted their bikes and left from the hotel premises. Finally, we walked back to where Yetoo had parked the bike. We hopped onto it and started driving out of the hotel. I glanced back at the reception to find Kumar looking at us leave. A mixed feeling of guilt and happiness passed me as we turned the corner and were finally out of the main gate. We were free, finally!




Bounce was an event that changed our lives, our relations and our ability to trust people. I spent the next few weeks in a constant fear of being abducted by men in Maruti van. It sounds stupid now, but it was a high possibility back then. I barely stepped out of the hostel room and would not go anywhere alone. It took a trip with cousins to calm my nerves and put the event behind me. We all took our time to move on from the event that had almost completely thrown our lives off-track.

As for Kumar, the hotel authorities let him go later that afternoon. He paid them a couple more thousand rupees and then finally ran away to his native place. I haven’t spoken to him since that fateful night.