“You promised you would get it. I worked so hard. I never ask you for anything, this is just not fair, baba,” Rishabh said to his father. “We are not saying we won’t get it, just wait for a little while longer. In a month you turn 18, and then we promise we will,” said Rishabh’s father for the umpteenth time. Rishabh was promised a motorbike if he fared well in his exams and he had, he had secured a distinction in his exams and was the top in his class. Not only had he done exceedingly well in his exams but he had also gone on to secure a medical seat for himself at AIIMS on his own merit without his parents having to pay any donation. Rishabh was truly a gifted child. He worked hard and therefore his demand for the motorbike was completely legit.
When most other kids his age were spending money partying and impressing girls, Rishabh would be found spending his time and money in book shops or animal shelters. He was most passionate about both these things. His father, Ramesh, worked in an oil rig and spent a good 8 months away from home. Usha, his mother worked as an administrator in one of the leading hospitals in the city. He was unlike what most people said about single kids. He was the antithesis of the notion people held of single kids; spoilt, bratty, brash.
“How is a month going to make a difference, Ramesh? Why don’t you take him to the showroom this weekend and let him choose the bike he wants,” said Usha. “He has kept his end of the deal. Now it is our turn,” she went on. “ I am not saying I am not going to get it, Usha. Just want him to wait until he turns 18. That’s all. Don’t want him riding a bike before that,” said Ramesh. Rishabh who was passing by their room caught to that last sentence as he crossed their room and said, “baba, is that why you are asking me to wait?” “Come in, Rishabh,” said Ramesh. “Baba, you are going to leave in two weeks time and I want you to be with me when I get the bike, and when I take my first ride in it. Please let’s go this weekend and get it,” he said looking like a little puppy that you just couldn’t say no to. Usha stood in a corner smiling. She knew only too well that Ramesh would eventually say yes and take Rishabh to the showroom.
“Aai, Rahul is celebrating his birthday at this new place called Raasta. Can I go?” asked Rishabh when his parents were having their evening tea. “How come you ask only Aai permission for all this? What about asking me?” Ramesh asked, putting on his stern voice. “ Baba, do I have your permission to go for Rahul’s birthday treat tonight?” Rishabh asked, and they all burst out laughing. “Don’t be too late and make sure someone is dropping you home. Where is this Raasta? And what kind of name is Raasta?” Usha said. “We are old now, Usha. This new generation and their lingo is too much for us, “ said Ramesh. “Neither of you is old, please don’t take off on a tangent now,” said Rishabh smiling at his parents. “Baba, you will have drop me there by 8 this evening. This place is on M.G. Road,” said Rishabh. “That is far, Rishabh. How will you find your way back? I can wait and drive you back home,” said Ramesh.” No, no. Rahul’s birthday is only tomorrow technically. So we will be there until after 12 for sure. I will get one of the guys with a driver to drop me home Baba, don’t worry about that. Just need to be dropped there,” he said.
Rahul’s party was not just a celebration of his birthday but also a celebration of everyone moving into college. Post this big party, everyone was going to go their way, some were moving abroad, some to other states and some pursuing different vocations. This party was also a ‘coming-of-age’ sort of party and many of them were eager to have their first taste of alcohol and even some weed that Rahul had managed to score from some seniors. Rishabh knew that once he stepped into AIIMS his life as he knew it would change forever. For him, Rahul’s party was a chance to gather memories to last a lifetime. He was looking forward to it. “Have a good time Rishabh. Send Aai a message when you leave from here. you know she will not sleep until you come home anyway,” Ramesh said as he dropped Rishabh off at Raasta. “Yes Baba. Don’t worry. I will.” he said.
The party was a riot. By midnight everyone was drunk, alcohol was free flowing, emotions running high, everyone was getting sentimental about leaving each other and going their way. Rishabh was the only one who sane and was enjoying all the gimmicks the alcohol was leading to. Ramesh’s physical absence in their lives had led Rishabh to grow up too fast too soon. he took on the role of the man of the house and fulfilled it to the ’t’. He was a teetotaller and Rahul’s party that evening wasn’t going to change that.
The cake was brought out and a very drunk group sang “Happy birthday” loudly. The cake was cut, smashed, eaten, and eventually polished off. By 2.00 am, everyone at Rahul’s party was staggering towards the door ready to leave. Rahul who was gifted a bike for his birthday was insisting on riding it back home. “I can, I can do it,” he was saying to Archana.
Archana was Rahul’s girlfriend and the only other person besides Rishabh who wasn’t drunk that night at the party. She was trying to make sense of what Rahul was saying, all the while convincing him to not get on the bike and drive home. “Rishabh, you need to help me here. He wants to ride the bike when he cannot even stand for a second,” she said. “Rahul, dude. Let me ride the bike. Why don’t you get into the car and get home,” Rishabh said to Rahul. “Nooooooooo. It’s my bike. I can ride it. Archana will sit with me and I can ride it,” Rahul said loudly. “It’s my happy birthday. It’s my birthday. I can do it,” even louder this time. Rishabh then had to physically have him sit in the car and ask the driver to start the car. “You go with him in the car, I will follow in the bike,” he said to Archana. She nodded and mouthed a thank you as she got in to the car and shut the door.
‘Aai I am leaving from Raasta now. Will see you at home soon. Don’t worry. Love.’
Usha’s phone beeped a second later at 2:32 a.m with the text from Rishabh. She smiled and turned her bed-side light off before snuggling into Ramesh. “Got the message?” Ramesh asked groggily. “ Yes,” she said smiling. “go to sleep now.” she said closing her eyes.
It was over within seconds. One second Archana saw the truck before her and the next second she saw the bike go under it. The police reports said the truck driver was drunk. Rishabh’s blood reports came back absolutely clean. Rishabh was declared dead on the spot; the truck driver got away with some minor scratches on his arms and forehead. Fate? What fate? Whose fate?