The empty Kingfisher bottle fell into the lake with an unenthusiastic plop. Ramesh tried to focus on the ripples. It hurt his eyes and he felt his head swirl. His stomach heaved. He gave in to the nausea and puked out the pale-yellow beer and the dirty orange kebabs he had eaten just an hour ago. The touch-me-nots shrivelled in distaste. The sight made his stomach heave again. But this time he retched dryly, and exhausted, fell down on the grass. The thorns from the wild rose bushes nearby grazed and scratched his arms. He bled.
The sight of blood made him tear up. ‘I am a good man’, he told himself. ‘I had promised Sukanya I would never hang out with Chandru and go drinking in the afternoons again. That was her only condition.’ He had been so happy just hours ago. What would Sukanya do now? She would definitely have to marry Sunder, the rich shopkeeper from Salem, as her parents wanted.
It was all Chandru’s fault. He couldn’t think anymore. The sun angled itself right over his eyes and his throbbing head hurt. “I am a good man”, he said aloud. “Chandru, sule maga” he tried to roar, but his voice was hoarse after the dry retching. No one could hear him.
There was no one to hear him as well. The lake was well beyond city limits. It was polluted and stank. But it was a great place for the boys from Reddy college to hang out at. They would get on their Yamahas and ride, doing wheelies at Iblur. Nothing could faze these boys on these jaunts.
But Ramesh didn’t really belong with them. It was Chandru who had insisted. Chandru who had said they had to celebrate Sukanya finally saying yes to him. “Party, maga.” He had said. And it was Chandru who had bought the beers. They loaded the bottles into his I ❤ NY backpack and raced to the lake at Sarjapur. He had barely remembered the ride. He had been so happy. It didn’t even strike him as strange that Chandru had not invited Ramareddy and Harish. Now it all made sense.
Now he knew.
He had learnt what was in Chandru’s heart too late.
“Maga, share, madona.” He had said after they had finished the second bottle of Kingfisher. And Ramesh had known looking into Chandru’s eyes and his rat face that he had meant more than the beers. He had meant Sukanya.
It was all over in an instant. And here he was still stumbling around the stinking lake.
“I am a good man,” Ramesh sobbed at the wild rose bush.
(Written while working with the BWW Short Fiction students for the brief: Describe a lake as seen by a young man who has just committed murder. Do not mention the murder.)
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