This story contain no graphic scenes of sex
This story contain no graphic scenes of sex
ALL STANDARD DISCLAIMERS APPLY
On 29th September, another Saturday, a month and four days after the night of terror, and three days after his request to Dr. Ramchandra, Neeladri led a very confused young man to his car.
His work was done by 5 pm, and after completing the formalities, they left the hospital. 'Packing' wasn't a problem, since the young man was wearing the same set of clothes that he had been brought to the hospital in, of course, now washed and pressed.
Driving along the busy road Neeladri asked, "Anything looks familiar?"
The man shook his head, looking around, fascinated, as if seeing the outside world for the first time.
"Listen, since you can't recall your name, and since we need to call you something, how about Aahan?"
The youth turned to look at the doctor, curious, shrugging.
"It means 'dawn'," Neeladri explained as he expertly manoeuvred the car in the heavy traffic.
The man nodded, giving a faint smile.
"Say something," Neeladri persisted, "do you like it? After all, how many people get to choose their own name, huh?" he grinned.
"Dawn..." the man shrugged once more, "the early hour of morning, the beginning of the day. Is this a new beginning for me?"
"Well, yes, if you want to make it a new beginning," Neeladri answered, turning briefly to look at him, "I understand your frustration, your annoyance and anger, but that won't get us anywhere. Instead we can try and discover your past, together..."
"Why don't I remember anything?" Aahan asked, "Why can't I remember?!"
"Aahan, you were hurt, badly hurt, and the trauma precipitated your amnesia. We don't know what exactly happened, and since you too can't recollect the sequence of events, we presume that you were situated in a place where most of your body was guarded by some solid structure, um, like a pillar or a counter... and so you were, well, sort of 'protected' from injury. But something heavy, and blunt, struck your head... and you passed out.
"Listen, the doctors have tried everything, and you too tried hard," Neeladri continued, "now we need to see what sparks off your memory - some street, some landmark in town... a smell, a sight... who knows!"
"Who am I?" Aahan said, almost to himself, "Where did I come from... and where is my family? Why didn't they look for me?! Or, is it that I have no one, no family, huh?"
"Aahan," Neeladri said, trying to calm him down, reaching out to pat his hand, "you just got out of the hospital, so, relax, take it easy for a while, rest and then we'll work out something... we'll go around town, check out places... Trust me; things will begin to come back!"
Aahan nodded, "Thank you, doctor..."
"Not doctor," Neeladri smiled.
"Call me Neeladri, not doctor!"
Aahan looked up, "You have a lovely house. Who all live with you?"
"This is where I live, but it's not my house," Neeladri laughed cutting the engine and turning to look at Aahan, "and I live alone. After my father took an early retirement, my parents settled down in Lansdowne, and live there. Have you ever heard that name before?"
Aahan nodded, "Um, yes... it's a small hill resort in the lower Himalayas."
"Yes, perfectly correct," Neeladri smiled, surprised that Aahan knew about Lansdowne, a place that most people didn't seem to know of, "and now, let's go in."
They got out of the car and walked up the steps, "This is the house of my dad's childhood friend, and one-time colleague. They don't live here anymore, and when he heard that I was coming to this city to join the hospital, he offered me the house - fully furnished and staffed!" he grinned.
"There's Ahmed, the housekeeper, Srini, the cook, and Ramulu, the gardener," he explained as he rang the bell.
"Good evening, sir," a middle-aged man greeted them opening the door.
"Good evening, Ahmed," Neeladri smiled at the man and then turning to Aahan, introduced, "This is Ahmed, not only my housekeeper, but also keeps me on my toes," turning back and adding, "and this is Aahan, the friend I told you about, he'll be staying with us."
He had already told the three men about Aahan, about his tragic situation, had mentioned that the authorities were planning to send him away to a charitable organisation for the abandoned, and his insistence that the man come and stay with him. He had also asked them to keep an eye on him, take good care, making sure that nothing upset or agitated him.
"Welcome, sir," Ahmed smiled at Aahan, "Any luggage?" he asked Neeladri.
"No," Neeladri shook his head, "have you prepared the guest room?"
"Yes sir, it's ready," the man answered, leaving them to return to his duties.
"Aahan, let me show you to your room, and after you've showered and changed, we can plan for tomorrow," Neeladri said, taking Aahan's arm and leading him towards the staircase. "It's a very beautiful house, with a lovely garden. There's the living room, the dining area, kitchen, store and a den on the ground floor. And there are three bedrooms upstairs, a library with a very interesting collection of books and another small room. Two of the bedrooms have balconies looking out into the garden - I have one, and you get the other!"
"Thanks..." Aahan smiled, "but what do I wear after I shower, I don't have any more clothes?"
"Well, you're about my size, so you have to make-do with my clothes for a night," Neeladri laughed, opening the bedroom door, leading Aahan in. "There's everything in the bathroom, including a new razor and toothbrush, and you'll find a pair of my pajamas, two of my jeans, a few t-shirts and a couple of new briefs in the closet, and tomorrow we'll go shopping, buy some clothes for you!"
"I'm nothing but trouble for you, huh?" Aahan asked looking at Neeladri, giving him a wan smile.
Neeladri shook his head, smiling back, "No, you're not trouble, Aahan, you're my friend!"
After breakfast as they went out, Neeladri debated on whether to drive Aahan around some of the residential areas of town... but where, the city was sprawling, spread out, and where would they begin? And then he thought about the eatery... maybe they could drive there - the place had been devastated, and was shut and barricaded - but the street, the area... the sight of the bombed premises might trigger Aahan's memory. What was the harm in trying?!
A business district, crowded with the hoi-polloi, street vendors and overflowing stalls, it was relatively uncluttered that Sunday morning. Neeladri drove down the street, slowing as they approached the vicinity of the bombed eatery... driving past it and going on to the next intersection before taking a u-turn and driving back to the same spot.
"Been here before?" he asked as he slowed the car opposite the eatery, pulling over and then turning to face Aahan.
Aahan looked around, staring at the cordoned off eatery for a while, seeing the rubble... watching pedestrians skirt the area as they walked past... some pausing to stare before hurrying on. He shook his head, looking back at Neeladri, "No, I don't recollect ever being here before..."
"That's okay, just wondered," he said, pulling back and slowly driving away.
They went to the lake side in the centre of the city and parking the car got out, walking along the promenade, sitting under a tree.
"Does anything seem familiar?" he asked, but Aahan just shook his head, watching the children play... Sunday crowds lazing on the grass of the well tended lawns.
"Well, it's about time, the shops must have opened by now," Neeladri said, getting up, "Let's go and get you some proper clothes!" he grinned.
Aahan nodded, and then after a slight pause said, "Um, Neeladri, the doctors gave me an envelope when I left the hospital yesterday... it contains four thousand and six hundred odd rupees, said they found the money in my pocket. Can I use that money to buy my own clothes?"
"Sure, you can," Neeladri smiled, "but I'd suggest that you don't spend the whole amount and always keep some cash with you..."
Aahan thought for a while, and then nodded looking at Neeladri.
After shopping they returned home and had their lunch, before Neeladri led Aahan to his room, asking him to take a nap, "You need to rest, catch some sleep," he smiled as he closed the door behind him.
Going back to his own room he sat at his desk, thinking...
He had been diligent, had always been conscientious - keenly observing, learning and working hard. Was never given to irrational emotions, or whims...
Then, what was it that drew him so irresistibly to this stranger, his heart going out... wanting to hold the man, nurture him... take care of him...
What was it - his amazing physical charm... his helpless vulnerability... Or, was there something still deeper?
Neeladri didn't know... didn't even want to think about it... The breakup, even after two years, was still desperately fresh, still agonisingly painful... and, that frightful sense of betrayal!
But then, that hadn't exactly been a rejection of Neeladri... nor really, a betrayal...
They had both, like mature young men, discussed it, had decided to opt out of it... choose the path they wanted to tread, without holding back the other...
Abhi, um, Abhishek had his ambitions... and by the end of the final year he had made it amply clear that he didn't subscribe to Neeladri's passionate ideas of 'service' - he wasn't willing to destroy his future, his career, by languishing in some under-funded, short-staffed government health facility, he'd prefer a corporate hospital... go abroad... get rich! Yes, they had it going pretty well... but if Neeladri was unwilling to change his mind about the future, well, he had shrugged... leaving the sentence unfinished.
Neeladri had tentatively suggested that they could live their individual dreams, and still be together... but Abhi was noncommittal... and later, with the final exams over, he found out that Abhi was already gone... with a different guy!
But what was it that Neeladri wanted from this stranger... what did he expect?
No, he didn't want anything in return; he just wanted Aahan to be happy and safe till he got back his life... a past that had been suddenly obliterated from the canvas of his memory.
"What happened?" Neeladri asked with concern, rushing forward, taking Aahan's hand and leading him to the chair, sitting him down.
"I... I don't know," the man stuttered, the eyes glazed, his whole body trembling, "ha... had a dream..."
"Okay, calm down," Neeladri patted his bare shoulder, "tell me about the dream."
"I'm not really sure... but it was weird," Aahan replied, giving a shudder, "there was this horrible face... um, an ugly mask... and... and she was screaming..."
"A lady?" Neeladri asked, dropping down on his knees, looking up at Aahan, holding his hands.
"I... I don't know," Aahan shook his head, "it was horrible..."
"And what was she saying?"
Aahan shook his head looking at Neeladri, the eyes wide, the pupils dilated.
"Okay," Neeladri said in a soft, soothing voice, going over to the desk and taking a tablet, "c'mon, let's go back to your room..."
Aahan hesitated for a moment and then getting up followed Neeladri.
"Have this," Neeladri offered the tablet to Aahan, "and lie down."
"It will help calm you down, and the dream won't come back," Neeladri smiled, handing him a glass of water.
to be continued...
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