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Shanky’s mother always said there was a reason people slept at night and worked during the day. Of course, she didn’t count people working night shifts – night guards, doctors, police, even customer care executives – but her kids were too young when she passed this pearl of wisdom to them to know better.

When Meera, Shanky’s sister, who had just turned six a couple of months ago, asked if it was because of monsters (sniggering at the idea that adults were afraid of ghosts too), her mother fixed her with a look of condescension the kids had become used to in the Vai household. “It’s because your mind starts knocking on doors it doesn’t during the day,” she said. “Doors that lead to corridors it doesn’t have any business exploring, which should be left alone.”

For Shanky’s sisters, the thought was ominous. Baffling, maybe even nonsensical, but ominous. For Shanky, it was perplexing at best. He thought he knew what his mother was alluding to. After The Chill Dad’s death, his mother, now a widow following an eighteen-year marriage, had become… difficult. It wasn’t that the sternness she parented with had developed abruptly; she was always a strict mother. But she had become even more uncompromising in her demeanour. Maybe that was why, upon turning their respective ages of 18 years, all three kids left home one by one. It is worth a mention that Vanshi, who was the youngest of the lot, had to bear her mother by herself after the elder sister, Meera, left three years previously; and so it was she who, in the years of their adulthood, visited her mom the least. Vanshi changed her name to Rima sometime in her twenties, though how, and if at all, that came about as a result of her mother can’t be said with absolute certainty.

But Shanky would often remember her mother’s maxim decades later, when the allure of darkness often got the better of him; forcing him down a wormhole of maddening thoughts.

Well past being the boy he once was, Shanky had become a celebrated novelist; with all the riches and an indomitable repute he once had hoped to achieve. His mother was dead, of a heart attack, and his sisters were living in their worlds far away. Even though they had read all his books (both having different opinions on them), they didn’t keep in touch much.

What was keeping Shanky, shall we say, too caught up in his head most nights was the person who he had just not been able to shake away since he was a boy. The person who had tormented him, both physically and by being in his thoughts, since the day that caused a radical change within him. The person who Shanky once called a friend, the same person whose trust we can arguably say Shanky broke. And the result of which was a beating Shanky had never been able to move over from. It wasn’t just the bruises that stayed with him for far longer than he would have liked; the fracture to his leg was only a shadow of the frustration he felt. Nor was it the humiliation he endured in the wake of the… well, the incident. He had put on ten kilograms, and lugging the weight around in the physical education classes did elicit sniggers and laughter.

Another shade of this humiliation, unrelated to our topic of discussion, was the nickname he had been given – “Avy’s boyfriend” – after kids at school had discovered he listened to Avril Lavigne. This may have had a bearing in the broader context of things, but it’s debatable; and, so, not something we would discuss at great lengths.

If you looked at it objectively, you wouldn’t necessarily call it humiliation. But, considering Shanky’s state of mind at the time, which we certainly cannot, and should not view objectively, it was an apt portrayal of his sentiments.


What caused the deep rupture in Shanky’s persona since that unforgettable day was… well, it was inexplicable, in every definition of the word. If you, Respected Listener, remember, we did speak about The Other Shanky that rose out of the conscious side of his mind after his mother rejected his request to take up arts in 11th. This Other Shanky was carefree, not bound by the trivialities such as feelings or aspirations. It forced Shanky to, as cheesy as it sounds, listen to his heart. But, the Other Shanky or the Real Shanky, neither could shake away that incident with Adya Parin.

Adya, the “Venus to Shanky’s Earth” (if you remember from our previous accounts), who was ratted to a girl he, Adya, had spoken ill about, by Shanky himself; leading to the physical altercation that’s already been spoken so much about.

But certain cuts just don’t heal. They say time heals all wounds, but they’re not entirely right; they certainly had never felt the kind of obsessive need to keep clutching to the past, no matter how painful it is to relive those memories. It is stupid really, the way we can’t push away the memories that bring us more sorrow than happiness; even stupider than we can’t simply move on.

To just move on… sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

And, yet, years after Shanky became who he wanted to be, a lot of his dreams (if not every) achieved, Adya never left the little corner he now occupied in Shanky’s mind. Or maybe that’s not the right way to represent it. For it was Shanky who didn’t let Adya go. Perhaps Shanky never made a conscious effort, maybe he liked to submit to the lure of misery and woe; or perhaps Shanky had tried the best he could, and failed.

Or perhaps the fact that Adya and Shanky had to share the same classroom for two more years was the reason Shanky’s mind rendered Adya’s mark on it indelible. At the turn of their 11th grade, both picked Commerce; Shanky picked Math, much to his displeasure and his mother’s satisfaction, and Adya went with Informatics Practices. Except the one hour a day when Adya went for his IP classes, the two sat within the same four walls for most of the day.

The two had left their previous classmates in the sciences section – not many had chosen arts – but Adya, who was more amicable, made friends rather quickly. Shanky, however, didn’t. And seeing Adya with other friends made him, well, envious. Shanky knew what he was feeling was utterly ridiculous; he was on the verge of adulthood. Such envy was best suited for children. But, at the same time, he couldn’t deny his feelings. The seeds of jealousy had been sown, and they would in time germinate.

It's worth noting that, by this time, The Four Boys Club had started disintegrating. Anpag was missing, his parents had no clue where he was. They would in time, and you can imagine their deep sorrow when they would. But, just then, they didn’t. Mompy and Bandem too weren’t in touch. After they started their 11th, they all drifted away from each other. There was no particular reason we can point to why this group of friends whose stories we are following disbanded. But it did, and that is the by and by of it.

All through school, Shanky harboured that envy. He recognised it but didn’t – couldn’t – do much about it. Three years of college and the subsequent few years provided him a brief respite. Yet, the memory of the beating from all those years ago would revisit his conscious mind every now and then; and with it, the humiliation that had come on its heels, the indignity he had to endure. The anger he was living with since then would flare up, threatening to break free of the clutches he had bound it in. But after a few minutes, it would subside. And he would return to the present.

Only until it returned, stronger the next time.

Previous episode: Anpag's Reflection

Next episode: Offshoots (Part 2)

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