“You’ll have to look conventional. Did you get that?” whispered the voice over the phone.
“Yes, I’ll take care of that,” he responded with a quiver in his voice.
“I know this is your first time, but you have to do this. This is important for us!” and the call ended.
He went to the lavatory and washed his face. He looked at the mirror reflecting his face which was shrouded with anxiety. His eyes were apprehensive.
“Rehaan,” yelled his fierce mother, banging the door. “What’s taking you so long? I served your meal an hour ago!”
He quickly wiped his face and expeditiously wrapped up the mess.
“What were you doing?” she queried ferociously.
“I was sleeping,” he lamely replied. He took the plate and slammed the door again.
The sealed envelope rested on the side table. He reached out and opened it; a paper bearing the name of the Bank appeared with an intimation regarding the non-payment of interest on the education loan granted by them for his engineering.
He woke up early before the sun could touch the earth’s surface. The room now suffocated him. He took a shower and buttoned up in his formals. Grabbing his bag, his eyes fell on the worship place outside his window. But being an atheist, he stood emotionless. He went to his mother’s room and gazed at her serene, yet ill face. He left the apartment and the door clicked behind him.
The sunrays made their way to the surface and the birds chirped en mass. He made his way to the garden in to the multiplex and rested on a wooden bench. Soon, the multiplex bustled with a horde of people. He pulled out the laptop from his bag and placed it over his lap. A series of commands followed one another and his fingers moved swiftly over the keys. He shut the computer and wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead. He headed into the multiplex. A gust of breeze released from the air conditioning parched his skin. He took the escalator to the top floor of food court and rested his belongings on a seat away from the main crowd.
“A coke please” he ordered.
“There is a bug. The security system isn’t working,” chimed the walkie-talkie of the security man standing beside him.
“Your coke, sir.”
He left the counter with a grin on his face. Sipping his drink he entered the lift. A woman with her child already stood there.
“Mum why don’t you have hair like the others?” asked the child to his mother.
“The terrorists took them away, son” she replied with a smile.
“Terrorists…?” he queried.
“Yes they reside in a camp within my body and plant bombs. The last time, the bomb took away my hair,” she answered with utmost genuineness.
The kid’s face reflected confusion and after a while of thorough brainstorming he continued, “Father said they have found cancer in your body. Does that mean those camps are the cancer?”
“Yes son absolutely. You are a genius,” she exulted.
“But mum they live in your body, feed on what your body provides them; then why are they taking away bits from you?”
She was stunned by what her six-year-old son had uttered.
“Maybe because I have failed them,” she whispered.
“No mum, those who are taking away things from you have failed. Dad said that angel Chemo will bring your hair back,” he assured with a glowing face.
The woman couldn’t keep her tears back and hugged her son. Rehaan stood there transfixed. The conversation tore his heart apart. The woman left with her child at the ground floor. All the words of that child echoed in his system. He had goose bumps. He pressed the top button in the lift. The food court welcomed him once again. He quickly went to the table where he had placed his belongings. The bag was intact. He took it and left the multiplex. The mother and his child rested on the wooden bench where he had sat earlier. He rested beside them; the child gave him an innocent smile.
Rehaan pulled out his laptop and typed a series of codes undoing what he had done earlier.
“What are you doing Bhaiya?” the child asked.
He smiled back and got up. The heavy unset bomb now felt lighter in his bag while walking away from the mother and son duo.
“Trying to be the Chemo against the Cancer,” he mumbled with a smile.
~ Sneha Bannerjee | Edited by Farrokh Jijina