This story is about me and Sonu. Sitting quietly on my chair and looking outside through the window, I am thinking about him. I wonder where he is now. Is he around, staring at me from the opposite corner of the room? It scares me. Sometimes I secretly cry and I curse myself for being someone whom even I could not like. I wish I could be happy, just the way he was.
Sonu was one of the first few words that I spoke when I first learnt to speak. When I was a kid, Sonu was my world. I wouldn’t go anywhere without him. Not because that I liked him but I had no other friend. I still remember the old blue cap that he wore on his head, and that only fitted his tiny little head and not mine, or anyone else’s. We often went to a bridge that was built on the small river that flowed near our house. We used to look at the river water from that height and felt scared. Then we laughed, while coming back to our houses. He smiled a lot. His smile was the only constant thing during my childhood when we were growing up and changing every single day. Those two broad teeth on the front were amusing, though I felt like punching them all the time. I called them school gates and mocked him, and he shyly hid them behind his pink lips, for a brief time though. One day I actually punched them and they disappeared. He never told anyone about it. He said he stumbled on the stairs.
Sonu and I were born on the same day. He was half a day elder to me, to be précised. His mother worked in our house and took care of everything from cooking to cleaning to washing, basically all types of chores that existed. I teased him and called him Naukar when we were alone, but he remained silent. That killed me.
Sonu was brilliant in everything that he did. Except studies. But there also he defeated me. He enjoyed what he learnt and studied, while I tortured myself with textbooks and homework. Yet his weakness in academics gave me enough motivation to study well and score better than him in exams. We studied together at home. He was studying in a government school and I was in a private one or the English medium school, as people called it. Every time I scored well in tests or exams, I showed it to him. He smiled. I thought he was stupid and I was smart. That he would one day become miserable I would be successful. I measured our lives in terms of success, not happiness. And that was a mistake.
I always wanted to become an engineer. I loved playing with instruments and changing their functionalities. Once I asked Sonu what he wanted to become, he said a good man. Good man my shit – I thought.
“You cannot do anything. That is why you come up with such lame excuses.” I kept telling him to make myself comfortable. He kept looking at me, straight in to my eyes, as if he was indicating his strength with his silence while I expressed my fear in harsh words.
As I was growing up, my desires were growing too. Sonu’s desires and ambitions remained same, just like his weight. Probably he couldn’t afford much, so he didn’t desired enough. When I was in high school, I got my first bike. On the same day, Sonu got his first bicycle. My father, who was a generous man, gave it to him. He always did that with the things that I owned. Sonu had never sat on a bicycle before, I would never let him. Now he struggled, he fell, he got up again and smiled. God, I so hated his smile.
Slowly my friend circle grew and Sonu was not inside it. I didn’t want to feel embarrassed because of him, so I discarded him like the old bicycle. I had also discarded my bike for a brand new shining car while he was still riding my bicycle. Sometimes I looked through the window pane and saw him laughing with himself. I must admit that he depressed me, like he had always done.
One day my father asked him to take my bike as well. It was old now and I rarely used it. But I still didn’t like the fact that he was passing everything to Sonu. As if he was his own son. And though I didn’t utter a single word yet I was badly hurt from inside. Even more shocking was to see Sonu rejecting the bike offer. He said he enjoyed it more on the bicycle. Poor bastard.
I had shifted to another city where I got my first job. My life was luxurious. Whenever I visited my parents’ house, I saw Sonu riding the same bicycle.
“He changes his jobs every few months or one year. First he started his own Dhaba, then he started teaching school kids. Many other jobs I don’t even remember. These days he is working as a postman.” My mother told me that.
“He is a lunatic guy, he has always been one.” I muttered.
Sonu had got married too. In the evenings he used to ride the bicycle, with his wife sitting on the backseat. They laughed. Sometimes she rode it too. And they laughed even more.
He was happy. I could see that in his eyes. He didn’t worry about anything in this world. No matter what happened, he lived his life. And that was a beautiful thing.
That day I realized something. That life was about happiness and not anything else. Everything else – success, money, luxuries are the shields that I had used to hide myself in fear. In fear of being unhappy, of being judged as a bad man, of being myself. I wished they could teach that in school – how to chase happiness, then I would have been a happier person.
I had learnt an important lesson. It was the time for change. I tried every day to change myself, but it never happened. It had taken me years to become the person who I was, and changing myself would have taken another few years. But I was impatient. In the struggle of happiness and sorrow, latter won. I gave up, even I don’t know why? But I was sure about one thing, that life was more painful for me than death. I decided to quit my life and move in to another world. I went to the bridge where I and Sonu played.
And I jumped.
Before that I didn’t forget to pull the trigger and shot the man who made me realize that I was unhappy.
I failed again. And perhaps I am getting my punishment by sitting on this chair, forever… Until I die… for others. For me, I am already dead.