We sat on a side berth, staring into the morning din outside. The passengers inside the train started stirring to the calls of morning tea vendors. The train stopped for a few minutes at a small station after the dewy morning landscape gave way to the dull spectacle of a nondescript town. The railway station shook off its slumber and made itself fully available to us for the three brief minutes it made an appearance in our life. The Roadie sipped his watery chai and continued looking outside at the platform.
"Did it ever happen to you?" I asked him the question he was expecting me to ask.
"Yes. A couple of times" he said shifting his gaze to me. "The first time it happened, I was really scared. I was in Scotland then, relaxing in a youth hostel at the base of the Highlands. It is funny that I thought about suicide then, because I was actually in a very relaxed mood those days.
I was touring Europe for five months continuously and surprisingly I wasn’t exhausted at all when I reached UK. Rather, I was having a lazy time all those five months. I had a lot of money that year, which I spent more on leisure and less on travel. There were days when I’d stay in hotels in the expensive parts of Europe and for a full day I'd just sit in my room reading a book. I had that kind of luxury in time and money that year. I didn't have any permanent travel companions in Europe though. Just some people I kept meeting enroute, going the same way for a short distance and then someone else replaced them. Sometimes none at all, and I was with my books and guides.
For the third consecutive day, I went to sleep a bit later than my normal time. I made a phone call three days earlier and something that was said during the call disturbed me just a bit. It was nothing serious actually, just a commonplace thing. Nothing even worth losing sleep over, leave alone inducing suicide! I went to sleep at one a.m. may be. And I woke up suddenly in the early hours. At about five, I think. I didn’t wake up fully, yet I remember that I was thinking clearly then and I had a clear memory of every detail later. It definitely wasn't a dream. I actually had a bad dream sometime in the night about the phone call incident. And then I suddenly had this thought about dying. There was no connection with the phone call by the way. It was just a standalone thought. There was no discussion or debate about commiting suicide, and for what reason. I remember that when I woke up, it was a decision I had already made at some point during the night. The question just remained - how.
Like I said, I didn't have any reason to kill myself actually. I had a plane ticket for Mumbai in hand. I was having fun time with the people I met on the travel. I had friends who checked up on me everyday. There was no money problem too. Still, I just lay there on the bed and asked myself how I should die! An overdose of tablets is the easiest way, I thought. Slitting the wrists or jumping from a building, they are for people who have a strong reason to die! I didn’t have any strong reasons at all. So, I said to myself, the easiest way is the least painful way. Just swallow a handful of tablets and wait for death to come. I decided that was it and went back to sleep.
And then I woke up an hour later, in a terrified state. The fear I experienced then was unknown to me. Believe me, I was never that scared all my life! Don't for a moment think that I'm not afraid of death! I wouldn't be living a life like this if I had that fear. But I was afraid of the completely dark, bottomless pit that I was suddenly falling through that night. And what scared me was, it wasn't a dream at all! It was a firm decision taken consciously and I even remembered the timeframe I set in my mind for the suicide. I was alone in my room and that added to my fear. That I won't be able to pull myself away from that decision. For the first time in my life, I was afraid of myself and that unfamiliar side of me that peeked out during the night."
He paused to throw away the kulhar out of the window. The train was running at full speed now, and left the station behind sometime ago. The early summer Sun started beating down on our cheeks already and I lowered the window to its midway level. The Roadie covered the side of his face with his palm and continued.
"Do you know what I mean?" He asked me with knitted brows. The memories of the incident still seemed to hang heavy on his mind. And though he didn't move from his posture at all, there was a mild tension in his body language. "If you wake up one day to realise that you had a layer under your skin that was hidden from you forever, and that day it made an appearance revealing to you that somewhere below you are a person that you never wanted to be!"
He paused and looked out of the window. "You'll feel like Spiderman may be!" he said to an empty space and turned around laughing. "Hmm.. No! Not Spiderman. That would be a positive thing. I think it will be more like a werewolf story!" he said. The mild tension vanished as quickly as it came and he relaxed a bit.
"That night I didn't attempt to find out why I wanted to die. At a moment like that, you don't want to look for reasons to die. You want to look for reasons to live and that is exactly what I did. I tried to recall the previous evening when I met a few tourists in the bar, one of them a latino dancer who tried to teach me some spanish words. I listed down the people in the world who, I thought cared for me. I told myself that I had a ticket in hand to Mumbai. I recalled my plans in the Highlands. I did everything I could to bring back the desire to live and I had a feverish chill in my chest when I did it. It took me a few minutes to calm myself and realise that the moment had passed. It had shaken me quite a bit and for some days after that, I woke up multiple times during the nights and assured myself that I was ok. I was quite all right actually, not depressed or something. Infact for a whole week after that, I met more people than usual and enjoyed myself much more than before, purely by accident. It was just the fear that I experienced that day that kept me on the edge for a while, and that too only during the nights."
I asked him, "And you say it happened again?"
"Not exactly the same" he said. "The second time I was more prepared for something like that. Though I was as much on the edge as the first time, I pulled myself back faster. There was no guarantee that she would have agreed even if I had decided to ask. But well, even tablets aren't foolproof! It's the same thing."
I laughed and said, "So the second time was the one time when you wanted to get married?"
He shurgged his shoulders and smiled. "It isn't that bad really!" he said. "I know a lot of people who lived happily ever after. Or atleast for a few years. But it is as good as suicide for me!"