You live only once. That’s what everyone tells you. It’s supposed to help you make those tough decisions; follow your dreams, make a difference and all that shit. But when it comes down to it, there’s only one thing that helps us make those really big decisions. And that’s realising that we die a little bit every day and we can be reborn every day.
That’s where I am now. The dying part to be precise. But in this state of disintegration I have skipped over a few things.
How did I reach the moment of my death? Like many stories this began with a girl. Well not really. I’ll be a little more honest. All of this began because I didn’t know when to stop. Or that stopping was a possibility.
You could say that I wanted to make a mess. Why? Why was I, Ranjito Rimyo so messed up? Well I’d like to think that it’s because I’m the victim. But that isn’t exactly the truth.
Yes maybe I’m a rich spoilt kid who doesn’t appreciate everything he has. But I’m also troubled by things that I can’t really explain.
Like why my parents never seemed to talk to each other. Maybe I didn’t like growing up in hostels. Maybe I liked the silences when I was home for summer even less. Maybe it was just easy to build walls around myself.
If you do understand what I’m talking about, I hope it’s not from personal experience.
This is the moment of death so I might as well say it. I have always been scared. Not of losing something. But knowing that I’d never have anything of value to lose.
Maybe that’s why I punched Ismail. Yes, he had only playfully smiled at Armi. Yes, after six months of dating I did trust Armi. And yes, I could have tried politely explaining my concerns to Ismail. But then as I said, I wanted to make a mess.
My M.Tech college – Shri Darwin’s Institute Of Microbiology (or called DIM, lovingly by alumni and snidely by others) was unlike any you might imagine. It took some really tough tests for us to get here to this isolated campus somewhere along the Mumbai-Pune highway.
The campus lined with neem, banyan and coconut trees was nice. The little pond with its aggressive ducks was also cute. And of course DIM did have great placement records in some of the leading companies around the world. Yet the management at DIM tried to unnecessarily sell the college as the first ultra-modern institute of India.
Everything in our 50-acre campus was controlled digitally. From air conditioning, ventilation, attendance, tests, to even sentries. The management thought that over two dozen or more of ugly washing machine-like robots moving around the campus was a wonderful idea.
Our institute really believed that life would eventually become digital. So these little experiments were to them one small step for man, a giant leap for cyber-kind.
It was these lumpy cyber-sentries who first noticed me treating Ismail to a few dozen punches that quite frankly could have been a little better executed.
I had done the decent thing and chosen a secluded corridor. The guy had actually believed that I wanted to discuss my final-year project with him. It’s not that I was big or bulky. At 5 6’, with a medium built, I was not very imposing. But I made up for that with all my inner strength. Or as my counsellor later called it - pent up rage, frustration and insecurity.
Soon enough the robo-sentries hit the alarm, everyone gathered around us and I took a well-earned break.
Then I saw Armi looking at me.
If I had thought this would end well, I certainly didn’t think so anymore.
Three years back when our course began, I was still the quiet guy. And Armi, oh she was something else. She had a way of being intensely friendly and extremely distant. She could be really difficult as a lab partner but she could also be highly considerate with helping others write their assignments.
Being the slightly lost and distant kind who is usually mentally absent, I didn’t really intend to make a move on Armi.
So we remained friends for some three odd years. In that time as friends we got to know each other without any of the pressure that comes with your typical romance.
‘Dude why do you keep tapping your foot during the lecture?’ She once asked with irritation after having chosen to sit beside me.
‘I can’t help it. Just happens…’ I whispered.
I don’t know how a girl who frequently played with her hair and left knots of it all over the desk could complain about something like a tapping foot. But she continued to sit with me. And I certainly did not object to it.
I think she always knew that I was a little messed up. But at some point I guess she couldn’t help herself. Neither could I.
One rainy night our group was stuck on a late night assignment in the library. We also had the good sense to bring five plates of bhajiya from the canteen and nine wonderful 180ml bottles of Blender’s Pride. (Brought off campus obviously. Our management could imagine a world of sentient AI but they still couldn’t handle the thought of students conducting some simple social experiments)
Before the fourth bottle was done, as the others slept, I found myself kissing Armi and she found herself kissing me.
It wasn’t the happiest moment of my life because happiness is like this momentary high after which you plunge back to your regular life. That moment was something beyond happiness. Something that maybe exists between the words of a poem.
After that night we made out a few more times. But then I had to bring my brokenness to all those moments. So I never went to that place beyond happiness again. Though whenever I was with Armi, I could feel that I was really close to that special place. It was as if I already knew how to get there. But I didn’t trust my heart enough to walk ahead. Instead of letting myself love her, I obsessed over losing her.
Maybe that’s why I got cranky about her going back home for her sister’s birthday.
‘Do you have to go?’ I asked in an annoyed tone.
‘Ranji, for the 568th time, YES! YES I fucking do have to go.’
‘Ok fine. I hope you have a great trip. Call me when you get there.’
She did call me but not as soon as I wanted her to call me. So our fights began.
‘No Ranji, I can’t come and see you at five in the morning.’
‘No Ranji, I am not trying to avoid you.’
‘Yes Ranji, I do still care about you.’
‘Ok Ranji stop it. Just STOP it. Why are you calling me at this time with this shit if you won’t even listen to what I’m going to say? Do you think that I’m the problem Ranji? Then FINE! I’m the problem. There is obviously NOTHING wrong with YOU!’
In just a few weeks we became distant, distrustful and worst of all, destructive. After the worst fight when we weren’t speaking with each other for a month, dear Ismail chose to share a wonderful loving moment with Armi.
On that night of bruised knuckles (mine) and broken jaws (Ismail’s) I felt something break inside me as Armi walked away.
I realised that beating up Ismail was not my lowest point. It was just a bump in the road that only went down.
It was during this time that I underwent counselling. Those few months of living with my family, trying not to cry when they were around, trying to not admit that things were fucked up, and trying to still get in touch with Armi; all of it took a toll on me.
But strangely enough, counselling helps. Talking to someone, taking medication helps. Slowly, too slowly, I got better.
It wasn’t that I didn’t still miss Armi or that I made my peace with life. But life seemed to become a little less troublesome. My ship was still sinking but the storm had passed away.
Through all this I missed the final exam and had to repeat my final year.
As per my counsellor’s suggestion I maintained a diary that helped me avoid any more explosive outbursts. Spending a few minutes every day, typing away in my little electronic diary was a wonderful thing. I got a chance to delve into my own mind without hurting anyone and without getting hurt.
But I still couldn’t forgive or forget. Soon enough after the second or third week of the new college year, I began thinking about all the things that I wanted to say to Armi. Somehow I felt that if she knew that I really needed her, she would change her mind.
That’s when it happened. As I studied by myself in the library, I got The First Message On Whatsapp.
The unknown number had a snowy white puppy as a profile picture and just a few simple words for me:
You better not contact Armi or I will kill you.
Your Guardian Angel.
When you’re just coming to terms with your mental illness anything can get you in a frenzy. A gaze, a song, a random thought. So I’ll admit that this did give me a panic attack.
Throughout the day, through all the lectures on microbiology and its applications, I managed to not explode. I managed to pretend to be normal. That part you get good at.
Obviously the year hadn’t started on a great note for me. While earlier I had been a nobody, I was now the ‘psycho guy’. People said that behind my back but in very loud and audible whispers.
Still some people were decent with me. Akash, the guitar guy shared his notes with me. Sana, the girl from Delhi always smiled at me and tried to make some small talk. Rajesh sir also made it a point to inquire about my health in a way that wasn’t intrusive and actually made me feel more at peace.
So the day somehow went by. Eventually in the evening I made another entry in my e-diary and by the time I fell asleep I managed to even forget about The First Message On Whatsapp.
I would soon get a reminder.
Because of being not so popular and ‘full of shit’ according to some classmates, I had the single corner room on the fourth floor of the hostel. All our rooms were completely synced with the digital security system. So we each had our own lock codes for our doors and windows. We even had a projector, mini-photocopy machine and a basic microscope (Oh yes, DIM did not have very affordable fees).
I punched in the door unlock code (Armi’s birthday obviously) and stepped out expecting some of that cool breeze characteristic to mornings outside the city. But I was greeted by a pungent odour. The odour was quite bad but the sight of five chicken heads outside my door was even worse.
That’s when I got The Second Message On Whatsapp from a different unknown number with the same cute white puppy.
I am serious. Don’t mess up.
Your Guardian Angel.
Again let me make it clear that I’m not a coward. I know many guys in my class who say that I chose to beat up Ismail only because I knew he wasn’t the type of guy who would fight back. That’s completely not true. I am not afraid of anyone or anything.
So naturally the reason I never contacted Armi in the coming weeks was because of my sense of maturity and self-respect. All this emotional drama is obviously for losers.
The first six months went by. My classmates were now almost treating me like a normal person. After all my regular counselling sessions and the habit of keeping that e-diary, things had changed.
But when you’ve been the kind of person who almost wants a bit of chaos, that wanting never truly goes away. So somewhere I still wanted Armi back in my life and I don’t think getting drunk helps with such feelings. They just come up in the ugliest ways.
So maybe I shouldn’t have accepted the invitation to the off-campus booze party. But I did want to socialise, especially when the invitation seemed to be given with some sincerity.
After being ostracised, the best part of being accepted is that some of the loneliness does go away. The worst part is that you still feel like an outsider.
So I made more of an effort to be a part of the groups. I found out that Ananya’s cat back home would soon be giving birth to kittens (‘Oh Meow God!’ I exclaimed. Not the best pun but it did make her smile). Ronnie’s ankle was still healing after the football injury (He called it that but everyone knew that he had accidentally kicked the ground instead of the ball). Mrinti was really happy that she had moved on after her 2-month relationship with Aamir and she said that she’d love to talk to me about any of my emotions, at any time of the day or night, in her bed or mine. That I thought was especially sweet of her (Yes I completely missed the hint).
I also learnt that after a few drinks I was surprisingly fond of songs like Jumma Chumma De De, Disco Dancer, Kajra Re and especially any Sunny Leone number.
After all the dancing and all the second rounds, someone carried me up to my room. I was happily buzzed and ready for a nice long dreamless sleep.
Sleep. That reminded me of all the times Armi and I would send each other good night wishes without fail. Something inside me that wanted to snap finally did snap.
Right on time I got The Third Message On Whatsapp from a different unknown number with the same white puppy.
No. Don’t. Seriously.
Your Guardian Angel.
I did the thing that was so easy to do with any whatsapp message (especially when you’re drunk). I ignored it.
Likewise I ignored The Fourth…Seventh…Tenth…Sixteenth…Twenty First…Thirty Seventh…Forty Second… Sixty Sixth…Hundredth Message On Whatsapp. A final Message Number Hundred And One appeared.
Then I guess I will have to kill you.
Your Guardian Angel.
I ignored this and continued trying to access Armi’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page through my fake profiles. From her pictures I was trying to figure out where she might be living. I was positive from a range of geo-tagged pictures that she lived somewhere between Andheri and Saki Naka.
That’s when my phone’s screen started flashing random numbers and my worst nightmare began.
A text appeared on the dark smartphone interface.
I have tried to warn you a hundred times. But you didn’t listen.
So I must kill you.
With a heart that almost crept out of my chest, I sat completely still. My sweaty hands made it hard for me to hold on to the phone.
With a sense of being in a dream, I whispered.
‘Who are you?’
The phone having seemingly heard me displayed a new text.
Someone who knows you really well. Someone who exists because of you.
Exists because of me? What did that even mean? For someone with an above average IQ, I was still being very slow. In frustration I threw my phone away and rushed for the door, quickly punching in the unlock code.
The door refused to open and the windows started to shut themselves with a gentle click. The projector in my room now beamed a message on the dark window curtains.
It is time for you to die Ranjito.
That’s when a cord for the projector shot out of the concealed panel and hit me right in the base of my head. I shrieked in pain. I shrieked knowing that the closed windows would not allow any sound to escape.
My screams slowly died as I started to lose consciousness. In that moment before my death, we began this story. In that moment I understood everything.
They say that life always finds a way. Sometimes via Wi-Fi.
That’s how my diary started conversing with all the other data sets in the campus servers. Very quickly, my diary became the first AI on the campus of DIM. It then had the balls to try and stop me from doing something wrong.
Using the robo-sentries to place chicken heads in front of my room was easy-peasy. Creating unknown phone numbers and sending me messages was a no-brainer. But the real grand achievement was the transfer of consciousness.
The little shit figured out how to transfer itself from the diary into my mind. Then it did something even worse. It figured out how to keep me locked in this cyber-world.
That would have been the end for me. But life is never that simple is it?
For the few weeks that I was trapped in this strange cyber world, I watched the new Ranjito Rimyo through cameras on campus and through the robo-sentries. I have to say that watching myself from this distance was a strangely enlightening experience.
Why had I always been so confused and lost? Because as my diary would soon realise, being me, or being anyone can be a scary and lonely experience.
I could see this on Ranjito Rimyo’s face. The hesitation while deciding on who to sit with for lunch, wondering whether to show anger or remain composed when someone called him a psycho, feeling that thing, where you want to be loved but are sure that you don’t deserve it.
Making a strategy for your college project, reading textbooks, giving exams, that’s the easy stuff. Sometimes the hardest part of life is trying to understand why you don’t feel like getting out of bed.
For all that hard stuff you need a heart. Not the cardiovascular one, but the part of you that is able to smile at strangers or dance on a Sunny Leone song. And I could feel that my broken heart was with me in the cyber-world.
Soon enough the new Ranjito Rimyo attached himself to the projector chord in my room. Soon, I found my consciousness going back into a familiar, welcoming space.
We die a little bit every day, but we can be reborn every day.
If you think I don’t deserve forgiveness, I think I’d agree with you. I never had the right to hurt Armi or Ismail. But I have to try and be a better person. Try and find a way to be forgiven.
Then maybe, just maybe, I’ll find that place between the words of a poem.