“I was waiting for the paanipuri vendor to prepare the plate. Preeto was standing behind me. She was telling me where she wanted to go for honeymoon. There was a sudden screech of tyres, followed by Preeto’s bloodcurdling scream. I was startled. I felt something hit me and drench my clothes. I turned and there was blood and gore on my whole body. My Preeto was gone. I couldn’t save her.”
Gurwinder was narrating his life-shaking ordeal to Dr. Iyer for the umpteenth time. He used to have trouble sleeping since that evening 8 months back. Initially, even getting out of his house had been difficult. Everytime a vehicle passed him by, he’d feel his body shake up and break into cold sweat. That phase had passed now but he still never could set foot on the road, only the pavement. Dr. Iyer heard him and said, “I’m going to ask you to do something. That might help.” A spark of hope flickered briefly in Gurwinder’s eyes. He listened intently.
Next morning, Gurwinder went to the orphanage nearest to his home. He met and played with the young kids and taught a few of them. The doctor had said he needed to find happiness in helping others. This was a start.
That night, he didn’t need the sleeping pills for the first time in months. He even saw Preeto smiling at him in the dream. Her curls, her deep eyes, it was almost as if he could touch her. They were in a park, joking. Suddenly, the whole scene changed and Preeto screamed, again. That same sound! And he had blood on his face. He got up, sweating profusely and shaking like he’d seen the devil.
Gurwinder met with Dr. Iyer again the next day and told him everything. He asked him to persist with the visits to orphanages and if possible, old age homes too. Gurwinder, unconvinced, thought he’d give the therapy the chance it deserved.
A month later, the situation had worsened. Gurwinder would enjoy his time with the needy. He’d sleep easily too. But the nightmares turned ever more violent. Even Dr. Iyer was worried. It needed something drastic to change Gurwinder’s state of mind. The visits were proving ineffective.
That evening, as Gurwinder was returning from the orphanage, he looked at that panipuri stall, at a corner of the road, some 80 metres off the circle. There was a crowd of customers there. He paused to look at it for a moment.
My whole life destroyed, right here.
Why couldn’t I save her?
As he kept gazing at the stall, he saw a familiar face approaching it. Holy cow! Preeto?
She was crossing the road to get to the stall. She had the same dress she’d worn that day, the same windswept hair and the unique gait.
Suddenly, Gurwinder saw a bike approach her. It had cut the corner on the wrong side and was zooming towards her. She was completely unaware.
Gurwinder threw his bag by the roadside and ran. His feet were on the asphalt for the first time in months, bounding towards Preeto, his Preeto! This couldn’t happen, not again. He had to save her.
As Gurwinder lunged to grab her, the world stopped for a moment. It was all in super slow-motion.
His hand reached out to take her arm and pull her towards him, the bike screeching to a stop. She had noticed the bike now. Fear was writ large on her face. No…nooooo..this..couldn’t…happen! She was screaming now. But then, an arm grabbed him and yanked him back. He was thrown on the divider. Preeto fell on the road beside him. What just happened?
Gurwinder looked up to see Preeto smiling. The bike had stopped a couple yards in front of her. He turned to see who had thrown him and saw Dr. Iyer, a smile of contentment spread across his lips. Before he could speak anything, Preeto put a hand on his arm.
“You’re alright, Guri?” The voice was different. Was this Preeto or…….
“Hello mister, I’m Geeto. Remember me? Preeto’s twin sister. Are you hurt?”
Gurwinder was trying to break down the things that had happened in the past 90 seconds. The biker had taken off his helmet. What in God’s name!!! Jaswinder?
As he looked from his brother to his doctor to his ex-fianceé’s sister, it dawned on him.
“The nightmares won’t come back again, Gurwinder,” Dr. Iyer said assuredly. Gurwinder wasn’t thinking about that. His mind was somewhere else.
“Are you still single?” He asked Jeeto. She couldn’t help smiling.
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