This is not part of The i Series, but this is the character's journey in first person account. I never wanted to give Rishi voice, the chance to speak his mind, but he asked me of it. At some point during my journey of creating the i Series. It's a set of five books - three as trilogy, one culmination, one catharsis. After I was done writing Catharsis, I was still so lost. I never thought the story would end. So I gave in to that voice of his. Let him speak, if just a little, if only for a while. Tell me the story, as I have told you. And he did. For some time, he really did.
But an end is an end. We decided that. Together.
All I ever wanted was for dad to come get me. Like, yeah, I explored, I conquered, I did a great many things. But I wanted dad. Of course, it was all a ploy for attention. I, who cannot pay attention to anything wanted it more than anything. Every street corner I turned, I looked for dad. Every car door that ever opened, I waited for dad to step out. Every crew cut or uniform I saw, I thought it was dad. Doesn't matter what uniform. Even autowallahs wore uniform. Dad could be undercover. Dad could be in costume. Dad could be a superhero. Dad. Dad. Dad.
He never came for me. I was the one who always made the distress call. Dad, I'm stuck. Dad, I'm hungry. Dad, I'm sick. Yeah, I'll listen to you. I'll do whatever you say this time. I'll go to school. I'll make grades. Please daddy, I'm really hurt. I haven't had food for ten days. I had malaria. They thought it was jaundice. Someone tried to kidnap me. Someone stole my money. The mafia tried to traffick me off to Hong Kong. I'm desperate. I have no one. I'm sorry. And then he'd come. Not in person. He'd send someone. Your dad's too busy. Your dad's in the field. Your dad sent me because I was the closest to your location. He didn't want you to wait. He wants you to come home immediately. He wants you to be safe. He really cares about you. He loves you so much. It's all true.
I would try to apply myself once I was back home. I never paid any attention to mom. Didn't need her. Didn't need myself. Just dad. Maybe when dad returns from the field, he'd bring me a PS3. Maybe he'd take me to Malaysia. Maybe he'd buy me new Nikes. Maybe he'd take me to the horse farm, enroll me in lessons. Maybe we'd ride together. We'd be so awesome at it. Two riders. Not a care in the world. And then he'll show me how to use a gun. Of course, he would. I'm his buddy. We're best mates. We'd go to the practice yard, shoot the hell out of those dummies. Bam. Bam. Bam! It would be so much fun. To look at dad's face that is, when he realises I'm the better marksman. Of course, I would be. There's no contest. Doesn't matter how many years he had on me. I'm the best at everything that I do. If I'm not strong enough to hold the sniper rifle, I'd draw energy from The Place. Blast his mind. Oh it would be so much fun.
I mean, the first time, when I'm still on my learning curve, dad would lose just to encourage me. I'll see through it, of course, and I'd pretend I didn't. And then I'll show him. He'll keep losing to me the rest of his life, and then I'll reverse the trick on him. Pretend to lose myself. He'd believe me. That's how good I am. Eventually, he'd just praise me. Tell me I'm the best. Tell me he's lucky to have me. It would be like I never even ran off. It'd be like old days. I don't remember which, but I'm sure there is something. We were best buds. Or we were supposed to be. Everybody knows that, even if I never experienced it. Maybe when I was younger. When I was six or something. Dad told me everyone thinks he's their best bud, but he doesn't think that of anyone. I knew it was because he reserved that position for me. I just have to be a man. As soon as possible. Now, if it's not too late.
Dad twists the key in the lock and I slide the handcuffs off. Rub my wrists like I was supposed to. I don't even know who put them there or why. I was having some kind of bad dream. And now I was here. Dad's on the table, facing me, and I was in the chair in some kind of an interrogation room. It's all cool. It wasn't really that bad a dream. It started out to be the best ever. I was at this chai parlour messing with my buddies, when these really serious, really bulky uniforms accost me. I get goosebumps evertime I look at uniforms like I said. It's a sign. But no one ever spoke to me personally or pretended to notice me. Not these guys. These guys were here for me. It's so obvious. I give them a big goofy grin. Finally! They don't return the sentiment. They think I'm a flight risk. Which, naturally I am. They can never catch me if I run. It's just the way I am. I move as if to show them and they jerk in reflex. Their point made. You can't escape. Like hell I can't! But I know who sent you. And I want to meet the man. Introduce him to my girlfriend if I can. He'll see what I'm made of. He'd want me to come home, of course. Tell some sob story about how mom's never been the same. And I'd tell him, well, too little too late. I'm a man now. I don't need you or anyone else. Then we'll shake on it. It's all cool.
Except, those guys weren't. They frightened me with their dumbness. Couldn't they see how excited I was? This is my moment! But after another two seconds when they didn't seem likely to change their stance, I panicked somewhat. None of the earlier signs were dad. And if these guys were sent by him, they'd come straight off with the information, wouldn't they? Like all the other guys when I made the distress calls. Your dad sent us to get you. It's the plain old routine. With one difference. I didn't make the call this time. Dad never sent anyone when I didn't make the call. These guys weren't dad. I run. They catch me. Shove me in the back of a van. Story of my life.
And now I'm here. They must have drugged me. Dad's studying me, his one foot dangling by the knee in a steady rhythm.
"I thought it was a bad dream..." I say.
"Those guys really hurt me. They drugged me. Damn!"
"It's not your fault. They should've just come out and said you wanted to see me."
"I told them not to."
"Thought you would run away."
"Without meeting you? That's just stupid."
"Nothing you haven't done before."
I sulk for a while. Try to feel good. It was dad, after all. Why would I run? I'd meet you face to face like a man and then run if I feel like it. I sulk some more, wanting to hit something. I hit the leg of the table. Really, I was so angry. I thump my fist on the surface. Shove it and grunt. My chair moves back. Table doesn't move an inch. Of course. Dad was sitting on it. Maybe I should do a trick. That'll get him to his senses. See what he's dealing with.
"What do you want?" I bark.
"Hmm..." he says casually, still studying.
"I'm not going back home! Go to hell if you want. You and mom both. I don't care about you."
"Yeah, about that. There is no home anymore. So you can relax. Your mom and I aren't together anymore."
"You dumped her?" I say, "Sorry, divorced?"
"We're separated. Neither of us are willing to marry again, no point in divorce."
"Whatever. I don't care."
"I don't want to see her!" I yell, jerk off the chair and stand. "I don't care what she says. I don't care if she's dead!"
"I'm not your son."
"I'm not your son anymore. I don't need a father."
"And you think that, because...?"
"I said, whatever!"
"You realise what kind of position you put me in, don't you? Do you know how much shame you brought on the family name?"
"Take that too. Disown me. It's been a long time coming."
"I wish it were that simple."
I pause. Was he serious? Would he just disown me? Just like that? I gulp. I'm not a crybaby, but sometimes these things can't be helped. I take deep breaths, try to find a window. Try to find a glass. Something. This is too hard. Too hard.
"I want to put you in school. The academy as it happens. They think they can mould you. Make you a soldier. Not my idea, but remember Ishaan dada? He suggested it. Age is not an issue. Some rules are meant to be bent."
I turn and look at him. My arms stings where they injected me. It was no dream. I stare in disbelief. And maybe a little mirth. "No, don't remember no Ishaan da."
"So you'll do it," he said, "You don't have to stay with me or your mom. You'll be your own man in four years. Join any area of the armed forces you like. I know you don't like me. I know you hate Roshini. But you can't tell me you never wanted to be a soldier..."
"I don't want to be a soldier."
"Then what do you want to be?" A drug dealer? Gangster? Rapist?
I go back to sulking. "I...how will I get in? I didn't go to school."
"You'll be tutored. We all know you're bright. No point hiding that either."
"I'm not hiding it. Just saying I can't do it. There's too much I missed and I'm not about to spend two years learning what I didn't want to learn in the first place. Make this four years into six."
Dad smiled. He knew I was bluffing. I wanted to smile too, but remembered I was sulking.
"Come on, buddy. Do it for me. I promise, you'll never have to see Roshini again."
"She doesn't want to see you if you don't want to see her. That was her position last I spoke to her. And that was three years ago! Not a peep from her about you."
"It's what you wanted, right?"
I relaxed a bit, though I was uncomfortable. "It's not like I hate her anything..." I stretched my legs. "It's just that I don't see any point in connecting with her. I don't love her or whatever. I don't see the whole point of moms."
"Like yeah, she gave birth to me, whatever. But what else? Like what's the big deal? Half the global population does it. Why should I think she's special just 'coz she's my mom?"
"I don't know...I always thought my mom was special."
"Who, granny?" I scoffed, "Please! She's the worst ever."
Dad's face clouded for some reason. Like I wasn't supposed to say these things. Everybody knew she's a bitch. Like, open your eyes man.
"You were very little when she died. You didn't know her," he replied.
"Just know I hated her."
His voice was so strong all of a sudden, I started. What?!
"So you'll do it? You'll go to the academy?"
"That's in Pune."
"There's horse riding in Pune," I grinned.
"No, there isn't."
"Not in the academy. But there's this farm on the outskirts. I'll go if I could get private lessons. I want the best steed. I want it to myself. And I want it black."
"Hmm..." he pondered.
"I wanna learn horse riding!" I protested.
"You can learn it in your free time. But I don't think you'll have any son..."
"I don't care! Horse riding first. School later."
"You want me to buy you a horse?"
"I can buy it myself if you don't have the money. I mean, I'll loan it to you. I have loads of cash."
"Of course you do. If I agree to the horse riding thing, you'll have to apply yourself like you never did before. The exams are in March. That's three months from now."
"Oh and one more thing. The horse shouldn't have a name."
"If it's raised in a farm, I think it'll have a name. Do you want a pony? Do you wanna wait till it grows up?"
"Don't be funny. I want the horse now. If your buddies think I'm so good, I'm sure they'll find one. A wild one," I grinned.
"Oh, so you want to tame it too. Real heroic of you."
"Nothing I can't do if I want to."
"That's fine, Rishi. But this is not the nineteenth century. There aren't any wild horses anymore."
I shrugged. Not my problem.
Dad scratched his head. Like what did he think? I'll just fall on his feet and beg for forgiveness? Really, the man's crazy if he thinks I'm gonna make this easy on him.
"I can't promise you anything. But I'll give it a try."
"So what do you want to name it? The horse, I mean. Obviously, you want a wild one so you could choose the name."
"Yeah...I'm gonna name it Asoka. And call it Bucephalus."