Aniruddha wiped the sweat from his forehead and looked towards Sneha. She was fast asleep. Didn't look like he made any sound while having the dream.
But why was he having this dream so frequently? Aniruddha seriously didn't have any logical explanation for this. The same scenes have been repeating themselves in his dreams every night since last Wednesday. Almost seven days in a row now! The scenes were already sketched vividly in his mind.
A running train. An arid plain passing by. There's almost no sign of greenery on the plain, until that tree appears. A strange tree with absolutely no leaf on its branches. More of a tree's skeleton than a tree yet, it's not dead. And just a few minutes after crossing that creepy tree, Aniruddha could see the mouth of a tunnel. The train enters the tunnel, and soon, there's a loud crash - an accident. An accident severe enough to cause several casualties.
Since the last few days, this loud thud of a train accident was waking him up every morning. He tried telling Sneha about the dream a couple of days back but instead of taking it seriously, she just joked it away. He knew she would do that today as well.
"Ani, did you have any issue at work? Something you had been losing your sleep over? You hadn't been returning home drunk, did you? Oh Ani, how many times do I need to tell you the same thing! You can't handle alcohol. So, please stay away from it. Otherwise such things will continue to happen. You'll keep on having the same dream every night and will ponder over the same shit after that."
"But Sneha," Ani tried to protest, "The same dream! And that tree! I haven't seen such a strange tree ever in my life!"
"You must have come across such a tree somewhere and you just don't remember. Our dreams work in such strange fashion, you know!"
"But the accident...!"
"Remember what Kanishka told, alcohol can make you create many such accidents in your brain. You know that yourself, don't you?"
"Everything Kanishka says has to be true for you, isn't it?" scowled Ani.
How could she forget! Aniruddha just couldn't stand the mention of Kanishka. He suspected that Kanishka had a soft corner for Sneha. Sneha immediately realised her mistake. To make things lighter, she brought a smile to her face and said lightly, "Ani, don't be so angry on Kanishka. He just voiced his concern!"
Ani didn't want to remember anything about Kanishka right then. The way he spoke to Sneha, the way they smiled together, it made his blood boil. But Ani couldn't afford to go there, it was going to be a busy day at office today. He dressed quickly, gulped down the glass of milk and packed the sandwiches Sneha had made for breakfast. He would have it on the way.
It's been almost a decade since Anirudddha has been working at the renowned drug manufacturing company on Central Avenue. After parking his car in the basement, entered the elevator, to go to his third floor working station.
Before he could reach the desk, someone greeted him from behind.
"Good morning, Aniruddha. Quite early today!" Kaniskha was standing outside his cabin, smiling at him.
"Good morning. Got loads of work to complete," Aniruddha didn't bother to smile back.
"Want to go for breakfast?"
"No, am full. You go ahead, please." Aniruddha proceeded towards his work station. He would have to spend a lot of time at the laboratory today.
Kaniskha smiled to himself. He was aware of what Aniruddha had for breakfast. But he preferred not to disclose that. So, Kanishka moved ahead alone towards the canteen.
It was already dark outside by the time Ani completed his tasks at the laboratory and came back to his desk. He didn't even have enough time today for a proper lunch. And by the time he could return to his desk, the thought about the dream he had this morning had completely vanished from his mind. He sat on his chair and tried to relax a bit. He was returning home late on a regular basis. Today, he would try to return early and surprise Sneha. How long haven't they gone out for a dinner to some restaurant?
Just as he was trying to decide which restaurant to take Sneha to and was about to leave, the office boy came and informed that Kanishka Sir was looking for him. Ani felt disgusted and angry. Kanishka looking for him at this hour meant Ani would be stuck in office for at least another couple of hours now. And that meant - no dinner plans for today as well.
"Please come in," Kanishka called Ani in with a beaming voice as he knocked on the door of his cabin.
"Ani, please take a seat," said Kanishka. Ani understood it won't be over soon. "Ani, you are aware of the fact that our company is opening a new branch in Chennai, right?"
Ani nodded in agreement, but didn't quite understand the context.
"You know that I visit the Chennai site every fortnight to check the progress. However, this time I want you to visit the site and prepare a report on how things are going there."
"When do you want me to visit?" asked Ani.
"Tomorrow morning. I'm sorry, we couldn't book a flight from Kolkata to Chennai, although we tried our best. So, we've booked you a first class ticket in the fastest train. Yes, it'll take a little more time than expected, but it's important to visit the site. The return flight is already booked."
"And may I ask, why you're not going this time?"
"I have a meeting to attend in Mumbai, Ani. So, please do me this favour."
"Kanishka, you sound so unlike you! Far more polished and polite than your usual self", Ani couldn't resist taking the jibe before leaving Kanishka's room.
Kanishka seemed to swallow it without any remark. He just smiled back and said, "So, I'm taking this as a confirmation. And don't worry about anything. Mr Kutti will be accompanying you during the tour."
Ani nodded and left.
After Ani eft his cabin, Kanishka waited for a few moments before dialing a number from his cell phone.
"Yes, he has agreed to go."
"Oh, don't worry. Nothing will go wrong. Mr. Kutti is going with him in the same compartment."
"Yes. Give two pills tonight. That's okay. Oh no, absolutely no question of overdose at all. Bye"
Kanishka disconnected the phone. The clients have been asking for it for quite some time now. It was time to hand over the Dreamweaver pill to them. But only after the final quality check.
Ani was feeling relieved that the late evening meeting with Kanishka didn't take much time. He still had enough time to go out for dinner with Sneha. She loved Chinese cuisine. They could go to Big Boss in Tung Fung in Park Street, or may be the Big Boss restaurant in Tangra, the Chinatown of Kolkata. Thinking of Sneha brought a smile back to Ani's lips.
The moment he entered his home, Sneha brought him a glass of his favourite wine.
"Can you please pack me my bag. Need to go to Chennai tomorrow."
"Oh no! For how long?" Sneha's smile seemed to vanish.
"Not long. Will be back in five days. You know I've never been to Chennai. Hope it'll be a good experience." Ani loved to see the way Sneha still missed him whenever he went away, although they've been married for almost five years now. "And you don't need to be sad. Pack my bags and get ready. We'll be going out for dinner today. Chinese!"
Ani didn't think he would have the same dream again on the train. But here he was, sitting on the train when almost the whole compartment seemed to be asleep. Not everybody though. Mr. Kutti, who was sleeping in the opposite berth, had noticed there was something unusual in the way Ani woke up.
"Had a nightmare, Mr. Bose?" asked Mr. Kutti.
"You're sweating profusely! Why don't you go to the door and stand there for a moment? The fresh morning air might be good for you," suggested Kutti. And then, almost persuaded Ani to go and stand by the door.
It really seemed to help. Ani stood there staring blankly at the sceneries passing by. And then, suddenly he seemed to be too shocked to move.
The scenery outside look extremely familiar. The arid plain passing by with almost no sign of greenery. And there, that strange, creepy tree right from Ani's dreams. Ani bent himself out of the train's door. He could see the mouth of a tunnel. Immediately Ani understood the meaning of his dreams. He didn't know how, but it was a premonition!
Not much time was left. The engine was already entering the tunnel that seemed to have come right out of his nightmare. What was he to do? Would he stand here and run right into the accident? Won't he make an effort to save his life? Suddenly, Ani missed Sneha more than ever. How would she feel when she comes across the news of his death! She will be shocked and dejected and alone. No, Ani couldn't leave her like this.
To make a final attempt to save himself, Ani jumped off the running train.
“Hello,” Sneha picked up the phone. The anxiety in her voice was apparent.
"Sneha, our experiment was successful.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes! The train has reached Chennai safely with all passengers on board, except one - late Aniruddha Bose."
"You mean the Dreamweaver pills have worked just perfectly! We've been able to control his dreams and through it, his actions! I seriously can't believe it! Oh! I love you, I love you Kanishka!"
Both Kanishka and Sneha laughed out loudly on the opposite ends of the phone.