I like to keep my mobile phone almost perennially in silent mode. I have never quite determined the reason for it - whether it is my innate irritation to unnecessary noise or my misconstrued sense of civic propriety which makes me believe that it is duty-bound of every one to reduce the noise in a public place. I often hear flak for it because this habit causes me to often miss calls, especially from my mother. But I was what I was, I’d rather be scolded than to change some mannerisms. Stupid, me.
But I did not miss that call. Going by the usual probability I should have. I was in kitchen preparing dinner, and it is not common that I hear the vibration of my phone over the cacophony of noises in kitchen. But somehow I did hear it. I rushed to my bedroom desk where the phone lay expecting it to my mother calling. The display read “Private number.” Okay, so that was not my mother. This might be one of those tele-marketing companies who have made it a habit of calling from random numbers so that you can’t block their calls. Skeptical, I picked up the phone.
“Hello dosth. Yaar I decided enough is enough. The credit card bills I had pending for the past few months, they’ve caught up with me. I begged them for an extension but they are in no mood to relent. They said categorically that they were going to press charges against me. You know how sever it is here, in Saudi Arabia with the Sharia law if I am sued for financial fraud. I begged them, I told them that I used that money for my mother’s treatment, but they weren’t willing to hear. I pleaded with them that I will start repaying once I complete my studies and I get a job. I begged them for a three month extension but they were in no mood to give in. I’m not left with any alternatives yaar. Of all people, tumhe toh pata hai. My mother and sister back at home depend on me with all the financial troubles back at home. I had taken education loan for my course after which I ended up with this job here. Visa ke liye bhi kaafi kharch karna pada. And two months after I came here, my mother fell sick and was hospitalized. Her hospital expenses made me max out my credit cards for three months in a row. It was not like I was spending lavishly on myself, but these people don’t understand. Mother’s hospital expenses, my education loan, all these huge credit card bills. I do not know how I will handle it. Till the other day I was confident that I will be able to take care of everything, that I will work hard. But last week, Lehmann Brothers collapsed and they were our biggest customers. My manager mentioned to me today that there were going to be layoffs in the company, and if that happens, junior staffers like me would be the first to be chopped. I’m done with facing all these problems yaar. Am sick, tired, and dejected. I have decided to end my life. Future kuch dikh hi nahi raha hai yaar….”
The trailing off of his voice was the first time since I initiated the conversation that I got a chance to speak up.
“Hello sir, I think you have got the wrong number. But jo bhi hai, aapka problem unsolveable nahi hai. We can…”
“Oh shoot. Isn’t this abc-xyz-4710?”
“No brother. This is abc-xyz-4711.”
“Oh sorry bhai, sorry for the trouble. But thanks anyways, that you were patient enough to listen to my rambling all the while. You’re the last person I’m speaking to on this planet. Dhanyawaad. Khuda Hafiz.”
Before I could utter anything more, he disconnected the call. Khuda Hafiz, the final words trailed in my ears.
I do not know if he kept with his decision or changed his mind. Thousands of Indians commit suicide in the Gulf everyday, I have no means to know if he added himself to the tally. I do not know if he ended up calling the correct number. I do not know if the person on the other end of the line coerced him into changing his decision. I do not know. I will never know. Or maybe, I didn’t want to know what I already knew.