Aamir knows who the thief is. But the situation is more complicated than he can imagine. What will he do? Friends Forever moves forward.
Aamir looked around. He wanted to follow Sagar, but how? He noticed a huge banyan tree close to the boundary of the hostel grounds. If he could climb the banyan tree, then using the overhanging branches he would be able to jump down on the other side of the wall. Aamir looked for the watchman. He had disappeared into his outhouse. He raced ahead and climbed the banyan tree. He then slowly groped his way along one of the branches. When he had cleared the boundary wall, he jumped down and looked around. He could faintly make out Sagar’s back disappearing down the lane. Aamir ran in pursuit, making sure he kept himself in the shadows of the shops lining the lane.
Five minutes of breathless running and Aamir was convinced that he had lost track of Sagar. All along the lane were many by-lanes. Sagar could have vanished into any one of these. He retraced his steps cursing himself for losing sight of his friend. Suddenly, he saw a light at the end of one of the by-lanes. Once again he hurried, keeping himself in the shadows. The light was coming from a small kiosk. A bearded man was at the counter. From that distance Aamir could not make out his features but he looked quite well-built with broad shoulders and a big round head that was sparsely covered with hair.
As Aamir watched, Sagar put his hands in the pocket of his trousers and removed something and handed it over to the bearded fellow. The man gave him a small packet which Sagar took and, after nodding to him, left.
Aamir followed Sagar, a million questions pounding his head. Both Sagar and Aamir stuck to their earlier routes. For Aamir, this time it was far more difficult getting into the school grounds. After some heavy-duty gymnastics he managed to haul himself up and jump down on the other side. He saw Sagar disappearing behind the canteen building. Aamir followed him.
On reaching the canteen building he hid himself behind the tree and peeped. On a bench in front of the canteen Sagar was sitting and smoking. Aamir was quite surprised. He didn’t know that Sagar had started smoking. But why would he wake up in the middle of the night and venture outside the school gates merely to buy a cigarette? This wasn’t tobacco; it was something else. “Was it…could it be? Oh! My God,” Aamir broke out in cold sweat. Sagar was on drugs! No wonder these days his eyes had that funny, glazed look when he woke up! Once, when Aamir had asked him about it, Sagar had replied, “I had a stomach ache and couldn’t sleep well the whole night.” Was this the reason why Sagar had been avoiding him? Was his friendship with Prabhat only an excuse?
Aamir didn’t know what to do. He was too stunned to even think clearly. He quickly walked back to his dormitory. He slipped into bed and waited. He decided to confront Sagar.
Half an hour later there was the muffled sound of footsteps. The door opened and Sagar entered. He was about to get into bed when Aamir switched on the table lamp. For an instant, Sagar was caught completely off-guard. But he quickly recovered.
“I….I had gone for a breath of fresh air.”
“For a breath of fresh air or for a taste of smack?”
The colour drained from Sagar’s face. “Wha…what the hell are you talking about?”
Aamir looked at him for a few seconds and then spoke very quietly, “Sagar, I saw you as you were going towards the gate. You slipped through the gate after bribing the watchman. I followed you down the lane and saw you stop at a kiosk and collect a packet. On your way back, you sat under the tree behind the canteen and…You’re hooked on to drugs, aren’t you?”
Sagar sat down. There was a look of defiance on his face.
“Even if am, what is it to you? It is neither your money nor your life. You just mind your own business or else….!”
“Or else what, Sager? You will get me beaten up by the crooks who sell you drugs? I am not scared. What I am worried about is you. You may not consider me close to you anymore but to me you will always remain my bestie. I can never forget that when I joined school, you were the first person to befriend me. You went out of your way to make me feel comfortable. Whether it was improving English or competing with Shantanu or finding my bearings in this school. Without you I would not be where I am today. Moreover, I can’t bear to see a gifted sportsman like you just wasting away his life. What happened, Sagar? What suddenly went wrong?”
Sagar covered his face with his hands and started sobbing. Aamir was taken aback. He had never expected the rough and tough Sagar of the wacky sense of humour and steely temperament to break down like this.
Aamir got up and gave him a glass of water and a handkerchief. Sagar drank the water and wiped his face.
“Thanks,” he said and started recounting the story of his tryst with smack…
Read on to Chapter 19
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