In Sudeep Nagarkar’s latest novel, a 25-year-old girl, Ruhi is found dead a day after her birthday, Her brother is convinced that she was murdered. But no one believes him. Stand By Me then is in equal parts a murder mystery and a test of a brother’s conviction.
Read an extract here.
Pain is terrifying, but numbness is worse. That night in November, not one but two people had died. One soul escaped forever, but the other was dying every day. Kartik curled further into a messy ball as the days passed; the voices within him wouldn’t allow him to live a normal life after Ruhi’s death. Thoughts consumed him, and he couldn’t find a way to run away from them. He just couldn’t accept what had happened; it festered inside him, the person he was, the person he had become and the person he was becoming. It wasn’t his fault: he went for walks, he tried to spend time with friends, but nothing worked, not even Dipika’s best efforts to help him recover. There was no fixing his depression.
Making him pop pills or stabbing him with needles didn’t seem to help him. When the will to live deserted him a
month after his sister’s death, he had to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Doctors were trying their best to cure him, but deep inside, Kartik knew the reason he had turned silent. More than her death, what was killing him was the fact that no one believed his story. If it was just the police or other random people, he would probably have been fine. But even Dipika and his family didn’t seem to trust him anymore; it had been almost seven months now that he had to live with a lie only he knew.
‘Good evening, Kartik. How are you today?’ Dr Rakesh Singh asked as he entered the room. On Fridays, Kartik had one-to-one sessions with the doctor so the latter could keep tabs on his progress. Today was his twenty-fifth session and, according to Dr Singh, he was improving. Kartik had no real answer to Dr Singh’s question. What was he supposed to say? Was he supposed to blurt out that he still felt the presence of a black hole inside his mind, or that he wanted to kill himself every day? Of course, he couldn’t express those feelings as they would only cage him for a few more months.
‘Will saying that I am feeling better get me out of this shit?’ ‘It’s my job to ask,’ Dr Singh said with a smile as he flipped through the papers in his file. ‘You know that we have to reach the root of your emotional pain, not only for the sake of our study but as a step towards healing for you. In most cases, traumatic events cause our mind to shut down; that’s how our brain reacts. But I see that you have improved a lot, and if you cooperate with us, you’ll soon be discharged. But remember—’‘No drinks, no drugs, no nonsense addictions, right? I have been hearing this since our first session.’ ‘You got my point. They only intensify your trauma, and your mind needs stability right now.’
Kartik nodded. He hated attending these sessions, but the fact was that, expressing his feelings to Dr Singh had actually helped him.