Failures avoid reunions. But this time I had to go. Sucheta would be there. She had rung up from Delhi. And of course Anand was also coming with her. May be that’s the real reason I decided to go.
It was fifteen years since we passed out from school and the reunion was a grand affair in the best hotel at the beautiful hill station. For ours was a famous school, distinguished more for its snob appeal than for its academic excellence. ‘Bookworm’ was an exception. He had topped the board exams.
“Hi, Bookworm!” I said genuinely happy to see him.
“Moushumi, my name is Doctor Pratap Joshi. Not Bookworm”, he said angrily, “I am a Professor.”
“Professor Bookworm!” I teased him.
“That’s better,” he said.
“And what are you up to nowadays?” I asked.
“Psycho-cybernetics; I am a neurologist. A psychiatrist. And also hold a doctorate in Electrical Engineering. Currently I am researching in mind transference,” Bookworm said proudly.
“Mind-transference?” I asked confused.
“You have seen star-trek haven’t you?”
“There they transfer persons in space. H G Wells’ time machine transferred entire persons in time,” he said.
“And you? ” I asked.
“I can put your mind into some one else’s body and vice-versa.”
“It sound spooky to me. Is it ESP? Some kind of occult stuff? ”
“Not at all,” Bookworm said, “Nothingsupernatural, esoteric or mystical. It’s a purely scientific technique. The machine is upstairs in my hotel room. Why don’t you give it atry?”
A strange thought crossed my mind as I surveyed the room. My eyes rested on Anand. His height and his magnificent beard made him prominent in the crowd. He looked a decisive, hot blooded and dangerous man, but he also looked vulnerable. Even now, he wore a lonely and rather perplexed expression, as though he were at the party but not a member of it. Besides him stood his wife Sucheta.
I reminisced. There were four of us. In school and in college. Anand, Mohan, Sucheta and I. All of us loved each other.
I had the first choice since both Anand and Mohan had proposed to me. I opted for Mohan, leaving Anand for Sucheta. Then I kept tormenting myself living with Mohan but longing for Anand, wondering if I had made the wrong choice, repenting, trying to imagine what my situation would be if I had married Anand instead of Mohan. Yes. This was my chance to find out what life would have been like if I had married Anand.
I waved out to Sucheta and five minutes later both of us were lying side by side on the double-bed in Bookworm’s hotel room. There was a mesh of wires with electrode-transducers connected to our heads (like an EEG), a laptop like special computer and a briefcase size electronic device which Bookworm described as the ‘Electrophoresis Signal Processor’.
“Good,” Bookworm said, “both your brainwave frequencies are in ‘beta’ state around 15 hertz. I’ll give you both a high frequency burst to momentarily raise your brain-states to ‘K-Complex’and instantaneously effect the electrophoresis.”
Looking at me, he said, “Moushumi, you will be Sucheta as far as the outside world is concerned. So when you wake up go straight to Anand. Let’s see if he suspects. And you Sucheta go to Mohan. He will think you are Moushumi.”
“I’m scared,” Sucheta said.
“Come on, Sucheta. Be a sport,” I said.
“It’s only for half-an-hour,” Bookworm said, “then both of you come back and I’ll reverse the process, and you can leave as your own total selves – same mind in same body.”
I smiled to myself. Suddenly I felt my brain go blank and then there were vivid flashes in avoid.
Half an hour later, when I was in Anand’s arms, enjoying the dance, Bookworm suddenly appeared by my side, tugged my arm and said with urgency in his voice, “It’s time. Let’s go, Moushumi.”
“Moushumi? Why are you calling her Moushumi?” an incredulous Anand asked Bookworm.
“She is Moushumi,” Bookworm said pointing at me.
“Are you drunk or something?” Anand snapped angrily. “Can’t you see she’s Sucheta, my wife. Moushumi must be with Mohan, her husband. I last saw them near the bar.”
Instinctively we all turned and looked towards the bar. No sign of them. I hurriedly scanned the room. They had disappeared.
Bookworm was in a state of panic, “Anand. Try to understand. Your wife Sucheta has gone away with Mohan. And this herein front of you is Moushumi – Mohan’s wife. This is only Sucheta’s body. Inside it’s Moushumi. Moushumi’s mind is in Sucheta’s body.”
“Stop talking nonsense,” Anand shouted angrily at Bookworm and taking my arm he said to me, “Come on Sucheta. Let’s go. Bookworm has gone crazy. And it’s getting late. We’ll drive straight down to Delhi. I’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”
As we walked through the parking lot I noticed that ‘our car’ was missing. ‘They’ were probably cuddling up in ‘our’ bedroom by now.
I thought I was smart, but it was Sucheta who had played the double game. Will Mohan find out? And Anand?
I don’t know. But from now on it’s going to be a tightrope walk. Every moment I’ll have to be on my toes. I’m excited. Now I will really know what life would be like if had I married Anand instead of Mohan. And I shall know whether I made the right choice.