So that afternoon, after school, I walked to the station a few metres behind Bose, taking care to keep the same distance between us all the way. Only when we were waiting on the platform for the train did I begin moving closer, till I was almost touching him. Bose, as usual, was deep in a book, and ignored me completely.
Everything went perfectly. I felt the train approaching, and in the very same instant so did Bose. He took three strides towards the edge of the platform; I did too - behind him. The very next second we heard the train, and as it drew, huffing and puffing into the station, I pushed him.
It was over in a second. Bose fell on to the tracks, and the train clanked noisily over him. No one heard him scream, or saw him fall - or maybe they did, but couldn't be bothered. I don't know. The next thing I knew was that I was on the train, sitting calmly by a window, looking out at the rushing trees and fields. There were a few more people on the train than usual, but no one paid me any attention. Soon my stop arrived, and I hopped off.
I walked home slowly. I was tired, very tired, as though I had run a very long distance. But I was at peace. I had done something important, something useful, something good in ridding the world of Bose.
It was dusk as I reached our house. Ma was standing at the gate, looking anxious. I wanted to run to her and tell her what I had done, that never again would I come home with low grades, that never again would she have to weep silently because of me. But before I could say a word, she began screaming. 'Oh my god! What has happened to you? Who did this to you? Oh my child! Were you in an accident?'... and so on. At first I could make nothing of it, then realized with a shock that my shirtfront was spattered with blood. Bose's blood, I realized with a chill.
I came up to my mother and gently put my arms around her. 'I'm ok Ma, don't you worry. Nothing is the matter with me. Come, let's go inside and I'll explain.' Ma stopped shrieking at the sound of my voice and let me lead her indoors.
I could hear Baba's voice from the living room. There must be a visitor, which is why he hadn't been standing at the gate with Ma and frowning. But he heard us come in, and came out, looking worried, but also pleased. 'Ah Akhilesh,' he said. 'You're home at last. Look who's here - your teacher, Mr. Bose. He has been saying some very good things about your work. Come and meet him - we've been waiting for you this past hour.'
I must've heard wrong, I thought. Disentangling myself from Ma I walked slowly into the living room. No - Baba was right. It was old Bose himself, sitting in the chair by the window and sipping chai from one of Ma's best cups. Bose smiled. 'Ah, boy. Home at last. You really mustn't work this late in the library. I've just been telling your father that he must make sure you go easy on yourself.'
Well. There he was. Not dead. Which was strange. And saying good things about me. Which was impossible.
But how was he still alive? My shirt was stained with his blood - or was it? It wasn't. It was as white as when I had taken it out to wear that morning. But I had seen the stains. And so had Ma.
Yes - so had Ma. She rushed in, looking tearful, with Baba following, trying to contain her, looking worried and embarrassed in front of their visitor. 'Sudeshna, calm down,' he whispered loudly. The boy is fine.'
'No, he isn't,' insisted Ma, for once ignoring all the rules of behaviour to be followed in front of a guest. 'Look at his shirt!' She grabbed my arm and spun me round to face my Baba.
'What's wrong with his shirt?' asked Baba, puzzled and worried and just a bit irritated. 'It looks fine to me.'
And it was - as I told you, there were no bloodstains on my shirt any more. But Ma had seen them and so had I. I had pushed old Bose under that train myself, I know I had, for, even today, after all these years, I can still feel the rough weave of his dirty old shirt on my palms.
After that day, to all his irritating habits Bose added one more: every time he saw me alone he would cackle - 'What a good boy! Working late in the library!' Did he know something I didn't?
Note: The year I finally finished school and got rid of Bose forever, he published a paper - something to do with the origin of the universe and a new theory called cosmic inflation. Bose gave me a copy of this paper, and insisted I read it. I did. I didn't understand all of it, but one particular paragraph has stayed with me. This is it:
'The universe is bigger than we think. New data support the idea that the expanding cosmos suddenly inflated, becoming unimaginably huge in a fraction of time. If this theory is correct, the universe is more than a million trillion trillion trillion times larger than what we can see. What’s even more amazing is the thought that our universe may be just one of an infinite number of universes in a multiverse - and if that is so, then the law of probability says that somewhere, in another universe, there is a planet identical to Earth, where exist beings identical to us, leading identical lives. What if, one day, we find a way through time and space into this other universe, to this other Earth, to meet our other selves? What then?'
The Perfect Plan