5 pm. The medical college canteen. Nishant sipped his coffee in solitude, mulling over the day; and it hadn't ended yet. He planned to head back to the hostel for a quick bite, check emails, and then back to the college. He had to collect the one book he'd been gunning for, the past month or so - Atlas of Human Anatomy.
His usual gang - Amit, Tejas, Meera, and Anushka had decided to catch a late night movie, but he wanted to have that book at any cost.
"Carry on, guys," he'd said tersely amidst sniggers and raised eye-brows.
He'd just stepped out,headed to his bike in the parking lot, when he heard a voice behind him.
Nishant turned. The voice belonged to a frail looking man in his fifties. He was very familiar, but Nishant couldn't place a finger on his face. Probably one of those patients he'd to take care of in the afternoon.
Nishant waited for the man to say further.
"Son, I'm Mohan Rao from Vijayawada...and I want to go back home."
That was a strange request. Nishant had a mind to say, "so, go sir, who's stopping you." But he held back.
"I'm sorry, I don't think I understand," He said instead.
The man advanced slowly. Something was wrong with his walk..it was laboured. Nishant cleared his throat. "Sir..do you have a problem? Maybe if you head to the reception..."
"No no. I just want to go home. I'm..I'm Mohan Rao."
"Yeah, I got that," Nishant said, slowly.
"I need your help, son."
Just then Nishant spotted Amit and Tejas walking toward him.
"Hey, Nishant. You sure you don't want to join us?"
Nishant looked at the pale face of Rao, and then his friends.
"Uh, sorry guys. I have to have that book. And moreover, I can't stand that guy, the so called hero of the movie, so..."
They waved him away and turned to the canteen.
"Yeah, so Mr. Rao..." Nishant turned, only to find the man gone. He looked at the gate, craning his neck a bit, but couldn't spot him. Maybe he'd catch him on his way out and offer him a lift or something. Then he chuckled to himself - not all the way to Vijayawada though.
Canteen, the next day. They were talking in hushed tones, when Nishant arrived. He sat down and looked at them. "What's up, guys?"
Tejas shook his head silently, and the others toyed with their respective plates and cups.
"Did I miss anything?" Nishant smiled. "How was the movie?"
"Boring," Meera droned.
Tejas was solemn. "There was a cop here today."
"What for?" Nishant asked, placing his books on the empty chair beside him.
"He was talking to the principal, I believe...about some unclaimed body."
"Unclaimed body? Here? What, one of the cadavers?"
"Yeah, the one we'd been working on."
"Oh, shit," Nishant said. "And..?"
"The cop was saying, the body belonged to some guy from Andhra. His relatives were apparently enraged...we don't know how it came to us."
"But I thought, we got bodies only after all the legal.." Nishant began, and stopped. "What did you say? Andhra?"
Meera nodded. "Vijayawada."
Suddenly Nishant's stomach churned.