"Hello?" Said the female voice.
Deepak braced himself. He was dead sure it was one of those 'please-take-this-credit-card' call.
"Sir, I'm calling on behalf of Millenium Bank. Do you have a credit card,sir?"
"Nope. And I don't plan on having one, either...sorry."
There was a pause.
"Maybe you'd take it if I told you your life depended on it."
Deepak sat up now. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me right, Mr. Deepak. Take this credit card, or you could be on the obit page tomorrow. Think about it. I'll call back in 5 minutes," said the girl and hung up.
Ha, somebody's sick idea of a joke, he concluded, throwing the cell phone on the couch. He got up to get himself a glass of water. His eyes unconsciously went to the calendar. He chuckled at his silliness. Of course, it was crazy - it was October, not April. He came back to the living room and stared at his cell. It rang even as he was looking at it. He picked it up. Same number.
"Yeah, listen you..." he started.
"Have you decided?" She said.
"Listen, whoever you are. You can't be so stupid as to not realize what I could do with just one phone call to your bank, right? So, come clean and tell me who this is. Neetu, is it you?" He frowned.
"Mr. Deepak. You don't realize this could cost you..."
"Yeah, right. This could cost me my life. What else?" He decided to humor her now.
"Not bad. You're smart. That's right. This could cost you your life. I think you should take it."
"And what if I don't?"
This was not funny any more.
"Great. I'd like to see that. Bye." He hung up and shook his head in disbelief.
The cell rang again. He looked hard at the number before answering.
"That wasn't a smart thing to do, Mr. Deepak."
"Look, this isn't funny. Who the hell are you?"
"I'm just a representative, Mr. Deepak. And it is in your best interest that I tell you..."
"You'll kill me if I didn't take this dumb card? Is that what my best interest is?"
"That's right." The voice sounded more confident now, and that annoyed him further. He stepped out into the balcony,looking around as if the caller was in sight.
"Ok. You know what? Now you wait 5 minutes, while I call your bank. We'll see. OK?" He hung up again.
The next morning, he absently picked up the newspaper lying on the chair and started flipping. There on the 3rd page, was his picture in black and white. And on top in bold letters, was written:
Obituary. Deepak Joshi, 22nd September, 1977 - 15th October, 2007. We sadly mourn his demise. Signed - Family and friends.