Unfinished truths

Word count: 976 | Estimated time to read blog: 10 min

The first, light pre-monsoon drizzle had just ended and the reluctant grey clouds still hung about in the evening sky. It was a gloomy weather that brought back memories of things long forgotten.

Harry parked his Mercedes into a nearby lot and stepped out into the open, covered by a full-length raincoat and an extraordinarily large parapluie. The wind was laden with minuscule drops of drizzle and the sweet smell of earth. He took a deep whiff of this pleasant combination of freshness as he walked past puddles that had formed on the pavement.

He decided to linger on in this mood for a while and observe the sights and sounds that the fresh drizzle had brought about and entered an old, almost dilapidated café. The café was dark and he could barely make out the rows of benches and tables. He sat down at the one closest the door, by the side of a large glass window and looked out. The pane was covered with ten thousand droplets and he could vaguely make out the scene outside. He could also see his breath transforming into a thin film of mist on the glass.

His reverie was broken when he saw the reflections of ten thousand droplet-sized waiters arrive at his table. He turned away from the glass for a brief moment, ordered for a coffee and continued gazing at the glass, the film of rainwater and the view it permitted of the outside world. Somewhere in the background, a faint audio began to play:

“Where were you, when I was burned and broken;

While the days slipped by from my window watching…”

It was quite faint and didn’t intrude much with his thoughts or the sounds outside so he let it play. He sipped his coffee slowly, lost in thought of the years gone by.

So engrossed was he in his thoughts that he didn’t realize the entry of a neatly clad woman into the café. He would have continued to gaze at the window when-

“Remember me?” she smiled, sitting right opposite him with a twinkle in her eye.

“Annie!” he exclaimed. It was the one face Harry could never forget.

She smiled that warm smile, full of joy and mirth, which Harry had once adored. It always reminded his poetic self of sunshine and it came as a welcome break to his otherwise gloomy thoughts on this side of the window pane.

“I saw you getting into this café and decided to see how you have been”, she said.

“Coffee?” he offered and she assented.

“I have been fine. I don’t know if it could have been better or worse because life doesn’t offer you iterations, does it?” he remarked.

She smiled and nodded her head vigorously, her pony tail dangling merrily behind her. Harry’s observant eye noticed that she was quite much the same as he had last seen her 5 years ago. He could never tell her then, how much he loved her and she could never understand his meaningful silence. And then it was too late.

“While you were hanging yourself on someone else’s words,

Dying to believe in what you heard

I was staring straight into the shining sun…”

“Oh! You got a car? Which one”, she asked, picking up the keys from the table.

“A Mercedes”, he said and pressed the remote lock. One white Mercedes in the parking lot went ‘Tuick – Tuick’

‘Nice!’ she said and smiled her sunny smile.

“Well, what about you?” enquired Harry.

“I have been here in this town for the past 2-3 years. I stay at ‘Mansion Villa’. Have you seen it?”

“Oh wow! That’s the biggest house in this town. I have passed by it a couple of times”.

Their coffee cups were drying and so was the conversation – in fact there never had been enough verbal conversation even in earlier days. And what the eyes said went unread….

“Lost in thought and lost in time,

While the seeds of life and the seeds of change were planted.

Outside the rain fell dark and slow

While I pondered on this dangerous but irresistible pastime…”

“OK. I need to be leaving now”, she declared.

“Alright, Annie. Nice to have met you after so long. You bring back memories…” he said.

They exchanged smiles and goodbyes after which he walked away towards the washroom and she headed for the door.

Just as he entered the washroom and closed the door behind him, his cell phone rang. He had left it back on the table besides his car keys. Annie heard it and received the call, thinking she might convey the message when he got back.

“Where are you fooling around you sly rascal. I haven’t hired you as a chauffeur to have fun with my car. Now get home as fast as possible. I have an important appointment…” and the line went dead.

Annie placed the phone back on the table as she headed out of the cafe.

When Harry got back from the washroom, it was the same melancholy ambience that had prevailed before Annie’s arrival. The sunshine that Annie had brought with her had vanished with her departure.

He headed for the table to pick up his keys and phone and to settle the bill. As he was picking it up, he noticed a small white envelope on the floor, on the side where Annie was sitting earlier.

He picked it up and opened it. It read –

“This is to confirm that Ms Annie has been appointed nanny to my baby and will be permitted to stay with us during her….”

Signed,

Mr Gupta

Mansion Villa

Harry folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope. He left it on the floor where he had found it and headed out of the cafe into the drizzle.

—————-

PS: Inspired by O.Henry’s story “Gift of the Magi” and Rituparno Ghosh’s movie “Raincoat”. All lyrics used in the story are from Pink Floyd’s classic “Coming back to Life”.


Bookmark and Share Add to Technorati Favorites RSS

Advertisements

Dogfather

Word count: 1042 | Estimated time to read blog: 10 minGodplayer

The sea of protesting laborers cleaved like butter under a hot knife as Kamathmaam’s chauffeur-driven A/C ambassador car entered the factory premises. The sloganeering stopped and the crude posters denigrating Kamathmaam were lowered. Today was an important day in the life of all the 75 laborers who had gone on a strike for the sake of better wages.

They were led by Munna Bihari, a paan-chewing bhaiyya who never missed a chance to start a fire. He wasn’t quite concerned about the state of the rest of the laborers but he enjoyed being the eye of the storm. Now, as Kamathmaam stepped out to address the gathering, Munna Bihari smiled sardonically and inadvertently rubbed his hands in anticipatory glee.

Kamathmaam’s enormous belly preceded him to the stage and his bald head glinted with sweat in the afternoon sun. He looked at the gatherers with scorn and cursed them for fixing an afternoon for this announcement because he always preferred a siesta after his favorite dal and fish meal. He had to end this crisis today and he had planned drastic measures.

“So what have you decided, Kamathji?” giggled Munna Bihari.

“I’ll be brief. Whatever I declare now will be final. I am not yielding to your demands. All pay hikes will be based solely on performance and this untimely demand can’t be met with. People in the workforce who are not in agreement may leave and their dues will be settled immediately”, declared Kamathmaam solemly.

A lull fell over the assembled workforce. Till now they had relied on Bihari but now they realized they were wrong. Bihari, seeing that his plan had gone terribly wrong stepped on the stage in a fit of rage. He was surprised when he saw 5 muscular guys materialize from nowhere. Soon he was thrashed like a villain in the final scenes of a masala Bollywood film and the rest of the workforce resumed work like nothing had ever happened.

Kamathmaam was happy to see the result. He had finally resolved the matter.

*****

Anjali is worried sick from the past one week. Never before had her dog, an Italian greyhound, acted so strangely. She was worried if it might be terminally sick but the vet, despite charging handsome fees, kept iterating that there was nothing wrong with him.

She had a woman’s instinct – an instinct that could know when things went wrong. Her dog was a very jovial creature and always enjoyed her company. From the past few days, he kept to himself, ate very less and declined all invitations to play with her. Things were going very wrong.

Suddenly, the door bell rang, disturbing Anjali’s thoughts. Her woman’s instinct again told her that it must be her worthless husband back from work. She knew he would be dead against any idea of going out for dinner.

“How about having dinner outside today?” she asked, knowing full well the answer.

“No. I am tired”, came the response. This was all she needed to throw her tantrums.

“I am tired of your moods. You never have any time for me. It’s not my fault if your darned factory is having a strike”, she yelled.

“Now stop it. It is not in my hands.”

“I don’t know, I don’t care. You better end it tomorrow”, came the ultimatum.

********

The moon is shining over the streets and there is not a sound to be heard. Alberto silently walks by the pavement, headed towards the rendezvous. The Don is waiting for him and he better not be late.

He reaches the spot and waits by the dump yard for the Don to arrive. In fact, he can see the Don walking towards him.

“I am glad you came, Don”, admits Alberto.

“What is it? How can I help you, Alberto?” asks the Don in his slurry accent.

“I want you to teach my boss the lesson of his life. I want justice”, pleads Alberto.

“What has he done to you?”

He ill-treats me. Kicks me about in front of everyone like a rag doll. I am tired of it. You are the only one who can help me”.

The Don thought for a while and said, “OK. It shall be done. Leave it to me. Meet me here in 5 days. Same time.”

********

Kamathmaam is on his way back. He is elated that he could end the protest so easily. He is sure his wife too will be equally happy to hear this.

“Anjali! I have done it! The workers are back at work and my bodyguards sent Munna Bihari straight to the hospital. The way they bashed him, he should be in for a good one month. And I have even lodged a police complaint against him. So that should take good care of him”, he beamed.

“Woof! Woof!” barked the dog and Anjali was pleasantly surprised.

“That’s great! Finally things are getting back to normal. The strike is resolved and it is the first time in the past 5 days Vito has been so excited. See, he is no more his gloomy self. Look at the way he is wagging his tail!! Thank god for everything!!” she replied.

**********

Alberto is back at the dump yard waiting for the Don. He knows the Don never fails.

“He is taken care of Alberto. Beaten so badly that they had to take him to the hospital. A police complaint has also been registered. Hope you feel Justice is served”, slurred the Don.

“I am so greatful to you Don Vito. I don’t know how to repay your kindness”, replied Alberto.

“Don Vito only asks for friendship. Don’t forget me in my time of need.”

“I will forever remember your favor and will be ready to help you in your time of need”, replied Alberto.

The moon shined down on the two dogs as they headed back to their respective homes.

————–

Note: You didn’t get the story? Click here. It is a spoiler, so i suggest you read it again. Your choice.

PS: No offence to Mario Puzo or any of the millions of Godfather’s fans. Though I don’t appreciate the story and the way of living advocated by Don Vito Corleone, I am very much an admirer of Mario Puzo’s terrific portrayal of the character of Godfather and needless to mention Marlon Brando’s fantastic enactment. All other disclaimers mentioned here apply.


Bookmark and Share Add to Technorati Favorites RSS

One inky black night…

Word Count: 371 | Estimated time to read blog: 5 minutes

It’s 9 PM. Darkness has crept in and the cold January wind is at its freezing worst as I walk all alone on the deserted street, hands tucked tightly in my pocket.Inky Black Night

Not quite familiar with the street, I amble on uncertainly until I see the faint glow of a porch bulb on an otherwise pitch black street. I check the address that she had sms-ed me on my mobile phone before entering. I am right. This is the place.

I knock and the door opens instantaneously. She looks beautiful – a slight trace of lipstick, neatly done eyebrows and a lovely cascade of long hair, almost as dark and magical as the night itself.

“I almost gave up on you. Thought you might never turn up”, says she.

“Uh…well. Sorry I guess I am quite late”, I mutter a nervous apology.

“I normally don’t wait for my customers. Please don’t be late again”.

“Sure”.

“Looks like this is your first time, huh?” she asks with a naughty twinkle in her eye.

“Yes…” I blush.

“Don’t worry. I will take good care of you. But I hope you know my charges. They are higher than a few others in my profession. Hope you are ok with it”.

“Yeah, as long as you are good, I don’t mind it”.

“Ok. Cool. So shall we begin?”

“Yeah”.

“You seem to be in a hurry to get done with it. Don’t worry, that’s how all first timers are”, she winks and flashes a smile as I remain speechless.

“Fine get comfortable on it”, she beckons to a recliner and I do as I am told.

———

After 30 min

“Yeah. So tell me. Was I as good as you thought?”

“Certainly. I will surely remember you the next time, just in case.”

“Thanks. But please take an appointment with my secretary a week in advance and arrive on time. And, do take good care of your teeth. I suggest you floss regularly. I just filled up a cavity so go easy with your teeth for 2 days and avoid eating hard stuff”, she advised.

“Thank you doctor, I’ll remember that”, said I and walked out of her clinic into the inky black night. 😉

Pic source: http://placeboeffect23.blogspot.com/2008/05/dead-night.html

—————

Bookmark and Share Add to Technorati Favorites RSS

Would my great grandson mind my 30-min showers?

Word count: 1950 | Estimated time to read blog: 0.00036 nano seconds!

For the technically challenged:

Don’t dismiss this blog because of the terms you see here. Just note that I have hyped both memory units and time – memory units are large and time is extremely small. So forget the yottas and the zeptos.

———————

It is the lordless year of 200981 AD.

3day r@m wakes up from his slumber and starts planning his day’s itinerary. He syncs up with the Solar Power Grid placed on Mars to see if he has been allocated his daily quota of power. He has been. He checks his inbox to see if he has any new mails. 754. He does a quick scan and deletes the spam, reads the personal ones first and keeps the office ones for the last – the most important of them being the one from his boss who has asked him to master some robotics related topic. The mail contains a 25 Yotta byte attachment and he goes through it completely. All this takes him 0.36 micro second.

Really ain’t a big deal if you got a partitioned brain with independent processors governing each half-lobe. The right brain is creative so he has got a processor that enables him to paint, dance and flirt and he reserves it for his personal and social purposes. The left brain being logical, he has a processor that solves complex problems, finds patterns, sifts through information and this half of his brain is dedicated to all office and professional work. Not that he ain’t a “professional” when it comes to flirting 😉 Well, what if some creativity is required at his office? In that case, he replies like Presented Bai of Channel [V] – itna paisach mein itna hich milenga!

Having a separate processor for each of your brain lobes is really cool man. Takes the least amount of time for any shit you can think of. For chaps who freak over multi-tasking, this is the thing to get. Imagine you are attending a meeting and the presenter is damn sexy. You can understand and analyze all that she is saying with your left processor and ogle at her and make plans to invite her out for lunch with your right without each disturbing the other! You are doubly efficient!

Of course, the PROM containing morals and ethics runs across both lobes and this is a government mandate. You can’t avoid it and it is inserted by the doctor even before you are spanked alive and brought into the world. So you are almost born with it.

Sitting in his office he is applying the robotics concept to some complex algorithm. Nothing is impossible now because everyone knows everything. Competitive tests have been done away with and meritocracy is a thing of the past because everybody has equal access to every single bit of info. You might have better RAMs than a few others so you might get it a zepto second earlier. Big deal, huh?

An alert prompt flashes in front of his eyes as he is working: “Call from Pete – Accept | Ignore.” He wonders which Pete this is and considers himself lucky for having such a unique name. His parents had really seen the info glut coming and had given him a name so unique that all the search engine related queries for his name would throw results pertaining to him alone.

He triggers his social processor to accept the call and one part of his brain dedicated for receiving calls gets activated. You don’t have to open your mouth and form words when the call hits your brain directly. It is brain-to-brain communication and you don’t need those old, redundant fancy gizmos called mobile phones.

“Hi 3day”, brains Pete.

“Oh hia there Pete”, 3day brains back as his brain recognizes. It is his good friend from the days, or rather, zepto seconds of electronics engineering.

“You in India right now?”

“Yea”

“Well, I got a party tonight, make sure you attend. You’ll love it”

“Oh great! What time and where?”

“Well 7:00 pm. And all folks wanted to have it in Paris. So it’s Paris”

“Damn! 7:00 pm is just 2 nano seconds away. Paris is fine but I got some things to wind up dude”

“See if you can make it. Will wait for ya. Chao” and he brains off.

Now attending Pete’s party is no big deal because of the processors. Going to Paris isn’t as arduous as it used to be because all the world is nothing but a computer generated 3D rendering and you can teleport your mind from one place to another easily. Earlier you had to lug around your entire body just to get your brain to experience a few things about the new place and people. But now, thanks to the microprocessors linked with the 3D virtual rendering of all places across the earth, physical travel is passe. Now, it takes as much time to go from Bangalore to Mysore as from Bangalore to Greenland; the only constraint is your bandwidth. Distance has collapsed and you can no more vent your frustration on the government for bad roads in your city.

What 3day is actually worried about is the power levels. Both partying and working takes a heavy toll on the processors. Since power is rationed from the Mars Solar Power Grid, he might just run a blank and might mean shut down until he gets it exactly 24 hours after he got his previous quota.

He decides to risk it. He puts his robotic algo on self propagating mode, throwing in a sub-routine to generate only critical alerts and teleports to Paris.

The party is live and happening. Takes him no time to spot a blue-haired babe dancing seductively in the corner. He runs a semantic search on her – giving descriptions as he sees her and has all info about her. She is N*ksh*t* – hmmn that’s a cool name. Her bio data, qualification and every other possible info floats in front of his eyes. And the way she is looking at him in the eye, he knows she has all his info floating similarly in front of her lovely hazel eyes. It takes both of them only a fragment of a nano-second more to know that each is interested in the other because they searched each other’s brains out. This search is possible only if the feeling is perfectly mutual and the firewalls are temporarily down to enable this.

Ok it’s fun time. They embrace each other and begin to dance. 3day looks into N*ksh*t*’s eyes and gets the shock of his life. The colors are changing from red, to blue, to black to, white. He pushes her away – damn she might be a virus! He looks at her and her whole self is turning black and white and then fuzzy. He runs a full system bio-scan and it returns normal – 0.000000 infections. The logical part of his brain throws up a critical alert with a red exclamation mark and then….piff! blank!

————–

His worst nightmare came true – he ran out of power and now with the processors totally dry he has to make do with his biological brain, which has taken over automatically. He is now in what his ancestors called “The Real World”.

Ha! He mocks his ancestors – those bloody wasteful bastards. Imagine living a life like that – having a house for yourself, wasting so much fuel on travel, inventing all crappy gizmos like television, laptops etc. Really ridiculous. And to top it all, they even went berserk over “environmental conservation to save future generations”. Save trees, save ozone layer, avoid plastic etc so that future gens also follow their wasteful example. And the amount of effort, money and resources they spent on entertainment and work was just too much. Mindless buffoons.

Little did they realize that mankind will evolve. “The trees might have vanished. So what? We live great on plastic. Our clothes are plastic and I think they are far better than those cotton Arrow shirts they used”, thinks 3day. Suits the current environment conditions. And all of that colossal space and effort wasted on travel, communication, entertainment and work is now just a small silicon molecule in everyone’s brain !

He is settled on his row and watches all the hundreds of others around him on other similar rows. It is like an MS Excel file and each has his/her own cell space. They are all plugged into the virtual world because they have power, lucky guys. He eats his vitamin dry soup – a small pack containing all the 26 essential vitamins and minerals identified by research, to keep human life going. He smirks again as he thinks of all the farm lands and restaurants that his ancestors had once maintained in the pretext of eating and staying alive. And yeah! Those crimes, wars etc that one human being perpetrated on the other – just ruled out now because every one had the same set of morals and ethics in his/her PROM. And how can one forget the healing procedures, doctors and dentists who pretended to cure/heal you. One didn’t even know if one was sick and had no way of finding out. No self-check, no auto-heal. Bah! He just couldn’t understand the world before 3000 AD.

————–

Only 2 seconds had elapsed since he had woken up from his slumber. And in that time, he had done enough work that would otherwise take 1000 man-years for his ancestors. And he had entertained himself quite a bit. Now he had to wait for another 23:59:58 hours to get his power quota replenished and considering the way time and things moved in the “real” world, it was a heck of a painful wait.

————-

Author’s note: (pinch of salt advised) 😉

First things first. This entry is certainly inspired by Neal Stephenson’s ‘Snow Crash’ that I am currently reading but I really believe in the following things:

One: is the migration of the human existence onto the virtual platform with a processor to control most mundane processes and also to assist decision making. Our life is governed by information and its processing. An IITian, for example, is considered special only because of his superior brain – in other words, superior source of information and its processing. I believe in democratizing meritocracy and making all info available to everybody. Also, I seriously fail to understand the word ‘Real Life’. Who told you what is real? Can I choose my reality?

Two: is the futility of environmental conservation. I know this is the hep thing right now and my anti stance on this issue might raise a lot of hackles, but I think it is futile. I might switch off a bulb now and turn off a tap which might help one of my great grandsons to keep his bulb and tap on for 3 more minutes, a few centuries down the line. But what the heck is a few centuries as compared to geological time? Every species and entity has its span and nothing can prevent its elimination. Environmental protection stems from man’s ego of being the most supreme creature to ever walk the earth and the desire to keep mankind alive always. So, at the root of it is pure human selfishness with a pretext of temporary sacrifice. Sorry my dear great grandson, I am headed for a 30 min shower right after posting this blog! You mind?

—————–

PS: Whew, these after-notes look like an entry in itself. Well, I have used a few subtle things in this entry most obvious of them being 3day r@m. (or is it?). Can you guess the significance of the digits in the year mentioned in the very first line? 😉 And you of course can’t get Pete, but I hope Pete will!


Bookmark and Share Add to Technorati Favorites RSS

The Assignment

Word Count: 870 | Estimated time to read blog: 6 minutes

Buzz buzz…. Buzz buzz…. Buzz buzz…. Buzz buzz….”

The persistent ringing of the cell phone woke up Gady .R from his alcohol induced sleep. With groggy eyes, he picked up the phone and answered it. The speaker on the other end was ominously brief –

 

“Gady .R, if you don’t shoot Captain Suko this time, the contract is terminated and you are fired. This is your last chance. Bye…” and the line went blank.

 

Gady .R was now wide awake. He looked around his dingy room strewn with beer cans, cigarette packs and unwashed underwear and tried to clear his head. Nothing worked.

 

Picking up a pack of Indonesian cigarettes and a towel, he headed towards the loo.

“This should make me think and focus better”, he murmured to himself and lit the cigarette. The smoke had a mixed scent of cloves and tobacco which gave his troubled mind some relief and clarity.

 

Perched on the potty, he began to ponder on the events that had transpired in the past few days. Exactly five days ago he was comfortably nestled in his home with a bottle of whiskey for company, watching his favorite film, ‘An Orange Clock’. It was a lovely evening and he was in really high spirits 😉 But one phone call from his boss had ruined it all.

 

“We have received news that Captain Suko is holding a press conference in Karpala. He will also make a brief public appearance. Your tickets are booked for the 10 pm flight tonight. Hurry up and pack your bags. And remember, you have to shoot him this time. Needless to say, the security measures are stringent. So take care and all the best for this assignment…..”

 

Captain Suko was the latest leftist rebel on the political scene and was gaining increasing popularity among the masses. He was a wiry man with ringlets of hair and an ever-present smile on his lips. And he too had his share of idiosyncrasies. He was always dressed in army fatigues and Sprandi shoes – a combination that he took to after his Reebok shoes got stolen. Rumors had it that he ate beef and horse meat regularly to put on some weight. But it never added an ounce so he told others that he ate it to keep his mind agile and kicking. Till date, Captain Suko had ordered, stood on and then mutilated with a hammer, at least 25 weighing machines because they had always fallen short of displaying his expected 60 kgs or more.

 

Gady .R arrived in Karpala in the dead of the night. The place was a small township – dusty roads, quiet lanes and a very humid temperature which almost seemed Saharan. There were posters and leaflets of Capt. Suko’s rally all over the town. He had gone to the rally to accomplish his mission but he hadn’t anticipated the response from the local crowd to be so massive. The throng had overwhelmed him and he couldn’t even come anywhere close to Capt. Suko. And his equipment was highly unsuitable for shooting from such long distances. So he had to abandon his plan and return.

 

This failure together with the threat he had received today from his employer irked him. He had to complete this assignment and it was his last chance.

 

“Bloody aatankwadi1 son of a bitch, Captain Suko. I will shoot you today, come what may”, yelled Gady .R as he threw down his cigarette stub and flushed the toilet.

 

After a quick shower, Gady .R wore his regular denim, T-shirt and Brut deo. He checked himself out in the broken glass pane and adjusted his mullet. He then examined the equipment he had carefully hidden in a black bag. All the requisite items were there intact. He zipped it close and slung it over his shoulders before stepping out of his room. He was all set for the assignment.

 

Capt Suko was beaming and smiling as usual when he entered the press conference. He had managed to get a press badge quite easily and walked in without any scrutiny or inspection. Capt Suko was telling the press about his latest strategies on how he would eliminate poverty by taking some drastic measures and the scribes were eagerly noting down every word for the morrow’s edition.

 

Gady .R went to a vacant spot right behind the rows where the scribes were seated. He stealthily opened his bag and taking out his equipment, carefully began to assemble it. Within a minute, he was ready. It was now only a matter of time and opportunity. He began to concentrate hard.

 

Just then, the reporter in front of him asked a question in a lighter vein and Captain Suko burst out laughing. In this commotion, Gady .R realized it was now or never. Instantly, he brought his equipment in position and pressed the button.


******************************


The next morning, every newspaper carried the pic of a laughing Captain Suko. Gady .R’s job as a freelance photo-journalist was not easy but he had managed to do quite well so far. As he sat on the plane heading back home, he vowed to buy himself a zoom telephoto lens for long distance ‘shooting’ 😉

1. aatankwadi (noun): Hindi for ‘terrorist’

 

A notion called freedom

|Word Count: 1800|Estimated time to read blog: 12 minutes|

Mhanthu was the petty thief of the village. Pocketing a cake of soap from the local village store, getting his otherwise bare feet into a pair of slippers at the temple and putting his bony arms into open windows of houses to grab an alarm clock interested him perennially. But luck had finally run out on poor Mhanthu and the village magistrate too was tired of seeing him once very often because Mhanthu single-handedly disrupted most of his scheduled dozing sessions. So this time, instead of the routine ten whacks from the havildar’s bamboo stick, he decided to sentence Mhanthu for a good three months in the district headquarters jail.

prison_bars.jpgLife behind bars was extremely unpleasant for a first-timer like Mhanthu. He was quite used to the havildar’s bamboo by now and sometimes the havildar would let go after eight. And he could resume business immediately after it stopped aching. But now, Mhanthu wondered, as he lay on the straw mattress snuggled inside a ragged blanket –

“WAKE UP YOU NITWIT. Enough of your beauty-sleep. It is your turn to wash all the clothes today”, growled the jail superintendent, throwing Mhanthu out of his reverie.

“What do you mean?” enquired Mhanthu mustering all the gullibility that he possibly could.

“Since you are new here, let me explain once. Each inmate of this jail has a specific task to perform on certain days. Cleaning up, washing clothes and helping the jail cook is all scheduled. So all in all, you will have three or four working days and you better remember that” growled the SI and twirled his mustache.

“Now, get going and do a good job of the washing”, he added. “You don’t want yourself and the rest of the inmates to stink as bad as your prison cell, do you? Hahahahahahahahahaa”. He had unbuttoned his uniform and his enormous pot-belly jiggled under his vest as he laughed.

“I am disgusted with this life here”, murmured Mhanthu to his cell mate and new found jail pal, Bodki. “Captivity notwithstanding, we got to do ridiculous jobs like washing clothes”.

“Hee hee hee” began Bodki and went into a paroxysm of beedi induced cough.

“Wait until you begin cooking or better still, cleaning the toilets”, he managed to mutter after he regained his breath. Bodki had taken to pick-pocketing to sustain his cravings for tobacco. He once tried his luck with a sleeping police officer and he would have been successful had he not got the untimely bout of cough right when he was near the policeman’s ear. He did try making a quick getaway but his tobacco-accustomed lungs weren’t ready for all the unexplained influx of fresh air and even before he could stop panting, he was hand-cuffed, arrested and sentenced. So poor Bodki was imprisoned not so much for pick-pocketing as he was for smoking.

It didn’t take long for Mhanthu to learn that Bodki was right. And three months seemed too long a stretch to endure these domestic tortures and confinement.

“I am planning a getaway”, declared Mhanthu after another round of unsanitary cleaning. “I can’t take it any longer”.

“Hee hee hee…..”, began Bodki and Mhanthu walked away disgusted. He now had more than one reason to expedite his getaway.

Mhanthu had done the necessary homework. During his turns at cleaning and cooking, he had gathered enough knowledge of the premises to see which could be a likely escape spot and he had narrowed down on the short wall behind the lavatory.

Night had fallen and it was pitch dark everywhere. But Mhanthu found it easy to locate the lavatory – using his nose! He had hidden a few street clothes in one of them. After he had changed over, he quickly jumped on to the asbestos ceiling and got on to the adjacent wall. Freedom was just a whisker away!

But what he had not anticipated was the descent at the other end. With the toilet covering most of the ten foot wall, it looked easy from one side but the other side was dangerously void of supporting structures. And the lack of visibility made it all the more difficult because Mhanthu couldn’t guess what awaited him once he dropped off the wall. But there was no going back now and the stench from the toilet was enough encouragement. So he uttered a short prayer and let go.

He landed hard on his feet on a pile of bricks and apart from a sprain in his left foot, was all in one piece. He collided with a tree in the darkness and fell but he didn’t stop. He limped away in the darkness and headed towards the temple that lay at the outskirts.

The temple was an ancient one, mostly in ruins. Apart from a few visitors in the morning, it was mostly deserted. He thought this was an ideal place to hide until his foot healed. Settling down in a not-so-uncomfortable corner, he soon began to snore.

The 8 o’clock sunshine is difficult to sleep under and he woke up to the sweet chirping of the birds and an occasional tingle of the temple bell in the distance. He checked his foot and it felt slightly better. He was hungry and decided to see if some devout person had left behind some offerings in the temple.

As he was about to enter the temple, he saw a demure girl selling flowers on the steps near the entrance. Now Mhanthu had never been fascinated by women but then, there is always a first time. He couldn’t get his eyes off her and his heart ached more than his foot, the more he saw her. The flowers in her supple hands seemed to add more grace to her beauty and he realized that something ought to be done about it soon.

And soon he did. The bud of admiration bloomed into a flower of romance and fructified into marriage. Neither their backgrounds nor any other factors came in their way and luckily, they didn’t have filmy parents to hinder. Mhanthu settled in his wife’s house and life was never better.

1 month later:

“WAKE UP YOU NITWIT”, shouted Mhanthu’s wife Swali. “Enough of your beauty sleep. I’m off to the temple to sell flowers. Wash all the clothes, clean up the house and keep dinner ready when I get back. God knows when you will get a decent job for yourself.” And she was gone.

It was already evening and Mhanthu religiously finished all the assigned chores before sunset. A month into married life had made him an expert dhobi, cook and manservant. He had finished well before she would arrive for dinner so he decided to take a short snooze.

A sharp pain in his back jolted him out of his sleep. It was his wife who was standing perched atop him, broomstick in hand. “You lazy-bones, you deserve this and more and more and more…..” and she went whack-whack-whack.

“Where is the dinner”, she demanded and he meekly pointed in the direction of the vessels containing the victuals. Within no time, she emptied the day’s preparations completely leaving nothing for poor Mhanthu. He had no idea selling flowers by the temple was such a strenuous job but then he didn’t dare to object.

The nights were cold and Swali lay snuggled in the only blanket. Below on the floor, Mhanthu rolled in hunger, exhaustion and lack of warmth. He began to think of the jail days when he had to work for only three or four days, had enough food, no one to bully him and of course warm clothes, a bed and a blanket! And how could one forget the lovable cell-mate Bodki who hardly spoke for the fear of a vicious bout of never-ending cough? Life was so peaceful. Not only had he been foolish to escape from there but he had made a bigger mistake of getting married. What a strange notion of freedom he had!

He wanted to end it all. A sudden brainwave hit him and he made up his mind to execute it the following night.

After meting out her quota of abuses and broomstick blows, Swali had gone to sleep under the warmth of the only blanket. Once her snores became periodic, Mhanthu woke up to carry out his plan. He grabbed the thick rope that he had hidden under the basket and slung it onto his shoulders. He then turned around and took one last look at the house and at Swali but that didn’t dissuade him from what he was going to do.

“Life’s not worth living here”, he made up his mind. “And she shouldn’t even know that I am gone”.

He gently slipped out of the door and into the night. It was a chilly night but he was glad that it was the last night he would feel so cold.

Soon he reached the spot he had chosen. The big tree was right in front of him now and he knew that its strong branches could easily withstand his weight. He made a loop and in a few attempts had it fastened to one of the sturdiest branches. He tugged at it and examined it. It held fast. It was now time to go.

Next morning:

“YOU RASCAL, YOU DARE TO ESCAPE AND THEN COME BACK, HUH?” bellowed the jail superintendent in his ears. Mhanthu woke up from underneath his blanket and stood up with his head bowed in pretentious guilt. When he had escaped from the jail, he had collided against a tree right next to the wall and it had come in very handy last night.

“Wait until I get you before the magistrate this time. Escaping from jail is a crime in itself. I will make sure that you stay locked in here for a good couple of years- mind you if I don’t”, he said and slammed the bars shut as he walked away.

“YIPPPPPPEEEEEEEEE!!!!” shouted Mhanthu and leaped into the air after the superintendent was gone. “I am so glad to be back and I hope the superintendent convinces the magistrate to sentence me for at least 2 years”, he prayed.

“Hee hee hee…” went Bodki and launched himself into another endless bout of chronic cough.

After the excitement had settled down in the cell and Bodki had fairly regained his breath, he managed to ask, “But why did you come back to the jail?”

“Are you married?” enquired Mhanthu.

“No. Why?”

“No wonder you fail to see the luxury and freedom in this jail. If you really want to know what freedom is, try getting married”, advised Mhanthu and shuddered at the thought of his married life before snuggling under his blanket again and resuming his ‘beauty sleep’ 😉

If I name this blog, I’ll kill it!

|Word count: 660|Estimated time for reading blog: 6 minutes|

I am standing on the terrace of a multi-storey building. The wind is blowing in my ears. As I come to the edge of the terrace, the wind gets stronger. It is perhaps nature’s way of dissuading me from taking the next few fatal steps.suicide.jpg

Now, perched on the tip I look up at the sky one last time and lift my arms. And then I take the last step. The world whizzes past me as I dive to my death. Death is instantaneous.

My parents are mourning over my shroud-covered body. I take a step backwards and think. Mom is inconsolable. I look down at the tarmac and feel dizzy. The flowers are sprinkled and the wreath is placed on my body by a grief-stricken father. I decide to give myself more time before taking the plunge. Relatives and friends lift the coffin on to their shoulders for the final march. I take the lift down and reach the ground floor. The trumpets are bleating shrilly in my funeral procession. The din of traffic as I drive back is deafening.

They reach the cemetery. I arrive home. The coffin is being nailed. I lock myself in my room away from everyone. Nail one in place. I decide to confront dad and confess. The priest is chanting the funereal verses. Father slaps me and hurls abuses. Nail two in place. I am climbing down the steps of the court, having divorced my wife. Nail three in place. I walk out of my office with a pink slip in hand. Nail four in place. I am beaten and thrashed by recovery agents for defaulting the loan and my car is taken away.

The coffin is lowered into my grave. My father forgives me and praises me for owning up. The coffin now rests on the floor of my grave – where I will continue to remain for a long, long time. I find the lady of my life with whom, I know, I will remain for a long, long time. Relatives start filling up my grave with handfuls of soil. I start my own business and am on the path to progress. My grave is now covered and the final rites are over. I drive over to the bank in my BMW, briefcase in hand.

On my way back, I park my BMW outside the cemetery and enter. I am now standing in front of my grave and reading the eulogies on my tombstone. I kneel down and bend over the cold concrete of my grave. The unpleasant memories that drove me to suicide flood my mind in vivid detail. The sun is hidden by a blanket of clouds and darkness begins to crawl in like water seeping into a sinking ship. I begin to weep over my grave as a gust of wind picks up in the distance and rattles across an otherwise silent graveyard. I am bending over the grave so much that it looks like I am almost falling into it. I determinedly regain composure, wipe my tears and stand up, stepping away from the grave.

The clouds suddenly clear away and light floods in. The wind stops blowing and the leaves in the trees are still again. The tombstone vanishes before my eyes and eventually my entire grave is invisible. I look around and the graveyard spins and vanishes. I shake my head in disbelief and blink my eyes.

********************************

I am standing on the terrace of the multi-storey building. The wind is blowing in my ears. As I come to the edge of the terrace, the wind gets stronger. It is perhaps nature’s way of dissuading me from taking the next few fatal steps.

Now, perched on the tip I look up at the sky and lift my arms. And then I retrace my steps. I take the lift down and reach the ground floor and walk out a happy man. I chose life.

 

 

PS:

My dear readers, lest you decide you mistook;

I declare this story warrants a different outlook.

A clue is left hidden somewhere in this blog;

Obscured by an abundance of wordy fog.

And the first mortal who comments the exact phrase;

On this very blog will receive a line of praise!

 

 

 

Copy

Word Count: 1217 | Estimated time to read blog: 10 minutes

Gonu was a mouth-organist who played popular Bollywood songs on the beach to make ends meet. Being dumb since birth, his only form of expression was his mouth-organ and each evening he spent his time on the beach entertaining kids who would generously hand over a rupee or two from their pocket money in return for his melodies.

He stayed alone in a tumbledown jhompdi by the beach. His income was paharmonica-2.gifltry and the fact that he was disabled in a way also added on to his continued bachelorhood. And life wasn’t a Bollywood story in which a smiling heroine would embrace him despite his penury. So he was happy living life on his own.

But like all artists who listen to their inner voice, Gonu had realized that he had a streak of originality within him. He had an irresistible creative urge to vent out his inner self and each time he set his lips on to the mouth-organ, he played it with a panache that left the listener enthralled. He always wanted to play something original but he had to oblige to ‘popular demand’ to earn his pennies.

“Let’s hear that song from Rangeela”, the kids would say and he would agree with a smile.

After counting the day’s earnings, he would decide his meal accordingly and return to the beach. The crowds would have left for the comfort of their homes and the beach would be desolate but for the company of the sweet sound of the waves crashing against the rocks once very often. He would settle himself at a spot overlooking the sea and play his original compositions. There were no notes to guide him – only his creative instinct. This was his ritual each day and only after venting out this accumulated creative energy could he sleep for the night.

At evening time the beach was frequented by joggers, lovers and kids. Others would come for a helping of pav-bhaaji, the light breeze, the warm sand and the kaleidoscopic canvas of the evening sky. Gonu moved across the beach playing his mouth organ and soon he was surrounded by kids with myriad requests.

“Play Bhool-Bhulaiyya”, requested an obese kid, munching on a vada-pav.

“Don’t you think it’s just the moment for Hum Tum”, murmured a dreamy Romeo to his love.

Several such requests were granted in return for a rupee and if the listener decided to pay more, it was Gonu’s luck. Darkness had fallen and it was Gonu’s time to count the day’s earnings under the street lamp. As he stood counting he was approached by a man whose oversized tummy clearly indicated that he was affluent.

“I heard you play filmy tunes on the beach today. I liked it. You seem to have a way with kids and your music is quite good”, said he.

Gonu gesticulated his thanks indicating that he couldn’t speak and the man took the cue.

“I am celebrating my son’s birthday party day after tomorrow and thought you could come and play the mouth-organ to entertain all the kids. I will give you Rs 500. Will you come?” enquired the man. Gonu was overjoyed! He readily accepted and took the man’s visiting card.

Gonu arrived at the venue on time. It was a lovely party. There were kids all around and Gonu played all evening to entertain them. He was very much liked by the kids as he knew a few of their nursery rhymes as well and his film songs were just amazing. They piled up their requests until there were no more songs in their mind and then it was time to leave.

The servants were busy cleaning up the place and moving things away. The birthday boy’s father eventually came over to where Gonu had been waiting for some time now.

“You weren’t all that good as I thought you are. I didn’t quite like your performance today. Anyways, here is Rs 100 for your time and be done with it”. And he was gone. Gonu tried to protest but his dumb cries fell on deaf ears and he returned to the beach with a heavy heart.

He lay on the beach, filled with remorse at life’s inequities. The night was still and the waves too were morosely silent today. A hunchback moon glistened on an otherwise inky sky like a cut on a black velvet curtain held against a light bulb. He placed his mouth-organ to his lips and closed his eyes. What followed was an unrestrained rhapsody that was a result of his feelings, subdued emotions and his creative urge. He played his original tune with a masterly instinct and at the end of it, was very much relieved.

As he opened his eyes, he saw some movement in the distance. He soon realized that he was being watched by a man and all this time when he thought he was alone, he was mistaken.

“That was a fantastic tune”, applauded the man from the shadows and came closer.

“Why don’t you play it again? It was amazing”, he urged.

Gonu yielded to this request, glad that someone found his original composition worthy of an encore. The man thoroughly praised him for the rendition and walked away, leaving behind a glowing Gonu who forgot the day’s woes.

3 months later:

It was business as usual but owing to examinations, the turnout of kids was pretty low. So, instead of spending yet another fruitless evening by the beach, Gonu decided to take out a few rupees from his savings and go for a movie. There’d been much talk about the latest musical blockbuster and he decided to check it out.

After the initial few minutes the much awaited song, Saatvan Aasman was screened. Gonu was shocked to hear one of his own original tunes being used in the movie! Rent with anger he cried out incoherently, only to be rudely forced to stay quiet by the other movie-watchers beside him. He tried to think about the possibility of a coincidence but the memory of the stranger he had encountered on the beach a few months ago suddenly leaped to his mind, making things clear. The others all around were singing along and praising the genius of the music director to have conceptualized and composed such a master piece.

The song, Saatvan Aasman, became a big hit and the music director, the man whom Gonu had met on the beach, was hailed as one of the best composers of all time.

*****

“Play Kabhi Alvida na Kehna”, requested the girl in a pony tail and pink skirt and the other girls in her group smiled and waited for Gonu to begin.

Just as he was about to begin, one of the girls interrupted-

“No, no wait. Play Saatvan Aasman instead. I love that song and it is so different”, and all the girls giggled and agreed. Gonu played the tune that he was so familiar with and the girls were pleased.

“It was good but not quite as good as the original in the movie”, said one of them and they ran away to where their parents were, after tossing him a coin.

Gonu looked at the rupee coin and blinked away tears as he pocketed the price for his original composition.

 

|My first attempt at short-story writing. Inspired by a true-life incident|

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑