Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Diary From Window-A short story

“... never really liked him. But he is part of my life now, like so many others who have no significance and are like mute spectators to a riot. I don’t think I got anything against Mr. Robertos, but there are times when his presence stirs up my rage. His understanding eyes would penetrate deep into my soul and ask me questions, which I don’t care ask myself. But then, he has that look for everyone around him. He just walked by, to the main road probably. He generally walks to the main road around this time to have a smoke when his wife does not have eyes for anyone except the daily soap on television. As he walked diagonally, he gave a piercing look at the boys playing cricket on the road with his eyes drilling into them as if they are children of escaped convicts let loose in this residential area to create ruckus. If you ask me, I have always enjoyed watching these kids play cricket on the road. The game itself becomes so engrossing that old rules are thrown out of the window and new rules are created where a red brick becomes the wicket and throwing replaces the traditional bowling. When I was their age, I use to love being on the streets.

Ha! Look at that. The Sharmans have just driven in and I can actually sense the tension on the faces of the boys. The Sharman family were always rancorously opposed to street cricket. Quite understandable if you ask me, the man had never held a bat in his life and he owns two luxurious cars which are parked at a spot where the boys have marked for a ‘Six’. I don’t think I ever saw Sharman smile at anyone. He always has a scowl on his face which looks like a crumpled shirt hanging by the wall. Robertos once told me...”

Kumar heard the door creak and stopped writing. His intuitive mind already knew who would walk into his room and was not disappointed to see Priya walk in with her usual fragrance when he turned around. He called it a woman’s fragrance. He left his diary open, delicately placing his pen in the middle of the book and turned himself completely to face her. Priya gave a curtly nod at him and went about her work in the most clinical way like she always does. He watched her move around his room as if she lived there all her life. While she changed his bed covers and arranged his table,  

“Don’t move anything on the table” he said sternly. And even as the words went out of his mouth, he knew she would pretend not to hear him. He smiled to himself though not a bit showed on his face. His face was devoid of any expression as he looked at her, as she went about her job of stacking the books on his table into order. She glanced at his diary and closed it shut quickly and pushed it near other books on the table. Kumar remained seated on his arm chair with his hands folded and his eyes followed her everywhere as if waiting for her to break the silence. He always welcomed serenity but with her, he can’t afford to be silent. He sometimes wondered why this beautiful girl is stuck with him, coming to visit him every day without fail. Kumar had never left his room since last seven years, his only contact to the world was through his window. Watching her closely, he longed to see her break down, even for a moment. To see her at least drop something on the floor or spill the ink on his paper, just to see that hesitation on her face. But she never granted him a moment of diffidence and it made him edgy.  She was perfect in her own way, almost like his daughter. This time, when he smiled to himself, his face betrayed him and the smile creased out of his lips for the world to take notice.

“What are you smiling at?” Priya asked, without stopping what she was doing.

“Now, is there a ban on that as well?” He asked, wanting it to sound sarcastic but it was merely asked in a serious tone.

“What are you smiling at, Mr.Kumar? She repeated and his smile became more obvious and wider.

“When a man began to look at beautiful women and still think of his daughter, it means he is getting old. It’s a sure sign.” He replied with a twinkle in his eyes.

Priya beamed at him and said-“You are definitely getting older, Mr. Kumar, but not in the way you think.” with a surreptitious grin which almost escaped his eye.

She went out of his room for few minutes and came back holding a tray with two cups of hot simmering tea. She placed the tray on the small glass table, which she had pulled across to the middle of the room and gave him a determined look.

“Not again...”he groaned and yet pulled his chair nearer.

“...blowing from the east with such a force as if all the gods have taken leave of their senses and blowing their lungs out to create such a strong wind. The windows are swaying dangerously to the winds, threatening to smash themselves to the walls even though the hinges are strong enough to hold them fast. It’s dark outside with no lights on the road below. A lone street lamp is around the corner, if I remember correctly. Lights are already out in most of the houses I see, except the bedroom light of the window in second floor of the apartments in front of this house. In the carpet of darkness spread before me right now, the glowing window looks like a bright star in the dark sky.

A car just sped by, without giving me time to even notice its colour. It infuriates me when I miss to notice anything which passes my window. How I wish, I can run down the road right now, chase the car and make the driver go past my window once again, so that I can check the colour properly. Some drunken kid, I am sure with no sense or consciousness to realize that he is going to kill someone tonight. I should remember to read tomorrow’s paper. I am going to look for the accident which happened round this corner. I can almost feel it right, the wailing cries from across the street. Who was it this time? A passerby or some beggar sleeping on the footpath? No one can say. Or, no one cares. I don’t care either. People die every day.”


“Good evening, Priya” he said finally breaking the silence. Sitting right across him, she folded her arms and smiled at him.

“Good evening, Mr. Kumar”.  She looked at him warmly. The way she was looking at him, he felt she might get up and give him a hug. The thought made him shudder and he shook his head to get himself out of his thoughts.

“I think...You should stop coming here.” He said finally slowly.

“You have said this before.” she replied with an endearing smile. Her eyes seemed to say, ‘Not again!’

“God damn you! Are you crazy?” he screamed, as he stood up while he kicking his chair back. It fell down behind him with a thud. She leaned back in her chair and tilted her head to her right, almost resting the head on her shoulder. Her smile was intact, as if his outburst made no difference to her.

“For seven years, you have been coming here. I don’t want your fucking sympathies. I didn’t ask you to come. Don’t you have any friends? Don’t you have your studies to complete? Go home kid. I don’t want to see you here.” he screamed realizing his window is still wide open and his voice might have carried to those on the road. He could sense the road across his window becoming silent to his screams, as if lapping up every word he had uttered.

“Right now, Mr Kumar, It is you who is behaving like a kid. Please sit down. We have done this so many times. I like being here, Mr. Kumar. You know, I don’t come here to feel sorry for you but actually the opposite. But you know that. Why don’t you start acknowledging that, so that we have something to agree upon?”

Her smooth voice was controlled though her composure looked rattled and smile faltered a bit before she regained herself with a bright smile. He continued to glare at her and finally let out a sigh. He pulled his chair and pushed it towards his table at the window. Without another word to her, he opened his diary and started scribbling.

“The boys have started the game. They must be in their twenties. Some might have been in their teens, but that doesn’t matter when you are on the road with a cricket bat and a loud mouth. The way, these kids swear at each other might put the most pervert adult into shame. The noise they make, the fun they have with each other, makes me remember my days as a kid. I was a street lover too, playing in the mud and sand whenever I could. I used to play cricket in our small lane where a car wouldn’t be able to pass. I might have broken few windows or did I? I don’t remember. It was a long time ago. Back then, we would stop playing every time someone walks by, so that the ball doesn’t hit him. But that’s so rare. Now, I guess there are too many people on the roads. Every few minutes, the game is paused to let some passerby walk across or some vehicle to drive past. How sad, these kids don’t get to enjoy the match on their own road. If I had it my way, I would ban all vehicles on the roads, so that everyone can play as they wish. At least, I hope that would keep them safe.

I can see her walking across, to the main road. She is wearing a pink salwar suit and her hair was let loose, may be even a little wet. May be she just had a shower, before coming out for this walk. Her small steps look unsure, as if she knows she is walking into the trap. Looking at those boys, playing cricket, she looked like she is murmuring a small prayer for them to stop playing. Her eyes betrayed fear and innocence, as she walked into the circle of boys in their wild abandon. And...”

“Did you look at that? Anjali got hit. Anjali got hit by the cricket ball” Kumar screamed, getting up from his chair. Priya had a sad look on her face, as she sat on her chair. She closed her eyes for a moment and got up. She walked towards the window and glanced across the street. Looking back into the room, at his bewildered face, she said-

“Mr. Kumar, that girl is not Anjali and I don’t think she is hurt. The ball seems to have just graced her shoulder. Look, she is walking away right now.”

“You mad girl! Don’t you understand English? Anjali got hit on her head. I am going to kill these boys today. I will kill them all. Anjali is...” he continued his tirade when she took his hand into hers and squeezed it. Her eyes were shining due to small drops of tears forming slowly at the corners.

“Anjali is dead, Mr. Kumar. Your daughter has been dead since seven years.”

Sunday, July 8, 2012

College of gangs- A short story

This short story is completely fictional and duly inspired from real life. The character of Karthik Tyagaraj has been modeled on one of my very close friend at college.

It was thirty minutes past nine in the night. Looking at his watch, Vinay swore under his breath and walked faster. He walked with his head high and eyes drawn together, possibly in anger. Even in his petulant mood, he noticed how huge his college campus was. Adorned with huge buildings, one for each department, his college was undeniably one of the biggest and prestigious in the city. A cement road ran inside the campus to walk around and was better than the muddy road that led him to the college gate. The road curved beautifully to the right with endless patches of greenery on either sides and at each corner or a curve, huge trees stood with bent branches providing the shade to the students. Getting off the road to his right, he walked into the patch of grass without hesitation. He knew, if he was caught treading on the grass, he would be punished but it was a shortcut to the hostel and he couldn’t take the longer route. Not tonight. Vinay glanced around nervously to see if anyone was around and walked faster. When he reached the end of the green patch, he jumped across the flimsy steel fencing and got on the cement road again which leads straight to his hostel. He walked briskly and his legs carried him automatically as if his brain was occupied somewhere else and had given standing instructions to his legs to carry him home. He was numb with cold anger and like a huge white cloud blotting the sun, his brain was unwilling to think straight.

The boys’ hostel was a huge horizontal block with four floors. The walls look prehistoric and rusty as if wet mud has been splashed all over the walls and has not been washed for years. The ground floor was reserved for the first years and remaining floors were occupied by the senior students. Each Floor had twelve rooms in all with common rest rooms at each end of the corridor. With three students in each room, the hostel boasts of more than 150 boys with different ranges of hormonal fluids running in them. The ground floor was allotted only to the first years and for a reason. Vinay pushed the door to his room and walked in. A skinny lad, who was his roommate chirped-

“Hey! Where the hell have you been?  They took you out?”

“ Yes and they will pay for it.”

“Relax man, happens all the time. Let’s go and have some dinner. I have been waiting for you.”

“No, you have your food. I am going to the first floor.”

“What the... Are you out of your mind? That’s like walking into the lion’s den holding a placard over your head:  Fresh meat.” He said with an animated look on his face. 

“I know. But I am going to meet Karthik sir.” Vinay replied with a determined face and walked away from the room.

“You are crazy...” his roommate shouted back, shaking his head sideways but Vinay had already closed the door behind him and walked towards the staircase. The staircase was old and steps were broken. It had no railing to the side and everyone walked to the right, towards the wall to avoid slipping down. Getting to the first floor, he felt his insides getting squeezed by an invisible hand. This was where all seniors stay and walking in here was like taking a swim in a lake swarmed by crocodiles. As he took few steps forward, a senior walked by with a couple of books in hand.

“Good evening, sir” Vinay wished him with a nod of his head. The senior walked by without looking at him. It was customary for the first years to address their seniors by ‘Sir’ and wish them every time they come across any senior. He knew the senior would have roughed him up if he had not wished him or addressed him with respect. He walked slowly in the corridor, muttering good evenings to anyone he came across.
“Hey! Come here” He heard a voice behind and saw couple of seniors sitting on the wall beckoning at him. He walked towards them and as he went nearer,

“What’s so special in you, boy?” asked a tall guy in his shorts and T.

“Good evening, sirs.” he said nodding at both the seniors and continued- “Nothing special, Sir. Why?”

“Then why didn’t you button your hand cuffs? “

“Sir, but this is a half sleeved shirt.”Vinay replied with his eyes wide open with an incurious look.

“Oh really? We are blind then, I guess. Go and wear a full sleeved shirt, button your hand cuffs and come back. You have 2 minutes.”

“Sir, I came to meet Karthik sir. It’s urgent.” His voice was pleading, though he didn’t want to show it. He could see, both were sitting idly on the parapet wall and would not let him go easily.

“Did he call you or you came on your own?”

“Sir, he called me.” he lied.

“Fourth room to the left.” he said dismissively and Vinay left him after thanking him profusely.
As he turned his back towards them, his heart was pounding. Walking towards the door, he started musing about the state of affairs in his college. The first years or the juniors as they are called were treated much like slaves in ancient Egypt. They are expected to obey and respect the seniors without a whimper. In return, they are humiliated to the extent of frustration. Many first years have contemplated to run away, not able to withstand the ridicule and humiliation in the hands of their fellow students. A few manage to rebel back and get thrashed or mobbed immediately. Some of them befriend the infamous rogue seniors but end up getting trapped in the never ending gang wars between students. Shaking his slightly, he thought a nerd stood no chance against these bullies of college. Standing in front of the door, he took a deep breath and knocked slowly.

“It’s open.” A voice called out from inside and Vinay knew it had to be Karthik Sir. The voice had a touch of arrogance. Pushing the door, he walked in and said-

“Good evening, sir.”

Karthik was lying on his bed with just his shorts and a bare chest. His hair was unruly as if he has spent most of the evening kissing his pillow. All windows were closed, draped with thick curtains and completely shut. The room doesn’t seem to have any outlet for air and that might explain the stench inside the room which was of cigarette ash and unwashed clothes. It was however brightly lit by the lone tube light albeit hanging on just one side vertically.

“Sir, I need to talk to you...”

“And you are Vinay?”

“Yes sir.”

“Let the door be open. Okay, tell me. “

“Sir...I am... ”and Vinay gulped hard with stammer.

“Relax and tell me.” Karthik said without getting up from his bed. His both hands were behind his head and he looked on lazily with disinterest. 

Vinay looked at the ground for few seconds and lifted his head to see Karthik looking at him now with little curiosity. He ran his tongue on his lower lip, which had dried up in fear. Taking another short intake of breath, he began to speak when the door opened and a stout man with a dark skin barged in.

“Good evening, sir.” Vinay looked behind him and nodded his head.

“Evening huh? This looks like evening to you, doesn’t it? It’s already thirty past ten here mate.”He replied with a sneer.

Vinay didn’t reply and kept a straight face.

“What? Wish properly.”

“Good night, sir.” Vinay said with exasperation levels increasing hundred folds. He can’t afford to show it in his face lest he is made to sit here all night practicing how to wish properly.

“Are you trying to tell me to go away and sleep? Is that what you meant just now?  He thundered and it was evident, there was a mock in his burly voice.

“Chill. He is with me.” Karthik said it simply and the stout beast of a boy simply shrugged.

“Go on, Vinay.”

“Sir, today after college, I was walking back to the hostel when I was stopped by seniors near the buses. I, along with few others was made to do all the usual things. It’s the same every day. Every evening, till the buses start, we are held up there by the seniors, ragging us and making fun of us. I really don’t mind the ragging and that’s not the reason I came here sir.” Vinay said with a slow voice, looking at the ground all the time. He continued after a short pause –

“Today, I was taken out in one of their buses, to their flat.”
Karthik sat up on his bed and ran both his hands through his hair. His fingers combed through his unruly hair, while his ears pricked attentively.

“In fact, this is not the first time I was taken out. I was taken to their flat earlier too and was made fun of each time. It is very humiliating.”
Tears started taking shape in his eyes while his voice had started breaking up amidst his constant gulping down the nonexistent saliva.

“Today, they made me dance for them. Without clothes, sir.” He paused to let the gravity of the issue sink in and continued-
“I don’t know what kind of pervasive pleasure they derived, but I feel like puking when I think about it. To hear their inane comments and dancing like a bar girl, that’s not why I joined this college sir. On top of that, I was slapped by one of the senior there for refusing to dance. I had refused because it was getting late to come back to hostel but he had still slapped me. For raising voice, he told me.”

“Do you know their names?” Karthik asked with no emotion in his voice.

“Yes sir. The one who slapped me was Kiran. One who forced me into the bus was Raju...”he replied when Karthik cut in-

“Ah, the bloody nerds! You went to the JKD apartments?

Vinay nodded and was about to speak when the stout guy who has been listening attentively, chirped in-

“KT, this is heights of stupidity.” Karthik was called KT by his friends,which stood for Karthik Tyagaraj.

“ Yeah, these are the same guys, who wet their pants during exams. Now, they are acting like heroes.”

“I know. Unbelievable! Last year, they were all shivering like rabbits in front of our seniors. Bloody nerds! ”

“Sir, what do I do? I am afraid to go to the college or even out of this hostel.” Vinay spoke with caution. He knew, he was complaining against those who were of same class of KT. They were probably friends or even worse, would tell them that he had spoken here. But his fears soon evaporated when Karthik spoke-

“You are a fool! Why did you let them push you over? Now you come here and cry like a kid and expect me to go bash them up?”

“But sir...”

“You felt humiliated?” He asked quietly.

“Yes sir,”


“Yes sir,”

“You want them to pay for this?”


“Say it. Yes or no? “

“Yes sir,”

“Keep your phone switched off. Don’t talk to anyone about this. If anyone tries talking to you about this, tell me.”

College never differentiates between good news and bad news. Both kinds spread equally fast. It’s like an undercurrent which flows through the wires across the college. A lone guy in his twenties stood near the door and frantically tried calling on his mobile but in vain. He kept trying continuously but couldn’t get through the lines. It so happens every time that mobile signals goes down when you need it the most. He tried again, when someone from behind called him-

“What’s wrong, Dinesh?”

“Signals are always down at JKD apartments. Hell, I have tried all their numbers. None of them work.” He said with exasperation and frustration.

“But what’s the hurry?”  He was obviously confused at the alarmed face of his friend.

“These guys just shot themselves on their own foot and they don’t know yet.” he said as he went on trying the phone.

“Cut the smart riddles, dude. What happened?”

“That baby faced junior, you remember? Vinay? He lodged a complaint at the hostel warden against these guys. I heard they took him to their flat in the evening and fooled around. Now he has gone and complained. These guys are screwed and nobody has told them yet.”

“Holy god! They would be rusticated from the college if the issue reaches the principal.” He exclaimed with his eyes opening widely as if to take in the information through his eyes and continued- “Dude, the signals are eternally down there. It’s just nearby, isn’t it? Let’s go and tell them. Take out your bike.”

“I don’t have my bike” he said sheepishly.

“What do you mean, you don’t have your bike?

“It’s at the pawnbroker.” He replied in a timid voice.

“Oh you fool. Okay, let’s go in mine.”

They drove to the JKD apartments, a small 3 storey building which was mostly occupied by bachelors. Couple of families also lived at the apartments. But it was usually inhabited by students in group of different colleges. Parking the bike near the gate, they ran to the second floor and banged the door open. The sight which greeted them didn’t surprise both of them. Four boys in their early twenties were sitting in a circle and playing cards. The hall looked clamoured with clothes, books and junk. A huge pile of unwashed clothes lay to the corner of the room and that added to the general stink of the closed room with less ventilation.

“Today seems to be my bad day. Not one card is good enough.” Kiran mused to himself, looking at his cards with utmost concentration and noticing the two guys at the door, waved a lazy hand at them and said-

“Hey guys, joining the game? The stakes are high though. We are playing at 500 rupees per game.”

“Forget the game, you brainless fool. You better arrange twenty thousand rupees at least or start looking for a different career.”  Dinesh said, who had just barged in, screamed in a quiet voice.
Raju looked up from his cards for the first time with an amused look and said- “Ha! Midnight jokes are fun, aren't they?” and went back to his cards with a disinterested look on his face.

Dinish was silent for few seconds and looked at the four boys, totally immersed in the game. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he spoke in a straight voice as if he doesn’t care anymore-

“Guys, you are in trouble. That bastard had gone to the hostel warden and spilled the beans. Tomorrow, you all are either dead or you would wish you were dead.”

It had a dramatic effect on his audience. Kiran stared at him with his mouth open and his right hand got freezed in motion in the air. Raju threw his cards down in a knee jerk reaction to the news and his got drained of all colours. The other two boys were equally shocked and it took few moments for the gravity of the news to sink in.

“Are you serious?” Kiran almost said with a scream, wishing against hope that he was merely pulling his leg. Though, he could already sense that it was true or else, he would not have to come to his flat so late in the night.

“Yes. The news is all over the place. I heard it from the hostel itself.”

“Oh good god, what are we supposed to do now?”

“I don’t know. Hostel is a separate world, man. None of us can even go inside or push anyone there. In any case, tomorrow morning, the warden meets the principal at 10 in the morning.” Dinesh said in a defeated voice.

“I hate these soft kids. If he was not comfortable, he should have told us.” Raju lamented.

Dinesh let out a sneer and said- “Did it cross your mind that he might have been shy without clothes?” Raju didn’t reply but he had a grim face who said it all.
Kiran started picking his nose in nervousness and slowly said in a whisper-“We must do something. Can we go to the hostel now? Probably convince him to take his complaint back?”
“Hostel is a fortress. You or anyone of us can’t go in or push anyone there.”Raju said in a philosophical voice.

“But we have our friends in hostel right? Let me call them now. They would talk to that insolent kid and do something.” Kiran said while taking his mobile phone out.

“That’s useless.  I don’t think the complaint can be taken back. Even if the boy himself goes and tries to take the complaint back, the warden would still go and put the issue in front of the principal. He is a mean ass. We need someone who can convince the warden now. But, who? ” Dinesh said with his hands on his hips and after a pause, he shouted with exasperation, “ Why the hell are the mobile signals down here?”
“Let’s go the balcony. Signals are better there.”Raju suggested and all of them walked slowly to the balcony. It was quiet outside with no wind and apart from occasional barks of random stray dogs, the night was very silent and sombre.

The cards game was forgotten in the palpable tension and frantic calls were made to confirm the news and hoping to get some respite or solution. After few frantic moments later, Kiran slowly spoke-

“I heard KT is behind this.”

“Karthik? Where does he come in picture?”

“It seems, he was the one who asked Vinay to go to the warden. KT and his gang were always at loggerheads with us. That bloody swine is getting back on us this way. I even heard that Vinay was afraid to meet the warden but it was KT who encouraged and motivated him to spill the beans.”

“That’s so spineless. He is playing with our career. What if we get rusticated? Or suspended? Oh god, I can’t explain it to my dad, if I get suspended.  I hate this KT. I always did. I just hate him more now.” Raju lamented in a coarse voice which was at the point of breaking down.

“Shut up. Why did you have to bring a hostel junior to your flat” Dinesh said, reprimanding him. 
Nobody answered or spoke for a long time. Various thoughts ran through their minds simultaneously and none of them were helpful to calm down their nerves. Dinesh took out his phone and called Karthik.

“Hello?” kartik answered in his arrogant baritone.

“Hey, this is Dinesh.”

“Yes, Dinesh. Anything important? Because I was just sleeping.”

“Oh, I will just take few minutes. I want to talk to you about that junior, Vinay.”

“What about him?”

“Look, everyone is sorry about what happened. I didn’t know how this happened. I wouldn’t have allowed these guys at all, if I had any clue. But what’s done is done. They are ready to apologize to the kid.” Dinesh said and paused for few moments to see if Karthik had anything to say. When he didn’t reply, he went on-

“Try to understand . It’s their career. If it goes to the principal, you know what will happen. Are you listening?”

“Yes, I am.” Karthik said with a small laugh.

“God be damned, Say something. What makes you laugh? ”

“It’s funny how people get reminded of careers and parents when you are down. Did those swines think of the boy’s career even once before slapping him?”

“Slap? I don’t think anyone slapped him.”Dinesh said looking at the other two and when they nodded guiltily, he said- “Okay, I was not aware.”

“Good. Then keep your uneven butt out of this mate. You will never know what will hit you, if you act smart.” Karthik said casually and cut the phone.

A chill ran down his spine and he simply put his phone back in his pocket. His face resembled a traffic police standing in the hot sun. Looking at others, he shrugged his shoulders and resigned himself.
After the initial flurry of activity at KD apartments, things simmered down a little. Dinesh and his friend left the group to their fate and went home to catch up with their forty winks. But For Kiran and Raju, the nightmare had begun even before they went to sleep. They were living their worst dream and the apprehensive feeling slowly started sinking deep into them. Kiran felt like gnawing at his knuckles to ascertain this was not his pre-sleep hallucination but decided against it. He knew Raju was more terrified than him and he didn’t want to alarm him more.  He made few calls to his friends inside hostel. He made them half heartedly, with full knowledge of the lost cause. It was a fact, that hostel was almost impenetrable and few friends that he had inside would never be able to take on Karthik or his gang. Reaching the junior looked impossible as every route seem to be blocked by a huge invisible firewall. Kiran tried calling the junior but his phone was switched off. Couple of his friends in hostel tried to meet Vinay, in the hope of convincing him or intimidating him, but he was inside Karthik’s room and unapproachable.

With all his escape routes blocked, Kiran was left with no choice. He knew, if he doesn’t act fast, he would be facing the college anti-ragging committee tomorrow which would throw him out of the college without remorse. His parents would get involved and the day would turn worse from ugly. He took out his mobile and called Karthik.

“Hello?” Karthik answered in his usual arrogant tone of voice.

“Hi KT. This is Kiran here.”

“Oh the hero himself is one the line. How did I get lucky today, sir?”

“Look KT, Please help us.”

“How may I help you?” Karthik replied, imitating a pretty receptionist in a shabby hotel which brought squeals of laughter in the room. Kiran swallowed hard and continued,

“Look, let me speak to Vinay once. We want to apologize. It was just a good joke. We didn’t really mean to hurt anyone.”

“What do you think, I opened some kind of helpline here? Vinay is not here. If you want to apologize, do it in front of the principal. I am sure he will be sympathetic and surely forgive you for your mischievous joke.” Karthik’s voice was a sneer and yet Kiran couldn’t miss the anger in the tone.

“KT... Please.”

His silent pleading was getting drowned in the screeches of people on the other side of the line and he was sure, most of the Karthik’s gang were holed up in his room having fun at their expense.  In all probability, Vinay must also be inside the room and that was the reason, none of his friends in hostel could even go near him.

“KT... Listen to me...”

“That’s right. That was the real reason, I bought this phone.  You know, to listen to your midnight snivel. Really, it gives me so much pleasure to listen to you. Please go on...” he said amidst silent sniggers and commotion in his room.

“Let me talk to Vinay.”

“Haven’t you been talking to him from close quarters this evening?”

“KT, please stop him. We are ready to apologize. What do you fucking want us to do? Fall on his feet now?”

“May be, you can try falling at his feet. But you may want to know, he is a good football player. Just saying, you know. To keep you clued-up.” The mock in his voice was slowly getting replaced by anger and cold spite.

“KT...” Kiran began when he was cut off by Karthik, who said-

“Shut up! Please shove your  ‘sorry’ and ‘regrets’ anywhere you wish but let us sleep in peace. I had nothing to do with this. You have kicked yourself on your butt and now you are asking me to caress your sorry ass, so that you can sit like the naked emperor and admire his invisible robes. Isn’t it? Only this time, you can’t. That’s because, someone decided not to be your belly dancer. Have a good night, my friend. You have a long day ahead at the principal’s office.”
The cal got disconnected and along with it, all hopes in their lives just got snuffed out.


The radiance which the sun brought in the morning was hardly noticed by the two boys who looked like they haven’t blinked all night. It was not even half past seven when both boys got ready and left for college, a full two hours before the classes started. When life in college plays its cruel game, regret always ends up having the upper hand over optimism. In most cases, that emotion is temporary and vaporises when things simmer down. With a flicker of hope, they went to the college with the hope of meeting the junior or Karthik and set things right before the issue reached the ears of the Principal.

They reached the college canteen. Both sat nervously, waiting for Karthik. Before they left their flat, they had called up Karthik and requested him in the most pleading way they could manage, to hear them out once. After few endless minutes, Karthik walked in his grey shirt and black trousers along with Vinay. He looked fresh from a good sleep and the fresh shower he might have just come out of, reflected on his face. He just sat before them with his both hands on the table. The gold bracelet on his right wrist was shining against the steel coated table. Karthik looked at them with a straight face and without expression but they could feel the contempt in his eyes when they bore into them. Vinay sat beside karthik, sitting right at the edge of his seat.

“ We are sorry, Vinay. We really are...” Kiran started saying when he was cut of abruptly by Karthik.

“Close your stinking mouth, you kid faced hero! How did you dare take a hostel guy out of college? Whose bloody permission did you take before venturing into dark waters huh?”

“Look KT, it was just meant to be fun...” Raju offered meekly. The glare he got back in return silenced him for a long time.

Kiran looked at Vinay who looked like he had fried butterflies for breakfast and was about to speak directly when Karthik simply said- “Talk to me”

“We are really sorry for what happened. We just got carried away, KT. I must be crazy to hit him but I regret it. We all do. It was just fun at the start but we got carried away. Please KT, Principal will roast us alive. It will become ugly and our careers will go down. Please understand.”
Karthik managed a smile which still looked menacing and said “Do you even realize what you have done? Now the fear of getting expelled from college is making you squirm with regret. But do you know your actions last evening almost drove this boy to run away from the hostel?”

“We just didn’t realize what we were doing...”

“Shut up! “ Karthik said and continued, “Stop giving spineless excuses.”

Both of them looked down with dread.  Raju felt his tongue tie knots to itself as he couldn’t make himself utter a single word of defense. He just looked helplessly at Vinay, who look flummoxed as well.
Mustering courage once again, Kiran looked up and whispered as slowly as he could,

“We promise it won’t happen again. Please understand. I don’t know what to say...” helplessly.
Karthik gazed at them for a long time and the silence was deafening. They were longing to hear something which might bring respite to their worst day of college. Karthik raised his forefinger as a warning and advised them,

“If I again hear or see you ragging any junior on this campus, that would be your last day here.”  Kiran just blinked at him and nodded. Karthik glanced to his left and put his hand around Vinay’s shoulder. Vinay looked back at him with respect and enduring elements of confusion.

“It’s fine bro. Everything will be alright. Now run to the warden and bring your complaint letter back. If he says anything, don’t worry I will manage him. Just go and get the letter. Will you?”

“But sir...”

“I said, it’s okay. They have learnt their lesson. Just get that letter back. Time is running short. College will begin soon.”

“But sir,” Vinay looked shocked and aghast at the possibility of his suggestion as if he rejected such an act which these two boys rightly deserved.

“Please Vinay...” Kiran interjected in a quiet whisper while Vinay looked on with a grim face. And then he understood. He nodded and walked away from the canteen towards his hostel building. The canteen was just near the college entrance and he had to pass through all other buildings to reach his hostel at the back end of his campus. After reaching half way across, he looked back to see if he was visible from the canteen and satisfied that he could not be seen. He sat down on the pavement and hurriedly took out his notebook. He tore a page and started scribbling. In just few minutes, he finished writing and folded the paper neatly in two halves. Sitting there on the pavement, he couldn’t help laughing. It was a happy laugh although it reeked of vengeance. With a smile on his face, he walked back to the canteen holding the letter in his right hand. This was the complaint letter he thought with a broad smile, he had given to the warden last evening. Or so they thought.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lost Innocence (Part II)- A short story

                                Read Part I before going any further.

Some propositions have rankled mind all night without any hope of being answered.

When Ray woke up the following morning, the day light was already getting brighter by the minute. He was getting late for his school. It was the last year of high school before stepping out into the world of colleges and universities. The pressure of the academic year was directly proportional to the weight of their school bags. The bags looked like huge gunny sacks clinging on to their skinny backs and they walk with a bent spine as if the weight pushed them further. As Ray got ready for his school, he remembered that he had to show his report card at home. He let out a silent groan. He consciously tried to look normal and was afraid his dad might read the tension in his face. He had failed in four subjects and his teacher had specifically asked him to get his father’s signature on the report card. It was a common practice in his school to get the signature of the parents on the report card before submitting it back at school. And it was the last day to return the report card at school. He gave a stealthy glance at his father to judge his mood before venturing to show his card. His father was a busy man with little time for trivialities. His balding head and small reading glasses gave him a look of an intelligent college professor but he was a hard headed businessman who counts his money every night before sleeping.

Ray took the report card and slide it into between a long textbook and ventured out of his room cautiously, carrying the textbook almost carelessly. “You are late.” his father declared without even looking up. The voice itself shook the little confidence inside Ray and he just managed to mutter “yes... yes...” before picking up an empty bottle and started filling it up with water. As the water from the filter started filling up his bottle slowly, he gave another quick glance at his father. His father was immersed in his newspaper. Ray couldn’t muster enough confidence and silently went back to his room. Wearing the heavy bag to his back, he waved a silent bye to his mother and started walking towards the door. His father was sitting right outside the door on a plastic chair with a coffee cup and a newspaper. Looking at his father, he thought of his teacher at school. Either way, he was trapped. If he didn’t take his father’s signature, his teacher would punish him or worse he might call his parents to school. If he showed the card, his father would beat him up mercilessly. He cursed himself for not studying during exams. As he stood thinking, he didn’t realize he was standing at the door with a quizzed look on his face as if some insect had gone right through his ears and fiddling with his brain inside. “What’s wrong?“ his father thundered in a booming voice.

Ray shuddered and came back from his vague thoughts but he didn’t say anything.

“What?... Tell me.” He repeated, slowly folding the newspaper and put it aside. His voice wasn’t gruff and it wasn’t smooth either. It had a tinge of irritation as if Ray had disturbed his peaceful morning by standing at the door.

“Nothing... I was just thinking if I forgot anything.”Ray said very fast, gulping a few words in his nervousness. “Do you remember anything at all?” his father taunted and opened his newspaper again dismissing him figuratively.

“Dad...”Ray said slowly in a whisper. His father didn’t react or look up from his paper. He mustered all his courage, took a long breath and said “Dad...”a bit more loudly.

“You won’t get any more pocket money, Ray. Go to school. You are late already.” His father said in a monotone which had finality in it. If he had looked up from his paper, he would have noticed how red his son’s ears have become. Ray walked away furiously. By the time he was out on the road, he was shaking with rage and his eyes sparkled because of the tears.

School was a different world. The world of friends seemed lot brighter than the world of discipline and studies. Ray walked into the huge gates of his school. They were open just a slight ajar and would have been completely closed when the clock stroked eight. As he entered his classroom, he saw Sid was already inside and was sitting on the bench with a group.  Saber was sitting on a chair with his feet on the bench as if he had no care for anything in life. Ray gave a grim smile to them and threw his bag near his seat. His shoulders felt relieved and his shirt was already sweaty.

“Did you get your report card signed?”Ray asked immediately. Sid gave an impish grin and nodded. Saber gave back a blighted look and said,-“What’s in a signature mate.” philosophically.

“Cut the crap, man. Did you? I am screwed royally. I didn’t even show it to my dad.” Ray said with a worrying look on his face.

Saber shifted his legs on the bench and grinned broadly. Sid left the group he was with and joined them. He had a poetic look on his face and was smiling viciously much to the chagrin of Ray.

“You guys are lucky. Presumably, I am sure you got your report card signed too.” He winced which sounded like a groan. “ Well, yes. I have it signed. So?” Saber replied dismissively.

“So? So you are a lucky imbecile.” He said with feigned admiration. Sid put his hand around him and said  “I guess Saby baby got some philosophy brewing in his head for your outburst.” Sid’s poetic look didn’t leave him yet and Ray was sure, in due course his over exhilaration would be getting on his nerves. Saber laughed aloud at his remark and said in a jovial voice-“As I said, what’s in a signature mate? “

Ray got his scorned look back in full action and retorted back-“Ha! You got your card signed. You will say anything...”

Saber smiled and said in a monotonous tone-“That’s true. But I don’t see a point. You love chocolate. You really love dark chocolate. Someone gives you a huge bar of chocolate and says, it’s all yours. You don’t have to share it with anyone. It’s completely yours to flaunt it, save it, see and own it. But that someone forbids you to eat it. You can only hold it. How excited will you be to have that chocolate, mate?”

Ray blinked at him and unconsciously led his left hand behind his head and his fingers dug into his hair, scratching away the puzzled philosophy. With an incredulous look, Ray looked at Sid who started laughing uncontrollably. “That’s our Saby baby!” He muttered amidst stifling laughs. Laughter is one of those infectious diseases which can spread very easily even in dire straits. The three of them began to laugh together, when they heard a huge bang. The bang jolted everyone in the classroom. The boys shivered at the sound. It was their class teacher who had announced his arrival by banging his hand to the door. The classroom fell silent and everybody scrambled to their seats immediately. In matter of those few seconds, the change which the room had undergone, defines school life.

The class teacher was definitely not a benevolent man. He was an intelligent teacher but impulsive. Not many students dare taking on him during his class. They know, he doesn’t think twice before slapping any student very hard if found in the wrong. He was a stout man and looked very much like a man with little regards to his body shape.  He quickly settled down and after the initial ‘who is present and who is not’ routines, he began calling them one by one and started checking their report cards.

“I am a goner.” Ray whispered with a dread. Ray could feel his heartbeat, twiddling with his nerves and letting out a fresh sheen of sweat and dread. “I should have told my dad... Damn man. I am such a fool...”he lamented in a gurgling voice.

“Silence!“ The teacher let out a huge shout, without lifting his head from the report cards he has been looking at.

Ray fell silent and gave a cautious glance to Saber.  Saber beckoned at him to take his report card out and Ray promptly took it out. Saber looked at the card with fixated look which slowly turned into a knowing smile. Ray had failed in four subjects and merely just passed in two others.  Twiddling his pen in his fingers, he looked at the card with concentration. Ray looked at him and mouthed “what?” without it saying it loud. Then, in a flash, Saber scribbled on the card furiously and pushed it across to Ray. Ray just couldn’t believe his eyes. He was looking at card with an incredulous look and his heartbeat had increased its speed to few more knots. Saber had forged his father’s signature and he had done it easily.

When the teacher called out his name, he was already a nervous wreck. Amidst the entire din in the classroom, he was sure the teacher would be able to hear his pounding heart or read his nervous creases on his forehead. He felt naked as he walked towards him and handed over the report card. The teacher peered into the card with sharp eyes and said “So... What are your plans? Are you going to fail in your finals too?”with a taunting and jeering voice. “This is pathetic, Ray. You fail in all your exams.” he continued in the same jeering but commanding voice. Ray just stood like statue and looked at the floor. “What did your parents’ say about your performance?” The teacher asked enquiringly. “Nothing...”he muttered with his eyes never leaving the ground. He started observing the designs on the marble in his deplorable state. “Nothing? So happy! Isn’t it?”  The teacher made another passing remark and continued-“Anyways, Did you get the card signed by them?”he asked and glanced back at the card.

“ Yes...yes. That’s my dad’s signature only.” Ray blurted out. On hearing the last word, the teacher lifted his head and sat straight with his back completely on the chair behind him. He put both his hands to the back of his head and gave a grim smile. That smile had twenty years of teaching experience behind it.

“Boy, I am sure it is. But he didn’t do it properly. Let’s call him to school and ask him to do it properly. Shall we?”

The final piece-Part III is on its way...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lost Innocence (Part I)- A short story

“What shall we do?” Ray asked for the twentieth time, if he got his count right. The air was breezy, as if to mock the moods of the three boys. The weather was an exact opposite of them, bright and vibrant. The air was blowing with exhilaration and swaying the smaller trees to its happy tune. There seemed to be a kind of joy around, which couldn’t be found in the three boys sitting on stones. The street from the main road led straight to a small clearing. Small and large boulders were scattered in the clearing, as if someone had put them there for the boys to sit. Few random homes stood on either side of the road and beautiful trees spanned out one after the other which made it, a walker’s paradise.  Ray was shaking his leg idly and looked at the other two with a sombre expression.  Saber was sitting with his legs spread straight and he was abstractedly picking small pebbles from the grass and was throwing them into a puddle of water, ten metres away.

“What shall we...”Ray started asking when Saber turned his head and simply said-“I will bash your teeth in if you say that again”. Ray opened his mouth to retort but decided against it. He got up from the stone and walked few steps forward in a slow, thoughtful approach. He was bare footed and his feet could feel the sharp blades of grass beneath him. With both hands into his pockets, he thoughtlessly kicked a pebble towards the puddle. “It’s the same every day. Every fucking day...for every bloody reason.” Ray said in lament while bending down to rub his toe where the pebble he had kicked left its mark in red. “I know... But stop it Ray. You are irritating me.” quipped Saber in a lazy admission.

“Am I now? Oh you don’t understand...”

“Dude, I do. But if you keep screaming about it, you will only get a sore throat. Nothing else!” Saber said with a grin creasing slowly on his lips. Sid threw his head back and started laughing loudly. He was sitting on a smaller boulder than the other two which made him look like he was sitting on the ground. With both his palms on the ground for support and his legs folded, it looked like his bottom was among the blades of grass. Ray had a sombre expression and was lost in thoughts once again. The silence among them was in contrast to the wind which was blowing noisily, rustling the smaller leaves and gushing on its way in a hurry.

“What happened last night?”Sid asked slowly, as if the question might trigger a sandstorm right here.  “You want all the juicy details?...You want to sit there and laugh about it? Go on...” Ray replied slowly. His voice was not high. It was rather straight but Sid wished, he had screamed. It would have sounded more logical if he had said those words in a scream. Sid got up and walked towards Ray. Putting his hand around his shoulder, he said, “Relax bro. It’s the same with everyone. You are not alone, are you?” soothingly.  Ray nodded his head slowly but the forlorn expression didn’t leave his face like a painting nailed to the wall.
 “Look at that fool...” Sid said gaily, pointing towards Saber.
“He thinks he is cool and chilled out. But funnily, the force with which he hurls the pebble into water shows his state of mind. Say, ‘what shall we do’ again and he might try throwing this huge boulder into the water instead of the pebbles.” Sid and Ray both had a huge grin on their faces while Saber looked at them with an amused look.

“Will you understand if I just say ‘F off’ or do you want me to spell it out for your convenience?- Saber said with a sarcastic smile. Sid ignored the jibe and sat down at a boulder nearby. Ray followed suit. Putting his arms around Ray, he asked him again slowly but firmly-“What happened last night?”
“What will happen? He must have got slapped a couple of times. He might have been called a useless waste of space and what not.” Saber said without looking at them. Sid looked sideways towards him and looked back at Ray who simply nodded with a glint of tear shining in his eyes. “It’s useless to brood, dude. Sometimes I feel they have no hearts inside their huge burly bodies.” Saber continued his tirade slowly with cold anger replacing his amusing look he had earlier. “How can you justify it? Look at his cheek! You should have seen him in the morning. He had a print of fingers right across his face. What do you call that? “.. Saber’s voice slowly raised its pitch. “What the...”he paused to swallow the profanity and continued-“... do you call it?” he thundered and hurled a pebble with full force into the water. It landed into the puddle with a splash and droplets of water sprayed aimlessly.

“Someone was talking about getting a sore throat. Was it you by any chance?” Sid said with his eyes sparkling. He was a consummate guy and with a level head above his shoulders. Saber suppressed a grin and said-“Exactly! Either you fight back or bear it. We seem to be doing nothing. Except, whining among ourselves...”

“I don’t know how to fight back. No one does.” Said Ray with a sad voice-“And it was not even my mistake last night.”
Saber got up abruptly and brushing the dirt from his bottom, he said-“Stop crying like a kid, Ray. I had enough of it. If you want to cry, go home. Your dad might give you another reason to cry.”
“Shut up man...” Sid said with exasperation and leaned back.
“It’s so easy for you to say. Your dad doesn’t bash you up.” Ray finally retorted which was on his tip of the tongue since evening.

“Oh really? That’s awesome. Isn’t it? Want to exchange places, you fool? You won’t last a day in my house, if you really want to know.” Saber replied angrily. He started walking in rounds near the puddle of water as if he realized there were no more pebbles around him to pick. “My dad doesn’t slap me. Oh, he doesn’t even care if I exist or not in the first place. Sounds like heaven to you, isn’t it?”
Sid shook his head and started pulling out blades of grass around him. The breeze became quiet and darkness was setting in slowly. The road was deserted and dark. There were no street lights but lamps from nearby houses threw some light onto the road. But there were not too many lamps to lighten up the entire street. So there were pockets of darkness along the road and the clearing itself was getting darker with trees around blotting out the last rays of the sun.

“Guys, stop it now! It’s getting late. Let’s get going. We shall have a tea around the corner and go home. “ Sid said with a tired look on his face.

“Got money?...”asked Ray with his eyes narrowing into small slits of doubt. “A few rupees...I guess we might be able to buy ourselves two cups of tea. So let’s share it.” Sid said and beckoned at Saber with his right hand to start moving. The three young boys started their walk back on the deserted road. Ray walked with both his hands in his pockets. The sound of their feet was in tandem with the gust of breeze blowing on to their face.

“I don’t want to go home.”Ray said slowly as if he was afraid to hear his own voice. “I can sense it already. I haven’t told my results at home yet. I can almost see my dad thrashing me with his belt all night when I tell them”. Sid’s arms went around him again and Ray always felt better when his friends do that.
“Me too, bro... I don’t want to spend the night looking at my parents fight. Every minute...”said Saber as his voice trailed away into the air blowing on to his face. “What do they fight about?” Sid asked enquiringly.

“This and that…” he replied dismissively.
They reached the main road and walked towards the lone tea stall at the corner. Saber was dragging his legs lazily , sweeping the road with his long jeans in the process. He kept running his hand into his silky hair, pushing it back from his eyes as the wind changed its direction and blew his hair into the eyes. They reached the tea stall and delved into their pockets for coins. They bought two cups of tea. Sid expertly took both the cups and poured some tea into an empty one and they started having it silently. Ray took a sip of tea and looked at the other two. Holding the cup, he said-“Let’s run away. What do you say? ” Sid and Saber looked at him with contrast expressions. Sid had a look of amusement and Saber looked like he just gulped the hot tea in one go.

“I don’t want to live in that house anymore.”Ray said firmly. 

Part II is on its way...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Phobia (Part II)- A short story

Read Part I before going any further.

Fear with a reason makes it powerful and stronger like an alligator in the water.  May be that is why, no other reason can fight the fear head on. Vijay was watching him from a distance. With white shiny hair and receding hairline, the old man had undoubtedly celebrated more birthdays than most of the people at the hall. He was being well received by everyone and his eyes looked at every one with kind demeanor. Everyone around him was comfortable with his presence and he looked at ease talking to everyone. While the old man took his time meeting everyone and slowly settled down at a chair beside his wife, Vijay felt himself feeling the heat. He could not digest the fact that a seemingly harmless looking old man could have an effect on him. He felt his tongue go dry and he looked around for a glass of water. He saw a waiter walking around with a jug of water and beckoned at him. The waiter was dressed in long white suit with red straps on his shoulders and wore a round red cap on his burly head for absolutely no reason. The person who had designed this uniform must have been color blind. He walked towards Vijay with a gait of a drunkard who was forced to sit in a temple.  Vijay took a glass of water and gulped it down without second thought. The water felt cold as it flowed into his throat and found its way into the deeper valleys of the body, giving some respite to his parched tongue on the way.

He was having trouble with his thoughts. Shaking his head sideways, he refused to see any reason behind his fear and yet he knew he was shaking all over. Running his left thumb and fore finger on his nonexistent mustache, he started breathing in and out consciously. He walked without going anywhere and was looking around without seeing anything, bumping into couple of chairs as he dragged his feet round the hall. He smiled absentmindedly to people he passed by when he heard someone shout ‘Hey’ behind him.
'You need something, mate? 'the stout man said. He had followed him from the chair where they were sitting. Vijay looked at him incredulously and said 'Nothing, really. '
'I heard the museum is just nearby. Walking distance eh? '-he asked out of the blue. Idle conversation seems to be the bane of the moment. In all probability, Vijay thought, this man was a maniac and a loner who had nothing to do in life except striking idle conversations with random people on earth.
'Well, yes. But it might take you few days to cover the distance by walk. ' he replied sarcastically. The stout man's laugh which followed his remark sounded like just like a scooter which needed few repairs.
' Really? Do you go there regularly? ' the man asked with unnerving excitement.
Vijay didn’t really reply but just blinked at him with a straight face. The stout man looked ready to continue his game of conversation when Vijay’s mother came screaming to him. 'Here you are! Where the hell were you till now? Everyone is looking for you. Come! ' and without waiting for his reply, caught him by his arm and dragged him along towards the north end of the hall. Towards the old man!

Walking behind his mother, he felt his heart’s pace quickening and a fresh stream of sweat broke out from his right ear. His mind was racing-This was the man, who had never harmed me or even raised his voice on me, he thought. His brain issued new orders to his body and the thinking part of his brain took command slowly. He felt foolish. He had a sudden urge to run fast and instead he kept walking silent. The fear felt foolish too and yet it was there deep inside him. He had developed it like a delicate photograph in a dark room, all his life. The fear had its roots in his childhood. The memories swarmed into his brain, as if the brain decided to gather proof of the foolishness of the phobia. When he was young, not having celebrated more than two birthdays, he was like any other kid-reluctant to eat or sleep on time. He had never eaten or slept, without getting coaxed by his mother or other member of the family. His mother had tried everything to make her little son eat, right from playing absolutely nonsense songs on radio to frightening him to death about crazy people out in the world, ready to pounce on him, if he didn't eat. The old man was one of her stories she invented to make her little kid eat in silence. He was a doctor and doctor's injection was a fine weapon to be used on kids and their mental psychology. Needles and injections make a fearsome picture on the young boy’s mind and the one who wielded them like a weapon was a dangerous man. The old man became a dangerous man. The picture of the old man, who had lived across his street, wielding a needle and sticking into his bum, stuck in his memory for ever. For the next twenty five years, all Vijay did was, ignore him. He neither acknowledged his existence, nor did he try to fight his fear.

He walked towards the old man, right behind his mother. His face had a perplexing look, though his brain was thinking more clearly than before. He gathered every ounce of courage he could from his reserves inside him, and walked straight. He felt all eyes piercing into him and restrained to look around. People might read into his eyes and find out, what exactly is going on in his mind. He knew his mind was playing games with him and was sure no one was looking at him, but the feeling started getting stronger as he neared the old man. His confidence was tottering but his resolve has always been an example of unswerving pursuance. He reached near the old man and stood facing him with a blank face. He finally faced his nemesis with a straight face and sweaty neck. The old doctor scrutinized his face , blinking constantly. 'Hello uncle! 'he said, uttering the first words spoken to the man, in twenty five years.
'You…is that you Vijay? ' the doctor said incredulously. 'Oh my god! Ha ha.. '
'I can’t believe this…' he said with a happy laugh and turned towards Vijay’s mother and began, 'You remember, how he used to run away at the sight of me? ' His mother nodded with a huge smile and the doctor continued- ' Oh my boy! I am glad to see you.' looking at Vijay. Vijay returned the smile, which broke all shackles of fear which had bounded him. Clasping the doctor's hands for a firm handshake, he held on to the man and let the fear melt into the air. Vijay felt his insides relaxing slowly and his brain claimed victory over his body. He sat beside the doctor and conversed with him with no further inhibitions. The phobia was no longer inside him.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Phobia (Part I)- A short story

Being a Sunday, Vijay woke up late. Rubbing his half closed eyes, he sat in his bed with his back to the wall beside. He glanced at the time in his phone and even in his after-sleep trance he noticed half of his day was already over. Not that he really cared about it as he was sure he would be spending the other half of the day on his bed too. He had a plan for the evening with friends and in his blurred pensive mood, decided to give them the elbow. He hated to see his holiday getting wasted without catching adequate number of winks before starting work again on Monday. He longed for a cup of hot coffee but he was sure his folks were already getting ready for the lunch and his suggestion to make him a cup might not go down well with others. He got up from the bed reluctantly and started washing himself. He noticed from the corner of his eye, his mother laying the table for lunch and his sister fiddling with the remote. Contrasting sight, he thought to himself and went about washing himself. There is something about soap and froth which instigates the hunger juices inside him and he felt his tummy rumbling like a coal engine racing with an electric one. There has been a paradigm shift in the way he spends his holiday now from the college days. During college, he spent all day roaming on dusty roads with a bunch of likeminded friends. Now he preferred to stay indoors and hit the sack for most part of the day. Of course, for all part of the night too. As he was tucking in the food, his mother informed him about the wedding in the evening. The joy in which her voice announced the news triggered the warning bells to his brain about the ordeal which lay ahead. Weddings are grossly misinterpreted by general public. They are neither fun nor frolicking except for the innocent kids who run around the wedding hall because they take fancy of the large space. People from the groom's side behave like they have just been conferred the title of 'Sir' and with an air of finality, brush aside others of mortal stature. The bride's relatives are no less than that when they try to match them in stupidity. He had groaned loudly enough to get a stern stare from his mother who usually meant- 'You have no choice'. His mother knew how much this holiday meant to him but she had the luxury of choosing to ignore that particular piece of fact. He watched her with distrait. He tried to behave amiably but his mood was getting more and more pensive as the thought of spending the evening with relatives infuriated him. He had long ignored such stares but with mothers sometimes, you really don't have choice. He cursed himself for thinking of giving the elbow to his friends. He took a deep breath of oxygen and courageously groaned again. 'No. Mother, please.'- He whispered slowly, hoping against hope that his mother's heart might sympathize. His mother didn't bother to reply back. The decision has been made.

He hates socializing. He cannot be termed as anti social but the idea of socializing with relatives at a wedding never appealed to him. Most relatives come to either feast on the food or to meet people whom they would never meet otherwise. He sat in a lone chair at a corner and watched everyone frolicking in their joy of meeting each other. Occasionally someone would walk up to him and talk absolute nonsense of how happy they are to meet him after a long time. The act of smiling through the ordeal was hard for him but since he had come, he accepted his situation grimly. As a matter of fact, there seem to be no way to find some peace of mind at a wedding. He glanced at the couple getting married and observed with a tinge of sadness that the ordeal was even more grueling for them. Unless all the rituals are completed, they would not be allowed to touch a morsel of food while people around them burped shamelessly. Utter injustice, he muttered to himself.

A man in his forties appeared from nowhere and sat beside him. The man had a look of selfless happiness as he looked at the boy beside him.

'Hello'- the man said smiling and nodding at the same time.
Vijay, though aghast at disrupting his solitude smiled back at the man and said.

'Hello! '
'How is it going?
'How is what going? '
'How is what going? '
'Oh, how is life going? '
'Life goes on'
And he realized all reason had left the conversation and gave a broad smile to the man which reeked of sarcasm.

'Well, I haven't introduced myself ' the man said and started chuckling to himself. Looking at him, Vijay got his anti-social instincts gnawing at him but he put a check on them by slowly rubbing his forefinger on his right temple and said- ' Well, go on. '

'I am the groom's brother in law's father in law'- he declared with swish of his right hand towards the heavens as if to ascertain his importance in the family. It took burning of precious brain cells to grasp the meaning of the statement and Vijay put all his mental strength into action to avoid looking at the man with scorn.

'And you?- It wasn't really a question. It was just a passing remark which he expected to be answered.
' I am his cousin'- said Vijay pointing towards the groom. 
'Oh-rubbing his hands in probable glee-' So, you are a Brahmin'-he declared coyly.
Not understanding where the conversation is heading towards and not wanting to rake his head for maintaining it, he simply nodded without opening his mouth. He was hopeful that the other person would get the clue that this weather was not advisable for idle conversations.
The man pulled his chair closer with a screech which no one noticed or heard but was loud enough for Vijay to cringe in his seat.

'So, ...'- The man continued with a small pause, ' So..., What is your name? What do I call you? ' he asked and laughed with a loud baritone. But suddenly Vijay wasn't noticing him. He saw something else. Someone, actually. As an old man and his wife walked into the wedding hall, Vijay's face was drained of all color. His eyes were wide open, looking at them mixing with other relatives easily. 'Come on, my boy. What is your name' the man beside repeated but Vijay never heard it as he whispered ' Excuse me! ' under his breath and walked away from the man, from the old couple, towards the other end of the hall. His eyes never left them as he walked away from them. He knew what he felt watching the old man-Fear.

Vijay stood staring at the man standing at the far end of the hall. He felt a chill running down his spine and his tongue refused to perform its function. Even though his brain refused to accept defeat so easily, the rest of the body already surrendered itself. It would be exaggeration to say his heart skipped a beat but guess it would seem believable to say the sight of that man surely quickened his heart beat. A fine sheen of sweat broke out from behind his ear despite protests from the head commander of the body, the brain. His brain refused to buy the argument that the man in question was the cause and was quite convinced that he was harmless. At the end of the hall, He saw the man talking with other guests with a warm smile on his face. His shiny bald head and round spectacles added to his intelligent look. His eyes were kind and people around him were comfortable with his presence. As he stood watching him, he felt his hairs on the arm stiffening up and he unconsciously was rubbing his arm as if to put his body hairs back to sleep. He was afraid. In fact, very afraid.

Read Part II!
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