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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