Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I was sitting in the bus waiting for the bus to start. The conductor was waiting for more passengers to board the bus. I felt a tiny hand touch mine. When I turned to look, I saw a girl of seven years with eyes that were timid as they were pleading. There was none by her side. She was well dressed and in her school uniform with clean shoes and stocking

“Where is your mom? The bus is to start anytime” I asked

“I have no mom. She died” the girl replied

“With whom are you then travelling?” I asked

“I don’t know the woman” she replied innocently

“Where is she?”

“She said she will fetch some biscuits for me” the girl replied

Intrigued I looked at her.”What is it in your clenched fist?” I asked

“Chocolates” she smiled

“Who gave you?”

“The woman who brought me. She said she will give me daily and be nice to me”

“Does your father know her? Is she related to you?

“I don’t know. He always beats me along with chithi (step mom)”

“Have you seen this woman earlier?”


“Then why do you accompany her? You should not accept chocolates from strangers. Can you show her to me through the window?”I said

The girl pointed to a woman in her early thirties who had a packet of biscuits in her hand. I could see in the girl’s eyes some anxiety. It looked odd to see the girl in a school uniform for the long distance journey. It was evident the girl did not belong to the woman.

“Do you want to travel with her or would you like me to help you?” I asked

“I don’t wish to go with her. Please save me from her. I feel giddy” said the girl

I decided to wait for the woman’s arrival and accost her to save the child. But she was not seen. The bus had meanwhile started. I was wondering where the woman was. Meanwhile the conductor came and I took two tickets to Cuddalore not knowing what to do with the girl. I did not want to leave her alone in the bus stand.The girl looked at me gratefully.

Hardly the bus had travelled a few miles, it stopped abruptly. A man and a woman got in and looked around. It was the same woman the girl had pointed out. I thought she missed the bus and in her hurry not to lose the girl, she took a cab to catch the bus.

She came straight towards us and shouted at me saying “Why and where are you taking my daughter with you?”

“What crap you are saying? You kidnapped the girl, tempting her with chocolates. But for me she would have been taken away by you” I said in anger. Meanwhile the conductor and driver were also by our side.

“What are you blabbering? Why would I kidnap my own daughter? Let me ask the girl” she screamed and asked the girl “Who am I to you? Tell that to all the people around loudly”

The girl said “You are my mom. I don’t know this aunty”. I was shell shocked.

“How preposterous? Look here, did you not tell me that your mom is dead and that your dad and chitthi beat you? Did you not also tell me that you did not know this woman and that she gave chocolates and promised you daily? Answer truthfully” I said

She turned to her mother, clasped her waist and said”Amma I did not speak to aunty. She was asking many questions. I said I do not know to some. I was waiting for you in the bus”

The conductor intervened to ask me “if the girl is not related to you, why did you buy a ticket for her?”

I could see all eyes fixed on me. I felt most embarrassed and outraged.”The girl is lying. When she said that she did not know the woman and explained her family background, I was certain she was being kidnapped. I could have ignored her but being a woman myself I felt the girl child should not be left unsecured. When you asked for tickets, I bought on impulse for her too. I had not thought then what I would do whether to inform police or send her to some home” I said to conductor. I also added “I suspect something fishy about the whole episode”

“What is fishy about this? Is not this woman’s buying ticket for my girl to take her away fishy? I spent 500 rupees on the taxi to overtake the bus to get my daughter. Is that fishy? All of you who are here, please say something” she shouted

Someone asked the conductor to take the bus to the police station. Some others objected. One old man said “This lady appears decent. I was watching the girl talking to her though I could not hear her.”

The conductor said”Amma, pay that woman the taxi charges and we can proceed on our way. It is getting delayed”

When the woman walked away with 1000 rupees and the girl , I knew I was conned as the little girl turned to wink at me with a smile.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Till death do us part

This is a repeat of an old story that I liked

Omana adjusted the intravenous poles as a routine though she knew the old man was sinking fast and may not survive the day. The doctors had given up hope and he was administered medicines only to ease his pain. He was in a coma. She nevertheless took care of him as if he would survive this ordeal.

The old man in his eighties was oblivious to the surroundings, the very short life that lay ahead of him, the presence of his dutiful wife who spent wakeful hours at his bedside praying for his recovery all the time. Omana turned to the old lady who appeared to be a few years younger than the old man. She was small-built, draped in nine yards and looked fresh after her bath in the early morning with a big bindi and ash mark on her forehead. She held in her hand prayer books. “How is he today?” she asked the nurse Omana.

What could she tell the old woman who pinned her hopes on her Goddess and her prayers? The old lady was quietly aware of the critical condition of her husband.

Omana said “There is no change, grandma. His condition remains the same and not good. Doctors are trying their best.”

“It has happened many times before virtually taking him to his end but he always recovered miraculously. My Godess will not let me down, I am sure, this time also,” said the lady.

“Grandma, don’t you have children? I see nobody here. You are here all the 24 hours without rest or sleep,” asked the nurse.

“I have one daughter in Australia. But her husband, ever since her marriage would not permit her to come to our house due to some misunderstanding. She is a good girl with two kids of her own. What can the poor thing do when her husband is stubborn and insensitive? Only the neighbours helped in bringing grandpa here. But I don’t want to disturb them.”

“How long are you married” asked the nurse? “I don’t know. I was thirteen then and I must be seventy eight now. You work out yourself. I am not good in arithmetic.” the lady replied. “

Wow!! Sixtyfive years both of you have been together. Have you taken any food? You didn’t seem to go out at all?” asked the nurse.

“How can I leave him alone? In case he opens his eyes and calls Chellamma, what will he think if there is no response,” she asked.

"The ward boy gets me plantains and idly from the canteen,” she added.

Omana turned her face away to hide her tears. “Okay grandma, you can be by his side holding his hands. No one will come today being Sunday. But you must take a short nap as grandpa is sleeping comfortably. I will come now and then. I have my night duty also today. Don’t worry. I will be there for you. Please ring the bell if you need me,” she said softly resting her hand on the old lady’s shoulder.

When she left the room after noting down some data on the chart, she saw the old lady caressing the old man’s face muttering something about her faith in Goddess and his recovery. Omana was busy with other patients one of whom was on ventilator and another needed close monitoring. She had a tough time and was on continuous duty for two shifts. It was around 4 a.m. that she finally got some rest. She came to the room and found the old lady asleep with her head on the bed and one hand holding the hand of her husband, while the other on his forehead. The prayer books were on the bed.

She went near the old man only to find that he had passed away. He was still warm. Though professionally trained, she could not hold back her tears and shuddered at the prospect of breaking the sad news to the wife who steadfastly trusted her Goddess's power to heal. She came around the bed to the old lady and put her hand on her shoulder telling “Grandma, wake up. Please wake up.”

When she did not respond, she nudged her a little harder only to find the faithful spirit had also flown away with her husband.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A love story

II was sitting in the Elliot beach watching the waves rise and fall. I found this young lady frantically searching for something. When I went near her, she said she had lost her car key and could not find it anywhere. She startedcrying. I said “Do not worry. It must be here. Let me search but tell me where you were sitting”.

When she showed the place I dug it out from the sand. She was overjoyed and thanked me profusely. We walked together to her car. She said “I am Sunita and come here frequently. But for you I would have been in trouble today. Can I drop you?”I declined.

The next day I was at the beach at the same place. As expected she came and sat by my side. She was an extremely charming lady but walked with a slight limp. We met frequently and became very close cuddling and hugging till I found that I cannot be without her. I plied her with lots of gifts. When I proposed to her, she said she will have to wait till her elder sister got married. But our love was kept a secret from her parents. We had made a great plan to celebrate her birthday at a beach resort. She had once casually asked for some big money as a short loan and I had decided to give her the money on that day. I also wished to surprise her with platinum ear rings and pendant.

Meanwhile I had gone to my cousin’s marriage one day. There was a good crowd of my friends and relatives. We all decided to have a binge. Beer was flowing like water and we were all regaled to funny and rib tickling incidents of how they were duped and turned into fools. I was laughing till I heard one friend relate how he fell into a trap by a wily woman. He was recounting how he was conned to part with heavy amounts by the young woman pretending to be in deep love with him and how she moved intimately with him to con him.

Something made me ask him how he met her initially.

“It was like this. I was in Marina beach sitting in a secluded spot. It was then I found her searching anxiously for her keys. I helped her retrieve them. We became friends since then” he said

“Can you describe her?” I asked

“Why do you ask? This lady was very fetching, tall and about 27”

My curiosity roused, I asked him “Any distinguishing features?”

“Nothing except the poor thing had to walk with a slight limp”

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A spooky story

“Tharpa, I have been putting off telling you some unpleasant thing considering the many years you have been with us. The weekly has not been doing well and with the advent of internet our circulation has plummeted down” the editor of the ‘Your weekly’ paused. I kept quiet not knowing what to say and worried why he was telling this to me.

“If the circulation does not pick up, we may be compelled to down the shutters. There is nothing happening in this town and readers are no longer interested in run of the mill stories. We have to make them sit up and get excited .I am adding a blood curling spooky section. I want you to go around and get some real stuff that would scare the people out of their wits. I want your first one in three days time to catch the press for the Sunday edition. I need hardly tell you unless we do something dramatic, we may have to find new openings” the editor concluded before he bent his head on some manuscript before him. I was not worried unduly young and single as I was. But still I had my pride to rise to the occasion.

I took the car and drove to a nondescript village that had fallen into bad days with most of its inhabitants having migrated to cities. I had seen there once an old dilapidated but a big mansion from a distance. I thought it may provide a good material with some imagination for a new blood chilling story. The bungalow was on the outskirts of the village. As I climbed down with camera in hand, an old farmer who was walking along the deserted road said “Why are you going in there? No one lives and people say it is haunted. Stay away if you care to listen to me.”

“Thanks. Just click a few pictures for my magazine. Don’t you worry” I said and walked in through the broken wooden gate. The pathway was littered with dry leaves and broken twigs. Some windows of the mansion had come of the hinges and weakly clinging to the frame. The door was closed and I knocked the door rather loudly but skeptically. After a long time the door to my great surprise opened and I saw a small man, obviously a servant, looking at me from his deep and sunken eyes with wonder as If I had strayed to a wrong place.

“Is the master there?” I asked

“Sure. Please come in and be seated. Does he know you? What shall I tell him/”he asked in a squeaky voice.

“I doubt. Just tell him Tharpa from Your Weekly for an interview“I replied as he led me to a large hall. Reeking of stale smell with cobwebs hanging all around and scattered leaves fallen through open windows, it showed no evidence of human habitation. As if he guessed my thought, he said “We have no servants and days are hardby.Please be seated. I will tell him of your arrival. He will presently come down.” As he disappeared I heard some rustling of leaves and saw a chameleon moving. As I surveyed the hall, I saw a huge portrait of a heavily built man with long mustache dressed in rich finery with a sword and a spear in hand looking at me. I averted his gaze thinking he must be one of the ancestors of the master. The portrait was just over the door I had entered. As I stealthily looked at the portrait again, my hairs stood on their ends when I noticed the lips parting and mouth opening. I was overcome by fear and wished to get away. I called the servant and said loudly ”Hey, I cannot wait any longer. Let me out”

It was then I found the figure in the portrait descending and the full figure standing across the door looking at me menacingly with one hand on the sword. I was scared to death and the sweat drenched my clothes on this hot day. The only exit was blocked. My throat was parched dry when I shouted “Hey, come quick “The words hardly came out when I heard the servant telling that master has already come down to meet me.

I looked hither and thither for a way to escape as the figure ambled towards me. It was then that I heard a squeaky crackle and turned towards the direction. I saw the servant not as I saw him when he opened the door but a skeleton dangling his arms and letting out loud laughter. The figure had already crowded in when I fainted.

The Sunday edition of Your Weekly carried the following headline and a detailed report

“Reporter found dead in mysterious circumstances

We regret to announce the sad and unexpected demise of our intrepid reporter Tharpa in the most mysterious circumstances in an old mansion that people suspected to be haunted. He had evidently gone there to collect some material for our new column on spooky stories. A villager who had seen him enter the bungalow waited long for him to come out. When he failed to turn up, he gathered a few more to find him lying on the floor of a large hall in the mansion. There was no evidence of presence of any other person. The local doctor pronounced him dead due to cardiac arrest though the villagers ascribe it to ghosts.

Mr.Tharpa was one of our best and fearless …………………….”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Unexpected joy

I had nothing to do that Sunday with husband away on tour till Tuesday. I relaxed on the bed, ordered a pizza from the corner for lunch, read the unfinished novel and watched TV.I liked being alone once a while all by myself. I skipped the workout and was pleased when I saw in the mirror my perfect figure. It was 7pm.I heated some parotta with sabzi and finished my dinner. I watched some serial and part of a movie. It was 9pm already. I had a long shower that made me energetic. I draped myself in bathrobe, a silk gown and came out fully refreshed.

As I was brushing my long hair and setting the bangs before the mirror, I saw a glimpse of a figure in the mirror smiling at me from the bedroom door in jeans and a tight fitting Tshirt.I was aghast. How could it be at this hour? Am I imagining, I wondered? I went quickly to the door to find no one. My heart pounded fast but I could not get away from my mind his handsome and muscular body with his smiling face. I liked his black hair parted in the middle falling up to his nape.

I returned to the dressing table and stood before the tall mirror adjusting my hair and applying some lotions to the arms. When I looked at the mirror I was mighty pleased and turned round this way and that to appreciate my well proportioned body with glowing skin and long legs. I applied the perfume a little as I stood up and closed my eyes to inhale the soothing fragrance. I was startled to feel the warm breath behind me. When I opened my eyes with a start, I found him just behind me with his body in touch with my back. He put his hands gently around my shoulders and drew me closer to him. This was no imagination or fantasy but was real. I made no attempt to extricate myself from his steely grip. I inwardly enjoyed the warm embrace. The masculine smell from his body and hair was heady. He turned me to face him. The smile on his face was mesmeric. My knees tuned weak and I became limp when he lifted me in his arms.

“Are you surprised? I hid the first time you came near the door. I wished to surprise you on Valentine’s Day and took the first available flight when my job was over earlier than expected” said my husband as I lay in his strong arms.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A swap

He boarded the plane and opened the loft to place his cabin luggage to find an identical box there. Amused he kept his by its side and noticed his seat 16A occupied by a young lady.”That is mine” he said.

“I know. Won’t you allow me to sit here?”she asked with a smile

“Surely if there is a request and not a fait accompli”he said smilingly.

“May I sit in your seat please?” she drawled and said “thanks” when I sat down in 16B.

She was an extremely good looking lady and spoke with a convent educated accent.

“I have an aversion for aisle seats and like to recline on the window to catch a wink” she said.

“Enjoy though I have an aversion for drowsy ladies, hahaha”

“Okay, I get the clue. We will chat the entire flight time.”

”So do you stay at Bangalore, Miss…..”

“Lekha, I live in several places. A sort of a nomad, you can say. How about you, Mister…”she asked

“Sanjeev, I live in Bangalore and in government service. What do you do for a living?”

“A nice name you have. All sorts of things, a freelancer you can say” she let out a giggle.

“Then you must be versatile. Do you travel much? What is your hubby doing?

“Yes, I travel a lot. I am single. I think you must be married to a good looking lady” she laughed

“Me too unattached and looking for a lady as beautiful as you are” he said with a guffaw.

“Thanks. Give me your card. We will be in touch”

“Here is mine. Give me yours”

“Oh,I don’t have one readily. When I talk to you will give you all details. Can I snooze a bit. I am tired” she said

As she lay reclined on her seat with her head tilted towards him, a pleasant fragrance wafted across.From the corner of his eyes he found her bewitching with her chiseled nose, perfect mouth and sharp and long eyebrows. Her velvety skin glowed.

As the plane came to a halt she got up and said”Sanjeev, I am in a hurry. Let me go. Will talk to you soon and we can meet”
She hurriedly opened the loft, took the suitcase and moved towards the exit.

He followed her but soon lost track of her. As he came out of green channel, he found that the box was switched. A yellow cello tape he had wound on a handle was not there. He opened to see ladies cosmetics, undergarments and some magazines.

He was waiting near the exit gate for her to arrive. It took more than half an hour for her to reach. She looked flustered. When she saw him, her face brightened and she greeted him by name.

“Lekha, I have been waiting for you. There has been a mistake and you have taken my box in your hurry. It is only when I came out I found the swap and opened to see it is yours” he said.

“Thanks Sanjeev.I got worried. I don’t know why, the customs people stopped me and checked your box. That is why I am a bit late. Come on, here is your box and let me have mine” she said

“As soon as she took the box in her hands two men in plain clothes surrounded her and said “Madam, please follow us. We are from Customs” and turned to Sanjeev to tell him “We had a tip about this lady carrying some contraband goods and had her details. But she had cleverly switched the box. We doubted an accomplice. Please come with us and show your identity to our Superintendent. It will take just a few minutes”

He opened his purse and pulled out an identity card showing “Sanjeev Kumar, Superintendent, Customs intelligence”

When they saw, they stood to attention and saluted him

He heard her muttering under her breath “B%$#&*d” as she was led inside.

Friday, February 3, 2012

True love

“Rohini, can you please drop in today whenever you have time? This is urgent” said Aruna’s mom.

“Sure aunty. Is there any problem? I haven’t talked to Aruna for days” I replied.

“It is only about Aruna.She is behaving in a funny manner with a sullen face, not the jovial type we know. She hardly eats, does not spend time in the living room and is always alone in her room. She did not attend office for three days and when asked she does not tell anything. We are worried. Can you make it during lunch time? Make your visit look casual” aunty pleaded.

I know Aruna from my schooldays and we are close friends. We branched off to different lines after school with me becoming a doctor and she a management graduate. We met whenever we got time but spoke to each other frequently. I married a doctor and work along with him in a military hospital in the orthopedic wing. She had not yet married but has told me she was in love with Vinay, a young man in the army. I had even met him once in her company. He was working in the army base in the city where we live but was transferred to Northern parts about a year back. They have been steady for more than three years and had plans to get married.

When I reached Aruna’s place, her mom whispered she was in her room in the first floor and that I should find out discreetly what was bothering her.I told her “Don’t worry, aunty. I will ferret out from her and keep you informed”

I tapped Aruna’s door gently. There was no response. I knocked it louder. Still there was silence. I put my mouth on the key hole and shouted “Rohini here. Open the door fast”

The door opened immediately and there was a surprise in her swollen and red eyes. She must have been crying.”How come Rohini at this hour? Don’t you have hospital duty? Did mom talk to you?” she asked

“I had given a ring to your office yesterday. I was told you were on leave. I passed through your area and so thought would say hi to your mom and ascertain your whereabouts” I replied

“Come in. Let me wash my face and come” she said and vanished into bathroom

When she returned with a dash of make up, I asked her “Tell me without beating about the bush, why you were crying. I heard that you haven’t attended office for three days and was always locked up in this room. What is bothering you? Are you in touch with Vinay? Don’t hide anything”

“One second” she said and rushed to get a letter from her bag. She gave it to me to read.

It was from Vinay dated about a fortnight back.

Dear Aruna, Brace yourself for a shock. I had a narrow escape from death when I was in the border. My colleague and friend Pandey gave up his life by shielding me from a barrage of bullets by pushing me inside the trench but not before eliminating three terrorists. He pleaded with me on his last moments to go to his village near Batinda to inform his sister who was alone with parents long dead. He requested me to take care of her. Before I could even answer, he held my hand and breathed his last.

His sister has read up to class 12 and has no skill. She was living on the remittances from brother and had become an orphan now. It took me more than a month to pacify her and to make her face the reality. During this period she developed a liking for me and pleaded with me to stay ever with her. I was torn between you and her. Considering the sacrifice of my friend and her helplessness, I finally concluded that I can repay my debt of gratitude to my friend only by marrying her. I had accordingly tied the knot but aware that with your qualifications and charm, you can find another person of your choice. Please forgive me. I had no choice, Vinay”

I put my arms around Aruna and said “I can realize your plight. It is a betrayal whatever extenuating reasons he gives. He could have tackled the problem differently. Now that damage is done, I would suggest you just forget him and get along with your life. Go to office, come to my place, meet new friends, have some outings” Aruna heard me silently.

Two months later I had a temporary posting at Chandigarh military hospital. On the second day as I was seeing the files of the patients in the orthopedic ward needing immediate attention, I was surprised to find one file bearing the name Vinay Kumar. I called the chief nurse who said he is an army officer who had been injured seriously in a skirmish at the front and whose two legs had to be amputated and one hand still with a bad injury.

When I went to his bed he was sleeping. I could instantly recognize him.”How long is he here?” I asked the chief nurse

“Ever since he was brought from the front”

“Is there any relative or friend visiting him?”

“None. But he wrote a letter only once to someone.”

I wiped my tears as I realized his true love and sacrifice for Aruna.