Thursday, January 31, 2013

The dawn

It  was his last day. The early morning before sunrise the next day he would have been hanged. There was no miscarriage of justice as he himself pleaded guilty to the murder. He was calm and collected suffering no remorse. He had the dubious distinction of being the most orderly and well mannered death convict in the prison till date. He spoke to none and declined to meet all visitors including his wife. He had no children. All he did was to pace in the cell from one end to the other for want of any other vocation till he got tired.
The jailor himself came to his cell and spoke to him kindly”I am sorry for you but am helpless. Is there any last wish that you would like me to arrange if feasible? Any special meal that you wish to have?”
“Thank you sir. I am touched by your personal visit and concern. The normal meal would suffice but I would want a lawyer to help me in drafting my last will and testament. I own considerable wealth that I would like to distribute.”
“Surely I would send one in another hour. I pray to God for your peace of mind” the jailor said as he left after patting him on his shoulders.
After the jailor left, the prison chaplain came. He was an elderly man portly in build and with kind eyes.”My son, I have come to administer the last rites if it is okay with you. If you sincerely regret the sins you had committed, Jesus in His compassion would forgive you” the chaplain said
‘Thank you, father. I have committed a sin in the eyes of law but I do not regret it. I do not need any administration of last rites. Please do not take me amiss. I am a believer”
“I respect your wishes. If you desire you can tell me why you committed the sin and what the extenuating circumstances are for you not to regret. It will be a sort of confession and lighten your heart”
“There is no heaviness in my heart. Nevertheless I shall relate to you what had happened. I have a marketing management degree and was employed as marketing manager in a private company. I fell in love with a pretty secretary in the Chairman’s office and married her. She came from very humble circumstances and I gave her a life of comfort and riches. I was promoted to higher positions at frequent intervals with my salary going up steeply each time. We bought a posh apartment and made wise investment. The Chairman pleased with my work gave me stock options that witnessed a big jump in my wealth. The new responsibilities required me to undertake frequent tours both locally and to other countries. I found myself away for nearly 15 days or more each month of course with intervals. The Chairman was pressurizing me to do more. My wife who initially objected to my frequent tours reconciled herself to my absence and stopped complaining. I was grateful to my Chairman for all that he had done to me” he stopped to drink water.
“Lord has been so kind to you and where was the occasion to commit a sin?”prodded the priest.
“On the last occasion, my flight to London was cancelled due to some technical snag and I had to return home. I have a key of my own. When I went up the stairs to the bed room, I heard conversation of my wife with another man. Taken aback I overheard without the slightest noise.The man was telling ‘I have sent him away for ten days this time. We can have all the fun we both badly need.’ There was a giggle from my wife followed by ‘How sweet of you, my darling’. I could not contain my rage when I barged into the room to find them in most compromising position. I took the golf club that lay in a corner and battered my Chairman on his head till he was dead. My wife standing in fear in the corner of the room with some clothes scantily covering her was cringing “Don’t kill me, please. It was he who seduced me despite my protests”
He continued the narration after a while “You filthy liar, I would not tarnish my hands by killing you. I loved you so much and gave you a life you could have never dreamt of. See what you have given me in return.. Have no fear but be sure you will rot in misery” He told the chaplain that he rung up for the police and surrendered the golf club and himself to them after making a written statement of what had happened.
“I am very sorry to hear the turmoil you had to pass through. I shall pray for you. God bless you” the chaplain said and took leave of him just as the lawyer entered.
When the two were alone he requested the lawyer to make his last testament and will leaving all his wealth to certain charitable institutions. He requested the lawyer to exclude specifically his wife from any bequest as the entire wealth was self made. The will was properly made and signed in the presence of two witnesses.It was a small consolation but he felt at peace.
He started pacing up and down the cell looking forward happily to the break of dawn

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

55 word fiction

He was broke when his business folded
"Any remedial measures" he asked the astrologer
"Divorce your wife; she is the cause of bad luck"
"Thanks, I shall do forthwith" he said and left
Wife gave the astrologer gratefully a hefty fee

"Why do you dress like a policeman whenever you go out? You sport a big mustache also.My friends make fun of me"
"Don't tell them that I save huge money each month with this dress"
"What nonsense? Explain how."
"Auto drivers accept whatever I give without demur. Some even refuse to take the fare"

"Is this house haunted?" the newcomer asked the man at the gate
"Who told you that crap? I live here"
"Sorry, could be wrong. I need a room for the night"
"I can accommodate you. Come in"
"Dusty and stale smelling" newcomer said as they entered.
There was an eerie laughter and none around

"Bad luck, baby, you shouldn't have come alone. I never let go good looking women “said the man to the startled lady
"Don't misbehave. You will regret"
"What do you do for living, sweetie? Remove the overcoat"
As a sledgehammer blow fell breaking the collar bone, he saw the black belt and had his answer

Found guilty
Prosecution argued the case for wife’s murder on strong circumstantial evidence. Several witnesses deposed against accused. The defendant’s advocate rested his case arguing there was no murder without body. The jury held accused guilty
As judge was ready to deliver judgment, there was pandemonium in court when a woman rushed in.
“My wife” cried accused.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Meena’s gesture

Meena had been hunting for a job for the last eight months. She badly needed one to support her family. She did her graduation in economics and had a diploma in management from a not-so-reputed private college. All she got were some offers from call centers for night shifts. After a long wait she got a call for a written test from a renowned company for a junior executive position. She was confident that she had done the test very well and waited anxiously for a fortnight before she got the call for the interview.
The interview was to commence at 10.30 am and she was required to be present by 10 am. She lived in a suburb connected to city only by road and the journey would take an hour. There was a bus at 8.45 am and she was at the stop at 8.30 itself. There were none at the bus stand. It was drizzling. Meena was worried that her dress may get crumpled if the drizzle became a rain. It was 8.55 am and there was no sign of bus.The frequency was less and erratic. It was 9 am when another young lady of her age came running. She was somewhat drenched by the drizzle that had become heavier and stood a little away sobbing.
The bus had not made its appearance till 9.20 am with both getting fidgety. A few cars were seen at intervals but Meena was afraid to request for a lift from unknown strangers especially when newspapers were full of assaults on women. She cursed her luck and was worried that she may miss the interview. She saw that girl also pacing up and down obviously in a hurry to go somewhere. It was sheer luck Meena saw a three wheeler coming and she hailed it. When it slowed down and Meena was about to enter, the other lady said “Madam, I am in a great hurry. My dad has had a road accident about two hours back and admitted in AB hospital. There was a phone call asking me to rush as his condition is very critical and deteriorating. I wish to see him alive. If you can help me, I would be indebted to you for life.”
That hospital was in a different direction. Meena was in dilemma for a minute before she decided that the lady’s need was greater than hers .It was a question of life and death.
“Okay, you take the auto though my need is equally important but no life is in danger. Take care. Your dad would be fine. God bless you” Meena said as the woman took the auto and sped away.
As if by a divine intervention, the bus came within a minute or two though crowded. Meena managed to reach the venue at 10.30 am. She explained the circumstances and was allowed to take the interview
When she stepped into the lounge where the other candidates were waiting, she was shocked to see the girl, who had grabbed the auto, emerging from the interview room and sitting on one of the chairs. What a sucker she had made of me, Meena thought. She just ignored her very presence in disgust keeping her face grim.Meena was the last candidate and was called immediately
After the interview was over, the candidates were asked to wait for a few minutes for the announcement of successful candidate. Soon an official came and called “Meena, please come in. We thank all the others for coming”
As Meena was going in, she saw the interviewer rushing out to the lady and say “Sorry Sunita, I was held up. Come on, let us rush to the hospital. How is dad now?”
It was only then Meena realized that the girl was no fake or a competitor as she mistook her to be and that she had come to this office only to take her brother along with her as an afterthought. She regretted for rushing to wrong conclusions.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The touch

“Pinky, get ready soon. The bus will come at 7-15 sharp. Take the homework and the lunch box” Sweta shouted.
Pinky shouted back from her room “I am not going to school. I don’t wish to.”
Swetha rushed to her room and found that the girl had not changed to uniform. She found her sitting defiantly on the bed.”Why would you not go to school? Are you not well or what?”  Swetha asked.
“I told you, na.I don’t wish to any more” she replied with acerbity in tone.
“What crap you are talking? You are hardly eight. You have to study for another 15 years minimum. What is bothering you? Aren’t you a sweet girl, tell me dear” she asked sitting by her side and putting her arm around her.
The girl kept quiet for some time and started sobbing.
“Come on, do not cry. I will never get angry. Tell me why” Swetha asked gently
“OK, I will go to school but to another one. I will not go here even if you beat me” she said
“I understand Pinky. But should you not tell me the reason. I can convince your dad and do the needful. Tell me whatever it is. Don’t you like some of your class mates and do they bully you?”
“No, the class mates are all very good. I like playing with them” the girl said
“What could be the reason then, my sweet pie?”
She hesitated for a while and then said “I don’t like my class teacher. He always pats my cheek or pinches it gently. He calls me by his side daily for no reason”
Shocked Swetha asked “Does he do to other children?”
“Yes, to some of the girls in the class and never to boys. But he does it to me more. I don’t like his touch” she said
“Does he touch you and the other girls anywhere else?”
“He runs his hands on the head and the back”
“Ok, you stay back today and spend time with grand ma watching cartoons. I will meet your headmistress and see whether you can be put in another section. Do not worry. I am happy that you mentioned to me instead of suffering in silence. Good girl. I like you, my dear”
Swetha met the headmistress privately in her room and expressed in detail what she heard from Pinky and her own apprehensions of the teacher’s intentions. The headmistress was shocked and said “There had been no complaints so far though I have heard some kids telling about his propensity to pat the kids to encourage them. But Pinky’s complaint puts the whole thing in different and scary perspective. I am thankful to you for bringing this to my notice. I will have a word with the offending teacher and warn him strictly”
Swetha said “This will not do.He will deny and tell that they were harmless and well intentioned gestures to motivate the kids. The other girls may not come forward due to fear or shame. I feel it is futile to ask him or warn him. He is a potential pedophile and a menace. He will bring bad reputation to school before long”
“Are you suggesting that I sack him without inquiry based on a child’s testimony?”
“Not at all. Let us catch him red handed doing this to many girls.Dont breathe a word to any other staff.
Get a hidden camera fixed in the class facing him. You can see for yourself and confront him with irrefutable evidence to sack or hand over to police whichever way you wish. I can bear the expenses and even send a man to do this after school hours on the pretext of checking electrical fault. No one else would be the wiser for it, I promise”
“Thank you, Swetha.You go ahead and you have my permission. Tell me when it is done. We can meet again after two days with some strong evidence” the headmistress said
Swetha had the bug fixed the next day evening. She told Pinky that she had spoken to the Headmistress and they will solve the problem within a day or two.”Please go to school and behave in the usual manner. Do not tell anyone that you had spoken to me. Be casual. If he pats you or pinches the cheek or runs his hand along your back, try to wrench yourself away from him by moving. Don’t keep standing. If he touches you at inappropriate places, you can even scream”
The next day when the classes commenced, the class teacher saw Pinky and called her near him. She came and stood a little away. He said “Come closer. Why were you absent for two days? Were you not well? Come nearer”
When she did not budge, he pulled her and patted her.”Why are you afraid? Do not be absent even for a day” he said as he ran his hand on her back and lingering at her bum a little longer. Pinky wrenched herself and ran to the seat.
He muttered “Foolish girl” and asked Ganga to come with her note book. The ten year girl with fear writ large on her face came. He put his hand as an affectionate mom or dad would and drew her close. She tried to wriggle out but could escape only after a few pats and pinches. The girl went back and was seen wiping tears from her eyes.
This went on with a couple of more girls in intervals. In between he called a boy and slapped him for asking a doubt.
The next day Swetha had a phone call from the headmistress. She said “I am not calling you to come as I wish to keep your identity confidential. The pervert has been caught in the camera clearly and the Correspondent is here with me. He has also seen and very much perturbed. The teacher is a married man with wife a home maker and three young children. We could have sacked him and handed him over to police. Taking into account his family and that he has not done anything beyond touching the girls, we decided to accept his resignation. He will no more enter the school or any school for that matter. We warned him the circumstances of his leaving would be conveyed to any school he joined. He must look for some other vocation as he is not fit to be a teacher which is a sacred profession based on trust and good values. Is this ok with you?”
Swetha was pleased at the way the problem had been resolved.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


The temple was very crowded as it was a festival day. Long serpentine queues that extended to the main road moved slowly. Vendors were busy selling ground nuts, fruits and cool drinks to the tired devotees waiting in the queue. They were all decked in fine clothes and had bamboo plates in their hands with coconut, betel leaves, plantains, camphor and flowers. The children were making noise and playing around their parents legs.
Ratnam was watching vacantly at the people from a distance and was not interested in joining the queue. His immediate concern was to fill his stomach. He had not eaten anything since the previous day morning except for pieces from coconuts broken before Vinayak at the temple. He lost his small job two months back when he fell sick with jaundice. Except for five rupees in his pocket, nothing remained of the small amount paid as arrear wages. One hardly gets anything these days for five rupees and he did not want to spend his last possession on food. He hoped that prasad may be distributed at the temple or some devotees may feed the poor. He was waiting patiently and helplessly with hunger gnawing at the stomach. Luckily there was shade over the bench and he stretched himself. He found the pangs of hunger less in horizontal position and soon was asleep.
Suddenly he woke up with a start when someone tugged at his shirt. Involuntarily he felt for the five rupee note in his pocket. He turned when he heard a voice" mama (uncle) will you play with me?" It was from a little girl of five. She must be from well to do family as she had gold rings on her ears and a small chain. She had evidently strayed away from her parents.Worried he asked her “Where are your parents?”
“They are lost” she said so innocently, he could not but smile.
“Come on. Let us search for them again” he said
“No, my legs are paining. I have tried. They are not seen anywhere. I am thirsty” she said. On seeing an ice cream vendor, she wanted one ice candy. He got her one giving away the last five rupees to the vendor. The girl was sipping happily with a twinkle in her eyes watching the elephant sway its trunk.
“What is the name of your daddy? Do you know where you live?” he asked
“Here, see this” she pulled out a paper with the address from her pocket. Thank god, he thought, the parents at least had foresight if not care in safely escorting the child. The house was not far away, may be a kilometer away.
He took her in his arms and started walking towards the exit when he felt curious eyes looking at the well dressed child in the arms of shabbily clad man. He did not mind for his immediate concern was to entrust the kid at her home safely. He hailed an auto and gave him the address.
The driver suspiciously asked “Whose child is this?”
“The girl was lost in crowd and came to me crying. I found the address in her pocket. I thought of leaving her at her house. Being a girl child, it is not safe to leave her like that in the temple grounds” he replied
“You could have given her to police”
“True, that thought occurred. Since the address is there, I felt it is better to leave her in her house. If no one is there, we will leave her at the police station. I am glad you asked me”
The girl was safely entrusted to her grandmother with her parents away searching for her. The old woman asked him to wait but he declined.
Ratnam said to auto driver “I am sorry I have no money to pay you except this wristwatch, my sole possession, in lieu.”
“It is ok.You keep it with yourself. Can you drive a two wheeler? I can then find an auto for you to drive daily and earn your living” the driver replied
Two days later a policeman came to the auto driver in search of Ratnam telling that a reward was awaiting him at the girl’s house.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The break down

 Sunita was cruising along at a steady speed towards the beach resort. It was still an hour’s drive away. The weather was fine and she could feel a sense of relief and freedom from the monotony of her humdrum life. She was in no hurry to return back and was looking forward to enjoy every moment of her stay for a fortnight or more sun bathing, swimming and jet skiing. There was practically no traffic as this was not a holiday season and it suited her as she did not want a crowd in the resort.
Her marriage was a total failure. She failed to notice that her husband was diametrically opposite to everything she cherished. She loved travel, books, eating out and music of all genres. He hated each one of them and liked playing cards for stakes with friends at the club. He came late only to sleep occasionally waking her up for satiating his physical needs. She hated him, his very sight and even his things. The irony of it is that it was not an arranged marriage but one after loving. He was a consummate actor hiding his true nature during courtship.
She smiled when she thought of the resort and the care free days ahead that  she had planned. It was then one of the rear tyres went flat and she stopped at the edge of road. She felt lonely in the desolate road when the car was stationary and decided to wait for a passing car. As she sat there with her eyes closed, she heard a knock on the door.
“Hey, I think you need help in changing the tyre” sad a policeman. She saw the police car on the other side.
“Yes. I need to go up to the beach resort”
“Come out and open the boot. I will take the stepney”
“There is no spare tyre.You may have to tow the car”
“That is too far. Leave the car here. We can ask an Automobile Association man to attend to the problem.”.
I can drop you at the resort. Let us transfer your things into my car. Open the boot” he said
She was hesitating “What is the problem? You are not going to beach resort without any clothes for change and other personal things. Give me the key for the boot. It is getting late. Show me your license” he urged her
“I have a bag with my dresses and other things in the rear seat. No need to open the boot”
“As a police officer I insist on your opening it for me to see” he said with some acerbity
When she opened the boot and he found a big steel trunk, he asked “Are steel trunks still in vogue for taking on a holiday to beach resort?”He tried to nudge it and found it quite heavy.”What does it contain?”
Her face became pale and beads of perspiration appeared on her forehead. She managed to say “What if it is a steel trunk? It is my choice. They contain some personal things.”
“It is heavy for personal things unless you carry a grinding stone. What is that red thing at the bottom of the box? Looks like blood”
“Oh, that.My husband cut his index finger while loading the box in the boot” Sunita replied casually
“Ok then. Can I have a word with your husband? Give me his mobile number and the phone”
“Hello, I am patrol officer on highway N20 a little before the fork and near gas station. Your wife is stranded here with a flat tyre and has no stepney. I could not catch your name. What is that?”
“Brahma Gupta.It is nice of you that you are there to help. Assure her that I will come within an hour with all necessary things. You don’t have to wait. Thanks for the help”
“How is your thumb? I heard you got it hurt while closing the door”
“It is minor. I should have been careful when closing. I have put band aid on my thumb. Thank you I will be there in an hour. You may leave, Sir. Can I have a word with my wife?”
“No need. I will tell her. Please come double quick”. He turned to her and said “Let me get you some coffee that I have in my flask” and left with her phone in his hand.
“Have the coffee. I have a few questions to ask you before my colleagues join me” he said
“I don’t need coffee” she replied and started crying.
“Why do you cry? I just wanted to seek your clarifications .Drink it. You will be in better frame of mind”
After she drank, he asked “This car belongs to Brahma, your husband. The sticker in the rear shows his name”
“Yes, it is his”.
You said he cut his index finger but he tells it is his thumb. A minor difference in details”
“Sorry, I could have been wrong”
“It happens. But the injury was while closing the door and not when trunk was put. Anyway there is another thing that is intriguing. Your driving license says Sunita Agarwal.But your hubby is Brahma Gupta”
“That is my maiden name. I haven’t changed”
“OK, ok .I wonder where is Agarwal tucked up” he said with a chuckle
“What do you mean?”she asked with fear writ large on her face
“Nothing. We will know presently. I am sure you will open the boot after your hubby comes with my colleagues”
Sunita started crying inconsolably.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The clue

Inspector Saxena from the homicide department, a hardened and gutsy man, was himself shaken at the brutality he saw at the scene of crime. Two men lay murdered amidst pool of blood still dripping from their heads smashed repeatedly with what appeared to be a blunt instrument. The victims have been hit mercilessly all over the body from the way the limbs lay limp and askew. The jaws seem to have been broken. A search led to the discovery of a wooden log full of blood marks that had been used for the assault hidden behind shelves.
The assault seemed to have taken place in the morning around 8 am. It was a warehouse in the basement of a large building that had many offices and shops that generally opened at 10 am. The warehouse belonged to a big company dealing with branded leather goods like foot wear, boxes, gloves, apparel etc. The security at the building gate could not say who all came there being no check with many walking in and out at will. It transpired that the two were office staff from the identity card in their pockets. There were actually six staff members for the ware house. The motive for the ghastly murders was not clear. Finger and foot prints were taken and minute examination of the entire warehouse was done. The wooden log used was wiped clean. But the dusty floor in the room where the men were assaulted yielded a rich harvest for foot prints.
The post mortem medical reports clearly indicated that the blows were so heavy that only a strong well built man could have inflicted with such intensity.
Saxena had the calls from the mobile phones that were left carelessly in the victims’ pockets by the assailant were gone through. There were two calls from a public booth asking the victims to reach the warehouse by 730 am for an expose. The victims were from Head Office who were taking inventory of the stock for the last one week.The records of the check belonging to the victims were obviously missing taken away by the murderer(s).The natural surmise was that the inspection team should have landed on  some serious wrong doing or falsification of records to hide thefts. The needle of suspicion rightly fell on the staff in the ware house.
The six were duly rounded up and brought to the police head quarters for interrogation. All of them to the disappointment of Saxena were puny or medium structured men in their fifties. Their records were clean and were found working for many years. All of them denied coming early that day or contacting the victims on phone. They were also not aware of any thefts or shortages in that big warehouse that contained innumerable boxes of varied items. They were not shifty eyed, looked straight at the inspector and there was only look of bewilderment but no fear. From his long experience, Saxena knew these were no criminals. Yet he had the prints of all the six with their shoes on taken and none of them matched with those found unless they had changed their shoes. Apart from the shoe prints of the two victims, there were prints of one extra person. If only Saxena could lay his hands on that guy, he could conclusively prove in the court that he was the murderer.
Someone who had access to the warehouse alone had called the two unsuspecting inspecting assistants and taken them inside. There were two sets of keys with one at the head office. The warehouse clerks had their set with them and had opened the warehouse that fateful morning only to find that murders had taken place. They had promptly informed the police. They had no clue how the two victims had entered the warehouse and who opened it for them and who killed them eventually. Satisfied that there was nothing prima facie to connect them with murder, he asked them to wait outside. After sometime, he called them one by one and asked them a single question. He noted down their answers in a note book and sent them away. He smiled with satisfaction that he was near the end of resolution of the puzzle.
He called the Sub Inspector and gave him some instructions. After an hour the SI came to his room and said the heavily built man was in the interrogation room and his shoe prints matched with the third print. The finger expert confirmed it saying it was made easy as he had spread some dust in the room before the man walked in as advised by Inspector.
Saxena along with SI and finger print expert entered the interrogation room. The muscular man with a long and bushy mustache sitting there had a frightened look and was pale in fear. He stood up with folded hands.
 “How did you get the keys to the ware house? Why did you kill them? I want no beating about the bush. I have an iron clad case. If you tell me the truth, I can examine whether you could be helped a bit”
 “Sir, I don’t know what you are talking about” A hard slap fell on his face. The man was stunned by the ferocity of the slap.
 Saxena directed the SI “He won’t tell the truth. Take him to the room and give him treatment till he sings. Hang him down and beat him blue as he did to those innocent men. I want the truth out in 30 minutes. Break his legs if need be.”
 “Sir, don’t beat me. I will tell the truth. I had the imprint of the keys made on soap long back  when one of them who came earlier than others gave them to me and went to rest room. I had got the keys made and used to steal small quantities in the night without giving room for suspicion .Over a period the quantity stolen was huge. I heard the two stock verifiers had found out the discrepancy. I lured them to come early promising to reveal more. When they refused to take money and end the scrutiny, I killed them in anger when they threatened to expose me. I thought police will suspect the staff for no one knew I had spare keys”
 “True, police would have been misled but for your left leg being slightly shorter than the right and that showed in the impression of the foot prints. The staff said you walk with a very mild slant” said Saxena as the policemen hand cuffed him and led him away.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The wait

Ranjan was posted in some unit of the army in some village like place in the North East frontier. There were   occasional skirmishes and soldiers were engaged in safeguarding the frontiers. The situation was mostly calm. On an off day every week Ranjan visited the nearby small town. It had nothing to offer except a small bazaar and some eating joints. There was a temple on a small hillock nearby.
It was on one such visit to the temple he came across Rajwanti (Rajvi in short).As she was climbing down, she tripped and fell down. There were none seen around. She had sprained her leg and was in great pain unable to move. It was getting dark in the evening. Amidst feeble protests, he lifted her in his arms and brought her down to the road. He hailed a cart, thrust five rupees in the cart puller's hand and asked him to take her home. She never took her grateful eyes off Ranjan till the cart turned into a lane.
He could not forget her beautiful face with her narrow slit eyes and high cheek bones. She had a golden complexion and her hair was not entirely black but darkish brown. She had a small mouth with a permanent pout in her lips. On the next off day he came much earlier than usual to the temple looking for her. She was not seen and it was time to return. Disappointed much, he started coming down the hill. He saw from a distance a petite figure standing at the same place where she had tripped. It was Rajvi obviously waiting for him. He found a bandage in her ankle.
"Aren't you ok? Why the bandage? Do you have pain when walking?" he asked.
She nodded her head in affirmative and said "It should become alright in a week. Thanks immensely for the help. I was shy to talk to you before the cart puller" she replied.
"No thanks are needed. In fact I enjoyed carrying you in my arms. You are so light in weight" he said with a mischievous twinkle. She giggled in turn
"Sit down by my side if you are not in a hurry. We can talk for a while"
"Not here. Let us sit behind the big boulder” she said
Soon they fell in love after a few meetings and ended up getting intimate. He promised to marry her and every off day they met. He gave her each month a good sum to live in comfort with her parents. Life was full of joy for both. He found her a simple and good natured girl and wished to take her along with him once he was transferred to civil station and marry her. Two years passed by in no time. She confided to him one day that she desired to have a child. He counseled her patience till they moved to plains and is married.
Suddenly he stopped coming and there was no news of him. Rajvi came almost every day to their haunt but there was no trace of him. She was sure he would not have deserted her and as weeks passed by her parents seeing her disconsolate condition advised her that this was common amongst the army men. Her dad said “Your man seemed good and was paying you every month as a husband would do to a wife. The others did not even pay but ditched after being with women as long as they wished. Let me go to their camp and find out”
A week later her dad said “I learn from someone there that one Ranjan Pande was seriously hurt when fighting and was taken away to some distant hospital. He doesn’t know whether he is alive or dead now. No point in crying always. Wait for six months. If he does not come in search of you, forget him.”
Her mother added “Thank god, he has not burdened you with a child. Many are left behind with children”
She was not reconciled. She knew he was an honest guy and truly loved her talking about the future of their children and family. She was worried whether the worst might have happened. It was four years since he had vanished. Much water had flown under the bridge in the village stream.
Rajvi was sitting with her two year old boy near the boulder that brought back old and fond memories. She had a bulging tummy being in an advanced stage of pregnancy. She came here frequently. As it was getting dark, she got up to go home. The little boy ran ahead of her in the slope. Afraid he may fall down she hurried her steps and fell down. The little boy was crying by her mom’s side. She could not get up.
It was then a bearded man with long hair and a crutch approached her and said “Would you permit me to lift you? You can hold the crutch and get up if you don’t wish me to touch you.”
She grasped the cane and got up with difficuly.He held the boy in his hand and slowly they climbed down to the road.”Can you now go on your own with your boy or do you want me to accompany you?” he asked her gently
“No, I can go on my own. Thanks immensely. You are godsend” she said and thinking of similar incident in the past trudged her way home limping
Ranjan in beard with wooden leg and a crutch wiped his eyes as he saw her fading away in the distance and his plan gone awry..

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Break down

It was a cold night with gusty winds. I wished to reach my home that was five hours drive away by 11 pm.but was held up here. I could leave only at 9.30 pm.As I was feeling hungry I had my dinner at a road side dhaba.That took away another 45 minutes but I was determined to drive through the night though I would miss the sleep the whole night. The highway was practically empty with occasional trucks. It looked the drizzle may break into a heavy rain anytime. But I was cruising along at 70 km as the road was wet. There were occasional hamlets enroute with faint light from the lonely huts but otherwise the drive was a monotonous one.
I had promised my wife I would be back for dinner. She might be anxious why I was late. The battery in my cell phone had run out. It was a little past midnight that my car abruptly stopped even though I had filled the tank full. It was pitch dark on the desolate stretch of the road. I tried to start several times but it did not work. A couple of lorries went by without stopping while one offered a lift.
Worried I looked around and in the flash of a lightning, I saw a house a little away. Wondering how crazy people are to build houses with none around, I walked towards it. I could see light inside and was relieved by the thought of likely inhabitant inside. I knocked the door and repeated when there was no immediate response. After what looked like eternity, there appeared a face behind the window. I was surprised to see an extremely beautiful woman in thirties with long black hair falling on her glowing shoulders. There was a faint surprise in her eyes and the twirl in her lips made her more enchanting.
"I am stranded with my car having broken down. If I have a torch, I can open the bonnet and see what is wrong. It is pitch dark outside" I said
"Oh, oh.I am sorry I do not have a torch. My husband is also not here to help you" she replied
I lingered for a while not knowing what to do but I saw from the corner of my eyes how she was eyeing at me with interest.
When I slowly turned back towards the gate, she said “I don't want to send you away. Since no one else is there with me, I was hesitant. But it will be cruel not to invite you when you are in such a predicament. Please come in. You seem to be a decent person. You can leave immediately after the day breaks."
When I sat on a large sofa, she went inside and brought me a pillow." You can sleep on the sofa. I expect my husband to come only by tomorrow morning and you would have gone by then. Feel comfortable” she said.
She looked extremely fetching at close quarters and dignified in bearing. I could smell a whiff of lavender perfume but she made no wrong move except for her coy smile. After she left, I could not sleep for a while lost in thoughts of her. I heard her close the door and the sound of bolt. Must be a cautious lady, I thought.
I don't know when I fell asleep but around 3 am I heard a sound of a door being opened. I was worried whether it could be her husband come earlier than expected. Feeling drowsy I did not get up from the sofa.When I heard the birds chirping and saw the light of dawn through the window I awoke and found a light bed sheet covering me. I could get the smell of lavender. Startled I sat up as she had not given me any bed sheet when I went to sleep. She must have come in the night around the time I heard the sound though to what purpose I could not understand.
When I heard the creaking sound of some door being opened, I turned to see an old lady, somewhat ugly and bent with features that looked grotesque. She smiled at me and asked "I hope you had a good sleep. When I came around three, I found you lying crumpled and so covered you with a bed sheet"
"Where is the young lady whom I met last night? She told me no one was there except herself. Are you her mother by any chance?" I asked in a confused state of mind.
"No mother. No one else came. I am alone here” she said with a smug smile
"It cannot be. I saw a very beautiful young woman in thirties and was even attracted to her. There is some mistake somewhere" I said
"Really? Were you attracted towards me?"
"What me? I told you that she is a charming young lady"
"See now. Is she the young lady whom you saw" the old ugly woman said and transformed into the young lady amidst eerie laughter. When I looked at her disbelievingly, I could see the flesh fading and skeleton appearing. I turned and ran screaming for my life on the road followed very closely by howling voice.
Abruptly I woke up in the car on the highway that was surrounded by anxious passersby.