Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Jack pot

Vicky was watching from his hotel with wonder the large casino with its glittering lights, lighted fountains, the moving marquee and the jostling crowd in and out and he felt he was in a dream land. He had come to Connecticut on some project work from the Bay Area. He had another fortnight to stay here. He was tired watching the TV and walked briskly towards the casino. He was in a mood to try his luck with a maximum outlay of hundred dollars. One good thing about him was that once he decided an upper limit, he was never tempted to exceed even if Lady Luck were to smile on him.
He got 100 dollars changed into coins from the counter and bought a large bottle of coke. He went around the casino looking at the varieties of slot machines, roulette, blackjack and other games of chance, He chose a quiet corner and decided to stick with one machine this time. On earlier occasions he used to hop from one machine to another impatient if it  did not win for him. There was none around as he started trying his luck. He chose one dollar machine instead of quarter machine. He kept inserting the coins and pulling the handle to rotate the reels. There were a few wins but were soon eroded by losses. He had exhausted about 80 dollars and wished to stop for a while to get a break. He leaned on the chair and closed his eyes keeping his mind blank.
There was a whiff of perfume, shuffle of shoes and he could hear someone sitting in the adjacent chair opposite another similar machine. When he heard the ring of coins falling in the receptacle, he opened his eyes to see a drop-dead beauty. She was young, not tall, a blond with a long skirt. She said hi with a smile and he smiled back.
"You seem to have started on a winning note from the tinkles I heard when I was dozing. Keep it up. Good luck" Vicky said
"Thank you. That was not much. I am Melinda. Let me play before the winning streak vanishes" she said with a giggle.
He watched her putting one dollar after another for a few times losing all the time till she finally sighed and said with a guffaw “I am broke. Let me watch you make money. Come on play. I will cheer you"
"Thanks. I am Vicky. Let me try with you as my mascot. May be I will rake in lot of money" he said and started playing. He stopped when he lost ten dollars and said “I am short of luck today despite your presence by my side. I had decided to devote 100 dollars and I have only 10 with me. With that also gone, I would move out"
"Vicky, luck seems to evade you with the machines conspiring against you. I have a deal for you. Do you care to listen?"
"Come on Melinda. I am game. Tell me what"
“Let me play those ten dollars for you. If I win, you will have half of winnings. I think I will win. What do you say?"
"Agreed. What if you lose?"
"Haha.Good question. I have nothing to give except me if you wish” she laughed with a wink.
Taken aback at her audacity, he said "Hmm, play, let us see our luck" 
The young thing started playing. The first dollar itself raked in 25 dollars. Then she started losing all till she was left with two dollars. The penultimate fetched her 100 dollars and in her glee she hugged him showering him with smooches. Vicky was all smiles. With bated breath she inserted the last dollar she had  and Lo the cash register did not stop ringing and playing music. She had hit a jackpot of 5000 dollars.
"Are you happy?” Melinda asked holding his hands.
"No, I am not. I sort of wished that you lost" he said mischievously with a grin
"Hurray, have no fear. Let this spot of luck for us  blossom into long term friendship. Are you single? I am." she said.

“I  am.I was just kidding about your losing part. Let us be friends. Hurry up, we will celebrate with a great dinner and what not” he said as they walked out of casino hand in hand.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

God in the smile of poor

The temple was crowded being an auspicious day. Long queues of people were seen before every sanctum with the longest moving at snail’s pace before the presiding Deity’s. There were pilgrims with families moving around the corridors of the sprawling temple gaping at everything they espied, the swaying elephant eating coconut leaves, the big chariot used to take the gods around the temple and many little idols that dotted around. Outside the temple precincts shops selling flowers and other offerings like coconuts, betel leaves, plantain fruits etc were busy making money. On both sides of the passage leading to the temple beggars, mendicants, sick men and women along with children were begging the people for alms making noise with bowls or pleading in pitiable tones.
It was then a big gleaming car came to a halt at the entrance. A portly figure clad in silk dhoti and angavastram alighted from the car. With prominent ash marks and bindi on his forehead, the fair complexioned Arunachalam with a bulging tummy evoked instant awe and respect. There was a momentary silence from the beggars before they started shouting for alms. He ignored them despite their persistent pleadings. Arunachalam looked around the vast crowd even at the entrance. Someone made a gratuitous remark that the queues are mile long and it would take hours to get a glimpse of god. Arunachalam, a diabetic, decided that he cannot stand in the queue that long in hot sun. When he turned to return home, one man clad in khaki looking like an employee of the temple came near Arunachalam and whispered “I can easily facilitate a darsan within 30 minutes and it would cost 500 rupees. Many have to be taken care of and today being a festival day, it is a bit high.”
When Arunachalam pondered over the wisdom of parting with the money with a stranger, the man as if he read his mind said “Please do not worry. This is a temple. You can trust me. I have already taken six pilgrims inside”
He watched the beggars looking at him strangely and curiously. He decided to take a chance as he did not want to miss having a darsan on this special day especially when he planned to commence a new business venture the next week. The man collected 500 rupee note and requested him to wait for just ten minutes for him to arrange the visit. Having parted with the money, he had to agree.Fifteen minutes passed and there was no sign of the man. He felt thirsty and had a coke. He was getting impatient and started feeling that he had been taken for a ride. It was nearly an hour and the man had not made his appearance.
It was then one woman beggar said “Sami (sir), that fellow is a cheat. He does this daily. He will not come. We could not openly caution you as he would beat us. He is a local rowdy. The police also know. He has a few others working for him.”
“Oh, oh I suspected after parting with the money. It was my desire to have a quick  darsan that impelled me foolishly to trust him. Let me return without waiting anymore” he said
The beggars in chorus pleaded for some alms. It was pathetic to see them cry hoarse at every passerby. He told them “Please wait. I will be back in five minutes. I am not like that man. I will be back soon”
The beggars saw him cross the road and not towards his vehicle. He was back in ten minutes and asked them “You must all sit in a row on both sides and wait for your turn without making any noise. No one will be left out, I assure you.”
He waited for a couple of minutes for them to settle down on the floor and gave a ten rupee note to each of the adult beggars and a five rupee note to each child. When he had completed the distribution, he asked whether anyone was left out. One little girl said “Give ten rupee to that samiyar(spiritual mendicant) in ochre robes in that corner. He will not sit with us or ask but will remain silent and hungry”
Arunachalam went to him and handed over two ten rupee notes and the mendicant in turn smilingly handed over one note to that girl. Arunachalam saw all the beggars smiling with satisfaction. He rejoiced at their smiling faces and did not feel for the missed darsan inside.

When Arunachalam entered his house, his wife asked him whether he had a good darsan of the God and was happy. He replied to the  bewilderment of his wife”Yes, not one god but hundred gods in all their smiles”

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Marriages are made in Heaven

Rhea was browsing through the matrimonial site during lunch hour. She was proud of her tall bearing, good looks and her well paid job. Being 27, she wished to settle down. She wanted someone preferably an engineer from IT industry in Bangalore itself. Her requirements were not too demanding. A healthy man less than 32, tall to match her height, clean habits and  willing to live with her in separately without other family members,  were the only parameters. To be compatible with her, she wished that he must be interested in films of all genres, light music, travel, eating out and be a fun loving person. These traits she felt were very reasonable especially for a life time partner.
Most of the guys in the site from Bangalore were over aged widowers/divorcees, in small jobs, short in height or in joint families. A few wanted horoscope matching .After a long wait, there was only one in the site that somewhat came near her specifications. His profile read as "A 31 years old B.Tech working in leading IT company in Bangalore with handsome salary  is interested in an educated lady, not employed, adept in cooking South and North Indian cuisine  for a gourmet  and with interests in home bound hobbies like Carnatic music, painting, embroidery, decorating the house, gardening etc. She should be willing to raise a family soon after marriage without imposing any time limit. Should not grudge his relatives visiting the house or be nagging to be taken out for eating in restaurants or social gatherings. A good home maker who can take care of her husband is the main requirement. If this interests you can contact xxxxxxx for taking it forward with a dinner date"
She did not like the stress on cooking though she is no mean cook or his idea of his partner being home bound getting ready to bear babies and being a home maker. Though she was quite sure that this will not work out with her being in a cushy job in an advertising company, she succumbed to the mischievous idea of enjoying a free dinner in the company of a guy making him in the process build castles in air of a wedding with a beautiful woman. She had nothing else to do for the evening and was in an adventurous mood. She dialed his number to hear his deep voice.
The manly voice was mesmerizing as he gently said “This is Naren, I could not catch your name. Did you say Shriya? What can I do for you?”
Rhea felt a thrill passing through her spine.”It is Rhea, not Shriya. I saw your profile in matrimony site and as desired by you I am free to meet at the restaurant for dinner tonight”
“Did you say my profile in matrimony site suggested a dinner date?” he asked
“You must know better as you have inserted the ad” she said with some irritability.
“I am sorry I forgot. May be a momentary blackout after hearing a sweet feminine voice” he giggled and added” How about meeting at 7 pm today at Grand? Is it close to your place or shall I pick you up from your place”
“That is not necessary. I have my vehicle I will be there at the lounge in blue jeans and dark coat”
“Thanks,Rhea. I will be in a blue striped shirt. I look forward to meet you. Bye till then”
It was 7pm and the lounge was crowded. Rhea was playing some game on her iPhone. When she looked up hearing a mild cough, she was startled to find a very handsome guy in blue striped shirt sitting opposite her and watching her intently with a smile in his face.
He stood up and extending his hand said “I am Naren.I was waiting for you to finish your game” he said with a mischievous grin
“Sorry, I didn’t notice you”
He took her hands in his and led her to the table reserved for them in a corner. drew the chair and made her sit comfortably. She was at once taken in by his easy charm and chivalry.
When the bearer appeared, he said “Please order food whatever you like. I am open to any kind, Italian, Mexican, and Chinese unless you prefer South Indian items. What are your favourites?”
“I think our food tastes are similar though what you had written about being a gourmet and that I should be proficient in cooking South and North Indian stuff baffled me” she said
There was a confused look when he said “Had I written like that?” he asked
“How strange your asking me the question. You also wanted a woman who is ready to raise a family immediately and wished a homebound woman knitting sweaters and singing Thyagaraja Keerthanas  “.When he started laughing , she added “You also wanted your partner a sit at home type tending to garden and decorating your home and entertaining your guests”
“My god! Did I say ready to start family immediately, is it? Let me explain and your confusion will disappear. I returned from Japan only last night. May be my mom had inserted the advertisement in the site. She is particular that I should get married soon. I have no idea of the content and whatever is mentioned is her idea of a good daughter-in-law. Was there anything else that put you off” he asked
“That I should stay at home and not nag you to take me out on travel or for eating out or for parties” she smiled
“Oh my God. This is not the type I would ever wish. On the contrary I want her to be well employed, be liberal in outlook, fun loving, outgoing, interested in outdoor sports like swimming, gym, jogging and fond of travel every six months to new places. Will you kindly ignore what were all stated in the site? What are you by the way?”
She told him and said “If what you say is true, I am happy to have found one after my heart”. The butter flies started fluttering in her stomach when he held her hands and said “you are very beautiful.”
They lingered together for long and then  decided to meet a week later to take things forward as she had a campaign. They exchanged the cards and parted
As she lay in the bed recalling his handsome face and the striking contrast of his personality to what she had assumed, she suddenly clicked the link for the site and found the phone number different from that in the card. Naren was also not in IT but a VP in marketing.
Shocked she rang up the number in the site. A gruff voice answered “Raju here. Who is it? What do you want?”
After hearing her, he asked whether she was employed and when she affirmed he curtly said” I had made it clear in the ad that I do not want an employed woman but a home maker. I have my old parents to look after.”
She realized then she had originally dialed Naren’s number by mistake but was happy she discovered her Mr. Right.
Her mobile then rang.”Naren here. Rhea, can we meet again tomorrow itself  whenever convenient? I hope you understand the tsunami you have caused in my heart.”
She laughed and said” Surely, I am no better than you”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Photographer's delight

As Praveen entered the reigning star’s house for his appointment, what he saw was incredible. In his long experience of two decades, he had never seen such a bewitching beauty. The girl smiled at him with her sparkling teeth shining and making dimples on both cheeks. A perfect creation by god well proportioned with a black mole on the chin below the lip the only flaw that added to her attractiveness. A seasoned photographer much sought after by all producers, he had the strong desire to have her photographed along with the most charming and popular hero in the circuit. It would be a prized possession and a souvenir for him.
Someone came down the stairs and said “Sir will be ready in five minutes. Can I get you fruit juice, mango, pomegranate, guava or apple? “
“I will wait. Get me whatever you wish to” Praveen said and dismissed him without taking his eyes off the girl.
He smiled at her and said softly “Can you please do me a favour?”
“Why not? Please tell me” she said in a sweet voice that betrayed no fear.
“I wish to take a few snaps of you with the hero sir in different poses. You must cooperate with me”
“Have no fear; it is done in whatever manner you ask me to strike the pose. But you must tell me clearly” she said.
The hero meanwhile came down the stairs in his silk kurta and pyjama hailing Praven”Hey, buddy, you are on time”
Seated in the sofa he saw Praveen adjusting his camera and asked him “Are you taking any still shots or what?”
“No still shots. I want a few pictures of you with her for my personal album” Praveen said pointing to the girl.
The hero asked with a smile “Have you take her permission? She may not agree”
Nodding his head Praveen asked the young girl to be seated close to hero sir  holding his hands.
She instantly did it.”Perfect” Praveen said as he clicked
“Now you put your arm around Sir and bring your face close to his and smile” said Praveen
This was also a good shot on the first take. Praveen was very happy
“Shall I hug him and kiss him on his cheek, if you wish” asked the girl.
Taken aback at her audacity and daring, Praveen nodded while the hero Sir could not suppress his laughter.
Clicking the best shot, Praveen said “Thank you so much. You have a beautiful and photogenic face”
The girl turned to hero Sir and said “Daddy, can you  please permit me now to do a baby role in one of your films”

Friday, September 20, 2013

The smile

It was a small tenement with just one room, a small hall and a smaller kitchen. Bhagyam usually lay in the bed opposite a TV in the hall. She was living alone here after her husband died. She was getting a small government pension. She had no children but had siblings who rarely visited her.
She had been having fever for the last two days and was feeling weak and exhausted. She was past 75 and saw no purpose in her aimless life. She was not able to read with her poor vision.TV was the only diversion for her but volume had to be kept high these days. Luckily her neighbour did not complain. There was nothing to look forward to and each day was no different from the other.Except for her young lady neighbour who was kind to her and made daily visits asking her whether she needed any grocery, she had no friends. Nevertheless she often prayed for deliverance from this miserable life.
It was past 10 pm and the TV was blaring. Bhagyam suddenly felt a shadow flitting across the room.To her shock she saw a tall, big, dark man standing near the door with protruding big eyes and with long mustache that policemen generally flaunt. He was bare bodied with a dhoti tied through the legs. He had a rope on one hand and a big mace on the other. The door was locked and she wondered how he could have entered.
 "Who are you? How did you enter? What is this strange outfit like Yama (god of death)? Are you an actor come straight from shooting studio? What brought you here? "she asked with no fear in her voice.
"You are right. I am indeed Yama come to take your life. Your time is up. I can enter through any barrier and travel anywhere on my mount" he replied in a loud and baritone voice
"Hahaha, I was actually praying for your visit and God had at last answered my prayers. Where is your mount anyway?" she said with a big toothless smile. She then heard a grunt from outside.
"People in death bed shudder at my sight and even die before I use my rope. You seem a strange and fearless woman. What is your full name by the way? asked Yama
"What a blunderbuss you are coming all the way to take my life without even knowing my name? I am Bhagyam anyway"
"What is your husband's name?"
“Have you come to take my life or my husband's? For your information someone of your clan took him away ten years back. His name is Kannabiran"
"Oh my God, is there anyone by name Kannayiram in this building?"
"Yes, he lives next door and his wife's name is also Bhagyam. Why do you want to know about them, tell me now?
"Sorry, grandma. There has been a mistake. I actually came looking for Bhagyam Kannayiram but had wrongly entered your house"
"What a clumsy fellow you are? The municipal clerk who collected Aadhar details is much smarter than you. Mind you, you cannot touch her after you have blundered and scared me needlessly. She is my only bulwark. Take me instead or leave her alone. This is the minimum I beg of you. People say you are very just”
The dark figure seemed to smile at her as it vanished.
The next moment Bhagyam heard a loud wail from the adjacent flat. She got up hit by panic and ambled her way hurriedly  to the flat to learn that the younger Bhagyam had fallen in the bath room and possibly broken her leg.
"Is she otherwise ok"asked the old woman to Kannayiram.
"I think so and she is sitting on the sofa and talking normally" he said
"Grandma, I am fine. Nothing is wrong with me. It could be just a sprain and not even a fracture" the younger Bhagyam said
The old woman now understood why the dark figure smiled when he disappeared.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

55 Word Fiction

1. Hello
Yes, sir
I need one small information.
I am new here, Sir
Call someone else
No one here
What crap?
True, Sir.All are dead here except me
What bull shit you are talking?
When everyone is dead, how can I say they are alive?
Where are you speaking from?
I am speaking from mortuary.

2. On the house
“Bartender, pour me a stiff drink”
He gulped it and asked for another.
Another, another followed five times
Tottering he rose and said
“Join me all of you. This one will be on the house”
“Settle the bill” said bartender
“Do you trust a drunk after five glasses of heady stuff?
I remember nothing”

3. No vacancy
There was ‘No Vacancy’ board hanging 
I pointed out the one key hanging on the key board 
 “It is not available for rent” said motel owner
“Why?” I bellowed
“It is haunted by five ghosts”
I insisted on staying
Next evening the owner was heard telling" That room not for rent. Haunted by six ghosts"

4. A leap
She stood on the parapet wall on the terrace of tall building
A few visitors were watching sun set on other side
Her life was empty.She will soon be at peace.
As she was to take the leap, she thought of parrot in locked cage.
She jumped.... on the terrace and ran down the stairs

5. Faux pas
Navin was online
“Have you told your mom about our wedding?”I pinged
“Not yet”
“Tell  her soon. The old hag may object”
“I fear she will”
“Inform her we have been living in for two years” I said angrily”
“It is your problem. What can I do?”
“Who is this?”
“Old hag.Navin has gone down”

Monday, September 16, 2013

The well wisher

Neeraja noticed the protruding envelope from the post box as she entered her house. It was addressed to her. There was no postage stamp or name of sender. Courier boys would not leave the letters like that. What intrigued her were the words “Urgent and confidential" on it. Who could send such a letter, she wondered. She tore the envelope to see a small sheet. It read “The guy whom you are in love with is not an honest person. He is flirting concurrently with two other girls. He would ditch all the three of you after having some fun for another set of girls. He does this frequently. You are warned to stay away from him. Beware, I would know all your movements. A well wisher"
She tore the letter to pieces in anger and threw them in dust bin. She knew Navin since two years. A decent and good looking guy, he was her colleague earlier in the company where she is working .He left it for a better job.He had no big B school diplomas but he worked as an executive in some private company. She was a MBA from a prestigious school but that did not deter her from falling in love with him. He did not belong to her caste though it mattered little to her. They were going steady.
Who could be this well wisher? Could it be someone wanting to marry him and jealous of her? She talked to her bosom friend Rohini also a MBA and working in her office. They are very close and have no secrets between them.
 "Why would anyone take the trouble of dissuading you from marrying him unless he is romantically interested in you? Is there anyone other than Navin? Or could it be though farfetched your parents who may object because of his caste?"Rohini said.
"True, my parents are not exactly happy about my choice of Navin but I don't think they will stoop to this length. I know of no one who has openly shown romantic interest in me. I am in tension ever since I got this letter"
"Who knows who wrote it? But I would advise you caution. Watch Navin carefully as there can be no smoke without fire."
"What crap are you talking, Rohini?" Neeraja said with some irritability
When she met Navin that evening she asked him with a feigned seriousness”So you are romping with two other women silently with none of them being wiser to your dalliances?"
"What nonsense are you talking, Neeru? Have you gone soft on head or what?"Navin asked.
"I received a written warning this morning from some anonymous guy pretending to be my well wisher. Is there any lady making advances to you in your office or from elsewhere?"
"Stupid girl, you and your crazy ideas. There is none like that. There is space in my heart only for you. Come on, let us go and eat something. I am famished."
She did not tell him about her discussion with Rohini and totally forgot this matter after the pleasant evenings with him daily. It was therefore a surprise when she saw a tiny box one day in the post box addressed to her.
To her horror she found a picture of pistol with a note."I know you have been going with your lover in the evenings to restaurants despite my warning. I am serious. I would put a violent end to your love affair. Marry the guy whomever your parents choose for you for your lover's sake and his wellbeing."
She got scared and rang Navin requesting him to come and meet her in her office. Navin excused himself saying he was busy at work. In the evening he advised her that she best ignore such pranks and if it gets serious she can consider seeking help of police.
Two days later she got two pictures of Navin with his arms around two different girls in each and a note asking whether she needed more evidence. Neeraja started crying unable to digest the thought of Navin deceiving her and lying to her. She went straight to his office and confronted him with the pictures.”Tell me who they are? I trusted you. You can be honest with me and I will move away from your life permanently. I want this matter to be settled right now.”He looked at the photographs intently for a few minutes and then started laughing. He pulled her near him and said “What a buddhu you are? See the fingers of the man. Don’t you see rings in two fingers? Have you ever seen me wearing a ring? I am waiting for one ring and that is from you. These are morphed pictures of my head with someone else. A cut and paste job. Someone is definitely against your marrying me. If it is not your parents, watch out who it could be.It is none from my side, I am sure. Don’t get panicked. It will resolve itself soon” he said
The next day her system had a problem. She wanted some file and thought she would go to Rohini’s cabin. She would share the latest development and get the file from her computer. Her cabin was vacant and someone said she was on leave. Neeraja opened her system with company’s password and opened the file needed. She wanted a pencil and paper. When she opened the side drawer she found to her surprise some fashion magazine along with scissors with bits of clippings. She opened her Photoshop file and found in the recent files the pictures received by her. Things became clearer.
The next day when Neeraja said to Rohini in serious tone “I know who the culprit is. I have enough proof. Do you wish to know?”
“Neeraja, did you by any chance open my system? I confess to the wrong doing. I started loving Navin soon after he joined. It was ofcourse one sided. When I expressed my love, he was rather rude in rejecting me and said that he loved someone else. What irked me were his words that she is better looking and more intelligent. It was then I decided to see that he does not marry her. At that time I was not aware it was you. But I wished to teach that rascal a lesson. I am sorry. I will no more interfere. Please do not tell him, I implore you”
When Navin asked two days later about any fresh development from the well wisher, she said “Oh, the matter is resolved and is best forgotten. I need to buy a ring for you. By the way, would you need two?” she asked with a giggle.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Who was he then?

My husband and I enjoy sitting daily in our spacious balcony in the late evenings on the fifth floor of our building complex. We had a panoramic view if we looked up  of the dark sky and the shimmering stars and if we looked down the landscape of the busy city illuminated with lights of various hues from different buildings advertising their products some in marquee, some in changing colours and some in blinding constant light. The variety was baffling and innovative.
“I have something to tell you. Do you remember one Suresh who studied with me in IIM and went on to join a MNC?"I said.
"Yes, I know, Savitri. You had also mentioned that he fell in love with you and wished to marry you. What happened?" asked my husband Murali
"Your memory is sharp. True he loved me and I was also initially not sure whether I loved him or not. There were certain things about him that put me off. He was highly opinionated and had extreme views on most subjects and never allowed room for dissent. Slightly abrasive on that score, he was not very popular. Otherwise a perfect gentleman, chivalrous and helpful by nature. he helped me a lot with study materials and in the project work"
"Agreed and you also had a weakness for him till something went wrong and you moved away from him. Where is he? Did he talk to you by any chance?"
I laughed and said “How did you get that impression that I had a weakness for him. I knew he can be a good friend and never a partner in my life.Anyway, he did talk to me. He has come to the city on some work and wondered whether we could meet for a quick lunch at Samrat tomorrow. I just wished to keep you informed."
"Why should I be kept informed? Do you think I am a suspicious type or what? Healthy friendships do not cease after marriage" Murali said
It was the next day and as usual we were in the balcony. It was Murali's turn to broach on the meeting with Suresh.
"Savitri, I thought you would yourself tell me about the luncheon meeting with your class mate. Did you both meet? What does he say?"
"Sorry, I wished to tell you but we had just settled down in the balcony. You seem to be thinking about it all the time" I giggled as Murali made face at me
"Yes, he came on time. He is bloated and pale looking not the healthy guy he was years back. With receding head, he looked older for his age."
"I am not interested about his looks. What did he tell you?"Murali asked impatiently
I noted the asperity in his tone and said nothing special was discussed.
"Come on dear, you must have been together for an hour at least. Where is he now, how many kids, about his wife, his job and things like that" prodded Murali
"He has not married and works in Delhi. He was telling he had not been keeping well. When I pressed on what was ailing him, he brushed aside the question. His parents it seems are in village and have become old. He felt sorry he could not be of much help to them except financially. He is in a senior position, President or some such thing. He talked about common friends, professors and also asked about you." I said
"That is sad about his not keeping well at this young age. You could have called him .for dinner. When is he leaving for Delhi? Invite him for breakfast tomorrow. I can go late to office. I would also like to meet him."
"Are you sure?" I asked with disbelief.
"Certainly, why not? Ring him up right away"
I tried his number two or three times and then said to Murali “it is ringing with no response"
"Try his hotel number where he is staying" Murali suggested
"Good idea" I replied and rang up
"What are you talking? I met him this afternoon. How can it be that he had not checked in? He told me he was leaving tomorrow evening" I told the receptionist at the hotel.
When the lady repeated the same thing, I gave the phone to Murali and said “They are blabbering some nonsense. You talk to them ".
"What is the problem in connecting to Mr. Suresh?” Murali asked the receptionist
"Sir, he had booked the room from Delhi but he did not check in at all. When we contacted his secretary at Delhi, we heard the sad news of his heart attack in the plane. His body was being flown back is all the information we have. I did not tell the lady who spoke with us now this sad news" said the receptionist politely.
"Are you sure about the factual correctness of what you are telling?"Murali asked
"Hundred percent.I  can give you his secretary's number if you wish"
With utter disbelief and confusion writ large on his face, Murali told her of what he had heard.
I let out a scream and cried"Oh no, it cannot be. Who was that sitting with me at the hotel then? Believe me Murali, won’t you? He was talking to me happily and was glad that he could meet me after so many years. Who was he then?"

Murali put his arm around me and led me inside.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The secret

Raghuvir was frantically searching for the pen drive that contained important data. He had kept it on the table, he was sure. His wife Isha was arranging things as the cleaners were expected that day. Could it be that she had placed it safely somewhere? She had gone to office early as there was an important meeting. He rummaged through the drawers of the table but could not locate it. What if it had fallen in the dustbin or thrown by mistake, he wondered.

He took the dustbin from under the table and emptied the contents on the floor. The pen drive was not there. As he was putting back the contents into the bin he found a crumpled and faded blue color paper. It looked very old. Impelled by curiosity, he opened it. It was a letter torn twice into four parts and thrown in the bin after crumpling it. It was not his, he was certain. He sat on the floor and arranged it in order after flattening the pieces. It was a letter dated eight years back addressed to Isha from one Manish. Raghuvir had not heard Isha telling him of any Manish. There was no relative of hers with such a name. Wanting to know more, he pressed the papers with an iron box to remove the creases. He could  now read  easily.

Dearest Isha,
This is perhaps my last letter to you for I would not like to intrude anymore in your happy married life.I would be gone to an unknown place carrying with me the fond memories of you and the happy times we had together. It was my entire fault and on an impulse and in utter foolishness I had misappropriated the bank's money temporarily to buy a costly gift for you but was caught before I could replace it as I had planned. Although I had paid the bank immediately the money, I lost my job and had to spend one year in jail. It was my blind love for you and the eagerness to get you the diamond pendant you looked at longingly when we were in a mall that made me commit the unpardonable mistake. It was not the loss of job or the incarceration or my reputation in tatters that affected me but the loss of you was unbearable. I could not hold you responsible in the circumstances for your decision to move away and marry one whom your parents had chosen. I also knew the reason for your urgency.
Forgive me. I want you to live happily and erase my memories completely though it would be difficult for you when you see your daughter. I came to know you gave birth to a girl soon after marriage. Tear this letter. I have torn all yours but unable to erase you from my heart.

Raghuvir could not believe what he read. He was shaken beyond words at the unexpected revelation of his wife’s past.Yes, his daughter Monica was a premature baby and at least that was what he was told. Come to think of it, Monica has not taken after her dusky mom or him as girl was very fair .She had a sharp aquiline nose unlike his bulbous flat nose. Be that as it may, Raghuvir wished she was at least open.. Who would reveal when unsure of how the spouse would react? But her love for him was unstinted and beyond question. Why rake up buried things and make life miserable for both and for his adorable loving daughter Monica? What good it would bring, he thought as he lay in the bed for a long time.

The phone rang. It was Isha telling that she is driving back home. He was clear in his mind now.
He hurriedly took the letter and burnt it along with the secret it contained. He emptied the contents of the dustbin in the container on the road. He found a new peace in his action and luckily saw his pen drive on the bed. He went to kitchen whistling a tune to make coffee for Isha.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The shield

Chinnadurai has been driving the bus on this route for the last five years. This is not considered a good route. The distance was long and passed through narrow roads inhabited by poor people. There were two alcohol shops on this route and invariably drunk people boarded the bus giving trouble to the conductor and other passengers by their incessant prattle and foul mouth. Since it also passed through a well known shopping area, the bus became notorious for pick pocketing and bag snatching..
Chinnadurai was posted in this route as a punishment after an inadvertent accident in a different route that wound its way through posh areas. The conductor Vasanth Paul was a young and good chap but inexperienced in handling rough guys. It was Chinnadurai who came to his rescue whenever someone threw tantrums. But one thing both Vasanth and Chinnadurai could not control was the incidence of pick pocketing that invariably took place in every trip. Both of them knew who the offenders were and which dreaded don’s protection they enjoyed. They were advised by their peers not to take cognizance of the presence of criminals lest the two came to harm. In the past where conductors and drivers either protested or warned the passengers to take care of their belongings came to grief by ruthless attacks when they were off duty. The police took refuge under the plea that there were no complaints from victims about loss of belongings.
One such day as Chinnadurai was driving the bus around 7pm, he noticed the gang of four known pickpockets board the bus at the front and rear as it started after stopping at a bus stop. Vasanth was busy issuing tickets in the crowded bus. Suddenly there was a wail from a woman “Oh my god, someone has snatched the bag from my hand. Please help me. He is in the bus only. He pushed me and moved forward”
All the passengers looked at each other. Someone shouted at Chinnadurai to stop the bus. He ignored the call and speeded up the bus without stopping.
The woman cried “It contained my life’s savings and jewels that I purchased for my daughter’s marriage after taking loan. Please help me to get back the bag. I will be ruined and the marriage will get stopped”
Even as he was driving Chinnadurai turned and said in loud voice looking at no one in particular “Please hand over the bag to that woman. She is my sister and the marriage is of my niece. I cannot ignore. If the bag is not returned the bus will stop only at the police station.This is certain”
Two of the four wicked guys who were in the front side of the bus moved near Chinnadurai shouting “Our stop has come. You cannot drive the bus to police station as you please without stopping for passengers to alight”
Chinnadurai said “I have said that this bus will not stop till it reaches the police station unless the bag is restored to my sister. “ One of the men suddenly whisked a pen knife and stabbed on Chinnadurai’s shoulder. Seeing this some passengers overpowered him. The other passengers blocked the exit on both sides.
Although blood was flowing Chinnadurai managed to drive the bus into the compound of police station. The bag was recovered from the floor of the bus where it was thrown but the policemen held all the four. As Chinnadurai was being given first aid, the woman with the bag in hand approached him with folded hands.
“Are you happy that you got your belongings?” Chinnadurai asked
“Thanks a lot. But for you I would have been ruined. I just wished to know why you said that I am your sister when I am not”
“These things happen almost daily and we turn a blind eye for fear of their harming us later. They are part of a big gang. I was moved when you said the jewels were bought for marriage out of loan. They are all ruthless thugs. Telling loudly that you are my sister is a sort of shield for me. They may still harm me but chances are less. Never mind that. Any woman in distress in my bus is my sister” he said