Saturday, February 21, 2015


Inspector Palani stood to attention
“What is the matter, Palani?”asked the superintendent of police
“A strange thing, Sir. People and even vehicles are not using the main road after it gets dark. They use the narrow road that runs parallel to it. There is often bottle neck as two cars cannot travel in that narrow road side by side. There is no platform either for pedestrians. It is a mess, Sir”
“Why are they not using main road. Make the narrow road one way,” said the Superintendent.
“It is haunted, Sir, near the Avin milk booth and it seems the ghost is violent”
“What shit are you blabbering? Aren’t you a man in uniform? Post two constables with patrol car this evening on duty for the night. We can convince people tomorrow, and tell them it is safe, and that policemen would be there daily at nights”
“I did ask two constables. They refuse to go out of fear,” said inspector.
“What crap? Issue them written orders. I want them there tonight. Report to me tomorrow morning,” roared the Superintendent.
The superintendent got a call at 7am.”I am Palani here. An untoward thing has happened. Both the policemen were found dead near Avin booth. There was a big crowd there. I had the two men checked by a local doctor. It seems they died of heart attack,” said the inspector
“My god! Send them immediately to hospital for postmortem. Inform the families. I will mention to Commissioner. Meanwhile I will ask two armed commandos to be put there tonight to unravel the mystery,” ordered the Superintendent
At 6 am, the next day, the Superintendent got a call.”Palani again, Sir. Something strange and malevolent has occurred. Both commandos were found dead shot at close range. Some people nearby heard gun shots and rushed there in a group. There were none seen in the vicinity. Even the cigarettes the commandos were smoking were still burning by the side of chairs they were sitting, Sir.”
“What are you telling, man? It is all unbelievable. People will laugh at us. Call the Homicide branch and ask them to have the place thoroughly examined. Have the place cordoned. I will inform the commissioner.
The evening news papers screamed,
Ghost on rampage.
Stunned two policemen to heart attack
Last night two commandos were spurred presumably to shoot at each other.
Police clueless”

In the evening, the Superintendent told Palani,” I could not talk to Commissioner as he is out of station. I have decided to go myself and investigate. I do not wish to send others.”
“Sir, can I go with a couple of policemen/”asked Palani
“No, I do not want to risk sending or taking anyone without personally checking. Do not fear. I don't believe in ghosts, and can unravel the mystery. I will have a CCTV camera fixed there tomorrow.”
At 4 am next morning Palani’s mobile rang. It was from Superintendent’s wife.”Mr. Palani, My husband went out in the evening and is not answering my calls to his mobile after 12 midnight. Can you please check immediately and tell me? I am greatly worried.”
Palani rushed to the spot. He found the road deserted. It was past 4.30 am. When he reached the Avin booth, he was shocked to see the Superintendent squatting on the ground in bare body tearing his shirt, filling his cap with mud and laughing hysterically like a mad man.
“Sir, please get up. What are you doing? Why have you removed the shirt? Are you OK, Sir?” Palani said with concern and shock as he gently lifted him.
“He he he, I have arrested the ghost. Commissioner will be happy” he said looking at no direction in particular even as he jumped up and down in a frenzied laughter.
Palani looked nervously at the mental wreck before him, when it dawned on him that the problem had assumed ominous proportions. May be, it falls in the domain of a tantric, he thought.
It was then he heard a shuffling noise behind him.Startled,he turned back slowly  trembling in fear with his heart pounding feverishly, a cold tingle passing through the  entire body, and nausea rising from the pit of his stomach..Lo! It was the milk-booth guy who had come to receive the Avin truck expected anytime with crates of milk! It was still dark.
Gaining composure Palani lit a cigarette to inhale the warm smoke, and decided to find a tantric before evening.
It was then he saw two headlights of possibly Avin truck approaching. He turned to see the waiting guy who was watching Palani with amused interest. The inspector noticed for the first time that the guy had disproportionately large heels, long hands, and a face that was grotesque and creepy. Palani fainted on the spot.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bringing sunshine

As I entered the room, I saw a frail old man on the bed with unshaven stubble of a week, hollow cheeks and sunken eyes. The bed seemed very large for his tiny frame. He was looking vacantly at the ceiling. I had walked in softly, and yet to my surprise he turned his eyes towards me indicating his alertness. He peered at me through his glassy eyes as if questing at my intrusion in his private space
The nurse had warned me that his left side was paralyzed and that` his speech was badly affected. As if these were not sufficient, he had a very weak heart and impaired kidneys. He was brought from a senior home when he developed difficulty to breathe. Several tubes were protruding from his body and he was on oxygen. I could gather from the nurse that his condition was very critical and that doctors were just making him comfortable with no scope for treatment
 “I feel sorry for him as he has no relatives or friends to visit him except occasionally the staff of the home. I think he is a rich man and can afford the best treatment if only his condition permitted. Sadly it is not so and I cannot say when the end will come, may be, in a day or a week or a month,” the nurse said.
“I am very sorry to hear about his condition. He looks almost like my grandpa in his last days,” I replied
“I am happy you will be coming to the hospital as part of your extracurricular programme.While you may be going to many wards, please do make an effort to spend a few minutes with this patient. It pains me to see him lonely in what seems his last days,” she suggested.
To be frank, I do not like visiting hospitals. It is not that I am afraid of catching infections that is spread all over there. But what repels me is the smell of chloroform mixed with pungent phenyl, the gloomy ambiance with death stalking every ward, the sad and concerned faces and the groans of patients in pain. I could not refuse when my principal suggested that I do some social work in a hospital to add credit to my CV.
I made it a point to spend about ten minutes with him three or four days a week. After a couple of days there was a sign of recognition with his eyes widening and a pucker breaking on his crooked lips. I always draw the chair by his side, hold his right hand that he could move or caress his arm or adjust the bedsheet.He would be just looking at me through his distant eyes or press my hand to express his warmth.
I didn’t know what to talk to him or what interested him. On the second day I told him about me.”I am Sweta in class 12, thatha (grandpa).I visit the hospital as part of my curriculum. As you look very much like my thatha, I wish to spend a few minutes every time, I come here. Every morning when I pray, I pray for you too.”
He tightened his grip on my hand and I saw tears trickling from his eyes. I rushed to wipe them telling him “Do not cry, thatha.I like you and would be with you often”
He signaled with his right hand that he wanted water. As I was filling the cup, the nurse entered and took away the cup from my hand.”He cannot take fluids more than half a litre daily. Do not give without checking with me,” she admonished. I felt she was harsh unaware that she is professional in her duty. When he saw my sad face, he pressed my hand as if to say it is okay.
These days I went almost daily only to meet him. His head would be turned towards the door from 4pm when I usually visited him. I would talk to him about my friends, teachers, parents, my interest in studies and good rank.
One day when I spoke about my desire to do engineering and the bleak chances, he raised his eye brows to ask why.
”My dad cannot afford the fees. I must be content to do simple graduation. It is fine with me,” I said with a smile.
He became silent thereafter and closed his eyes. I felt I had made a mistake in mentioning about my problem to a sick man. I lingered for a few minutes and seeing his eyes closed, I left silently.
Three days later, I brought a bunch of flowers. As I entered his room I greeted “Thatha, look at these beautiful flowers. I am keeping it on the table for you to see. It is my birthday today”. I saw a flicker of happiness in his eyes before they became expressionless.
Just then, the nurse entered his room and said in whisper “Shhhhh, he is not well. Please wait outside,” even as she was administering some injection and increasing the speed of oxygen.
I felt like crying when she came after a few minutes and put her hands on me. “Do not feel bad. His condition has deteriorated and we would be shifting him to ICU presently and put him on life support. From what I learn, his end is very near,” she said.
When I could not control sobbing loudly, she said “You have been sunshine at the end of his life. I could see a change in him after you started visiting him. If only he could speak, he would have told you what difference you made to him. Incidentally he asked about you and your details about a week back. I wrote the details from our records and gave it to him”
“Can I go inside and sit with him without talking for two minutes,” I asked
His eyes were closed and he was breathing heavily. The legs were swollen. He looked very sick. I left immediately as nurses and a stretcher on wheels came in.
Next day when I entered the ward with all sorts of fears, the nurse stopped me and said “Your thatha, Rangaswamy, is no more. He breathed his last at midnight.”As I stifled the cry breaking out, she said “I am equally sad.”
I stopped visiting the hospital and tried to get over the grief

A fortnight later I overheard my dad talking to someone on phone, “Yes, Sweta is my daughter and a student of ARM school. Did you say you are lawyers of one Rangaswamy? Yes Sir. We both will come this evening as desired.”
Tears inexplicably swelled in my eyes.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The unexpected encounter

Pavitra saw no reason to put off her marriage when her parents broached the subject. Her only condition was that she would choose her own man. She had no faith in arranged marriages and insisted that they need not exert themselves in this regard.
Having studied in girl’s school and women’s college, and also shy by nature, she never had any boyfriends. Her working environment was also a women’s place. There were not many opportunities for her to meet young men.
Though quite pretty and talented, none fascinating enough came along her way for her to fall in love. She had met a few friends of her brother and cousins. She even went out with them for a coffee or film but found none interesting. Her parents’ constant reminders irritated her forcing her to spend the time alone in her room reading novels or listening to music.
Due to some pressing work, she was held up in the office for two hours. The sky was cloudy, but there was no sign of rain when she started her Maruti car. She took the shorter route instead of the main road as traffic was less in that desolate road. As ill luck would have it, the car stopped abruptly midway in that road. To add to the misery, it also began to drizzle. She tried to start the car but could not. A few cars whizzed by without stopping.Worried she thought of calling her dad though it would take long for them to reach the place .It was then a blue Accent drew up by her car. A young man craned his neck outside and asked “Any problem? Want any help?”
“The car is not starting though I tried many times” Pavitra replied
“CanI have a look at it?” he asked her as he got down from the car.
She came out of car and was standing in the drizzling rain
“”Get into my car. You will get soaked. Have no fear. I am not going to abduct you” he said with a laugh.
He looked handsome and reminded her of Hrithik, her favourite star .She ignored his suggestion and stood watching him tinker under the bonnet. After a while he asked her to start the car. When she turned the key, the car came alive. Her face was in grateful smile even as he rubbed his hands on his kerchief.
“I am Sundar. Here is my card and you have my mobile number there. I will follow you till the main road and be on my way thereafter. In case you have trouble again, please call me unhesitatingly.
“Thank you, Sir for the great help. I would have been in a mess but for you”
“Would it be improper to know with whom I am talking?” he asked with a mischievous twinkle.
“I am Pavitra and work in a NGO, Thanks again for being so considerate.” she replied
She rang him up after she reached her home. What began as an accidental meeting soon blossomed into love. They met often at various places- restaurants, multiplexes and malls. He was also well qualified and earned a tidy sum in a reputed company. But what caused worry to Pavitra was in his disinterest in getting married.
He mentioned one day that he would not like to get married for a year or two and they could remain close friends till then. This was not acceptable to her or her parents. They did not like her to maintain a friendship without an assurance of an early marriage. When she questioned him for the reasons, he had only vague answers.
While she continued to meet him, they often had arguments on this matter and on a couple of occasions he left abruptly feigning urgent work. But he continued to be warm and loving as ever though Pavitra felt some growing chasm between them. It was her birthday on Sunday and they had agreed to meet at a posh restaurant. Around.Around 5 pm he rang up to inform her that he was bringing another young woman to the restaurant. When asked who she was, he replied he would introduce her in the evening and declined to answer her further questions.
She banged the phone and started crying. When he rang her up repeatedly, she switched off the mobile. She did not go to the restaurant. She felt that he loved someone else and that was the reason for his reluctance to get married. She blocked his name from her mobile. She gave strict instructions to her parents not to connect him to her. Her resolve to have no truck with him was final. She told her parents that she would consider proposals from them after a year and that she needed some time to get over the disappointment. When her dad got transferred to Delhi, she was happy. She also got the transfer to her Gurgaon office.
As she was slowly getting over the perceived betrayal, one evening she came face to face with Sundar at the mall. Shocked, she tried to move away. He pulled her by hand and said “Pavitra, You don’t have to be friendly with me if you so wish. But tell me at least why you broke away from me when we were in deep love? I will not pressure you to like me. Just tell me the reason and you can go thereafter your way.”
“How dare you ask this question, you two-timer? While you were professing your love for me, you had a dalliance with another girl. You even had the cheek to suggest bringing her to my birthday party that evening. I have no place in my heart for cheats” she replied in anger
Instead of retorting, he broke into loud laughter covering his mouth unable to contain it even as passersby turned towards him amused.
“Stop it. This is no laughing matter. Let me go” Pavitra said
“Just one moment, you silly girl. The woman that I wished to bring that evening was my sister who wished to see you at my mother’s suggestion before I formally proposed to you and take the matter forward. In your impatience and hasty assumptions, you spoilt the golden chance causing me lot of worry and sleepless nights” said Sundar
Pavitra hung her head in shame and expressed regret seeking his forgiveness.
“I can see you are still unmarried as I am. What better day can there be than a Valentine’s Day, to propose to you, my sweet heart?”he said kneeling down formally with extended hand to the merriment of all around. Overjoyed she went hand in hand with him  as he dragged her to the opposite perfume shop..

Monday, February 9, 2015

The mystery of the missing assistant

“How long Prabhu has been missing?” asked Suresh, the police inspector.
“For more than 10 days, sir. Initially I thought he had fallen sick, but when I found out he was not at his place here, I presumed he might have gone to his village” said Kandaswamy.
“How long has he been working in your cycle shop? How old is he?”
“Three years. He would be around 19 or 20.A hard worker and a good chap. He had no vices. He knew the job and took care of repairs while I went out to buy spares and parts.”
“What do his parents say? Why did you come to police? Do you suspect any mischief?”
“I don’t think so. I do not know where his parents live. He only said he belonged to a village near Kanchipuram.Since it was more than 10 days, I thought it proper to inform police.”
“Did he have any enemies? May be someone attacked him.”
“I don’t think Prabhu is a tall and well built fellow. He can handle anyone.”
“Who are all living in this house? Any children or elderly people?”
“No one else except my wife Kavita. We have no children.”
“Where is your wife?”
“She has gone to her parents’ place about a week back to attend some festival in the village temple”
The inspector collected the details of her village and her parents casually during the conversation and asked for the photo of Prabhu if he had any for circulating in missing list.           
“OK, I will call you when I get any information. Make sure you do not go out of this town. I may need your help. Can I have a glass of water?
When Kandaswamy went in, Suresh followed him, and had a quick look of the place.
Two days later, Suresh was at Kavita’s house at the village. An old man outside the house literally trembled when he saw Suresh in uniform.
“Can I meet Kavita for a few minutes?” asked Suresh
“She is actually not well. She got her leg fractured and hurt in her hand. She is under bandage lying in the bed” said the old man, her father.
“Oh, oh.I never knew as otherwise I would not have disturbed you people. Did she get hurt here?”
“No, she fell down at her place. Her husband sent her by taxi for us to take care of her as he has the shop to look after.”
“Ok, let me see her for a minute before I return. I will come later, if needed. Any festival in temple?” he asked
“No festival this month. It will come only in Chitra month during summer” replied the old man
Suresh saw Kavita reclined in the bed with a big plaster from thigh to foot on one leg and bandage in her hand. He saw some bruises on her face and arm. She must be around 30 but looked younger, slim and quite attractive. What a mismatch, thought Suresh, to the short, fat and ugly Kandaswamy.
“I am sorry to see you in this state. You are very much hurt. I heard it was from a fall but there are bruises in hand and face.”
“I don’t know how but I got hurt all over.”
“Your husband complained about Prabhu not coming to work for a fortnight or so. We are trying to trace him and circulated his picture to many police stations. I came to Kanchipuram and thought of meeting you as it is on the way. How is Prabhu? Is he a good chap?”
“Prabhu is a very good person. I know him very well as he has been coming to my house daily to carry lunch box for my husband. He is a very shy fellow and will not talk much. But he seemed very happy to learn work from my husband. Is he not coming to work and gone away? He was virtually managing the shop.”
“Did you not know that he was not coming for work when you left your place?
“I remember my husband telling that Prabhu was not attending the shop may be due to illness. I did not check thereafter.”
Suresh did not ask about who carried lunch.
“Is nobody there in the cycle shop owner’s house? It is locked,” asked Suresh in disguise to an old woman standing adjacent to Kandaswamy’s house.
“That useless fat fellow would have gone to the shop.”
“Is there no one else?”
“He threw that wretched woman out about two weeks back. God knows where she is roaming around,” said the old woman
“Why do you talk like this about your neighbour? What did she do to you?”
“What do you know of her? I am here seeing all the atrocious things happening, and you dare doubt me. Who have you come to meet? Kandaswamy or that woman?"
"I came to see him. I don’t know about her,” replied Suresh
“Good, come near, I will tell you” she replied, and added after looking around ”That woman is not good. Daily that boy from shop will come in the afternoon to take lunch for Kandaswamy, and they would often be seen laughing together. He would linger inside for long time. Her useless husband does not know how to keep her happy, and I think he was blind to the happenings under his roof. About a fortnight back he came home unexpectedly during lunch. May be he suspected something. I heard her wailing as he beat her blue and kicked her out. I have not seen her or that boy thereafter. May be they had eloped,” she whispered
“Oh oh, is any repair going on here? I see some remnants of broken bricks and sand opposite his house” asked Suresh.
“I have no idea. Why don’t you ask Kandaswamy?”
The same day, in the presence of a shaken Kandaswamy, workmen were seen breaking open the floor of the rear room under the watchful eyes of Suresh.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The light at the end of tunnel

“An irreparable mistake, I blame myself for this predicament,” Rupa muttered to herself.
“Did you say anything? Why are you mumbling, idiot?” shouted Gattu,short for Gautam..
She did not answer and turned her face the other side only to invite further abuse.
“Are you deaf? I will beat you blue for your arrogance so much that your mother cannot identify you, beware.Tell me what you were grumbling about”
“Nothing that concerns you. Can you leave me alone for a while?” she replied
In anger he threw a book, he was holding, at her face. It hit her hard on the head and she fell down on the sofa. He stomped out of the room in anger.
Three years of misery, humiliations, insults and beatings, she had suffered, almost daily. A bully and alcoholic, his true nature was revealed within two months of marriage. All the information he gave about him was false. The car he said his own was borrowed and the house he said he owned was a rented one with rent in default after the first two months. His qualifications were fake, he had no job and lived on her salary. He had dubious company for friends.
”It serves me right for disregarding my parent’s endless pleadings against my choice” she accused herself. She had not invited them to her place for fear of being found out. Friends and colleagues knew from her jaded face that something was amiss. An outgoing and sprightly person by nature, she avoided people. She was hesitant to confide to anyone, including her parents.
Whenever she tried to broach the subject of the need for him to find a job and transform himself, Gattu flew into rage and became violent. He was an ordinary graduate from humble circumstances with no skill whatsoever. She can tolerate a jobless and poorly qualified guy but not a violent and inconsiderate alcoholic.
She thought of the happenings six months back. When she had conceived and was eight weeks pregnant, she broke the happy news to him in the fond hope it would please him and make him a responsible person. Instead he flew into a rage and shouted “I do not want a child.I don’t care what you do but there is no place for a baby in this house.”
“I want one no matter what you think. This alone would give me some cheer in my dreary life”
“How dare you oppose me? See what happens to your baby” he said and pushed her down to kick her in the stomach hard even as he left her in pain.
That night there was a miscarriage. He had not returned home. It was her friend and neighbor Lalita who took her to a nursing home. This incident had left a deep scar.
 She knew that he was beyond redemption and the only option was to leave him once and for all. She had made up her mind but was apprehensive how it would affect her weak-hearted father. May be she could tell her mom and ask her to prepare him slowly for the likely denouement that she wished to happen very soon.
It was a Sunday. She was waiting for the maid to come and clean the kitchen. She switched on the TV and flipped from one channel to another. She heard Gattu enter the bathroom banging the door shut noisily. She felt  anger rising within her, felt it like bile in her throat. She closed her eyes to calm herself.
It was then that she heard a big thud of him falling in the bathroom along with a clang of metal. She heard her name being called faintly. She did not stir but steeled herself to increase the volume of TV sufficiently high.
“Rupa, Rupa…”, the voice grew weaker and weaker till it fell silent. Soon a red fluid was oozing from under the door.

Rupa continued to listen to the debate in the TV on the plight of women.