Sunday, June 12, 2016

Confetti-a 500 word story

The hall in the restaurant was dazzlingly lit with festoons and balloons fluttering all around with a large banner in multi colors announcing Happy birthday. There were about 60 people both ladies and gentlemen with a large sprinkling of young children to celebrate the birthday of a boy decked in a brightly laced sherwani who was standing near the center table. A cluster of balloons of different hues with a large red balloon hung over the table. A large well decorated circular cake with candles inserted on it were burning ready for the commencement of the function. There was a continuous chatter and loud laughter around. At one end of the hall, a long table was lined with glistening steel containers with food over the dimly burning lamps for the buffet dinner to follow.
As the gathered members gravitated towards the center table to witness the boy blow the candles and cut the cake , a man in dark suit with his face save the eyes covered by a black silk entered through a side door. Sharp came his baritone voice jerking everyone to turn towards him.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry for this unwelcome interruption but regret it is unavoidable. This should be over very soon with your cooperation, I am sure,” he said and pulled a shining gun from the holster.
There was a rustle of feet amid the dumb struck gathering, when he spoke loudly and peremptorily. “Pray, do not create commotion and hurt yourselves. I have only one target and the rest can breathe easily. I must warn you to raise your hands across the chest to clap and cheer the boy when he blows the candles. Beware, no funny tricks and I am dead serious on this,” he thundered.
Turning his attention to the boy, he said “Start the party by blowing the candle. Have no fear and you will have all mirth and fun immediately.” Amid the ashen and sweat drenched faces, he urged the boy “No time to waste. Blow the candles I say,” as the lights dimmed and the hall became dark.
 The boy half in fear and half in mirth blew the candles when they heard a loud report of the gun. Immediately the lights came on amidst the shower of small pieces or streamers of glittering metallic material in bright colors from the balloon above. The hidden mikes blared Happy Birthday song. The dazed crowd recovered fast to realize the prank played on them by the hotel entertainer in conspiracy with the boy’s father.
There was a loud clapping and shouts of happy birthday as the entertainer in black suit now without the black silk on his face gave the boy a big and richly decorated gift box as was customary on such occasions.
Little did   they or entertainer notice amid the fanfare one person standing on the fringe had fallen a prey to a gunshot fired at the same time from somewhere. Who did it and why?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The closure

 It is almost 11 years since I left my home in distasteful circumstances with a vow never to return. It was a difficult decision and as an emotional young boy I did what I thought then was right. I had neither made any contact with my dad nor let him know my whereabouts. The passage of years did little to blunt my anger towards my old man.
By a strange twist of circumstances, I am now on my way to my village near Kumbakonam. I felt odd and at the same time somewhat tense. As the train chugged along with intermittent long whistles, I could see on either side green fields with crops nearly grown and canals of water alongside the fields and farmers diverting the flowing water into small channels to reach their fields. As memories of my village gushed through my mind, a pang of guilt arose in me.
I am the only child born to my parents in their early forties. My mother passed away when I was a young kid and it was my father who brought me up single handed refusing to marry again. He was a highly principled man and known for his short temper. After my mom’s demise, he did not mingle much with the neighbours who were all part of the clan or extended family. He became a loner seeking no help from others. His world was small and revolved around me.
All the boys and girls of the village studied in schools at Kumbakonam and usually walked to and fro except for two girls from a wealthy family who went in bullock carts. I remember even my running behind the carts on a few occasions to keep up the pace to be in time for the school. Ramu of my age who lived in the adjacent house was my best pal. Given to playing pranks, he was generally a pleasant and good guy.
 I suspect he became jealous of me on two counts. I scored more marks than him and this displeased him as his dad always compared his performance with mine. The bigger reason is one day as we were running behind the bullock cart that carried the girls and it started raining, the girls called “Saranga, get into the cart before you get drenched.” Though I wished to, I did not get into the cart as Ramu was not invited and we both walked in rain. But Ramu never forgot the slight from the girls and nursed an unspoken grudge towards me.
A month later around 7pm, when I was saying prayers with my dad, Ramu’s father came in an agitated mood along with Ramu. Even before we got up from prayers, Ramu’s dad said “Anna (elder brother), Ramu tells me that Sarangan has stolen his new geometry box. It seems they were studying together in the evening at my house and the box is missing ever since. This is a petty loss to me but I wished to warn you about the boy lest it became a habit with him.”
My father turned towards me and asked” is it true? Did you steal his geometry box? I want the truth immediately.”
“No, appa. Do you think I would steal and then why would I when I have already one with me? He must have misplaced it and falsely accusing me.”
“No, uncle. We were working with the instrument box and when we had finished, I went to kitchen to drink water. When I came back, Sarangan was waiting at the front door to take leave of me. I noticed only after half hour the box that lay on the table was missing. None else had come to our house. It does not matter but my father insisted that I came along with him,” said Ramu.
When Ramu’s father and Ramu looked at me accusingly and I was blinking dazed by the turn of events, my father became wild in rage and started beating me all over crying all the time, “Have I wasted all my life on this wretch only for him to become a petty thief? I have lost all my honour this day. I neither wish to set my eyes anymore on this thief nor will I permit him stay here. “He grabbed my hand, dragged me towards the front door and pushed me out. “Never set your foot again here. You are dead as far as I am concerned, “he screamed in uncontrollable anger. That night I lay till dawn on the front porch outside with the main door shut.
Woken up from the reverie, I looked out. The train had stopped at a small station. One urchin proffered a tender coconut with straw inside. I gulped the entire content as if it would remove my bitterness to some extent. My thoughts turned towards my father though I was bitter all these years that he would rather trust Ramu and his dad than me and condemn me to be a thief. But the chance meeting with a penitent Ramu three days back at a mall in Singapore and the news from him of the happenings in the village subsequent to my running away filled me with endless remorse at my insensitive behavior towards my father.
It seemed that after I left the village, my father was crestfallen refusing to take food or even take care of himself and the lands. He was always repentant at his rash behavior towards me when he learnt that Ramu had confided to his dad that the geometry box was safe with him and was never stolen at all. Ramu’s father put the entire blame on himself for the turn of events. All their efforts to trace me were in vain. From then on, he took upon taking care of my dad as his total responsibility. Afflicted by the loss of his only son, my dad became a recluse and psychologically affected. He would it seems address all boys as Saranga and talk incoherently. For the last three years he has been acutely afflicted by Alzheimer and utters only my name.
Ramu urged me to leave for village immediately to meet my dad before his end that was expected anytime. The train now seemed to move at snail’s pace and I became restless.
I rushed in a taxi from Kumbakonam station to my house. The door was ajar. I ran inside shouting “Appa, I have come, your Sarangan. Can you recognize me? “I pleaded with tears swelling in my eyes as my father was lying on the bed.
 Ramu’s father was there. He put his arms around me and comforted me saying “Please wait. Let us see whether he recognizes you. You haven’t changed much except grown bigger.”
Meanwhile my father was looking at me intently and I saw a glimmer in his eyes before he touched my cheeks to say “My Sarangan has come. My god has at last heard my prayers,”.
I hugged him tightly sobbing “Appa forgive this wretch. I was an egoistic fool and failed you when you needed me most. Please say once that you have forgiven me”.”
He stared vacantly at me showing no sign of recognition. Ramu’s father ran outside and in a few minutes a doctor was at my dad’s bedside only to say the long waiting soul had flown away. Ramu’s dad drew me towards him and let my head rest on his shoulders. He waited patiently as I cried inconsolably and comforted me saying, “Do not grieve, Saranga. Anna has finally found his peace.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The midnight knock

(This story was written as a guest post for a blogger friend more than a year ago.Since this remained unpublished,I am posting it in my blog.)

The clock struck eleven somewhere. I kept aside the case file I was reading, took a glass of water and pulled the bed sheet over me. I heard then a knock at the door. Wondering who it could be at this  hour, I rushed to open the door. I saw a young woman in her late twenties with a bag standing in a distraught condition breathing heavily as if she had run a hundred metre race.
“What do you want at this late hour? Who are you?” I asked
“Please save me, Sir. Someone was stalking me and when I reached this lonely stretch, he increased the pace and shouted asking me to stop. When I started running, he too came running behind,” she stopped to catch her breath.
“What happened then?”
“When I saw the gap between us reducing, I took a boulder from near the postbox, hurled at him and ran without looking back. I am afraid he might have been seriously hurt.
“The post box is hardly a furlong away. Stay here in the hall. Let me check.” I said
When I went near the postbox, I saw a boulder on the middle of the road but there was none there at the spot. I looked carefully at the boulder for any sign of blood. There was none. I looked around and saw no one. I presumed she missed her target, and he must have run away.
“No one is there. There is no stain of blood on the boulder. You must have missed him. You can relax now. Have a glass of water before you tell me more about you,” I said
She drank the water slowly before replying.”I am Nandini.I came from Kumbakonam by bus for an interview tomorrow with a BPO. The bus got delayed en route. Someone told me there is a decent hotel at the end of this road and it was just walking distance. The rest you know,” she said.
From her appearance and the way she spoke, it looked she was from a decent family. I took pity on her and did not want to send her away at that late hour.
“I live with my mother here. But she has gone to village and is expected tomorrow. It is already past 12 midnight. If you are okay with it, you can sleep in the visitor’s room on the sofa and leave in the morning.”
“Thank you, Sir. That would be a great help as I am afraid to go out in the dark at this hour”
As I had some cases to argue early morning in the court, I retired to my bedroom.
It was around 1 am I heard a vehicle screech to a halt and there was a loud knock on the door. When I opened, I was shocked to see someone in police uniform. He pushed me in and entered the drawing hall.
“I am Sudhakar, Inspector of police. There was a frantic call from a young lady complaining of attempted rape and seeking immediate help. She had given this address. Is there any woman here? I want to look around?” he said.
Shaken and confused, I started perspiring.”I think you have come to a wrong house. There is nothing like that here. In fact a lady had come two hours back seeking help from a stalker and is sleeping in the front room. You can ask her. There is no one else in the house,” I said
Just then a sobbing Nandini entered the hall in a salwar suit torn at many places, with a disheveled hair, smudged bindi and scratches on her hand indicating a struggle.
 “No, he is lying. It is a fact I sought his help from a stalker. Finding him a helpful man, I trusted him and accepted his offer for shelter during night. That was a blunder as the wretch came in a little while and started misbehaving. Luckily I escaped to the toilet and rang for help,” she lied looking at me accusingly.
The inspector ordered both of us to come with him to the police station for giving statements and for filing FIR.
It was then Nandini pleaded with the inspector that she had an interview the next day morning and that she would not like to file a case but desired to be taken out of the house.
“Are you suggesting that you wish to drop the charges and go for a settlement?”asked the Inspector. I wondered what settlement he was talking about.
“Yes, Otherwise I will miss my interview. A police case will also damage my reputation. He made only an unsuccessful attempt to molest me. You may decide whatever you think is reasonable. I wish to get out of this place with you at the earliest,” she pleaded.
“I cannot get involved in this if you are not pursuing the matter. You settle between you two” said the inspector.
“What she tells is an utter lie. I have no idea how she got the clothes torn and the bruises on her hand. I have not seen the woman after I went to my room. I have important cases in court tomorrow morning and I wish she gets out immediately. I don’t know what settlement you both are talking about. I made a mistake in letting her in. Anyway give me a minute. Let me check what I have,” I said
As I was lingering in my bed room after contacting police, a police patrol car screeched to halt outside. I rushed to open the door. Two policemen entered. The lady and the ’inspector’ were stunned at the turn of events.
“Thank you for coming so quickly after I rang up. I suspect these two are accomplices in crime and good in concocting accusations. I am a lawyer. I vividly remember that she came in a neat blue salwar suit.She is in torn clothes now. Please check her bag. I think she must have changed clothes and inflicted the scratches on herself before ringing up her accomplice to come in uniform to fleece me. He is no inspector, but a fake, I think”
Soon the cat was out of the bag, and the fake guy and the trembling woman were led into the waiting police car. I could see the seething anger and malice in her eyes, as she looked at me while departing.