Welcome, fellow trespasser.

For those of you who are familiar with the term ‘Carpe diem’ (or at least the Robin Williams fans), this blog’s purpose may be easier to comprehend. Unsurprisingly, poetry never came easy for me and yet for some reason, I kept on writing them, as you can see from some of the substandard pieces posted here! So, fueled by that unknown stimulus, I googled and landed upon the social networking equivalent for wannabe poets (GotPoetry.com), where I created a page for myself and started posting my poems. Apart from the obvious learning experience, I was thrilled by even the smallest increase in my read counter. It was then that I realized the joy that came about when someone reads something that you have written and comments about it, be it good or bad. It meant that they were spending a slice of their time for something you had done. But, just like any other being in our species, I wanted something more. Something more personal. So I thought to myself, what better avenue than a blog? But the ever looming question remained.

Will anyone read poetry?

Earlier, I was surrounded by wordsmiths who had no other choice but to read my stuff. But for many, poetry is like the blanket that always leaves your feet cold when you sleep. No matter how much you kick or turn, some parts will still remain uncovered. Maybe that is one reason why it is much less marketable than, say, pale vampires and shirtless werewolves. But that is a discussion for another day. Right now, I want to point out to the blanket-bearers that you need not twist and turn. This is not a formula or an equation. It is an expression and you can make anything out of it. It is for you to mold and relate. Feel free to think anything you want to when you see those words in your screen and remember that acceptance is the greatest appreciation (and sharing this on Facebook, that helps too).

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.”

– N.H Kleinbaum

Here, you will also find some short stories I had written back when I was doing my undergrad (somewhere around 2012!). As such, they are very rough around the edges and I would definitely clean up some poor choice of words. Nonetheless, they remain close to my heart and I would like to use this space for them to live and thrive! (You can get to them from the menu on the top right too!)

Welcome, fellow trespasser.

On Brazen Fields

And the cows moo, the bluebells nod
As the clouds be rid from the sky
to ignite the fields in amber bright
A plentiful maze as lit by gaslight.

And yet I find, through reasons obscure
This young lass who gently trod
Amongst the blades of brazen grass
To bait my eyes from all that pass.

And she walks forth, giving no heed
To what has past and what may come.
Her short, ebony hair flows serene
As it glistens bright like satin sheen.

And soon the tamarind tree shall know
a gentle touch like none before.
Her woven basket, laden with fruit
For her, there can be no substitute.

And one can see her little flaws
Peek out sometimes like crooked teeth
Perhaps to remind us that she is human
Yet catch a glimpse of fleeting heaven.

And she is startled, as a heron darts
from amidst the tall, waving grass
To the pale sky, blue as melancholy
Are we to her but petty debris?

Of her friends, I am wary and envious
For even the brightest of all gold
can melt under the flames of wrong.

18/12/2015
On Brazen Fields

An Odorless Rose

“It’s gonna be alright.”

These were the words which frequented him and haunted him as well. All throughout his life he has been hearing the same words in different contexts and found out that the end result would be the same. It was not going to be alright at all.

The street lights flickered in a shade of malignant yellow, the shadows playing about as people walked with bland faces and emotions. The rain was incessant. It brought about a cool yet eerie atmosphere onto a place which was already drab and lacking colour. He liked the rain. He stood there watching the feet of others splashing in the puddles made by the downpour. The careless feet, making their owners’ costly shoes dirty as they stepped in the puddles of various dimensions,  showed a mark of solemnness in their motion, often slowing down to let the scenario sink in before continuing forward. The umbrellas opened and presented themselves like ebony foliage, protecting the many whispering heads underneath. A strong wind blew, causing the people to increase their grip on the handles as the rain skewed in direction. Yet he stood there, motionless, amidst the raindrops like they were his close friends. He drew a single rose, that he had in his hands, to his nostrils. It bore no smell. He looked up into the dark skies above, squinting, as he saw the millions of raindrops crashing in on him from the heavens. His vision tunneled as he closed his eyes, now feeling the rain’s heavy impact upon his forehead.

 

It was reopening day at school. After a long and tedious vacation, Omar was to attend a new school as his father had gotten a transfer from work. You might wonder how a vacation might get tedious, which means you have no idea how Omar’s family works. Omar’s father was a reputed police officer in the city who was hell bent on giving top notch education to his one and only son. He insisted that Omar attended extra tutoring and coaching classes through the vacations so that he could get an edge over the rest. Little did he know that most parents adopt the same technique when their wards come to reach the so-called crucial stage of graduating high school. Omar did not seem to mind as he got used to the idea. He was not a super genius or a 24×7 toiler, like the many hopeless chaps in his coaching class. Whatever he seemed to do, it landed him in the average zone. No matter how much he tried, he was to remain there for infinity. It was as if the average zone was made for people like him. But he didn’t mind as long as he did not sink below average.

It was his first school shifting after studying for 9 years in the same school. He felt a sense of helplessness closing in as he saw the yellow school bus from afar. It was his first school bus experience too. He did  not have a socially awkward personality but change scared him. Maybe it was because change had eluded him for a long time that he got unfamiliar with the concept.

The bus screeched to a halt in front of his house and the doors opened. As he climbed onto the bus, he noticed the smell of fresh paint waft into his nose. This bus must be brand new, he thought. He imagined a thousand set of eyes glaring at him as he entered the bus, but the scene was quite the opposite. Nobody was minding him. He felt at ease due to this and found his way to an empty seat. He sat down, took out his iPod and plugged in his white earphones.As the school was quite far away from his home, he had to have some sort of entertainment through the journey. He did not want to mingle just yet. He was reserving that for class. He noticed that the seat in front of him was also empty and torn, just like his. Guess you really can’t judge by the cover, he thought. With a slight smile, he closed his eyes and pushed the play button.

The journey quickly came to an end as the bus reached the school. It was quite a huge school, with two basketball courts, a swimming arena, large grounds and many other qualities that you would expect in a fine school. He got off the bus and took a whiff of the air.

It was the air of change and he did not like it. Change, in its entirety, has a smell of its own. The whole school seemed to be engulfed in that smell.

Walking through the large grounds, he was taking in the various sights. He saw many students in matching uniforms , carrying heavy bags laden with thick, fat books. Some even had such books  clutched in their hands. He walked past what he figured was a petrol station. That was unlikely. Which school would have its own, private petrol station? That is just preposterous. It turned out that it was actually a petrol station for the school buses.  He entered the main block and found his way to his classroom. It was not an unusual classroom. All classrooms seemed to follow a common format, just like this one, when it comes to the setting. It looked and felt just like any other classroom he had been in, except maybe that it was a bit more roomier. The seats were spotlessly clean and there were no drawings, doodles or scribbles on the desks. There were a few students who already seated themselves in the places of their choice. They were not unruly at all. The students started flowing in, one after the other,  in quite a dignified manner. He found himself a seat in the middle row, not too up front nor to the back. Judging by the sights, he expected a teacher to walk in with a cane and yell “ How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?!” He chuckled at his own cleverness and took out an empty notebook and pen to jot down notes.  A tall, middle-aged man entered the class and took out a register and started roll call. Omar knew what was to follow.

Intros.

Any new year would start off with everybody telling who they were, where they were from and what their interests are. It doesn’t matter whether its the first hour of the day or the last hour, every teacher that walks into the class room on the first day is bound to ask for introductions. Why can’t they think ahead and figure out that we have already done introducing the first hour itself and there is no need for reminding us who these people were. Nobody listens to them anyway, thought Omar. But this time there was a difference. A difference he should have anticipated and came prepared for. The intros were to be in English.

Being a posh school, they focused on the ability to speak, read and write English proficiently. This spelled trouble for Omar as he studied for 9 years in a school where he spoke entirely in his mother tongue. He watched all the students walk up to the dais in the class room and speak. His hands started to shiver and a cold chill crept over his body. He was getting tensed. Ultimately, his time had come and he somehow scraped through the situation. He made use of whatever English he knew and could come up with and managed the scene without any harm to his ego. But the impression was set. It was concreted in the minds of the other students and the teacher that this was a boy weak in English. Omar made his way back to his seat with a sense of half satisfaction and half embarrassment. He prayed that the other teachers would not ask for intros as well. That would be just horrific.

Two hours passed like a whirlwind. Nobody asked for any more intros. Regular classes had started and people were getting into the mood of school, trying to get rid of the vacation hangover, whereas some were getting used to the new atmosphere to study in, like Omar. The bell rang, signaling for the start of the short break. Everyone made their way out of the class, some to socialize, others to have a cup of tea. Omar was beginning to get up from his seat when a boy came up to him.

“Hi, I noticed you during your intro. It must be scary for you to speak in English, yeah? Don’t worry, there are many of us here like that. You’ll get used to it. Its gonna be alright.”

“Thanks for the reassurance. My name is Omar. Omar Musthafa. Lets go get some tea?”

“Sure. The name is Allen, by the way. I’ve got a feeling that we are gonna be good friends. How come you are so weak in the language?”

“I’m not that weak. I just don’t do well under pressure, in front of an audience. I know English well enough not to make a fool out of myself.” Said Omar, sipping hot tea from a paper cup.

Omar paid for the tea and started to walk towards the main hall with Allen.

“So what do you guys do for fun around here?” asked Omar.

“I’ll introduce you to a friend of mine, Naveen. He’s fun to hang out with. We go out to the mall, play, the usual stuff. You are more than welcome to join us! It’s not like we are an overflowing group!”

Allen and Omar was about to go back to class when a voice called for them from behind. It was Naveen.

“Hey man, you had tea without me? Whom did you blackmail to get the money this time, eh?”

“Listen, dude. I don’t blackmail. This guy generously bought me tea. It’s not like he is buying me a Ferrari or anything, is it now? This is Omar. Omar, this is the guy I was talking about.” Said Allen.

Omar smiled and shook Naveen’s hand

“Woah! That’s one vice grip there! Glad to meet you, Omar. Call me Django with a capital D. The D is silent by the way!’ said Naveen.

“Oh, would you quit calling yourself that? It sounds so immature.” Said Allen.

“Let me not remind you what the people are calling you, Mr. Kanju!”

Omar got well acquainted with the both of them as they sat next to each other in class. The day went by like any other class day for Omar. He felt that the atmosphere was a bit lighter now that he had made friends. He felt confident that this year would go by smoothly, now that he had company. They chatted through the periods and had fun throughout the day. The day ended with a message from the headmaster that students should not damage the school bus seats or something along that line. Omar made his way back home in the school bus, eager to tell his parents about his day. His parents were obviously happy to know that the first day went well for him.

“Better choose your company carefully, Omar. Your peer group decides your attitude.” said his father.

Omar went online and quickly opened Facebook to search for his new friends. He had got friend requests from them already. He quickly accepted them and waited for them to get online as well so that he could start chatting with them. Omar went to sleep that day, a contented human being.

The next day at class was one of the most eventful days ever for Omar. The first hour was Communicative English. This brought dread and fear into the mind of Omar. He knew that this hour would come but didn’t realize that its arrival would be so soon. The teacher started the class with a few, simple exercises, like dictation and word filling. It felt like the calm before the storm for Omar. He knew that something that required oral effort would come soon enough. He tried to remain camouflaged behind various heads in front of him for some time. Then the teacher caught sight of him trying to avoid being seen.

“You. Middle row, fourth seat from the back. Stand up.”

Omar looked back as he counted the number of seats behind him. He gulped as he reached the number three. It was him. The teacher had asked him to stand up. He feared the worst. Maybe he had to recite a poem from memory, or perhaps share a prominent life incident in front of class? Thoughts ran wild in his head as he reluctantly stood up, his eyes still facing the seat which he once occupied. He waited for the teacher to speak.

“One must be confident enough to actively participate in class, instead of cowering behind the person in front of you. Let’s start a new activity. It is one of the most important abilities that one must possess in order to expand their knowledge as well as to make a good impression in front of others. That is, of course, question formation. Now, you must form a carefully worded and meaningful question and ask that question to me. Can you do that?”

Omar nodded.

“Well, go on then.”

Omar hesitated. He had only one question to ask this teacher.

“Is C.E. really necessary in our school curriculum?”

The moment this question was heard by the students and the teacher, it was as if an atom bomb had been dropped right on top of the teacher’s head. Surprised gasps filled the air as the teacher stood there in shock. Naveen and Allen hid their heads beneath the table in disappointment. The teacher had only one thing to say.

“Get out.”

Omar was more surprised than the rest of them. He was happy that he was able to ask a good question. It was a question that kept circling around his head and when the opportunity came, he got it out. He was wondering what was the wrong that he had done. But it was not in his character to question a teacher as it would mean disrespect. Besides, he hated that hour. Omar put his book inside his bag and walked right past the teacher, without glancing at her at all. He was, in a sense, glad that he could escape from her class.

He entered the class the next hour and everything went by like nothing had happened. Naveen and Allen met with him during the break.

“DUDE! That was so awesome! How did you even manage to ask that?” exclaimed Allen.

“It was NOT awesome at all. My question is, how COULD you even manage to ask that? Couldn’t you think of anything else to ask?” said Naveen.

“What was it that I did wrong? Teacher told me to ask a question. I asked. She told me to get out. I got out. No problem.”

They left that topic there.

Omar’s school days went by with him chatting with his friends for most of the time and hanging around parks and malls. Studies also followed in its own path. They were one of the fun groups to hang out with in school, although they gained a bad reputation among teachers as the naughty ones. Allen was the outdoor type of guy. He used to go out to adventurous places, riding his bike, with Naveen and Omar, one of them often riding pillion or sometimes both of them. Allen was not a workaholic like Naveen and always saw the lighter side of life. Naveen on the other hand was more cautious and concentrated on studies along with hanging out with his pals. He always said that he was the one who kept this group sane and well out of trouble.

One day, when the three friends went to school, they found out that the school was closed due to a strike by a local political party. Apparently, the party want reforms on the educational policy and hence ordered all the schools in the vicinity to close down for the day. They had not informed them in advance either.

“If they are really concentrated in education, shouldn’t they be opening more schools instead of closing the ones that are open? Can’t you see the irony here?” asked Naveen, infuriated.

“Chill, man. Let it be. It’s a holiday today. Let’s go do something.” suggested Allen.

“There’s a new biriyani place nearby. Shall we go there?”

“Sure, Mr.Money bags. Do you know how much a biriyani costs nowadays? How much do you have, by the way?” asked Allen the Kanju.

“I have sixty rupees with me. It is enough for a half plate of biriyani. Check your wallets. See if you guys have the same.” Said Omar.

They searched and emptied their pockets and found out that each had enough for half a plate of biriyani. So they decided to go to the Biriyani place at last.

When they reached the hotel, it was not quite as posh as it seemed from the outside. The tables were clean and had a red, plaid cloth over it. The chairs were sturdy and people flowed in. A waiter in a white hat came and took their order quite hastily and went. The trio waited for their food to arrive with rivers running in their mouths because of the tempting smells from the kitchen. The three had a thing in common and that was their love for chicken biriyani. All three of them had ordered the same. It was quite a long wait for their biriyanis to arrive and when they finally did, it was a mouth watering sight. They quickly dove in and started eating.

“Wow. They sure serve a lot in this place! I’m going to make a mental note to come here now and then!” joyously said Allen.

After they had eaten their share and washed up, they sat in their chairs like royals after a feast. They were filled to the brim. They were so happy and content that the only thing that would make their day was a nice, relaxing nap. But they had forgotten one thing.

The bill.

The white hatted waiter returned with a small, white slip of paper. Naveen took the paper and read it. His mouth went wide open. He stood there, dumbstruck, after reading the small slip. He handed over the bill to Allen without saying a word. He stood up to take the bill but soon found himself sitting down again.

“There must have been a slip up in this slip, surely!” exclaimed Allen.

“Slip up in a slip? Really? I don’t find your sense of humour enjoyable right now, Allen!!” said Naveen.

Omar took the slip to see what the matter was. He too got incredibly shocked at what was written in that slip. It had said,

 

“ Chicken Biriyani (F)……………………3 Nos………………….3×110.

TOTAL AMOUNT…………………………………………………….330 RS.

/////THANK YOU. COME AGAIN.\\\\\\\”

 

The amount had been 330 Rupees. It was far more than what they thought it would be.

“Thank you. Come again?? That sentence is taunting us! We are not going to come again, because we would be working here for the rest of our lives! Washing and scrubbing dishes is not my thing, guys!” said Allen, now getting quite scared.

“There must be some kind of error. What is it?” Naveen said.

“I got it! We ate 3 full plates instead of half plates! See the F in the brackets? This is the slip up. No wonder we got so much to eat! That waiter must be deaf!” said Omar.

“Now what should we do?”

“What else is there to do? Hope the manager is civilized and tell him our situation. That’s all.”

“Are you sure? I have heard these hotels have gundas at the back, to catch people who steal.”

“What did we steal, anyway? It was not our fault. It was that damned waiter.” Said Naveen.

“Lets go.”

The trio made their way up to the cashier and asked to see the manager. The manager walked in. He was one hefty man. The very sight of him shook the confidence out of the three. The manager walked up to them and talked in a bass-rich, deep tone.

“What is it? What seems to be the problem here?”

When they heard that booming voice, Allen’s legs shook. Omar started to speak but nothing good was coming out. It was all gibberish nonsense. The situation did not seem to favour the boys. When it seemed like the scene was taking a turn for the worse, Allen quickly pushed the manager down and high-tailed it out the door. Omar quickly followed suit. Django hesitated first but then realised that he was left alone in a hotel with a large, heavy man who probably has gunda contacts. He made a dash for his life, out the door. The three ran swiftly through the streets and entered the back alleys. Allen looked back to see if someone were following them. He could not see anyone on their tails but he didn’t stop running.

They bolted as if their life was in danger. They ran for what seemed like miles and miles until they reached a small ground where they used to play football. Allen stopped to catch his breath as he panted away. Omar soon joined and he quickly lied down on the ground. He was also panting heavily. There was no sign of Naveen. They feared the worst. What if the fat guy had caught him or the gundas were beating him up now? They looked at each other and in mutual understanding, decided to go back there to get Naveen back. They were cursing Naveen for being such a slow runner.

As they started to run back, in the horizon they saw a figure running towards them. They were alarmed. It was maybe one of the gundas. The silhouette started to grow in size as it neared them. Then they were able to make out the features of the person. The bulky, fat tummy rolled up and down as Naveen ran towards them. He was sweating profusely. He ran straight into the arms of Omar who almost fell down due to his weight.

“Django! You are alive! The gundas have not eaten you!” exclaimed Allen.

“Why…..did you….run?” asked Naveen, amidst pants.

“Are you crazy? Did you see the size of that guy? He wouldn’t listen to reason even if the world ended now!”

“But why did you have to run away? You know I’m not athletic! This body was not built for sprinting. It was lucky that I managed to escape their clutches.”

“Whatever, at least we all got out alive and safe.Lets go home now.” Said Omar.

The three friends took the first bus home and never spoke of this incident on the bus. They never went back to that hotel or to its vicinity as well.

…………..

The days went by more smoothly after the little altercation at the hotel. They spent most of their time studying as they had to prepare for their exams which were right around the corner. They also found time in their busy schedules to go out and have a bit of fun as well. Omar’s father had reminded him about the true purpose of school and how one should concentrate and should not allow distractions to side track the main objective. In reality, Omar had grown tired of hearing the same drivel time after time that he let it in through one ear and out the other.

His school days were normal unless it was the CE. period. The teacher still held a grudge against Omar’s rude behaviour. She would always pick out Omar to do a task or lead a group when it came to presentations and such. Omar knew of it. So did the others. But they didn’t mind as long as they weren’t involved in any of it. One day during the C.E hour, the teacher said she had an important announcement to make. As part of the school annual day, there was going to be a skit and this class had to perform it and as expected from her, she chose the only person whom she thought was eligible to lead a troupe of actors.

That was Omar.

And the skit was to be in English. Of all the tiresome tasks that were assigned to him throughout the year, he found this one to be the heaviest. How was he to direct a play without having any experience? Or maybe this was how you gain experience. Still, he figured that this would surely end up being a flop and a comedy rather than a skit worthy enough to be performed on stage and that too at the annual day.

At first, he resisted but the teacher was adamant that he was to lead the troupe or at least act in a major role. He couldn’t act and he had the worst case of stage fear too. So he chose the alternative and went with the direction of the play. He had to make a play based on mythology or religion. These were tough topics for anyone. Noticing that the teacher was trying to put him in a hard spot, he realised that there was only one thing left to do. Considering whatever he come up with would be taken as a farce, he figured why not make a comedy? That way he would have the satisfaction that the audience is laughing because they are supposed to and not because they are making fun of him. He gathered his group of friends and announced his idea to them. They all seemed to agree and so it was decided that they were going to perform a humorous play. Omar had the idea for the play as soon as the word comedy came to his mind. But he was not sure how the audience would take it. Still, he thought that it was the only shot that he had and he stuck with it. He told the idea to his friends and some of them greeted it warm-heartedly while others raised their eyebrows in question.

This was not going to be an ordinary play.

It was going to be a play like nobody had ever witnessed before. All the proceedings of the play went on quite secretly and everyone involved was sworn to secrecy as well. No outsider knew what the play would be like, not even the C.E. teacher. They all had to wait until the annual day. The students worked hard and stayed back after school to rehearse. They were a dedicated bunch. They struggled to learn their lines and act casually until finally, the day had arrived.

Many dignitaries were invited as it was an auspicious occasion. The main stage was decorated, the head master and the chief guests were seated in the front row. The chief guest had a large flower bouquet with him which was presented earlier by the head master. The entire school filled up the seats, including the watchmen, peons and other non-teaching staff. Bright lights were hung along the walls and music was playing. Everyone was in a joyous mood. Little food stalls had been sprung up here and there.  One could notice groups of students huddled at places and chatting away happily with no concerns at all. Suddenly, there came an announcement.

All students are requested to take their seats as the entertainment programs are about to begin. We start with a play by the students of class X-A. The direction is by Omar Musthafa. The play is based on the themes of religion and mythology. Hope you all enjoy the play.”

The spectators clapped their hands as the curtains rose up, revealing what was supposedly a house. It was quite a modern looking house, with a car porch and flat terrace. The setting seemed to have some sort of an old world charm to it too. The house was made of cardboard and one could see through the cutout windows that it was the home of two people; a man and a woman. Green grass was laid at the sides of the stage. Music started playing and a group of students from the back of the audience started to cheer and shout. In fact, the shouts drowned the music. The music ended with a man coming out of the house. He was wearing a blue shirt and a tie and looked very formal and handsome. He went over to his car which was parked in the porch and seemed to talk to the lady, who was his wife. They did not have any microphones and so a recorded voice was heard through the loudspeakers.

“Listen Sita, I’m going to the market place to get some groceries. This place is not as safe as it used to be and so I ask you to lock the doors and shut them tightly until I return.”

The lady nodded and the guy rode away in his car and out of the scene. The lady went back inside the house and the music started again.

Soon after the man had left and the woman had entered the house, another man came on a motorcycle on to the scene and parked it behind the bushes. He looked left and right, dropped his stick of beedi, went straight to the door and rang the doorbell. The lady’s hesitant face was shown through the window while the doorbell rang again. She went over to the door and opened it.  As soon as she stepped out of the house, the guy ambushed her and caught hold of her. It was a kidnapping. The music started to rise violently and everyone was shocked to see what was happening. In fact, everyone was a bit confused on where all of this was going. After all, the theme of the play was religion. The guy took off in his motorcycle along with Sita.

After a while, the husband returned and noticed that his wife had been kidnapped. He quickly calls the police and they arrive on to the scene. The sound of the siren was too shrill for some of the audience that they had to cover their ears. The policemen scoured the scene of the crime for clues. They started to move the bushes and crouch near the grass when one of the policemen jumped up and shouted “Found it!”. He held up a little piece of rolled up paper in his hands. The head of the police came forth and took the little roll and smelt it, licked it and then threw it back on to the ground.

“This is Kaja beedi. And there is only one guy around these parts that still uses that brand. It is Raavan. Don’t worry, Mr.Ram. I will bring him to justice.” Said the police man and he sped off in his jeep with his constables.

The next scene showed what seemed like the gallows and a hang-man’s noose dangling in the air. The head police officer was escorting the guy who kidnapped Sita and ominous music was being played. Mr. Ram was watching from afar as the guy was tied to the noose.

“And so ends this life of an evil scum!” exclaimed a voice as the guy was hanged till dead. The actors bowed and the curtain dropped. The audience noticed their cue to clap and some did while others were wonder-struck on what had just happened.  They couldn’t make heads or tails of the play. Some of the clever ones figured it out and announced it to the others. Some got irritated with their story line whereas others took it in the lighter sense. People argued over this play for a couple of days, stating the delicacy of the subject and how the teachers should have overseen this and cancelled it. But some supported the humor behind it all and praised the students for seeing the bigger picture. All in all, this play was the topic that everyone was talking about for quite some time until it finally died out. Omar was glad that it aroused such a reception. It meant that people were scrutinizing his play because they found it interesting. He gave a beaming smile to his CE. teacher after the play. The CE. teacher looked quite cross and annoyed. Mission accomplished, thought Omar.

…….

People forgot about the play after a while and things went on as usual. The exams were just around the corner and everyone was busy with their syllabus and previous question papers. Omar and friends too were slogging it out, especially Naveen. Naveen didn’t come out of his house during the entire study holidays. He was completely engrossed in studies that his mother had to force feed him. One day, Allen called up Omar during the afternoon,

“Hey bro, why don’t we get some fresh air? I’m sick and tired of learning history. It’s blinding me! Meet me at the bus stop near your home. I’ll be there.”

The phone went click.

Omar got dressed and said bye to his Mom and decided that it was good for him to get some fresh air. Too much of anything is bad after all, even studying. He went to the bus stop and there he found Allen waiting on his motorcycle. They gave high fives to each other and Omar sat pillion on the bike.

“Lets go to the Mall. At least there’s air conditioning there.” Said Allen as he started the motorcycle and drove off in quite a speed.

“Woah! That was a smooth start.” said Omar.

“I don’t understand sarcasm, if that is what you were aiming at!” came the reply.

The mall was quite far away from the bus stop but the traffic was light. Allen sped through the streets as if he knew them like the back of his hand. He whirled and turned sharply at corners and the engine seemed to like it. Omar held on tight as his hair fluttered about in the wind. The sights flew back as the bike rushed forward to its goal, dodging the obstacles in front of it as a form of mockery. Allen was enjoying this ride. The sun was directly above them and it was scorching hot. But the cool wind made by the motion of the bike cooled the two boys. They reached an intersection, an intersection which changed their lives forever. Allen revved the bike and sped straight into the intersection without glancing either left or right.

It was a mistake he would have regretted, if he could.

Omar flew over Allen and right into the cold, grey side walk. He could hear metal clashing over metal. The sharp sounds pierced right through his ears as he blacked out.

Omar opened his eyes.

The raindrops were beginning to hurt his forehead. He had returned to that cold, damp atmosphere. The footsteps had ceased as they now stood in motionless silence. The rain, however, did not. The skies opened themselves, showing no signs of pacification, just like the wailing mother that he saw in front of him. Insecure, helpless and distraught, they stood like concrete structures waiting for a wrecking ball to demolish them. The feeling washed over him like the defeat of a lifelong dream. A persistent wind frustrated many an attempt to wipe off a lonesome tear that managed to escape out of its flooding ivory cage. The flickering, incandescent lamp finally gave in to itself and died out, revealing the true colours of twilight now that it remained unhindered. The umbrellas were the only constants in this scene as the emotions within him varied vigourously and violently. Yet he stood as he stood, concreted to that one puddle in the ground, the ripples splashing against his boot like tides on the shore. He could see the backs of many men and women in front of him , some leaning over others’ shoulders while some resting their heads on them. A man in black was speaking atop a mound. He seemed so calm and distant in comparison to all the rest. He was speaking but words were not coming out of his mouth. He was uttering but not a single syllable was to be audible. He was waving his hands in the air in a definite pattern, as if to symbolize something that isn’t there, but it didn’t convey anything. Omar’s vision blurred, like after brandy taken in sufficient quantity and it says “Now come, fool, come and dwell in poverty of the fact that you lack the courage to move forward, to walk past what once was so near and reachable and that you have now lost the ability to grin and smile when its needed the most.” He started to walk forward, somehow lifting his numb legs off the ground and placing them one in front of the other as he left wet prints on the ground. His mind was blank and nothing entered it nor left. He shoved many people to walk past them and reach forward. Nobody seemed to mind. As soon as he reached as far up front as possible, he noticed the man in black staring at him. The man continued his fruitless talk, which was clearly not lucid. Omar went down on his knees and placed the lone red rose on a spot on the ground near the mound. He rose up and started walking back.

THE END.

An Odorless Rose

Moongleam Motel

It was never going to be an ordinary day. Getting a sensational piece of news to report is a rare opportunity for any reporter and that would immediately increase the street cred of that lucky fellow. Maybe that was why I chose this job in the first place. The chief had asked me to run a story on a war veteran who had seen the uglier side of war. In his words, this story would invoke a “never before seen sense of national integration.”

Nonsense.

The hogwash that comes out of a 90 year old mouth can hardly be trusted and that too about a war that took place thousands of years ago. Still, since the chief trusted in this story and I trusted the chief, I thought this was worth a shot. What was the worst that could happen?

Being a dedicated reporter and having seen my fair share of wacky cases and stories, I was prepared for the worst. I knew the risks that came with this job but still I loved it. It was the best job that I’ve come upon in the past few years. Fortunately, I was exposed to this world from an early age itself, frequently spending most of my youth in my father’s small cabin. I was used to the concept of a man with a notepad asking all sorts of questions to a scared yet resilient victim of circumstance. In their eyes, the notepad was the means for their story to reach the world. Hence the owner of the notepad becomes more powerful. This was what attracted me to this profession. I was entrusted with small pieces at first but slowly but surely, I climbed the ladder and I can almost see the top. Since that moment, I constantly get a feeling in my gut that my next story would shoot me up to the top. So far, I was wrong in my hypothesis.

I always start my interview runs in the evenings. I believed that it was the perfect time to enter a stranger’s house and ask them questions. They always seemed to be in a more cooperative mood in the evenings rather than mornings. There is no question of afternoon coming into play. I prepared all of my questions and took my extra set of pens as well. Reaching that place was the hardest part, said the chief. It was supposed to be a lonesome countryside with few inhabitants. By countryside, I don’t mean farms and trees and everything green. This was a different type of countryside, I heard. Prepared for the worst, I entered the bus that would take me to the nearest bus stop to that place. The bus ride was uneventful, to say the least. The usual humdrum of human beings going about their own business never interested me. I needed sensation, emotion and fireworks. From the look of things, it was unlikely that I was about to get all those things.

The bus dropped me off at a deserted bus stop. It gave an impression of bleak and dismal emptiness. I walked forward, reading all the signs and boards along the way until there was none left. The so-called countryside seemed to emanate a sense of loneliness as I walked through the dirt road. After a while, I ran out of landmarks and checkpoints that I could recognise. The dirt road led me to a swampy area where the trees were either all gray or dead. I looked to the ground to see if I was on already treaded path. I could not see any indication of motion through this way. I walked further, hoping to catch a glimpse of civilisation or any sign of human inhabitation. Having walked for almost two hours, I even considered tracing my steps back to that lifeless bus stop. The sun was going down and there was little light left in the atmosphere. My theory of evening questioning now seemed to be a mistake. I was officially lost. I had no idea on how to proceed from this dilemma. If I was to walk forward, I had no guarantee that I would find civilisation. On the other hand, if I walk back in this light, it was a surety that I would be lost in its entire sense. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, so to speak. I decided that the wiser decision would be to remain optimistic and continue to walk forward. One foot went in front of the other.

I kept walking for what seemed like 2 or 3 miles until my hopes were suddenly lit up like a candle. A few meters ahead of me stood a huge building, presumably a motel or a mansion. With renewed vigour, I walked forth, each step crumbling the dead leaves beneath me. It was not a motel anyone would blindly enter. It was not very inviting nor did it have that quality which a place of residence would normally have. But I had no other choice. This sight seemed just like a mirage in a barren desert that I could not resist. I wondered who would build such a big building out here in the middle of nowhere. But I didn’t care. Desperation overwhelmed my inhibitions.

I pushed open the heavy, wooden door to enter into the lobby. My guess was right. It was a huge motel. But I found it curious that it did not have any sign boards or anything to denote that fact. I let my eyes wander through the walls of the motel. It was filled with the heads of all sorts of animals, stuffed to perfection. The eyes of the dead animals seemed to follow me as I walked through the lobby, stalking me like predators. They must be prized possessions of some famous collector. I tried to shrug off their looks and continued to walk forward. I noticed a cage atop an ornamental stand. The golden cage seemed new or polished. It was home to a beautiful green parrot with ruby red beaks. This sight stood in stark contrast with the rest of the motel. It seemed to emanate liveliness into this dark and morbid place. But something felt off about this scene. I went forward to stroke the back of the parrot’s head and when I did so, my heart sank like a pebble in a river.

The head came right off and I watched as it hit the floor of the cage.

Strands of stitching protruded from what remained of the neck of the parrot. I felt a cold shiver run through my back instantly. I turned around only to get shocked once again. There stood behind the desk, an old man in an attender’s uniform, smiling nonchalantly at me. I walked up to him and kept a safe distance.

“Nice interior designing. It seems…err…different.”

“Thank you, sir. May I get you a room?” said the man.

“Oh no, thank you. I’m just lost and I was hoping to get directions to go to this place” I showed him the address.

“Gee, sir. This is a long way to go in this time of the evening. I suggest you stay here for the night” came the reply.

I looked around. I didn’t want to spend another minute in this weird place. But I had no other option. I had to stay for the night.

I took the key to my room, 1304, and the old man showed me the way. The dark corridors seemed lifeless as I walked through them. I didn’t dare ask whether they had any other customers or residents because I knew the feeling well. My paper wasn’t that famous at first. I used to be the victim of the same question.

He opened the door and led me in. It was quite a nice little room, with burgundy cushions and peach curtains. The bed looked big enough for two. I had one table at the corner, underneath a large rectangular mirror.

“Have a good night’s sleep, sir. You look like you need one.”

Again, something seemed off about the way he said good night. I was too tired to ponder about that anyway. The door slammed shut and I was left alone in this strange place. There was a T.V in the room. The old kind with the squiggly antenna and huge remote. I switched it on only to be greeted by grains and coloured bars. Nothing seemed to work in this place. Seeing that I had no other option but to go to sleep, I hit the bed. The lights seemed eager to be turned off.

That was when things started changing.

I went off to a deep sleep so quickly that I even forgot all memory of tiredness. At first, it was pleasant. Really calm and relaxing. Then came the dream stage, rather the nightmare stage. It was unlike any other nightmare that I have ever had. It was vivid. There was no empty black space that you would normally associate a dream or nightmare with. I was walking in my house. I could recognize my living room, my paintings, even my dog was there. He was barking at me like I was a thief. I kept walking and walking and I had that sensation that you would get when you’re being watched. Then I started breaking things. First, it was the telephone, which was ringing when I smashed it on the wall. Weirdly, it was not wired in when I picked it up and threw it. I flung the cushions off the sofa and started tearing them up with my Swiss army knife. Puffs of cotton filled my view. Then I did something that I would never dream of. I broke my Ming Vase. I picked it up and dropped it right down, without any emotion. With the shattering of the vase, I heard a laughter coming from above me. As I tried to trace the laughter’s origin, I found out that it was coming from the upstairs bathroom. I quickly ran up and saw that there was somebody in the shower. I could see the silhouette. The shower was on and I saw steam coming from the bath. I immediately ran forward and pulled aside the shower curtain with a quick flick of my hand.

I woke up.

It was morning. I sat up in bed, breathing, panting and sweat covered. I was trying to comprehend what I just saw. But then I realised that it was all just a dream and it was silly of me to think more on it. I decided that what I really wanted to do was to get out of bed and out of this place. I was still on duty. I quickly showered and got downstairs where I met with the old man again. He seemed to age by the hour. His grey hairs shone brightly in the morning sun.

“Good morning, sir. I have tea ready for you.”

“No, thanks. I’m ready to leave now.”

The man had a worried expression. It was as if I said something that one shouldn’t say. He was looking around for something frantically. He picked up a newspaper and his face lit up with joy.

“Aha! Here it is!” He handed the paper over to me. I perused through the pages when the old man stopped me at the obituary. He pointed to a photo of an old man. The news read,

“Henry Todd (93), died of lung cancer, survived by wife, family and children”.

I had seen that face somewhere before. Then it occurred to me. This was the guy who I was supposed to interview. The ex-military guy. He was dead. The poor bastard. He has now robbed me of my sensational piece. I hope he is in a better place right now.

“See? See?” said the old man.

“Yes. Quite unfortunate, it is. Guess I have no more reason to stay here. Thank you for your hospitality.”

“Oh no! Are you sure you have to leave? Can’t you stay for another night?”

What sort of motel pleas to a person to continue to stay there? Maybe I really was their only customer.

“I’m sorry. I enjoyed my stay. But I’ve to go now.”

“Sorry to hear that. I will arrange transportation for you.”

I was glad that this old guy was taking so much interest in me. Still, I wanted to get out of this place.

He came back to me after a long time and said that it was all ready and set up. The transport would reach here in no time. Meanwhile, I was to relax in the lounge. I reclined in the lounge, keeping an eye on the eerie, stuffed animals down the hall in the lobby. This cushion is really soft, I thought. Before I knew it, I went to a deep sleep. This sleep reminded me of my sleep yesterday. It felt exactly the same. Only thing was that I knew what was to follow. That exact sensation of being watched. I entered into the nightmare stage again and this time, I was at the local zoo with some of my friends’ kids. I remember taking them to the zoo when I was free. Although this seemed like a pretty picture, I was still under the shadow of caution. We entered the aviary after seeing the stars of the zoo, namely the lion, bear and the tiger. The aviary had big cages that spanned the width of my living room, filled with all sorts of exotic birds. We gazed at them from afar and little Timmy wanted to get a closer look. I saw a bird trainer who had his arm held out and a bird was sitting on it. I figured that this would be a good opportunity for little Timmy to get up close and personal with the birds. So we walked up to them and we were standing right next to this huge man with a bird clutching his arm. The green bird seemed to say things and onlookers laughed. It looked to be a good crowd-pleaser. Suddenly, the bird became quiet and started staring at me with its bulbous eyes. The eternal stare was looking right through my soul. The bird tilted its head and started to separate its beaks. Instantly, I grabbed hold of the bird and plucked it right out of the trainer’s arm, who was screaming in pain. Then, with both of my arms tightly clutching the bird with a vice grip, I bit its head off. Emotions of disgust and satisfaction crept all over me as I heard the gasps of the people who surrounded me. I could hear little Timmy screaming his lungs out.

I woke up.

I was panting heavily and I nearly slipped off the recliner. Time flew by quickly and I hadn’t noticed it as I went asleep. I tried to recollect what had happened and come back to Earth. I realised that I just had another crazy dream. Before I could regain my sanity, I was confronted with the smiling old man.

“Gee, sir. Looks like you fell asleep. The car had come ages ago. I tried to wake you up but no, you wouldn’t budge. Then I thought why should I bother you.”

“WHAT?! What am I supposed to do now? I have no place to go!” I exclaimed.

“It’s alright, sir. You can stay here for the night. Free of cost as it was my fault that I couldn’t wake you up. I couldn’t call the transport again.  It’s too late now.”

I was dumbstruck. I had no idea what to do. I was completely free falling through my days right now. These weird dreams and this weird place that I can’t seem to escape from. It was all driving me crazy. I decided that this was not the time to freak out with my crazy notions. I had to think logically and practically. I could stay here for another night. All I had was a few bad dreams. Maybe it must be the work. I’m so overdoing everything now that I’m going nuts when I sleep. It’s only natural. This place has nothing to do with this.

“Yes. I shall stay.”

I walked to the lobby and towards the elevator back to my room. As I was walking, I noticed that a vase was lying broken on the ground. It was a beautiful, turquoise vase. I didn’t notice any vase in the lobby earlier. Maybe I just missed it.

I entered back into my room again.  Fortunately for me, the T.V was working. I spent a lot of hours in front of it and the old man brought me snacks and drinks. As I ate the tiny, round biscuits, I noticed a napkin with print on it. I picked it up and it read,

“Moongleam Motel. We are here to serve you like Kings.”

So this is what this place is called, I thought. It never occurred to me that I should’ve just asked the old man in the first place. I shrugged away that thought and continued to watch T.V.

Time went by and I had free food delivered to my doorstep, at noon and night. I was a content man. At night, while delivering my food, the old man again said something that seemed off and wrong.

He said, “Have a good sleep, sir. We hope to see you again tomorrow morning, all fired up.”

Maybe it was his way of saying good night, I said to myself. I ate the food and prepared to go to sleep. I couldn’t wait to get back home again.

I quickly dozed off. This time, I deliberately didn’t think of my earlier snoozes here before I slept. I hoped for the best. But it was of no use. The dreams were back again. This time, more vivid than the rest. I was in the same motel. It seemed like night time and I was walking through the corridors. It was bustling with activity. People were laughing and talking, there was music everywhere and it seemed like a party was going on, or a ball of some sort. As I reached the lounge area, I saw many suited gentlemen reclining on sofas, smoking cigars and chatting quite manly. This place seemed quite different but even more real. I was taking in the sights. I was enjoying this. I saw that the front door was locked. I didn’t give much thought to it. It must be a private invitational event. I decided that as long as I’m in here, I might as well check out my own room. While I was on my way, I passed by the stuffed animals. To my astonishment, I saw the parrot in the golden cage. It was very much alive. I felt happy looking at that green bird. I also noticed the turquoise vase. It looked very familiar to me. I continued to walk forward and reached the elevator. I was walking towards 1308. The door was unlocked & as I entered it, I saw my table, looking all polished and shiny. The T.V was working beautifully. I walked to my bedroom and that was when I saw it. It was the most mind boggling scene that one could ever see.

It was me.

I was staring at the body of myself, sleeping in my bed. It felt really strange at that instant, as if the million stalking eyes had returned. My vision started to tunnel. It was only me and me. Suddenly, I decided to run for it. As soon as I turned around, I saw him.

The old man.

He was not so old anymore. He still wore that nonchalant smile. With no excess emotion whatsoever, he came close to me and whispered.

“So you finally made it here, sir.”

He snapped his finger and everything started to shake and rumble. The room was catching fire. I was panicking. I stared upon my motionless self on the bed. I tried to knock over the old man and go for the door. But the door was getting farther and farther. The fire was spreading. It started to eat my motionless self, as I watched in horror. I screamed out loud. But nothing was coming out. It was all fruitless. The all consuming fire started to claw at me as I felt a pang of pain inside my chest. I fell down on my knees and I could feel the heat eating me from the inside. I tried to look for anything that would aid me. It was then that I saw it. Amidst the fire, I could see a newspaper burning. It had almost burnt to ashes. But only one news headline was visible.

“Moongleam motel burned down. Hundreds dead.

May, 1863: Many die in the horrible fire that consumed the famous Moongleam Motel yesterday.”

The rest of the paper had burnt out. It became clear to me.  I saw the hands of fire grasping for me amidst the screams. I decided to give in. This time, I didn’t wake up.

THE END.

Moongleam Motel

One Bullet That Bled

The alarm started ringing. It was 8.00 AM. Alex curled up in his bed, reluctant to get up. The warm rays of the morning sun shone down on him, prompting him to do his daily routine. With a long yawn, he sat up on his bed, holding a pillow close. To Alex, sleep is something in which there is no compromise. If by any chance he manages to get something below his desired quota, the day becomes a manifestation of his crankiness. Still with half a mind to go back to sleep, he went into the bathroom and had a quick shower before going downstairs to eat. When he got downstairs, he was welcomed by the usual sight. Breakfast ready, a glass of milk on the table and his father going over the day’s news in the paper. He hastily grabbed a chair and switched on the T.V.

“You could at least wish your old man in the morning.”

“Sorry, Dad. I woke up on the wrong side of bed today. Guess my batteries still need recharging” came the reply.

“It’s alright. Eat your food. You don’t want to be missing the bus this time.”

Alex started helping himself to the food while one eye was still glued to the T.V. Mr Henry Frederick was a short, well built man in his late 50s. He took voluntary retirement from the military a few years back, after his wife died of illness. Now he lives with his 16 year old son, Alex, in a small, modest house just bordering the town. Being a man of military standards, he kept to a strict military like regime everyday, although he does not tend to impose them on Alex. His schedule includes waking up at sharp 5.30, quick shower, a jog to the nearby gym and a jog back home after exercise. The standard, run of the mill routine of a military man.

Even though Alex may not have such strict practices, he is not someone who can be categorized as tardy. He kept his books ready in his bag yesterday night itself after completing his homework. Alex had just finished eating when he was startled by the honk of the bus. He briskly grabbed his bag and said bye to Henry and went through the door. Henry looked through the window as he heard the metal clang of the gate closing. The bus drove off, away from view, leaving Henry alone with only the sounds of a news presenter reading the breaking news in the background. This was the usual situation. Henry liked the peace and quiet but he didn’t like being alone for a long time. In his free time, he used to listen to some smooth jazz, do some gardening and the sorts. According to his inbuilt military calendar, today was cleaning day. Something he despised doing but was forced to do. He was disinclined to the idea of keeping a maid to do chores and cleaning work. He felt that it was an unwanted means to drain money and that they could not be completely trusted at all. After all, trust is everything nowadays.

He grabbed a dusting brush and a cleaning cloth and got to work on the cupboard. He kept some fancy figurines in there along with Alex’s various trophies. He had already told him not to wipe too much on his beloved trophies as they may lose sheen quickly. As he dusted and cleaned various memorabilia and other random items, his eyes fell on something hiding at the back of his cupboard. It was a dusty , old, diamond shaped badge of his that he had got for honorary work. He took  the badge out and dusted it off and examined it carefully, trying to get more information about this little badge. Once he finished dusting it, he knew instantly what this was. This was the badge that he had got the day his life changed. It was that fateful day when everything toppled and turned. His mind got  filled with images of the past and memories came flooding in.

Afghanistan, 1979.

Lt.Henry Frederick had gotten orders to report to base for mission briefing He was in a team of 5 soldiers, each having their own uniqueness and all of them rough and rigid. They had to be so to survive in this unforgiving place. The United States Army was called in to aid the situation which was growing worse by the minute. This was Lt.Henry’s first trip to Afghanistan but the Major chose him for this mission as he knew that he had what it took to tackle the situation. Lt. Henry climbed the Jeep along with his fellow teammates and the driver took them to the base. Major Fawkes was waiting for them in the tent.

“Took you long enough. Grab a seat. Don’t tarry.” Maj.Fawkes pulled down a chart depicting all the major towns and areas in the vicinity and pointed to a particular spot using his pointer and started making circles in the air around it.

“This is it. This is where you’ll be heading. Now, I’m not going to bother trying to pronounce the name nor do you have to know it anyway. The mission is simple but it will be a tight-rope walk throughout. You need to scout the area for any signs of trouble. It is a terrorist hotspot, according to latest intel. So you’d have to stay frosty out there while walking through the streets. The place is mostly desolate but there has been reports of civilian life as well. So be careful. We do not want to get our hands dirty for unwanted reasons. Gather your equipment and regroup at the garage. Your transport will be waiting there. You’ll move out in 20 minutes.”

Each member of the team listened closely to Maj.Fawkes as he made his briefing. To be completely honest, Henry was scared. This was his first trip and that too to such a hostile place. He had heard war stories of Afghanistan earlier. He came prepared for a gun fight. But the scene here was different. It was a very delicate situation. The Americans couldn’t directly interfere in the Afghan matters due to political reasons. They were here only for peacekeeping, if there was any peace.

The team reached the garage and the transport was waiting eagerly for them. They climbed on to the camouflaged trucks after placing all of their equipment on board. The transportation was quick. They reached their destination very soon. The trucks had dumped them and got on their way back. The place seemed eerily quiet and still. There was no movement to be found. The streets seemed completely deserted. The group made their way forward, their hands clutching their guns tightly. All the stores were locked down. There wasn’t a  single person in the street. The run down shacks appeared to be evacuated. Their job was to scout the area for any sign of trouble and so far they could see nothing but empty streets and deserted homes. The place seemed dead. The air all around seemed to emanate emptiness as they scouted the area one by one. The climate was hot and extremely humid. Occasionally, a breeze would blow, spreading the hotness around. They kept on walking through the streets when they came across a lady rolling a trolley laden with fruits. It was a civilian. They didn’t want to even raise their guns in suspicion for they didn’t want any unnecessary trouble. The lady was crossing the street a few meters in front of them. As they got nearer, suddenly the trolley fell over, revealing a man hidden inside. He carried a sub machine gun with him. The soldiers hastily found some cover and raised their guns to shoot but they were reluctant to do so as the man was using the lady as a human shield. It was a premeditated attack. The man had accomplices hidden atop the roofs. They started shooting and soon it began to rain bullets from both sides. The soldiers had adequate cover but the terrorists had the higher ground. Instinctively, one of the soldiers threw a grenade up to the roofs. Screams of panic could be heard before the grenade blew. The accomplices were taken care of. The man. Still using the lady as a shield, didn’t stop firing. Instead, he reloaded and fired with a new found vigour. The blast seemed to have instigated him further. One of the bullets caught one soldier in the shoulder and he fell down, writhing in pain. Lt. Henry shouted, “I have a shot.”

“Take it! Take it now, damn it!”

He looked through the cross hairs and he could see the man. But it was not a clear shot. He hesitated.

“Come on! Take the shot!” came the shouts.

His fingers trembled atop the trigger. He was unsure of what to do. One of his teammates was down due to this rampant man. He had to decide. He had to decide now. He checked through his cross-hairs again, took a deep breath and took the shot. There was a loud bang and the woman fell down on the floor. Immediately another soldier took down the armed gunman. Lt. Henry had shot the shield. A pool of blood lay on the streets as the two bodies lay flat down on the ground. The air had become less tense. Only the sounds of the injured soldier remained as the atmosphere quiets down. Lt.Henry walked over to the bodies and laid his eyes upon the victim of his firing. He felt a pat on his back.

“Good job. You did the right thing. He was going to kill her anyway.”

These words echoed in his head as he tried to collect his thoughts. He was trying hard to comprehend the situation. He had shot an innocent civilian. Was it the right thing to do? Did he break the sacred code? All these questions flew around his mind. It was then that he noticed a fruit stall near to the site. He heard the sound of a crying baby coming from the fruit stall. The stall had similar trolleys, like the one in which the terrorist hid. He took the baby in his arms, trying to console the crying child. After a few seconds, the child stopped crying and smiled at Lt. Henry. It was with that smile did Henry decide to adopt the child. He had taken away an integral part of this child’s life. It was one life for another, he decided.

The troops called in for emergency evacuation and took the injured soldier to the hospital. The others returned back to the base and Lt.Henry explained all that happened to Maj.Fawkes. After hearing the complete mission report, Fawkes decided to suggest Henry’s name for honorary field work. He said that taking the shot required nerves of steel and he took one for the better cause. The fact that he saw the big picture was emphasized. Upon hearing this, the Lieutenant had mixed reactions. He had taken a life. How could that be justified for a better cause, he imagined. But he felt privileged to be receiving this honour. It was, in fact, a trip of a lifetime.

Henry looked  at the diamond shaped badge and felt overwhelming emotions taking over him.  This badge had been the cause for his life to change in such a drastic way. It was the fruit of misery and pain but it gave him joy and happiness afterwards in a different form. It was such a long time. He cleaned the badge again and placed it near the photograph of Alex. His son.

 

THE END

One Bullet That Bled

Red, Black and Blue

It was a damp New York morning. The trees hung low to the sidewalks, which were wet with the incessant rain. Puddles of water formed at some parts of the road and cars would usually splash the water all around. It was clearly a dull and lazy atmosphere. Jim Bailey was returning after the night’s work at the law firm. It really amused him that the fact that lawyers needed security for their firms was really a necessity rather than a joke gone bad. But he didn’t complain as he had a steady flow of money. It was not much but it was decent enough to sustain a bachelor life in New York City. Jim took a right at the junction. A move he would never fail to make as it would lead him to his favourite spot in the whole of New York City, Berchman’s watering hole. It was a part of his daily routine to visit the hole after a shift at the law firm. Jim was never really the type of guy who made a lot of friends just like that. But he had a good peer group at the hole and would share news-breaks with them every day. Jim carefully parked the car, double checked whether all the windows were closed and got out before locking the car. When it comes to matters of security, Jim was extra vigilant. Maybe that was why he had got the job in the first place. Some would even say that he was a bit loose on his screws when it came to his personal security. He was too anxious about such things, even the tiniest of trinkets. Jim entered the hole, pushing open the bulky wooden door, which was immediately followed by the chiming of some bells connected atop. Jim was greeted by the usual sights and smells of the place. People playing pool by the corner, the game going on and people cheering their teams with intense fervour and Raymond pouring the drinks and topping up glasses by the table. Raymond Powell owned the place. He got it from his grandfather, Berchman Powell, who started the only pub in the area back then. It was a huge success as people flooded in, after and before work, mostly for relaxing their minds and calming their souls before getting eaten up by the corporate life that awaits them. Jim was a usual customer, but Raymond characterizes him as quite an unusual and peculiar one for that matter. He would always come and sit near the telly and watch what was going on, after ordering something to drink. He did not seem to be a people person, but he did have friends in this place. Everybody has friends at the hole. Jim sat on his stool and watched the game that was on. It was football, or more precisely, soccer. Most people here do not watch soccer, they’d rather see the American version of football. Who could blame them? But it was a usual sight here at Berchman’s, because of Raymond’s English roots. He was an ardent fan of the English premier League and so he would put on all the big matches on match day and hence now, even Jim has become a fan.  Jim kept a close eye on the score as the game progressed. Suddenly, one of the players in a red and black uniform tackled another man in a blue uniform. Jim supported the red team as he had a wide, content smile on his face after the tackle had taken place.

“The nerve! How did the referee not see that?!” said a main sitting next to Jim.

“Excuse me? What was he supposed to see?” asked Jim, his tone got louder with each syllable.

“The ref must’ve been blind!! That was clearly a foul.”

“Are you kidding me? That one was perfectly executed. It was a beauty of a tackle.” Came the reply.

“If that was a perfect tackle, then we would’ve to rewrite the rule books. That was definitely a yellow card at least”. Vehemently said the man, his eyes clearly expressing his emotions.

Jim was completely getting angry at this moment. His nostrils flared and he raised his voice too high that people started to stare at him. Vocal arguments were common at the hole, but this was intense. It was as if a lion had pounced out from a scurrying rat. Jim got up from his stool and raised his hands in exasperation. He had gotten fed up with this man and his nonsensical belief that it was a foul.

“Listen here, mister. My team doesn’t do dirty tackles. We are all clean. This was also a clean challenge! We won the ball fair and square.” He said, now getting quite cross at the man.

The man looked at him in disbelief. A few moments ago, he was enjoying his drink and watching the match quite joyously. But now this short man comes out of nowhere and starts a heated argument with him. He got so frustrated that he got up from his chair, paid his bill and went on his way, leaving Jim all alone in an awkward position. Jim immediately felt a sensation of regret. He shouldn’t have irritated this fellow. He had no right to do so. Thoughts ran through his mind saying that he just ruined the perfect start to a day of a man he had never seen before. He didn’t even ask for his name. Instead, he jumped at him and started to make him get angry. It was lucky that he didn’t do anything physical to him. Jim heard the chiming of the bells and a sound of a door banging shut, as he sat down on his chair, taking his time to contemplate his actions. He felt like someone beneath contempt. He felt really despicable. An immediate urge to apologize to the man for ruining his day and perhaps do something as a substitute to take it all back came over him. But he had no clue about that man. He was a total stranger.

Jim decided to ask Raymond about the man who he just irritated.

“That’s Simon Timfield. He’s a regular, just like you. Been coming here for quite some time. I heard what was happening. You shouldn’t have gotten so upset. Especially towards such a nice guy as himself. I heard that he has some health problems too.”

Great. Just great, thought Jim. He had just had a huge fight with a nice, sick person. What else could go wrong with that sentence? Jim’s sense of regret started to increase multi-fold, especially after hearing that the person was not well. He had to do something. He had to make up for his bad, unduly behaviour. He asked Raymond for Simon Timfield’s address and Raymond immediately took a piece of paper, wrote it down and gave it to Jim. He decided that he was going to write a letter of apology for his unwanted and disappointing actions. Jim exited the building and went for his keys. He scrambled with them as he tried to find his car keys. He was getting nervous. He quickly inserted the key into the ignition and started to drive back home in caution. He knew that he was not in his right mind at all, at this instance. The white lines on the road started to go back one by one and increasing in speed. Jim’s mind was filled with thoughts of remorse and regret. He got back home and hurriedly opened the door and found a letter head. He started writing:

To Simon Timfield,

                          I am extremely sorry for my rash and undue behaviour at the watering hole. Please take this apology as it is coming from the greatest depths of my heart. I should have never argued over such a silly matter. Please show the kind heart to forgive and forget this incident.

Yours faithfully,

Jim Bailey.”

He read and re-read the message quite a few times before deciding to actually post it. He felt really ashamed that he had to resort to such actions. He at once stuck a stamp and wrote down the address that Raymond had told him on an envelope and went to the nearby post office. Nobody goes to that place anymore, unless it was a case of emergency, like this one. He sent the post and felt a calmness going over his body. At least Simon would know that he had the heart of a kind man.

Days passed and still no reply. Jim started to get anxious. Had the postal department made a flaw? Did he  not write the correct address? Such questions of doubt began to kindle in his mind. He was in a state of complete anxiety. He felt that he needed to borrow an airplane and smoke an apology into the sky so that the recipient could actually see it. Jim walked around in his apartment, pacing hurriedly. He didn’t know what to do. He poured himself a glass of water and gulped it down in one shot. He needed that refreshment. Suddenly, an idea came on to his mind. Maybe he should go there. That’s it. A personal visit is a good way to apologize, he thought. He immediately grabbed his coat and keys and drove to the address of Simon. He drove quite a long way before reaching a small white house near the corner of a street. It had the initials “ST.” etched on its letter box. So this was indeed the place. Jim had bought a packet of the most expensive candy and toffees that he could afford. He clutched them close in his hands and walked up to the house, his mind wavering. Was it a matter of space intrusion? Should I go back and try some other method? Maybe call him or leave a text message? No, that would be rude, he thought. With an increase in confidence, he walked up the stairs and rang the door bell. More than a few seconds passed by. No one was answering. Usually by this time, if a house was occupied, someone would open the door. Just as Jim was about to turn back and come another day, he heard the bolt being unlocked. The door opened. Simon Timfield only had opened the door partly. He had stuck out his head and asked,

“Yes? What can I do for you?”

“Hello, sir. You may remember me from the hole? I was such a rude person to you back there. Please take this as an apology” and he handed out the candy.

Simon was bewildered. He had no clue who this was.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t think you have the right house. I’m in the middle of entertaining some important guests now. Please be on your way.”

“But its me! Jim! Jim Bailey from the hole! We argued a few days back over a game! I’ve even sent you a letter. But I suspect you might not have got it. Please take this as a form of my apology!” he started to speak like someone who was desperate.

He again handed out the sweets. But Simon gave a sad look, said sorry and closed the door. He just experienced a shut-in-the-face. Jim was not sure what to do now. How could he forget him? He paced back and forth in Simon’s lawn and heard laughter emanating from one of the rooms. He has sure that he would call the cops if he knocked again. Jim got to his car and found his way back home. He was utterly disappointed. He had become a nervous wreck over the fact that Simon had not taken his apology. He began to feel very guilty and he spent his days and nights thinking of trying to apologize to a person who doesn’t even remember him. His days had become a manifestation of his nervousness. Everything he did showed some sign of abnormality. He could not sleep properly, eat properly or even talk without sometimes stuttering. He was completely engulfed in the fact that he could not apologize for his bad behaviour and that too at a public place. His life was turning upside down.

Days passed and the situation got worse. He had become an insomniac. One day after waking up and having his bath, he went to his living room, made himself a cup of coffee and went out to collect the paper. He opened the paper and started reading the news as usual. It was the usual humdrum for Jim. But his day took a turn for the worse when he got to a specific page of the paper. At the bottom right of a page, there lay a column showing a man’s picture and some writing below it which was too small for Jim to read without his reading glasses. He quickly grabbed his glasses and put them on. The column said :

Obituary.

Simon Timfield (69) 1944-2013

Passed away due to diseases of the heart. Praying for the departed soul,

Family, wife and 2 children.”

The news came as a tidal wave over Jim. He was completely flabbergasted on reading this piece of news. He knew instantly whose picture it was, but wanted to confirm it further. But confirm he did. Jim immediately jumped up from his chair, grabbed his car keys and started driving. He didn’t even bother to lock the door or grab his coat. In fact, he had no need to do so. He was sure of that. He drove for miles and miles before parking at a parking spot near the road. All through the journey, images of the fight and Simon’s face haunted his mind. He couldn’t let go of the colours that he saw in front of him; red, black and blue. These colours had toppled the course of his life. He hurriedly jumped out of the car, still in his boxers and shabby shirt, holding his coffee mug in his hand. Anyone who saw this scene would think that he was a lunatic. They had the right to think so too. Jim walked further and entered the side footpath. He climbed over the railing and then people really started noticing him. He walked further and heard people gasping in silence behind him. He didn’t pay any attention to them nor did it deter him. He quickly climbed over the last hurdle. The air was calm and no winds blew. The sounds of cars honking were the only noise present in the atmosphere as Jim Bailey jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

THE END.

Red, Black and Blue

Train wreck

Have you ever felt like the walls are caving in on you and you have absolutely no place to hide? Like the stage is empty and the curtains are down and still you are standing in your own little masquerade? That exact sensation you get when you go lights out up there is something which I have never been able to comprehend so far. As I stepped foot inside that well lit reception with gaudy and seemingly posh curtains, I noticed a thin lady glaring at me from behind the desk, like I just escaped from the local zoo. She soon changed to her usual fraudulent countenance complete with the fake smile, as she too must’ve noticed me staring at her awkwardly. I looked away just to see a young man, probably in his late 20s, carrying a laptop and a bunch of papers waiting to be fed into the Xerox machine. I took pity on him. I was also a servile underling once.

When they appointed me into this place, the praise that my prestigious degree and extracurricular activities brought me made me think that I might be a rung above all the rest. But little did I know that I was just to be the mindless minion, the fall guy. This young fellow symbolizes the crying of the youth for recognition & an escape from the sense of insecurity that they constantly feel. I shook my head slightly as I continued to walk to the staircase. Nobody uses them anymore. Everyone is in a hurried frenzy to reach their all important goal that they use the elevators. But why is it that they always find themselves one step too short? I pondered with this question as the grey stairs began to move backward one by one, quite in contrast with what they’re actually enabling me to do. My mind usually doesn’t work this way. It basically concentrates on what the next snag is & works something out to eliminate it. But lately I’m beginning to see things I have never seen before, noticing little trinkets in my day to day life. I believe my mind is playing tricks with me. As I made my way up, a little black figure darted through my legs. Even though I instantly knew what it was, I still jumped in involuntary shock. It was a rat. This particular little rodent too played a part in making my life here more miserable than old hay for sickly livestock.

During my commencing years here, I noticed that most of the unkept places, though not many, were a common playground for rats. Despite my initial inhibitions, I decided to write a formal letter of complaint to the CEO., believing that this being a reputable place of work, my complaint would be greeted with positive thoughts and smiling hearts. Instead, I got in return harsh comments & advice on proper time utilization. I was sadly mistaken. In a nutshell, what they meant to say was that nobody goes to those places, we don’t give a penny to your words and mind your own business. This little incident made me lose my confidence in the institution and also in my letter writing skills. These higher ups don’t give any value to the words of people like us. For instance, if it was one of their own who had made this complaint, they would have immediately disinfected the whole building and fired the peon. After all, the time taken for us to write the letter could be used to make money for them. I sighed heavily as I watched the rat scuttle around and finally find a straight path to run away. He too must be cursing me for coming in his path, for I might be his “higher up”. The rat had escaped from my sight as I climbed another set of stairs.

I had come to a place where most of the young and fresh graduates were put into. Since it was quite early office hours, I didn’t expect to see much life in this floor. But then again, I was sadly mistaken.Towards the end of the many rows of partitioned cubicles, sat a spectacled man in his formals, briskly typing away into his computer. Fixated on to that rectangular screen, he worked mechanically in this dull hued hall, not budging from his chair, not having any thought on the outside world. Simply toiling away with a level of dedication that could make Phelps shy. But why, I wondered. Why is it that this person is giving his all to make the rich richer? Imagine waking up really early in the morning & doing something that drab in a place that sedates you emotionally and then going to sleep with the knowledge that you are going to do all this again tomorrow. You might say that the salary one gets will be quite enough to shun away these thoughts and toil away into the night. But for how much can money stand for as substitute? The emotional labour and mental torture that this man sitting in front of a computer is experiencing cannot be seen externally until you have experienced it. If you had once fallen prey to the grasp of this torture, you would be able to identify it as well. He will be sitting in the very same place, entering data and doing calculations till the end of the day, perhaps hoping that tomorrow he might get a slight nod from his higher up for a promotion. Such is the corporate cycle of life.

I sympathized with the man and prayed for his good health as I began to climb again. I kept on eating away stair after stair and with each step I thought of all the people like that man, who slave and slog throughout the day hoping to get some satisfaction to fill that void in their soul. His college degree, which he holds in high regard has handed him this deplorable situation. I kept on climbing this seemingly endless array of sullen staircases, my body starts to grow weary but my mind is still strong, but ravaged with a variety of thoughts. Along the way, I happened to notice a board with a smiley on it saying “ Smile, you are being watched.”. I felt amused upon reading this little board. I was being watched, but are you watching yourself? I asked as I reminisce the deeds which I have done. I was also a victim of the system. I dared to question the authority, but they pushed me down even deeper. But I was adamant not to let the system eat me up and leave me in its wake. So I decided to show the institution how exactly I got my degree. Using the knowledge which I had gained, I managed to link my bank account in such a way that each month when everyone got their salary, a small percent of each individual’s amount would go into my account. I had hacked the mainframe carefully so that it could not be traced back to me. Or at least I thought so. My system worked for a couple of months. I had denied the higher ups their money. My account got fatter by the month. But after a few months, they realized something is wrong with the delivery system and they were finally able to reach the source. I had come to end of my long flight of stairs. As I stepped on the last stair and opened that steel door, I got filled with that empty sense of nothingness again. I walked straight, ignoring the clamour of the vehicles below and started to close my eyes. Fear has been the foundation of this institution. Fear of getting shouted at, being pushed down, getting fired. It has fueled our condescending superiors since day one. Time has come for this to fade. I continued to walk forward, as I felt a cool breeze down my neck. I could feel my hair fluttering about as I stood still. One must be careful in choosing where to put his heart and soul into. Fortunately, I no longer have to bear the burden of that decision no more. Bravely, I took the next step.

As his body plummeted down to the earth, gasps and screams filled the atmosphere. The action lasted for mere seconds. All the hyperboles of life seemed to vanish as he made his journey like deadwood. Staring blankly at this sight one of the awestruck bystanders commented “Poor chap, his life must have been one huge train wreck.”

Train wreck

Well, what’s this now?

Here, you will also find some short stories I had written back when I was doing my undergrad (somewhere around 2012!). As such, they are very rough around the edges and I would definitely clean up some poor choice of words. Nonetheless, they remain close to my heart and I would like to use this space for them to live and thrive! (You can get to them from the menu on the top right too!)

 

Well, what’s this now?

Where willows speak…

Leave this world now, I want to be
solicitous in my own way.
Walk amidst giants, see the shore
sprawling with crab, leap over trees
make a jungle home on the peak.

Trees that bear fruit for us, for free
where creatures rule the night and day.
No things to worry, nor no chore
for whom is this to catch and seize?
But this I’m sure, place is not weak.

Magic is what our eyes can see,
children with joy, happily play
as they go and roam and explore
follow tranquility in peace.
Fragrant jasmines, the place now reek.

Imagination holds the key
else this place will soon fade away.
With that key, open any door
and all the sounds will come to cease.
Go to a place where willows speak.

This poem is of the form ‘Rimas Dissolutas’, in which every line in the poem must have the same number of syllables and no two lines rhyme within the same stanza but same lines in all stanzas rhyme. (Here: be, free, see ,key)

Where willows speak…

Static on the radio.

Left, have we, for the promised land,
Freedom to sing but the dark-hued songs.
Obsolete dreams echo in these straits,as
sufferance shall taste the fruits of peace.

United, the black hounds descend
Will they quench with their iron-fist?
Or will the fires drink the same poison
which shaped their present thoughts?

Still, the insecure question us, for they
dare not look past their shroud of fear.
Nor believe that their mosaic of harmony,
Has now fallen into the concrete of tears.

We are not mere, inane gunslingers,
who play ushers to the orders from above.
We are the hollowed fighters who,
tend to your garden whilst you litter.

Amidst the bullets, we soldiered on,
But has his sacrifice been for naught?
As “Danger Close!” was escorted by,
Silent static on the radio.

Static on the radio.