Archive for the ‘Fiction of My Mind’ Category

Dust

Posted: February 25, 2014 in Fiction of My Mind, Thoughts

Last night my mom called me in the middle of night, I rushed to her but I was of no help, she was shocked, maybe because of some weird dream. Once she realized it was only a dream she had a little water and then calmly settled in her sleep, dad was there just watching her sadly. In past three years he’s aged like a decade. He used to be a strong man full of life and courage, but sadly not anymore. He retired last year from his job in that government office. He used to go out a lot and mingle with people his age, but somehow he’s stopped doing that, like he doesn’t derive any pleasure out of it. He never says anything and I can’t read minds but I know somewhere deep down inside he’s sad, very sad, but he has to pull up that strong face. What else can he do? He must hold his nerves, at least for my mom’s sake, she’ll be shattered if she realize how sad he is, so he still smiles but cracks no jokes, he still hold the newspaper but hardly reads anything, maybe thinking all the what ifs in his head?

Ahh let me introduce myself, I’m… but how does it matter? My name won’t change anything, will it? But I’ve to tell about myself, it is not fair to tell you about my parents’ sadness without introducing the reason behind it. I’m one of the thousands born every day, but to my parents I’m special, though I beg to differ, I’m just mediocre. One of the many IT professionals out there. But for my family I’m special… the smart one, one who reads all the time, or this is just what they think. It’s not that I’m boring or dull I’ve many friends but I’ve lost them all slowly. Things change, time change and so does the priorities of people. I remember clearly the day of my engagement… makes me smile, I had struggled so much to fit in that size 38. Sigh!!  Vanity…

I don’t know where she is, but I hope she is happy, somewhere with someone. I haven’t tried to track her; I fear how I’m going to take it. Even if she’s happy or sad, in both cases it’ll make me more depressed, after all we are not together and for me it is not easy to let go… I had friends, but I think they too are busy with their own lives; no one has ever come to my doorsteps in the last three years. Secretly I had this hope that they will come and check how we are doing after that accident. But no one ever visited us, some simply don’t care and some find it awkward to make any communication regarding me so they simply moved on. Something deep inside me tells me they have forgotten me, the memories have faded or maybe just left behind because it is unsettling and uncomfortable. Sometimes we ignore the sight of plight and grief because it makes us sad. And of course when you have so many troubles of your own why would you worry about someone left behind. Right?

It’s already 10 in morning, my brother is usually up by this time but today he’s not here yet. Mom has got no breakfast ready. Strange! But Maybe she’s still pondering over her dream from last night and Dad? As I said he’s on the ground floor with his thick glasses and newspaper. And see here he is, my brother… He used to be my best friend but like everything else we too have stopped talking, mainly it is me, because I can’t tell him that I’m still not letting go and I’m still sad over what happened that night and I know it was my fault because of what I’ve caused you this grief…

What is he doing there? Dad is also there now, mum is crying silently, and they are just huddled up. What is that they are looking at in the newspaper??? Oh like last year, someone has written about me. I think it’s… again what it has to do with the name? But I suspect it’s her

In memory of…
The Best Son, The Best brother and the Best friend
(19xx-forever)

For three years life has been the same, exactly same for everyone, nothing changed apart from those three people I call family.

Tomorrow I’ll complete three years in this very realm between the living and something, watching everything helplessly… Tomorrow I’ll be dead, for three years,
for three years nothing but settling Dust!!

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First drop of tears

Posted: January 14, 2013 in Fiction of My Mind

‘Life is short and unpredictable, make the maximum out of it because in the end only memories are left’ read the wallpaper on her laptop. Outside the fifth apartment window, dark clouds were gathering for a downpour, unexpected at this time of the year; it was the 12th of November; she was working furiously on her laptop, typing words almost faster than she usually spoke. A single strand of hair fell on her face and she blew it away, her hands too busy to leave the keyboard. She could hear her husband hustling bustling in the bedroom, half tired, half annoyed. “He must be looking for the remote for the TV”, she chuckled, marveling how she just knew. “Hey Princess”! he affectionately call her princess, his familiar voice came slithering through the corridor, “Where is the TV remote?” He’s too dependent on her even for these small things. They’ve been married for Five years, met in school, drifted apart, met again, they connected well and ended up getting married.

For a moment, the keyboard heaved a sigh of relief from the rapid cluttering of her manicured slim fingers. A familiar urge to get up and find the remote rose in her, like a subconscious force rising in the capillary of her throat; long ago, as a child, her mother had taught her about “how to be a good wife”; “I think it is in the kitchen,” she shouted back. “I think I forgot it there while making tea”. He’s not the complaining type, he understand her, she’s busy, and picking up a remote from kitchen is no big deal.

Obedient as a naive school boy, he came hobbling out, one hand holding their orange towel. She spared a glance and looked at her husband. Work, or coding rather, had altered his dimple into a wrinkle. Five long years ago, she had left her parents for him. “That isn’t true,” a voice inside her whispered, “You had run away and tagged him along.” Another voice piped up “But he has done well, hasn’t he?” she smiled. They have turned out to be the best couple, in every way, caring, understanding. “He’s such an open book”, she smiled somewhat overwhelmed. Her mind shuffled with practiced ease between what she was typing and her wandering thoughts. he had always gawked at her ability of multi tasking, but again she’s smarter than him.

He worked as a Software Engineer in one of those big shot tech giants where salary is good and so is the work life balance. His long shabby hair,  bespectacled smile, and that ‘geeky’ look always gave away his profession much before he could introduce himself to anyone.

“I have to go back to office, need to fix this critical bug, it’s urgent,” she could hear his voice over the blaring noise of the TV. “Why do you have to go now”, her voice carried a note of irritation, “I thought we will have dinner together today”. Though her husband was meek and she knew she used her dominance over him, still she loved him. “It is our anniversary today and he has forgotten” that little voice inside croaked in despair “I thought I would remind him during dinner.” But that day he hadn’t forgotten, he was just going to do something different.

“I shall be back in an hour” he said, as he hurriedly put on his shoes. She wasn’t typing anymore. She wanted to cook something special tonight. “Come early or eat cold dinner alone”, she quipped as she closed the door behind him.

The repeated banging of the bell brought a smile to her face. The day they had run away, he had come to her home while her parents were out and had frantically rung the bell repeatedly before she opened the door. Though years had passed, he always played the same game — rang the bell repeatedly while coming or going out, he’s a child inside his heart.

He remembered their anniversary very well. He imagined her eyes when he would put that diamond pendant over her soft skin. He chuckled at his own mischievousness.  “He wasn’t that sort of a person, he was the simple, straight forward guy, or so she thought”, he reflected, “She will be in for a surprise today”. He know she’s not the materialistic type, but it’s their anniversary and he wanted to gift her something special.

Half an hour later, she was in the kitchen. “Every night in my dreams…” she hummed Celine Dion as she chopped onions for paneer curry, he loved paneer. Soon she was marinating the paneer slices, garlic-ginger paste and haldi when she realized that the TV was on. “No wonder we pay so much on electricity bills”, she remarked as she strode to the bedroom; one hand dripping with marinade, while the other struggled to put that irritating strand of hair back in its place.

“Breaking News: Mumbai terrorized by blasts again” the idiot box blabbered. She stopped in her tracks. “Zaveri Bazaar has been ripped apart yet again—-“, there was silence inside her. A part of her wished that little voice inside would say something. “Zaveri Bazaar, one of the major hub for jewelers and diamond mrchants” Her mind refused to think. Dumbstruck, her bulbous eyes stared at the TV screen while marinade dripped from her fingers; that irritating strand of hair still on her temple. “His office is on Lamington road, why would he be there in Zaveri bazaar” but what if, what if… Crying girl

She felt the bile rising up in her throat; she couldn’t shout nor speak, her whole body was trembling. Like a zombie she picked up the mobile phone lying on the bed and dialled his number. Her practiced fingers trembled, her ears begging for the click of him picking up the phone. Her eyelashes were moist, she could not see clearly through the haze, but she couldn’t cry; her thumb pressed the green redial button all over again. She felt an unusual tingling in her toes, her usually steady fingers shook in uselessness; her ears pleaded to hear that voice, his voice…

That was when the perplexing silence was broken by a ring of the bell. And it rang twice. And then again. And again.  It was ‘him’.

The first drop of tear fell from her eyes, and then something broke, hysterically crying and half laughing she ran to the door, he was there all soaked up in rain and shocked, maybe he had heard the news on the way. He took out the small red box and wanted to say something, but her fingers silenced him, she was crying clutched to his chest. He softly hugged her and gently first drop of tear trickled from his eyes.

The Girl at the Window

Posted: January 11, 2013 in Fiction of My Mind

She was in her bed, cuddled up in the thick layers of her blanket, sleeping in the cold night of January and dreaming in the darkness, about lights that surrounded her with nature in its full colour, which pleased her eyes and soul.

Her hair, which were kept loose, long and deep black, spread over her bed and some glided down her cheeks, her lips, which had no artificial colour on them, were ruby-like, and her eyelids seemed to be protecting her dreams which she was seeing in her deep slumber. It was true that she was sleeping but her beauty wasn’t. It seemed to be livelier, changing all the time as the time passed evenly and she kept tossing and turning in her bed.

Eventually the sun rose from its sleep. She also followed the sun with a silent opening of her eyes which were now exposed to the light. She seemed to have liked her dream more than this truth of waking up. But then she made a little compromise with herself and came down the bed and took a few easy steps to a window near to her. She was then facing the soft incoming wind as soon as she opened the window. Once again a sweet smile filled with happiness appeared through her lips. Nothing is more soothing than morning sun rays in the cold chilly days of winters in Delhi.

webjong_cartoon_girl_03_top-webjong

Outside, opposite to the balcony of their third floor apartment there was a play-ground in which some boys were playing cricket.
Avik saw her at the window and very soon he lost interest in his practice and sat down to watch her, just like the day before and the week before that, and the month before that. He found her smiling. He also smiled many times and wished that she had seen his best smile. He then lost her into the room.

For past couple of months Avik was taking more interest in her than his game. He saw her standing at the window, with her long hair before her body and she was combing it. She was carrying the loveliest smile, one that is meant for few special people, Avik was confident about that.

Avik was a good cricketer. He was the only batsman on which the team work would depend. It was a surprise to the coach to witness him out of form. Avik looked like he had no interest in cricket and sometimes he played like one who didn’t know how to play.

Aayush, his team-mate, once caught him looking secretly at the girl at the window. Avik had to tell his heart.
‘I am in love with that girl. I want to meet her.’

Aayush looked at him fixedly.

‘I think she also like me,’ Avik added

‘How can you say that?’ Aayush asked.

‘She has always smiled at me.’

Aayush then said, ‘Forget her. Give your attention to the game; otherwise you will lose your position in the team.’
 
‘I can’t. You must help me. You live in this same building. So, you can tell her a word or two from me.’

‘Look Avik. She doesn’t love you. And she wasn’t smiling at you.’ Avik wasn’t ready to believe him.

‘The smiles you had seen were the smiles of her personal happiness.’

‘But she smiled whenever I smiled at her’  Avik insisted. ‘I saw her, trust me, I did, each day’ 

‘Leave it Dude’

‘Why?’  Avik asked, this time he was little bit annoyed.

‘Because that girl is blind’  Aayush said with a grave whispering tone

‘What?’, Avik shouted… ‘Blind!’ 

Avik looked towards that window and found her still in good spirits, smiling as usual with the same warmth and  and afterwards she vanished into the room.

अकेली

Posted: December 9, 2012 in Fiction of My Mind
कविता को नए फ्लैट में आये हुए 4 दिन हो गए थे, लगभग सारा सामान भी आ गया था, पर घर अभी तक अस्त व्यस्त था। नया शहर, नए लोग, नयी नौकरी वो भी तरक्की के साथ, एक अलग ही एहसास था, खुद पर ग्रवित होने का। यूँ तो 32 साल में ये पहली बार नहीं जब उसे अपने पर गर्व हुआ हो। वो थी इस ऐसी, और हमेशा से ऐसी, बेटे की चाह में हुई 4 बेटियों में सबसे छोटी। बचपन से माँ को मिलते तानों को सुनती आई थी वो, और तभी से ठान लिया था उसने की कुछ कर दिखाना है , आज वो इस बड़े से अखबार की प्रमुख संपादक है, गरीब महिलाओं के लिए 2 एन. जी. ओ. चलती है, और 2 किताबें भी लिख चुकी है। खिड़की के पास बैठी मुस्कुराती वो पता नहीं कब तक पुरानी बातों को याद करती रही। फिर एकाएक किसी गाड़ी की रिवर्स गियर की टिक टुक टिक टुक से यकायक उसका ध्यान टूटा, एक सबसे ज़रूरी काम तो अभी बाकी है…

-x-x-x-x-x-x-
 
“जी नमस्ते, मेरा नाम कविता है, और में आपके बिलकुल ऊपर वाले फ्लैट में रहती हूँ., नीचे केयर टेकर से आपका नंबर लिया..” 
”जी नमस्ते, कहिए?” 
”मुझें घर में काम करने के लिए एक बाई की जरूरत है तो क्या अपनी बाई को ऊपर भेज देंगी?”
”जरूर भेज दूँगी, वैसे कितने लोग है आप के घर में?” 
”बस मैं अकेली ही हूँ।”
”ओह्ह… अच्छा ठीक है, थोड़ी देर में बाई आ जाएगी तो मैं उसे ऊपर भेज दूंगी।”

‘’जी धन्यवाद”… कहकर उसने  इंटेर्कोम रख दिया। थोड़ी देर बाद, दरवाजे की घंटी बजी तो वाकई बाहर एक बाई को खड़ा पाया, मन में एक खुशी के लहर लहरा गयी…सोचा, चलो एक समस्या का समाधान तो आसानी से हो गया है। बाई से सारी बात तय हो गयी थी वक्त और पैसों को लेकर… और फिर अगले दिन से उसके आने का इंतज़ार भी शुरू हो गया था …लगा कि बाई के हाथ में एक सुदर्शन चक्र है और वो कल से उसके अव्यवस्थित घर की धुरी घुमा देगी। वो अगले रोज़ बाई का इंतज़ार करती रही पर वो नहीं आई। एक दिन और निकल गया पर बाई अभी भी नहीं आई।

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

थक हार कर उसके अगले दिन वह परेशान सी लिफ्ट से उतर कर किसी नई बाई की तलाश में मुड़ी ही थी कि सामने से वही बाई दिखाई, बाई उसे देख कर कन्नी काटने की कोशिश में थी… मगर कविता ने उसे पकड़ कर पूछ ही लिया –”सब कुछ तय हो तो गया था फिर तुम आई क्यों नहीं?”

वो सकुचा कर बोली…..”मेमसाहब मैं तो आना चाहती थी पर आपके नीचे वाली आंटी जी ने मना कर दिया आपके यहाँ आने से”
”पर क्यों मना किया और तुमने उनकी बात भी मान ली, क्या तुम्हें और पैसा नहीं चाहिए?’
वो बोली… “पैसा किसे बुरा लगे हैं मेमसाहब, पर आप तो यहाँ हमेशा रहने वाली हो नहीं, उनका काम तो पक्का है न, और वो बोल रही थी कि आप अकेली औरत हो…उन्हे शक है कि कुछ…..कि कुछ…..”

इसके आगे बाई कुछ बोली नहीं और चली गई । और कविता चुपचाप खड़ी उसकी पीठ पर अपने अकेले होने के एहसास को ढूँढने लगी।

समझ ही नहीं पाई कि चुनौतियों को पार करके यहाँ तक पहुँचने के लिए खुद को शाबाशी दे , या नीचे वाली उस आंटी जी की “अकेले” शब्द की मानसिकता पर दुख मनाये।

चश्मा

Posted: December 5, 2012 in Fiction of My Mind

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दरवाजा
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कितने बरस बीत गए याद नहीं, पर मैं आज भी यहीं हूँ इसी घर के चौखट से लगा हुआ, इस बड़े से घर का मायूस सा पहरेदार, इस बड़े आलीशान घर का दरवाजा। याद है मुझे जब मैं एक पेड़ था, अनंत आकाश और कालजयी धरती के बीच का एक छोटा सा बंधन। शायद इंसान और इंसानियत के बीच का बंधन भी। जब मैं एक बीज था, हजारों सपने थे, हजारो ख्वाहिशें थी, बहुत सारी सच्चाइयों से अनजान, फिर धीरे से सालों तक अपनी जडें जमायी इस धरती में मैंने। एक माँ की तरह ही इस धरती ने मुझे पला और बड़ा किया, मैं हवाओं से खेला और बारिशों में भीगा, चिड़ियों की आवाज़ से मैंने अपने पत्ते फडफडाये और छोटे छोटे बच्चो को कभी अपनी छाया में खेलने दिया  कभी अपने ऊपर चढ़ जाने दिया ।

आज भी देखता हूँ ये सब, पर बस अब मैं चिड़ियों के साथ अपने पत्ते नहीं फडफडाता और हवाओं के साथ खेलता भी नहीं।मैं तब भी इंसान का दोस्त था और आज भी हूँ। मुझे कोई शिकायत नहीं किसी से, बस एक दर्द है, और एक सवाल, क्या कसूर था मेरा ? क्यूँ इंसान ने तब्दील किया मुझे ? क्यूँ वो बारिश अब पहले जैसी नहीं रही ? क्यूँ वो बच्चे मुझसे दूर चले गए ? क्यूँ कोई मदमस्त इंसान रोज़ मुझे  ठोकर मारता है ? सालों से बस यही जवाब ढून्ढ रहा हूँ, अगर आपको पता हो तो…

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     महानता
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अपने वक्त का मै एक महान नेता था, बहुत महान। एक ऐसा नेता जिसके सामने सारे विपक्ष के नेताओ की बोलती बन्द रहती थी. मैने अपने जीते जी जनता की भलाई के लिए कई अच्छे और नेक काम भी किये.
मेरे मरने के बाद मेरी इन्ही अच्छाइयों से कुपित हो कर मेरे इलाके के लोगो ने मेरी एक मूर्ति शहर के चौरहे पर लगा दी.
बडा जुलूस हुआ, बहुत लोग इक्टठा हुए, मेरे बारे मे भाषण भी हुए, मेरी कई सारी आच्छईयो (जो मुझे भी नही पता थी) से जनता को अवगत कराया गया. खूब फूल चढे, जब मेरे दुश्मनो ने भी मेरी तारीफ मे बढ चढ कर हिस्सा लिया तो मुझे बडा अच्छा लगा.

अभी मेरी मुर्ति लगे कुच्छ ही दिन हुए थे, मेरे गले की फूलो वाली माला अभी सूखी भी नही थी कि जाने कहॉ से आकर कौऔ ने मेरे मजबूत बाजुओ को अपना आशियाना और मेरे सर को अपने खेलेने का स्थान बना लिया. इतना दुख तो मै फिर भी बर्दाश्त कर लेता, पर कुछ दिन बाद ही दोपहर मे देखता हू, एक शराबी इधर उधर देखता हुआ मेरे पास आया और छि छि… उसने भी मुझे पवित्र कर दिया.

जैसे जैसे दिन बीतते गये मेरी हालत बद से बद्तर होती गयी, क्या क्या सितम नही हुए मेरे साथ, पशु पक्षियों की बात ही नही, जिस जनता के लिये मैने क्या कुछ नही किया, उसने भी मेरा क्या कुछ नही किया….. भगवान ऐसा दिन किसी को ना दिखाए, आठ आठ आंसू रोता रहा मै अपनी हालत देख कर. हर व्क्त एक ही प्रार्थना करता रहा, मुझे मुक्त कर दो… मुझे मुक्त कर दो…

भगवान के घर देर है अन्धेर नही. एक दिन सरकार की नयी नीतियो से चिढ कर इलाके के कुछ नवजवानो ने सरकार को सबक सिखाने की ठानी और जरिया बना मै…

सुबह होने से पहले ही सब लडके मेरी मुर्ति के सामने इकट्ठा  हुए… और… मूर्ति तोड़ने के लिए एक एक डंडा पड़ता गया, और बस चंद ही घंटो में दूर हो गया मेरी महानता का गुरुर … सच कहें तो महानता का गम। 


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चश्मा
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“अरे मुझे ज़रा ऊपर उठाओ यार, मैं गिर रहा हूँ.. मैं यहाँ तुम्हारी नाक के ऊपर… तुम्हारा चश्मा…”
“ओहो” मैंने नीचे गिरते अपने चश्मे को संभाला। “लेकिन तुम बोल कैसे सकते हो… तुम तो जड़ वास्तु हो… चीज़ें बात नहीं करती… मैं शायद नींद में हूँ।”
“नहीं, तुम नींद में नहीं हो, मैं ही हूँ, तुम्हारा चश्मा”  सच में मेरा चश्मा बोल रहा था, और शायद मैं भी नींद में नहीं था।
“नहीं भाई न ही ये सपना है और न ही तुम नींद में हो, ये मैं ही हूँ, टेप से जुड़ जुड़ कर थक चूका तुम्हारा पुराना चश्मा… कुछ करो, अब तो मेरी हिम्मत जवाब देनी लगी है।”
मैंने कुछ तो बोलना चाहा, पर दबी सी शुर्घुराहत के आलावा गले से कुछ और ना निकल सका।

आज इतवार है,सोचा थोड़ी चैन की नींद ले लूं, एक ही दिन तो मिलता है कागज़ कलम घिसने के आलावा, और इस भागमभाग के बीच इतवार की नींद ही हम लोगो की जन्नत है। वैसे मैं सुधीर, एक छोटी सी कंपनी में क्लर्क हूँ, और एक छोटी सी बिटिया भी है। और गरीब के बच्चे बचपन में ही समझदार हो जाते हैं, वो भी है। कितने वक़्त से सोच रहा हूँ एक नया चश्मा बनवा लूँ, पर अभी तक ये संभव न हो पाया है, बड़े बाबु इस बार डी. ए. की किश्त में कुछ इजाफा कर दें तो जरुर एक नया चस्मा बनवा लूँगा, पर तीन सालों से यही तो सोच रहा हूँ, हर दिन कुछ ना  कुछ खर्चा निकल ही आता है… अब देखो अगले हफ्ते गुडिया के स्कूल वाले पिकनिक ले जा रहे हैं, 300 रूपये मांगे हैं, पर जो भी हो एक अच्छे पिता की तरह मैं भी जानता हूँ वो जाना चाहती है, तो मैं उसे जरुर भेजूंगा। मेरे अभावो को मेरी बेटी क्यूँ भुगते, जब तक संभव है, तब तक तो नहीं, कतई नहीं।

अचानक बिटिया के रोने की आवाज़ से आँख खुली तो देखा मेरा चश्मा जमीन पर पड़ा है, दो टुकड़े में… “पापा मैं वो… मैं स्टूल पर चढ़ कर अपनी किताबें उठा रही थी।” छह साल की बेटी ने गलती से मेरा चश्मा गिरा दिया था स्टूल से और रो रही ही, मैंने कहा था न गरीब के बच्चे बचपन में ही समझदार हो जाते हैं, उसे भी इल्म है, और क्यूँ न हो, पुराने जर्जर टेप से लिपटे चश्मे में कुछ छुपाने को है ही कहाँ…
“ओह कोई बात नहीं बेटा, आप जाओ पढाई करो” किसी भी पिता की तरह मैं अपनी बेटी को रोते हुए नहीं देख सकता, पर मेरा चश्मा ??
मैंने बस एक मायूसियत से उसे घूरते हुए बुदबुदाया  – “माफ़ करना दोस्त, एक टेप और चलेगा ना ?”

और मैं ही नहीं मेरी मजबूरी पर मेरा चश्मा भी मुस्कुरा दिया…

 

कर्फ्यू

Posted: August 19, 2012 in Fiction of My Mind


वह अपने मकान के बरामदे में बिछे हुए लम्बे तख़्त पर बैठी है। तख़्त पर सफ़ेद चादर है, पास में सफ़ेद कागज़ के कुछ बिखरे टुकड़े, एक पुराना सा अख़बार और सामने एक खाली कुर्सी।  छोटे से 4×4 के बिछौने पर इत्मीनान से बैठी कुरान की आएतें पढ़ रही है। सामने के मकान से औरतों के रोने की आवाजें तेज़ हो रही हैं। ये सब सुनकर कुछ बेचैनी के साथ वो भी गली में बाहर आती है, वहां जहाँ बूढ़ा किशन मर रहा है । उसके गले से खरखराहट निकल रही है। औरतों के रोने से मरने वाले की अजीयत में शायद कुछ इजाफा हो जाता है, तभी तो वो सब रो रही हैं।

अपने मकान से निकलकर वह धीमे कदमों से मरते हुए बूढ़े के पास आती है। उसके सर पर हाथ रखती है । उसके गले से निकलती खरखराहट  अचानक थम जाती है। औरतें रोना बंद कर देती हैं, महज एक बूढ़े को मारने के लिए जो नाटक कर रही थी, उस पर एक अजीब सी मायूसियत छा गयी है, मानो बूढ़े के मरने से कुछ थम गया हो।

गली से मिलती गलियों में और गलियों से मिलती सड़कों पर कर्फ्यू है। छोटे से मोहल्ले के दक्षिण में शायद नरक या स्वर्ग के क्लेर्कों ने पहले ही अपने बहीखाते रजिस्टर पूरे कर लिए हैं। यह हवा है, अलगाव की हवा। इस तरह नारों और फायरों के बीच हजारों लाखों लोग जीने के लिए अपना अलगाव मांगते हैं, अपना सुख चैन से जीने का अलगाव। और अलगाव की मांग करने वाले हमेशा रहे हैं, कभी धर्म के नाम पर, कभी जात के नाम पर, और कभी बस प्रांत के नाम पर, पर फर्क क्या पड़ा, दर्जनों मरे, सैकड़ों घायल हुए और दस्तावेजी तारीखों में एक और दिन के आगे कर्फ्यू  लिख दिया गया। कहीं किसी और बूढी सलमा का बेटा अलगाव वादियों के बीच पड गया, और कहीं किसी लक्ष्मी के बेटे मुल्ला मौलवियों के हाथो काट दिए गए।
लेकिन बूढ़े किशन का वाकया अलग है, और अलग इसलिए है क्योंकि वह मरने के मायने में अलग पड़ गया है, दंगों में नहीं मरा ना.. ना ही कर्फ्यू की गोलीबारी में मरा है, बस बूढ़ा था एक दिन मरना था सो आज सही। और फिर इंसान मुहल्लों में कर्फ्यू लगा सकते हैं, जीने मरने पर नहीं। पर बूढ़े किशन की किस्मत, उसे देखने के लिए कोई अपने मकान से निकलकर गली में नहीं जा सकता, और शायद डॉक्टर ने भी इसी लिए आने से मना कर दिया, क्यूंकि बाहर कर्फ्यू है ना। सब  कर्फ्यू से डरते हैं।

पर ये सलमा है, 65 साल की वो बूढी औरत जो अपनी पूरी जुर्रत से गली में गयी। क्यूंकि वो ज्यादा पढ़ी लिखी नहीं है, मानने के नाम पर वो बस कुरान को मानती है, और कुरान में कहीं भी कर्फ्यू का जिक्र नहीं। लिहाजा वह एक बूढ़े पर मौत आसान करके फिर अपने सुने पड़े मकान में वापस आ गयी। अपने जवान बेटे की सलामती की दुआ मांगने, जो शायद कहीं किसी गली में लहूलुहान पड़ा है।

The Old Painting – 1

Posted: January 3, 2012 in Fiction of My Mind

“And you think it’s a fair price to pay for this curtain?”
“Well I won’t mind paying 5 rupees for this piece of Handicraft, Hand Woven, decorated with Silk and pearls, I guess She’s just asking a fair Price” I replied to him.
“Well Edward if you say so, you are better acquainted with this place than me,  (to the young girl on the shop) Well young Lady please get two for me” saying this Bernard handed over 2 currency notes of 5 to Hiralal, his housekeeper at the Quarters. Leaving Hiralal at the Shop for packaging we walked ahead.

Bernard was my Best friend, a childhood friend with whom I had spent all my careless, innocent days, one who knows about me more than me, one who know my likes and dislikes, one who had a key to all my hidden closets. We both were 25 at the time, 25 years spent together, all good and bad times, sharing everything. He had arrived in India just a couple of weeks ago, he had decided to pursue a career in International law after his graduation in Law from Oxford, and as a learning experience he had decided to spend a few months in British India’s judicial service.
He had always been the meritorious one out of two of us, after a diploma in accounts I had taken this clerical job and he had moved on to do higher studies in Law. Just a year ago, I got this opportunity to work in British Revenue offices in India, and more than the thrill and challenge in the work it is the opportunity to make some ‘extra income’ that urged me to go there, and to be honest till a week before Bernard was to come to India, I was doing exceptionally well, there were a lot of Seths, Zamindars and Rajvade in India at that time, and they provided ample opportunities for a Revenue assistant to tweak the documents a bit for a small share of fortune.

Anyways, coming back to that very same unfortunate evening, In was about 5 in evening and the hilly region of Shimla was getting cold, the local weekly market was getting gloomy, little fog had started to come in, and that evening it was getting dark little before expected. Both of us walked ahead, In his two weeks in India Bernard was impressed by the rich culture of the city, this was the second time I had taken him to this weekly ‘Bazaar’  and he was definitely enjoying this, small shops and stalls full of handmade stuff ranging from vessels, pots, curtains, blankets, shawls. Being a person of rich taste he wasn’t missing any opportunity to inquire the local people about the stuff. A few of whom were able to communicate through broken English phrases, and for most of them , Hiralal was turning out to be the saviour. Going through the bazaar Bernard paused in front of a small street with a few people sitting on the pavement, selling paintings, we moved in. There were framed paintings in different colors, most of them were handmade ones by local artists. We moved further inside the street. It was getting narrower. The street was closed at the other end, and at the farther end there was an old shop, a Painting Shop. Bernard moved further to that shop I lagged behind, negotiating the price of a small handmade doll for Lily, Mr. Russel’s Daughter.
Buying it after a bit of bargain, I walked to Bernard and Hiralal who were inside the shop now, to my surprise it was deserted.

It was an old shop, way too old with a  rusty roof and cracked wooden counters. It was almost dark by now, and we were having trouble looking at the paintings.
“Hello” a hoarse voice startled us, we turned back to find an old man. somewhere in his 70s wearing a pair of untidy grey kurta-payjama  and a hand made woolen sweater. His wrinkled face had something in it that caught our attention. Bernard started the conversation
“Hullo, Sire, you seem to have a good old collection of paintings”
The old man looked blankly at our faces and muttered something in the local language that Hiralal translated for us. From his and his shop’s condition it was evident he’s not in business. The thought was further strengthened by the way he was showing us around the paintings, constantly muttering about them, which Hiralal was translating to us. But his sheer bad luck his collection was old, dusty and most of the paintings were faded with colors getting dull. I came out of the shop to lit a cigar, it was about 7.30 and cold wind was blowing, the other stall keepers were packing their stuff calling it a day, my eye caught site of two teenagers carrying over a national flag, ‘So the congress is getting its roots here too, this Gandhi certainly had some charisma..’
“Hey Eddie look here…” My thoughts were broken by Bernard’s voice. I went back inside, he had scattered the heap of old paintings around himself and was holding one with a little smile, “Isn’t this nice Eddie”  he was sounding like that kid who’d wished for a cookie and had got a Full Candy jar instead. It was an old painting, with a crumpled frame, the glass on the frame itself had bid farewell years ago. He came out with the painting the old man had lit an oil lamp by then. I took a close look at the painting, It was on a piece of White leather, with a richly handcrafted heavy wooden frame, maybe at some time it would’ve been considered a dream possession, but at that time it was nothing more than junk. I took the lamp from the old man to have a closer look, It was a landscape with white snow covered mountains in a distance, with a vast field covered with dull green grass in between, and a White horse with a hooded rider in the bottom left corner, speeding towards those dreamy mountains, and in between the mountains and the rider, there was this long, vast field stretching into miles. It was certainly effective right at the first sight, the rider in a blue colored robes and hood, clutching the reins, speeding to some unknown destination was impressive.
“Isn’t it marvelous” Chuckled Bernard
“Oh yes yes it is” though I found it good, but having been to the art galleries of Europe and having seen the rich Arts of Mughal Era in India, it was just a normal painting to me, but to keep up his enthusiasm I agreed with him.
“How much for this one Sire” he inquired the Old man, the old man took the lamp and took a closer look at the painting, maybe the poor old man was having weak eyes too, he looked closely at the painting and with a deep expression of horror, snatched it out from my friend’s hands, We were astonished at this act of him.
“How dare he snatch… ” Snapped Bernard, outraged at this act of the old man, but having been there for some time, i knew it better now to indulge in rash fights with local people. I gazed at Hiralal and he intervened at the right moment, he started talking aggressively to the old man in the local tongue, the old man was shaking his head aggressively in a no, and was pleading. Hiralal told us that he’s saying that this one is not for sale, and he would rather sell all other paintings than this. This was little too much for Bernard, he was from a family of Bureaucrats and Navy Officers, he had his share of attitude and prejudice over Indians. An old poor Indian denying him something was too much for him, we was enraged and furious.
“How could he deny me something, I am ready to pay any price for this”
Hiralal was still arguing with the old man.
“Sirs he’s saying that this is a painting by some painter while in solitary imprisonment, he was not a good person, this painting is bad” Though his English was bad, still he was able to convey his thoughts.
“Oh rubbish, ask him we’ll pay double” Bernard was adamant to buy the painting. The old man was close to tears out of this argument, the Lamp’s light falling on this wrinkled face was creating a gloom in itself. His eyes had that sense of helplessness, which I had witnessed only in the eyes of those to the gallows, his poverty stricken face was shaking, he was creating a pitiable picture there.
Bernard took out 10 currency notes of 5 from his designer wallet, the old man gulped. His eyes once looked at the painting, and then with a shaking hand he approached the money, he was crying now, for once I felt it was the sight of money for the poor soul, but the instant he casted that look at the painting, I knew it was something different. Bernard was now smiling, coming out a winner at a cost ten times the original value, still he had the upper hand. The old man was still muttering to Hiralal, who was trying to console him. I was confused at the proceedings there, It was getting awkward, waving at the old man, I took off in the street after Bernard who was holding the dusted painting under his arm, Hiralal followed us. We had walked some 20 yards from that shop, when we heard a faint cry, the old man was running after us, unbalanced, he came to us and said something in very sad and pleading tone, Hiralal reassured him, said a few consoling things in his language and led him back to his shop.

On our way back to Bernard’s quarters I inquired Hiralal “What was the thing that old man just said “. With a little grave face he replied back “He said – Wish I had burned it the day I laid my hands on it… Had my granddaughter not been ill, I would’ve never sold it, not over my dead body…” This kind of irritated and freaked me a little, and I know Hiralal understood that, we both nodded and walked ahead to match pace with Bernard, who was almost running. I left him at his quarters with his small heap of stuff from the market and declined to my place, a rented first floor house.

The next evening I was about to leave my Desk, when Bernard entered, he was in good spirit, looking handsome as usual. “Hey Eddie, you know what that painting is amazing, I just put it in my Bedroom, and the Green robes and hood of the rider are creating an amazing contrast against the White wall”
“You mean Blue robes” I interrupted.
“No they are Green” he replied back, I was little startled, to my memory they were Blue, but at the time I rejected it merely as an error in looking at the color in lamp’s flickering light.
“Let’s go have a look at it” He asked with enthusiasm of a boy.
I wrapped up the little paperwork at my desk and picked up my leather overcoat and accompanied him to his place. On our way we stopped to have tea at that much frequented small roadside place. It was there only that a sweet little voice from behind got our attention “Hello Eddie Uncle…”

It was the sweet little blue eyed girl Lily, standing there smiling at us, accompanied by her parents, NewLand Russel and Margaret. Russel was the district attorney of Shimla at that time, and Lucy was his 5 year old daughter, I had know them ever since my first day in India, though Russel was in Mid- thirties but we were more like friends, It was the case with most of the Britishers in India at that time, almost everyone knew everyone else. Being a small city it was free from most of the national agitations till that time, the life was calm and simple and the British Administration had a good control over the place. The little girl was waving at us from across the street, we approached them, Bernard had joined as Russel’s junior adviser in the office, but they have known each other from Britain only, their families in Northamptonshire had a long history of acquaintance since past few generations.

“Hullo lads, what’s up, having the pleasure of evening tea, huh, common fellas’ let’s have a little supper at Russels, Margaret here will love to cook some bacon for you” he was as usual warm and affectionate, he was a little fellow of about 5 feet and half, generous and lovable person. Same was her wife Margaret, sweet and a perfect Lady in all senses.
” Oh Newland, Greetings Sire, what a pleasure to see you’ said Bernard.
“Pleasure, ehh.. you just saw me an hour back in the Office.. hoho” and we all laughed at the moment. Lily was playing with her doll, clad in a blue frock and sandals, with red ribbon in her blonde hair, she was herself looking like some doll. Such a beautiful, lively girl she was. We had a small chat there and somehow managed to postpone the Dinner invitation till the next weekend. While they were to leave, Bernard muttered out “Hey NewLand I just came in possession of a very eccentric piece of arts, you’ll love it”
“Ahh is that so” he said looking at my face, I just shrugged. “Very well than, Margaret you and Lily just go home, I’ll just have a look at this piece of arts Bernard just got. Will be back in time for Dinner” Being a connoisseur of arts, Russel was always enthusiastic for these things. Throughout our half a mile walk to Bernard’s Quarters, they were completely engrossed in the discussion over the painting , and the incident that the old man created there at the shop. Though I was not very much into arts in those days, I just kept on nodding and smiling on whatever comments they were making.

Finally after 15 minutes on foot, we reached his Quarters, It was like a gated community for the British officials, some 50 odd two storey houses, in a secure lane close to the army base. As we entered the two Indian policemen at the gate rose, I was accustomed to it by now, these people just wanted to please anyone with the fair skin, somehow I felt sorry for them, the way they cringe, they way tend to satisfy, they lacked the Will, Self-Respect, and that was the main reason for me to be fascinated by Gandhi, the way he was molding these people into a voice, a will, a passion, it was just Amazing. I was woven in my own thoughts and didn’t even realized when we came in front of No.303, Harilal just came running, he saluted Russel, and asked about Lily and “Madam’ Sir. Harilal was around 50, he had been here since past twenty years, he never married, as some rumors say he was in Love with some ‘Firang’ girl (firang, yes I know this is what they call us, and I don’t know why but it used to tease me back then, and still it teases me), one sided love, she was the daughter of some military men, she married off in the local church, and he was left heartbroken. Around 20 years ago he joined in as one of the caretakers of this place, he’s looking after the laundry, lightening, gardening, cleaning, getting groceries and other daily chores of at least 5 houses in that place.

“Hey Eddie, anything wrong ?? come up here” It was Russel who startled me, standing alone in the front porch, together we moved in Bernard’s Bedroom. he had hung the painting on the wall facing his bed, right in front of his eyes while laying down. He had cleaned it up with some varnish and oil, the frame was cleaner now, a few scratching marks were there on both sides of the frame, like those created by trying to tear apart the frame. But the painting in itself was looking better now. It was wide, wide as if it has got the whole widht of a mountain range, and the grass today was greener, greener than yesterday, maybe it was the cleaning that did it, thought I. And yes the Robes were Green, dark green, there was no faint possibility of them being Blue.
Russel was having a close look at it, “Hmm, perfect frame, cast in some Mugal Style, and this leather as canvas, certainly remarkable, white leather, not easy to afford, certainly it came from someone famous, or at least rich, let me look for a sign of the artist”
“I’ve already checked, there is nothing” said Bernard.
“Very well, the colors are fade, oil colors for sure, one thing you noticed Eddie, here come close” three of us leaned closer to the painting, “look, just look at this, apart from the rider look at the other parts, they are dull with dust, brazen and rough, now look here, here at these robes, certainly the leather below is old, but the colors, the colors are just faded, no dust, the luster is still here… this is certainly a remarkable painting you’ve got laddie, at least 200 years old, certainly calls for a toast”
Bernard opened up his trunks to bring out a 20 years old single malt, this was certainly a celebration for him. We had a few drinks, but all through it, he was looking at his painting, like some kid, who’s just got his first ever crayons, or like some sailor looking at the land he just discovered out of nowhere. It was close to 9 when we bid farewell to him.

For the next two days I didn’t get a chance to meet Bernard, as I had mentioned before, just till a couple of weeks before Bernard’s arrival, I was having a easy roll in the revenue office, but that audit right in the middle of the Week caught the whole office by surprise, as expected there were small imperfections and deviations found in the ledgers, but nothing big was caught. I had always been careful enough to complete the paper way as far as possible. So as a precautionary measure, the Higher Authorities had decided to transfer half of the staff to other cities. I was getting transferred to Delhi too, the Capital city and the Administrative center of British India. When I heard that Bernard was to come to India, I had thought of having a easy, fun filled life in Shimla, but maybe the fate had something else in store for me. It was on that Wednesday morning I was just getting ready for my office, wearing up my waist coat, when Harilal came in inform me about Bernard. He was apparently having high fever. I instructed Harilal to ask Bernard to take a holiday and rest and on my way to office, I called up Dr. Ghosh, a Bengali doctor, had served the British Army in the First World War, now retired, those days he was in private practice in that slow city of Shimla. I asked him to pay a visit to Bernard, and left for office, owing to my transfer that week was very hectic, there were so many formalities, so much information and accounts which had to be documented down for the person who’ll be taking over, It was only twilight when I was free from work, I went straight to see Bernard, when I entered his Bedroom, he was staring at the painting and smiling to himself. On my arrival he nodded at me and went back to stare at it. “You know Eddie, this is funny” his voice was weak an shaking, I put my hand on his head he had fever, high fever indeed, “I just had a dream about this painting, no rather you can call it a nightmare, but somehow it didn’t frightened me”
“You took Medicine”
“He offered me a ride on his horse”
“What ?? Look Eddie I’m asking you something here, It’s not funny” I was furious now.
“Ohk, that doctor of yours paid a visit, I took my medicines, having warm water, took my lunch properly… now you happy nanny” He said sitting up. I almost smiled at this gesture of his.
He was sitting upright now, smiling,  ”He has no face ” and he grinned.
“Who” I was bit concerned.
“The rider, In the painting, It was so real, I thought I’m hallucinating, but It was a dream I was in this same field as this painting”
I was little concerned now, he was frightening me a little now, looking at my grave face he said “Oh Eddie, come on it was just a dream, couldn’t I just tell you that” And yes I felt he was right, I’m his best friend and if he had to share something with it’s me. I smiled at him, and diverted the discussions back to our old high school days, we had a pleasant time, he had his dinner of grains and soup in bed only and I had a little bacon, curry and some rice. Harilal came a few times to check over him. He was silent and sleepy now, I sat by his bed on the armchair and started reading that book on Wars and Strategies that Bernard had bought the previous week.
It was around midnight when I woke up, I realized I had dozed off while reading that book, I thought of leaving, Bernard was in his Bed, i picked up my coat and hat, and proceeded towards the gate, it was when I turned to have a look on him. He was wide eyed, awake, staring at the painting, A chill went down my spine, I called his name… he just looked at me and said “He has no face” I was about to say something when he burst into that laughter “you moron I just woke up with the sound of your footsteps” he reassured me, I bid him goodnight and started, through the corner of my eyes I looked at him, he was gazing at the painting again, smiling.

I was little disturbed the following morning, I wasn’t able to concentrate on the transfer formalities, I just left office early and went to his place, this time he was in the living room, reading newspaper. That was a big relief for me, we chatted a little, I asked about what doctor said, we had some tea and reassured I came back to my place. For next two days I didn’t find the time to visit him, though on my way to the Reveue office, I checked up with Dr. Ghosh, who told me that he had recovered but he’s lost some weight and Strength, which is normal for a fever in Indian Climate.

On the night before my journey to Delhi the Russels invited us over for dinner, It was a pleasant warm evening with few people from the neighborhood, Bernard was in good spirits too, since his fever it was the first time he was out with people, and the little champagne was doing good for him. And Lily, she was on a roll with her cute childish talks, innocent questions, funny faces. As usual she was trying to get all the attention in the room. It was a warm farewell for me. On our way back home, first I dropped Bernard to his quarters and then walked to my place.

Next day Bernard came to bid me farewell at the station. He was a bit sad but he didn’t say anything, of course for him it was just one month in a new country, a country where most of the people hate him for being a Britisher, he just don’t know many people around, and his best friend was also moving away. Only while my train started I noticed, there was a certain gloom on his face, he was looking little thin, some 4-5 Kg thinner, he waved a hand at me and grinned, and he was looking more miserable, reddish eyes, . I don’t know the reason but throughout my journey I felt restless and time to time Bernard’s lean posture kept coming to my mind, finally I fall asleep.

I had to join office right from the next day. The officials had arranged some quarters for me, they weren’t as good as I had in Shimla, but they were decent. I made a list of to-do things after office and headed there. Compared to Shimla, this place was hell, so many files, so many departments and sub-departments, so much data, It was a depressing start in the new office, and the colleagues were are are spectacled, with grays and almost everyone was in mid-forties. That day I left early, bought some stuff for my new place, sent a telegram to Bernard in his Office asking about his health and did some petty household chores.
There was so much work in office that it kept me engaged throughout the week, it was the first Sunday only when I realized that I haven’t received any reply from Bernard. That Sunday again I sent a telegram to Bernard, asking him to reply back as soon as he get this one. But again for the entire week there was no reply from his side. Next Sunday I sent a telegram both to Bernard and Russel, asking about Bernard’s whereabouts.

Next day, I clearly remember it was about 2 P.M. on that Monday, I was busy examining the audit details for last year when the peon came to deliver me a letter, It was from Russel, putting aside the ledger I was working on, I tore open the envelope, it was a letter written in that untidy and tiny writing of Russel, which I had become accustomed to in the past two years. There was a sense of relief inside me while opening it, at least I got a reply from Shimla, but the contents of the letter blew me away. I still have that letter preserved in my diary, It reads something like this:

March 21, 1928 ,

Dear Edward,
I’m good here, Lily is in all good spirits and Margaret is fine too. But this is in regard to Bernard, In two weeks you left us, something strange is happening with him. He was missing from Judicial Office since Monday, I thought he might be ill, but on Wednesday Margaret saw him in the Market, he was unshaven and shabby and behaved ridiculously, he looked shaken and battered. That evening me and Margaret visited his quarters, he wasn’t there, his housekeeper told that he’s been out since early morning. On inquiring about his health he said that Bernard often complains of Headache and sweating, but otherwise he’s fine.  We waited there till midnight but he never came back, Margaret wanted me to lodge a complaint with the Police, but I decided to wait till the next day, I thought maybe he’s at some other friend’s place.
Next morning on my way to office I decided to check on him, whether he’s back or not.  To my relief he was back, at the time he was sleeping I asked Hiralal when he came back, but he himself was sleeping. Though I was concerned but his being back was a relief. Two days passed, it was the Friday evening when I met Mr. Walter, Bernard’s direct Supervisor who told me that Bernard is back in office. Later that evening I paid him a visit, he was looking pale and weak, but was talking nicely. I asked him about his absence from office for two days and that night he was missing, he laughed it off saying that he was just wandering around, getting to know the place better, I was assured and went back home.
It was Monday night when this awkward thing happened, It was about 8 in the evening when Hiralal came to my house, he was looking worried and confused. We took him in and asked if everything is all right, what he told us was little strange. He told that since past two days Bernard had been sitting in bed all his time and is staring at that painting, he had decline food and is having little cough. He tried to call in Dr. Ghosh but Bernard rejected saying he’s fine and is just thinking over something. It was that evening only, Hiralal came in to collect the laundry while he heard Bernard talking to someone in his Bedroom, to his surprise he was alone, he was excited at the sight of Hiralal and told him that the rider in the painting is moving. Hiralal asked him to go out in the fresh air, but he laughed him off saying that he’s fine. Margaret and I accompanied Hiralal to Bernard’s Quarters, he was there, he was shaven and in his night dress already, we had a little chat and he seemed fine. When we insisted he had a little soup and bread, and looked in his senses. Only while bidding us farewell, while Margaret was  moving out, he came close to me and whispered in my ear ‘Hey Russel you know, the rider in the painting moves’. I thought it as some joke and laughed off. But he hold me tightly and took me back to the Bedroom, and asked me to look at the painting. It was exactly the same it was the first time I saw it. I insisted him to go to Bed, but his manner startled me.

Two days later on Tuesday, I paid him a visit in the evening, Hiralal told that he hadn’t been out of his Bed for two days, he was unshaven and looking ill, a dozen of burnt cigars were lying in the ashtray on the bedside table, it was a pitiful sight to saw a gentlemen like him in such a condition. He was pleased to see me, but once again he started the same topic, he kept on insisting that the horse rider moves, But in the painting he was right there on the left edge just as I found it for the first time. Concerned for him, I took him out with me for dinner, he was silent most of the time, I tried my best to make a conversation, but his mind was somewhere else. Concerned I called up Dr. Ghosh and informed about all this, he assured me that he’ll look after him. Since then I’m paying daily visits to him in the evening.
But his obsession for the painting is increasing everyday, he had stopped coming to Office, and is spending whole days in his Bedroom, many-a-times Hiralal had heard him talking to someone, and most of the time he seems to ask something out of this Imaginary person. Whenever anyone visits him, he sounds well and in spirits, Dr. Ghosh declared him anemic but there are no other signs of Physical or Mental illness, though he’s constantly losing weight.

I tried to remove the painting from his Bedroom, but the mere talk of this enrages him and he becomes abusive and violent. He’s too much obsessed with that painting, even last night he decline to come for dinner and spent the night locked up in his Bedroom.
Margaret is having some bad feelings about all this, and even I’m concerned, Bernard don’t have many friends here and you are the closest one he ever had.

Please try to be here at the earliest, We are very concerned for him.

Your Friend,
Russel N.L.

Once I finished the letter a chill went down my spine, I could feel that little sweat on my forehead .I was upset after reading the letter, I read and reread it, how could a person like Bernard be like this, just in a matter of two weeks, I was deeply concerned, not just concerned I was tensed and horrified too. I mean he was my childhood friend, an intellectual bright one, one with a rational determination, to think of him losing his nerve like this was beyond Imagination.

It’s been just two weeks into new office, and there was a lot of work pressure too, it was little hard but somehow I convinced my supervisor for one week leave. By the night train only I reached Shimla. It was 5 A.M. in morning, compared to Delhi It was still much cooler in Shimla. Coming out of the station I felt a shiver of cold I put on my leather overcoat, It was too early, the small city was still asleep, there were a few wagons outside, I took one and headed straight to Russel’s place.

—To be Continued—

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Posted: October 2, 2011 in Fiction of My Mind, Short Stories

It was a warm day, dull and cloudy but not raining, at 4 P.M. the world outside the dirty window pane is looking more dark than usual, but not gloomy, it was little cheerful, or at least she felt so because she was cheerful. Whatever be her name, the story teller either don’t know or don’t want to tell..
All the movies I’ve watched, all the novels I’ve read, failed to fail not to come true, even a little scene or a coincidence, she thought, deep inside her mind, engaged in her book.

A moment later,
A young man walked in, a family friend, with her brother to check upon the little baby her sister, a while ago, gave birth to. She was sitting by the table, reading, or wondering now, or just sitting…
After finishing their hellos, the visitors sat in chairs by the baby, their backs to the table. They were very occupied with the baby, they didn’t notice her staring at them, at ‘him’ to be specific.
He was wearing a light green shirt, and light brown pants. She couldn’t help to notice his new hair cut and the way he was smiling, nor could she help to notice how dashing and astonishing he was… or at least she felt so, or maybe the story teller felt so…

She forced herself back to focus on the book in her hands, she was reading but failing to follow the author with the exciting events that were about to take place, she was just reading and not following. They left earlier than she expected, and her sister was back afterwards, so she returned to her comfy room.

Months later,
She was the same, if stubborn then she remained the same, if sweet then that’s what she remained. -The story-teller has not gotten to know her well, so the story will be continued the same way it begun, no deep feelings, writing what is obvious to the eye.

One day, in the early morning, she woke up and made plans with her friend to go out. After doing what she usually did that very hour, and then she went to sit with her mother awhile.
“You know why do you keep yourself buried in that room of yours? Go visit your sister, go out with your friends, do what people are doing in your age!”
“What do ‘people at my age’ doing mom?”
“I don’t know. You’re the one who’s their age!”
“Well, I don’t know too. They’re all obsessive and shallow! All they care is what trends so called cool people are following, and what certain people think of them!”, She said that very passionately, then keeping her cool attitude, she continued, “You know I’ve got no interest in that!” And the story teller knew she was telling the truth..!!

“Yes, that’s why you keep at that little room and never go out.”
“Listen mom, it’s not bothering me, and neither should it bother you. Listen I’m going out with V today. So don’t wait for me at lunch.”
She went to her room to get ready, leaving her mother smiling to herself.

At a bench, she was sitting with her friend, they were talking and gossiping about recent events. Then, she noticed a guy, smiling at her, she suddenly realized that this was ‘the dashing, astonishing one’. Quickly she nodded and half smiled to him. He immediately understood her nod and changed his way.

A week later,
She received an anonymous message : “You’ll never know. But the possibility remains. It’s no great mystery who I am but I’ll remain unidentified maybe for long. And if you return I’ll know what I need to know from your eyes, No replies needed”, an hour before her flight took off to nowhere, or somewhere. She was confused, she tried to think who he was, now whether she knew who he was, the story-teller cannot say because a promise has been made to her to keep her ending, but she has given her permission to this part:

She enjoyed the first true love words she’s received in her life, she thought them to be perfect because they were from the heart and went straight forward to her heart..!!

My eyes open. Its Monday and five past 7 in the morning. I turn to see that she’s still sound asleep. I move her hair away from her eyes and gently kiss her forehead. That’s how I usually wake her up, and she loves it. We slept late, she love gossiping… and upto some extent I too… may be because of her company only, and still after all this time, while talking to her I can never keep track of time.

She twitches a little, moans a little and turns away to sleep again. That’s how she usually responds.
“Honey, I’ll be late. Again. Wake up”, I whisper.
She twitches again; half opens her eyes and pulls my shoulder towards her.
“Five more minutes”, she mumbles “Pleeeez”. It is too much for me to resist. And she knows it.
I lie down again for two minutes and then grumpily pull myself out of the bed.

“Honeyyyyyyyy”, I let out another wakeup call as I’m putting toothpaste on my brush, but hear nothing.

After a couple of minutes, I come out to see her finally up, sitting on the bed, still under the sheets. She is stretching her arms slowly, like a bollywood heroine. With still half open eyes, she gives me a ‘come hither’ look. When I reach her, she pulls me next to her, pulls up the sheets on me and snuggles up next to me.
Two more minutes of sweet gibberish follow ending with “Don’t go to office today… Pleeeeeease”. It is accompanied with those sad kitten eyes for extra impact… I love her eyes, deep and big. Even though I hear it every day, I still consider it every day.

With great difficulty, I get her out of bed and push her into the bathroom. I then proceed for my morning combo of online news and Sportscenter. Ten minutes pass. I feel her arms wrap around me from behind the couch and she plants a big kiss on my cheek. Before I even turn around, she’s off to the kitchen. Now that she’s fully awake, she’s realized that it’s getting late for me.

“Will you drink milk?” She asks.
“No” I reply, as always.
She hands me a glass anyway, followed by two minutes of explanation on how milk is good for my health.
“Yucckkk, there’s all sort of things floating in it. I don’t want it”
“That’s just malai (cream). Shut up and drink it”
I take five full minutes to carefully avoid all the malai and finish the milk.
“Gawd, what a baby!”, she smacks the back of my head before taking the glass away from me.
Halfway through reading the day’s editorial column, I hear her voice, “Aren’t you getting late?”

Yes, I am. I rush to the bathroom. 10 minutes later, as I am getting dressed, she walks in with breakfast. It’s my favourite: Poha with curd and kaccha aam chutney. She knows that I’m already running late, so she spoon-feeds me half the food. Finally, I’m dressed and I take the plate from her and start eating while returning to the editorial.
“God! Can’t you read that after you reach office?”
“Okay, Okay”. I gobble up the last 2 spoons together, place the plate in the sink and proceed towards the glass of orange juice.

“Honeyy..”
“.. I know. I’ll get your bracelet in the evening”
“So said that on friday too…huh”
“Come on.. I was busy, you know”
“You are like this only, never pays attention to what i say…”
“Promise… today I’ll for sure, look I even put a reminder her in my phone”
“We’ll see….sand yeah don’t forget my Domino’s Chocolava too” (She loves them, her batch mates told me back in college… She looks so cute while eating it)
“Ohh, I know, you and your Chocolava”

I wash up and come back to the living room to see my bag packed.
“Will you come early today?”
“Yes, I’ll definitely try!”
“That’s what you say every day”
“No, today I will definitely be home before 6:30”.
“6:30?? That’s early??”
“Then what? You want me to come back at 4?
(Giggling) “Hmmm”
“I’ll stay home instead, why bother.”
“Yayyyyy!” (She’s like this only… right from college, I love her smile, that big smile and the way those white teeth shine)

“I’ll make up some excuse to my Manager and try to sneak out early, Okay na?”
“Tell your Manager that you have someone who’s waiting at home all day thinking about you”
“Why don’t you tell him that?”
“Sure. Give me your phone”, and she plucks the phone away from my hand.
“You’re crazy!! Give me my phone back”
“Only if you promise to come at least half an hour earlier than usual”
“Okay, I promise”
“Okay, take it.

Some moments later, I hug her and wave goodbye and head out towards the car. As I’m settling inside the car, I see her on the balcony. It’s raining here, but she’s there, just like every other day, waving goodbye and watching me till I’m out of sight.

While driving, I keep smiling at the thought of her trying to call my boss & getting him to send me home early and suddenly, I realize that I forgot to tell her how great the Breakfast was.

I feel that a phone call isn’t good enough and decide to turn back home… to look at her face once more, those big eyes, that smile and to hear that voice…

“kikikikik… kikikikik…. kikikikik …. kikikikik … kikikikik”

My eyes open.

Its 9:15.

I turn, hoping that she’s there, but that’s when I realize…

I am alone.

Dying Dreams

Posted: February 6, 2011 in Fiction of My Mind, Short Stories

Between 8 and 10 P.M. they all are back from office, all four of them. They work at this consulting firm, analysts for one of the big four, had to attend office from 9 A.M. till, till whatever it takes to get the work done. Every day being suited up in formals, full sleeve shirts,  clean shave, shining leather shoes. After months aditya is again wondering over the same question….Why??
“Because the impression on client is very important. they shouldn’t get a notion of distaste in work on part of our employees. Plus studies have proved that you feel more responsible and productive wearing formals.” That’s what Reddy then lead and now Associate manager had told aditya when he joined the company as a fresher 4 years ago, and Aditya, well he’s still an analyst.

Manoj, the timid shy fellow from U.P, aditya’s batch-mate… once again after months of hard work and passion he’s been placed in that under performer bucket, meaning – no appraisal, no promotion… again. He’s the one who came back early today… early 7 P.M.  10 hours at job, yes its early for him, not for him but for all of them. He was among the toppers of his batch, good at writing but hesitant owing to his childhood spent in his village. 4 years in that engineering college he worked his heart out to cover up for the communication skills, people had asked him not to go for this company during placements, but as usual he was insecure, not willing to take chances, plus the suit clad consultants had got him fascinated with the work culture videos of guitar playing CEOs and giggling people in cafeteria of the company.
By 9, both manish and arjun are back too. Like a typical day they are silent, looking over in kitchen what surprises their cook had got for them. Well nothing… hadn’t he told them yesterday that he won’t be coming ?? “Lets order some pizza” said arjun, aged 26 spectacled, the sleeves of his t-shirt hugging tightly over those biceps shows glimpses of a fundamentally strong physique, but a look at the growing tummy, and one can bet that the glory is all gone. One simple look is enough to tell his profession or at least the nature of his profession… a 4×4 cube with a computer monitor… that’s it, that’s the life for now on…

It was manish who brought out vodka from the fridge, they are all sitting in the hall of their rented 3 BHK apartment in mumbai… from the standard of 4 bachelors, the place is way too clean and well maintained, kudos to Manish. In the course of silence they switch on their TV, just remembered there is that cricket match b/w India and SA. They don’t even read newspaper now-a-days… what’s the point they’ve already got enough data to analyze on their monitors, who cares for the political disbalance in Andhra or for the Duckworth Lewis Method. Pizza arrived, the chatter begin, with couple of drinks down they were “warm and human” again. “Any news about Kavita??” Manish asked arjun… Arjun just smiled… “Lots of, but nothing interesting” Kavita was Arjun”s college time girlfriend they broke up few months back, technically she dumped him, but still male ego… they take it as Breakup. They started talking, everything from bitching their managers to cutest girls in office, but still there was this tiredness like they were fooling somene… time was passing slowly and so does the contents of the vodka bottle.

“Main ye job chod dunga” Aditya spoke out of context. No response from others, they all have heard and said it before.
“Kya karega fir”
“Kuch bhi, apna passion follow karunga, Music… Singing”

 

Silence follows for some time.

Manish chal hum bhi MBA kar lete hain”
“usse kya hoga, karega to tu fir bhi job hi”
“toh kya karun… mera to dream hi hai vo startup hai, par funding kahan se laun, IIM ke naam pe koi to invest kar hi dega”

 

Aditya gets out his guitar and starts singing something, others are listening. “Aditya tu sachme apni life bekar kar raha hai, nikal ja yahan se, kuch aur try kar, accha khasa talent hai tujhme” Manoj says refilling their glasses. “I had always that thing for books, I had always wanted to became a writer, I screwed it up, its time I want to change it all”
Manish: “Arjun chal GMAT likh dete hain, 4 mahine me nikal lenge yahan se”
Arjun: “Haan dost, bahut ho gaya kab tak baithe rahenge, acche college me entry marenge to startup ke liye bhi funding mil jayegi”
Manish: “Haan yaar chal kalse padhai start karte hain”
Aditya: “main bhi kalse practise start karta hun, bahut ho gaya ab kab tak 5-10 % ke appraisal me uljhe rahenge, there’s more to life”

And all of a sudden there was this hysterical laughter, they were laughing, laughing like mad man, they laughed and choked till their stomach hurt. They all knew this talk… they had the same conversation when Sumit left, they had the same conversation when Roshni was promoted to an associate level, they had the same conversation when Murthi was appointed the Management lead in despite the recession, they even had the same conversation on last Saturday…

Five minutes of silence, all four are looking at each other, no one had the courage to say the next thig, to make the next promise, the drinks are over, the clock is ticking 3.13 in morning, the half eaten pizza is lying there unattended, their eyes are heavy, sleep is taking over them, their soul is mourning and grieving, something is dying slowly and they don’t know what, It was when one of them said – Chlao yaar so jaate hain, subah office bhi jana hai, Silicona wale client ki file complete karke deni hai…