Tuesday, September 25, 2018

From Limestone To Granite


Pic Credit: Livingston Church Of Christ
THEN 

She leaves the concert with her two best pals – a guy and a girl. Better to leave a little early and get a head start than to leave later and get stuck in traffic, they reckon.

He gets behind the wheel of the car and starts the ignition. They settle in and take off; melodies from the past hour fresh in their minds. All around them, people walk, cyclists go past, bikers whiz past and it’s just another night in the bustling suburb. Until it isn’t.

Two motorcyclists go past them, riding in the opposite direction on the footpath next to them, trying to get back down on the road. Losing their balance, they crash. Well past the car. The men fall off; both in different poses of getting back up. Seated in the backseat of the car, unable to see them entirely – she shrieks, worrying that the car might run the men over. Watching the happenings in the rear view mirror, her friend knows they’re well away but in that split second, decides to not drive forward until the men move away. And that’s where they make their second mistake; the first one being her request to stop.

The men, evidently drunk and rowdy, now start creating a scene. Pretending to be hit, yelling and cursing, they amass more supporters. In a few minutes, the car is surrounded by people and there’s no way to drive off. It is soon apparent, they’re locals; probably unemployed and looking to make a quick buck.

Inside the car, the man and his woman passengers start to worry. Outside the car – reasons for the car to have ‘hit’ has progressed from ‘hit’ to ‘hit because the car owners are wealthy and this is how they treat the downtrodden lower castes of the society’. She’s appalled. And terrified. They try pleading with the bystanders for help. She tries reasoning with them. Anger emanates off them and they curse the man further, yelling at her to shut up. Women are not to speak until spoken to. Worried about the safety of the women, the driver backs down. He offers to take the men to the police station or even to a hospital, clearly declaring though that he’s not at fault. Ten feet away, the gates of a private hospital beckon. The men turn down the offer, still ranting and raving about the discrimination of rich over poor. All this while, they do not allow the passengers from the car to alight.

A couple of bystanders understand the drama being a ploy for money and intervene. They’re shoved away. The men finally ask the driver to alight but the women care too much to let him go alone. Dark thoughts rush through their mind and they decide to stick together. One for all and all for one, they say. Huddling together as a group, they push ahead leading the way to the hospital. The men hang behind, unmoving. And the situation unravels itself, as clean as a whistle. One from the mob walks over and talks in hushed whispers to the driver asking him to ‘settle’ by paying 500 bucks and then driving off. Reluctant to take blame where not at fault but wanting to get the situation over with, they hand over the money. The men are not appeased, they want more.

And suddenly out of nowhere, a different group of men arrives and there’s infighting. In that split second, two good samaritans make a quick decision and nudge the terrified group into their car. In low voices, they ask them to take off and keep driving. With trembling breaths and paced heartbeats, they take off into the night –the group of men realizing too late they’ve been outfoxed, trying to give chase and deciding it’s not worth the effort.

The good samaritans stay at their tail, riding their own bike, the pillion rider looking back every few seconds – back at the scene of the ‘crime’ to make sure no one else follows. A couple of kilometers down, they thumb down the car and instruct them to take a back road or go a different way but not to stop anywhere on the way. And then, they ride off into the darkness. Nameless faceless strangers who decided to do good, for no reason, for nothing in return.

The three reach their individual homes and rehash the episode on the phone, all of them mentally and physically exhausted; the concert long forgotten. The pain and disappointment lingers long after, simmering just below the surface. The ease with which the crowd gathered, the easy manner of accusations and the convenience with which caste and discrimination was introduced in the equation. There’s heartfelt gratitude attributed to the unknown helpers but the general mood is one of being disgusted, let down.

And then with time the episode, long forgotten, gathers dust in corners of their minds.

NOW 

Turning on the right indicator, she slows down and follows the traffic turning right. On the opposite side, she watches a truck turn left and in that instant, she sees a motorbike carrying 3 passengers slide onto its path. The bike crashes, coming under the wheel of the huge vehicle. She watches, horrified as the rider screams at the truck driver to backup, his leg stuck somewhere in the bike; pain evident in his voice. The other two fall off. She watches the 3rd rider yell at the truck driver, commanding him to get down – she knows this would come to blows in a bit. She watches the horror stricken face of the middle pillion rider and knows he’s genuinely shocked and scared. And she shudders involuntarily. She looks on for two more seconds blankly, watching the scene unfold. Physically she's present, but her mind's traversed the boundaries to the event. And then, shedding off the cobwebs of the past, she gets a grip on the steering again, turns right and drives on.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Software Engineer Troubles


They say daybreak is beautiful. I see it today, it takes my breath away. I don’t need coffee today to kick start my day. I already feel charged; an adrenaline high rushing through my veins. My plan, if all goes well could go viral on social media, maybe even make me famous or it could end up becoming the biggest embarrassment of my life. A complete disaster. I hope for my sake, it is the former.

I take a quick shower and get ready for work. I check my laptop bag, make sure I take my wallet, my house keys and by force of habit, my car keys as well. Then as an afterthought, I realize I will not be driving today. Chucking them back into the key holder, I pause and take a deep breath. I hope I do not end up becoming a laughing stock. For all I know, I might be covered in newspapers and on media channels. Saying a quick prayer, I lock up the house and leave.

I see the white horse, saddled up, all ready to go. She seems restless, symbolic of something I am going through as well. Donning my bag across my body, I take the stairs two at a time and reach my ‘vehicle’ in less than fifteen seconds.

“As ready as you are,” I mumble. “We’re both made for bigger things.” I say and giving myself a thrust, jump up and take my place. Then off we go, maneuvering the Bangalore roads, making heads turn. I see people whip out their phones and start shooting. Holding my head high, I pose for pictures with the placard I made yesterday night. “Last Working Day as a Software Engineer ” it reads.

I am Roopesh Kumar Verma. And today is my last day at work.

Picture Credit: Deccan Herald
The above is a fictionalized version of that morning – a possible rundown of what it may have been like. The event did happen for real. You can read more about it here.

The above post is post 6 of 7 in a series of posts written as part of a 7-day, based on today's image prompt, shown below, published within the 'Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018' challenge.

Picture Credit: Pexels

Vantage Point


“The Castel Sant’ Angelo. Translated to English, it means the Castle of the Holy Angel. Commissioned by the great roman Emperor Hadrian …”

Standing to the far end of the group, five year old twins Ishaan and Kabir zone out of the well-rehearsed intonations of the Italian tourist guide. Eyes darting to both sides, looking for something to hold their interests, the impish ones settle on the majestic spiral staircase, the four flights of which seem to soar and meet the towering sky.

“Come on, Ishaan. Let’s go. I have seen this place before. Dumbledore can be up there.”
“You need a train to go to Hogwarts. Trains don't go on stairs. How will Dumbledore go then? You’re dumb. I am going upstairs.”
“No wait. What if Mom sees us?” says Ishaan, unconvinced and not in the mood for a talk down.
“We’ll come sliding back down in two minutes. She won’t even know. Imagine that! Come on Ishaan. Stop being a sissy.”

And a minute later, when the group huddles closer to the guide, the two boys find a quick moment to sneak away in the direction of the stairs.

***

“The Castel Sant’ Angelo. Translated to English, it means the Castle of the Holy Angel. Commissioned by the great roman Emperor Hadrian …”

Standing at the right end of the group, the handsome thirty-something gentleman registers none of the words but finds that the steady cadence of the tourist guide’s voice has a soothing rhythm to it. Then he sees her. Walking down the stairs; gliding even. An apparition in blue. As pale as the sky, as pale as her eyes. She looks beautiful, as she always did. She comes to a stop, ten paces away and he finds him unable to breathe. The air around him suddenly feels a little chiller, like the temperature dropped a hundred degrees.

Propelled by a force he does not recognize, he finds himself moving towards her. And then he’s thrown off his feet. Stumbling to find his balance, he looks around to find two children pushing him aside and running past him, onto the staircase. He looks up at her, knowing that she would be smiling at their antics. But she’s gone. A knowing sadness descends upon him. He sighs. It’s been six years since his wife died. He wonders if he will ever be able to let go of the haunting memories.

***

“The Castel Sant’ Angelo. Translated to English, it means the Castle of the Holy Angel. Commissioned by the great roman Emperor Hadrian …”

“I wanted to go to Vishnodevi and look where I am," says sixty five year old Vijaya, bored of the tourist guide's monologue and wanting to rest her tired knees.
“What would you have done in Vaishnodevi anyway, Vijaya?”
“I had a pact with my God, Rama. I had made a promise. I would climb the 4000 steps there, my offering to our Creator.”
“Oh come on, Vijaya. Be a Roman when you’re in Rome. We have Vaishnodevi back in India. Here, they have Castel Sant’ Angelo. See those stairs? Must be easily 400 of them. Go climb them up and down ten times. You’ll be done.”
“You can’t joke about these things. You should take God a little more seriously, Rama” gasps Vijaya, appalled at the casual disregard Rama has for God and religion.

Rama looks around disinterested and does a double take as she sees her two five-year-old grandsons giggling upstairs at the first landing. Right now, the only thing she wants to take seriously is catching hold of them, possibly by their ears, and bringing them back downstairs.

Picture Credit: Pexels
The above post is post 5 of 7 in a series of posts written as part of a 7-day, based on today's image prompt published within the 'Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018' challenge. The one-day delay continues to cascade but I hope to catch up, hopefully tonight!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

To Infinity And Beyond


It’s almost time. Any day now. I think I am ready, R. I think after months of denial, grieving, anger and helplessness I am finally at the stage of acceptance. I am ready to let go. My diseased body is killing me. Figuratively and literally. But months of carrying on with the physical pain and ache has almost done me in.

I think I am finally ready to join you out there. Well, almost. There is one last thing to do. One last trip to embark upon. Everything else, I crossed off our list. Yes R, our list.

I stand up and slowly wobble over to the rickety old desk at the corner. The light from the desk light feels faint but I can do everything by the feel of my fingers now. My joints ache, my bones hurt but I cannot complain. My body has served me well. Now it’s time to renounce it and move past into the vast expanse of the afterlife, the endless vacuum out there, whatever happens next.

I run my hands over the contents of the drawer. The diary where you used to maintain our expenses, our trip calendar, your poetry book, the albums. I have done these a million times. Taken them out and felt them, smelled them. I still feel your presence in them. And under these, I find what I am looking for. I pull it out gently.

It still feels like it was taken just yesterday, though cracks have developed over time. The thin layer of film has worn off at the corners. But the image is fresh in my mind. I do not have to look at it. It is etched in my memory. The grey white sand, the white kaftan you wore. Your dainty young hands in my well rounded ones. And the rings.

I have to go find those now. I have to go find those and bring them back. Then I’ll be ready. I promise you I will dig those out from where we buried them for infinity, never to be disturbed again. A memory to be frozen in time, we had said back then. I will dig those up and bring them back to you. Just like I promised you, R.

I tuck in the picture neatly into my notebook and place it inside the overnight case. We will make the final journey together.

I will see you in a while R.
I am ready.

Picture Credit: Pexels
The above post is post 4 of 7 in a series of posts written as part of a 7-day, 'Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018' challenge. The one-day delay continues to cascade but I hope to catch up! 

For a change, I incorporate two prompts in a single post this time! The image prompt and the below creative writing prompt.

"Day 4 – 27 Jun – Write a story about a character who finds out that he or she is dying and has been knocking things off his/her bucket list and has finally reached the last item."

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Little Prankster


“How could you, Ashish? One thing I ask you to do, one thing and you lose him!”
“Come on Maya, stop being so dramatic. He’s not a baby. He’s thirteen. He’ll be here.”
“Here? Here? Where is here? Do you see him? What if someone …” she gasps, unable to fathom the thought of something untoward happening to me. I squeeze myself further behind the palm tree to avoid any runaway chance of being seen.

I watch her walk up and down the beach. Frantic, hurried, impatient. She yells out my name. Out into the waves where it mixes with the salty breeze and gets lost in the surf. She does it over and over, left and right, this way and that. She starts to get worried. And it bothers me. Suddenly I start to doubt my genius idea. Maybe I should have followed Abhinn’s lead.

And then I hear her bloodcurdling scream. This is it. She has found the shoes. The shoes arranged in perfect symmetry right where the tide starts. It won’t be long now.

“No … no … no … my baby. How could you? Ashish, no …” she cries, falling into a heap. Dad looks like he’s struck by lightning. And I finally realize the joke’s gone too far. I step out from behind the palm tree, my bravado having gone up in smoke. Uh-oh, this doesn't look like it will end well. But I have to put on a brave face; the task has to be completed. All for a good cause.

“Mom, Dad?” I inch my way towards them, my voice close to a whisper.

I watch them do a double take as they take in the scene – me walking out from my hideout, barefoot, the shoes, and the sheepish look on my face. Mom runs to me and plasters sloppy kisses all over my face, her minty breath in my hair as she mixes in curse words with lovey-dovey nonsensical phrases. I watch Dad’s face change shades of colour and end at a dark shade of red.

“I just … Abhinn said if his folks don’t let him go on the school trip he would go jump into the sea. But … I wanted to show him that’s not needed. I told him … I told him you love me. See? How much you love me? You … so Dad, can I go on the trip?” I say it all out in one long breath and then summon the courage to look up at him.

He looks at me, eyes blazing; the gaze a little too discomforting for me. Then, he slaps me hard across the face. OK, I am pretty sure that means no trip for me. And as it turns out, all that idiot Abhinn had to do was ask his folks nicely and they agreed. My folks are so dramatic, I think as I turn around and walk away rolling my eyes.

Picture Credit: Pexels
The above post is post 3 of 7 in a series of posts written as part of a 7-day, 'Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018' challenge and based on the image prompt for the day! Albeit a day late. But then, better late than never! For more on the same, click on the link.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...