Category Archives: fiction

Short Story Challenge 2014

Genre: Horror/ Setting: Advertising/ Character: Bully

Nayantara’s Revenge

Sonalee screamed. It was a blood curdling sound that ripped through the evening sounds of the forest and sent shivers down the spines of all within earshot. Everyone froze, even the continuously chattering monkeys fell silent. It was as if some supernatural being had said the magic words in the childhood game of “stop” and the small film crew shooting a commercial in the forest had turned into a tableau of stone.

Shrikant, Range officer of the Junona range where the film was being shot, was the first to recover. Rushing to Sonalee, now collapsed on the grass, he shook her, gently at first, but then with more urgency when she did not respond. Her mouth was open and her eyes, huge stricken orbs. Her once beautiful face was ghostly pale and for a moment Shrikant thought she was dead. Gently he lifted her head and put his finger to her delicate nostrils, relieved to feel the uneven ebb and flow of air on his finger tip.

The worried crew edged towards the young woman, eyes darting around them, mouths clamped tight shut.

“What’s wrong with her?” Shouted Avinash, the much hated film director and company owner.

“I don’t know?’ Shrikant replied curtly.

He disliked everything about Avinash. The way he treated the film unit, always shouting, barking out orders, leering over the women, picking on the weaker ones. If it weren’t for the fact that Avinash was his boss’ relative Shrikant would have kicked his butt a long time ago.

“We need to get her to the camp and try to revive her.”

“Leave her! There’s nothing wrong with her! She’s just faking! We carry on filming” Avinash screamed.

Shrikrant ignored him. He was broad and muscular and easily carried  Sonalee’s limp body to the jeep, calling out to Jaya and Pushpa, two crew members “Sit either side of her, make sure she doesn’t fall! Hurry!”

Shrikant jumped into the driver’s seat, turned on the engine and pulled away leaving the rest of the unit, and a furious Avinash, to follow in the van. Camp was four kilometres away but the road, a mere dirt track, made it impossible to drive quickly.

Darkness had fallen on the trees and a heavy winter mist was settling in making it difficult to see beyond a few meters. The trees that had looked so lovely and inviting during daylight assumed sinister shapes in the dark. There was a mood of nervousness among them, a feeling that something dreadful was about to happen. All they wanted to do was reach camp, abandon the shoot even, go home.

Shrikant was negotiating a huge pothole when he felt the hairs on his neck stand up. A strange voice hissed, “Stop the vehicle.” He looked behind and saw that Sonalee had regained consciousness and was trying to get out of the jeep.

Her eyes were wild and her nostrils flared as she struggled with Jaya and Pushpa and shouted in a deep husky voice “You mother fu…., I said stop the vehicle at once.”

“Don’t let her get out!”

Jaya and Pushpa began whimpering.

Remembering something he had read in his childhood, Shrikant pushed down hard on the accelerator and turned the jeep towards a temple of the goddess Kali that he knew was a few hundred metres away. He was aware he didn’t have much time; they had to go fast.

“Hold on tight.”

They pulled up sharply in front of the stone idol of the goddess Kali the scourge of the forces of darkness. He hoped his hunch was right.

The granite Kali idol was almost as terrifying as Sonalee had been. This slayer of evil, had eight arms, each one carrying primitive weapons or a demon’s head. Her tongue protruded from her mouth, and her huge bulging eyes glared angrily down on them.

As soon as they entered the temple grounds Sonalee slipped back into her stupor much to the relief of Jaya and Pushpa.

The van caught up with them and the worried crew led by a fuming Avinash got out.

“Why have we stopped here?” he demanded.

Jaya and Pushpa spoke at once, an incoherent babble.

“Shut up both of you” Avinash snarled, “I am asking you Shrikant, Why are we here?”

“I think she may be possessed. I am sending for Penta Talandi the witch doctor.”

“What nonsense! These things do not exist! You of all persons should know this. I demand you take us all to camp, NOW,” Avinash screeched.

Shrikant turned on his heels and walked purposely over to the van driver.

“Don’t you DARE walk away from me! I will have you whipped!”

“Rafiq, there is a hamlet about a kilometre from here on the road to the camp” Shrikant spoke quietly to the driver. “Ask for Penta Talandi and tell him there is an emergency and he should come immediately. Don’t stop for anything till you reach the hamlet.”

Seeing the reluctance in the driver’s eyes he gestured towards the group huddled around Sonalee.

”Take Jaya and Pushpa with you. Don’t worry, we’re all scared”.

Rafiq smiled at him gratefully.

Jaya and Pushpa looked to Avinash for permission. His face was contorted with rage.

“Go on then, go! What’s it to me?! I will just take the time out of your wages!”

They jumped into the van and drove into the mist. As the engine faded, there was only silence. There is never only silence. Where was the cheep cheep of the crickets and the comforting voice of a hooting owl?  Something was very wrong.

They huddled closely together, seeking comfort in each other, even Avinash joined the group.

Shrikrant switched off the jeep’s headlights.

“The battery will run down.”

Darkness engulfed them “Please keep them on” a nervous voice in the dark. Ignoring the plea, Shrikant switched on his LED torch and all eyes turned towards him.

“Anyone have a lighter or a match? We’ll make a bonfire. Get some dry twigs, but be careful and don’t go too far.”

No one dared to venture outside the temple perimeter. They collected the wood casting nervous glances over their shoulders, waiting for something, or someone to pounce on them.

They gathered enough for Shrikant to start a small fire and huddled around it, not caring about the smoke that burnt their eyes and flavoured their breath.

“How much do you have to shoot still?” Shrikant asked in an attempt to break the silence and lighten the mood.

“Well, eighty percent of the work is finished. It is an advertisement for a famous Jeans’ brand. We are hoping to finish by tomorrow” said Vinayak, the camera man.

“Do you think it is possible with Sonalee in this state?”

“It HAS to be possible and there is nothing wrong with Sonalee. I bet she has taken some drug earlier” interjected Aviansh. “I am going to punish her for being so irresponsible.”

Vinayak looked at him with distaste and said,” You can’t be sure what happened, give her a chance Avinash.”

“You don’t tell me what to do Vinayak!” Avinash snapped.

They settled back into an uneasy silence.

Finally they heard the sound of an approaching vehicle and, as the headlights of the van appeared on the horizon, bobbing up and down as the vehicle negotiated the rough terrain, their relief was palpable.

The van came to a halt and a tall dhoti clad Adivasi, whose forefathers had roamed the forests since ancient times, emerged. He walked towards Sonalee and the crew fell in behind him.

He examined Sonalee, then nodded to  Shrikant and motioned towards the jeep hinting that he wanted to speak in private. Avinash tried to follow but the Adivasi shook his head and Shrikant pushed him away.

Penta Talandi spoke quietly. “This is serious, Sahib. I warned you not to shoot in these parts. The girl is possessed and will die soon, but before that she might take a few lives”.

“I’m sorry Penta, I could not stop that idiot from choosing this spot. He is connected to the Chief Conservator and threatened to get me transferred if I did not comply. This girl must be saved. Do whatever you can, she must live.”

“I will have to perform Kali pooja immediately. It will be hard. I suspected something like this so have brought a cockerel to be sacrificed along with the other things I will need.”

“We will have to inform everyone what this is all about. You make preparations and I will tell them about it.”

As Penta moved towards the van Shrikant headed back to the waiting group.

“So what’s this hoo haa about Mr Ranger?” Smirked Avinash.

Shrikant ignored the sarcasm.

“She has been possessed by a churail that used to haunt these parts and is in danger of dying as well as posing danger to others”

“Nonsense, there are no such things. You are trying to protect this girl. I demand you put her in the jeep immediately and take us all to the camp. I will deal with this bitch tomorrow morning.”

Shrikant looked at him with contempt “You can go if you want to. I won’t allow you to touch her.”

Avinash motioned to the crew to follow him and started towards the van. Before anyone else could move a cackling laugh split the air. Everyone, except Penta who was chanting mantras, oblivious to everything around him, froze.

The laugh was coming from outside the perimeter of the temple, from the darkness.

A second cackle propelled them into action. Screaming, they ran towards the sanctum sanctorum and took cover; Avinash looking like a dog with its tail between its legs.

Penta Talandi’s chants grew louder as he invoked the goddess. The cockerel struggled in his hands. Penta drew his knife and cut its throat in one smooth motion, then let the blood flow on the mouth of the idol. The city bred onlookers closed their eyes in fearful disgust. The girls hugged each other and shook like leaves in the autumn wind. The blood flow stopped and with that, eerily, so did the cackling. There was a defiant scream and the branches of the big banyan tree near the temple started to shake. Penta broke a coconut at the feet of the Goddess and gave each one a piece of the kernel.

“Keep this with you till you reach your home and no harm will come to you” he said in a grave voice.

“What are we doing here?” A calm female voice asked and everyone looked in wonder at Sonalee, now wide awake and looking as fresh and beautiful as she had earlier in the day. No one said a word as Shrikant took her hand and guided her towards the jeep.

“Let me tell you a story.” It was Penta. “Long time ago these lands were owned by the Deshmukh family of Warora. It was in 1947 that the Zamindar’s wife Nayantara died during her pregnancy due to negligence on part of her philandering husband. As the legend goes she became a churail and started killing all the males of that clan one by one. They tried every preventive remedy prescribed in the Puranas but could not prevent her ravages till the last of the males of that clan was dead. Each death was horrifying with their bodies sucked of all the blood and semen and even the youngest looked like an old man when he died. I do not know why she has resurfaced.”

“Did you say Deshmukhs of Warora?” Avinash asked almost choking on his words. “We are not going back to the camp. Take us back to Nagpur immediately.” He was shaking as if stricken by ague.  “Please Shrikant I beg you.” He whined. Gone was the swagger of the bully.”You can send our equipment later”.

Shrikant looked at Penta. “Will you come with us?’ Penta nodded in agreement.

It was a very quiet group that travelled 200 kilometres to the city that night. Only when they reached the safety of their homes did some of them realise that they had wet their pants.

Work at Sunidhi Advertising had returned to normal and the finishing touches to their latest ad were being given in the studio. The remaining shoot was completed employing technological trickery. Avinash was back to his bullying ways and seemed to have forgotten the episode in the forest.

“The laughter must have been some wild animal making noise and that idiotic Ranger was ignorant about it. Or maybe because I am a descendant of a bastard son of the Deshmukh’s must have saved me” he thought. He drummed his fingers on the desk expectantly.

Sonalee had been very cooperative to his advances since coming back and had agreed to see him today in his studio. He had planned her seduction to the last detail. The door opened and he looked up. Sonalee entered wearing a very sexy outfit that showed every curve of her youthful body. Her face was flushed with desire and it was as if it was her and not Avinash who was the predator.

“Let’s go” she said in an urgent whisper as she took his hand and pulled him towards the inner room. Avinash followed her mesmerised by her sensual walk. Once inside she did not wait for a moment and undressed herself, wrecking his plans of a slow seduction.

“What are you waiting for?” she asked him as he stood transfixed looking at her curvaceous body. “Don’t you want me” she taunted him. “Of course I want you” he said and flung his clothes on the floor and pulled her to the bed. He kissed her on the mouth fervently and placed his hands on her ample breasts. The nipples were hard and he closed his eyes in wonderment.

“Got you, you bastard” he heard a gruff voice saying and as he opened his eyes in surprise, his mouth formed a scream, but this time no sound came out. What he saw in front of him was a hideous naked old hag with sagging breasts and an ugly, wizened, face, her mouth curled in a triumphant smile, her long matted hair falling to her waist. He looked further down and saw the feet were pointing backwards.

“Oh my God it is you!”

The next morning the cleaning lady entered the studio and ran out screaming in terror. Avinash Deshmukh was found dead. He was forty years when he died but the body was that of an old man drained of all blood and his male member was destroyed beyond recognition. Nayantara’s revenge was complete.



It had been a very busy day full of business meetings and client visits that kept me away from the internet. Finally it was all over and impatiently I opened my mail.  I glanced at the mail box and my eyes fell on the second mail and I froze. The message said it was from my wife. Now, why would an email from the spouse freeze one’s blood you might ask. I was shivering like a man with ague as my finger clicked to open the mail. My heart beat must have been like that of an unfit man running uphill and I could barely see the text.


I hope you are having a good day at work. I will be out the whole day with Pammi to shop for her daughter’s wedding. If late, we will eat dinner at the Taj. You can also join us if you have the time. See you later. Don’t work too hard. 

Love Kshama.

I turned the air conditioner on to full but still my sweating did not stop. “What’s wrong with the email ?” I hear you ask again. “It is an ideal email written by a wife to her husband!”

“Yes, nothing wrong with the contents” I splutter. “The problem is I have not shared this address with anyone except Amla, my lover.”

‘You go home and check your Emails. You read the second mail and freeze…’. Begin the story from here.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

True love

This was written for a screenplay competition in the format required.

Title : True Love

Couple find if they truly love each other in a Yoghurt Shop in a surprising manner.

Ext. Crowded shopping mall in festive season. An attractive couple are window shopping. Close up of them as the youth wipes off the sweat from his brow.


Boy, it is so hot. Shall we have an ice cream sweetheart?


Darling you know ice cream is so bad for my figure. Let’s have yogurt instead. Look, there’s a shop.

Ext. Couple walk towards a brightly decorated “Lord Krishna Yogurt Shop”

Int.Various flavors of Yogurt on display.


I am having strawberry flavored, I suppose you want the same.


Oh no, my favorite is mango. I will have a cup of that.


Darling, we are so much in love and engaged to be married. Shouldn’t we be sharing the same flavor?


Ha, ha, we can do that when we get married my love. Have patience, it is just fifteen days from now.

Int. Shop. Long shot of shop with  Saurabh buying Yogurt. In the meanwhile a well dressed old man approaches Surabhi. Saurabh returns with the cups.


Darling, this is Mr. Agnihotri and he has something very interesting to say.

Camera pans on the old man. He has a greeting card in his hand. Shows it to Saurabh who is eyeing him suspiciously.


Good afternoon sir. This is a special greeting card.


Oh yea? And what’s so special? Looks ordinary to me.


No Sir. You see, you can write any address on it, this card will always go to the person you truly love.


You got to be joking, right.


Ten million rupees is not a joke Sir.


What do you mean ten million?


Buy this card and you will know.


Ok how much?


Not so fast sir…you have to agree to send it to the person you love the most. If the card reaches the person you have addressed it to you will get your 10 million.

Saurabh has a smirk on his face and winks at Surabhi.


What if we both participate?


Of course you can Sir. We will be delighted and you can win 20 million.

Both look greedily at the card. They grab at it and almost tear it.


Patience my young friends.

Int. Shop. A crowd has gathered around the three. Some more want that card.


Gentlemen, anyone can buy this card and have a chance of winning 10 million. But if your card goes to another address you will have to pay with your life.

There is a collective gasp. Camera zooms on expressions of the crowd. No one steps ahead for the card, but the two.


Ah two very lovely and loving persons. Give them a big hand everybody. And could you please write down the addresses on the card?

Int. Shop. Camera on Saurabh who smilingly writes down the name and address of Surabhi  on his card




Alright so you want me to send them by courier or by post?


Oh no not by the Indian postal service. She would get old before she receives the card. Now that we both are here, can I give this card here and now?


Ah you do not want to wait to get your 10 million eh? Alright go ahead give the card to your beloved.

Int. Shop. Camera on Saurabh as he gives card to Surabhi. Victorious smiles on their faces.


Where is my ten million old man?


Of course you will get it Sir. Don’t you want the lady to give you her card for her ten million?


No, no. Give me my money first. Only then she will give her card to me.

Int. Shop Long shot of crowd applauding the lovers.


Here is your check for ten million.

But before he can give the check something strange happens. There is a gasp as the Card flies from Surabhi’s hand into  Suarabh’s hand again.


Sir you can try again.

Saurabh gives it to her again. She keeps it in the purse. There is a click and the purse opens automatically and the card jumps on to a startled Suarabh again. He has gone ashen faced and Surabhi is dumb founded. The crowd is stationary as if in trance.


What kind of joke is this?


Again sir, this is not a joke. This card is never wrong. It seems you love yourself too much. Much more than you love your betrothed. Alright young man, get ready for your punishment.

Int. Shop. Camera zooms on a sinister looking man in black suit. He comes forward and takes hold of Saurabh.

Sinister man

Come my friend it is time to go.

His voice is a deathly hiss.


No, no please I do not want to die so young. I have not even finished my yogurt.

Sinister man

Well you gambled and lost. Rules are rules.

Surabhi who is in state of shock suddenly breaks into action. She falls at the feet of the old man.


Forgive us our follies Sir. Please do not make me a widow before getting married

Old man looks another way. Surabhi is desperate.


Please Sir. I will be your slave, and do your bidding all my life.Or better still take my life.

Agnihotri is getting emotional too and finally relents.


Ok little one. Just this once for your sake I will give you one chance. You can address this card to the person you love the most and if it reaches the right person we will spare this young man’s life. Needless to say you are not going to win any money now.

The girl is reluctant to write on the card. The boy pleads.


My love only you can save me.

The girl is still hesitating.

The boy moans.


Now I know you do not love me truly. Oh you can even write the name of your childhood sweetheart from whom I have parted you forcibly. But save me please.

Crowd is divided. One group wants her to write on the card and the other wants her to leave him to his fate.

Int. Shop. Camera on girl as she writes on the card. She hands the card over to the old man. The card flies out of the hand of the old man and hovers in the shop looking for the addressee.. As the Camera fades a voice is heard saying

Young man you are saved.

God and Elections…A Tribute to Jaspal Bhatti.

Lord Vishnu the Saviour was resting in his Sheshashayee mudra when he heard the obsequious “Narayan, Narayan” that heralded the entry of the sage Narada.

“Prabhu, Victory to You, greetings from your humble servant.”

“Come Narada. What troubles have brought you here?”

“No troubles Oh Lord! I am on my way to Kailas and thought I would take your blessings”

“Narada, my good wishes are always with you. Tell me how are things with my favourite people of Jambudvipa?”

“Why are you testing me Lord? You are omnipotent and omniscient. I am just a wanderer.”

“No my friend, you are also my eyes and ears. Tell me.”

A thoughtful expression crossed Narada’s face and then clearing his throat he said, “Your beloved people are not doing well Lord. The majority are becoming poorer by the day and they are also breeding more and more. But there is no cause for worry, the poorer they get the more religious they become and supplicate to you. As for the wicked, the richer they get the more they donate for temples. Heaven is safe with lots of followers and lots of money.”

“They do have a Government, don’t they Narada?”

“Yes Milord, they do. But it is filled with scammers and self-serving rascals.”

“Then in a democracy the solution is very simple. Throw them out in the next election. “

“It is easier said than done Milord. Throwing the present rascals out is only one part of the solution. They have to elect others, and for the last so many elections they are doing it too. Sadly the replacements have been as rapacious as their predecessors, leaving the people disillusioned and disheartened.”

The Lord of the Universe grew pensive. It was evident that the plight of his followers was troubling him. An idea struck him and he said, “Shall I use the ‘Brahmastra’ and kill all the evildoers?”

“It would be great Milord, but if you kill all of them at once there will be a power vacuum and that will create chaos. There will be collateral damage too and even the almighty Americans are facing problems because of this.”

“I must do something Narada. Think harder.”

“Almighty I have an idea.”

“Do tell my friend.”

“Jambudvipa will be having Parliamentary elections soon. Why don’t you participate?”

“You think it is a good idea?”

“Oh yes Prabhu. Who will vote against God? You would be a winner hands down and then Ramrajya will prevail. By Shiva, I have coined a slogan too. How does this sound to you ‘Back to Ramrajya’!”

The Lord thought for a long moment and finally said “You know Narada humans are my trickiest creation. Some of them even have the temerity to say that I am their creation. But the poor really need me. Alright then I will contest the next election.”

Laxmi, who was watching all this with a smile thought it was time for her to say something. “Swami you know I have never interfered in your business. Go to Jambudvipa and take part in the elections. Just promise me this”

“What my love?”

“Promise me you will not perform any miracles or kill anyone in anger.”

“That situation will not arise beloved. I am sure. Narada, here is how we will make the announcement….

Sunday evening found Sheila watching her favourite ‘Saas-bahu’ soap while her husband and son were in the living room going crazy at the heroics of their pyjama clad T20 cricket warriors. Most households of the country were similarly engrossed in their respective television entertainment when the TV screens flickered and went blank. If ever there was a collective howl of petulant protest in the history of Jambudvipa this was it. Its waves even reached heaven where Laxmi was rudely awakened from her beauty sleep. The mouths opened in protest remained open in amazement as Lord Vihnu appeared in every household.

“My beloved faithful, I have been watching your suffering for too long and I have also seen the shabby treatment meted by different governments. Enough is enough. None of the present set of politicians deserves to be in power and must be thrown out. I am here to give you an alternative and have decided to contest the elections myself. We will provide you the government and the governance you crave for. I am sure you have read the Ramayan and know how well I ruled in the Avatar of King Rama. I promise you those days again. Back to Ramrajya.” The TV screens resumed their inane telecasts.

Sheila came out of her trance and immediately opened her smartphone to tweet about what she had just seen. She also made a mental note to write about it on her Facebook page ahead of any of her friends especially that irritating female Devi. The thought of sharing the moment with her husband and son did not occur to her at all. These worthies, to their credit, were engrossed in texting on their respective smartphones. The whole country was abuzz with this news and for the moment silly soaps and meaningless cricket matches were forgotten. Every TV channel was broadcasting this ‘breaking news’ irrespective of the fact whether they were news channels or not. The newspapers took out special editions depicting the moment. Only one topic dominated conversations from North to South, East to West and Bars to brothels, Ramrajya.

Preeti Dhawad, field reporter for Jambu24 was covering an accident when her phone rang. It was her boss Kalyan. “Hey you are our nearest unit to the PM’s residence. I want you there immediately.”

They reached their destination only to find it already crowded and the Prime Minister about to hold a press conference. She was surprised at the alacrity with which the conference was scheduled. “Wow did they get approval from the high command?” she wondered. Her curiosity was sated when the ‘High Command’ seated herself besides the PM. There was the usual rush for questions and the PM raised his hands to quieten the crowd and started reading a prepared statement. “My dear countrymen, today we have witnessed an unprecedented occurrence. We believe that this is a conspiracy of the Saffron party and foreign forces. We have decided to appoint an all party committee to look into how this joke was perpetrated on the people of India. No further comment till their report is received. Thank you.” The whole delegation left the room disregarding the questions and protests of reporters.

A similar crowd had gathered in the office of Saffron Party, the main opposition. The Party spokesman was reading out their reaction. “This is an Italian Job and a joke played upon the religious feelings of the great people of India by the Government and its Italian collaborators. We demand the resignation of the Government immediately, and we have also called for a nationwide ‘bandh’ in protest.” Contrary to the PM, he was ready to take in as many questions as the media could ask but his answer was always the same, ‘it was a government conspiracy with the Italians and the PM should resign.’

Lord Vishnu was watching the television with great interest. “Narada, what do you think of all this?”

“It is only the first day Almighty. We must give them more time to digest it all.”

“Oh yes that we should. We have announced our intentions, but we need 500 plus candidates for the elections.”

“Almighty that is the easiest thing for you. You just have to clone yourself” Then with a wry smile Narada said “you might consider giving yourself local flavour for the states. I hear in land of the Andhras they like to see you in the form of one actor by the name NTR, and in the land of Tamils as MGR.”

The next seven days were very heady and euphoric, both for Lord Vishnu and the people of India. Every poll showed that if elections were held just now God and his party would sweep their way to power. But wait, there were some that were not happy at all. Obviously the political class did not take kindly to God’s intervention.

The PM decided to invite top leaders of all parties to a secret enclave at the exclusive Swami Somdev Ayurvedic Treatment Spa. However he found out that most of them were incarcerated in Tihar Jail for various crimes. Therefore they decided to hold the meeting in Tihar itself. As the agenda was not declared a lot of suspicious looks and ginger handshakes were exchanged. One or two did not come at all fearing this was a Government ploy to get them into prison.

They gathered in a secluded spot where cell phones and electronic equipment were disallowed. The PM began “My dear friends, I have called you all to find a solution to this extraordinary problem. God has announced his candidature and this is a calamity for all of us. If we let things go on the way they are very soon we will all be unemployed. Let us forget our differences and come together for the sake of our people.” There were nods and murmurs of approval.

The leader of the Saffron Party rose to spoke. “Friends, the PM is right for the first time in his life. Politics is our profession and ruling the people is our right. Not even God can deny us, but we have to be careful about this. We cannot oppose God directly but we also have to ensure that He withdraws from the elections.” The other leaders too continued in the same vein and finally a plan was formulated.

The managing editor of Jambu24 was having her morning coffee when her phone rang. She hated being disturbed while enjoying her favourite morning drink but the number the number flashing on the screen was too important to reject.

“Good morning Mr Muckraker Khichdiwala, how are you?”

“I am fine Miss Supercilious Butt. How are you?”

The civility in their greetings was admirable considering that they had almost ripped each other’s clothes during a debate on her program.

“You have been unusually quiet Mr Khichdiwala. What happened? Have you run out of muck?”

“Not at all Miss Butt, in fact now I have material on the biggest of them all, God”.

“Oh my God! God? Did you have Irish coffee so early in the morning?”

“Well you can take it or leave it. Ah hold on a minute please, I have an incoming call from Nina”

At the mention of her hated rival, Ms Butt grimaced and interjected “oh no, no Mr Khichdiwala you are on Prime time today.”

The whole Friday the viewers of Jambu24 were bombarded with the news that Muckraker Khichdiwala was going to expose God. At exactly 7:00 PM Lord Vishnu asked Narada who was watching ‘Real Wives of Beverly Hills’ with great interest to change channels. Reluctantly Narada flicked on Jambu24. “Welcome to Prime Time” the anchor said with a wide smile and introduced Muckraker to the viewers. Muckraker smiled arrogantly at the camera and settled in his seat. “It is indeed a very brave and sensational step that you are taking. God has never been accused by a mere mortal…” The show’s anchor was ready to go on but was apparently cut short by the producer.

“I am only doing my duty Preetiji. God is one of the most corrupt persons in this universe.” Everyone in the audience gasped in horror.

“Mr Muckraker how can you that? Do you have any proof?”

“The proof is there for all to see. Since the birth of humankind we have to pay bribes in one form or the other to appease God or to seek his blessings. The more urgent our demand the more exorbitant is his demand. There are many instances in our scriptures where even human life was demanded as a bribe. In fact God is the very source of corruption in our world because bribing began with him. Our temples are not monuments of faith but of corruption. We may be rich or we may be poor, we HAVE to pay to God through his minions who go by the name of Priests. Temples are built on invaluable land given free of cost and with unaccounted donations from crooks seeking salvation. Huge amounts of gold looted from the people of this country are donated to these temples where they lie forgotten and useless.”

God had joined politics and the professional politicians had set their favourite game of character assassination in motion through their puppets. Every day new allegations were made. Rallies were organised by women who opposed Ramrajya because of the horrid treatment meted out to Sita. The ‘raslila’ of Lord Krishna was portrayed as decadence and orgies by one section of society. Even Lord Shiva was dragged into and accused of killing innocents when he had opened his third eye to kill demons. His pleas of collateral damage were not entertained.

The leftists saw their chance and jumped into the fray accusing God of being a bad administrator and keeping the majority wallowing in poverty. Why accuse the present politicians of doing nothing after just 75 years in power when God had done nothing for the poor and needy for thousands of years.

The fringe elements of the Saffron party accused God of being partial to the Muslims. When asked to substantiate their claim they said that God had given all the petroleum bounty to the Muslims and rewarded the devout Hindus with poor grade coal. The list of accusations piled up and the popularity ratings slipped. There were many instances when Lord Vishnu wished to use his Sudarashan Chakra but was held back by the promise given to Laxmi.

The last straw came when a poll was conducted in the country on a statement made by the PM (drafted by the High Command) that everything had its place and God’s was either in the temples or in Heaven and not in dirty politics. Eighty per cent people voted in favour of that. The dream of Ramrajya was dead. Instead of chanting ‘Back to Ramrajya’ people began saying ‘Our backs to Ramrajya’. Lord Vishnu had learned the hard way “Democracy is dangerous, even for God!”

Truth in small doses

– a short story.

Mount Kailas, the abode of Lord Shiva and family was aflutter. The young God Ganesha was having an argument with his father regarding the vagaries of human nature. He was forcefully putting forward an argument.

“Father I have found the formula to make humans happy.”

Shiva could see the young God was visibly excited.

“And what is that my son?”

“If humans have the power to know the true nature of people around them they will be happy.”

“I doubt it very much. But you can try out your theory.”

The young Ganesha impatiently looked down on earth in search of a guinea pig. Finally his eyes fell on Raja Thakur, self made billionaire who had been orphaned at a young age. Raja a handsome youth of thirty years had just got married to Sushama his beautiful love and was getting ready for the wedding reception. He had just applied shaving cream to his face when his room was lit by a brilliant luminescence. He rubbed his eyes to see clearly and was dumbstruck to see Lord Ganesha smiling at him. Instantly he prostrated himself and said “O Ganesha, have mercy on me and forgive me my sins”

“Get up son. I have not come to discuss your sins but to grant you a boon that will make you happy forever”

Raja could not believe his fortune but stood speechless.

“Come learn this mantra that I am giving now. You will know the true nature of people around you whenever you wish by chanting it.” Before a bemused Raja could say anything Ganesha vanished. He pinched himself to see if he was awake. His cell phone rang.

“Hey Prince, are you ready? We are getting late.” That was his buddy Dilip. Hurriedly he got dressed and sat in the waiting Mercedes. Dilip was asking him something but Raja’s face had a look of wonderment and he wasn’t paying attention. “Looks like you are already on your honey moon” said Dilip.

They reached the Hyatt just in time. Some guests had already arrived and sipping on their drinks. Sushama his bride looked resplendent in her brocade sari and diamond encrusted gold jewelry.

“Where have you been darling?” she asked a little impatiently.

“I was umm, oh well I had to shave again”

Raja was accepting the greetings and gifts absentmindedly. Had the Lord really visited him or was it a hallucination? He went over the whole episode again. The Mantra came to his mind and inadvertently he chanted it.

“Hello Raja, congratulations” It was the voice of his best friend Amit.

“Thank you” Raja said as he extended his hand in greeting, only to take it back in surprise and horror. It was a paw and not a human hand and a fox was speaking in Amit’s voice. Terrified, Raja looked around him and screamed silently. He was surrounded by a variety of animals who were behaving like humans. Most of them were ruminants and were milling around and mooing in typical fashion.

“Raja I am so happy for you,” his cousin Avatar said or hissed. He looked like a Cobra poised to strike. Besides him was a female cobra who was smiling her greetings.

“Avatar and his wife Reema are cobras? But they are always so loving” Raja muttered.

“A drink Sir?” It was a monkey. Most waiters looked like sly monkeys or rather it was the monkeys who were acting as waiters, grabbing things and putting them in their pockets. Raja looked over to the place where his relatives had ganged only to see a group of wolves tearing at the tandoori chicken.

Most of his friends were gathered at the bar. He went to them and saw bunch of sly foxes guzzling at the free drinks. “The Scotch whisky is genuine O Prince. May God give you more and more wealth to keep the scotch flowing.” One of them said in an oily tone. ‘How strange’ he thought, ‘No loyal dogs here.’ His uncle Ramcharan the peacock was in full bloom.

Raja walked to the table near the fountain where he had last seen his father in law and Sushama. Instead he saw a huge pig gorging on the food. “Come along son in law the fried fish is wonderful.  This is why I had insisted on the Hyatt” he said while licking his fingers.

“Have you seen Sushama?”

“She was here with her mother and sister. They had something important to discuss.”

“Sushama! Sushama!” Raja called.

“I am here darling,” he heard her say and looked above.

“My God! Sushama, the sweet pure girl who loves me is a vulture?”

In fact there were three vultures, perched on the decorative tree. The well fed one was all bejeweled like his mother in law.

Raja finally broke down. “Oh Ganesha I do not want to know the truth.” He cried in torment. “This is a punishment not a boon. Make me normal again. Please Lord Ganesh.”

Ganesh was sitting pensively. Lord Shiva smiled at him lovingly and said, “Having a problem son?”

“I can’t understand father. Why does Raja not want the truth? As it is he will know the reality in due course”

“You are right. He will know the truth eventually, but in small doses so he can digest it. This sudden infusion of truth is rather unpalatable for any human”

“What shall I do now? Even if I take back his powers he knows about his wife and is already thinking about leaving her”

“I can help you out if you want an old man to interfere in your affairs”

“Father, please do.”

Lord Shiva picked up his trident. A golden beam shot from it and touched a frowning and sorrowful Raja just as he had cleared his throat and said to Sushama,

“I have something to tell you”

“What is that my darling?”

“Just that I love you very much and am so lucky to have you as my wife” He said beamingly.


Darling, The Doctor said you will never see again. . It was so shattering. For whom shall I look beautiful now? The eyes that glowed while looking at me shall never gleam. No longer will I bask in their warmth.

I wanted to be Gandhari. I went out with bandaged eyes to “see” how and what it is to be blind. Everything was so dark and gloomy. But then hasn’t some one said that eyes deceive you the most?  Who needs them to ‘feel’ and know the reality of this world? I had never gotten closer to this branch I held in my hands. My eyes always told me what they saw about it. I was always distant. Today I went really close to it. Felt it. Smelt it. It was so wonderful. It was as if the branch had embraced me, accepted me. It touched, not just my skin but my heart, in fact my whole being. You know what; I had never realized our neighbor Sunita had such a lovely laugh. It was like listening to a musical instrument playing delicate notes. I could tell you about so many things my ‘all seeing’ eyes had blinded me about.

But why am I writing you all this when you couldn’t read it, and your ‘Gandhari’ wouldn’t? Darling, everything was all so dark and gloomy, so I went out again to touch the rose.

It felt wonderful and smelt wonderful, but it was sad too.

I asked it, “Why are you sad?”

It said “You haven’t said ‘Cool… what a lovely pink”

Yes darling then I realized we would not be able to savor the ‘colors’ of life. I will be your lost fifth sense and I will be your ‘Neha’ from now on and not your ‘Gandhari’.

I am participating in the WeBlog’s Sleepy Sunday contest! You may read other participating posts HERE


‘Zebra Crossing’, the latest craze amongst Addis Ababa’s Page 3 set was crowded. The music was ‘abasha’ and the dancers were doing a very vigorous number. Sachin was engrossed in their movements and was sipping on his beer when a soft voice said to him, “I sit here?”

He looked up to see a rather colorfully dressed girl standing. He nodded his agreement, as he too needed company. “Thank you” she said as she settled in a chair. She had exceptionally large eyes and he noticed that she was quite beautiful. Her hair was tied in multiple tresses, Ethiopian fashion. She smiled at him. “Beer?” He asked.

“Yes” she replied.

He signaled the waitress; “One saint George” she said. The beer arrived.

“Cheers” he said and they clinked bottles.

“India or Pakistan?”

“Indian” was his reply.

“You like Ethiopian music?”

“Yes I do.”

“What about Ethiopian women?”

“I like them too” he said and laughed.

“What about you? You like Indian men?”

“Oh yes you have such beautiful hair.” What a reason to like a man he thought. “Thank God I am not bald.”

The music receded into the back ground as they buzzed along. He was surprised at the ease with which they talked. Maybe it was the beer in his stomach that made him brave. She took a cigarette from her pack and he lit it for her. Again she smiled at him.

“Let’s go to some quieter place” he said.

She seemed reluctant, so he said, “Oh don’t worry! I will pay you for the time you spend with me.”

She smiled and got up. They walked hand in hand to a nearby restaurant that looked less crowded and noisy than the previous one. Settling into a chair he ordered beer for both.

“My name is Sachin”

“I am Meklit”

“What does it mean? Meklit…”

“Protector of the family”

“What do you do?”

“I study beauty culture. You?”

“Nice profession. I am Finance Manager in Red Rose Flowers.”

“I like roses.”

“Oh you do?” He picked a rose from the vase on the table and presented it to her. Surprised she began to laugh.

“Where do you come from?”

She did not understand his question.

“Where your home?? Mother, father?”

“Harar. Very far from Addis.”

She took out a wallet from her purse and showed him a photo.

“My mother. Very beautiful…yes?”

“Yes just like you,” he said

She gave him a pleased smile. Suddenly he felt an urge to kiss her, but desisted.

“So how much money do you take for the night?”

“I don’t know. If you happy, you give me what you like.”

“I am not talking about me. Just asking. I don’t sleep with a girl without knowing her well. I like to take my time.”

“You married?”

“Yes. My family is in India.”

“Your wife is beautiful?”

“Yes very beautiful.”

She touched his nose. “I like it. It is so long. Mine is small. Give it to me.”

Conversing fluently with her wasn’t possible, as her English was halting and his Amharic was worse than her English. But it did not hinder the flow in any way. They exchanged personal information. Finally it was time for him to go. Sachin paid the bill and asked her if she wanted a lift somewhere. The waiter brought the change which he pressed into her hand along with a fifty birr note. Meklit shoved it into her purse without even looking, smiled at Sachin and said “Call me tomorrow.”

“Not tomorrow, but I will get in touch soon.”

She kissed him goodnight and left; he was too surprised to say anything.

The next day Sachin was not very attentive at work. His left hand was reaching for the cell phone to call Meklit but the right was holding it back. Finally the left hand won.

“Hello, is it Meklit?”

“Yes. Who is it?”

“Its me Sachin. Remember me?”

“Yes baby. How are you?”

“I am ok. I would like to meet you.”

“Okay baby. Where?”

“London café, seven pm?”

“Ok baby. I will be there. Ciao.”

They met in London Café. Drank coffee and again discussed life.

“What do you want to do after you finish your education?”

“I will go to Dubai”

“Why Dubai?”

“Money. Here pay very bad; they make us work hard only.”

“But they treat women very badly in the Gulf.”

“They beat us and rape us here too. And then don’t pay. At least I get more money there.”

He had no answer to this argument.

“So how do you plan to go there?”

“First I get passport. Then I go to agency for work.”

“They charge a lot of money. Where will you bring so much money from?”

“You think I do this business for fun? I will earn enough to pay for the passport and agent and then go to Dubai. I will be happy at last and my sisters will not do the work I do now”

There was a longing in her eyes, but Sachin had his doubts. Her income must be meagre and it cost a fortune to get work in Dubai and emigrate. It would remain a pipe dream and she would end up sick and old within ten years, her dreams shattered. But he couldn’t bring himself to tell her. Conversely, he knew that a lot of households in this country depended on remittances from their daughters in the Gulf Countries. They said bye to each other as Sachin put money in her hands.

A month had passed since their first meeting. The cold had set in on Addis Ababa. They were sitting at their usual meeting place. She was shivering. Sachin removed his coat and put it on her shoulder. His gesture brought a tear in her eye which she immediately wiped away, turning her face so he could not see. She took his hand and said “Lets go.”


“My home.”

“But I don’t have money.”

“Is ok. Come.”

They got into a Lada Taxi and she told the cabbie where to go. The cab interior smelt of diesel, but they couldn’t open the windows as it was too cold. They got down at a street corner and from there walked on a cobbled path. It was dark as the street lights were either broken or stolen. The path twisted and turned and finally she knocked softly on a gate and whispered something in Amharic. A middle-aged woman opened it and smiled at him knowingly. Meklit guided him to a door that opened into a small room. It was dimly lit and he could see that it was barely furnished, but clean. There was no bed, just a single mattress on the floor. The clothes trunk doubled as a chair. The aroma of ground coffee hung in the air. She closed the door, hugged and kissed him. Sachin hugged her tight and they no longer held back and gave to each other fully. Only six words were uttered; “The condom is in my purse.” As they lay exhausted on the mattress Sachin thought about the future. Where would they go from here? Obviously she was getting involved. She had broken the fundamental tenet of her profession and hadn’t taken money from him.

“I wish I could help her. But how? I am a loser myself.”

He got up without a word and dressed.

“You are leaving?”

“Yes I have to get up early in the morning for work.” His abruptness puzzled her.

“Call you later, Ciao.” he said

Sachin was restless the whole week. He had neither taken her calls nor called her. But she had never once left his thoughts. He wanted to help her get out of this hell hole. But how? He agonized over an answer to this question. How could he help her get that money? Distractedly he switched on the TV for his favorite sports channel. But they were showing an old cricket match so he flipped channels. The nervous clicking of the remote button stopped on the History Channel. They were doing a feature on George Bernard Shaw. “Shaw….hmmm Pygmalion…” he thought. And then an idea hit him. Excitedly he dialed her number,

“Meklit where are you? Come to my house immediately”

“But I was about to go to sleep and I don’t know where you live.”

“Oh get into a cab and give me a call. I will explain the location to the driver.”

Half an hour later his doorbell rang. He let her in and they hugged each other kissing passionately. She drew away and slapped him on his chest.

“Why you don’t call me?”

“No time for all that now. Listen I have a plan. From tomorrow you will come here every evening. I will teach you English.”

“But why should I learn English?”

“Don’t argue. Just do as I say. Hmmm, why don’t we start now?”

Bernard Shaw was going to turn in his grave, but Sachin couldn’t care less.

Meklit was laughing, thinking this was one more of his ploys to amuse her. But soon she found he was serious, and began to reciprocate. “He is such a good teacher” she thought “much better than that idiot in school”.

She was a quick learner and her base was good. In between language lessons he also taught her the graces. The tuitions continued for fifteen days, till finally Prof Higgins-Sachin was satisfied.

“Tomorrow we do some shopping” he said. He took her to Dembel City Center where the well-known designers had boutiques. She couldn’t believe it until he paid for a beautiful dress, that was quiet expensive. “This looks great on you” he said. “Okay let’s go. Sheraton please.” He said to the cabbie.

Meklit gaped and yelped “Sheraton? No way. They don’t allow girls like me in there.”

“ I am with you. Don’t worry.” She was apprehensive as they entered the beautiful but imposing building. The concierge didn’t bat an eyelid and saluted her. The luxury of the place was something she hadn’t even dreamt of. She was conscious of her heels clacking on the shiny surface and wanted to remove them. Sachin was holding her hand and pressed it lightly to reassure her. He took her to the pool side restaurant where a live band was playing. Many envious eyes were cast their way. She was looking stunningly beautiful. Meklit was soaking in the atmosphere when Sachin got up and said “I will come in a moment” and went towards the toilet. After five minutes her phone rang. It was Sachin. “Meklit, this is your new work place. Don’t be afraid. Men are the same everywhere, except for the clothes and perfumes they wear. If there is any problem give me a call. I am sitting in the Indian restaurant.” She wanted to run. But his voice had a calming effect on her. Now she realized the import of his training. She deposited the cell phone in her purse and looked up to see a Caucasian male ogling her. She raised her right brow at him and smiled.

The next morning Sachin was woken up by the insistent ringing of his door bell. He opened the door only to be jumped up on and kissed by an excited Meklit. She hadn’t even bothered to close the door. “Hey what’s up” he said and hastily closed the door.

She opened her purse and threw dollars on him. “See what I have earned… wow I have never seen so much money in my life. I want to buy something for you; let’s go to Dembel.”

“Ok! Now don’t spend this money like a fool. Just buy one more dress and some nice perfume. Rest you save.”

That day he took her to a bank and opened an account for her. This was something she could never forget all her life.

Within no time she had sufficient money in her account. Being naturally smart, she had overcome the difficulties- security personnel and established competitors-of operating in a five star hotel with ease.

Sachin had helped her in getting a good job in a Spa in Dubai through a friend who worked with a multi national cosmetic firm. Sachin was hugely satisfied with her success. In a way it was his success too. An ordinary man like him had done something extraordinary. “I am not such a failure after all” he thought.

It had been six months since she had emigrated. They spoke to each other, but the frequency of calls had receded.

Sachin was sitting in the same old café where they had first met. “Its been a week she hasn’t called” he said to himself. “I suppose its time to move on. But I miss her so much.” The band was playing a romantic number, which made him more melancholy.

He was about to get up and leave when a soft voice said “ I sit here?” Startled he looked up in hope. It wasn’t Meklit, but another girl who was making doe eyes at him.

“Help yourself” he said.

She smiled at him and sat down.

Sachin gathered himself and looked into her eyes,

“Ok! Now tell me… Do you want to go to Dubai or the United States…….”


Captain Rahul Joshi stood on the bridge shouting into the radio, wondering if the fear crazed engineer could even follow his instructions. Huge waves lashed the boat as the storm raged. Death the grim reaper was licking his tongue in anticipation. A giant wave picked the ship like a toy and threw it. Its old corroded body broke into two and sank. As Rahul drowned his last thoughts were about his wife Leila.

Rahul arrived at the gates of what looked like a huge railway station. A large mass of people were moving in one direction, matched in speed and purposefulness by another group moving in the opposite direction. It reminded him of Mumbai VT. None of his ship-mates were around. Someone tapped him on his back.

“Hi, I’m Prayagraj. Welcome to Trishanku.”

Rahul gave him a puzzled look.

“Mr.Raj where am I? Can you help me get in? …And what’s Trishanku?”

“You didn’t read your scriptures well young man! It’s the space between heaven and earth.”

“You mean I’m dead?”

“You’re dead right. Sorry, pun unintended.”

“Your English is good for someone from Heaven Mr.Raj. I thought everyone here spoke Sanskrit.”

“That was before the introduction of language programs, by a guy called Phil Bates. You’re in Trishanku, because you’re a dissatisfied soul.”

“I thought insatiate souls became ghosts!”

“In most cases,yes. But there must be something good in you.”

“Mr.Prayagraj, what shall I do here?”

“Call me Prayag, …more comfy. What did you want to do the most, but couldn’t, when you were…you know…”

“Oh, I wanted to be a farmer.”

“Then farmer it is! Let’s start tilling this parcel of land.”

Prayag disappeared. From nowhere a bullock and plough appeared.

“Prayag? Hey… where are you?”

“Come on, let’s get on with the job!”

It was the bull talking to him.

“Is it Prayag? Can I hit you with this stick?”

“Of course not! Violence isn’t allowed. Please be good or you’ll get negative marking. The entrance exam to Heaven is based upon the IITJEE!”

“Very funny! I’m not amused.”

Rahul tilled his parcel of land and harvested wheat. He could feel people around him, but couldn’t see them. PrayagRaj was his only companion. One day Prayag said,

“The crop’s excellent. I shall take it to Lord Vishnu.”

He came back beaming.

“The Lord is happy with you. Ask for anything.”

“I want to meet my family.”

“Alas! Not possible my friend.”

Five seasons Rahul tried his best to please Lord Vishnu. Each time he asked for a reunion, in vain.

Today Prayag had gone with the sixth crop. He returned with a solemn face. Rahul’s heart sank.

“The Lord has acquiesced dear friend. Tomorrow we start our return journey.”

Rahul was overjoyed.

“At last, I’m going to meet everyone. Hey! Why do you look so morose? It’s the best thing that could happen to me.”

“We’ll see” Prayag said mysteriously. “By the way who would you like to meet the most?”

“My wife Leila of course!”

“Listen… Only she’ll be able to recognize you. The rest will take you for someone else.”

Rahul was too excited to pay attention to Prayag. Contemplating meeting Leila, he went to sleep a happy man.

The bed in which Rahul woke up felt strange. So did the room. There was a knock at the door “Breakfast sir”. Before he could speak a loud shout came from the bathroom, “Come in”. A waiter entered with the breakfast trolley saying, “Good morning sir”. His uniform signified he was an employee of the Taj Group. Rahul went to the window and opened the curtains. Yes! The Gateway of India was in place. So was the magnificent statue of Shivaji. The sea was pushing hard at the piers. “I’m back in Bombay” he thought, “but what am I doing here instead being home? And who’s this guy in the bathroom?” The ‘guy’ came out singing, but stopped when he saw Rahul awake.

“Great morning, Rahul? Enjoyed the trip back to earth.”

“Oh it’s you Prayag. But why have you come?”

“Just in case you want to return. I’m the only one who knows the way.”

“Return? Me? Never!!”

“We’ll see. Now get ready. We’ve a function to attend.”

“What? I thought I was going home!”

“Tarry my friend. Everything will happen at its given moment. Finish your breakfast..”

Rahul went inside the bathroom. The face in the mirror shocked him. It wasn’t his. Then he remembered Prayag’s warning. He got ready swiftly and got into a taxi Prayag had arranged for. The Concierge looked familiar, only older.

“It’s been six long years.”

“Malabar hill” Prayag said. Rahul hungrily gulped the strange mixture of smoke and gases that’s called air in Bombay. Nothing had changed except for some new cars. One thing puzzled him. Instead of ‘Bombay’ the signboards read ‘Mumbai’. The taxi stopped. Rahul disembarked on a familiar pavement. His chest welled up at the sight of his apartment building. In a trance, oblivious of Prayag he walked towards the lift, got in and pressed the button for the tenth floor. He was surrounded by familiar faces but none recognized him. “Hi!” he said but none responded. He checked again in the mirror. The face was different. The lift finally reached the tenth floor, opening to a hub of activity. The lobby was full of people. His father was right at the door greeting and directing visitors. With a lump in his throat Rahul approached him,

“Hi Dad!”

“Hi, sorry son, I can’t place you!”

“Dad, I’m Ra….”

“Rahul’s friend,” interjected Prayag with a warning glance at Rahul.

“…Rakesh. I’m Prayag, Rahul’s pals from Mazda Shipping, come to pay homage on his anniversary.”

“Please come in. Malini, meet Rakesh and Prayag, Rahul’s friends.”

“Nice of you to come. Are you crying son? It’s alright. Time is a great healer…”

“Oh Mom, you too!!” Rahul said to himself.

The situation was pretty frustrating for Rahul. Prayag took him towards the central hall where everyone was paying floral tributes to a portrait of Rahul in his Captain’s regalia. Prayag conjured a rose bud, placed it in front of the photograph and folded his hands in prayer. Rahul was staring at the portrait; the upheaval inside his chest reflected on his face. He couldn’t digest the scene before him.

“…was one handsome guy!” someone was saying. Realizing these words were directed at him he muttered “Eh? …sure” and moved on to a group of relatives.

“The stock market is plummeting like mercury in Siberian winter” said Ashok, his cousin.

“A particularly severe winter!” agreed Sameer another cousin.

Their conversation then turned towards the vagaries of Siberian winters and the arrival of cranes in India. No mention of Rahul.

“And these are the guys who got the choicest Scotch whiskies from me”

Rahul saw his father, the ex-minister, talking solemnly.

“Must be remembering me” he thought, gravitating towards that group.

“That old man has destroyed the party and must go.”

“Why do we have to replace him by another old man? We should bring in a young leader. That fellow from Rajasthan looks promising.”

“Bah!! He’s just…..”

A dejected Rahul walked away towards a group of friends with whom he had spent many happy moments. Maybe they would remember him.

“Indian cricket is dead. Long live Indian cricket.”

“How can cricket survive with a bunch of jokers at the helm? They should be shot”.

“Hey that’s groovy. I know a film-star with an AK47!” Rahul’s dejection was turning into anger. Everyone had kept the symbolic flower in front of the portrait and forgotten him. He felt like getting out from there, when he saw his brilliant but always drunk maternal uncle, Ramesh.

“Uncle, why have all these people gathered here?”

“My dear boy, it’s my nephew Rahul’s death anniversary. Didn’t you know that?”

“Oh I see but none seem to remember him.”

“Ahh!! You feel hurt? You know for us every function, be it a wedding, birthday, death wake, funeral, is a reason to meet, eat drink and continue what we were discussing at the last meeting.”

Rahul couldn’t fathom the reason for his wife Leila’s absence. His father was still enmeshed in political intrigues; his mother surrounded by high society pals. Angry and dejected he walked down the twenty flights and fell exhaustedly in a taxi that had appeared at the right moment.

“Come in my friend.” Prayag was already in the taxi.

“I don’t understand Prayag. Everyone seems to have forgotten me. And where is Leila? I must meet her!”

“You shall my friend, but today you need rest. Driver, the Taj please!”

They entered their room. Without a word Rahul went to bed. The night passed fitfully for him. Sleep was elusive. Morning saw a subdued Prayag offering breakfast that was promptly refused.

“Fasting won’t solve your problems. We have important things to do. Today we’ll visit an old friend.”

The taxi stopped in front of the latest Hafiz Contractor creation, on Worli Sea face. Rahul wondered who Prayag’s friend could be. The elevator doors opened on the third floor. He followed Prayag. The name plate read Dr.J N.Chitale. A maid opened the door.

“Is Mrs.Chitale home?”

“Yes she is. May I know who wants to see her please?”

She ushered them into the plush drawing room with a beautiful sea view.

“Memsaab will be down soon. Please be seated.”

Rahul walked to the window. The normally buoyant sea was flat and listless. He felt uneasy. He was sweating in spite of the air conditioning. Hearing soft footfalls on the carpet, he turned around and froze. He got the shock of his life (shall we say afterlife?) Mrs.Chitale was none other than Leila. His own Leila, who was not his own now! Leila went white, words choking in her throat.

“Oh my God!! It can’t be!”

She sat heavily on the sofa.

“Who are you?” she could barely croak.

“Leila it’s me Rahul”

“No. It cannot be. Rahul died six years ago.”

“No Leila I didn’t die…Prayag, please tell her”.

Prayag had mysteriously disappeared. They were alone.

There was an awkward silence. Rahul was lost for words. All that he had rehearsed for this meeting was gone. “How could you do this Leila?” was all he could blurt.

“Do what? Marry again? What was I to do, tell me.”

Rahul had no answer.

“Why have you come after all these years?” she asked.

“Leila I was stuck in a no-man’s land. It was only my desire to be with you that brought me back.”

“Your desire is of no consequence now. I’ve married another and love him.”

“But why, Leila? Don’t you remember those oaths of eternal love? You used to say that even death would not part us. Where is that love, Leila?”

“That love has been sucked away by the vacuum created by your disappearance. The ship of our love floundered on the rock of loneliness and was submerged by Jayant, my husband’s, love.”

“You mean everything between us was meaningless? A big zero??”

“I didn’t mean that. I still love you, as a memory. You’re the past Rahul. It’s intruding on my present now.”

“You’re being cruel Leila”

“I’m sorry if you feel that way. Have you ever been lonely?”

“Lonely? If only you knew..!”

Six years in a lonely hut, tilling land with only a bullock doubling up as an emissary of God for company, flashed before Rahul’s eyes.

“Please try to understand Rahul. Dead people don’t come back.”

“So you want me dead…eh?”

“Don’t put words in my mouth Rahul. I don’t want you dead. I don’t want you in my life either.”

“That’s worse than death Leila. I won’t be seeing you again.”

“Wait, have some coffee…”

“You have forgotten I hate coffee…goodbye!”

“Rahul!!Rahul?” Someone was shaking him. Rahul opened his eyes. To his astonishment he saw Leila leaning over him, all dressed up in traditional silks.

“Where am I?”

“What’s the matter Rahul? Had a nightmare? You were muttering, ‘Prayag, she has even forgotten I hate coffee.’ Who were you talking about? Who is Prayag?”

“Oh… I don’t know who Prayag is. Must’ve been a bad dream”

Leila playfully tugged his shirt and said,

“Do you know today is Vat Savitri; I’m observing fast. I’ve circumbulated the banyan tree and prayed to Shivji that we should be together for seven births.”

“Seven births? How about this birth? What if I die early and you marry someone else?”

Leila put her hand on his mouth

“Don’t talk like this on such a holy occasion, Rahul! Come, your tea is ready.”

Rahul was bemused. “So it had been a dream Thank God!” He sighed and stepped into the bathroom. He looked in the mirror in shock. The image was Prayag’s.

“Thought it was a dream? It wasn’t! Well, for once I’ve deviated from rules and put the clock back six years. But what the He…oops Heavens!! I’m God!! I can break my own rules.”

The image changed. Rahul Joshi was now smiling tentatively at Rahul Joshi. Leila’s husky voice in the background was exhorting the maid to be careful with the cutlery.

Let’s leave them in their marital bliss.

Note: This story was shortlisted for the Penguin-Sulekha Blogprint initiative. It was included in a collection of short stories published  by under the title ‘Unwind: A Whirlwind of Writings

A morsel of ‘Redemption’

“It was a typical peak hour morning at Churchgate station as the 9:23 fast local groaned to a halt and disgorged its contents as if it hated their very smell. People debarked at such speed that Anand, who was waiting for an acquaintance, felt it was a great reptile bleeding copiously. The crowds jostled towards the exit.

Suddenly he saw a face that stirred long gone memories. Memories of a slim, young, wide eyed youth now buried in layers of fat, his innocence covered with the garbage the world had thrown at him over the years. Memories he’d imagined would accompany him on his lonely upward journey.

Sameer Chugh was moving in the metronomic manner of a coiled spring toy which only a Mumbaite can perfect “Hi Sameer,” Anand called out.

A puzzled look greeted him, and then suspicion gave way to sudden recognition which is so common amongst long lost school chums. Sameer’s face lit up “Arre Anand!! Where are you yaar? Wonderful seeing you after so many years. What are you doing these days…? “ ………. (more)

Excerpts from the second story ‘Redemption‘  that I have posted at INDImag for the Kathasagar series. Please do read, comment and rate. Thank you.