Joined: 06 December 2007
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Pain… Death… Love… and Life…
I stood there; just stood there. I couldn't understand what was going around me. I didn't know if I had wanted to understand what was happening around me. All I knew was that today was the day that I had waited for. I waited for this day since years, but when this day had finally come; I was left shattered, broken into pieces. I was left all alone; alone to fend for myself, alone to mend my broken heart. I have heard people groan about how much a broken heart hurts; how much you try, you will never be able to fix it. Today was the day I was going to get married. We had planned everything together, especially the wedding date. The longest day of the year, so in the upcoming years we could have more time to ourselves. I didn't know that this is how it would end up being. I couldn't do much but stare at her melt into his arms like I wasn't there. She is lambasting me for some reason unknown to me. She is causing me furious distress. Maybe this was destined to happen. Maybe this is what should have happened. Maybe love is not for me. Love is definitely not for me.
I walked out of the room, still numb. I felt a flaming desire rise up in my throat. The desire to break all my inhibitions and break, crumble, and tear myself into pieces. All of a sudden, it felt as if the air out of me was being sucked up. Then I knew I was going to die. I felt empty. This felt good. Better than what I had felt with her around. It felt like my lungs inflating on their own. It appeared like my senses were alive. I wondered if that was possible. I felt someone shaking me vigorously. I dared and opened my eyes. Then again I was dumbstruck. The world around me had stopped, and the time had paused. My reason for life had come back to me. She had come back to me.
"Excuse me? Sir are you alright?" I heard the angel speak. I was confused. Did she not know my name? Did she not know me? I stood up startled, and baffled. How can she not know me? She always called me her cantor why was she acting so unknown?
"Hi… Are you lost mister? Do you need help?" She replied yet again, confusing me once again.
"Shilpa? Are you alright? How do you not remember me?" I replied rather queasy.
"Ah… That explains it. I am not Shilpa. I am her twin, Shikha. Sorry for the confusion but I told her not to tell anyone about me. "She ended, and bounced away.
I closed my eyes. I closed my eyes in solace. I felt imbecilic for jumping to conclusions. Now I felt guilty, how could I have ever doubted her? Not knowing how to comfort myself, I let a tear trickle down my face. Armaan Mallik had never cried for a girl in his life before. Shilpa was different. She was the sole reason to my existence, the definition to the life that I live.
I jolted as I felt her cold hands crawl over my thin jersey. This is it. This is what I had always wanted. Someone to love, and as a bonus she loves me back. I turned and gave her a softest kiss on her check, apologizing for my little mistrust fiasco. I had vowed to never doubt this lady again. I guess love is for everybody, you just have to search hard, and if you are lucky it will come right to you. Like my Shilpa did. Then I remembered… that I was getting married today. This was already a long day… with more to come.
A/N: Characters are adapted from the show on Channel Star One called "Dill Mill Gayye".
This was a speedy attempt to write something unworthy of this contest.
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My Cool Savior
Perspiration oozed out of my pores like a sponge's absolute paradox. The abhorrent droplets trickling down the side of my face could not be more unappealing.
The teeming heat only amplified its pressure on me, but the heat was worth an essential purpose. Besides, the white folded paper I waved over my face made the sizzling sun slightly bearable. However as one hour became two and then three, I could vow upon my impending death. The immense heat began to overpower my ability to think. Steadily, cognizance was abandoning me. For that reason, as I was extremely dehydrated, I knew I would faint very soon.
In the depths of my heart, I yearned for him to take me in his arms before I hit cement ground. How long could he withhold his pity, love, lust for me?
In my head, however, I tossed each of these sensations into the basket. Lust; of those three months, two of them were spent on another girl's bed. Love; had love been enough for him, he would restrain from cheating on me. Pity; a man that held such supercilious pride could not concern himself with others.
I knew I was misleading myself. Stefan Salvatore was not a man of true love.
Still, I wished to find true love in him; the true love I could not seek from my previous lover. These men appeared to be of the same kind: careless of the girls' sentiments.
Even though I knew of his horrid personality, my commitment glued me to this spot outside his grand house. I believed in commitment, hoping my significant one would believe so too.
Perhaps, Stefan had not seen me. Perhaps, just now he would peek through his shaded curtains and gape at my fragile figure. He would realize of my photosensitivity and come running in his shining armor. So gallantly, he would sweep me up in valiant arms and take me into his cool palace.
In a house where vampires dwelled, the presence of heat was never welcomed. Since I was naturally sensitive to heat as a human, I found the vampire's inability to suppress heat rather amusing.
Nonetheless, in the town I lived, the bloodsucking vampires ceased to exist. They remained in harmony with humans for the price of attaining whatever they pleased, including hospital blood bags, rare animals, and beautiful girls'not that the girls disliked the supernatural attention.
Thus, because the town became inured to these vampires and occasional appearances from werewolves, the sight of them became less amusing and more accustomed to.
I seemed to forget the perks of being a vampire, even as I stood waiting outside the vampire's door: the ability to turn off his emotions and the lustful necessity of delightful girls. Stefan never appeared so unkind or bitter. He was a romantic creature feeding on girls' happiness
Yet as four hours passed agonizingly, I began to acknowledge his indifference and apathy towards me and many other girls. He clearly showed no feelings for me.
Possibly, that was the reason why he never cared to speak of his notorious affair. It was the moment I caught his promiscuity that he bothered to recognize my presence. He apologized so drolly that I could not accept it. How repugnant he appeared!
And now, I was pleading him to return to me. I had forgiven his infidelity as if it gave me no pain.
Although I should have persevered for my love, I could not remain in the presence of the scorching rays any longer. Suddenly, the man who I supposedly enamored for three months seemed worthless compared to my health. Yet, again, perhaps I was simply being selfish as always.
Soon, however, it became too late to judge my obstinacy. As the onerous lucidity became a burden to cope with, I closed my eyes.
Then, the fainting process instigated its merciless torture on me. Like a lunar eclipse, the world became murky. Suddenly, rainbow colors shot into my eyes like a kaleidoscope. I was overcome with decrepitude. Abruptly, I tripped and fell backwards onto the comfort of two robust arms.
"Elena," was all I heard before I completely lost conscious. In my dreams, I saw the magnanimous man that saved me or who I wished saved me.
"Oh Stefan, you have saved me." I declared in a dramatized tone, awaking from my blackout. I heard a roaring laughter filling the entire room. My eyes fluttered open to behold a room I never perceived.
Turning my head to the side, I saw Damon sitting beside me. Shamelessly on the bed, he was lying to his side, simply watching me. His bellowing laughter became soft chuckles before his intoxicating grin appeared.
"It's you," I groaned unhappily. I lay on his silky bed sheets, sinking into the pillow.
"Do not be so disheartened," he said. "I am a very intriguing company."
"Hardly of my interest." I replied.
"Would you share your intention of standing outside my brother's house?" He inquired, now relying on his elbow to balance him. His face was slightly pinched by the pressure of his palm.
"I was waiting for him. I thought he would come." I honestly answered.
"I came in the absence of Stefan," he said.
"You mean he was not there?" I sighed in relief. "Here I thought something much worse."
"He was there. He never saw you however." His face was engraved with the seriousness. I wondered if he was watching me stand there for four hours. "My brother was occupied in kissing his new girlfriend, Lexie. On a blazing day, the kisses were pretty steamy and it leveled to further actions."
Of course, he was the vampire. He could sense his brother's heavy breathing with his scarlet-woman. I doubted that Lexie even knew of me or any other girl. She was just as blind as me.
"Ah," he rolled his eyes. "Humans."
So swiftly, he lifted himself off the bed and on the bedroom corner where he preserved his bar. Pouting from his lack of concern, I wiped my worthless tears away.
"I was standing there for four hours!" I yelled out. Damon winced from my voice, covering one side of his ear.
"Control your voice." He demanded in a hushed tone. With his vampire alacrity, he closed the curtains.
"You could have told me!"
"And would you have listened?" He turned to me while pouring himself a glass of wine. His eyebrow raised, he irritatingly smirked at me.
True to his words, I would have never listened.
Damon Salvatore was the other Salvatore. To attain the attention of one of the Salvatore brothers symbolized glory. He was just as promiscuous if not more.
However, unlike Stefan, he had the decency of dumping the girl before she caught him with another girl. That way, she was no surprised to see him smothering kisses all over the other girl. Considering Stefan, Damon was the good one when it came to taking care of a girl's heart.
I heaved another dejected sigh, looking away from him.
"But I was standing there for so long-
-knowing you were sensitive to heat. You must be aching with rashes by now." He was scolding me. "By the way, how long has it been since you drank water?"
"How do you know?"
"That you are dehydrated? Well, I don't know. What am I?" He rhetorically asked. "I know every vein, every blood cell in your body."
"Will you stop scolding me? I am so fatigued." I said.
"Drink some water." He urged, handing me a glass of water.
"It's very warm in your room." I commented. I fanned myself with my hand.
"Is the water helping?" For the first time, I heard sincerity in his voice. I smiled towards him as he bent down next to me.
"Not really," I told him. The globules of sweat were once again oozing out of my skin. The onerous radiance, peeking through the curtains, shed on me. "I feel faint."
"My apologies," he answered politely. "We are naturally cold. There is no need for air conditioners or fans."
He put up his hand that held the magical ring, which prevented him from burning in the sun. Unfortunately, there were no special rings for human.
The day being the Summer Solstice, the sun would continue to spread its scorching heat. On the other hand, the humidity was heavily weighing down, creeping through his open windows. If I did not receive the touch of cool air, I would begin to hyperventilate.
"I am very unwell." I informed him, closing my eyes. Keeping a steady gaze began to appear excruciating.
"What can I do?" He inquired.
"Take me home," I ordered.
"Your home is an hour away for a vampire and longer for you. You will still be under the rays of the sun." He explained. I groaned in vain. My skin was starting to burn. "Elena how idiotic of you to come all the way for the anticipation that proved utterly worthless."
"You are not helping at this moment," I opened my eyes to glare at him. He was watching me with this strange intensity.
"Elena, you are so hot." He commented.
"Thank you," I smiled sarcastically.
"I meant as in you are sweating, fool." He chuckled.
"I was being sarcastic!" It was hurting to glare now that the burning sensation was spreading everywhere. I closed my eyes again.
Gently, Damon reached up to remove the plastered strands of hair from my forehead. I melted in his icy touch as I immediately began to calm down. Before he could take away his hand, I snatched it closer to me. I placed it on my neck, leaning against it.
"I understand you are hurt because of my brother, but I urge you to rethink your actions before avenging him. Sleeping with me is not a solution." He said. I opened my eyes to glare at him for the third time.
"This feels nice," I said. "Your hands are so cold."
"That's the perks of-
"If you make another idiotic comment'" I trailed off as he lifted his hand to stroke my cheek.
"Come closer, Elena." He said. For the strangest reason, my chest fluttered from his words. Instantly, I became aware of his presence. His hand against my skin felt more than serene; it created this strange tingling sensation.
I ignored the peculiar movements within my heart, hoping to suppress them before he took notice. But it was too late. My heart was skipping one beat after another. I could not grasp the tingles riding through my skin.
Fearing he would notice, I attempted to dissuade him from my raging heartbeat.
"It has been a long time," I said.
"It has," he agreed. I felt him move closer. He took my hand and placed it on his chest. Damon gestured me to bend my head down against his chest. Assuming it was to keep me cool, I complied. "I am hardly to blame. You distanced yourself once you found my brother."
"Damon, your brother told me not to associate with you." I explained.
"You listened to willingly," he scoffed. His hand, around the nape of my neck, tensed. "Selfish little Elena."
"You are one to complain," I retorted back. "He told me you did not wish to share my presence."
I attempted to lift my head but he pushed it down. He spread his legs, lying against the pillow. He placed me in between his limbs and told me to lie against him. I relaxed, sensing the coolness of his body; it was comforting.
Silence lingered in the humid atmosphere. There was a tacit debacle still continuing while I lay so close to him. I believed it was no more than lust overpowering my heart's inability to beat steadily. If it was no for his coolness, I would have blazing because of one, my photosensitivity, and second, the provoking proximity between Damon and me. Even though the hot air did not induce my lethargy, breathing against him and feeling his fingers gently caressing my skin caused the exact result. In the midst of madness, I feared what I would do.
"That's my brother," he said after a while. "The most deceitful liar in this town."
"I never wished to leave you so abruptly," I told him, leaning into him until there was no distance between us. I felt his chin rest against my head. "Our friendship held so much essence. I did not learn how to cherish it."
"Go on," he urged.
"You are dodging the truth." He revealed. I swallowed, wondering what exposed my true feelings. "Your heartbeat, I can feel it. You are lying to me."
"Not really," I replied. "I am telling the half-truth."
"Then tell me the other half," he demanded. His hands slid under mine, softly enabling the tips of our fingers to touch each other. A strange charge swept through my fingertips and into every vein in my body. I gasped feeling the familiar touch. As if my uneasiness was hardly noticeable, Damon parted my fingers and slipped his fingers in between, intertwining our hands.
"I cannot reveal anything more," I hesitated. He brought our intertwined right hands towards my chest. He placed his lips against my ear, placing a soft kiss just under my earlobe. "Stop it, Damon."
"Tell me that you are afraid of confessing your love for me." He whispered against my ear. I leaned against him, breathless. I felt my chest move in sync with our intertwined hands. He could sense my rapid heartbeat screaming for steadiness.
"That is not true," I denied though it certainly was.
"You fear I will deny you a chance to be with me as I have denied many more. Even though you are in love with me, you hide it beneath your smothered exterior that feigns attraction towards Stefan." He revealed my emotions so thoroughly that it irritated me. As if I possessed no privacy towards my shameful feelings. He shredded my deceitful mask.
I sensed his lips travelling down my ear towards the hollow of my neck. So agonizingly, he nipped on the skin. Immediately, my neck arched backwards. It seemed he had stealthily grasped me in his arms, hindering my escape.
"No," I shouted against my will.
"Do not lie to me!" Parting our left hands, he reached to turn my head towards him. Swiftly, his lips captured mine, biting my bottom lip before proceeding further. I rebuffed his entrance but his lips dominated me. I was returning his kisses without my cognition. He parted our lips, grinning sheepishly. "You cannot tell me 'no' now, can you?"
He was looking into my drooping eyes that closed for a few seconds before opening again. In his eyes I became lost as I allowed myself to become mesmerized by his enchanting greyish green eyes. An uncomfortable lump formed in my throat.
"How will this benefit you, Damon?" Angry tears were pouring down my cheeks and Damon watched in disbelief. "You wish for me to accept my feelings only to be rejected by you? Is that what you wish?"
For the countless time, I attempted to release myself from him, but he was too stubborn to free me. He held me secure against his chest as I breathed in harmony with him.
"It took me our separation to acknowledge your existence." He said. "Do you know how difficult it becomes to see you so close to my brother. In a few days, you were persuaded by his charms, when our friendship was so much longer. You never desired for me as the other girls did. You chose my brother instead. When I was always yours, you were my brother's. It hurt me yet I did not even recognize the pain."
"I believed I would find you in him," I explained.
"And did you?" He was too close to me, his lips grazing against my ear. Helplessly, I leaned in. I succumbed to his tacit ministrations, releasing myself from the emotions I imprisoned for years.
"Barely," I told him. "The player part was evident in both of you."
His chortling laughter filled the humid air. I smiled along with him. In his wintry embrace, I was beginning to realize the tranquility I denied for so long.
"How are you feeling now?" Damon asked. I craned my head to gaze into his beautiful eyes.
"The sun light can still destroy me, but I do not worry because I hold faith in you. You will shield me from the harmful rays," I believed. I stared at him lovingly only to observe the mischief in his eyes.
"Elena, I lied. There is an air conditioner in here," he smirked at me, raising his eyebrow. "I just needed an excuse to hold you close to me."
A/N: Disclaimer: I do not own The Vampire Diaries, or the cast of this addicting show, Damon; Elena; Stefan.
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A/N: Certain portions in this story are from pages of the annals of history. The rest of the happenings are purely my imagination and bear no coincidence to any other works of fiction.
SANDS OF TIME--- A 24 HOUR JOURNEY
I was in hurry and running late! My flight from Mumbai to New York nonstop was to depart at 4am IST and here I was dashing through the immigration and security checks at 3.30 am. But I could afford this liberty due to the excuse of being a frequent business class traveler of that airline.
Slowly making way to my seat, I found myself hit by a vision of beauty sitting next to my assigned seat. A gorgeous figure of lissome and stunning elegance was already cozied with a book.
Settling myself next to her and deftly shifting my position, without straining my neck or being too obvious, I saw she was reading H. G. Well's, 'The Time Machine'. Wow! This was unexpected as that book was indeed one of my favorite classics.
I smiled at her, when she looked up. That surely must have caught her attention. A handsome man, virile and well built, tall and of wheatish complexion is hard to ignore, especially when he's smiling.
Her tentative smile lit her face radiantly and gave me hopes that my 17 hour journey will not leave me in ennui. Licking my lips, I introduced myself. "Hi there, Am Rajeev Varma, a globe trotter due to professional calling."
"Hmm! Am Surabhi Sinha, a grounded person based in US", she said with a twinkle in her eye and cheekily put me in my place.
A momentary silence filled the gap to be shattered by our laughter indicating enjoyment of this exchange.
Soon our banter filled conversation slowly veered towards the book, lying askew on her lap. All attempts to read it was abandoned and she was now wide eyed and intently listening to my take on time machine.
"You know, Wells was a man beyond his time, a biology teacher and an excellent artist, his imaginative sketch and storytelling in The Time Machine, always remain deeply etched in my mind. Each time I read the book, I imagine myself going back in time and witnessing history being made."
"Yes, I too have read this book, but have never thought it that way" Surabhi enthusiastically like a child.
"Oh yeah in today's context, instead of time machine we can have a time chip that's fully loaded and with a touch of finger, if we can enter a particular period, where the language spoken is also auto translated for us, imagine how wonderful and magical the journey would be?"
It was quite fascinating to see her face showing a range of emotions to all that we could speak, in such a short time. I seemed bewitched by her and felt an undercurrent of attraction.
Our conversation was interrupted by the hostess' offering of breakfast. After that, I found my companion engrossed in book giving me a cold shoulder. Shrugging that sudden slight, I leaned back in my seat and looked out of the window.
There it was!! The rising sun above on the eastern horizon, like an golden ball lording over an orange yellow candy floss clouds. I felt as though the sun was chasing and beckoning me at the same time offering to partake with its platter of ever changing scenery.
I gladly quenched my tired and hungry eyes with this breath taking panorama unfolding in front at 40,000 feet above the earth. Satiated both physically and metaphorically, I tried to catch some shut eye.
A jolt suddenly happened and I felt the window next to me open. A sucking and pulling sensation lifted me carrying me into the realms of the white foams. I found myself wearing a pendant like chronometer.
My excitement hit the roof, or should I say the atmosphere, when I found it was indeed a unique modern time machine.. Randomly I pressed some numbers and whoosh I was falling like a rocket towards the earth, a live human missile.
Once again I found myself facing a sunrise from ground level. The air was pregnant with eerie silence and suspended anxiety. Then the sound of a blowing conch shell, like a primordial sound of creation and divinity of OM, signaled the heralding of warfare.
The sight before momentarily staggered me. It was beyond my wildest imagination and dream. There it was, like a picture perfect portrait, the battleground at Kurukshetra. The climax of the epic Mahabharatha was to commence and here I was privileged and honoured, to witness this momentous occasion.
A quick check on my Chrono time machine (CTM) showed the era as Dwaparyug or the Iron Age, the beginning of 9th century BC. An immediate assessment revealed that I was a soldier dressed to kill and importantly on the Pandava's side of army facing east towards the Kaurvas.
My heart beating super fast than a Jack hammer, I slowly scanned around me. All the five Pandavas, the 100 Kauravas with their family elders and Guru stood solemn and serious, battle ready and straight ahead.
But my eyes were irresistibly drawn towards that ever attractive Sri Krishna, who as a charioteer was resplendent and radiating serene and divine beauty. I felt very blessed at the very sight of Him.
What now!! A lone figure stood in the middle, his body shaking with overwhelming emotions. The Savior, Lord slowly made his way towards it.
"Arjuna, what ails you? Why have you stopped?" Krishna the ever knowing asked in sanskrit, the language of that era.
"Look Krishna, how can I ever fight my family, guru and friends? Is it not evil?"
Then spoke the Lord and the very essence of the Mahabharatha, 'The Bahagawad GITA', a gift of the lord to mankind was bestowed to Arjuna. This spiritual dialogue or the song of the Divine; is a treatise inform of advice and teachings to Man, the righteousness over unrighteousness, fight of good against the evil.
The most sacred preachings of the Lord, the very core of Hinduism, was unfolding before me.
I stood transfixed in an ethereal state, savoring every verse, only to be rudely brought back to battlefield by sudden war cry and clamor. Amidst the chaotic combat, I just managed to escape a well aimed arrow flying towards me, by shakily pressing the numbers on CTM, with my sweaty fingers.
I suddenly felt myself floating and flying to a far away land.
The convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie; was calm and peaceful, encompassing a quiet silence. Emerging from the shadows of the arch, I walked hesitantly towards the small refectory just outside the chapel.
I entered inside, my eyes automatically adjusting to the dim lit room. Lo and behold!! A painting on the wall made me do a double take.
There it was! 'The Last Supper' the most revered and popular painting depicting the visual interpretation of the Renaissance Master, of an event that is chronicled in all the four gospels.
I felt as though I was honored to witness this dinner affair. The streaming 11 am sunlight through the window was falling on the wall at an angle, adding more depth and character to the painting. The figures so realistic, colors so vivid, the brush strokes so brilliant, contrasting light and shade, unlike the conventional fresco work all clearly proved what a genius Leonardo da Vinci was.
A surreptitious glance at my CTM, indeed cleared my doubt of the time and place. I was now in 1500BC and in Milan.
"One always seemed to stare at that and forget to understand the deeper meaning, I intended. The Holy Grail reveals itself only to the inveterate seeker. ", a middle aged Leonardo walked in quietly and stood next to me. His quintessential Tuscany Italian accent, clearly evident in his voice.
I turned and saw him dressed in an off white tunic with hemp belt and leather saddles. I too was dressed in the same way. Slightly awed by this man, who was not only a painter, sculptor, architect but also an engineer, excelling in all those fields, I was at a loss for words.
"Hmm. Yes, I..er... I.." my guttural sounds to voice some cohesive words was only producing comical effect.
The door to the dining hall opened and the lady from Florence gently glided in. She was a beauty in the eyes of the beholder; her skin pale and soft and her face slightly flushed and seemed devoid of eyebrows.
Giving her trade mark gentle smile, she asked "Leonardo, when are you going to start my painting, my husband awaits your arrival at Florence"
"All in good time Madam Mona Lisa, as soon as my work here is over' he said in all earnest, but his eyes betraying a twinkling naughtiness.
A sudden clamor outside, resulted in the entry of soldiers of Cesare Borgia, the much feared son of Pope Alexander the VI. This was the period of difficult times in the Papal history.
"Da Vinci, your service is required for immediate attention at The Vatican, please leave now" they ordered.
Sensing trouble and avoiding any confrontation, I once again randomly pressed some numbers of CTM, charting my escape course and found myself slowly disappearing from the scene.
This time I seem to land rather bumpily on the hedges surrounding an English mansion. Dusting myself off and checking for broken bones, I was startled to see myself attired in tight fitting breeches, with long coat tail, a fine linen shirt with cravat and an overcoat hanging loosely over me. Straightening my hat, I walked into the house with tentative steps.
My CTM showed me I was now in Regency era England, the period 1815, the time just around 6pm.
Gingerly I entered the Mansion, only to see a soiree of sorts happening inside with quite a lot of respectable ladies and gentlemen of the English society present.
A reading of a book was going on and the whole place seemed to reverberate with romantic effervescence. Curious to see who was doing the honors, I was pleasantly surprised to see a young woman around forty, passionately narrating the 34th chapter of Pride and Prejudiced.
"You could not have made the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it." Elizabeth Bennet was telling in earnest to Mr.Darcy, the narrator quoted from the text.
I waited patiently till two more chapters were finished, when the assembly broke out for a respite. A small group moved closer to the lady, and I too inched forward.
A vision of serene and graceful beauty hit me. Dressed in a yellow gown of high necked and long sleeve, with lace trimmings and skirts flowing down from waist length, she was attractive in her own right.
Looking closely I found her pale face highlighting an illness within. But it was her eyes twinkling and sparkling with merriment and satisfaction, on successfully establishing herself as a writer and novelist.
"Ms. Jane Austen, let me congratulate your prolific writing capabilities. Am an ardent fan of your works" someone in that circle said.
"Why thank you, Mr. James. Writing is my passion and now it seems my sustenance too" she said in a strong voice, which betrayed a trace of wistful longing.
I could see that she was battling in vain against TB, which had no cure those days. But like Elizabeth Bennet, she was so full of life and spirits, quick witted and intelligent and indomitable in nature.
A sudden excitement and buzz caught everyone's attention. The news that Lord Wellington defeated the tyrant Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo was spreading infectiously and gaining a lot cheer and happiness.
Stepping outside along with the tide of eager and excited people, I found the evening sunset painting an orange glow of unbridled enthusiasm, warmth and energy.
As darkness fell around me, I saw the skies lit up with colorful fireworks symbolizing and hailing the victory of good over evil.
Someone bumped into me. Trying to step aside, instead I found myself being kicked and beaten. My possessions were being searched and in an attempt to protect myself and prevent further damage, I tried to run but only managed to trip and fall face down, badly hurting my forehead , arms and legs.
A white light enveloped me and I seem to get lost in that purity. It pulled and sucked me through it deeper and deeper.
The last I remembered was frantically pressing some numbers in my CTM.
I gingerly opened my eyes and cautiously looked around. There was white everywhere, the wall, floor tiles, door in that stark room, even the bed all seemed to be washed and painted with white.
Sitting up straight, I saw that even my robes were spotless white. There was hardly any furniture in the room, except for this bed and its only occupant.
A jittery and uneasy feeling filled my whole self. Careful examination of my body yielded a jolt to me. My hands were shaking as though I was suffering from Parkinson's disease and my skin shriveled and folded overlapping each other like that of a very old man.
My forehead decorated by a band-aid strip, my arms showing signs of numerous needle marks, bruised blue and black, my left knee swathed in bandages, all indicated I must have had a bad fall or injured myself.
Trying to stand up on my own seemed to be an enormous effort. Managing to heave myself off the bed after innumerable gasps and pants, I found my spine was so crooked that I was looking like a question mark.
My vision, which initially was clear seem to get blur by the minute. A sudden chill ran down my bent spine, my stomach acting queasy. To my horror I found myself peeing involuntarily creating a puddle around me on the floor. I felt like crying and called out to help.
"HELP'HELP..Someone ..Please'what?.. where am I?" 'Hic'...'Sob''. I could barely shout, as my voice sounded feeble and croaking.
Fighting a losing battle against fear, I sat down on the bet in a wet state and started crying inconsolably, my whole self; body and mind trembling and shaking.
The door opened and again I could make out nebulous figures again in white, coming towards me..
They were asking me something, which was not audible to me. Straining my ears, I tried to listen what was being said, by the two people. By this time I could make out that I was confined to some clinic and they were doctors.
"Ehh' What did you say?"..I croaked and shakily place my palm near my ears to hear their reply.
A few minutes passed, but it seemed an eternity to me. Neither could I hear what was being said nor could I see them clearly. It seemed even my olfactory sense was barely working. I was totally lost, alone in some clinic, looking very old and debilitated, bruised and battered, lonely like an orphan and yearning for comfort like a child.
"Hmmm. This is the fifth time he has emptied his bladder today, in this uncontrollable manner. He is never calm and always shouts and screams, in spite of double dose of tranquilizers. "..One doctor was saying looking at me intently.
"Yes Doctor. In this past 3 months, he has become a very trying patient, testing our nerves and patience. His family neither cares nor want him back" the second one said, eying me thoughtfully.
"Who is he and how did he end up here?"
"Well, he was a high flying, globetrotting businessman. Fell in love and married a woman of his choice. A trip to US altered his life forever. He came back a very changed man. Then His wife and children left him after cleaning him out completely".
"For years he was in an asylum, talking nonsense about time travel and what not, lately after his 90th year, he was shifted here after a self inflicted injury. He is okay physically, but mentally not so. He is completely deaf and partially blind and riddled with multiple geriatric problems. Now his kidneys have failed him and there's nothing we can do for him", the second Doctor said in a sympathetic manner.
"Life is indeed full of twists and turns and longevity is like a punishment GOD has given him."
"Look at him eying us keenly but hardly hearing us. Wish we could alleviate his mental suffering. If only he had not visited the States at that time. How life would have been otherwise? If only he had not meet that someone?"
"But one can't change destiny. Let us pray and hope for the best", the first doctor said in a gentle manner.
I was feeling like a guinea pig, being eyed and contemplated about the next move. None of their exchange was heard and lip reading was not my forte.
But they didn't know my secret. I was surely long way into the future, but I had my CTM, that could save me from this predicament.
Slowly I reached for it, but my neck was devoid of it. My frantic efforts of search resulted in undue stress and physical tiredness. I was now becoming increasingly schizophrenic and violent by the minute.
"My Chrono Time Machine!! Where is it? What have you done to it? Where am I? What year is this?"
"No. No. let go of me!! I want to go back to my own time. Leave me. Nooo!!" I cried kicking and screaming, hands waving in all directions and trying to escape those pinning me down on to the bed.
Something pricked me and then everything was black and I felt like receding into the oblivion, a black hole sucking me totally, into wormhole of time travel.
From the future, through the past into the present!!
"Are you alright? You seem to be disturbed and blabbering in your sleep?" Surabhi asked me in a concerned voice.
"No. No. I am quite alright. Well just a bad dream. That's all" I said trying to instill some confidence in my voice.
I remembered talking about Well's 'Time machine' and dreaming about going to the past, reliving some historical moments, but afterward everything was blank. Where did I go and what happened? Nothing vaguely familiar seemed to rake my memory.
A glance at my watch showed the time 9PM. 17 hours had passed since. Adjusting my watch to local time 11.30 AM, it struck me, today was 21srt June the start of summer solstice and the longest day of the year.
It seemed ironical that even though 21 hours of this day had passed; due to crossing of the longitudes, another 12 and a half hours was left, for the day to end.
After an hour of trying customs and immigration clearance and baggage claim, I walked out to hail a cab. The afternoon sun glared at me mercilessly as I looked up to scan the surroundings. Without a warning, suddenly everything seemed White and Grey. I felt as though I was transported through the mist to a distant place and another time.
I saw a room where, the violet drapes of the window off set against a pale pink wall, a sunshine yellow carpeted floor highlighting a beige colored sofa set all indicated a tasteful decoration.
I was surprised to see myself sitting comfortably on the sofa and eying at a figure in front of me. My eyes seemed to indicate the intense carnal desire and determination to carry out its intent.
It was shocking to see myself like that, but even before I could comprehend this vision, I saw the woman in front of me turn back slowly. Her smile froze her eyes wide with surprise and shock.
To my horror and disbelief, in the next few minutes the despoliation of that woman happened, leaving me in utter contempt and urge to kill my other self.
Before I could regain my breath, I found the woman hysterically laughing and advancing towards me with something in her hand.
I tried to duck, thinking it was a knife but then realized it was a harmless pendulum. Her hypnotic big eyes seemed to fill her whole face, compelling me to look deep into it.
Mesmerized under her spell and in a trance state, my behavior seemed contrary to my usual self. Like a faithful dog I followed her around acting like her servant.
The door of that room closed behind us with a bang and instantly I was transported back to reality. The fog cleared rudely bringing me back to reality.
Was it really me? My mind, my soul, my inner essence seem to dissolve and disperse among the passage of time fusing together again as a vision from future, only to haunt and traumatise me now.
In such a state of mental numbness, somehow I managed to check into my hotel.
The Present Evening
My body was shaking uncontrollably now, my heart beating an insane rhythm and the vision I saw seemed so real and vibrant.
Pacing furiously, trying to analyse the day's happening only left me more confused and afraid. I dreamt of going back into the past, but the end of that dream was all blank.
When awake and fully aware of my senses a frightening vision, has totally left a scar in my subconscious mind. I have lost it completely.
Every second, every minute seemed long and torturing me. A sinking feeling of depression and despair cloaked around me inviting me to find comfort in its cold and chill expanse.
I thought psychological help was the best answer to this unusual and bizarre problem.
The hotel managed to fix an appointment with a psychologist in the nearby area.
"Sir, you are in luck; the Doctor who was away just came back and will see you at 9pm. Here is the address and directions for you. Anything else you need sir?"
"No thank you. That's all" I graciously said, eager to resolve this peculiar state as soon as possible.
To kill time I aimlessly walked around. The setting sun disappearing over the New York skyline, like playing hide and seek between the towering skyscrapers, hardly caught my attention.
Checking my watch every now and then only confirmed I still had a lot of time for the appointment. For the first time in my life, the longest day really had a meaning, both literally and figuratively.
After a quick dinner, I reached the Doctor's place at the appointed hour.
The Present Night
The door opened at my insistent knock. The figure standing before me knocked my breath away.
"What! You are the Doctor?"I asked in disbelief.
"Yes. Why not? Am a Qualified Psychologist, a trained hypnotherapist and even a psychic", Surabhi Sinha said with a confidence, but betraying a twinkle in the eye.
"Come in Rajeev. This is my home. I don't usually see patients here. But you were an exception. I knew something was bothering you during the flight. You were disturbed and dazed".
"When the hotel asked me to see you as a special case, I couldn't refuse; after all we were fellow travellers of time.' She said concernedly.
After the initial exchanges, it was ironical that I found her more attractive and beautiful in the simple dress she was wearing. Her face danced with emotions, her hands conducting its own orchestra, playing out an opera before me. My manly feelings greatly aroused.
With great difficulty I suppressed myself and concentrated on the task ahead.
I related about my dream during the flight, but somehow words got struck in my throat regarding that horrible vision.
She knew that I was concealing something and gently suggested may be hypnotism will help me to unveil and destress.
She led me to an adjoining door.
"Go inside Rajeev, feel at home. I will bring some refreshments. I need you relax before we probe deep into your troubled mind" she said with a smile and easy comfort.
I gingerly opened the door and stepped inside. The next instant I was reeling with shock. It was the same room with violet drapes, pink wall, beige sofa and yellow carpet.
Staggeringly I sat down on the sofa and tried to calm and reason myself, that what I saw must have been a dream and nothing else.
"Look! You are a sane and realistic person. Nothing like that will happen. Get hold of yourself!" I assured myself and took a several deep breaths.
By the time Surabhi entered the room I was more in control of myself and wanted this session to finish and get away.
I saw her entering the room smilingly.
Her beauty and elegance enhanced more due to the soft lights.
I watched her place the tray.
Her back was turned towards me.
I lazily got up, stretching my entire length.
My eyes, carnal and menacing; intense and evil!
She turned back slowly.
Her eyes, wide with shock and disbelief; surprise and fear!
The seconds ticked, the minutes flew, the hours passed; the time raced to end the longest day!
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Sunitha was excited that morning. She woke up as usual around 7 a.m. and got ready for her morning walk. It was a lovely day, a typical monsoon day in Bangalore, which meant more wind than rain with sudden thundershowers on some evenings. Sunitha loved the monsoon season in Bangalore. The only problem was the water-logging when it rained and the consequent traffic jams, but it didn't affect her much personally as she was essentially a homebound person. She went out only if necessary, like shopping for groceries, the library and meeting friends once in a while, most of which could be arranged when the weather was suitable. There was nothing that made it necessary to go out when it rained, unless it was by choice because she wanted to get wet in the rain, so she just enjoyed the breeze and the coolness and made the most of it before the weather turned hot in October.
The reason for her excitement was the fact that her daughter was coming home for the weekend that day. As she started her walk, and she usually walked alone, she thought of her daughter, Shruthi, pretty Shruthi. Was she really the mother of a nearly 27-year-old, mused Sunitha smiling to herself. How quickly the years had passed. Her daughter was an important part of her life and Sunitha's thoughts ran over events of the recent past as she continued to walk at a brisk pace.
Shruthi worked in a private company near Whitefield which was quite a distance from Jayanagar where Sunitha had a small flat in which she lived. Shruthi, after a few months of commuting the distance every day, had been exasperated at the time it took and the associated strain. Commuting to her workplace daily left her with no time or energy for good things of life, like an evening out with friends or working out at a gym. Shruthi was a smart girl who had landed a job immediately after her postgraduate course, and the sudden financial freedom had gone to her head. She wanted to "enjoy" life; she wanted to earn during the day and party during the night. Sunitha had found it hard to accept the philosophy, but she had not set up any real curbs in her daughter's life. She had given enough freedom to Shruthi, keeping the changing times in mind. Sunitha only insisted that Shruthi come home at a decent hour, but what consisted a "decent hour" was the bone of contention between the two. Sunitha felt that Shruthi should be home by 9 p.m. at the latest, since they lived in a completely residential area which sort of shut down early with empty streets after 9 in the night and it was not safe to be out alone. At times, one of her friends would drop her home, but that did not happen all the time and there was no guarantee that a couple of riders on a motorbike or scooter were safer than a girl out alone. One read of so many ghastly incidents in the newspaper every day, and Sunitha spent many an anxious hour waiting for her daughter to come home safe and sound. So when Shruthi suggested moving out of home to a place near her office, Sunitha was relieved to a certain extent. With a lot of advice on how to manage alone as Shruthi had never stayed away from home even for her studies, Sunitha saw her daughter off with mixed feelings.
The arrangement was that she would come home on weekends unless she had a trek planned (Shruthi had recently taken to trekking as a hobby) over the weekend or some work related to her office (she occasionally had to work over the weekends when the need arose). In the beginning, the weekends at home had gone on fairly smoothly, but as time passed, Sunitha began to notice changes in her daughter, which were rather disquieting. She tried to comfort herself it was just her imagination, but a vague feeling of impending doom hovered just outside her consciousness. Still she welcomed the weekends when Shruthi was home with eagerness and cooked all her favorite dishes and tried to connect with her daughter in every way possible.
Sunitha finished her walk and returned to her flat as the clock struck 8. She relaxed under the fan for a few minutes to get her breathing back to normal and then made a cup of coffee for herself and went over the newspaper. This was something she enjoyed very much, reading the newspaper lingering over her morning cuppa. But that day, she was too excited to enjoy her usual quiet read and quickly folded the paper and put it away. There was lunch to be cooked as Shruthi would be home soon. Sunitha had planned the lunch in detail the previous day and set to work systematically, cutting the veggies, setting up the rice cooker, etc. Soon the small flat filled with delicious smells of a traditional meal, the kind Shruthi loved, thought Sunitha fondly as she gave finishing touches to the spread.
Shruthi arrived with all the hullaballoo that usually followed her. Sunitha smiled at her and just stopped herself from hugging her daughter; children of today do not like hugs from parents, only from friends. She asked to her freshen up and said that lunch would be ready soon, and they could have an early lunch if Shruthi was hungry.
"Oh, I am not home for lunch Mom. I am meeting friends for lunch and then we have some other plans for the evening. I actually have to go quite a distance to our meeting place. I will be leaving soon."
Sunitha stared at Shruthi in shocked disappointment. "You are going out now? Why did you not tell me earlier? I have prepared your favorite lunch and I thought'.." her voice trailed off and she felt a sudden desire to bawl loudly.
"Oh I am sorry; I guess I forgot to tell you! I will not be in for dinner either; it will be quite late by the time we are finished. Don't wait up for me, I will take the key, it may be as late as 11 p.m. so," Shruthi said hardly realizing the impact of her words on her mother. She was unpacking the bag she had brought and threw a pile of clothes on the floor. "I actually came home because I wanted to leave these clothes for washing. Be a dear and do them for me and then I can give them for ironing tomorrow and take them back with me in the evening when I go back to my rooms."
Sunitha was taken aback. Is that what Shruthi thought of her home now? Was it just a laundry station for her to get her clothes done over the weekend? Sunitha felt tears stinging her eyes and she turned away to hide them. Shruthi went to her room to change into a suitable outfit for the day out. She came out looking very attractive in a blue top and jeans and walked out of the flat waving a breezy goodbye to her mother.
Sunitha sighed and looked at the array of dishes on the kitchen counter. All that work for nothing, she thought, as she started to put the food away in Tupperware containers for storage in the refrigerator. Well, Shruthi can eat it for lunch tomorrow although it would not be freshly cooked and not as tasty. She served herself some of the food and forced it down her throat. She had skipped breakfast in order to prepare the lavish spread, and skipping lunch as well was not a good idea because it would trigger her acidity problem. Her appetite was gone and the food turned to ashes in her mouth, but she chewed determinedly and swallowed it trying to control her tears all the time.
After lunch, Sunitha gathered up the pile of dirty clothes and sorted them into lots to be washed. As she went through the motions automatically, measuring out the required amount of detergent and punching the right buttons on the washing machine, her thoughts went over her past. She felt a torrent of memories flooding her mind, things she thought she had forgotten but had only learned not to remember. As the memories washed over her, she was transported back in time, to those points in time which she would give anything to forget.
"The marriage proposal seems to be a good one. Family related through Preetha's in-laws. Guess we should look into it." That was her mother talking to her father. Preetha was her cousin who had got married recently and Sunitha had been "noticed" at the wedding. It was how marriages got arranged in those times. If the bride had a bevy of cousins of marriageable age, they were "noticed" at the ceremony and the girls of course would be decked out in their best clothes and jewelry. One wedding usually led to a series of weddings which in turn led to some more! Sunitha was a quiet, obedient girl. She had finished her graduation 2 years back and had spent those 2 years learning household skills, cooking and management of a home. She was being groomed for marriage and she was agreeable as she had no ambitions to be a career woman. Her mother as her role model, and her mother was a homemaker who had queened it over her home for years and she wanted a similar life. She wanted a nice husband, 2 to 3 kids, and a lovely home to run with lots of good food cooked by her and which was spic and span and tastefully decorated with samples of her creativity. So when the proposal was put in her front of her, she agreed to the marriage, a traditional arranged one, content that her parents knew what was best for her.
The wedding had taken place with all the pomp and show that her parents could afford and she had left for her marital home the same day. But Sunitha's dream of a nice husband and charming children and a lovely home shattered soon, too soon for her to even grasp what was happening in her life. Her husband and, in fact, all the men in the family, she soon realized, were addicted to alcohol. They were a business family, a joint family, and in the evenings, the men would gather in front of the TV in the hall and alcohol flowed freely. Some of the men had self-control and would just sleep off the effects, but some like her husband turned unruly and violent after a few drinks. Sunitha was shell-shocked the first time her husband had laid his hands on her after a bout of drinking. She had wept herself to sleep, cringing on the marital bed next to her snoring husband after the attack. Soon she realized that her marriage was a farce. When Sunitha's pregnancy came to be known, it created a lull in her stormy life. For a time, her husband showed some self-control and she went through the pregnancy without any mishap. She was taken home by her parents for the delivery and her husband visited her there and was a real gentleman in her family's presence. Sunitha was thankful for it as she had not told her parents anything of the turbulence in her married life and they believed her to be happy at her in-laws' place.
Soon Shruthi was born and, though it was a girl, her in-laws did not create any unpleasantness. Sunitha had been apprehensive and was relieved when the naming ceremony went smoothly with everyone participating with gusto and apparent joy. She returned to her husband with the baby 3 months after delivery as was the custom and hoped and prayed that life would be better now with the added responsibilities of a child.
The washing machine gave off its musical sound indicating the end of the washing cycle bringing Sunitha back to the present. She took out the almost dry clothes and threw in the next lot and set the machine again. She went out to her bedroom balcony and put out the clean clothes for drying. She looked out the balcony which faced the front gate of the apartments and watched the school buses which were bringing the kids back home from school, the younger ones who finished the day earlier than the others. She remembered how she used to wait for Shruthi to come home from her playschool, but that was the sum of waiting for the school bus for Sunitha as she had a 9 to 5 job by the time Shruthi started proper school and it was Shruthi who waited for her mom to come home from work after that.
Unfortunately, the period of idyll did not last long. Within a few weeks of Sunitha returning home with the child, her husband showed his true colors again. In a state of inebriation, he kicked his wife in the stomach which led to sudden bleeding and hospitalization. Those few days in the hospital were the worst so far in Sunitha's life because she was forced to leave the baby at home. She was in tears most of time wondering what was happening at home, whether the child was being looked after or whether she was left alone in the room to fend for herself. The doctor chided her that she would take longer to recover if she cried all the time, and this served only to bring on a fresh bout of tears. In spite of all this, Sunitha kept quiet about the actual reason for her hospitalization, and her parents and others outside the immediate family remained unaware of her situation.
Life bumped along with more lows than highs, and Shruthi started playschool. Sunitha by this time was determined that she should not get pregnant again and did her best with contraceptive methods within her reach. By the time Shruthi was two, her mother- in-law began hinting about a second child, but Shruthi had decided she would not have another one to share in this hellish life. Her husband's addiction had started worsening and so had the violent spells. Sunitha spent many a night sitting outside the bedroom on the stairs with a sometimes awake and scared Shruthi in her arms, crying and soothing alternately.
The washing machine again gave off its signal that its work was over, and Sunitha came back to the present with a thud. She found that she had been silently crying remembering that terrible period in her life, which she had thought she had forgotten but memories of which she had remained in the recesses of her mind. She wiped her eyes and emptied the washing machine and put out the second lot of clothes to dry.
Sunitha looked at the clock and realized it was just 4 in the afternoon, but reliving her past, it had seemed much longer. Maybe I should try and take a small nap to calm myself before it is time for tea, she thought and lay down on the bed. Even as she closed her eyes, more memories flooded her mind. She opened her eyes and stared at the clock on the opposite wall and was soon lost in a fresh wave of bitter flashbacks.
"Amma, if you love me and Shruthi, you will come and take me home tomorrow. If you are not here tomorrow, you will come the next day to attend our funerals." Was that her, Sunitha, the quiet woman who hardly ever lost control of herself? Yes, it was her and she was talking to her mother over the phone. It was midmorning and she was alone in her room. Shruthi was away at her preschool and her husband at his office. The previous night had been the worst ever. She had been out with her husband and her daughter to a restaurant for dinner with one of his friends and his family. Of late, Sunitha had started hating these outings because they all ended the same way, a drunken husband and bruises on her body. She tried to avoid them with some excuse or the other, but this only seemed to infuriate her husband and the end result was more violent than ever. So she tried to make the best of things and tried to be pleasant and made small talk with the friend's wife whom she knew slightly. As she toyed with her food and helped Shruthi eat, she had had a sudden feeling of doom and her instinct had not proved false.
That evening ended in disaster with her husband drinking more than was good for him. His friend recognizing the signs had made his escape with his wife, leaving Sunitha to fend for herself. Luckily, they had come in a car with a driver and she managed to get her raving, blustering husband home with a scared and silent Shruthi in tow. As the evening took its course, Sunitha retired bruised and weeping with Shruthi in her arms to the stairs and spent the rest of the night there. Shruthi refused to sleep and kept wiping her mother's tears, but she did not ask anything. Looking at her, Sunitha wondered what kind of a childhood this was for her. That was when she made her decision that it was high time she took the matter into her hands. What use was maintaining the norms of the society and family when neither cared two hoots for you? She made up her mind to call her mother the next day and tell her that she wanted out of this marriage.
Sunitha stirred uneasily in bed as she remembered the events that followed.
Her parents did not fail her, and they traveled by car from Bangalore to Coimbatore to her matrimonial home the same night. They came along with her 2 uncles and their wives who had traveled from Kerala and all six of them were at the doorstep at 11 in the night. Sunitha hugged her mother and felt a flood of relief and slept better that night knowing that they were close at hand and that she would not be a punching bag.
The next day had been a nightmare, an unforgettable day. Her parents with the uncles and aunts had come to the house quite early in the morning and what followed was a series of charges and countercharges. Sunitha's in-laws resented that she had exposed them to her parents and accused her of all kinds of crimes. Sunitha had sobbed and refuted the accusations but to no avail. After a long round of talks, Sunitha's in-laws had agreed to let her go with her parents under the impression that when things cooled down, she would return with the child, but Sunitha had walked out of the house with her daughter, determined never to return again.
Sunitha sat up in bed. It was no use trying to sleep; her memories would not let her. She found that she had been weeping again and wiped her eyes. She got out of bed and went to the kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee. She looked at the kitchen clock and it lacked 20 minutes to 5 o'clock. Why was the time passing so slowly today, she wondered. In her mind she had lived through 4 years of her life in less than 3 hours and the terrible memories had drained her. She fixed herself a cup of coffee and went to the living room balcony. There was a swing there and she sat down with the cup in her hand, sipping the hot liquid, feeling comforted by the warmth and the aroma.
As she watched the kids playing in the garden below, memories crept back into her mind again. Long back, she had watched Shruthi play on the ground below from the 3rd floor balcony. The only difference now was that there was no Shruthi down there, and she was sitting on the 10th floor balcony, which made the people on the ground appear that much smaller.
"No dear, you cannot have a birthday party at the resort like your friend did. But I will arrange for a nice party at home for your friends, a small party, and we will have cake and snacks and games." It had been hard bringing up Shruthi in Bangalore though she lived with her parents. Shruthi was too young to understand the upheavals in her life and though she calmly accepted the fact that she would not have a father (was it because of what she had witnessed those nights in the bedroom?), she had all the desires of a normal child. Sunitha had admitted her to a good school nearby, realizing that education was going to be very important for her and she didn't want to compromise on that aspect. The school while it lived up to her expectations as to the quality of education and extra-curricular activities also had its drawbacks in that the children who attended the school were from the upper strata of the society with much better facilities at home, and Sunitha could not provide her daughter all the luxuries that her friends had. As soon as she was old enough, Sunitha explained the situation to her and provided her with treats within her means, and at that time, Shruthi seemed to accept it and did not question too much.
No, it had not been easy. Living with her parents again, Sunitha realized the pitfalls soon enough. While her parents were understanding and supportive, they also felt the frustrations of the situation. Their quality of life was irretrievably spoiled, however much they loved their daughter and adored their granddaughter. Sunitha soon realized that she was living in a cage, much less disastrous than her matrimonial home, but a cage nevertheless. Her mother held the reins of the home in her hands and refused to give up her authority in any way. Sunitha had to fall in line with her wishes and just be a helper as far as home matters were concerned. Also, since Sunitha had had to take up a job to supplement the family income, her mother had assumed care of Shruthi when she returned from school, and she made it clear that as she had been a parent to 2 children, she knew better than Sunitha as to what was best for the child. As a grandparent, she spoiled Shruthi to some extent, and Sunitha did not have any say on the matter. She realized she was totally helpless as things stood and decided to go with the flow and not protest too much, more to give a stable environment for Shruthi to grow up in than anything else.
"Was I wrong in my decision at that time?" wondered Sunitha as she finished her coffee and leaned back on the swing. "Has Shruthi been spoiled by her grandparents and is that why she is behaving like this now?" Even as the thought came, Sunitha knew that it was not really her parents' fault; they had not spoiled her that way. Her parents had been good enough to give her support when she needed it and she accepted the help gratefully and that had been the reason why she had swallowed the occasional barbs and insinuations, the outbursts of frustration on her parents' part. She had tried not to react to anything they said and had succeeded most of the time, losing her self-control very few times when it was inevitable. In a sudden moment of truth, she knew why Shruthi was so caught up in what she called "enjoyment" in life. It was probably because she had been deprived of many things that her friends had, like the birthday party at the resort. Shruthi for the first time in her life had money of her own which she was earning herself and she was an adult, and she wanted to have all the things she had missed either due to lack of money or the lack of a father figure who usually arranged the treats for the family. Well, Sunitha did not grudge her daughter her enjoyment in life, but at the same time, it would not do for her to turn out to be insensitive to others' feelings. Sunitha firmly believed that one had the right to one's pleasure but not if it caused someone else pain.
Sunitha got up from the swing and went to kitchen and washed the cup and put it away. She looked at the clock again and wondered why time was passing so slowly. She wanted the day to end so that she could take a sleeping pill and just sink into oblivion in the dark of the night. She had been trying to get rid of the sleeping pill habit and had managed to reduce her intake, but there were days like this, when she knew she could not sleep without the pill.
Sunitha busied herself with small household chores, like folding and putting away clothes, putting the books and magazines on the center table in order, and dusting the knickknacks on the side table. Anything that would keep memories at bay, she thought. As she was rearranging the items on the side table, her eyes fell on a photograph there. It was a family photo, of her parents, herself, and her daughter. It was taken just before she had moved into this flat to live on her own after living with her parents for nearly 2 decades. As she stared at the faces in the photograph, hurtful memories flooded back into her mind, and she was overcome with tears again.
"We have decided we want to live with you in our old age. We would like to move in with you as soon as it can be arranged. We want to spend the last years of our life with our son." Sunitha entering the house was shocked to hear these words. It was her father was talking to her brother on the phone. Sunitha walked in as if in a dream and sat down on the sofa. When her father finished his call, he saw her and said, "We have decided to move in with Ramesh. You can decide if you want to stay in this flat or if it is too big for you, maybe you can think of moving to a smaller place with Shruthi." He said it casually as if it was an everyday matter to be moving houses. No discussion, no asking her opinion. Sunitha had not said anything at the time; she had been too stunned to react. Later she had asked her mother for an explanation and her mother had told her that she was tired of housekeeping. Sunitha had argued that they could have handed over the housekeeping to her long back, that she would have taken care, but her mother had her own reasons. Since Sunitha was working outside home, she would have to arrange for a housekeeper to do the work and her mother could not adjust to that. Sunitha had in fact tried that experiment once, but the housekeeper had been out within 2 weeks because her mother would not cooperate. "Manju does not go to work and manages the house herself and we will be better off there." Manju was her brother's wife. Sunitha could not have given up her job with Shruthi's higher education and her own old age to be provided for, and so she had given in silently to her parents' decision.
Things had moved fast after that, and in no time, she and Shruthi were settled in the small flat in the same group of apartments where her brother had purchased a much bigger one to make space for their parents. To give him his due, her brother had not refused to take them in and had made them welcome. But the whole experience had left Sunitha shattered because she had felt unwanted by her family; none had realized the impact of the split on her mind. She had put up a brave front and hidden her tears on the pillow at night.
Sunitha put the photograph back and wiped her eyes. She had put up with a lot of humiliation, barbs, and potshots at her: from the society, from her own parents, from her brother and other extended family members. She had built up her life from scratch again at the age of 26 to reach where she was today. She had by sheer grit and willpower built up enough capital so she could take retirement from her stressful job at the age of 50. She had bought this flat under her own steam and had managed to close the mortgage before giving up her job. She looked forward to a peaceful life now, at least for the next 10 years, by which time, it would be necessary to plan again. If she did not kick the bucket by that time, she would move into a senior citizen community. Sunitha was quite pragmatic over her future and was determined she would not be a burden on her daughter. She would live independently and accept community living, there were many such centers coming up in Bangalore as well as other places in India and she had saved up enough for that. She had been alone most of her life and was not inclined to give up her freedom in old age.
As these thoughts raced through her mind, she had a sudden fit of weeping. She had borne a lot of unpleasantness, had swallowed her pride and her self-esteem, and had fought tooth and nail with society and circumstances to provide a good life to her daughter. She had done her best to provide an appropriate value system, a good education, and reasonable comforts to her daughter although she could not provide her with luxuries. She had put aside a lot of her own aspirations and desires, including a possible second marriage for the sake of her daughter. Now her daughter was treating her as if she was a piece of furniture, with no feelings. What had she done to deserve this? Even as the thought came to her mind, she pushed it away. That would be indulging in self-pity and that was something she had avoided all her life. She wiped her tears and decided she would not allow anyone, not even her daughter, to spoil her remaining years of life. Tomorrow, she would have a talk with Shruthi and lay her cards on the table. Shruthi was not going to get away with her behavior; she would have to choose her life style from the options Sunitha would offer her. If it meant losing Shruthi temporarily, well, Sunitha could deal with that. She felt sure that once Shruthi got a taste of life on her own, she would come back to her, wiser for her experience. And if she didn't, well, that was a risk Sunitha was ready to take.
Sunitha felt energized and got up from the sofa where she had collapsed weeping. She looked at the clock and it showed 7:30. It was not time for dinner, but Sunitha decided to call it a day. The memories had made the day too long for comfort, and she felt as if she had been put through the wringer. She heated up some of the food in the microwave, had dinner, and then cleared up. She closed the kitchen, put out the garbage, and then turned to the calendar to change the date. Tomorrow was June 21, and a vague school memory came to her mind, and she remembered that it was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. She smiled to herself; no day could be longer than today, in which she had lived through the past 25 or so years of her life. She swallowed a sleeping pill with half a glass of water and then turned off all lights except one which was left on to welcome Shruthi when she came home.As she snuggled down in bed, Sunitha felt at peace with herself. The whole day had been a kind of catharsis, and she felt clean and light in mind. Tomorrow was another day, and she would face it squarely as she had every day in her past.
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The Stranger with a Crooked Smile.
The alarm clock went off. A delicate feminine hand came out of the pink duvet and turned it off. A few seconds later a loud thud was followed by a women voice shouting.
'Mahiii! Get up! We are getting late.'
The figure under the pink blanket mumbled something and turned position and kept on sleeping. A few minutes later the door of the room flew open and a small but slightly bulky women wearing white trouser and blue tunic with embroidery stood in the doorway.
'Ab uth bhi jaa! Suraj sar pe agaya hai. And flight ka time hogaya hai.' The women said throwing away the covers.
The girl under the covers moaned in displeasure. Lazily opening one eye she looked at the clock. It was 7.10 am, still early for her to get up.
'Mom its only seven!' She said in an irritated tone.
'So? We are getting late. Get up and get ready. Hurry Mahi!'
Mahi slowly got up and started to get ready. Quickly putting on a pair of fresh jeans, white top and a lime green cotton sweat shirt she stood in front of the mirror asking herself one question...Why?
Why on earth her parents insisted on taking this annual holiday to Punjab! Oh why?!
Ever since she was a kid Mahi had hated summers. The scorching heat, the tans, the skin burns; she hated all. Especially more since she knew that her summer will be dedicated to boring visits to her relatives and her obnoxious cousins.
She hated the thought of returning there year after year as she was the odd one out in her family. All her cousins were either too young or too old. She never had a playmate or anyone to share a laugh or two with, and the burning heat of summer added to her misery. She wished she could stay here, the summers of London were better.
She looked at the photo of her friends hanging on the wall beside the mirror and a little sigh escaped her lips. She could have been sitting next to them on the plane going to the college trip to but no! Here she was stuck with her parents for the next month or so; ready to be turned into a chiken tandoori under the roasting heat.
Looking at the picture with longing eyes she wished she could be transported somewhere else. Some place cool, a place far away from all this. A little adventure perhaps. She really wished for an escape from this mundane life once. Her mother called her again breaking her train of thoughts.
Gosh why do they always book the morning flight? She asked herself. Quickly she ran a brush through her cocoa brown hair but they refused to settle down. It's really turning out to be a great day! She said to herself sarcastically. Tying her unruly hair in a side braid and dabbing some peach gloss on her lips she gathered her bags, ready to leave.
As she descended down the stairs after having finally dressed up she slipped and badly fell down. While she was howling in pain her little brother stood in the corner laughing. She secretly cursed the time when she had wished for a younger brother. If only she could exchange him for a pet!
Her mother came and exclaimed seeing her in this position, 'What are you doing on the floor? Get up and put your bags in the taxi. Your father is waiting.'
Mahi frowning got up and picked up her things. The drive to the airport was another affair; her parents kept arguing over something and her brother annoyed her out to her wits! She wished she would just disappear.
When they reached the airport they were late and her father quickly handed over the passports, tickets and boarding pass to everyone. Mahi wearing her headphones quietly followed her parents to the gate for boarding.
Something was wrong. Very wrong. Why was everyone speaking in a foreign language? Where were her parents?...Where the heck was she?!
As the questions rose through her mind she looked sideways and saw a board saying welcome to Norffloke. Confusion and dread adorned her pretty face.
'Norffloke!? Where is this Norffloke? Does it even exist on the globe?' She asked herself.
Panic gripped her as she thought hard what to do? She quickly went to the ticket booth and asked about the flight schedule. She couldn't get the direct flight to her destination so she decided to take a flight back home. At least she would be home and then plan her next move.
The next flight was at seven in the evening. She looked at her watch, it read 1.30pm. But which time zone I'm in? She wondered. She asked the right time of that place which was 12. 15pm. Awesome more than six hours to beat she thought glumly. She quickly bought the ticket for the next flight finishing all the money she had with her in her hand carry bag.
Then she thought of calling her parents and informing them but she realized she had hardly any money to make the call. Thinking what to do next she wandered off. Lost she bumped hard into someone.
'Ouch! Watch where you are going.' She said rubbing her shoulder.
'Excuse me?' A strong masculine voice said.
She turned around to see a tall, lean man with attractive features standing with a superior yet amused expression. She looked up into his hazel eyes looking down at her. Her own chocolate browns lost in them for a moment. Where did he land from? She thought.
'You were the one who was walking with world closed out, not me.' He continued.
Her pretty features quickly hardened into a fiery one. He was quite tall and at five feet four, Mahi didn't give him much competition. She strained her neck to look directly into his eyes.
'Yeah well….whatever.' She wanted to give a good comeback but nothing came to her mind. With a little humph she went on.
What a jerk! She thought to herself. So now what? Where to go? She looked around and thought now that I'm here why not make the most of it. She walked around admiring the place. It really was a beautiful place with cool breeze blowing and the sunlight falling ever so lightly on her face. It didn't feel like summer at all here.
After a while her stomach growled indicating that she must eat something. She looked around for a good place to eat but she had no money she remembered. She rummaged her backpack pockets and found a little change. Maybe I can get something with these she thought.
She found a little gourmet shop with some delicious items on display but as she approached the man behind the counter he seemed to speak an alien language. It was strange language more like a mixture of all the languages. She looked at him dumbfounded and tried sign language to make him understand but he kept replying in strange words.
A little frustrated she started to curse aloud.
'What's the use of cursing?' she heard a manly voice say. She turned around only to see him standing there; the man from the airport.
'What are you doing here?' she asked with a suspicious tone.
'Playing football. What do you think?'
He turned to the man behind the counter and talked to him in that strange unknown language.
As he turned around holding a sandwich and coke in his hand, Mahi looked at him rather at the sandwich with ravenous eyes.
After gobbling down the sandwich she went around admiring the beautiful handiwork in shops. It was a small town with many small shops and beautiful cottages and small houses. It was surprisingly pleasant here. The light breeze, cloudy sky with little sunshine and the beautiful scenery made it look like straight out of some movie. The place had a strange magic to it. She felt happy here.
She kept walking down the path until she came to a small place more like a barn. Bright lights lit up the place. A torn out sign adorned the gate saying 'Brady's Place'. Intrigued Mahi decided to venture inside.
Clinking of glasses, music, chatter and a stinky smell greeted her. It was a bar/casino kind of place filled with men and women. At first she thought of leaving but then the voice in her head urged to stay. What harm can a little stop in a bar do? And she had just turned 20 last month so it was all very much legal now. And a better summer story to tell rather than boring old relative ones she thought.
After deciding to stay she chose to sit on a table playing cards but she couldn't play as she hadn't much money but enjoyed watching just when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to see a hulking man wearing an old worn out red shirt and a hard expression asked her to leave if she wasn't playing. She started to protest just when he entered saving the day again.
Making a suave entry he took hold of the situation. He started talking to the big guy in low whispers in that strange Norffloke language stealing glances at Mahi. While she stood uncomfortable there watching them talk. They quickly wrapped up the conversation and he came back to Mahi, taking hold of her and leading to a table in the corner. Confused and eager to know she followed him.
'What did you say to him?' she asked after setting down.
'Him? Nothing much I just told him that you were a crazy gambler once. Addicted you were to it but now you are in therapy and seeing other people lose helps you keep in check.' He concluded with a straight face.
'What!?' She exclaimed with a frown creasing her forehead.
'You can thank me later.' He said looking around.
Furious as much she was knew it wasn't the right time to fight as he was her only hope in this land of unknown. She looked at him while he was lost in his own, not bad she thought to herself.
His dark black straight hair, hard jaw line, hazel eyes and that mysterious expression made him look all the more desirable. Especially the way the few strands of hair fell on his forehead and that loop sided grin of his was kind of cute. He had that unexplained charm to him. She continued to stare at him for a few minutes but then quickly scolded herself for entertaining such thoughts.
Stop it Mahi! How can you think like that about him? You don't even know him. And not to forget he has been acting a bit snooty the voice said. But well he is cute, she smiled thinking to herself.
'So are you from here? You seem to know the language very well.' She asked hoping to strike up a conversation.
He looked up from whatever he was doing on his blackberry. 'No just come here on business trips a lot.'
'Oh.' She said a little surprised. Pale blue shirt with worn out khakis and a plain jacket; certainly not the look of a business man she thought. But she decided to keep her thoughts to herself.
'So what kind of business you do?' She was trying hard to have a conversation but he seemed tad bit interested.
'Just some business. You know manufacturing.'
She waited for him to continue but when he didn't she decided to let go. Boring! She thought.
'Are you waiting for someone?' She asked after a few minutes.
'No. Why do you ask?'
'Nothing you just kept looking around like on a look out or something so I thought...'
'No I was just checking out the place.'
Mahi gave a little smiled and he returned to his typing and darting eyes. He is kind of weird she thought. Rather what a weird and strange day this was turning out to be. First the stupid holiday plan, then missing her flight and getting stuck in the middle of nowhere with this stuck up-snob-mystery-guy. Not her idea of an ideal day.
Suddenly she noticed two sturdy guys talking and looking at them in between. Mahi felt her muscles tighten as all kinds of thoughts raced through her mind.
'I think we should leave.'
'Why?' He asked not bothering to look up.
Before she could finish her sentence the two men started walking towards them with hard expressions, they definitely meant business. Mahi gulped, drowned with fear she didn't know what to do when she felt strong arms holding her and leading her out. Soon they were out of the pub and onto a bike speeding away.
The cold breeze hit her, clearing her thoughts and she realized just what happened.
'Why did we run away? And why were those strange thugs following and shouting behind us? Who were they? Do you know them? Who's this motorcycle? Oh my god! Did you steal it? Where are we heading to!?'
'Will you just shut your mouth for a minute? Geez women you ask a lot of questions.'
'Well I wouldn't if only I know what I am doing here! You know I'm not used to running away on other people motorcycle.' She said a little annoyed.
'Firstly I didn't steal it. It's very much mine and secondly if you give me a chance to talk I will explain it all to you.'
'Fine.' She said stubbornly folding her hands over her chest. 'Where are we going? Because you know I have to get back to airport. I can't afford to miss my flight. '
She waited for him to reply but he didn't say anything. Mahi felt like asking him to reply but knew it was no use. He really was a snob.
After a while they reached a small motel. It was a deserted area with no other motel or shop in sight. Slowly getting off the bike Mahi looked around and then with inquiring eyes she looked at him.
'What are we doing here?' She asked him distrustfully.
'I have some work to do. You just wait here. Ok.'
It was a command and he expected her to follow it. She just nodded and stood there against the motorcycle. With long strides he disappeared into the night. Quite a few mistunes passed and she grew restless. It was getting dark and she had a flight to catch.
Just then she heard a gunshot followed by shouts. It was coming from the motel. Her beat raised, she looked around for help but there was no one there. She knew couldn't just stand there so she went to the front of the motel, just as she stepped inside she saw a huge guy running towards her with a gun!
She screamed and started to run out of the door and bumped into him.
'Who...there's a guy and...a gun!' She barely spoke the words when she heard another gun shot.
She held onto him tightly as he led her to the back and told her to stay there before disappearing again. Her whole body trembled with fear. More noises and gunshots filled the night. She sat there praying silently. Just then a strong hand gripped her from behind. She opened her mouth to scream but another hand covered her mouth and she heard a whisper in her hear.
'Don't scream. It's me. It's all right now. It's all over.'
He let go off her and she sighed a breath of relief giving him a quick hug, inhaling his minty after shave smell. Looking into his eyes she noticed they weren't perfectly hazel but had freckles of grey in them and seemed so comforting at that moment.
'Thank you.' She said in a meek voice.
'You are welcome.' He replied with a crooked smile.
She noticed he wasn't wearing his jacket anymore and his hair was ruffled from all that running. Never the less he maintained his debonair charm. Loud sirens and cars screeching sounds jolted her back to reality. Suddenly the place was filled with chaos.
'What's happening?' She asked confused.
Turning back she saw that he wasn't there; he was standing a few feet away talking into a motorola kind of phone. She silently tiptoed to him.
Agent. The voice broke over static. Agent AC93 …Static. The squad is there. Some more static. You may leave.
'Roger.' He said into the phone.
As he turned around he saw Mahi standing behind him with pupils widened and her pretty little mouth frozen in a little O of confusion.
'What?...I mean agent?...What's happening?' She finally managed to ask.
'You know you look kind of cute with that confused look.' He said with a smile.
Mahi felt color rise in her cheeks and was grateful it was dark and he couldn't see her properly.
'But…this is not the answer to my question.'
She stopped him as he started to walk away.
'We are getting late.' He said, his serious tone returning. 'You have a flight to catch remember.'
Mahi looked at the watch it was time. Letting go she quickly sat on the bike and he drove away while sirens and police cars swarmed the place.
When they reached the airport she was still confused with all the happenings of the day.
'I guess it's time to say good bye.'
'Well you better hurry if you want to catch this flight.'
'You seem to be in a quite a rush to make me go away.' She said in a hurt tone, her face mirroring her emotions.
Then looking up at him with doe eyes she asked in a little voice, 'Who are you?'
'Just a very good looking stranger.' He said with a playful smile. She couldn't help but laugh softly.
'Will we ever meet again?' She asked with little hope shining in those brown marbles.
Giving a little shrug he said, 'You know never know. Maybe a few years down the lane on a fine summer day like today, our paths will cross again.' He finished looking directly into her eyes, making her heart skip a beat.
The announcement for flights snapped her out of lala land and she looked back to the gates where a queue was forming for boarding.
'Well I better go…' she said turning towards him. But he wasn't there.
Disappeared yet again inexplicably just the way he had come. With a profound feeling of leaving behind something Mahi boarded the plane.
The flight back home was nothing less but an event in itself. The food sucked, cloudy weather added turbulence to it. The man sitting next to her snored loudly and took up more space than authorized.
When she landed she finally felt some respite for being back home. As she sat in the taxi her body felt exhausted. She looked at the watch it was 11.45 pm, the day almost over she thought happily.
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Joined: 06 December 2007
A/N: Abhay Raichand, Haseena Raichand and Chaand Raichand are fictional characters taken from the show 'Pyaar Kii Ye Ek Kahaani' telecast on StarOne. The rest of the characters are all totally fictional and a figment of my imagination. Except for the dog – he really does that stuff to me. I don't think I have put in any medical or legal procedures, but in case you come across something like it, please ignore it because I am neither a lawyer, nor a doctor, so it may be incorrect. If you want to display your displeasure at the story, you can send me a basketful of tomatoes – I love tomato sandwiches.
A Midsummer's Day
I put down the cell phone and looked at the computer screen. There was no such person online who could even remotely tempt me to chat with them. Sighing, I turned my attention back to my grammar book. I flipped through the pages, but couldn't find anything interesting enough.
Just then, my dog got up and came towards me with that look that says, "Talk to me." I smiled at him affectionately and started talking. Inconsequential chattering. No baby talk though. He put his chin on my bed and stared up at me, listening intently. And then he drooled.
"Yuck! Get off my bed, you dumb dog! Ew! Ew! Ewww!" I started flapping my arms around, confusing him even more, and finally he jumped up onto my bed, scattering the piles of magazines and newspapers and grammar books and worksheets that I had been going through (or trying to!) for my entrance exam the next day.
I finally managed to get him off the bed by switching on the desert cooler. Within a few seconds, he was snoring away in front of the cooler. 'Lucky guy. At least he gets to sleep', I thought. I looked back at my bed. Most of my reading material was now on the floor, all torn and scrunched up. I started collecting it all and making a pile on the floor. Just then the phone rang. It was my classmate Anish again.
"Hey Sannie. Umm...are you busy?" He asked uncertainly, picking up my tone immediately.
"Not really. Caesy just messed up my room again, so picking up the stuff."
"Oh. Ok. Actually I needed some help. What is a whistleblower?"
"A whistleblower?" God! I knew that term, but somehow could not recall what it meant.
"Yes. It was asked in our final exam."
"Oh..umm. Look, why don't I call you back? I really don't want to give you a vague answer."
After exchanging a few pleasantries, I ended the call and got back to my laptop. One web page led to another, and soon the text became blurry. Even though it was just 11 PM, I decided to lie down for a few minutes.
I was in a swimming pool, but the water was too warm. And then I was bound by a rough towel, and a fire engine's siren was screaming in my ears. Yeah. I know I am on fire, you don't need to rub it in! Suddenly I woke up and realised that I was sweating really badly, the 'rough towel' was my favourite super-soft nightie, the 'siren' was the ringing in my ears that usually signifies a huge headache, and that my phone was ringing. It was Anish.
He sounded annoyed. "Have you found the meaning of 'whistleblower' or not? Or should I call and ask someone else?"
I snapped. "What the ...! Am I your personal encyclopaedia or something? Why can you not just type the word into a search engine and find out for yourself? I am sick of answering everyone's dumb queries. Enough now!" I ended the call.
I turned and saw my reflection in the mirror – red face, eyes sparkling with tears, sweat making my face shine like sunlight makes Edward Cullen glitter, hair dishevelled, and the soft cotton of my nightie sticking to my skin. It was disgusting!
I got up and took out fresh clothes and turned the tap on to fill a bucket. The stored water was warm though, so I added two whole trays of ice cubes, and a few drops of soothing peppermint oil to it. Then I sat drinking a glass of Roohafza while the bucket filled up, muttering darkly about ungrateful fools who called you up at midnight on an exam's eve to ask what whistleblowers are, and then were rude.
The bath made me feel a bit better. I settled down in front of the computer to brush up on current affairs for the exam, but soon Egypt was mixing with Syria and Japan's nuclear disaster was happening in India. I was so muddled and so drowsy that I just fell on to my side on the bed, and went off to sleep.
I was dancing with Abhay Raichand – a slow, soft, romantic dance with candles glowing all around us. This was bliss! Then the song ended mid-way, and then it restarted! I suddenly surfaced from my sleep and realised that the phone was ringing. Anish again, of course!
"What?" I snapped into the phone.
"Please help me no."
"What do you want?" I asked grumpily, peering at the computer clock. Suddenly my eyes widened. "Dude! It is 3 AM! Is this the time to call a girl and then start asking her about whistleblowers?" Sensing that he was about to protest, I hurried on. "Okay. Whistleblowers are people in an organisation that let the authorities or the public know about something wrong being practised by an organisation. You will have to read the rest yourself because I am really very tired now."
"Okay. Thanks. Uh..."
"Are you going to sleep?"
"At 3 AM on an exam night? Nooo! I am going to blast a few pirates with Princess Leia."
"Who is that?"
"Grrr! What do you want?"
"The meaning of freelancing."
I ended the call and went back to sleep.
I don't know what awakened me. Maybe it was just my body's inbuilt alarm clock telling me it was time to eat, or maybe it was the searing heat. The fact was that I was awake, and I really didn't want to be!
As per habit, I rolled onto my side and picked up my phone to check the time. 8 AM! I stared at the clock on horror. The test had to start at 11, and I had to be there at least 15 minutes earlier, and the drive was at least forty minutes long, not counting the minutes added by the morning rush hour traffic.
"Why did you not wake me up?" I burst out of my room yelling, but the sight of all the wedding guests checked me. June 21 was not only the day I had my entrance exam – it was also the day that my parents were going to go through their wedding ceremony all over again! The reason they were doing it I had forgotten in all the stress. I smiled at the three grandmothers I had shocked with my whirlwind entrance and backed into my room. Not wasting another minute, I got ready, checked if I had my admit card and black pen and all the odds and ends I would require for the exam, and drove off with the chauffeur.
I made a tiny stop to buy an extra pen – I always have some kind of mishap during every exam – and reached the examination centre just twenty minutes before the start of the exam. Checking for my seat was another matter though – all those tall, bulky, unshaved, sweaty guys were hogging the bulletin board, especially when the girls were trying to see the seating arrangements. In fact, the whole corridor was like the location of a village fair – lots of people laughing and chattering and jostling each other, and yet never reaching anywhere, and annoying, stinky guys handing out colourful pamphlets of the student organisations they represented, and following and talking to the girls in the name of 'helping the newcomers' whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Used to having my own way, I took advantage of my short stature and pushed past the boys to get a look at my room number. The moment they noticed me, at least five of them started snatching at my admit card so they could see my roll number and let me know where to go, but I just smiled at them and hurried away.
In the exam hall, I discovered that my classmates were sitting in the same room, but thankfully, far away enough so they couldn't disturb me during the exam. Or so I thought. When the question papers were distributed, I scanned mine quickly. It was easy enough – four essays on current affairs, some objective-type grammar questions, a question on journalistic terms. One of the terms made me laugh – it was 'embargo'! I looked up smiling, and saw my classmates glaring at me. 'We will get you for this', Varni mouthed. The rest showed their displeasure by balling their fists. I shrugged and turned my attention towards my paper.
The exam went off okay, though the girls around me kept asking me for answers – it was really irritating how they knew nothing about even the most basic and general stuff, despite sitting for such a technical paper. The grammar was a bit sticky though, and I heaved a huge sigh of relief when the bell rang to indicate the end of the exam. The real test, however, had just begun.
I stood up when I saw my classmates approaching. They made a semi-circle in front of me and stared at me in a cold silence. However, I was at an advantage as I was standing on a higher step so they had to look up at me – and I was also fuelled by the knowledge that I was right to take the stand I was taking. Varni spoke up. "You think you are such a hot-shot thing – scoring well and winning prizes for the college." she hissed. I shrugged. "I know so." "Oh yes. Miss Perfect Student. She knows every thing! She is the best." she said savagely in a sing-song voice. "She doesn't know anything. It is just that her father has the right contacts. That is why she gets so much attention." Ishika put in smoothly. Then she turned to me. "Why don't you get your dad to get you admission in some foreign university? Then at least we won't have to see your ugly face."
I was so enjoying this! There was a time when these remarks really irritated and hurt me, but not now. Not when I knew for sure that these people were useless without their cheat sheets and 'fan clubs'.
"What is this all about?" I asked.
"Don't you know?" I shook my head. "Why didn't you tell Anish the meaning of that embarjo word yesterday?"
"That's embargo. Go, not 'jo'."
"Whatever! The thing is that you didn't. And in the exam hall, why didn't you dictate the answers to us? That dumb invigilator was sleeping!"
This was it – my cue.
"Why didn't you look up the word yourself? Why didn't you prepare for the exam? You were online on Facebook last night, and you were posting those dumb quizzes and writing stupid statuses about your boyfriend. And Ishika, you were on YM, using your webcam. And the rest of you, you have Internet access on both your computers and phones. Why could none of you look up a word instead of calling me at 3 AM? And then you are so rude, like I have been created entirely for your convenience!"
They were silent. For about a minute.
Then Parry said in a cold voice, "You have made a huge mistake. And we will spend the next two years making you regret that you were ever born."
"You have spent the last three years trying to do the same thing. What is so special about this time?"
"It will be different."
"It will be." he said uncertainly, and they all walked away quickly.
I waited until they had left, and sagged against the wall. I hate confrontations! A few minutes later, I walked out of the building. It was stormy now, with a strong wind blowing and dark clouds rushing in. I had to get home quickly and make alternate arrangements for the function that was to be held outdoors, but could not find my car. I called my father, and he told me that one of the relatives had been craving jalebi, so she had taken the car to Rohtak to eat the special jalebi available there only. I cried out in frustration.
Just then, a beautiful black car drew up right in front of me, and a gorgeous lady with flaming red hair smiled up at me and said, "Hop in." "Mommy!" I shrieked with delight and quickly jumped into the car. I hugged my soon-to-be mother-in-law, and she kissed my forehead.
"How did you..."
"Know that you are here? Abhay had been going on and on about your exam. I could hardly help knowing." she laughed.
"No. I meant, how did you know I needed transport? Was it a vampire thing?" I teased her.
"I just wanted to see you. And there is a wedding going on at your place – things happen."
We both laughed. I was really tense though, and she noticed.
"Sannie, is everything okay?
"Hmm...yeah. It is just that...see the clouds coming in? Rain is totally going to spoil the wedding. I have to get home quickly and make alternate arrangements. Then I will have to go to the spot and see that everything is done and there is so much other work!" My voice rose as I spoke.
I realised that I was shaking badly. The after effect of the face-off earlier maybe. Mommy stopped the car and turned to face me.
"Calm down." she repeated. "Chaand and I will take care of everything. You just have to look pretty tonight." Her tone was soothing. Then her eyes turned blue and her fangs came out. "And I know what your classmates did. Let's just say that they will be bitten by a lot of mosquitoes tonight." She winked at me, and I laughed. We drove on towards my house, talking about Abhay and planning our own wedding.
By 6 PM, all the preparations had been done, thanks to my parents-in-law. The rising heat and humidity had become unbearable though. My father was feeling extremely uncomfortable in his sherwani, and my mother was worried about her make-up melting away, and the hairdresser was upset about Mum's hair, which was becoming morefrizzy by the minute.
And then, the storm broke. There was thunder and lightning, and a power cut. The loud thing they called 'music' stopped, and left behind a deafening silence. A voice whispered in awe, "Should we cancel the wedding?"
"No need to do that. We will wait out the initial fury of the storm, and then we have to travel in cars, so should not be much trouble." My hero. My love. Abhay Raichand. He came towards me, his eyes glowing blue in the darkness.
"I am so glad you came." I whispered, hugging him. He hugged me back, and we all sat down near the doors and in the covered porch. It was now wonderfully cool and not so humid. At around 8 PM, power was restored. The hairdresser got to work in a flash – free to do whatever she wanted Mum's finally tamed hair. Everyone else piled into cars, and soon we reached the wedding venue.
The exterior walls had been decked with flowers and shiny streamers (to make up for the absence of the fairy lights – a fire hazard in the current weather). Inside were more flowers, and lots of lights. Being vampires who preferred actual flames of fire as a source of light, my parents-in-law had gone heavy on candles. I smiled at my father-in-law – he and Mommy sure did everything in style!
Mommy then went to greet my parents, and they stood talking for a while. I was content to watch from a distance, especially since Abhay was holding my hand...
And then they beckoned us over.
Both sets of parents were looking really excited. I looked at them suspiciously, and then at Abhay, who was looking bewildered himself. Then I looked around and saw everyone watching us with barely suppressed expectation.
"What exactly is happening out here?" I demanded.
My mother took my hand and said, "This was a surprise, for you."
This time my father-in-law came forward. "This is your wedding, not your parents'."
I was staring at them open-mouthed. My father put in quickly, "You don't have to if you don't want to." He turned to my mother. "I told you keeping this thing a surprise was a bad idea."
I turned to Abhay enquiringly.
"I think it is a cool idea. I mean, we are going to get married soon anyway, so, why not today?" he said.
"Okay. If you are okay with this..."
He looked into my eyes and said softly, "It is what I want the most."
I blushed, and the room erupted in cheers.
And then we were getting married.
Until I heard the knock.
My mother's knock.
On my door.
Writer's Note: I am terrified of my mum's knock. If I don't respond to it quickly, she usually barges into my room through our connecting bathroom and criticises me for my sins present, past and future. Well, not really. I just said the second line for effect. I am scared of it though.
I rubbed my eyes and opened my door.
Mum came in angrily. "You know you have been sleeping for eighteen hours now – half the day is gone. You haven't taken a bath, haven't eaten anything all day. Am I supposed to run after you all day?"
I listened to her with just a small part of my attention. The rest of it was busy trying to wake me up.
Then I became horrified.
"What?" She was really annoyed at being interrupted.
"I missed my entrance exam! Why didn't you wake me up?" I wailed.
"What are you talking about? Your entrance exam was yesterday, on 20th. You have given it already. Huh! Sleep like that and you are bound to lose time. Now get up and eat something."
She started to move away.
I could hear my mother muttering, "The longest day of the year and she sleeps it away. I don't know what to do with her!"
I sat up suddenly.
Of course! Summer solstice! It was my friend's birthday! The little guy never tired of telling me that he was born on the longest day.
I quickly called him.
"Didi! You remembered really quickly. It is only... 5 PM right now." he groused.
"Sorry sweetheart, I will make it up to you soon." I promised.
Ending the call, I took a moment to lie back and think about my 'wedding' and smiled.
Two hours later, washed and fed, I yawned and went towards my room.
"Where are you going?" Mum asked.
"I am tired."
"What for? You didn't do anything but sleep all day!"
I smiled and said, "Wouldn't you like to know!" and left her fuming about being 'blessed with lazy kids'.
Well, you and I know, right? *winks*
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n12345678, a little faith, Wafah, iruaG, Aanya., Ritzie, .vrshn., tes_v1, -Jeny-, Ameres,
Joined: 06 December 2007
ENTRY # 7
When does a day feel so long, that you can't wait for it to get over? (And I'm NOT talking of solstices!)
- When you are waiting for someone
- When you are nervous about something
- When you are scared of something
- When your day is PLAIN UNLUCKY.
And what happens when the four of them make a combined recurrence?
You end up with what you feel was the longest day of your life- the way it happened to me.
It was a fine summer morning. As I sipped on to my coffee at 6 'o' clock, sitting alone in my hostel canteen (alone, cos no one is usually up that early), I was very sure that it was going to be another of those harried, busy mornings I usually encountered. At that moment, I had no reason to think that it would be a day which would totally baffle me out, body and mind.
I reflected back on the previous day. I had been playing Table Tennis for hours with my friend Alisha, preparing for the first round of my Table Tennis Tournament, as part of the Annual Sports Event in my medical college. TT was the only game I knew to play well. I had played it for years in school, but it was not until I joined medical college that I realized I was actually good in it- and it was only in my Final Year that I gained confidence to play against a person of another college without being afraid of looking like a fool, or scared to have my own college crowd booing against me, giving me infuriated looks for letting the college down.
The whole day I and Alisha had practiced together, and it was only when I had come back to the hostel at 12 at night that I had caught wind of what was happening.
"Surprise test tomorrow!!!" shouted one girl, running from one room to another. "Remember the special function in Surgery department tomorrow? Well, news has leaked that after the function, Dr. Pearl plans to take a surprise test of sorts! She is also going to ask us to examine the patients and diagnose them! Plus we also have the specimens to identify and the instruments used during surgery!!" Another girl explained, flipping about, totally gone crazy.
I stood numb with shock, and then slapped my forehead. Damn! I hadn't read Surgery in days together! My postings had been long over, and I had probably forgotten details of all the surgeries and specimens, instruments and signs. Since the last week, I hadn't read anything in fact, since I had been so busy in my TT practice with Alisha.
What, in the whole wide world, was I gonna do now?
Dragging my feet, I had made my way to my room, showered and changed, and sat down with my Surgery notes and books in front of me. I had 6 hours till the tournament, maybe I could read something to pass in the test, if not get good marks, I had reasoned.
And thus had started 21st June- the longest day of my life. The whole night, I clutched at straws, trying to revise the course of months in a few hours. At first, I had thought I wouldn't be able to make it since I can drop down on the floor when I'm really sleepy, but fear gives you strength, somehow, I was still awake when the sun rose next morning. I hadn't slept a single moment all night.
Back to the present, in the canteen, 6 'o' clock.
My mind felt woozy with sleep. Something thumped and humped inside it. I almost felt as if someone was playing table tennis inside my brain itself, so clear was the ping- pong inside it. I opened my eyes wide, and tried to gulp down my coffee quickly. I ended up burning my tongue in the process. What a horrible beginning to a day- I thought, drinking some cool water to soothe it. I looked out of the window.
It was a lovely summer day. I could hear the birds chirping, and the sun rays emerging out slowly. In a few minutes, it would be hot and humid, I guessed, but nevertheless, at that early hour of morning, the whole ambience looked heavenly. I relaxed on my chair and put my hand on the table, trying to slowly listen to the cheerful voices around me. I hoped the day ahead would be a good one. I had practiced a lot for this TT match, just like I had been sincere in my Surgery postings. Now I didn't want to lose out on both. While the former would make my college lose a point, the latter would embarrass me in the eyes of my teacher, who probably had large expectations from me. I had read whatever I could in a short span of time, now I just wanted to give my best. I had worked hard, now I just wanted to enjoy the fruits of my labour, hoping they would be sweet.
Thinking, dreaming, introspecting. In no time, I was asleep.
There's something weird in this house!
I looked around, a cloud of feelings in my heart, as I examined our new house from top to cranny. I didn't know why it was giving me the chills, my parents seemed pretty excited. "Don't you like it Keerti?" they asked.
I tried to look normal, not wanting to admit that there was something missing in the house, something which didn't quite give it the comfortable, homely touch that I had expected from a large, fully furnished, wooden house nestling in the hills, complete with bonfire and a chimney. Wasn't this the perfect picture we visualize?
I walked to the window to have a look outside. I could see the valley and the road which spun sharply along its edge. The board- "Steep turn ahead. Drive safely" Could be seen. For a minute, I wondered how many drivers had crashed into the valley, how many corpses had made that valley their home.
To me, the valley seemed like an ethereal, mysterious graveyard.
I walked back inside. My parents were satisfied with the house and signing the dotted line. Somehow I didn't like it. I wanted to throw the pen away, deep down into the same valley.
The whole week went in shifting. It was a tiring process, but in the end, the house became a home, thanks to the touches of our own stuff and the constant bonhomie amongst family members.
It was my first night in my new room. And I couldn't get sleep. I tried hard, but could do nothing except toss and turn on my bed. The darkness in the room felt scary. The curtains flittered softly in the wind and their shadows danced. There was an eerie silence.
Slowly I got up, edging slowly towards the switchboard. Better to lie down and read something than sit like a scaredy cat.
Before I could switch on the lights however, there was a knock on the door. I was relieved. It must be Mom, I thought.
I walked to the door. "You still awake.." I started speaking, as I opened the door.
I stopped dead in my tracks. It was not my Mom, it was not my Dad. It was someone else.
Through the little light that filtered in the room from outside, I saw his face, or the lack of it, actually. His face was burnt, and one eye had blood coming out from it. His clothes were burnt and torn at places, his shoes were torn and muddy and burnt. He stared at me brazenly, expressionlessly.
The air was sucked out of my lungs. "How did you come in.." I muttered, struggling to breath, my eyes as wide as oranges now. "How did you.. Mom.. Dad.." I tried to shout. At that time I did not realize I was only whispering to myself.
The intruder had cold, unblinking eyes. I stepped back a little, not able to move my eyes from his face. Suddenly without warning, the intruder stuck an axe at my head.
I woke up in fright, absolutely astounded. I shivered and gasped for breath, very scared of the dream I had seen. It had been gory to say the least. I gulped and looked around. I was still in my hostel canteen and there was no one around me. The time was 6.45 am.
"Horrible dream!" said Alisha, tossing her curls.
We were sitting in the Students Common Room, where the TT tournament was to be held. I had told Alisha about my dream in detail.
"It's the scariest dream I've ever seen in my life. Plain gory!" I said, still having goosebumps as I recollected the scene in my mind.
"Its over now." Alisha said, trying to comfort me. "Did you have breakfast?"
"No." I said. "I just had coffee. I was too nervous to eat anything. Plus I wanted to revise a bit of Surgery."
"That's why!" said Alisha. "My Mom says monsters catch you on an empty stomach. Come now, come and eat something."
"Afterwards!" I said. "I'm really not in the mood to eat anything. I just hope my competitor comes soon so that we finish off the match and I can go and study peacefully."
Alisha laughed. "Forget the test now. You're gonna flunk anyway." She said, jumping off the table both of us were sitting on. "Just think about the game. You haven't slept much, don't lose concentration. Rather than studying, I would suggest you to catch a short nap by the time your competitor comes." She walked away to talk on her cell.
I got down from the table too to talk to the TT coordinator. It turned out that my competitor was a girl from another medical college, and had sent in a message to postpone the match for sometime as she had some unavoidable work. And so, our match had been pushed back in the schedule. I gritted my teeth with anger, and demanded that I be declared the winner, but the referee didn't agree. Now I was supposed to wait for her till afternoon.
Sadly, I turned back and went to the table where I had been sitting with Alisha. I took out my Surgery book from my bag and started reading it, resting my head against the wall, very determined to complete at least the important chapters in the syllabus.
Turned out they were high hopes. Cos in no time, I was asleep again.
The lamp broke as I bumped against it, blindly running in my room, trying to escape my death staring at me in my face. Like a zombie, the intruder in my room moved his axe ferociously and expressionlessly. I hid behind my almirah, my heart in my mouth, trying to escape him, praying to God, my eyes almost filling with tears. I wanted to shout out, I wanted to cry, I wanted to just run away from there, unfortunately there was nothing I could do other than hide.
I couldn't hide for long though. He seemed to have smelled me. He looked in the direction of the almirah, and walked towards it with fire in his eyes. I shuddered, my forehead wet with sweat. Peering from behind the almirah, I noticed that he was limping. He seemed to have lost a couple of fingers from his left hand. Both his hands were burnt as well.
"Aaa'.." he screamed, banging the almirah. "AAA'"
I wanted to cry so bad, I didn't know what else to do. I knew I was going to die. I knew this monster was going to kill me. "Someone help please.." I tried to shout, but it came out no louder than a whimper.
He pushed the almirah finally, hitting it with his axe. He was face to face with me now, and I was breathing in quick, short breaths. I frantically leapt about for anything I could find, and came across an old umbrella. I tried to hit him with it, but it had no effect.
"AAAh''." He growled, in a roaring, resounding voice. He raised his axe to hit me again, but he hit the wall instead, and the axe fell away from his hands.
This was my only chance. I jumped to get the axe first. To my good luck, I caught it first. "DON'T COME NEAR!!" I yelled. "MOM DAD COME HERE QUICKLY!" I shouted.
He seemed undeterred. I closed my eyes and lashed out- left, right, right, left- I didn't care as I swung the axe round in every direction. I could hear groaning and shouting voices, but I didn't open my eyes, I continued to lash out this way and that.
Finally all was quiet. And it was then that I opened my eyes. I cupped my face in my hands in horror.
On the floor in front of me, lay body parts- an arm, a leg, a jaw and so on. Everything lay cut out in front of me, and blood was oozing out of them. One of the arms was still writhing a little. It made me sick and want to puke.
I sat down on the floor and wept for a while. I had no idea what was going on. Who was he?- a ghost? A zombie? A demon?'and what had I just done- killed a ghost? Divided him into a million pieces? What the hell was this going on? How could anyone on earth kill a ghost? Ghosts didn't have any bodies! What on earth was this, I wondered. And how could I, a delicate girl, actually spin an axe with as much force as to chop a body into pieces? What was all this happening?
I didn't know anything. I sat and sobbed some more, trying to find strength within myself. After some time, I noticed the blood around the place, and shuddered about what people would think. Quietly I picked up one body part each and put it in a plastic bag and tied it securely. I had no idea what to do with the plastic bags, so I carried half of them and threw them in the valley. I repeated the same with the next few, singing the Hanuman Chalisa during each trip, asking God to save me. I hoped that the river at the bottom of the valley would carry the pieces far away from me.
I came back to my room, my hands covered with blood. I looked at the blood all around the room. I took a mop and cleaned it all up. I discarded the mop in a separate plastic bag, and the axe in another one and threw them both in the valley too. Finally everything done, I came back and lay down on the bed. I somehow felt I was going to die. I prayed to God to save me.
Surprisingly, this time I got sleep easily.
I woke up the next morning to find everything calm and quite as usual. Mom went about her chores as always, bustling about the house briskly, Dad and my sis went to work. I felt uneasy all through the day. I couldn't do any work. I tried to read a book, but couldn't concentrate.
The next day passed uneventfully too. I spent almost the whole day in the garden, weeding out the flower bed.
The following week too, nothing happened. My days were peaceful and I got sleep easily at night. I was beginning to wonder if life had gone to normalcy again, and whether I had imagined out everything. Late till midnight, I would stare into the valley sometimes, but nothing happened.
One day I was sleeping in my easy chair in the garden, soaking up the heat. I didn't notice for how long I slept and woke up in the evening. It was getting dark. I walked to my Mom.
"Hi Mom, what's for dinner!" I asked. Suddenly I wrinkled my nose. "Eww.. what's this?"
I put my hand to my nose. There was an unbearable stench about in the house.
"I don't know!" said Mom, tying a handkerchief around her nose. "It was feeble in the morning, but its gone on to be worse now. I think some creature has died somewhere in the house, a rat or a cat maybe."
Sweat trickled down my spine as my Mom used the word 'died'. The events of the unforgettable night unfolded in my eyes again. I shook the demons out of my head. "I'll help you in finding it Mom." I said. Mom agreed.
Together I and Mom cleared up the cupboard, the kitchen, the attic, pretty much the whole house. Every corner which had been neglected in the past was cleared away until we were sure the whole house was in place. But we couldn't find anything. The stench on the other hand, grew unbearable and stronger with time.
"You know what.." said Mom. "Its stronger near your bedroom."
I was shocked. "No its not."
"It is!" said Mom, walking towards the bedroom, inhaling in small breaths. She choked and had to run from there out into the garden. "Its coming from your bedroom only. Go check whether a rat died in your room."
I walked to my bedroom, very very scared. I groped the doorknob tightly as I opened the door and peered inside. My heart was pounding furiously, and I expected to have a heart attack any moment now. I looked about skeptically, expecting to see a rat around me, or something of that sort.
There was nothing.
I walked inside, trying to follow the stench, very sure that I would throw up in a little while. It was an unbearable stench of god know what.
Ultimately I went to the cupboard. A chill raced through my spine as I opened it slowly.
My worst fears had come true. A scream escaped my mouth.
I woke up suddenly, visibly shaken up. I looked around myself. I was still sitting on the table in the common room, and people were playing TT in front of me. My pulse started racing again when I smelled a strong unpleasant stench . I was all ready to go shrieking in horror again when I controlled myself. I asked the sweeper to look into what was smelling so bad. He went in one of the inside rooms, came out and walked in again with a few cleaning equipments. I looked at the book of Surgery in my lap. All fears returned back as it sunk in that I had not read a single word all this while- I was going to fail in my test and disappoint my favourite teacher. I asked for my competitor for the TT match- she had yet not come. By the time she came, I would probably be heavy with sleep, and would have totally lost my concentration and zeal. Add to that, these nightmares which were after me.
I groaned. Darn!! Why did I fall asleep at the drop of a hat? Why could I NOT stay awake? Today was a bad day indeed, I thought. I couldn't wait for it to get over, but instead, each second seemed a lifetime. Truly unfortunate.
I stirred my coffee. "Then nothing. I shrieked and it ended there. I don't know why I'm getting all these dreams." I said sadly.
Alisha shrugged. "Its your bad day I guess."
"The problem, Alisha, is that anything that is happening around me gets incorporated in my dream in the worst way possible. Like I burnt my tongue in the morning, so I saw a dead man, completely burnt up from head to toe, coming after me with an axe. Then there was a stench in the common room where I was sitting, and there was a horrible stench part in my dream too. I'm scared to do anything or go anywhere now. Who knows in what way it will get incorporated? I'm so down, I just want to sit in the temple and pray. They are all horrible nightmares, day-mares, whatever! They leave me gasping for breath and completely shaken up! I don't want them back! But I can't help falling asleep each time, even though I try not to." I said, almost sobbing.
"All this is happening due to your lack of sleep." Said Alisha. "Go and sleep for some time, you'll feel better. You'll also be able to concentrate better in your match as well as in your test."
I shook my head. "I don't want to sleep." I said. "I know, I'll get the next 'instalment' of my 'day-mare' again. Man, Alisha, it was so scary, I cringe when I remember the way I was packing the arms and legs and.."
"Come on Keerti.. you're going to be a doctor, you shouldn't be scared of such things."
I shook my head. "It isn't possible to not be affected. It was too gory."
"How much more coffee?" said Alisha, raising her eyebrow, as I drank my 3rd cup.
"I want to stay awake. I don't want to fall asleep now." I said obstinately, finishing my cup. The player opposite me had not yet come, so we got up to attend the function in Surgery Dept, just before our surprise test.
The Surgery Dept. had organized a special function to felicitate the head of the Surgery Dept, who was taking up voluntary retirement. The function, as such, was an utterly boring one, with sporadic speeches by almost all the teachers, praising the soon-to-be-gone teacher. Every few minutes we were supposed to clap and behave interested. I couldn't. I was way too fatigued.
"This function is such a tear-fest." I whispered to Alisha, who was sitting next to me. "Almost all the teachers are sobbing."
"Shhh.." hissed Alisha. "Dr. Pearl is staring at you."
I turned to look. Indeed, Dr. Pearl had caught me. I felt embarrassed and looked away. Another boring function added to this day- which seemed to be getting longer than ever. My head felt heavy now, and I felt sleepy, but I controlled myself and sat up straight. However, I couldn't ignore it- I felt too stressed out. It was as if there were bees buzzing inside my head.. zzz..When would it end?
Softly, I rested my head on the plush back of the auditorium seat where the function was being held. It was good to sit in an Air conditioned room at least, away from the heat outside, and let your mind open its windows. The hum of the speeches was going on around me, but by now, I had totally lost focus. Everything seemed as if going on in mute mode. I didn't know when my eyelids closed by themselves, and I fell asleep.
I still stood, traumatized as I saw those same plastic bags, which I had thrown into the valley a few nights ago, occupying prized position in my cupboard.
For a few minutes, I went numb as I stared at the plastic bags. Then suddenly, as if without knowing why, as if in a trance, as if hypnotized, I moved my arm ahead and touched one of the plastic bags. I pulled it and held it close to myself, inspite of the horrible stench. It was then that I suddenly came out of my trance. The first thought that came in my head was- what is this buzzing about?
Slowly, I opened the plastic bag, my heart beating like never before and ready to blow up a vessel in my brain.
Cautiously, I removed the folds of the bag and peered inside. The sight made my heart almost stop for a moment.
Inside the plastic bag was an arm. Just an arm, cut from the elbow, with a few missing fingers. The whole arm was smelling rotten and maggots were moving over it.
I threw the packet on the floor, disgusted and shocked. I didn't seem to have any control over myself any more. I ran to my bed and crouched in a corner.
For hours I didn't move. The sunlight vanished away. It became dark. I didn't move. I stayed like that. I could hear Mom calling to me. I still didn't move.
Ultimately, I got up at night. Like a person who had lost himself, I walked to Mom and Dad. They were sitting in the bedroom and talking.
"Mom.." I said, almost sobbing. "There is something weird in this house."
Mom and Dad looked at me, then at each other, utterly puzzled.
"There's something wrong in this house. And we need to do something about it- FAST!!!"
I shuddered and woke up. I was breathless yet again, and my white sports T-shirt was drenched with sweat. I felt abominably hungry.
I looked around myself. The function seemed to be getting over.
I slunk back in my seat. Alisha didn't seem to have noticed when I had slept. She turned to me a few minutes later. "What did I miss?" I asked, with an enormous yawn.
"Dr. Pearl might be the new head of Surgery Dept. That explains the surprise test I suppose. She feels that we need to be challenged more academically, so that we can be better doctors."
I grunted. I didn't want to give any test.
Towards the end of the ceremony, Dr. Pearl asked us to go to the main hospital wards. The students had been divided in batches of 15. They were assigned to one teacher/doctor and allotted one patient.
As was the requirement- I went to my patient, dressed in my white doctor's coat now, and enquired the details of his case- his complaints, the progress of his illness and so on. Turned out to be a case of an amputated limb, the stump (cut end) of which which had developed an ulcer. Sheer coincidence, or something else, I thought, remembering my dream. I tried to ignore it, opened my eyes as wide as I could, and started with the case-taking. I then examined him and thanked him. I sat quietly thinking of the questions my examiner could ask me.
A few minutes later, I was summoned. I entered quietly and was asked to sit. I explained the details of my case. Dr. Pearl looked thoughtful.
"Hmm.. how is an amputated limb disposed?"
I stood silent. 'Tie it in a plastic bag and throw it in a valley' my mind said. Instead I replied. "Incineration."
"What are the things you need to take care of while disposing it?"
'Use a good quality plastic bag. Airtight.' Came the voice. "I don't know Ma'am," I said.
"How will you manage this patient?"
I took in a deep breath. I had lost all interest in the test and the questions she was asking. "I don't know Ma'am."
Dr. Pearl looked annoyed. "What do you know?"
"Excuse me!" Suddenly, like a bullet I ran out from the room, leaving Dr. Pearl shocked. The stress of the day, the continous guzzling of coffee on an empty stomach, the horrible scenes coming back again and again and the lack of sleep had finally taken a toll on me. I rushed into the bathroom and threw up. Five minutes later, I came back to her. Dr. Pearl looked worried.
"Are you okay child?" she said. I nodded. "I'm sorry Ma'am."
She looked disturbed. "Go now. You clearly aren't in a state to give this test. And anyways, you know nothing." I apologized again and walked out with my bag, my stethoscope dangling from my still-trembling hands.
I reached the Common Room at around 6 in the evening. The calm, cheerful ambience we had started with in the morning had long since disappeared. Now it was cloudy and depressing and humid. It added to my already sinking spirits. I had given a horrible test, and now I had the match to play. I wasn't in the mood to play anymore. The fire within me had died out. I wanted to back out- but was told that the player opposite me had already come. It was too late to back out now. I straightened up my hair and got ready to play. My competitor was a girl with a lot of freckles who was wearing a T-shirt saying- My 100th victory. Quite understandably, it did nothing to boost my morale.
Within two minutes of the game, I was frustrated. Instead of hitting the ball on the Table, she was hitting it high up in the air, from where it would drop down on my court or hers. I always found it irritating to play in this manner, waiting for the ball to complete its high curve and drop down on one side. 'This is TT, not badminton', I felt like saying to her, this time what worsened the situation was that every time she played a shot like that, which came up ready to hit me on my head as I waited for it, it reminded me of the zombie waiting to strike me with his axe.
Many a times, I missed a point solely due to this reason. After a while, I grew tired. I didn't even attempt to hit back.
Needless to say, I lost the match quite badly. Most of my college mates, who had cheered for me in the beginning, were now discussing what a bad player I was. I didn't want to listen to them. I put my things back in my bag. I just wanted to go back to the hostel and flop on my bed- dreams or no dreams, nightmares or no nightmares.
I turned. A guy in a black shirt with rimless specs was standing next to me, smiling. I knew him, I had talked to him a few times but never paid much attention as such. He was my Senior- a guy named Suyash.
I was irked. I had lost each of the 3 sets, and it had undoubtedly been my worst performance. "Nice?" I repeated incredulously. "This was nice?"
He nodded and pointed at the girl who had defeated me. "She's my sister."
"Oh!" I exclaimed. "That explains why you liked my game today." I said, unable to hide the sarcasm in my voice. Right now I didn't really care about anyone.
He looked at me for a minute, then threw his head back and laughed.
"Do you snap at everyone like this?"
I hadn't expected this. I looked at the ground, then muttered. "Sorry"
"Its ok. I should have explained. I liked the way you were trying to play some of the high shots. The technique was correct, but you seemed to be getting disturbed."
Oh yeah! All thanks to that idiotic dream, which had ruined my test first and now this.
"I played at the National Level, and I think you'll be better next year with more practice."
"Thanks." I muttered and as he smiled back, I realized for the first time what a cute smile he had. I picked up my bag and we started walking towards the exit. "Your sister.."
"Going with her friends."
"Ok, and you.."
"Waiting for my friends, but I think they won't come right now."
I looked at his friends, chatting away in a corner. They were amongst the geeky group in the college who stayed in the library 24*7. I had always presumed that Suyash would be just like them. However, there was no harm in strolling a little with him, was there? And anyway, he looked quite 'harmless'.
The air outside had changed. A slight drizzle was taking place and it was cooler now. I didn't have an umbrella, but Suyash did, and I requested him to escort me till the hostel nearby on his way to the library. He agreed. On the way, we passed through the student notice board. I ran to check the test results. I wanted to see how many had managed to pass from my batch.
To my utter shock and joy both, I and Chinmoy were the only two who had passed! I couldn't believe it.
Suyash noticed the results too. "Umm.. are the students of your batch such duffers, or are you too intelligent above the rest," he joked.
I gave him a hard look, and he burst out laughing. "Its fun to annoy you!" he said. "Look at your face."
I smiled. "Yeah, whatever." I told him that the result was bad cos no one was prepared for the test. "I myself don't know how I passed, I think I got sympathy marks cos I attempted the test even though I was sick!"
He raised an eyebrow. "You certainly aren't sick!"
"I'm not, but I did look sick to Dr. Pearl. Whatever, I'm happy I could pass- the dream ruined my day, at least some good came out of it."
He was intrigued. As we walked back to the hostel, the rain pit-pattering on the umbrella, I told him about my horrible dreams.
"This seems like something out of the Zee Horror show!" he exclaimed, laughing.
"You're laughing? They were very scary!"
He shrugged. "Enjoy it like a free horror movie na! Why complain? Its not like the ghost is going to come out from the dream and eat you up! And anyway, don't forget, the repercussions of your dream saved you in the test today."
"But I lost my match.."
"But I wouldn't have talked to you if you had won, very frankly speaking. I would have been consoling my sister."
Huh?!? Who did he think he was, Shah Rukh Khan?
He laughed at the look on my face. "Kidding! I was about to ask you out for coffee, but I think you've had enough coffee since morning," he grinned.
I giggled. Whatever, this guy was witty. And he seemed intelligent. And had a cute smile. And chivalrous- he escorted me till hostel since I didn't have an umbrella. He looked like an interesting character.
"The best way to get away from unpleasant things over which we have no control is to laugh at them." He said. "But you kept on getting scared and it compounded and your state of mind got reflected in your dream. If you stay scared of something, it will always try and scare you more. And anyway- it is quite apparent that your dreams were being framed unknowingly taking ideas according to situations and stimulus around you- you burning your tongue, stench, buzzing in your head, and so on. In fact, this whole thing is a good example of how our mental state and surroundings influence our subconscious thinking. Very good for research."
I groaned. "Lets not complicate it this much." I said. "But some things in the dream turned out to occur in bits during the course of the day- I got an amputated limb for my case in the test, and the shots in the match kept coming very often in the same way as the axe in the dream.."
"Coincidence, I think." He said. "But that's a boring answer. Hopefully, we can come to a more exciting conclusion- something related to the futuristic effect of dreams and such- or maybe about a ghost trying to warn you. When you see the next instalment tonight, tell me what happened next- I'll be in the library. I want to know how this ends."
I nodded. I wanted to meet him again too.
He waved me goodbye at the hostel gate. I went to my room and changed. It was then that I remembered that the umbrella I had used in my dream to hit the ghost/demon/whatever in dream no.2 was exactly similar to the one belonging to Suyash- deep navy blue in colour.
For the first time in the whole day, my dream excited me. What could this mean? So far, it had all been very logical and flowed like a story. There had been some bits from the surroundings around me, and some bits hinting of the future. This was yet another example.
Where would it lead to? Did this mean Suyash would be there in my next dream?
'Dreams sometimes reflect a bit of our own state of mind'- was what Suyash had said.
The last part had ended with me telling my parents about the ghosts in the valley, and that we needed help. So how would I see him in my next part? As a handsome exorcist who would save me- someone like Keenu Reaves in Constantine? As a guy who knew some secret to defeat the ghost? As my lover or boyfriend? I grew excited, thinking about the fact that maybe the ending would really turn out to be a thrilling one, and I would have lots to tell him at our next meeting. Also looking at the pattern, I wanted some clues for the future this time too. I would analyse them later with Alisha.
And so after a long day of grumbling, cursing, and getting frustrated by recurring 'nightmares', now I couldn't wait to see the next 'episode' of my horror show. I should have eaten, but so excited was I, that I didn't want to alter the conditions of the previous dream by even one bit now, lest the sequel not come up at all. I switched off the lights and lay down on my bed, as the clock chimed 10 o clock.
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