Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Two Gatekeepers

Posted by at 1:26 AM
The stench of the severed arm and fingers somehow got masked by the lingering fragrance of perfume in the lift. That trailing, fruity scent that might command an inner lust, doesn't please the lookers who saw a severed arm and fingers when the lift was called for, first thing in the morning. The gatekeeper, an old man, had tried his best not to puke.

"Good thing that he didn't mess the scene up much."

"Poor old fella."

"Barely managed to finish his shift after that. The caretakers say that his handoff guy had called in sick, and he was supposed to make two shifts."

"They have two for this society?"

"Is that unusual?"

"Not if you go by the govt's planning recommendations."

"Right. Smoke break?"

"Sure, come let's walk to that smoke pod. I saw some interesting brands on display, earlier."

The two detectives had sealed the society off the limits and called for a team from the forensics dept. As they began walking towards the nearest of the smoke pods in the area, detective Myrin observed a slight line of redness at the wall near the lift, the one that was the closest to the entrance of the lift area. "Strange." he murmured.

"The rings of smoke fly for a short time but the circle always stays intact till the end."
"Hah!"
"I like this pod, though. Do you think we should interrogate the guard now or after the forensics folks finish their analysis?"
"That'd look very crude. Man, that dude is all curled up, as if he had the weirdest nightmare of his life.  I don't feel if he would know anything."

"We can avoid cracks later if we suspect everyone from the start. Saves a lot of work later when we close it."

"Well, sure, I don't want to ruin our streak, Myrin, but c'mon, he is too old, and we don't have a body to match the arm."

"I am not ruling out anyone. I hear the home-owners' committee have called for an emergency meeting - the owners are checking about the whereabouts of all their tenants in the society. They might plan to have a meeting there, in an hour."

"Crowd scenes, eh. Hate it. Well, let's hope the forensics team gives us some data to work on, by then."

"And let's also hope that no one is dead."

"Yes, let's hope the same. Why are we not discussing the other guard though?"
"Two gatekeepers is absolutely not unusual, Harvey."
"Not that. I am wondering about his whereabouts. When did his leave begin, again?"
"Melvin's team is interrogating the caretakers. We should have some table entry somewhere. Let's find out while Melvin is done talking to them."

The caretakers informed that the second guard Amorean is usually a regular guy, but he took a sudden break that started two days before.  He was on leave on three such occasions the entire month. The gaps between the leaves caught Myrin's eye.

"No computerized work here."
"Yeah, the caretaker says the workstation crashed recently, all we have now are these e-display sheets. Melvin is not sure about their statements, though."
"Melvin unconvinced? I see. I guess, that explains the time sheet entries."
"What do you mean?"
"I was hoping that these people would be filling out their respective entries."
"They would be, obviously, but then--"
"Exactly. All the entries seem like they were written by a single person. Here, look at the zeroes."

Myrin showed Harvey how all the electronic zeroes were elongated towards the tip. He enjoyed zooming then in and out. They shared a brief, muffled laugh, before coming back to the discussion at hand.

"Let's talk to the older guard."
"The forensics will be sending analysis report in an hour from now."
"Harvey, I don't think the old man is involved anywhere here."
"He didn't have any information to give us really."
"In fact, I felt he is shocked beyond his senses. Couldn't make out anything from what he said."

"An interesting style of old English he had. Never heard it in person much, but I read similar stuff in one of those paper-only works."
"Yeah he is probably the author of the book."
"Funny. But what I am trying to say is, he is not involved anywhere here. He is not from here."
"I am confused. If he speaks in an obsolete form of our language, he doesn't fit here?"

"I mean, he seems extra traumatized."
"Myrin, there's no such thing as 'extra traumatized'."

"There is, Harvey. Let me explain. Imagine seeing a spider. And then imagine seeing an extremely, unusually large form of that same spider. Which scene will build more fear within you?"
"Obviously when I see the second spider."
"Now what if I say that, you experience that same, higher degree of fear inside you, when you see the first spider."
"Nah I don't think that makes sense. Because a spider of usual size wouldn't incite that much fear in me."

Myrin smiled.
"Similarly, the severed arm doesn't command that much trauma, which I am seeing in his eyes. He is extra traumatized."

It was getting dark and the street lights had just begun to lit up in the set sequence of patterns. Usually the lights would light up less because movement would be low in this area after 7pm. Today they were lit in full brightness as the  area was jampacked with people and their vehicles clogging the roads. The two detectives took the old gatekeeper and, amidst the commotion, they quickly moved towards the makeshift interrogation room, i.e., the nearby smoke pod. Harvey bribed the pod in-charge, sneaked in to the control station of the pod, turned off the display of brands, and instead, put up a 'Refill Expected in 5 hours!' notice on the screens that covered the pod.

"Listen, Mr Kim. If you don't cooperate, we have to take the tougher route."
Mr Kim trembled in a continued frenzy and found it extremely taxing to form words in his mouth.
"Fh-- Oaa-- aa- I -- uh, the atrocity-- you are bringing upon my being is hurtf-- hurtful--"

"Atrocity. Haha, sure." Harvey began. "We have all the evidences built up against you."
"There-- There's no viable proof to sss-, subst--, substantiate your claims!" Kim used his full force to finish his sentence while continuously shaking on his seat in terror.
"Proof I will give you, Mr Kim. We have blood samples."
"Wh-- what obscene claims! That's not my blood!"
"We never "claimed" it to be so. Or maybe you are telling us that it could be your blood indeed, as a matter of fact."
"You can--, you cannot-- twist and turn through my words! I-- I don't want to stay. I want to go-- to go--"
"We will see to that. Actually, we found something else in the blood sample."
The pod door flung open noiselessly, and amidst a thin trail of smoke, Myrin entered. Myrin and Harvey exchanged glances and shared a quick nod. Smoking in the open was illegal, but Myrin didn't care as much, at the moment. He removed his coat, placed it carefully on the chair opposite to the guard, and leaned in an over-powering fashion at the already-terrorized old man.

"Mr Kim you use an ointment?"
"I-- I--"
"Do you use an ointment?"
"I-- it's personal. I-- skin lesions--"
"Can we see your hands?"
"No you can't -- this atrocity-- I cannot--"
"What's with the interesting language you speak! Sometimes it feels like a movie, and I hate to see your talent going waste, Mr Kim. Show me your hands, please."

Kim kept shivering and reluctantly he folded his left arm's sleeve up.
"I use ointment on my lesions--  it is very painful otherwise-- painful-- please believe-- I want to go-- want to go--"
"uv plague is wiped off the planet, Mr Kim. The UMC report for the year 2250 declared it globally, as part of the successful vaccination drive that had begun 8 years ago. Everyone knows about it. It's simply impossible to see untreated lesions these days."

Mr Kim shook his head down, hid his face in his hands and began to cry, rocking himself back and forth in a steady motion.
"....I want to go back I want to go...please-- please allow me to take your leave--"

Before he could finish, he began slurring and started trembling vigorously on his chair. He shook his head hard, and kept shivering and murmuring incomprehensible words. His eyes seemed to stay stuck at a particular direction. Harvey watched in tremendous horror. Myrin lit up a cigarette as he looked on, an eerily quiet a stare. Harvey got up and hurried outside the smoke pod. Myrin followed and almost made it out before Harvey could slam the door behind him.

"I don't get this at all. Should we call for an ambulance! What's happening?"
"Bigger spider. That's what is happening."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, Kim's mind is unable to process something that he is not supposed to see. An arm is not something that his mind is unable to process."
"What?!"
"There's something bigger. Kim wants to go back. But where?"
"I have no idea, man, but I think we should call for an ambulance."
"Don't get worked up so much and don't grow so protective of him. You might touch his lesions by accident. Remember the United Medical Council reports on the uv plague lesions? It's not around, but I remember the pictures and the consequences."
"Everybody does. But what's the connection?"
"The disease is the connection, Harvey. Kim is not a usual person for the contemporary times. He speaks in a style that existed in the past and now exists in some of the paper-only books. What if I told you that Kim himself is from the past?"
"You mean he is a labeled ancestor from that conspiracy theory column?"

"Quite possible. He is also the killer. But we will never find the body. The body is mostly around us. Have you ever considered the possibility of a Timemac set up somewhere, nearby?"
"But the Timemac is not accessible to someone like Kim!"
"You are right. It is not accessible to someone like Kim, or for that matter, to anyone who lived in his era."

=======================================================================
Harvey James' private journal entry- The Severed Arm case- Log #5

[Sep 1st, 2252]
The year was 2240. The UMC council, in a bid to eliminate a growing epidemic, commonly known as the 'uv plague', began looking for ways to iron out the numbers quickly, amidst the growing pressure from the government and the common people. The vaccine was effective but some of the council members sneaked the vaccine into the major Urban Community settlements in an attempt to make an unprecedented amount of money. The rich could pay for it, and eventually, the poor missed out on the treatment.

Public unrests began springing  out at various locations of the Rural Community settlements across the world. But the media chose to focus on results the miraculous drug more, and ultimately ended up covering the Urban Community. I feel they also chose to keep it that way, but who knows for sure.

Amidst various stories and incidents that would float around, over the next two years, two articles had my attention. The first one was the first of the many that would go on to expose the controversial conduct of the usage of a new porting technology called the Timemac,which seemed to possess the capability to 'accidentally' disturb the space-time continuum. Eminent experts debated that it could help you travel back by a few hours. In other words, the Timemac had a fault in its sequencing, which people could use to travel at least two to four hours back in time. Some claimed that the team behind Timemac even successfully tested sending bots back in time. Nobody, however, knew how to use it for real people. Nobody knew, at least back then.

The pace of technological advancement was upon us in full swing. In two years, theorists figured out how they could use the Timemac to send a human in blood-and-flesh, back in time, amidst a rising uproar against the 'controlled' accessibility of the Timemac that the government was trying to push, for the common people. A large group of thought leaders believed that such an unprecedented intrusion into the space-time  continuum, no matter how controlled, but at a massive scale, could damage the fabrics of our universe. Proponents and opponents surfaced. 'A new battle is brewing!' as my friend and colleague detective Myrin would say.

The second article was the first of a series of four articles. It occupied a small column space, but it talked about the missing people from various Rural Communities settlements around the world.

Interestingly, that article came out at about the same time when the Timemac was ultimately voted to be banned in 2245. This particular article talked about conspiracy theories- about how the count of missing people was excruciatingly high in number, high enough that one cannot not ignore at the first read. The theorists behind the piece claimed that almost all of these missing people had shown usual symptoms of the uv plague, patchy skin lesions being the primary ones. They tried to link this rate of disappearance with the rate with which the UMC data showed a dip of the uv plague patients count. They ultimately went on to claim that the UMC shipped the patients back in time and usually killed them off, thus clearing the numbers out.

This is a bogus conspiracy theory, and if anybody reads this log, they'd think the same at this point.

We had the same conclusion as well, until we cracked the case of the Severed Arm, which made news everywhere - albeit with the stories and facts that the two of us chose to not hide from the people. The government is cooperating with us in keeping the dirt we have against the UMC, concealed, while we try to chase the council members down.

Honestly, I don't know if we will ever be able to chase the culprits down but until then, the details of the case will continue to make us believe in the conspiracy theories.

Mr Kim was a daily-wage gatekeeper from the 2010s - almost 240+ years older than us. The other gatekeeper, Amorean, was unknowingly, guarding a Timemac energy barrier when the UMC men were setting the Timemac up, in order to 'ship' the people from Rural Community settlements with the plague, into the past. Interestingly, the barrier triangulated a mile away from the society where we found the arm. The lift was actually one of the multiple power sources in the area which were being used for the energy barrier, and these sources would ultimately be connecting to the Timemac directly. Amorean once ended up witnessing one of the shipping process where they ported close to 50 people using the Timemac. He took unplanned short leaves and ultimately figured out how to sneak in. The caretakers say that he had also figured out how to come back to the present, and perhaps that's why he was not afraid of the consequences as much.

The passcode in the Timemac was actually set to the year 2010. There was a similar society at that region in the 2010s, and Mr Kim was a gatekeeper for that society. The night we interrogated Mr Kim, amidst his fits and his screams, we found evidences like the ointment that he often used for his skin lesions. These patchy lesions were common those days, but the UMC council back then had supplied a free medication, the ointment, because while a cure was nowhere to be found, the ointment could suppress the spread of the disease. The uv plague would ultimately evolve to its advanced form, as the Earth's atmosphere thinned drastically over the next 200 years. Traces of the same ointment, which ceased to exist in production by the time 2200 was upon the civilisation, was found in the smudged blood that Myrin had found on the wall near the lift when we were investigating the scene. This led him firmly suspect that Mr Kim had the lesions, and was not from the current era.

The blood on the wall was Amorean's. The severed arm was his, as well.

Our conclusion, which took us two more years to substantiate in a secret sessions court, was this:

Amorean had seen what they were doing to the people who were being shipped off. He took it upon himself and decided to stop the trafficking. One night he tried to cut the power source orignating from the lift. His failed attempt, however, resulted in a burst of energy that created an energy spiral, which unfortunately pulled Amorean in, and threw him into the Timemac. He went back in time, again in 2010, and ended up at the society which was situated in the same place where the current society is, today.
In desperation, his confused mind and alerted eyes saw the skin lesions on Mr Kim's arm, who was guarding the place in one of his regular shifts. He thought that Kim was one of the labeled ancestors, a term which the conspiracy theorists believe that the UMC had used for the people they were sending back in time, and he decided to take Mr Kim back to 2250.

They landed in the lift, but Mr Kim had an absolute time-shift shock when the time for him fast forwarded by 250 years in a few seconds. The shock coupled with absolute frenzy that taking the Timemac caused, he somehow, by accident, pushed Amorean into the still-connected energy spiral. Amorean struggled in order to fight off the pull this time, losing an arm in the process, and disappearing into the past.

The case got closed yesterday when we finally managed to retrieve Amorean from the past after trying to trace him through multiple timelines and eras. Amorean died trying to save the labeled ancestors, and Mr Kim ended up losing his mind completely in the days that followed. The time-shift shock hit him hard because he was unable to comprehend the sudden development around him, that mankind was supposed to see over a slow period of 250 years. The caretakers were arrested when we found out that they were a part of the power sourcing process and were just trying to cover things up, with the fake time sheet entries, etc. The society did indeed have one guard, as I had initially thought.

Time is running out. We think the ban on the Timemac has not been completely effective, even if it has managed to keep the Timemac away from the common man.

The UMC is now thriving as an organization. In a short span of two years, the council has declared that another array of age-old diseases was wiped off the face of the planet, once again, at a miraculous pace.
Image result for time travel
image credits: http://www.ihdimages.com/

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Wall with the Painting

Posted by at 11:19 PM
 Tangy Tuesday Picks by BlogAdda
This post is now featured at #1 spot of Blogadda's Tangy Tuesday Picks for the week of September 20, 2016. Check out all the featured posts here: http://blog.blogadda.com/2016/09/20/tangy-tuesday-picks-indian-education-system-blog-stories

This is not a dream.

The step to take to get something started, that's the difficult bit. “Step one. One. One zero one. One zero one one three.” Are you paying attention?

A flash, and he opened his eyes. Sweat and a red face, why did he wake up? This is not a dream. He thought. He looked to his left - the wall had a fancy portrait of a couple at the beach. “Where's the water?” He couldn't find the bottle at his bedside as he looked around. The bottle was on the floor. The gun lay next to it.This is a dream.
                                                   
                                                                           * * * * *

“Keep this.” She said. “Keep it with you, Tom, whenever the line between dream and reality seems thin, use it.” She had a point. They are quite good with the setups these days. No fancy fares. No flying humans. Just normal creatures - like you and I- walking on the road, buying food, eating food, spilling food, throwing food around. Fighting for food. And yet, there would be certain things in these setups. You could do what you wanted to do here, if you played by the rules. This is a dream. He reminded himself of his first assignment as he ported himself to the subject's imagination while the subject slept, it all seemed familiar, and that familiarity would hinder him a lot from doing what he had set out to do. "They pick your first assignment very close to what you are and how you live. It makes things difficult for you. That's how you begin with the loss of your biggest inhibitions." Days passed. He couldn't plant. He failed. He kept falling out of the portzone for days until he could stay still and see the difference between the reality and the dream. The next day his subject hanged himself. This is not a dream. Tom said to himself as he saw the news breaking in all the major news channels. "Young billionaire businessman commits suicide"

This is a dream.
He has planted 300 times since then. They had taught him well. “Have a seat.” They had said when they handed him the file. “As usual, all the details are in there. You get 48 hours.” 
He wanted to finish it in 24. This is a dream. He woke up and looked to his left. The wall had the painting. He sighed. He saw the gun on the floor, he pulled the trigger. A flash and he woke up. 12 hours passed. He had an inhibition that blocked him from porting. He felt the pressure on himself the way he felt the metal taste in his mouth. “I cannot compromise this. I must get rid of  the inhibition.”
                                                   
                                                                           * * * * *

The subject was his son. Everybody believed Tom had converted. But hey, when everyone you work with, make people kill themselves, they tend to miss the finer details. Or they tend to overlook. Sometimes both. “They won’t notice, I am quite sure. I will do this.” He checked the time. 34 hours left.

This is a dream. He woke up and looked to his left and cried out of frustration. The painting was still there. He reached for the gun. I shouldn't be looking. “Why do I keep looking for the painting, damn it!” He pulled the trigger. 22 hours left.

This is a dream. He woke up, the bed felt nice and warm. He needed a drink. He found the bar in his room and fixed himself a large one as he found the details of the planting on a paper near him. He read through. Subject first name: Jim. Jim? Why Jim? What did Jim do? He looked to his left, searching for a wall. The wall was right there, the painting again the same. Gun. Shoot. 10 hours left.

This is a dream. He was back at the bar. He saw through the papers. 'Subject first name: Jim. Death by: ODing on drugs.' He concurred and waited for Jim to walk in. Jim walked in. “You must kill yourself.” “What are you saying?” “The syringes are in place.” “I shall get the syringes then-- wait, is that you, Dad?" Tom looked to his left. Wall. Painting. Inhibition. He yelled to himself with eyes closed and tears falling, as he pulled the trigger. 5 hours left.

This is a dream. Jim sat next to him. “Have a drink before you prepare to die.” He told Jim. Jim nodded. He finished his drink and waited for Jim to leave. Jim started getting up. He should stumble at the door else the planting won't be completed. Tom waited. Jim walked towards the door. His shoe stuck a vase stand as he began stumbling but he grabbed hold of the curtain. This is not a dream. Jim turned his head around, looked at Tom and gave out a wry smile. Gun. “Where's the gun-- wait why did ask for the gun--” He told himself as he looked for the wall with the painting, this time differently, as if surprised differently. 
The time was up.
                                                   

                                                                           * * * * *

Jim sat down at the file room, millions of cameras taking v-snaps of his vitals per protocol as he narrated his closure report.
‘Subject with first name Tom has been terminated. Death by: Self-inflicted gunshot wound. Was conditioned to drink alcohol before he began looking for his gun. Shot himself towards the end of the Range Spectrum - 25 minutes left. The planting was successful.’


(image courtesy: pinterest.com)



Thursday, June 9, 2016

Splatters

Posted by at 11:40 PM
"You know, when it rains, I like to hold out my cup of chai out so that the water droplets fall into the cup and splatter the tea around."
"I usually stick out my tongue to taste the raindrops."
"Hah! I'm sure that makes you look stupid."


"Why would you think that?"

"Imagine someone looking out their window and seeing a guy, all suited up for work, sticking his tongue out in the rain."
"Well yes, I mean... you are the one getting your tea splattered around, getting some of it on your shirt."


"You did notice that stain, didn't you?"

"I just happened to notice it."

"And you just happened to stare at my shirt."

"Okay let's not steer this conversation to another direction, your tea is getting cold. Finish it and then we'll go for a walk."
"Hah! And we will walk and stick our tongues out and taste rainwater laced with dust and pollutants?"


"That's exactly what we will do."

"Works for me."



Whenever it rained on the streets of Bengaluru, Kavya would miss the conversations she had with Rajiv over their cups of hot tea. Rajiv left the city to pursue higher education, while Kavya continued working in her corporate job, as she found the right opportunities the right time. Life was interesting, it was pacy, but at the same time, it had put the bond they shared to a test, sometimes without them even realizing.




"I didn't understand your last email."

"What do you mean?"

"You wrote 'Cliched thoughts, cliched fears' 379 times in it."
"Yeah I was a bit moody that day, but don't worry about it. I am fine now, back to being busy with work!"


"No, see, we need to talk about such stuff."

"Why?"

"That's how we will pull it off, you know, otherwise we will keep pushing these away until one day all of it  blows up in our faces."


"Double entendre."

"How horny are you?"

"Nothing unmanageable."


"That means very horny."

"The more the merrier."

"How so?"

"Makes me miss you periodically."
"Ahah! I think that's the real reason here."
"What?"

"You were PMSing when you wrote that mail, weren't you?"


"Give me one reason why I shouldn't come and smash your face in right now?"

"Ooh, feisty....well because we are talking over the internet right now?"

"Oh, so now I am one of those people whom you just chat with over the internet."

"I think it's better you come over and smash my face in."
"Ha ha, why not. And ruin the only good thing about you."


"I always knew I had a nice face."

"If we ignore the unibrow, yes."

"Plan a visit, please."

"Book my tickets then."
"I thought you were the one who had a job."
"In Indian currency. Don't forget that bit."
"Excuses, excuses."
"Ha ha, shut up."
"This is what I will send back to your 'Cliched thoughts cliched fears' mail."
"What?"

"I will write 'Excuses, Excuses' 383 times and send it to you."
"Why 383, why not 382?"


"Palindrome, Kavya, palindrome!"

"Men are weird."

"Women are cliched."

"I don't even know how to respond to that. Such grammar, wow."


"With an emoji."

"Okay, here. (shit emoji)"

"You are weird."

"Well, I am the one settling for you."
"Unibrow rules! \m/"
"Let's meet soon."
"Let's do that. It's been a year already."
"True...a year already."
"Catch you later then, have to finish reading a case."
"Fancy stuff eh? Case studies and all."
"Very! You have no idea."
"Well, I will leave you to it. Bye!"
"Bye."

                                                   ***************************


Life moved fast for Kavya, and faster still for Rajiv. With time, they started getting used to making plans and seeing them not materialize. Sometimes she would write him a poem, and just leave it saved in the drafts folder. Amidst meetings, she would try to contact him, exactly when the timezone difference would play its game. Rajiv would usually try to stay up late so that he could talk to Kavya, even if it meant less sleep for him. Together they would try to figure out how to keep the conversations going. Yet at times, the gap would be unavoidable. They would understand that, and try not to fight over it. Rajiv hated fights, which was one of the things about him that Kavya loved and respected. Even if it meant launching a plethora of self-deprecation jokes, he would try hard to make sure that she didn't stay mad at him for long.

"So I am planning to go to Gokarna during this long weekend."


"Where's that?"

"Somewhere in Karnataka. Why do you ask?"

"Just asked out of curiosity, your highness. I am sorry I made a mistake and I shall not repeat it again."

"I know why you asked about the location."
"Yeah well.."

"Don't worry, I will be off the grid for just three days."
"Three full nights of sleep for me, yay!"
"Yes, see?"
"Maybe I too should make a plan to go somewhere."


"You definitely should."

"Hmm."



                                                   ***************************


"You seem drained."
"Well yeah, I couldn't really sleep. My assignments kept me up. How was your Gokarna trip?"


"It was amazing, but I didn't really enjoy it much. We met some cute guys, though."

"Yeah, we are old enough not to take that road. Send me some pictures."
"I will. But first, tell me why you were drained?"
"What do you mean? I did tell you, right? It was those bloody assignments."


"Oh, you had assignments? But I thought you were planning some outing as well."

"Let's not talk about it. I am fine and dandy now, see! Just had some bacon with beer."


"Weird food combination, but we will talk about that later. First, tell me, what kept you up?"

"I don't mean anything significant. Look, we didn't talk for 3 days straight, I want to know how you have been."
"You remember, you were the one who used to say that we shouldn't push these things away?"


"I do remember, but it ain't that big."

"So when it is about me, it's big for you, but when it is about you, it isn't."

"Sort of, yeah.."

"You do realize that it might be big for me?"
"...hmm"
"You missed me, didn't you?"

"Yeah, I was in the habit of staying up late expecting your calls. But since you were off the grid I couldn't reach you, so you know."


"So you took to overthinking."

"Not really! I studied."

"What a stupid cover up response. Accept for once that you do overthink."

"Yes, I was overthinking."
"And what did you overthink about?"
"I was worried."
"Worried about what?"
"What if you go there and mess up the lush green nature."

"Go away, you."
"Mai toh nahi ja raha."


"I know you were worried about me."

"Yeah you know everything."

"You gave me hiccups."

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves now."
"I drank so much water that day."

"To avoid hiccups? I am sure a lot many guys at work give you hiccups, heh heh."


"I wish that were the case. But you see, I don't keep myself available for them."

"You disguise your cuteness well."

"I am awesome, amirite?"


"Almost as much as I am."

"Fine. Well, it rained a lot while we were at Gokarna."


"Good for you. The weather is funny here. Funny, not sunny."

"Hahaha, I see. And I drank some rain water while sticking out my tongue in the open."
"And you embarrassed me in front of everyone, I am sure."
"Nope. My actions made everybody else mimic it."
"Wow! Amazing. Tell me more."
"Yeah, so all seven of us just walked on a high wall top, one behind the other, sticking our tongues out, and counted the number of drops that landed in our mouths."
"I am sure it must have been your idea. And see, this is why I was worried."


"Well, you know me really well."

"I am glad I made so many people follow my actions."

"I guess it's finally the time for you to start a religion."

"The same way I made you follow it the first time we had that cup of chai . "
"It was the first rain of the season and I was a little emotional."
"Doesn't matter."
"It doesn't?"
"It doesn't."

                                                   ***************************


Months passed. Rajiv landed an internship with one of the tech giants - a dream come true for him. Kavya was glad it happened at the right time for him, although she was a bit unhappy that his visit to India would now get delayed. She did tell him that, and soon they began making plans to meet. Rajiv said the internship paid good money, and he could save up enough for the two of them to travel around for two weeks, during the upcoming fall season. Tickets were booked, and soon enough, they were roaming the streets of Seattle together.

"You know, this was the first Starbucks outlet that was opened for business."


"Really? Doesn't seem that old."

"Well, Starbucks started in 1971, so."


"Right, Mr. Bing. You look a bit fat in the evening lights."

"Are you saying that because you want my jacket?"

"Teehee, yes please, it feels colder in the evening."

"Okay okay here, let me pass it over to you in the Bollywood style."
"Shahrukh style?"
"I am trying to, see? But it's getting difficult with my arms stuck out the way he keeps his."


"Well, improvise."

"Okay I know what I should do, here--"

"Hah! Removed it the normal way, then handed it to me with your arms extended like SRK. Smartass."


"Yeah and you were the one "settling" for me, weren't you? Come let's take a walk down the Post Alley."

"Okay, chalo."



Post Alley was quiet but beautifully lit with Victorian-style lamp posts. The bricks had an air about them, almost as if they were there to remind people of scenes taken straight out of some work of fiction.




"Harry Potter!"

"What?"

"This place reminds me of the HP universe."
"Wait wait do you mean Diagon Alley?"
"Yes!"
"I was about to say the same thing, it sure does feel like Diagon Alley!"

"Yeah and see, this is where they'd have Ollivander's shop."
"And this is where Hermione would fix Harry's glasses."
"Why does your hand feel cold?"
"They are cold by default, hihi."


"Here, take the jacket, you are freezing."

"I won't take the jacket back, but I know what we can do."

"I am not in the mood for trying out one of your ideas right now. Give me your hands."


"Take my hand haha."

"Cheesy."

She took his hands in hers and rubbed them vigorously to warm them up. He smiled and blew a bit of air from his mouth, which landed on her face. She gave out a slightly annoyed look, but couldn't stop herself from smiling and then quickly refocusing on warming his palms.


"It's been a year and a half, Rajiv."

"You are good with numbers."
"Where are we headed?"
"You mean, after this? Dinner, then back to our hotel or maybe we'll watch some movie if you like."


"Rajiv.."

"You don't have to worry. I know what you wanted to know."

"So, where are we headed to?"

"You have the answer, ask yourself." 
"I want to hear it from you."
"If we have come this far without trailing away from each other, I think wherever we are headed, we are headed there together."
"You have the best words sometimes, you know that right?"
"I know that my face is not the only thing good about me."
Kavya looked into Rajiv's eyes.
"I am hopeful about us, Rajiv."
Rajiv planted a peck on her cheek, almost catching her off-guard.
"Cold lips."
"Make them warm then."

"Cheese burst. Okay then. Chalo tumhe Starbucks mein coffee pilaati hun."


"I hate yo--"

The skies were dense black with hues of red and orange, and under the humid and cold aura of the city, she kissed him.

"I will never let you finish that sentence."

"I could not finish that sentence, even if I tried."

Before long, as they began walking back, it began to drizzle.


"I miss the roadside chai of my country." Rajiv sighed. 

"And I miss all of you.", Kavya replied.
"This was cheese burst."
"Tumhari hawaa lag gayi hai."


"Already! Our trip has just started."

"Well since it's still raining, let's lose the umbrella. We can still stick our tongues out."
"Yes, we can. Here."

image credits: http://eatyourworld.com/

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

TPR Live-blog #1: Reading 'First Brush on the Canvas'

Posted by at 7:16 PM
A superb anthology by a group of my friends came out last year. I am going to live-blog the stories submitted by these friends , as they show up in order, starting 8pm tonight. I hope to see you join in this, live!
                                       

The first story is by Abhishek Mukherjee (http://ovshake.blogspot.in/). It's called- 'Godliness'.

Be there!

========================================================================
7:56 pm:

'Godliness' by Abhishek Mukherjee (15-minutes read)

In a typical style of his, Abhishek Mukherjee has hidden those small , little gems throughout the story, right from its name (I think putting any further stress to the title would spoil things so let me just keep it hang for you guys). Gems for you to find, and then have happy realizations about!

[note: I'd be writing in near real-time so bear with the grammatical errors and typos although I know this is another way of saying "there will be mistakes in my writing"!]

Well that note above wasn't even 1% as funny as what you get to see in Ovshakeda's writing. The story moves ahead effortlessly, dropping those hints about so many things, taken straight from the pages of an unfairly-termed 'unconventional' relationship in our society. Double brownie points for that to you, Ovshakeda.

Apart from being full of humor and subtle slices of life, there's a major plotpoint in this story, which would remind you of many people you know-mostly the funny ones. Don't miss this!

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8:14 pm:

I'll return after reading 'Tina' by Diptee Raut (http://dipteeraut.blogspot.in/).

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8.37pm:

'Tina' by Diptee Raut (23-minutes read)

Okay, that was unexpected, ghastly and SO MUCH OF my kind of story! This is exactly why I love reading Diptee Raut's works. Like the skilled quilter that she can be, she has this knack of weaving the plot around you. Weaving and weaving, the story got me into a zone of comfort that one would feel when they visit home after months being away (much like how I feel upon visiting Kolkata during winters). As just when you're about to expect the expected...

...something happens.

In a Roald Dahl-ish manner, Dipteedi has played, almost meticulously, with the imagination of the reader. The end result left me almost motionless for a while, as the only things moving were my eyes, reading that final, 108th (interesting page number, couldn't help but gasp again so sharing it with you guys) page in the book. Needless to say, do read it whenever you get a chance!

[note: I am trying my best to not talk about the plot in any freakin' way, lest I give out spoilers]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

8:56pm:

Unexpected power-cut followed this amazing experience! How does everyone feel about this format? Do let me know in comments! :)

I'll be returning after reading 'Reborn' by Rafaa Dalvi (https://www.facebook.com/dalvirafaa?fref=ts).

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

9.25pm:

'Reborn' by Rafaa Dalvi (20-minutes read)

"The bigger the lie, the more people believe it."
"But then again, the truth is what we choose to believe. Perception drives the reality."
Rafaa Dalvi's 'Reborn' is full of beautiful lines like these, that make the experience of reading the story a rewarding one. It has the right chills, well-timed, and the supernatural elements just seem to take you into this mysterious and beautifully haunting place called 'Dow Hill' (nice name to choose, Rafaa!).

The intensity with which the story proceeds shows how descriptive he can be, as Rafaa explores the back-stories beautifully. The end is subtle and makes you think, and you wish if this story could have a novel as its prequel. Hats off, well worth your time!

========================================================================

With that, I conclude this session for now, and as an afterword, I am thankful to Priyanka Roy Banerjee (https://oneandahalfminutes.com/) for getting this anthology compiled amidst good struggle I am sure (it's not easy to get a book published, I am sure PrbDi!). I am saving the remaining ones for a later read, and I will surely update this post once I complete reading all the stories in the book. I am sure I am in for a wonderful time. Thank you, my dear readers, I look forward to your comments and feedback.

Good night! :) 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Chistmas Special: A Portrait from the Past

Posted by at 11:10 PM
The family portrait was taken a year back, as he looked at it for a while. Sally had his eyes, while Tom was everything he found attractive in Martha. The kids, the wife, the room seemed a little too bright, full of shiny decorations, so many colors, frills, balloons and what not. So much joy in one portrait, so many smiles, the intensity almost hurt his eyes. His weary eyes, aching for some rest.

Martha was his love, a metalhead too, and together they had raised a fine pair of kids, with equal, hell, even better appetite for rock music. Tom had picked up the keyboard pretty fast, he could master the arpeggios by the time he was 8. Sally had a great voice coupled with the skills for the guitar, and she had begun performing at school by the time she was in 6th. Interestingly, he played the keyboard while Martha played the guitar. A perfect passing of talents, one would often comment when they'd see them play together. He was suddenly missing the dual with Tom over keyboard-plays.

They all had decided to go for King Crimson tees, the day the picture was taken. He almost felt the urge to cry, and a push from within to stop himself from doing so. It was a funny moment, and in that one frame, world seemed to have stopped for him as he could see his life to be more complete than ever, which he realized now more than any other day before.

They were visiting Paris, and a gig was due that day. The concert tickets were quickly booked, four passes with them, a very exciting evening was due ahead. Not a big band, but a promising one nevertheless, was to play that night. The entire afternoon they had spent discussing and debating over the music of the band. A typical gig-day afternoon for the family.

He was frantically marching in the room, anxiety filling him up more than ever. The tv channels were worked up to their limits. He threw the tab on the bed, it bounced over and the portrait flashed on the screen. Soon later, he fell on the bed, his head would hurt. A good number of people had gathered in his room, desperately trying to do their best to make him feel comfortable and hopeful. Many of them had local contacts, and were trying to call up wherever they could. Description of Martha and Sally was being read from hand-written pamphlets, so that not one of them missed the features that'd be helpful in tracking them down. Tom was quiet yet restless. The sense of being a teenager and not being able to take control of the situation was being hard on him. He wanted to hug his father and cry and tell him that everything will get fine, but tears were for the weak, he wanted to believe. He went over and sat beside him, shook his head down, fists clunched in silence.

He tried to dial their numbers once again. The call log flashed the count of unanswered calls in two digits. Rings. Nobody picks up. Nobody did so that night. On that long, wintry eve of Christmas.

* * *

The patient was stabilised. His proper post-operative pain management had helped him be a part of a delivery process for the most beautiful pair of twins he had ever seen. The past 18 hours had been critical, as his team aided the surgeon into a fairly complicated operation. As an anesthetist, he was thankful to God today.

It was Christmas morning. The family of the twins and the mother had gathered in the hall, as the father brought the twins out in his arms, careful and caring. He saw from a short distance, as doctors came by and shook his hands , congratulating him. "It's a Christmas miracle!" yelled an elderly woman, as everybody clapped incoherently.

It'd been six years since that fateful night in Paris, as he remembered the passing of Martha and Sally. Both had died of internal organ bleeding, gunshot wounds. He had wept a lot that night. Tom had been on his side, almost as tall as him as he had felt the tears of his son falling on his shoes. Six years had gone by, and  he was a responsible father, with Tom growing up to be a fine son. Life was letting him live, with his regrets reducing everyday.

"Graceful , beautiful."
"They have your nose and Emma's eyes!"
 "What should we call them?!!"
"What should we name them?!"

The joyful screams and chaos of questions brought him back to the present as he looked on towards the family with his eyes gleaming with euphoria.

"Martha, and Sally.." he whispered to himself, smiling, while wiping a tear from the corner of his left eye.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thoughts on the Bataclan concert, Paris.

Posted by at 1:34 AM
Reading about world news is an interesting process. The sense of people living around the world just like us, with their own sets of stories just like ours - gives us a sense of being truly connected and associated at a direct or an indirect level.  Which is why, when we read about a news as horrific as what we have been reading recently, it stirs us inside with a familiar pain that shudders the entire humanity, the sorrow the public unrest and makes us crave for the consequential demand of peace us coming together as a part of a bigger ecosystem - the human civilization.

I read about the hostage situation that took place in Paris, during an Eagles of Death Metal gig that resulted into a massacre. There were definitely people in the audience from various walks of life, with their own specific struggles and achievements, who had come together for one common, shared passion - the love for music. As a result, I shuddered to imagine myself in a situation as that.

In a typical concert I would be finding myself in sync with thousands of others in no time, sharing, discussing, debating, conceding defeat, scoring wins, about the common passion and love for the band I had come to see perform live. That's it, no other thoughts or sense of responsibility other than the one about paying a fitting attention to my gods on stage. And if at that time, I was to be taken hostage, with death inching closer towards me every moment, and a voice telling you to not act brave do anything stupid while another voice telling me to do something so that everybody survives, an entirely different struggle for survival would surface in front of me.

My thoughts and prayers with Paris and her people. My heart wrenches and my soul cries for the 89 victims who died in that concert. I wish for a speedy recovery of the injured. I wish for the affected families an incredible amount of strength and tolerance. I wish I could express more than solidarity with the victims...

I hope people don't suffer survivor's guilt and they come together for saving each other from having a life of solitude and seclusion, and I do hope that people will save money to attend many more concerts without ever worrying about their well-being, albeit with a hope that we will stay alert even more, safe and sound than ever before, and I will tell myself to keep believing that one day, all this will end, for good.

(Image Courtesy: Metal Traveller)

Monday, July 20, 2015

The enviable pleasure of realizing the beauty of thoughts

Posted by at 4:19 AM
When I took the condensed milk can out of the fridge, it was mostly to satiate my hunger, as it was 2am of a Monday, and I was trying to avoid overeating. I had consumed a good amount of spicy take-away food the previous night, with my college friends working in the same city as mine , while we had a suddenly-planned house party to reminisce the nostalgia of our college days. Consequently, I decided to eat as less as I could on Sunday.

Needless to say, my appetite was all but dead. I sat down on a matress on my floor , turned on The Office on Netflix, and wanted to finish a few episodes while I indulged in the sweetness of the dessert.

I had initially hoped to be done after having a spoonful, as it was really sweet and not much of a healthy option. But I overpoured it into the bowl, and decided to go slow with it. Moments later, I was enjoying its deliciousness, while a decent episode of the Steve Carell mockumentary, The Office, played.

Licking it off my fingers gave me a sugar rush of sorts, which thankfully lasted a few mere seconds. It felt curiously happy, and I started diving deep into my thoughts. I switched to watching some Harvard Talent Show videos , the one that is organized in John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Immaculate videos. Made the whole setting joyous. Thoughts about alt-J songs crossed my mind, the complexities of their lyrics , the relevance and subtle, often clever references to pop cultures in movies, dawned a beautiful array of thoughts in my head.

Spending some more time on the videos , as I fnished the serving, I decided to retire for the day. It had been a tiring one , combined with the lethargy of the weather outside, I had a near-perfect evening of recovery from last night's event at my place.I had gone out a few hours back, and it rained as I was coming back. Luckily, there was a line of trees next to a bus stop in Madhapur ( a few 100 meters from Cyber Tower ) , which served as a welcome shelter for my bike and me, as I saw new-found love and camaraderie next to myself- a newly-married couple who had to make a stop too, with them having a bike at their disposal, as well. Not exactly perky but subtle conversation, in sync with the laid-back attitude of the city on a Sunday.

I sat with my copy of  'A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces' , gifted to me by a friend , an elder sisterly figure (because she is a great listener) whom I got acquainted to when we were representing Kolkata in a pan-India blogging competition. I had already finished the first story in it, a work written by Tagore and translated to English by Amitava Ghosh, and was looking forward to read the next. That's when I realized that the cap of the condensed milk can was on the floor and I had forgotten to cap it.

Oh laziness! How you can kick in the worst way, I reflected as I smiled. I corrected the mistake after a long bout of convincing-unconvincing myself about ants attacking the can and making a mess of my floor by the next morning. Perhaps that's how prolonged an effect of a bite that injects Formic acid in your skin lasts - I remember I was bitten by a big black ant when I was in 8th grade, but that was the last time I was in pain resulting from an ant bite, strong enough for me to remember-  that I was able to force myself up from the bed and put the lid on the can.

That is when , a nice little thought cropped up inside my head - is this air-tight cap good enough? How does one measure its quality? As an engineer who has some experience with QA, I soon found myself thinking of scenarios where it could fail. What if ants are small enough to creep inside the can? What if a bit of the cap is left gaping, what if I poked a hole at the top or at the side of the cap? What if I place the can in a different , violent environment in favor of ants?

I started, vividly, picturizing the placing of the can in a glass box full of ants which I probably acquired from some hobbyist. As I did so, I tried to visualize the movement of the ants. First it would be chaotic, incoherent, with vectors of their movement canceling out the overall force on the can. Would they even be motivated enough to climb into the can? Surely they will get to 'detect' the sweetness emanating from the sides of the gaping opening at the top of the cap? Will they then change their formation, regroup and attempt to strengthen their force in one definite direction towards the can, with a motive of toppling it? Or will they, simply, let it be?

The immense possibilities of this scenario and the sub-scenarios hence-generated made me wonder, how it would be if we really took some time out to analyze the regular things we see almost everyday in our lives. The breaking down of the problem statement, the analyzing of the information at hand, the ease of utilizing our skills to propose a solution, the dedication of going back and fixing the solution, again and again till there's an elegant and acceptable version of the solution, and the belief that you will fix the problem, no matter what, is all it would take.

That belief is important. It is necessary and of course, significantly beautiful.
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