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!

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

8:14 pm:

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

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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! :) 
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