Tuesday, February 13, 2018

He, She and Quotes - Chapter 2

Rajan drummed his fingers on the table. “Is it done?”

The aged man glared above the book, silencing him. It frustrated Rajan, but not as much what he recently learned at his office. He needed someone to talk to, and Sarthak  - his retired subordinate – resembled the fatherly wisdom he was seeking for.

Sarthak flipped the last page of the book. “Oh, that was a good ending.”


“Spoilers are sin for any art. Spare me few moments.”

Sarthak closed the thin book and placed it on the table. Leisurely, he looked at the corner of the café. Rajan followed his gaze and found no occupants. “Expecting someone?”

“A guy, same age of yours,” Sarthak said, taking off his reading-glasses. “Oh, don’t give me that look. He isn’t any suspect of some crime. He just seems lost.”

“And why do you care to help?” Rajan said, checking his phone. Her fiancé’s messages crowded the mobile’s screen. He tapped them open and read her reminder about the dinner-date.

“At this moment, I think you need my help more than him.” Sarthak tucked the spectacles into his shirt’s pocket. “You are getting that dream again?”

“No, it’s different.”

“If you are seeking any relationship advice, sorry, you stumbled at the wrong door.”

Rajan smiled. “I prefer to understand things by my own in that matter.”

“Wise choice.” Sarthak said. “Opinions of others often digs a grave for us. Proud of you. Now, tell me, what is bothering you?”

Rajan sighed. “Few days ago a girl called at the police-station, telling that mother was murdered by her father. When cops reached at her home, they found the wife and the husband unscratched.”

“Kids,” Sarthak said, again checking the corner table, “they find interesting ways for pranks.”

Rajan remained silent. His mind deduced something deeper. The wound of his past was opening, festering again. Those trouble childhood memories. No, this would not repeat. “What if the girl was honest, and the parents are hiding something? What if..”

“Rajan,” Sarthak leaned ahead, hands on the table. “I know about your parents. I know you and your mother had suffered a lot, but that doesn’t mean every family has the same story. Not every man is a monster.”

Rajan comprehended the words. He thought about her fiancé, her Chitra. Would he treat her the way his father treated her mother? The mere thought of harming her, even verbally, ashamed him deeply. Chitra was his priority, his responsibility. And just like his professional duties, Rajan was firm not to back-off from this responsibility. It was this sense of responsibility that continuously told him about the girl-who-called was in danger, like once he was. “But the thing about monsters is, they can be found at many places. Maa had chances to leave my father, but she hid her pain from me, from his brother, from everyone. Things like this don’t come up by itself. And the one who suffers the most in it is the one who witnesses. I’ll not allow another child to suffer the same.”

“I guess you already had made up your mind.” Sarthak sighed.

“I’m sorry, I’m just…”

“It’s alright.” Sarthak smiled. “We all need someone with whom we can dump out our frustration, our problems. Well, don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that you shared this with me, but I would’ve been happier if you’d shared this with Chitra.”

Rajan felt a prick of guilt. He had somehow avoided talking about the childhood days and the recent nightmare and the finding of the golden mask with his uncle’s letter. These subjects disturbed him. Everyday. Sure they would disturb her too, he thought.   

The door of Sparkle Café opened and Rajan registered the visitor. A man in mid-twenties, a bag on his shoulder, entered. He hurried to the counter and asked the manager for something. Rajan noticed the condition of the newcomer. He was looking for something. A lost phone or wallet?

Sarthak glanced over his shoulder. “There he is.”

“Who? The one who you were looking for in the corner-table?”

Sarthak nodded. Getting no more introduction of this newcomer from Sarthak, Rajan decided to leave. It was getting late for the dinner-date. As he rose and gathered his jacket from the chair, Sarthak said, “I don’t know why but this doesn’t feel right. You meddling in this girl’s complaint for the murder.”

“Relax, I just want to know the truth. That’s all. I promise I will leave them when I am assured.”

“During our service, I blindly relied upon your words, but this doesn’t seem good.”
Rajan thought of the reply but what could he say. All he currently had some doubts and theories. He needed time to get clues, to investigate. As he moved toward the door, he caught the newcomer’s words, describing his lost possession to the manager. “It was a book, brown and thin.”

“What is it called, sir?” The manager asked politely.

“Coffee Chronicles.”

Rajan stopped. It was the same book Sarthak was reading.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

He, She and Quotes - Chapter 1

“I’ll just go,” Mrs. Clarence said, “and be back in just few moments, dear.”

Yutika felt her mother’s hand slipping away from her shoulder. She grabbed it, shaking her head. Eyes stinging with tears. “Maa, please. Don’t.”

Worry creased the woman’s head. Guilt stabbed at Yutika’s heart, but her head was rebellious. She tried, but failed. Repeated. Failed again. “Maa…”

“Shh…” Mrs. Clarence sat on the bed, cupping her daughter’s face. Tears felt warm on her fingers and acidic on her soul. “Everything is fine. You just need to take care about yourself. I’ll be here in a minute.”

“If something happens to you…”

“Nothing will happen to me.” Mrs. Clarence tried to sound hopeful. “Just don’t think about it.”

“I am trying, Maa.” Yutika said between her sobs. “I am trying.” She shut her eyes tightly. It only got worse. They became loud. Frequent.

And then she heard her mother’s voice. Clear and sweet. Like a symphony amidst the clamor. “Just focus on what I say.”

Yutika obeyed. The flashes began. “Maa...”

“Just focus.”

Yutika stiffened. The images were gruesome. A faint cry shivered her lips.

“Can you do it, sweety?”

Unsure about herself, Yutika remained silent. She felt her cheeks free, the rivulets of tears soaking again the skin. She knew what her mother was going to say. The same quote from her favorite book.

“Sweety, do you need time?”

Yutika didn’t answer. What other options did she have? The focus demanded a lot of efforts. It was 
like concentrating on the faint lute sounds standing in the middle of the storm. Neglecting the disturbance seemed impossible.


Yutika hesitated. She was not ready. She was never ready.

Mrs. Clarence realized the truth. Lost, she withdrew herself from her daughter. “I’ll get you a cup of coffee.”

“Maa,” Yutika said, with her each breath her body shook. “I’m sorry.”

Wordless, Mrs. Clarence rose from the bed. She crossed the room, paused at the door and glanced back at Yutika. Wiping away the watery eyes, she left for the kitchen disheartened, gently closing the door.

Yutika’s eyes snapped open at the faint shutting sound of the door.

Her mother was stepping down the kitchen. She pulled her loose hair and tied them in a casual bun. Resting her arms on the granite cooking-platform, Mrs. Clarence stared at the horizon through the window. The sun was setting and shadows had permanently homed under her weary eyes.

Yutika brought her knees near her head, embracing them. “Please, stop it.”

A knock came from the main door. Checking her watch, Mrs. Clarence walked to the door.
“Please, stop. Please.”

Mrs. Clarence turned the knob of the door and pulled it toward her. A man stood at the threshold. He smiled at the lady of the house.

Yutika shivered, her head on her knees. “Please…” she stammered, finally breaking. “Please.”

The man took out a knife from his bag and stabbed Mrs. Clarence.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

He, She and Quotes - Prologue

Nyra mumbled a prayer, head pressed religiously against her clasped hands. With every whispering syllable to almighty, the lines on her forehead deepened.

A soft-tiring sound made her eyes open. A woman in white was standing before her, the door behind her opened.

Nyra waited till the lady assistant checked the list she was carrying. “Mrs. Nyra Bansal?”

The title ‘Mrs.’ scratched the wounds on her soul. Your child needs you, Nyra told herself. The reminder suppressed the constant agony she was dealing with for a time.

Nyra responded to the assistant’s call and gathered herself up. The woman in white gave a consoling smile and ushered her inside the cabin. The walls of the cabin were white. At the far end of the room, a table was placed with two visitors’ chairs at one side and the doctor’s chair at opposite. Dr. Srivastava was busy reading a report. Her child’s report.

“Please, take a seat, ma’am,” Doctor said, flipping a page.

Nyra heard the door shut behind her as the assistant left. Daunted, she took the seat, fingers still entangled in a clasp, silent prayers on quivering lips. The second-hand of the wall-clock seemed to move at sloth speed, each moment the doctor took for the report was like a cursed eternity for Nyra.
Fortunately, the lord of everyone heard one of her prayers. The doctor finished his reading.

“Is my kid all right?” Nyra asked.

“Mrs. Bansal,” said the doctor, trying to sound confident, but even the spectacles on his nose-bridge failed to hide the truth in his eyes. Something terrible was coming. Nyra could sense it in his tone. 

“Your kid shows the signs of impulsive anxiety.”

“To have anxiety is normal these days, doctor, right? There is nothing to worry about, right?”

For a second, the only sound was ticking of the clock.

“Mrs. Bansal, your child is suffering from OCD.”

“A what?”

“OCD,” said Dr, Srivastava. “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s a mental…”

The words ‘disorder’ and ‘mental’ flashed anger in her, like a lightning sparking a wild-fire. Nyra stood up, towering the doctor, her chair wheeled back by the force. “My kid is not mad!”
Tears began to leak from the corner of her eyes. She sobbed. She had witnessed the symptoms. The unusual behavior at home. Confronting the fact demanded more courage than she’d thought. “My kid…is…not…mad.”

Dr. Srivastava pressed a button on the side of his table. A bell rang outside, muffled by the closed door. A minute later, Nyra found the chair just behind her. The lady assistant gently putting arms around her. Though a stranger’s touch, the comfort Nyra felt was familiar in these desperate moments. And she cried.

Dr. Srivastava waited with trained patience. “No, ma’am. Your child is not mad.” Nyra looked at him, her sobs paused – the required break he was waiting for. With utmost care for coming challenging minutes, like a poet choosing the perfect words for his masterpiece, he picked his next words, subtly explaining the daunting conclusions of the report to the already shocked mother.

Nyra remained silent, absorbing every vital information she could. Her child was breathing, living, and that was important. Acceptance of the truth always makes room for new decisions. Once accepted the situation, Nyra miraculously discovered the newfound strength to handle it.
She wiped the tears away, steeling herself.

“It will be difficult, ma’am,” Dr. Srivastava said. “But it’s not impossible.”

“I know. Now, I must leave.”

Dr. Srivastava nodded and scribbled something furiously on the notepad. Tearing the page, he handed the prescription. “I wish I could do more.”

“You already did.”

Nyra reached for the door, taking the leave.

“I’m sorry for your child,” the assistant said.

Nyra smiled at her. “You should implement things that you hang for your patients.”

The assistant gave a confused look.

Nyra pointed to the photo frame on the adjacent wall. A quote by C.S. Lewis in bold-capital letters was staring at them.

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.

“And my kid is not ordinary.”  

Friday, September 8, 2017

Travel Tales : Mystifying Matheran

There is a lore of the forest folks, that when people makes life messy, it’s nature that sort things out; when you begin to crumble piece by piece, it’s nature that holds you together.