Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The ‘Morning Walk’ Girl

How quickly time flies by! Gone are the days when I was in college, as thin as a matchstick. My dislike for hostel food (particularly breakfast and lunch) and my craving for home made food made sure that even though I ate a lot for dinner, my tummy was always tucked in. However, after those four years I came home. I don’t think I need to elaborate on the fact that mother’s love and pampering is quite enough to fill your stomach. Add to that the fact that the dhabas outside my MBA College served delicious chilly potato and paneer paranthas, and you can surmise the shape of my belly. In just under 6 months, I went from a guy who looked seriously malnourished to someone quite ‘healthy’. Then came my job in a distant land, and I, proud that I had started earning, pampered myself with pizzas every other day. So, things went from bad to worse.
Now that the flab has actually started to show, I have decided that something must be done about it. I am actually quite tall, so I dread that my height and my widening waist line might end up making me look like an extra-terrestrial giant. So I have come up with a solution- Morning Walk.
It seems to be the perfect way to burn fat. I personally love walking and if doing it can bring my old look back, then nothing like it. There is a big park nearby. I have decided that I will walk for 1 hour every day. That is almost 3 rounds of the park. According to my super accurate calculations, it will burn exactly 424 calories per day. And I can lose a kilogram of weight every week on an average.

4 days later…
It’s been three days that I have now started walking. I am starting to feel bored. One must not sacrifice enjoyment and extra sleep just for a walk, a voice inside my head is saying. I go to the park everyday at 6.30 am. The place is crowded with early risers. As I walk around the park, I see a group of retired sixty-plus men laughing out aloud. Then a group of aunties (who are most probably the wives of the laughing men) sitting on the grass, gossiping about yesterday events in the household. Some people pass me as they are jogging, casting a brief glance at me.
They’re all the same people.. same faces, same expressions. I am torn between keeping my body healthy and keeping my mind rejuvenated. I have my music player with me, but the songs too have started getting repetitive. I need some motivation to continue.

The next day..
I get up in the morning earlier than usual. Its only 5.45 am. I have had a bad dream. No point in trying to go back to sleep, I tell myself. So I get ready and set out towards the park. I have decided that I will try this park for just one more day. In order to stop myself from getting bored, I will change my course every few days. From tomorrow, I will go the bigger park on the opposite side of my house.
I reach the park at 6.10 am. I start my usual rounds. But fate has something different in store for me today. Something out of this world..
As I am approaching the entry gate to complete one full round of the park, I see her. An angel, a goddess. There she is jogging towards me from the opposite side. Suddenly, everything seems to be happening in slow motion. I stand and stare at her. She is perhaps the most beautiful girl that I have seen since coming to this stupid city for my job. Her black eyes, her fair complexion, her perfect nose, and soft lips; everything seems to have been carved by an artist. But before I have the chance to go close to her, she makes a sudden turn and jogs out of the gate.
I have found the motivation for my morning walk.
It was written in my fate, I guess. God wanted me to get up early and see her. That’s why I had that bad dream. Who cares about the other park now? This is the best park in the city.
The next day I get up even earlier. I have set two alarms for 5.15 am. I hurriedly get ready, brush my teeth and for the first time, spray a little perfume. I reach the park and there she is, jogging away. Her every gesture seems to have a certain elegance to it. It’s almost like watching a symphony playing out in front of your eyes.
She is coming towards me. I am torn between the urge to keep looking at her and trying to be a civilized citizen. As she comes nearer she gives me a brief glance. I look towards the sky, suddenly very interested in a crow that is flying over my head. I look down and she is still looking at me as she passes me finally. I suddenly feel like I might go into cardiac arrest. I start running in the opposite direction, hoping to cross her during my run.
I run past her three times. And all the three times I get the feeling that she is also staring at me for a significant amount of time. A bizarre question races through my mind- Is she watching me the same way I am watching her?? Could this really be possible??
A tiny part of my brain rejects the hypothesis outright. Dude!! You aren’t tall, dark and handsome!! You are tall, dark and fat!! Just ogle at her all you want, because that’s the farthest you can go.
The next one week I see her in the mornings and my doubts are reinforced. She definitely stares at me more than the other boys. The other day this total hunk went by her and she hardly gave him a look!
My mind is growing restless. What if she feels the same way I do, but is just waiting for me to pop the question of going out for a date? What if she is actually, genuinely interested in me too? It could be possible, I convince myself as I hear a thousand voices in my head laughing aloud at me for thinking this. I carry on with my walk, wondering about it all the time.

Two days later
Shit!! I am late. The alarm clock ran out of battery I guess. I wake up and it is already 5.45 am. Cursing myself, I get ready and run out towards the park, hoping that she would still be there. I bolt through the entry gate and look around for her. I can’t see her anywhere. Out of breath from my sprint to the park, I sit down on the bench. In between my heavy breaths, I remind myself to buy new batteries for the clock right away. I sit there for a couple of minutes and as soon as I am about to get up I see her. She is coming towards me. I am rooted to my seat. It seems my whole body has frozen.
There are a lot of empty benches around me, but she comes and sits with me on my bench. She has a crush on me, I am sure of it now!! I try and look towards the other direction so that she doesn’t think of me as a total jerk. But in my mind the question still lingers.
I can’t take it anymore. I just have to ask her.
“Why do keep staring at me, Miss?” I confront her. “I have been watching you for quite a few days now and I see that you always stare at me whenever I run past you.”
“Excuse me,” she says, with a calm face. “But aren’t you doing the same? Do you think I haven’t noticed you ogling at me too? Do you think I haven’t noticed that you have changed your timings to match mine? Do you think I don’t see you stop your walk and head back home as soon as I am getting back into my car? I think you are attractive too, but don’t accuse of something when you are already guilty of it!”
“I..I.. er..” I stammer. I don’t know what to say. “But then if you do find me attractive, why don’t you just come up and ask me for a date?”
“What kind of a man are you??” she shoots back. “You want me to ask you for a date when I know that you find me attractive too?”
I am stumped. One part of me is jumping with joy that I have found a beautiful, single, eligible woman (who is so difficult to find in today’s times) and the other part is pissed off that she is patronising me so effortlessly.
It is almost as if a switch clicks within me. I reply, “You want to see what kind of a man I am?” And then I kiss her. She seems stunned at first, but after a couple of seconds, she gives in. She kisses me back, quite passionately too. After a few seconds though, I feel her pushing me away. I try to resist, but then she gives me a hard push and I fall back. What was wrong??
She yells at me, “YOU STINK!!” and then I realise that in the desperation to get to the park in time..
I forgot to brush my teeth.
She moves forward, I look at her sheepishly, embarrassed to the core. And then...
I open my eyes. I am still in my bed. I look at the watch. Its 7.45 am. “Pheww!!” I say to myself as I think of that dream again. Today’s morning walk has gone down the drain. So has the chance to see her.
I get up from my bed. And even before picking up the paper and reading it, I go and brush my teeth.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Holy Rail

People like me, who come from Kerala, and whose parents have settled in another part of the country like Delhi for example, need to be born with a lot of patience. Patience to keep ourselves from blowing our lids off every time a guy calls us a ‘Madrasi’. Patience to keep ourselves from abusing people who consider themselves educated but can’t pronounce our names. And patience, to endure the long two day journey to go back home in a train.
The last point that I mention is the topic of discussion today. Times have changed. Airfares  are now affordable. But to me, train journeys are so much more than sitting at the same place with nothing to do. If anything, relatively speaking, we are not sitting at one place. From Delhi to Nagpur to Cochin. A journey across India cannot be more enthralling (and sometimes amusing) than in a train.
Its my best friend’s wedding. We were roommates for the best part of our time in college. So me and my two other roomies (read Chaddi buddies) from yore make a plan to attend the wedding. All of us are now working, in different firms, but we never ever miss a chance to spend some time together. And so, although an air ticket is well within our financial grasp, we decide that we must make it a train journey and a memorable one at that.
It seems like ages since I last travelled such a long distance in a train. Thankfully, one thing that has changed is the reservation methods. Online booking makes it so easy. The new generation may hardly even travel by train, let alone go through the trauma of getting to the station and run their sweat glands dry as they wait in long queues to reach the counter, only to find that the operator is a cash hungry cow who would almost blackmail you to get a bribe. In fact, I now remember, it was exactly in such a scene that I, for the first time, abused someone who was older than me. It was awesome..
The D-day arrives. I have everything packed and ready to go. I have almost three hours till the departure of the train. Even if I take out the half an hour or so which my mom will take up making me check and recheck the entire luggage and then another half an hour giving me a lecture on the do’s and dont’s of the journey (for the zillionth time I must add, but still adoringly beautiful), I still have ample time to reach the station.
The three of us meet up at a common point. And our adventure finally begins. We have our luggage stuffed with different kinds of delicacies to stuff ourselves up. We have our laptops to watch our old pictures and laugh about it all night. And we are hoping for some good company too, if you know what company means for three twenty-something bachelors.
A railway station has always been a delight for my eyes. There is so much going on every second that you really get to realise the essence of the place where you are standing. Passengers getting off trains; others waiting to get on; the trademark call of ‘chai-chai’ (or in the south ‘kaappi-kaappi’); and perhaps the only place in the world where you can get paper soap. A railway station is almost a mini-ecosystem in itself.
I share with my friends the dream that I had last night; that in our little air-conditioned three-tiered cubicle we get three beautiful angel-like single women who are also, by the way, going to attend a friend’s wedding. And then for the next two days, we end up knowing each other so well, that once we are in Kerala, we all go for a group date. But, I think everybody knows, that dreams are always so perfect; real life, however, isn’t as giving.
Therefore, as we three make ourselves comfortable in our seats, our minds deflate as quickly as a punctured tire as we see our co-passengers- a middle–aged aunty going to meet his son, a bald stocky man who is going to Kerala for business and a guy who is about our age who has his eyes glued to his i-phone. Across the aisle, on the side berth, we see a couple with a small baby, arranging the luggage beneath their seats. Ok, I admit my dream was a long shot, but God, you could have been at least a little kind.
My friends look at me with a look that I have seen them give me when I dropped the catch of the opposition’s best batsmen during the college cup Final. I give them a look of my own- the ‘I’m innocent’ look. Very little scope for time-pass now.

The train leaves at the right time. As we move out of Delhi, the scenery becomes greener, with lesser concrete. Villages pass by once in a while. There are cows grazing in the field, women making dung-cakes by the side of the track. The amount of garbage lying on the side of the tracks is appalling. Makes me shudder to think what visitors to our country would feel if they see this.
As we head into the interior of UP, there are walls on either side of the tracks, painted with the words, ‘Gupt rogi sampark kare, Hakim Usmani’. I smile. Our dear bald co-passenger seems to need some Usmani treatment. He has been quite ashamedly been very active in itching near the ‘Usmani’ area. He then starts some small talk with the three of us and extends his hand for a handshake. We look at his hands and give him a polite Namaste.
As time goes by, lunch arrives.  We all dig in, adding some dishes that we brought from our homes. There is nothing like food to kick up a conversation. The lady sitting with us opens up, and then refuses to close. She goes on about why she is travelling, why she chose train over plane, what his son is doing in Trivandrum, and loads of other stuff (we actually stopped listening after her tales about her son).

We go past Mathura and Agra, where we get down to buy some pedas and pethas for our relatives. The rest of the afternoon is spent catching up on old days, how we used to come home by train whenever we had the chance. Those were the Sleeper class days and the noise, the heat and the smell of sweat made the two days quite difficult to spend. Discussions move on to girls in college, how we all had crushes and how we often made a fool of ourselves asking a girl out. The ambience of the train is the perfect way for friends to keep chatting.
I am the only one of the three who reads a little. As our talks fade away, I take out my novel that I am reading (Life of Pi). As darkness descends, I am totally immersed in my book. It is then that my pal has a brain wave. So the three of us set out, for a walk through the entire length of the train. So what if we didn’t get our beautiful angel-like girls? The pretence of a walk is enough to scan all the compartments for some treat for the eyes.
Whoa, the walk was worth it. We find quite a few hotties in the train. Not just that, the walk has done its bit to enhance our need for food, so when the food comes, we gobble it up. All this time the young dude hasn’t talked much. He has been to himself in his upper berth all this while, and when he comes down his iphone is almost always pasted in front of his face. His actions and behaviour seem to be a little.. er..girly (no offence to any girl intended). The three of us are discussing this in hushed tones when the guy gets up and gives the three of us a wide smile. We are seriously in doubt of his orientation now, so we decide not to look towards him for the rest of the journey.
Nap time arrives. All of us tuck into our respective berths. I am the unluckiest guy in the world. I got the upper berth right next to the doubtful guy. Anyway, I pray for a sound sleep and close my eyes.
The next day, all three of us get up late. Breakfast has already arrived. Once we freshen up and eat, we realize that we are in heaven. We are passing through the lush green slopes of the Western Ghats-the Konkan railway. It’s almost as if our eyes just don’t want to look anywhere else. A series of tunnels follow.
As the day progresses, we make our way down Maharashtra and into Karnataka. The anticipation and the excitement of reaching Kerala start to peak. The train journey is slowly but surely coming to an end. As the destination comes closer, we start to discuss our plans once we reach. But inside somewhere, I am also asking myself, when will I have the chance to travel by train again?

My leaves are limited, so I am going back by flight. Train journeys have still not lost any of its rustic charm. The generations to come might not be as patient as we are. They would want travel to be quick and easy. Trains will only be used for short distances. But just like sitting on the toilet gives you the best ideas, travelling long distances in a train is the best way to be recharged. Two days of retrospection; two days of visual delight.
We reach our station, Thrissur, the next morning. We get down and plonk our luggage on the platform. The other two guys start to make a move, but I stay. I stay so that I can see the train leave. It has been my home for the last two days. It deserves a goodbye.
I once saw a t-shirt which showed a jam packed local railway train and had a slogan underneath which said, “Indian Railways: 150 years of bringing people ‘closer’”.
Whichever way you look at it, it sure does...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Revenge - Part 3

Rajat almost shrieked out with excitement. Somehow, restraining himself, he tiptoed to the door and looked through the peephole. They were here. How funny, he thought; politicians hardly ever turn up on time at any other event. He moved back towards the hall and hiding behind a pillar, he said, “The door is open. Come in and sit down on the floor.”

He heard the door open and the two brothers come in. They walked into the living room and sat down on the floor. Sweat was flowing down Rajat’s face. He tightened the grip on the gun.

“Have you brought the money?” he yelled. “Yes, we have,” came the reply, “come out, you bastard and get this over with. But mind you, tell whoever you are working for that we are not going to forget this in a hurry. We will hunt you down, you piece of slime!”

“Shut up!” Rajat yelled, as he charged out from behind the pillar, startling the two. “You think you two can get away with any crime that you commit. Justice may have been late, but you will get justice tonight.”

The sight of the gun seemed to have evaporated the sense of arrogance in their tone. “Li...Li.. Listen.. we don’t know who you are. Just take the money and let us go,” the bearded Bhairon said, as he made a move for his pocket.

“Don’t even think about it,” Rajat whispered in a menacing tone. “Take out your gun, slowly and slide it across towards me. Don’t try and act smart, coz if you do, my hands would be a lot quicker than yours.”

The two brothers took out their guns and now Rajat had three guns to fire with. But he will use only this, he said to himself.

“Who are you?” Beera asked with a clear tone of fear in his voice.

“It doesn’t matter who I am,” Rajat said, “what matters is that Vinay Gupta was my father..”

Four shots whizzed out of the gun, two into each of the bodies and in a couple of seconds, the two lay dead in a pool of blood, their faces still showing the realization of their killer’s identity.
Rajat, however, didn’t wait. He had other things to do. Although this had drained him, the harder part was still to come. He took the syringe in his hand.

It was time to go. It was time for peace. He thought of his family, his wife, his beautiful daughter, his mother. “I love you all,” he said and pushed the syringe in to his vein.

He had just a couple of minutes now before he would black out. Just one more thing, he reminded himself. He went to the wall and banged his head on it a couple of times. Blood started oozing out of his head. But he never got the chance to feel the pain. As the drug kicked in, he fell to the ground and blacked out.

Sunday: 9 AM
“So, what did you see?” the police inspector asked a short plump guy who was shivering. “I live across this hallway,” he stammered, “That flat is normally locked all the time. It belongs to a guy named Satish. He lives in Canada. This morning I was going out for my morning walk when I found the door ajar. When I opened it, I saw blood everywhere. That’s when I called you. One of these guys I recognize, his name is Rajat. He is a friend of Satish’s. He used to lease out the flat on behalf of Satish and when it was empty, he came here once in a while to clean up.”

“SIR!! SIR!!” a voice shrieked inside, “This guy is alive!!! He’s still breathing!! Call an ambulance!!”

Sunday: 11 AM
The phone was ringing. “I’ll get it ma,” Aarti said. “Hello??”
“Am I talking to Mrs. Aarti Gupta??”
“Madam, I am calling from the Metro hospital. You husband, Mr. Rajat Gupta is seriously hurt. Please come immediately.”

Monday: 10 AM
The doorbell rang.
“Babloo!! Go and get the door!!” the ACP yelled as he ate his morning breakfast. He was already dressed up to leave for office.

A few seconds later, Babloo cam running towards the ACP, “Saheb, people have come from your office. They are saying they have come to arrest you.”

“Have you gone mad or something?? I am an Assisstant Com...” the ACP broke off in between, as he saw almost half a dozen uniformed men coming into the dining room.

“Sagar Narayan,” the Senior Inspector spoke, “you are hereby under arrested for the murder of Bhairon Kumar and Beera Kumar, and for the attempted murder of Rajat Gupta.”

“What??” the ACP yelled, “Have you gone insane?? How dare you talk to your boss like that?”

“You are no longer my boss, ‘sir’! You have been suspended from the Police department till the time this investigation is complete” the inspector replied.

“But.. but I didn’t do anything!! And moreover, you have no evidence against me!! So don’t even try and touch with your rotten hands!! And once I get to my office, you are gonna repent what you are doing!!” the ACP barked.

“Ahh..evidence..” the inspector smiled, “the evidence so strong that you can forget about going to your ‘office’ ever again! You murdered the two guys with your service gun! How naive can you be??”

“What?? My gun?? My gun is right here with me, you liar!” the ACP opened his holster and took out his gun and showed it to the inspector.

A wide smile broke out on the inspector’s face. “You think I am a fool, do you? Every service gun has a registration ID carved into it on the base. I don’t see that here. And do you know why?? It’s because this is a fake. You gun was at the scene of the crime. And it has been registered in your name..”

The ACP had gone pale.  He had never noticed the number recently. Somebody must have swapped his gun for this fake.

“Just one more thing to do,” the inspector said. “Take off your shoes please”

Still in a state of shock, the ACP hardly resisted as thre men pushed him onto the chair and took off his shoes. The inspector took out a sheet of paper from a file; a picture of the shoeprints from the crime scene, then looked at the ACP’s shoe. He smiled at showed it to the ACP.

“Perfect match,” he said, holding the picture and the shoe side by side for the ACP to see. “So, you are in big trouble, ‘SIR’.

Babloo could only watch in disbelief as the ACP was handcuffed and shoved into the back of the police van..  

Monday: 3.30 PM
Aarti was sitting outside the ICU. Her heart was pounding out of the love towards her husband, while her brain was still trying to gather and assess everything that the doctors and the police had poured out during the short time that she had talked to them. They said something about a double homicide, Satish’s flat, a gun. It was too much to take in all at once. 

Even greater than that was the desperation to see her husband healthy again.

“Mrs. Gupta,” a nurse called out her name, bringing her back into the present, “The Doctor will see you now.”

Hoping and praying that she hears good news, Aarti followed the nurse to the Doctor’s room. She sat down and braced herself for the worst.

“Mrs. Gupta, I understand that the last couple of days have been very draining for you,” the doctor said, “but I need to clear a few things out with you regarding your husband.”

“Well, you must understand that your husband was a target for murder. He has suffered a critical head injury and has lost a lot of blood. He bled for almost eight hours before he was brought to the hospital. We have stabilised his pulse at the moment and blood has been given to him. But we will have to put him under observation for 48 hours. We always need to take maximum precautions with head injuries.”

“Ok,” Aarti said. “But he will be fine right?”

“We can only tell after 2 days. But initial signs are all positive. We are quite optimistic about his recovery,” the doctor said with a reassuring smile. “But actually what follows is the more crucial part that I wanted to talk to you about.”

“What is it?” Aarti queried.

“Well, we did a scan of Mr. Gupta’s head. The area around the temporal lobe is badly swollen. What amazes me is that the temporal lobe, which is actually at the back side of the head, is swollen but the injury to him has happened on the forehead. The skull has cracked a little on the forehead but the shock was not so large that it could affect the temporal lobe.

“Anyway, the point that I want to make is that temporal lobe controls memory. We can only tell after he regains consciousness, but Mr. Rajat might have suffered some memory loss”

What??” Aarti stood up with a start. “This can’t be. How severe? Will he forget all of us? How..”

“Mrs. Gupta, please calm down. We are hoping it’s not that severe but there is no way of finding out...”

Tuesday: 1 PM
The ACP sat in small jail room. For 3 days he had been crying out to the prison guards to let him out because he was innocent but no one listened. Now he had stopped, resigned to his fate. Senior officials had come to see him. He requested them to release him. Some of them agreed to try and bail him out. But even that would take at least a week.

The prison guard opened his door. “You have a visitor,” he said. It was Babloo, his servant.

“Saheb, this came for you today,” he said. It was an envelope. The ACP ripped it open and took out a letter from inside. He started reading..

How does it feel to get a taste of your own medicine?? Is this jail life suiting you, you bastard!! Twenty years ago, you sold yourself to a couple of thugs and helped them kill an honest police officer. His blood is on your hands. And what you are suffering now is repayment for that sin.
I know you have contacts. I know you will soon get yourself out. But every single second that you spend in this cell will remind you of the countless bodies you killed or stepped on to get yourself some money and fame. And this thought will eat you inside. Today I have completed my revenge..

That day the ACP did not speak to anyone. At night the other inmates heard loud cries. In the morning, the ACP was found hanging dead from the ceiling of his cell with his bed sheet.

The next day, Rajat regained consciousness. He woke up with a start as if he had a bad dream. He tried to remember what the dream was. He was standing in the rain with someone. He gave the other guy some money and in return he had got a package. The other guy had asked him to be careful with the package. Half of the bottle would be enough to erase 6 months of memories, he had said. But Rajat was somehow sure that he had used the full bottle....

Rajat stared at the small hospital room. He wondered how he had got here. The doctors had come; the police had come to ask him something; some murders; some guys named Beera and Bhairon, but he had no idea what they were talking about. His head started aching every time he tried to remember anything about which these people were asking questions.

Once his room was empty he opened the newspaper. “ACP accused in double homicide commits suicide”, said the headline. Poor guy, Rajat thought and moved on to the next headline.

As he had wanted, he had ended it for himself too. He was at peace with himself once again...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Revenge - Part 2

It had been hard.. the past three months.. Rajat thought as he relived everything. He had taken a decision that would change his life but he was determined not to waver. A month after the life altering revelation he had started planning how to do it.

He dug all the history that he could find on the two brothers and the ACP. The two brothers were the sons of a popular but now retired politician, who himself had had allegations of corruption over him. These two were now trying to inherit his popularity to further their own political ambitions.

Many times over, he had the thought of just walking into the homes of all the three and shooting them in the head. But then he realised that he had a family too. He loved his wife and his daughter. What would they think? He needed to plan. He needed to come up with a method in which he had a chance to live a normal life..

He needed to get all three of them at the same place to do it. It would be tough now that their allegiance to each other had been severed. But as he was planning all this, two major doubts had started to pollute his mind..

Did the ACP deserve death? He had been a pawn, threatened by the political power of Bhairon and Beera, the two brothers. If he hadn’t obeyed them, he might have ended up the same way his father had. Rajat faced a conflict. On one side, he had deep anger for the ACP but on the other he understood the kind of pressure he might have been under. It was then that he had found a middle way, a way to make sure that he didn’t have the ACP’s blood on his hands..

But still, the other doubt was eating him inside. He had been brought up by his father to be an honest, hard working man who respected the rules, respected other human beings. He might be breathing after doing what he had decided to do, but will he actually be living a life? Will he be able to face his wife, look into the innocent eyes of his daughter and his mother? As this thought had struck him, he decided what he would have to do..

He will have to end it for himself too. He couldn’t live like this. He needed to be calm again. He needed to be serene again..

Rajat looked down at the bottle of injection that lay on the table. This was his ticket to ending it all. His family will hopefully understand. They will adapt with time.

He took a refreshing bath that night and had a good night sleep. He was satisfied with the day’s work, but more needed to be done tomorrow.The next day, he woke up with a slight fever. It must have been because of the rain last night, Rajat thought, frustrated that he couldn’t be able to carry out the next phase of his plan. He stayed at home, going through each part of his plan again. The next step was crucial. In a way it was good that he postponed it for a couple of days. It would be better if he did it once he was healthy again.

Two nights later, he came home at about 3 in the morning. The most crucial part of the plan had been done. He was ecstatic. What he had done today would make sure that he won’t be suspected for the murders. He opened the bag he was carrying and took out a flat wide plate. The plate was filled with clay. And in the middle of it was a large clear shoeprint.

About ten kilometres away from where Rajat sat, in a calm and peaceful locality, the ACP woke up at six in the morning. It was just another day for him. But he didn’t notice that the balcony door that he usually locked every night was a little ajar today. He also didn’t notice that his shoes were a little muddier than usual...

Rajat took out the gun from his pocket and kept it on the table. Looking at it, he recollected how much research he had done about it, how he had tried to get in touch with people who supply such things. It had been hard; he was unfamiliar with such people and their behaviours. He had even been beaten up once. But he had been very particular about the type of gun he wanted. In the end the dealer had to relent.

Next day he ordered a custom made shoes having the same footprint as the one on the clay. All the things he had purchased were done under different names, far away from the city. The shoes arrived three days later.

That evening, he sat down at his study and wrote two letters. First, he wrote to the two brothers, his father’s killers, carefully using gloves to avoid fingerprints and pasting newspaper cuttings to make up his words.

I know that you killed Vinay Gupta years ago, the car didn’t meet with an accident; you pushed it over the bridge. I have evidence against you. If you don’t want me to go to the police, bring 50 lacs in cash tomorrow to 304, Vilas Apartments near the clock tower on this coming Saturday at 10 pm. Give the money to my man there and you will live safely..

He went out and posted it into a mail box quite far away from his house. He then came back and started writing another note, this time with pen.

“How does it feel to get a taste of your own medicine.. “

He completed the letter and prepared to get some rest. It was Friday evening. Tomorrow his life will be altered forever. Not just his life, the lives of his family members too. He prayed to God, thanking him for a lovely family, a content life and bracing himself for tomorrow, went to sleep.

Saturday.. a normal day for perhaps everyone else, but for Rajat it wasn’t. Today was the day when three months of turbulence would come to an end, one way or the other. Either he would avenge his father’s death or he would die at the hands of his father’s killers. But he had steeled himself for the worst coz either way it wasn’t going to end well for him.

As the time approached, his nervousness grew. He took his bag, put on his new shoes and went out for a walk. The streets were muddy from the rain the previous night. He walked for few minutes and reached Vilas Apartments. He decided to take the stairs and climbed up to house number 304. As he slid the key into the lock, he silently apologized to his dear friend Satish.

The flat was empty. He turned on the light in the drawing room. And then the wait began..

He had almost 5 hours to wait there before the brothers came. It was then that he realised that he had almost forgotten a key part of the plan. He quickly opened his bag and pulled out a pair of his old shoes. He then stuffed his new pair into the bag. Thanking God in his mind for reminding him, he locked the door and went downstairs. He went to the bridge on the river, the same bridge which had withnessed his father’s death. He filled the bag with some big stones and then flung it into the river. Evidence deleted. He went back to the house and resumed his wait.

He never realized when he fell asleep. It was only when his wrist watch alarm went off at half past nine that he woke up with a start. Freaking out, he washed his face and got ready. He put on his gloves. He checked his gun once again, fitting a silencer on the mouth and loaded the syringe with the injection. He won’t have much time; he had to do everything very quickly.

At exactly ten o’clock he heard footsteps. His mind was going numb. Adrenaline was rushing through each and every cell in his body. He was trying desperately to hold it all together. “Stay calm,” he said to himself, “it’ll all be over soon.” 

And then the doorbell rang...
(to be concluded)

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Revenge - Part 1

The rain was coming down really hard now. Trying to stay dry, Rajat pulled his jacket over his head. He was conscious of the packet that protruded from his left pocket. He had no other choice but to go out in the rain and buy it. The dealer was adamant about getting the payment today itself. Jumping over puddles, he made his way home.

He reached his home a couple of minutes later. His wife and daughter were away on their visit to her parents. His mother was on her visit to his sister’s place. This being the time of vacations had meant that their trip would be a little longer than usual. He had specially chosen this time for his plan. No one back home would know what he was doing.

He went in to his study and removed his jacket. Then from the left pocket, he took out a brown envelope. Getting drenched in the rain had been worthwhile. He had been able to get both the things that he had needed. He opened the envelope. His hand went in and with it came out a small bottle of injection. Out came then the syringe. He put his hand into the packet one last time. The thing that came out was the cause of this packet’s excessive weight.

It was a gun.

He had thought about this many times over in his mind. He had not told anyone about what he had in mind. Silently and discreetly, he had been working for the past two months on his new found mission; avenging his father’s death.

In retrospect, he never thought he would come this far. To be frank, he had started off with absolutely no confidence of his plan’s success.

It was about three months ago when he had found out the truth. Till that time, he was a relatively satisfied upper middle class man, working in a reputed financial firm. He was an ideal husband to his wife and a great father to his daughter. He was an honest man, paying his taxes well before time, resisting giving or taking bribes, in many ways, the perfect gentleman.

But three months ago, a visit to the Police headquarters gave his life a shocking jolt.

He had been approached for a personal loan by a tricky customer. As per normal procedure, he had checked this customer’s background before deciding on the loan proposal. The customer turned out to be a suspicious fellow, with a shady background. Once he came to know this, he refused to oblige him. But the guy turned out to be a little more problematic than he first thought. He started getting threat messages. Fearing for himself and his family, he approached his boss.

“Don't worry Rajat”, his boss comforted him. “I personally know the Assistant Police Commissioner. We’ll go and talk to him.”

The next day he went to the Police headquarters. Not many people knew this, but this place was quite familiar to Rajat. He had come here a few times when he was very young. His father had been an honest and reputed IPS officer, before he died in a car crash 12 years ago...

The peon ushered him into the waiting area. Soon, the ACP called him into his office. As he walked towards the office, he realized that his father used to sit in the same room that he was walking towards. He clearly remembered his younger days when he would play with the hawaldars standing outside the office while his father sat inside looking after his daily work.

“Please come in Mr. Rajat”, ACP Sagar Sharma called Rajat in and offered him a seat. “Anant has told me about the problem that you are facing. There’s no need to worry. I’ll direct the station head of your area to round up this guy who is bothering you.”

“Thank you so much, sir. You never know what such people might do to your family. Actually, my father..” He could not complete his sentence though, as the door of the ACP’s office slammed open and two middle aged guys came in. Both of them were wearing traditional white khaki clothing, suggesting the fact that they might have been politicians. One of them wore a black pair of sunglasses while the other had a trimmed beard and a huge teeka on his forehead.

“So, Sagar ji..,” the bearded guy said in a husky tone, “It seems you have forgotten what all we have done for you. You suddenly have started avoiding us and our party workers.”
The ACP had suddenly gone pale. “How the hell did you get into my office without permission? Get out right now!!!”

“Don’t you raise your voice against us you prick!” the other guy was speaking now. “You clearly know what our deal was. Our family has looked after you ever since you started this job, and now you turn you back on us??”

“Shut up and get out!!” the ACP yelled. “I have nothing to do with murderers like you. Be grateful that I am kind enough to ignore your crimes in return of the favour you did me when I was under suspension. But don’t expect any more favours from me.”

“YOU BASTARD!!” the bearded guy had exploded with rage. He seemed to have forgotten that there was another guy in the room, watching all this, in a state of disbelief. “Our family supported you when you were out if money. Our father gave a worthless man like you a means of livelihood when you were suspended. We made sure that you got your job back and got steady promotions.

We have killed people that came in the way of our political ambitions but don’t think that you had nothing to do with it. And don’t forget, the first person we killed was your boss, that Vinay Gupta, who had suspended you. You gave us his location on the day we pushed his car into the river. You bribed the forensics in to saying that the driver was drunk. So don’t sit there and think that you are innocent. If you don’t play along with us, we’ll make sure that you join us in jail, you worthless piece of shit!!”

As the argument heated up further, what the quarreling parties did not notice was the expression on Rajat’s face. Rajat had gone numb. It was as if someone had landed a tight slap right across his face. These guys, these goons, rather, did not know what he had just realized. Shock was writ large on his face as he repeated the words to himself, “My father didn’t die in a car crash.. It was a cold blooded murder ..”

Vinay Gupta was his father, an honest and righteous IPS officer who served the police with pride. It was quite a shock to not only his family, but also the entire police fraternity when he suddenly passed away in a car accident. The car he was travelling in that night had hit a truck and dropped into the Yamuna River. He was investigating a double murder case in a nearby village. The case was political in nature and involved quite influential people. Rajat still had the memories fresh in his mind.
Once his father’s and the driver’s body had been taken out of the water, it was found in the autopsy that the driver was severely drunk when he was driving the car. Rajat had since accepted the fact that his father wasn’t there to protect him anymore, and had moved on.
But it all had come rushing back today. These criminals had murdered his father and were now talking about it as if it was nothing! How could someone be so cold blooded? Did these people have no sense of humanity??

The shouting voice of the ACP brought him back to the room. “Get out of my office!! Get out right now!! Or I will kill you!!” The ACP had gone red with anger. He looked as if he would go into a fit anytime. Thankfully, two hawaldars came in hearing the voices and forced the two brothers out of his office.

The ACP looked rattled. For a moment he even forgot that Rajat was standing in there this whole time. When he did realize this, he assured Rajat that he will look into his complaint and asked him to leave.

Rajat didn’t tell him that they had been talking about his father, about murdering his father. He was walking but couldn’t feel his legs. He mind was a total blank. That day, he didn’t return to his office. He went back home. He wasn’t sure if would be able to work after hearing this news. His wife kept asking him why he seemed so quiet and disturbed, but he lied. He didn’t want to shock the whole family.

The next day he went to work. His boss called him and asked him what happened with the ACP. He simply replied that the ACP had assured him personally about his safety.

“I had told you,” he said, “The ACP is a great man. No normal man can grow so fast in an organisation if he doesn’t perform exceptionally well.”

Rajat just smiled and went back. He decided to do a background check on the ACP. He had many of his father’s friends still working in the Police. Subsequently, he came to know that the ACP had started off as a sub inspector but quickly made his way up the ranks. He was famous for his contacts with the political class and he kept them happy by ignoring all the petty crimes that they committed. Rajat also found that he had been suspended by his father almost twenty years ago for accepting a bribe.

Within a couple of days of the incident at the Police headquarters, Rajat was consumed with a new emotion. Anger. Rage filled every corner of his body. His father’s murderers were enjoying their life without a care for what it had been like for his family.

There wasn’t anything that could be done to get justice. The case was almost two decades old. No lawyer would agree to fight for him. He didn’t have any evidence either. He was helpless. The pain of seeing his father’s murderers was killing him inside.

That was it. That was the spark which had now turned in to a fire. A fire that was hell bent on destroying his father’s killers. They killed his father just because he was about to expose their misdeeds. Well, now it was time for payback.

Yes.. he was going to kill them…
 (to be continued..)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Don't Worry, I Have Your Back

I reached the bus stop at 8 o’clock in the morning. The roads were empty except for a few joggers and morning walkers. Sudhir uncle had asked me to come by 10 but I couldn’t wait. I was desperate for help. Anjali was with Riya at the hospital and I had to get there soon, but after visiting Sudhir Uncle. He was my only hope.
As I sat there waiting for the bus, a voice said behind me, “Hey, remember me?” I turned around. It was Rohan. After so many years, it was a huge surprise, almost a shock to see him here standing in front of me. And then suddenly, I remembered the last time we had each other. It wasn’t a pleasant memory. I saw flashes of  a fight.. and a broken nose. I saw him asking me to stop, asking why I was doing this..I saw myself storming away..
I came back to the present. I was filled with guilt. I was ashamed of the memory. I found it difficult to look into his eyes.  “Oh.. er.. hi Rohan!”, I sheepishly replied, “Long time..How are you?” “I’m good”, he replied. “What about you? Navin had told me that you are working here in the same city, but I never expected to run into you. So how have you been?” I was finding it very difficult to answer, and kept looking over his shoulder to see if the bus had come to save me.
“Do you need to be somewhere?” he asked, noticing my restlessness. “What? .. er.. no, not really, just.. you know.. visiting a relative..”, I said. “Listen..If you have time, why don’t you come home with me? I live nearby. Just for a little while, if it’s okay with you”, he offered. “Oh.. I don’t know, Rohan”, I said, once again searching for a bus. “Don’t worry”, he said, “I’ll drop you to your relative’s place. It’s been so long since we have met, Sandeep”. He kept asking me to come, and the bus was nowhere to be seen. So finally I relented, as there were almost 2 hours to go till 10.
We walked to his car and got in. “So, how have you been?” Rohan asked, as he started driving. “I am fine. Just been busy with work, u know..Nice car, by the way”, I said. “Thanks, man”, he said. Even he didn’t seem to be very comfortable, but given our history, I would have been surprised if he was. After a long silence, I asked, “So, how come I have never heard from you since college?”
He looked at me, gave me a quite smile, and then pointing at a scar on his nose, said, “You were the one who ended it, remember?”
It all came flooding back to me..
College time..Sandeep and Rohan. We were an example of friendship in the campus. We were completely unknown to each other till the time we saw our names together under Room number 301 of the Hostel. Within a day of knowing each other, we had hit a common wavelength. From then on, we had become the best of buddies. From assignments, to hanging out, to checking out girls in the campus, we always did everything together.
We were perhaps the most popular guys of our batch. Good at studies, part of the college basketball team, members of the College theatre group. There were always people who were jealous of us, and we had many quarrels and fights with such idiots. I used to get tensed when such things happened. I was the more fragile one, who would get scared, get worked up, get angry very quickly. But whenever such things happened, Rohan would just clap my back and say, “Don’t worry, Sandy boy.. I have your back.” And suddenly, I would feel reassured, confident that we could face anything together.
In second year, I met Neha. I saw her in the canteen, and it was love at first sight. Rohan understood how I felt in a flash and asked me to go and ask her out. “Don’t worry dude, she is not a monster who will eat you.. just go and talk to her.” “But what if..” I started. “Stop worrying, Sandy, my boy, I have your back”, he smiled.
I asked her out and she said NO. And a few other words which weren’t very good to hear. But Rohan made sure that no one in the class brought up the topic in front of me. As he said, he had my back. We never talked about her again and kept our minds on what we were good at; books, basketball etc.
But it was meant to be. Within a couple of months, Neha was my girlfriend. She had come into our classroom one day and apologised to me for her behaviour and asked me if the offer for a date was still good. The word ‘Yes’ automatically popped out of my mouth and we started dating.
And then came the fateful day..
Almost a year had passed. We were in our third year. We had come back to our room after the day’s classes when Rohan said that he had forgotten his notes in the classroom and went back to get it. I lay down on the bed and rang up Neha. She didn’t pick up her phone. Thinking she might be busy, I got up to wash my face when I heard a beep. It was from Rohan’s phone. He had forgotten to take it with him. I picked it up and was surprised to see that the screen read, ‘Text message from Neha’. If she had the phone, why wasn’t she answering my call? I opened the message. It read, ‘Hey, don’t tell Sandy about it ok? I don’t want him to know that it was you all along. See you in your classroom..waiting for you..’
It was as if someone had hit me with an iron rod. Could this be possible?? Could Rohan do this to his best friend?? Flabbergasted, I rushed out of my room and headed for academic block. Neha’s classroom was on the third floor. Hoping..praying that what I was thinking was untrue.. I entered her classroom.
It was as if the whole world came crashing down. Standing at the door, I saw Rohan hugging Neha..My best friend had backstabbed me..All the friendship meant nothing to him. Within seconds, rage had come over me. “You son of a bitch!!” I roared. “I trusted you. You were my best friend. And this is how you repay me?” I had no control over what I was saying. “Sandy, what the hell are you..” “SHUT UP!!” I said and then I lost all control. I was hitting Rohan with all the strength I had. I did not care about friendship anymore. I landed a punch right on his nose and I heard it break. Neha was shouting behind me, trying to stop me, but I wasn’t listening. I was mad at her too. And once I had had my full..I walked out..leaving a bleeding traitor and a shocked cheater in the room.

We had reached Rohan’s home. As we entered, Rohan introduced me to his wife Priyanka. “Rohan has told me so much about you. You star in almost all of his best college experiences,” she said. Hearing that just increased my guilt even more. Rohan asked me to have some breakfast with him. The more I spent time there, the more ashamed I was of myself. It was getting too much for me, just like the way I felt when I had found out the truth.
Rohan wasn’t an affair with Neha. It was he who had talked her into going on a date with me. That’s why she had come to me and apologized. He never told me this and I never even bothered to find out why Neha would so suddenly changed her mind about me. And that day in the classroom, Neha had called Rohan to thank him for convincing her to go out with me. She had called him to tell him that she had started to fall in love with me. Rohan did everything for me.. and in return I had broken his nose and left him bleeding on the floor.
Neha told me all this the day I last spoke to her, when I met her 3 yrs later at a common friend’s wedding. She had come with her husband. That day after the fight, I never talked to Rohan or Neha. Neha left me, actually. I got into some bad company and never paid attention to studies. Rohan got into a big software firm, while I didn’t do well in my final exams and didn’t get a good job. We went our separate ways.
Remembering all this in the house of the person I betrayed was too much for me. I broke down completely, right there at their breakfast table. I couldn’t bear it anymore. “I’m so sorry, Rohan..I’m so sorry for what I did to you..You were my best friend and I treated you like this..I don’t deserve a friend like you..I really don’t..”
“Sandeep,” Rohan said, teary-eyed himself, “That day when you hit me, it wasn’t my nose which hurt me, it was the fact that you never bothered to ask what was happening. I tried to tell you but you never listened. But then, Sandeep, even today you are the best friend that I have ever had..”
I stood up and hugged him. It was the best thing that had happened to me since ages. I silently thanked God for giving me back my friend. It was almost as if a big weight had lifted off my chest.
After a few moments to gather my calm, I requested Rohan if he could drop me at Sudhir Uncle’s house. “In the morning when I saw you, you looked rattled. Is everything okay?” Rohan asked. “My daughter is in hospital,” I replied, struggling to hide the pain in my voice, “She is just two years old, Rohan. How can God do this to a two year old? She has a birth defect in her kidneys. They stopped functioning a week ago. Doctors have said that transplant is the only option. My wife, Anjali is giving her a kidney.”
“Oh my God! If there is anything I can do for you please tell..” Rohan assured me. “No, Rohan,” I interrupted, “You have already gone through a lot because of me. Just drop me at Sudhir uncle’s place. I need to borrow some money from him. Today is the last day to submit the deposit for the transplant. I don’t have much left. I have already sold my car for this operation. But the figure is still a little short. I’ll just collect the money and head to Apollo hospital.”
Rohan dropped me at uncle’s place. “Thank you Rohan,” I said, “Not just for the lift, for everything.” “Come on, Sandeep, ‘you never say thanks’ that was our deal back in college, remember?? And listen, if you need anything, I’m here ok?” And he left. At that particular moment, I remembered God, for the joy he gave me this morning, and also for strength to carry me through the rest of the day.  
Sudhir Uncle gave me the 1 lakh rupees that I needed, and I headed to the hospital. Once I reached there, I went to the counter. “I’m here to pay the deposit fees for Riya Gupta’s transplant”, I said. “But the charges have already been paid, sir,” the receptionist replied, a little surprised. “WHAT!?!”, I said, “When? How?? By whom??” I was totally stunned. “Just a short while ago sir,” the receptionist replied, “He said he was a relative. I have his name here.. yes.. Mr Rohan”
I was speechless. He had never stopped being my friend.. even during the moments I was breaking his nose. In a state of trance, I stepped back from the counter and started walking away, when the woman at the counter called me back. “Excuse me Sir,” she called out, “He left a note for you.” She handed me a note. I opened it and read it. There was just a single line, but it brought a tear to my eye..
“Don’t worry Sandy boy.. I have your back..”