That Damned Shortcut: Part 2

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This post is the second chapter in the story of how a shortcut affected the peace of mind of five college kids. In case you haven't read the first part, Click Here. Cheers...

~~~~~

While Siddharth got busy making sure she was not hurt, Ira, Amit and Parul looked around to see what had caused her to faint.

Amit was the first one to notice what was a bobbing lantern coming at them through the banana trees. Scared to death, he merely pointed his finger towards it.

From among the banana trees, out came the bobbing lantern. It was held by the most ancient arm that anyone from that group had seen in all their lives. The five of them sat petrified in the car, while the figure moved slowly towards them. Although they couldn’t see the face, they could feel the unseen eyes of the black figure on them. A few feet away, the figure stopped, and they got a glimpse. It looked like a man, wrapped in a black blanket, a hood hiding his head from view. The lantern, swinging from his hand, cast deep shadows on whatever bit of face they could see of him. His face was wrinkled to the extent that it seemed pieces of it would be falling off. All this however was left unnoticed, once they spotted the moon shaped scar on his left cheek, and the two sunken circles where they knew the watchful eyes rested.

“Do all of you see a man there, who’s easily 200 years old?” whispered Amit into the silence. Ira shushed him without looking at him. Parul, who was trying to revive Minisha, left her on the floor of the car and sat petrified at the appearance of this man.

“We have to get out of here. Amit, start the damn car!” said Siddharth in the palpable silence.

“Sid, the car’s not starting. You think I’d be here if I could help it?” said Amit in the bravest voice he could summon.

“Be quiet you two, no need to attract attention,” whispered Ira.

“Ira, look around!  There’s no one else here, I think we’ve got all the attention possible,” said Amit.

“What if he wants to harm us?” asked Ira, a strangled whisper being all that she could come up with.

“Ghosts don’t want to hurt anyone, unless they’ve done the ghosts some harm. I read it somewhere,” Sid spoke from the backseat.

“Shut Up!” said Ira and Amit together, turning back at Siddharth, half angry, half scared witless.

They never thought that there would come a day when they would start believing in ghosts.

The man moved forward. Slowly, he came towards the car, the lantern still bobbing eerily in his hand. They waited with bated breath, wondering what would happen. He stopped right in front of Amit’s window, his cold breath fogging the window, even though the weather outside hadn’t been that cold. The man stood there for a full minute, then a long bony finger emerged from beneath the depths of the black blanket. He rapped the window thrice, and pointed back along the road. Again, he rapped the window, and again he pointed back the way they had come.

 The moon decided to show up for the night, and threw light upon the true terror that had spread in that little car. Amit turned the ignition, and this time there was a feeble lurch in the car, and a faint gurgling sound came from the engine. One more time the blanketed man rapped the window, and pointed.

“Come on, don’t give up on me now. I don’t wanna die here, not tonight, not in a stupid Banana Plantation!” Amit almost screamed at the car.

And voila! The engine suddenly throbbed to life. Sweet relief shone on Amit’s face, as he put the car in reverse to get out of there. The figure, seeing that they were fleeing the scene, followed them with outstretched arms.

“Get the hell outta here Amit! Pedal to the metal!” screamed Siddharth from the back seat.  The tyres screamed, but Amit relentlessly pushed the car to its limit, till the road from where they had started was visible again. They turned on to the busy street, stopped the car under one of the many burning streetlamps, the wonderful light washing over their white, scared faces.

“What. Was. That?” Asked Ira in the stunned silence.

“What the heck was that dark thing moving towards us in the darkness? Was I dreaming?” asked Minisha, having finally come back to her senses. Parul still couldn’t talk, while Amit had beads of sweat sticking to his head.

“Never again, am I going to take that sort of a shortcut. I’ve had enough of Ghosts for this lifetime!” vowed Amit, and they headed down the well lit road back home.

***

The man on the road finally removed the blanket that he had put on to scare the kids. He had a smile on his face, as he remembered how as kids, his gang of friends used to scare innocent travelers back at home.

“Felt good to do that after such a long time. I’ve still got it,” said the old man to himself, and walked back home, laughing as he thought about the scared faces of the poor kids.

~~~~~

This is a story that has been co-authored by Isha Chawla, and the first part of the story can be found on her blog... although I'm assuming that you came out here from her blog itself!

100 Truths

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This is my first step towards writing about me. It wasn't the most preferred one, but I chose it 'coz it seemed quite easy. Once I got to doing it though, it was a different experience altogether.

I've been tagged before this too, but I've never really had the patience to do one of those things. This time however, it was different, with three reasons for me to do this tag.

  1. I had quite a few requests from people to write something about myself, and 100 Truths about me seemed a good place to start.
  2. I couldn't think of anything to write on, no inspirations for stories come to my mind, and yet I wanted to write something today.
  3. It was high time I did one of the many tags that I've been tagged with!

Thanks to Isha for tagging me with this one. More about-me posts to follow soon… make do with this one till that time :P


1. Last drink: Wonderful Home-brewed Red Tea…
2. Last phone call : Didiya, and she's left a zillion things here as always :D
3. Last text message: Sherii.
4. Last song you listened to: Waterloo Sunset by Def Leppard… aah, the memories…
5. Last time you cried: A long, long time ago…

HAVE YOU EVER...
6. Dated someone twice: Nope… don't even see the point of it.
7.Been cheated on? Hmm, that's an interesting question… and I think I'd have to go with yeah…
8. Kissed someone & regretted it? For a while, till a friend was kind enough to tell me that you shouldn't regret something that made you smile ;)
9. Lost someone special? Yup!
10. Been depressed? Yup!
11. Been drunk and threw up? Yup! And the last time was shit scary too… read a little more about it here :D

LIST FOUR FAVORITE COLORS:
12. Black
13. Red
14. Blue
15. All shades of grey.

FIRSTS :
15. Made new friends: Of course… although, I'd like to meet someone who hasn't… that might be fun!
16. Fallen out of love: Yup…
17. Laughed until you cried: Oh Yes!!
18. Met someone who changed you: Somewhat yes…
19. Found out who your true friends were: Yeah, and in very weird circumstances
20. Found out someone was talking about you: Yeah, again in very weird circumstances

HAVE YOU:
21. Kissed anyone on your friend's list: Nope
22. How many people on your friends list do you know in real life: If you're talking about the Follower's list on Blogger, then it'd be 4. If you're talking about the people on the various social networking sites, then almost all of them… one or two might be there who I haven't met…
23. How many kids do you want to have: Depends…
24. Do you have any pets: Not yet.
25. Do you want to change your name: Nope… again, I'd like to meet someone who wants to
J
26. What did you do for your last birthday: The birthday was spent with family, and the next day when I went out with friends, got lost at India Gate. How that happened is something I still wonder about sometimes :P
27.What time did you wake up today: 8.15 a.m.
28. What were you doing at midnight last night: Going to the canteen to have dinner, since I'd overslept and missed it at the mess…
29. Name something you CANNOT wait for: Writing.
30. Last time you saw your father: Back in February…
31. What is one thing you wish you could change about your life: Surprisingly, nothing… I'm not saying that I've had a perfect life, but then again a perfect life would be very, very boring.
32. Most visited web page:I think it's a tie between Technicolor Collage, Twitter, Facebook, Orkut, and Google Reader… and DeviantART's close behind too
J

WHAT'S YOUR:
33. Name: Arnab Majumdar
34. Nicknames: Joy, Toy & Tidda (courtesy my hostel mates), Skeletor (courtesy my grad college buddies), Baby Dinosaur (thanks to the office guys)
35. Zodiac sign: Libra
36. Male or female or transgender: Male
37. Elementary: The Mother's International School
38. School: The Mother's International School
39. Colleges: Graduation – Maharaja Surajmal Institute
Post graduation – CMS, IILM, Greater Noida
40.Hair color: Black
41. Long or short: Short
42. Height: 5'9"
43. Do you have a crush on someone? Yup…
44. Ever been in love? Once.
45. Piercings? Nope.
46. Tattoos? Nope.
47. Righty or lefty: Righty
48. First surgery: Thankfully, none yet… almost had one though…
49. First piercing: Never had any, won't have any either
50. First best friend: Surojeet.
51. First sport you loved: Cricket
52. First pet: My Grandma's dog, Phelaram Chakravertty a.k.a. Phelu
53. First vacation: Life started as a vacation… I was born in Jaipur, went off to Shillong, and finally reached "home" in Delhi when I was almost three
J

54. First concert: Ma's concert of Robindro Shongeet
55. First crush: Do Celebrity Crushes count?? That would be, Sonali Bendre back in 1994 :D

RIGHT NOW:
56. Eating: Hulli Gulli Corn Puffs
57. Drinking: Red Tea… again!
58. I'm about to: Browse through my music collection yet again…
59. Listening to: The rain outside.
60. Waiting for: An inspiration for another story…

YOUR FUTURE
61. Want kids? Depends…
62. Want to get married? Not for another 7 years at least…
63. Careers in mind? Market Research, Advertising and Sales Promotion, and sometimes, even writing professionally
J



WHICH IS BETTER WITH THE OPPOSITE SEX?
64. Lips or eyes: Eyes.
65. Hugs or kisses: Kisses.
66. Shorter or taller: Shorter.
67. Older or Younger: Younger
68. Romantic or spontaneous: Romantically Spontaneous.
69. Nice stomach or nice arms: Nice Stomach
70. Sensitive or loud: Both…?
71. Hook-up or relationship: Relationship.
72. Trouble maker or hesitant: Trouble maker.

HAVE YOU EVER : 
73. Kissed a stranger: Nope.
74. Lost glasses/contacts: Nope… lost my sunglasses though, would that count?
76. Broken someone's heart: Yeah, I did…
77. Had your own heart broken: Yup…
78. Been arrested: Almost.
79. Turned someone down: Yeah…
80. Cried when someone died: Yes, although it was a long time ago…
81. Liked a friend that is a girl? Yes
J

DO YOU BELIEVE IN:
81. Yourself: Oh Yes!
82. Miracles: Absolutely.
83. God: I'm spiritual, but not religious… got that from Orkut :D
84. Love at first sight: Nah…
85. Heaven: Oh Yes!
86. Santa Claus: Not since 1992, and I wasn't even that disappointed…
87. Kiss on the first date? It Depends…
88. Angels: Yeah!
89. Devils: Hell Yeah!

ANSWER TRUTHFULLY:
90. Is there one person you want to be with right now? Nah…
91. Had more than one boyfriend/girlfriend at one time? Nope.
92. Wanted to kill someone ever? Yes, and it's not funny.
93. Among you blog mates, whom would you like to kiss? No one…
J

94. Committed a blunder and regretted later? Blunders, loads of them. Regrets, very, very few!
95. Wanted to steal your friend's boyfriend / girlfriend? Never.


ASSOCIATE WITH SOMETHING YOU WEAR:
96. White: Tantra T-shirt with the map of Delhi on it.
97. Black: Tantra T-shirt with a hand print on it.
98. Red: My Santa Claus Jacket :D
99. Pink: Thank God I don't have any pink clothes!!
100. Posting this as 100 Truths? Wasn't easy, but yes!

And now, I tag all those who comment on this. Let's see who those brave folks are :D

Mirror

43 comments

"See that Blade there?"

"Yeah, that's dad's used blade. What about it?"

"I've always wondered something."

"The reason why the blade is so cool?"

"And so efficiently deadly."

"Yeah. If I had a choice to be an object, I'd be a blade."

"Me, more like anything metallic."

"Like a sword?"

"More like an arrowhead. It's somehow deadlier."

"That's just how you look at it."

"I can talk about the most random things on earth, can't I?"

"Oh yes!"

"Wanna hear something else that's random?"

"The real meaning of Random?"

"Yup. I finally figured it out. It's when there is an equal probability of every topic under the sun to be chosen for discussion."

"So random means that right now, there is an equal probability of me talking about dinosaurs as there is to talking about disco lights."

"Or schizophrenia."

"Yeah." A pregnant pause, and then the conversation continued. "You think the schizophrenia I had is cured?"

From the other side of the door, his mother banged on the door and said, "Dev, stop talking to yourself and come downstairs. Breakfast's getting cold."

~~~~~

Many thanks to Juhi for the Awesome Award, and Phoenix for the Honest Scrap award. I'm really grateful guys, you rock! Cheers to you…

***

Image Courtesy libraryman

The Little Incident at a Big School

54 comments

He couldn't believe he had done something so wrong. His father, well known for his raging temper, would be furious at him. He just knew it.

Sitting in the school bus, while the bus drove consistently through the traffic jam, he wished that something would happen, and he would never have to go back home. He hoped that he would never have to face his father, after the incident that happened at school.

He could see the homeless children under the flyover, and wondered what it would be like to run away from home and live like that. He noted the exact place of where the children were, so that he would know where to come when he ran away. His mind wandered away, as he thought about the prospect of running away from home – he would never see his parents again, and never see his dog. He would never lie on his bed again, or read the books that he had grown up with. If only he hadn't been that stupid, things would never have come to this state. Thinking all of this brought tears to his eyes, but he didn't want the rest of the kids to notice his tear stained eyes.

However, notice they did. Pretty soon, there was a group of children surrounding him and pointing at the silent tears flowing down his cheeks.

"The Little Baby's crying. Wonder what's up with the Little Bitty Baby today," said one voice.

"Shut up!" he screamed at everyone. The kids laughed, while his face burnt with shame. "I said, shut up!"

"Or else what?" said one of the Big Boys, with a snigger. He wanted to get up and punch the Big Boy in the face, but he felt weak about the prospect of going back home and telling his father what happened at school. He wiped his tears with the back of his hand, and started ignoring the comments of the other children. This wasn't that tough, as he couldn't focus on anything much.

Before he knew it, he was at his stop. He didn't want to get down from the bus, but he knew that he didn't really have much of a choice. He couldn't exactly stay in the bus forever. He took a few tentative steps towards the door of the bus, at the end of the line of the children waiting to get off. The Big Boy was still laughing at the tear marks left on his face, and he again flushed with guilt and shame at what had happened.

He got off, but found that his legs refused to take him back home. What would his father's reaction be like? How much would he scream at him? Would his father hit him for what he had done? All these questions were chasing each other inside his head – when suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Krishna, what are you doing here? Don't you want to go back home?" It was his father. Seeing him materialize so suddenly and unexpectedly, Krishna burst into tears, right there in the middle of the street.

"What happened to you? Why are you crying so much?" his father asked, "Come on, let's walk back home, and we can talk about this on the way back."

Krishna, however, was too scared to say anything. He couldn't stop crying, now that he knew his father had found him. He knew his father would be very disappointed at him, and probably ever forgive him for what he had done at school. All the way back home, his father tried to talk to him, but Krishna couldn't tell him what had happened.

It was only when he got back home, back in the familiar surroundings that Krishna was able to open up and admit what had happened at school that day. "I lost that pencil you got for me yesterday Baba, I didn't mean to. Someone must have stolen it from my pencil box while I was out. I know it was there in the pencil box when I left for the games period, but when I came back it wasn't there. I'm so sorry Baba, I didn't mean to lose it…" Krishna couldn't look at his father's face anymore.

"Are you sure the pencil isn't there in your bag?"

"Yeah, I've looked everywhere in the bag, it's not there," said Krishna, a little surprised at the calm voice with which his father was talking to him. He couldn't help feeling a slight bit of relief at the tone of his voice.

"Well, alright, we'll go and get you another pencil in the evening. How does that sound to you?" said his father, with a straight face and a gentle voice.

Krishna ran into his father's arms. In spite of the straight face that he was trying to keep, a small smile escaped from his father's lips.

And they lived happily ever after.

~~~~~

Had my exams going on, which is why I couldn't write much in the last few days, or read much of the stuff that the other bloggers have been putting up on their blogs for that matter. Noticed quite a steady flow of traffic on the blog in spite of that… thanks for keeping so much in touch with the blog. Also, much thanks to Preetilata for the award, my first Blog Award I might add! :D Cheers to you Preetilata…

***

Image Courtesy dhyanji

55 Fiction: Free

34 comments

The kite flew up in the sky, but it was tied to the ground with that bit of string. The gust of wind wasn't enough to take it wherever it wanted to go.

And then, the string snapped. The kite was free, to catch the breeze and fly where it wanted to go.

It smiled.


 

What is 55 Fiction? It is a fiction story, with all the basic elements of a narrative (plot, characters, setting, conflict), in 55 words or less (A non-negotiable rule).

***

Image Courtesy macropoulos

A “Real” Blog Post

30 comments

Maybe a Blog, in some ways, should reflect the kind of stuff that I'm thinking at the moment.

Maybe a Blog should, sometimes, be a little more about me, rather than made-up stuff. Things have changed manifold; I never thought three years ago was such a helluva long time.

This post was inspired by two things that happened almost simultaneously. First, I wanted to write a story (as always), and had the perfect idea for it too – but somehow I couldn't put the story in words. Frustrated, I went online, and that's when a friend suggested that I write something about myself for a change, and in her words, something for myself. On my part, I think it's quite a boring topic to be writing about – honestly, I'm quite a normal guy, living a very normal life.

Second, while online, I stumbled across the blog that I used to write on about three years back. I had completely forgotten the existence of that blog, but the sight of that page jogged a lot of memories. Hence, this post.

A little while back, I said something about a blog being composed of things more than what is made-up. There was a time when I used to write only the non-made-up things, which is something that I can't really relate to right now. I mean, forget writing things about myself in the blog; I don't think I've written anything but fiction in my diary also for a really long time now, more than three years to be precise. However, in the viewpoint of the 2006 me, "I don't want to write about people I make up, and about the problems these made up people face, day after day, in their own fictitious world…"

This is probably what our FHRM lecturer meant when she was talking about change. Tonight, I found out that change somehow does creep up quietly from behind you, and alters your world, so gradually, that you hardly notice that change sometimes.

One line still holds totally true from that old blog of mine.

I still want to be a writer.

***
Two links I'd like to post here, the first one being something my friend Isha wrote about Change. The other, for the ultra curious folks out there, my old blog on yahoo360. I don't visit that blog, nor do I operate that one, and I'd like to keep it that way. Any comments posted there would most probably not be replied to. There are some weird things about me after all.

The Sacrifice

34 comments

That morning, she woke up, without having the slightest idea what awaited her. The time by the clock was 5:30 AM, and it was time for her to start her day. Her son would be at home, and she knew by experience that he wouldn't be up before 8:30. "Plenty of time," she thought to herself, and rolled out of bed. Following the same everyday routine, breakfast was ready by 7:30. That was when she got the call, from a friend. A concert was scheduled at her old school during the day, by her favourite artistes, and she really wanted to go listen to them. She woke up her son, since she didn't know how to drive.

Grumpily, he got up, groggy after a hard night's work. He got ready, and had his breakfast, all the while thinking why his mother didn't learn how to drive. She, however, was feeling excited at the prospect of going back to her school, to those familiar corridors, that seemed to belong to her at one phase of her life. She hoped that her son would hurry up, but her son missed the sense of urgency reflected on her face.

Finally they left, and drove down the roads that had carried her for the best twelve years of her life. She was beginning to feel like a little kid again, on her first day of school after the summer vacations, wondering how much her friends had changed and grown over the summer. Finally the car shaped school bus halted at the stop in front of the big, intimidating, grey school gate.

"I'll be back in the evening, around 5. Have fun," he said to her, before he sped away in the opposite direction. She was left there, at the gates of her school, feeling oddly out of place without her uniform and her school bag slung over her shoulder. She took a few tentative steps towards the gate, and found that every step was a thrill, taking her deeper and deeper into her childhood days. She wanted to run like she used to, from the drop off point of the bus till her class, but she couldn't run with her saree. So she walked briskly, towards the old building where her classes used to take place. The concert, her favourite artists performing – all that had gone into the background of her head. Right now, she just wanted to take in the memories that were coming at her from all sides.

Her first classroom – how tiny it looked now. She remembered how big it had seemed to her the first day that she had entered there, and how she had to sit in the first seat. How terrified she had been the first time when the huge, bulky teacher had walked into the room. It made her laugh now, thinking about her silly little insecurities of the past.

Walking down another familiar corridor, she stumbled upon the music room, the heart and soul of the school for her. Right from the start, she had known that she wanted to be a singer. There was something about that room that made her heart skip. She couldn't help but hum one of her tunes, and soon, found that the words of that first song she learnt in this room were all coming back to her. And so, she started singing that song, her voice rolling over the notes effortlessly, just like it did all those years ago.

"Veena, is that you? Wow, your voice hasn't changed at all, even after all these years", said Rittika, her best friend from a long, long time ago.

"I think it's just the song that makes it seem that way Rittika," said Veena with a smile, "How have you been? It's been so long since we met."

"I'm fine. I heard about the concert happening, but ever since I've come here, I've not been able to leave the building. All those memories, remember our music classes here? You were the favourite of Mansi Ma'am."

"I wasn't! I never had the dedication and the discipline!"

"Still, she used to always believe that you would make it big in the music world some day. What are doing these days?"

"I teach music," said Veena, realizing for the first time how near, yet how far she was, from what she had really wanted to do in life.

Rittika didn't say anything, seeing the look on her face. She wondered why Veena was sad; she was more in touch with music than Rittika had ever been.

Veena walked slowly to the auditorium where the concert was happening, her heart heavy. She was thinking about all that she had sacrificed in her life for her family, for the security that she had now – a family life, a secure job, a regular paycheck at the end of the month. A family that was hers, that loved her so much, and she loved them in return. However, she couldn't help but wonder what her life could have been like, had she continued with her love for music. She couldn't have had the family she had now, but she thought she would have been happy nonetheless. She would be surrounded by the one thing that was most important to her – her music.

She couldn't focus throughout the performance. All she could think was that if only, she hadn't left her music the way she had, she would have been happy, and with the thing that was, at one point of life, the most important thing in the world for her.

At 5, her son came to pick her up from her school. While she was walking towards the car, she had the feeling that she was leaving her heart in the corridors of her school, in the music room, among those notes she used to play with as a child, and as an adult. She didn't want to leave that world… somehow…

She opened the car door, and saw that her whole family was waiting for her there – her daughter smiling at her, and her grandson trying his best to clamber onto her arms with a gleeful smile. She got into the car, and found that it was here, more than anywhere else, that her heart belonged. Her son looked over at her with a smile too. "Surprise!" he said.

But he saw that there were traces of tears in her eyes when she got into the car. He didn't understand at that point of time why.

Thirty years passed before her son completely understood why, on that special day, his mother's eyes had been moist.

~~~~~~~~~~

Dedicated to Ma, for all the sacrifices – big and small – that you've made through your life, to make our lives the way they are now.

***

Image Courtesy CW Ye

The Big C

40 comments

The two men sat at the bar of the dingy little pub, a beer clutched in each hand. They didn't know each other, but it's said that no one's a stranger in a pub. Soon, they started talking.

Akhilesh had been in the Kargil war, and had survived to live the tale. It had emboldened him in a lot of ways, to the extent that sometimes, he thought himself to be invincible.

Bimal had had a quiet life. Working in a government job most of his life, he hadn't really had the most exciting of lives. He had worked hard most of his life, and it was only during the last few days of his life that he started frequenting the pubs of Delhi.

"Big fan of Foster's I see," said Bimal, as Akhilesh started on his fourth bottle. Akhilesh wasn't all that much in the mood for a chat, so he just smiled gently at the old man sitting next to him, trying to ignore him. "I've somehow been a bit too loyal to the Indian brands; Mohan Meakin's to be more precise," continued Bimal, "hence the taste for Golden Eagle. You've tried it?"

Akhilesh still ignored Bimal. However, there's something about having a drink or two that really makes you not care if someone's listening or not. This was almost the case with Bimal on this particular night. He'd downed seven bottles already, and was on his eighth.

"I've earned the right to live life precariously I think. God himself gave me that sign, by showing me that I don't really have those many days left in my life anymore. I should make the most of whatever little days I have at my disposal." These lines got Akhilesh interested, in spite of his best efforts to ignore this man. Bimal noticed that he had finally gotten the audience he was craving for; he cleared his throat, and told Akhilesh the punch line of his little story.

"I've been diagnosed with the Big C. The Doctors say that I've got a year more to live, maybe a little less."

***

Akhilesh had not been a stranger to death. Being in the army means that you are surrounded by it, and you don't have a choice. Yet, somehow Bimal's story was like an iron fist to the stomach. The fact that winded him more was that he didn't even know this man… and yet he was affected by his illness, in some weird way. That night, Bimal and Akhilesh didn't drink much once they got to talking. Bimal spoke about his life, about all the things that he had wanted to do in life. He told him how he had believed that old bearded man who had told him he would live till at least a hundred and ten. "I've been robbed of thirty years, I should sue!" Bimal joked.

He talked about his many loves – for the woman he had married and shared his life with, for the colors of the world, for the sunrise, and the sunset. He opened Akhilesh's eyes to his love for life itself.

Akhilesh listened to every word that Bimal said, and the talk sobered both of them – so much so that they didn't even sway once while they walked to door, a first for Akhilesh. Akhilesh used to think himself as a selfish man. That night he surprised himself, when he found that his eyes were moist as he walked into his little flat, and he knew that it wasn't for himself.

***

Akhilesh and Bimal started meeting regularly. Since he was starting to get weak, Akhilesh would visit Bimal's house. One day, Akhilesh found Bimal staring at a big blank canvas, a palette of colors in front, and a brush in his hand. The canvas seemed to be begging for the first stroke of the brush, yet Bimal couldn't deliver. "I've already ruined four canvases. I've always wanted to be a painter, yet nothing I make on the canvas makes any sense. Have you done anything of this sort before?"

"I have no idea how to paint. I've never done it, nor have I ever been interested in it. I guess you start by some random strokes, and just go on after that", said Akhilesh

Bimal touched the brush to the canvas for the first stroke, but something was lacking. He couldn't do it, the stroke came out all wobbly, and the next few strokes were the same. In the end, Bimal gave up the idea for the day.

"There's juice in the fridge, in case you want some. I had to get rid of the beers, my system can't take it anymore", Bimal told Akhilesh.

***

Bimal tried his hand at painting a number of times, but there was no success. Soon, he found that the simple act of going outside, standing and attempting to paint was becoming more and more tiresome for him. From then on, whenever Akhilesh came to visit him, the unfinished painting used to be the first one to greet him. Bimal had told Akhilesh that he would move it somewhere else, but Akhilesh insisted on letting the painting be exactly where it was. He convinced Bimal to keep the painting where it was, and also instructed the caretakers not to move the painting – no matter what Bimal said.

Bimal was growing thinner with every passing day. It was evident that he wouldn't last long, but he still looked forward to the time Akhilesh would come over, and talk to him for a few hours. He had a number of visitors, but to him Akhilesh was different. In his presence, Bimal felt different too, almost the same way he did when he had met Akhilesh the first time at that bar of the dingy little pub.

"I wish I had the talent enough to paint the myriad of colors on the sky, on those special days. If only I had heeded what my mother had told me a long time ago, and had gone for those painting classes…"

"Don't think so much. You've done a fairly good job with that canvas outside. We can always tell everyone its modern art", said Akhilesh.

They chuckled at that small joke, and then Bimal went back to looking outside of the window, at the red hue painted over the skies, at the beautiful sunset.

***

It was on a beautiful, cloudless day, that Bimal never woke up in the morning, and missed the sunrise. The funeral was arranged at the place Bimal had chosen, a little bit away from the hustle bustle of the city. A mokshadham in the suburbs was where Bimal had wanted his body to be cremated, be one with the earth and the skies, with that last puff of smoke. There were quite a few visitors, some of whom cried. Akhilesh wondered how many of them knew how much Bimal had wanted to paint, but couldn't do that till the end.

While coming out of the crematorium, Akhilesh chanced a look at the skies. It was exactly the way Bimal had described he wanted it to be – the hue of the skies, the mix of blue with violet, yellow with red, the distinct orange in the sky that made it look unique. He was the only one in the whole crowd who smiled when he saw that scene.

"There's your masterpiece, Bimal. You finally made it", said he.


 

***

Image Courtesy Deltasly

55 Fiction: August Rain

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Without warning, I come. Without shouting, I fall. I drench the world in emotions, quite unexpectedly. The crows in midflight flee; the sparrows find shelter in the trees. The devouts look up at their Gods; the atheists look up at their clouds.

I wash away the pain. If nothing, I try…

I am August Rain.


 

What is 55 Fiction? It is a fiction story, with all the basic elements of a narrative (plot, characters, setting, conflict), in 55 words or less (A non-negotiable rule). This post was due for some time now, considering the fact that it's about one of my favourite subjects – August Rain.

The Lie

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He was very happy about the little kitten that his father got for him. It had half a jet-black face, and the rest of it was pure white. From the moment the kitten and the boy had seen each other, they had grown fond. They played for long hours, the kitten was almost always by the boy's side, and he even let the kitten sleep in his bed. His parents were very glad about the newfound friendship, and the whole house was happy.

That night, his parents had gone out to the market, leaving him alone at home for the first time. He was a bit scared about the prospect of being left alone at home, but the thoughts of being able to do anything that he wanted to do was too overwhelming. So, he told his mother that he would be fine at home, with the kitten. Before they left, they told him not to go anywhere near the kitchen, that it was a dangerous place to be alone, and they told him that they would come back very soon.

Finally alone in the house, he had a strange feeling of freedom. He could do anything he wanted! The only living thing part of the family left in the house, was his very close friend, the kitten. He waited a few moments to let that feeling of freedom to sink in, and when he finally couldn't bear it anymore, he jumped with joy, a huge grin lighting up his face. He could run all over the house, he could flush the toilet as many times that he wanted to, he could even go into the kitchen. His parents had asked him not to go there, but they would never know. The kitten looked at him with accusatory eyes, but he knew she'd never tell anyone.

Tentatively, he opened the kitchen door and walked inside. Steel utensils shone at him, the cutlery glinted. Knives, forks, spoons, ladles… he had stumbled across a shining pile of treasure! He carefully moved towards the spoons and knives, itching to touch one of them. The cold steel felt alive at his touch, and it made him shiver, right from the finger touching the knife down to the un-slippered feet. He didn't like the knives all that much, although they were pretty to look at from a distance.

He saw a knob on the stove, and remembered how his mother could control fire with that small black knob. His mother had been cooking, and the knob was still warm at the touch. With a leaping heart, he turned the knob. Nothing happened, except a faint hiss that issued from the stove. No blue flames leapt up, no warmth was generated. Disappointed, he turned the knob a little more, but still nothing happened, except that the hiss grew a little louder. Exasperated, he left the stove alone, and turned around, and found that the kitten had managed to climb on to the shelf with a big jar of Complan resting on it. He waved at the kitten to come down, who promptly jumped from the shelf and rocked the jar of Complan. It fell to the ground, and shattered into a million pieces, spreading glass all over the kitchen floor and the hallway. Scared, he ran out of the kitchen, bolting the door, leaving behind a chocolaty mess, and a hissing stove.

About an hour later, his parents came home. His father went into the kitchen, and as he was walking barefoot he cut his foot on a small piece of broken glass. He recognized it to be of a bottle, and he asked him if he had been anywhere near the kitchen. He lied that he hadn't, that it probably was the kitten that broke the jar. The kitten stared at him, but didn't say anything. He gave a sigh of relief, as his father bought the story and went into the kitchen to see the extent of the damage. As he turned on the incandescent bulb, there was a huge blast, and a ball of fire swallowed his father. He screamed, but he couldn't hear anything. He saw a few charred remains of the kitchen, but couldn't recognize any of it. His mother came running, but it was too late. There was nothing left in the kitchen, except ash and smoke, and a lingering smell.

Two hours later, the firemen told his uncle that the fire was caused due to the LPG. His uncle asked him if he had been anywhere near the kitchen, and he lied again that he hadn't. But this time, he started sobbing, because he knew his father would not come back. His uncle picked him up in his arms, and took him to his Mother. She was sitting quietly, unmoving. The kitten was nowhere to be seen.

It was a few weeks before he went back to school after the incident. Before he left, he looked into his mother's eyes and made a promise. "Ma, I'm never going to lie again."

***

10 years later, he was coming home from a bar after having his first smoke. When he reached home, his mother smelt the cigarette smoke on him, and asked him if he'd been out smoking.

"No, Ma! I don't smoke," he said.

***

Image Courtesy danwk71