Monday, June 13, 2011

A Tragic Death Story

Aman finally broke down when he visited his school teachers home. When he was in 8th class, one Tuesday, he came to school only to realize that he left his homework copy at his desk. Mr. Neeraj Pandey, his English teacher was one furious man. When Aman could not produce his homework, he took his stick, broken off from a bamboo tree and hit him 3 on each palm. Usually Aman would not say a word, afraid that he might get more punishment. After the class he would just yell at Shekhar, who was the class monitor and in charge of bringing sticks. Rascal would never ever say that he did not find a stick. He always gets one and always a good one. He was brilliant at studies and must have something against the rest of the class. Probably his ego was too big and had no heart. But today was a different day; Aman had done his homework and missed the copy. When teacher went to Shekhar and he produced his homework, neat, correct and perfectly done, the teacher could not stop praising his sincerity. He looked towards other students in contempt, a contempt that meant that they were all worthless. When the teacher took his eyes towards Aman while preaching the class about learning from the attitude and hard work of the topper of the class, Aman could not keep it.
"Sir I did do homework. I just forget my notebook. You don't need to praise him so much."

No one ever dared to speak up straight against Mr. Neeraj's authority. He came all enraged towards Aman and slapped him so hard, the sound echoed from the walls. When he lifted his hands again, Aman grabbed him and slapped back as hard as he could and he did not stop. He kept beating his teacher up. But it was almost like the scene when elder and younger brother fight over an argument and the elder always beats the younger one up. When Aman found that he was terribly overpowered and Mr. Neeraj had been insulted enough, he just ran away. Aman was suspended for 15 days. It was his father's repeated requests, almost begging the Principal not to put him out of school that saved him a year. He also had to apologize to the English teacher. Aman, however, also had to say "Sorry." after being forced and threatened by his father and the Principal of the school. Next year Aman was admitted to a different school but he did not do well in studies after the incident. His anger destroyed his education.

15 years had passed since the incident. Who remembers such a thing after 15 years? After all, things like this do happen in all schools where students are vulnerable to punishments. But why was Aman at Mr. Neeraj's home today? Has revenge brought him back? Does he still blame his teacher for loss in his career?
When the door opened, a fragile man came out, wearing his glasses trying to recognize the face in front of him. Mr. Neeraj had grown more than his age. Seeing a healthy man in mid-thirties, he thought, probably would be there to collect some bills or collect donation money for some charity.
"Who are you?"
"Aman."
"Aman who?"
"Do you remember having rough time in the school in 1988?"

Mr. Neeraj thought for a while. An old man going back in time, counting tragedies that every year had brought, it takes a while to go 15 years back. When his memories did reach the year 1988, his mouth was left open in fear and in anger.

Why was Aman here? He must be here today to show that he did become a big man without his English teachings after all. What a fool! How big his ego must be to come back years later for that? Or is he here for revenge?

"What do you want?" the bitterness and agony of 15 years came stronger in his voice than his thoughts.
"I just want to talk sir. There is something I want to say. Can I come in?"
Pretty dare thing to ask an enraged and bitter old man. He did not want to but Mr. Neeraj had no choice, he did let him in. Servant brought water for them and soon came back with tea. The old man was cursing his servant for not knowing how to treat guests and shameless people like the one sitting right there.
"So how have you been? How is life?"
"It is good sir."
"I heard from Shekhar that you managed to get a diploma."
"Yes sir."
"So did you get a job too?"
"I did get a job but then I left it only recently."
Must have been fired, Mr. Neeraj thought, sipping his tea with utmost pleasure while listening to his ruined life.
"What did you do?" He asked without showing much interest, apparently.
"I worked as a draftsman."
"How much did you get?"
"Rs. 3000 per month sir."

Who would pay you more than that? The old man's soul was getting satisfied by the misery of his own student.

"Good." He said viciously.
"How are you sir?" Aman asked politely. The soft tone almost touched old man's heart. He retreated and replied with his firm voice.
"How would an old man be? I am good. Waiting to die you know. I wish I had more students like you to teach." He said contemptuously but Aman did not seem to feel bad.
"How is madam sir?"

It almost came as a shock to him. Was he trying to hurt him by asking such a question? Did he not know that they divorced long ago?

"We are separated, Aman." He wanted to sound bitter but the feeling of loneliness curbed him.
"Oh I’m sorry sir."

As if you are really sorry raising such a question only to make me feel bad. The old man was indeed feeling sad at being separated and felt it was cruel to have been asked about it. But he also knew it was his anger that drove his wife and his children away but right now he wanted to be angry and the conflict made him restless. He was about to say that he has some work to attend to and it was nice meeting him when it occurred to him to ask about the visit.

"So Aman why did you come to meet me after all these years? Any work you have got?"
"No sir."
He waited for Aman to speak but he didn't, so he just added
"Okay."

He waited getting more and more uncomfortable and impatient with the silence that held them, when Aman broke.
"Sir, I am here to apologize for what I did."

So his life did teach him a lesson. Mr. Neeraj felt proud now. He felt triumphed and viciously happy more than he had been in many, many years. As more tears fell from Aman's eyes, more satisfied did he feel. But Aman did not stop, his tearful silence turned into sobbing and then into inconsolable gasps.

The old man's arrogance immediately melted like candle wax and he took him in his weak, shivering arms.

"It was long ago Aman, forget it. Don't feel so bad. You had said sorry even then."
"No sir I mean it this time."
He clutched his teachers arms and said,
"Sir, I made a mess of my life after the incident. I did not care about anything. I became arrogant, careless and rude. I saw myself getting destroyed everyday but my anger did not let me save myself."

Yes indeed that must have happened. The old man had seen such people all his life. They regret for what happened but never change. It appears to be one such hopeless case. What a waste!

"And Sir I then became lethargic, oblivious and opposed to everything. I blamed you for everything that had happened and never tried to get up. Later I used you as an excuse for making my life miserable...until...until one day when I fell sick."
"What happened Aman?"
"I was suddenly afraid of things..."
"Why?"
"I suffered from flu and I became violent. Doctor said it was depression but it felt different. I got treatment for everything but my condition was growing weird and I suffered from terrible headache."
"What has happened to you Aman?" Suddenly the old man got nervous and concerned with his situation. After all he was his student once and he did like his hard work while in school even when he had only once managed to beat Shekhar.
"When everything failed, my parents took me to tantrics to get rid of the evil spirits from me but even then things did not improve. At last my uncle forced us to try at AIIMS and give one more chance to doctors. They admitted me for 3 weeks. They tell me I am no good sir. I have got a disease called rabies sir. They tell me I will die like a dog. May be I deserve it sir." The last sentence pinched Mr. Neeraj so hard that he drowned in guilt of the pride he felt earlier. How wicked human mind could be? How cruel life could be? He looks like such a fine young man and is about to die! Why? Why it has to be so?
"Sir I wanted to say sorry for everything I did. I could not have died with so much guilt in me." The English teacher started crying.
"Sir I just came to confess that I always felt bad for what I did but still blamed you all my life. Only when I saw my end did I realize that I had no time to blame and whatever life I had, I wasted it all...But I feel better now. I feel lighter now sir. I am thankful you did not shrug me off from the door."
"No son I did you wrong. You don't have to be sorry for anything."

The old man could not stop his tears. Even when it was his student who needed courage for his very last days, he could not offer him even that. He tried to be strong to tell him that he did not hate him so much, that he loved him in school, that sometimes he really wished that the unfortunate wrestle would not have happened, that he sometimes even thought about him and wished that he do good in life... But it all seemed to be futile now. It seemed to be too late.

And the thought of it broke him even more. He could not help himself over it as he escorted Aman to his father who had come to pick him up. Teary eyed, he wished Aman peace for the rest of the days.

The English teacher was the last person Aman had to meet. Everyone he met- his friends, relatives, chai walah, people who did not know him, cried. But he did not expect the old man to be so weak too. He always seemed to be such a strong man in class. May be life and loneliness from separation had torn him apart.

2 months later Aman died a death of dog, chained to the hospital bed, hallucinating, partially paralysed, salivating and afraid of everything. He had lost himself; he was no more a human being. The disease had completely consumed him. Life did not spare him, neither did death. But at the very last moment, before dying, when he saw his teacher, his best friends, his parents around, his eyes did speak out loud; he really wished he had a better life.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Magical Drink

One day the king and queen of Satpura province decided to go for hunting. Early in the morning they left towards jungle with artillery weapons, food, water and a group of ten soldiers.
A long time passed but they did not find any animal in the jungle. It disappointed the king and the queen. So after lunch they decided to go a little further but asked the soldiers to stay there and wait for them until they return.
As they moved ahead the jungle got darker and darker. The queen spotted a deer wandering behind the bushes. They started following it carefully watching their path from stepping over snake or scorpions. Near a small pond amid big sal trees the deer stopped to drink water, when the king decided to hunt him. As he shot the arrow the deer turned into a big evil ghost who angrily turned towards the king,
“You have enraged me. Now I’ll eat you both.”
Stories of a ghost in the jungles of Satpura were known from quite a long time. He had tricked and killed many innocent people before also. So the king decided to fight with him. The brave king, with his bows and arrows wounded the ghost but before running away he sneezed on the king and queen and due to his poisonous saliva they fell sick.
They returned to the kingdom weak and tired. Day by day their condition worsened. All the doctors of the kingdom were summoned but none could treat them and the wounded angry ghost had started to haunt and target the villagers near the jungle.
Worried, the king called his guru for help. The Guru said,
“In the Himalayan mountains lives a Dadi, she knows many magical drinks that could treat the king and queen.”
So the king and the queen went to the Himalayas and asked Dadi for help. Dadi asked the king to tell the whole incident, the colour and smell of the poisonous saliva and about the sickness. Then she thought for a while and said,
“I have one magical drink that can treat you both.”
She went into the kitchen and brought back a white drink. She asked the king and queen to stay there in her hut and drink it every day to get well soon. After a week the king and queen regained their strength. To express his gratitude, the king brought fruits for her, repaired her hut and promised to visit and take care of her. With her blessings they returned to the Satpura kingdom.
Next day the king chased and captured the ghost haunting the villagers and killed him with his strength. He went back to thank Dadi and praised the white drink which later came to be known as milk.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

She Is Alone

The house to the west of Saket Garden was hardly ever lively. Tainted paint and texture of water leakage on the walls of building resembled to the poorly managed college hostels. Its second floor was one of those places which always seem to be deserted. No one lives and no one cares. Windows remained closed, no one ever came to its balcony and there was never a sound. But when you look at it, a tinge of curiosity prevails on your face. No one likes emptiness; no one has to be so lonely. Not even this floor. The curiosity to know was eating Sohit up, day and night, for the past one month. Since he had shifted to the building across the road he could not ignore it.

Once he invited his local friend Shanu and asked her about it but she did not seem to care either. It must be one of those unoccupied apartments in the area, she said. This did not answer Sohit's questions at all. But did he know the questions himself? He had an increasingly growing urge to discover something about it. The feeling was almost burning him from inside. He has to find out about it on his own or his thoughts will eat him alive. For some reason he was suspicious and fearful of what he may find. So he decided to make paper chits of the days from Monday to Sunday and then lift one randomly. Thursday it came and that was it! He left the consequences to fate.

On Thursday morning it rained so he postponed his quest till evening. He had waited weeks for this day and not being able to go there proved to be terribly unsettling. He could not finish his lunch. He almost felt choked inside. The unknown fear was driving him crazy. Was there something that was trying to stop him from going? Is it really empty? Is it a ghost house? Is there someone dead inside? Not able to contain the puzzling outbursts, he left for the building in the afternoon itself. The door to the apartment was closed. He raised his hand and as he was about to knock, he stopped and decided against it. He went up and knocked on the apartment on the third floor. No one answered. He went down and knocked on the apartment on ground floor. To add to his fears, no one answered there either. He returned to his room as soon as he could.

That night, the lights on the second floor were lit. The windows still remained closed. There was no vehicle in the parking of the building. Sohit had asked his retail shop person about the building and he had said that everyone went home on vacations. He avoided asking anything particular to the second floor. He did not really care about the rest of the people living there. Something had got him obsessed with that particular floor only. Having no clue what to do, he did not dare to go there again.

One week later a boy came to his apartment and said that someone has asked for him from across the building. It was evening, Sohit turned towards the building and the lights only on second floor were lit. The day has come he said. He let the boy go and went towards the building as calmly as he could. As he started climbing the stairs, his steps turned heavy, his breath began to burden. He stopped for a while to let his heartbeats get normal but heard someone coming up so continued to climb thinking that he would wait for a few minutes outside the apartment. When he reached the second floor, the door was open. He was surprised but had no choice except to carry on with his fears. Trembling, as he entered from the door, he felt like submitting himself in the hands of doom. He was taken aback with what he saw! The room was filled with photographs of French girls, Switzerland, London, ocean line, forests and portraits. When no one came for a while he thought of stepping outside and waiting there but spent a few more minutes looking over pictures and the expensive decoration in the room. As he turned back to move out, he almost screamed! A girl was standing right behind him.

“Hi!” she said.
“Hi!” he was still trying to catch his breath.

"I was alone and was thinking of inviting someone then this boy told me that you are new in the vicinity. So..."

Sohit stopped listening. "But that happens only in movies!" he said to himself. He was still trying to feel normal

"It’s so kind of you to do that. Thanks!" he said.
“Would you like to give me company for some time? I was waiting for my friends but they are all busy and I don’t like to be lonely. I would appreciate if you could stay for a while. Is that okay with you?” she said in her soft persuasive tone.

“Sure. I was lonely as well.” Sohit was having the best day of his life. A beautiful girl was willing to spend the evening with him. What more could he ask?

"Well that’s just great! I am a photographer…” She quickly interrupted herself and said “Oh! Let’s talk over coffee."

She led him to her drawing room which looked more like a bed room and went to make some coffee.

"Is this happening for real?" “First day and she is showing me her bedroom.” Sohit thought.
Wild imaginations filled his head. He was stupid to have kept himself afraid and away when such a sexy and friendly girl was living right in front of his building. The throwing of chits made him feel even more stupid. He carefully looked at the pictures, music collection, curtains, yellow lights that glowed behind the windows and...

She came and immediately started talking.
"So I had this idea of capturing people's life in fragments, you know? They would be like real puzzles."

Then she showed him the lives of the people she had captured. Not everything seemed to be related. Some photographs were particularly disturbing, others simply hilarious.

"The idea is quite intriguing. I never saw things this way."

"Exactly! Do you like to see it this way?"

"I am not sure." Sohit could not make out most of what she was talking and wasn't sure how she was taking him. Frankly speaking he never had an intellectual sort of conversation with a girl before. And this seemed to be going too tangled to make a meaning out of it. This was her bed room and she certainly has called him for some reason but to talk about her hobbies.

She probably read his mind and said, "Tell me something weird about you."

That is the way it outta go boy! Sohit was in the ninth cloud of wildest imaginations.

"Well, I like thinking about people I have never met, never seen and never heard of." Fitted perfectly to the present case he thought proudly.

"And what about people you have met?"
For the first time in life, he was having a naughty feeling about how this might end. He was behaving quite unlike himself he secretly accepted.

Their conversation slowly progressed and became quite intimate. There was nothing they did not talk about dating, love, one night stands, and occasional pleasures. Amongst all love was their most hated topic and neither talked much about it. Both agreed that it is just a concept and one should only believe in living in the present moment.

They had dinner together at a fine restaurant near the garden and on the way back she moved slowly. Sohit had heard of people meeting in clubs and discs, who end up on beds. He believed them to be mere stories but now he was expecting to be part of one of those stories. As they reached near her building, she turned towards him and said good bye. Well this was not what Sohit expected to happen all of a sudden and he had to resist all his temptation to ask for some more time. It wasn't a good idea to be all demanding and desperate on the very first day you meet someone. So he also waved her good night. “She is gonna be around”, he said to himself and grinned.

Returning to his apartment, he was the happiest man alive on the planet. He could scream, run madly, sing songs, say anything to anyone, jump; he even thought he could fly if he let go from the top of building. His happiness had more signs of desperation than satisfaction.

“What was her name?” he suddenly asked himself. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” he refrained and cursed on his stupidity. He stood there for a while thinking about going back to her. It makes perfect sense to go back saying he forgot to ask her name. “That doesn’t sound like a pretext.” he made himself believe. But then he continued moving. May be she didn’t tell the name on purpose. May be she wants him to return to her at night. He enjoyed the thought of it, as he kept moving to his apartment.

On his way up, there were marks of footsteps on the stairs. Probably people had come to meet him. May be Shanu was here to leave some message. When he reached on his floor open lock was hanging on the door. God, he was so stupid to even forget locking the door properly! When he entered from the door he was shocked by the view. His apartment had been robbed and thrashed! There were just papers and broken pieces of furniture all over the place. What should he do now? For a moment he even felt that it would be an opportunity to go to the girl next building and ask her to let him stay there tonight. He felt stupid, poor, robbed but secretly proud as well. Anyways he needed some help to deal with the situation and immediately went to the girl’s apartment.

Having a sorrowful and helpless face, he reached to the second floor of the next building. The door was still open. She was indeed expecting him. He thought about how he would tell her about robbery, ask her for help, she might say it happened because of her which he would deny, probably will go to police station with her for reporting the theft and then stay at her apartment at night. He entered confidently, with mixed feelings, and as he did,

“Damn!”

There was not a piece of belonging left in the apartment!
She was alone and she had robbed them both!

“What was her name again?” he said and kicked himself as hardly as he could.