Friday, June 28, 2013

The Termite in the Wood

Jerry was lying on his bed, filled with dread and anticipation of what was coming. He hated it when his mother was away from home, not because he felt lonely, but because he would be left all alone with his stepfather. Light streaked into his room as the door opened and the big man entered. Instinctively, Jerry's legs folded upwards and he held them tightly in a fetal position. He was shivering. The big man came and sat beside Jerry's bed.

"Are you feeling cold, my boy?"

Jerry curled up even tighter.

"Don't worry, your mother will be home by tomorrow evening. Till then I will take good care of you."

He stroked Jerry's hair. The shivering increased as the hand moved slowly from the head to his back. He patted his back for several moments.

"Do you want to come with me into my room, boy?" he asked Jerry. A few tears rolled down Jerry's cheeks. The big man gently lifted the shivering child and took him to his room.


Robert let out a huge sigh of relief as he finished pitching the tent. It was a long hike through the hill and forest and they had reached the water hole at last after walking for close to five hours. 

Victor was a young and athletic man who could give any fitness freak a run for their money. Robert liked Victor ever since he had interviewed him for an analyst position for his finance company. This guy had a tremendous amount of confidence and energy. Robert had predicted that if Victor could channelize his passion and zeal properly, then he was sure to go places. Under Robert's mentoring, Victor blossomed into an asset for the firm and was now indispensable for them. Robert wanted to share some good news with Victor, but wanted to do it informally before making the actual public announcement. He invited Victor for a hiking cum hunting trip in this popular water-hole where he planned to break the news while gathering some good game.

Victor put down the tools and laid himself down on the cool ground of the forest.

"This is what I call a job well done, boss."

"That's what you get when you have the perfect blend of experience and youth."

"You call yourself old, boss? Sometimes I feel older than you." 

"Stop buttering me kid. You don't need to. I wanted to discuss something important with you. But before that get a couple of beers from the icebox first. Both of us can afford to relax now."

Victor went inside the tent where they had kept the icebox, and pulled out two cans of beer.

"So you said you wanted to discuss something important with me?" Victor asked as the liquid spread warmth in their bodies.

"Yes. What have you thought about your future Victor? Where do you want to go from here?" Robert asked.

"Well, as of now I don't feel like going anywhere away from this beautiful place. But once our stocks get over, I guess both of us will have to go back to the city."

"I was talking about your career, kid."

"I know, boss. I don't keep any long term plan, you know. As long as I can pay my bills and feed my family and enjoy the work I do, I guess I would be happy."

"What do you think about being a partner in the firm?"

"Are you kidding me boss? I have been with you for just six years. There are people who have been there longer."

"Yes, there are many more experience people. But none are as innovative or energetic as you. I don't want the company that I built to stagnate. I can only take it so far, I need someone who has the will and passion to take it even higher. And I think I know who that someone is."

"Woah. I mean, it really feels great that you feel like that, boss. If you think I can do it, then maybe I can. Cheers to you!"

"And another news is that the papers are all ready and signed back in the office. We just need to make the announcement. So, cheers to you!"

The beer cans clanged together.

"You know, boss, my mother would have been really proud. I miss her so much."

"Yes she would be. I can assure you that she is very proud of you right now, wherever she is. You never talk much about your family, do you? I mean in the past six years, this is the first time I have heard you talking about her. What about your father?"

"I lost my father when I was a little kid. My mother married another man after that. He is still living, but not for long."

"What do you mean? He's got some ailment or something?"

"No boss, he is pretty fit and fine."

Victor picked up a piece of wood lying next to him.

"You know, boss, wood has always fascinated me. I mean, this is a natural organic thing, but it still remains so strong even if the living thing it was a part of is long dead. And it remains strong until you allow it to remain strong."

"I can't see the point you are trying to make." Robert said.

"The point is, we are like this wood. We can remain strong even if the soul is dead. We still remain alive. But then we all have the termites inside us. These termites eat us from inside. They sap whatever strength we have left and leave us brittle."

"Is it you talking or the beer talking? I still don't understand what you are trying to say."

"It is neither Victor, nor the beer talking, boss. It is a little kid called Jerry, whose soul was ripped apart twenty five years back."

Robert looked at Victor with shock. But before he could say anything, the block of wood landed on his face and he fell unconscious.

When he regained consciousness, it was night and a bright moon was out. Robert's head hurt very bad from the blow. But that was not the only body part that was hurting him. He was tied to a tree and could not move. He looked down and found his groin filled with blood. There was a letter stuck to his thighs, and the moonlight enabled him to read it.

Dear Boss,

I hope you are feeling great. I hope I have made you as comfortable as you made me many years back. The Jerry in me died a long time back, thanks to you. I ran away from home that time so that Jerry could die and Victor could be born. By now you must have discovered that the tools you used to destroy Jerry have gone missing and it is all a bloody mass left there. I do hope that the animals of the forest like the taste of your blood. Your tools have been strategically placed to help them find their meal for the night.

Thank you so much for all the guidance that you have provided Victor, the result of which I am now a partner in the firm that YOU created. But a partner is someone who shares ownership with another person right? But what if the other person is lying in the belly of some wild animal? I guess the partner can become the owner.

Thank you for your faith in me. I hope I have returned you the favor.

As a parting note, if you ever get born again, which I definitely hope not, I hope that your soul remembers this lesson and does not become a termite for another Jerry.


Your once-upon-a-time stepson,

Note: This story is not fully original and is based somewhat on a short story titled "Triangle" written by Jefferey Deaver in his book "Twisted".

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I Was Only Having a Gulaab Jamun

So I just happened to take a look at my blog the other day, and found some fungus developing. Right now the stories for the blog have kind of taken a back seat since I am exploring another aspect, i.e converting the stories into a visual form. I have no idea if I can do a good or even a decent job for it, but I have always dreamed of trying it out one day. So while I try my hand at it, I just thought of sharing a small story/article I had written a few years back. Hopefully the point I want to make can go through.

Dear Ma,

I really miss you. I wanted to meet you so badly today, to share the news that I had topped my 5th standard class. I was so happy, and I know you would have been too. I wanted to hug you the moment I saw my report card. I felt like talking to you at that time, but I know we cannot afford a phone right now. I promised myself that I would, one day become a big man, someone successful and drive away our poverty. I would become a doctor/engineer and then you would not have to clean other people's houses or wash their dishes. I would build us a new house and you would live like a queen. I won't let Baba come inside the house. Let him go and drink himself to death. I would be big and I would stop him from hurting you anymore. We would be so happy, just you and me away from all worries and strife.

I was really happy Ma. Dinu got the second rank and we decided to go to have some sweets to celebrate. I know you had told me to come straight home Ma, but I was so happy that I really felt like eating something sweet and I knew that you would be tired after your chores to prepare something. I was also going to bring you some. I had saved all the pocket money you had managed to give me. We had gone to a mithai-wala near the railway station where there is always a crowd. You remember that place Ma? We had gone there to buy me new shoes when I had joined school. We were just eating Gulab Jamun Ma, me and Dinu. We weren't troubling anybody. Everybody was so happy. But then why???????

Why did they blast us Ma? I never hit them or took any of their stuff, then why did they take my life away from me? I just wanted to grow up and do something to make you proud. I wasn't going to hurt anybody. All my dreams have crashed and all your aspirations have gone with the smoke. What did we do to deserve such a fate Ma? Why was I killed when as you say, there are many bad people in this world who hurt others, why weren't they hurt or killed? All the people there looked happy. You always said God loves his children especially those who live happily and do not hurt others. God loved me when I got my report card, so why did he suddenly hate me when I was celebrating just that Ma?

I am sorry Ma. I am sorry because I did not listen to you and did not come straight home. I am sorry because I won't be now able to fulfill all those promises of happiness that I made to you. I am sorry because I won't be able to stop Baba when he hits you. Will you forgive me, Ma?

Yours lovingly,

One of the souls of the victims of 13/7/2011 blasts

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I Have a Dream!

I had a dream yesterday night.

It was dark and my both hands were tied to poles on either side. They were tied too tightly. I could not move them. My feet were bound together, so I could not move them either. It was a cold night and I was stark naked without any piece of cloth to cover any part of my body. I felt vulnerable. I was struggling with all the strength that I had, but it was of no use. And then they came....

I don't know who they were. They were fully covered in dark grey coats. I could not see their faces because they were covered in hoods. There were three of them menacingly coming towards me. I tried to scream, but one of them covered my mouth. They smelled bad. I had a sudden urge to vomit. The others started exploring my body, touching me where I did not want to be touched. I felt like a tiny pebble in the sea, rolling away with the wave, having no control over where I was going. They took a black cloth and blindfolded me. Now I could only feel their horrible presence, not see. One of them said that they can experiment on me. The others laughed, I could feel their happiness as any sense of control that was left in me was being taken away. They took a rod and inserted it in my rectum. I scream, but the scream never left my mouth. I was gagged. The rod went deeper, cutting through me as it went. My body was being damaged, why, I don't know. But it wasn't the bodily damage that hurt more. It was the feeling of helplessness where I wanted to resist but wasn't able to that was worse. 

I woke up suddenly with my face full of sweat and my heart beating very fast. It took me a while to realize that it was all a dream and that my body was still intact. A few gulps of water helped calm down my pulse and I slept again.

Now just this dream was enough to shake me up and make me write about it. But recently this ghastly dream was a reality to a poor girl in Delhi, the nation woke up, but very soon went back to sleep. After all who has the time to ponder upon the problems of the common man!

A few days back I was disturbed by the attention given by the media to the suicide case of the main accused in the infamous Delhi rape. A suicide by a self-confessed culprit woke up our so-called leaders to set up "inquiry" commission to look into these "security lapses". It is with great sadness that I note that a similar prompt action was lacking when a common human being was brutally raped and murdered. I won't even call it murder, it was much worse. I will equate this to the inhuman crimes committed by Nazis and Japanese military during WWII. Am I exaggerating?

Our media also conveniently forgets the main issues that need to be highlighted, and our news channels are now bombarded with discussions on whether Rahul Gandhi will remain a bachelor for the rest of his life. Has the media forgotten the power it has to change the nation? It did not forget this power when they brutally followed up the Jessica Lal murder case and proved to the country that even if witnesses turn hostile and powerful people are accused, our Judiciary can still work. Can we expect a similar commitment for a powerful anti-rape law that would enforce stricter punishments?

It is a fact that the law alone cannot change the attitude of the country. Only when each and every one of us pictures himself/herself as the victim, will the things take turn for the better. I read a very nice conversation on social media about a guy telling his female friend about his experience in a taxi ride which he shared with a homo-sexual male. The co-passenger was touching him in a manner which he felt uncomfortable. The female friend then calmly explained that that was what all women go through each and every day. Every man is either totally harmless or a potential rapist. 

In a way I feel it is good that the brave girl (aptly named Nirbhaya by our media) did not survive this ordeal. Consider the scenario if she had. The society would practically ostracize her for being a victim. Even if her family supported her, the society would make sure that she is reminded of her trauma each and every moment of her remaining life. This would keep going till either she turns mad or commits suicide. Nobody keeps reminding the culprit that he was a perverted loser who felt that this was the only way he could show that he was more powerful. Nobody refuses to hang out with the rapists after they have committed the crime. Sadly it is just the opposite with the victims.

Apart from this dream that shook me up, I have another dream which I dream every single moment. I dream that one day I would be able to walk any street in my country without fear of getting robbed or murdered. I dream that one day, everybody will realize that you receive only as much respect as you give, that life is too short to spend it hating anybody. I dream that one day, all of us would realize our true potential and achieve the greatness that has been long denied to us.

So at the end of another rant, I bid adieu to all those who managed to read till the end. May be one day we all would be truly safe and happy! 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Little Karen

Jane had woken up very early that day. After all, it was her Karen's first day at school and she wanted everything to be perfect. A single unmarried mother, Jane had come a long way since her boyfriend abandoned her after she was pregnant. Outcast from her family, she had to fend for herself, and for her child. The world is a harsh place for anybody to live on their own, and being a pregnant woman, Jane had learnt it the hard way. And she had fought the odds and won. Taking care of Karen along with doing the odd jobs for survival had robbed Jane of her youth, but she had no regrets. The faintest smile and the smallest chuckle from her little daughter was more than sufficient to drown all the weariness that she felt. They had carved their own lives together, Jane and Karen. A little world for themselves which none of the wolves outside could penetrate. 

No, she wasn't going to let the bad memories of the days gone by to spoil this day. Her Karen had now grown up and would be taking her first step into the outside world without her mother for the first time. Nothing should spoil this day, for this was their day. Karen was very excited about going to school. Since Jane kept Karen with herself most of the time, Karen didn't really have many friends of her own. She was looking forward to meeting other people of her age and making friends. 

As she readied Karen for her big day, Jane marveled at her creation. Hardly a few years ago, she would not have thought this to be possible. Some days she had to go without food which was very hard to get considering her meagre income. There was this constant fear that they would not survive their ordeal. The nagging guilt that she was not able to provide her daughter with the basic necessities in the most formative years of her life. But the bad time had passed. From crashing at one friend's place to another, now they had rented their own little apartment, a home they could call their own. Jane had a steady job which paid her enough to live comfortably. She had finally proved to the big bad world, and more so to herself, that she could survive on her own. That a single woman outcast by her own society could survive, and survive well.

Jane walked with Karen the small distance between their home and the school. Karen held her mother's finger with her tiny hand and walked along. The excitement was apparent in her footsteps. Her eyes were brightly lit up and she was looking forward to meeting new people. The air was cool, the sun was out and it was a perfect day. Jane looked down at her chirpy daughter and a tear went down her cheek. Maybe this is what happiness really was.

They stood together outside the classroom. It was finally time to say goodbye for a few hours. For the very first time, Karen would be without her mother or any familiar face for a few hours. As the excited Karen let go of her mother's hand, Jane felt an emptiness around her. Would her child be alright without her looking over? More so, would Jane be able to manage without those tiny fingers curled around her finger? Suddenly she did not want Karen to leave. School can wait a few months more. 

The teacher came over to Jane and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"She would be just fine. Don't you worry." said the teacher.

Going against her maternal instincts, Jane turned around and walked out. The tears were increasingly becoming uncontrollable. This was not correct she felt. Something was terribly wrong. Her heart pulled her back, but the brain urged her to walk away. Is she old enough to be on her own, albeit for a few hours?

The weather had changed. It was cloudy outside now. There was a gloomy feel to the entire climate. It was just not right. Wasn't this supposed to be her happiest day? Even the weather gods weren't helping cheer her up. There was a loud clap of thunder. It sounded more like a gun-shot. Then there was another, and somehow the clouds were all too excited. Too many thunders all around. Or were they really thunders? Why was it not raining when there were so many thunders. Did thunders really sound so much like gun fire?

Jane turned around and looked back at the school. All she saw were screaming children running  out in total chaos. She yelled Karen's name and ran towards the building but strong hands held her back, not letting her go to her Karen and rescue her.

"Control yourself Jane, let us get you inside now." someone said.

But Jane was not going to relent so easily. Her Karen was in grave danger.

"Come on Jane, it's about to rain now. The time for outdoor activity is over." they repeated.

The two pairs of strong hands lifted her off the ground and carried her inside the building. The mental health care facility was a big place and they had to walk for several minutes till they reached her room where she was sedated and allowed to sleep. Next to her bed, on the table was a newspaper clipping which read 

"Twenty children and six adult staff members killed in a shooting incident.  A twenty year old man carrying a gun trespassed into the school premises and began shooting randomly .................. "