FICTION


 

Hi. Thank you for calling Nevostele Bank, this is Roger. How may I help you ?

Yes, I am trying to transfer money online to my account with another bank, but I am repeatedly getting this message … …

Ranjan was no longer paying attention to the rest of the words the lady at the other end of the phone was saying. It had been so many years since he had last heard that voice. But he knew he would never make a mistake with recognising it. A million bees were buzzing in his head, creating countless drops of sweet, honey filled memories

In just those few seconds, Ranjan vividly recalled many many days and events of a three year period of his college life. A period that was now eleven years into the past.

What he really wanted to do right now was interrupt the caller and ask “Ninu, Tu Kaisi hai ?” ( Ninu, How are you ? )

….. ………. ……………. ……………………

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Prabhakaran Kurup was sitting on the East verandah of his palatial mansion, reading the editorial page of the Financial Express. This had been his afternoon routine since many years now. He enjoyed his tea, along with keeping up to date with what was happening in the world of business. The breeze coming across the small pond made it all the more worthwhile.

The three people walked up from the southern end of the verandah. They came near his chair, and waited. A few moments later, Kurup looked up.

The one with the long grey hair looked at Kurup and nodded.
“Shall we go, Prabhakaran ?”
“Is it time already ? I still have a few things that I need to take care of”
“You have taken care of almost everything. You can relax now. Let others do their bit”

With a slight reluctance, Kurup got up. All four of them walked along the verandah, going into the house through the entrance near the prayer room. Just before going inside, Kurup looked back at the chair and smiled.

[Five hours later …]

Good Evening, and welcome to News at 8. I am Nazneen. The king of the Indian publishing industry, Prabhakaran Kurup passed away today afternoon.
He was found dead in a chair on the verandah, at his house in Delhi. The cause of death has been declared as natural. He was 86. He is survived by his wife, three children, five grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and his extended family of around 3,000 employees all over the world. … …

Sitting on the bench, Dinesh thought to himself about how, after all these years, somethings were still the same here – the wooden benches, the swings & the slides for children to play, the open playground, the cement stage at the end of the ground – which was used by the town’s amateur theatre group. Dinesh went back to his school days – the cricket matches played on this ground, the annual Fair that used to be held here every Diwali, the plays staged by the local youths on clear December nights. He still clearly remembered the many summer afternoons that he spent lazing on the wooden benches under the big old shed, with his favourite comic-books for company. Those days, he could see his house from his vantage point on the bench. And his mother would always call out from the kitchen window, when it was time for him to go home.

Then, there were not many houses or buildings around. Now, the open plot of land was surrounded by new constructions on all sides. On one side was a group of  mansions. The other sides had multi-storey apartment complexes, with their high balconies looking down on the ground.

The only reason this plot had not been grabbed by any of the builders was because it was still at the centre of a legal dispute between the Desai family and the State Government. Both claimed ownership of the land, and their battle had been moving around from court to court – without any end in sight. The case had originally been filed by the Government against Maneklal Desai, when he had tried to sell the piece of land to a builder. Now, after his death, his son Vinesh was fighting to get back what he believed belonged to his father.

Dad, who threw the ball higher ? Didn’t my throw go higher than Sumod’s ? You have to decide now
Dinesh was brought back to the present by Pramod’s question. His seven year old twins were playing catch in the grass. He and his family had come down from Bangalore for two weeks, as the children had their summer vacations.

Since his mother was not keeping well, Dinesh did not want her to live alone any more. He had convinced her to come & live with them in Bangalore. Once his mother moved in with them, he was not sure when he would come back again, to visit his old home.

In the last 38 years, this playground had not changed at all. Dinesh hoped that the next time he came here, it would still be the same. He had so many wonderful childhood memories here.

He did not want to see a multi-storey apartment complex built on top of his memories.

THE   JUKEBOX   —  a  short  story

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He parked his car, checked his mailbox and opened the door to his house. He had been away from home for two days, catching up with an old friend and ‘colleague’ after a long time.

In all these years, Nick had never come home to a sloshy & wet carpet. And, he was certain that it had not rained in town for the last two months. After the door had closed behind him, he could now hear the water running. He hurriedly plopped over to the kitchen, where he saw the waterfall cascading over the edge of the sink. After he turned off the water, he got ready to appraise himself with the scale of the disaster.

He vaguely remembered some local rumor about a gang of robbers recently operating in the neighbourhood, who called themselves the ‘Wet Bandits’ – named after a similar gang from a hit 90s comedy movie

The 40″ LCD TV, the BOSE audio system, the three paintings that he had recently procured at an art auction – it was all gone. He opened the closet to check if the 3-CD changer mini-jukebox that he had been working on for a VIP client was still there. It had been taken too !!

Nick Gray was never a person to lose his temper. He always knew to remain calm in the worst of situations. It was a requirement in his line of work.

Even now, he knew that all his week’s worth of hard work had been wiped out by these petty crooks who had taken the jukebox. But it was all right. His client was paying him more than enough, and he could afford to work another week to make a similar box.

He sat down and opened his laptop. On his GPS tracking application, Nick saw a blue dot moving west along the I-40 highway. He took out a radio-like gadget from a box, extended up its antenna and after a brief pause, pressed the big button at the center. A second later, the blue dot disappeared from the screen.

The next day, Nick did not get a chance to watch the local TV news channel. On the morning news, they had mentioned a strange accident. An allegedly stolen sports car had suddenly blown up in a huge explosion, as it was travelling along an interstate highway.

 THE  DESCENT  –  a  short  story

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I stood right next to her, taking in the splendid view of the city nightlights. It was an amazing sight, and I was going to follow it now with an amazing moment. We both were standing in one corner of the open-air restaurant, at the top of the 40-storey high Crescendo Towers. It was one of the few tall buildings the city had. From there, Nicole & I could see almost the entire city.

I had been waiting for this day for almost three months now. Today was the day I was going to ask her the question. I was almost certain her answer would be ‘Yes’. I had known Nicole for more than three years now.

Without letting her know, I tried to get the small jeweller’s box out of my trouser pocket. The waiter with the sizzlers tray rushed past me, brushing my hand. My arm jerked from the impact. The box went flying over the  railing. The next second I had caught the box with my outstretched hand.

In hindsight, I don’t know if it was pure reflex action that caused me to jump and reach out for the box. Or was it the subconscious knowledge that I had spent a huge chunk of my savings on that exquisite diamond ring. Whatever be the reason, the result of that action was that I descended those 40 floors much faster than anyone would ever want to.

After that incident, I would give anything just to let her know that I love her immensely, that I want to marry her, that I want the two of us to live in our own big lake-side house, along with the four kids that we planned to have.

Here I am now, sitting right next to her, in her father’s car. He is taking her home.

If only Nicole could see me or hear me.

                                                                               

He suddenly woke up, shaking like a leaf. In the little light coming in through the window, he looked around the room. The room seemed very unfamiliar. This was not the room that he usually slept in. It added to the craziness of the dream that had jolted him out of a sleepful state.

Mohit had dreamt about a car crashing over the edge, going off one of the twisting-turning roads in the Western Ghats, somewhere in Maharashtra. He had seen it very clearly. In the dwindling evening light, a maroon car was toppling down a ravine. He could not see who was inside the vehicle, but he could hear a man’s screams, as the car took the man down to what seemed would be a fatal fall. At the top of the hill, another car, that was until now parked by the side of the road, drove away towards the junction where it could get on to the expressway.
And then, in a flash, Mohit saw inside the car, which was now lying on its side, on the floor of the valley. The shock of seeing his own face on a corpse had woken him.

He was now in a decently sized bedroom. He could not remember how or when he got there. There was some other furniture in the room. There were two closed doors. He walked in the dark, towards the smaller door, at the opposite end from where the bed was. When he opened it, he could make out, in the faint light, that it was a bathroom. He fumbled on the wall for a light switch.

When the light came on, he glanced at the mirror, more out of an habit formed over the last 30 years. What he saw in the mirror almost had him fall back against the wall. 
The face staring back at him was not his !!!

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~~~  THE PACKAGE  ~~~    … a short story

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She opened the door to pick the package. It was not there. This was surprising. In the past so many years, Warren had never missed a delivery, or even been late.

Nicole rarely met Warren or talked to him. He came without a sound, dropped the package and left. Nicole always found it at the proper place, when she checked. Today things were different. As she went inside and closed the door, Nicole wondered if something was wrong.

She knew that Uncle Greg would want his dose of ‘camellia assamica’ very soon – he was an addict. If Greg did not get it on time, he would start getting agitated.

Every two minutes, Nicole peeked through the curtains to see if Warren had come. After aproximately ten more minutes, she heaved a sigh of relief as she saw Warren’s vehicle turn round the far end of the street. As soon as Warren had done the delivery & left, she collected the package.

She was glad that her Uncle had not yet woken up and not noticed the delay.
Nicole hurried to the kitchen with the two bottles, and put the kettle on the stove.

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