Saturday, October 20, 2012

Happily Ever After (#1023-3)

11:30 PM, a cold winter New Delhi night, five days after marriage the couple was engaged in what a couple is most likely to be engaged in five days after the marriage, 11:30 AM or 11:30 PM, no matter what the reading on the thermometer. If sex was a book then they had just turned the page on the second chapter. You'd ask how many chapters in the book? Let me tell you that this is a question even they were searching an answer for. Just as they turned that page there was a loud thud on the door followed by couple of moments of silence followed by another thud, louder than the first one.

They got married on a Sunday. He could not take off from work and joined his work the very next day. The thirty minute drive back home seemed like a thirty hours one. He would play a mellow number at a low volume and let his mind wander playing out wild images hoping that the night would bring success. He was extremely happy that he had found her. It was love. The couple had met for the first time four months ago in a family setting and he was enchanted from the very first day. The silver work on her bright blue saree shined making different patterns when she moved. He could not get his mind of her neck. He had never seen a neck, as beautiful and slender as that. He had always wanted to marry a working girl but one meeting changed it all. Love-at-first-sight is like liquor, it brings about who you really are, underneath that cloak.

The door was getting hammered. It was as if someone was banging it with a battering ram every millisecond with tremendous force. She jumped out of the bed and rushed towards the door. The door and the hinges produced a scary music that they had gotten used to over the last five days. As soon as she approached the shaking door, everything went quiet, as if there was a vacuum around the door. He came from behind and opened the door. Thin air greeted them. She crashed on the floor and began to cry. "I am cursed." she howled. He closed the door and caressed her hair. "The time has come for me to tell you a secret." she said.

The five days had been miserable. Every time they had tried to come close the door began its act. The door had become a solid wall between the two of them. It would start to shake crazy just before they tried to kiss. As soon as they brought their lips close, the door would start crying. It would wail like a wild chained elephant trying to break free. It made the floor beneath them shake. They tried it in every hour of the day and every room in their little house but the door was always awake. They tried but it was impossible to continue with the act and ignore the house-quake.

"It is not the first time that this is happening." she said sobbing. "I had met someone in my college. Once I was with him in his small hostel room. Someone started banging on the door just when we were about to kiss. He opened the door but there was no one to be seen. This continued for three hours. As long as we sat far from each other everything was OK but the whole ground started to shake when we made a move. He was so scared that we never met after that."
"I will take care of whatever this thing is. Come with me." he said. He drove to the Noida
Express highway, found a secluded place and parked the car. He took the seat belt off, held her hand and bent towards her with parted lips. The car gave a jerk. He fell to his right and banged his head on the glass. After one more failed attempt in the car, he drove desperately towards the Radisson hotel and got a room. The door shook hard this time, a display of frightful anger, so hard that the table lamp crashed. The frustration was painted on their faces. She kept crying but he sat down thinking. He was not going to give it up so easily. "I have an idea. Come, let’s go." he said.

"I know it's difficult but this is the only choice we have. Once we have made it, the curse will be broken." he said. They were standing in the middle of a huge farm land. They had driven for one hour towards Agra and had walked for thirty minutes after that. They were sure that there wasn't any human in one square kilometer radius. It was a full moon light. She nodded.

"Are you sure you want to do this and cause agony to hundreds?" a manly voice emerged from somewhere. They looked around shocked. A figure dressed in black overcoat and hat approach them. They held each other’s hand tight. "I don't want to trigger an earthquake and kill innocents."
She screamed with fear when she realized that the figure had no face. The hat was floating in the air above the overcoat and there was thin smoke where a face should have been. "Don't worry love. I won't hurt you." the smoke said. He took a step back. "Don't be scared. I won't harm you either."
"Who are you?" he asked.
"That’s not important. What you need to know is that I love her. I have chased her since the day she was born. Take good care of her. I need her virgin. She’d be mine when the time comes."

"You are a monster, a ghost. I'll never be yours. I'd rather die." she screamed. She got rid of his hand and started to run. "Listen." the smoke said standing its ground. The husband ran after her. She sprinted in a random direction, saw a well and jumped into it.

"What was the hurry? I was ready to wait." the smoke sighed. They lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Metro (#1023-2)

The boy stood on the edge of the street and waited impatiently for the traffic signal to change. The Botanical Garden Metro station was straight in front of him. He looked at his cheap ten year old wrist watch, the numbers barely visible, 8:27 AM. He was not going to make it. He looked to his left, an assortment of vehicles moving gingerly. Cars, motorbikes, rickshaws, bicycles, hand-pulled carts, a bus, top it up with an early morning chaos. To hell with it. He jumped onto the road and ran to the other side. He was confident that he would achieve the feat without a scratch and the only thing that would probably hurt is his ears. As expected, there was a flurry of honks as he sped his way through. Someone lowered his car window and screamed some not so very nice words. He couldn't care less. He would take those honks and the foul words over Girdhaari Laal's outburst, any day. He reached the other side of the road and kept on running. He made his way through the early morning rush and got to the stairs. He ran up, breathing hard, hearing his own heartbeat. He got to the platform, looked at the train that must have arrived a few seconds ago and rushed towards the closing doors. 8:31 AM. He made a sigh of relief after having timed his run to perfection.

A drop of sweat trickled down his neck. The number of years that he had travelled from that station to his workplace, Karol Bagh, ensured that he exactly knew the cut-off time for him to get onto the train and still reach the shop on time. He worked as a clerk in a jewelry shop. His job was to serve tea, coffee, and cold drinks to the customers, whatever they preferred. Usually he would get in early to account for any disruptions, that day was not one of those. He prayed for a smooth ride or else he knew that he would be praying for his balls. Even one second of a delay and Girdhaari would chop them into pieces. The train stopped at the next station, Noida sector-18. A small group of people rushed in and pushed him towards the center. He turned around and bumped into someone. He couldn’t believe what he saw.

Standing in front of him, holding the handrail, head down, eyes fixated to a point on the floor was his master, Seth Girdhaari Laal, the gold jeweler. Girdhaari didn't look up. He shuddered, the usual effect of Girdhaari's presence. How could he be here at this hour of the day? He used to live in a posh house close to the shop. He rubbed his eyes. There was no mistaking that it was his ruthless master. What was he doing in the Metro rail? Girdhaari hated public transport. Hate was an understatement. He detested the sheer idea of it. "How can you commute in a Metro? Isn't it disgusting?" he often asked him. "The thought of hundreds of men and women hoarded in a compartment, random foul smelling bodies rubbing against each other, the stink of sweat all around. Can you even breathe inside? How can you travel in that shit hole?"
"Maalik, what choice do the poor have?" he always responded.

He took a couple of steps back and observed Girdhaari. A cream colored kurta, hairy chest, white pyjama, brown colored sandals, oily hair, heavy duty gold's bracelet and two necklaces. He was the Girdhaari he met every morning and yet he was not. His pupils remained fixated to the imaginary point on the floor, his face didn't twitch when the train stopped or people moved around him, the fury in his eyes missing. Imagine a wall, a white wall, the whitest it can get. Imagine a painting that's hung on that wall, a black background, the blackest it can get. A gory painting, hundreds of dead lying on the battle field. Dead meat everywhere, pulpy flesh, heads, arms, eyes, legs, ears, all soaked in blood. Hearts, livers, veins, intestines, bones, all sprinkled across the painting. A seven course meal for vultures. Imagine that this was the painting that you saw every day. Then, one day, whoosh, it's gone. The only thing that you see is the white wall. That was exactly the expression on Girdhaari's face.

He thought of approaching him but was wary of his master’s unpredictable mood. A couple of days ago he had thrown out Birju. "I don't care that the Metro line had a problem. I don't care if it is an earthquake or someone in your family is sick or dead. The time to reach at work is 9 AM. Have you ever seen me opening the shutters late? Am I not a man, the way you are? Every one, listen, if you are late, I will cut your penis and shove it up your ass." he had screamed. The initial shock of seeing Girdhaari in the Metro had subsided and he was enjoying the sight now. It gave him immense happiness to see the very man who had loathed the Metro rail since its inception now himself travelling in the train. The compartment was jam packed. Girdhaari hated every grain of men that commuted in Metro. It was orgasmic to see him stuck between those men. He was part of the stench. The sight made him lose sense of time.

Rajendra Place. Damn, he had missed his station. Girdhaari was still there, similar stance, the gaze however had changed to a different point. He wanted to stay in, to know what Girdhaari was up to but decided to come out. On a normal day he would have sprinted towards the shop but there was no need on that day. He walked leisurely. The shutter was down, as expected. He sat on the pavement and lit a bidi. He waited, and waited. It was late afternoon when someone tapped his shoulder. "Why are you sitting here? Go home. The shop won’t open today. Girdhaari Seth died last night. He had suffered a massive heart attack."

Monday, October 15, 2012

How could she? (#1023-1)

The plane took off from Los Angeles four hours after the stipulated time, enough to ensure that I would miss my connecting flight from Hong Kong. The airlines had arranged for a hotel in Hong Kong and the flight to New Delhi was scheduled for 2 PM the next day. I was standing in the queue to collect my hotel and meal vouchers, that’s when our eyes met. She was standing in a separate queue, 20 feet apart, the Mumbai passengers who had missed their flight. I smiled meekly and so did she. Her modest smile came as a surprise. Both of us had at least seven or eight more passengers ahead of us. I sized her up from the corner of my eye. She looked gorgeous in a new curly hairstyle, red lipstick and a short sparkling blue dress. She was always dazzling, but standing there she looked even more ravishing than what I could recollect. She had definitely shed some weight. Her slimmer waist made her breasts look bigger than what I saw two years ago.

We had met only once before. Two years ago, aged thirty two, I had decided that it was time to get married. I always believed in the I-will-find-my-partner-on-my-own theory but hadn't found someone, not everyone does. I had just thought that someone would find me. It never happened. I was averse to the idea of logging on to a matrimonial website but that seemed to be my only choice. I created a profile and started hunting for faces. There was a sudden rush of emails, phone calls by the day and night, text messages and in some cases Facebook profile shares. I met few girls as well and enjoyed the varying personalities. The conversations however were boring, the run of the mill reserved how-are-you, I-expect-blah-blah-blah, what-are-your-expectations, no-kids-for-x-number-of-years and what-are-your-long-term-professional-plans, the list went on.

One of these meetings was different. I surprised myself when I flew from Delhi to Mumbai on a weekend to meet this girl. For some reason, some people call it chemistry, there were no reservations from the moment I started talking to her on the phone. When we met, we warmed up to each other instantaneously, like fast college friends who had met after ages. We giggled, joked, shared our banal stories, and even some dark secrets. It was flawless. This-is-it was the thought running in my mind and I'm sure hers too. We had drinks, one too many in the evening and that's when it went wrong, or right, I'll leave that up to you. We woke up in the same bed the next morning. Call it embarrassment, call it guilt, call it denial, call it the sexist she-slept-with-me-in-just-one-meeting thought, it was the last time we met. The fizz disappeared overnight. It ended as spectacularly as it had begun. She didn't try to get in touch with me either.

We came out of our respective queues together. "Hi" I said. "How are you?" she smiled. I felt embarrassed and found it hard to see her in the eyes. The hotel was a five minute walk from the airport exit and we started talking, gazing in opposite directions. She was working with the same company, so was I. She was hitting the gym regularly, which I had guessed. She was traveling a lot, so was I. "Are you married?" she asked suddenly. "No". I wanted to ask her too but refrained from it. The five minute walk could have melted a glacier. The estrangement that I felt had disappeared. It was a ten minute wait to check in at the hotel. In the little time that we had been together we spoke about hundreds of things, we got our room keys but still a million more conversations were left I thought. I regretted the fact that I hadn't seen her in the plane. "Dinner?" I asked. "Why not?" she giggled. Our rooms were on different floors. We decided to meet in the hotel lobby in half an hour.

I got into my room, quickly entered the shower and replayed the night two years ago in my mind. It was hard not to. I came out of shower, dressed in polo and shorts, made an important phone call and rushed to the lobby. "We will eat, probably have a quick drink and then head back to our rooms". That was the script that I played in my mind repeatedly. It vaporized though once we seated ourselves in the Japanese restaurant, just like the rote learning vanishes during a Mathematics exam. I had forgotten most of her life-stories, so a repeat wasn't as bad as it might sound. I repeated the same vanilla stories of my banal life. Nothing had changed much in last two years I told her, so did she. We moved to the bar after the dinner, the conversations flowed, as effortlessly as a flood and before we realized it was way past midnight. The bartender hesitantly asked us for the last order. "Repeat." I said. "Finish the drink. Say good bye and head to your room." I repeated in my mind.

I woke up at 10 am the next morning, in her room, she sleeping besides me, naked. I slipped out of the bed quietly and walked towards the full length mirror in the bathroom. I gazed at my naked body and was filled with an instant rage. I wished I was the mirror so that I could smash myself into million pieces. My heart was an ocean of guilt. The thoughts sprang from I-shouldn't-have-done-it to why-did-I-do-it to I-will-never-do-it-again. I dressed up quickly and moved towards the door when I saw her cell phone that was lying on the small round table buzz. "Hubby" it flashed.

"Bitch!" I said and rushed out of the room. The thick smoke around me, that had choked me, disappeared. The how-could-I-do-it had turned into how-could-she-do-it. I slept relieved in the flight. I collected my luggage at New Delhi and made a quick call. "Honey, I've landed."
"Waiting for you, you know what, I felt the baby kick me inside this morning" she said excitedly.