Fiction

The courtyard

It was that time of the day when a little rain and few clouds make the sun give everything around a dusty look. Sitting at one end was Grandma enjoying the weather and watching the mundane everyday affair. Children were playing in the courtyard, with Mala shouting, asking them to go and play outside.

“Shanu! Go outside and play, your father is about to come. And I won’t be saving you from the beating this time”, Mala shouted again.

“Ma today’s saturday. He won’t be back till 9”, came the retort.

“SHANU!!”, she came out with a broom in her hand, threatening to sweep aside the kids as if she’s had been transformed into Gulliver or they into Lilliputians.

The kids ran away, but then stopped again just outside the main door, turning back to ascertain the resolve in their mother’s eyes. But there she was, just an arm’s length from them, still marching towards them. With a loud shout, mixed with laughter and thrill, they ran again, this time not turning back till they had left 4-5 similarly constructed houses behind.

The courtyard is pretty small, though big by any standards in their locality, as few seasons ago Mala’s family and theirs decided to bring down the wall separating their houses so as to increase the courtyard.

Today Grandma was alone at home as Biju, her son, had taken his wife and their son to the nearby Circus. It was Biju’s father and Mala’s father in law, who had struck the deal. Both had been partners in the Pan-Bidi shop they had been running together for 15 years. And since most of the time one was at other’s house, one fine day they decided to bring the wall down. People around were filled with envy when they heard the news, not that they didn’t envy their friendship before but the thought of an increased courtyard added weight to it. So much so that grandma considered their death, after an unruly drunk driver ran into their small pan-bidi shop during night, to be the bad omen brought by covetousness of the community. Now she seemed to have gotten over the incident, partly by the fact that both would be together in the after world.

Grandma was looking across the sky, may be hoping to catch a glimpse of her husband in some formation of the clouds, or may be wondering how many rains it will take for his memories to wash away.

There was a knock on the door, as the door was open the men outside were peeking inside. They were in bit better clothes, or rather far better clothes going by the standards around the slum they were living in. As is the instinct always, Mala sensed them from some government office. May be they are in there to give the compensation for the accident that took three seasons ago, grandma wondered. She looked at them and then turned her gaze away as she saw Mala marching towards them. Of late she seemed to be quite detached from anything that seemed to happen around her.

Grandmother looked at them again, as the noise of their chattering grew. She saw Mala and the three other men coming towards her.

The one in black shirt asked, “AuntyJi, Who is eldest of the family?”

“Tell them Ma, who is the elder one Biju or Shyam”, added Mala.

Grandma looked at them with a blank not understanding what they were asking. The other two men looked impatient; one in white shirt muttered something to the one in black.

Mala rephrased the question again, “Ma Isn’t Shyam elder than Biju?”

Grandma shaked her head, though nobody could decipher whether it was affirmation or she just wanted them to ask the question again. Mala looked worried, managing a smile she looked at the officer in Black. Slightly nodding his head, the officer said, “Alright, it ok now”, and he wrote something in a paper, then asked Mala to write something, then nodded again saying something to grandma, which she again couldn’t understand.

Fifteen minutes later she was still sitting at the same spot. It was getting dark now. She could hear the chirping of the kids, they were coming back. Shyam had been back home, few minutes ago and she had been hearing him and Mala fighting again as usual. Suddenly there was a big bang at the main door, Binu came jumping in and as he caught glimpse of grandma he came running towards her.

“Ma I saw a huge Lion there. A man was making him do things as if the  Lion was a cat.”, said Binu with excitement. Just then he saw the other kids and ran towards them.

Shyam had come out now and was taking to Biju. Biju was now shouting at Shyam. They looked to be fighting over something, but grandma couldn’t be sure, she dismissed it as a daily chore and turned her gaze towards the kids. Mala had also joined the fight, and then suddenly Shyam slapped her. There was silence for some seconds. Grandma looked at them more attentively now, though again she couldn’t understand much but they seemed to be talking about some Municipal Officers, doing some legalization, and the land on which they were living now now was in Shyam’s name.

As Shyam moved his eyes from Mala to Biju, his expression of hatred slowely turned to be of being ashamed. Grandma now understood what had was happening. With her eyes watery now, she turned her gaze again towards the sky, hoping to unite with her husband soon.

A Lie

At the dawn of 24th century the world had gone very advanced. Advanced to the level that science fiction as genre had ceased to exist. It all started a century back with the success of Richbard Downking’s Neural geneprop project. It paved the way for successfully transmitting information via genes to the next generation. Simply put, now a child could be born with all the information in the world. There were few apprehensions about how a new born will respond to that sort of information which were proved true as the correlation between the mental and the physical quotient went haywire. Also this achievement meant the end of childhood and growing up. It was Dawnking who again came to the rescue of the world and swept the popular vote in favour of saving the childhood. The Neural Geneprop project went to a new level wherein a mechanism was devised so that the information was decrypted from genes as per a set pattern as the age progressed. The rate and pattern of decryption was such that it always satisfied any curious question even before it took form in the child’s mind.

The world by then had reached the pinnacle of technological advancement in almost all respects. There was no scope for further improvement in anything. Owing to the high levels of advancements, things seldom changed.
As a natural outcome of this people had stopped communicating as there was no need to know anything. Everything followed set patterns, known to everyone. Just the mention of a few features of a person’s life and you could tell almost anything about his past, present or future.

One day there came a man in a city, of almost mute and disinterested people, called Indostralia. Some say he didn’t come from anywhere but was there all the time, it was just that he wore a uniform which used to give away his profession, which was enough to know everything about him. So nobody bothered knowing him.

Then one day he started something which was then to change everything about the world around. He started calling people randomly, giving them false names and false information. Everything he talked about was a lie, a fantasy, a figment of his imagination, miles away from the actual reality. Initially most of the people used to bang the phone down, but he didn’t stop. Every day there used to be few people who sort of liked the light hearted exchange, since this came as a welcome break from their monotonous existence. These people then also started calling randomly.
Slowly this phenomenon swept the whole city. People were now seen on their phones almost all the times, talking hours in and out, cooking up things. Nobody saved anybody’s number, which almost went as an unwritten law. People started changing their number every second day, which was then superseded by mobile companies providing the option of dynamic number which changed every time somebody called somebody. Understandably people didn’t do this while meeting one another as the benefit of anonymity would then be lost.

The identity of the person who started all this is still unknown. May be some people did know him in the beginning but it got lost in this whole cooking up business. Though there’s a long standing rumour which most of the people believe. It says that he was then, when it all started; the marketing trainee and now the CEO of AirYell, who single handedly revived the almost dead Mobile telephony market.

The Customer

He comes everyday. Same table, same corner , same order, same direction, same face and the same strangeness of it. He had been visiting our cafe for the past one and a half week. 15th of April was the day when he came for the first time. He’s always alone, always sitting on the same chair facing the counter and his back towards the window. Window that we say to our customer’s as the window to the world as it faces the Times square.

His face has a strange quality to it. I don’t know what but its strange. Strange in the sense that i can’t classify it. But to tell you the Truth its the most natural face that you could ever see. One look and you may never recognise him again. Yeah you won’t recognise him the next time because he will look as similar to anybody else. Kind of face that a thief will always cherish. May be that forgetful familiarity is the unique strangeness of it.

A unique element of something that makes it almost similar to anything. Its a secret. A secret if unraveled will tell the secret of the world. A uniqueness that if seen and understood would dissolve everything onto itself. I guess he realise that too and knows that i know it too. Somehow i haven’t heard his voice and i also don’t remember how he gave his first order which i repeat everyday. It’s as if we already know that’s to be exchanged and only thing that’s remaining is yet to be known.

Its 4:02 now, still minutes before he comes. The restlessness in me is more than usual today. Being a midweek holiday today we had fewer customer’s today so i decided to draw his face. As expected i couldn’t. I knew i wont be able to do that, may be i was scared. Scared that drawing anything will rob him of that uniqueness. But even visualizing him proved too difficult. Nor that i couldn’t see him but as i tried focusing on his eyes or the lips or the nose the face simply vanished as if his face doesn’t stands on his facial features.

Hush..
Its 4:10 now. Let me prepare his order. I just don’t want to wasted any time on that, when he’s there.
Oh its him. but its 4:11.
Ah, its not him. Its just somebody sitting at his place. Lemme tell him that its reserved.
‘Marlin tell that guy that the seat is reserved. He may be coming anytime’.
‘But it’s the same guy. See the image on his Jacket’s back, its the same one he wore yesterday’.

What! How? I mean….’

Memories

The paragraph which sent him back searching for his school time memories read like that:

..The advent of the monsoon was exciting- and it was always like this with the first big storm, even in his earliest memories back at a time when the torrential rain concided with the new school year, new books, new friends…

As he tried to dig out his memories few faces and moments came up. But no swirl of excitement came up; there was not even a hint of joy. He searched more. Then more. Then even more. But it all looked as anything would have looked at someone’s last moments-moving but not meaning anything.

‘Friends. Yeah, friends,’ he thought. As he searched again few events, few days, few other things came up. But nothing rally flowed. Nothing had that pleasure, that desire, that excitement that comes after stumbling over something precious.
He thought of the endless discussions, those pranks, those jokes, that innocence, that inquisitiveness, those smiles, everything he could muster up.

Why isn’t it that appealing now?
May be because he was still in touch with them or actually was some time back. Maybe cos he can be like that with them even now. Only that he doesn’t remember where their phone numbers and addresses are. Only that he knew where they were but just someday stopped bothering.
Could that be the reason?
But they also didn’t called.
Maybe they have changed. Or maybe not Or may be he has.
But they if they haven’t changed will they be excited on stumbling upon his memories.
No, he thought.
Nah, he pressed.

Then he whizzed through his other memories. That childhood trip to Disney land, that cricket trophy, those night outs, that first love, that first bike, and god knows what. He almost conjured up every thing to anything that could mean anything to him in his life.
Still nothing.
He now started digging up bad memories.
He remembered the loss of his best friend while still in school, who left him and the world at the same time. How he had not eaten for two weeks after that and then refused to go to that same school.
Suddenly another memory from college sprang up but it vanished as quickly it had sprung.
Damn! Two seconds for such a best friend, he thought as a wave of surprise and amusement hit him.
Now he thought of anything to everything.
But somehow it all looked same just as earlier. Every memory had that same banal quality to it. Nothing seemed instigating but somehow he was now beginning to enjoying it.
“Wow! Indiscrimination at its best,” he chuckled.
Amused he returned to his book.

….new friends, sloshing in new raincoats through flooded streets of floating bottle caps, empty cigarettes packets, broken branches, pepsi cans[…] that ever present hope that it would rain so hard that school would be canceled…

Time troubles

He snapped the book shut and got out of the bed. Feeling hungry he moved towards the kitchen. Wondering what time it was he took the cell phone out of his pocket. It showed 00:59 but, just as time had sinked through his eyes to the brain, the pixels shifted their positions. It now showed 1:00
Darn! Not again.
In the past one-week or so he had encountered almost a dozen incidents like these, of time just snapping through in front of his eyes. And all these moments of one hour of the day giving way to the next happened during night. It was either 23:59 or 00:59 or 1:59 and also 2:59 once.
Amused he wondered whether this had some implication or was just a coincidence.

The same also happened during his college time, some 2 years back. It was exam time and he and his few hostel mates used to go out for a cup of tea in the night. The chai wala used to sit near the clock tower. Almost every day the clock (It was a digital clock) used to register one flip like 2:34 going to 2:35 or 2:14 going to 2:25 etc(No, he doesn’t used to stare at it, just a glace to know whether it was time to go or not) in front of his eyes during their 15-20 minutes stay there.

He wondered what could it all mean.

Does that mean that the time’s running out. Or may be the world’s going to end. It could be a signal from the aliens, who though being technologically supreme are quite shy to communicate directly.

Or may be its my inner self that’s trying to communicate with me. It can be some inner call of my subconscious mind, which with some setting with my biological clock makes me check the time at some particular moment.
But what could it be telling me?
May be its also saying that time’s running out Or may be its hinting for some change. But then why not flip the clock like those college day. Why flip for hours and not minutes?
May be something changed at that time also and something else is going to change now though its quite bigger in magnitude.

But then why it’s nighttime always?
May be because its when am the most awake and conscious during the whole day. Obviously to communicated something deeper you got to have your all cylinders pumping hard.

But nothing’s changing except for me cooking these weird possibilities. And how the hell can one say that if something is changing or not. And even if something changes can’t it be that it’s it’s inevitable or rather natural course of action. And only that when it happens its inevitability becomes apparent.

Whatever.

He shrugged his shoulders and moved inside the kitchen and took an Apple from the fridge.
Damn! I must sleep, it gotta be 2 already.
He took his cell phone out. It showed 1:58. He switched the light off and moved towards the bed.
Wait, 58.
He checked his cell. It was indeed 1:58.
No its 59 now.
Damn!
He pressed some buttons and the clock showed 2:05. Switching the light off he went towards the bed.

Half a day

22 Sep, 17:49

As he stepped out of the office his mobile beeped. It was a reminder for his meeting with the doctor. He dismissed the reminder and hurried onto the car. He waited for a few minutes in his car as the little disturbance of people getting their cars out of the parking died out. He hates the restlessness that keeps cropping up while one is in the middle of something and has to wait for something else so at times he knowingly delays but then this also has its repercussions.

Reverse gear…first gear…2nd…wroom…and he was out of the parking lot turning left without even glancing at the right.

Driving always used to ease him up but it had its limits too. An overtly empty road or a crowded one was just not a place for him. A moderated traffic where he could drive between 80-100+ taking slight turns and twists, overtaking anything and everything along his way used to give him a calm and soothing sense of engagement.

Today was one of his best days and he was effortlessly enjoying his flight.

“Just the next turn”- a voice from his left.

Astonished, he glanced left to take a view of the person sitting on the adjacent seat. The sense of surprise suddenly turned into one of amusement, as he realized how bored he would have been had he not lost sense of his companion.

He smiled and said, “Yeah, sure”. But now he was struggling to recollect his name.

He shrugged and carried on driving.

After 15 minutes he was at his home.

22 Sep, 18:32

He was now struggling to open his door. The lock had been in its present idiosyncratic state for quite some time but he had got used to opening it anyway and never bothered to change it. But today with his bandaged index finger he was finding it difficult to open it. He remembered how he had opened it till now but somehow his left hand was not complying.

His frustration was growing leaps and bounds. Slowly he tried to open the lock with his right hand but was not able to exert the necessary force after twisting the key in some particular way.

“Damn”, he shouted and kicked the door and withdrew back.

Leaning on the wall opposite to the door he waited for a few seconds. He moved forward and slowly put the key inside again and waited again. And the suddenly he turned the key.

“Ouch”, he screamed and the door was open.

22 Sep, 18:48

22 Sep, 23:22

He closed his book went to the balcony. Stretching his arms he closed his eyes. As he closed his eyes a deep sense of satisfaction seeped into his body. As if whole body was enjoying the comfort of his eyes. A mild wind was blowing, bringing along with it the long familiar aromatic essence of the vast sea that lied in front. As he opened his eyes he looked at faint light flickering at the longest possible distance on the left of the lone coconut tree on the right.

‘Ah, it must be Tuesday then’, he thought.

As he was about to move inside a piercing loud voice came up. He turned and lowered his head so as to take a view of the source.

“bhelpuridahipuripanipuridahivadapapdichaatsevpurisaaretypekachataamirkeliye

bhiaurgaribkeliyebhisabkeliyesevpuripapdichaatdahi….vadapanipuridahipuribhelpuri”, he ended with a breathy smile, though a fraction of the second later the voice from the down.

“Sahib. Aaj to sirf 90 persant”, came the loud voice from down.

He laughed and waved his hand towards him. Slowly he went towards the entrance door and opened it. A small boy emerged from the left, where the lift is, carrying his Tuesday spl Bhel puri.

22 Sep, 23:55

23 Sep, 02:02

He closed his book and moved his head inside the sheet, and went to sleep, without bothering to turn the lights off.

Doomed to dirt

Mr Kumar was returning to his home after an over trying day in the office. As he neared his place, a filthy pavement by the side of his right window reminded him of a painful development that took place few days back.

He hasn’t still not come to terms thought that he would be living in what would look like a prison camp, with each successive floor looking like a mountain. A look of a scooped up chicken shelter came up in his mind.
He wondered how would it feel with the feeling that whole of the world’s dirt and filth has moved half way more closer to him. Disgusted he shook his head.

He imagined how it would look if his whole family would have to spend almost double the time washing their bodies. He imagined the wry look his neighborhood grocery shopkeeper will give him on seeing him buy double his quota of soaps. May be he will shift to some cheap soap, he thought.

As the bus was moving he caught a glimpse of an old filthy poster of movie ‘The Aviator’. A smile appeared on his face. Amused and disgusted he cursed his luck.
Lost in his thoughts he didn’t even realize stepping out of the bus and there he was now in front of his house looking at the municipality notice responsible for his entire mental trauma.
The notice read: ‘As per the MCD directives the road will be widened to double its present width. All troubles are deeply regretted.’