Monday 16 October 2017
Theme: In the end…
What drives us? More often than not, the answer falls under the ambit of ‘a zest to complete a quest’. The eternal mysteries of the unknown beyond, spurn explorations, thus making life interesting and involving.
Thus, we are perhaps at our imaginative best when there is no conclusion, especially since the gross realities of life offer none. Authors who pen inconclusive stories engage the readers at an individual level, pushing them to ponder new dimensions to enhance creativity, based on their individual personalities.
This is a story with an inconclusive end that allows readers to conclude whatever seems obvious or comfortable to them.
He is here! In this city! I know it. I just know it, as surely as I’ve always known that there is no escape for me. And he is following me, only a few paces behind this crowd of people separating us.
I feel the rise of panic in my gut. Panic, laced with utter despair, bordering on defeat. How long would I have to run?
Three years, seven months and eighteen days. That’s how long I’ve been on the move, constantly dodging his relentless stalking. How had I gotten myself into this mess?
One is rather stupid when one is a twenty one. Stars in my eyes, dreams in my heart, how carefree, how naïve I had been on that fateful day I’d landed in this city of horrors.
Bengaluru…the city of dreams, atleast for glossy-eyed, small town people of Arasikere. I’d thought I’d fled from a horrible life when I packed my meager belongings and set out from the slum where I had lived all my life, from that hell-hole called home on that night in August. My step mother was only too happy to see the last of me. She neither attempted to stop me nor enquired where I was going. If only dad were still alive…Thank God, he had managed to give me a decent education before he passed on.
It took me exactly five days to run out of money in the posh metropolis. As it turned out, my school friend Suguna, who had married a guy in Bangalore and moved to the city a few months ago, had been grossly exaggerating the wonders of the city, that made hundreds of hapless innocents flock to its shores in the hope of making something out of their loser lives. Suguna worked as a maid in one of the swanky apartments and told me unceremoniously that I had to find my way around if I had to survive here. She did set me up in one of the PGs for a month, although the advance swallowed most of my lifelong savings of hard-earned pocket money.
My average scores in the tenth grade landed me a job as a receptionist in one of the real estate agencies, where Mohan was the sole agent. I should have heeded my instincts the first time I met him in the reception of the tiny office. My mind had screamed ‘Run’. But of course, I hadn’t. Where could I run to anyways?
Mohan had made his shady intentions amply clear within the first week. He’d keep brushing his arms against mine, passing too close in the narrow corridors, asking me out and ogling at my breasts shamelessly, even as I fumed in utter revulsion. After all, why would a young, fairly good looking girl want to have anything to do with a short, paan-chewing man of fifty eight? His large lusty brown eyes had a disgusting way of popping out of their sockets, while he kept smoothing his grey, oily hair over his balding scalp. An adam apple the size of small fist, bobbed up and down every time he spoke my name in that raspy voice ‘Anjum’. I never hated my name more than when it was uttered by him.
My boss was an aging lady who treated him with utmost respect not only because he sourced out regular customers for the agency, but also owned a lion’s share of the company’s stocks. Not to mention the fact that he was her distant nephew, her only relative in the city. It was useless trying to complain to her about his unwelcome advances. Besides, what options was I left with?
It had been on a rainy Friday night a week later, that an inebriated Mohan had banged on the door of my PG. I’d tried to call the owner in panic before I realized that the family that lived below our row of tiny rooms had gone away for the weekend. And the females who lived in the adjacent rooms pretended not to hear anything, even as I screamed my lungs out in fear. I had known that this was a common occurrence in this part of Shivajinagar, where you could get a room with non-existent security for a mere 1100 bucks a month…but I’d been left with no choice at that point of time.
It had taken all my strength to fight off Mohan’s claws that fateful, pouring night. The door had burst open on its hinges within the first five minutes of his jamming on it, but I’d been ready. I’d already slung my rucksack with five pairs of my clothes, a couple of books, certificates and the last of my money, over my back. I grabbed the large black umbrella the lady downstairs had given me the previous week and jammed the sharp end into his bulky belly with all my might. Long story short, I managed to get away with only a few scratches on my face and bruised elbows when he flung my thin frame against the peeling walls…
I spent the night huddled in the store room of the building under construction next door. I knew I had to leave the city if I had to escape from this demon. But I had no intention of leaving empty handed.
The next morning, I slipped into the office long before the cock had risen to his daily song. I knew Mohan had handed over three stacks of two thousand rupee notes a customer had paid him, to Ma’am, for the new deal on airport road. He told her to keep it with her for safe-keeping over the weekend, before the buyers arrived on Monday. Being the first one assigned to open the office before Ma’am came in at her own convenience, I always carried the keys to the office in my bag.
It took me a mere five minutes to unlock the office, then the door to the inner chamber and key in the combination to her safe. The old lady, bless her soul, never bothered to be careful while she used it. She was unaware that her receptionist had long since noticed and memorized the set of alphabets and digits that were typed in…
I smuggled the bundles into the last pouch of my rucksack, and left the office locked as before. I then headed to the Majestic bus terminal to board the first bus to Belgaum.
I wasn’t a thief, not until that day of utter weakness, at least.
Sometimes, desperation drives us to do things that we normally wouldn’t even dream of doing. In my case, it was a sense of revenge coupled with hopeless despair…
Besides, I’d been so confident of getting away…
Obviously, fate had other plans for me. That day had only been the beginning of the perpetual horror. What followed was a long series of moving from one place to another all over the state, while my stalker turned my life into living hell. I’d even considered surrendering to the police, before good sense kicked in. I knew that this man had greased more palms in the police department during his crafty real estate dealings than the number of hands I had shaken in my lifetime. I knew that he hadn’t lodged a police complaint against me, for reasons more devious than I want to consider. It would only be a giant leap from the frying pan into the fire…I’d heard enough stories about him to know that I’d only land up in his den instead of jail.
Mohan had never let me go. He’d persued me relentlessly with the agility and cunning of a wild cat hunting its prey. No sooner would I find a job and begin to settle in one place would he make an appearance in the vicinity. If only I’d had the means to shift into one of those swanky apartments that offered some semblance of security for its women. If only I’d known someone in this town who would be willing to protect me…But then, it takes very little time for a lone woman in a big city to realize that the world is full of more predators than do-gooders.
It took more than three years of this dubious hide-and-seek game, before I finally relocated to Mangalore, having landed a job, over a telephonic interview from an ad column in the newspapers. I’ve been overjoyed to have achieved a promotion to an office assistant for a slightly higher salary, with accommodation only a few blocks away from the premises. My office isn’t too fancy, but offers me a breathtaking view of the ocean from my seat, through the window on the first floor. The three lakhs I stole from Mohan is secure in an FD, in an SBI account in Belgaum…
Merely three weeks later, which is today, I see the one person that makes frosty chills run up my spine. My mind has been so engrossed with an imminent sales proceeding documentation this evening, I fail to notice him following me from the exit of my office. It is while crossing the water logged streets, fifteen minutes into my journey towards home, that I glimpse those terrifying brown eyes glaring at me from over the heads of the swarming crowd. I begin to run, without thinking, towards the beach.
The light drizzle that had begun when I left the office is now a heavy torrent. The beach is deserted. I trip over the sand, my legs sinking into its soft depths, but I cannot stop. He catches up to me just as I reach the sloping rocky stretch beyond the broad sandy region.
He makes a grab for my arm, while yelling my name along with a few expletives, above the din of the downpour. I bend down to pick up a rock, with both my hands and smash it against his head with all my strength. He lets out a shriek, clutching his head, even as a red stream adorns the side of his face. The waves lash against our feet, I know that the tide would be coming in fast now. He falls then, on his face, over a stray patch of sand, his legs draped in an awkward angle over the rocks.
I dash blindly back towards the road, over the slippery shore, without looking back. Wet sand granules have filled into my loafers sending prickles of pain shooting up my feet. I reach the top of the slope, panting for breath. Is he following me? I hazard a glance backwards. The supine body lies in the same grotesque manner that he fell in.
Is he alive? Or is he dead? I can’t stay to find out. I don’t dare the risk of getting caught by him again.
I shift to an obscure hotel at the other end of town and wait it out, pondering my next move for three days.
I wait impatiently for some news of an unclaimed body found on the beach, but none is forthcoming.
Was he washed into the sea when the tide rose during the night? Or had he regained consciousness after I left and lived to hunt me another day?
I begin to pack my belongings all over again, clueless about my next destination.
Haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry. Haiku poems consist of 3 lines. The first and last lines of a Haiku have 5 syllables and the middle line has 7 syllables. The lines rarely rhyme.
I have always wanted to attempt a haiku chain where each of the lines in each poem rhymes with the other. This is one such attempt.
A tiny angel spreads love and beauty within cosmic universe. A sweet evangel of blessings bestowed herein sung in cyclic verse.
Monday 9 October 2017
Theme : Psychological story.
Psychological stories deal with some disturbed aspect of the human mind, whether insanity or an altered perception of reality or simply some inner struggle with an element of control over the human mind. The aim of this story is to take readers inside the mind of the protagonist and have them wonder what happens next.
Because, my name is Gauri.
I’m going to die. I know it. I just know it. I mean, I know that everyone dies, eventually, but this is different. Because, I am going to die soon.
I shouldn’t even be alive, in the first place. I should have died ages ago. Its sheer luck or I should call it my rotten luck, that I’m still around.
‘Manu…’ Didi calls out to me from the living room. Didi, my sis, caretaker, mentor…whatever.
I’ve no idea why Didi is so kind to me. I have never been the sort of sister that one could love. But Didi feels a sense of duty or maybe guilt towards me, because she knows I’m going to die soon.
‘Manu,’ she calls me again. The door swings open and her head peeks in.
‘Get up, lazy bones,’ her voice is strained with the forced gaiety she tries to infuse in it. ‘It’s time to rise and shine...’
Her head disappears. I smile. My name isn’t really Manu. It’s actually Gauri.
I stare at the ceiling. So, one more day of life. This so-called gift called life. Life in a wheelchair. Ha, the very irony of it!
My gaze shifts to the dots on the wall opposite to me. They mock me like they always do. They aren’t juts dots, they are part of the face. The crooked eyes, broad nose and big mouth of the face formed on the wall two years ago when the rains lashed the city.
The face was wet at first for a few days. Then Didi got the leakage in the wall repaired, but the features remained, dry and clearer than before. They had to remain. My mornings never begin without me viewing the face. Each morning, I watch it taunt me with ‘One more day, just one more day…’
I know you think I’m not normal. That psycho psychiatrist had fancy names for what he calls my ‘condition’: Paranoia, resultant of acute depression. Haha! Paranoid and me?
What people fail to realize is that it takes a hell lot of courage to accept the truth for what it is, especially when it stares at you in your face. Accepting your imminent death is not paranoia.
There have been too many signs. They all begin at the root of my name. Yes, my name. What’s in a name?
Gauri. A beautiful name. A terrifying name. The name of a goddess who symbolizes both kindness and terror. Good and evil…
For me, my name signifies only one thing:Death.
Each time I remember my name, I see the myriad faces of death dancing in vibrant colors of the rainbow, in front of me. They turn from blue to red to pink to yellow and finally black. As black as death.
Because for me, the name stemmed from death, you see. I was born merely a few hours after my grandmother breathed her last one winter night, succumbing to the pneumonia that had ravaged her system for a week. Mom promptly decided to name me after her beloved mom, Gauramma.
In fact, my aunts never tire of telling everyone who listens, how my mom’s grief at losing her mother was so great, that it almost induced the miscarriage of her seven-month old fetus. That underdeveloped fetus was then delivered at the hospital and preserved in an incubator for a week, before the doctors at the Government facility deemed it necessary for mom to make room for the new patients. I should have died then, but it was my first escape.
Just so you know how I have arrived at the theory of my escapades, let me tell you that I know the exact count of the number of Gauris that have died in just the past two years.
Didi thinks I only play those silly kiddish games like solitaire on her Samsung tablet. Or listen to the boring instrumental music that she loaded on it for me to ‘soothe’ my mind. The crazy psychiatrist told her it would keep my mind away from undesirable influences.
Little do they know that I’m a pro at playing with keywords on search engines…Why, I even managed to weasel out the wifi password from the old fool next door. The look of hopeless pity she gives Didi and me every time she visits us puts me on the edge, but I’m civil and well behaved with her because she is my only source of gossip updates around the area.
My meticulous Google research concluded that there have been exactly 9 Gauris who have died in India alone, of various causes in just the past 24 months. I know that their last names and spellings may have varied, but mom should have known better than naming me after her departed mother. Is that called a co-incidence? Only a moron would believe it to be so.
My parents should have changed my name the day I contacted pneumonia, when I was 8. That was in winter too, just like it happened with my grandmom. But they never realized the connection, because I was cured by some twisted miracle doctor. Mom didn’t see anything wrong that my dad passed away soon after that.
The next time I begged mom to let me change my name was when I turned 10. My classmate Gouri (spelt with an ‘o’, not an ‘a’), died of a head injury when she fell off the 8-feet, metal trapezium-shaped structure at the Government park.
That’s when I knew that my fate was sealed too. I even tried to prove to mom that I would meet with a similar end. But then, even after I climbed the same trapezium and threw myself headfirst off its topmost hinges, all I got were a few bruises. But then, instead of me, it was mom who succumbed to a freak accident a few months after that.
I knew then, that fate was determined to torture me a lot more before letting me get my blessed escape.
‘Gauri, get up! Er...Manasa, Manu…’ Didi bursts into the room, anger seething in her voice. See, even she knows the truth though she pretends otherwise.
The face on the wall makes ugly expressions at her. Why does she bug me so much? After all, all I do in bed is ponder the truth about myself. I have done this all night for the past couple of years.
Didi grabs my arms and yanks me up. She is rather strong for her age. At 32, she is almost 12 years older than I am, but she lifts my body as if it weighs nothing.
‘Have you been dreaming those awful dreams again?’ she asks, watching my face closely.
‘No,’ I reply.
I want to tell her that they aren’t dreams. Dreams are different. These are my thoughts, my convictions, my realities, my truths. One cannot escape one’s own truths and realities…but Didi prefers to believe that mental psychiatrist, than her own sister.
Didi shifts my frail form into the wheelchair. I try to look into her eyes, she avoids meeting mine. We’ve been through this scores of times before. I’ve tried to tell her many times that the very reason she is stuck in a life of being my nurse since my parents’ death, is because of my conviction.
Like I mentioned before, I should have died long ago. That accident had happened to ensure my death. Again, some twisted irony made me survive.
I watched Maddy, my pet Pomeranian, get crushed under the wheels of a tow truck that afternoon, a year and a half ago. I’d taken him for a walk on the highway and the huge vehicle had suddenly veered out of control towards us. I waited for my head to get under its wheels too, in that split second. But then, the tyre stopped exactly 13 inches away from my eager face. I still don’t know how it managed to mash my legs to pulp though…
Didi did relent under the pressure of doing her best for me and changed my name to Manasa after that. But it was too late by then. I knew that Gauri would accompany me to my grave.
I begin to notice that Didi has been talking to me. Of course, I barely listen to her words these days.
‘Be positive, think good thoughts, it is all your imagination...’ she drones on, as she moves around my room, making my bed and putting away my clothes.
Positive imagination? That is such an oxymoron, given my current situation.
And then, I hear it, blasting out of the TV in the living room. My head shoots up when the name…my name, is uttered by the newsreader. My wheelchair is facing the door, I see the TV screen clearly. A woman is sprawled across the ground, crimson stains on her clothes.
‘…the noted journalist, Gauri Lankesh was shot dead at around 8 PM last evening…’ screams the news anchor. Didi has heard it too. She stands still, intently watching my face in utter shock. She seems powerless to do anything else but stare at my glazed eyes and fast breathing.
I watch the footage of the gruesome murder on TV intently. I see myself very clearly on the ground, in that navy blue and red churidar, blood stains adorning my abdomen. And wonder of wonders, Gauri Lankesh has short cropped hair too, just like I do! If that isn’t a bolt of reality pointing to the future, what is?
It seems as if the Gods finally got tired of the guessing game and decided to give me a memorandum for my death. I am going to get shot in the back and chest. It is so exhilarating to know how my end is to occur.
My laugh begins to reverberate across the room. My eyes are fixated on the body of the woman whom I didn’t know, whose existence I hadn’t even been aware of, until now.
I cannot stop laughing now. It has been a while since I laughed this way. People have always shied away from me when I did. I have heard fancy terms for my laughter too….words like ‘hysterical’ and ‘maniacal’ have been used to describe my mirth.
Didi jerks out of her reverie and dashes to the living room to switch off the offending TV. But the sign has already been delivered.
I continue to howl in joy, my head shaking from side to side. My palms thump gleefully on the armrests of my wheelchair.
I hear Didi’s voice in the kitchen. Snippets of her conversation reach my ears as I inch my wheelchair forward, to switch the TV back on.
‘Yes, doctor…she saw the news on TV before I could switch it off…please…appointment before 6 PM, please try doctor…’
Didi finally bursts into tears as my delightful shrieks are drowned out by the frenzy of reporters on News 9 channel, churning out all the gory details of the death of yet another Gauri.
Tuesday 3 October 2017
Penning picture poetry has always been one of my favorite pastimes. Working with pictures as prompts can get the creative juices flowing and offer a highly gratifying experience for writers.
Where are you now,
when I’m craving your help & solace?
A labor of love weighs on my brow,
in a melancholic halo above my tear-stained face;
I mourn the death of our shared vow,
of a lost destiny in an eternal embrace...
I shall move on, though I know not how,
and will emerge stronger, with superior grace.
Picture : Google.