spoon

Echo

0

Category: ,


I don’t remember everything, but I will tell you everything I remember. Okay?

So this happened. Don’t know when, don’t know the date or the time. All I remember is that when I woke up, it was dark and cold, and it was raining outside, pouring buckets. It must be somewhere between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. And going by the aggression of the rain, it must be the rainy season, maybe July. Either ways, time’s not important. The events that followed are. So listen.

As I got up from the bed, the cold hit me in the face and clamped my chest. I pranced across the room and closed the windows. I switched on the geyser, came back to my table, ran my hands on the surface, and after what seemed like eternity, got hold of my pack of cigarettes and lighter. I lit one and took a heavy drag. God knows it felt great.

I smoked two cigarettes and went to the bathroom. Took a quick shower, got dressed, and went out. It was still dark and it was still raining. But I went out, anyway. Here’s the thing: I don’t know where I was going. I was about to find out.

***

The streetlights were gone and it seemed like darkness had stabbed the world in the gut. The rain had stopped by now and I walked on, my slippers making that annoying splitch-splatch sound. I took the flyover and started walking along the way. Now this is the part I don’t remember well. Don’t know how I reached the flyover. It was around five kilometres from my place. I don’t remember walking that far on foot. But I was there, on the flyover – the same flyover I took every day to work.

Before I knew what was happening, I found myself standing at a junction. And the next instant I was in Big Brewsky on Sarjapur road. I have such warm memories of that pub. The sweet times I spent there with my girlfriend! I had a sudden urge to call her and talk to her; wanted to tell her that I was in our favourite spot, on the second floor at the bar counter. I reached into my pocket to take out my mobile phone, but I didn’t have it on me. Talk of forgetting things, huh? I had forgotten to pocket it when I left home.

Some of you must be wondering if I have the habit of sleepwalking. You are wrong. I don’t have such problems. I know what I’m talking about. Although I agree that my memory fails me sometimes, I would never ever forget the things that happened that night. I mean, come on. You can forget what you had for breakfast last week, you can forget the names of your school friends, you can forget the plot of the novel you enjoyed so much last year. But can you really forget the night you murdered someone? No, right? I can’t, either.

I was feeling a bit tipsy now as I stood in the middle of the road near Eco Space Business Park. Did I have a drink at the pub, I’m not sure. Then again, how could the pub be open at such odd hours? And how did I manage to get in? Well, these are the memory lapses I was talking about. It is incredibly annoying.

***

Ever heard of Raghu Dixit? No, not the singer slash composer Raghu Dixit. The serial killer Raghu Dixit who walked the streets of Bangalore in the night and killed people, mostly with a sledgehammer. It was quite a big deal last year. All the news channels fancied him to up their TRPs. The police never caught him, nobody knows his name. The only survivor told the police that he looked like singer slash composer Raghu Dixit. That’s how the media came to call him Raghu Dixit. The news died down when the news channels took more interest in a crow that sat on the Chief Minister’s car for five hours. These news channels are worse than serial killers, mind you.

Oh, did I give you the impression that I was the serial killer? Stop being so paranoid. Although I killed a guy that night, I’m no serial killer. I had ample reasons to kill him, unlike that Raghu guy who killed people randomly, without any motive. But the reason I told you about him is that I think I saw him that night.

I wasn’t entirely sure it was he, but I’d like to believe it was he. After all, you don’t get to share a cigarette with a famous serial killer every day, right?

So there he was, standing near the bus stop in front of Eco Space Business Park. He was dressed casually in black trousers and powder-blue shirt. Now don’t be over smart and ask me, ‘Hey, you said it was dark. How come you saw everything so clearly?’ It was not dark anymore. The streetlights had come back on. Anyway, there he was, smoking like it was the most important thing in the world. I started walking towards him. He noticed me, his face inscrutable. As I got near him, I noticed a black bag by his side. I wondered if he had his trademark sledgehammer in it. 

‘I’m feeling very cold. May I have a cigarette?’ I asked him, rubbing my arms.

He offered one without a word. I lit it, took two puffs, and then looked at him. His eyes were fixed on the road. Maybe he was thinking about something. Maybe he was thinking of killing me. I finished my cigarette in silence, scrounged up some courage, and asked him: ‘What do you do? What are you doing here?’

He flicked the butt of the cigarette away; and without looking at me, he picked up his bag. I stepped aside. Slowly, he turned towards me, and said, ‘Nothing.’

‘You look like Raghu Dixit,’ I blurted out.

‘I know,’ he said, unzipping his bag.

I was sure I was going to die then. I couldn’t run away, for fear had held me incapacitated. I was staring at him in horror. He saw my face, smiled crookedly, reached into his bag, took out his phone, and zipped the bag again. I heaved a sigh of relief.

‘Thanks for the cigarette,’ I said.

***

Do you know who the most patient people in the world are? Thinking of monks or people who practice meditation, are you? No. You are wrong. Let me tell you. The most patient people in the world are stoners. You know, those who smoke weed. If you don’t believe me, look at them when they are rolling a joint. That’s beauty itself. The amount of patience it requires, my god! You will see them carefully separating the bad stuff, then powdering it, rolling it afterwards. All this requires tremendous amount of patience.

So there I was, enjoying the sight of a man rolling a joint. He was dressed in black jeans, red Deadpool t-shirt, and a pair of white canvas shoes. A few others were waiting for him to finish rolling. I am sure they were equally efficient men when it came to rolling joints, but it was simply Deadpool’s turn now.

Finally, he was done with his artwork. He lit one, closed his eyes, took a long drag, and passed it on to others. Everyone took a drag and then the last one passed it on to me. I took a drag, too, and passed it to the girl standing next to me. She took one puff and passed it on to the girl next to her. We took turns and smoked in silence. It was peaceful.

‘What do you have in there?’ the girl next to me asked, pointing to my bag.

She was dressed in brown salwar. She had tied her black silky smooth hair in a pony. She was wearing a nose ring, had winged her eyeliner, she was smoking weed, she looked mysteriously alluring. I was in love with her.

‘Huh?’ I said.

‘I asked what you have in your bag,’ she said, taking a puff.

It was only then that I realized I had a bag with me. I was equally curious as she was about the contents of the bag. But asking a stranger what he has in his bag is strange, don’t you think? But she was beautiful. So I think she had a right to ask me whatever she wanted.

I put the bag down and unzipped it. She bent down with me as I opened it.

‘What are you a carrying a sledgehammer for?’ she asked with no surprise in her tone. It was just a casual remark.

I shrugged in response.

‘Cool,’ she said.

I zipped up the bag and we got up. I looked around the hall once. It was a large food court. All the shops were closed, the main door was closed, the tables and chairs were nowhere to be seen. It was a food court in a business park. The business park I worked in. Then I looked at the people smoking. I recognized them all. I didn’t know them in person, but I had seen them all. And the girl! I recognized her, too. I saw her every day during lunch break. But what were they doing here? And what was I doing here? How did I get the bag? It was the same bag that Raghu Dixit had. How did I manage to get it from him? He was, after all, Raghu Dixit, wasn’t he? I shared a smoke with a serial killer! How did I get here –

‘Are you new?’ the girl asked me, breaking the flow of my thoughts.

I didn’t respond.

‘Okay, got it,’ she said.

‘What’s happening here?’ I asked her.

‘You don’t know, huh?’

I shook my head.

‘They have trapped us here.’

‘Who?’ I asked. ‘And why?’

‘I don’t know and I don’t know.’

I frowned and stared at her.

‘I really don’t know,’ she said, laughing.

That laugh! I fell in love with her for the second time in two minutes.

I smiled and asked her, ‘What do you do?’

‘I’m a dancer selling my soul to an IT company for money. Basically a whore. Everyone’s a whore here. What about you? What do you do?’

It took a few seconds for her answer to sink in my head. ‘Nothing,’ I said, not wanting to give away too much about myself. ‘I do nothing.’

‘I know what you mean,’ she said, laughing again.

Shut up and take my heart already, I wanted to tell her.

‘I’m Rhythm,’ she said. ‘What do I call you?’

‘Shambhu,’ I said.

She burst out laughing. ‘I’m so sorry to hear that. Your parents should be sent to prison for screwing with your name. Anyway, come on. Let me introduce you to everyone.’

She led me to the rest of the boys and girls and introduced me to everyone.

‘He’s Shambhu and he does nothing,’ is how she introduced me.

Everyone introduced themselves and for some reason I thought I was in the right company. There were about fifty people and everyone was an artist of some kind. They were musicians and dancers and painters and writers and poets and singers and sculptures. They were all working in the same business park, for some IT company or the other.

‘What are you all doing here?’ I asked the same question I had asked Rhythm. ‘Why are the doors locked?’

‘They have trapped us here,’ said a guy in blue pajamas. ‘We are trapped.’ 

‘Who?’ I asked again. ‘And why?’

‘I don’t know and I don’t know.’

I was about to ask him something when someone in the group started screaming. Everyone turned to the guy who was screaming. He ran towards the door, still screaming: ‘Let me out of here! Let me out of here!’

No one tried to console him, for they all knew that it was futile.

I don’t know for how long I was there, and it doesn’t matter. No one spoke for a long time. They smoked and they smoked and they stayed silent. Then a strange thing happened. They all started whispering among themselves. I thought maybe they were hatching a plan to get out. And when I realized what they were whispering about, my blood ran cold.

‘One of us here is not human,’ Rhythm said when I asked her what it was all about.

It reminded me of a movie I had seen a long time before: five people stuck in a lift, and in the end, one of them turns out be the devil. Even the movie was called Devil, if my memory serves me right.

‘What nonsense,’ I said.

‘I believe it,’ she said.

Maybe it was the marijuana speaking, I thought. It was then I felt the pull for the first time. I felt a pull on my back. I turned round and saw nothing. And when I turned back, everyone was staring at me in disgust. They were all standing together and staring at me.

‘What?’ I asked.

‘You are not a human,’ Rhythm said.

‘What are you talking about? Are you crazy?’

They started whispering among themselves again. A minute later they seemed to have made a decision.

Rhythm spoke: ‘You are not a human. Don’t know what you are. Maybe a monster, maybe not. But we believe that if we kill you, we will be freed.’

They started walking towards me slowly. They looked like zombies themselves and they were telling me that I wasn’t a human?

‘Hey, wait. There must be some mistake. Don’t be crazy. Stop right there.’

I started walking back. Here’s the fun part. I wasn’t walking back. I was being made to. It was involuntary. I was feeling that terrible pull on my back again. Someone was doing that to me. 

I didn’t want to run away from there. I wanted to find out what was happening. But I wasn’t in control of my body. Someone was controlling my actions. Someone wanted me dead. I turned round and ran towards the door. Again, it wasn’t I who did that. But somehow I had managed to pick up my bag while I was being made to run.

***

It was raining heavily again when I got back to my room. I was drenched to the bone. There was no light, my room door was open. Did I leave it like that when I stepped out? I didn’t know. Neither did I know how I reached home, how I escaped from my possible killers in the food court.

I stepped into my room and realized that I wasn’t alone. There was someone on the bed, sleeping. My heart thumped in my chest. I wiped my face with my shirt sleeve and took a step closer. The man on the bed didn’t budge. I took another step forward. Then another and then another. As I walked towards him I started feeling weak in my body. I didn’t have much time, I was sure. I had to do something now. So I did. I unzipped the bag and took out the sledgehammer. I took another step forward and took a glance at the man who was sleeping on my bed.

It was he, the monster, the non-human that the stoners in the food court were talking about. No wonder they thought it was I. I could understand why they misunderstood me. The man sleeping on my bed was my doppelganger. He was the non-human, the monster. Not me. What’s that they said? ‘If we kill you, we will be freed.’ Yes, they were right. Everything that was happening was because of this ‘thing’ that was sleeping on my bed. I had to kill him. End it all.

I raised the sledgehammer and felt weak in my body. I had a strange feeling then. Was I dreaming? Was I sleeping? Was all that had happened till now a dream? I mulled over it for a few seconds. No, it wasn't it. It wasn't a dream at all. Everything that had happened till now was too real to be a dream. I raised the sledgehammer higher. I felt weaker than before. I was losing it, losing my energy. I tried to muster up every ounce of energy left in me and raised the sledgehammer up, up, up. And then another thought struck me: I wasn't dreaming, sure. But was I in a dream? In someone else's dream? My doppelganger's dream? Was I his illusion, his shadow? I didn't know what was happening anymore. The only way to find out was to bring down the sledgehammer on him. I gripped the handle of the sledgehammer. My knees felt weak, my hands felt week, I felt I was about to sag down, die. He was doing this to me. He was sucking out all the energy out of my body. I had to finish him and find out. I stretched my hands up again and brought down the sledgehammer on his head. Hard.

***

Ever seen a stupid horror film where they show a soul or a spirit or whatever escaping the body – like some smoke seeping out of the body? That’s exactly how I felt when I brought down the sledgehammer on his head. I don’t remember anything after that. I became non-existent after that. I don't know what it was all about? Couldn't find out. But if I thought I had killed him that night, I was wrong.

It’s been weeks or months or maybe years since that night. And now, I’m here again, standing over him, my doppelganger. I have a knife now instead of a sledgehammer. I have to kill him again. Maybe this time I will find out. I'm ready. I’m feeling weak in my knees again. I don’t remember what exactly happened tonight. But I’m here again, with a knife in my hand, with my lookalike on my bed. All I know is that I have to drive this knife into his heart.

I take a step closer. I feel weaker. I grip the knife in my hand. I feel something leaving my body yet again. Everything is repeating. Everything has started to blur. I lift my hand up and bring the knife down to his heart.


*********************The End**********************

Copyright © Karthik 2016






Bottle in a Trunk

4

Category: , , ,

Chiranth took shelter at a bus stop and waited for the rain to stop. It was pouring buckets and the city was throttled with cold wet chill. Half an hour passed, but the rain didn't stop. He waited a few more minutes, and when the clouds didn't part, he decided to walk in the rain. His cellphone rang again. He didn't pick up. He knew who it was, though.

He turned into the road and went up to the grocery store at the far end of the road. The store owner motioned him to come and take shelter. Chiranth smiled and waved at him and went around the store. He dashed through the torrential rain and the orange of the streetlights. About twenty yards from Swami's place he stepped into a half-a-feet deep pit and stumbled. He cursed as he took his leg out of the muddy water and noticed a tiny round object floating on the surface of the water. The rain drops were pricking the small pool of water, making the object bounce up and down. He bent down and picked it up. It was a 10-paisa coin.

He jogged the last of the distance and reached the gate. Swami's room was on the third floor. He ran up the stairs, his rubber slippers making an annoying splich-splach all along. Chiranth was about to knock on the door when the door opened.

'What took you so long?' Swami asked.

Chiranth wiped his face with his shirt sleeve and gave his friend a look.

'Never mind,' Swami said. 'Come in.'
                                                                                                    
Chiranth kicked off his slippers by the door and stepped inside. He went into the bathroom, took off his shirt and pants and tossed them in a red plastic basket. When he came out, Swami cried, 'You sick sicko, how many times have I told you not to walk around in your underwear in front of me!'

Chiranth went up to the bureau, opened it, rummaged through the heap of clothes, and took a towel, a pair of blue Bermuda shorts, and a yellow t-shirt. He toweled himself dry, tossed the towel back in the bureau, and closed the door. He wore Swami's t-shirt and shorts in silence and came and sat on the floor in front of Swami.

Swami creased his brows and stared at him.

'What?' Chiranth asked.

'Sorry to trouble you, Your Royal Anus. But could you please get up, get a newspaper, and spread it on the floor?'

‘Oh, right,’ Chiranth said, getting up. He went up to the table and came back with a newspaper. He sat on his haunches and spread the newspaper on the floor. ‘Anything else?’ he asked.

‘Nothing. Everything’s right here,’ Swami said, touching the bag on his lap.

‘Great.’

Swami opened the bag and took out a bottle.

‘Jack Daniels?! Seriously?’

‘Yeah,’ Swami said, without looking at his friend, and went about his business. He took out two plastic glasses, two packs of chips, and placed them by the side of the bottle.

Chiranth opened the bottle and poured a copious amount for both. Swami kept the bag aside and picked up his glass. They were about to say cheers when the power went out. They looked up at the CFL lamp as if to confirm. It turned to a hazy green, lingered for a few seconds and died. Outside it was still raining and they sat inside, getting drenched in darkness. None of them spoke a word. It wasn’t in Swami’s nature to keep calm, but he kept mum, anyway.

‘Let’s drink,’ Chiranth said at last.

‘Yes. Let’s.’

They touched their glasses and drank.

‘How much did it cost? The Scotch?’ Chiranth asked.

‘Five thousand,’ Swami said.

‘Didn’t know you were rich.’

‘I was saving for the occasion.’

Chiranth took his time before he answered, ‘The occasion that never came.’

‘Just drink, you pig.’

‘What the hell is wrong with you?’

They drank in silence for a while. Chiranth took the bottle and poured each another round.

‘This is nice,’ Chiranth said. ‘Never tasted Scotch before.’

‘It is, isn’t it? Smooth as honey.’

‘Yes,’ Chiranth said as he opened the chips packet. Swami took a few slices and stuffed them into his mouth. The crunchy sound of chips mixed with the sound of pattering rain outside filled the room.

Swami tried to say something with his mouth full and spat a few crumbs of chips on Chiranth’s face. ‘Take it easy, you sick bastard. How many times have I told you not to speak with your mouth full!’

Swami munched, swallowed and took a draught from his glass, spilling a few drops on his shirt as he did. He said, ‘Manners, huh? Who’s here to judge me?’

‘Forget it. You were saying?’

‘Yes, yes. Remember that night when we got drunk and walked the streets, dancing to Satya Harishchandra’s song?’

‘Oh yes. It was nice sleeping in the police station for a change.’

Both broke into a hysterical laughter, Swami kicking the chips packets as he stretched his legs and leaned sideways.

‘Careful with the bottle, you idiot,’ Chiranth said, still laughing.

‘What was that Avi said when the police caught us? “Saar saar please saar. We have license saar. RC book, insurance, we have everything saar.”’

They laughed. Arms and legs stretched. Kicking chips packets. Spilling drinks. They were careful with the bottle, though.

Swami continued, ‘And when the police asked us what we did and where we stayed, he goes, “We do computer saar … oh … look at that sky, look at those stars. Isss this … heaven? I bet my dick it is. But what is a policeman doing here? Don’t you have enough people to trouble on earth? Oh … you have come searching for apsaras …? Go to Hebbal in Bangalore. After eleven in the night, all sorts of chicks will line up there by the side of the road … what are you staring at? You think you are Sai Kumar? Tell me his famous ‘Gaandu’ dialogue from Agni IPS then, let me … see …”’

Chiranth went into a fit of laughter, almost knocking over the bottle. That affected Swami and he cackled like a Hyena.

‘The inspector lost it then, remember?’ Chiranth said after sometime. ‘The next thing we know, Avi is lying on the floor, laughing for reasons known only to him. That was one hell of a slap, no?’

‘The inspector slapped him? Really?’

‘You don’t remember it?’

‘No.’

‘I’m not surprised. You two had had almost two quarters each. I was the only one who was quite sober.’

‘Oh god. It became worse when the inspector dragged us to the police station. That I remember.’

‘He started dancing in the cell, didn’t he? All Gangnam Style steps. The best part was he wasn’t singing the tunes or anything. Neither was there any music. It was a dead night and the police station was silent as a grave.’

Swami poured a small amount of whiskey into his glass and gulped it down. ‘Even the policemen started laughing.’

They grew silent for a while. Chiranth poured for himself and drank. ‘It was some birthday, after all,’ he said.

‘Whose birthday?’ Swami asked.

‘Avi’s, of course,’ Chiranth said.

‘It wasn’t his birthday, silly. He had got a promotion.’

‘No, no. It was his birthday.’

‘No, his birthday was on 27th March.’

‘Exactly. It was 27th March that day.’

‘You shitbag, we were celebrating his promotion.’

‘That was a month later. We rode to the new Airport that night. We were drunk again. We bought cupcakes in the Airport, had coffee, remember? Then Avi tried to flirt with that cute female security guard and we almost got into some serious trouble?’

‘Yes, yes, I remember. That was his birthday.’

‘What the hell is wrong with you, you shit-eating Monkey King? How could you forget?’

‘It’s you who is forgetting everything. You eat cake on your birthday. You drink when you have other things to celebrate. That’s the rule.’

‘Who made the rules? Your granny? We spent the night in the police station on his birthday and we rode to the Airport when he got promoted.’

‘You forget everything. You are an asshole,’ Swami almost screamed.

Chiranth said something but a rattling peal of thunder muffled his words. That shut them up for a while. Each poured himself another round and drank. Swami continued to munch chips once in a while. Chiranth drank in silence.

‘Hey, know what I found while coming?’ Chiranth said, reaching into his pocket.

‘What, you found your missing balls?’

‘Look here. A 10-paisa coin.’

Swami couldn’t see in the dark, but he felt the dull surface of the coin with his fingers. He tossed it back to Chiranth and drank without uttering a word.

‘Avi used to collect these, didn’t he?’ Chiranth said, pocketing the coin. ‘Coins, stamps, all sorts of stupid things. He even kept all those movie tickets and bus tickets. Said he was creating memories.’

Swami didn’t respond.

‘You listening?’ Chiranth said.

‘Yes.’

‘Then say some shit.’

‘Some shit.’

They kept quiet for a while, without drinking, without munching chips, without moving a muscle. The rain continued to pour outside.

‘Funny how things change,’ Swami said.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Ever wondered, if Avi hadn’t gone to that stupid antiques’ shop, none of it would have happened.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘What I mean is,’ Swami said, his tone getting harsher with each word, ‘the tiniest things have the potential to change the course of one’s life.’

‘You are drunk.’

‘Of course I’m drunk, you rat fucker. But I know what I’m talking about. Him and his godforsaken hobbies! Who the hell collects coins these days? And which guy in his right mind goes to Cauvery Emporium? If only he hadn’t gone there, he would never have met that bitch, and none of it had happened.’

‘But he was happy for a couple of weeks,’ Chiranth said. ‘You can’t take that away from him.’

‘What’s wrong with you? A couple of weeks’ happiness was worth it? Really?’

Chiranth kept mum. Swami didn’t probe further. Silence continued to sing in the air, the sound of rain acting as an accompanying instrument.

‘I met my surprise today,’ Chiranth said after sometime.

‘What?’

‘That’s what he said to us when he returned from the antiques’ shop. “I met my surprise today.”’

‘Yes, that Ashcharya bitch. By the way, who names their kid Ashcharya, I say? Her parents must have been really surprised when she was born. “Hey, we wanted a boy or a girl, but look what we’ve got here. A bitch. We are incredibly surprised. So let’s name her Ashcharya.” And see how that worked out.’

Chiranth took his time before answering, not because he was weighing his words, but because the booze had slowed him down. He said, ‘It’s not her fault he fell for her.’

Unlike in Chiranth’s case, booze had the reverse effect on Swami. He was quick to retort, ‘Do you want me to punch you in the face?’

When Chiranth didn’t respond, Swami continued, ‘It was her fault. She misled him. She gave him all sorts of mixed signals. He felt trapped.’

‘Trapped?’ Chiranth managed to ask.

‘Yes. You know, when a boy tells a girl that he likes her and if the girl is not interested, the decent thing she can do is tell him she isn’t interested. That’s perfectly okay. Getting rejected is okay. But that’s not what she did. What she did was she didn’t let him get close; neither did she push him away. She kept him stranded in the middle and suffocated him. What she wanted was a back-up guy. That silly bastard never realized it.’

‘I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Let’s sleep.’

‘You don’t have to talk. I will. You just listen. Besides, there’s still some booze left.’

‘I don’t want to listen to your shit either. I want to sleep.’

‘There is so much darkness in this world,’ Swami continued, as if he hadn’t heard Chiranth. ‘There is so much evil. But darkness is not a problem. A good amount of it should be there in the world. Lots of thrilling stories come out of it. So what you do, you observe it from a distance and have a good show. That is all. Don’t go near it or try to touch it. Else, it will touch you back. And when that happens, you are done. Then again, sometimes it doesn’t work that way. Even if you try to stay away, it will come chasing you. All you have to do then is run. Wear a nice pair of shoes and run like a dog. You’ve got to have a good pair of shoes to run, you know. Like the ones I bought last summer, remember? I wanted to run that 10K marathon, remember? You do remember, right? Yes? Those Reebok shoes? Yes, those were a good pair. They were nice … You crazy son of a bitch! Why the hell do you want to talk about my shoes now? You tell me you want to sleep and start asking about my shoes …’

‘Only a few drops left in the bottle. You want?’ Chiranth asked.

‘Sure. Pour it down my glass already.’

Chiranth poured the last remaining whiskey into Swami’s glass. Swami gulped it down and said, ‘Mmmm. It’s nice, isn’t it? Smooth as honey.’

‘You already said that.’

‘Said what?’

‘That it’s smooth as honey.’

‘What’s your point?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Good. We should drink this often. It’s classy. Know what I mean? The kind of booze that doesn’t make you a bastard after drinking. You don’t talk nonsense or anything. Just drink and go to sleep like a gentleman. Know what I mean?’

‘No, I don’t know.’

‘Avi always wanted to try Jack Daniels once. Kept postponing because it was too expensive. If he hadn’t run behind that bitch, spending money on movies and coffees and dinners, he would have had enough money to buy a truck load of booze. The loser never understood any of that. Said he was in love with her. Love, my ass.'

‘Easy there, Anand Swaminath K S.’

‘What are you full-naming me for?’

‘You should shut up now.’

‘No, you shut up.

‘Stop it, Swami.’

‘No, you stop.’

Chiranth threw his empty plastic glass on Swami’s face and almost shouted, ‘Stop it, you rabid dog’s shit. I don’t want to listen to any of it anymore, all right. So stop it. Just stop.’

‘But –,’

Chiranth cut him short and continued, ‘Listen to me. Whatever happened was not her fault. It was all Avi’s fault. He should have been careful. Besides, we were there with him every step of the way. He knew that, too; yet he screwed up. The sooner you understand this, the better. Sometimes people hurt us, and sometimes we hurt others. But you don’t get stuck with it. You understand the situation and move on. Do whatever it takes and move on. Change your hairstyle, or shave your head, do whatever it takes to bring about a change, and move on. Okay? Get what I’m saying? No? I don’t care. Now let’s stop this, okay.’

Swami didn’t say anything and they both sat in silence for a long time. Swami cleared his throat at last and said, ‘Calm down, O King. Are you drunk or something?’

The power came on and the white light pricked their eyes. When they looked at each other they realized for the first time what a blessing power cut was. They averted their eyes and Chiranth said, ‘I’ll clear out this mess and you sweep the floor.’

Chiranth picked up the bottle, plastic glasses, chips packets and the newspaper. Swami swept the floor, slipping and falling twice as he did so. Chiranth switched off the light and hit the sack. Swami kicked him in the leg and said, ‘Move over, move over. That’s my spot.’ Chiranth grunted and rolled to the other side. Swami kept a pillow between them and lay down on the bed.

Two minutes later, Swami got up, made a bolt to the bathroom and vomited. He returned to the bed a while later and asked Chiranth, ‘Are you asleep?’

‘Yes,’ Chiranth said.

‘Okay.’

A minute passed in silence. Swami said, ‘Shall I tell you something?’

‘No.’

‘That Ashcharya is a bitch.’

Chiranth didn’t reply. Swami waited a few seconds, gave his friend a nudge in the stomach and repeated, ‘Ashcharya is a bitch.’

 Chiranth took a deep breath.

‘You hear me?’

‘Yes.’

‘Ashcharya is a –,’

‘I know.’

Swami kept silent for another minute and said again, ‘And Avi was a moron.’

‘I know that, too,’ Chiranth said.

‘Good night.’

‘Good night.’

By the time Swami woke up in the morning, Chiranth was standing in front of the mirror, combing his hair. ‘You are leaving?’ Swami asked, getting up from the bed.

‘Yes. Have some work pending. Need to finish it by evening. Or else my lead won’t sanction my leave.’

They both reached the door. Chiranth wore his slippers and said, ‘Throw that bottle away and save auntie from getting a heart-attack.’

‘No, I won’t throw it away. I won’t ever. Will hide it somewhere, though. Mom won’t know about it, don’t worry.’

They regarded each other in silence for several seconds, and then hugged.

‘See you,’ Chiranth said, and left.

Swami came back inside and closed the door. He climbed up a stool and lowered an old iron trunk from the ledge. ‘This is where you store all your memories,’ he could hear his late grandfather saying. He picked up the empty whiskey bottle, wrapped it in an old piece of cloth and kept it in the trunk, below a few broken toys and articles.


********************The End********************
Copyright © Karthik 2014


The Parking Lot - Prologue

6

Category: , ,

'So I go home tired as hell, all right. And there she is, watching a filthy TV serial about three women ganging up and teaching a lesson to the man who cheated them. That is all okay. Watch whatever you want, but say something nice to your tired husband when he comes home. But no. She just sits there, eyes glued to TV. Doesn't even look at me or anything. Fine, I said, and went in to change. I changed and freshened up and came back to the hall. She hasn't moved an inch. It's ten o'clock in the night and elephants are having sex in my stomach. I ask her to serve me. She says half an hour. I couldn't have waited for half an hour, so I went into the kitchen to do it myself. And guess what. There is only a little Uppit left. I had to eat that shit and hit the bed. One hour later the queen comes to bed. I put an arm around her and she says, 'I'm tired.' Now what do you say about that? No food and no dhishum-dhishum either!'

'Relax, relax.'

'Oh, you are still young. You won't understand. Take my advice. Never get married.'

'I'll think about it.'

It was a dewy morning and the empty parking lot was stuffy with the smell of fuel and dust. The two men in gray clothes were sweeping the floor. Their friends would join them in a while. The older man coughed and said, 'My life's miserable.' The younger one continued to sweep in silence. He knew if he said anything he would have to listen to more 'miserable' things. And he had no intention of listening to the old man's – what's that he said – unsuccessful dhishum-dhishum story early in the morning.

The older man stopped his work, looked up at his protege, one hand dangling from the top of the big broomstick, and said, 'You know what? The things that happen at home are far more worse than what happens here.'

The younger man who hadn't even lifted his head until now stopped sweeping and asked. 'Is it true, Rajanna? You believe it?'

'Of course I do,' Rajanna said, and smiled in a way that people do when they pass on some secret knowledge, all the while reveling in the feeling that they knew about it first.

'What exactly happens here?' the younger man asked, looking around the parking lot.

'What have you heard?'

'Everything.'

'That's it. Everything happens.'

The curious young man was about to probe further when they heard the sounds of people chattering and laughing. In the next minute, their colleagues joined them.

'The boy wants to know,' Rajanna addressed the others.

'About what?' one of them asked. A moment later, as if realizing what it was all about, he said, 'Oh that. You are new here, aren't you? Don't bother. It's just silly.'

'Silly?' Rajanna said, getting a bit serious, his brows all crinkled.

'Don't mess with his head,' he said, and then, turning to the boy, 'Just do your job and go home, okay. If you want to be curious, be curious about something else. Maybe why all those girls get their arms and necks inked. Find out why and tell me.'

The others laughed, and so did the boy. Then the topic changed to women and their women at home and politics and cricket. None of them brought up the topic of the parking lot again. They would, however, talk about it the following day. And they would continue to discuss it for a long time.

A floor above, the mall was waking up from its slumber. A few women in gray saris were already mopping the floors and the escalators. A man in light-blue uniform opened the main doors and welcomed the sunlight. When the golden sunshine tickled his eyes and the cool morning breeze caressed his face, he smiled and wished himself a good morning.

At about nine thirty the mall opened to the public. The first set of customers poured in; most of them college students who had missed their classes for morning-show movies. Twenty minutes later a middle-aged man in white shirt and blue pants entered the mall. The taste of filter coffee still lingered on his tongue. He smacked his lips and went in the direction of the changing room. He changed into his liftman's attire – dark-blue shirt and pants – and walked towards the lift. It was still cold and the air conditioner inside the mall made it worse. He rubbed his hands together as he walked on. 'Such a beautiful morning,' he said to himself. And on that beautiful morning he had no idea that that night would take away his sanity.

Forever. 

*************

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As The Crow Flies
Swami and Friends
The Devil's Alternative
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Godfather
The Seven Minutes
The Prize
Atlas Shrugged
The Fountainhead
If Tomorrow Comes
Digital Fortress
The Chancellor Manuscript
The Bourne Supremacy
The Bourne Identity
The Fist of God
The Fourth Protocol
The Odessa File
The Day of the Jackal


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