Thursday, December 2, 2010

Image Distorted

“Ramappa, Veeranna, you are still hanging out here! Come on! Hurry up! He has already arrived and the procession has begun! Where are the people you promised to bring?”

Lingaraj gulped down the remaining portion of his favourite rum and wiped his mouth by the back of his palm before looking at the person who was excitedly shouting at some people who were busy too gulping down their own brand of liquor. It was Suresh who was yelling, a recent drop out from a degree college and a political aspirant. He wore a brownish Khadi shirt without collars and white pajamas. The gold chain that he wore around his neck was peeking out and shone brightly against the background of his dark skin. There was a big crowd today in the wine shop that was licensed only to sell liquor and not to serve it on its premises. Parashuram Kalal, popularly known as ‘Parsu’ the owner of this lucrative business, could flout the rule with such impunity because the number of the beneficiaries of his shop that included quite a few local authorities, outnumbered those who opposed it.

Lingaraj fumbled in his trouser pocket trying to find out if he had money to buy himself another quarter bottle. A quarter-bottle was just another drink to him and he foolishly took pride in it and liked to boast about it to all those who cared to listen to him. All he could find was a ten-rupee note and a few coins. He went to the counter and asked Parsu for a top up of half a quarter of the cheap rum placing the note on the counter. Parsu smiled at him and gave a sealed quarter bottle and returned the money too, saying, “Sawkar, you needn’t pay today. Doctor is coming to Hoovinakere for the first time after election, you know. He is paying for all”

Being addressed as Sawkar, which is reserved for the rich people and landlords, brought a contemptuous smile on his face. If there was any sarcasm in Parsu’s tone, he could not be sure. However, at the mention of doctor he felt a pain deep inside him, a pain in the neck that had become a part of his life ever since he was forced to shoulder the burden of a huge extended family. He wanted to return the bottle in protest and felt like shouting “I don’t want any charity from your doctor” but he didn’t want to create a scene. Instead, he silently took the bottle and sat on a bench nearby. At least half a dozen people hurried after Suresh speaking to each other at the top of their voice and totally ignoring Lingaraj sitting there. As the cacophony died down and a soothing calm and silence descended, Lingaraj lifted his head to find that but for one old man in almost rags greedily licking the pickle that was supplied to the customers free of charge, all others had left and Parsu was silently counting money on the counter and making entries in a ledger.

Yes, a lot of people ignore me these days; in fact all the people including my own family, ignore me, thought Lingaraj; I don’t give a damn who ignores me, he tried to console himself. He swatted a fly that was constantly hovering over his head, cursing it loudly. Parsu looked up and said, “As soon as the summer begins, these bloody flies swarm the place. Very difficult to rid of them.” Lingaraj didn’t care to reply. True, the bloody flies… always swarm the places where they get crumbs, nay where there is rotting filth, like these people who are flocking to welcome their dear leader, only because he is throwing crumbs at them. They call him doctor, ugh bloody doctor. He took eight years to study Ayurvedic Medicine, to complete a course of just four years! He then began prescribing allopathic medicine without knowing either the causes of the disease he was treating, or the medicine he was prescribing. Even an RMP is a better doctor!

A lanky man wearing a dirt-stained dhoti and a tailor-sewn banian with a pocket just above the abdomen entered and taking a glance at Lingaraj went straight to the counter and greeted Parsu, placing a twenty on the counter. Parsu knowing fully well each customer’s requirement gave him a bottle of whisky with a glass. Lingaraj wondered how the stranger’s dhoti could resist the gravitational pull on his slender frame. “How are things Basanna? No work today?” Parsu asked him in a friendly manner. “No,” replied he wiping his mouth with an end of his dhoti, “All the workers have gone to welcome Gouda who has become some chairman of some government corporation. People were saying that he is now just like a minister”.

It didn’t escape Lingaraj’s notice that the new customer was deliberately saying this loudly and was glancing at him sidelong, obviously accusing him of not being a part of the welcome party of the doctor. Lingaraj was irritated that people simply didn’t mind their own business. The stranger’s name was Basavaraju perhaps, and so was the name of the doctor in whose honour the whole village was gathering and bringing him in a procession, as if he was a god. Everyone used to call him Basu when he was still young, why even when he was practising medicine, most village elders and some youngsters, who were close to him, also addressed him so. In a few years the number calling him by name has dwindled and now he is addressed as Sawkar, Annavru, doctor sahebru, or simply sahebru.

The sound of the beating of huge drums and exploding of crackers was gradually increasing suggesting that the procession was nearing the liquor shop. Lingaraj started looking at the street desultorily. In the last less than a decade, quite a few new RCC buildings had come up on either side of the street, but the street itself had remained as narrow and filthy as it was back then. Some shop-owners had constructed slabs over the gutter carrying stinking sewage, but at other places it was open spreading the rotten smell in the air. Lingaraj saw a young girl of about ten passing in the street and was reminded of Maramma, whose father he’d tried to console this morning. What a tragic end for the little girl! ‘Tchu tchu tchu,’Lingaraj made loud sound feeling pity.

The unfortunate girl was only daughter of Peeranna and Lakshmi, both landless agriculture labourers, living in Maidur, about five kilometers from Chandapur, in a thatched hut that the couple themselves had built from jungle-wood poles and mud. She’d never been to school, never played with friends or dolls, never wore new clothes, never seen anything outside the little village she was born in, never been to a movie house, never eaten colourful sweetmeats that were displayed in glass jars at the only grocery store in the village, never knew how milk tasted, let alone ghee or curds, but she never complained. Till a little brother was born about a few months ago, she accompanied her parents everyday to different farmlands, and worked with her mother. Though frail and malnourished, she worked almost as hard as her mother in the fields and helped her mother cook rotis at home. Of late she was cooking on her own as her mother could hardly free herself from the newborn.

Lingaraj had been to Maidur the previous week after hearing about the tragedy that had struck Peeranna, with whom he had come to be attached closely though Peeranna was only a labourer toiling in what had remained of his huge chunk of land near Kuppekere, a tank refilled every year more by the backwaters of a barrage than by scanty rains. Peeranna, a tall and sturdy man with a handsome face, was a very hard worker, knew how to read and write though he never attended any school, never over-indulged in habits, either good or bad, was contented with whatever he had or would get, and was at least a decade younger than Lingaraj. Shy and tight-lipped with everyone, he would never speak ill of anyone and he reminded Lingaraj of a bull, which was his family had reared and which was his pet animal during his childhood. At least the bull could be aggressive at times, but Peeranna was never.

By the time he reached Maidur, the body had undergone postmortem and had been handed over to the family and the village elders and friends were advising Peeranna, who was silently shedding tears, to complete the last rituals as quickly as possible. Nobody knew if Peeranna did or did not have any relatives for none knew where he’d come from. Everyone thought he was migrant labourer who would leave as soon as the working season would be over, when he had first appeared along with his wife and Maramma, who then was only a few months old baby. But Peeranna had stayed on and had built a hut for himself outside the village, and had settled down there gradually growing roots. His wife had sprawled under the dappled shade of a small neem tree and was surrounded by women who were wailing.

Some of the people came to Lingaraj the moment they saw him and gave him the details. The previous day the younger child had taken ill and Peeranna and Lakshmi had been to a clinic in Hoovinakere, while Maramma was left alone in the hut to cook dinner. The kerosene lamp placed on the window accidentally fell on the girl spilling the kerosene all over her clothes and she was quickly engulfed by fire. The dry straw used to cover the frame of the door and parts of wall too caught fire. At first the girl was so shocked that she just didn’t know what to do except yelling for help which couldn’t be heard by anyone for quite a long time as the nearest house was located not less than fifty feet away. When finally help came, it was too late and she’d collapsed. Much later when she was taken to the government hospital in Hoovinakere all that the doctor present could do was to declare her dead.

Lingaraj was at loss of words to console Peeranna for his own grief was no less than that of the latter. And he had never been good at expressing himself and he felt that those who could use words and sentences, gestures even profusely were actually not as sincere as their words sounded. In fact he was enraged at some local leaders who visited along with a village level official, took some signatures from Peeranna saying that he would get one lakh rupees from the government as compensation for his loss. Could the death of a cute little daughter be compensated by money? One of them taunted Lingaraj too saying, “Peeranna, you are fortunate that Sawkar is here, he would certainly talk to his brother and help you get the compensation! Won’t you Sawkar?” obviously alluding to his conflicts with his brother. Some did not even hesitate to say loudly that since the girl had died an unnatural death, instead of cremating she had to be buried and some special rites needed to be performed so that her soul will rest in eternal peace instead of being hung between this world and the one above. Women from the village who had gathered were wailing as though singing a sad tune out of pitch, without even a drop of tear in their eyes. All this though unbearable, he had to put up with and keep his face free of any trace of wrath. Then he had other things to worry about. It was hardly any secret that Peeranna didn’t have even a penny on him and all those who had gathered there could not perhaps have been able to help him out. Moreover, he was sure that Peeranna wouldn’t extend his hands for alms, whatever the situation. So he took over the whole thing and arranged for the last rites of the girl and had left watching the tears of gratitude, apart from grief, in the eyes of Peeranna, thinking that the world is not fair, not fair at all.

He felt a pain emanating from his chest. “Bloody sour belch!” he cursed and tried to ignore it. Of late he had lost all appetite for eating and was eating very little or nothing at all while he kept drinking liquor throughout the day. All his lands had been lost to his habit of drinking and a couple of acres of land that he retained was being cultivated on crop share basis by his neighbour, who was kind enough to lend him money as and when demanded without questioning; ‘for old times’ sake’ the neighbour used to justify his action whoever cared to object. Last week Lingaraj had received his share of money for the current year, which was only a couple of thousands of rupees after deducting all earlier advances that he had received. He had spent most of that for the funeral of the girl and today he was broke.

People had started avoiding him like a plague, in fact running away even from his shadow because he was always drunk and had taken to the habit of asking for some money indiscriminately from everyone, be it a college going boy, a farm hand, a coolie or a government clerk. Ha ha! Even Peeranna is more respected than I am today, though they all call me Sawkar! Why don’t I feel ashamed of myself? My family used to be the richest in the village, in fact in most villages in the neighbourhood. Until my wife died in childbirth, I used to wear a gold chain of five tolas, a Titan wrist watch and Bata sandals. How happy I was then! Never expecting childbirth to be a killer, I had been preparing to be a father and had thrown a party to at least a hundred people. Wasn’t that the first occasion when I drank liquor? The bitter taste, the rancid smell and the hangover had all led me to decide that I wouldn’t touch it again in my life. But that was not to be. It stuck to me like the iguana to the wall. The birth of a child was the only opportunity when I could have brought pleasure to my parents…

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


He wasn’t so absorbed in his thoughts as not to notice a face that was so familiar; it was etched permanently on his mind, though it was nearly a decade after which he had sighted it. Although Jagdish was not sure it was the same face, his right foot inadvertently slammed the brake pedal to the floor and his Maruti Zen careened to a screeching halt. He turned back to peruse the face once again to confirm his doubts. There was no doubt. It was Srinivas Kankanwadi, known to his friends as Seenu. Back then when Jagdish was in the last year of his school, Seenu had a thin line of hair over his lips; it was now a fully grown, brush like moustache, half of it covering his upper lip.  His hairline had receded to reveal much of his forehead. His dusky colour, the result of sun tan because of playing in the scorching sun, had also become light pale now. But the eyes and nose were unmistakably Seenu’s. He wore a striped brown shirt tucked into black trousers. Surprisingly, he’d not put on any weight and looked very fit. Still Jagdish can’t be too sure. He therefore, thought better of yelling out Seenu’s name and after killing the engine, he got out of the car.

Jagdish hardly had to approach the person to verify whether he was or was not Seenu, for the latter was scanning the car and the driver carefully and the moment his gaze fell on the face of Jagdish, he shouted with a pleasant surprise, “Jaggu!” and a wide grin covered his face revealing his tobacco stained teeth, which protruded out of his mouth always, permanently giving the impression that he was grinning. Only those who knew him well knew when was really grinning.

Seenu rushed towards Jagdish and gave him a bear hug. Though as pleased as Seenu was, Jagdish felt a bit uneasy and had to struggle a little to release himself from the tight grip of Seenu. Seenu at last let him go and said, “Well Well Well! Look who is here! My own friend, who is the only nearest and dearest friend of mine! I am so damned pleased to see you Jaggu! What a pleasant day it is. I knew something was going to happen today, because when I went to Hanuman temple this morning, although I was not praying for something in particular, a flower fell from the right shoulder of the God! Very auspicious it was. Wasn’t it? Then you appear, as a bolt from the blue! Now what more can I ask for from the God?”

Seenu was always like this; he never hid any of his feelings. He was very talkative, very articulate and unabashedly flamboyant. Every now and then in the classroom he would be standing on the bench as a punishment for being a chatterbox. But he didn’t feel ashamed at all when he stood on the bench and on the contrary he went on making faces at whoever cared to look at him, which made some of the girls giggle, and receive a warning from the teacher. He was also a wisecrack, although his quips ended in punishments that he endured willingly just to entertain the classmates. Once when the history teacher asked him where Mughal king Akbar was born, he replied, “I am not sure m’am but he must have born in a Civil Hospital!” On another occasion, a science teacher asked him what a cloth merchant would do if he’d nothing to measure the cloth but had a cloth with a length of 1.25 meters but Seenu wanted 2 meters of cloth. To this he replied, “Sir I don’t require 2 meters of cloth, my tailor asks only for one meter to stitch a shirt for me!”

“You were so quick to reconise me! How could you?” Jagdish asked.

“But for the unnecessary weight you have put on, you are as you were when I saw you last. I think that was more than a decade now. You didn’t have moustache then; now too you don’t sport it!” he replied jestingly.

“Well, you’ve kept moustache that is more than enough for both of us,” Jagdish too tried to be ludicrous.

“What are you doing for you life pal? Are you married?”

“I own a motor vehicle spare parts shop in Jamkhandi. Of course I am married and I have two children. Both boys,” Jagdish added proudly, and asked, “What about you?”

“After you went to Bagalkot for Diploma course in mechanics, I joined commerce. Of course I couldn’t graduate and even the graduates were not getting any jobs. I came to Bangalore about five years ago. I am now employed in a multinational company you know, as a sales manager and earning enough to support my parents also back home. Our company S&G is into BPO and Manpower Agency.”


“Not yet. I couldn’t think of marriage until I got a stable job. Now I am thinking of marrying. It is not too late I suppose.”

“Not at all. But now you’ve got to hurry,” Jagdish agreed with him.

Jagdish noticed that Seenu was carrying a cell phone when it cheeped. Seenu received the call, “Hello”


“Yes, Achari speaking”

Jagdish gestured Seenu to follow him to his car and unlocked his door. Seenu sat on the front passenger seat. Seenu was still speaking on his phone.

“No problem sir. You can have a look before you make a choice. I will personally be there at 4 in the evening.”


“Ok sir. Bye,” Seenu said, disconnected the call and smiled at Jagdish.

“When did you become Achari?” Jagdish couldn’t suppress his curiosity.

“Well, when I first came to Bangalore, I introduced my self as Srinivasachari to people here. The north Karnataka names are difficult for the people over here. So I dropped my family name Kankanwadi. More importantly, the name Srinivasachari is weightier than mere Srinivas dost. Very few people know that I am from the north. Many think I am from Tamilnadu!”

“Ah, funny. You must have learnt Tamil also”

“I know both Tamil and Telugu now. All these are required for sales job. And down here, these are techniques of survival!” Seenu made a matter of fact statement sternly, and then added with cheers, “Not all can be as lucky as you have been. You were so damn intelligent, the teachers loved you and most of the girls had a crush on you!”

Jagdish felt embarrassed at the praise.

“Are you free now? We have met after such a long time. You have brightened up my day. You were the best friend I had in the school. Remember? We have a lot to catch up.” Seenu asked after a while.

“I’d come to Bangalore to place some orders and make some payment to the supplier in cash. The supplier has gone out and he won’t be back until evening. So I am free,” Jagdish replied and then enquired, “Where are you taking me?”

“Since I am a bachelor, there is nothing you can see at my place. Let’s go to a resort where our company has a permanent booking. It is used for VIP guests of our company. And for me you are a VIP. My friend deserves only the best!”

“Alright,” said Jagdish hiding uneasiness and turned the ignition key and the car came to life. Seenu guided him and after driving for almost an hour, they came out of the hustle and bustle of Bangalore traffic and then Seenu pointed towards a small road on the left. Jagdish saw that the road ended with a two-storied building with outstretching bay windows and a tapering roof of red tiles that looked like a farmhouse fashionable among the rich to have, as it was surrounded by coconut, areca nut, mango, and neem trees. A liveried security guard stood at the tall iron gates, and he saluted as the car entered premises of the resort. A couple of stylish, latest models of luxury cars had already been parked in the place marked for parking.

The interiors of the resort were in total contrast to its exteriors. The floor was covered with Diamond tiles, huge but intricately adorned flower vases stood in the corners, the pillars were rounded and covered with brilliant colours, and the walls were covered with oil paintings. Everyone seemed to recognise Seenu and greeted him with welcoming grins. Leaving behind Jagdish to sprawl on a richly cushioned sofa, Seenu went to the reception counter and talked to a lanky person wearing jeans and T-shirt. He returned after a while and beckoned Jagdish to follow him to a room. The door was ajar and they entered into the tastefully decorated room to find a huge king sized bed, a sofa set with a glass topped teapoy. Jagdish noted that the bed was not made.

“This is our usual room. The company I work has rented it on monthly basis to entertain its guests,” Seenu explained.

“Must be very costly,” observed Jagdish. Again Seenu’s mobile sounded and he received it and grunted, “Achari”


“Please don’t worry. I will be there along with others at 4,” said Seenu before disconnecting.

“Seems like you are a busy man,” Jagdish said.

“The sales job you know, it sucks sometimes. I need to be in Mysore at 4 in the evening.”

A liveried waiter entered with a tray that was cluttered with Antiquity, mineral water, soda and a couple of packets of potato chips. As he was laying those thing on the teapoy, Jagdish said, “Seenu, I don’t drink whisky during the day time”

“Alright, you may have beer,” replied Seenu and before Jagdish could object to that he instructed the waiter to bring a chilled beer.


It was almost two in the afternoon and Jagdish had already consumed half bottle of whisky. Seenu too had finished two bottles of beer and at last a couple of pegs of whisky. Both had gobbled butter chicken with rice. They had covered all former friends and classmates, their teachers, and mutual acquaintances in their conversation. A short, stout almost bald person with a grim face, wearing jeans and a black wind sweater entered the room.

“Ah, hello Jacky,” Seenu greeted him rising from the sofa and addressing Jagdish said, “Jaggu, I’ll be back in a minute.” He did not shake hands with the newcomer, but both of them went to the corridor outside the room. As Seenu had not cared to close the door behind him, Jagdish could watch both of them conversing, although he couldn’t hear what they were talking. The stranger was waving his hands and making violent gestures. Seenu took out something from his pocket and gave him, but the conversation continued.

After a while, Seenu came back and sternly told Jagdish, “ He is Jacky, a salesperson from our company. His brother has met with an accident a couple of hours ago and has been taken to the hospital. He’s badly in need of money. I gave him five thousand bucks but that was not sufficient. He needs at least ten thousand more.”

“Poor fellow! Perhaps the company will bear the expenditure,” Jagdish suggested.

“Certainly, but not at such a short notice. After everything is over, he would have to present the bill to the company. The problem is I don’t use the ATM card, you know, because I feel it is insecure. I can’t even go to my bank now as I have got to leave for Mysore immediately. Perhaps you could lend me ten thousand so that I can help him,” Seenu requested.

Jagdish was in a fix. He could refuse, but the situation was difficult. He was meeting an old friend after a long long time, and couldn’t say he didn’t trust him. He thought for a while and took out his valet and gave Seenu ten thousand rupees. Jacky seemed to be satisfied after receiving the money from Seenu and just as he left the waiter came with the bill.

“God! I had forgotten all about the bill!” Seenu exclaimed.

It was a bill for a few bucks in excess of four thousand. Jagdish had to pay it. Seenu gave an embarrassing look, and said, “Jaggu, it was supposed to be my treat. I am so sorry”

“No problem Seenu,” Jagdish almost suppressed a whine.

“Sorry, I couldn’t meet you this morning. I had to depart suddenly to my native place,” the supplier Vishal Sharma apologized to Jagdish late in the evening.

“I would have certainly complained had I not one of my old friends this morning,” Jagdish replied.

“I know that if I had met you this morning, by now you would be back in your home. It was a lot of inconvenience to you,” said Vishal remorsefully.

“Don’t you worry. I will leave tomorrow morning. And thanks for caring,”

“Bye the way, what did you do till evening? Surely your friend couldn’t have kept you company the whole day. Everyone is busy in this damned city”

“My friend was there with me for most part of the day. He took me to a resort called Blue Moon”

“Blue Moon?” Vishal looked puzzled, “What’s the name of your friend?”

“Srinivas, but he is known as Achari here.”

“My God! I never thought you enjoyed going to such resorts. And that fraudster is your friend?” Jagdish could feel the jeer in the tone.

“I met him almost after a decade. He was my classmate in the school. But what do you mean by ‘such resorts’?” Jagdish was worried now.

“Just tell me more about your friend,” Vishal said softly.

Jagdish narrated the whole encounter he had with Seenu.

“Ah! Manpower Agency, he said, didn’t he,” Vishal said with some amusement, “He’s right in a way. In fact he provides escorts. you know what I mean? Women!

“When he first came to Bangalore, he was broke. In fact I have heard that he was a run away from his home. He worked for a Live Band for sometime. He was caught having an affair with a bargirl or whatever they are called. He lost that job. He used well the contacts that he had acquired working there for his business, as a matter of fact, very well. He was also involved in a chit fund scam. He tried his tricks in real estate also, but the goons in that business almost beat him to death. Thereafter he left real estate.

“He said that Jacky was an employee of his company and was in distress. Jacky must have come there to recover money on someone’s behalf. I know for sure that Jacky is used as recovery agent by private moneylenders. He is a small time thug with underworld connections. Anyway, you were lucky that you got away losing only a small amount of money.”

Jagdish was shocked and flabbergasted. Never would I trust anyone hereafter, he swore to himself.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Troubled Sympathy

His departure was so abrupt that he began to curse himself for doing so, for it might have given an impression that he was displeased with what she told him. In fact, his wrath was altogether for a different reason. However, he never reacted to any word or deed instantly and kept brooding about it in his own mind, till he was finally prepared to react. When he did react, it was too late, and to a different circumstance or person. He had always been like this, but he could exercise a lot more control over such eruptions in his younger days. Not that he was old now; he was still shy of forty. A slender man of average heights and looks, he looked taller and younger than he actually was.

He’d had a troubled childhood and he hated it. Abandoned by his father, his mother lived with her father who worked as a driver in a small business enterprise and every evening he would come drunk stiff well over an hour after his grandson slept. But he would drag him out of bed, and force him to eat buns, biscuits, and sweetmeats. Although the old man did this out of his love towards the grandson, Madan hated it. His mother Parvati would then have to light the stove to heat the food for old man. She worked in a Papad factory for eight to nine hours a day and needed to turn in early, but she was almost always deprived of her rest by the old man. She kept muttering and sometimes, when she felt it was too much for her, hurling obscenities at him, but he didn’t mind; in fact he didn’t hear her at all. She kept complaining more often than not that apart from giving her shelter in his home, the old man didn’t give anything. Most of his salary went for matka, the Indian variety of gambling, and booze. His attention was all riveted on his only grandson, Madan.

Madan was not an intelligent boy, nor did he have the curiosity natural for the children of his age. His presence in the school would go unnoticed but for the occasional punishments he received from the teachers for his lapses like not doing his homework, or not answering the questions that the teachers asked during the course of teaching, and not being attentive. Being frail, he was also a target for the school bullies, and a butt of jokes for his classmates. Frequent insults and his dislike for reading and writing made him hate the school. But there was no escape for him. Parvati wanted his son to study hard to obtain some clerical job in the government, and support her in the twilight of her life.

His grandfather didn’t care about his education. When sober, he didn’t even talk much, leave alone displaying any affection to Madan. It was only when he was drunk and shorn of all his inhibitions, he would show all the love in the world for the boy. But the boy hated to leave the warmth of his bed, and the pleasure of sweet slumber; he hated the smell of cheap liquor or toddy in the old man’s breath, and of sweat oozing down along the sideburns of the old man. He was filled with animosity for his grandfather.

He grew up but could only complete his high school, that too after a couple of attempts in the Board Examinations, and not beyond. He did go to pre-university college for a couple of months, but then he gave up, realizing that it was beyond his ability. His mother was utterly disappointed with him. Bordering on sixties, she still worked in the same factory. He sat at home for months doing nothing and she included his name along with that of his grandfather in her murmurs of disapproval, and curses.

When he could no longer put up with her grumbles, he set out looking for a job. He wasn’t very hopeful given his qualification and grades. However, he was very young and a proprietor of a private firm took pity on him. He was given the job of an attender and errand boy to begin with. His handwriting was discovered to be beautiful soon, and he got a table and a chair of his own where he would copy documents. He was getting a couple of thousand rupees, which he gave to his mother dutifully; it made her very happy.

On one morning, his grandfather didn’t wake up. By evening he was cremated with all the Hindu rituals. Madan was sorry, but he didn’t cry, or wail like his mother did. Much later, when asked what had happened to the old man, Madan would reply humourously that his grandfather had been forgetful in his last days, and on that day he forgot to wake up. Outwardly though the impact of the demise of his grandfather didn’t show up and he thought he had lost something that he had long been accustomed to, it deeply affected his subconscious. The effect on his mother was that she suddenly began to look at least ten years older than she was.

Parvati began to press Madan to get married. She began to ask all her acquaintances, and a few relatives that remained in touch to be on the look out for a suitable bride for him. Madan never thought of marriage, never had any crush, never even had any sexual urge that could drive a young man mad, nor did he feel that he needed a companion. He was contented with his routine job, was loyal to his employer and had no hobbies or habits. Again his mother started muttering complaints, more so after she was mildly told by her employer that her faculties had weakened and she no longer could perform her job as expeditiously as was required and she had to retire without any pension.

Madan had never got angry with his mother, nor had he ever replied back to whatever she said, however angrily. He was like a cow tied to the pole that was his mother and behaved like a nincompoop with her. He never even so much as retorted to any of her wrathful remarks for neglecting to carry out her only wish, which was to marry and raise a family. A couple of proposals that came from acquaintances either fell or were staved off by Madan, by just not responding to his mother’s queries. She could have selected a bride herself, or she should have, for in any case he wouldn’t have dared go against her wishes. Somehow, it didn’t happen. Now he’d well past the age of marriage.

Even at the workplace, his co-workers used to wonder why he was not getting married. They used to make fun of his bachelor status, which is very unusual in their considered opinion. Some used to say behind his back that he was interested in men. Some simply gossiped that he was impotent. It would fall on his ears, but he ignored all such gossip and baseless accusations.

A week earlier, he’d met a woman by chance. Pushpa was the wife of a former employee, who had died in an accident nearly a year ago. Although she was not a looker, men would certainly have a second glance at her. She had a child, a beautiful girl. She’d come to the office to collect the salary arrears of her husband. She’d walked to his table and had asked, “If I am not mistaken, you are Madan”

“How do you know?” he’d asked her with amazement.

“I was your classmate in the school. My name is Pushpa. Of course you don’t remember me,” she’d replied with a smile.

He had nodded and said, “It seems long ago now. But it is astonishing how you remember me.”

“You haven’t changed a bit. You still look like a schoolboy I saw years ago, and moreover I had heard that you were working here,” She’d replied gleefully.

After she’d left, Sudarshan, one of his colleagues made fun of him during the tea break when all the colleagues were present. He’d said, “You know friends why Madan looks so happy today? He’s met his childhood sweetheart.” Obviously he’d overheard their conversation.

Everyone started staring at him with surprise and someone asked, “Is it true Madan. How wonderful, after all these years!”

“And, along with a wife he is getting a child free,” Sudarshan said.

“That’s nice man. Now that Madan is too old to have a child of his own!” Patil, another colleague said with a wink.

“Even if he can have children, it will certainly save his efforts,” Sudarshan had said and all had laughed.

Madan should have berated Sudarshan for talking nonsense. But being what he was, he’d calmly heard what was said about him and it slipped into his subconsciousness. He had asked a female colleague about Pushpa and learnt that she was in distress, with husband no more and a child to look after, abandoned by her brothers and parents –in-law alike. She was working at one of the beauty parlours that had mushroomed of late, as help.

A thought had crossed his mind this morning that marrying her would not be a bad idea at all. It would help her and fulfil his mother’s wishes too. He’d gently outlined this to his mother, who was angered at hearing it and had said, “You didn’t marry when you had to. Now you want to bring a widow to this house? Have you gone mad? Don’t you realise that widows are inauspicious?” and he’d suddenly left. In fact, he was thinking about what his colleagues had said and that had raised his tempers. What his mother had said was at the back of his mind now.

He went straight to the beauty parlour where Pushpa worked. Seeing him, Pushpa asked her employer to be excused for a while and she came out.

“What a surprise! How come you are here?” she asked.

“I have come to meet you. I need to talk to you,” he replied.

“About what?” she questioned further with curiosity.

“About you and me,” he said. She was perplexed.

“Ok,” she said and walked under the shade of the trees lined by the side of the road. “Tell me,” she asked him with raised brows.

He didn’t know what to say, how to begin. He was now repenting to have come to meet her. I am a nitwit. My colleagues talk nonsense and I take it seriously. Like a fool I come running over here. Why, I do not even know her. He thought and looked bewildered.

“Is something bothering you?” she asked showing concern.

“Nah, I…I just came to know if I can help you in anyway,” he blurted out.

She smiled and said, “Thanks a lot but I’ll let you know if I need it. But you said it is about you and me?”

“I err… nothing. It just slipped out. If you need anything, you know how to contact me,”

“Of course I know. Thanks. I can’t stay away from my job longer. Bye,” said she and started towards the entrance of the parlour.

“Bye,” he said under his breath staring at her back till she disappeared and then strode towards his office.

At his office he went to Sudarshan’s table and sat silently opposite him. Sudarshan was studying a file. After a while, he raised his head and looked at Madan with questioning eyes.

“The other day what you talked about Pushpa was wrong,” Madan said in a calm tone.

“Why,” Sudarshan said with surprise, “I was just joking pal.”

“It involves the reputation of a woman. Doesn’t it?” Madan persisted.

Sudarshan closed the file and looking into his eyes, said, “Look Madan. You are right and I am really sorry. But we really didn’t mean it. After all she is the wife of a former colleague. Moreover, if you marry her, you’ll rise in our estimation, for none of us dare do such a thing, you know.”

Madan felt that Sudarshan was really sincere after looking at him for long. Then he rose to reach his own table. Before he reached his table, the receptionist called out, “Madan, call for you.”

He took the call. The voice was that of Pushpa. She said, “I’ve been wondering what made you to come and meet me. Now I understand. But look Madan, I am sorry. I do not want anybody’s sympathy. I am strong enough to take care of myself. But thanks anyway” the line went dead. He replaced the phone and walked back to his table.


He reached home late in the evening. His mother came to living room where he had just slouched on the chair and said, “Madan, I have given serious thought to what you said this morning. I was wrong. Times have changed and I have already a foot in the grave. God Almighty may send for me anytime. Who will take care of you then? So you better marry Pushpa. You’ll have all my blessings.”

Madan rose from the chair with the expression of exasperation on his face, placed his hands on his mother’s shoulders and said, “Look mother, it is not possible. Perhaps you alone were right. I am tired.”

“I know why you say so. Pushpa refused. Didn’t she?”

“How do you know mother?”

“She told me herself. After much thinking, I’d been to the parlour to meet her. She thought you were offering to marry her out of sympathy. I told her to have sympathy on you and me, on the contrary.”

From the kitchen, the cute kid walked out and behind her Pushpa was coming out with a wide smile on her face.

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Prisoner of Feelings

When the doorbell rang, Savita opened it to find nearly six feet tall, rather large, well built man, who appeared to be in his sixties because of the snow white ample hair. He wore an old fashioned navy blue blazer, which usually the policemen or the armed personnel wear very proudly, on most occasions. He sported a thick moustache that matched the white of his hair. Only his eyebrows were less white, somewhat grayish. His dark brown eyes glowed in contrast with his fair complexion. He regarded Savita affectionately but it took a moment more for her to recognize the person as one of the dearest friends of her father.

“Police Uncle! What a surprise!” she cried with joy addressing him as she had always done since childhood.

“My God, Savita!” he said expressing equal surprise, “Why, look at you! You are a big girl now, no longer a petite schoolgirl. Had I met you somewhere else, I hardly would have recognized you,” said he patting her back affectionately. “ I am …er,” he wanted to say ‘I am sorry I couldn’t come to your marriage’ but restrained himself and asked, “Where is your dad?” he didn’t want to remind her of her marriage, for she had lost her husband within six months of her marriage in a motor accident.

She knew at once what he had begun to say and a flicker of sadness swept through her eyes. He continued, “The ba…er” and held his tongue realizing he was talking to a lady, “he hasn’t even cared to telephone me for the last four years”

“He is in the study room, uncle. I will fetch him,” Savita replied with a knowing smile.

“Don’t bother child. I will go and surprise him myself. I know the way,” saying he ambled towards the study room that was at the far end on the right, with windows opening to a gorgeous view of the valley on which the farm fields and plantations were terraced.

He entered the room without knocking, as he was wont to, to find his friend bespectacled and absorbed in studying some account books. A frail man, Govind, had not always been so. Of average height, he had put on too much of weight about a decade ago. But since the death of his wife, then his old mother and a younger brother, he had gradually wasted. Of wheatish complexion, with straight nose and wide eyes, he was a handsome man while in the engineering college, but now his hair had grayed and thinned and wrinkles had appeared on his face. He didn’t even hear the sound of the opening of the door and lifted his chin only when Shivakumar, Shivu to his close friends, cleared his throat deliberately, to draw his attention.

“Aray! Shivu!” he rose from his chair and hugged his friend. “You are looking ten years older than your age Shivu. Now you are indeed an old man.”

“And you look older than me,” Shivu said while the friends eyed each other carefully after relieving each other from the hug. “Why, you have lost so much of weight. Is something the matter?” enquired Shivu with all the care dripping from his eyes.

“Nothing. I am absolutely comfortable now. I was diagnosed as diabetic about a couple of years ago. Since then, taking the advice of my physician really seriously, I have lost weight. In fact, I feel healthier now. Now that I have found a boy to assist me in my business affairs, and who is more like a son to me, I have a lot of leisure. I am really enjoying my life.”

Shivu sat on the divan and said, “If you don’t mind,” lit a cigarette. Govind laughed and said, “As if you won’t smoke if I mind!”

“So how is your life? Are you still posted in Sindhnur?” asked Govind watching the smoke that Shivu exhaled vanishing in the air.

“Yes and no. You do not have a retirement age but I do have, remember? Another week, and I will be out of the police department. I have worked for 34 years and I need rest now. Avinash, my only son, you know is settled in the USA and he wants me to join him. I have not yet decided what to do and where to stay. Last morning I received a summons for rendering evidence in the JMFC court here. I thought it was a great opportunity to meet you and take your advice.”

Like his friend, Shivu also had lost his wife and was leading a solitary life. He had been a thoroughly upright and honest officer and had great reputation for his investigative skills. He could never yield to any pressure, political or monetary, for which he had suffered hundreds of transfers, and the resultant hardships. Nobody could break his integrity. He was unselfishly wedded to his job, more than to his own wife. He fiercely loved his independence and freedom. That is why Govind hesitated for a while before suggesting, “Why don’t you stay with us Shivu? I will have a great companion with whom I can share all my feelings without a second thought. You would be a great help to me. I am asking you a favour, not offering any okay?”

“Govind, I may consider your suggestion, but right now I have to settle all my affairs, attend all the farewell parties and finish a couple of assignments that are lying with me.”

“This is your own house. You can come here anytime,” Shivu said meekly.

Savita entered the room with a tray topped with tea and samosas and placed it on the teapoy and said, “So the old friends are having a heart to heart talk after long long time!”

“It is so pleasant to have the company of Shivu, you know,” Govind replied and Shivu smiled at her and watched her leaving the room closing the door behind her and then said, “She looks happy. Doesn’t she?”

“She has got over with the tragedy. Now she seems back to normal. Thanks to Jay.”

“You mean the guy you alluded to earlier?”

“Yep. He is a gem of a man. Ever since he came here…”

“Have you checked his antecedents?” Shivu cut him.

“Ah, it is your police mentality”

“May be, but one can’t be more cautious about such matters.”

“He came here about two years ago, seeking a job. He is from Gulbarga. He is a graduate in commerce, extremely good-looking and charming. I’d always wished for a son like him. He approached me at the factory without any reference or recommendations and asked me to try him just for one month before continuing. Coincidentally, my senior accountant had just expired and I needed a hand badly to manage the accounts section. I took him on trial.” Govind paused for a while, in order to pour tea into the cups. When finished he handed one to Shivu and took a sip from his own cup before continuing.

“Within the first fortnight, he displayed his genius in account matters, streamlined the whole accounting process by acquiring a software and computerizing the section. Nearly half the staff in the accounts section was redundant now, but he requested me not to fire them. He advised me as to how they could be accommodated elsewhere.

“That was when I invited him to my house for the dinner. For years I had neglected the upkeep of this house, which couldn’t escape his meticulous eyes. He sought my permission and taking Savita into confidence, he began refurbishing the house. Savita suddenly found something to do, and it helped her to come out of her continual trauma. With the help of an interior designer and landscape planner, they converted this house into such a beauty. I was happy because Savita was now coming alive to life and had begun taking interest in so many things about which she’d ceased bothering.”

“You know it well Govind, that one can deceive only those who trust him!”

“You won’t give up, would you? I hadn’t bothered about the affairs of the factory, and the Manager, a long time employee of mine had been shortchanging me. But for Jay, I never would’ve found out his deceit and conceit. Jay could’ve easily made more money by joining hands with the Manager. And then, he would not allow me to fire the culprit, for he was capable of creating labour unrest. I retired him with all benefits of an honourable superannuation. Very soon he could charm all the workers and gained their confidence. I made him the Manager about six months ago.”

“So his career has undergone a meteoric rise, as they say. Where are his parents?”

“He says he lost both of them when he was in his teens. He was the only child. A neighbour took pity on him and supported him till he finished his school. Then he began working as a waiter in a bar and restaurant at night and attended the college during the day. He is a very hard worker, even now I find him untiring in his duties.”

“Naturally you trust him.”

“I trust him with my life, which he has saved once. I collapsed once at 2 in the morning, while trying to take water from the refrigerator. Savita had gone to Bangalore to attend a marriage of one of her friends. It turned out to be a heart attack. Some how I could call him on my mobile, but couldn’t speak. He drove all the way from the staff quarters near the factory, a distance of 15 kilometers and arrived in just five minutes. He’d to break into my house to get me and he took me to the hospital. I was miraculously saved.”

“I see. I’d very much like to meet this man. What plans do you have for his future? I think you have something in your mind. I can sense it.”

“Hmm, Savita likes him.”

“I thought so. What about him?”

“He adores her. I can easily see it.”

“Seems like everything is settled.”

There was a knock on the door and a handsome young man opened it. “Come in Jay, and meet my dearest friend Shivakumar. He is a Deputy Superintendent of Police,” Govind said by way of introduction.

Shivu felt something wasn’t right. Do I know this Jay? Why do I feel I am not meeting him for the first time? He shook hands and found that the young man’s hand was shivering. “It’s a pleasure meeting you sir,” Jay said politely but his face was fallen, not too obviously for Govind to notice.

All of a sudden, the recognition came in a flash to Shivu. This young man had been convicted for a drug related offense and had been sent to Bellary prison. How many years? Yes, seven years and had served three years before escaping dramatically from the hospital where he’d been taken to for some illness that he’d successfully feigned. It was Shivakumar who had arrested him along with several others, in Bangalore. All other boys, being the sons and relatives of the rich and the influential, had been able to dodge the law and everything was pinned on three boys. One committed suicide, the other was still in the prison. There was a look out notice for this Jay.

Shivakumar was an Inspector of Police then. He conducted the raid on a resort where these boys had holed up and apparently having a rave party. He’d expected his superiors to have all the praise for him for grabbing the irresponsible and pleasure seeking off spring of the big shots, however, what he actually got was rebuke and berating for causing trouble. He wasn’t allowed a free hand in the investigation and the real culprits got away. But still Shivu was not sure if Jay was in the clear. And above all, it was certainly a crime to escape from prison.

Meanwhile Jay left the room after taking a couple of signatures from Govind. Shivakumar was absolutely uncertain now, as to what to do. He was torn between his duty and the trust that Govind had placed in Jay. Wasn’t the trust misplaced? Wouldn’t he also be violating the trust that Govind placed in him by not telling him the truth?


Savita served the dinner herself, although there was help. “She has cooked all items herself. Isn’t she a wonderful cook?” Govind asked.

“Yes. Just like her mother was,” replied Shivu thoughtfully.

“It’s all because of Jay that I learnt cooking. In fact he taught me how to cook,” Savita said happily and looking at Jay seated at the other end of the table with all her appreciation. Jay smiled and continued eating.

“Listen Govind, tomorrow after the court hours, I have to rush back to my headquarters. Don’t press me to stay. And I am put up at the Circuit House which is by the side of the court. That’s convenient for me.”

“I knew you would say so. Jay will drop you. When will you be back here again?”

“Soon,” Shivu promised.


All the way back to the Circuit House, Jay didn’t speak and kept his lips sealed. He looked as though resigned to the fate. He stopped the car under the portico and opened the door for Shivu and then he said, “Sir, I am ready to be taken. I know I committed a crime of running away from the prison. But injustice had been done to me in the first place by charging me with what I didn’t do. I had been there to serve the food that my restaurant had sent. Only thing that now worries me is how it is going to affect Govind sir, he is like a father to me. I don’t want to hurt him.”

Shivakumar looked into his eyes and said, “What crime? What are you talking about? I don’t know a thing. And I am retiring in a few days. Please take care of my friend. Good night!” and scurried towards the entrance of the Circuit House.

Jay stood there totally bewildered for a long moment watching the back of Shivakumar. Then with tears in his eyes, he whispered, “Thank you sir!”

Monday, July 5, 2010


“Hi Gud Mrng!” Raghav viewed the message on his cell phone and realizing that it was from an unknown number, he closed the inbox, put his cell phone in silent mode and headed towards the lecture hall, on the one hand cursing the unknown sender of the message under his breath and trying to focus his attention on the diminishing margin of utility that he was going to teach in the class, on the other. This was his sixth month in the college as a lecturer, the job that he had obtained after paying a hefty amount euphemistically called as donation, but which in fact was an unaccounted income for the management of the institution. Of course, his father had paid the money after selling a couple of acres of land, not without suppressed grief in his eyes and flood of tears in the eyes of his wife, Raghav’s mother.

Raghav had just been an average student but he was the only one in his family to have obtained degree, not to speak of a post-graduate degree. His father was very proud of Raghav but when Raghav couldn’t get any job, he was worried to death. Education had left Raghav unfit for the hard toil on the family land, not because Raghav didn’t like to toil, but Raghav’s father wouldn’t let his son, after getting such higher education, about which he had been bragging before all and sundry in the village, to undertake agriculture, for then everyone in the village would have an opportunity to make fun of him. “What is the use of spending so much on education if his son wouldn’t get any job based on his qualification? He has been a fool squandering away his hard earned money on a useless enterprise,” so even coolies working in his fields would say. He, therefore, had been left with no other option but to sell his land.

Immediately after obtaining his MA, Raghav had started working as a part time lecturer in one of the degree colleges in Hubli, but the remuneration was just enough to maintain him in the city. He had no future in that job as the college had been recently started and would not be considered for grants-in-aid from the government for at least a decade to come. However, he had a wonderful acquisition while working there, in the form of his student Bhavana, a cute, smart, young girl with husky laughter, which never failed to arouse him. She was now in the final year and both had decided to wait till she completed her degree. To wait to get married, that is, although he never specifically asked her to marry him.

Now that he was more than four hundred kilometers away from her, working in Bangalore, he had not been able to meet her for the last four months. Everyday he spent about three hours in public transport from his to his college and back. The remaining time was spent in the college preparing for and delivering lectures. During the day, at any time she might be pleased to send messages, and he could ignore them only at his own peril. And everyday at 9 P.M., it was mandatory for him to call her and talk to her at least for an hour.

What had been amusing initially had turned out to be a pain in his ass. Not that he was no longer in love with her, not even that he had found someone more attractive, but the pace of life in Bangalore, the demands of his job, left him totally exhausted at the end of the day. Moreover, he had to keep in touch with his parents, friends, apart from taking care of the unavoidable task of cooking for himself, in order to save money as well as eat something healthy.

That Bhavana is child-like even childish at times, came as a revelation to him only when it was too late. He was already deep into the vortex of his relationship with her. It all happened so fast that in hindsight it looked like the buildings and trees running past his window in the bus, in the opposite direction. Within a couple of months of her joining the class to which he taught, she had started coming to his chamber with problems and questions, seeking his help. When he looked into her eyes, he knew he was in love with her and soon he gave her a red rose, held her silky hands and told her what he felt for her. She started weeping, he doesn’t know why even today and allowed him to kiss her.



When he came back to the staff common room to have a cup of coffee, he remembered that sms. The number did seem familiar. In the last week, at leas a dozen messages had come from that number. Sipping the bitter coffee, he viewed the number once again. He wanted to call that number and ascertain who it was, but another message was delivered that instant, and from the same number. “Sorry, I sent dat msg by mistk” it read. But still he decided to save that number as ‘who’, which he was going to repent soon.

Late in the evening, when he had finished an hour of ordeal on the phone with Bhavana, he received another msg from ‘who’. It was a cheap mobile-shayri.

“Jindgi me kabi pyar mat karna

Pyar ho jaye to ikrar mat karna

Ikrar kareto us rah par chalna

Warna kisiki jindgi barbad mat karna”

Now Raghav was intrigued. If the earlier message was sent to me by mistake, why again the same mistake has occurred? Thought he. It might be some friend or acquaintance of mine, just trying to have a little fun at my cost. Or it might be some student… but he’d not given his cell number to anyone in the college, except to one colleague and the principal of the college. Both were in their fifties and hardly knew how to send an sms. They sending any sms, that too a cheap shayri, was totally ruled out. Now that he had registered his number for DO NOT DISTURB, promos, calls offering loans and credit cards, even membership of clubs etc had completely ceased.

He suppressed the urge to place a call to that number; at least he would know whether it is a man or woman, a boy or a girl. If it were someone he knows, he’d be able to recognize by listening to the voice. But he soon dismissed all this as trivial and went to his bed.

The next morning, when he took the handset to view time, he found two messages waiting to be viewed. Both were from the same ‘who’. One read ‘gud mrng hav nice day’ and another read ‘want 2 b my friend?’ Now Raghav was slightly irritated. He was sure it was someone who wants to flirt and even more sure that that someone was a guy looking for a girl. He keyed in a reply immediately, ‘I don’t want any friend. Already hav enough’ and set out to get ready for the day’s routine.

When he finished the first lecture, he received another sms, ‘wat do u want if not a friend?’ to which he replied with some anger, ‘if u r a girl under 23 yrs u can chat wit me.’ ‘y girl only, r u a boy?’ bang came the reply. Now he decided to play along. He replied, ‘I m a strt guy intrsted only n girls, but not 4 frndship’

‘den wat r u intrstd in?’

‘u can undrstnd, cn’t u?

‘u hav GF?’


‘don’t hav lover?’

‘no. u can be if u r slim, hav gud figure & under 23’

‘I m all dat & more’

‘R u a student?’

‘Y do u ask? U want only students?’

‘No, any1 fitting my criteria wil do. Rite now I m busy. Bye’ he wanted to end the chat and prepare for the next lecture. ‘By 4 now’ came the reply.


Till late in the evening he was not disturbed. At 9 p.m., as mandated, he called Bhavana. She was a chatterbox. When speaking she would not care whether something is relevant or irrelevant. Once she started, he went on saying ‘hmm’, ‘yes’, ‘ok’, whenever she paused for breath. She would ask what he had for breakfast, lunch and evening tea, what clothes he wore for the college, could he catch his bus, how is the weather, and all such silly things. Then the conversation would end with ‘I miss you, I love you’ and a couple of kisses, rather the sound of kisses. It required immense patience for all this, thought Raghav.

He hadn’t had his dinner yet and he was in no mood to cook. He decided to go to a nearby hotel. When he reached the hotel, without thinking twice he decided to have a couple of drinks. Just when he finished his first glass of vodka, his cell phone beeped conveying the arrival of an sms. When the screen came alive for viewing the message, ‘had your dinner?’ he knew it was from the same anonymous person he had named ‘who’. He brooded for a while and finished another drink and replied, ‘ how does it concern u?’

Then immediately he sent another message saying, ‘I’d made it clear dat I m not intrsted in making friends. How do I know u r a girl?’

‘U can test me’

‘K wat’s it dat u wear under ur dress? Wat’s d size of ur bra? What brand of panties u use?’

It took a full fifteen minutes for the reply to arrive. When it did, it was, ‘I wear a slip under my dress. I don’t use branded panties’ and there was nothing about the brassieres. God, why am I getting an arousal? Raghav cursed himself. ‘k tel me ur name?’ he asked.

‘Not so soon. U tel urs 1st’

‘It’s u who’s strted chatting wit me.’


‘Real or imagined?’

‘Real. Urs?’

‘Vikram, Vicky 4 all’

‘Ok tho sounds phoney!’

‘Just like yours’

‘Wat r u looking 4 in me?’

‘Don’t know. U may be horny, just like me’

‘No, I m looking 4 a friend’

‘I told u I m not. U stil r persisting’

‘wat do u do wen u r ….like tht?’

‘I get lucky by meeting some1 like u!’

This chat went on and on till the waiter came up to him and reminded him a third time that the hotel is closing. Raghav had forgotten to order for his dinner and had a drink or more than his usual, and now it was too late to order. He left the hotel after paying the bill, thinking of the bananas he kept in his room.

Next morning he awoke with a heavy head and red eyes. It was the worst hangover he had experienced in years. He gulped a Crocin after a light breakfast and started towards the bus stop. ‘Hi, gud mrng!’ the sms from ‘who’ again!

‘Gud Mrng! How r u?’ he replied.

‘Cool. Wat abt u?’

‘Last night I had a couple of drinks more than usual. Now I have hangover, severe headache and loss of appetite’ He took time to type the whole sentence.

‘U drink too?’

‘Wat’s new abt dat?’

‘Nothing. I didn’t know it’

‘How could u know?’

‘U know who I m?’

Raghav was perplexed. Is it someone he knows?

‘No idea,’ after considering for some time, he thought it must be one of his classmates in the college and the first name that struck him was that of a close friend Veena with whom he had lost touch and added, ‘my guess is dat u r Veena’

Suddenly his phone rang and it was from ‘who’. As he pressed the answer button and tucked it to his ear, he hear the voice of Bhavana!

“You could not guess it was me? I couldn’t sleep the whole last night. I never understood you. How shameless you have been asking an unknown girl what she wears and all. You had told me all lies. You told me you do not drink! Now I understand you perfectly. You made use of me; you have never been in love with me…” she hurled one accusation after another. What an ass I have been chatting and flirting with some unknown number. He cursed himself for not calling the unknown number immediately to ascertain who it was. He had done an irreparable damage to the life-long relationship he had determined to keep intact. How fragile are human relations. All these thoughts crossed his mind while he was preparing himself for the explanations that might appease her.