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.