Sunday, February 21, 2010

What is it? Part II

I’ve always heard that Palak residency created headache for the people who lived there. But this time, I got to experience it for myself. Satish said that he couldn’t make it there that evening as he had to take his parents out on a medical appointment which was that very evening. So, I was stuck with my mornings slightly damp clothes. The afternoon’s rain had settled into a nice bright evening. I moved from an easy chair in the lawn to the interiors after I heard my tummy rumbling. Food! I needed to eat something to survive the evening. I got out and walked to the cosy little restaurant at the end of the road and had some hot Aloo Paranthas. I got some more packed for the night and came back to Palak residency.

I settled myself in the drawing hall. Since no one ever remained in the house for a very long time, Anita aunty tried to make the place a better bargain by not moving any of the furniture that they installed in their house. I sat cross legged in one of the dark leather sofas that had an inch thick cushion. I connected my music player to the music system and was almost dozing off into a tired nap when the trouble began. The lights started flickering and soon, there were short power failures each lasting a minute or so. I decided to go out and check if there was any problem with the fuse. After a painful search in the hall, I located a torch and made stumbled across to the main switch board to find out that the fuse was absolutely fine. The weather was turbulent again. The wind was blowing hard and I found out that the branches of one of the big Jackfruit trees were brushing against the wires making the supply discontinuous. The branches were too high up and there was nothing I could do till the morning to get the problem solved. So, I came back inside and started searching for some candles only to find out that there were none in the house. I decided to call on the neighbours to ask them if they had any.
I was in for an utter shock when I saw her as she opened the door. She didn’t change much from the last time I saw her. Last time brought back sad memories which didn’t seem too sad now.

“Hey! Oh. . . Wow, now this is a very big surprise” I said trying to sound pleasant, not quite sure what my facial expression conveyed.

“Neeraj? Is that really you? What are you . . .? Wow! Yeah, I’m surprised as well” She said, she looked utterly flustered and her face was that of a stunned cartoon character.

“You haven’t changed much. You gained a little bit of weight and your hair grew out a little bit, but you look pretty much the girl I remember” I said.

I could have tried to make more formal conversation especially after our last face off but then my natural instinct over powered me and I could not help but notice how she looked, given that I was seeing her after six long years.

She responded with a big embarrassed smile flashing her dimples. College memories started flooding my head as she started speaking.

“Yeah, I guess I put on a little bit of weight. But, god! You’ve changed a lot Neeraj. You lost more weight. Your tan is worse. Where have you been?” She said leaning against the door locking her deep black eyes with mine.

I lost focus for a while. But long experience in college made me good at not getting lost in that deep glance of hers.

“Well me? I am working here in Cochin in the IAF as a Flight maintenance engineer. And what are you doing here? I thought you would never leave home. Can I come in?”

She reacted in her usual manner when she forgets something routine like calling people inside when they came to her place.

“Oh yeah! I just forgot. Come in come in. She said and opened the door fully. I heard the latest Telugu songs issue in full blast from somewhere inside the house. I glanced around the flat as she went inside to call someone. It was a single bedroom flat neatly arranged. Girls I thought. She must have been working somewhere here.

“Neeraj, this is my roommate and my best friend Manisha. You can call her Maggie.”

Maggie was also Sanjana’s age with a round face and medium built. She looked quite warm and friendly. I could instantaneously make out the reason for her nickname. Maggie had long black hair that looked like her nickname. She greeted me in a nice deep melodious voice.

“Oh! So, you are Neeraj. So good to see you man! I’ve heard lots about you.” She extended her hand and shook it vigorously without giving me a chance to introduce myself.

“Oh! So you already know me huh? Well I’m not sure what Sanju told you about me, but good to see you.” I said and smiled.

Sanjana then went on to explain how she got tired of sitting at home after her engineering and how she managed to convince her parents to allow her take up a job. She worked as a systems engineer in one of the MNC’s there in Cochin.

“But, they sent you here all on your own?” I said giving her a quizzical look. I knew her parents quite well.

“That is where I come in, Sanju and I are like second cousins and we got selected into the same company and at the same time, so we like got a joint permission and we landed up here.” Said Maggie making a gesture of a plane landing.

“So, how is everything else? Your parents haven’t started husband hunting yet?” I asked looking at Sanju and then turning to Maggie to avoid the awkwardness.

“Well, I’ve found a guy here in Cochin. We like each other and he happens to belong to the same caste so no problems there. We’ve already notified our parents and the wedding is like a few months away” Said Maggie in an as-a-matter-of-fact voice.

“What about you Sanju?” I asked, in a flat voice.

“I’d rather not talk about it” She said and turned away towards the window. A mask appeared over her face as she tried to hide her emotions as she always did.

“I guess you haven’t found your I-cannot-live with-out guy, is it?”

There was this awkward silence for a minute or two. Memories started flooding my mind as I remembered college. It’s strange how an entire chain of unconnected events that have been long locked away in my heart came back to my mind after I saw the subject of those memories.

“I came for candles. I’m staying in Palak residency for the weekend. I have some problems with the power connection there. I’ll be glad if you can give me a few candles.” I said and stood up. I had this strange feeling in my gut and it didn’t feel good.

Maggie who was quite unperturbed with my awkwardness went inside and fetched three candles and gave them to me along with a match box.

“Do come over for lunch tomorrow afternoon. There are hardly any recent restaurants around this place.” Said Maggie with a nice little smile.

“I would love to, if that would be okay with Sanju.” I said, turning to Sanju.

“Why am I being the jerk here? I don’t have any problems.” She said, and walked off inside.

Palak Residency looked darker and scarier with the wind howling though the place. I lit the three candles in the hall and settled myself to sleep in one of the bean bags lying in the hall. My appetite had long died after seeing Sanju there in Cochin.
The day I proposed to her, the day she rejected, the day she finally broke my heart. A record that I thought had long ceased to exist in my brain started playing itself all over again.

“Not your mistake, not your mistake, not your mistake. . . “
Was it a voice in my head? It seemed to come from the outside.

I listened more intently. It seemed to come from one of the Eastern bedrooms in the first floor.

“Not your mistake, not your mistake. . . “Sang a steady voice, breathless and hushed.

I brushed it off as my imagination for the first twenty minutes. But as I tried to sleep, it started getting to my head. I was now pissed and irritated.

“Not my mistake?” Hold on for a second I shouted and grabbed the torch lying on the table. I climbed the steps two at a time and looked around. The voice became clearer as I reached the landing on the first floor. It seemed to come from my left, Anita auntie’s bedroom. I stormed off towards the room, my head spinning due to a splitting headache that I had by then. The steady hum of the voice that seemed to come from nowhere was irritating the shit out of me.

I slammed the door open and the voice stopped all of a sudden. My eyes were blurred with tears that started running. Damn, headache and sleeplessness.

I scanned the room with keen eyes. The big double oak double cot looked impressive even in the darkness. Pictures of Anita aunty and her kids, the shining wooden cupboards, the 30 inches flatiron television, were the things that adorned the lovely room.

It was all of a sudden that I saw it coming towards me. It came out so suddenly that I had no time to react. Even before I could make out what it was, everything blackened out and my mind went blank.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What is it? Part I

I moved to the left with speed, still holding my crouching position. I hurriedly removed the bead of sweat from my eye brows that threatened to block my view at the most critical point of time. I threw myself at the yellow object that bounced before my eyes. As I moved towards it, the direction changed and it spun to the right. Stopping myself from moving further to the left, I jumped to my right, just in time to catch it. I stretched my shoulders fully, eyes still on the ball and gave it a conclusive stroke with my bat and watched it as it bounced off the other side of the table in the blink of an eye lid.

“23-21, you win the game dude”, Satish announced, sticking his tongue at my opponent.
Swathi made a face and turned away from Satish.

“Chill guys! You did well Swathi, you’ve really improved your game”, I said and gave her an appraising nod.

“See, you need to encourage new talent Satish”, Said Swathi and gave Satish a smack on his head with her table tennis racquet.

“Hey, but you still lost your arrogant bet dumbo”, said Satish and gave her a short jab.

“Whatever guys, I’m out of here.” I said and walked outside.

The salty humid smell of the early morning sea filled my nostrils as I stretched myself on the lush green lawns of our Sports club. This was one of the activities I really enjoyed doing everyday ever since I got posted in Cochin for my new job. I searched for my mp3 player and found it in one of my pockets wires all tangled up in a mess. I settled myself down on one of the rocks facing the ocean and started fiddling with the entangled wires. After a minute of struggle, they opened up and I switched on my music machine, listening to the early morning trance music that I do every day after a round of table tennis.

I settled myself pretty comfortably, head in my palms and elbows resting on my legs which were settled into a cross legged stance. The last three years have been wonderful. I found a good job that paid me a decent salary, gave me time to pursue my other interests as well. The new city gave me wonderful new pals who never made me miss home. Just as I was entering into a trance where I was really not sure if I was awake or asleep, the vibration of my cell phone brought me back to my senses. I pulled it out and flicked the green button and Anita aunties voice came over the phone.

“Neeraj, how are you doing son?” She said in her always warm voice.

“Doing good aunty, life here is going great. How are you doing? Everything fine?” I said trying to figure out why she called this early in the morning. Was anything wrong?

“Everything is fine beta, just wanted to ask a small favour from your side.” her voice sounding vexed.

“Of course aunty, what is it?”

“There are some people coming over tomorrow to see our property there in Cochin. Can you just go there and show them around the place and tell them the price and other details” She sounded unsure of my response.

Anita aunty was gifted a beautiful estate in Cochin by her husband on the eve of their first marriage anniversary. But later, they found out that the place had some problems associated with it. Locals believed that the property was haunted. Though Anita aunty and her husband were rational modern people, they faced problems whenever they went to Palak Residency. Many a times, one of their daughters used to fall sick or one of their servants used to meet with small freak accidents when arranging things for their arrival. They were in the process of disposing the property to someone else but it kept coming back to them with the same problems again and again.

“Did you tell the people about the place aunty?” I enquired, though I knew that Anita aunty would never tamper with the facts.

“Yes beta, I did tell them about the place. But, they sounded pretty dismissive about everything. They also further added that some of their relatives were experts of Vastu and recommended the place as good for them.”

“Cool! I’ll go show them around then. No problems, I’ll take the day off tomorrow.”

“Thanks beta. Why don’t you come over to Bangalore for this summer? Kids would enjoy your company a lot”

“Sure aunty, I’d love to come if ma permits me to leave her alone this summer.”

“I’ll convince her to leave you this time. But, thanks again for taking the pain.”

“Arey aunty, stop it now! I’ll catch you later” I said and cut the call.

I was on my bike the next day, traveling through the suburbs of Cochin. I reached Palak residency at nine thirty in the morning, though the winter morning was still dark. I pulled on my jacket closer to get rid of the cold. Rubbing my hands together, I opened the gate and entered the property. Situated in a plush residential locality in the suburbs of Cochin, the property was an awesome place with a well attended lawn and a three storey building. The people who wanted to buy the property arrived at ten and after an hour of looking at the place, they agreed on buying it. They thanked me for showing around and left at eleven, telling me that they would move in after a week.

I told Anita aunty about the deal and she was pretty happy about it. Just as I was about to leave, it started raining heavily, making my return journey impossible. By the time it stopped, it was late in the afternoon. Just as I was about to leave, I had a call from Satish.

“Dude, my parents came over from Delhi on some urgent business, I was not able to find a proper hotel for them, and can you share rooms with them for today?”

“How long will they be staying dude?” I enquired.

“They’ll be here on tomorrow and day after. They’re leaving on Monday morning.” He said, sounding uncomfortable.

“Chill, Weekend only no. I’ll stay here at Anita aunties place tomorrow and day after. Let them be comfortable.” I said.

“Are you sure that you don’t have any problem, we can look for any alternative. . .“

“Arey yaar, told you no, I’m absolutely fine. Relax. Take good care of your parents. But make sure you get me some clothes and my brush in the evening”

“Thanks dude. Sure, I’ll get your stuff by six or seven” he said, and hung up.

So I had a weekend to spend in a place which I was not so familiar with, I thought to myself.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Night's Hunt!

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who visited by blog till date and thus helped it in making a thousand hits. So, I would like you all to keep visiting and keep giving me suggestions that would help me get better as a writer. So, why wait? Let’s enter the dream world. : )

My dreams, right from my childhood have been very fascinating. Inspired by hundreds of cartoons that I used to watch day in and day out, my imaginations were inspired by huge dinosaurs, gigantic machines and impressive haunted forts. The common element of all these dreams being that, nothing in my dreams is small. Right from the animals to the forts, everything is huge and powerful. So powerful that the commonest of frogs in my dreams can take down an entire house with its sheer weight. ;)

Another feature of my dreams is that, they follow a pattern. I once in the first year if my under graduation had a series of almost twenty dreams set in the same surroundings but with different characters. This is the dream that I’m going to tell you in the subsequent paragraphs. The most important of all, I always remember most of my dreams. I narrate them to my friends to make sure that I never forget the important ones. So, let me induce you into my dream world where impossible is nothing. And rationality is considered irrational. : P

It is a chilly night. Everything around me is dark and rustling. My eyes open like they were shutters and not lids. I look around at the darkness that engulfs me. I hear myself hissing. I’m angry for some reason. I try to get up to have a better picture of where I stand. My hefty frame feels heavier than ever. It takes me a while to get up. As my eye level elevates from the ground, I get a better picture of my surroundings. Tall green grass forms a beautiful pasture around me. It’s a midsummer night on a full moon day. I hear a rumbling sound somewhere in the background. My head turns a 180 degree with surprising speed and ease. I spot the source of the sound, the river that is running along the meadow. As my senses tune to the surroundings around me, I hear the rumble grow louder by the minute and finally the sound stabilizes to a gentle roar. The water looks brilliant, radiating silver from the shining full moon. I swallow in a dose of fresh air that fills my lungs with a hiss. For the second time in the night, I hear a second rumble. But the sound this time, seemed to come from within me, a rumble that set my insides on fire. I was feeling hungry. I wanted to hunt. But why should I hunt? Should I not satisfy my hunger with the fruits that I see on the trees nearby? Should I not satisfy my thirst with the fresh water running in the river? My senses said I needed something bigger, something more delicious. And the liquid should be more than just normal water. It should be more vitalizing and energising, something hotter, something with a taste to it. I scan my immediate vicinity, my senses sharper, and my brain working faster. I could almost sense the vibrations in my surroundings. I wanted to hunt, to kill. I find something moving in a distance. Ah, food. Impulsively, my muscles contract and my body becomes rigid. I can feel the wetness oozing in my mouth. But the smarter part warned me to think, think of a plan that would ensure that the prey shouldn’t slip away. Slowly, I start crawling though the grass like water on a plane. So swift were my movements that, even the sharpest of ears couldn’t make out the faint rustle that my movements made. I was an invisible enemy plane hiding in a cloud bag, waiting for my chance.

Inch by inch, I close in onto my prey, a fully grown animal dressed in some colours that didn’t suit his natural appearance. It seemed to be humming something to itself. Poor thing, didn’t know that its life would end in a few minutes. As I raise my head from the darkness to reveal myself to my victim, my head reaches a towering ten feet from the ground. My victim senses my presence as I’m about to strike. It runs on its legs his instincts of survival aiding it to gain speed. I get back into the grass and I start moving through the grass once again. Eyes were of little use to me when I was able to sense the distance with the sound my prey made. I hear a creaking sound and the unhooking of a heavy latch in the distance. I raise my eyes above the grass and almost smile to myself. The prey did his move just according to my plan. He entered my castle, the chamber of death for my victims. It manages to secure the lock before I could manage to gain entrance. I hear a low hiss escape my chest with fury. My swift senses manage to spot a hole in one of bigger walls. I remember making it myself one day. With one lucid movement in creep in though the narrow slit and enter my castle. The huge central hall was glistening with the light that came from a thousand candles lighted all around the place. The sparkles were added by the reflections of the crystals that hung from my chandelier. I see a dark cloud engulf the moon though one of my windows that extended all the way to the ground. As my sense of smell drinks in the surroundings, the fragrance of my Lillie’s hits my nostrils and I experience a momentary high, forgetting my hunger. Another rumble issues from my stomach and I focus back on the work at hand. The stench of my victims sweat seemed to lay a trail to me in the deep fragrance. I tip toe on the spiral staircase at the end of my grand reception hall, making almost zero sound.

I spot my victim standing hesitantly on the bridge of my death chamber. The bridge was narrow and didn’t support weights of the victims if they were not swift in their run across. Below was a gigantic iron ball with spikes long enough and thick enough to drill in holes through the bodies of the victim. The victim seemed to take time in measuring his chances of survival, too late. I emit a hiss and raise myself on my lucid body. The victim paralysis with fright and takes an automatic step back in cover. The victim makes a choice and decides to sprint across the bridge. With almost zero effort, I throw a part of my body across the victim blocking him from the opposite direction. That part of me seemed to float in mid air. The victim, completely castled by my sudden move, paralyzes completely and his senses freeze. Dead senses meant half dead. Only the physical force needed to be taken out of him. My head now suspended in mid air, raises a few feet higher with little effort, my body moving like a liquid below me. Adrenaline rushes though my blood and my teeth start emitting a low viscous transparent fluid. I open my moth wide, two pointed razor sharp teeth showing, dripping with the liquid. I dig in my teeth deep into the victim, as my body wraps itself around it, arresting its final facilities of motion. The blood of my prey enters my mouth, still warm and fresh just as I liked it. I squeeze the prey dry before I devour it. I crawl back across my hall, idle and lazy after a tiresome hunt which didn’t prove to be futile. As I come back into the lawn again, to gaze at the bright moon and the shining stars, I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the cold black water. My midsection looked bulged and my forty foot length seemed shorter. I give myself a satisfied hiss, my snakes’ hunger satisfied, not wanting to eat till I feel hungry again. I look for a place to sleep with no fear of anything. I am a snake, a hunter made by nature. I kill only when I’m hungry unlike my recent prey which eats without reason.
When I wake up in the morning, I find myself totally disoriented and confused. What was with this whole snake episode? Maybe it’s time we changed and stopped unnecessary hunting and killing. I try to get my bearings back and align myself before I begin to college. Maybe, someone or something did try to send a message across to me.