Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Powercut

Sujith was on the laptop sprawled across the bed with the music going on full blast through the 5.1 woofer system arranged systematically to produce the most effective reverb effect. His fingers moved like lightning as he operated his two favorite gadgets, the laptop and the cell phone with amazing dexterity.

He was juggling three tabs on his laptop each them dedicated to yahoo messenger, orkut, facebook, gtalk and twitter. In the other hand he had his Apple iphone in which he was chatting with three of his friends.

Sujith’s father, Rana, was on the phone, debating with his friend about the latest dirty work that happened in their company and the bribes that the boss had to offer to hush up the entire affair. They were blaming the boss for his carelessness and at the same time appreciating the ease with which money could solve all the problems.

Sujith’s mother, Shailaja, was busy watching her daily soap opera and was acidly cursing the bad husband who tortured his pregnant wife and the wily aunt who was happy to ruin the mood of anyone who came in her way. She was also crying for the lead lady who kept crying all though the episode for some great tragedy befell her every five episodes.

Sujith’s grandfather, Shinde were sitting in drawing hall, reading the newspaper and blaming the government for its inefficient methods of working, pointing out that every politician in the world was corrupt and was suggesting a hundred methods which could be implemented to improve the system.

Sujith’s grandmother, Lilavathi sat in another corner of the drawing hall, goading on the landline to another old lady about a hundred things which included, a rich in-laws heavy necklace set, the latest gossip in the family, who is getting married, how much dowry they got/giving and so on.

Sujith’s sister, Reshma was in her room, talking to her friend about the latest designer wear in town, the latest love pair in their class, the latest guys who were hitting on them, their merits and demerits.

As everyone was in their own orbit, lost in their own world, each blissfully unaware of the other person’s existence, a sudden calamity jolted them out of their world. The power went out in the entire grid, enveloping the entire locality into darkness. At the same time, the cell phone towers went offline, all at once, without any warning.

Everyone walked into the main hall, feeling for the walls and searching for the potential obstacles. They were angry with the officials for being so negligent about the basic needs of the people.

Rana worked on the landline with a torch in one hand and a stabbing the numbers with the other. He made calls to the local power station to find out what went wrong. They said that some main transformer at some main power station failed and they were making ‘all possible efforts’ to get the power back before midnight.

‘Bloody idiots, they said midnight which surely means that they are going to take till next morning.’ Rana growled.

‘This is what happens when you have an inefficient government in power.’ Shinde muttered in an undertone.

‘But why did the cell phones go down? Both of my SIM’s are not picking up any signal’ said Sujith, shaking his phone and trying different things like changing the settings and switching it on/off several times.

‘Now, I have to watch the re-telecast in the morning to find out if Ekta finds out that her husband is cheating on her on not. This is so putting off.’, Groaned Shailaja.

As they all settled down in the sofas of the drawing hall, they observed that the room was filled with the bright night sky.

‘Hey, did anyone notice? It is a full moon day today’, said Reshma excitedly pointing out into the sky.

Everyone turned into the direction of her hand and noticed the full moon shining brightly in the clear January sky.

‘Why don’t we take the chairs and sit on the porch?’ Sujith suggested, finally giving up on his cell phone.

‘That is a good idea, Sujith will get the chairs and Reshma, you arrange the food that your mother made for snacks.’ suggested Rana.

All of them set into motion, setting up chairs, bringing out rugs and blankets which would make them comfortable in the cold night. As the snacks came, everyone settled down in their chairs, munching the delicious food, looking up at the beauty of the sky, basking and soaking in the moon light and for a couple of minutes, lost in awe.

‘This reminds me of my childhood’ Shinde remarked, bringing everyone back into the world.

‘We used to sit like this in the moonlight and used to play several games which were our modes of entertainment back in the days when we had no television sets, internet or cell phones’ he remarked.

‘What kind of games?’ the brother and sister asked, curious.

‘Oh, we used to sing songs, play mime and the most interesting game was where we make
different animals with shadows. The persons who used to make the most complicated animal shapes were made to compete with each other and the person who made the best moves won the competition.’ Said Shinde, and effortlessly produced the shapes of a hooting fox, a soaring eagle, a grazing cow and a barking dog.

Sujith and Reshma, by now very fascinated, abandoned their chairs and jumped to their grandfather’s side, each trying to make their own animal with their grandfather’s guidance.

Soon, Sujith’s shadow snake and Reshma’s shadow Eagle were having a raging war on the expansive front wall, complete with the sound effects.

Their parents were giving them battle strategies, awarding points for a hit, cheering an intelligent move and booing the bad one. After sometime, the battle was over and everyone was smiling.

‘Let’s play something else now.’ Reshma shouted, excited.

‘How about we play mime?’ Rana suggested.

‘That would work awesome.’ The kids cheered.

The father and the kids made one team as the mother and the grandparents made another team. Everyone was cheering and laughing as Lilavathi tried to depict a battle scene to make her team understand the name of an epic movie.

The kids roared with laughter as their always serious father tried to imitate the cat walk of the lead lady from a recent film. They fought over the points and argued about the extra time taken by each person to finish the act.

As their noise reached peak levels, the curious neighbors started coming out to see what was going on.

‘What’s up Rana ji, you seem to have a party going on here.’ Said his neighbor Bhaskar, as he walked into the porch of Rana’s house.

‘Oh hello Bhaskar ji, yeah, we are having a little mime competition going on here, why don’t you join in?’ Said Rana, with a big smile.

Bhaskar, after watching for some time, caught up with the contagious enthusiasm and joined in with his family and kids, and they were having a whole new competition which reached a fever pitch with a lot of cheering and booing. For that moment, all differences in age were forgotten and everyone was having their share of fun.

Soon, they were joined by the other people living nearby and they shifted their picnic spot to the center of the road on their lane. Meantime, the ladies called them for dinner.

‘Why go back into the houses? We are having so much fun out here. If all of us put in a little effort we can arrange the dinner here itself.’ Suggested Ali, who was another resident of that locality.

Everyone consented to the idea and soon, the next fifteen minutes were filled with wild activity as the ladies got the dishes out, and the children ran inside and outside fixing the necessary items.

The dinner was a huge success, with everyone talking, laughing, and hollering at each other’s jokes. The computers, televisions, cell phones and politics were forgotten for those two hours. Everyone present there found happiness in each other’s company.

As they were finished the dinner, everyone was talking about locking up the houses and making camp beds in the local park in their lane. The uncles were discussing effective methods to move the stuff into the park when the power came back on and the cell phones got revived.

Slowly, the calls started coming in and soon, the people found excuses to exclude themselves from the camping program. Soon, the people were back in their own orbits, doing what they normally do with the full moon night all forgotten in the glow of the electric bulbs.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The face on the inside part I

Tuesday 1-1-11 9:30 AM:

I looked up at the sun, now a brightening golden disc. It took it’s time in the laziness of the winter morning to transform from a cool red to the fiery golden color. I enjoyed this solitude each morning. It gave me time to reflect on the hard work that got me here and the future that lay ahead. Most importantly, it helped me focus on the present for the rest of the day without any distractions.

I stood up, stretched and fanned out my vision across my duplex sized office. At 30, having my own business was a dream come true for me. I looked at the brass name plate which read, ‘Phoenix constructions Pvt Ltd.’ the fresh morning sunlight was making it shine. I experienced a proud moment as I looked at my own cabin and name plate which read M.D. and C.E.O. As a construction company, we specialized in acquiring and remodeling the old buildings in the city for the current usage. This we did by either remodeling the building or by destroying the existing building and constructing an altogether new building.

The people started to come in at the standard time, 10 AM and the office began filling up. I went back to my desk after greeting everyone when I saw the paper on my table. The file was unmarked which surprised me. Usually the files on old buildings came from rental agencies or other smaller construction companies which owned the existing constructions. We also hired several private agents to keep an eye out for hot deals. This one wasn’t from any of them.

I opened the file to find out a map of the town. I found one part in the heart of the town marked in red.

Impossible I thought to myself. It was one of the most populated residential localities in town and there was no chance of the existence of any property which was not in use or which was too old to be used anymore. I was starting to suspect a prank and was about to close the file when I flipped to the second page of the file. This page gave a more detailed picture of the pin pointed location. This map showed a small, thick woodland which marked the boundary of the locality and the start of the hill range. I became more interested and looked in more carefully. This particular place was in the midst of a particularly thick part of the wood. But I did not know that such a property existed. I called in one of my private agents to find out if there was such a property for real. I gave him the details and he promised to get back to me within the hour.

The next page of the file contained pictures of the property. The pictures were obviously developed from a very old film and were not taken within the past ten years. The black and white photograph showed two buildings, obviously residential buildings spread over an area of 1500 sq ft which was given in the previous map. If true, and if I could lay my hands on the property, I would become the richest builder overnight by just selling the site given its land value. The next page gave me an address in London which said the location of the current owner. The page ended with a line which said,

Existing site with building is ready for sale. Contact the owner ASAP”, it said.

I was wondering why the person could possibly wait for so long to find a deal for the site when my agent called me back.

“So, did you find out about the current status? Are you sure that it is still open for sale?” I asked, my words falling into an irregular prattle with the excitement.

“Yes sir, I have positive information that the site is unused and is open for sale. The owner lives somewhere in Europe and interested people have no idea on whom to contact.” He said.

“They don’t have the address of the owner? Strange.” I said as I looked at the address in front of me.

“Yes sir, and more over the municipality is planning on seizing the land since it has been unused for many years and the owner is nowhere to be traced. They’re planning to announce an open auction in a week.” He said.

“We have to get our hands on it before anyone else does.” I said, firmly.

“How sir?” he asked.

“Leave that to me. But, in the meantime find out what other information you can gather about this strange plot.” I said and cut the line.

As I was about to make a call to the phone number given with the address, another sheet of paper which I hadn’t noticed till then fell out of the folder.

Great things in life come with great risks…
Fortune favors only the brave but no one…
Before you step in and make contact, make sure you are bold…
For there is going back once you take hold…

The words were cut out from newspapers with each piece of paper in a different shade of brown which indicated the age of each cut piece of paper.

I was looking at the strange verse in my hand when my cell phone rang. The display showed an unlisted number. As I picked up the call with a small shiver, the cheerful old male voice on the other end said,

“Up for the deal young man?”