Category: Short stories

Fire! Fire! That’s my CAR!

This is not a fiction story. Last night there was a big fire outside my house and like a cheap journalist, I’m ripping the night’s event as a story idea, and writing a blog post about it. (Of course, I don’t have a picture of it, because I’m not that cheap a journalist to not to anything about the fire and stand clicking pictures, especially when it’s my car that’s about to catch fire). Anyway.

Every night, my dad comes home from the garage at 9 thirty, after fixing all the bikes and an occasional car. We have dinner watching TN Seetharam‘s never ending TV serials. It used to be Mayamruga whenI was 11, then Manvanthara, then Muktha, then Minchu, then Muktha Muktha and now it’s Maha Parva. It has been the same routine forever, except the number of people sitting at the dining table has changed (now it’s minus my grandma and my sister, who is married and watching Times Now, during dinner, instead), and the names of the serial itself, although the content is pretty much the same.

Anyway, so we had a peaceful dinner, followed by my dad lying on the sofa, increasing the volume on TV, my mum increasing her own volume, yelling and asking him to reduce the volume, me just sitting and reading Three Men in a Boat. Just day-to-day stuff, you know. I told my mum something was burning and my mum checked the stove and said there was nothing on it. I shrugged and stuck my nose back into my book. Suddenly, someone began banging at our main door. We all looked at the door and for a second, just sat and looked. The rest of the story is as follows:

Mom: Who do you think it is? At this hour?

(We all turn to look at the clock, which is set 25 minutes late, so it just gives us the feeling that it’s always late. The clock presently showed 11 pm, which is really late for someone to come knocking, by our standards)

Me: I don’t know. Maybe Sunayana. Because who else would bang the door like that?

I open the door. It’s the man who lives opposite to our house, Murali uncle, shirtless, with a surprisingly big paunch and clad in a lungi and no chapplis.

Murali uncle: Nim car benki hathkond urithaide! (You car is ablaze!)

My dad jumps off the sofa, flinging his hands in shock, tossing a bunch of things off the centre table, that fall making a loud clinging, clattering noise. My mum, almost in tears and a pained look, gasps. I wordlessly run after Murali uncle, down the staircase outside and onto the road where our car is parked. From the staircase itself I could see an orange glow on the road outside. I thought Oh shit! Please don’t go boom car! because of course I’m concerned about people’s safety more than the red Maruthi Esteem itself.

Esteem
My cool car

So yeah, I ran out and saw my car. I could see the left side of the car, there was no fire on that side. On the other side was a growing fire, taller than the car itself and it was burning with all its might. I wasn’t wearing chappli and was too shocked to go close to the car. For what felt like ten minutes (although it was hardly two seconds), I stood with my palms clasping my jaw-dropped face. My dad ran towards the car to see what could be done.

Then suddenly it stuck me out of nowhere. WATER! I always thought that during emergencies, I’ll absolutely forget what to do. But water came to my mind instinctively. I was so proud of myself. My mum was still on her way out of the house, when I ran back, fetched a full bucket of water and took it to my dad, still with no slippers. This time, I went all the way to the other side of the car and saw for myself. The car was completely fine. Phew! (Thu you cheap bastards were hoping the story was going to be epic with a full blown disaster eh? As much as you’d like to read about such things, I wouldn’t write a blog post about such a disaster. I’d be distraught and beside myself in agony. I have left a very nice Bodyshop lip gloss in the back seat of my car). The fire was growing less than an inch away from the car and had Murali uncle been late by five minutes, the car would’ve been a wreck.

All my neighbours ran out of their houses, a few with buckets slopping with water and a few just to look and exclaim a loud “Haw! Kai zala?” or “Kasan zala?” or “Aiyo! Enna Natantatu!” It took us around 15-20 minutes to put the fire out. We didn’t need to call a fire truck or anything. My car was safe and the fire was out, all 15 neighbours, strolled back inside the compound in twos and threes, discussing what might have happened.

“You know! Three boys came running inside the compound, and hid in that corner house! We got scared and shut the door when we saw them pa! Maybe it was them!” contemplated a Rajani atthya. (These titles like ‘atthya,’ ‘moushi’ and ‘kaka’ become universal terms when one of the youngsters in the compound calls their aunts/uncles that. So Uttara’s Shubadha moushi is moushi for everyone. Pranjali’s Rajini atthya is atthya for everyone). The mystery of who started the fire still remains unresolved but my dad is being extra cautious and planning to install a CCTV camera outside the house. (Damn! I can’t be sneaky anymore!)

The whole experience was like one of those fire drills that happen in office spaces. We all worked efficiently together and avoided a crazy mishap all thanks to Murali uncle’s misinformation about the car already being on fire. Everyone went back inside and continued watching TV, talking, arguing and I stuck my nose back into my book.

Stay cautious everyone.
Until next time.

Advertisements

The Bond That Got Me Addicted

“Hi, I’m Rhea and I’m an addict.”

The room was huge and bright. The windows left hardly any space for walls. The garden outside was lush and breezy.

Rhea sat looking down at her half bitten finger nails, aware of the seven pairs of eyes boring down on her pale face and long black curls. It wasn’t her first time at Group Therapy. She had started it a year ago, the same time at which her Under-Grad course in Psychology had begun. In fact, she had made the therapy a part of her life. But something about the air that day made her uneasy.

She looked up at the expectant faces and smiled weakly. There wasn’t much she could say about herself. It was the same old story. Happy teenager, one terrible incident, depression, addiction, rehab… Did she really want to recount her story?

Her eyes focused beyond the people sitting before her, at a dark wooden table that stood against the wall. Atop the table rested an aquarium with colourful fish swimming about amidst artificially produced bubbles.

She had dreamt of the aquarium many times. As she stared at it, images from her past flashed before her eyes.

She remembered how that day had begun…

**********

Here I’m standing on the sea shore
She is gone, now she’s gone
All the angels praying for me
As I fall, As I fall 

Rhea slowly opened her eyes. She was lying in her tub. The bathroom was dimly lit with an orange bulb. She rubbed her eyes and drank thirstily from a water bottle. She set the bottle down and shut her eyes again. She was having a dream until then. What was it she was dreaming of?

She was at Anjuna Beach, playing ball with her girlfriend Alisha. Their high giggles echoed in her head.

Amidst a fit of giggles, Alisha said, “Rhea imagine your mum finds out we’re in Goa by ourselves! That’ll be crazy! Haha!”

“Stop trying to scare me! It isn’t going to work now,” she said, in a teasing voice. She splashed her way to Alisha and poked her in her waist.

“Aaaah stop tickling me!” Alisha screeched and laughed.

Rhea grabbed her by the waist and kissed her lovingly on her cheek.

With a smile Alisha hugged her and “Oh the ball! It’s going away! Haha I’ll get it!” she said.

She never came back.

She couldn’t remember anymore. She didn’t want to remember anymore. She threw her eyes around the floor and found what she was looking for. She picked up the plastic bag and sniffed at it for a long time, basking in the smell of Fevi Bond, until she was back in a daze.

She let go of the bag and it fell into the water. As she looked at it, the bag slowly turned into a shark, swimming around rapidly in the water. When the shark set its eyes on her, it flicked its tail angrily and charged towards her, bearing its gruesome set of jaws.

Rhea’s breathing got heavy. She paddled her legs violently, trying to swim away from the monstrous fish. She finally swung her hands and gave the shark a hard whack on its head. It lay there, dead in the water, a plain plastic bag.

 **********

A loud rap on the door brought her back to her senses.

Her mother’s worried voice came floating in. “Rhea! Open the door! Varun is here to see you!”

Rhea opened the door.

A blurry version of her dad and mum stood at the door, with a stricken-looking Varun.

“What the hell! You’re a mess you silly girl! Enough is enough!” her dad roared and splashed water from Rhea’s bottle on her face. That was the last thing she needed.  

She fell writhing and screaming uncontrollably on the wet floor. Her long legs twitched and kicked hard. Her body was covered in goose bumps and sweat. Her eyes burned although they were tight shut. Her mouth was swallowing huge gulps of air.

“ALISHA!” she screamed helplessly. She cried and threw her limbs all around the place. She saw Alisha struggling equally hard but drifting away at the same time. The waves swallowed and threw her up in phases. Alisha’s chocolate eyes and short black hair kept bobbing up and down in the water.

“SOMEBODY HELP!” Rhea screeched in her loudest voice when she could see no more of Alisha. She looked at the shore and saw a life guard jump onto his speed boat and everything went blank.

When she opened her eyes, she was in her dad’s car, resting her head on her mother’s lap. Varun, her best friend, sat in front with her dad, speaking hurriedly over the phone.

“Whuzgoinon?” she groaned.

Before she knew it, her car had stopped and she was being helped out of the door and into a big grey building. She saw people in shades of green and grey walking about place. She caught a fleeting glimpse at a sign board that read ‘Dr. Ramesh Sarathy, Neurosurgeon.’

That’s when it dawned on her. She was at NIMHANS, in layman terms, Bangalore’s most famous mental hospital. They rushed her into the Department of Psychiatric and Neurological Rehabilitation.

She suddenly felt fear surge through her veins. Every part of her body was shaking. She picked up a plastic chair and raised it above her head.

“I swear I will destroy this fucking place! Take me back home!” she screamed and pulled at wires and telephone cords and everything in sight. She threatened to send an aquarium that was set up on a dark wooden table crashing down.

She hardly felt it when a needle pricked her arms. Suddenly, everything went blank.

**********

Rhea shook out of her reverie. Having seen the love of her life practically disappear before her eyes had scarred her forever.

Her therapy group waited patiently for her story.

“Oops! Sorry! I err… just remembered something,” she said sheepishly and looked to her right.

That’s when she realised what made her feel unsettled that day. She gaped in awe at the girl next to her. Her chocolate brown eyes and short chic hair-cut were ever so similar to Alisha’s. Her figure was perfect just like Alisha’s had been. She even wore the same red Converse shoes that Alisha used to wear.

“Err… I think I’ll pass,’ Rhea said to the therapist absent mindedly, never taking her eyes off the girl.

“Alright, moving on. You tell us your story,” the therapist said to Rhea’s neighbour with a kind smile.

“Thanks,” the girl said. Her voice was so similar to Alisha’s, Rhea could’ve sworn it was her girlfriend, back from the dead.

The girl looked around hesitantly. Clearly it was her first time at group therapy.

She fixed her gaze on Rhea. She said, “Hi I’m Anisha, and I’m an addict.”

The last pursuit

-This fucking guy. He ran after me so fast. I couldn’t take it. My feet were hurting. My calves were killing me. My hip felt like it would bend over like jelly and never straighten up again. My chest was congested. I wanted to fucking stop running. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see where I was going. Every five meter stretch developed out of the darkness and disappeared as I ran past.

I looked over my shoulder. The black figure of this guy was bloody quick. He was closing in on me and I knew that within seconds he’d catch up and then what? Take my sack? Or maybe the slipper on my right foot? Nah! He’ll take the shoe on my left foot. Can’t afford that! No man on planet would part with another one of these shoes for a beggar like me!

Shit why is the wretched guy –hic­- Ugh! God damn hiccoughs in the middle of the night! Screw the hiccoughs! Need light! Can’t see where I’m going!

Ah! –hic- a street lamp. “Thank you –hic- asshole!” I shouted to the Guy up there and showed him the finger. I had turned into that road with the expensive fucking coffee.

-I saw the man make an obscene gesture towards the sky. He may have shouted something. I couldn’t hear him over the guitar solo of Fade to Black on my ipod, the best music for a mid-night jog.

A few seconds ago, I had encountered this ragged, messy man, who stood in the middle of the road, muttering to himself, until he spotted me. The second I approached him, he broke into a run.

The man constantly looked over his shoulder as he ran. His behaviour was peculiar. Perhaps he is being pursued I thought and looked over my shoulder. No one. Does he see something that I don’t? I felt rather disquieted. I wasn’t one for horror stories.

He took a right turn and disappeared into road where Barista stood. I went after him thinking maybe I could help him if something was wrong.

I entered the road and unplugged my ear phones. The faint plop of water dripping echoed around the street. Wind whistled through the open windows of the deserted buildings. A lone cat mewed its way through the dark street. A few rats shuffled their way into underground drains. A lone street lamp lit the street. The waning moon hung limply in the starless sky. There was no sign of the man.

“Hello? Are you alright sir?” I shouted into the darkness.

-“Hello? Are you alright sir?” he shouted.

What does he –hic- take me for? I wasn’t going to fall for the oldest trick in the fucking book. The Asshole alone knows to how many people I have had to be a gentle man to. And He knows how I’ve made a run with their fucking money after that as well.

I stood beside an open window on a tiny alley on the same street. I could hear the fucking dork’s voice and footsteps. A cat mewed somewhere. Hungry just like me –hic- I’m sure.

I heard his footsteps approaching. If he saw me, I’d slip out of the other end of the alley which would take me to that huge fucking road with those bloody uniformed men all over it.

There! He spotted me!

Bloody hell man! Leave me –hic- alone!” I shouted at him and ran towards the cursed big road.

“Argh! Dust in my eyes! Fuck this shit!”

 

 He ran again. “Fuck this shit,” he shouted roughly. He sounded mighty angry. I could only see his back, but it seemed like he had his face in his hands, perhaps wiping his nose or rubbing his eyes. But he ran.

He ran into the other end of the alley and well into the main road that joined it.

“HEY WATCH OUT!”

That is the last image I vividly remember of him. There was a blinding flash of light. For a split second, the mad old man stood there, his hands having just come away from his eyes. He turned and stared right at me. The light from the truck cast a halo behind him. And just like that the bright white light engulfed him and he was gone.

My ipod fell down. The ear phones remained in my hand.

Did you ever imagine the last thing you’d hear as you’re fading out was a song?
Arriving somewhere but not here…

The nosy encounter

The sun shone bright and pleasant that morning. I stepped out of my home to warm up a bit. I walked through the garden, carefully wading through the bushes that no one had bothered to trim. I settled on the spot beside the big door. That was the spot I generally occupied when I needed time to introspect. It was my spot.

Last night had been sluggish. I had overeaten. A lot of food had come my way and I couldn’t refuse it. I always had that problem of never being able to say no to food. So, presently, I felt fat and heavy.

As I sat indulging in such reflections, a girl walked past me. She seemed preoccupied. She completely missed me. It happened all the time. I had always been good at being obscure. I shrugged in my head and paid no attention to her. But suddenly, the girl stopped dead in her tracks. Something or someone had bewildered her.

She delicately retraced her steps in reverse. She stopped where I sat and peered uncertainly at me. She moved an inch closer. She had a nose too big for her face. She stared at me with wondrous eyes, took a sharp breath and whispered something unintelligible.

“Do I have something in my face?” I thought, quite offended by her stare. I was about to tell her how rude it is to gawk at others before she suddenly jumped and ran, leaving me startled in the process. I backed up a bit. I was alarmed by her queer behaviour.

I told my racing heart to calm down. Females could be odd sometimes. Or so I thought from my many encounters with them. How many of them I had mesmerized exhibiting my macho push-ups I couldn’t say! The same number had also been disgustedly driven away by my display of strength. It might seem rather bizarre, but push-ups had always been my area of expertise.

I had hardly reached the end of my train of thought when the curious girl appeared huffing and panting from the big door. “Oh! Not again,” I thought. I moved further away from her, being as inconspicuous as I could. I had worn green that day. I hoped I was camouflaged in the lush green garden.

But the prying girl spotted me and treaded edgily towards me. None that I had come across before had been this inquisitive. Sluggish as I was, I stopped moving, assuming this eccentric girl posed no threat. I let her come closer and take a good look at me. I stared her in the eye with my neck held high. My very poise, I thought, showed her how indignant I had been from her rude stare before she went away, blatantly aghast.

She came uncomfortably close to me. She quickly but quietly flicked a big bulky camera out of a bag and pointed it at my face.

“What the-?” I thought.

Click click click she went on, non-stop with the machine.

There’s only so much attention a living being can take. I refused to bear with her unreasonable behaviour anymore. I was unable to say a word in my intense fury but I had to let her know how offended I was and how obnoxious she was.

I turned around, changed my colour from green to yellow, flashed my long tail in her face and scuttled away irritably back into my cool hole in the wall, where there was no place for such nonsensical peculiar encounters.