Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lost and found...

5 pm. The medical college canteen. Nishant sipped his coffee in solitude, mulling over the day; and it hadn't ended yet. He planned to head back to the hostel for a quick bite, check emails, and then back to the college. He had to collect the one book he'd been gunning for, the past month or so - Atlas of Human Anatomy.

His usual gang - Amit, Tejas, Meera, and Anushka had decided to catch a late night movie, but he wanted to have that book at any cost.

"Carry on, guys," he'd said tersely amidst sniggers and raised eye-brows.

He'd just stepped out,headed to his bike in the parking lot, when he heard a voice behind him.


Nishant turned. The voice belonged to a frail looking man in his fifties. He was very familiar, but Nishant couldn't place a finger on his face. Probably one of those patients he'd to take care of in the afternoon.

Nishant waited for the man to say further.

"Son, I'm Mohan Rao from Vijayawada...and I want to go back home."

That was a strange request. Nishant had a mind to say, "so, go sir, who's stopping you." But he held back.

"I'm sorry, I don't think I understand," He said instead.

The man advanced slowly. Something was wrong with his walk..it was laboured. Nishant cleared his throat. "Sir..do you have a problem? Maybe if you head to the reception..."

"No no. I just want to go home. I'm..I'm Mohan Rao."

"Yeah, I got that," Nishant said, slowly.

"I need your help, son."

Just then Nishant spotted Amit and Tejas walking toward him.

"Hey, Nishant. You sure you don't want to join us?"

Nishant looked at the pale face of Rao, and then his friends.

"Uh, sorry guys. I have to have that book. And moreover, I can't stand that guy, the so called hero of the movie, so..."

They waved him away and turned to the canteen.

"Yeah, so Mr. Rao..." Nishant turned, only to find the man gone. He looked at the gate, craning his neck a bit, but couldn't spot him. Maybe he'd catch him on his way out and offer him a lift or something. Then he chuckled to himself - not all the way to Vijayawada though.


Canteen, the next day. They were talking in hushed tones, when Nishant arrived. He sat down and looked at them. "What's up, guys?"

Tejas shook his head silently, and the others toyed with their respective plates and cups.

"Did I miss anything?" Nishant smiled. "How was the movie?"

"Boring," Meera droned.


Tejas was solemn. "There was a cop here today."

"What for?" Nishant asked, placing his books on the empty chair beside him.

"He was talking to the principal, I believe...about some unclaimed body."

"Unclaimed body? Here? What, one of the cadavers?"

"Yeah, the one we'd been working on."

"Oh, shit," Nishant said. "And..?"

"The cop was saying, the body belonged to some guy from Andhra. His relatives were apparently enraged...we don't know how it came to us."

"But I thought, we got bodies only after all the legal.." Nishant began, and stopped. "What did you say? Andhra?"

Meera nodded. "Vijayawada."

Suddenly Nishant's stomach churned.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just another 'blog' in the wheel...

I remember the first time I heard the word 'web-log' was sometime in '97. I'd arrived in Bangalore, fresh out of post-graduation, and landed a job with my cousin who ran a small multimedia outfit back then (the company's long since wound up). The net had just about picked up - we used to hook up with a dialup; remember the familiar long 'beeeeeeep', and then a series of 'bip-bop-bip-bop'...and then the lights on the modem would turn steady, and we were ready to go. 56kpbs line. Great connection. Wow! The page loads in half a minute. That was fast, man! And while researching some web designs, I stumbled upon this guy (forget his name now), who had designed this very cool (for those days, these days you get all kinds)website he called his 'weblog'. I decided to save it for later and when I found time, just went through his site. It looked more like a day-to-day account of what he did, who he met - he was a designer himself, so it was more of his sketch works, rough drafts, designs, interactions with visualizers, ad guys and such. But he had a knack of making the mundane so interesting, I kind of got hooked to his page. I remember religiously opening his site every morning, just to read what he'd done that day.

That was then. Over the next few years, when Internet started making its way into everybody's home, weblog had turned to a crisper, dittier 'blog', and hey, you and I could have one. I heard about the new avatar sometime in 2000-2001, but I still didn't have that easy an access to the net to be able to blog myself. And not many people had begun blogging, anyways.

When I entered the software industry, and found that the Internet was as easy as a click, it opened a whole new world for me. And it was then a colleague invited me to read his 'blog'. I'd shown him a couple of my printed short stories, so he encouraged me to have a blog of my own.

So, finally in May 2003, I signed up for my very own blog - at blurty. I'd to give it a name. That was a problem. I'd not seen a lot of blogs and this colleague who'd shown me his, had something very simple like 'meandering thoughts' or some such. That wasn't much inspiration. So I went back in time, digging from favorite movie characters, comic book heroes etc. Nothing caught my eye. And then, one day over lunch I cribbed lightly about this to a friend. And he said, 'yaar, tu itna emotional kyoon ho raha hai?' (why so emotional over such a trivial matter?). And it struck! Of course. I'd found my name! I remember long back in school I had this favorite TV show 'Phatichar', and that character had stayed on in my mind for long. Phatichar would always console himself with that line 'yaar phatichar, tu itna emotional kyun ho raha hai?'. I liked it. So I named myself 'Phatichar' on my new blog.

Phew! It's been a great journey so far. I know five years isn't such big a deal. And I've been in and out of here far too many times. But whatever the frequency, it's always consoling to know that whatever happens in the outside world, there's always a place in cyberspace, where I can take refuge. A place I can go to without having to worry about what I am, who I am, about being politically correct. It's my space. Our (us bloggers) space.

Here's to bloggers all over the world. Cheers. :-)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Twinkle, twinkle little star...

He stood atop the terrace, looking at the smattering of stars the parting clouds made way for. He remembered all those stories his grandmother used to tell him, about people becoming stars after they died. He wondered how many stars he'd put up there personally. And were they looking at him now? He looked at his watch. In about a half hour, it would be time to send up another star. It was cold. The rain had ceased, and it was wet all around him. He hoisted the silencer-fitted sniper gun on the wall railing and turned the telescope, getting a clearer picture.

The slim executive walked out of the restaurant, brief-case in hand. There was a pretty young thing hanging on to his elbow, and here was the challenge. He had to down only one. Hmmm, he gripped the wooden handle of the gun and sighed deeply, sticking his eye into the telescope, as it followed the couple below.


The lightning struck quick, followed by an unusually loud clap of thunder. The executive's girlfriend looked up and remarked.

"Oh, look sweetheart, that struck the arrester of that building. So close by, huh?"

The executive looked up and shrugged. "Hmmm. Good thing that building has an arrester. It looks old to me."

Little did they know, it was their (un)lucky 'star' that arrested the lightning.


Take your call...

"Hello?" Said the female voice.

Deepak braced himself. He was dead sure it was one of those 'please-take-this-credit-card' call.


"Deepak Joshi?"

"That's me."

"Sir, I'm calling on behalf of Millenium Bank. Do you have a credit card,sir?"

"Nope. And I don't plan on having one, either...sorry."

There was a pause.

"Maybe you'd take it if I told you your life depended on it."

Deepak sat up now. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me right, Mr. Deepak. Take this credit card, or you could be on the obit page tomorrow. Think about it. I'll call back in 5 minutes," said the girl and hung up.

Ha, somebody's sick idea of a joke, he concluded, throwing the cell phone on the couch. He got up to get himself a glass of water. His eyes unconsciously went to the calendar. He chuckled at his silliness. Of course, it was crazy - it was October, not April. He came back to the living room and stared at his cell. It rang even as he was looking at it. He picked it up. Same number.

"Yeah, listen you..." he started.

"Have you decided?" She said.

"Listen, whoever you are. You can't be so stupid as to not realize what I could do with just one phone call to your bank, right? So, come clean and tell me who this is. Neetu, is it you?" He frowned.

"Mr. Deepak. You don't realize this could cost you..."

"Yeah, right. This could cost me my life. What else?" He decided to humor her now.

"Not bad. You're smart. That's right. This could cost you your life. I think you should take it."

"And what if I don't?"

"You'll see."

This was not funny any more.

"Great. I'd like to see that. Bye." He hung up and shook his head in disbelief.

The cell rang again. He looked hard at the number before answering.

"That wasn't a smart thing to do, Mr. Deepak."

"Look, this isn't funny. Who the hell are you?"

"I'm just a representative, Mr. Deepak. And it is in your best interest that I tell you..."

"You'll kill me if I didn't take this dumb card? Is that what my best interest is?"

"That's right." The voice sounded more confident now, and that annoyed him further. He stepped out into the balcony,looking around as if the caller was in sight.

"Ok. You know what? Now you wait 5 minutes, while I call your bank. We'll see. OK?" He hung up again.


The next morning, he absently picked up the newspaper lying on the chair and started flipping. There on the 3rd page, was his picture in black and white. And on top in bold letters, was written:

Obituary. Deepak Joshi, 22nd September, 1977 - 15th October, 2007. We sadly mourn his demise. Signed - Family and friends.


Monday, July 14, 2008

urban legend...

Nikhil slid the console of his mobile and checked the incoming message. "We're on. 1am sharp."

He sighed and pushed the instrument in his front pocket. That's it. Show time. He threw the cigarette butt and got into the car. He rolled the windows down as he hit the highway. The cold wind whispered angrily at his cheeks, but he was calm. He needed this dressing down. Soon, he turned his thoughts to the old days, when he rode the same highway on his bike. Innumerable treks with his friends, to nearby haunts - hillocks, forests. He pushed back his hair and turned the volume on his car radio, a wee bit higher.

At the 30th Kilometer, he veered off the tar and slowed the car down, the dirt track massaging the wheels. He drove for a few kilometers, concentrating on the path ahead. The light tunnel was closing in on the destination. He was surprised his heart wasn't behaving in the same manner his car was, on this bumpy track. It was pretty composed. He sighed deeply as he came to the clearing. The dust he'd kicked up behind him slowly settled down. He killed the engine and stepped out. In the darkness, he felt at home. The lone flicker from his lighter shone up the area for a brief second as he lit up. He waited. His radium-lit watch showed 12.40. About time now.

A few moments later, he saw a pair of head-lights bobbing its way toward him. It stopped at a distance. Doors slammed. He waited.

"All set?" Amod asked, rubbing his hands as he approached. Nikhil nodded and dropped the cigarette stub.

"Let's do it."

They headed up the hillock, leaving their cars behind. The flashlights caught a couple of surprised snakes on the way, inviting a gasp from Pradeep. "Holy Shit."

"Watch your step," Nikhil muttered, confidently leading the troupe.

They saw the building yonder, looming large, getting bigger as they closed in on it. Nikhil motioned for the others to turn off the flashlights.

After a few moments, against the faint lights of the nearby town, one could see four silhouettes crouching and entering the hollow mansion.


Legend has it that no one ever returned alive after a visit to the mansion as it was called, since nearby villagers always heard deep throated echoes from there. It was well-known that nobody ever ventured on that path after dark, let alone in the middle of the night.

But the four guys led by Nikhil, returned. Because legend also has it, that after the two abandoned cars on the dirt track were picked up by police, that same night a villager had seen four wolves, howling and speeding down the paddy fields. They were unusually big for wolves, he'd observed.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Stony silence...

The little guy was concentrating hard, turning the smooth, flat stone in his tender hands, contemplating how many skips to make in the placid lake in front of him. His lips were pursed, eyes browed into a narrow frown.

Sagar smiled at him from the bench nearby, and watched him intently. Go for it, tiger, he thought. The boy now looked uncertain.

Sagar rose, and slowly walked to him, hands in pocket.

"Giving up?"

The little tyke swung back, obviously annoyed at this unwelcome comment. He shook his head vigorously, and turned back to face the lake.

"I could do almost 10 skips when I was a kid," Sagar bragged; standing beside the boy now. That invited a mock 'ha'. Sagar smiled and looked on into the lake, taking in the moist smell of the algae.

"Ten, huh?" The kid spoke at last.

"Uh, huh," Sagar nodded, raising his eyebrow as if it were a record none had broken in a while. The kid shook his head smugly.

"What? You don't believe me?"

The kid shook his head again.

"Wait.." Sagar looked around for a stone, "...let me show you."

Big mistake big bro', the kid seemed to say.

Sagar grabbed a stone and concentrated. He frisbied the stone, skimming the lake and sending ripples. One, two, three, four...

The kid chuckled.

"Well, it depends on the..." Sagar began, but the stone from the kid's hand had already escaped and went gliding over the surface. 12 was the last he could count as far as his eyes could see. They both counted aloud. The boy turned to Sagar proudly, and walked away with a beaming face.

Sagar shrugged and turned to the lake. "Well...there are...you know bad days."