Sunday, December 18, 2011
He first saw the girl. She rushed to the counter, and was disappointed to see nobody behind it. She turned to look at her boyfriend, who came running behind her. “What happened?” “Looks like it’s all sold out,” The girl moaned.
The guy ran a hand through his wet hair and looked around. “Shit, what do we do now?” He rubbed his palms together, beginning to shiver now.
Jeet clenched the single ticket in his palm and opened his mouth to speak. He had seen the movie before, and was here to kill time. This could be a good opportunity to get rid of the ticket. But...they were two, and he had just one ticket.
As if reading his mind, the girl looked at him. There were water droplets on her glasses, but she didn’t seem to mind it much. Probably used to it.
She squinted her eyes against the rain and murmured something to the boyfriend. Then she turned to Jeet.
“Excuse me, has the movie started yet?” That question actually was a hidden answer to a lot of other questions one would ask, coming to a theater like this. Old and unpopular, this cinema hall was the last place one would come to, but the movie was a smashing hit, and had also won critical acclaim. Being in a small town, the ticket rates were pretty low too. But as far as the regular works went, but for the small placard-like poster outside the gate, you could easily mistake it to be an abandoned structure. There were no show-timings on display, no grand gates, and no snack vendors inside the premises. Bottom-line, the movie was solely at the mercy of the single proprietor who ran it. He might start the movie any time he wanted. Or he might not.
Jeet answered her question with another – “Uh, do you guys want tickets?” She nodded. Jeet held out his crumpled ticket and smiled sheepishly. "I have just one."
The couple hesitated, unsure whether to term him stupid or generous. They were two of them, and this guy showed off his single ticket like he had an entire row in his palm. They conferred in hushed tones once again, the guy protesting every minute or so, and the girl trying to persuade him.
Then they turned to him. The girl stepped forward. “We’ll take it. How much?”
Jeet was about to talk about the arithmetic of number of tickets versus the number of people here, etc, but before he knew it, she’d grabbed it from his hand and stuffed the ticket fee in his hand.
He watched puzzled as the guy hugged her, and then quickly ran inside, throwing one last ‘thanks dude’ at him and blowing a kiss at her. Jeet was about to raise his hand, but didn’t; he just smiled back weakly.
“Thanks,” She said, smiling and pushing back a strand of hair from over her glasses. He just smiled back.
They waited for the rain to stop. She had a thick jacket on, but somehow the fact that she was alone now, made her cautious of the rain all of a sudden. He watched her as she collected the small drops in her hand, and smiled unknowingly. She suddenly turned to him, and he didn't know what to do. He turned away hastily, smiling nervously and looked at his watch, and then back at the rain. He didn't see her smiling back.
She continued playing with the water. He slowly turned to see. She was cute. And he liked girls with glasses. For some strange reason, he found them very sensuous. But he pinched himself and returned to reality. Maybe she needed a drop some place. But he was still curious why she agreed to take the single ticket. Why wouldn't she go in with him? And what kind of boyfriend left his girlfriend standing in the rain...for a movie? Weird. Maybe she didn't like the movie so much. But still...
“Uh…excuse me,” He said finally, his curiosity getting the better of him. "Umm...didn't you also want to...?"
“I know,” she said cutting him off. “It's ok if I didn't watch it. But he...he would give his right hand for this movie." Jeet couldn't believe she was saying this. She looked at his expression and laughed. "His favorite movie. And I didn’t want him to miss it.”
Jeet nodded, a little taken aback. Wow, what a girlfriend. Do they make those kinds these days?
They were silent for a while. It was her turn now. “We drove all the way from Bangalore, just so we could catch this movie here. You won’t get tickets back there, not for another week at least. We had other friends wanting to come with us, but...”, she shrugged. "They had other plans at the last minute. So - just the two of us.."
Jeet nodded. “So…do you have relatives here, somewhere you could go to? The movie’s gonna be about 2.5 hours, you know. You want to get dropped someplace?” He sounded concerned.
“Nah, don’t know anybody here.” There was an uncomfortable pause. “What about you? I'm sure you didn’t come to this hall only to give away your ticket. You didn’t want to watch it?”
“Oh, I’ve seen it once. Actually I'm also from Bangalore. I came for a family ceremony. Representing my parents actually. Didn't want to come in the first place, but you know how it is, right? Obligation and all...?"
She smiled, nodding in agreement.
"...And I thought of killing some time. A couple of other folks went relative-visiting. Wasn't interested. So...” He stopped mid-way, and looked at her.
"So, what do you plan to do now?" She said. The rain had stopped now, and they were still standing there.
He pursed his lips. "Um..don't know - maybe just head back to Bangalore. You?"
Umm...I think I"ll just head over to that cyber-cafe there. Facebook, chat..you know. Time pass." She giggled. He chuckled and nodded.
Then he suddenly remembered they'd not even introduced themselves. He extended his hand. "Hey...I'm Jeet."
"Oh," She laughed and shook his hand, perhaps remembering the same thing. "Mala."
"Hi," They said it together, and again laughed.
An awkward moment later...
"Ok then..I think I better go," Jeet said and turned to leave."
She managed a short ‘bye," and then "hey, thanks so much."
He just waved it away.
She was still standing there looking bored when drove out of the gates. He wondered what she'd do for 2.5 hours now? Well, it was her problem. She was cute, though. He shrugged and drove away.
Mala walked out of the cyber-café just in time to reach the theatre. People were slowly milling out. She spotted him and waved.
“So, how was it?” She asked as they walked to their car.
“Awesome,” he said, grinning. “Thanks, Didi. But…what did you do? I was kind of worried…”
“Oh, it’s ok. I went online like I told you, and chatted up with a friend.”
“Ok, cool. And what happened to the ‘crumpled ticket’?" He chuckled.
“Hey! Go easy on him, ok? His name's Jeet."
"Ooooh..Jeet. Proper intro' and all, huh? " He ribbed.
"Shut up. And, you should be thanking him," she said getting into the car. "But he left soon after.” She pulled the car out onto the main road.
“Hmmm, what a pity. I thought you guys would go out for a coffee or something. How come he didn't ask you? Your glasses put him off, huh - Nerd? ” He ribbed her and laughed.
"But don't tell me you guys just stood there and spoke nonsense, di, come on..." He protested.
"Arre..it doesn't always happen that way, Bittu. Our age group is different. Not like you guys - fataafat intro and then disco. And who knows, maybe he's already committed, you know?"
"Yeah, right. Or maybe he thought I was your boyfriend," Bittu said laughing again.
She mock punched him. "Aye...Behave now."
Then she turned silent. "Actually...he could've thought that."
Bittu was physically bigger, though almost six years younger to her. And she did look a few years younger. It had happened before. And his stubble made him look a couple of years older. Funny, it never struck her.
Maybe she should've mentioned that Bittu was her brother. He was a cute guy actually. Nice too.
Jeet parked his car outside and ran into the Theater compound, he was looking around when one of the employees walked upto him.
"What are you looking for, sir?"
"I think I dropped my two-wheeler key here somewhere." He'd carried along his bike's key as well in the morning and must've dropped it when he pulled out his car keys.
"Oh, ok," Said the employee.
"Why, did you find something?" Jeet asked.
"No..nothing. It's not a key." Then hesitating, the guy pulled out a wallet and rambled on about how easy it was for people to just lose things, and how easily the blame came on them, and so on.
Jeet was a little irritated. "So, call him or something na? There must be some document inside - his driver's license.."
"Is this it?" The employee pulled out a small plastic card with a stamp-sized picture on it. Jeet took it from him and read the name. "Bharath Sippy." And then he saw the picture.
It was Mala's boyfriend. Shit.
"What time did the movie end?" He asked.
"Just now sir, about 15 minutes ago. Why sir, you know him?"
"Uh..yes. Yes..I..actually we'd come together for the movie. Umm, give, I"ll give it to him." Jeet asked for the wallet.
"See, sir..I'm giving this to you out of trust..." The man started again.
"Yeah, I understand. Trust me, I know him."
"Then it's ok."
Jeet also saw a business card in the wallet. There were seven to eight of the same, so it meant he was the guy. No harm in trying. He dialled the cell phone number in it.
"Bittu, your phone's ringing, " Mala said. Bittu was napping. He woke up with a start. "Huh?"
He looked at the unknown number and frowned before answering.
"Hello? Yeah? Yeah, Bharath....oh, hi. Hey, thanks man..how did you..Oh shit. Really?" He searched his back pocket. "Shit..yes. Hey, thanks man. Yeah, no ..we're just nearing Srirangapatna. Ok..you will? Hey I hope it's not too much of a bother. Ok..no, we're not in a hurry. I'll wait here outside the town." He chuckled. "Hey, thanks again, dude."
He hung up. Mala looked at him quizzically.
"So..Mala madam. Do you believe in destiny?"
"What happened, who was it?"
"I'd dropped my wallet in the theater compound." he smiled.
"You irresponsible idiot," She chided.
"And guess who found it?"
"Who?" She looked at him and then at the road again.
"Crumpled ticket? Remember?" He chuckled and then laughed.
"You're kidding me."
He continued laughing. "I'm telling you. He's on his way now. Just pull up there na, near that dhaaba?"
She pulled over and turned to her brother.
Bittu looked at her sternly. "And now, Ms. Mala...please don't put on your nerd act again, ok?"
She mock punched him again and feigned anger, "Shut up, you..." Then they both burst out laughing.
Friday, December 16, 2011
So, uh, thanks PV, for this:
(I'm sorry, I'm just horrible at formatting all this stuff on the web, so guys, please ignore the alignment, composing of the image etc. Maybe you can help me out here, PV?)
I'm really bad at receiving these accolades. I just don't know what to say! But I'll say this.
PV's a helluva writer herself. If you guys don't believe me, just go here. There's something 'spidery' about her writing. I know, that word sounds morbid, but what I really mean is, her stories just pull you into a web of feelings and thoughts.
So, thanks once again to the PS girl! You continue socking those rocks, huh? ;-)
Rishi lit his third cigarette and stood in the cemetery. He looked at his watch. 1.30 am. Fifteen more minutes. He chuckled. “One thousand rupees, here I come”. That was the bet.
Rishi almost swallowed the cigarette. Heart pounding he turned.
“Could you please put that out? That’s what killed me you know.”
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Hostel basement. The TT room noise was getting to Saurabh, who was trying to study in the adjacent hall. It was nearly 1 am and these guys were still playing? Enough with it, he decided and marched to the TT room.
"Hey fuckers, why don't you...?" He stopped.
There was no one in the room.
Monday, December 12, 2011
"Yes, sir?" The house inmate peeped through the partly open door.
"I need to come in. This man here says you're trying to kill someone, says he watched it all from the opposite building. Said you'd tied someone to a chair and...what's up anyway?"
"What? what nonsense..." Then loud laughter. "Oh, that. We're practicing for our office annual day play, sir. It's a murder mystery."
Cop hadn't expected this. He frowned and turned to the other man. The neighbor cringed and then said, "Oh...but..."
"You just did what you had to, sir. Not to worry, it's ok," the house inmate said, smiling. "Happens all the time."
"Sorry,I...well, from the window it looked so real..." muttered the neighbor, barely audible now.
The man inside laughed some more and stepped back. "But please sir, why don't you come in and check for yourself?"
"No, don't bother. Carry on," the cop said. He glared at the neighbor and walked away, scratching his crotch, muttering something about jobless fellows.
The neighbor turned to leave too.
"Sir, why don't you come in for some tea at least?" The man from inside said, stifling a laugh, or so it seemed to the neighbor.
"Uh, no..it's ok. I'll be off," he said sheepishly. "Sorry once again, for the confusion."
The other man winked and waved his hand. "Tata."
"Can you beat it? They thought I was trying to kill you, even called in the cops."
He pulled the curtains and turned to the other guy again. "Ok, I think we should continue like this now. Too many peeping toms around I see."
He adjusted the silencer over the muzzle and pointed it at the tied man. "This'll win you a filmfare award. And this..." he said looking at the muzzle, "..will make it look authentic, what say?"
He pulled the trigger. A second later he was looking at the brownish red mess on the wall behind. Oh well, he had lots of time to clean up. But sometimes he hated this job. So much more cleaning to do when you killed someone inside the house. He preferred doing it outside - point blank, out in the open. Let the cops clean up after. Sigh.
He looked down at the body. "Too bad, you can't do this once more. You know, like in those village dramas, where the audience shouts 'once more, once more' when a guy dies very convincingly?" He laughed at his own poor joke.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Arati swerved left to avoid an autorickshaw who suddenly, for no good reason, tweezed himself in between a biker and her, and now trying to overtake.
"Moron," She scowled at the rick guy as she passed him. He growled back.
It was too late, she was already at the turning and there was no way she could apply the brakes. The huge truck was blaring, but it was somewhat muffled due to the loud music she was playing. She brought both her hands up to her face, screamed her lungs off and passed out.
"This had to happen. Why did that idiot Nikhil agree to keep the car if he couldn't keep it safe for two weeks?"
"I don't know."
"Maybe we can do some fire fighting here. What does her log say?"
"I don't know."
"What do you know?"
"I don't...err..wait, let me check." A brief pause and a soft whistle followed. "It says here 84. 86 at best."
"Now what's that supposed to mean, 86 at best?"
"Can't accommodate beyond 86, is what it means. But we could appeal, right?"'
"For what - like 86 minutes? You were supposed to keep a watch on her. It's what we all do. We don't mess with that."
"Nothing. Yeah, let us keep a watch. And the car?"
"I don't know, we should try to spook her somewhat. Make her ditch the car. It's not good for her."
"You know what it means, right? Those guys will come after her. Sooner or later. It's all there in the book, isn't it?"
Arati could hear someone banging at a door from somewhere far away. The ringing in her ears hadn't died down yet. She slowly opened her eyes, ready to face heaven. Wait a minute. It looked very much like earth.
She turned. There was a mass of metal piled up on her left. People were milling around it. But a huge crowd was onto her, ready to torch the SUV.
"Oh great. Now it'll all be over in 86 seconds. You know, for an angel you're quite something. You were supposed to make that accident not happen in the first place. Now look what you did."
"What'd I do?"
"She's unscathed. BUt the truck's a mess. That never happens, you know. It's not destined that way. And you see Simon there? The truck driver's angel. I can see that frown on his face turning into a red mass of fire."
"What do I do?"
""I don't know, and what do I do"- is that all you know? I think I'll have to handle this myself. Get me the rewind hand-set. I'm going to get penalized for this, I'm sure. Newbie" He grumbled under his breath.
Arati opened her eyes slowly and found herself parked in the same place where she'd started out from.
She looked around. This couldn't be happening. Where was the huge truck crash. The mob? Where was it? Was she dreaming this whole thing? When did she doze off? Last she recollected was cursing the autorickshaw
....and just then the autorickshaw passed by, the biker behind him. But...
She was shivering. She called Nikhil again.
"Where are you?" Nikhil asked gruffly.
She gave him directions and got out of the car. Nisha called.
"Nishu, you won't believe what just happened to me..I'll be there in a while sweety." She hung up and sat down at the culvert, still shaking. She looked up. She was sure she was going to die. It was all so real. How could it have been just a dream, for God's sakes? She looked up and thanked her lucky stars.
The senior angel muttered, "You're welcome."
Then he turned to his junior. "As for you...be alert. For the next 86 earth years, yeah?"
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Arati felt like she wasn't alone in the car. She looked at the rear view mirror and her heart stopped for a minute. Was it her imagination or did she just see someone duck in the last row of the SUV, as her eyes fell on the mirror?
"Any...anybody there?" She mumbled feebly, feeling stupid the moment she said that.
She slowly pulled the vehicle over near a park and killed the engine. She lowered the window and looked around. It was a bright and sunny day, traffic milled all around her, pedestrians walked by, giving her and her ride the usual curious looks, doing as they normally do looking at something different on the roads. She just sat there for a minute soaking in the atmosphere, feeling normal.
She chuckled. "Aru, you're a nut case," she said out loud. What could possibly be wrong in the car?
Her brother's call again startled her. She cursed him under her breath and picked up the phone this time.
"Aru, I'll kill you...where are you?"
"Relax, chotu - am fine, and..what's with you? What's the big deal if I took the car, huh? Your friend's not gonna return today and snatch it back, right?"
Nikhil was the younger sibling. And she could bloody well take his car when she wanted. She shook her head and disconnected even as her kid brother was shouting on the line.
She looked at her cell phone for a moment. What if he actually had a good reason to stop her from driving it? Nikhil was known to have some rich kid friends who she suspected were involved in what would otherwise be perceived as nefarious. Could be anything - incriminating evidence...maybe controlled substance of some kind. Boy, this kid.
She turned and looked around the SUV. It smelled nice, surprisingly. She hadn't noticed it. She'd have thought it reeked of alcohol or cigarettes. None of that. Pleasant fragrance. Manly, she noted especially and smiled. On a hunch she released the boot and got out.
She looked around and slowly walked over to the rear of the car. She clutched the handle and slowly opened the door. Nothing. It was clean. Hmm, that was strange. She could've sworn there was someone. "Shit, Aru, now you've really lost it. That happened only in movies."
The cell phone on the front seat rang out again. She swore and walked over to the front again.
It was an unknown number.
"Get out of the car now, and walk away."
"Excuse me?"She frowned and turned. Was someone watching her?
"listen girl..you don't want to be in that car now. Just walk away."
"Hello, you listen. Just fuck off ok?" She hung up and dialled Nikhil's number.
Funny, now he wasn't answering. She looked around for some more time, then got in. She half expected cops or commandos, or whoever it was they showed in the movies, to surround her from all over and command her to exit, their machine guns pointed to her. She laughed at the absurdity. "Too many films, Aru, too many..." she chided herself.
She sighed and brought the car to life. Sweet. Oh boy, what the heck. She'd always wanted to drive one of these. She stepped on the gas and roared into the main road, leaving behind a cloud of dust.
(Now...what could happen next? Watch this space)
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
"Ok, did you hand over the cheque to Pa?" Mom shouted from the kitchen.
"Shit," Arati muttered under her breath. "I'll do it on the way, ma..."
She could hear her mother grumble something inaudibly from inside, but she was way past the living room to the corridor that connected to the garage.
She pushed through the door and flicked on the light of the garage. Her favorite hatchback of 3 years sat gleaming in the tiny bulblight. She patted the bonnet lovingly and was about to get in, when she stopped. Turning back slowly she discovered something. She looked at it, and then at hindsight went back into the house.
Her mother, oblivious to the world...turned and jumped when she saw her daughter standing in the kitchen doorway.
"Aru..please tell me when you come and stand like that," her mother said, a hand on her chest, breathing heavily. "You scared me. I thought you'd left."
"Ma, whose car is that?" Arati said, ignoring her mother's protest.
"Ma,come on...that one sitting beside mine."
"Oh, that. belongs to Nikhil's friend's. He's handed it over to your brother temporarily."
"The friend has gone to the Us for a few weeks, so he wants Nikhil to take care of it." she mumbled something else and continued her work.
Arati looked thoughtful.
"Why has Nikhil not taken it to work, then?"
"Arre I don't know. Ask him."
Arati turned back and headed to garage, dialing her brother's number.
"Nikhil, can I use your friend's car for today?"
"Aru, no, no no...don't touch that car - I can't give it to you..." he hadn't even completed the sentence. "thanks," Arati said and giggled.
She pulled the keys from the key-chain hanging by the garage door. All car keys hung from there.
She blew a kiss at her car with a short 'sorry baby" and got into the friend's car. It was a huge monstrosity she'd always wanted to drive ever since she'd learned driving a couple of years ago.
She revved the engine and let out a long whistle. Her mobile rang. It was her brother. She disconnected it and backed the car out.
A little past the first traffic circle, Arati turned right. That was when she noticed something was wrong.
(I know, I know....but to be continued)