Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Guest Appearance


I've been penning fiction on my blog the last year and a half, and it wasn't until last year I really started experimenting with horror. And ever since I started penning these spooky tales, I've had some very interesting conversations on this topic with my co-bloggers.

One such blogger is Visha. I'm sure many of you know her.

But for those who don't, let me tell you, her blog is a mixed bag. You won't know what to expect; she doesn't specialize in any particular topic, but rest assured, her posts will always bring a smile on your face. 

Over a period of time, I discovered that Visha had a unique way of looking at almost everything. And the best part is, she is never judgmental. She merely paints her thoughts in a different color. Especially her thoughts on the supernatural. And that's what caught my attention.

I invited her to post her thoughts on my blog. She was reluctant initially, but finally agreed.  And how! :)

So...ladies and gentlemen - Presenting Visha. Please give her a big hand. :)

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Just Mind It

She was studying for her university exams that night in her bedroom. It was close to 2 and still there was lots to revise. Suddenly, she heard some footsteps coming from the living room.

"Who might be awake at this time?"

The fact that her parents were downstairs and she was all alone in the first floor made her a bit cautious - had thieves broken into her home?

"Ma, is that you?"

No answer.

She went out to check and saw no one.

And this happened every night. While she used to study, light footfalls could be heard.

Fear was the last thing in her mind, instead she had an interesting thought.

"Maybe the Lord was giving me company."

Smiling, she turned another page of her book.

***
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Howzzat, folks? :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bungler


The burglar found someone standing in front of the wardrobe.

He stood behind him and growled.

“Give it to me.”

The other guy turned, a dagger in his hand.

“Ok.” He shrugged and shoved the dagger into the burglar’s open mouth.

As he staggered back, he saw another body lying on the bed.

***

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thoughts...




Coming back to an empty house at midnight, it’s not so much the thought of entering a dark living room that gets you, but the fact that the door opens when you're about to insert the key.

***

You know you're alone at home, peering into the internet, and you sneeze. It's not so much your resounding voice that gets you, but the fact that someone behind you says "bless you", right after. Softly.

***

You're walking in the subway, alone at night- and the lights go out. It's not so much the darkness that gets you, but the fact that just before the lights went out, you saw someone appear by the wall.

***

You're watching a late night show on TV, with the lights dimmed. You want to change the channel. It's not so much the next channel that gets you, but the fact that it wasn't you who changed the channel.

***

When you walk by a graveyard at night, it's not so much the graveyard that gets you, but the fact that there's someone walking ahead of you; one who wasn't even there when you entered the road.

***

You get into an auto-rickshaw, late at  night. The driver's not misleading you. He's a good soul. But that's not what gets  you; it's the fact that he is indeed that. A soul - when you see his face on the back of his head, smiling.

****

 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Unlocked


Ritesh got into the car, at the basement of their apartment building. They had to get to the other end of town for the wedding reception, and they were already running late. He looked at his wrist watch for the 3rd time when  Alka called.

“I’m so so sorry, honey. I got stuck in this godawful meeting and… anyway, where are you?”

“In the basement, bringing the car out, just as I'd told you. Are you here yet? I’m just coming up. I'll pick you up at the gate.”

“Yeah, I'm in the building. But sweety, please give me 10 minutes? I'll dash upstairs and change my saree. Just 10 minutes.”

“Ok, but what’s wrong with the one you’re wearing. Moreover... you look good in anything.” Ritesh laughed playfully.

Alka had indeed worn a saree to office, as it was ethnic day for her team. But she wanted to change into another one.

“Ha..flattery. Are you nuts? In this saree? No way..Ok, bye.”

“Hey,wait,  listen..” Ritesh started.

But she’d hung up. Must be rushing like mad now. Ritesh hoped the elevator didn’t act up today. He also had a couple of things to tell her, but remembered just one. He wondered what the other thing was. Oh well..he’d remember. Wasn’t earth shattering anyway. He pulled the car out of the basement.

***

Alka found the door open and pushed it. God, this Preeti. How many times to remind her to lock the door from inside?

Preeti was their cook who normally came in around this time and cooked supper for them. She wondered why she was here now. They weren’t going to eat supper at home anyway. Maybe Ritesh asked her to come prepare stuff for the following morning?

She heard Preeti tinkering around with vessels in the kitchen. It was around 6.30; and some natural light was still around, so she didn’t bother with the lights. And moreover, she didn’t have the time to think. She changed quickly and came to the living room a few minutes later.

“Preeti?” She called out and headed to the door without waiting for a response.

She wore her slippers and was about to step out when she remembered she’d forgotten the keys at the dining table. Usually, Preeti handed over her set of keys to the neighbor, so Alka always kept theirs with them.

She turned and jumped out of her skin, a hand on her chest. Preeti was standing right behind her, her hand outstretched, keys in hand.

“Gosh, you scared me. Respond…at least,” She laughed nervously,  took the keys from Preeti and rushed out. She wanted to give a couple of instructions to the girl, and also warn her about the door, but she didn’t want to hold up Ritesh anymore.

“Ok…bye. Be careful around the house,” she said. Preeti smiled and nodded. She was always the quiet girl, rarely spoke. Alka left the door open and rushed down the stairs, saree and all. She wouldn’t do this normally, but today was an exception.

She was on the first floor when her cell rang. She had several missed calls on her display. She then looked at the ringing number and frowned. Ritesh.

“Yes, Ritesh?”

“Baby, have you left already?”

“Yeah..I mean, I’m on the stairs. Why?”

“I forgot my business card holder honey. Can you please get it? Rakesh wanted a few, for some of his clients. We’re meeting him at the function, so…”

“Oh, Ritesh..no,” Alka protested. “I’ve come down half way.”

“Please, baby?” Ritesh coaxed. She sighed and ran up again.

She was standing in front of their door now; noting thankfully it was locked from inside. Just then, Ritesh called again.

“What have you forgotten now?”

Ritesh laughed. “Oh nothing. Just remembered. Preeti’s father called today from her number, said she was very sick and they had to take her to the village. We should call and inquire…”

“What?” Alka said, freezing in her tracks. “That’s impossible.”

Just then, she heard a click, and the door to their flat opened on its own.

Slow... and fully wide…with a gentle creaking sound.

****

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

P(r)oof...!


The inspector wondered. How could a thief steal so much stuff, and disappear quietly? That too with all doors and windows of the house closed?

How?

Just then he fell with a thud, his blood rushing to his head.

His chair had vanished.

His head was still reeling when he heard the invisible snigger.

****

Monday, November 26, 2012

Spirited persuasion


Vijay opened his mailbox. 12 comments for his blog posts. He started reading them. Then he opened the last one.

“This happened with a friend of mine. I wonder what happens next.”

Vijay raised his eyebrow. Interesting. The reader hadn’t linked himself, so there was no way Vijay could hop onto the other blog, but right at the top of his inbox, was an email from the same person. He opened it.

“Vijay, it is striking how you could document this incident as a story. It’s exactly how things happened with my friend. How did you get the idea? Did you read it from the papers?”

Vijay frowned. Great. Now this guy will want to badger me with questions, copyright issues, this and that. Just because something similar happened to his friend…And Vijay had no idea the incident had appeared in the papers. Well, a strange coincidence, that’s what it was. Nothing more. Shouldn’t break your head over it a lot, he told himself.

He shut his mailbox and his laptop after about an hour and decided to hit the sack. It was late.

The cell phone rang at around 2 am. It took a while for Vijay to realize it. He got up sleepily and saw the number on the screen. Unknown number. He cut the call and went back to sleep. The phone rang again after a few minutes.

“Who the hell was this now?”

Vijay answered the call impatiently. “Who is it man, it’s …” He didn’t know the time, but knew it was an unearthly hour.

“Vijay, you have to tell me how you got the idea for the story…”

“Wha..?”

“The story. You wrote on your blog. I must say it is…”

Vijay disconnected. “Moron.”

The phone rang again. This time, Vijay got up and switched it off. “There. Keep wondering about the story now.”

A remote part of his brain was wondering about the caller though. How on earth did he get his number? He’d just about gotten back to his slumber, when the phone rang yet again.

From below the pillow, Vijay’s eyes opened weakly. And then flew wide open. “What the hell…?”

He turned and picked the phone in his hand. Same number. But that was impossible. He’d just switched it off. Maybe he hadn’t done it properly. He disconnected, and frowned. The phone hadn't been switched off. He switched it off a second time.

But then it switched back on, on its own.

And rang again. Vijay took it this time.

The caller laughed on the other end.

“Switching off the phone on my face, huh? Don’t.”

Vijay ran a hand back on his head. “Who’re you, dude? Some sort of freak?”

The caller laughed again and ignored the question.  “The important question now, Vijay, is ..who you are.  You see…” The caller paused to cough. “You’ve written a story that happened to my friend. Exactly the same way you wrote it.”

“So? That’s not my fault.”

“Yeah, but I want to know what happens next.”

“You’re kidding. Listen..I’ve no idea who you are, who your friend is, and how it happened to him, or why it happened. I wrote the story just the way it came to my mind. That’s about it. I’ve not heard it from anyone, read it from any place, or whatever else there is to it. Ok? It’s just a goddamn story that originated in my head. And now its over. There's no 'next.' Now, please leave me alone.”

“Leave you alone? No way.”

In reply, Vijay just disconnected the call again, flipped the phone open, took out the battery, the SIM card and threw it all on the floor.

“Freak.”

He sat on the edge of the bed now, his eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness. But the silence was deafening.

“What a pity…”

Said a voice from behind.

****

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book lover


Ranveer pushed the book towards the librarian, who looked at it with a frown.

“But I thought you wanted R.L. Stine’s Who Scares You the Most?

 “Well yes, but an elderly gentleman was reading it. Didn’t have the heart…”

The librarian smiled and shrugged. “Ok, as you wish.”

Ranveer took the book and turned to leave when he saw a garlanded portrait on the wall, above the librarian.

He turned to the librarian. “Uh, sir, who’s he?” He pointed up.

The librarian looked up and then laughed. “Oh that. He’s my grandfather.”

Ranveer nodded, still looking at the portrait.

The librarian added – “Oh incidentally he too loved reading horror books, just like you.”

Ranveer licked his parched lips. “I’m sure he did. He’s still doing it. Upstairs.”

****

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Silence speaks...




Ever looked at the portrait/picture of a person, in the eye, for more than a minute? Preferably when alone?

***

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Violet Blood


Ravi awoke with a start. His cell phone was blaring away. He put on his glasses hastily and picked it up.

“Hello?” He squinted at the bedside clock. 12.01 am

“Happy birthday…'Frightener' ”

Huh?

"Who’s this?”

In reply came a deep-throated laugh. Familiar.

“Violet Blood,” said the voice after a beat. A low harsh whisper.

Then the line went dead.

Ravi looked at his display screen, and then at the darkness. Violet Blood. Hmm...

But...it was the name of one of his spooky characters. He’d never really used it, though. He’d changed it. Nobody but him knew about it. Funny. And the caller even knew his pen name.

And the voice was exactly as he’d described in the story – deep throated.

Ravi pursed his lips. Could it be…

He threw the phone away and sat there in the darkness. Blank.

****

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Suicide...?


He pointed the gun to his temple and closed his eyes. Sweat rolled down his face.

Then suddenly, involuntarily, his hand pointed itself at his neighbor, outside. He was an ass-hole, but what the hell ….the trigger got pulled.

He watched helplessly as the bullet whizzed past the open window, and knocked his neighbor down.

***

Comic timing...



Sumit was in tears, laughing. Benefits of watching a movie a month late. The hall had no more than 10 viewers. He sat in the last but one row, which was, strangely – his favorite.

The movie was hilarious but the guy behind him kept laughing louder than him; way after the joke had ended. Initially Sumit ignored him. He didn’t want to get distracted, but it slowly crept into his nerves like an unwanted twitch.

The next time, Sumit turned. “Hey, shut up, you...”

But there was nobody behind him. He scanned the empty row, feeling like a jack-ass.

A bit shaken, he barely turned back to the screen, when something pulled his neck back roughly, almost bending it over his seat; and a  voice whispered in his ear, “Nobody tells me what to do in this movie hall, get it?”

***

Cops stood around the medical examiner, who shook his head sympathetically at Sumit.

“Probably died due to extreme laughter. See how wide his mouth has opened. Cardiac arrest.”

“What a way to die,” a constable commented from behind.

****

Monday, October 08, 2012

Face it


Veena hummed a tune in front of the mirror, before bedtime. It was a new mirror they’d bought only that day.

She reached for her comb, but knocked down the cream. Drat.

As she bent, she looked up.  Her mirror image was staring down at her, craning its neck.

“All well?”

***

Friday, September 21, 2012

Up close...


Smitha was furious with her maid. She’d clearly left instructions for her to hang the clothes on the terrace; and now look what she’d done. Left the damp lump in the bucket and disappeared.

She lugged the heavy bucket up the stairs to the terrace herself, cursing beneath her breath. It was around 9 pm. Luckily for her, the air seemed relatively dry; she figured the clothes would be crisp as notes in the morning.

The night sky was clear, and the faraway sound of traffic sounded oddly comforting. She immediately decided that she’d sit around and look at the city lights once she was done hanging the clothes. The terrace was twelve floors up and she could see a whole lot from here. She smiled and walked to their part of the building. She had had to come around the huge water tank, almost hidden from the terrace door. She started undoing the knotty clothes in front of the hanging line.

She was onto the fourth or fifth garment when she heard a distinct sob.

Huh?

She stopped for a second, frowned, and went back to her clothes.

There. Another.

She now stopped and turned in the direction of the sob.

“Who is it?”

It was coming from behind the water tank, on the other side. She knew some kids came up here in the evenings to thrash out little kiddy strategies, teens came up here to pour their hearts out to their besties, sometimes even grown-ups came up here to make those clandestine phone calls, or that all important business deal without anybody’s interruption.

In short, the sob wasn’t a surprise to her. It was probably that girl Mamta – always got picked on by the other girls.

And she was right. It was indeed Mamta; she stood below the water tank sobbing heavily.

Smitha’s heart went out to the poor girl.

“What happened, child?” She said, reaching out to touch the girl’s shoulder, when her cell phone rang. It was Charu, her neighbor. She’d wished her a half hour back, on her way up from the basement.

“Hi Charu,” Smitha said cheerfully.

“Smitha,” Charu said, sounding distressed. “Where are you? I came by to your flat, it was locked.”

“Oh, I’m on the terrace. That stupid Raji again forgot the clothes…”

“Oh my God Smitha, you’re there? How … see…you…no…some…ibble..pnd…”

Charu’s voice was breaking. Smitha walked away from Mamtha towards the parapet, a little out in the open.

“Hello? Your voice is breaking ” She said, wincing.

“I said, you’re on the terrace..didn’t you see? Something terrible has happened,” Charu said.

“Didn’t see what?” Smitha cupped the receiver of the cell in her hand. Charu wasn’t still very clear, but this was better.

“Didn’t anyone tell you?”

Smitha was getting a little irritated now. “Arre, I told you na I was here all this while. What happened?”

“You know, that girl Mamta….she…she” Charu started sobbing.  “Oh God..Smitha..she  jumped from the terrace a while ago…it’s so…horrible,” Charu said and started crying.

Smitha was near the edge now. Did she hear her right? Did Charu just say Mamtha had jumped off the terrace? What the hell…? She then looked down. There was a crowd gathered below. The wind carried sounds of crying and shouting intermittently. It was chaos. And there, in the midst of it all, lay a limp form, quite a mess.

Smitha’s hands trembled, throat went dry, and her head reeled as she turned slowly. The wind howled. Mamta was now standing behind her, in the semi darkness  – staring at her -  tears mixed with blood running down her cheeks.

****

Friday, September 14, 2012

Welcome showers...


“Hello, Beta” Said the elderly woman standing at the doorway.

Seema smiled respectfully. It was raining outside.

They had shifted to this flat only the previous day, and a whole lot of things were still in disarray.

She invited the senior lady inside anyway.

“Oh no dear, my husband is waiting for his tea, I have to go. Some sugar please, child, if you don’t mind?”

“Oh, of course aunty…”

Seema gave her the sugar. The granny thanked her, turned slowly, and walked to the house opposite theirs.

A moment later Seema slapped her forehead. How insensitive of me. She took a step back in for their umbrella; the poor woman might get drenched.

But as she was about to grasp the umbrella’s handle, she stopped…and stood straight.

Wait a minute. It’s been raining the last one hour. And aunty was bone dry when she came. How…

She then slowly craned her neck out.

The old lady stood near the gate and waved at her; and slowly disappeared even as Seema watched, her mouth open, and her heart beating furiously, much like the lashing rain outside.

*****

Monday, September 03, 2012

The spook spreads...



Ok, first things first. I'm getting published. Yep. :)

There. Said it finally.

I've been putting off sharing this piece of news for a while now. In a world of record-breaking 'likes' and 'trending', I'd like to think of myself as an exception to the rule. Some of my co-bloggers who've also over a period of time, become good friends, know this. So, this also goes out to them. My friends out of the blogosphere have been asking about it, wanting to know more, a few of my colleagues know it too.

So then, what has kept me from sharing it with you guys? Nothing, it's just that I'm a little of an introvert when it comes to these things. I know, I know - you need to make use of Internet today to promote yourself, get out there and let the world know. Visibility and all that, yeah - I know. But..that's just me, I guess.

It's gotten me this far, so I'm not complaining.

I started blogging, as most of you know, about 9 years ago. At that time, the blog was just another outlet for me to vent my thoughts, feelings, observations of life. Nothing more. As time flew, the blog also took the shape of a canvas. A canvas where I painted my thoughts in a different color. Fiction.

I've always been a story-teller. To the point of someone having to clamp their hands on my mouth. "Stop it." Yeah, that crazy. But that was just verbal. And back when I was a kid, not now (Thank God!) So, when I was in school, my classmates looked forward to the 'free' period, usually a day before the weekend; the last two classes. It was meant for recreation. Teachers took their students out for a small 'nature-study' tour around town, or...just utilized it for crafts, entertainment, or some sort of talent show.

And when they needed a break from all this, a filler - There was always Sri. :)

God knows how I'd conjure all those yarns up. From kiddy cops 'n robber stories, to all sorts of adventure trips around the globe, you name it, my kitty would have it. Sometimes I'd get bored of it myself, but those guys would goad me on.

Anyway, coming back to the blog - I started writing fiction just to kill the monotony. I felt non-fiction was getting repetitive, everyone had something to say about their lives, I had had my say too; so why not try something different? I pulled back at all those imaginative strings I had as a kid, and put it to use on the blog. One story followed another, and there was no looking back. I and my readers escaped into this tiny little chink in the wall and entered a world where there were no deadlines, EMIs, targets, heart-breaks, break-ups, or anything that resembled real life as we saw it. I started enjoying it, my readers enjoyed it. It was good fun.

And then, one day - out of the blue, my wife said - "I think you should get these out to the real world. Seriously."

I'd not thought about that. I was kind of toying with another draft, which I thought would go to the publishers first, but that was, and is, still crawling. And I was happy here..it was my cocoon. Here, there were no strings attached. I was reluctant. But she didn't give up. Meanwhile, my co-bloggers started egging me on as well (those who did would remember all those comments, emails, and chats, God bless you) :).

So, I thought - what the hell. Let me try it. And so, sometime in Feb/March, I sent a few samples to a publisher. I'd heard stories about rejection slips and heart-breaks, so I thought nothing of it once I was done mailing it.

Three months later, I heard from them. I saw the subject line on the email and sighed. "Ok..here it comes." I imagined things like "Hi Sri..got your samples, but we're afraid we cannot accomodate it in our schedule now", or "Hi Sri, read your sample stories. We'll get back to you shortly" etc etc. But, surprise surprise - they wanted to publish the stories.

I read the email again, just to make sure it was addressed to me, and that I'd read it right. Ok, they had the title right..they had the email subject right. It was indeed me they were talking to. Of course, they asked for the whole collection first. The confirmation came a few days later.

So, then there it is, in a nutshell. (Whoa, that was a 'huge' nutshell, huh? Typical of me...)

But it's still some way off - only after April '13. That gives me time to come up with several more stories; as my editor suggested. I'd also like to come up with a few offline, just to keep the suspense alive, when you actually get to the book, if you know what I mean.

About the publishers; contrary to what I'd heard about publishers in general, these guys are mighty nice. None of those 'snooty' airs about them; no condescending tone in their voices. And my editor is a really nice person. I'm looking forward to working with her. I signed on the dotted line a month or so ago.

But, but, but...this in no way means I'm done here. No siree, far from it. I love this space, I love you guys. I could never give it up completely. Not for anything in the world. So, I'm gonna be around, penning more stories. Only thing different, to a certain extent, could be the frequency. As some of you might know, I'm also working on a full length novel. My editor has graciously agreed to look at that one as well; so I need to get her something soon, right? And sometimes, just sometimes, juggling gets a little challenging. So, I might not post as frequently. I'll come around though, once a while, engage in banter with you guys, and go back to work on the book. I know all your wishes/prayers are with me on this one. Of course, for those wanting to go into the finer details, you're free to email me. :)

And of course, closer to the publishing, I'm also going to talk about it on my Facebook page (another thing I'm horrible at; but my editor, God bless her, has promised to help me out with that one). So, starting now, whenever you find time, do send me your FB IDs if you don't mind, so I could include all of you there, to keep abreast of what's happening.

And once the book is out (the first one), you guys'll know about it first - when, how, where...etc. And all of you had better make it to the launch. No, I mean it. I want to see every one of you there. Because, it's only because of you guys that I'm out to spook a whole lot more, out there. Now, you might've thought "what the hell, why should we be the only ones getting scared?", but I don't care whatever sentiment was behind the prodding. I, want to see each one of you there. Yeah?

So there.

And oh yeah. The publisher? HarperCollins. :)

See ya around.

****

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Time up


It was now or never. The contract had to be taken en route to the airport, before he fled the country. He looked at his radium watch. 15 more minutes.

But when nature calls…

He stepped aside into the darkness for a moment.

He returned only to see his gun missing. Panic. Boss would kill him. He looked around frantically. Who could steal a gun here?

He heard a chuckle and turned. The local tramp...the retard.

Shit, not now.

“Give it back,” he said.

“Hands up!” Said the tramp and cackled.

5 more minutes.

“Give it back, you madman,” he growled, taking a step forward.

“Step back or I’ll shoot,” mimicked the tramp, like a movie cop.

“Listen, it’s not a toy. It’s a real gun.”

“Oh yeah? What fun,” said the tramp...

…and pulled the trigger.

****

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Left...as it was.


The empty house was maddening. Everything reminded her of him. The way he’d stand, sit, or move about the house. Oh, and his CDs. Always leaning right to left on the shelf. Always.

She looked at the rack lovingly; just one CD was leaning to the right.

Then it gently leaned back to the left.

***

Monday, August 06, 2012

Not out...



The old man opened the door and turned his back to the young guest, expecting him to walk in behind him. The two security guards who frisked him, were walking away.

They sat in the living room. The old man stared at the younger guy who fidgeted for a few seconds, smiling nervously.

“Relax. Some water?” The older man asked and rose to get it.

A few minutes later, the younger guy looked better.

“You ok?”

“Yes..yes sir.”

“Good. Let’s begin. Let’s start with your name.”

“Sir..Vivek.”

“Vivek,” the octogenarian said, like he recognized that name from some place. But he remained quiet after that.

“Sir, you’ve been in exile for almost  15 years now. Do you still feel you have enemies who’d care to come after you?”

“Should that be your first question? You don’t beat about the bush, do you? I like that,” The older man said, chuckling.

Vivek laughed nervously. “No sir..I’m…guess I’m just a little excited to see you.”

“Why me?”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“Why a story about me? There’s so much happening in the country today. I’m just a retired hit man.”

“Sir, the fact is, along with doing a story about the underworld, I’m also doing…uh, research about the has-beens. I mean..not you, of course. I mean, you’re retired and all, but..see you still command that security. In political circles, you’re a respected man. Nobody can enter this house…”

“You did..” the old lion said, his voice almost a growl. He smiled.

Vivek didn’t know how to respond to that one. “Well, sir..I’m just a journalist. Well, anyway tell me sir. After you and Kukku fell out of ..”

The old man stiffened. “Who?”

“Kuk…umm, Desai, sir. Your arch enemy. After you two fell out, did you ever worry that he’d come after you some day?”

The senior man shifted, just a bit, his hand relaxed under the cushion. “Not worry. There’s not much to worry. I’m on my way to the grave anyway. Hmm?” He laughed.

Vivek laughed like a little school boy. “Well, yes, sir..”

Now the old man looked hard at him. “I don’t worry, Mr. Vivek. I’ve never worried.”

The air grew just a wee bit thicker as the old man’s hand came out from under the cushion swiftly and emerged with a small pistol, a silencer attached to it.


What followed, happened in a fraction of a second.

Two quick shots. Short and sharp.  Vivek’s body fell back, two button-like holes in his forehead.

The old man shook his head and rubbed his nose. He groaned, his voice almost sad.

Vivek’s cell rang just then.

“Hello? Vivek? Is it done?” The voice on the other end asked enthusiastically.

“Hello…Kukku,” the old man said softly, stressing on his name.

“Shit,” Desai said on the other end.

“How’re you Kukku?”

Silence.

“Expected something more from you, son. I’m disappointed.”

“I..I just wanted to know how you are, Dada..really, I..”

“I’m just old, Kukku. Not stupid.”

A pause.

“How did you…” Desai asked.

“Your name, Kukku. Far as I know, but for the fraternity, nobody outside knows you by that name, right? Your boy made the mistake of addressing you as Kukku. You forgot to mention that little detail to him.”

Silence.

“Your protégé’s body will be delivered to you. Don’t bother coming for him.”

More silence.

“Next time, I’m hoping you come up with something better. If I’m still alive, that is.”

He hung up and threw the cell phone on the youngster’s body.

****

Round (and round) trip



Deepa smiled as the bus sped past the beautiful countryside. She loved going on excursions with her students. She couldn’t miss this for the world.

Yeah, but she missed being with them in person, though. Sometimes.

If only she had not drowned in one of the trips…four years ago. She sighed…and then shrugged.

 Oh well…

***

Friday, June 29, 2012

Slippery



Tanvi stood at the door and slapped her forehead.

“Oh God, this boy- when will he learn.”

“Anshu,” She continued to shout. Then sensing he probably wasn’t in the house, she walked out and leaned over the railing of their floor. It overlooked the children’s park in the housing colony.

“Anshu,” She repeated. Anshuman, 10, was busy arguing with a girl. Adjusting his wee bit oversized glasses over his nose, he turned. “What?”

“Come here,” Tanvi said.

“Mama, we’ve only just begun. Can I come later?”

“No, right now.” She glared at him. Uh oh, that was a signal. He muttered something hurriedly to his friends, pointed a warning finger at the girl and ran back inside the building.

Tanvi was standing, hands on hips, waiting.

He ran up the stairs, panting, and stood in front of her.

“How many times have I told you not to leave your shoes outside?” She pointed near the door. He made a sorry face and proceeded to pick the pair up.

“You’ve already lost a pair. Papa has lost one pair….you want to lose this one too? Money doesn’t grow on trees, Anshu,” She slipped into sermon mode. Anshu winced, and then turned to face her again, after keeping his shoes inside.

“Ok, ma..sorry.”

“What sorry?”

“I’m sorry,” he said, shrugging. “May I go now?”

She let out a deep breath.

Walking back, feeling more defeated than vindictive, she reminded herself about keeping a watch for the so-called Chappal Chor  of the building. Apparently they were not the only ones losing out on shoes and sandals. They’d even reprimanded the watchman for letting these things happen.

“Arre, I’m sure he’s in it too,” one of the residents felt.

“What’ll he do collecting used slippers?” argued another.

And so it went on.

As Tanvi recollected, Anshu’s shoes were the first to disappear. At first it was dismissed as just a one-off case. Some kleptomaniac, perhaps. But when more than two to three pairs in the building started vanishing, the inmates of the building raised an alarm.

They even had a meeting to devise ways and means of keeping watch on the thief and nabbing him. Of course, the unanimous opinion was that nobody should leave footwear outside their houses, but that wasn’t always possible.  But despite the frenetic brainstorming, the thievery continued.

And nobody could do anything about it. Not even the watchman.

So Tanvi had reminded herself to keep a watch, at least on their floor. She had concluded that Anshu’s shoes were taken at night because he’d forgotten it overnight, and she’d not checked with him. Maybe the thief was some one who frequented the colony. Maybe the watchman’s friend. Maybe an inmate of the building, who knows (though that was unlikely, why would anyone steal used ones?)

Anyway that night, after cleaning up, Tanvi decided to walk upto the terrace, slowly walk back, something like a patrol. And then she’d deliberately leave her slippers outside. And watch from the keyhole.

****

It was past 9.15 when Tanvi sent Anshu to his room and walked to the front door.

Manohar was watching TV, and he saw her from the corner of his eye.

“Best of luck, Agatha,” he said, chuckling. Tanvi grumbled something, and then brushed him off.

“Yeah, yeah – watch TV while I do what you’re supposed to be doing. Lazy bum.”

Manohar shrugged and reclined some more on the couch, yawning loudly and putting his arms over his head. She shook her head and stepped out.

She returned about 15 minutes later, and closed the door gently behind her. Switching off the porch light, she peeped from the peeping glass. Manohar had retired to their room and the living room was dark as well.

“Good,” she said to herself. The thief would think nobody was in the living room. She stood for ten minutes. And then got bored. There was no activity happening in the lobby. She suddenly felt stupid.

It was close to 10.30 when she finally decided to call it a day. It seemed dumb, playing peeping tom when nothing was happening. Anyway, she felt she tried. She turned to leave when she heard something from outside. She immediately peeped out. There was nobody, but she could distinctly hear the sound. Like somebody were scratching the door.

Was it the Pintos’ dog? She gently opened the door, a little at first, and then fully.

Her slippers were gone.

Impossible!

She was aghast. How could it be? She stepped out and looked around. She had not moved from that damn peeping hole the last hour or so…how could this happen? Did someone come crouching? That wasn’t possible because their flat was on the far side and they could see even a snake slithering to the elevator.

In her hurry, she’d forgotten to switch on the front lights. She turned to step back in and switch it on when she gasped. The slippers were back in their place now.

Her heart in her mouth, she swung around, and then placed a hand on her chin.

“Not my size, but umm…I’ll take it anyway” said a voice softly, almost a whisper. Tanvi jumped.

And then a stifled laugh filled the air.

“Huh? Huh? Who…?” Was all she could manage. Her feet were like glued to the floor. She wanted to rush back in and slam the door, but she just couldn’t budge.

As she stood there transfixed, she saw her slippers disappear again. Slowly...

Then the voice whispered in her ear.

“Thaaanks.”

****

Going up...



Vanaja, back from her shift, stepped into the elevator and gasped.

Rakshit, of 4th floor, stood swaying, his eyes closed. It was past midnight. Vanaja knew he sleep-walked; only hadn’t expected him here. She stood quietly.

Thud. Damn power cut.  The elevator went black. Thankfully, the power returned soon enough.

Only, Rakshit wasn’t there.

****

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Silver Strings



Preeti looked at her friend seriously.

“You’re sure you want to do this?”

Namrata nodded, eyes wide. Then she burst into laughter. Preeti shook her head. “You know what you’re getting into, huh, Nammu? You’ve never seen him before. You don’t even know his name.”

“That’s the fun part. Want a mockie?”

Preeti nodded. “Yeah..but you’re too much.”

“That I am.” Namrata got up and went to the kitchen to fix them both their regular mock-tail.

“Preetu, you want more lime in yours?” Namrata shouted from inside.

“No, the usual,” Preeti said absently as she took the tv remote in her hand. Namrata returned a few minutes later and handed a glass to her childhood friend.

They sipped in silence for a while, while Preeti browsed the channels.

Namrata snatched the remote from her hand after two minutes, switched off the TV and threw the remote on the couch.

“Hey.”

“Don’t you want to know more about him?” Namrata said, her eyes sparkling. “Nerd.” Namrata added, chuckling.

“Oh, whatever,” her friend said. “I’m not so much for this internet romance, you know it.”

“Yeah, but it’s so exciting na? Imagine, we just know each other through our blog names. And even our chat IDs are pseudo. But he’s such a dude, yaar, I tell you. Charming, sensitive…humorous,” Namrata babbled in the air.

Preeti motioned with her hand. “Come down, madam, come down. All these so called ‘internet heroes’ are like that. But once you meet them, all the charm and sensitivity goes out the window. You be ready for that.”

“Ha, that we’ll see. First let me crack his identity.”

Preeti sipped her drink and looked at her friend. “What, is this some sort of a game you both are upto?”

Namrata’s smile turned wicked. “Wanna know?”

“Go on,” Preeti said, with a sigh. “Might as well listen to your crap than watch the crap on TV. Nothing worthwhile anyway.”

“Ok, great. Look,” Namrata said, all excited as she sat facing her bum-chum. “Valentine’s day is a couple of months away. And I and stringer…oh by the way, that’s his blog name…”

“Stringer? Ugh, what a name.” Preeti said, pushing out her tongue. Namrata slapped her shoulder in mock.

“Yeah, listen. His name is stringer. And he has put up some of his guitar strains up on his blog. You should listen babe…aah,” Namrata said dreamily. “He is a dream. He plays like a dream, talks like a dream..and to top it he’s so so mature, I tell you.”

“Nammu, please. As it is I’m getting a headache hearing about this holier than thou, too-good-to-be-true guy. Just tell me your deal.”

“Yeah,” Namrata said, laughing and blushing.  Preeti’s jaw dropped. She shook her head and sipped from her glass.

“So, yeah – we plan to meet on Valentine’s day, provided – we crack each other’s identity first. Else the deal’s off.”

“That’s so lame,” Preeti said.

“Oh, come on Preetu. Don’t say that. Isn’t it exciting? Like a suspense movie. So..if I crack his identity first, he treats me. And vice versa.”

“And then?”

“And then what? We go on our first date…and…” Namrata said, head up in the air, “Who knows, maybe we’ll stick together, you know..”

“Nammu. Puhleeeese. Please tell me you’re just pulling a fast one on me and aren’t actually going to do all this.”

Namrata looked at her friend seriously. “I’m serious Preetu.”

Preeti turned sober. “Awww..baby –sorry. I didn’t mean to..you know..”

Namrata sulked for a moment.

“Hey,” Preeti turned her friend’s chin towards herself. “Ok, chalo, I was only kidding. But then, don’t you think this is, you know, kinda difficult? How’re you going to do this? Do you know where he lives? What he does? Where he works etc?”

Namrata shook her head.

“So?”  Preeti asked, raising her eyebrows. “How’re you going to ‘crack’ his identity madam?”

“I need your help,” Namrata said, still sulking.

Preeti turned serious. “So, this is what it’s all about.”

“No, but I need to start somewhere na, hon?”

Preeti was  a hacker. She shook her head. “No way. That’s cheating.”

“Arre, how’re you sure he’s not going to do the same? Chalta hai na

“But I thought you said he was sensitive, mature. If he’s all that, would he do it?”

Namrata pursed her lips. “I don’t know.”

“Now you don’t know.”

“Yeah, but I thought it’d be so much fun.”

“Yeah, right.”

They just looked at each other silently for a brief moment.

“You know absolutely nothing about him?”

Namrata shook her head. “He’s very careful with his posts. Even his blog information. All hush-hush.”

“Sounds very suspicious.”

“Gah.”

“Hmm..and I know you haven’t given away anything either.”

“See?” Namrata smiled.

“What about FB? Twitter?”

“Zilch. Nada.”

“So what do you want me to do?” Preeti asked finally.

“Get into his inbox for me?”

“But you said even his email ID was with a made-up name?”

“Yeah, but he’ll be mailing someone, and they’ll address him by his real name, right? That’ll be a start…”

Preeti couldn’t believe her ears. “You’re nuts.”

“All’s fair in love and war,” Namrata said giggling.

“I hope he turns out to be a pot-bellied 65 year old man, with nothing else to do in life.”

“Shut up. If he was that, he wouldn’t have agreed to meet me”

“You don’t know men,” Preeti said finishing her drink. “Anyway, I just hope you know what you’re doing.”

“Trust me, baba,” Namrata said.

****

Valentine’s day

Namrata waited outside Crossword, her heart sprinting. She kept looking at her watch. She rubbed her hands and adjusted her stole. Her mind raced back to the past couple of months.

-----

Preeti had found nothing Stringer's inbox. That meant, he had created that ID just to chat with her. Then a month later, Namrata received a call.

“Hello?” It was an unknown number.

“Is that Namrata Kashyap?”

“Yeah…who’s this?”

“Oh I don’t blame you that you don’t recognize my voice. This is the first time, you see.”

“Who’s this?”

“Can we safely assume, Ms. Namrata – a.k.a  Silver Clouds, that I’ve won the bet?”

Namrata’s  heart leapt to her mouth. “Stringer?”

He laughed. And that laugh just took her breath away. Even his voice was magical.

Tongue-tied, all Namrata could manage in reply was, “Uh…hey. That’s cool. Yeah, you won, I guess.”

“That’s it? Nothing else?”

“Uh…what do I say?” Namrata said, giggling nervously.

“Say something – say ‘hi Stringer..it was nice to hear from you. I’m a loser since I still don’t know your real name. So can you please enlighten me?’”

Namrata winced. Ouch.

“Hey, not fair…I mean..”

“Not fair? What’s not fair sweetheart? I cracked it. Simple as that,” he said, laughing out loud.

“But…how – how did you get this number? That’s near impossible. I don’t..I haven’t….” And then – “Hey, you cheated. Did you hack into my account or something?”

Namrata used this ID to even email some of her friends.

“Oho – so did you try hacking into my account?” Again, laughter.

“No, no..no way. Why’d I do that?”

“Umm..I don’t know. Maybe you are a techie. It’s possible, right? Oh sorry…I forgot. You’re not a techie. You’re an animator.”

Namrata’s jaw dropped all the way to the ground. No way.

“How’d you…?” The words just stopped in their tracks.

He laughed some more. Her mind worked furiously. How could he’ve possibly known all about her? She was dead sure she hadn’t given out any clue about her real life on her blog. She didn’t have a Facebook ID with that name. She didn’t have a twitter account. She hadn’t told anything about her animation in the blog. She always wrote things like poetry, her thoughts about the world in general, her memories, things like that. But never about animation.  So how come?

Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn.

“So…are we going to meet on February 14?” He said slowly.

“Uh..” Now she wasn’t so sure. After all the endless chattering with him, she suddenly felt like she didn’t know him enough to meet him. But he had done nothing wrong. It was as per the deal – he found out about her, and had called her. As simple as that. But strangely, she felt defeated. Cheated. Strange, there was no reason to be. He’d just gone ahead and won his part of the bet. Then why?

“Developing cold feet, are we?” He said.

“Hey, no..no, it’s not that.”

“Or maybe you think I’m a 65-year old pot-bellied old man, with nothing else to do in life?”

“Oh come on, why’d I think that? I just…”

Wait a minute.

“What did you say just now? Say that again?” Namrata said.

In reply he just laughed his thunderous laugh again.

“Who..who’re you?” she asked meekly now.

“I’ll tell you when we meet. Is that a deal?”

“Yeah, ok,” she said quietly and hung up.

--------

Now, as the winter wind grew colder, Namrata hugged herself tighter and shuddered. Where the heck was this guy?

She felt a tap on her shoulder and swung sharply.

There he was.

He smiled. She noticed that his smile was as infectious as his talk. She smiled back. They laughed for a moment, maybe more at the absurdity of it all. He was not a Greek God, but not so bad either. His eyes shone and he seemed totally at ease with himself.

“So?” He said finally, rubbing his hands. “Cold, huh?”

She nodded. She had made a long list of questions to shoot at him, but strangely, she remembered none now.

“Coffee?” He pointed at the café beside the bookstore. She nodded again.

“Hmm,  you’re a girl of few words, oddly,” He said and laughed again.

Once inside, they settled down. He ordered for them and let out a sigh, once they were alone again.

“So tell me Namrata. How’ve you been?”

“Umm…ok,” Namrata said, smiling.

“Shoot.”

“Huh?”

“I know you’ve been dying to ask questions. Shoot.”

She laughed. “Oh.”

She hemmed and hawed for a while and then slowly and surely, the questions poured. Who was he? How did he figure out her identity? How did he know this, how did he know that? And most importantly, how on earth did he get her number?

“The last question is fairly simple. I’m not from any mobile service provider, as you might be guessing, neither do I have any friend working there.” He laughed. She smiled.

“I got your number from your best friend – Preeti.”

“Wha….” Namrata’s head reeled. How on earth did he know Preeti? Her? Of all the people?

“But I never blogged about her, not even once,” Namrata said, more like thinking out loud.

“I agree.”

“Then, how…?”

“You never blogged about her, but you know from the time you started blogging, regardless of who else visited your blog and commented, she was sure to comment. You know that, right?”

Namrata nodded. He was right, Preeti had a technical blog of her own where she mostly jabbered about tech-stuff, stuff she’d never bothered understanding. But Preeti never failed to visit her blog and encourage her.

“But still…how did you know it was me?”

He laughed. “I didn’t. I asked her.”

“Huh?”

He leaned forward. “I studied your blog the last two months. Every thing you wrote. Every word you wrote.” Then a pause later, “even your comments. Each and every comment of yours.”

Namrata was stunned. She’d never thought of that. She had never cared to go through his comments section. Instead, she’d gone all over the place, trying to Google music groups of the city of which he might’ve been a part of. But that was too huge an exercise. He could be anybody in there. She’d given up after a while, only she hadn’t told him. And she was almost sure he’d given up on her as well.

“Yeah, sometimes we let out more about ourselves in the comments section – because we feel that’s a secondary area. Do you know how many times you both’ve addressed yourselves as buddy, chaddi-buddy, sis, babe, honey etc? Not to forget your pet names like Preets, Preetu, Nams, Nammu etc.”

“Yeah, but I could be Namitha, and she could be Preetika for all I care,” Namrata countered.

“Agreed. But once I confirmed that you were thick as thieves, I started following her blog closely as well. Never commented there, though. But I’d hang on to every word of hers.”

“Shit,” Namrata said. He smiled.

“Yeah. She belongs to the hacker’s club united, an online forum. Wasn’t such a big deal to figure out her name after that.”

“And then?”

“And then…I just got in touch with her.”

Namrata shook her head. “You’re too much. Wait till I get my hands on her, that bitch, she knew all along?” she said affectionately, in mock and laughed.

He laughed. “Yep. And you can get your hands on her right away. She’s coming to Crossword around now.”

“What?” Namrata said, unable to believe her ears.

“Yeah. Here she comes.”

Preeti walked in and came to them.

“Hi” She said to him.

“Hi,” he said.

“So have you told your name yet?” Preeti asked him. He shook his head.

Namrata slapped her forehead. She’d totally forgotten about his name.

“Ajay. Ajay Vasudev,” he said, laughing and extending his hand. Namrata shook it and then sat back, unsure what to say next.

“So…have fun you guys. I’ll see you later, ok?”

They waved as she walked out.

“Preetu, Preetu, Preetu,” Namrata said to herself.

“Hey, you asked for her help, right, after all?”

Namrata went red in the face. Obviously he knew about the hacking. She smiled sheepishly, putting out her tongue and holding her ears.

“It’s ok,” he said laughing.



"But this is not fair...Preeti ended up helping you instead," Namrata said.

"Really? I thought all was fair in love and war. So..what's this, according to you?"

Namrata pinched herself hard, but she couldn't stop blushing.

Then their coffee arrived -  and they raised their cups to each other, smiling.


The End

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Blog down memory lane


Ok, I admit. I'm on a trip. Down memory lane. And the worst (or the best, I'm unable to decide) part is, I've blogged long enough to have a damn post for every memory. Can you imagine? Every time someone says something, or I think about something, my mind goes - "hey, I've blogged about this."

Yeah. That long. About nine years, and counting.


But then, some of you've read my earlier posts, God bless you - so you won't have to sit through this. But for those who haven't - I'm sorry, whether or not you want to sit through these re-runs, you have to. At least for now, till my morbid grey cells get their act together once again and I start doling out those 'scaries' of mine. :)


Ok? Ready for another one? Great. And now you might frown, raise your eyebrows and ask. "Hmmmm, so Phatichar, what memory are you planning on reviving this time?"


It's the origin of this blog (stop frowning, or rolling or your eyes.....or both). I know, I know..not a very original post. People the world over might've knocked themselves out writing about how their blog began, what made them do it, yada, yada,  yada.


But the reason I plan to re-run that post here is - my cousin said the other day - "hey, you've a cool blog. Read almost all your stories. But......Phatichar??? Why that name?"


This is why. Read on. I wrote this when I completed 5 years of blogging. Yeah, a good 4 years back. I know, I'm a Dino.

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. :-)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

www.heaven.com (redux)

 

Last night, when I called my father, among other things, he spoke about this person Jack (name changed not to protect identity, but I actually forgot what his name was, it was a little difficult to pronounce - hehehe. So I'm going with a name which would fit almost any American face. Ok, I'm seriously hoping no American is reading this post - and even if he is, he'd be large hearted enough to laugh it away. I digress. What was I saying? Oh yeah, my dad. He was speaking about this guy, Jack, who he knew more than 3 - 4 decades ago, when he'd (my father) gone there for a scientific convention. They'd hit it off almost instantly, though he was several years older to my father, and thereon began a beautiful friendship spanning the seven seas, to use the archetypal expression, and also several years. And what exactly brought about this discussion? Well, you see, yesterday happened to be that person's birthday. And my dad was laughing that had he still been around, he'd have had absolutely no problem reaching him. An email, or a comment left on his Facebook page, and that's it. The wish would've reached him. And in the same breath he also added - "But I still would've preferred sending him a card."

My dad got onto the Facebook bandwagon a little late in the day, and I'm still not sure if he's enjoying the ride. He'd once joked that 'bandwagon' was the right expression because he still felt it was a little bumpy for him. :)

Anyway, the whole discussion about Jack brought back my memories about a post I'd written here a few years back. I'm re-posting it here. Just felt like.

******

www.heaven.com

Back in those days when we didn't have email attachments with pictures of us and our family members grinning away those mega pixels taken on that 'smaller-than-my-palm' cyber-shots, when we didn't have messengers and skypes and what-have-yous, we had something that connected directly with our hearts: Picture post cards. You had this lovely sunset from somewhere, which you held lovingly in your fingers, and turned the card around to read even more lovingly, the scribbled letters of a friend, thousands of miles away. You probably received the card a month after the season shown in the card, but you didn't 'delete' the post card. You adorned it lovingly on your loving black n white TV, for the world to see, that you had a dear friend overseas who sent you lovely colorful picture post-cards.

My father was one such lucky person. And he received his card from a colleague who he'd befriended while on a trip abroad. He'd receive the cards every christmas and new year, sometimes even out of the blue...and read out the tiny, scrawly letter etched on the back of the card to us. Sometimes, he'd get a full letter in an envelope. The letter even smelled good! And we kids would pride at the fact that dad had an 'American' friend.

We received countless cards and letters, until one year they just stopped coming. Just like that. Stopped (much before the internet and emails...even STD calls). We spoke about it for a year or two and then carried on with life. One day, last year, we remembered this friend and wondered what would've made the guy stop writing.

"I guess, he passed away," my dad said quietly. I'm sure he'd even shed a teeny-weeny tear later when we were out of his sight.

In truth, this might really have been the case. Because he was the only person in that circle who my father knew. We didn't know his relatives, friends, common acquaintances, or whereabouts, we didn't know his changed address, if any (father tried writing to him years back, but the letters just returned to him).

Recently I even Googled him out for father, came up with a couple of close matches, but perished the thought, because of the age differences. I guess he really did pass away. But just think - at least for father, his very existence depended on just the cards and letters he wrote; the wishes he sent across the oceans.

Now, if only there was an email service to and from heaven...