Sunday, February 24, 2013

Active voice

“Sindhu. Sindhu.”

Sindhu put her book down.

Who could it be now? It was 2 pm on a Sunday.

She went to the door. Nobody. Then from the house behind theirs – “Indu. Indu.”

Sindhu smiled and went back to her book. Silly me.

She had barely started reading again, when...


She gasped. It was unmistakable. Faint, but it was her name alright. She was alone in the room. There was no way… her pulse raced, and she got off the bed slowly.

"Say something Goddammit. How long am I gonna wait?"


Then it dawned on her. She pulled out her mobile from under the pillow. She’d kept her best friend Asha on hold, God knows for how long now.

Oh heck.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Curtain Call

Shamita walked to the fridge sleepily. She’d gotten used to doing it, without turning the lights on. She pulled out the water bottle, and was about to close the door, when something caught her eye in the diffused fridge light. Over at the living room window.

“Not again,” she muttered under her breath. Her father was sleep-walking again. This time he stood in the semi-darkness, looking out.

“Pa?” She wouldn’t usually talk. Just a ‘pa’ got a reaction and he turned back to his bedroom. Not tonight.

“Pa,” she called out again, her eyelids dropping. “Whatever,” she shrugged and headed back to her bedroom.

She crossed her parents’ room and absently looked in.

Pa was right there beside ma, snoring.

Her blood froze, and she slowly turned to the living room window. Somebody was still there. He turned to her for a moment. Shamita didn't move. Couldn't.

Then it was just the curtain, swaying gently in the night breeze.



Guru had to filter the images of the accident for his editor.

Bad scene it was. Oh, terrible. The face was unrecognizable.

And that other girl? Poor thing, kept on imploring something. Nobody listened.

Maybe she was a close friend. Sad.

Then suddenly, he frowned.

How come the girl wasn’t in any of the pictures?


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Parents, uncles & aunts, siblings, friends and family proudly present…

Remember your eldest cousin’s marriage video? The grainy VHS tape you so lovingly spent time ‘tracking’ so the fuzzy lines would disappear? (In the process everybody else but you enjoyed the actual video, but that’s a different story). And it was a matter of pride that you owned a tape of the wedding, and whenever there was a family get-together, all we did was pull out these old tapes and play/rewind/play/…well, you get the idea.

It would be a laugh riot, some of these videos. “Dinesh Video proudly presents” the opening credits would roll – 'Radha Weds Krishna' would follow, giving way to some more tacky zig-zag background stills playing to some instrumental tune you’d heard umpteen times earlier. It was a different matter that this Dinesh guy would’ve ‘proudly’ presented weddings of the entire neighborhood as if one of his own was getting married. Ah, old times.

And today? You see a small production house in every family. Especially in school functions.  The moment the little ones get onstage, as if on cue (I don’t think so many people ever got up even for the national anthem), a dozen adults too get up and about on their feet, ready to capture their tiny tots’ mesmerizing steps on the cell phone or handycam. The others would have the backsides of these videographers ‘proudly presented’, but hey, we managed to grab it on video (the actual function, I mean). And the same at weddings, social gatherings, naming ceremonies, house-warming etc.

The archetypal ‘Dinesh’ and folks aren’t totally out of business, you know. We still get to see some of them, tagging alongside rows of guests, thrusting the arclights on nose diggers and animated talkers. But for all the photographic/videographic indulgences of relatives and friends, these ‘professional’ presenters have only gotten smarter (not to mention richer). These days you see cameras swooping down on the newly-weds from overhead ‘dolly’ cameras, sometimes close enough to hear them grumbling about how their faces ache from the constant smiling, but well, all that would go at the editing table, right?

Meanwhile -  Hello, Mr. over-enthusiastic friend with the HD cell phone camera, please mind your head – the dolly’s swooping low.


'Pet' Peeve...

Rani stood outside the pet store, adjusting her yellow hair band. A rabbit hopped out from inside and looked her in the eye. She had deep blue eyes, and wore a cute bow too.

Rani picked her up and went in. An old man smiled at her. “Beautiful, isn’t she?”

Rani nodded.

He bent down as if to let her in on a secret.

“This is nothing. I have more beauties inside. Want to see?”

Rani nodded excitedly.

“Come,” he motioned her over.


Jeena walked into the pet store, awed by the cute animals on display. An old man came out from inside and stood at the counter, smiling warmly.

Before she could open her mouth, a golden cocker spaniel waddled up to her feet and stared at her lovingly. Jeena gasped. Oh she was so cute.

She bent down and stroked the canine's head. The adorable thing even had a cute yellow band on her head.


The store owner looked at her lovingly. She looked back at him.

"That's a beautiful scarf you're wearing, my dear." He grinned, his eyes glowing a faint red before turning black again.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Nosey Parker

A red Volkswagen pulled over beside Anand at the traffic light.

A scuffle was in progress.

He called 100.


The cop stopped the Volkswagen.

Inside, a kid was sniffing. A tired woman sat beside him.

The father smiled.

“He just won’t take his nose-drops.”


The cop swore silently at Anand. “Bloody fool.”


Friday, February 15, 2013



Deepesh stepped into the dingy ATM. Two machines. The security guy was at the other one.


He had just swiped his card when suddenly, a body fell out of the maintenance booth.

“Holy crap,” he said.

It was the security guy. Shit, then who was at…

There was nobody at the other machine.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Making Faces

The washroom was empty and dimly lit.  “Be a minute”, she’d told her friends.

“Careful, these highway washrooms are haunted,” they’d ribbed her. Ha! Yeah,right.

She now made faces in the mirror.

She grinned.



She applied lipstick.

She made faces again.

Except…this time round, her reflection was doing the exact opposite expression.


Monday, February 11, 2013


It was a hostage situation right out of the movies.

He held the girl at gunpoint.

“Stop,” he told the cops, “or I shoot her.”

The girl sobbed.

“Shut up,” he told her.

Then his mobile rang.

“Shit, my wife. It’s our anniversary today. Here, hold that will you?”

He gave the girl his gun.


Saturday, February 09, 2013


Dinesh shah was an impatient director. He didn’t want to wait around the whole day just so some nitwit fake gun maker held him up for his special gun. He had ordered the damn thing a week ago and it still hadn’t come.

“Sona,” Dinesh called for his assistant. A wiry girl in her mid -twenties sauntered into the room.

“Call that idiot Vasudev.”

“I did, sir. He’s sending someone over in a half hour.”

“A half hour,” Dinesh grunted. “Ok, go and take care of other things.”

The film crew had stuck out at this God-forsaken place the last couple of days. Dinesh had completed other portions of the movie, while they waited for the gun to arrive. And now he just had this one scene left. He didn’t want to waste any more time and money.

A while later there was a knock on the door.

“Come in.” Dinesh lit his 5th cigarette and leaned against the table.

The door opened and a man, probably in his thirties, peeped in.


“Are you Vasudev’s man?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Come on, come on, I don’t have much time.”

The man came in with a bag. He headed straight to the table and pulled out a couple of instruments.

Dinesh picked up the model he wanted and looked at it hesitantly. “This the one?”

“Yes, sir..that..”

“I know what that is. this how it’s supposed to look?”

The other man nodded and shrugged.

It was a reverse gun. The main character of the movie was supposed to kill himself with it. It had the handle of a regular gun, only the barrel was pointed backwards.  Dinesh gloated over the fact that it was a first in Indian movies. Nobody had pulled this sort of a stunt before.

He held it in his hand and pointed it at the other man, who stepped back. Dinesh chuckled at the man’s naivette.

Dinesh walked to the mirror and posed in front of it, checking out how it would look on his character. He cocked his head to a side, straightened his shoulder and pulled the trigger. A quick second earlier he’d seen the man slink away. But it was too late.

The loud explosion from the barrel smashed the mirror to smithereens and Dinesh’s face burst open like a melon. There was silence and a whole lot of smoke,  for a good three minutes before the door burst open and his assistant ran in, letting out a scream loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear.

Aside from the crew that crowded around the dead director, there was a man who’d just arrived, with the real consignment this time, and looked nonplussed. He let go of the fake gun he was holding in his bag, and wondered how the director got himself killed with a real gun.

Outside, the man who'd arrived earlier, got into an auto rickshaw and pulled out his cell phone.

“It’s done,” he said and hung up. He loved the fact that he didn't have to lift a finger this time. Was the first time he'd pulled a stunt like this.

He smiled. The auto rickshaw guy was looking at him through the rear view mirror and smiled.

"What happened, sir? You seem happy. Did you meet a star back there?"

"Hmm? Ah, no.."

"Ok, meet the real stars then," said the driver, turning and pointing a gun at his passenger.

Before the other man could do anything, the auto driver pumped two quick slugs into the hitman, got out and walked away.

He pulled out his cell phone and said. "The score's even now."


Friday, February 08, 2013

Filling in...

“Roll no. 17.”

“Present, miss.”


“Here, miss.”

Kanika looked up. That roll number belonged to Aadesh Tripathy, who was on leave. So who was this? A girl, sitting in his place, smiled at her.


Kanika checked the register again. Aadesh Tripathy alright. So…

She looked up again, only to see a vacant seat.


Monday, February 04, 2013

It could happen...

Sanjay stepped out of his boss’s cabin and sighed. Thank God his story about the ‘scuffle’ he had in traffic today worked, else… There was no way on earth was he going to tell his boss about the morning show. He looked at his watch – 3.30 pm. That’s ok, he had enough time. He had this thing of convincing anybody with his stories. He beamed at himself.

He entered his cubicle when the board number rang. He pressed the speaker button.


“Sir, there’s a certain ..uh, SI, to see you.”


“Yes, sir…”

“SI, as in police?”

“Yes, sir.”

He took it off speaker and picked up the receiver.

“But why?”

Before she replied, he heard the SI taking the receiver from her hand coming online. “Mr. Sanjay, I’d like to see you.”

“But..for what?”

“You beat a man to near-death this morning at the Alankar circle.”

“What non-sense, I wasn’t even there…”

Wait a minute, Alankar circle. But that was impossible.

A couple of minutes later, Sanjay agreed to meet the cop and hung up. His head reeled.

The alankar circle story was a product of his imagination that he’d fibbed to his boss about….and now this cop shows up. He hadn’t even told it to anybody else. How on earth could this be happening?

He walked out of his cubicle in a daze. He got into the elevator and out of it, into the visitor’s lobby.

There was no one.

He walked upto the receptionist. She smiled at him warmly.

“Yes sir?”

“Didn’t you just call me about some SI…?”

“Who, me?”


“No, sir..I didn’t call you.”

“Oh, come on - it was you. A few minutes ago. I know the board number. I know your voice..”

The receptionist just gave him a puzzled look and shook her head. “No, sir.”

Sanjay went and sat down on one of the couches.

What the hell was this?

Just then he received a text message.

“It could really happen. Tell your boss the truth. Now.”


It was from an unidentified number. In fact it didn’t look anything like a phone number. 773H? What kind of a number was that?

And then it struck him. Gobsmacked, he slowly turned the phone upside down, and looked at the number again.

A cold wave passed through him. He swallowed hard, got up and slowly walked back to his boss’s cabin.