Saturday, 14 August 2021

The COVID Mother




It was a white ambulance with a red warning light.

We were following it for quite some time through the early morning traffic of Delhi. 

It carried someone who was very dear to us.


The van entered the cremation ground and went straight to platform No 15.

The air was heavy with the smell of burning human flesh.

Two male medical assistants, clad in blue PPE slithered out of the back door.

One of them peeped inside and pushed open a rectangular freezer.

Carefully, they pulled out a grey, laminated body bag which was sealed and tagged.

They placed the bag on top of a wooden pyre which was already there.


‘Who is the elder among you?’ a young pandit asked indifferently, unpacking at the same time a sleek, cardboard box that contained a pack of incense sticks.

My brother inched forward.

‘Can we have one last look at her?’ he said in a feeble voice.

‘Look, as per the rules, it is not allowed. She died of COVID. We can’t take a chance.’

My brother wanted to plead further but I softly placed my hand on his shoulder. 

He relented.


‘Rest of you, please move back and don’t take off your gloves, face shields and masks. OK?’

We were only four of us there.

Relatives, friends, family members- everyone decided to skip the funeral.  No one wanted to take a chance. It was medically not advised. They did what was right but somehow, it never felt right.


The pandit turned towards my brother.

‘Since you would be performing the last rites, you need to put on the kit.’


There were nine more cremations taking place in that suffocating place.

That meant nine more body bags lying atop wooden pyres.

And nine more families going through an ordeal they had never imagined. 


Once my brother got ready, he appeared like an alien covered in white plastic.

The pandit started chanting sacred mantras hurriedly.

He asked me and my nephew to help him with some more wood which was lying nearby in a heap. My father placed a new red saree, matching bangles and some cosmetics on the body bag as per the Hindu tradition.

Finally, my brother was asked to light the pyre.


The virus had given my mother just six days.

It attacked her lungs with vengeance.

She struggled hard to breathe.

A tall oxygen cylinder had stood next to her bed helplessly.

My father never left her side till the time he realized that she could breathe no longer.

She was declared ‘brought-in-dead’ at the hospital.

Her body was then moved to a cold freezer.

What was till then just a figure appearing on news channels turned into a stark reality for us.


As yellow flames engulfed the grey body bag, the old man sat down on the broken pavement and watched helplessly.

His life partner for more than sixty years was going away forever.

He threw up his hands in despair.

He could never understand what wrong he had done to deserve this disaster.

No one could.


‘You all can wait outside in the shed now. Come tomorrow morning to collect the ashes.’

As we all came out, no one had anything to say.

More than her demise, it was the manner in which my mother’s cremation was carried out that had shocked us and rattled our nerves.

We could not even have one last look at her.


That day, I saw death being dealt with in a business-like manner.

Very efficiently indeed.

There was no place for emotions.

Only precautions.

The world had indeed changed.

An unknown virus not only killed people.

It killed much more.

It destroyed human dignity.

It made us afraid, not of death, but of each other.

One man avoided the other.


We realized how helpless we actually were.

Conquerors of space, owners of great inventions, we actually were nobodies who had no clue how to fight a tiny, invisible enemy.

The whole of humanity was on its knees.

Ultimately, man’s monstrous ego had found a match and got crushed badly.

And the funny thing was, you couldn’t blame anybody.

No one was at fault.

It was just one of those things.

A careless leak from a lab somewhere.


I watched the burning pyre from a distance.

A gentle wind began to blow over.

Suddenly, I saw a young, beautiful woman standing next to the pyre.

It was her.

That was how she looked in her hay days.

A young boy with dimpled cheeks and long flowing hair, stood next to her, clutching tightly on her arm.

She smiled and waved at me.

Then, she disappeared into the flames.

The boy started crying and ran after her.

I rushed towards him but the pandit blocked my way.

‘What’s the matter?’

‘That boy,’ I struggled to speak, ‘he would get burned.’

‘Where?’ the pandit turned back.

There was nobody.

‘I think you need some rest.’


I stood there like a statue.

The times that I had spent with her flashed across my mind like giant waves.

There she was, helping me with my homework, playing with me, feeding me lovingly and then putting me to sleep.

There was very little that I could ever do for her.

I couldn’t even tell her how much I loved her.

I was cut off from the source of my life suddenly by the cruel hand of fate.

I felt a growing vacuum within. 


The officer-in-charge at the cremation ground walked up to me and smiled in a matter-of-fact way through a row of yellow teeth.

‘You are very lucky sir. At other places, there are long queues and people are waiting for hours together. And here, you just got free in forty five minutes.’


Just then, another ambulance barged in.

It was business as usual.













Monday, 12 July 2021

The Death Wish




 

A pin drop silence haunted the room as a lean doctor with a pointed nose ruffled through some medical reports.

‘I am sorry but it’s a matter of time now.’

He announced solemnly to the crowd gathered around him and left.

All eyes shifted towards a grey haired man who reclined on a white hospital bed with an oxygen mask fixed to his mouth. A couple of rubber tubes jutted out of his arms and chest.

His face appeared frozen like ice but he could nevertheless feel an unmistakable warmth in his guts. Yes - he was as good as gone but somewhere deep down, life still lurked inside him.

He was aware of the presence of anxious people around him.

‘How much they care for me!’ he thought, ‘if only I could live some more and thank them.’


As his mind continued to spin, he slipped into a delirium and thousands of images flashed across his mind: A young, radiant farmer driving a tractor; ploughing a large field, a beautiful woman sat next to him; smiling and whispering sweet nothings into his ears. 

A middle aged man staring painfully at a woman’s dead body, a smashed car standing nearby. He embraced her and cried like a child. 

An old man sitting alone in the huge balcony of his farmhouse, staring into a moonlit night; a brown shepherd dog licking his feet fondly. Suddenly, a searing pain cut across his heart, the glass of whisky slipped out of his hands and crashed on the floor. He rubbed his chest vigorously and tried to call out for help but his voice got choked. The dog continued to lick his feet. Finally, everything turned black.


Next day morning, as velvety sunshine streamed into his room, he could feel its glow. He could also hear the cuckoo cooing outside in the garden. His chest heaved prominently as he breathed without struggling.

The doctor arrived instantly and listened eagerly to his renewed heartbeat with a stethoscope. ‘I just can’t believe it. He is recovering.’

He pushed open the man’s eyelids with his fingers and peered inside with a torch. ‘He’s still too weak to talk or move his limbs but he is sure coming back.’

He scribbled down a few lines on a pad hanging from the bed and turned towards his concerned audience. ‘God has answered your prayers.’  

He beamed at them brightly and bolted out.


The invalid could make out every word that was said. It boosted his sagging spirits but he found it difficult to even open his eyes.

‘This is just ridiculous,’ he heard his son remark. ‘I thought everything would be over today. Now I need to get the reservations done again.’

‘What for?’ asked his son’s wife, a bit irritated, ‘if he is going to recover, we have no business to be here.’

His younger brother butted in. ‘Actually I had spoken to his advocate. He said it would be better if we could finish the paperwork. After all, the property needs to be divided.’

‘But has he written his will?’ asked his son apprehensively.

‘You know how he is! Careless and irresponsible.’

‘This is what we get in return for all the expensive gifts we showered on him,’ his daughter-in- law remarked sarcastically.

‘Anyway, I somehow managed to get his will made,’ his brother intervened.


The helpless patient heard the noise of a few papers being exchanged and shuffled.

After a pause, his brother spoke again, ‘Don’t worry, I have taken care of your share.’

 ‘I can see that but it is an unsigned will,’ his son mentioned bitterly.

‘I had planned to take his thumb impression after the body was handed over to us. But we can’t do that now, especially in this hospital with cameras fitted everywhere.’

‘I don’t think he will survive long even if he gets back on his feet. But before he conks off, let’s make sure he signs these papers.’

‘Right, let’s do that but now there is no point in wasting time here,’ the lady cut in sharply.

‘But what about him?’ asked her husband, pointing at their ten year old son who had gone to sleep in the same room, sunk peacefully into a leather sofa.

‘If I wake him up now, he would get cranky. Let him rest here for a while. As such, we need to check out from the hotel first. We would pick him up on our way to the airport.’


He heard the door close slowly as his relatives moved out. A tear escaped from his eyes.

‘Oh my God! Could I be so mistaken? Can this be true? What I considered love was actually greed. They want nothing but my property. They are willing to take even a dead man’s thumb impression! Sons, brothers, daughters-in -law – they are all alike.’

The trickle of tears soon became a flood. His soul was ripped apart.

‘I wanted to live more. But what for? O God, if you really care for me, take me away. I don’t want to live in this cruel world.’


Just then, he felt the soft touch of a tiny hand on his wrist. His grandson, fair and chubby with golden curls, had just woken up from his slumber and stood near him.

‘Why are you crying grandpa?’ the boy asked innocently. ‘Has someone hurt you?’

His hands trembled as he gripped the child’s hand tenderly.

‘Do you remember that you taught me to play chess?’


Slowly, he opened his eyes and nodded at the lad, his lips quivering.

‘I’ve started a game. But I don’t know the next move. Would you play with me?’

A man, dumped by his own progeny, was simply moved by the sense of belonging that his grandson inspired. He dragged himself up, sat against the pillow and removed his oxygen mask, panting.

‘OK,’ he stammered, ‘L…Let’s play.’

Delighted, the guy with golden curls handed his tab to his grandpa who glanced at the chess board on the screen.

‘Only… two moves are left.’

‘Yes, you take the white,’ the junior chirped excitedly.

The oldie contemplated for a while and then with shaking hands, pushed his queen to a black square thereby making a wrong move knowingly.

‘Check.’


His opponent rubbed his red nose with his knuckles and with the air of one who knew what he was up to, he moved his king a step back.

‘Mate.’

The exhausted man stared at the screen for a while.

‘You win,’ he said, touching the boy’s head affectionately.

The kiddy jumped with joy. ‘Yeah, I have beaten you grandpa.’

He beamed feebly at his grandson.

‘I have lost so much already. This was just… a game.’

His voice was cracking.


‘But you taught me how to play.’

‘I am happy that you… remember.’

He reached out for the pad hanging by his bed.

‘Can you give me that pen?’

The champ ran, picked up the pen from the table and gave it to him. Struggling, he jotted down a few words on the paper, tore it and handed it to his playmate.

‘Go … give it to the doctor.’


The youngster whizzed out of the room.

With his eyes closed, the ailing man silently said his prayers and slid down into his bed. A gleam of satisfaction ran across his face. A child’s love had convinced him that after all, he was not such a worthless creature, that when he was gone from this world, at least someone would miss him.  Soon, he drifted into a deep sleep.

After a while, the doctor rushed into the room followed by the boy. He stepped up to his patient and felt his pulse. He glanced at the ECG monitor – it showed a straight line.

‘Is he all right?’ asked the child, his eyes full of concern.

The doctor regarded him dejectedly. ‘Are you sure he played chess with you?’

‘Yes, see this,’ he said as he picked up the tab.


The doctor glanced at the screen. It read: Black is the winner.

He stared at the note given to him by the boy. The old man had donated all his property to the hospital.

‘When he gets up, I will defeat him once more,’ the little guy remarked cheerfully.      

The doctor smiled at him faintly and moved out.

The kid sat down next to the dead body of his grandpa and started a new game.

Friday, 11 June 2021

उपहार

 




(चित्र: शालिनी सिंह)






वह एक बहुत ही खूबसूरत चेहरा था।

दो साल  की एक मासूम बच्ची का चेहरा।

घुंघराले सुनहरे बाल, शरारत से भरी आंखें, दूध सा गोरा रंग्।

लेकिन साथ ही उसके फंटे होंठ और मैले पड़े हाथ‌‌‌‌‌ पैर् साफ दिखाई पड़ते थे।

सिर्फ एक पुरानी सी फ्रोक लटकाकर वो नन्ही सी जान कैसे नंगे पैर उस सख्त फुट्पाथ पर खडी थी, ये जान पाना मुश्किल  था।

 

आंचल ने यह सब देखा।

बड़ी बारीकी से।

वह रोज सुबह दौडने के लिये कालेज से बाहर निकलती थी।

लेकिन इस तरफ आज पहली बार आई थी।

 

इस बीच उस छोटी बच्ची ने अपना एक पैर फुट्पाथ से नीचे रखा।

लाल रंग का एक पोलीथीन सड्क के ठीक बीचोंबीच हवा के थपेडों से नाच रहा था। वो मंत्रमुग्ध सी उसकी और देख रही थी।

फिर उसने अपना दूसरा पैर सडक पर रखा।

सामने से एक कार तेजी से आ रही थी।

 

तभी एक अधेड़ उम्र की औरत दौड़ती हुई आई और उसका हाथ पकड कर अपनी ओर खींच ले गई। इससे पहले की वो कुछ समझ पाती, दो करारे थप्पड़ उसके गाल पर पड़ चुके थे। मोटे मोटे आंसू टप टप बहने लगे लेकिन आंखे अभी भी उस लाल पोलीथीन पर टिकीं थीं जो इस समय बिजली  के एक पोल पर जा लटका था।

 

मर जाती तो?’ औरत ने चीख कर कहा और उसे फुट्पाथ पर पडी एक सब्जी की टोकरी की ओर घसीट कर ले गई जहाँ से वह अपना धंधा करती थी।

आँचल भाग कर वहाँ पहुँची।

इसे चोट तो नहीं लगी?’ उसने बच्ची के कंधे पर हाथ रखते हुए पूछा|

लग जाती तो अच्छा था। न खुद मरती है, न मुझे मरने देती है,’ औरत ने भुनभुनाते हुए कहा।

आप इस की माँ हैं?’

माँ तो मुई मर गयी इसे जन्मते ही, मैं तो इसकी दूर की चाची हूँ|’

आप इसे स्कूल क्यों नहीं भेजती? कुछ आपको भी आराम हो जाएगा|’

इस बार चाची हँस दी।

कालेज में पड़ती हो?’

जी|’

इतना भी नहीं समझती की एक सब्ज़ी बेचने वाली कमाती कितना होगी|’

लेकिन ऐसे फुट्पाथ पर?’

हम जैसों का यही ठिकाना है बेटी। हमारी ज़िदगी इन्हीं सड़कों से शुरु होकर इन्हीं सड़कों पर खत्म हो जाती है|’

 

तब तक बच्ची ने एक बार फिर सड़क की ओर कदम बड़ाया।

लेकिन इस बार आँचल ने भाग कर उसे गोदी में उठा लिया।

तुम्हारा नाम क्या है?’ उसने हंस कर पूछा।

लेकिन तब तक बच्ची का ध्यान उसके बालों में लगे सफेद रंग के रबर बैंड पर जा चुका था जिसे वह अपने नन्हे हाथों से ट्टोलने लगी।

सायना,’ चाची ने प्यार से कहा,’ ‘सायना नाम है इसका|’

हाऊ आर यू सायना?’ कह कर आँचल ने अपना हाथ आगे किया।

जवाब में सायना ने उसके बड़े हुए हाथ के अंगुठे को मुंह में डाल कर चूसना शुरु कर दिया।

 

इस घट्ना के बाद आँचल जब भी सुबह की सैर पर जाती तो वो अपनी बेबी डोल से जरूर मिलती।सायना भी उससे काफी घुलमिल गई थी और दोनों फुट्पाथ पर सगी बहनों की तरह खेलतीं।  

 

आँचल एम.बी.ए. फाइंनल वर्ष की छात्रा थी।

कोर्स खत्म होने में बस कुछ ही दिन बचे थे।

दो साल पहले जब वो यहां पहुंची तब उसका दिल नहीं लगता था।

दिल्ली की लड़की को हैदराबाद की बिरयानी का साथ निभाने में थोडा वक्त लग गया। लेकिन एक बार जो ये जगह रास आई तो बस मन में उतर गई।

क्या चारमीनार और क्या हुसैन सागर, सब अपने से लगने लगे।

और सायना के साथ ने इस एहसास को और भी गहरा कर दिया।

अब हैदराबाद छोड्ने के ख्याल से ही उसे एक अजीब सा डर लगता था।

लेकिन होनी बलवान होती है।

अब उसकी एक बैंक में नौकरी लग चुकी थी और ये किनारा छोड़ने का वक़्त पास ही था।

 

दो दिन बाद उसकी फेयरवल पार्टी थी।

वो कुछ अलग लगना चाह्ती थी।

इसलिए उस दोपहर उसने श्रेया के साथ सिटी माल जाने का मन बनाया।

काफी देर की जद्दोजहद के बाद उसे एक गाऊन बहुत पसंद आया।

लेकिन जब रेट्स मालूम किये तो उसका दिल बैठ गया क्योंकि गाऊन बहुत ही महंगा था।

उसने घर फोन किया।

 

पापा|’

यस आँचल|’

मैं यहाँ एक माल में आई हुई थी। मुझे एक डेर्स बहुत पसंद आई लेकिन काफी महंगी है। तो मैं समझ नहीं पा रही के लूं या न लूं|’

अगर अच्छी लग रही हो तो ले लो। वैसे भी तुम्हारा जन्मदिन पास आ रहा है। मैं सोच ही रहा था की तुम्हें क्या उपहार दूं और तुमने खुद ही मेरी परेशानी दूर कर दी |’

थैंक यू सो मच पापा। आप कितने अच्छे हो|’

 

इतना कहकर जैसे ही उसने मोबाइल बंद किया, उसकी नज़र खिड्की के बाहर सड़क पर गई।

वहाँ एक लड्की एक फटी पुरानी फ्रोक पहनकर फुट्पाथ पर खड़ी थी।

सायना!’ उसे एकदम को अपनी आखों पर विश्वास न हुआ।

तभी उस लड्की ने फुट्पाथ से नीचे कदम रखा।

सामने से एक बस तेजी से आ रही थी|

आँचल भाग कर सीड़ीयां उतरी।

तब तक बस उन दोनों के बीच आ चुकी थी।

कुछ पलों के लिये लोहे की वो  दीवार बनी रही।

फिर जब वो दीवार हटी तो दूसरी तरफ कोई न था।

 

आँचल वापस माल में घुसी ही थी कि श्रेया दौड़ कर उसके पास आई।

अरे तुम कहाँ गायब हो गई थी?’

तभी काऊंटर पर खडी लड्की ने उससे पूछा,’ मैड्म, क्या मैं इस गाउन को पेक कर दूं?’

आँचल ने बारी बारी से उन दोनों की तरफ देखा।

उसका ध्यान एक बार फिर से नीचे फुट्पाथ पर चला गया।

सायना वहां खड़ी उसे टिकटीकी लगाए देख रही थी।

सामने सड़क पर एक लाल रंग का पोलीथीन हवा में फड़फड़ा रहा था।

इस घटना के कुछ दिन बाद आँचल का जन्मदिन था।

सुबह सुबह ही वो अपना ट्रैक सुट पहनकर सायना से मिलने निकल पड़ी।

जैसे ही वो फुट्पाथ पर पहुंची उसके पापा का वीडीयो काल आ गया।

जन्मदिन मुबारक हो बेटा|’

थैंक यू पापा|’

लेकिन आज तो तुमने अपनी नई ड्रैस पहननी थी न?’

हां मगर उसकी जगह मैंने कुछ ओर खरीदा है|’

क्या?’

ये देखो|’

 

कहकर जैसे ही उसने मोबाइल का कैमरा सायना की तरफ किया, उसके पापा को स्थिति समझने में ज़्यादा देर नहीं लगी।

उन्हें एक छोटी सी बच्ची का चेहरा नज़र आया जिसने एक नई फ्रोक और चमचमाते हुए जूते पहन रखे थे।

ये लड्की तो बडी सुंदर है|’

बहुत ज़्यादा पापा|’

हम सबको आज का दिन हमेशा याद रहेगा|’

क्यों पापा?’

क्योंकी आज तुम बडी हो गई हो|’

 

इतनी ही देर में एक लाल रंग का पोलीथीन जो कुछ दिनों से बिजली  के एक पोल पर जा टिका था, लहराकर नीचे गिर पड़ा।

सायना अपने छोटे छोटे हाथों से उसे मारकर हवा में उड़ाने लगी।

 

आँचल भी उसके साथ मिलकर खेलने लगी।

दोनों की हंसी की खिलखिलाहट से फुट्पाथ का वो कोना गूंजने लगा।

आज किसी का जन्मदिन जो था।





 

                                                                                                                            

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

The Power of Tarot






                                          The Mystery Unfolds...


A Tarot deck contains 78 cards and these 78 cards hold millions of secrets!

People usually ask - How does Tarot work? What is the whole process like?

The straight answer is­­ – each card contains an image. It may show men, women, children, objects, nature, animals, expressions or some form of energy. And the Tarot reader has to understand the meaning and significance behind each image.

But as you go deeper, it becomes important as to how these cards relate to each other and what types of links exist between them. But the most important part is the intuitive interpretation of the significance of a particular spread. (For the uninitiated, what I mean by a spread is the particular way in which cards are laid for a specific reading. For example, it may be a three card spread or a five card one or a horseshoe spread or a Celtic cross depending on the nature of the question and the treatment it requires.)

The intuitive understanding is the most stellar part of a Tarot analysis. Therefore, the reader has to be a person endowed with a strong intuition. He also needs to be capable of a cool and calm reflection because you don’t carry out a reading in a disturbed state of mind. So, someone into prayer and meditation with a serene disposition has the right frame for this very interesting and intriguing job!

Recently, a married couple who were on the verge of separation approached me for a final overview of the situation and when I told them that despite all that had happened, their basic bond was still very strong, they were in for a shock. And as they gave frank and honest communication a chance, the misunderstandings melted away and the relationship soon stabilized.

But had they not consulted the Tarot, their relationship was as good as gone because through this mysterious science, they came to know a few facts about their life which were still not clear to them! This then gives you a lot of satisfaction that is, being in a position to help people understand themselves better. And as they understand themselves better and can see more clearly, they take better and sound decisions.

So, we come back to the original question?
How does it work?
Firstly, you build the question into the cards during the shuffling. In more contemporary terms, it is like customizing the cards or tuning them into the spirit of the question.
Then, as you proceed to read a spread, the imagery is so rich and diversified that it serves to throw light on multiple issues or multiple dimensions of a particular issue with its deep symbolism. It hides so much yet it reveals a lot!

And there are so many common threads in the ocean of collective unconscious that within no time, light begins to shine on different facets of a problem bringing in much needed clarity and insight. And we would do well to remember that both the client and the reader bring their own energies to the table which give a distinct flavor to every session.

Moreover, if there are any rough corners still left out, your intuition smoothens them out in a non-intrusive fashion. And deftly linking all the cards like the sparkling diamonds in a necklace, the final interpretation emerges akin to a magnificent story delving into the past, present and future, handling the finer aspects like a master storyteller with everything connected and leading to the ultimate outcome.

Once a reading has been handed over to the Querent or discussed with him, he would do well to read it a couple of times to grasp its full import and then offer his valuable feedback for either validation or further investigation.

And there is always a surprise or two, waiting for the client. For example, when a particular client was desperate to know what he should do in a certain situation, one of the cards he pulled out was ‘The Hanged Man’ which is a major arcana card of surrender. This meant that he was not required to do much at that point of time but be in a spirit of let-go and allow things to take their own course of action. So, this constant urge that life is not happening the way we want it to happen, this urge must be taken care of especially when ‘The Hanged Man’ appears in your reading.

Thus, life has this tremendous ability to surprise us at every turn and your Tarot reader points out such astonishing turns to you in an amazingly accurate fashion! You don’t go to Tarot to ask yes or no questions. No, Tarot is not meant for that. It is like a friend or an elder to whom you go for advice when you find yourself in a challenging situation. It gives you a bird’s eye view of the whole scenario and you become aware of many aspects of the issue which were earlier unknown to you.

The Tarot confirms certain things and opposes others thus giving you a balanced view where you become capable of taking the right decision. Moreover, the universe keeps sending you signals with respect to what is to come but our minds are so preoccupied with our constant chatter that we almost always fail to see or observe these omens, least of all understand their significance. Tarot has the power to make you aware of the missing links in your jigsaw puzzle.

And what is life after all? It’s a sum total of all the decisions which you have taken till now and would continue to take in future. While bad decisions stink, good ones are full of fragrance. And Tarot ensures that you reach out for this fragrance by gaining more and more clarity about where your life is going, be it your career, relationships, business, health or your spiritual journey.

So, I invite you to come and embrace the Power of Tarot and give your life a glimpse of new possibilities, fresh insights and awesome beginnings.

Note: The author can be contacted for a Tarot reading at nectarmks@gmail.com







Friday, 11 January 2019

An Ugly Face








Sameer rushed into the stuffy cyber cafe and looked around.

He was fair with light brown eyes and a cute chubby face. A lean cut below his lips disclosed that his early attempts at mastering the art of shaving were not yielding good results.
The cafe  interiors were painted in red and yellow while the small wooden cubicles bore a brisk white shade.
All the machines were occupied except one in the right corner.
He closed in with his heart pounding against his ribs and sank in the chair like a dead weight.
A few quick clicks and he was already at the bank site.
Some more hits at the keyboard and a message prompted him to enter the credit card number.
He took out a shining black card out of his pocket and examined it tensely.

He had stolen it from his father’s wallet in the morning while the later was out for his customary morning walk. The old man was scheduled to go to a friend’s place thereafter for breakfast.
This was the gap he needed to make the payment. 

He had also casually picked up his father’s mobile which was lying on the dining table. After all, he would be required to delete the ‘Transaction successful’ message! That would give him a breather and he could plant some more lies afterwards at his convenience.

Actually, he had lost a cricketing bet to a friend last week.

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, a bit warm as he had lazed around in the college canteen with his gang, staring at a plasma screen hanging from a wall. There were loud whistles, shouts and claps at every run scored and every wicket lost. India was batting and he was sure as hell about its win. But a studious looking guy, wearing round rim spectacles didn’t seem to agree with him.
‘It’s South Africa all the way man,’ he said in a derisive tone, pushing back his glasses from the tip of his nose.
‘Come on, this game belongs to India!’
‘Bet?’ the studious looking guy thrust forward his hand challengingly.
There was a moment’s pause before Sameer made up his mind.
‘OK,’ he said as he clutched his opponent’s hand tightly.
‘How much?’
‘Two thousand.’
‘Make it five.’
‘OK, done deal.’
They struck their knuckles together one last time and turned their attention towards the screen again. The match had a nail biting finish, not meant at all for the weak hearted. But in the end, India lost.
‘I told you,’ the winner buzzed proudly, ‘now keep your words and transfer the money to my account.’
‘I need some time,’ Sameer said dejectedly.
‘How much?’
‘A week or so.’
‘Right buddy, let it be next Saturday then. But no more extensions, right?’
The guy chuckled maliciously and stormed out of the canteen.

The time raced by quickly.
He could neither lose his face at college nor inform his father about it.
So, he took the easy option out.
And huddled inside that congested cyber cafe, he pondered over his next move.

As he was so engrossed in his thoughts, a young kid, smeared in blue paint with a tiger cloth covering his loins, slipped inside the cafe. His hair was formed in to a bun at the top of his head and a silvery necklace ran around his neck with a rectangular mirror fixed in the center. He was carrying a small iron bucket which displayed a photo of Lord Shiva.

The owner took out a few coins from his desk drawer and tossed them into the bucket. The boy moved to other cubicles, collected his share and in the end, landed up at his desk.
As Sameer dropped a coin inside the bucket, his eyes traveled over the boy’s blue skin and then rested on the rectangular mirror hung around his neck.
He saw an ugly, dark face with long white teeth staring back at him.
He gave a start and rubbed his hands over his face frantically.
‘What’s the matter sir?’ the Shiva alike asked him with concern.
‘N…nothing,’ he stammered, stuffed the credit card into his pocket and staggered out.

When he reached home, his father was already there.
‘Where had you vanished?’
‘Papa, I…I need to tell you something.’
The old man looked at him carefully.
‘You seem to be tense.’
Sameer wiped off the beads of perspiration on his forehead with his sleeve.
‘I lost some money to a friend in a bet.’
‘In a bet?’
‘And to pay him back,’ he struggled hard with his words, ‘I …stole your credit card.’
‘What?’
He pulled out the card out of his pocket and placed it on the table.
His father gaped at him, his mouth slightly open. ‘Have you made the payment?’
‘No.’
‘But that’s what you wanted to do!’
‘When someone lies, he turns ugly. That’s what happened to me.’
The clock struck ten.
‘How much was the amount?’
‘Five thousand.’
‘Go, pay it.’
‘But papa…’
‘I said go.’

Half an hour later, as he stepped out of the cyber cafe, he again ran into the mini version of Lord Shiva.
‘Are you all right sir?’
‘Oh, yes!’ he said jovially and sneaked in to the mirror slung around the boy’s neck.
Someone fair with a chubby face smiled back at him.


Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Timeless - One Minute Short Film






FADE IN:

INT.JIMMY'S HOME -DAY

A spacious apartment. JIMMY, 7, fair with blue eyes, sits at
the dining table,unpacking a small cardbox. KATE, 40, slim
with black hair, plonks next to him,watching him intently.

                                             KATE
                         So, this box contains the most
                         exquisite watch in the world.

                                             JIMMY
                        Grandpa showed it to me last time.

He pulls off the tape with his tiny, pinkish hands.

                                             KATE
                        That was two years ago. Your
                        grandpa is no more now.

                                             JIMMY
                         His helper, she has sent this box.

                                              KATE
                        Poor woman!She had no choice.You
                        would neither eat nor sleep. You
                        just wanted that one thing.

Jimmy culls out a bulky wrist watch from the box. It sports
a worn out, brown leather strap and a scratchy glass dial.
He fiddles with the crown,the minute hand starts slithering.

                                             JIMMY
                       See, I told you!

Kate stares at him in confusion. The doorbell RINGS.

                                             JIMMY
                       Mom, I miss grandpa.

Kate purses her lips in despair and leaves.

LATER

Kate enters, a bit exhausted. Jimmy sleeps peacefully on a
large sofa.The old watch sits pretty on his wrist.He holds a
photograph tightly.It shows

A BALD, SMILING OLD MAN CARRYING JIMMY ON HIS BACK

She touches Jimmy's face softly.

                                            KATE
                       This indeed is the best watch in
                       the world.

Jimmy smiles in his sleep.

                                                                                                         FADE OUT.

The COVID Mother

It was a white ambulance with a red warning light. We were following it for quite some time through the early morning traffic of Delhi.  It ...