Wednesday, September 28, 2016

[Short Story] An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 5

This is continued from here:

We inched closer at 20 feet away from the tree we stopped. Gopal - "Do we want to take this risk?" "
Yes, let's abort. This is not worth it. We can create story from here as well", I said hoping to turn back and walk as fast as we can. But Ravi said, "We are close to principal's office and now we cannot turn back. Let's do this." Gopal agreed and I had no choice but to go ahead with them as walking back alone is just as dangerous as going forward with these guys. 

Time seemed to stop still. We were now right beside the tree and were moving quickly crossing the tree with our heads down. A voice called out - "What are you doing?" in a coarse thick accented voice. We froze as the sound pierced the silence of the heartbeats and the rustle of the leaves. We looked at each other as none of us were sure. 

In the distance we saw a lone hunched figure. Nothing else could be figured out in the moonlight. The sound again bellowed - "What are you doing?"
"Guess he is must be one of the farmers" - Ravi said. Gopal replied back to the figure pointing to me- "We are going to the college ahead to look for a book this guy lost"
Moving closer we could say he was dressed in traditional farmer's attire. 

"Why at this time of the night?" - He asked.
 Gopal again replied - "He wants to read today as he has to answer questions from it."  
"I thought we were going there to piss on principal's desk" - I muttered.
"What? What did he say?"
"Nothing he just said it was mighty important to him to answer the questions and thus the book" - Gopal replied looking at me with contempt.
"Do you know you are not allowed here at this point of time?" he bellowed again. 
"No, we didn't know. Why?" Gopal replied.
"Gopal - This is not your graphics lecturer that you are asking questions to impress him" - I muttered again.
"It's a long story and I don't have time for it. But since you are here, I have something to give you boys", he replied.
"What is it?" - Our only brave spokesman asked.
"You are the curious one. Come closer I will show you."
Ravi lips moved after what seemed an eternity - "No Gopal."
"What is it?" - He again asked.
"Come closer." saying, he opened his palm showing the gift.
Gopal started moving towards him and we followed. 
"Yes closer, please".

We strained our necks to decipher the item as we went closer. We were within 5 feet of him when I got a glimpse of what he was holding. Before I could react Ravi let out a scream and he started running.  I looked again and Gopal was already running away from both the guy. Then Ravi called again - "Run" and that was only I heard before I saw all three of us running towards the college. We heard two other screams - "Come here, motherf***ers!" from the guy and one loud wail drowning all other noises.

None of us looked back and we ran. We saw the lights from the campus but we kept on running towards not daring to look back until we were under the bright lights of college campus. Looking back, we did not see anyone or anything following. Relieved, we slumped on the damp grass but still shivering.

We waited for another 10-15 minutes to be sure nothing was following us. "We did it" - Gopal exclaimed. "F***er, we just saved our lives. I saw what it was in that guy's hand." - I said. 
"I can't believe it. I was closer to him but I couldn't see", Gopal said. 

"You have glasses and yet you couldn't see.  I could make out it was the bunch of hair and you were the chosen one and with you we would have also got the hair and before I could respond he screamed" pointing towards Ravi.

"What happened, Ravi? Your scream saved us." - Gopal questioned Ravi.
Ravi was still shivering when he said - "I saw the girl right above Gopal." 
"Let's go back through the main road" - I said and got up to walk. 
Gopal replied - "But before that let's at least do what we came for."
"Are you serious? After all this we went through, you want to pee at Principal's desk!" - Ravi exclaimed.
"You only gave the idea. Let's do it" But I disagreed.
We looked at each other for a moment and then it happened in all its glory.

One after the other, Gopal, me and finally shivering Ravi peed at the door of the principal's office.

PS: That's the end of this series. This was my first attempt at writing a story. Please let me know through your comments your thoughts on this. All the links are given below:
  1. An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 1
  2. An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 2
  3. An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 3
  4. An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 4
  5. An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 5

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

[Short Story] An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 4

This is continued from here:

Ravi started - "The story of this tree had gone back a few centuries ago.  It was said during that time, there was no roots on the tree and the tree was supposedly young at that time. A banyan tree does not become sacred until it has grown its traditional roots. Even traders after which it is named, do not prefer the shade of a young banyan tree. However, it was a perfect place for young lovers aged 9 and 10. Love had bloomed underneath the loneliness of the banyan tree. It had bloomed even before the concept of love before marriage existed. This was a sacrilege to the family when the word went out of this childhood romance. The family was shamed publicly and the girl was called an whore by th ewomen of the village. Unable to bear the shame, the father took the girl to the center of the village and beat her with the flail. Whole of the village watched and heard the screams of the girl. In a shameful rage, the beatings grew harder and the screams louder until a long silence ensued. The villagers left one by one after the spectacle. Only her mother remained who was taken away by her father letting the body of a girl rot in the searing sun. 

During the night, the boy whom the girl loved so dearly came to her and saw her body. Tears rolled down his eyes. In an inexplicable moment, he pulled out saw blade and cut a chunk of hair, which he admired so much. He walked to their beloved bnayan tree and buried the chunk of hair underneath the banyan tree. The next day, nobobdy noticed the missing hair and were more concerned about burning the body and it was done with swiftness to let normalcy return to the village. However, as the village returned after burning the body, they saw the banyan tree's trunk age like it has been there for centuries. Instead of the roots, it is said that the hairs of the girl grew from it. The next day all the village leaders and women involved in shaming the girl were found dead with a chunk of hair on their lips."

The remaining villagers terrified deserted the village except for the boy who loved. He remained under the tree and hid from his family when they came searching for him. It is said that the boy lived under his death at 100 under the tree, regaling travelers of their love and the story of the roots. The roots however, no longer looked like hairs but they never reached the ground. They just remained hanging there. It was also said one night every month during a full moon, the roots again turn back into hairs and the girl would visit the boy until his death. However, after his death, she comes searching for him and leave a strand of hair who is found underneath the tree

Gopal looked up and said slowly - "Today we have full moon". 

"Things are looking up for us. At this rate, we are about to be the proud recipients of the chunk of hair" - I said.

"Don't worry, man - we are three of us and this is just a story" - Gopal responded.

In midst of this inspirational conversation, we missed the haunted tree becoming visible over the distance. The banyan tree with its hanging roots looked ominous as we came closer to it. Our pace reduced to baby steps as the banyan tree grew larger in our eyes. The wind still swayed rest of the fields. Rustling of the leaves reached our ears as well as the beating of our hearts. Ravi had gone mute and Gopal started checking the height of the barbed wire again. My mind was now noting the observations that Gopal was making as that was our only hope at this stage. Running back was no longer an option as we have already come too deep to escape with our legs. 

As we went ahead, the hanging roots became larger. The nearer we got the rustling and heartbeats only got lot louder. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

[Short Story] An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 3

This is continued from here:
We froze. Eyes opened further and a dark figure was seen moving towards us. "Should we run?" - I murmured. No response. Meanwhile the figure continued to walk towards us at a brisk pace. We stood there as if under a spell. The figure just moved ahead as if it had not noticed us. As it neared, Gopal turned to give way. We followed him with six eyes staring at the lone figure. It came and went away with none of its features distinguishable.

A collective sigh went out once it was no longer visible to us. "He must be a villager" - Gopal said once he left. We were again left alone with our thoughts and tobacco fields. We moved ahead with a little more confidence now. The passing of figure had given some courage to our spirits and our pace increased albeit slightly. 

"Why would a villager walk through these fields at this point of time?”, asked Ravi. 

"I think the same question can be asked of us”, Gopal quipped. A nervous laughter followed. This was the first time we all smiled after embarking the journey and now it felt that it was a matter of time before we would reach college and discharge some of our precious bodily fluid at principal's desk. 

My mind had quietened now and was focussed on getting ahead. Ravi too had relaxed as he started bitching about Maacha. "He was a fool not to come with us. He is the only son and he was pampered a lot by his parents. He can't even go to a bookstore to buy a pen for himself. He needs escort all the time”, said Ravi. Changing the topic, I asked Ravi - "Do you know why the banyan tree is considered to be haunted?"

"Do you really want to know?"

"Yes, tell Ravi. I like a good story.I am getting bored with the silence", said Gopal. Ravi then regaled the story. 

Next Chapter - [Short Story] An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 4

Friday, September 23, 2016

[Short Story] An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 2

This is continued from here - An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 1

Looking back, we could only see the intermittent lights of the truck lighting up the highway. Ravi was the first to break the silence — "We will go ahead only another 500 metres and go back if we can't see anything" Not sure if Ravi was soothing his nerves or ours. But it did the trick, our legs started moving. 

This was not even our bet. Somebody in some other hostel in some drunken bravado had bet someone else on going to the college via the tobacco fields after midnight. Yet after 2 AM, we sober guys with no relations to the people betting or any inclinations to go to the college during day time, three of us here had taken the plunge. 

We had Ravi who brought the story from the happenings of hostel night. There was Gagan, who remained at bus-stop and would have stayed put at home if Ravi hadn't dragged him here. Then there was Gopal who was the risk taker and I was not sure why I was here. My mind was running through the scene again and again when I said yes to figure out how did it go out. 

As our eyes adjusted to the darkness and the subtle moonlight, we could now see the fields like a silent sea waving with the wind. The steps remained small and body ever ready to turn back and run. Suddenly, Gopal moved out and started inspecting the barbed wires surrounding the fields. "What are you doing?" - Ravi shouted.

"If something happens and we need to run, we can run to the fields and hide ourselves. So am checking the height of the barbed wires, so that while running we don't trip and fall over." 

"You can't be serious" - I found my voice.

"There is nothing wrong in being prepared" — came the reply. Ravi said, “barabar che. That's right." I got back to my mind which resumed its investigation.

"What do you think can happen, that we would need to run, Gopal?" - Ravi said. 

"Anything! We might witness murder. And if the murderer sees us, we will have to hide" - Gopal.

"That still does not help us when it comes to non-human entities" - My mind paused its activities. Somehow my mouth had got an additional license of talking without approval from my mind which was still in investigation mode.

"Nothing of that happens. I do agree with Sachin's steps" - Ravi replied nonchalantly.

"What about snakes" - I asked. 

The road had narrowed and foliage were touching feet and anything could be lurking under it. There was no answer. The only sound that I could hear was of our breaths and rustling of the leaves. Luckily, there were no creaking twigs which would have increased our heart rate.

We moved slowly. There was very little light to work with and we were practically feeling our steps ahead. I was only able to make out the broad features of the surrounding. The difference between sky and crops was identifiable. However, no other differentiation could be made out between foliage and earth around it. Eyes and ears strained to see but nothing except for the veil of moonlight around everything which was constant. 

Then there was leaf-less tree right in the middle of the fields. My mind never made these observations the numerous times I had gone through these fields during the day. Yet here it was thinking about all the nonsense when it had to be alert for danger lurking behind, ahead or even right beneath my feet.

Suddenly, Gopal said, “Something's moving."  

Next Chapter - [Short Story] An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 3

Thursday, September 22, 2016

[Short Story] An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 1

"There is no bravery in this." - Gagan a.k.a Maacha said. "If that is the case, why did Ashutosh back out from the challenge", countered Ravi.

"But what I don't understand is what are you going to do there after reaching there?", Maacha was not willing to back down here.

"We will piss in principal's office" - Ravi retorted.

Gopal was now pitching in too — "There is no difference between going to college during the day and night except for the darkness."

"And except for the rumor of the haunted tree, the nocturnes and the other unknowns that might be waiting out there" came out my meek voice.

"But maacha, the whole college will know us as the guys who walked through the fields to college after midnight". Pat came Ravi's response. 

"Also, we will tell your children about your bravery too" Gopal was a solid salesman from the beginning. 

"You guys can go then" - I responded. 

"This will become the night to remember for us and you will miss the boat", asked Gopal. 

"That's bulls**t" 

Gopal  was also scared here. We were all scared. All four of us, stood there in the desolated bus-stop with one tube-light hanging over us. The sound of the trucks whizzing by was the only sound we could hear as all of us stood there reasoning within us. 

Finally, Ravi spoke out — "I am in. Who all are in this?" 

“Am in too”, Gopal replied. 

Maacha said-"You guys go, I am out of this." And then all eyes turned towards me. 

I still do not recall what happened to me but yes went out of my mouth even before my mind could think. 

Maacha was shocked — "You too, Nitesh?" I murmured a yes and looked away. 

Maacha agreed to wait for us here at this desolated bus-stop arguing that this is the farthest he can go and he can't go back alone as there was another dark stretch to the hostel which in our first year of college, he has never made it through alone. Later, we came to know that he slept off under the bright tube-light on desolated bus stop.

So we three of us started towards college to our paths of glory. We moved towards the dusty road leading to the tobacco fields. The darkness jumped on us and we froze for the moment.

[To be continued...]
Next Chapters are given below:

  1. An Unsafe Bet - Chapter 2

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Tree Grows in BrooklynA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I can read, read and read again. I never got tired of this one. It is the story of one Francie Nolan growing up in the poorer neighborhoods of Brooklyn and her coming of age. The story has struggles, pain, fear, courage, humor and all the other things that make up a good book. But what it makes it great is everything is so subtle. All the emotions are just below the surface lying there for us to experience. This is what makes it readable multiple times as we can delve deeper each time we read it.

All the characters are made endearing through Francie's eyes despite their weaknesses. It also revealed her strengths as a person. She was aware that she would always come second compared to her brother when it came to mother's love. Yet she bore the hurt, loved her brother, and mother all the time. As a reader, you felt for Francie. But like Francie, you eventually agree that Mother was right even if it hurt.

There is no grandeur nor any mystery in the book. It only describes the plain everyday existence and survival of the family. Yet, you feel you are the friend that Francie never had, experiencing the joy and pain together as if one. You want Francie to be happy, safe from any hurt and pain.
Other characters - Aunt Sissy, Francie's dad whom Farncie loved much, and Katie - like Francie remain with you long after the last page turns.

This book is not a page-turner and am glad for that as it can be relished slowly taking in each of the emotions and the book allows us to grow up again with Francie.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

The Wind-Up Bird ChronicleThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was a surreal book and although the overall pace slow, the pages went on turning at a nice pace. This the first novel I picked up from Haruki Murukami and I liked the way he built up his glass palace. He introduced characters miserly, however, each of them played their parts to perfection in building of the glass palace. However, if you are religious about cause and effect, this book might disappoint you a bit as some of things in there are there only to be believed.

The story is of Toru Okada who quits his job in a law firm and stays at hoe However, the story starts with losing a cat, searching for it and eventually his wife. However, the story is as much about the daily life of jobless Toru Okada like his ironing the shirt when restless, spaghetti cooking as much his struggle in getting his wife back. The pace is languid and you somehow enjoy the serenity of his life with surprises coming from some or the other corner.

This book is not a fast paced so may not be to everyone's liking. But it more than makes up by those hooks and the interesting characters that sprouts every now and then in Toru's jobless existence. Meanwhile, I will definitely go for Murukami's other works.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Time Traveler's Wife The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book is big jigsaw puzzle with different pieces falling in place at different points of time. As the book moves on, you feel the pieces falling in place and you can see the full picture. It is a story of Henry DeTamble who could time travel due to genetic disorder. It is also the story of Clare who first meets 40 year old Henry at the age of 6, falls in love with him and wait for Henry to appear from the future all her childhood and teen life. With Henry keeping pursed lips about the future and about himself, little Clare is left with her imagination to understand a mysteriously but endearing figure appearing in her meadow.

The most endearing part of the book was Henry talking about his multiple visits to the time when his mother died and seeing his younger self escape just because of time travel. The characters are beautifully etched and you feel that you ought not to leave them even if it means reaching work late. After a certain time, you feel the book itself is time travelling. All this points to a meticulously thought and brilliantly written book.

It is a must-read and the best about it is you can pick it up and read the book from anywhere and it would still make sense due to jigsaw nature of the book. And yeah there is a movie adapted from the book. However, reading the book makes you feel that you are part of the action rather than a mere spectator to the action. I will be watching the movie soon though to reminiscence my reading experience.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

The Hungry TideThe Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book is like the tide it describes. All the characters stays with you until the book is complete and then all that remains with you is the tide, forests, rivers and dolphins.

The story is of Piya a cetacean scientist who comes to Lusibari to study Irrawady dolphins, Kanai, a not so ideal guide who is in Lusibari to read the letters left to him by his late uncle Nirmal and of all the people living in the tide country of Sunderbans.

The writing is smooth as it transports you through the tide country and the life in it with the tigers, struggles, and the mythical story of Bon bibi. The passage of conversation between Fokir and Kanai leading up to leaving Kanai alone in the forest and the one between Kanai and Piya after the tiger attack were pick of the reads in the book.

The quoting of Rania Maria Rilke's Dunio Elegies at the end of Nirmal's letters describing the circumstances left you with something to think about.

There are smaller beautiful stories of places and people interwoven through the main narrative which are like the stories that you get to hear from guides at historical places.

Overall, a beautiful book worth every second of your lazy Sunday afternoon.

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The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

a beautiful book..never wanted it to end... story of a girl, the book thief who loved stealing books and many more who lived on Himmel street, when Hitler reigned narrated by Death haunted by humans

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