October 2009


It was one of the smallest mountains in the Eastern Alps. The ever stretching vegetation of oak trees and Scots pine was a treat to watch and it was like a dream come true for me. I had been traveling a lot and I wasn’t sure which country I was in… might be Switzerland or Austria. But I was feeling very much at home and I thanked my geography teacher for giving me such well-chiseled picture of these geographical areas that I never felt like in a unknown territory.

It was cold but dry and the gentle cold breeze flowing through the pine trees made a sweet whistle. I was on a special mission this time…. to take some candid shots of Alpine Apollo butterfly. Among the 20,000 species of butterflies inhabiting this vast earth…..I was wondering why I was attracted towards this particular creature. The reason might be my extreme liking for white colour or my liking for coddlers… like the spots that spoiled the purity of its wings.

I walked through the grove of pine trees to reach a small stretch of scrubland and was hoping for my catch there. These meadows were known to be the abode of such beautiful faunae. And as Google says “I’m feeling lucky” … I was also feeling lucky that day. A kaleidoscope of Appolo butterflies where fluttering on a tiny shrublet nearby. I had always kept the camera ready for any unforeseen action. I rested myself on the ground and adjusted my camera lens. And at that point of time my whole world was focussed on those tiny but beautiful creatures. The perfect frame was set and my brain initiated a signal to my index finger. I was about to click the best shot of my life…. but somebody shook me so hard that my camera slipped off from my hand. I was so furious and taken aback. I turned around to find out the culprit who spoiled my pricey shot. It was a very familiar face…….

“Get up!!! Today is Monday.You have to go to office today, right???” Amma shouted.
“You spoiled my precious shot… Amma” I complained. “And where is my camera??” I asked… still searching on the bed for my lost camera.
“What camera??? It might be in your cupboard” She said, hiding her shock.
“Get ready to go to office… you are already late” She continued and left my room.

I got up from my bed and stretched myself to get rid of the cramps. As I was about to get out of my room, I overheard the hushed voice of Amma… complaining to dad.

“He is very disturbed and has a lot of bad dreams these days. We should consult some astrologer and get a solution for this. I think its a very bad time for him…. Oh God….please take care of him!!!!!”

I retraced my steps and went back to bed wondering about the effect my “Alpine dream” had on my mom….!!!!!

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“When I consider life, ’tis all a cheat. Yet, fooled by hope, men favour the deceit; trust on, and think to-morrow will repay: to-morrow’s falser than the former day.” – John Dryden

Ritz Plaza

Room No: 263

I opened the teak finish wooden door of Room No: 263 and held it open for her to walk in. She softly brushed past my body and I slowly followed her in, locking the door from inside. The room was small but bore an expensive look with the white satin bed cover, matching pillow covers and embroidered curtains. As I walked in, I looked around the room. A wooden cot, a wardrobe with mirror, a coffee table and two chairs were the only furniture in the room.

Worth Rs 1600“, I thought, recollecting the advance I paid to the fat feminine guy at the counter. I had thoughtfully ignored his inquiring glance when I signed the check-in register.

I stood at the doorway admiring the worthiness of the money I spent and completely forgetting the presence of another person in the room. She was comfortably seated on the bed with her hand resting on her bag. I looked at her and realized how beautiful she looked in the peacock blue salwar and light blue shawl. I remember the day when she wore it for the first time. It was on her 21st birthday and her father had gifted this dress to her. That was two years ago and she still looked the same- cute and beautiful. She is Sruthi, my landlord’s daughter.

I couldn’t believe that I was with Sruthi in a hotel room and that too in her home city. It was just one hour before when I got a call from her. I was in the office preparing for a client presentation. She said she wanted to spent some time with me in the evening and I readily obliged because she never had the habit of making such wishes. I made up some reasons and left the office to meet her. She was waiting for me at the bus stop near my office and in fifteen minutes I picked her up from there.

She was unusually silent when she sat next to me in the car. I asked her whether she had some plans for the evening. She shook her head and said that she had left her home in the afternoon saying that she was going back to her hostel. She was doing her Post Graduation in a college which was 100 Kms from here. Since it was already getting dark, there was no chance of her travelling 100 Kms at this time. That was it. She wanted to spend the night with me and I have to make arrangements now. I cannot take her to my place because I was living on the 1st floor of her own house.

Lesson: Don’t fall in love with your land lord’s daughter because you won’t have your own space to spent time with her. I always learn things in the hard way.

I had to find a place stay… a safe place to take her with me. I called a friend to ask his opinion and made up some stories saying that my friend and family are visiting the city and I have to arrange for their stay. He suggested to check in at Ritz Plaza which is beyond the city limits and on the way to the beach. I thanked him and thanked myself for calling the right guy.

It was drizzling as I drove in to the parking lot of Ritz Plaza. I went straight to the fat feminine guy at the counter and motioned Sruthi to occupy the vacant couch at the lobby. I paid the advance, signed the register and silently cursed the rules for making me enter my full name and address for checking in. The front office guy looked straight at my face as he gave the key to Room No: 263.

“Rahul, where are you?” Sruthi quizzed. I was awakened from my thoughts and Sruthi was standing near me.

“Oh yeah. I was just thinking” I answered.

“Thinking about what?” She asked.

“Why did you cancel your trip today?” I asked eventhough I knew what her answer was. But I wanted to hear from her.

“I wanted to spend some time with you and to talk to you” She answered.

“Ok. But why so urgent?” I enquired just to make her lose temper.

“Why? Did I disturb you?” She asked and made a face.

“No, No. But see where we ended up….. in a hotel room” I said mocking displeasure in my voice.

She remained silent.

We had our rare intimate moments together in her house when her parents were not around. I used to take leave from office on those days during her vacation when her parents were not in the house. So being together was not a new thing for us. But that was in the safety of her own house unlike this hotel room. And I need to confess that this was my first experience staying in a hotel with a girl.

My last question had an inverse effect on her and she remained silent for another couple of minutes. I went towards her and sat beside her on the bed. I put my hands around her and gently pulled her towards me. She rested her head on my shoulder as I kissed on her forehead. I looked at her and saw her eyes gleaming. Did I see a tear drop…???? No… I guess!

“Do you love me?” She asked.

“Yes my dear. I love you” I said and kissed her quivering lips.

She clung to me as we descended on the bed and made love.

It was after midnight when I came back to my senses. She was lying on my arms and I had a bad cramp due to her weight. I tried to pull my hand without disturbing her but in vain. My action woke her up and she crawled away from me. I got up from the bed and went to the bath room and had a warm shower. When I came back she was sitting on the bed crossed legged and motioned me to sit beside her. I obeyed her like a child. She pulled me towards her and I rested my head on her lap. She had done this before….. whenever she had to discuss something serious. So I was all ears for her.

“You know Vinod?” She asked.

“Who?” I enquired.

“Vinod….Sankar uncle’s son who is a Doctor in State Service. You have seen him when they visited our home, right?” She asked.

“Yeah. Whats with Vinod?” I quizzed.

Silence followed. And after a couple of minutes she said

“My parents have fixed my marriage with Vinod”

“What?????” I sprang up from her lap and shouted. “You never told me….”

“I had told you that something is fishy…..when they came to visit us last week. It wasn’t a usual visit. I had smelled a rat and had informed you. After that visit my parents were explaining to me a lot about that guy as if I don’t know him. They even asked me whether I like him or not” She explained.

“And remember what you said….. you said that it was just my feeling and there was nothing wrong????” She continued.

“Yeah. But how did it all happen so suddenly?” I quizzed.

“My parents went to Sankar uncle’s place today morning and came back with this happy news” She said sarcastically.

“Vinod has to go for an official trip to Turkey and they wanted this marriage to happen before that” She continued.

I was hell shocked and was walking up and down in the room. I was devastated. I never knew I would have to face this so soon

“You want me to talk to your parents??” I asked.

“Its so late. My father have already given a word and he wont differ. Only way left is to elope with you. Which I cannot do since I don’t’ want to my parents to be unhappy and suffer because of me.” She said.

“What about me? What about our happiness? Will you be happy without me?” I shouted.

“You will forget me soon. Same might be the case with me as well” She said.

“But…” She cut me short.

“Anyway you never wanted any commitments, right? You always wanted to be a free bird and now why are you reacting like this?” She questioned.

“But I love you and I was feeling so complete with you……” I tried to explain.

“Lets not talk about it Rahul. Its Over and I wanted to let you know” She said.

There was a long stint of silence before I talked conveying a false sense of guilt.

“Why didn’t you tell me this when we met today? You should have told this when we came in to this hotel at least”

“No. I wanted you today and I realize that I wont have you anymore. I wanted all the happiness together and wanted you to experience that too. I wanted our relationship to be complete lest I regret in the future” She explained.

The conversation came to a dead end. There was no more questions and explanations. It was like everything came to a stand still.

I looked at my watch. It was 5:30 in the morning. I got up from the bed and dressed up and she followed. We vacated the room and got in to the car.

“Where should I drop you?” I asked.

“At the bus station. I am going back to college” She said.

I didn’t reply.

After a brief silence I asked “When is your wedding?”

“End of this month” She said.

So soon….. I thought. So these are the last few moments. In five minutes she will be on her way and I wont get another chance to call her back. I was feeling the pangs of losing my love. But my inner self was forcing me to remain silent and I obliged.

“Dad will personally invite you and you should be there to bless me” She laughed sardonically. But I ignored her sarcasm.

Soon we reached the bus stand and I stopped the car. As she got out of the car I asked

“Where is the venue of your marriage function?”

“Oh Sorry. I forgot to tell you. Its in the banquet hall of the same hotel Ritz plaza” She smiled and walked towards the bus station.

The midnight ride in Oscar’s car ‘Hyundai i20’ is a routine affair for me. We travel together after the graveyard shift and he drops me near my lodge which is 5 kilometers away from our office. These trips extend to the city bus station on weekends, from where I take a bus back to my home town. I have followed this modus operandi for more than a year.

It was another such usual trip during last weekend. Oscar was guiding the car down the empty four lane and Osbern was playing with the FM stations at the rate of one station per second. I was tired and sleepy and wanted to hit the bed as soon as possible. But the realization that it would take another 4 hours for my wish to be granted, increased my weariness. The comfortable air conditioning inside the car was forcing my eye lids to droop and I was slowly yielding to the “Korean” comforts.

I was suddenly woken up by a loud noise from the radio. Osbern had tuned the radio frequency to a no signal channel which caused the sudden commotion. I looked around. We had almost reached the city bus stand where I was bound to alight. Oscar halted the car near the bus station entry and I slowly and lazily climbed out of the car and from its comforts. I waved them good bye and walked towards the bus bay thinking about the long and tiresome journey back home. The Korean comfort and KSRTC comfort are two contrasting things that I usually experience in a short span of time. This forced me to make a futile decision to buy a Korean comfort or at least an Indian one…. a futile decision ofcourse…. and I make such decisions every
minute.

Since it was Diwali weekend the buses parked in the station were crowded with passengers heading to their home for this festival. During normal weekends, there will be hardly ten passengers in a fifty seater super fast bus and I usually get the liberty to choose the most comfortable seat among the vacant lot.

My limbs started aching and I searched for a  bench to sit and relax till the arrival of the next bus to my destination. There was no vacant space left in any of the benches and I cursed my luck for this buggered night. At last I
decided to lean on a crumbled wall at a corner on the bus bay and I unburdened the growing heaviness from my shoulder and rested the bag on the floor.

And suddenly a strange thing caught my attention. About twenty meters away from me, a shabbily dressed man with long hair was making a loud speech. His countenance and the ruckus he created was a clear testimony of his mental condition. He appeared like a psycho from all angles. Since I had nothing to do but wait for the bus, I decided to heed an ear to this strange man’s speech. He was shouting aloud and that was slowly drawing everybody’s attention.

I had three beautiful daughters….. its not anyone’s fault that all the three were brutally raped… they paid the price for being beautiful….. b*t*hes…..!!!!” and he laughed aloud.

I am a Christian and I married her, who is from a lower caste, thinking that she will love me…. I fought with my parents just for her…… and one day she admitted that all the three daughters were not my kids….. and you know what…. I hacked her to death” He continued to laugh.

You know why these people are attacked everywhere??” He shouted pointing at the ladies sitting in the waiting room. “Its because these b*t*hes are beautiful” and he laughed again.

Suddenly his topic changed. “Buses bound to Delhi and Bombay have just departed and all the f**k*rs who missed the bus have to stay back in Kochi till morning and have to listen to me

Then again he went back to the old topic and repeated the same story. “I had three beautiful daughters…..

He was slowly losing all his audience who were waiting for the rest of his story but they were putting on an act as if they were not interested. It took another half an hour for my bus to arrive and during this interval, he repeated the same story innumerable times without even a slight variation in his tone or his words.

I boarded the bus….. and was amused at myself and the whole bunch of people who were listening to this man…. Who is more insane?? The man or the set of people including me who listened to him…..??? Lunacy and insaneness needs to be defined here….

As the bus departed, I looked at him through the glass window…. he had a new lot of audience listening to him….!!!!!

Your silent prayers
and your love
always reflects in me
the joy of being alive.

You loved and you lost
but you never fell back
still revives the warmth and
the delight of being in love.

Even in a puddle of grief
you smile so heartily
reminds me evermore
the might of being angelic.

Never to rue and regret
you taught me so well
and I cohere by your insights
to learn the art of being you!!!!!

I was woken up by the techno beats of my new ring tone. With out opening my eyes I explored for the phone on my bed… got hold of it and attended the call.

“Hello”, I said somnolently.

“Hello” said a hushed voice on the other end.

“Can you be a bit more louder???” I asked.

But he kept his flaccid tone and I felt more irritated.
“You have just 60 minutes left to get up from your bed, dress up and be present at the meeting place” he articulated.

“What meeting place?” I shouted. “I don’t know you and I am not going to come anywhere!!!”

He laughed and said “You will come”

“I wont!!!” I exclaimed. “I have nothing to do with you. You can try this trick on somebody else.”

He kept his prevalent tone and said “It’s better for you that you believe me. I am not going to do you any harm. I want to help you”

“I don’t need anybody’s help and I am happy the way I am. I have a job, I have a happy family and many friends for company” “What else do I need. I am happy!!” I shouted.

He let out a mild sarcastic laugh and said “Are you??”

I was losing my patience.
“Yes I am” I iterated.

“You say that you have everything and you claim to be happy with the things you have… right?” he asked.

“I am not claiming. I am happy”, I said.

He sighed and said “So you are not unhappy about your boss… you are not unhappy about your job…. you are not unhappy about lack of money….. you are not unhappy about not giving your parents a better standard of living…. you are not unhappy about your health… you are not unhappy about love….. you are not unhappy about your inability to buy a new house or a car….”

“Stop it!!!”, I shouted.

“Why?? Am I wrong anywhere??” He laughed.

“You are……. not wrong!!! But you are not right either” I tried to hide the vexation in my voice.

“So you say that I am right in my discernment” He asked.

I didn’t answer. This guy was making me think. His assessment was more or less correct. No….. He was 100% correct. I just surfed through my memory lane to find that such infelicitous material things haunted me always. But I never wanted to admit.

“Why?? Am I right my boy???” He asked again.

“Yes, you are!!” I said with much hesitance.

“Good. Since you agree, just get up from your bed and start moving. Remember you have just 57 minutes left” He said in an affectionate tone and disconnected the call.

I woke up holding the phone in my hand and I realized that it was the snooze function of the alarm that woke me up. The alarm had sounded 3 minutes before and that was what I misunderstood as the incoming phone call. But the voice and the conversation were still dogging in my mind and I couldn’t believe that there was no such call.

I searched my call list and found that there were no incoming calls in the morning. But there was a memo on the phone’s desktop.

Memo:
Interview @ 9:00 am
Wake up… You lazy boy!
Love. 🙂

Infact, I had planned to skip this interview merely out of laziness. I checked the time and was shocked to find that the time was 8:03 am…. exactly 57 minutes to the scheduled interview. And believe me……. I never kept such a memo!!!!!!

I have started “tweeting” these days but I am not an ardent follower of this micro blogging engine- twitter. Might be because I find it very unwieldy to express myself in 140 characters. But I follow close to 300 people in this social networking champ. Some of them are my friends, some business related and some are eminent personalities and celebrities. One among them is Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Honourable Minister of State for External Affairs. I used to follow his tweets very closely and soon became a big fan of his short, sweet, meaningful and mirthful tweets. I was hopeful that at least through him the Indian politicians will learn to become more liberal and modern in their approach. But it was not so……

As expected in Indian politics, he soon ran in to troubled waters for his tweets. His tweet that he would travel “cattle class in solidarity with all our holy cows” which came in the backdrop of an austerity drive in the Government was hugely rebuked by the Congress party. The power greedy party leaders were trying all the tricks in the trade to throw Dr. Tharoor out of the Ministry. But some how he had a narrow escape this time….. might be because the Party President and the PM could understand the “wit in the tweet”. I think the tweet was just a humorous expression which meant no disrespect to anybody.

However, the comments in various online news sites were far beyond humour. Some comments from the readers of these news portals were urging and advocating to crucify Dr. Tharoor for his wit. Terrible I would say…. because I could not find another word to express my dissent against such ignorant people who tries to find fault with every other guy they meet.

Here I am biased in my thoughts… I like Dr. Tharoor, not as a congress leader but as a prolific author, a columnist and journalist, a humanitarian and human-rights advocate. I have read many of his books and I am a fan of his writing.

Now with this incident, Dr. Tharoor would have got a taste of Indian politics and hope that this won’t lock his key board and his activities. Expecting more of his services to our country and to its people…. and also more tweets as well!!!!!

The lesson learned here is “Look before you tweet!!!!!” for I fear that you will become a scape goat of power politics!!!!