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55F: The Ordeal


Image

He had been hanging there for half an hour now with death hovering at his feet. Clinging for dear life, he and the poor souls around him had brought this upon themselves. The ‘Master’ emerged, ceremoniously throwing paper bits at their faces, who finally granted them their freedom after announcing – “Final stop… TNagar bus-stand…”

-x-

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Once Upon A Time…


Kids

Once upon a time…

You hated being called a kid, but everyone loved you for that.

Play time was outside the house.

TV time was on Wednesdays and Fridays to watch Chitrahaar.

You only got to watch cartoons on Doordarshan on Sunday morning.

You loved to tear the blue inland letters for your grandparents, and prided yourself in doing it clean.

You could do absolutely anything, for absolutely anything that tasted sweet.

Getting to sit behind Dad, in the back seat of a scooter, was nothing less than a privilege.

Two milk powder tins, connected with a thread, was the coolest phone you knew.

Getting to watch a movie after 10 in the night was something to brag about to your friends for months.

The only remote controlled vehicle you had, was called a ‘Kite’.

Your biggest fights were with your brother/sister.

The biggest fights you fought, were for your brother/sister.

You were proud to say that you wanted to be a Police Officer.

Sleep was not a problem and you slept like a log whenever you wanted to.

Back aches and muscle pains were only after wrestling the kid from the nearby colony who broke your cricket bat.

At birthday parties, you ate more icing than cake.

You hated shopping for clothes.

your handheld video game, was filled with water and had small plastic balls that had to be put into baskets, by pressing a small button which pumped air.

Mithun Chakraborthy and Govinda were your favorite actors.

You did not care who the actress was.

You believed in Magic.

You believed in Ghosts.

You thought the old, night watchman of the nearby bungalow was one.

You hated Doctors.

You wanted window seats in absolutely any form of transportation you travelled in.

Travelling in an airplane was a once in a lifetime dream.

You saved every paise you could get, to buy a 50 paise chewing gum and collected the small thumbsize card inside them.

A lady teacher, no matter how old she was, was called ‘Miss’.

You hated your Maths Miss.

The best special effects you knew, were in Ramayan or Mahabharat on Doordarshan on Sunday.

There was a TV called Solidaire.

Reality shows were silly dances and skits done in school during a function, or in your colony during the New Year’s eve.

You could crash your cycle with a thud between the legs of your neighbor Uncle, and still be called for Dinner at their home.

You could get away with absolutely anything naughty.

You thought that sharpening a pencil without breaking the shaving was an art.

The only meetings you attended was to decide who would go an fetch the ball that landed at that ever-angry Aunty’s house.

An emergency was when that ball would break her glass window.

The only time you wanted money was when your friends were collecting 1 Rupee each for buying a new ball.

Grown-ups, apart from parents and teachers were of 2 types – Uncles/Aunties, Thatha/Paati-s (Dada/Dadi-s).

You looked at grown-ups and wanted to be one as early as possible.

You grew up and realized what an idiot you were to wish for something like that, and spent Children’s Day writing or reading something like this…

HAPPY CHILDREN’S DAY

GrowingUp

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Short Story: Through Thick and Thin


Babies haven’t any hair:
Old men’s heads are just as bare;
From the cradle to the grave
Lies a haircut and a shave.
 – Samuel Goodman Hoffenstein

 Stages of Hair

Nakul and I are not too different.

We have been friends forever. And we’ve been forever obsessed with our hair.

It all started in Primary school, when the blue eyed Aarthi told both of us how much she liked our hair and how nice it smelled. Our families did not realize that there was something wrong, until Dad’s aftershave, Mom’s skin lotion, the expensive perfume that was gifted for their wedding, started disappearing mysteriously. Nakul’s mom once even complained of losing the Phenol bottle from their bathroom. It was only when my mother broke 3 combs while combing my hair, and Nakul’s mother found his head smelling like the toilet, that they realized that something was wrong. Of course some violence at home ensured that we were back to our normal self, and Aarthi went on to like the tonsured Prabhu. But then, that was the start of a lifelong obsession.

I hated taking a shower as I was scared, I would wash off my hair. My mother, a very qualified 5th Grade Science teacher, educated me that it was common for us to lose hair every day. I knew how dumb the Class 5 guys of my school were and hence did not trust her at all. Nakul told me that he would collect all the hair he lost and then ‘re-insert’ them back. I tried it too, but it was too difficult to keep the head still or risk the inserted hair falling off. I ditched the idea and decided to stop combing my hair completely.

There were two things that I absolutely hated as a kid. One was the vacation trips to Tirupathi, and monthly haircuts. I had nothing against God, trust me. Considering the daily prayers I chanted to keep my mane strong, dense and healthy, I had the utmost respect for the almighty. But I cringed at the thought of offering hair to God. I considered it as evil as sacrificing animals in the name of God. I tried fighting off the trip, but then parents are parents. Every year, for 2 months after the vacation, I would wear a new, super cool cap that an Uncle had bought me from ‘Foreign’. Nakul would vouch for me every time and make the kids feel as if I was cool, even though he knew that the most distant relative I ever had was working in a bank in Bangalore. But then, what are friends for? As if this wasn’t enough punishment once a year, every month I was duly forced into the Barber shop down the street. Sasi Anna was only just learning the ropes from his father there, and Nakul and I were his favorite ‘lab rats’. But then with the years, the three of us grew very close to each other, and in our early teens, we became very very choosy with the way we wanted our hair cut. In fact, we became sort of the in house experts as far as hair style was concerned, and Sasi Anna’s customers began seeking our suggestions. We learnt a bit of the trade too, and once, I even tried cutting my Dad’s hair. That it had serious repercussions, is another story altogether.

Also, I hated my Dad… Seriously. He was definitely the most greatest father any boy could have growing up and my most trusted friend after Nakul. But then his receding hairline kept rubbing it in, that hair loss was hereditary in my family. Every time, he would comb over those few strands of mane to cover the barren patch over his forehead, tears would roll down my eyes watching my future laugh at me. The Autumn of my crown, wasn’t exactly something I was looking forward to. I also realized later that Appa was as angry with his Dad because of the very same thing. The bald portraits of grand old men hanging in the hall was a testament that the men in my family were blessed with hair loss. And that’s when I decided to become a genetic scientist and find a permanent cure for hair loss, and save the men of this world from insanity.

Sadly the world then taught me, that having an ambition alone doesn’t really help unless you have the brains for it. Nakul was no Einstein either. Thus sitting in the last bench of our class in the Computer Science building, we pursued the 3 year Bachelor of Science course for 5 years. We were the cool dudes of our college. Our silky black, shoulder length flowing mane was the talk of the campus. Our HOD loved our hair so much that he would run his fingers through them, grab them and drag us out of the class, every day, for no reason at all. We hated him for it, but then that’s what a college kid is supposed to do. We wore tight, black t-shirts, cool shades, and were practically Rockstars.

Everything was cool until that day in the theater when, a friendly neighborhood Romeo, sitting behind Nakul tried to run his fingers through his hair, mistaking ‘him’ to be a ‘her’, only for Nakul to turn back and give him a heart attack. Not just the Romeo, the girls in the college loved us too. It kind of got a little strange, when we realized that we were beginning to be surrounded by them much more than we really liked. It reached a new low when this first year girl walked up to me and asked in full public view of the entire male population of the college for any tips to keep hair strong and shiny. As flattering as that short conversation was, it also bordered on ‘total damage’ to our Guy ego. Nakul who stood a few steps away from this incident, apparently, bunked the next 2 hours to run off to the Barber Shop. Sasi Anna told me later, that he cried as much as I did when I went there in the evening for the same reason.

After college, I began to work in a small company that didn’t pay too handsomely as some of the other ones did. The work was equally less too, so I didn’t really mind. “Less tension, less hairloss” was what I cited as a reason when somebody questioned my choice of job. That I couldn’t clear any of the interviews in the other big companies was strictly between Nakul, Dad, the old bald interviewers and Me. 🙂 Nakul fared well in this aspect though and landed a job in an MNC with a handsome pay. I was happy for him. Happy that there was someone now who could sponsor those costly hair lotions for me. Working around serious 30 somethings at work, who were just getting started with the fall season of their heads, can be a terrifying experience, you see.

And then slowly, what we had dreaded began happening. It was in no way instant, but hit us slowly like age. In fact it was exactly that – age.

Don’t get me wrong, but both of us were not exactly, what you’d call old. Creeping up on the wrong side of 20’s this was when our families tossed the dreaded ‘M’-word around. Photos were requested, and I went deep into research to find out the angle of the photo that showed the most amount of hair on my head. I honestly felt it odd that my parents screamed, when I gave them a photo of me in a helmet on my bike.

Ah Helmet… Us and that wretched thing go back a long way too. As with any normal guys, we also had the best bikes that we could emotionally blackmail our parents into buying for us, as soon as we entered college. Little did we realize, that with great power, came a stupid responsibility. Helmets… My parents wouldn’t let me touch the bike without a helmet. But there was this sinister, urban legend about the helmets that scared us out of our skins. Apparently there was this powerful curse that anyone wearing a helmet would lose hair faster than you could say ‘aiyayoo’. Just to please Mom and Dad, I would wear one till I left the gates of the apartment, after which it would proudly sit on the fuel tank. I knew it wasn’t safe to drive without a helmet, but I never crossed 45kmph in the city traffic. I was scared, the wind and pollution would blow off my hair. 🙂

But then, one fine day, it became a law to wear a helmet. Nakul and I had this thing for challenging the rules, and we were promptly stopped by this ‘abdominally unchallenged’ traffic cop near the Mount Road signal. It would have been easy if we had just nodded to the sermon administered on road safety and importance of helmets, and paid the 500 Rupees fees for it, but no… As soon as the cop took off his cap and advised us that life was more important than hair, Nakul winced his eyes, put on his shades, looked at the shining second Sun before us and said as sarcastically as humanly possible – “Oh yeah, you would know, won’t you…”. 2 hours and 2000 Rupees later, we were still not convinced that we were wrong. At least we did not land in the jail. 🙂

And as time passed, life moved on, barren patches of experience began dotting the lush thicket of youth, and we began to accept the changes. I married Lakshmi and settled down in Chennai. Nakul on the other hand moved to London with Suja. We kept in touch with each other on Facebook, and rejoiced in watching photos of each other seeing who had more hair. Gradually, a good ‘hair day’ became as simple as having enough strands on the head that day.

And after a good three years he landed in Chennai. We decided we will meet at the beach, our regular hang out. I drove in to the parking lot, helmet and all, checked the hair and marched to meet someone who had seen through the thick and thin with me. Nakul stepped out of the car looking dapper and with much more hair than I expected. We shook hands, grabbed a coffee from the nearby stall and walked towards the beach. 3 years was a long time, and there was way too much to talk. It was a delight to again be hanging out like a bunch of teenagers. Friendship was in the air.

And then, without warning, a strong gust of ‘unfriendly’ wind blew.

Few minutes later, after we fetched our ‘stuff’ from the sand that the cruel wind had knocked down, we looked sheepishly at each other. We were silent for a while and then laughed our hearts out. No, Nakul and I weren’t too different at all.

I don’t consider myself bald, I’m just taller than my hair.
 – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

-x-

Fly Away Hair

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Up & Above


KING This post is published as an entry for the KING AND QUEEN OF 55F CONTEST – The first ever unique, challenge for the coveted title in micro fiction category. To catch the crowning moments and also be part of future editions and other contests, visit and register at Cafe GingerChai

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Up & Above

Yayyy… They shouted, trying to match the thundering roar above them…

Kids clapped their hands in glee as they saw the smoke making all strange shapes like a careless child’s crayon on a blue canvas. “Isn’t it beautiful?” a few eager mom’s asked their awestruck toddlers, who just could not stop watching them and nodding.

—x—

Kids screamed for their lives, while their mothers tried to find them a safe harbor. With hope in their heart and a prayer on their lips, they just hoped that this wouldn’t be that rain of fire that was to burn them alive.

Vrooom… They thundered past overhead like bullets piercing the blue sky…

—x—

Yayyy… They shouted, trying to match the thundering roar above them…

The military jets zipped past the home air-space much to the delight of people waving from below.

They entered enemy territory and had to bomb a target, near a civilian colony.

Vrooom… They thundered past like bullets piercing the blue sky…

It was War…

—x—

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Gotta Get Going – My 3G Life


This is my humble, little, lyrical entry to the Indiblogger – Tata Docomo “What is 3G life to you?” Contest. Check out what 3G is about, powered by the world leaders in 3G.

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Gotta Get Going…

 

My 3G Life


Streamed on my phone, last night’s ODI ended at one,
No wonder getting up in morning didn’t seem too fun,
But then today’s Monday, and Mom might call me anytime.
And I wouldn’t want her to see me asleep during Facetime.

So I jump out of bed, grabs the day’s gazettes.
Not from the porch, but on my trusty old tablet.
I check my emails, there’s a presentation that needs some fixing.
Boss wants it immediately, I download it and get working.

So before no time, I’ve edited and sent the presentation,
while swinging to my favourite tunes from the internet radio station.
And all this on my tablet and phone, without even opening the laptop.
Which I only use when missus is searching video recipes on mobile for mutton chops.

So the phone gets docked, and becomes a full-fledged music player,
While I get ready for office after a warm, refreshing, shower.
I remember that tune that has been stuck in my head so long,
I hum it to my phone and it searches and finds me the name of the song.

I start to office, and my phone sits on my car’s dashboard,
The ever trusty GPS with detailed maps and my favourite routes stored.
Traffic is mean, but I hardly get in stuck in these streets.
My trusty Traffic App re-routes me using live traffic feeds.

At office work takes precedence, but then there is always room for fun,
A quick, little game, some social networking, gets a lot of things done.
The newly married Ramesh emails his Reception photo from Rome.
Picasa is blocked in office, so I see them in hi-res on the phone.

At lunch, I realize its Kirthi’s birthday tomorrow and I don’t have time,
To buy her a gift, so I order her favourite flowers online.
And during checkout, Boss calls up, wants some information.
I speak to him while continuing the payment, without disconnection.

And when works done, I wrap up for the day and start for home.
I’m reminded there is a party to attend by the missus on the phone.
I pick her up and we reach the place, looking good,
She chats up with her friends, bored, I stick to Facebook.

And then suddenly she remembers that her mobile bill is to be paid,
Though the bills have come down significantly, it was still delayed.
I take out my phone and she looks at it and smiles.
She remembers my banking app and knows I can pay bills on the fly.

On our way back, we stop at a traffic signal just near our street,
She looks at the huge banner of a movie soon to be released.
I know it stars her favorite actor and this she really wants to see.
I book tickets for the opening night right at the signal, instantly.

And thus my regular day, like any other, comes to an end.
There is so much that was done, with so little time to spend.
No science fiction this, all of this can be reality.
Gotta Get Going… My Tata Docomo 3G life is calling for me…

 

—x—


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Auto Domination


I am usually at my chirpiest, cheeriest best on Sunday mornings. But this Sunday was different. Very different. With a heavy heart I descended downstairs. I had been ordered to…

Amidst the morning chirp of birds and a gentle cool breeze, with trembling hands I opened the gate. She stood there, pretty as ever, smiling at me with her beautiful eyes. I still loved her, she did too. But I also hoped that she would forgive me for what I was about to do. I had second thoughts about doing it, but I could feel the eyes watching me from the window warning me of the repercussions if I did not. Hesitantly I walked towards her. I looked around to make sure that no one was watching me do this. I stepped up and in the next couple of minutes, left a scar on her which was unbearable to see.

My wife watched me from the balcony and smiled. It sounded like a sinister yell of “You’re mine now…” I was shattered.

There is nothing which dents a motor-head’s ego more than 2 pieces of red tape and the english alphabet synonymous with ‘L‘osers.

Her Auto Domination was complete… 😦

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Critically Yours !


Team This post has been published by me as a team member of Tiger Trails Team for the SUPER 3 round of Bloggers Premier League (BPL) – The first ever unique, elite team blogging event in the history of blogging world. To catch the BPL action and also be part of future editions and other contests, visit and register at Cafe GingerChai

 

Yes Dear I’ll start in next half hour or so. I’m in a small interview. No they are interviewing me. Honest. I swear Dear. Err… Listen I’ll call you back. Half hour max. Text me the address. I will… Listen… OK gotta go honey… Bye… Bye bye…
 

Err… Eh he he, sorry dude. That was the Missus. Have some family function to attend tonight. Some distant relative of her is opening some store somewhere. You know how crazy these things are, don’t you? Alright, let’s get down to business. I’m still not sure if you are serious Sudhi. Hey before that, Coffee? These guys serve the best coffee in town. Take my word for it. 😉 Excuse me, two coffees please? Thank you.

Alright, so let me get this straight. You want my story for a Blogging Competition? You’re kidding me right? Did Sasi put you on to this? And did he tell you everything about me? Everything? Even the beach house… Oh boy, that guy is so dead the next time I see him. Anyways let’s get started then…

It all started when Yours Truly came into this world naked and crying. Mom used to say how much of a commotion I would create. I’d keep wailing every time someone would come near me. But strangely, I would fall quiet, and even hint a smile, when placed with other girl babies or when that good looking nurse would lift me to change my diapers. I had an eye for spotting the good stuff, my dad used to say, and more importantly the talent to find faults, which is why perhaps; I would cry the loudest when that plump, old, matron was on diaper duty. 😉 Karthik… Karthik Rajan was what they named me. Fault finding was in my blood. 🙂

It was in my childhood is when I realized that I had this sinister knack of calling a spade, a spade. Fortunately that’s an age when the children don’t really mind if you are frank and honest. Unfortunately, their grown up parents do. Once I told Raju’s father that he looked like a big water tank on a lorry, when he drove his scooter. Another day I told Subha Aunty that she did not look like Deepa’s Mom at all. She was pleasantly surprised, expecting perhaps that I’d say she looked like her elder sister. I said she looked like her Granny. Hell broke lose, angry stares were exchanged, my little ears were promptly pulled, and other kids were told to stay away from me and my ‘bad influence’. Countless sermons on how I should talk to adults were administered to me by the entire neighborhood. Oh yeah, I was the little devil with a big mouth.

College wasn’t too different either. In college I would flatly tell the lecturers when they really made no sense and hence was quite popular with the rest of the class. This popularity did not extend to the HOD though, in whose office I spent a good deal of my time, helping him give his hoarse and guttural vocal chords some exercise. I was also quite famous for my Hot List 10. That was a weekly top 10 list of good looking girls of the college. I was the only guy who could do the fairest assessment of the maidens of my college. I was also perhaps the only guy to have been slapped by the most women of the college. On one such assessment, I rated an absolutely gorgeous looking girl as number one right on the day she entered college. Everyone seemed to agree, but there were only two miniscule problems. Turns out, she was the newly recruited lecturer for Advanced Mathematics for the first year students, and she also happened to be a relative of the Principal’s. I never saw her after that day; or anyone else from that college for that matter. I was politely asked to leave, but there was nothing polite about the manner in which Dad reacted to that. Years passed, Colleges changed, but I didn’t.

I was a good student in college. Maybe that’s why I never used any of the skills learnt there in my many jobs. I started my career as a Software Tester in a small IT company. My job was to find where they had screwed up during coding, which they politely called defects. And they didn’t call me Mr. Defect Google for nothing. I had some fun initially, but soon it became way too boring. One day when I openly panned a module calling it the worst piece of programming ever. Turned out, the Manager had coded it. He said nothing, but his stare seemed to say everything. IT wasn’t cut out for me, but I really had no other skill or no other source of income to afford losing this job. Hence, I toned myself down and hung in.

I had always wanted to be a reviewer. In fact, every one of us tries to be one at some point of time. When elections happen, when India loses a big cricket match, when budgets are announced, or even when a new family with a good looking girl moves into the neighborhood, the hardcore reviewer in each of us surfaces. But I wanted to make a career out of it. “When you are good at something, never do it for free” a wise man once said. But a reviewer of what, I did not know. I had always loved books, so I started blogging my reviews of them. It wasn’t a huge hit, and there was no moneyin it. But it was liberating. Tearing a book apart in a review, gave me a high like nothing else. A friend of mine recommended me to a local book store and they hired me to do reviews of some books and put that up in their website, hoping to perk their business up. I relished the opportunity. I decided to concentrate on new Authors, because they were a safe bet. The first few books I read were really good. Swaroop, Aarthi S, Pradeep Prasanna and some other guys were truly good. But the rest of them were stale and very clichéd. And I minced no words when writing about them. I was beginning to get noticed. Well perhaps a tad too well noticed, as I found just a few weeks later. Apparently, my reviews were so effective that people stopped buying the books I had reviewed badly. And it was a good number that fell into that category. The book store began to notice that and the owners began pulling their hair out. They told me that I had excellent skills as a reviewer. So much so that I could even make the Bible go out of sales if I ever reviewed it. It sure did prove my power as a critic, but sadly it also cost me that job. I later realized that reviewing books was not for me.

I can review absolutely anything on the planet. From cigarettes to ‘after smoke’ mints, the best watering holes in the city, the most happening place in town to do a bit of, err bird watching, the best joints to hangout with friends without spending any money, to even the people who will lend you money when finances are a bit dry. I’m not too much of a sports guy though, but thankfully, this country of ours isn’t short of critics in that department. I once tried reviewing a politician when he was giving a speech near the bus stand, but I decided to not do that anymore after his crazy follower threatened me at knife point that day.

But one thing I’ve enjoyed doing more over the other things I do, is reviewing and tearing movies apart. After having spent a decent amount of money and a few hours of my time, if a movie doesn’t live up to my expectations, I find nirvana, in tearing it up like there is no tomorrow. Having seen the critic in me from boyhood, Sasi gave me a chance to put my reviews up in his website that was quite popular among his friends. I became instantly popular. Some movie websites would call for reviews from the public, and I would invariably have the reviews of all the movies releasing on Friday, penned and sent on the same day. Slowly, one of the leading movie review portals of the country, FlickBox, offered me a full time role as their in-house movie critic. I gave up my software job, and began to watch movies for a living. 😉 I was loving it.

My reviews were usually cut-throat and spared no one. I was blessed to have employers who believed in being equally forthright. One day there was this over hyped period flick which was releasing to huge expectations. It was made by this new, rich producer, who spared absolutely no expense in promotions for the movie. I hated it to the core. I hated it so much, that I could not even sit till the interval during the preview show. I started typing out the review on my mobile and by the time I reached home, I had my review ready to be sent out to be published. We were the first web site carrying the review of the film. “A Guide On How Not to Make a Film – A Review by Karthik Rajan – A FlickBox Exclusive”. It was a hit. And that was unfortunately, a problem.

A couple of extra strongly worded lines, in my equally strongly worded review of the movie read – “I imagine the Producer of the movie must be one of those rich, plump, dumb, dhoti-clad, business man from a remote village, who has so much money lying at his palatial bungalow, that he does not know what to do with it. After having decked himself in gold, and buying himself some well built, 8 pack endowed, henchmen to move around him, this movie must be his way of challenging the other wealthy, show-offs out there, that he has some mighty big, gold plated balls to make the biggest flop that this country has ever seen.” Turns out I was absolutely right in every respect. (Except perhaps the gold plated balls, which was only a figure of speech, you see) But I had missed one small yet crucial point. The Producer Govardhan Sachidanandham, was also an MLA from the nearby district.

And thus, in true filmy style, I was kidnapped from the parking lot of my office, my face covered with a black cloth, and delivered to the beach house of the MLA. The table with a single bulb hanging from top, the gag on my mouth, the goons brandishing knives, sickles and other sharp objects the size of my leg, looked straight out of a movie torture scene. The lighting could have been scarier, but then, I was not exactly in a position to point that out. Even the MLA standing before me, looked every bit a menacing villain, I’d seen in Bollywood movies. I nearly felt that it was ‘The End’ of my story, when my past came back to save my life. Aarthi, the girl from my college, whom I had never rated above 5 in my Hot List 10 in college, and whom I had once given a big lecture about creative writing and why her writings sucked, happened to be his only daughter. She noticed me being brought in and spoke to her father about me, who I was, and how much I was responsible for her success as a writer. Oh yes, Aarthi S was now an emerging author and was even reviewed favorably by me when I was doing book reviews. She was the angel of the Sachidanandham family. In the huge family of business magnates, she was the only spark of creativity, and the entire family loved her for that. Soon the hanging bulb was replaced by chandeliers, the henchmen replaced with family members, and the gag in my mouth was replaced by laddoos. This was one crazy family. Aarthi’s dad’s ‘loving’ thump on my back had me confused if I was still being tortured. But I was alive, and I had only Aarthi to thank for it. I smiled at her with gratitude in my eyes, and she acknowledged it with a simple smile back. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Now Aarthi and I, we weren’t exactly made for each other. Aarthi Sachidanandham was a girl who was fed on fairy tales and stories of brave, young princes fighting for love and slaying dragons. Sadly, all I’d ever ‘slayed’ were a few mosquitoes with that ‘Made in China’ mosquito zapper bat. And I wasn’t even good at that. She was the most diplomatic, and the most politically correct person, I had ever seen in my life, while I could not even spell diplomacy. However, she would tell me that she was in love with my no-nonsense attitude, and the frankness in my mind. She admired my honesty and outspokenness, and my lack of thinking about consequences. Oh, the things that love does to a person. This was what I’d call being blindly in love. But trust me, Aarthi is a wonderful girl.

I had once remarked to her, on the day that she had saved my life, that I would be indebted to her forever. I told herthat I wouldn’t mind to be her slave for eternity if she wished. I guess she took it rather seriously and proposed marriage one day. Now I sure did love Aarthi, but was in no hurry to get married. But, having seen her father from quite close quarters earlier and the love he had for his daughter, I had now understood when to open my mouth and when to simply nod. And soon enough, the same Govardhan Sachidanandham, who played a cameo as a villain in my story, had now turned character artiste and thus an even bigger baddie in my Technicolor life. He had become my Father-in-Law.

After my marriage I continued to do movie reviews, but had toned down my language significantly. “The director must have been an idiot to have done that” became “With all due respect to the director, he could have handled it differently.” The Sachidanandhams continued to make awful movies, and I continued to avoid them. I felt sorry for the many young men being paraded into the beach-house, their faces covered with black cloth. And besides, everyone was trying their hand at movie reviews, so I thought I’d try something else.

And that’s how Foodline happened. I have been a hardcore foodie right from my college days. So when I decided to leave movie reviewing, Aarthi suggested I pick up food review. It sounded like a fantastic idea. I jumped right in and tried to review a few joints I had been to. It came out brilliant. Aarthi pulled up some of her contacts in a leading magazine, and they gave me an okay to feature my column in there every fortnight. They’ve made me quite a star. I get called by all the big restaurants in the city on opening night, and they usually have a table reserved just for me. I got my ruthlessness back and if some joint doesn’t live up to its promise in quality of food or its decor, one 500 word write up in my column, and they’d be thinking of moving shop. Like that awful Italian restaurant that closed business recently. But if some place manages to impress me, like this place did, I put in a few good words about them in my column, and their business simply takes off. You must read the latest column I’ve written, that comes out tomorrow. Its on this new posh joint called Rendezvous on Khader Nawaz Road. Awful, I tell you. Bland, Pricey and Awful. If you want to see how ruthless I can get, you should read that. I’m now considered the leading food critic of the city no doubt. But behind this success, there is a lot of struggle and a lot of hard work.

What would I tell your readers? Never give up your dream, even if it changes every month. 😉 Be the best in what you do. Speak your mind, but remember this. The key to success is to know when to open your mouth and when to shut up.

That’s all I’ve got to say. Alright boss, gotta run. Say Hi to Sasi for me. Got to attend this function with the Missus. Let me see where that is, she must’ve sent me a text. Khader Nawaz Road.. Rendez…

Give me a minute, I’ve got to make this call.

Hello? Hey Jose, Karthik here. Dude what was the name of the guy who owns Rendezvous that we are tearing up in tomorrow’s edition? Bharathan S? What does that S expand to???

Oh bloody no…

–x–

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The Garage Door


Team This post has been published by me as a team member of Tiger Trails Team for the SUPER 4 round of Bloggers Premier League (BPL) – The first ever unique, elite team blogging event in the history of blogging world. To catch the BPL action and also be part of future editions and other contests, visit and register at Cafe GingerChai

“This guy must be richer than I thought. Insanely rich.” Narendran Iyer mused to himself, as he nervously rested his old legs on the comfortable couch in the middle of a huge hall, of the palatial bungalow, sipping quietly on to a hot cup of tea, all of which, belonged to the affluent and insanely powerful Rajan family of South Chennai. The Rajans were a well to do, and an equally notorious family in Chennai. They practically ruled the Real Estate scene of the city and every new deal, every new business proposal executed around the city, had to have their stamp of approval. Police, Politicians, Businessmen, were their puppets and the current Chief Minister of the state was a not so distant relative of the Rajans’. Power was their middle name. And Narendran sat there hoping for an audience with the young one of the family, Sarvesh Rajan, at his swank beach house property on the ECR. Sarvesh had a property for sale, and Narendran was interested in buying.

Narendran Iyer was getting his daughter married next month, and he felt buying a beach front bungalow would be the perfect gift to the new couple. He had made some calls, and someone had promptly put him onto Sarvesh. He had fixed an appointment for Sunday at the Rajan Home. And Narendran Iyer was promptly there, on time.

As Narendran sat there, extracting the last drop of the delicious, expensive hill-side tea, from the soaked tea leaves at the bottom of the cup, he was making mental calculation of the price that Sarvesh would quote.  “I hope he realizes that I’m not as rich as him and sells it fairly cheap. What on Earth is he going to do with more money?” he mumbled to himself with a smile. He admired the hall he was sitting in. Marble floors and Italian furniture seemed to be in perfect harmony. A grand stairway, the likes of which he had seen only in the movies, lead to a huge portrait of Mr. Vishwendar Rajan, Sarvesh’s Father, in the centre of the hall. The setting was fit for Royalty. However, the only sore point that Narendran felt, was an old, rusty, open door in a distance which seemed to be leading to the garage. “Hmmm. That doesn’t look right” he strained his neck to get a better look.

“Ahem..” a young voice coughed. “Mama will be down here soon. He is taking his medicines.” announced a young man to Narendran. “I hope you are comfortable Mr. Iyer? Would you care for another cup of tea?” he enquired, looking at the empty cup in Narendran’s hand. “Ah, No… Thank you. I’m fine. Please ask Mr. Sarvesh to take his time.” he said in the politest tone possible, putting the tea cup down on the table. “And you are…?” he hesitantly enquired to the identity of his young host.

“You are new here, aren’t you?” spoke the young boy, not more than 18 year old. His new, juvenile, sprouting moustache was the only counter argument to his eyes, which shone with an intensity much ahead of his age. His casual T-Shirt over his faded jeans could have advertised him as yet any other school/college going youngster, if he hadn’t properly introduced himself “My name is Karthik, Mr. Iyer. Karthik Rajan. I am Sarvesh Rajan’s nephew.” He introduced himself, hinting a dash of pride when he said the last line.

“Of course, of course…” continued Narendran extending his hand for a shake. “The reputation of your family shines in your eyes young man. Glad to meet you. I’m sure you’ll carry on the tradition of…”

“Like I said sir, Mama will be downstairs shortly.” Karthi cut short Narendran’s sweet talk. Narendran nodded and sat back down. His eyes went back to the garage door again. Karthi saw that and he had to chip in. “Mr. Iyer, I think this will be the first time you’d be talking to Sarvesh Mama, isn’t it?”

Narendran nodded in agreement.

“Well in that case Sir, it is my duty to educate you about certain facts and truths that you should keep in mind, before meeting Mama, lest you do not irritate him asking something that you shouldn’t. You do know how much of a hot-headed character he is, don’t you?” continued a solemn faced Karthik.

Narendran nodded and sat in rapt attention.

“Mr. Iyer. I shouldn’t be telling you this. Its a family secret, and not many people know it. But I respect your age sir. And knowing well that you are entering into a business deal with the family, it kind of makes you family as well. Also I see that you just cannot take your eyes off the garage door. There is a rather sinister story attached to it. And that’s the reason why that door has been kept that way. A story which explains Mama’s current condition.” Karthik continued, with Narendran listening to him like an attentive child.

“Sarvesh Mama, had a beautiful wife and a lovely young son. They were his greatest possessions that he guarded fiercely with his life. His life revolved around these two. In short he was the happiest person in the whole wide world. Until that cold, December Morning. That cold fateful December Morning.”

“What happened then young man?” asked a curious Narendran, judging the lump in the throat of the narrator.

“Mama wasn’t at home, as he had to go out on a business meeting. Maami and young Jeeva were at home. Those days, there wasn’t much security at home. We Rajans are peace loving people. We’ve never harmed anyone, and there was no reason for others to hurt us either. But clearly, the family’s success and incredible growth, did not go too well with certain people in the city. A few business rivals got together, and planned to get rid of Mama. Three men their faces covered, armed with sickles and knives, sneaked into the bungalow to bump off the indestructible Sarvesh Rajan. He wasn’t home, but his family was. These innocent looking walls have been witness to a sinister and barbaric act that cannot be put down in words. They killed Maami and the innocent little Jeeva in that very garage. The police later reconstructed the events of that night. They dragged Maami by her hair through these stairs and murdered her in the garage.” he choked. “I can not even imagine the coldness in the heart of a man to look at those innocent eyes of a 5 year old, and then see the light of life fading away from them. They were Barbarians Mr. Iyer. Demons. That innocent looking garage, Sir, has been witness to a gory past.” said a choking Karthik, pointing out to the open door.

“Who would do such a thing to a family?” Narendran shook his head.

“They never found out. There was absolutely no evidence left. The top sleuths of Police landed here, and carried on their investigation for months. They found absolutely nothing. The Rajan family hasn’t taken it lightly either. We still have people trying to sniff out the orchestrators of such a gruesome act. And believe me they will be found. And that day, I hope, Mama will go back to being normal from his present condition. That incident affected Mama’s mental health in a way none of us could imagine. Most people don’t know this sir, but the man you are going to meet today is not in perfect mental health.”

Narendran jumped from his seat.

“Relax Sir. He is not like what you think. He is perfectly normal in every sense. Except that he has not come to terms with the loss of the love of his life, yet. Schizophrenia you see. He keeps looking at that rusty garage door every day and every night, expecting his lovely wife to walk back through the door, with his baby in her hand, smiling at him. We have tried explaining to him, but he gets insanely angry when we try to. His medication has been increased of-late, and that is why he doesn’t make as many public appearances as he used to. My Uncle is ill Sir. I hope you treat him with a respect that an ailing man commands. Please do not ask him anything that might hurt him. Please.” Karthik said with tears in his eyes.

Narendran wiped away his tears and said, “Do not worry young man, God is watching. He’ll bring the evil people who’ve done this to your family, to justice. I know that for sure. And I’m intensely grateful to you, to have shared this grief with me. Do not worry Karthi. The Rajans will see this through.”

Just around that time, a man in his thirties, with unkempt hair and an overgrown stubble, wearing a spotless white dhoti and shirt, descended down the stairs. Karthik wiped his eyes, and addressed him, “Mama. This gentleman is here to see you.”

Narendran clasped his hands, stood up and welcomed Sarvesh Rajan, multi-millionaire, business magnet, Real Estate king and lately the face of the Rajan family. He usually kept a low media profile, but was the most approachable, and the most soft spoken member of the Rajan clan. He had heard stories of his kindness and yet ruthless business acumen of the man. And yet the dark glimpse of the man’s history, made him look at him slightly differently. It was a stark reminder that he was human after all. Beyond the aura of royalty, there existed a man who had lost what he had most cherished. A man who wasn’t well. Then in a minute his eyes turned pensive.

“Hello Mr.Iyer. Sorry to keep you waiting. They say I’m not too well, you see.” Sarvesh extended his hand to Narendran.

“Not at all sir. My pleasure.” Narendran shook his hand.

“Would you like to see the bungalow now? It’s quite close. My secretary will accompany you. We can talk business after you see the property.” Sarvesh offered.

“That would be really great. Sure.”

“But I hope you don’t mind waiting a couple of minutes. I usually ask my wife to fetch the keys. Silly tradition you see. She’s my lucky charm.” Sarvesh chuckled with a dry laugh.

Narendran was shocked. He saw Karthik on the other side, clutching his head in despair. Narendran did not know, if he were to pity at the poor state of the man, or humor him by accepting to stay for a while expecting someone who would never return.

“Err…” He muttered.

“It won’t be long Mr. Iyer.” Sarvesh explained pointing to the garage. “She’s in there. You see. Little Jeeva is in there as well I think. Should be out any moment.” he continued, looking gingerly at the door.

Narendran was devastated to see the plight of this man. Why did God choose good men for such a plight, he wondered. He said a silent prayer for the man. He hoped he would realize his loss soon.

“There they are…” cried Sarvesh.

Narendran felt, it wasn’t right for him to stay there anymore, so he started to rise from his seat, when a faint sound of muffled footsteps came from the open door. He sat up with a fright. He turned towards the garage as fast as his body would let him to. What he saw, shook him out of his wits. To his horror, he saw a lady in a red saree, with a baby in her arms, walking out of the door.

“There, see. There they are.” Sarvesh repeated pointing out and breaking into fits of cough.

Narendran looked at Karthik who reached his Uncle’s shoulders and held him softly with grief in his eyes swelling up with tears. Couldn’t the boy see the figures there. Was he sharing the visions of that sick man sitting across him. Was he making him sick as well. Narendran’s heart started beating faster. He rose from his seat and darted out in a flash, fear writ large on his face, with a surprised Vaidi looking at him. Narendran ran as fast his legs could take him, with Sarvesh yelling “Mr. Iyer…? Sir? Hello…”

“There. That patch of dust on your shirt looked hideous.” said Karthik, who dusted off the shoulders of his Uncle’s shirt.

“What’s wrong with him Karthi?” asked Sarvesh.

“Nothing Maama. Nothing at all.” Karthik continued, as he traced the stumbling figure disappear from the room, from the bungalow, and with the sound of a car engine revving up, he figured, from the locality. The man had gone cuckoo, and Karthik cracked a sly smile. He walked towards the portico, a thousand thoughts riding his head on what Mr. Narendran Iyer would be feeling at this point, when suddenly he was startled by a lady in red saree, with a kid in her hand, reaching out to his shoulder.

“Maami… You scared the living daylights out of me.” shrieked Karthi to a beautiful, smiling lady in her late twenties, with a smiling baby in her arms. His aunt walked in with a bowl of unfinished food, and young Jeeva licking the food off his lips.

“There you are. Where were you guys by the way? And what were you doing in that garage?” Sarvesh had all the enquiries directed at his coy wife.

“You know how Jeeva is, don’t you? He and his fussy eating habits are driving me crazy. Your son will only have his meals in your Toyota Corolla, see. And that is why, our garage has sort of become his dining room. How is your cold? Did you take the pills? And Karthi, who is that poor old man who ran away from the house like he had seen a ghost?” asked Sarvesh’s wife.

“Oh, that’s nothing Maami. Just some poor old guy, who I guess was suffering from some mental ailment. Guess the he had one of its mental breakdowns here. Poor thing.” explained Karthik with a glint in his eyes.

“Oh that’s so sad. God bless him.” said his Aunt, as she continued, “Karthi close that wretched garage door now, we should get that lock fixed soon. And someone get that rusty door changed please. It looks quite frightening”

Karthik was more than happy to oblige.

18 year old Karthik Rajan was a student of English Literature. Apparently, Crime Fiction, just happened to be his forte…

——————————————————

Adapted from a short story told to Yours Truly in his childhood by his dear Father. Thanks Dad. 🙂

—x—

This was an excerpt from the Tiger Trails Magazine – The Sunday Roar. Click on the Cover below to enlarge. Click to read the Magazine.

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Reunion – A Perfect Murder


Here’s my entry to the “Mystery Fiction Contest” on Blogadda. This is the climax to the story – “Reunion” by Ajay Nair.

A Perfect Murder

…I knew what had happened that fateful night. Lila was too smart to be killed by anyone. We all had tried our best, but had failed miserably. Only one person amongst us could have killed Lila. And that had to be Lila herself.

But then, Lila was too smart to die….

Lila wanted all of us to suffer, perhaps even die. But she couldn’t do that and risk being caught. And she knew very well that we’ll refuse the poisoned tea that I had once used against her.

And hence she decided on doing the next worse thing. Frame us for murder. All of us had a motive. She had the brains. She spread all the artifacts she had collected from us across the room to try and make all of us suspects. All except one. One who did not have a motive any more.

And then, she pulled out the masterstroke.

Sia, was her identical twin. She was as different from Lila as possible. But then, they shared the same face. A fact that Lila used to her advantage that night. When Sia went in to meet Lila that night, something transpired that none of us could have imagined. Lila cried and apologized profusely to Sia, about how much she had missed her, and how sorry she was to have hurt her. She told her about the virus and how her days were numbered. Sia was sweet. She believed her. Lila, however, smart. She wanted Sia to believe her. Lila offered the poisoned tea to Sia during the conversation and she took the bait. The poison would take some time to take effect, and hence she pulled out one last trick for the evening.

Lila explained to Sia, that for the rest of the evening, she wanted to live like Sia, and begged her to let her take her place for the night. The sweet Sia was so shocked to hear this ‘last wish’ from her ‘dying’ sister, that she readily agreed.

So when Sia, came out crying, it was Lila finishing her masterplan. Sia never realized that she was going to die as Lila. She was shocked and that showed on her face. And then slowly when the poison took effect, it was too late for her.

Lila was dead for the world. But she was alive as Sia. Lila had achieved it – a perfect murder

–x–

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