Buddha in the bathing sand

The sun beamed with confidence, or so it seemed, while the dry air exemplified its glory blatantly. The helpless sand, spread over a breadth of overwhelming magnitude, bathed in shades of yellow, much like the oppressor itself. The sparse population of shrubs over the vast expanse of listless sand defied the inherent morbidity of the surroundings. In every direction, as far as the eyes could see, the sand lulled in the bosom of Gaea in complete harmony, much like the boundless oceans, minus the serenity.  Any sane person would argue that it was almost impossible to survive there, but nature has a fondness for proving humans wrong.

Much like the misplaced foliage, a trail of footsteps led across the enduring sand, crossing dunes and drifts into the infinite expanse. But if one looked closely it wasn’t difficult to deduce that the trail was fresh and if one was passionate enough, and perhaps had a pair of binoculars at hand, one could easily make out a person like figure at a distance walking on the inert sand. The man was dressed in Hawaiian shirt coupled with camouflaged bermuda shorts, and causal sandals – the perfect dress for a desert safari. But this wasn’t a desert safari and the man in question was way beyond traditional sense; presumably at a much higher, and unstable, state of being. He walked along with the lingering silence of the golden ocean without a particular thought, or destination, in mind. Proximity to the solitary sands and remoteness from the hubbub, he had presumed, would put his mind at ease; that the deafening silence of loneliness would be more soothing than the reticent noise of survival. So far, reality seemed to be dictating the terms of this atypical undertaking but that didn’t affect the man in the Hawaiian shirt in the least for he was, as any sane man would presume, at a higher state of being. The conventional concepts of success and failure were now distant memories of a clueless childhood; a time when he, too, was a part of the rat race – a period he wasn’t particularly fond of. Moreover, rats didn’t survive the vicious circle of life where the only guiding principle is ‘survival of the fittest’, and he was well acquainted with that fact.

The shadow of doubt looming over his vulnerable self seemed to be dispersing, thinning, with every footprint in the uncharted expanse. Occasionally his mind drifted towards trivial matters and distant memories, but that was to be expected of someone traversing such inhospitable surroundings. The hostile environment was compelling enough to instil a fear of the unknown in any mortal instrument; a creeping anxiety that tightens it grip ever so slowly that no one suspects it until it finally chokes you into obsidian. But this was no ordinary man, and his sense of adventure far outweighed his insecurities and indecision; a trap which the common man is just too clever to evade. He advanced in the strange land with such certainty that one would believe he belonged there – although the idea stems from the apex of idiocy – unlike the sparse foliage.

In the distance, to his right, he could see another figure; another shadow. Any sane person would assume it to be another misplaced entity – another misguided soul that wandered the land of the golden sand in pursuit of answers; a soul that needed guidance; a soul that needed help. But the man in the bermuda shorts knew better. He had been tricked far too many times to be tricked ever again. And so the lousy attempt by the corrosive desert dissolved into nothingness, like a mirage within reach. A faint smile curled upon his lips as he registered this fine victory against the revolting desert. He knew that this was neither the end nor the beginning for he had been at odds with life since the time he could remember, or chose to remember. But this was certainly a step in the right direction because no one actually cared to stop you from moving in the wrong direction. This modest victory steeled his resolve to continue on his journey with a newfound confidence; another brick in the towering wall.

The trail of footprints in the golden sands kept on elongating as the mighty sun retreated from the majestic sky, its fading light casting shades of orange and red over the golden ocean, bidding farewell to the Buddha in the bathing sand. Buddha’s journey would be long and remarkable and the mighty sun didn’t want to miss the opportunity to greet him with a beaming smile the next morning. And while the charming night enjoyed the company of the man in Hawaiian shirt coupled with bermuda shorts and his cultivated thoughts, the mighty sun waited patiently to illuminate the ocean of golden sands and the Buddha’s receptive mind.

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The Collector

The retreating rays of the mighty sun, having travelled longer distance, dispersed into its various shades of life, leaving behind the blue-green tinge and cutting through the surroundings like knife in butter, transforming everything into different shades of a ripe apricot. The greenish water of Yamuna and the much clearer water of Ganga couldn’t elude the influence of the charming dusk.

While most of the people were either busy appreciating the beauty of this holy land or fishing to feed their families, ‘The Collector’ stood on a wooden platform, carefully hooked to the river bed, his eyes scanning the fuzzy boundary where the holiness of Ganga and tranquillity of Yamuna met the spirituality of Saraswati; a confluence of sanctity, and treasure. A fairly big piece of magnet dangled from his fishing line which was neatly looped in his right hand. For a few moments he just stood there, the piece of magnet swaying back and forth, like a pendulum, while his mind wandered off to distant thoughts. He looked at his small boat carefully tied to the wooden platform and found his battered slipper neatly placed near the front end of the boat. A thought crossed his mind but he dismissed it because he had much more important matters to attend to.

He placed the fishing line at the platform and threw the magnet towards the holy confluence of rivers. This was the place where he would find countless coins; not because of the sheer quantity but as a result of his inability to keep a valid count after twenty. So he usually counted to twenty and dropped the idea after that. Once the line stopped shifting and he was satisfied that the piece of magnet was patiently resting at the river bed awaiting further instructions, he started pulling the fishing line slowly, gathering the excess of it at his feet, and felt the gradually increasing weight of the magnet as more and more coins stuck to it. Hundreds of pilgrims visited this holy site each day and paid their homage to the river goddess in the form of coins, coconuts and flowers. He wasn’t concerned with the coconut and flowers so he never paid any attention to them. Besides, the coconut department was allotted to the apprentices of the priests who carried out all the important invocations.

He pulled the magnet piece out of water, removed and collected all the coins in a small satchel attached to his shorts and threw the magnet towards a different spot. He carried out this routine daily, seven to eight times or until the light faded. When his satchel grew heavy and he was convinced there were no more coins in his area, he got on his boat, untied it from the bamboo making up the platform and started rowing towards the bank. It would take him thirty to forty minutes to reach the bank and another 30 minutes to reach the market. He hoped to make it home before dinner time so he didn’t miss his favourite piece of the fish, its head.

The boy reached a footwear shop in the nearby market, the only one he knew, and placed his satchel brimming with coins at the counter of the shop and demanded,

“I need slippers for my little sister.”

“What?” the vendor was surprised at the audacity of this little boy. “What did you say?”

“I need slippers for my little sister. She is three years old.”

“And you’ve brought all these coins to buy a pair of slippers?”

“Yes. That’s all I have.”

“Do you think I am roadside beggar who would accept all these coins?”

“No. But I only have coins.”

The vendor looked frustratingly at the little kid and was thinking about shooing him away when he felt the weight of the satchel placed over the counter. It seemed fairly heavy and he wondered how much money it actually contained. His eyes fell on the little boy and then towards his feet.

“I don’t have slippers for a three year old. But you could use a pair yourself, don’t you think?”

The boy looked at his feet, thought for a moment and then replied, “No. I need slippers for my sister. She hurt herself while walking barefoot.”

The idea of parting with the satchel made the vendor look around his shop and his eyes fell on a used pair of slippers, a little too big for a three year old.

“Look boy, since you are so sincere I think I can help you. I have a pair of slippers that might fulfil your need. You won’t find a deal sweeter than this in any shop. Moreover, no vendor would accept such a tiny sum and that too in coins,” the vendor told the boy, showing him the used pair of slippers.

The boy didn’t know any footwear shop other than this. He looked at the slippers, his only option, which looked a tad big for a three year old. He kept gazing at the slippers deep in thought.

“Come on boy, I don’t have all day”

“I will take them,” announced the boy.

The vendor quickly placed the satchel full of money in one his cupboards, packed the pair of slippers in newspaper and handed it to the boy.

“You should be thankful. You couldn’t have got a deal sweeter than this anywhere else. I am in a good mood today. You’re lucky.”

The boy thanked the vendor, and then the river goddess who had showered their blessings on him. He ran towards his home; the thought of his sister’s smiling face when he would present the slippers to her put a big smile across his face. That evening he felt proud, and happy. And this happiness was quite different from the one that he usually experienced with the first bunch of coins in his hand; this was more meaningful, in contrast to the coins.

‘How can I let her go!’ by Sandeep Sharma

Another drink will help, well, may be it should help. He filled up his empty glass and gulped it down his already burning throat. ‘Pain kills pain’, he believed. He smiled with teary eyes. Once the burning of his throat stopped, that same pain came back from his chest. The weight of someone’s memories, some unfulfilled dreams, promises & desires, all together on his heart. He could feel the painful heaviness. He needs another drink.
He took the bottle & tried to empty the already empty bottle in the empty glass to fulfil his empty wish of letting her go out of his heart.
He laughed to see his foolishness. Tears fell down his red eyes. He heard someone sobbing from the next room but ignored. He had much to worry about other than that sound.
Balancing himself, he tried to get up from the couch on which he had spent maximum of his time after getting married.
Somehow he reached the desktop. He had sleepy eyes but still, wanted to see something else other than the bed.
He logged on the desktop and opened up the secret folder where his life was hiding from the world.
‘This folder is empty’.
He closed his eyes when realized what he had done few days back. The question was not that what he did was right or wrong but the question was, what could be the remedy of it? How he’s going to let her go. How?
He looked around, a room with memories, those quite and calm sleepy days and naughty nights; there was no feeling, there was nothing that they had left to share with each other, except that one photograph on which his gaze finally got fixed upon. Photograph of his marriage. How badly he wished to see ‘her’ instead of her.
He wanted to cry, or rather howl in pain and let everyone know what he is feeling right now but he stopped. A promise stopped him, a promise of never crying. ‘How cruel you are!’ He thought and smiled in pain.
Finally, he decided to hit the bed next to the lady whom he never loved but got married in hope of moving on in life, just like ‘she’ did. He was not angry on her, how could he ever be? He was just following the road that ‘she’ paved for him but nothing worked for him and may be, for ‘her’ too.
He looked at the clock, 2 ‘ o clock, time to sleep. He forwarded towards the bedroom where his wife was still sobbing. He felt bad for her. Three or may be four lives got destroyed because of one love. He had to let her go and give his wife what she deserves.
He grabbed her from behind while falling on bed next to her, rubbed her wet eyes and when she turned, he faked a smile too.
He could see ‘her’ in his wife. He knew he was hallucinating but still hugged her tightly and asked the almighty, ‘how can I let her go!’.

A RADIO… BY SANDEEP SHARMA – SHORT STORY

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His eyes were glued to that clock hanging on the opposite wall. ‘Ten minutes remaining’, he thought. He could hear three different voices pretty clearly at that moment; the screeching voice of the rocking chair on which he was resting, the slow momentary revolving of the ceiling fan that produces only an illusion of air being thrown and the tick-tock of the wall clock.

‘Five more minutes’. He coughed, adjusted his spectacles and slowly tried to stand on his feet. His 68 years old body ached on holding his 42 kg of weight. Somehow, he had dealt with the pain and went straight in the kitchen to grab a glass of water. He gulped down in a hurry with shaking hands. He again focused his stare on the wall clock.

‘2 more minutes.’ A slight smile appeared on his lips. Slowly he reached the wardrobe, opened it and pulled out that old Radio; the radio which was his only companion in that empty ‘lifeless’ house.

He switched on the radio, adjusted the frequency and waited for her on the rocking chair.

“Good Evening Agra…… Today we will….” She spoke through the radio. Instantly he closed his eyes to enjoy those 4 hours of her voice. Now for him, all other voices had no meaning. The only happiness, the only light in the dark cave, the only string of attachment left for him to live was that girl’s voice on his old radio.

Those 4 hours were everything for him. That voice on the radio was like a time portal for him. His door to escape from the reality and reliving those days, days which he spent with her, days he would cherish forever.

“And now the final song of the night is…..” 4 hours had passed and the moment had arrived. “So good night Agra, we’ll meet up again……” He left his rocking chair, forwarded towards the radio and put his hand over the top of it, as if giving his blessings to someone and said, “Good night Babu. Stay blessed.” He switched off the radio, placed it in the wardrobe again and headed towards the bed.

The life was never the same for him; it never does for anyone. He had a family; a beautiful wife, an obedient son and homely daughter in law. But the one with whom he had the best relationship was Pooja, his grand-daughter.

*****

“Dada, please make my father stop. I don’t want to leave you.” Pooja pleaded in front of him. His son had got a promotion in his job and with that promotion came a posting too. It was difficult for him too to break the 15 year old bond which he had with Pooja but there was no other option as well.

“Arre Babu, Delhi is not that far from here. Just 5 hours journey. I’ll be visiting my Babu in every few weeks. I’ll also……….” Pooja was furious then. She never expected her Dada to behave like that. She wanted her Dada to at least try.

“Leave it Dada. Good Night.” Pooja said. If this would be a normal day, she would have waited for her Dada’s blessing but that day wasn’t a normal one. She left but he did raise his right hand and blessed her, “Good Night Babu. Stay Blessed.”

Next day, three of them left leaving him and his wife alone in the home of five. They left in a car but never reached Delhi, their destination. The old man was expecting a phone call from his son informing about their safe arrivals but nothing came. The only thing which came was the news that the car faced an accident on the highway and all the occupants died on the spot. That news shook the old man but attacked his wife’s heart. She died the next day because of heart attack.

Within two days, his family shattered all together. He could see nothing; it was as if walking through the dark cave. The only thing he could see was the ceiling fan and a saree of his wife. He was ready to leave the world of millions because he could not bear the pain of living alone.

He was ready for suicide but god had some other will. No one knows how that old Radio started to speak. It was heavenly broadcast, may be just for him because dead people never speaks on public broadcast and that too on Radio. He was amazed to hear Pooja’s voice on that Radio.

Finally he could see a ray of hope to live in the dark cave of his own existence.

*****

2 more minutes.’ He read the wall clock. His body was aching a lot, more than usual. He coughed and continued coughing till his own breath lost control over its functioning. Slowly, keeping the balance on both the legs he moved towards the wardrobe and grabbed the radio. Switched on, adjusted the frequency and waited for Pooja’s voice. He coughed again, vigorously this time. Some blood appeared on his hand which was on his mouth.

“Good Evening Agra…..” The radio turned alive. “Today we’ll be doing something crazy; the thing which we haven’t done before. We’ll be calling some random telephone numbers from here and will have some fun. So are you ready…..” She kept on talking. He was enjoying the show but was also losing his control over his own breathing too. Something was wrong. He could feel coldness, numbness and blankness. A sudden fear getting replaced with sudden calmness.

He fell off the chair. Finally, he knew what was happening. He was ready for it; ready to surrender his life in the hands of death. He closed his eyes and waiting to see the ultimate brightness. But on that particular moment his phone started to ring. A last wish emerged in the dying heart. He could hear the radio’s voice; someone’s phone was ringing there too. Pooja called me?

The calmness disappeared and fear took over. ‘I want to attend this call’. He pushed himself up and while panting and coughing covered his final steps and reached the phone. He picked the receiver and fell down on the ground.

“Dada….” Pooja said. He smiled, few tears rolled down his eyes, “Good Night Dada. We miss you here.”

“Good Night Babu. Stay Blessed.” He said and with a smile on his face, left his body.

The voice over the radio continued talking to some other random guy.

******

THIS STORY IS A PART OF COMPETITION ‘TAB WAR’ ORGANISED BY THE AUTHOR’s BLOG. THE CORE MEMBERS OF THE AUTHOR’s BLOG ARE COMPETING AGAINST EACH OTHER THROUGH THEIR STORIES. A STORY WILL BE PUBLISHED EACH DAY BY ONE CORE MEMBER. THERE ARE THREE COMPETITORS HENCE THERE WILL BE SIX STORIES IN ONE WEEK.

READERS ARE REQUESTED TO REVIEW THIS STORY AND RATE IT OUT OF FIVE. READERS COMMENTING ON ALL SIX STORIES WILL BE AWARDED BY ASSURED GIFTS. THE RESULT WILL BE DECLARED AFTER THE COMPETITION IS OVER.

THANK YOU! HAPPY READING.

TAB War

    

 

The Majestic Lion

The Majestic Lion

Bright sunlight illuminated the CENTRAL ZOO as the gentle wind carried the withered leaves across the paved paths. The autumn break brought a whole lot of people to the zoo because of the amazing weather coupled with pressing holidays. The zoo authority celebrated this period as a mega carnival event. The whole zoo was dressed in bright and beautiful colors. The sounds of various animals filled the ambience with an unusual energy.

Various stage shows featuring some of the very talented animals of the zoo were organized along the length and breadth of zoo. Some of them featured apes, some featured parrots & there was a ‘Dolly the Dolphin’ special. But there was one show which attracted people in hundreds and thousands. The show was fairly popular among teenagers, and the kids loved it. Spotlight show of the carnival, ‘The Majestic Lion’.

The majestic lion was staged twice a day because of its excessive popularity. The morning show remained fairly crowded but the evening show acted as people-magnet. The show featured one of the biggest cats one has ever seen. That 5 feet high cat was called Tim. Tim was particularly the favorite of the ringmaster as he was quite obedient and pretty harmless, until unless infuriated of course. He did bruise his caretakers every now and then because of his large body but never injured anyone critically.

The act seemed like any other act involving lions but the presence of ‘BIG TIM’ made it majestic. The act was performed on a ground set rather than an elevated stage. The whole setup was designed in a way such that it looked like a jungle scenery. The audience was seated in a semi-circular ascending stairs arrangement. There was no barrier or boundary separating the performing ground and the audience, which added to the thrill.

The act starts with soft music. A small family is shown camping peacefully in the woods. Few moments later, their camp is attacked by a group of dacoits. The dacoits start killing the family members and taking their belongings. Soon one of them spots a small kid hiding in one of the shady tents. The dacoits encircle him, stealing glances, as who should finish him. That is when the ringmaster, seated on an elevated platform, fires a gun-shot in the air. From a large opening in the rock setting just around the tress, jump-enters Tim with an alarming roar. All the bandits are terrified on seeing the giant cat and starts running here and there to escape the big beast’s wrath. Tim gives another loud roar to the panic-stricken dacoits, pounces at one or two, carefully pushing them aside and when all of them run away from the scene in a jiffy, Tim looks at the small kid and starts walking slowly towards him. Tim stops right in front of the kid, looks at him for a little while and then raises his front-right leg in air. The small kid shuts his eyes in terror. Tim lightly places his paw on the kid’s left shoulder. The kid opens his eyes and looks at the great cat standing in front of him. They both maintain eye contact for a few moments. The kid’s terror-stricken face upholds a beautiful smile as Tim bends down in front of him. The small kid jumps on his back. Tim faces the audience and delivers another loud roar and with the kid on his back sprawls towards the same rock opening. Just before entering the artificial cave Tim stops, looks back at the audience, roars one last time and then enters the artificial cave leading to the backstage arena. The act is followed by different stunts and acts by Tim, some of which are coupled with the kid.

But this act was different. The crowd assembled as usual on the semi-circular ascending stairs and the show started as usual. But the environment was filled with bizarre motility. The dacoits entered the scene and started doing what they were good at; acting. The excited audience watched keenly, desperately waiting for the majestic lion. Some of them were familiar with the show but most of them were watching it for the first time. Suddenly everyone’s attention diverted as three men came running towards the set. All of them had hand-guns and wore black face masks. A streak of terror ran through the audience. Some thought it was a new addition to the show while others started leaving their seats and running towards the exit.

“Be seated you morons! Or each one of you will die”, shouted the biggest of the three. The announcement made the audience go wild. He signaled the other two men to move towards the exit.

“Captain, this man has a gun!” spoke one of the mobster pointing at the ringmaster.

“So what are you waiting for? Take it from him!” shouted the big guy to the layman.

The ringmaster had no choice but to comply with the situation. He was in-process of raising his gun-hand to throw it away when the layman saw him. He instantly pointed his gun in the ringmaster’s direction and fired a warning shot. The bullet passed through the ringmaster’s vicinity without doing any damage.

“Don’t even dare! The next bullet will pass right through….”

At that very moment Tim jumped in from the artificial cave opening with a loud roar, stealing everyone’s attention. The three mobsters were terrified on seeing such a large beast. The big guy stumbled and fell on the ground while the other two guys ran towards the exit to save their lives. The actors, including the kid, disappeared within seconds and were nowhere to be seen. The ringmaster had no choice but to remain in his position on the elevated platform.

Big Tim seemed confused with the change in routine. He glared at the stampede of audience and at the empty set. The usual people covered in black were nowhere to be seen. Soon he spotted the big guy with the black mask. Eventually he was the only one around with some black clothing. A completely different setup irritated him. An enraged Tim gave a loud roar and started walking slowly towards the big guy, who was on in feet again. The big guy was frozen to the bones on seeing such a big beast walking towards him. At that moment reality struck, thawing his frozen brain. He picked up his gun and pointed it in Tim’s direction. Tim halted at his action, and roared, in reaction. This big guy wasn’t that friendly after all. His trembling fingers were searching for the trigger when suddenly… BAM!…THUD… a hard punch knocked him out.

It was a young man, seemingly 23 or 24 years old. Eventually he was a big fan of Tim, the majestic lion, and was there to watch him live for the first time. He had heard about him in news and read about him in newspapers. He wasn’t ready to watch him die on their first encounter. Big Tim relaxed a bit after the downfall of big guy but any sharp change in his behavior was hard to notice. Now, with the big man down, the young guy was the last man standing. The young man held his breath as the big cat started walking again.

Someone from the back shouted “Run…”, but it was a bit late to act. Tim now stood at a few feet’s distance from the young guy. Tim stared at him for a few moments and then gave a low-pitched roar. Tim seemed pretty harmless during all those stunts shown on Television, but standing against that five feet high cat face-to-face was something different altogether. The young man’s heart skipped a beat or two. The stampede of audience paused to look at the young man about to be mauled by the great beast. The ringmaster picked up his gun. Looking at Tim’s giant claws and razor sharp canines, the young lad nearly passed out of terror. But then, the unexpected happened. Tim bent his head down in front of the young.

Everyone was surprised at the unexpected scene which unfolded before them. The young guy looked at big Tim in amazement. He wasn’t sure if he should run or just stand there. He looked towards the ringmaster standing atop the elevated pavement. A short smile curled up on ringmaster’s face as he saw the whole act. He signaled the young lad to put his right hand on Tim’s head. The young guy, skeptical at first, put his right hand on Tim’s head. The ringmaster further signaled him to move his hand around and rub him gently. The young guy followed the trail and big Tim seemed to enjoy it.

The remaining people watched the whole scene in amazement. The ringmaster started clapping, gradually joined by everyone present. Tim moved around the set one last time acknowledging the audience and then moved towards the artificial cave exit. But the clapping continued, getting louder by the moment. Tim had played his part well, but today the claps were not for him. Everyone clapped and clapped, acknowledging the great show which unfolded before them. The great show called ‘The Majestic Lion’.

 

**********

THIS STORY IS A PART OF COMPETITION ‘TAB WAR’ ORGANISED BY THE AUTHOR’s BLOG. THE CORE MEMBERS OF THE AUTHOR’s BLOG ARE COMPETING AGAINST EACH OTHER THROUGH THEIR STORIES. A STORY WILL BE PUBLISHED EACH DAY BY ONE CORE MEMBER. THERE ARE THREE COMPETITORS HENCE THERE WILL BE SIX STORIES IN ONE WEEK.

READERS ARE REQUESTED TO REVIEW THIS STORY AND RATE IT OUT OF FIVE. READERS COMMENTING ON ALL SIX STORIES WILL BE AWARDED BY ASSURED GIFTS. THE RESULT WILL BE DECLARED AFTER THE COMPETITION IS OVER.

THANK YOU! HAPPY READING.

TAB War

TRILOKPURI

TRILOKPURI

Abdul was in hurry. He had to reach the factory before 8:30AM otherwise Basher, his supervisor, would complain against him and would cut a part from his salary that he needed so badly that if he was on the death bed, he would prefer to work in the factory and get his daily wage, then only he would allow himself to die. His hundred rupees per day wage had that much importance in his life. Abdul was a carpenter who worked for a small scale industry named Mohamad Furniture, which supplied its furniture to every middle class family of Trilokpuri.

Abdul was in his late fifties. He had long brown beard on his chin. He always wore white kurta and blue lungi and perforated Islamic white skull cap. His hands were rough like rusted iron and he smelt like fish.

In no time, he was at entrance gate of the factory. Basher was furious. Abdul looked at him in all sorry, hoping for a tiny little sign of mercy. With his wrinkled helpless face and dull sunken eyes Abdul looked at him like an enmeshed deer. Basher hammered his left fist on his right palm and tightened his jaw. In fury, he rushed away, so much in Abdul’s relief. If Abdul had not been the savior of Basher’s sixteen year old son from the group of hindus who were about to behead his son when he was caught trying to rape panditji’s daughter, Abdul would have been a dead man.

Basher was about seven feet tall with broad shoulders and rock hard chest. He had a long scar across his face which made him look like an enormous monster. Apart from the factory, he had a butcher shop at his home. He used to slaughter one goat per day before coming to the factory which made him a ruthless, heartless Islamic fellow. He had connections with regional MPs. MPs who were never found sitting in the parliament. They were found naked either with their mistress or in their king size swimming pool, whereas Trilokpuri was in serious crisis of water supply for three years.

‘You lucky bastard, how did you save yourself from the wrath of Basher?’ Jafar, a colleague of Abdul said while sawing the wood.

‘I saved his son form the kafirs yesterday; that brat was trying to rape pandit’s daughter.

‘She got raped?’

‘He was caught before anything could happen.’

‘May Allah forbid his sin. How about Rihan? Is he well now?’

Rihan was the only son of Abdul. Abdul had four more daughters who never got any affection from their father. They were in the age range of five to fifteen but nobody ever had seen the school. They were never allowed to go to school, not even when his eight year old daughter told him that she wanted to go school. Abdul was so drunk that night that he couldn’t see the dreams behind his little angel’s eyes. He slapped her and after that no girl ever dared to ask for admission in school. Rihan, on the other hand, was blessed with the male organ, and so with the only school of Trilokpuri, but he had a hole in his heart. Doctors were demanding a huge amount of money for the operation, the reason why Abdul could not afford a loss of hundred rupees just for being late on work. He was saving money bit by bit but wasn’t sure if that would be sufficient for the operation? His wife also used to work as a maid in nearby houses, but only of Muslim’s. She once tried to change her name and worked as Savitri in a hindu family but as they got to know about it, they had beaten her almost to death.

‘Yes he is recovering. Doctor says that after the operation he would be perfectly fine and would be able to go school and play like normal kids.’ Abdul said as his eyes shimmered with the little sign of hope and moist.

Inshallah!

In the evening Abdul’s elder daughter came to factory and asked the gatekeepers to call her father. Rihan had got attack and was vomiting blood. That was not new for Abdul. He had been called several times from the factory when Rihan had those attacks. But this time her daughter told him that he was not responding after vomiting. He immediately decided to call it a day and asked Basher for a leave. Basher being a father of a boy granted him leave, only on one condition that Abdul would do extra time on next day and would not be paid for it. Abdul agreed. Abdul ordered his daughter to go to Doctor’s house and to bring him with her and also reminded her to bring injection for Rihan.

In the meantime, evening namaz had started in the only mosque of Trilokpuri. A huge size loudspeaker installed at minaret was echoing the ayats of kuran. The streets of Trilokpuri were calm and empty.

The condition of Rihan was critical when Abdul reached home. He had spat blood all over the floor. Abdul knew Rihan needed injection and in no time Doctor would be here and everything would be fine. He consoled his wife. Sometimes Rihan opened his eyes and closed again after seeing his father near him. They both were waiting, waiting for the doctor, and it was killing both of them. Suddenly there was loud and frequent knocks on the door. They were there. Doctor had arrived. Abdul got on his feet quickly and opened the door.

‘Pull out your sword, those motherfucker kafirs have burnt our houses.’ Jafar was there. He had long blood coated sword in his hands. The color of his sword was exactly like his eyes. Red and wet.

‘What happened?’ Abdul said in utter disbelief.

‘Pandit and his group has beheaded Basher’s son. They burnt our houses and raped our sisters. We need you now. Pull out your sword. We will cut them all.’

‘But my son…’

Jafar took Abdul’s arm and put a sword in his hand, ‘They will not leave anybody.’

‘And Abdul could not even see his only son for the last time. The entire Trilokpuri cried. Nation cried. Saffron cried, Green cried. But white was still silent like the streets of Trilokpuri, calm and empty. Watching everybody and hiding its tears. So in the unfortunate riots of Trilokpuri forty, two men and one child was killed.’’ A news reporter of famous news channel said in her mike.

‘So where are we going?’ cameraman said after shutting down his camera.

A drop of tear trickled down her cheek as she saw the ocean of bodies, a stethoscope and a broken bottle of injection on the streets of Trilokpuri.

*****

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AN IMPERFECT SKETCH… BY SANDEEP SHARMA- SHORT STORY

Girl-Sketch copy

PART-1

BLANK. Slowly the voices around him started to fade away. The air around him started to grow colder. The movement of everything around him started to slow down. The only thing he had in his mind when he was losing control over his senses was the image of Shikha’s smile. He could see her; she was just there, smiling, calling up his name. He raised his hand in the hope of just touching her for the last time but right then second bullet pierced his chest. He fell.

The pain was unbearable but his lips were still smiling. He was smiling because his love, Shikha was there for him. She was calling his name. Her hair locks were calling Puneet to play with his fingers. Her lips were asking to be kissed. Her hands were dying to have a touch of him. Every part of her was feeling jealous of her eyes because it was just her eyes whose dream was getting fulfilled at that very moment.

“Cover me!!!!” That voice woke him up from his fairy land. The heat around him came back. He could feel his senses back and with that a feeling occupied his mind’s emptiness. He was dying. He was hit and may be those long breaths could be his last ones.

From nowhere came Ranjit and took him back to their bunker. Bullets could be heard getting fired from both the sides of the border.

“Doctor!!!” Ranjit shouted.

“No, not now……. Aaaahhhh…. This is not the time….. I don’t want to die now.” He said.

“Oye…. Tu sher hai… you are not going to die here. You will go back home, meet Shikha, and play with your son. Oye, you will be alright, Puneet. Don’t worry.” Ranjit was dressing his wounds and was trying to console him too. He was worried because he knew that Puneet’s time was over. He was his best buddy and was about to die.

“No, not know…….. NO!!!”

Stillness filled in his soul.

*********

‘Death would be easier to experience then this very moment’, she thought. That feeling was getting unbearable for her. All the happiness of thoughts of having a baby flew away in a second while came the time of delivery. There were doctors, her sister but one person was missing and she was missing him a lot. Puneet, her love. She was missing his presence a lot but she was happy too to know that Puneet was somewhere fighting for the country on the border.

Pain started to grow to its utmost level and then suddenly she felt something. That wasn’t expected. A sudden depression, a fear, fear of losing someone. She was confused. She was worried. Then she fainted.

“Don’t worry; I will never leave you alone.” Puneet was standing there. He was wearing the uniform of Indian Army. She smiled. He smiled. Then image of Puneet vanished in air and transformed into a little child.

“It’s a boy.” Her sister Sulekha was holding the baby. He looked just like Puneet, she thought. She was very happy but suddenly her eyes fell on her sister Sulekha and the fear again took over her senses.

“What happened?”  Shikha asked.

Sulekha said nothing just cried……….

PART-2

FEW YEARS BACK…

Hauz Khas of Delhi was Puneet’s favourite place to spent a peaceful evening. According to him, the secret to feel alive was to just sit in the lap of nature. The trees, plants, animals, birds, lake and old abandoned structures all of them enhanced the aura of that place. It was difficult for him to spend every evening there but whenever he got the chance, he never missed it. He simply grabbed his favourite place in the park and then draws out the paper and a pencil from his carry bag and started to sketch random things. He loved sketching. His fantasy was to become an artist but never had the courage to take a single step towards his dream.

That day too, he followed the same sequence of his ‘free’ evening. While carrying his carry bag, he entered Hauz Khas and headed towards his favourite place to sit but then he realized something odd. A couple had already occupied that place. Puneet felt annoyed. He felt an urge to talk to the couple and make them leave to some other place but stopped himself when he saw that the couple started kissing each other. Now that was the moment when Puneet decided to leave the place immediately and search for another place.

Starting of the evening was not good for him. He cursed the couple for ruining his sketching session of the evening and headed towards the ‘Deer Park’ to sketch a deer. He was cursing the day while occupying the bench lying near the fence separating the Deer’s constituency from the common park. He pulled his sketching tools and was now waiting for the perfect moment to start.

His eyes were glued on a deer who was taking rest under the shade of a tree. He was waiting for him to stand. He waited pretty long but that deer was in no mood to pose for the artist.  Puneet removed his eyes from him and then he saw her.

She was leaning towards the fence to feed the deer. She was standing facing her back towards Puneet. He tried to take a glimpse of her face from sides but her long, thick hairs made him wait for that moment. She was tall, just about the same as Puneet. She was wearing Black Kurta with black Jeans. Her curves were as perfect as a common man can imagine for her dream girl. Puneet suddenly felt that his heart has started to pump more blood.

She turned and headed towards the benches where Puneet was sitting. She was there with some of her friends. They all sat on the benches and started to giggle on some topic. Puneet shown no interest on anything around him, he just kept his attention over the girl.

Puneet started to sketch her, beginning from her fish shaped curved eyes. Around her eyes, he drew the face’s outline. Her long and thick hair took almost every bit of white sheet outside the peripheral of face’s outline. Her eyebrows were so perfect that it took precision to sketch them. Her nose was a bit rounder than normal and was enhancing her beauty by giving her the cute looks. Now he came on her lips. Those were beautiful. Just like petals of rose. Not too wide, not too narrow, just perfect.

After finishing the sketch Puneet kept looking to his creation and found something missing. It was not perfect for him. He was about to come to conclusion when someone from behind snatched the paper from him.

“Let me see what you are doing here, mister.” She was the one who snatched the paper from Puneet. Her voice was miraculous. Puneed felt spell bounded.

Puneet remained silent when she was busy in examining her sketch.

“It’s beautiful. A perfect sketch of Shikha.” Her friend said.

“It’s not the perfect one but will make it perfect soon.” Puneet said. ‘Shikha what a beautiful name’, he thought. She was blushing.

Their strings attached with each other. A cool breeze started to flow between them, sound of dry leaves of trees were making the whole environment more heavenly because it was looking as if the nature was applauding on their first meet. Both of them knew that they have found their soul mates and a love story was about to start.

PART-3

She looked at the sketch once again and tried to hold back her tears. 5 years have passed but still, Puneet was alive somewhere in her. Shikha was still clueless why that sketch was imperfect for Puneet. She moved her neck around to look at it from different angles. ‘Perfect’ was the only word to describe it.

Suddenly, a familiar, heart wrenching voice pulled her back to reality. Rain had started to beautify the surroundings. She pushed the sketch back in the drawer and rushed towards the main gate of her house.

He was dancing in the rain. She took few moments to call his name as she wanted to absorb the happiness of that moment. Life has changed a lot after the death of Puneet but still there were some reasons left to smile.

“Rishi!!!” She yelled her son’s name.

“Mummy, few more minutes please…….” Rishi pleaded. Shikha’s heart melt in a moment but the motherhood was still alive.

“No Rishi, you’ll catch the cold.” She took Rishi back in the house.

Evening arrived, it was time to wake Rishi up but Shikha was still busy looking at the sketch. That sketch was like an escape door to past for her. For her, Puneet was still busy somewhere in perfecting the sketch.

“Mummy, what’s this?” Rishi came up rubbing his eyes.

“Nothing Rishi…….” She stopped and then continued, “Just an imperfect sketch.”

Shikha kept the sketch on the bed and rushed towards kitchen to prepare some snacks and also to hide the tears which were about to flow down her eyes.

When she returned back she found Rishi playing with his crayons. He was drawing something. Rishi looked up instantly when he saw her mother standing on the door. He smiled, just like Puneet would have. He raised the sketch he had drawn. That was the same ‘Imperfect’ sketch with a little more detailing. The black and white sketch now had a red crayon line over the top of forehead. The only thing which was missing from the sketch was ‘Sindoor’ on the hair lining.

“Now this sketch looks perfect. Isn’t it?” Rishi said and that brought tears in Shikha’s eyes. Finally the imperfect sketch of Shikha found its perfection.

******

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