The ruins

the ruins

He stood on the hill, watching the sun set in west, fiercely painting the western sky with shades of red and purple. Some clouds immersed themselves in that crimson ocean and came out tinged with red.

The hill across the small valley was studded with the ruins of an ancient palace. He stood there watching; centuries ago if someone stood at his place he might have been witnessing another scene.

One by one the lights of the palace lighting up to welcome evening, chime of bells and sound of conch shells sounding from homes; may be a sweet symphony of shehnai from the palace.

“Centuries ago there was a king that ruled this area, those are the remains of his palace. “ He heard a sweet voice and turned around to face a young woman in local attire standing a few feet behind, near a tree, she was standing there, looking at the ruins with misty eyes. The sun was long gone but full moon has partially replaced him. She was spreading her magical light on the surroundings.

“He was a brave, honest person. Unfortunately he had an evil enemy.” She continued as if in a trance, as if she was reciting the story to the trees, woods, hills and the valley.

“He hated the king because he could never be like him. His sick mind concocted a strange plot. He knew the princess loved to wander alone in these hills, using his innocent, extremely beautiful face he trapped her in the web of love.”

“Then that day came, the monster stood gloating in king’s court, princess blushing by his side, he has coaxed her to marry him without blessing of his parents.”

The king tried to accept it but late in the night they were sitting in his chamber when his enemy hissed softly, “See your daughter for the last time. Her place will be with my maids, I am planning to marry officially next month. Your daughter will spend her life serving my queen.”

Later at night the wicked soul stumbled into his wife’s chamber, bloodied and gasping, “Your father killed me. I thought our love will wipe out his hatred for me…” were the last words he spoke.

“The innocent girl, fooled by sweet words of love could not recognize her own loving father; mistrusted that righteous man and trusted a conjuror and drank poison.”

“The king dispatched his body to his kingdom and performed his only daughter’s last rites here.”
“Her mausoleum was on this hill, time has wiped away every sign of it. She was an extraordinary flute player. Local people say they can still hear her flute playing here, in these hills.” The girl stopped talking.

He turned around but she was not there. He heard the haunting sound of flute spreading in the night air originating from some place nearby.

Sharmishtha Basu
9.8.11

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JOKER…

The-Joker-the-joker-1421008-1280-1024“Daddy, you are ill, please don’t come today. I’ll manage alone.” I knew that he will not accept my offer but being a son, I cared.

 

“We are jokers, son and jokers have no right to be ill.” he said and smiled. “Lets go and spread the happiness to the world.” He said and entered the arena of circus, I followed him.

 

Smiles, claps and happiness were all around. People laughs when we juggle, people laugh when we struggle. People laugh when we fail in our try, people laugh when we cry.

 

We were juggling balls, we were cracking jokes, and we were doing everything which we do everyday to make people laugh. But one thing happened which was not the part of the show.

 

He fell, people laughed. He cried my name, people laughed. I rushed towards him, people laughed. He died in my hands, people laughed.

 

************

 

“We are jokers, son. We are a very important part of this world.” I was confused what my father said, so he clarified, “In this cruel world, we are the good people. In this world of pain, we are the heal. In this world of sorrow, we are the happiness.”

 

*****

 

“Joker is a person who is very rich.” My father said.

 

“But how Daddy? We doesn’t even have food to eat then how can we be rich?” I said.

 

“We are rich because we spread happiness, happiness which even money can’t buy.” He had a smile of satisfaction on his face.

 

*****

 

“Don’t ever cry, my son. It is a sin for a joker to cry. Hide all your tears, all your sorrow behind that makeup we put during our show. The show must go on even after your death…….”

 

************

 

My tears started to tickle down my eyes. My father was lying in front of my eyes, dead.

 

“The show must go on……” I heard my father somewhere above the sky.

 

Crew of the circus took my father in the stretcher. Public stopped clapping and smiling. They sensed that something was wrong. Then the curtain started to move and announcement started that because of death of the joker the show is stopped.

 

“The show must go on…….”

 

I came back and stopped the announcement and then back to the stage.

 

This time I heard nothing, no smile, no laugh, no clap, nothing. Just a dead silence in the audience.

 

“The show must go on. My father is saying this from above. The joker who died is my father. But no, I will not cry. I will not commit the sin………..”

 

I continued the show. The audience did clap, they did laugh but with tears in their eyes.

 

The clap, the laugh, the happiness on that day was the tribute to the most important person in our life who died, THE JOKER.

MY INTERVIEW…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the experience of 25 years of mine on this earth, I have discovered that the most annoying thing in this world is ‘waiting’. I was sitting on a long sofa with many other like me waiting for their number to be called. I was tensed, shivering with excitement (may be fear) and many other feelings were there with me. My eyes were pinned on a room, room in which my fortune lied.

Yesterday morning I got a call for an interview. I was damn excited about that. Just thinking of that feeling gives me Goosebumps. I was so excited that for the interview scheduled at 9am, I reached at 6am. I was the second person to enter in the office. First was the watchman, who opened the door for me.

At last the waiting period ended when the receptionist called my name. After some adjustment with my clothes and hairs, I was on the door. I knocked the door.

“May I come in, sir.” My voice was full of confidence and enthusiasm.

“Please come in.” Man sitting in middle of 5 member panel said. They all were wearing coats, the black (symbolic) coat.

The room was little longer and darker than I expected. It was feeling as if I was heading towards a den or something where I have to watch each and every step of mine. My mind had so many things which were revolving round my eyes and this was the symbol that something is going to be wrong, a mistake will occur. The same happened. I sat on my seat without anyone’s permission. All of them started to stare me as if I have done some really big mistake. As if I have launched a nuclear bomb on Pakistan without the permission of Indian army commander in chief. Now I was feeling like a piece of flesh lying in front of 5 hungry dogs.

“So Mr. Sandeep Sharma, tell me something about you.” That same person asked me.

“Sir I am………………….” Then I started to answer their questions like parrot. I pretended to be as great as Alexander, as honest as Raja Harishchandra, as innocent as Dr. Manmohan Singh. They all were bursting questions on me. I was feeling as a soldier who has a gun in his hand with only some bullets and standing on LOC, facing whole country’s defence alone.

“So, according to you, what is your weak point?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“And strong point?”

“I will never run from a situation going against me.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

“No, sir.”

“So, whom do you love the most?”

“My mom. Ah…. Mother.”

“OK, say you are on a biggest project in your carrier. You have to finish that off as hurry as possible and in that period your mother expires. What will you do then?” this question really took me back to think. My textbook can’t answer this question. I thought a lot then answered.

“I will opt for a leave application.” I answered with a lower tone. This signified my losing confidence.

“So this means you will run away from the situation?”

“No, this doesn’t mean………………” one of the interviewer interrupted me between my answering and said.

“If the company doesn’t accept your leave application then?”

“Then I will leave to my home, finish my responsibilities there, then come back here finish my work here and then I will leave the job.” I knew that I am not talking in a way they wanted me to talk.

“Why, would you leave the job?”

“Because the company which cannot respect my emotions cannot be my workplace. Because for me my workplace is like temple and if my god would not respect my emotions how can I come there regularly with respect for them in my heart?”

“Ah, that same sentimental answer. That’s the problem with this country.”

“Sir, let me ask you one thing. What is that one and only thing which distinguish us from other countries? It’s our culture, our emotions, our love towards our country, our love towards parents. I first live for my country, then for my parents, then for my work and if something left then for me. If you think that our emotions are a kind of drawback for our country, then I think you lacks…………..” I hesitated a bit.

“Complete that, I want to hear what I lacks.”

“I think the person who have this kind of mentality lacks something in his head.” I dared to say that. I was confirmed that I have lost my dream job. So I continued. “And I can’t work with those people who don’t even understand their own countries strength.”

After that bombarding everything was silent for a while. I thought it’s the time to act. I took my resume and my file and started to leave.

“Mr. Sandeep. Interview is not over yet.” I turned back to face them. There was a smile on their face which induced a smile on my face also.

the inmate

the inmate

“Who does she thinks she is? Mother Teresa?” Sheila asked Chaitali.

They were sitting in the ground of the correctional home, talking with each other.

“No! It’s not like that, she is brooding type.” Chaitali replied, as if she was trying to give excuse on her behalf. She paused for a while, straightened her white sari and then continued.

“I talked with her for a few minutes last evening. She is sharing my room. She killed her husband after just a week of their marriage. The judge decided that she was not mentally stable and needed treatment.”

“Within just one week?” Sheila asked with a little trace of surprise. The people they mingled with were rarely the sweet, compassionate type so she was not shocked, just a little surprised.

“Was it a love marriage gone wrong?” she asked further.

“No. it was love, one sided, the man wooed her for years, finally she gave in and married him.” Chaitali said.

“What happened after that? She discovered that he was already married with kids?”

“No! She said that the man was a monster. He has been stalking her for years; he knew everything about her, every little thing to be precise.” Chaitali gulped, “and within three days of their marriage she caught him doing something heinous. Then she plotted the plan for next three days, waited for the chance and executed the plan.”

“What did he do that heinous?”

“His sister left her only son with him when she died. That night when she woke up he was not in bed, she went out to look for him; he was in the room of that small child, abusing him.”

“She did not give out a single hint, she knew that he knew she loathed, despised pedophiles with her heart and soul.”

“She burnt him alive for desecrating her body, soul and heart.”

Sharmishtha Basu
25.6.11

The puppeteer

the puppeteer

He rang the bell. A young boy opened the door and allowed him in. It was a fantastic drawing room. White furniture, walls and curtain made it look like a piece of ancient art.

He sat down on the sofa, and checked thoroughly if he had left any footprints on the marble floor, was quite happy that he did not. It has been raining cats and dogs outside. The infamous Kolkata rain that just does not stops.

Amit entered the room; he was a skinny guy with a high powered pair of specs. In first look one will think that he is geek, vacant expression, eyes full of dream, the permanent furrow of deep thinking on forehead. But a deeper inspection may give out a hint of instability.

He stood up and handed him the letter from his friend. The boy has already placed a cup of steaming tea and a huge tray of snacks on the table.

“Please have the tea.” Amit said cordially.

“What about you?”

“I don’t drink tea, I am coffee fan.” Amit mumbled, “I just had a cup.”

By the time Hiron has finished his cup Amit has finished the letter. “Sanjay, take sir’s bags to the guest room and prepare it for sir.”

The boy nodded and left the room with Hiron’s bags.

“Stay here as long as you want. I will make arrangements of your flat but don’t hurry, wait till you find the best.” Amit stood up, casually brushed a wisp of hair from his forehead and smiled; a faint smile, not superficial but distant, the smile of a dreamer, a man who is not in this world. “Take a bath. You must be feeling tired. Come let me show you your rooms.”

It was a suite type arrangement, a nice sized bedroom attached to a small hall arranged as a living cum dining room.

A week flew by; he started to look for his flat. Amit was acting as his real estate agent; showing him around.

Every time Hiron hurried, he pacified him.

They were returning from yet another trip when Amit pulled the car to the side of the road. “I will be back in a minute.” He stepped out of the car and entered a restaurant. His laptop was on the seat beside him. A bell chimed, and a chat window opened. Involuntarily his eyes went to the contents of the chat. Apparently Amit was flirting with a girl, quite cruelly, only he was using a Christian name not his own, a weird name Brandon Gonzales.

By the time Amit returned with the food the screen has resumed its energy saver mode, so he did not guessed that Hiron has accidentally trespassed in his private world.

A few months later he was watching Amit’s latest movie, oh yes, he was a story writer, a famous story writer.

The hero of that movie was a Don Juan born in India.

Hiron stiffened in his seat when hero cooed to the girl on the phone, “Hi this is Brandon here, yes, Brandon Gonzales.”

after watching that movie, listening to Brandon, observing his ways of flirting with girls Hiron realized why Amit’s stories and dialogues are so realistic- from where his inspirations pop up!

Sharmishtha Basu
28.6.11

The other occupants

the other occupants

“I never knew you guys live in my room watching everything I did in stealth. What a shame!” Mahesh said with mock horror.

“No one knows, till they are dead. Once they are dead they can’t share the information to the living.” Vinay laughed.

They were sitting on his bed that is his ex bed, the bed on which he used to sleep when he was alive.

It was quite tough to get back here from the hospital. He could not hop into a train or bus because they went through him. So he had to walk all the way, asking the helpful ghosts the direction to his own home.

He realized our dependence to public transports to the core. We just hop on them and give the name of the place and then close our eyes; never even caring about the route.

Now, all ghosts are not helpful, some are mournful, some sad and some really scary. Even after knowing that they can’t kill him they scared him. They can temporarily immobilize another ghost after causing him immense, deathlike pain.

He was chased by one of them for hours.

When he reached his home it was two years past his death. He walked through the door and reached his home to discover his younger brother Manish sleeping on his bed.

There was someone else in the room; a tall guy, sitting on his writing desk watching Manish with a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“Hey!” the man instantly noticed him. “It’s my room!”

“I beg your pardon?” he asked trying to control his anger. He was bone tired after walking and running through the maze like streets of Kolkata.

“You heard what I said!” the guy was standing right in front of him, his nose almost touching his.

“It’s my home, its I mean it was my bedroom when I was alive.” He coldly corrected him.

“When you were alive…..” the guy retorted. “I have been living in this room for last five hundred years. That is in this space, everything that was built here, or was here; including a tree four hundred years back was my home.”
“Now let me think….” He continued in a mocking tone, “You shifted here ten years back, right? Correct me if I am wrong.”

He stopped when he saw the sad, helpless look on Mahesh’s face.

“OK. You can stay here till you are reborn. You guys always get caught by the grabbers any way; you can rarely outsmart them for more than few months.”

He took out a beautiful bedspread from his cabinet and spread it out on his bed, covering Manish under it too.

Then he placed two pillows on the bed.

“You can share this bed with me, it will be night soon, that is your brother’s day and our night.”

“No he did not felt any thing when I covered him up with the sheet or dropped that pillow on his head. Our worlds are parallel to living world. We can see them but they can’t feel anything that’s happening here. Our advantage stops there. We can’t touch them or their things.”

“All those haunting stories are rare phenomenon, most of them are natural things like poltergeists or electromagnetic fields or simple fear. Once in a blue moon some places empower the ghosts of that place to touch living things or do other things. But that’s very, very rare.”

“Who are grabbers?” Mahesh asked.

“They are self declared heroes; they think it’s their moral duty to save the spirit world from getting over-crowded. They skulk around here and there with a special grenade. If that grenade hits you, you are a gone case. It will blow you to pieces and release your energy to be re-sucked into mortal world. You will be born again but fresh, without any memory of anything. ”

“I know what you are thinking about, those souls use the portal for re-birth. That portal tries to erase the memory of their previous lifetimes but sometimes fails. There are portals everywhere which souls can use if they want to be born again. These grabbers have problem with souls like me, souls absolutely not interested in taking birth again; or those who are unaware of the portal. There are lots of them, souls that think that they are still alive.”

He got his demo the very next day, that is, night.

They were sitting on a high-rise watching souls sailing around them. There were human beings too, quite a lot of them, returning from office; packed up in buses and taxis.

“Here they come!” Vinay said in a disturbed tone.

He too could see them, there were four of them, they had a small grenade like thing in their hand; they threw it inside a bus packed with souls and human beings.

Vinay took to his heels and Mahesh followed him. Once inside the rooms he instantly asked, “What will happen to the people inside the bus?”

“I told you, nothing from our world can touch people, things of your world. That explosion will kill only the souls there.”

Sharmishtha Basu
17.10.11

The publicity house

the glamour house

Something was wrong with the house. She felt it instantly that is within a week of moving in there.

She felt there were others in that house. Invisible entities! Soon she started to feel their presence even stronger.

Someone standing in the hallway….. A touch when she was still in the realm of sleep, a feeling that someone crept in her bed …. waking up to nothing though…

Strange faces appeared on floor and walls, created by dampness and heaven only knows what, they looked like screaming ghosts or grotesque apparitions….

She started to suspect her own sanity. Then her sister visited her. “This house is really stuffy!” was her first comment.

She sat down on the sofa and looked around her. “You should do something about the walls and floorings. It appears like a child has been painting ghosts all over them.”

Soon her chirpy companionship erased most of the silly thoughts from her mind. Still sometimes in that border of sleep and wakefulness she felt those presences! Those touches, sometimes voices…..

“Didi my friend Chinmayee is coming to Kolkata; can I invite her to stay with us?” Mitra asked.

She shrugged and smiled. “Go ahead! I will love it!”

Next morning they left for Howrah station to pick her up. Chinmayee was a really beautiful girl in an angelic way. Her eyes caught instant attention; they were huge, black and full of feelings. One will feel they can talk, and they truly did.

She talked very little but smiled a lot, her smile was truly lovely, mostly silent but it lit up her surroundings.

“This is it!”Ratri opened the door and turned around. Chinmayee was standing right behind her, she looked frozen, there was a strange look on her face; her eyes were filled with fear, pain and despair. She gasped and backed off a few steps.

Maitree reached out and touched her hand, she gasped sharply.

“Hey Chinu, What’s up?”Maitree softly held her hand; Chinmayee deeply inhaled and entered the house.

Ratri placed a glass of water on the table in front of her.

“It’s ok didi, really! “ She tried to smile feebly. “I scared you did not I?”

“Didi, chinmayee wants to shift to a hotel” Maitree softly said, Ratri was on the roof, reading a book. Then after a brief pause she continued, “She wants you to change the house too.”

“Why?” Ratri tried to sound casual.

“She said there is something ominous about this house.”

“Let me explain you didi.” Chinmayee joined in. “Just listen to me; then take the decision. I hope you will listen to me.”

She sat down on one of the chairs, “Do you know the owners of this house?”

“No, they live abroad. They rarely visit India, and they have dozens of other flats scattered all over Kolkata, and of course a mansion somewhere I don’t know the exact location.”

“Have you met any of the previous tenants of this house?” Chinmayee asked and when Ratri told her that she was the first tenant of this house her expression said she already guessed it, or more, knew it.

“I don’t know whether you believe in these didi, but I do, I believe in spirit world and their eagerness and capability to connect with us. They try to connect with everyone but very rare people can connect back to them clearly.”

“When I came out of the taxi I saw blood splattered all over the house. There were screaming faces of small children jutting out of the walls.” She gasped, as if she could see that scene again.

“I wanted to run away that moment but could not, it would have panicked you both, and most probably you would have caught me and sent me to some shrink.” She tried to laugh but could not; paused for a little, stared blankly at the distant buildings for a few minutes and then continued.

“I tried to communicate with them and they instantly responded. This house is filled with them didi.”

“The owner of this house made pact with some demon, he promised him that he will sacrifice his first child and in return of that he will be blessed with wealth – immense wealth.”

“His friends joined in; then he opened a kind of business out of it. He made secret arrangements with people dying for money, fame and performed sacrifice after sacrifice.”

“He absconded when he grew tired of the business. The man you think is the owner of this house is actually his agent.”

“I will be leaving now didi, I have called a hotel and booked my room there. I will suggest you to look for another house too.”

Ratri softly patted her hand, “I will.”

Sharmishtha Basu
16.5.11