Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Alladin - Chapter two - Mehru Nisa

Click to read Chapter one

27th December, 2009

'Mr. Sanjay Shenoy, Wake up. It's past 7:00 already'

'Can't you bathe him today, Sonya?'

'No, he knows it's your day and he refuses'

'Stubborn like his mother.'

'No he has OCD like his father..'

'BTW what is that you were reading all last night?'

'Diary of the terrorist who was caught at Vasai'

'Oh, that Chand guy?'

'No, his name is Alladin, I think'

'Alladin, Who names their kids that way?'

'An english literature professor at Jammu university'

'English literature...You're kidding me. You're just saying that to tease me.'

'No baba. Apparently there is a violent gene in all English literature professors which they pass on to their sons. haa haa'

'Well please towel the head of your violent kid when you're done.' Sonya's face turned serious as she moved towards the kitchen.

'Hey, what happened. I was just teasing you'

'I know. Just thinking....'

Shenoy bathes his son and gets him ready for school and then picks up the newspaper

'Where's the front page dear?'

Sonya comes out with the first page which had a picture of Sanjay and Sonya bowing down to take their blessings from his in - laws.

'Sorry, Sanjay'

'Well, at least they could've published a better picture'

0900 hrs
Shenoy walks into Sharma's office and sits down

'Welcome Damadji..'

'Sir, you'd called for me.'

'Yes, any update on this Chand guy? What do the doctor's say?'

'Sir, his name is Alladin not Chand and he's still critical. Doctor says he is sinking'

'Alladin, weird name. Are you sure?'

'At least that's what his diary says.'

'Great get someone to get a summary of that diary done ASAP'

'Sir, If you don't mind, I'd like to do it myself considering the sensitivity'

'Agree. Can't we pump him with some pain killers and interrogate him before he dies?'

'I don't think so. The doctors won't allow us to go near him till he's fit to talk'

'Damn idiots. What do you think these terrorists would've done if it was the other way round?'

'But that's why sir they are terrorists and we are not.'

'Shenoy, when you are shot at by a terrorist with an AK 47 in a crowded locality and you have to reply with a service revolver, these ideals suddenly disappear'

'I agree Sir. But I will try to hold on to them as far as I can.'

'Good for you. Now come back here when you have some news and preferably I'd like to hear it from you before I see it on the news'

3:30pm, Vasai beach
The area where the boat debris were found have been cordoned off with 2 policemen overlooking the site.

Shenoy looks at the report that Adil has just handed him, 'What does the forensic say?'

'Plastic explosives and that too some high grade stuff called semtex was on those boats. That's what caused the explosion and ripped the 2 boats at around the same time. They would have been travelling at some speed when the explosion happened. It seems to be a timer'

'Faulty timer'

'Unlikely sir. Unless they were dumb enough to travel with an armed explosive in their boat.'

'Any target they could have been attacking as a sucide mission'

'There's nothing here that we know off Sir. Unless the Navy is keeping something secret. Unlikely though'

'they must've planned to use the creek to travel up towards Bhayander?'

'Why Sir, they could as well board the 7:40 local to churchgate.'

'What about security checks at the station?'

'Sir, Our entire force would be inadequate for checking all the people going to office at any station'

'Agree. Can't understand what was their plan. Any radio equipment?'

'There were some walkie talkies but apparently nothing that could have been used to send the signal the fishermen'

'So no idea who our mystery saviour could be?'

'Sir, mother says good things happen to good people'

'Well tell me your mother has a Phd on mysterious radio transmission and we are halfway towards solving this case'

'Well she makes great kebabs, if that helps?'

'Well pity I am vegetarian.'

'That's Ok Sir. No one's perfect. By the way whats in the diary?'

'Apparently Mr. Alladin in the hospital is the son of a professor of English literature. His mother died when he was a kid but his father's sister helps out the family. And he has an elder sister called Mehru Nisa'

'Mehru Nisa, that means woman of the sun'

'I am impressed Mr. Adil'

'Actually was the name of a girl I had a crush on in school'

'Good, something interesting to discuss on the way back'

11:00 pm
Shenoy adjusts his pillow and dims his reading light and picks up the diary.

May 19, 2005

Mehr is always trying to get me into trouble with Abba because I won't do my part of the chores. Abba believes that we must all do our part of housework. I know it is because we are poor. Last Ramzaan Abba could not even buy himself a new dress. This carpet business is not working and no one seems to want english tutions from someone like Abba who doesn't support the cause. 
Mehr keeps preening at the mirror everyday. She knows that the gardeners son likes her. Stupid girl. She has started acting more girlish nowadays. what with Ammis old dress that Aapa gave her.

May 20, 2005
Windswept skies never knew how,
to stop the clouds from running away.
Try as they will the clouds are gone,
It's a wonderful warm sunny day.

The sheep know not their way,
their destiny is to get lost.
Their white coats on the green grass,
like a green carpet covered with frost.

They bleat to each other in despair,
Each one trying to find his way out.
Of the cycle that continues with a carpet,
Or ends satisfying someone's hungry mouth.

We too are like these clueless sheep,
Seeking the destiny that we desire.
The course that will take us to paradise,
Or the judgement that will end with fire. 

'Bloody hell'

'What happened?'

'Nothing you sleep'

and then Shenoy muttering to himself in disbelief  'And this guy turned into a terrorist'

Monday, November 01, 2010

Alladin - Chapter one - The Diary

Vasai Village

‘Let’s just shoot him and….’

‘No Adil, this isn’t some small time extortionist. IB will want to meet him’

‘Sir, I agree with Adil. One shot and he’s done. We could say he was trying to escape…..'

‘Sawant, Adil, This is not how we can handle this. We have to register this …’

‘Sir, We save this idiot and they will make him into a hero like last time. Fucker will bloody make fun of us in front of our people only.’

‘Guys, no arguments. At any rate he doesn’t look like he will survive this. Mhatre phone in the coastguard and tell them we caught one of them. Tell them to sweep this area.’

‘Saheb, The tide has changed since morning, there could be a good chance they could get washed up higher.’

‘Mhatre, tell coastguard what the Kohli said. We don’t want this to… What’s that sound? Has back up already arrived?..’

‘Arre, these are press waale, now who called them…’ Sawant then turned towards the quaking fisherman ‘Didn’t I tell you no media, you little…’

‘Shh, theyre here’

Police headquarters. ACP Shenoy walks into the room of Commisioner Sharma where DGP Khan is having a conversation.

‘Arre Wah, the star of Mumbai Police is here.’

‘Sharma…… Shenoy, close the door and open the FIR copy’

Sharma turning towards Khan ‘Sir, IB was clear that they wanted to get the guy to themselves alone. This is probably the only survivor and we bloody have no way to interrogate him properly now’

‘Sharma, let the boy talk’

‘Sir,… A police informer was the one who happened to be in the shack when the radio signal came in at around 1900…’

‘What local informer?’

‘Sawant’s man..’

‘Why does an ATS man have an informer in a fishing village? What operation are you running, Shenoy’

‘Sir, He’s the dock worker who had got us the AK cache information. He had gone home for Christmas. They were actually trying to get to this one ship which had his brother who was coming home the next day i.e. Dec 25th.’

‘Why did you’ll take so much time to react? Are your Christmas parties more important’

‘Sharma, No interruptions now. Shenoy, a quick concise debrief please’

‘Sir, the person they were communicating to seemed to be whispering into the radio and the signal kept getting dropped. The guys in the shack first thought it was a prank as normally fisherman broadcast at this frequency. The first message established contact and then the second message just said “ Pakistani boat Vasai”. Apparently the sender kept repeating it at different frequencies as some other fishermen too got part of the message. The fishermen contacted the coastguard, who were on minimal patrol basis Intelligence reports and a weather forecast of bad choppy seas. They first tried to verify the authenticity of the message by tuning into the same frequency and parallelly scrambled boats. They then contacted customs and local police. But the local police already knew since we had contacted them. Adil reached Vasai first as he lives in Mira Road and then Sawant came from Borivali. We also got some guys from Damle’s unit to join us. I asked them to get some local fishermen and check possible landing sites. Customs gave the local police a list of places which were under surveillance for possible smuggling drops. Which is when reports of the first explosion sound came from one of the search parties. The burning debris lit up the sea near the beach and Damle’s men got all the people on the boat…’

‘All the people?’Khan’s eyebrow went up almost unconsciously

‘That’s what the report says Sir’

‘Shenoy, Damle is a senior inspector. If he says all the people then he mustve got them all. Continue’

‘ Anyway by then I had reached the beach where we found 6 bodies. 2 burnt bodies and four riddled with bullets and one survivor’

‘This is the Chand guy they are talking about on TV?’

‘Sir, we have no idea about his name. He just had a crescent moon tattoo on his arms which the media saw when we were getting him to the ambulance’

‘Which is when you decided to give sound bytes to the press?’

‘Sir, some local fisherman had called the press and there was a news team covering Christmas parties at some nearby farmhouse. They landed up at the beach and began making all sorts of assumptions. I did not want them to get to the other 6 bodies and the boat wreckage on the other side of the beach and hence asked Sawant to keep them quiet…’

‘Which is when he decided to tell National TV that ATS had killed of the Pakis..’

‘He did not realize the camera was rolling Sir. It was a mistake and I take full responsibility for it’

‘That you shall my friend. Sir, can we talk alone for a few minutes’

Shenoy walked out of the office into the corridor

‘Sharma, give the kid a chance. He’s done a good job under the circumstances.’

‘Sir, I was never for giving a well connected cop a term in the ATS. You know that there is a lot we do that we do not want to make public. As it is these guys turn into mini celebrities in a couple of years. Do you really want to have a ministers son in law in this task force.’

‘Sharma, he’s here because he’s an IPS grad with an excellent record and I have never had any pressure from above on his behalf till today’

‘What happened?’

‘The CMs secretary called. They have hinted that we keep him on the case. Apparently the party mouthpiece ran a front page news report saying that the partys son in law had saved the day. I even have a copy with a photo of him and his wife prostrating before the sports minister and his wife.’

‘So that’s the reason..’

‘No, also this is rightfully his investigation. The boy has never used his connections to get something. I will ensure that he doesn’t lose this opportunity because of this.’

‘But what about experience in ATS?’

‘He has an excellent track record in homicide and has worked on explosives before. Considering this case, we need a good detective rather than one of your shoot first, talk later guys.’

‘Sir, they are the best..’

‘And him?’

‘He’s good sir. I won’t take that from him. But his every move will be analyzed by the media.’

‘Sharma, considering the case. You put anyone on it and they will be in the limelight. At least this guy has a clean image, talks astutely and sensibly’

‘Well after Sawant’s tirade even Osama bin Laden would sound sensible. BTW intelligence reports a team of Taliban are planning to enter the city.’

‘This is like last time repeating itself. For the next month we’ll get reports about everyone from Osama to Obama to Madhuri Dixit entering the country illegally’

‘BTW RK came up with this conspiracy theory website which says that Osama and Obama are related.’

‘Please tell that idiot to stop his creativity and focus on getting me that digital encryption report I asked for’

‘Well he is like a mad scientist. Needs his weird moments. Anyway let’s call Shenoy in”

Shenoy walks in and salutes

‘Arre baba, if you salute each time you come in then this is all that you will do in HO’

‘Sir, don’t worry he’s with me now. In no time, you’ll see him in plainclothes, with some illegal firearm tucked in his jeans and a bulletproof jacket. What say Shenoy....’

‘Sharma, You are as much a department of this place as the remaining. Please brief this boy. Achha and what about these notebooks you found?

‘sir, one is a diary written in English and the others a notebook written in Arabic. I have given the Arabic one for translation’

‘Why translation. Can’t any of your boys read Arabic?’

‘I have only Adil who supposedly knows Arabic and he’s not read it since his school. Also he says the script is different.’

‘Different, my ass. Anyway get to work’

‘BTW Shenoy, Your father being the sports minister, can you get me into the football team?’

‘Sharma Sir, I believe they have a weight limit there’

‘Haa  haa Sharma. He’s already getting your department’s insolence.

The TV is on at high volume. There’s a lady on the screen standing next to a bar chart which fill sup the screen. She moves her hand towards the bar graph and a number flashes on the screen.

'Oye Sawant, Now 75% people agree with your statement that kill all the Pakistanis'

'Adil, Shut up. I am in enough trouble anyhow'

Just then Shenoy enters the room with a file in his hand


 'Sawant, If you are done with watching yourself on TV, please hand over the diary to me'

'Yes Sir. Here's the diary. Forensics reported that the plastic cover had no fingerprints but a slight trace of grease. The water wiped off everything else. The diary itself was protected. All the fingerprints on the diary are of Chand.'

'Sawant, he's not Chand.'

'Yes Sir.'

Shenoy walks into his office and keeps his cap down. He takes the diary out. It's a rough notebook with dates written to indicate the entry. The diary has a torn binding. Shenoy takes out some gum and tries to stick the binding back. He then opens the diary and reads the first line on the first page.

This is the diary of Alladin - Confidential. 
Do not read this. If you find it please return it to 
Alladin Khan,
Little red house,
near army post,

The first entry read May 17th, 2005.

Death stopped the bud, 
from ever becoming a flower. 
It never knew the consequence, 
of this mad lust for power. 
A battle is fiercely fought, 
for the many generations to come, 
Now if only they could pause, 
and spare the lives of some. 
Maybe enough would survive, 
to create a generation, 
Just enough to create, 
a single proud nation. 

Abba says that great men always maintain diaries because they then have a record of all the mistakes they have made in life. Today is when I start my diary and what better way then to write a poem that came into my head. Mehr is jealous of my poetry because she can't understand it properly. Only Abba understands it. After all he used to be a literature professor in Jammu which is why he still gets a government pension.

Shenoy looked at the cover again. This was no diary of a terrorist. Probably must've robbed it from some kid. He leafed through the pages till he reached the last entry Dec 24, 2009 which was one day before the attack. The diary was probably that of the terrorist from 5 years back or someone who had updated it till a few days back. He drank his glass of water and began his journey into the life of Alladin Khan.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Wait - II

It was a bright Kolkata morning, with the birds twittering in the trees. She turned at the corner, swept a lock of her face. She wasn't strikingly beautiful yet a touch more than pretty. She was dressed in a yellow Salwar Kameez holding onto her Dupatta which kept being blown around by the wind.

She walked into the restaurant and sat at the corner table. The newspaper guy turned back to his stand. There was a guy with a camera in his hand who too seemed to not take away his eyes from the lady.

The newspaper guyy cleared his throat. The guy with the camera turned with a sheepish expression.

'Uh..., Times'

The newspaper guy gave him the paper and his change.

'Every day the same thing'

'Excuse me..'

'Well Every morning she comes and sits at the same table in the same corner of the restaurant. Then when it's evening she goes back'

'Every day?'

'Yaa, every day'

'For how long?'

'About a month'


'I don't know.'

The guy with a camera was a reporter who could sniff out an important story. He walked into the restaurant and tried to strike up a conversation with the lady who just looked away. He immediately clicked a picture.

The next morning the paper guy was most surprised to find the photo of the restaurant lady in the newspaper and that too on the first page. There was a column by a person who wrote about the mystery lady who for more than a month had been sitting at the same table in the same restaurant just waiting. The author left the ending open.
The article said '... What is she waiting for? a lover who jilted her? Who would do such a thing in such a great city?'

The next day the newspaper guy was unloading his newspapers from the autorickshaw when a news van drove up to the restaurant. A news crew unloaded their equipment in a hurry. The lady turned the corner to find an entire camera crew with a reporter trying to stick his mike into her face. She gave him a stare that had him out of the way instantly and then walked back to the table.

That evening the news channel did an exclusive on the lady by the table. They spoke about the pain, the suffering that was seen in those beautiful eyes. About how she walked to the restaurant from her house about 100 metres away to the same restaurant. About how she hardly spoke to anyone.

The girls name was Anjali and she was 23 years old. She had just completed her masters in science. There was an interview with her college principal who had wonderful things to say about her which was odd because she had joined about two months back. There was another interview with a friend who hinted about some deep dark thing which may have caused this. She did not mention what but she was a friend and friends never tell.

The next day the newspaper guy added a refrigerator to his stand. It was a gift from a manufacturer and fitted in snugly with the chips stand. The area was teeming with news vans with reporters from multiple channels. The news channel added to it's previous coverage with interviews from friends and relatives. Anjali's father and mother were most polite to the reporters but refused to open their doors though the neighbours complied most beautifully.

By the next day the local corporator had promised to get justice for the lady, though he hardly got any airtime thanks to the human welfare minister. The expert on woman psychology got a new hairdo and a coat of make up just before she spoke about how the trauma of seperation or the trauma of not getting a job or the trauma of not being admitted to a foreign university could have caused this reaction.

That night people began a candle light vigil outside her house. Students from the music academy just across the restaurant joined in with music performances. The wall outside her building was adorned with signatures from a zillion people.

The news people were getting worried. the lady had caused a spike in ratings but the lack of soundbytes was hurting. There were already articles in the newspaper about the media circus. That evening they managed to track down a maternal uncle who hinted that she had a wicked streak as a kid about how she took pleasure in harming little creatures.

However the next morning a kid from a village in Andhra mistakenly fell into a pit. The news crews vanished from outside the restaurant. The newspaper guy had just added a sandwich toaster to his stall when this happened. He cursed the little kid on his TV. The kid had probably ensured for a comfortable life for himself and his family for the rest of their life. Just if he could find some ditch or well where he could get his son trapped without hurting him. Pity his son was so fat.

The lady walked past the gate adorned with now fading posters past the musicians who did not seem as sympathetic as earlier. She was dressed in a red salwar today and was looking as pretty as always. The newspaper guy looked at the lady who had almost paid for his retirement then turned to his shop figuring out how to return all the unsold stock.

The lady went in and sat at the corner table and looked out of the window as always. She sat there for over an hour when finally a waiter came to her table gingerly balancing a half filled cup of vile looking coffe and placed it on her table.

She turned to look at him.

He stared back at her and most nonchalantly shrugged. This was Kolkata, service could take some time.

- Pranay Rao

Sunday, October 01, 2006

My big fat south Indian wedding

My name Muthuswamy Shivaraja Naidu, fondly called MSN by my friends. All those jokes about messenger, portals that just came up in your mind have already been done. I am quite a big hit among my friends, the typical dark, puny, spectacle clad south Indian boy who has never gone against his parents’ wishes, who is generally the butt of all jokes. For whom a nite of fun is several mocktails drunk slowly while seeing his friends get boisterous by the minute.

I have never had a girlfriend, because Amma doesn’t approve of one but do interact with girls. Most of them female colleagues who find me quite amusing and ofcourse being the s/w whiz that I am, every girl gets her extra work done by me. Like Sunny says I should probably learn to say no. The friend zone he says is the worst place to be in.

Sunny, you see is my best friend, we were roommates in Texas, where we had gone onsite and had to share the same house. I still remember Amma’s reaction when she heard that I was sharing my room with a non vegetarian. I forgot to tell her that he was about a spoon away from being an alcoholic and changed girls as frequently as one changed his socks. Many a girl would enjoy talking with me while Sunny would act very busy on his cellphone making imaginary calls to multi millionaire clients (How I wished the phone would ring in between his charade). The conversations began with How lucky they were that they had found him, moved on to disenchantment, disappointment, disillusionment, so on as the days progressed till a new one appeared, equally good looking, equally hot almost as if there was a bank of girls to which somehow we never were admitted.

Anyway this is my story, not sunny’s. I got up as usual on a bright Monday morning raring to go to work. I would have loved to do the testing on Sunday, but the new office policy prevented Sunday working. Today everything would fall in place. Hmm, concentrate man, I would have to start the prayer again. As a mark of respect to my parents I still applied the sandal paste on my forehead and neck, but it seemed to get smaller each day and of course the bus ride to SEEPZ would get most of it off. I looked around for Sunny and noticed he was missing. This meant that I would reach office on time.

I reached office and straightened all the things on my desk. I hate things out of place. Its not OCD, just that things must be properly placed. I notice that my keyboard has still not been changed. It’s been a month since I’ve complained about this thing. The enter key keeps getting stuck. Last week, Shilpa from the next cubicle found a scratch on her screen and was given a laptop from admin. Mine’s been in process since a year. Girls have all the fun.

Just then Shilpa knocks at my cubicle. ‘Hi MSN, Raju seems to have dropped your mail in my cubicle’

I gingerly take it from her hand, while she enjoys my discomfort. She’s the kind of girl who gets an outstanding appraisal just by flashing her dimples which she liberally does.

‘Wat’s it, Sandal paste again?’

Everyone still makes it a point to remind me of the Sandal paste, which Amma sent which I mistakenly dropped on my new khaki pants and that too before a client presentation. I give her a look which says buzz off. But she really has nothing to do today so she ignores me.

‘Aren’t you going to open it’

I know that she always gets her way, so I begin opening the letter as deliberately as I can.

‘Oh give it to me.’ Before I can protest she’s taken it and out pops a letter and a photograph. She turns the letter around twice and then hands it to me. It’s in Telugu, hurray :).

‘Who’s the chick, you sister? Some traditional day photo, huh?’

Frankly even I’m intrigued and begin reading the letter. It’s short and to the point. This is the girl my parents have chosen for me and they would like to schedule the engagement as soon as possible.

‘Hey ur sister looks cute, Seems like ur the black sheep. Hee hee’

Beautiful gurls generally have a very bad sense of humour. Defensively I blurt out the one sentence I shouldn’t have.

‘She’s my fiancĂ©e to be’

‘Fiancee, Hey guys listen MSN is getting married’

What ensues is people popping out of all the cubicles all around me. Productivity has gone for a toss. I am after all the project manager even if people never accept it. Leena, Shilpa’s best friend has already scanned the photo, blown it up and printed a copy and pasted it on the notice board. It’s already been mailed to everyone and the original picture full of thumb impressions is pinned onto my board, annoyingly no one seems to even attempt to do any work and the worst part is that I have yet to see the picture properly.

I finally gather courage and look at it. The girl is good looking in a very South Indian way and I really should be happy that such a girl has even consented to look at me but something is bugging me and I can’t put my finger on it.

Sunny meets me for lunch and does this hurt impression before embracing me in a hug that almost snaps my back. Everyone has got the news by now and there are congratulations all around.

I reach home a little late and find Sunny at home. He’s got nachos, popcorn, lays some sauce and a couple of beers in front of him, which means one thing some football match, since formula one is generally on Saturday or Sunday.

‘Pour me a glass’

Sunny looks at me. A glass of beer is a once in a year thing which signifies that I am very happy or very sad. He looks at me and pours out a glass from an already open bottle. Most of it will anyway go waste. He tries hard to concentrate on the pre-match talk for some time while I sit grimly sipping away my drink in a very hurt hindi film hero way. There is a break before the match and Sunny presses the mute button.

‘Wats buggin you?’


‘Cmon man, you are goin to tell me this and I’d rather not miss the match’

Silence even though I should be hurt at his insensitivity.

‘Tell me yaar. Some problem in testing?’


‘Phir kya hai?’

‘It’s the engagement thing’

‘What engagement thing?’ and then seeing my face ‘ Arre kidding yaar, tujhe to khush hona chahiye’

And then the floodgates open. I finally seem to realize what’s bugging me. It’s the fact that my parents never even asked me about my choice and that’s not all. I love my mother but I really don’t want to marry someone like her. I’ve hardly heard my father speak in years and frankly will a typical south Indian female ever be part of my life. And even though I’m among the first to bitch about girls like Shilpa, I secretly am quite taken in with their independence.

‘So you have a crush on Shilpa’

I’m this close to emptying the bottle on his head

‘..and frankly she’s not your type. Hee Hee. Ok ok seriously yaar if it’s such a big prob just say no’

I have never said no to Amma for anything. Dad tried once and the hysterics ensued that no one would ever repeat it.

‘Achha chal show me her picture. I deleted the mail thinking it was just another prank’

‘Look at her Sunny, do you think she can fit in with my modern lifestyle, will she..’

‘Arre, this is Sue’


‘Sue yaar. I met her in Pune, very cute, very saucy’

‘Did you?’

‘No yaar, she actually turned me down.’

Interesting, a girl who turned Mr. perfect down.

‘I think she’s in software or something’

‘Yup, Sulekha is a engineer’

‘Dude, I assure you, behind that 7 yards of silk is one very terrific gal’


‘Sacchi yaar, teri kasam’


The next morning I phone Amma and tell her that I like the girl but since I could possibly be going onsite again I’d like to get the marriage over as soon as possible. Amma is most proud of me. Appa phones me later and asks me whether I would like to see the girl. I reply in the negative. What I don’t tell him that I’m secretly scared that going by my past interactions with females, she might reject me.

Sunny comes to see me off at the airport.

‘She’s in Wipro, I found out’


‘MSN, you are one lucky guy, makes me wonder whether I should get married too’

‘You, marriage?’

‘Yaa man, chal got to go, will catch you later’

What happened in the ensuing 5 days was just a blur. The couple is not supposed to meet for a week before the marriage and she manages to put on a very demure look during all the ceremonies. I get a moment to catch her ear and whisper in spite of disapproving looks from all my aunts.

‘I know how you really are?’ which is what I end up saying.

She gives me a very puzzled smile but a smile nevertheless.

D day (actually N night) and I enter my room to find my very traditional, demure looking bride.

Frankly she is one amazing actress.

‘So when do we start living in Mumbai’

She looks up shyly and says ‘whenever you say?’

‘What about your job?’

‘What job?’

‘The one at Pune’

‘I haven’t started working, I just completed my engineering last month’

‘Cmon I know you work in Pune, My friend saw you’

‘Oh’ followed by peals of laughter.

Laughter in tense moments, grossly overrated

‘Arre, that’s sue’

‘not you?’

‘No Sue. Sue is my cousin Sujaya, who looks a lot like me. She’s quite a wild one. Even lives all alone. Certainly not marriage material’

I gulp

‘…unlike me who knows to cook all possible dishes, I read the Gita everyday, I…’

I’m suddenly in a funk. The lady in front of me seems like a reincarnation of my mother. I pick up my cellphone and switch it on and try to contact Sunny. The recording lady tells me that he is busy. I pace the room waiting for a return call.

Sunny returns my call with a message. ‘Dude small mistake, the chic ur gettin hitched 2 is Sue’s cous. I just met Sue at Sunil’s party. She’s moving to Mbai and the best news, were goin out. We might just marry into the same fly :) Do update me on tonite ;)’

I place the mobile and look into the very eager eyes of my bride, my wife, my soulmate. Well frankly she does look nice and I really could do with home cooking. I must count my blessings and most importantly it is my first nite. So I get closer to my wife and very gingerly try to kiss her.

She jumps off the bed and says ‘No No, Amma says sex on second Saturdays only’

-Pranay Rao

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The wait

She switched on the TV and then looked at the clock. It was a little later than usual, but she'd wait. This wasn't the first time, this had happened. Her son was busy playing with a pair of spoons on the dining table. He would be a great musician, she knew that. The serial was very interesting and Saira was about to get married to the guy who was actually her sister's first husband, when she looked at the clock again a little impatiently. The serial was almost ending and the cookery show would start. She wished she could tell Saira that it was her brother in law. It was not his fault, he had amnesia and had to have a plastic surgery because of his near-death accident. Her son was again making those sounds, she scolded him with a half smile. He showed all his 22 teeth in response. He knew that his mother loved him too much.

The cookery show was a repeat telecast, but she kept it on all the same. She looked at the clock. Another 20 minutes had passed. The stupid chef was mixing peas before he added the onions. Now the dish wouldn't be half as tasty as it should be. And what was with all the Kaju, did he want his viewers to die of cholestrol? Her son decided to break the monotony with another performance on the table. This was the limit. The father refused to come home on time for dinner and the son wanted to break the dinner table. She took the spoons from his hand, gave him a whack on his bottom and put him into his babycot. For a moment the child was too flabbergasted to react and then broke into a cry which would have had any woman rushing to his rescue, but not his mother. She had decided enough was enough. Today she would settle all her accounts. What did these people think about themselves? Isn't my time valuable?

There was another soap on the other channel. This one was a little more interesting generally, but today it was dragging out. She noticed the time. It was 15 minutes since the serial started. This wouldn't do and not today when she just had her manicure done. She looked at her freshly painted nails and at the lady crying on the screen. Only one woman could feel the pain of another. Her son just then made a sound as he turned in his cot. She went and lovingly held him to herself. Sometimes its only close family who are with you in such calamities. The son, a little apprehensive about his mother's mood changes, looked at her quite blankly. She placed him in the babycot, gathered the pallu of her saree, all the while looking at the mirror on the almirah.

She looked like those persecuted Bahus on the soap operas. She gave one last look at her fingernails, shuddering as she imagined their plight and in a resigned manner moved towards the kitchen when Ding Dong.

She ran to the door with a speed which would make most athletes green with envy. Opened the door to find the simple little lady with a huge red bindi, who let herself in. 'Woh Memsaab, paani ka problem tha isiliye late huaa'. She immediately forgot all about her one and a half hour wait and embraced Kantabai. Her son looked at them through the babycot with a very puzzled expression, equally puzzled was Kantabai. The clock had struck 2, she immediately let go off her servant. This was her favourite serial. The woman was going to tell her husband about his son actually being the son of the lawyer of his biggest rival. Kantabai quickly rushed into the kitchen. The kid closed his eyes. Life was back to normal.

- Pranay Rao