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To Good Times, Chapter 1

February 22, 2016 Leave a comment

«««««««««««««The Doodlers«««««««««««««

Authored By Prashant Yadav

Edited By Kshitij Sharma

~

“CHEERS to Good Times!”

Six glasses go up in the air for a mid-air collision and then everyone gets quiet for a second or two.

The party has now officially started and as usual I am the first one to say something. In parties like these it is risky to start a conversation as everybody is busy gulping down their drinks. It is like interrupting a Lion during his meal, just because you feel like having a chat. But that’s how it goes with me I guess.

Hi! I am the (s)talker! They call me Percy.

But as soon as I pronounce as much as the h of hi(gh),  14 eyes look at me with the look of friends pleading me not to begin for the sake of their friendship!

Friendship, ah! It’s that interesting doodle life allows you to draw when circumstantially you are unable to hang up the phone, because of someone like me who just wouldn’t shut up!  As of now, I was busy drinking with my buddies, but much has changed since we mutually drew ourselves into each other’s lives…

Back in the old days when we were pursuing Bachelors of Engineering, smokes and drinks were an everyday phenomena.

Everybody used to look forward to the mornings, pockets stuffed with cash, hands full of cigarettes (some ganja or hashish in some secret bracket of the wallet to the disappointment of pickpockets in search of money unless they needed it to buy some ganja or hashish!).

Then the wait for that elite gypsy at the college khoka. It came, we unloaded the cash, the source unloaded you know what and off we were to the famous joints in our sprawling college campus made famous by our tribe.

Very little has remained the same since then.

"CHEERS To Good Times!"

The fairer sex who in those times was hard to spot by, leave alone the fact that there could be one in our group, has taken the reins. Our pockets had loads of money only to provide for our drinks, as meals were home sponsored – God bless my mom! Now we hardly have time for drinks or for that matter even catching up with old friends. So when catching up happens, as is the case now – it is all formalities.

So for once, smoking cigarettes is a criminal offence in public and suicidal in front of girlfriends!

And how they kill you with their eyes and nobody knows except you.

You just think that you don’t have to look at them and their anger would pass. High hopes indeed! You can feel your skin burn as you feel their asexual touch of eye-rays caress you like they were smouldering cigarettes all aiming for your face from the wrong side. You see your skin smoking. And before the devil knows, you’re dead.

There must be an angel, with a smile on her face up there somewhere, as my girl is nothing like that!!! Lucky bastard, that’s me. And Neha shares The Secret (more on that later).

The cash that we didn’t care about much earlier has disappeared though. Imagine women entering your lives just when you stop getting the pocket money from your dad’s wallet and you have too much self esteem to rely on the picket-money, again from your dad’s wallet. Although having a whitish blue sweaty collar job does bring with it a wallet whose secret brackets are loaded with a number of credit cards (that buys us no weed, neither the time n money for drinking with unknown friends or Taus away from the clingy arms of my friends’ girls. As we now meet only in their esteemed company and I don’t mind that, it’s just that they have a habit of counting the number of our pegs, puffs and pennies not spent on them.)
Should I introduce my fellow Doodlers or you will like to know them as we go along? Well I believe the latter is better so as to avoid unnecessary write-ups and if you prefer the first option go and read their Facebook’s About Me sections.

This gang of six tries to meet at least two times every year and that’s some catching up we do – one unique location, tables full of snacks, drinks freely flowing (not literally as it’s all about money honey and that too ours), latest designer wear, jewellery, funkiest mobiles and best of the cars.

In a way, it does add glitter to what we had in college days.

So I ask my NRI buddy, Prahlad how is life abroad in these tough times, tough times meaning without a girlfriend and not economic recession. “It’s all cool out there, buddy”, he begins and I get it that he just doesn’t get it, “life is easy and fast, we don’t have time even for prayers and morning wishes. Social life is there but only in form of twitter, facebook and all that. Anyways what’s up with Sharma and all”, he asks casually, “what’s he up to?”

God knows what happened to my now-sounding-so-cliché friend. And then I listen to his question and wonder if I represent all the ‘unfortunate’ people working in India or am I their spokesperson as everybody asks me how they are doing.

“Hmm”, I pause,” Sharma is doing well for himself”, with a question in my mind that should I ask the same question to the people whom he left in Dubai, they must be doing quite well for themselves as Prahlad is in India now!

Anyways the need to hear myself out loud to change the mood of the party has me blurting out, “You know buddies, there is this place called Bhangarh somewhere in Rajasthan which is, you know…haunted, well I say let us hit the road and see what the mystery is all about.”

Vishal was prompt in his dismissal and said it must be some tourist gimmick as there is no such thing as a haunted place.

Neha interrupted, “No, even I have heard about it and you know what, the government has officially termed it as a we-don’t-take-your-responsibility kinda place to visit after sundown.

Someone, I guess it was Prahlad, who googled it instantly on his big screen mobile. We got the image result that read:

The Government of India

The Archeological Survey of India, Bhangarh

Important warning:

Entering the borders of Bhangarh before sunrise and after sunset is strictly prohibited. Shepherds and woodcutters who enter Bhangarh area will face legal action.The Kewda or Pandanus trees found in Bhangarh area belong to the Archaelogy Survey of India. Is it forbidden to subject this tree to any kind of harm?

Note: Anyone flouting of the rules mentioned above will face legal action.

By order

Supervisor, Archaelogical Survey Board

The eerie mood was set…and then – cheap thrill: the screen went black!

“Battery was already low…” smiled Prahlad sheepishly to our faces absorbing the transitory gasps.

Eesha said, “What ya(ar), we are meeting after a long time and honestly, I have my share of ghosts already – let’s talk about something else.”

Mahima in a very ‘I’m Fine!’ voice asked everyone to not talk about it right now.

“What the hell man”, I said to myself and then they heard the echo. “Come on guys, this is also a celebration, it’s just…that we will have company…from the other side as well!”

Laughter broke out. I wondered whether it was them or my sense of humor was that bad. There was a pause. And I realized it was only Neha who understood that I was serious, even though she laughed out the loudest. So, I went on, “Let’s do this…Guys…we owe it to ourselves…it would be so spontaneous…”

“Dude, people here are not comfortable discussing such things…”, Prahlad said, raising his voice so that he could be heard in the entire pub.

“Oh, just talk about yourself buddy”, I smirked.

Somebody felt insulted and someone understood the joke was aimed at them and after all if it was Mahima then somebody has to give weight to her concern; unfortunately Prahlad was always that somebody.

Prahlad and Mahima left the table.

Vishal quizzed how Neha got to know about Bhangarh and asked abruptly, “What do they mean…Why has the Govt banned the place?”

Neha replied, “I read it that the place has been officially termed as ‘haunted’ because whenever they tried to set up their office in Bhangarh to study the place, it got thrashed by some evil forces or something. Legend has it that the whole place is cursed by some sadhu who wanted the princess of the town but she turned him down. In turn the sadhu cursed the whole kingdom and the kingdom got vanished overnight. Now what is left is the destroyed kingdom and people from all over the globe visit the ruins.” Her saying it matter of factly helped and Vishal got interested.

Prahlad and Mahima joined the table back, “We just went to the loo”, Mahima explained. And they just had to go together because well, Pakistan is a ‘good’ neighbor to India.

Eesha showed interest and Vishal was already making plans to visit the place.

Wooow wooow woow…Bull’s eye now we are talking, I thought.

“Lets catch up with zombies and see who shits in their pants first!”

Mahima gave me an ugly look.

“Do dead people shit?” was my reply to her.

Well blame it on the movies about friends, which came to my solace (and of course p2p and torrent downloading) to fill the void that friends of the younger days left when they left, but I was more than excited to be a part of this filmy situation for real.  Meanwhile, everybody warmed up to the idea of visiting Bhangarh. The girls called at their homes to seek last minute permission from their folks to stay over at a friend’s place and guys, well they had no one to call to. It’s not like we don’t have families it is just that no one is interested what we are up to leave aside our bosses in offices.  We asked for the bill and the transaction was made over the table.

Off we went to parking lot to head towards Bhangarh – but wait – where was everyone? In my excitement I had drifted apart from the group, I called Prahlad who was on call with Mahima. He connected me and everyone was on conference, “ Guys what is this, where is everyone…?” and then what I heard was “kdfjfkgfhfvbfjfhfhgbdfjkghdfgjhdfhjgb” buzzing in my ear!!!

Sorry but even I could not understand Zoozoo, so I asked again, “Let’s all meet up at McDonald’s ground floor, okay?” They Zoozoo-ed back and I disconnected.

I got a brainwave of an idea for a film: A guy like me exposes a telecom company’s conspiracy to leak critical information when people make their travel plans. They would leak it to the hotels of those touristy places for hefty money and when they were hijacking our conversations we will hear Zoozoo sounds. I heard those Zoozoo sounds because of the encryption process software had a bug that hasn’t been fixed by a S/W Developer (whose character would be based on me) because he bunked office to catch up with his buddies. He worked in India’s leading IT company whose clients were these bad ass telecom company  but then he becomes a part of the conspiracy when he becomes a victim after hearing the Zoozootranscripts. More on that later. Yawn!

Well now the problem was everybody had their own cars and if we wanted to go to Bhangarh we had to go in one car and leave behind five cars in the mall itself. Nobody wanted to do that. So what do we do with the five mean machines?? Can’t leave it in the mall for more than 24 hours, can’t go back home as everybody puts up at extreme points of Delhi n Faridabad. So what could be the safest place where one could park the car. Vishal threw an idea which everybody disagreed with but later on had to agree.

You see, Vishal could be the only person who can give ideas because it was evident that we were going in his Tata Safari and hence he had no objections as to where we park our cars.

His idea was to park the cars at the police station!

That was one place, reasoned Vishal, where one could park cars for free n it would be safe at the same time. I disagreed instantly at first because secretly I would have loved to come up with a wacky idea like that.

Wondered if someone else also thought like that, but then there seemed to be no time for mental wanderings, and the rush of being part of a collective action was getting to us.

Now that the problem of keeping the cars safe was solved, there arose a new one.

Safari is a big cruiser but to my ass’s bad luck Vishal has a big music system in it, so where would the 6th person fit? As we soon were to find out, inconveniences like these were going to be the least of our concerns!

To Good Times – Prologue

January 19, 2016 Leave a comment

«««««««««««««The Cigarette Ghost«««««««««««««

He was standing and digging in his shirt pocket for a cigarette that he could not find. It later came to him that he was not wearing the same shirt from office. He was waiting for a ride, hoping, someone could drop him somewhere and save him from the smoggy cold on the highway. Office shirt had a pocket which had a butt which contained enough bosom in it to make him high for the night.

He remembered the truck ride. The driver had agreed to take him all the way to Jodhpur.

The driver was a minding-his-own business-kind-of fellow who was busy humming an English tune which was copied into an Indian song, so it was difficult to know his music preferences and his exposure to world music or to take a guess about how many languages he knew.

As soon as the driver saw him breathe in through the butt from his shirt pocket, his butt was kicked out to puff the highway dust.  

image

The Dream Began.  

He faintly remembered coming back from office in that shirt that she had only ironed in the morning.

She had wanted to get high with him. It had been long. They hardly got any time for themselves with the children taking up their priorities…

…the bigger one always smiled when he saw mother and father kissing secretly, unlike the tell tale grandmother of a daughter who parroted to the whole neighborhood what happened in their house…

“Our children might have this idea that we conceived them with kissing!”, he had complained once.

“Do not say what you thought as a child, honey, bunny, cutie pie! Mmmmpchh…chh..chhaa…”, she had trailed off in glee, kissing him, mockingly now.

“They are much smarter than their cute smiles. Your daughter maintains an e-diary through which she gives daily updates to her friends about our kisses and misses…”

He had smiled and opened his mouth, “That’s a breach of privacy…even by…the kidsssssss….we’re parentsssss'”, he began but she thought better and sealed the air carrying his words with a barrage of kisses.

That evening with the children out for the weekend with their grandparents, she was dressed in her wedding lehenga. 

Looking prettier than she did 10 years ago, she waited for her magical husband to return. He had worn his black pin striped wedding reception suit to the office and was longing for the night out from their past to begin.

It was their 10th anniversary. Only their 3rd celebration without the kids…

§

He tried to remember a highway song he had heard so many times.

It seemed like another life.
All the good songs had been forgotten now.

All the bonhomie, he could understand – but it was not for him.

And the sad songs, like the one playing in the truck, seemed so unreal.

How could someone sing when one could hardly speak?

It was now two years since that fateful night.

Two years since he last saw his wife smiling.

Two years since everything made sense.

Two headlights were approaching him. He had that sudden rush to be saved. He wanted a different life.  

“If ever…”, she had breathed in, “…anything happens to me, promise me that you won’t go on the self destructing guilt…trip… of yours…”, she had prophesied before they got married and pecked on his cheek.

Now it seemed like a premonition.

“If anything happens to you, this man that you are marrying”, he had pointed towards the mirror,” won’t be alive to do anything to me!”

Yet there he was, that man all alive on the highway. Faint reflection of what he once saw in the mirror but alive with all the hope that the two headlights approaching could bring. This was similar to what he had felt when he saw the two headlights of that truck and like then he did not know that it was a truck till it stopped a little ahead of him.

§

In the TATA Safari, a female by the window was about to scream; only she did not know it yet.

He, on the highway was rising to the hope and wanted to wave his hands to be saved.

As the Safari came closer and it dawned on him that

it… was… a Safari…the Safari…that he was driving…and in whose accident the children…the children…

Then it happened.

His raised hands caught the branch of a tree by the highway, the tattered shirt felt his dehydrated and desiccated body sliding out of it as he fell face forward and as the Safari moved across the scene, what was seen was a ghostly shirt hanging by the branch which equaled to a seemingly close resemblance of a body less and invisible ghost, just lingering by long enough than the trees rushing by to scare the shit out of the pack of six doodlers.

§⊙¤«»ω

Alleged Lovers – Part II

March 3, 2012 5 comments
If you haven't already, read Part I before you proceed.
Ø

They were sitting on the banks of the holy river and she read out aloud from a book,

‘…The effect of cessation (ending) of breathing on the central nervous system is of considerable interest…The patient may lie in the chamber for hours without moving his head or changing position. The desire to smoke disappears when voluntary respiration stops, even in patients who have been accustomed to smoke two packets of cigarettes a day. In many instances the relaxation is of such a nature that the patient does not require amusement…’

“So that means he won’t need her for amusement if he stops smoking. But he can’t leave her, you know!” he smiled.

“And that is why he doesn’t stop smoking, for if he does, he won’t need his alleged lover” she replied.

“Look he can’t stop smoking just because someone somewhere experienced something and did not feel like smoking anymore, okay? He cannot stop smoking until he stops feeling the need, understood madam?”

“But you aren’t trying. And stop with the third person nonsense, will you? Or you don’t want to do that either!”

“That’s what he is saying; He doesn’t feel the need to stop smoking, so why does she want to force him?”

She closed the book and her retort remained unspoken.

How could she not force him when she felt it was the right thing to do? She wondered whether all their heated discussions were worth this much only. Just when they seemed to be getting head and tail of each other’s perspective in any matter, the topic was closed. The discussion was over. And there was nothing more to say. Or it just fizzled out with a joke or the awkward silence that was now enveloping her.

The overwhelming silence came and passed as the Sun shimmered on the Gangesand wind was only to be sensed by the wavy river surface. They had begun walking up the stairs that curled up towards the bustling Laxman Jhoola and their fingers entwined on the way.

“You know this German Bakery’s original name is Devraj Coffee House…He thinks it was Socrates who said what’s in a name? Socrates was right.” he said, wiping the sweat of his brow.

“Ha Ha, very funny! It was”, she yawned, “Shakespeare.”

“Well, as he said, what’s in a name.” He lit up a cigarette and continued,

“They should adapt it to the psyche of their traditions and change it to what’s in a surname!”

He made a ring out of his fore finger and the thumb and exhaled the mouthful of smoke through it.

“You know I don’t like you smoking” she tried to say it with a skeptical indifference of a cringe.

“Oh ho ho!” he puffed out, “So she doesn’t like him smoking but have no problems with others who smoke!”

“I don’t know them!” she said.

“What difference does that make?” he asked.

“It doesn’t matter, I feel I don’t know you too!” and with that she ended the conversation as they took the first empty table of German Bakery.

As she looked over his shoulder to the Ganges flowing by, his eyes wandered over hers and he slightly tilted his head to the right to see if anyone was to be bothered by their love talk yet unspoken. He saw a foreign national in saffron robes, asking the waiter to get a lighter. He smiled in knowing. Now she wouldn’t have a problem with even him smoking, he thought.

Then getting back to his lover and realizing that he had upset her, he said, “Look here…look here na, the inter-caste thing is not really a problem in my family, I mean yes, my extended family will be a little surprised when they get to know about this but nothing beyond that!”

“Oh my God, I don’t care if they do, you know”, she said, “but you seem to care about that so much! Is that what is the issue here? Do we have any less problems of our own that you make more issues as you go along?”

He wondered if she really thought about it not being an issue in these socially unequal times.  Then getting a little grip on himself, he re-entered the conversation to make his case again.

“Why don’t you understand, what can I do about your father now? I can’t talk to him right away…what would I tell them I do for a living?” He took a hurried drag and continued, “ How am I going to take care of your daughter, you ask old man, I will make food in the bakery and feed her of course!”

She remained silent like other times in the past but it weighed on her mind to ask him the question that had long been overdue.

“What are you doing about your Oh-So-Great business plan then?” she had repeated the question in her mind before asking it out loud and even with much restraint that she was trying to show, she couldn’t avoid the sarcasm.

His momentum of words brewing in his mind stalled after her remark and he looked away visibly agitated.

He saw the same foreigner, who wanted a lighter was now chatting away blissfully with the woman besides him, also in saffron clothing. He wasn’t smoking a cigarette though; he had lit an agarbatti instead and fixed it in the ash tray!

A little shocked at the things not going his way either at his table or hippies-in-saffron table, he called out to no one in particular,

Ek chai laana!”

When none of his co – waiters acknowledged his order for tea, he shouted as some of the patrons of Devraj Coffee House shouted at him when he was on duty.

“How will you get customer the tea unless you listen to the customer? I pay for it; am I asking it for free?”

The mood of the morning was just as peaceful as it was everyday. The reverberating sounds of the chimes carried by the wind from the opposite bank of theGangesengulfed the moods of the people at their end – except the two alleged lovers. His mind wandered on these lines and he lit up another cigarette.

ξ

Click Part III to read the concluding part of the story.
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