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Monday, July 15, 2019

ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 Final: The Ultimate Thriller Where England Become New World Champions As Per Rules!

Photo: espncricinfo.com
Very rarely you get to watch such a thrilling one-day encounter, an ICC Cricket World Cup final at that! Further, it a was low scoring game where New Zealand won the toss and naturally elected to bat, and struggled and struggled and stuttered to get to a score of 240 in full fifty overs which never looked like a winning total a la the  hype created over the so-called 300+  pitches of the world event. However, in light of the semi final match against India when NZ gave a target of just 239 runs and won it, plus the pressures of a World Cup final the target of 241 for England was a challenging one on a pitch that was termed as ‘tricky’ by confused commentators. The essence of the game as was felt by all cricket lovers was that none of the teams was willing to give away an inch. It was, throughout the entire duration of the match, an outstanding display of seam bowling and super class fielding by both England and New Zealand. Even neutral fans were hooked as the probable winners changed every minute till the last ball of the 100th over and then the Super Over. For the first time in the history of world cricket we had witnessed a tied match in 100 overs and also a tied match in the deciding Super Over. But one team had to win to lift the coveted trophy, and so the rules regarding maximum boundaries hit by a team in their innings and the super over were applied. And, as per those rules England was declared the new World Cricket Champions.

A debate is still raging on all over the globe on the fairness of the rules. Well, when rules are being framed scepticism and opposition should come then and there, and not after the set rules were applied. The very Super Over rule was actually more apt for T20 tournaments and for IPL. The revellers for the shortest format never uttered a word when such rules were set by the ICC. Now all are saying NZ has been done a great injustice or that there should have been joint winners. In my view, both teams had their bits of luck and chances to win the match. England needed 3 runs from 2 balls in the 100th over which is considered cakewalk in the modern world of cricket, but could only tie. New Zealand also needed 3 runs from 2 balls in the super over, and could only tie. Hence, what was wrong in applying the set rules? In all instances when teams win by 1 run or 1 wicket similar painful thoughts always haunt you, particularly when it’s your favourite team that suffers such a fate. On a day one team becomes the winner, and there is no question of justice or injustice being done. It is also common to see sixes cut off by splendid catches on the boundary line or crossing the boundary after catching it successfully, and also the overthrows going to the boundary.


Whereas no team in this incredible final encounter deserved to lose England did become the Champions thanks to their nerve and brilliance, and therefore nobody should grudge their celebrations. The intensely competitive fight by the New Zealanders will remain in public memory for a long time, and the team must surge ahead for the ultimate glory in coming years. It’s not for nothing that Ken Williamson was declared the Player of the Tournament. India’s Rohit Sharma made an unbelievable record of 5 tons in a single World Cup, but couldn't go ahead to make his team win the games that mattered finally. These are all part of this beautiful game of cricket. Last thought is that the ICC should not mix up rules for all formats and should emphatically separate the ‘populist’ T20 format from the classic formats of Tests and ODIs. 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

ICC Cricket World Cup-2019: New World Champions to Emerge Tomorrow!

Photo: espncricinfo.com
A new World Champions emerges tomorrow at Lord’s in the ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 Final match to be played between England and New Zealand. Neither England nor NZ ever became Champions before, although both coming close several times. England had been playing semi finals in the first five versions of the World Cup since 1975, and they had been runners-ups three times of those five occasions, never able to win the final. They played a semi final last in 1992 and lost it, never able to make to the last four stage since then. 

On the other hand New Zealand played 7 semi finals including the present one and the first two in 1975 and 1979, and had been runners-up only once in the 2015 version when they lost to their big brother Australia. They had been playing good cricket in several world cups, but mostly they had been facing an inconsistent run of wins/losses. In this version they looked the dominant team, but eventually lost badly to Pakistan, Australia and England. Their surprise win over India in the semi final ultimately saw them through. 

Therefore, both the teams would be desperate not to let go of this golden opportunity. More so, England on their home ground and looking to end a bad spell running more than 27 years. On paper, England looks the favorite on the basis of their batting and bowling. However, they also had to account for inconsistencies in terms of losses to Pakistan, Australia and a lowly Sri Lanka. Of course their last three wins over India, New Zealand in the league stage and over Australia in the second semi final were resoundingly convincing. In fact, in the second semi final Australia were so thoroughly outplayed that I cannot recall another occasion when the fighting Aussies gave up so meekly. We expect a cracker of a Final on Sunday, the 14th of July, 2019. 

Meanwhile in India, the pain-induced speculations ruled the roost. Nobody really expected such a poor show by arguably the best team in the tournament, so close to winning it the third time. However, to me the result was not entirely unexpected; in a warm-up match they beat India convincingly; their league match got washed out depriving India of  a real opportunity to assess their seam bowlers and the India batsmen failed to expect and prepare for the ‘three Bumrahs’ in New Zealand. Further for me, the single biggest setback for India was the loss of injured opener Shikhar Dhawan at the very outset thus throwing the gates open for ‘experimentation’ that went on relentlessly for more than two years prior to the tournament. As I feared in another piece of mine here assessment on the basis of IPL records proved to be the only course, and not ODI records of players like Ambati Rayudu who had been India’s no. 4 in the last two years in most of the ODI matches. 

I think the no.4 ‘crisis’ was created artificially; I won’t go into reasons why. The team management could easily have made MS Dhoni as the ideal no.4 batsman, thus avoiding the unnecessary ‘slow batting’ controversy putting the veteran as a misplaced ‘finisher’ instead of the natural pinch hitters like Pant and Pandiya who got, horrifyingly, promoted ahead of Dhoni. Then, they should’ve gone for a sixth bowler option preferring Shami in lieu of Dinesh Karthik who is definitely now at the end of the road, not able to take advantage of the opportunities offered including the biggest one at the semi final. The matches against England and New Zealand we had been watching helplessly as Chahal or Kuldeep had to be bowled their full quota despite the rains of runs yielded by them. One more fact is that the Indian top four invariably failed in knockout matches in recent years; this was more pronounced in the absence of Dhawan at the first semi final against NZ. 

This will never end as far as India is concerned. So, better concentrate on enjoying an engaging final tomorrow. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!—Part-4


I stood there for some time, not knowing what to make of the words just uttered by my erstwhile friend, and what to do next. However, I decided to do the most sensible thing at that moment. I went in heading for the bar. As I pushed my way through the revolving glass doors I came to a standstill again looking at the spectacle.

The bar was spacious, rectangular in size, with a full glass wall giving a view of the street outside and a wood-paneled wall on the other side. To my utter surprise and shock, the whole interior was filled with thick layers of smoke rising up to the false ceiling. How on earth they are allowed to smoke inside, I thought in dismay; my mind taking an overview of all the steps taken by the public authorities in recent years to save people from exposure to passive smoking. What amazed me next were the customers there.

Most of them were young boys and girls. Almost everyone was smoking, throwing out rings of smoke upwards. Some were looking up squealing in ecstasy while a few others were bent over the tables, jerky and sneezing; some were staring around with total disinterest and glazed eyes; some were either howling or moaning or plain crying and some others were swaying from side to side in their merriment with their bodies hitting or brushing against other bodies. I didn’t take long to understand what was going on.

It was obviously a drug bar, and I was astounded as to how this could be done so openly and in such a brazen manner. My first impulse was to dial the police if any in this strange place, but somehow my mobile phone and I became poles apart in the happenings so far. A few addicts became aware of me standing uncertainly in front of the entrance, and they stared at me, as if trying to evaluate me; a few seemed to jeer at me while some others communicated to me pitifully, ‘give us sustenance...give us sustenance...please!” My amazement fast giving way to fear I made a hasty retreat.

Out of the bar I walked disoriented and aimless for a few minutes, not at all bothered about the streets or the landscape or the skyline. Suddenly again, I found myself in front of a restaurant which, to my great relief, looked like a traditional one with two rows of neatly arranged desks and chairs and normal looking waiters moving around taking orders from customers scrutinising the menus. However, something else was waiting for me inside.

As I entered the open doorway heading for an empty table the manager behind the cash counter moved around in great speed, and walking past me slapped a waiter busy taking orders unawares; he repeated his unprecedented acts on three other waiters, slapping them with fury and vehemence. As I was destined that night I stood transfixed there, one more time. Now, the manager was shouting like a madman.

There was a moment of absolute silence in the restaurant following the manager’s acts with customers and staff alike stunned and immobilized. From the incoherent words of the manager I surmised that sometime back the hotel owner’s daughter with a few of her friends visited the restaurant for dinner, and one or more waiters misbehaved with them, not knowing their credentials or simply ignoring them. The daughter and group left in a huff, and the manager got a resounding bashing from the owner over phone. So he acted upon it immediately. However, before his action fully justified his fury something more dramatic happened.

Three goons with guns ready and pointed in their hands entered the restaurant. One of them stood guarding the entrance, one aimed his gun point-black at the manager’s head and the third one took position at the rear end. And I was like a duck sitting pretty amid the strangest scenario. This cannot go on any longer as far as my safety is concerned, I decided. I was an accidental bystander and therefore there was no reason why I should compromise my safety. I started moving towards the entrance slowly as a heated exchange of words was taking place between the manager and the gun-toting goon.

I almost made it. But unfortunately, just at the final moment of exit I accidentally brushed against the goon standing there, and his gun fell to the ground. Before the goon could react to that I acted impulsively and with a good presence of mind. I instantly stooped down, picked up the gun and hander it over to him with a sweet smile. The bewildered thug also managed a grin, and as I made my last move to exit he said to me in a rather paralyzing perplexity, “You gotta be a good man! But many good guys gotta die sooner than others! Nah..?” he hollered in great merriment over his own humor.  “Enjoy the night, goodbye!” I smiled weakly back at him and slowly moved out. The goon leaned out of the entrance to watch me, still giggling.

About twenty yards ahead the road turned right, and if I was able to round that corner I would finally move out of his sight. I watched many movies and read many thrillers where the villains appeared to be very suave, sophisticated and benevolent, but at the climax they used to murder the victims mercilessly. Those twenty yards seemed to be an eternity as I started moving slowly ahead measuring every step and at the same time keeping an absolute outward calm. The imminent probability that he might put a bullet through my back any time was a horrific thought that refused to leave my mind.

Nothing happened for about ten yards. I quickened my pace only by a fraction now so that it didn’t get noticed, suppressing my extreme desire to break into a dead run, and just vanish round the corner...and escape...

                                                                                    (To be continued...)

Friday, June 7, 2019

ICC Cricket World Cup-2019: When The Umpire Wanted Gayle Out!

Photo: espncricinfo.com 

The headline above is not an allegation, it’s only an observation based on hard facts. However, this observation reflects badly on the umpiring standards in the biggest cricket event of the world.  We had recently seen ludicrous umpiring errors in Indian Premiere League-2019. ICC Cricket World Cup can hardly be compared with the former, and we fervently hope that standards would improve as this was just the first week of the tournament.

It all happened in the 10th match of the ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 at Trent Bridge, England between Australia and West Indies. Winning the toss West Indies put Australia into bat, reduced them to 79 for 5 thanks to fiery spells by Thomas and Cortrell that reminded us of the likes of Malcolm Marshall & Co of yore, and as was their wont, West Indies let go allowing the Aussies to amass 288. Still, it was not an impossible target, and West Indies seemed to be cruising nicely with Hope and Heitmyer going great guns. Again, as Caribbean old habits die hard, the batsmen snatched defeat from victory, preferring to go only for the big shots without any kind of pressure. And, they lost by a mere 15 runs. Now, back to our point of concern.

Only in the third over of the match Aussie pacer Starc appealed for a caught behind against Chris Gayle, and the umpire upheld it. Gayle was never known to have shown disrespect or mistrust in umpiring in his strikingly aggressive career, and never sulked after adverse decisions. Therefore, when he shook his head implying that there was no snick and asked for the DRS it was very believable and genuine. The review proved that the ball never touched the bat, and in fact, could have brushed against the off stump without dislodging the bails. Gayle won the DRS. In the same over Starc again appealed for an LBW, and the umpire promptly upheld it while this writer watching television live telecast could clearly see that the ball was veering away from the leg stump. Gayle raised his eyebrows in wonder and asked for the second DRS. The review showed how the ball was missing the leg stump by quite a big margin. Gayle won his second DRS and also opened up with his breathtaking shots. Perhaps, some people who mattered sulked.

The umpire and Starc combined all over again. The appeal was for an LBW with the umpire raising his finger immediately. This time Gayle looked a little bewildered, and asked for his third DRS. The review was not lost yet again, but since the ball was in line and seemed to have struck the top edge of the leg stump the umpire’s decision had to be upheld. And Gayle departed. He was allowed to score only 20 runs.

And then, the real explosion came. Later replays showed that the ball prior to the one that got Gayle out was a no ball by a big leap, but the same umpire never seemed to notice it. Therefore, the ball that got Gayle out finally was a free-hit ball where no batsman could ever get out.

The above observations do not intend to take away credit due to Starc who had a five-wicket haul thanks to consistent pace, line and length, and to Australian captain Finch who showed a thoroughly professional approach making West Indies play into their plans.

The other highlights of the first week, positively, included England, Bangladesh and India beating a beleaguered South Africa in their respective openers where mention must be made about Bangladesh’s aggression and the quality of both batting and bowling; West Indies routing Pakistan, and then Pakistan beating hot favourites England showing precision batting, bowling and fielding, and the fact that no mention by anybody was made as to why England offered batting opportunity to Pakistan on a platter, as the pitch was full of runs and the hosts were full of confidence; valiant Bangladesh losing in a tight match against New Zealand and Sri Lanka managing to register their first win over Afghanistan by a narrow margin.  

With the round-robin league in operation ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 promises to be a fierce battle between nations upholding their national pride and belief. Each one of the ten teams is capable of scripting history—one cannot even write off South Africa and Sri Lanka as yet. We only hope no cricketer suffers like Chris Gayle did in the exciting days of the tournament ahead. India has big matches coming up—against Australia on 9th June, against New Zealand on 13th June and the ultimate one against Pakistan on 16th June.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!—Part-3

The eatery seemed to me as an Italian food joint with largely fast food items most of which were not even known to me. People were crowding, leaning and craning over the counter for buying order coupons since it was a self-service restaurant. However, to my surprise, there was hardly any noise, an eerie silence prevailed. Surprisingly too, members of the student community were missing conspicuously. Of course, I could never be sure about differentiating a young man from a student, it was only subjective. For my comfort, if it did matter, most of the customers were young.

As I approached the counter for a look-in at the items available the nagging thought came to me again; since checking in I didn’t call my even once wife informing her of my whereabouts, even though I wanted to tell her first thing after arrival; but somehow, I never cared to take up the mobile and dial her number. Let me order the food first and then I’ll call her, I assured myself again.

I looked for the menu, but there was none; only names of some dishes were scribbled on the black board behind the counter. I squeezed my eyes to focus on the items, but could not read properly, and the real problem was I was not at all sure what ingredients those dishes were made of. I looked here and there for some kind of help and guidance. My eyes riveted on a small boy, in early teens, standing in front of a table in the eating area beckoning to me to come to him. I found him too young for a waiter, and immediately warned myself that he could be part of a racket to fleece vulnerable customers. So I decided to ignore him, and pushed my way through to the man behind the counter.

I asked him for a menu card or to tell me about the ingredients used in making various items on display. He looked at me a bit oddly, called someone from the backside, and instructed me to follow the man for the advisory. The man was tall and had an athletic build with bulging biceps and chest muscles threatening to tear through the light T-shirt he wore. He sized me up haughtily and ordered me to follow him. Is he going to take me to the kitchen, I wondered.

I followed him obediently as he walked by the side of the restaurant that led to a wooden staircase. He climbed briskly up the stairs and I had trouble keeping track of him as lots of people were either going up or coming down the stairs, I failed to understand why. We arrived at a broad spacious wooden platform crowded with people scattered here and there. I froze as I managed to take a closer look.

Most of the people there were physically deformed or poor beggars or both. I guessed some of them could be leprosy affected too. They were lying on the floor in helpless sprawls making odd noises. Some of them were moaning, some crying and some shrieking out in agony, ‘Help us...help us...help us...!’ Some other able-bodied guys were trudging through the fleshy spread of human bodies, examining them, taking photos...but making no effort to help them in any way.

My moment of the paralysing shock cost me dearly. I lost track of the muscular guy. He seemed to have vanished into thin air. How is it possible, how a bulky bodybuilder like him can vanish like that, I had a sense of panic rising within me. There was no exit from the platform on the other side as there were brick walls around with a few wooden windows strewn here and there, mostly closed; any visitor must use the staircase for departing too. Now, the disfigured, the agonized and the helpless bodies on the floor suddenly became aware of me standing there uncertainly, and their noises began to be directed at me. I shook myself out of the paralysis, and started looking for a quick escape.

Luckily, I did not lose my way and the staircase was still there. I almost ran towards it and plummeted down the steps like a cursed shooting star. An overwhelming sense of relief flooded my whole self as I arrived back at the front side of the restaurant.

With relief the hunger pangs returned too. As I contemplated my next move I noticed a person, dressed in a civilized manner and bespectacled, taking a lot of interest in me and was coming towards me. I took him for a professor of the institution, and was not at all averse to meeting him.  In fact, I thought, a local professor could be a very good guide for me. I waited for him to join me.
He was lean and of medium height; smiling eyes behind the glasses and black curly hair. He said to me immediately,
“Hello, you seem to be a stranger in this part of the globe, I suppose! I’m Akhter, a businessman from Mumbai.”
So he was not a local professor and an equal stranger like me, I thought dully. I said to him loud,
“Well, not exactly. I visited this place earlier, but this time I’m finding it a little strange. Anyway, I’m Hridayesh from Kolkata. Nice meeting you!” We shook hands.
“You look a bit ruffled up, are you in some sort of trouble?” he asked. “I know this place well. Tell me, I can help you out.”

I told him about my predicament finding a supper. He took me to a nearby shop, bought cigarettes, lighted his and offered me one. I politely refused. He relaxed, making me relax too. We continued our conversation, but I lost track of the thread apart from the fact that he promised to take me to a good food joint. After finishing his fag he asked me to come with him. We hit the main road and walked in the direction which I thought took us farther away from the guest house. This time I felt confident of finally quashing my hunger protests. A few yards on the main road we turned right towards a lane, at the end of the lane I could see an illuminated restaurant. His steps became quicker as I followed him in.

The one-storied longish block housed a store on our right and a restaurant cum bar on the other. The kitchen was most probably located behind the store, because I saw several waiters coming out with loaded trays and some going in perhaps for more food orders. My friend seemed to have locked his eyes with big-bellied elderly manager at the cash counter which served both the bar and the store. Suddenly, Akhter began shaking in excitement.
“This is a decent place, have your drinks and food in comfort,” he said to me. “I must go now. Sorry not to be with you. Because I must have a one-night-stand with my packets...” and with these strange words he vanished behind the store...

                                                                  (To Be Continued...)

Monday, May 13, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!—Part-2


I did as I planned. I managed to push the door free of its hinges to the wrong side outside. However, the falling door failed to crush anyone under its weight. To my surprise and horror, there was only that frail old sick lady outside, and she dexterously succeeded in wriggling herself out of the falling door.

Eyes blazing, breathing venom, hair and hands flailing and shrieking wildly the woman was dancing in a seizure of insanity. “Give me money...give me food...you crooked fool!” I failed to retreat inside, as if paralyzed by the spectacular dance of insanity in front of me, as if trying in vain to analyze what it was all about. I lost a few precious moments in the process. In those seconds the wild cavorting spectacle in deadly throes took hold of a small iron table, and came rushing to hit me. I pulled my mind out of wondering about how she could come to possess so much of energy, so ominously potent, and concentrated on my next crucial move.

My self defense mechanism now turned to the attacking mode as I moved out in the open trying to run around her eluding her, trying to tire her out and to catch the most opportune moment to deactivate her. For the first time I was aware that it was an open space, like a backyard, and there were few building blocks surrounding the space. There were some heads and voices too in the lighted balconies of some blocks, but no one tried to intervene or help either of us. You cannot expect anything from these zombies; at the most they will take out their mobiles, take selfies and enjoy, I mused bitterly as I ran around the space with the specter giving a relentless chase. “Give me money...give me food...you wretched devil!”

Perhaps there came a divine intervention. In that seemingly endless run and chase, one moment came to me when she was close enough to me on my right about to turn around to confront me. I accepted that moment like the proverbial straw; caught hold of her and the iron table using both of my hands, gave her an almighty shove and ran headlong towards my room—through the broken door and through that enigmatic door. Unnaturally powerful as she was, the frail lady could not take it this time reeling, cursing and falling with a thud at the farthest side of the space, the iron table on top of her. That gave me good enough time to seal my protection.

I activated all the locks available on that mysterious door, and sat down on the bed panting with a rush of blood to my head. Shrill shrieks of the insane woman could no longer be heard now. However, at this particular moment things again got a little blurred, I had no idea at all why. At that particular moment I should have done the most obvious thing—call up reception, report that emergency and urge them to take immediate preventive steps. But instead, I only felt pangs of hunger in my belly, and thought about taking preventive steps for that only. I looked at my watch. Oh God...it was quarter past ten, no point calling the canteen now, I thought despondently.

My mobile phone rang. In the commotion I totally forgot about my phone which was lying abandoned at the bedside table. Now that lively gadget somehow brought me a little closer to reality, it seemed. It was Srijay flashing on the screen as I answered it.
“Sir, have you taken your supper? Are you already in bed?”
“Neither. I forgot to order on time. Few odd things happening here that I’ll tell you tomorrow at leisure. For the moment I am famished and I don’t know what to do! No vehicle available to venture out to the town.”
“Sorry to hear that, Sir. Anyway, don’t worry. There is a joint, reasonably good, nearby. From the main entrance of the guest house turn right and you’ll find it a hundred meters away. I’ll accompany you if you want.”
“Thanks a lot, Srijay. No...No..., you take rest. I’ll manage. Good night, see you tomorrow.”

For good or bad I was not sure at that time, my hunger pangs got the better of me submerging my earlier queer experiences into an understanding with reality. How I came out of the guest house without confronting anyone in the reception I didn’t give a thought to that time and neither could I remember now. The whys and hows in my narrative were still refusing to reveal themselves, to my utter helplessness.

Anyway, I exited from the guest house gate and turned right as instructed. The scenario puzzled me quite a lot. As I remembered from my earlier visit or visits the guest house was located in a small township of the institution with only a main road and classroom and administrative blocks and staff quarters scattered around with open spaces lined with trees. Coming outside now I found several other roads connecting to the main road, and lots of lighted shopping or eating enclosures all around. However, there were lonely stretches of maybe hundred meters each on either side of the guest house.  I even found distant hills silhouetting a dim skyline opposite to the guest house which was definitely no there when I came last. Queer thoughts creeping in again I quickened my steps towards the eatery... 
                                                                          (To Be Continued...)

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!


We checked into a guest house of the academic institution after eight in the evening. Somehow at that particular moment I couldn’t remember the exact details of our prior journey, just concentrating on getting settled there. Why I was there that too I didn’t quite bother about. However, since my colleague came along with me I was confident enough that it was an official trip. That it was a bit odd not to remember anything about the trip or the purpose of the visit didn’t cross my mind either.

The room was rectangular and looked fine, a little more spacious than standard rooms. From the entrance on the left segment of the room there was the double bed; on the left side of the bed there was a sliding glass-paned window giving a view to the front side of the guest house; a cupboard at the corner opposite the bed; on the right there was a table with three wooden cushioned chairs and beyond that there was the door to the rest room. I got curious when I saw another closed door on the left side of the rest room door, that is to say, on the farthest right hand corner from the entrance. From the design of the floor I was sure that the additional door couldn’t connect to another room. I decided to find out later what that interesting door led to. There was one more window on the right side from entrance; all curtains were drawn across since the AC was put on.

My colleague Srijay asked me repeatedly if I was comfortable and if I needed something more. Getting assured from my answers he left for his room reminding me to order supper positively before ten o’clock at which time the limited dining facility closed down for the night. I saw him to the door thanking him for his concern. As I closed the door suddenly I felt someone’s presence in the room. I whirled around to my left, and for a moment I was paralyzed with an uncanny feeling.

Standing before the drawn curtains of the window a short, stocky and dark skinned boy smiled up at me. I stared at him, nothing coming out of my frozen vocal chords. The boy grinned at me and said,
“Sir...you must’ve forgotten me! Why...I was the room service when you came here last time!”
Yes, I came here earlier too, but somehow I couldn’t place that boy, not able to remember if I met him last time. More than that I was very much occupied with the thought about how he got in. The attendant left after putting my luggage in order, and no one came after that; I was there with Srijay only. The fact that my mind was already a little blurred I took special care now to put things in proper focus, and my mind started racing which was interrupted by the boy again.
“Sir, don’t worry...you’ll remember later, of course. Please call room service if you need anything...and I’ll come again” With that the boy unlocked the door, went out and closed it from outside, all in a languid motion.

I stood there motionless for some time. Finally I forcibly put it out of my mind, and at the same time I decided to explore everything about the room. Immediately I headed for the interesting door past the rest room. I moved the door knob giving it a mild push to know if it was locked from the other side.

No, it wasn’t. I pushed further and the door opened into a sizable space giving the impression of some sort of a store room. But, why a store room was attached to the main room? Such a facility was never offered in any hotel or guest house where I stayed in the last few years. The room had some old wooden furniture and few wooden racks scattered here and there. Straight ahead there was another door, and immediately I moved towards it to find out what was lying beyond, my curiosity at the peak now. As I neared the door something moved on my right. There was a big old wooden rack covered fully with a white sheet from top to bottom, and below the bottom shelf the cloth was hurriedly pulled inside. Someone must be hiding under it! I got really scared now, a chill running down my spine.

“Who the hell is there?” I shouted at the top of my voice. Nothing happened for a few moments. And then, the cloth was thrown aside, and there emerged the frame of frail old lady with unkempt hair, sunken eyes and protruding cheekbones glaring at me, and in a flash trying to jump on me. She called out in a sick shrill, “Give me money...give me food...now...or... I’ll devour you up, you wicked man!” More in fright than the danger of a physical assault I instinctively rushed towards the door as the sickly woman charged after me. In a flash I opened the door, pushed the rushing figure through it and locked it from inside. I had no time to see what lay beyond that door as I planned to earlier. I’ve locked this door, and now I’ll keep that ‘interesting’ door of my room permanently locked never bothering about it, but I’ll surely report this matter to the manager, I promised myself.

Outside the door the shrill rose to a crescendo now, and I hurriedly turned around heading back for my room. I took only a few steps when I heard a scratching noise slowly rising in volume. I whirled around again looking at the door. Someone was trying to crush open the door. Who could it be? That frail lady couldn’t possibly emit so much force? I stood there transfixed. The scratching became a hammering now. The door started shaking violently.

My God...it was giving away, I watched in horror! The top door hinge was almost gone; the middle one was getting jerked uncontrollably. If that gave away the single-piece door would come off. I must do something now...and fast.

Instinctively again, I rushed towards the door. My plan was to push the door out along with the intruder to the other side, possibly crushing her or him under the door, then rush back to the room, locking the ‘interesting’ door securely and call reception. Only one factor was beyond my control—I didn’t know what lay beyond that door, and what was the number of my foes, only the lady or more...  
                                                                                                    ...(To Be Continued)

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Release Function of HARI DARSHAN KI PYAASI In Mumbai

Release Function of HARI DARSHAN KI PYAASI In Mumbai
Ragini With Bollywood Actor Nagma and Celebrated Music Director Kaushal Inamdar
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