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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)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Gold Crush!



He took a resolve not to submit the details as required or give in to the new pressure tactics. He considered this move totally unfounded, preposterous and unnecessary. Why should he or any other of his kind at all? How did it relate to the work they all were doing? He was not a broker or an agent or a dealer or a pedlar. He had been a simple honest straightforward employee eking out a living from his salary, didn’t matter at all if it was fat or lean. Whatever he did or didn’t was conditioned by his monthly salary, and he was not ready to share his kitchen details with anyone. Why at all? And what purpose would it serve to the party who wanted such details except for making wrong use of the information.

His company suddenly wanted all its employees to submit full property details including family holdings of gold and silver. While most of the employees accepted it as part of duty and were going ahead with the procedure he resisted vehemently publicly announcing his decision never to comply with this.

His stubborn resistance naturally led to suspicions among his colleagues. Did he somehow manage to have a secret hoarding of the precious metals from his or his wife’s side and therefore refusing to disclose, they thought. He also came to know of their suspicions, but didn’t give a damn, and instead tried to inspire them with noncompliance giving the reason as ‘unnecessary intrusions into the personal domain’. Some of them did agree, but didn’t have the courage to act upon it.

As it transpired the drive finally petered out for unknown reasons, and the company stopped pestering for strict compliance. He felt vindicated, but others said that finally good sense prevailed in the company management. Those who submitted were never asked anything about it.

As we found out later he had an entirely different reason for his refusal. He had such tiniest of possessions of the precious metals that he was ashamed of disclosing that in public. He was believed to have confided to his wife, “Only you and I know that we never hankered after gold or anything. We have next to nothing in our family possession, even you friends wouldn’t believe you if you tell them so. Now, isn’t it offensive to ask us to disclose? At least paupers like us should be spared the ignominy of having to advertise in public. Don’t you agree?”

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

IPL Vs ICC World Cup Cricket!


While most of the World Cup-2019 squads of various nations are having or are going to have training camps soon for the all-important event India continue to have just Indian Premiere League (IPL-2019). Well...

That Virat Kohli continued to captain Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) even after the most disgraceful proceedings as far as the team performances are concerned has obvious reason. Being a superlative cricketer that he is and also being Team India captain Virat had been the star attraction of the IPL-2019. Therefore, despite the upsetting losses he was still having most of the commercial time on the air along with some of his non-performers, and an appetizing element of suspense being maintained by the cricketing experts or the media or the spectators that he might stage a comeback for his franchise yet, and who knows..! For similar reasons in terms of money and glamour Indian cricketers just could not leave the IPL halfway while many of the other international cricketers had already left or were leaving for training or preparatory camps of their respective countries. A camp should ideally be one-month long, and most countries were following that in right earnest. However, the last match of IPL scheduled on 12th May, 2019 Team India didn’t have even a fortnight to prepare with the ICC World Cup-2019 staring on 30th May, 2019 in England and Wales. Further, there had been no news so far if there was indeed going to be an Indian camp or not.

IPL has been an enigma in different ways. Many cricket experts and some sports journalists believed that competitive IPL was providing good enough match practice for the coming international tournament. This was a highly contentious issue. The format of T20 is entirely different with the bowlers not able to bowl more than 4 overs each, and batsmen desperately trying to hit sixes or fours with the little time available. How is it going to provide good practice to score as well as stick on the fast England pitches in the one-day international (ODI) or 50-over matches? Besides, stalwarts like Sourav Ganguly kept on making controversial statements intermixing T20 with the ODI format. Ganguly, going gaga over a match winning innings of Rishav Pant recently, said that this world cup was not the end of the road for him, there will more to follow in at least 15 years to come, adding to the astonishing hype created over the non-selection of Pant for the World Cup-2019. A few days later he said that the form of Virat Kohli in this IPL was no indication for the coming World Cup. Well, it was all of a matter of convenience to analyze IPL in the intended ways as was evident from such comments. The day or rather the night when RCB got finally knocked out of the tournament some media personnel were very quick to add that now Virat Kohli should concentrate only on preparing for the World Cup!

God forbid, the IPL could be the biggest stumbling block for the World Cup as far Team India’s performance in that event is concerned. Competitive club bonanza is no match for the international event where pride of nation is much more important than money and glitz. On the other hand if some players had benefited from the IPL they all belonged to rival teams. For example, Warner and Smith from Australia prospered very well just after coming back from serving a one-year ban for the ball-tampering scandal, good batting practice, and now the preparatory camp in addition; some of the Caribbean cricketers also benefited hugely from this tournament with a few of them making it to the World Club squad, and now going to have the training camp too. Only Indian cricketers had toiled maniacally on slow-flat domestic pitches with no road to exit, and now will be leaving for England without any preparation in terms of physical conditioning. And also, they would definitely be fated to face the superstars created by this IPL in rival teams in the coming international event.

Whichever way it goes, Team India is still favored hugely to lift the World Cup-2019, and we believe too in that positivity. If Virat had problems in IPL captaincy he will have Dhoni and Rohit on his side in the World Cup. However, we still lament the possible lack of any preparatory camp for India to land in England reactivated sans the IPL hangover. And then, this time the ICC World Cup will be fought on a round-robin basis with each of the 10 teams playing each other once, and the top four teams making it to the semi-final stage. This promises to be a saga of super cricketing rivalry with the first match taking place on 30th May, 2019. Happy cricketing times to all the lovers of this game.

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