The Smell of Rain.

“Aah! Love the smell of the first rains…It’s so simple yet feels so warm like the earth is hugging you…”Laila said entering the room. She tried hard to close the old umbrella but failed. She threw it behind the door. “How long have you been waiting?”

“You haven’t changed…” Said Kunal, “You still get joy in little things. I hate the smell…I ”

“Yeah.. I remember you feel as if someone put soil in your mouth…” Laila laughed.

“Times like these are so strange…They often take you on a trip to memory lane.” Kunal sipped the hot brewing coffee and looked out of the window. The droplets touching his face and wetting the papers on the table didn’t bother him.

Laila went closer to Kunal and stood beside him. “The wind feels so refreshing and wild at the same time. It messes with my hair but the moment it stops I start missing it.”

“You don’t miss him?” Kunal looked straight in Laila’s wide eyes which were looking at the dancing trees. The smile on Laila’s lips was about to fade. Her eyes were about to give up the thin tear forming but then she smiled even brighter. Her eyes glistened as she took a deep breath and looked at Kunal.

“I sometimes wish that time should stop in some beautiful moments. The moments where I feel truely alive. Moments were I forget about the world.” She went close to the window glass and wrote on the fogged glass with her finger…Vijay.

“But the times you wished did the time actually stop?” Kunal turned his back towards Laila to hide his tears. He cleared his throat. “We wished many things…But…”

“We cannot get everything! Life is a story of getting and not getting.” Laila still smiled. “Why do you hide your tears? It’s okay to cry Kunal.”

“It’s been like six years Laila…Six years since the three of us haven’t played as a band. Why is it so hard even after so many years?”

“You remember last time we played…You almost fought with Vijay for the lyrics!”

“Yeah…” Kunal finally looked at Laila and smiled, “and you slapped both of us. He stormed out of this room and went in the rain…”

“We dreamed of becoming the biggest band…” Laila absentmindedly interrupted, “If vijay was here in this reunion, the girls would have still gone crazy for him.”

“He was a show-off. That brat. He was so arrogant… Ill-behaved… mannerless. But still I miss him. Why did he take his bike that day Laila? Why didn’t we stop him? Why did I fight with him? I feel guilty Laila…It’s like a stone on my chest. It grows bigger and heavier each day.”

“The stone…I too was burdened with the stone. It got smaller and smaller once I forgave myself. It was nobody’s fault Kunal. What could have happened! We could have not faught that day. We could have not rehearsed that day. He is gone. But look! he is still with us…You asked whether the time stopped or not…It did for me Kunal. Can’t you hear us singing, fighting, laughing…Rainy days like this, our guitars, the hot tea from the canteen and this music room…”

“And the smell of the rain…”, Kunal closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Time stopped indeed”.


“There is an age for love. It’s when you are in college. Everything seems good and pleasurable. You seek for new adventure…new faces…new people in your life. And that’s when love happens. It may lead you to a beautiful reality or a dark nightmare.Not at this age…I am thirty three. Now is age for saving money, making life more secure, searching for a good decent life partner. Love never is a priority at this stage of my life.” Said Shiv holding a glass of chai in one hand and taking a puff from the cigarette held in another. He stood at one of the many tea stalls lined up outside his office. Shiv a bearded man with a peeping tummy from the bottons of his shirt was a stressed overworked IT employee.

“But what about the concept of true love? What if there is a special someone out there? What if the concept of the one is true?” Asked his friend Som. Som was Shiv’s junior in office. A non smoker with a cute face wanting to argue with Shiv on love.

“Huh…true love. A concept to misdirect the youth…tell me…who has time for this? I work my ass off here, go home freshen up, cook or order whatever the mood is and then sleep. Neither do I have the energy nor the time to get on a trip of finding my true whatever.” Shiv looked exhausted at 11 in the morning. He finished his cigarette and threw the burning butt in the drain. “One more cup…bro.” he ordered the owner of the stall.

“I think we should rush, bhaiya…” Som said looking at the clock. “It’s almost half an hour…”.

“You go…” Shiv seemed irritated. “Go butter the boss.”
Som left without any argument this time. He knew he would never win an argument with Shiv.

Shiv did the work in the office with a grumpy mood and headed home quickly after submitting his work status. He generally took a cab to his home but that day he was compelled to take the bus seeing the price hike of the cabs. The buses were generally crowded during that time of the evening due to which Shiv preferred a cab but the bus that Shiv took was quite empty. He immediately got a seat when he boarded. The bus was a very old dusty bus. With foam coming out of the seats and rust on the iron bars. He sat near a window after properly dusting the seat. He was planning of wearing the same pants to work the next day. Though the roads were good the ride to his destination was quite bumpy. He took out the earphone from his pocket, played his playlist and continued to look out of the window. The shops were closing their shutters and the people were heading back to their houses. Like Shiv the city seemed tired too.
Suddenly Shiv noticed something weird happening to his hands. His palm got sweaty and numb. He got scared for a second. Then he noticed a vein engorging in his left wrist. This time it pained a lot. It seemed like the vein was getting lifted. Shiv got even more scared. He felt a bit dizzy. He removed his wrist watch quickly, put it inside his bag and pressed his left wrist with his right hand. He waited for a moment. Then he removed his hand to have a look. It was completely normal. Shiv was relieved. He took out his water bottle and took a sip. His heart was still racing but he pacified himself thinking that all was his imagination. He knew he needed rest. “It’s alright…Shiv. Wait for the weekend. I’ll get some chilled beer and I’ll be good!” He talked to himself. The co-passengers were probably too engulfed in themselves to even notice Shiv’s weird behaviour.

After about an hour Shiv reached his apartment. It was a small apartment with one bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. He used to live with a roommate but about a year ago his roommate got married and left the apartment. Shiv didn’t even bother to look for a new roommate and share the rent. His company paid him enough. He was eventually loving living alone. He kept things wherever he liked, he could use the bathroom for whatever time he wanted and could sing songs aloud. There was nobody to give any objection and he could be himself. He threw his bag on the sofa, went straight to the fridge, took out a canned cold drink and switched on the A.C. He lit his cigarette and enjoyed it till the last puff in silence. He then went to freshen up…changed into his tee and bermuda, took out the stale noodles from the fridge. He heated it in the microwave and ate it with the cold drink. He finished the food in hurry, put the bowl in the sink, threw the can towards the dustbin but couldn’t aim. The remaining drink in the can spilled over the floor. He didn’t care. The maid would clean the mess the next morning.

He went to the fridge again. The door had a sticker which read ‘STAY HYDRATED’ in beautiful golden bold letters. He looked but ignored. He went for the beer he had stocked. Usually he would finish up a bottle or two but this time he couldn’t. His doctor had warned him about consuming too much alcohol. He remembered the strange hallucinations in the bus back home. He took two sips and put it back to the rack.
He went to his bed. The bed was filled with papers and books, data cables, his laptop, clothes all over the bedsheet and gritted biscuits were spread everywhere. He tutted looking at his bed. He pulled a t-shirt from the pile of clothes and dusted the bed till he was satisfied. Shiv switched the lights off, got into the bed, adjusted the pillow to a comfortable position, took out his phone and started clearing the pending mails and messages. He didn’t realise when he fell asleep.
It was midnight when suddenly his eyes opened but he couldn’t move his body. He couldn’t breathe. His chest felt heavy. He was in panic. He was frightened. He wanted to shout but his voice was not coming out. He looked above. It appeared as if a shadow of a man was peeping into his eyes. His quickly shut his eyes and tried to calm himself. Few seconds passed. He gasped as he was finally able to move. He sat on the bed thinking about the horrific experience. It was not the first time when he experienced sleep paralysis but each time it was pathetic. Shiv’s doctor had told him to sleep early, eat healthy, stay away from caffeine and excess alcohol but these things seemed in no control for Shiv. But the thing that made him more frightened was the hallucination. He had never seen a person or figure in his previous attacks. It was new. Shiv tried to get to sleep again but failed. He was too worried of another attack of sleep paralysis. Though he knew it would not harm him physically but still it was too much to handle. He slumped on the sofa in the dinning room and waited for the morning. He felt a strange weight over his body.

It was seven when he decided to get up and freshen up. He yawned all the way to the washroom. He wanted to take a day off from the office but he needed to save his holidays for his visit to his parents. He was thinking all these things when suddenly he noticed his veins on his palm engorging again. He rubbed his hand vigorously and shook his head.
“Why is it happening? Am I loosing it? These hallucinations won’t let me…” He talked to himself but stopped suddenly when he felt a tap on his shoulders from behind. He was startled and looked behind at once.

A fair and handsome young man stood behind with an anxious face. He wore a checked red shirt unbottoned over a white tee shirt and a loose brown trousers. His big spectacles seemed too old fashioned.
“Who are you? How did you come in?” Shiv asked in a strained voice.

“I came with you last night. I am Nikhil.”

“What rubbish. Don’t try to be smart mister. I am calling the police.” Shiv dashed to reach for his phone. He was really alarmed that a stranger was in his house.

“Don’t call anyone. I just need your help. Just help me once and I promise I won’t bother you again.” Nikhil almost begged.

“You mannerless brat. You enter a house without permission…no actually sneak in and have the guts to talk to me like that. I won’t spare you….just watch.”

“You can’t reach anyone now. Relax…just calm down …hear me once. I won’t harm you. I promise.”

Shiv tried dialling the emergency number but his fingers froze. He couldn’t move his thumb. His chest thumped up and down in frustration.

“Ahhhh.. what…” Shiv cried and hurled the phone to Nikhil. The phone passed through Nikhil’s body and hit the opposite wall. The screen shattered into small pieces. Shiv sat on the floor at once seeing Nikhil stand still. Shiv was calm for a moment. He felt cold.

“What…what ar..are you?” Shiv uttered.
Nikhil stepped closer to Shiv and sat down. Shiv tried to move back with each step Nikhil took. Shiv was shook to his core.
“I won’t harm you…I promise you would not see me again. I just want you to go to a place. That’s it. Please.”

“But I have to reach my office…I..”

“I just want your one hour. Nothing else. Please.”

“What do I have to do?” Shiv was too afraid to deny to what Nikhil was saying. He just wanted it to be over.

“First dress up. We will have to go to a place…you should be properly dressed” Nikhil smiled at Shiv. Shiv ran to the washroom, got a quick shower, pulled out his suit from the wardrobe and put his most expensive shoes.

“ look good.” Nikhil complimented. Shiv didn’t know how to react to that. He was still hoping that all this was his weird imagination.

“Where do we have to go?” He asked in a shaking voice.

“Hire a cab and I’ll tell you where to go.” Nikhil replied in a calm tone.

“But I broke the phone…how will I book a cab?” Shiv shivered as he was talking.

“I am sorry for that…I was responsible but I can’t help you. We can get a regular taxi from the stand.”
Shiv and Nikhil got out and looked for a taxi. After looking for a while they finally got one. Nikhil gave directions to Shiv and Shiv conveyed to the driver. Many things were going on in Shiv’s mind. He decided to get to a doctor once he gets finished with Nikhil. He had never encountered a ghost or spirit in his life. He had only heard stories which were not very good and which always ended ugly. He prayed each moment. He questioned each second of the day.
“Tell him to stop!” Nikhil said. The degree of restlessness can be measured by his tone.
They got off the taxi. Shiv looked at Nikhil. “Now what?” He asked.

“You see the red gate there…” Nikhil pointed out to a house. “Go there and knock on the door.”

Shiv looked at the gate.”Who lives there? And what do I say to the person?” He asked.

He got no reply. He looked around. Nikhil was nowhere. Shiv moved his foot towards the house. It was a gloomy day. The overgrown plants in the neighborhood made the path darker. He reached the red gate. Slided the lock and opened it. The garden was well maintained. There roses, lilies, jasmines bloomed and the fragrance was very capturing. He gathered all his courage when he walked through the garden and finally reached the door. He sighed and lifted his hand. He finally knocked on the door. His heart was racing and he didn’t know what to anticipate. Nobody opened the door. He knocked again.
This time the door opened. An old woman stood smiling.
“I am sorry…I kept you waiting. I am too old to walk quickly.”
Shiv was relieved seeing the old woman but was more confused.

“Come in my child,” the woman invited Shiv before he could even say anything. “Nikhil sent you here?”

“How do …” Shiv was speechless. He repented entering the house.

“You stay here. I’ll just come. Please be seated.” The lady went to the other room saying this.

“Is this Nikhil’s home? Maybe the lady is his mother?” Shiv thought to himself. He noticed some photographs kept in the showcase. He went close to take a look. The photographs were black and white and stained at some places. There were many photographs. He could recognise the lady from her single portrait and was completely fascinated by her beauty. He then shifted his focus to a group photo. It seemed like a college group. This time he could spot Nikhil standing beside the lady. Both looked happy, holding each other’s hand. He looked up and saw a certificate hanging on the wall. The name was ‘Mary Joseph’.

“That’s my college degree.” The lady entered the room with a cake in his hand. Shiv was nervous.

“I am sorry …I looked into the…”

“It’s okay my child. I know you are confused…” The lady kept the cake on the table. Shiv noticed ‘Happy Birthday’ written on it but he curbed the desire to ask anything. He went closer.

The lady cut a generous piece and gave it to Shiv. “You must be hungry.”

“Nikhil…I saw him. He is a gh…”

“We were in love…” The lady interrupted. “Yes…you saw him. Is he still so handsome?”
The lady teared up saying this. Shiv didn’t say anything. He just listened.
“We were together in college. We fell in love. But he was a Hindu Brahmin and I was a Christian and that time it was a huge deal. Our parents didn’t allow us to be together. We didn’t want to upset our parents. So we decided to give them time…we hoped one day they will understand.” The lady sighed. “They didn’t.”

“Did Nikhil kill himself?” Shiv asked.

“No…he was brave…he fought for us. We fought for us. But…”

“What happened?”

“An accident. Nikhil was badly injured. My parents allowed me to meet him in the hospital one last time. He was in the bed lying helplessly but still smiling. He smiled as he promised he would wait for me. I cried as I promised I would wait for him. He died that very night.”
Shiv sat on the chair near him and continued to listen.
“It’s been thirty years. He never forgets my birthday…he makes me realise…that he’s still waiting!” She cried and smiled at the same time. The wrinkled face lit up once again as she thought of Nikhil. “What’s your name Son?”

“Shiv…Shiv Mehra.”

“Come I have something to show you…” The lady took Shiv to another room. Shiv was amazed to see some twenty-thirty cakes kept on a large round table.
“People like you who were approached by Nikhil send me these every year! Kind people like you. People who believe in love. You tell me…do you have a special someone?”

“I didn’t believe in love…” Shiv paused and looked up at her face, “But now I do!”

The lady smiled. “Tell me…did he also promise you that he’ll never bother you again?”

” Yeah..I was too frightened. I didn’t know who was he. But didn’t he ever come to meet you after his death?”

“I don’t know actually. I always feel he is with me. Maybe he doesn’t want to see me as an old woman!” Mary laughed. “People say spirits approach only those who are depressed or tired… You must be late to work. I have my orphanage to take care of. The children give me strength. They enjoy the cakes with me and turn this old lady to a small girl.”

“I couldn’t have believed your story if I hadn’t seen it. I was wrong. Love has no barrier. No age. No religion. No world.”

“You will experience it soon I guess…just don’t loose hope. Don’t stop loving. One day will come when you’ll meet a person whose one glance would knock the door to your heart!”

Shiv spent the whole day with Mary and the children in the orphanage. He played games, laughed like a child and ate the cakes without any worry. It was evening when he decided to head back home. He got on a bus from the street nearby. He soon realised it was the same bus he took that night from the office.

“Hey, may I sit beside you?” A sweet voice called from behind. A beautiful lady with an innocent smile stood infront of Shiv. His heart skipped a beat.
“Sh…sure.” he stammered.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Roshni ran to her room as soon as she entered the house. She opened the room, put her bag on the carpet, slided the curtains to allow the light enter the room and stared out of the window.

She noticed the mango tree in the backyard had grown taller and wider. The tree blocked most of the light entering through the window. She looked around the room. Everything was as it was when she left for college a year ago. Now that the summer vacation were on, she could sleep longer, eat home made food and hang out with her old friends. She looked out the window again. A smile covered her face as she saw the big green mangoes hanging from the tree. She loved raw mangoes.

Then suddenly she heard the caws. The crows were all over the mango tree. They continuously made sounds as if there was a fight going on. Then Roshni noticed a crow being attacked by other crows. The crow being attacked was a very small one and was a bit different. It took a while for Roshni to figure out that the little crow was not actually a crow but was a baby cuckoo. What stunned Roshni was the fact that there was a crow who was protecting the cuckoo from the attacks. Roshni had never seen this thing before. Her grandmother had told her stories about the cuckoo bird. These lazy birds don’t build their own nest. They instead lay eggs in other bird’s nest…mostly crow’s nest. Thus the crow…probably a female was not protecting the cuckoo but she was protecting her child. The crow knew that the baby was not hers but she knew she was it’s mother. Roshni kept looking at the crow and the cuckoo until they flew to a farther tree.

Roshni then walked slowly to the other wall. And gazed at the framed photo. It was her mother’s. She took out a match stick and lighted the candle kept on the shelf close to the photo. “Mom…I wish I had some memories of you…” Roshni was very young when her mom passed away. She had only heard stories of her mother from her grandmother.

“Roshni…” Called her father. Roshni at once went running to the dinning room. The table was full of all her favourite foods. Her Dad stood at the corner with a sweet smile.

“Dad…what have you done!”

“So you don’t want all this?” He frowned.

“Of course I do want all this.” Roshni uncovered all the dishes one by one, taking the delicious scents in and smiling all the time. At one such dish she uncovered the lid and held on for a moment. “Coconut prawn? Mom loved it when you made this for her…right?

“No darling…I made it because you love it and…who told you about your mother?” Roshni’s father seemed a little annoyed.

“Grandma did. You loved Mom very much didn’t you?”

“I…I don’t….why don’t you start eating. It’s getting cold.”

Roshni went closer to her dad and hugged him tightly.

“I know I’m not your…blood” Roshni cried as she tried to complete the sentence.

“Who told you that? You are my daughter and I am your father…” Her father couldn’t hold back his tears either.

“Grandma told me that mom cheated on you. You still accepted her. You accepted me and…oh dad.” Roshni gripped him even tighter.

“Stop your rubbish. You know I love your mom. I loved her with all I had. And will continue to love her till my last breath. And I love you my darling.” He kissed her on her head. “Don’t bring all this up ever… understand. Or…or I’ll never talk to you. Now please would you start eating!”

Roshni smiled and wiped her tears. “Dad?”

“Now what?”

“I think you are the best mother in this world!”

The Tumble

“You seem tensed son…What is that paper you are holding?” Viraj’s mother asked with concern. She couldn’t walk properly and crippled as she walked pass the door.

“Mom!”, Viraj stood up from his seat and held her mother, “Why are you still up? It’s already two…I told you to sleep early. Did you take your medicines?” He quickly folded the paper and put it into his pocket.

“I saw the lights were on…So…I am worried about you son!” She couldn’t hold back her tears any longer.

“Mom, come have a seat”, he made her sit on the sofa. He sat beside her and held her hand.

“You are my strength Mom and if you break down like this I ….” He reached to his pocket and took out the paper. He unfolded it and kept it on the table.

“Divorce?! Is she really doing this?”

“Mom don’t..You know this was coming,” Viraj sighed, “Please..I… Let’s get you to bed…We will talk about this in the morning… Okay?”
Viraj took his mother to her room. Made her take the pills and put her to bed. He sat beside her brushing her hairs until she was soundly asleep. He turned the lights off, took out a cigarette from his pocket, grabbed the keys and went to the terrace. He went to a corner and tried to light the cigarette. The terrace was dark. The bulb fused about a year ago but nobody in the building cared to replace it. The wind made it difficult for Viraj to light the cigarette. His fingers were not cooperating either. He had anxiety issues and his fingers trembled in stress. Finally he succeeded in the fourth try.

With each puff he realized how useless and futile his living had become. His fingers trembled badly. He couldn’t grip the cigarette properly.He let himself cry finally. He met Aditi his wife in medical college. They were good friends and till the last year were a couple. They married the way they wanted…It was grand. Life was going well…The perfect family…Perfect marriage… Their practice seemed good…But then it happened. The accident. The accident that ruined the perfect life. While coming back home from the hospital, Viraj’s car came in front of a lorry. It happened in a fraction of second. The driver lost his life then and there. Viraj was critical for about a week. The accident gave Viraj the anxiety to live with but took away his chance to become a father ever. The practice eventually came down. Aditi was not able to handle the stress and their marriage was not perfect anymore. These thoughts kept coming back and forth in Viraj’s mind until the cigarette burnt his fingers.
Suddenly he heard a sound. It was definitely coming from the terrace but from the other side. He rushed to inspect. He could only see a shadow in the darkness. He got closer. It seemed someone was standing near the edge of the wall leaning down. Suddenly it appeared to Viraj that someone was trying to jump off from the roof. He wasted no time and grabbed the person with all his strength and pulled towards the center.

“Hey! Dude…What’s wrong with you?” It was a deep but annoyed voice.

“What were you trying to do? Suicide is an offense and never an option!”

“What? Seriously…What?”

“Weren’t you? Okay but…”

Both of them panted and probably were hurt.

“God! My phone and keys fell on the lintel of the window while I was looking down. I tried to reach it. That’s it.”

“Hey…I am really sorry. You live in this building?”

“Yeah…Its been about two three months I guess.”

“Umm…I am sorry mate. But it really wasn’t a good idea. It could be dangerous. You could wait till the morning. The guard will fetch it. Don’t worry.”

“Yeah I know. It wasn’t a great idea,” he paused, “would it be alright if I crash at your place…You know the keys are..”

“Sure man… Absolutely!”

Viraj took the man to his apartment. The man seemed younger than Viraj. He was dressed up in a very casual manner. The hairs all curly and a long beard.
“So this is my home. Be comfortable. Mom is in the next room so try not to be loud.”

“Hey what’s this?” He casually picked up the divorce papers.

“Hey!” Viraj snatched the paper. “We have just…You are a stranger…Behave like one!” Viraj was furious. “So what’s your name?”

“Shantanu and you are?”

“Viraj…Dr. Viraj…”

“Oh.. so doc do you have something to eat…Actually anything would do. I am starving.”

“Yeah and you are bleeding too.” Viraj pointed towards his bleeding elbow.
Viraj brought him some leftovers and first aid. Shantanu was a very talkative person and just blabbered till dawn until they both were dead sleep. Shantanu told Viraj that he was an aspiring writer. He was all alone in the city and his parents didn’t support him. Shantanu was working as an intern in an online channel after getting rejected from many firms.

When Viraj woke up the next morning Shantanu was not in the room. Viraj went to his mother’s room only to find Shantanu and his mother laughing loud and munching on the fries. Viraj was happy seeing her mother laugh. It had been a while since her mother laughed so carefree. Suddenly the door bell rang. Viraj opened the door. The watchman stood holding a phone and a bunch of keys.
“Sir, Shantanu sir?”

“Yeah I’ll give it to him. Thank you”.

“Hey you got the keys! Thank you man.” Shantanu came from behind. “Hey Doctor! Good morning.”

“Good morning Shantanu. How are you feeling?” Asked Viraj.

“Good and well fed for a change”, he chuckled. “Your mother is a sweetheart. Now I think I should leave. It was great meeting you…Thanks for having me!”

“Yeah, same here. Actually Shantanu…umm…Feel free anytime to come here. Mom would enjoy your company very much.”

“Thanks dude. Bye”.

Viraj and Shantanu gradually became good friends. The divorce finally took place. Viraj and his mother were getting over the change quite well. And Shantanu did eventually get a publisher for his first novel. The novel was a hit. Shantanu threw a success party at his apartment. He invited all his novelist friends. The company people. Some people from the apartment and Viraj.

“Hey the party was fire dude.” Viraj went up to Shantanu after the party was over. All the people had left. Shantanu requested Viraj to help with cleaning.

“Yeah. You enjoyed yourself?” Asked Shantanu clearing the empty beer bottles from the table.

“Hmm…After a very long time I should say.” Viraj sat on the sofa smiling to Shantanu.

“Hey how is your practice going? I mean..”

“Quite well actually. I mean the anxiety returns sometimes but it’s fine. I am fine.”

“Good…I am glad.”

“What now? New story? You thought any plot?” Viraj stood up to clean the balcony.

Shantanu also went to the balcony to help him.
“Yeah…Its about a writer who…” He cleared his throat, “who fell in love with a doctor!”

Viraj froze at once. He looked at Shantanu with astonishment. Shantanu went close to Viraj held him and kissed him passionately.
“Shantanu behave…I am not…” Viraj took his foot back and pushed Shantanu.

“You are not like that. I get it. I wanted to just confess my love. And I have one more thing to confess…”

“What?” Viraj asked softly.

“That night I was actually about to jump from the terrace. I was broken to the core. Nobody was ready to publish my novel…My parents were embarrassed of me and…”

“Shantanu I am sorry but I cannot.”

Viraj came close to Shantanu. He held his hand and hugged him tight.

“Hey you need not to be sorry. You saved me. You gave me a new reason to live. I cannot ask for more. I am leaving for New York tomorrow. I just wanted to let you know what I actually feel about you.”

“When will you return?”

“I am not sure. It could be a month or a year or more than a year.” He sighed. “I think you should leave Viraj. Its late…I haven’t packed yet.”

“Yeah right…Bye..” Viraj took his coat and headed towards the door.

“Viraj…” Shantanu called from behind. Viraj looked back. “Good luck dude”.

“Good luck to you too.” Viraj smiled. “And don’t tumble off any terrace or roof top!”

“Yeah, your advice my command Doctor!” Shantanu chuckled. “And…I’ll be fine …Don’t worry.”

The Pain.

‘Sir, your name?’

‘John…John Thomas.’

‘What year Sir?’


‘Thank you Sir, you may proceed.’

John walked past the entrance with a heavy heart but a smile on his face. The place was beautifully maintained by the keepers. The lush green bushes, the smell of the seasonal flowers, the chirp of the birds, the cool breeze…Everything was peaceful. He walked through the cobble stone road to reach the grave. He held the flowers he brought in his hand and smiled at the grave.
He remembered how 8 years ago he decided to end his life. John was going through a very difficult time at that point. His job was at stake, his savings were down with the crashing stock market and his love of life was being married to someone else. He only had his father with him who was mostly ill. The other support he had was his 2 year old dog, Pom.

He remembered the night when he took all his pills which were prescribed for his depression. He remembered losing himself with each passing second. He remembered the faint visuals and the faint barks. He remembered waking up the next day in the hospital bed. His father sitting beside his bed and crying.
‘What have you done my son!’

‘Father…I was…’

‘Pom saved you….And saved me.’

The neighbours had heard Pom barking aggressively. They had rushed John to the nearest hospital.

‘You don’t know John…I could not have lived without you. You cannot imagine the pain. The most unfortunate thing for a parent is to live with the fact that their child is no more! Thank God you are alright!’

He remembered how his father kissed his forehead and prayed for his long life. John’s father died that very year due to the chronic illness.
But still John was glad that his father was able to witness his prosperity. That year John had started his own startup which was a huge success.
He now wept as he looked at the stone on the grave.

‘I now know father…The pain you were talking about…You were right! Its unbearable but still I have to bear it everyday till I die.’
He kept the flowers on the grave and left wiping his tears.
The stone read…
‘ POM (2008-2018).
Boy.. You’ll always remain in my heart.
Love Dad.’


‘Raman…That’s what your name is right? You want to marry my daughter but tell me one thing what made you think that? Neither your family has a good house nor do you have a stable job. I heard you work for the ironsmith…How you will pay for my daughter’s expenses? I must tell you your love isn’t meant to pay bills!’ the father spoke with distrust and disgust.

The lamps in the courtyard flickered as the wind blew. The wind was cold and harsh, swiping the dry leaves which cracked as they moved.

‘But father…I’ the girl tried to rebel but soon lost words after seeing the face of her furious father.

‘Diya!’ the father shouted, ‘Don’t you have any shame left? You are a disgrace to our family. How will I face our ancestors after I die.’ Diya started sobbing at once. Her father had never talked to her like that. She ran inside the room. Her anklet made a musical sound as she ran which rhymed with that of the crickets in the nearby bushes.
‘Believe me I would take good care of your princess and keep her happy all her life.’ His eyes were filled with passion and he trembled with the immense desperation to achieve his love. ‘I have got a place in the king’s army sir…I would not work as a ironsmith now. I love her and I would do anything and everything to be with her.’
‘The king’s army? That would fetch some decent money…Are you sure that you are not lying young man?’

‘I have brought the paper with me sir,’ Raman handled a rolled document to Diya’s father, ‘Please sir have a look.’

The father opened the knot of the golden thread to spread the sheet. He went close to the lamp near the well.
‘So you are appointed in the chief’s troop…’ he said touching the king’s seal at the bottom of the paper. ‘Is it a permanent position?’.

‘I will be trained and examined for three months sir after which I could make it permanent’.

‘I work in the ministry…’

‘I know sir, Diya had told me once that you are very dear to the king. I would prove my worth sir and then come to you.’

‘I may seem harsh but I am a father. Diya is my only asset and I want best for her future. You are a good man and so I would be glad if you get a position in the army.’ he looked at Diya who peeped from the room with teary eyes. ‘If you prove yourself…I will take you as my son in law.’
‘Oh father!’ Diya ran to her father and hugged him tightly. ‘You are the best father in the world!

Jannagar, the state that they lived in was a Hindu state ruled by an Islamic ruler. Unlike the neighbouring countries here no one was compelled to convert to Islam, no temples were destroyed, the tax system was good, people lived in harmony. It was a rich country in terms of culture, mines, grains and education. This rising power filled the neighbouring rulers with insecurity and jealousy. Enemies started forming alliances to stop the growth and bring down the ruler of Jannagar.
Hence it was necessary to increase the army strength and put more skillful people in the ministry. Raman thus got a chance to get into the army. He went through three months of rigorous training. He learnt to use the sword which he once used to make. Meanwhile Diya eagerly waited for him religiously in front of the masjid everyday and dress his wounds. The masjid was a magnificent structure which the ruler had made. It had four pillars in the four directions, more than thousand cells surrouned the major body which had large pieces of mirrors attached to it. At night the light from the numerous lamps would reflect from the mirrors and the place would look unbelievable. In the morning the mirrors would be covered with large pieces of cloth. In the evening the prayers from the masjid and the prayers from the nearby temple would merge beautifully to create a divine sound. Raman and Diya would sit around the pond behind the masjid for hours gazing at the flickering bright lights and listening to the soothing prayers.

‘The king is in danger dear… Enemies are all around us.’ Raman said to Diya. They sat near the pond dipping their feet in the cool water. The setting sun looked mesmerizing.

‘I trust you. You’ll save us and the king.’ Diya smiled at Raman.

‘I am serious Diya…Why do you think the sudden recruitments were made? Tomorrow the chief told us about a special troop training…’

‘Special troop training?’, Diya became serious now. Something was disturbing Raman and she could sense that. ‘What do you want to tell me Raman? You can tell me everything.’

‘The special troop would be appointed for the king’s safety. That means we would no longer be able to meet like this.’
‘You are on national duty Raman, I understand. The King’s a great man and he should be protected. You do your duty. I am so proud of you.’ Diya brushed Raman’s hair with her finger and touched his would in his forehead. ‘ I will wait for you. I promise.’

‘And what if I never return? What I …’
Diya put her palm on Raman’s lips and stared at him with teary eyes.
‘ You will… and if you don’t…I will come to meet you, I promise. You are my hero.’

The next day onwards Raman’s training for the special troop started. He with the other few soldiers were taken to the Royal palace to understand the structure of the great architecture. He was amazed to see the marvellous buildings and the concept. The ministry hall was giant with huge mirrors in all four walls. The officers told them to take close look into the mirrors. Raman went near to one the mirror. As he moved forward he could see the reflection of the other soldiers who were standing in front of the mirror of the opposite wall.
‘Incredible!’, Raman whispered to himself and as he uttered the word the whole room filled with the echoes of his voice.

‘Yeah! We can see any person, any weapon he is holding and can hear every word he says or even whispers…So boys each and every thing has been specially designed to aid the security.’ the officer told the soldiers. ‘Now you may look above…Look at the ceiling’, the officer ordered.
Raman looked above. It was a chandelier. Sparkling and reflecting light.
‘It’s not any chandelier…It is made of diamonds! There is no fire allowed here to light the hall. Now…In the morning the sunlight is reflected by the diamonds and during the night the moonlight does the work. The hall is closed during new moon and I think you are smart enough to figure out the reason!’

Raman was overwhelmed by the palace with each fact he got to know and every thing he got to see. For the next few days Raman and the fellow soldiers were briefed about some unknown and hidden facts and paths about the palace. There was always something more interesting thing to learn than something they had just learned.
Diya on the otherhand was passing her days dreaming about meeting Raman and being his wife someday.

‘Raman! What a surprise…What are you doing her?” Diya’s father saw Raman outside the ministry hall. ‘Are you allowed to come here?’

‘Sir I have been appointed in the special troop…I am…’Raman stopped as the officer arrived.

‘Raman!’, the officer shouted, ‘What are you doing here? Go to the field now.’

‘Sorry sir…He is a kid…New recruitment…’, the officer said for justification.

‘Oh I know him actually…Is he doing good?’, asked Diya’s father.

‘Yeah, He’s bright sir and can be counted on.’ replied the officer, ‘I have to return to field for the class. It was nice talking to you.’

Raman went to the field all confused. He wanted to ask about Diya. He wanted to talk to her father about his progress. He wanted to show him his capabilities. But why the officer didn’t let him talk? Why he didn’t let him talk about the special troop?

‘Raman how did you forget about the secrecy?.’

‘Sir I am sorry but isn’t he in the ministry? He already has the knowledge about the troop. Doesn’t he?.’

‘No. And you did a horrible mistake for which I could punish you. The ministry doesn’t know about many things which the army and king decides. I am forgiving you this time. You are a good soldier but you must know to assess people.’

‘I don’t understand sir’

‘ I cannot say anything more than this. Return to your training.’

As the days passed, the heat between the countries increased. There were numerous meetings to dissolve matters and avoid the war. All was in vain. It seemed that war was inevitable. The enemy had also built an army…An army bigger than Jannagar…An army well equipped than Jannagar. Their soldiers were as pumped as that of Jannagar. But was only the opposite army the reason that the king and Jannagar was unsafe?
‘What do you think…Can we defeat them? Their army seems big!.’ one of the fellow soldiers asked Raman. There were sitting on the terrace and keeping an eye on the surrounding. The night was silent but windy. It was a new moon.The lamps and hurricanes went off every now and then. The light was enough to see each other’s faces.
‘They might be big…But we are more brave and size doesn’t matter my friend.’

‘Are you not afraid that may be we won’t be able see the faces we left at home?’.

‘Yeah…A bit but remember we are fighting for them. We have to protect them.’ Raman got tears forming as he thought about Diya.

‘What is that noise?’ the soldier cried. The bushes from the nearby jungle shuffled as a fire surrounded the palace.

‘Enemy…Bloody cowards! They attacked us in this dark.’ Raman ran to inform the chief. ‘You wake the other soldiers. Our brothers are sleeping they must be awaken!’ Raman shouted.
Raman ran as fast as he could to find the chief. Battling his way…Killing enemies…Facing the fire which was in the palace too. He reached the hall only to find out something he couldn’t even believe in his wildest dreams. The king was surrounded by the ministry officials. They were not protecting him but ready to attack him. The chief stood in front of the king to protect him. He was hurt himself. He was stabbed several times on his chest but still he stood like a true warrior.

‘Sir!’ cried Raman. He felt disgusted. He was filled with anger seeing the enemies within. They not only betrayed the king… They betrayed the country…The people.

‘Raman…Go to the city… Wake people up. Send the soldier here. Being killed in sleep is the worst thing to happen to warriors. Everyone must fight for freedom!’ the chief ordered.

Raman ran at once to the secret path to the core of the city that was the masjid. He looked back. The fire and the enemies were engulfing the palace. The silent night had turned to a storm of warcries and prayers. He reached the masjid. His legs were giving up. He panted heavily. He heard the prayers. The prayers of the masjid and the temple. The night was dark and it became darker with each moment though the city burned. He ran to Diya.
Diya was standing with other people. There was fear in their faces. There was uncertainty in the faces.
‘Diya we have been attacked. The cowards have shown their true colour. We have to fight. The whole country has to fight. Gather the youth. Man…Woman…Anyone and everyone has to become a warrior. The country is asking for blood.’

‘We will unite. We will fight.’ shouted one of the people. ‘Our country needs us….We have to fight till the last drop of blood in our body!’

‘I will bring the youth together. Raman…We will fight.’

‘I am going back to the palace. You all have to protect the people…Keep the spirit alive.’ Suddenly the fear and uncertainty in the faces turned to a strange spirit to do something. There was fire in everyone’s eyes…The blood of each citizen boiled.

‘Diya… I love you and you must know…There are enemies within…The betrayers. One is very close to you and me…’

‘No…Father?’ she uttered.

Raman sighed and looked at the ground. Diya came close to him and kissed him.

‘Kill him…Kill the betrayers…Kill the wolves.’ she said looking into his eyes.

Raman returned to the palace. The chief was aided by the other soldiers. Raman went in to save the king. Probably this was the closest he came to the king. Suddenly the chief collapsed on the ground. The king who was fighting with the enemies came running to hold him.

‘Raman! That’s your name right?’ the king called Raman.

‘Yes my majesty…’ Raman nodded.
‘Take the chief out of here. I am here with the soldiers’


‘I am the king…Its my order!’
Raman at once lifted the chief and went towards the door. He looked in the large mirrors. There stood Diya’s father with a dagger. He swiftly kept the chief beside the door and took out his sword.

‘You were never worthy to marry my daughter…The new King would make her the queen!’ Diya’s father attaked Raman. Raman at once passed his sword across the chest of the betrayer.

‘Your daughter will decide what she wants not you. You deserve death and that’s what you get!’ Raman took the sword out to stab him again.

Raman then took the chief to the masjid to keep him safe and told the students to serve him. He returned to the palace only to see the king lying in a pool of blood. Raman was exhausted and seeing the king dead broke his spirit.
He was losing himself. He was blacking out. He bleeded badly. Now the wounds started hurting. He closed his eyes for a moment. All he could see was Diya with a beautiful smile on her face stretching her arms and calling him. He opened his eyes. There was light! The first sunray hit the diamonds. There was light! He then saw his soldiers and the citizens rushing in. He closed his eyes again.
When he opened his eyes. He saw white cloth overhead. He tried to get up. It seemed as a tent. They were under medical camps the people had set up.
‘Let me help…’, the chief held him.

‘Sir! You are alive! What happened? I collapsed…I couldn’t save the country…the king.’

‘We couldn’t save the king and his family. But the country is safe for the time being. You saved us!’
‘We saved us. We fought….But where is Diya?’

Chief had no answer. Diya died fighting the enemy. She sacrificed her life. The silence of the chief was enough for Raman to understand. He went out of the tent and went to the pond behind the masjid. He dipped his feet in the water and closed his eyes. Diya flashed infront of him. She still stood smiling and happy. She was content and satisfied.

The chief came and sat beside Raman.

‘You have the right to grief but the country wants you now…The throne is empty and the neighbouring states won’t wait for long to attack again.’

Raman looked at the chief and asked, ‘But who is worthy to sit on the throne? The Royal family is destroyed. The ministry has fallen.’

‘True…The king was one of a kind. He was like god and should be worshipped. We have kept his body beneath the centre of the masjid as he wished.’ The chief handled a small vessel to Raman. ‘This is Diya’s remains…Her ashes…She wanted you to put her in this pond. Take your time and when you are ready…Come to the ministry hall.’

Raman took the vessel close to his chest and cried his heart out. He put the ashes in the pond water and waited till the sunset. ‘You are my hero…Diya. You will live with me.’

It was midnight when Raman reached the palace. The chief and other officials who fought the war waited for him. Raman went slowly towards the chief. He limped as he took steps.
‘Raman… We thought about it…We want you to sit on the throne.’ said the chief.
Raman was shook. He couldn’t speak for a moment.

‘I am not worthy…I am an ordinary ironsmith!’.

‘You are a warrior…You are a brave soldier! You guided the people towards the win. You filled them with spirit.’

‘I don’t know how to be a king…How will I …’.

‘You became the bravest soldier…You learnt. I will be there to make you a great king. I will get you close to the greatness of the fallen King.’

Raman had no answer to this.

The next morning with the blessings of the maulvi and pandits Raman took the responsibility of the king.
He ruled the state with glory and kindness. Jannagar once again stood back with the same prosperity. Raman declared Diya as the queen.

Diya lived indeed not only in Raman but also in the folksongs and stories as a hero!

Fifteen years of pure joy.

‘It’s just a dog!’, some people would say.
‘He is my brother…Tuffy Chakrabarty.’ I would shout at them.

It has been almost three months now that he has left…left forever. He left us on 2nd Nov 2018.
I know I could not hold him back forever but I know that I would hold the memories till my last day. It’s really difficult to believe that I cannot touch him or feed him or pet him. It’s sometimes difficult to breathe. You feel so heavy that you have to sigh. The pain around your throat when someone’s around and you want to cry out loud but you can’t. It is indeed difficult.
‘That’s why I don’t have a pet…it’s painful when they leave…’ people say.
I agree it’s painful but the pain is far less then the joy I would say. I know I am crying writing this piece. But somewhere deep down I have kept safe the happy moments our family had with Tuffy. Tuffy was around two months old when we adopted him from the streets. Sunita Masi who used to work in our house brought him to us. It was 12 Nov 2003. I was in fifth grade and my elder sister in seventh. I remember when I first saw him ticks were running all across his face. Tuffy was so fat that time that we called him ‘fatty’ but then dad pointed that what if he looses the weight. Dad named him Tuffy after dad’s favourite bowler from New Zealand. Thus was named my fifteen years of pure joy.
Now you must be wondering that this seems fun. Well sometimes it wasn’t. We never wanted Tuffy to be in chains. He was Indian Street dog and they don’t want to be chained but his naughtiness complelled us to do so. He would enter our neighbours house and eat their food. He once ate and defaecated in a neighbour’s house and need I say how furious the person was. Eventually when he learnt what’s wrong we let him roam without the chains. He would run around the colony, fight with other dogs, play with some of them and when was tired would scratch our door to get in. We would vaccinate him time to time, bathe him frequently (which he didn’t like at all) and sometimes even dress his wounds. Tuffy liked fighting I guess.
During those mating months he would be gone for four- five days. I would be worried thinking what if he doesn’t come back home…what if something happened to him…I would cry for him so much and every time he would come back on the sixth day proving my all ‘what- ifs’ wrong. When we brought Tuffy there was no internet or cell phones and thus we knew very little about how to do anything. Tuffy ate human food (which is in many ways may be harmful for dogs) and when we came to know that our food is not safe for him and tried to give him boiled unseasoned food but he didn’t touch it. He always demanded what we had.
My boy was not so brave but naughty enough to hunt sparrows and rabbits. Pom his friend would join his naughtiness and often both of them would land in trouble. Tuffy would tear currency notes, run away with shoes, chew furniture and destroy cloths.
In his later years he was as energetic as a pup. He never stopped to pick up fights. My dad had a transferrable job and so we had to move to different places. Tuffy moved with us to all those places. He loved to travel…he loved to explore new places or I should say mark new places…and most of all he loved to make new enemies.
People often ask whether I would get another pet since Tuffy is gone. Tuffy was more like my baby. I fed him, I bathed him, I cried when he cried. In his last few days he was unable to stand properly. I would support him and make him walk. He wanted to walk badly but he himself could’nt. It broke my heart each time he fell. It broke my heart each time he cried to pick him up. He eventually gave up food. As adviced by the doctor we ran some blood tests and the results were extremely painful. His kidneys were not working. I called up his doctor in trembling voice about the reports. We discussed about the last resort which was dialysis. But the prognosis was poor and Tuffy was too weak to take up the hastle of long queues and painful procedures. We continued the fluids for few days. Then one evening when I was all alone in the house watching television and petting Tuffy I thought of auscultating his chest. I took out my stethoscope and heart his heart sound and breathing sounds. They were perfectly fine. I kept the stethoscope aside and continued brushing his fur with my fingers. After a minute or so Tuffy had a convulsion and suddenly everything was so silent. I palpated his heart and could feel the beats slowly disappear. All I could feel was my heart pumping hard. I still don’t know what I was feeling. He was gone and I knew that but I just kept crying and calling his name. He didn’t respond.
I often feel empty and often find myself crying. I sometimes want him so bad, I want to pet him…Touch him…Feel him. Its hard indeed after he left. Would I get another pet? Yes I might. My boy has a special place in my heart. He was my baby. None can ever take his place but Tuffy taught me many things. While growing with him I understood what trust, friendship and love is. And these are not just terms… they need to be felt and made…These words need a chance! And if I could give that love to someone again…Make someone trust in me again ….Make a lifetime friendship again, then why not.! Yes it will break my heart again…Yes I would be left empty again but what about the life I would give that someone. Tuffy enjoyed his life to the fullest. He visited places, ate good food, made new friends (and enemies) and made others happy. Why would I not give another soul the chance to be happy? I sure need sometime to recollect my broken pieces now and till I am not fully ready for the responsibility, I do need to wait.
So go ahead. If you are in a place to give a soul a happy life don’t let the chance go away. And I ensure you that the love and happiness you get in return in insane. Do your research…Know your responsibilities…Know your limitations and get ready for the journey.

And please adopt…Don’t shop!