Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mysterious Ways...

Ganesh was in a hurry. He just saw the bus 83 go towards the terminus, which was about 3 (or 5, depending on the driver/conductors’ moods) stops away. He knew it would be back in another 30 minutes are so, with a 15 minute break. He had planned it in a way that he is on commute for the minimum time required to get to the job interview, so that he can stay with his mother who has been very sick, but getting better. He just could not afford to go all the way to Majestic and take another bus to the industrial locality outside of Bangalore. He had desperately wanted this job – his father had passed away three months ago and he was told he could apply for a job in the same company and will get a fair interview. Ganesh was confident that he could get the job – he was a bright young man and has also gone to the factory with his dad, when his dad had Sunday shifts. It was for a job as a machinist. He had cooked the food that his mother had needed with the help of his 11 year old sister who had gone to school for her exams; she would come home in about another 45 minutes.. His mother was still in the bed, coughing intermittently… He mentally checked everything, it was another 15 minutes to go. He was ready to leave, when his mother started heaving with wracking coughs… He sat her up in the bed, against a pillow and gave her some water and felt her fore-head. She still had slight fever; Ganesh was in a hurry, but her cough was bad – he decided to heat some water up for her; and as he was giving her the hot water, he watched in despair through the window, across the sparse lay-out his bus rolling into the bus-stop… His heart sank… he needed this job desperately and he could see that slip away, if he weren’t there on time… the bus would leave in a minute or so…

Thimme Gowda was lost in thoughts. Sitting on the bench Nair-Tea shop, with the work-day (or night) behind him, he let his mind wander. He was a police-man in the area. He has lived in the area all his life; or atleast it seemed so. He had just reached the position of head-constable. He had no great dreams or ambitions. He lived a simple life, with his wife and son, who will finish engineering in another 6 months and perhaps get a better job than he ever had. Maybe I would take the VRS and retire then, Thimma thought… as he sat on the bench sipping tea before he headed home. He has not done anything spectacular – he assumed those were all reserved for people who had high ambitions and not for himself… Maybe he would retire after doing something like that, he smiled to himself, amused at the thought. He had the night duty last night and told his wife that he would be home for lunch. Retiring would be good. The job has become complicated of late – earlier, he just had to tackle local thieves and at the highest complexity scale, the local goondas. Now, with all the crap going on in the world, they had every kind of fundamentalist to look for. In addition, these days there are also phoren terrorists! His inspector kept telling them to be careful and Bangalore had become a hiding place for every kind of people, particularly, in the suburbs where his police station was situated. There was a dossier that his Inspector got – there were every kind of people in that – Muslim fundamentalist, Hanuman Sena, Tamil separatists added to that local goondas and thieves, who had these days, had become allies against these outsiders as they called the ones in the dossier. How I wish things were as simple as old days; catch a local thief, give a thrashing, lock him up for a day or two and then let him out and you don’t hear back from him for another 3 months or so; and then the cycle repeats… In spite of all of these, Thimma had still wanted to do his job honestly, still believed that he could make a difference to honest people, who needed help, in the locality… As he was sipping the tea, he saw the 83 come to a halt at the bus-stop ahead…

Rafiq Ashraf was the typical guy with in-your-face-attitude; which these days was worn in the lapel as a badge of honour and as the face of New India! He worked in a call-center, had the money to throw away. Although, he just could barely get past his PU, he thought he knew more than everyone around him, since he spoke English with an accent, thanks to the call-center training. He belonged to the neo-youth that thought everything was wrong around them, without giving a thought as to what they are doing that adds to the faulty lines in the canvas. Like the rest in those elite, he too believed the money gave him the right to be arrogant. He was packed at the back in the company car, a standard Tata Sumo that ferries them to the company, to the 2’0 clock shift. After his work at 11PM last night, he had a late-nighter where he had lot to drink and a very little to eat – He had stopped on the way back, bought a few bananas; he recalled eating a few of those bananas on the way back in the auto-rickshaw and tossing the skins somewhere on the road. He had woken up with a splitting headache and a total hangover, using the deodorant instead of a shower and was in the taxi at the back-seat, hungry, with just one left-over banana. He saw his taxi-driver overtake the other vehicles, with the reckless abandon that he was used to and he kind of enjoyed it – as their speed made the other road-users scurry, like scared cockroaches he thought. He was finished with the banana; as the car sped and swerved to right side of the road to overtake yet another driver (“scared wimp”), he nonchalantly tossed the banana skin out of the window and it plopped on the road… The taxi hit a pot-hole and shook him up, as his head knocked against the side of the car, exacerbating his head-ache; Rafiq cursed the Government, driver, and the truck drivers and everyone around him for lack of civic responsibility. As his car overtook the almost stationery bus, he saw his car swerve back on the left side to avoid the oncoming truck and was heading almost straight at one of the guys who seemed to be sprinting…

Kulasegaran alias Sekar was living in the suburbs of Bangalore. He had taken a boat from Sri Lanka about a year ago, fleeing the Government troops, landed in an unmarked spot in the vast shoreline. With a little help from his friends, had gotten a new identity as Sekar, had moved several places and finally into the suburbia of Bangalore and had gotten lost in the milieu. Today, he had gone to the Terminus to get to the post-office and to the courier drop-off, to mail something back to his handlers elsewhere. He had gotten a specific instruction; since he was he was here, he might as well, eliminate one of the opponents. When going out, he usually carried two things – a gun and his Cyanide capsule. But the past year has been so peaceful, he didn’t bother to carry his Cyanide, just his gun. Today he was coming back from the terminus in the 83 bus – a standard guy who went about his business (as people thought he was doing). He was still in a call on his mobile as he got down on his stop – he didn’t notice that his bag had swung and knocked down an old man’s crutch, making the old man lose his balance. Had Kulasegaran noticed that, he would definitely have helped the old man and perhaps taken good care of him and helped to his destination… Unfortunately he did not!

Thimma was watching the bus roll to a stop just ahead of the tea-shop. As usual there was the buzz around the back-entrance as people wanting to get down and board at the same time, but with a slow and painful progress. How about a bit of order to make it easy for all, thought Thimma. To add to the spectacle, there was an old man who was walking on the side of the road with a crutch, had stopped to the let the crown diffuse and he was watching the people get on and down through his thick glasses leaning on the crutch, waiting for the bus to leave so that he can hobble on his path. Thimma watched a guy, who looked quite educated, dressed neatly get down from the bus, talking on his phone and knocking down the crutch and the old man but didn’t bother to stop to help. That made Thimma furious and indignant. He kept his tea glass down, got-up from the bench, moving swiftly to confront the man…

Ganesh was in a panic. He just cannot afford to miss the bus. Through the window, he saw the bus roll to a stop. As he began to leave his mother started coughing again – Ganesh was torn on what to do – maybe he would borrow money from someone and take an auto, but who? He was already in debt, with everyone… Fortunately, he watched his mother’s cough stop; he quickly told his propped mother that he had more hot water on the stool nearby and picked his bag, rushed out; the bus was still stationary, it would take about 2-3 minutes for him to clear the empty space between his lay-out and the bus-stop…His heart sank as the bus began to move…

Rafiq’s nonchalance, in what seemed to be an eternity, slowly turned into horror, as he found that his driver was losing control of the car, as the car’s path would take dangerously close to the man who was sprinting. He wasn’t sure if the driver had noticed the man; the man seemed to slip on something and fell right on the path-way of the car; Rafiq could see his driver brake hard, the car screeching to a halt, careening a bit and hit the man with a sickening thud and the taxi losing control and heading for a lamp-post; when it hit the lamp-post, Rafiq was thrown into the back of the front seat, headlong first. It opened up a nasty gash and the blood started pouring… The splitting head-ache would not be his greatest pain for a while…

Kulasegaran could not afford to get caught. He started running after he had evinced interest with the people around. His mind raced; he would brandish his gun, steal one of the countless bikes parked and make his get-a-way. He stopped running, pivoted quickly, but found that his leg gave way, as he stepped on something squishy – it was a mushy banana skin with half-eaten banana, he slipped; to his horror, he saw one of the Tata-Sumo heading his way; it hit him at his knee, probably broke his leg and threw him off balance and his gun flying the other way! Today, he wasn’t carrying his cyanide capsule!

Ganesh was about 100 yards away as the bus started moving; and with that his hopes of being on time for the interview and the job! As the bus was eclipsed by a house, he saw it slow down. Ganesh raced at full tilt and got to the back of the bus, that had stopped completely now; as he was boarding, he saw an accident in front of the bus, where people had milled around a Tata Sumo; as he boarded the bus, he saw a panting policeman run past the bus towards the accident scene. After a few minutes of milling around, the bus started rolling. Ganesh heaved a big sigh of relief!

Thimme Gowda alias Thimma was the star of the small police station an several other adjoining stations. He was scheduled to meet the Commishner a day later. He was lauded as a brave policeman, who with a lati had caught a dreaded terrorist with a gun; Every government that Thimma voted for and didn’t vote for and every politician that he liked and disliked, had promised him cash reward. Thimma felt as if the Gods had smiled at him just on the eve of the retirement.

10 comments:

ramesh said...

the end was somewhat predictable this time :)

Anonymous said...

Ur short stories and really good. With the economy tanking u should seriously think of publishing. try getting ur hands on short stories by Roald Dahl

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

4Ramesh: ;-) this was not meant to be a twisty story - just to show apparent coincidences, but orchestrated by Him... :)

4A(PJ?): Danke... should...

Anand said...

Nice story on unconnected events. Like you aptly said in another comment 'orchestrated by Him'. Neat.

mux said...

Excellent... IMO this is your best till now - story telling wise.

Thanu said...

Nice story. The typical behavior of each character is thoughtfully written. I could picture this place to be somewhere in Shivajinagar, or Chamrajpet.

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

4Anand: Thanks.

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

4Mux: Hmmm, you liked this so much? I thought it was good one, but needs to be connected with the title...

4Thanu: When I wrote it, I actually pictured the New BEL road, some 15 years ago; after Ramiah college entrance, it was peppered with some Tea shops on the road with very sparse vast layouts with empty plots...

mux said...

My fav stroy would be the first one (magnum opus).. but the story telling style is most fluid here.

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

4Mux: Hmmm... I didn't know myself ;-)... Btw, there were other stories before the mini-novel too !