The End

Image result for silhouette handsome gangstersHe was the most charming rogue ever! A combination of Rhett Butler and The Highwayman, he cared little for anything or anyone besides himself. Taller than the average man, he had thick curly hair, deep set eyes, a cleft chin and a dimple! Women were drawn to him like moths to a flame. The attraction being to the aura of danger that he exuded.

A man who lived life in shades of grey, he walked the tightrope between the legal and the illegal.

But he had not always been like that. An orphan from his childhood, he had had an Oliver Twist style of existence until he had decided to strike out on his own as an “Artful Dodger”. A life shrouded by crime in a crime ridden city, each one more serious than the previous , he had just about managed to remain out of the clutches of law. She wondered if there remained any traces of that young boy in this thirty five year old man? There had to be…. But how was she to find it? Was it too late now?

She sometimes regretted the role she had played in his transformation. May be, she could have avoided pushing him into those difficult situations? Each encounter however, had sharpened him and made him sexier , more attractive and irresistible.

But did he care for all those women who found him attractive? Though one could never accuse him of abuse, she knew for a fact that he cared two hoots for any woman except for ….

The girl sold flowers on the pavement. She went to college during the day and minded her mother’s flower business in the evenings. He had met her while waiting at a traffic signal for the lights to change.

She did not know if it had been right to introduce the two of them. But by then matters had gone out of her hand. They had met, fallen in love and the girl had become his vulnerability.

She felt very guilty every time she thought about the way she had extracted her  out of his life.

“The only ray of sunshine that had managed to penetrate this dark well of my life has now gone leaving me alone in the abyss.” he had sobbed .

She had wanted to reach out and comfort him. But he was beyond her now! His life seemed to be following its own trajectory. She was unable to rein him in. He plunged deeper into the dark world he lived in.

She felt helpless about the way things seemed to have taken shape. In all those  days that she had  lived with him, she had never imagined that he would turn into something like this. She wondered if they could retrace their journey so far.. May be some incidents could have been averted.

But she did not know if that was possible now. Where was the mischievous rogue? All she had now was a hardened man blinded by his own power. Where was this going to take him?

Was he going to plunge towards his end? After all certain things cannot be sustained forever.

Her eyes closed as she began to think about it.

It could not be suicide or murder. He was not weak. Accident it had to be…..!!

Her fingers shook as the scene unfolded in front of her. He was driving fast on the highway, his mind preoccupied with thoughts about his life. Did he regret anything? No, no.. he had lived life “King size” as they said in the advertisement. A sharp curve, a screeching of brakes, a car that turned turtle and hurtled down the cliff!
It was over…!

Image result for silhouette  of a woman writingShikha looked at the clock at the bottom corner of her computer screen. The time was 1.00 AM.

She felt drained. How was she  going to live her life now ? He had filled her mind and made her senses come alive like no one else!

A man like him was not easy to forget .. even if he had been her own creation

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WITHIN FOUR WALLS (Part 5)

The light from outside was blinding me!! I wanted to pull those windows shut against me. And more than anything was the sound of the child –screaming, crying and kicking up havoc. The baby is now four months old There never seemed to be silence in the house these days. It was either the child screaming or its mother speaking to it loudly in some crazy language.. She seems to have come to terms with living alone with me now.

Image result for images of Indian women cookingShe is in the kitchen now boiling milk. There is one more maid in the house these days. She comes in during the morning and leaves in the afternoon. Between the three women there seems to be a lot of chattering going on. One of them is sitting on the steps leading to the attic. I am shocked!!! No one had ever approached the attic without a sense of  fear in the old days.  They seem to take me so casually.

I want to make my might known! I decide to bang shut the door leading out of the kitchen area into the room where the child now lay.

She jumps as the door shuts with a bang.

“How did that happen I wonder” she asks the others.

“ I don’t think there was any wind. Why don’t you people put the stopper on the doors ..” she grumbled as she walked out to open the door.

I waited for her to reach the door. This was my moment! She tries to pull the door open but it refuses to budge. She braces her knee against one of the doors and tries to pull the other one. I laugh inwardly … It would take her more than that to pull an unyielding door open inside my four walls.

She calls out to the two others. All of them try to have a go at opening the door. They take turns and then pull at it together. The door knob comes out in their hand. I am hysterical with laughter. How were they going to open the door now without a knob?

The sleeping child wakes up hearing the noise and starts wailing. It causes her to panic. She starts banging on the door and pulling at it.

“Bring a crowbar from the store room downstairs.” she instructs one of the  maids. Neither of them want to go. They are scared of the dark rooms downstairs.

“Okay both of you go. I will wait here” she says angrily.

It is mid afternoon and the sun is beating down. Her face is bathed with perspiration. She continues trying to pull at the door with her hands. Her nail gets caught in the gap between the door and the frame and the finger starts bleeding. In sheer frustration she starts banging on the door.

The child is yelling loudly now.

The maids are here with the crow bar. She starts using it to pry open the door. With one knee braced against the door frame she uses all her strength to try and pull open the doors. Shoulders heaving she moves the crowbar and suddenly it opens with a bang as she falls sprawled on the floor. The maids run inside and pick up the wailing child.

As she takes the child from them she looks at my walls with sheer hatred. She raises her foot and starts stamping on the floor as though to injure me. I am amused. Did she really think that her stamping would have any effect on me ? The maids are trying to calm her down but she continues to stamp.

I begin shaking with laughter. But strangely the shaking continues, even when I stop laughing and  when she stops stamping.

“Did you feel something shake” she asks the other two women.

“No it was only your anger …” said the younger girl.

“No “ she says quietly.

I agree. It was not her stamping that had caused the shaking.

It starts again. This time more vigorous…!!

“Oh my God we are having an earthquake” she exclaims as she picks up the child and starts running downstairs. The women followed her screaming.

IImage result for images of earthquake damaged houses stand helpless. I do not know why I am shaking like this. It seems like there is some force that is trying to dislodge me from the depths of my foundation. The cracks on my walls deepen as they begin to bulge outwards.   I do not know what to do. I can hear parts of me breaking and falling.

So, this was an earthquake..!!! Did that mean my end was near? I refused to give up without a fight. My floors caved inwards but I held steady. I was not going to crumble and fall like a pile of rubble. The trees were now falling on me. I could hear the women scream and run about in the compound.

It was then that I made that decision. If I was going to die I was going to ensure that the humans who had planned for my destruction went down with me.

But rooted as I was to the ground I was no match for the mobile humans who had now moved far away from me. I could see them run towards the open playground on the other side of the road.

I got ready for death as each part of me began to be wrenched out piece by piece until I began to crumble downwards. The ground seemed to swallow me as I fell down into the same saline earth which had held me up for so many years.

I had lost the battle.

Even nature had turned against me…..!!!

Post script

The massive earthquake that had rocked the city was the front page story in every newspaper the next day.  Thankfully .Anita and her son were spared as also the two maids. Shyam who had rushed in from his assignment found them a week after his arrival , huddled together in a refugee camp. He sobbed with sheer relief.

When the aftershocks subsided and it was safe to travel, they moved to another city , far away from here. Shyam sold what was now a vacant plot of land to a construction company who wanted to put up earthquake resistant buildings in the city. There was no litigation regarding the land. You see, the other claimant to the property along with his family had perished in the terrible earthquake.

Today Anita is a very happy woman. She lives in the small house with wide windows and a tiny garden. Both the maids, live with her now. The younger one has  completed her school leaving exam as a private candidate and has enrolled for a vocational course. The older lady helps Anita bring up little Aditya who is now a happy toddler. Shyam has invested the money he has obtained from the sale of the land in a lucrative business . He does not want to ever leave his family alone –even for a single day!

( Concluded)

 

WITHIN FOUR WALLS- (Part 4)

It is a month since the storm. But my triumph is short lived.   I think I made a grave mistake. No, wait, I am not sorry. I think it was a error in judgment brought about by my rage.

Image result for images of spooky housesIt is not the girl but the old lady who has succumbed to my attack. The girl has survived and is back again in the house.

She now has the child with her. Her husband is here with her. The child was born prematurely and so they had to stay on for a month in the hospital.

I listen to their conversation.

“ Shyam lets move out  . I cannot stay here after what happened” she says tearfully.

“Anita, I know how you feel but you will get over it…” he says as he hugs her.

She pulls away.

“No Shyam it is not just about Aunty’s death. It is just a feeling of some bad energy here” she whispers fiercely.

He caresses her as he says “That is your imagination. It was a storm and both of you had an accident in the darkness. Thank god nothing happened to you and the baby !”

I keep eavesdropping on their conversations until they run into arguments. He is adamant about them not leaving the house. I wonder why considering he was anyway planning to leave on his ship in a month.

But it soon became clear. There was some litigation regarding the house. Since the old lady had died intestate there was a dispute about the property. There was a nephew from her husband’s side who wanted ownership while this young man felt that it was rightfully his. I heard their lawyer advising them to “stay put” in the house as it would strengthen their case.

I smile sardonically. Did anyone think they could inherit me?  I was more than an object that could be passed on from one generation to the next.

Image result for images of man and woman arguingThe fights continued between husband and wife. She threatened to walk out. He asked her where she planned to go as she had a child and no means to support herself. I watched with interest. I loved the way their relationship had turned turtle. There was no more tenderness and love in their conversations. There was a strain in their voices as they spoke.

The baby added to the tension. He hated waking up in the nights to its wailing. She accused him of not helping out with the child. The maid they had employed was unhappy too. She did not like  her quarters and wanted to quit. The girl pleaded with her to stay on. The maid agreed to do so at double the salary.

And  soon one month had elapsed and the nephew was getting ready to go on sea. She watched teary eyed as he finished packing.

“Don’t leave me alone like this Shyam” she said

“You are being extremely silly Anita. It is only a matter of a three months. I will be back again. And anyway if the matter is settled in court  by then , we will get ownership.  We can then sell this property and move somewhere else with the money we get. There are a lot of builders who have been approaching me. It would make an ideal location for an apartment complex” he said in a satisfied voice.

I listened to this piece of information shocked!! Was that what they had in mind ?

Was I going to be pulled down and a new structure put up in my place? So it was now a question of self  preservation … I had to fight with all my might to survive.

The taxi was at the door. He picked up his bags, kissed his wife and son as he got in. She stood at the doorway tears streaming down her cheeks as the taxi pulled away.

She shut the door and walked inside wiping the tears with one hand as she tried to balance the baby with the other.

I did not know much about the legal matters that governed a human’s life but one thing I knew for sure – if I could get them to move out quickly there was a possibility that I might survive. Whoever else it was who was laying claims to being my owner was not going to come and live here – especially not after how I planned their exit from here.

The girl was warming milk on the stove. She had partitioned one of the big rooms upstairs into a kitchen. The maid was also with her. She wanted to know if she could sleep in the same room as her mistress as she was feeling very spooked about sleeping alone in her room in the backyard.

Anita agreed. I think she is secretly relieved. I laugh to myself. Yes, I was beginning to finally have my influence on her psyche.

I watched her over the next few weeks as she turned from the confident, bold girl into a jumpy and nervous woman. She took the child with her wherever she went –whether it was inside or outside the house. The child sensing the mother’s nervousness kept up its wailing all through the day and night. I was irritated with the noise….!!

I continued to make life difficult for her. Every now and then I would let out the foul smell from the sewers under me fill the poorly ventilated rooms. I would make lights fuse suddenly and fill the surroundings with darkness.

Image result for sketch of woman holding her childBut she held on. She seemed more prepared now. She watched weather bulletins carefully preparing herself for storms. She wore a mobile phone around her neck that had a flash light. She rarely came downstairs unless she had to go out. She confined herself to the upstairs portion of the house. She had a standard stock of bulbs with her which she bought by the dozen and kept ready to change. She paid a man to cut and clear the over hanging branches of the trees near the window so that there was more light coming in.

I squinted in the light.  I wondered if she was regaining her old confidence. I hoped not .. because that would not do…!!!

( to be continued)

WITHIN FOUR WALLS ( Part 2)

I took an instant dislike to them the moment they were within my four walls. I hated that halo of exuberance and hope around them! I do not think they liked me much either. The girl Anita, in particular was very vocal about it. “Oh, how dark and dingy! “ was her comment when she closed the door to the room they were occupying. The husband Shyam seemed to be more discreet about his views.

“Shyam, please, I cannot stay here alone when you are away” she said. “ It seems to be haunted”

“Don’t be silly. It is just a badly constructed house. You will get used to it in a few weeks. We can then slowly convince aunty to make a few changes. You know knock down that wall over there and have an open balcony to let in more light. “ he said trying to reassure her.

What? They were planning to knock down a part of me? I was furious…! Who did they think they were? Yesterday’s children…!!! Younger than me by at least two decades! I was growling with rage.
But wait what did she mean by saying “When you are away”. Where was he going?

I learnt that soon enough. He was a marine engineer by profession and spent most of his time on the sea. The idea of moving in with his aunt was to have someone look after his wife while he was away. She had no family of her own and she was in the family way!!

Aha! So she was pregnant…! That would mean an additional member within my four walls. I was sure I did not want a young child living here. I did not want my silence to be disturbed with the sound of a wailing baby and later on a shrieking child. And who knows what companions a child would bring into the house … My decades old peace was bound to be disturbed.

I looked at her with interest…..!!! From their conversations I could gather that the baby was not due for another six months or so.

I watched them together as they tried to make themselves at home. She struggled to cook in the kitchen. He tried to clear out a patch of grass outside the kitchen door for a vegetable garden. I laughed quietly.. !! Fools …!! Did they not know that reclaimed soil is full of salt and does not support any vegetable life?

They struggled with the ancient light switches which refused to come on easily. They ruined the kitchen switch in the struggle and I gloated in the darkness that followed. He went around the town trying to get a replacement but the idiot did not know that they would have to go back five decades in time to get it in the electrical shops in the town.

And then there were the ancient bathrooms adjoining the rooms that they occupied upstairs. The flush was long broken. The sewerage system just about functioned. He helped her lift buckets of water to pour down the toilet as she collapsed on the bathroom floor with exhaustion after bouts of vomiting in the mornings.

All the while the mistress of the house watched the proceedings passively. I was reassured when I saw that she was not going to make any of the changes that they wanted. It was not a question of money. The old lady was not exactly poor and anyway these youngsters had offered to bear the cost. I understood and appreciated her stance. After all wasn’t I part of her late husband’s memory? If people wanted to make their home with her and with me, they would have to accept us with our darkness and dents.
But did these two understand? I don’t think so.. Actually he gave up after a point. I suppose that was because he knew he would be leaving by the end of the month and did not have to deal with me and my quirks after that.

She however was something else!!! I watched her struggle to open window shutters that had been shut for decades. She managed to push some of them open. She was putting up sheer lace curtains on some of them. She bought tins of paint and painted doors and windows. She managed to get the bathroom flush repaired and the wash basin replaced. She brought in potted plants with fertile soil and lined them on the window sills. She hammered nails into my stubborn walls and hung pictures and artifacts.

It was almost as though she had understood my resistance and was fighting back. I smirked …!! This twenty something girl obviously thought she had won over my stubbornness. She did not know the struggles that lay ahead…

Wasn’t that husband of hers due to leave for the port tomorrow? After that it would be just her and the old lady. She would be all mine.. she and that unborn child inside her…!!

I looked forward to dealing with both of them. Brick and mortar against flesh and blood… I was mentally drawing the battle lines. Victory was only a matter of time.

( to be continued)

WITHIN FOUR WALLS ( Part 1)

I stand dark and looming , looking more ominous in the evening light than I actually am. The trees surrounding me seem to almost grow out of me. I know I have a reputation in the neighborhood of being dangerous. Very few people actually dare to visit me. I revel in the darkness and the solitude that have defined me over the years.

I don’t know if my creator meant me to be the way I am. He invested in my strength giving me little by way of beauty.

The land around the canal was a marsh many years ago when I was born. He bought the land at a throwaway price and began creating me. A man who had made his money abroad he had moved into this town to settle down. He did not want anything to do with the local population in the town who he considered to be inferior to himself. He wanted to keep the “world out” and I did a great job ensuring that. His wife was as frightened of the world as he was suspicious of it. So I drew her into my protective arms promising to keep her safe There are very few windows on my thick walls. The few that do exist are  like slits, more for people inside to view the world without being observed. He then planted trees around me to keep me hidden from the rest of the world. He used to refer to me lovingly as his fortress.. I was proud that I was able to keep the world out of his life.

I thrived, absorbing the melancholia of my creator and his wife. It seeped into my walls like the dampness of the marshy land over which I stood.

There were servants who came in to work. I loved the hard time I gave them. My floors were rough and difficult to scrub. My slit like windows were challenges to dust and the area around me filled with piles of dried leaves from the trees that dropped endlessly. But I guess poverty forces people to take on challenges..! They came in , met their daily challenge of keeping me clean and ran away as soon as that was done.

Over the years, this world around me changed but I did not . The small town grew , bursting with more and more people. The small lane outside became a big road with heavy traffic but my dark world continued to be a cocoon for my residents. The thick canopy of trees kept me hidden from the eyes of the people who lived in the high rises that had cropped up around me. Like before, no one dared approach me , fearing the aura I exuded. I stood as before, enveloped in the darkness and the dank musty odor emanating from within my four walls.

There were fewer people who came in to clean. I suppose poverty was not as desperate as it was in  those  days.

But it all changed when the one who created me died. It was a strange experience for me to suddenly have people come into the house for the funeral. I wanted it all to be over soon. I hated the intrusion into my privacy…!! There were bits of conversation that I overheard. They were telling his wife to sell me. “ You cannot live here alone.” “Give it to a builder to turn it into a block of flats. You will get an apartment free and a lot of money”. But her fear of the world and anything that suggested change saved me from this unsolicited advice.

However, I was not prepared for the decision that she took after a few months. She decided to invite her nephew and his wife to come and make their home here.

I was furious!! After sixty odd years she was letting strangers into my life! How dare she !!! Were my thick walls not enough protection for her? Did she think that I was just a brick and cement entity? I knew I was more than that. I had power that most humans ignored. I had my own set of energy with which I could battle. And I knew I had nearly five decades of negative energy stored up within my walls to oust anyone from within it.

It was only a matter of time…….

( to be continued)

In the Shadows

He had not noticed her the first time. She was sitting on a “ladies” seat towards the rear of the bus. It was not until the crowd had thinned out near the fourth cross junction, and he had moved down the aisle towards the rear, that he saw her.

She was not a beauty in the conventional sense of the term. Her eyes were too close set and her chin rather prominent for such a small face. But the nose was aquiline and the lips full. Her complexion was honey colored and her hair was much longer than the normal length that girls preferred these days. She was listening to music on her ear phones. There was a half smile playing on her lips.

He had found a seat parallel to hers on the aisle side from where he watched her profile covertly as she continued smiling to herself. He didn’t know why but he could not take his eyes off her. He wondered where she was going. Was she a student or someone working in an office?  Her formal attire seemed to suggest that she was probably working in an office. Besides, it was rather late in the morning for her to be a college student. Most colleges started by 8.00AM.

 She was wearing a beige salwar kameeze with white embroidery. On her ears were small pearl drop earrings.  He looked surreptitiously for signs of marriage. Though she was wearing a bindi, there was no mangalsutra around her neck. She wore no finger or toe rings either.

She got down from the bus two stops before his. He craned his neck to see where she was going but she seemed to have been swallowed by a sea of humanity.

He had been thrilled to see her again the next morning. After scanning the windows of at least three buses plying on the same route at  that time in the morning he had spotted her. He had  jumped on to the bus, this time from the rear. She was sitting on the same seat. She obviously boarded the bus from the terminus if she could choose her seat.

She had been immersed in a paperback that day. He had tried to catch a glimpse of the name. But it was not possible. People around him were pushing him. He waited until the fourth cross street stop when he knew the bus would be easier to travel in. This time, he had chosen the seat diagonally behind her focusing his attention  on the spot where her neck joined her shoulders. There was a small mole there.  He looked at her hair. It was held together by a number of pins and then plaited down. He knew from memory that it was waist long.

As she got ready to disembark, she had stood for a brief moment near his seat. He had held his breath, afraid that she could hear it racing. Her duppatta trailed across his arm. He longed to touch the silky material but he had sat motionless letting the feel of the material caress his arm. And then the bus had finally jolted to a halt, leaving him behind with a set of mixed feelings.

He desperately wanted to know where she worked. He tried once again in vain to locate her in the crowd outside. He had spotted her for a moment but she was lost after that.

 Nitin had spent every day for the next one month taking that same bus to office. He saw her but never could he summon the courage to speak to her.  She was always seated at the same place. He imagined what her name might be. In his mind he had christened her Swapna, meaning dream. He had hoped that she might atleast notice him but she continued to travel with him oblivious of his existence within the same space.

But finally he had decided one morning to do something to further his interest. He wanted to find out more about her. He had got down from the bus along with her.

He walked behind her in the crowd. He was careful to keep a distance so that she would not notice him following her but at the same time he stayed near enough not to lose sight of her. She was crossing the road now and he could see her getting into the “Jeevan” building! Ah.. atleast he knew now where she worked.  He hurried inside making it just in time to board the elevator with her.

She was inches away from him. He could almost feel the heat of her body. He was afraid she could hear the thudding of his heart. He wanted to move closer but the cramped space inside the elevator made it very difficult for any movement.

He had almost felt relieved when she left the elevator on the fifth floor. He could breathe more freely.

But running into Ajay who got into the lift as she got off, was most unexpected.

Ajay was his classmate from college. They were not exactly close but had spent a lot of time together as they were part of the same group of friends.

“Hey Nitin!  How come you are here?” he asked slapping him loudly on the back.

Nitin, the introvert cringed as others in the lift suddenly seemed to take notice of him.

“Hi Ajay! I just dropped in to meet a… ummm friend” he muttered

“Anyone I know?” he asked

Nitin had shaken in head and somehow managed to get this persistent fellow off his back before heading back to work. He had been late by a full half hour and his boss had not been exactly happy about it!!

But it had been worth it..! At least he now knew where his Swapna worked.

Thinking back, he had felt it was also a nice coincidence that Ajay’s office was in the same building. It would certainly give him an excuse to visit.

And that was exactly what he had done in the evening. He had called Ajay, apologizing for being so short with him in the morning and suggested that they meet up in the evening.

It was while he was with Ajay at the a tea stall outside the office that he had seen her go past. His eyes followed her involuntarily. It had only taken Ajay a minute to realize why he, Nitin was there.

He had quizzed Nitin about her. And Nitin had told him in about fifteen minutes, all that he knew about  her!

“Don’t worry, I will find out more about her” Ajay had assured him.

That had been two weeks ago.  Ajay had obviously not been successful in his endeavor because he had not called him with any news. He still saw her in the bus, she was always in that seat towards the rear listening to music on her earphones or reading her book. These days he also noticed her talking on her mobile.

It was a pleasure to hear her voice. It was as lovely as the rest of her. He liked the way she threw her head back and laughed as she conversed over the phone. He wished, he could evoke a response like that from her. But she remained completely oblivious to him. He kept thinking of ways by which he could speak to her. He longed for a dropped bag that he could pick up and return to her, a lecherous fellow he could thrash for troubling her or even a bus accident where he could risk his life saving hers. Anything.. to make her notice him!

In sheer desperation he had called Ajay. But he seemed to be always busy, telling him that he would call back

Nitin spent his days and nights dreaming about her. He dreamt she had turned around one day and walked towards him with a smile asking him why he, never spoke to her? That she had waited for nearly two months hoping he would..! Sometimes, in his dreams it would be raining and he would unfurl his umbrella inviting her to share it with him. At other times he would hold her as the bus jolted suddenly to a halt when she would smile and thank him establishing that much needed connect.

He hated weekends! It meant two days when he would not be able to see his beloved. Those forty eight hours were sheer torture!  The four walls of the small room he rented in the city seemed to close in on him as he contemplated on his situation. He felt suffocated by his inability to do anything. He was afraid that he would make a wrong move and ruin the entire future of his relationship. He sometimes ran out, walking aimlessly in the neighborhood until he calmed down.

Today, Nitin’s needs more than that walk in the neighborhood. He leaves his neighborhood and goes to a mall nearby. He wants to deal with his loneliness. He wanders around alone in a crowd. He walks in and out of shops in a restless manner. He looks at couples and families around him secure in the knowledge of their togetherness. He cannot handle this anymore! He looks for a way out.

The cinema hall beckons him. He buys a ticket and walks into the lobby of the theatre complex. The lights seem blinding . He longs for the dark oblivion of the hall inside. There is still half an hour left for the show to begin. He taps his feet impatiently waiting for the minutes to tick past.

It was when he is counting the twentieth minute with his foot, that he sees her. He stops counting wondering for a moment if he is dreaming. But she is not alone. With her is Ajay. He watches them from behind a pillar. She is talking to him and he is bending his head down to catch her words. She smiles as she points to a poster. Ajay laughs, putting his arms around her and pulling her close.

Nitin cannot bear it anymore. He rushes out of the cinema hall crumpling the ticket on his way out. His world has come crashing down! He  cannot and does not believe what he saw could be true. He goes out of the mall, walking like a mad man. His mind is in a turmoil. He does not know what he is doing..! He stops outside a shop window and tries to think coherently. He wants to do something…!! He cannot go on with the knowledge that she can no longer be his…..!!!. He has to decide quickly, before he can change his mind.

He wants to come out of the shadows and show her that he exists- a dramatic entry as well as a grand exit..

But sadly.. he did not even make it to the headlines. It was only a small news item in the city news section “Couple found murdered outside the  parking lot at the Forum Mall. Police are investigating”

( I would like to thank all my regular readers for following this blog and giving me your valuable feedback. Do keep dropping in letting me know what you think of the stories. here. Advance wishes for a very  happy new year. May all your dreams come true)

UNSAID AND UNSPOKEN

I saw him for the first time when I went outside to collect the dried clothes from the clothesline. He was on the balcony opposite, sitting on a chair and sipping something from a tea/coffee cup. Actually, I did not notice him immediately, so busy I was with the clothes. But then, you know how it is- the way you just feel someone’s eyes on you..

The complete discomfort of that feeling drew my eyes toward its source sitting on that balcony! He raised his cup as if in a toast to me. I smiled and went inside shutting the door. But of course, I watched him for a long time after that hiding behind the curtains on that balcony door. He seemed young – probably in his early or mid thirties. His dark brown hair and white skin marked him out as a foreigner ( or atleast someone with a mixed heritage). I wondered what he was doing here in this housing colony with its multitude of pigeon hole flats.

It was easier to watch him  through the kitchen window. He worked very methodically arranging things on the counter and cooking them. I looked with exasperation at my own messy kitchen wishing I could achieve that kind of lab like organization in my work. A couple of days like this and he began to acknowledge my presence in the kitchen opposite – sometimes it would be a wave and at other times a smile.  The windows were too far away , for any actual conversation to take place..

I often wondered after those staring sessions in the kitchen and sometimes on the balcony what his name might be and how would his voice sound? I would immediately feel guilty after such thoughts crossed my mind because after all, wasn’t I a married woman?

My daily routine began to slowly arrange itself around his appearances on that balcony or the kitchen. Was it pure coincidence that he happened to be standing on that balcony outside on moonlit nights? Did he know that I was peeping from the curtains staring at him as my husband snored away oblivious to the silver light bathing the surroundings? Was he also having trouble sleeping?

As weeks turned into months, I began to get bolder and started leaving the curtain open while I sat near the dressing table brushing my waist long hair. I could see him watching me through that reflection in my mirror. My heart beat in a way that it never did when my husband looked at me. But then, I was never sure that my husband actually looked at me. In the two years that we had been married, he had probably looked more at his lap top than at me his wife! Sure, we lived amicably- there were no fights and he was very generous in terms of giving me a free hand in running the house. He never criticized anything I did – I used to think earlier that he was kind but now I wonder if he really noticed anything I did- a new hair style, a new sari, a new dish ..

Crazy thoughts like going across the road and  knocking at the door to his flat crossed my mind .  But I could never bring myself to do that –I mean what would I say? “Hi. I am Jaya your neighbour from the opposite flat and I have a crush on you?” – the very idea seemed ridiculous.

I often wondered what he did for a living. There appeared to be no one else in that flat except him, so  he obviously lived alone. He was usually at home in the mornings, afternoons and late evenings-  I knew because these were the times of the day that I lived for – times when I could let myself go and dream all kinds of forbidden thoughts from across the window.  I sometimes wondered if he could see any of these reflected on my face. I suspected he did because there would be sometimes an amused smile and at other times a very intense gaze.

Then one evening , I got caught in that gaze- yes  caught – imprisoned!It was downstairs in the car park.  I was just getting out my car and he into his when our eyes met.  I could not look away. I could feel myself flushing and my body heating up as my heart started beating in a way it had never done before. I don’t know how long it was that he held me like this but when he turned away I could almost feel a sense of lost balance – like falling off a bicycle. I wiped my sweat off my face and ran all the way upstairs trembling. I remembered a story I had read long time ago about a strange being who had been conceived out the sweat that had poured out of Parvati’s hands when she had playfully tried to shut Shiva’s eyes with them.  I was glad that humans were not capable of such forms of conception..

I found it difficult to face my husband when he came home that evening. And at night I felt a deep sense of guilt as I lay next to him. I feigned illness so that I did not have to do any cooking that day or for the next couple of days . I stayed in bed with the window curtain firmly closed trying to shut out the image of that tall man with the brown hair across my balcony…! I would not let my husband or my maid open that window giving reasons like there being too much sunlight.

But finally when my husband against my protest drew the curtain one evening, I refused to look outside. However, the eye is like a compass- moving towards what it perceives as its pole of attraction. I slowly turned my eyes towards that direction. The door was shut. I kept looking at it hoping it would open. It did not- that evening or the next evening or the next.

I could not bring myself to go across and find out what could have been the reason. I knew no one in that block and going there would only attract attention from others.

I waited for almost a month for that door to open into his balcony. I craned my neck to look into his kitchen. There was nothing I could see but emptiness.

And then one evening as  I saw the lights on in the kitchen. I ran outside into the balcony. The door was open and I waited with bated breath for him to emerge.  Emerge he did –  but it was not the “he” I was looking for – this was a middle aged man with a paunch. He sat down on a chair and opened a book. A few minutes later someone else emerged – a fat lady with a cup of tea on tray. She saw me watching her and  shouted  “ Hello. I am Mrs Roy your new neighbour. Please come and visit us when you have time”  I nodded and walked inside slowly my mind filled with questions that I dared not ask anyone…!