Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Real Unreal - The end!!!

After he’d run away, Ruth walked up to the door, a sinister smile spread on her face and shut the door.
“Aarrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh” he sat up in bed, as he yelled. Cold sweat had formed beads on his forehead. His palms were sweaty.
He walked over to the bathroom and splashed some cold water on his face. He couldn’t remember much of what had happened the previous night. All he knew was that he was angry. For some reason, his anger was directed towards Ruth.
He walked down the stairs; the house was pretty dark, with the curtains still pulled.
“Mom, dad, Ruth; where is everyone?” he shouted, in vain. No reply came.
Suddenly the door bell began ringing. “Tim, is that you, son? Open up, it’s me, Mrs. Jones.”
Finally, he heard a familiar voice. He walked up to the door; and opened it. Suddenly there were a lot of flashlights in his face. He shut the door behind him. He went hysterical with all the lights.
“Tim, open up, son!” Mrs. Jones called out.
“The lights” was all he managed to say.
“No more lights, I promise you”, she said, reassuringly.
Tim opened the door. This time there were no flashlights; but there was one more man with Mrs. Jones.
“Arrest him, officer!” Mrs. Jones declared.
“Why? What? Why are you arresting me?” Timothy yelled, in despair. “Where are mom and dad?” he demanded to know.
“You want to know where your mom and dad are! Come with me”, said Mrs. Jones. She led him to his parents’ bedroom. There was blood splashed over the walls. But what was even more grotesque was the fact that his parents’ naked bodies lay splattered over the bed. Their organs had been gutted out. Numerous slash-marks covered their body.
“Who did this?” Timothy yelled.
“You did”, said the police officer.
“I wouldn’t… I couldn’t…” Timothy pleaded.
“Handcuff him”, ordered the senior FBI official.
“Where’s Ruth?” Timothy asked.
“She’s missing!” Mrs. Jones said. “Tell us, what did you do to her?” she asked accusingly.
“I didn’t even touch her” Timothy shouted; but nobody seemed to be paying any heed to what he was saying.
“What’s the murder weapon in question here?” asked the senior official.
“An old shovel sir. We found it in the trunk of his car. It is splattered with blood marks”, responded the forensic expert.
“We also found this shirt that was crumpled up and dumped in a bag. It was lying in one corner of his closet. It’s covered with mud.”
“Maybe he was wearing it at the time of the murder”, the forensic expert suggested.
“What about the wound on his leg. He’s limping” said the senior officer.
“He must have hurt himself during the act; or maybe it’s a ploy to distract us.”
The senior investigating officer nodded his head in approval.
“Excuse me, sir!” said one of the junior officials who had just rushed in. “They have found 3 bodies near the lake. Onlookers, including students, have identified the bodies as Ms. Kimberley Hedger, Mr. Nathaniel Hedger and Ms. Ruth Johansson.”
“No… No… No… This can’t be happening. I didn’t do anything” Timothy said, as he sank to the floor. He passed out.
Timothy was produced in court two days later. All the evidence was pointing straight at him. The court was left with no option but to pronounce him guilty. He was to serve ‘life imprisonment’. He was being spared a death sentence. He didn’t even know why he was being tortured to live so.
He was thrown into an empty cell. He landed hard on the stone cold floor. He curled up into the fetal position; and cried himself to sleep that night.

“Tim, Tim, wake up”, came a voice.
Timothy sat up; the sunlight was streaming into the entire cell. He looked at his hands and his feet. He felt much better than he did last night.
The knocking on the door continued. “Timothy, Timothy, wake up.”
Timothy looked around confused. He wasn’t in a cell. He was in the warmth of his own room.
He scratched his head, wondering what exactly had happened. He opened the door. His mom stood at the door, her smile intact.
“You’re going to be late for your submission. Didn’t you tell me that you had some submission to make today?” she asked, as she walked into his room, and began straightening his bed.
“Ummm… Yes…” he replied, still unsure of what was happening. He mechanically began walking around the room, picking up all the books that were scattered all over the floor.
He freshened up and walked down the stairs. As he was walking down the stairs, he felt a piercing pain on his right thigh. He winced in pain; and sat down on the stairs.
“What’s it, son?” Mom asked, as she ran to his rescue.
“It hurts”, he said.
“Wait, let me have a look at it” Mom said, as she pulled up his shorts.
“I can’t see anything” Mom said. Suddenly the pain disappeared.
Timothy hurried through breakfast. “I’m leaving, Ma!”
“I’ll come with you”, Ruth yelled from her room.
“You’ll make me late” he yelled back. “I’m off, ma!” he said, as he picked his bag off the chair.
Ruth held her hand against the door, blocking his path. “I told you I’m coming with you” she said; as she drummed her nails on the door.
Timothy froze in his tracks. She was dressed in black, from head to toe - black leggings, with a black strappy top, with black ear-rings.
He pulled her strap off her shoulder; and there it was – a pink heart shaped tattoo, with some writing in the center. ‘N & R’, it read.
“Hey, how did you know about this?” Ruth yelled, as she quickly pulled the strap back up.
“What’s it?” Mom yelled from the kitchen.
“Nothing” Ruth yelled back; as she dragged me out of the house.
“Ruth, is it Nathan?” he asked her, as we sat in the car.
“Sweet Mother of Jesus!!! You have got to stop freaking me out like this!!! How did you know?” she exclaimed in shock.
“Nothing, I just had a hunch”, Timothy said. He kicked under his seat; and his foot met metal. The shovel was still there.
“Did Nathan tell you?” Ruth asked, excitedly.
“No, but his sister did”, Timothy said.
“Oh great, so now everyone is in the know”, she smiled and said.
“Yes, and like they say ‘The more the merrier’”, said Timothy, as he smirked at himself in the rearview mirror.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Real Unreal - 2

Timothy stopped the car outside the book store. “I’ll be right back”, he said, as he jumped off the car.
Ruth looked at the rearview mirror; and adjusted her make-up. She was hoping that she didn’t have the ‘after sex’ look on her face.
“Sorry about that”, Tim said, as he sat back in his seat; and revved the engine of the car.
“What was that all about?” Ruth asked.
“Ms. Hedger asked me to pick up a book for her. I need it for some referencing this semester.”
“So does she need it, or you?” Ruth teased.
“She’s my guiding professor; it’s for both of us to use”, he replied with a straight face.
“I didn’t mean to offend you, sweetie pie”, she said, as she mockingly pulled his cheeks.
He brought the car to a screeching halt in front of the house. “Don’t you mess with me, Ruth! You want me to keep mum about your little ‘tattoo’ or not?”
“Oh yes, I so want you to shut up and never again mention the ‘T’ word”, she said.
“So who is he?” Tim asked. “Is it someone I know?”
“No, not really”, she replied truthfully.
“Mom, we’re home”, Tim yelled, as soon as they walked in the front door.
“So how was your day, kids?” mom asked, her warm smile intact.
“Mine was great. I am making great progress on my university assignment. Ms. Hedger is happy with my progress”, said Tim. “I don’t know about her day. But she sure looks flushed”, he added.
“Do I?” Ruth added, shocked; as she touched her cheeks.
“Don’t listen to him. You look beautiful, as usual”, Mom said reassuringly.
“I’m going to be in my room. I have some work to do on my assignment”, said Tim. “I’d like to not be disturbed. I’ll come down in time for supper.”
Mom smiled at him.
“He’s pretty much Ms. Hedger’s pet these days”, Ruth said, teasingly.
“C’mon girl, give him a break. He’s working hard on his assignment. I’m sure he’ll do really well. Ms. Hedger is a distinguished lady who is extremely well read. She is the best guiding professor he could have ever asked for.
Tim closed the door behind him; and latched it. He closed the windows shut; and looked around the room. He loved the feeling of being alone. He hated crowds or even noise for that matter.
His thoughts raced back to the conversation he’d had with Ms. Hedger that morning.
“You’re doing great, Timothy. You’re much better than when we started out. The progress you’re making is great”, she’d said. He beamed with pride at the thought. ‘I’m doing great. She said she was satisfied with the newer efforts’, he thought to himself.
His thoughts were shattered by incessant knocking on the door. “Tim, Tim, open up!” Ruth yelled.
“What is it?” he yelled back.
“I need a ride to school”, she screamed.
“Take the bus, I’m busy!” he responded.
“Please, I’m begging you”, she said.
“Oh! Alrite, give me 5 minutes, you go and sit in the car.”
“What’s the emergency?” Tim asked, in an irritated tone of voice.
“Not something I can talk about right now. Just drive, will you?” she sounded all panicky.
As soon as they reached the parking lot, Ruth dashed off in the direction of the Eastern House Building.
“I’ll be in Ms. Hedger’s office. I had some doubt that I needed a clarification for”, Timothy called out.
“Alrite, I’ll be back in 10”, she called back.
She ran jogged up the stairs to the bathroom. She had forgotten to dispose the used condom; plus she had dropped one of her notebooks there in the bathroom. She couldn’t seem to see it in her bag. She was worried that if anyone found the two items, they might get linked together; and she could get into big trouble.
When she entered the bathroom, it was empty. She bent over, to check if any of the toilets were in use. No one was there. It was completely empty.
She started looking for the notebook all over. She hunted for it frantically. She slid her hand under the wash basin. Suddenly, her hand hit something hard. She pulled it out.
“Oh thank God!” she said, as she heaved a sigh of relief. Her notebook was in her hands; safe and sound.
She walked out of the bathroom with a smile on her face. ‘Now all I have to do is come up with a believable explanation about why I panicked so much about one silly notebook’, she thought to herself.
Tim walked up to Ms. Hedger’s office. He was about to knock, when he heard a male voice from the inside. It was followed by some muffled moaning sounds.
His curiosity got the better of him. He bent over, and put his eye to the keyhole. What he saw inside was enough to churn all of his insides out.
He turned the handle on the door; and tried to open it. But it wouldn’t budge. They had locked it from the inside.
“Open up. It’s me Timothy”, he yelled.
After what seemed like an eternity, the door was opened by the man. Tim glared at him in anger.
“Shush! Don’t say anything. You close the door before he says anything. We can’t let this go out”, Ms. Hedger instructed her partner in crime.
“Would you care to explain what it was that I just saw, Kim?” Timothy asked Ms. Hedger a.k.a Kimberley Hedger, a divorcee, aged 34.
“Sit down, Timothy”, Kim tried to intervene. But it didn’t seem to be working.
“I thought you said he is your brother”, Timothy gasped.
“That he is”, Kim replied.
Timothy could feel the bile rising in his throat. No, this couldn’t be happening. This was the only woman he had ever loved and longed for. She was in his mind, a picture of perfection.
That ‘perfect’ picture was crumbling; right in front of his eyes. He couldn’t deal with it.
“You incestuous bastard”, Timothy said, as he lunged at Kim’s brother with all his might.
“Stop it, Tim!” yelled Ruth; she had just entered the room.
“Ruth, you stay out of this. This is none of your business”, Tim threatened.
“None of my business, eh?” she said, as she walked over to where Tim was standing.
She turned to face Kim’s brother. She looked him straight in the eye; put his face in her hands; and began kissing him passionately.
“This is my boyfriend, Nathaniel, a.k.a Nathan”, Ruth began. “And this here is my gorgeous brother Timothy. I wish you could have been acquainted under better circumstances.”
“Ruth, you’re in love with this scum?” Timothy asked in disgust.
“Yes, I am” Ruth replied.
“Do you… Do you know what they were up to when I walked into this room?” asked Timothy.
“What?” Ruth asked.
“I’ll tell you, baby. My sister and I were just loving each other, as we usually do” said Nathan, no hint of guilt in his voice.
“Do you know what they mean by ‘love’?” Timothy shouted.
“Of course I do, silly!” Ruth replied. “Nathan had already confessed to me that he’d lost his virginity to his sister, Ms. Ledger.”
“You knew about this?” Timothy yelled even louder. He was sure he was going to throw up anytime soon.
“Knew this?” Ruth taunted. “I’m a part of this, hun”, she said, as she walked up to Kim and kissed her passionately. Nathan looked at them and smiled. Kim slid her hands under Ruth’s top and began caressing her.
Timothy could watch no more.
“Get off her, you bitch!” he yelled. He didn’t know which one he was angrier at right now.
He walked over to where the two women were standing; and pulled Ruth by her hair.
“How could you be party to all this slime, Ruth?” he asked, his eyes telling the obvious story. He had been let down; by his girlfriend and his sister.
Ruth looked him in the eye, unapologetically; and said “If you’d like it, you could join us too. No one would ever have to know. Plus, our motto here is ‘The more the merrier’.”
This statement was more than Tim could handle. This was the nail on the head.
“I’m out of here”, he screamed, as he turned to run away from all this madness.
After he’d run away, Ruth walked up to the door, a sinister smile spread on her face and shut the door.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Real Unreal


The handle on the door turned. *Click*, the door opened wide. He walked into the room and kicked his shoes off. He unbuttoned his shirt as fast as he could; the feeling of ‘filthy’ was all around him. He opened his closet, pulled out a small black bag from inside. He stuffed the shirt inside the bag; and shoved it into one corner – to be forgotten.
But, honestly, he would never ever be able to forget the presence of this unwanted item of clothing in his room. ‘I’ll burn the shirt off, later in the night, when everyone’s sleeping.’
“Tim, are you ready for dinner?”
“Yes. I’ll be down in a minute”, he yelled.
He went over to the door; and latched it from the inside. He looked all around him. It wasn’t safe here anymore. It was his own room; but still everything seemed so alien. He walked over to the window; and shut it tightly.
He stripped off every piece of clothing on him. He was now stark naked. He stood in front of the mirror and inspected his body closely. Did he have any marks that would give him away?
When he was satisfied that his body didn’t have any physical evidence to give him away, he walked over to the shower. He stood under the shower; and turned the knob to let the icy cold water fall onto his already ice-cold skin.
He knew the water couldn’t clean him. Nothing could clean him. He was not dirty on the outside. He was dirty on the inside. But he couldn’t tell the truth now, could he?
He couldn’t let all of his hard work go to waste now.
It was too late to repent.
He had to hold on to his guilt; and move on to a better future.
He walked out of the bathroom, with only a towel covering him waist under. He once again looked at himself in the mirror. His eyes were beginning to show signs of not having had their due rest.
‘I must try and sleep well; or my dark-circles might turn out to be a matter of worry for mom and dad. I must avoid any kind of questions that might come up as a result.’
He walked down the steps slowly; as he clutched onto the railings for support. He had to be careful, lest he aggravates the wound on his right thigh.
“So, what’s for dinner?” he asked mom, trying to sound cheerful.
“Potatoes and some fish” she replied, without looking away from the dishes.
“Where’s dad?” he asked.
“He’s gone to the cops”, she replied.
He froze. Did she say ‘cops’?
“Umm… Why the cops?” he asked, trying to sound casual.
“There’s been a case of some money being swindled out of their company’s account. Dad and Mr. Jones have gone to the cops to lodge an official complaint.”
“Do they suspect anyone?” he asked.
“Not really. They are pretty clueless at the moment. They are wondering who would want to do this to them. Mrs. Jones is also very worried about the whole scenario.”
“How much money is involved in this whole scam?” he asked.
“About fifty thousand dollars”, she replied.
He could almost feel his throat drying up. “That’s a lot of money, isn’t it?” he asked, as he filled a glass of water for himself.
“Yes, it’s quite a bit. This is exactly the reason why we’re all confused about who could have pulled it off.”
“Must have been an insider”, he suggested. “Who else could have pulled off a heist like this?”
“You’re right, son!” she said, as she came and placed a plate in front of him.
“You eat and go to bed soon. I’ll wait up until Dad returns home” mom said.
“Alright” he said, as he helped himself to some potatoes.
He wanted to get done with supper as soon as possible. He couldn’t look his mother in the eye. He didn’t want to be around her anymore. He focused on eating his dinner quietly.
“Tim, there was a call for you in the evening”, she said.
“Who was it?”
“Some Nathaniel”, she said.
Tim dropped his fork. “Who did you say?” he asked; the tone of shock apparent in his voice.
“But he’s… It couldn’t be him… He’s… ”

“Good morning, honey” mom said.
“Good morning”, he replied.
“Where’s dad?”
“He got back late last night; he’s still resting”, she responded.
“I have an assignment due today. So I’m going to rush off now”, Tim said, as he slid his chair backwards to get up.
“I’ll come with you”, Ruth yelled from her room.
“You’ll make me late” he yelled back. “I’m off, ma!” he said, as he picked his bag off the chair.
Ruth held her hand against the door, blocking his path. “I told you I’m coming with you” she said; as she drummed her nails on the door. She was dressed in black, from head to toe - black leggings, with a black strappy top, with black ear-rings.
“Fine”, he said, sternly.
“Bye ma!” she yelled, as she closed the door behind her.
“Didn’t you want breakfast?” Tim asked her, as he strapped his seat belt on.
“I’m on a diet”, she replied.
“What for, Ruth? You’re pretty slim anyways”, he commented.
“But Jonathan is having a pool party next week. I need to look my best to fit into the bikini I bought from the mall last week”, she said, with a smirk on her face.
“You superficial creature”, he taunted.
“Taunt all you want, you ugly man! Your sister isn’t pretty just because the God wants her to be. This takes a lot of efforts, young man!” she said, as she playfully showed off her body.
“Is that a tattoo I see?” Tim asked.
“This. Yeah. It’s a miniscule one!” she replied, trying to cover it.
“Does mom know?” Tim asked.
“Nah, she doesn’t. Do me a favor, let her remain unaware”, Ruth looked at him, pleadingly.
“What does it say?” he asked, inquisitively.
He pulled the car into his daily parking spot in the campus. Ruth slid the strap of her top off her shoulder. It was a pink heart, with some writing in the center. ‘N & R’ it read.
“What’s ‘N’ for?” Tim asked.
“You will know when the time is right”, she winked, as she got off the car; and skipped off to class. “Thanks for the ride, bro!” she yelled over her shoulder.
“Crazy woman”, he said, shaking his head, as he got off the car and walked over to the West-wing of the campus.
He walked right up to the first floor of the building. He walked right till the end of the corridor; and knocked on the large heavy teak door. “Come in” came a female voice. He turned the handle door open; and walked in, shutting the door behind him.
The placard on the outside of the door read ‘Ms. Hedger – Head of Department, Canadian Literature’.

Ruth rushed to the ladies’ cloakroom on the 2nd floor of the Eastern House building. She shut the door behind her. There were some girls retouching their make-up. She waited patiently until they got done.
Once the last one had left, she walked up to the door; put up the ‘Cleaning in progress’ board outside the cloakroom. She then shut the door, and latched it. She looked to see if the coast was clear or not. When she was assured that it was, she walked over to the door with the blue paint smeared across it; and pushed it open.
“The coast is clear”, she announced to him.
“I was craving for you, you hawtie. Come to daddy”, he said, as he looked at her which would have made a hardened rapist look like a toddler.
He pulled her into his arms; and went for her neck with the thirst of a vampire.
“Go easy, boy! Easy! I have a surprise for you”, she announced.
“What is it?” he said, in her characteristically scruffy voice.
She moved a few steps backward; her eyes affixed on his. She slowly pulled her top off to reveal her bubble-gum pink bra, it had little red hearts on it.
“I like what I see”, he said, scratching his chin.
“Not the bra, you freak!” she said, irritated.
“What then?” he asked, genuinely confused.
“This”, she said, pointing out to the tattoo.
He rubbed his rough finger along her smooth skin. “It’s beautiful”, he said. He bent over, and planted a kiss on the tattoo that was on her shoulder. But he didn’t stop there. He kissed her on the neck, then on the ear and then he looked at her in the eyes.
“I love you, Ruth.”
“I love you too, Nathan.”
He placed his arms around her tiny waist, as he pulled her in to kiss her lips. He kissed her passionately, yet gently. He held onto her with one hand, and with his free hand, he slid down the strap of her bra that was sitting firmly on her right shoulder.
“Are you sure about this?” she asked.
“I have never been surer about anything else in this world”, he whispered in her ear. She let go of her inhibitions.
He pulled his hands up to her bra strap; and he unhooked it with precision.
She moved backwards; and gently dropped her bra to the floor. He looked at her in awe.
“A work of perfection”, he said; as he walked forward.
His hands lingered close to her breasts; unsure of whether to touch them. Ruth took his hands, and placed them on her skin. “They’re all yours”, she said.
There was no looking back from there. He kissed her on her lips like it was his last day on earth. She kissed him back with equally feverish passion.
He turned her around to have her back against his body. She bent over the wash-basin; as he traced a path along her back with his kisses. She looked at herself in the mirror. She looked way younger than him. She was after all, just 16. He, in turn, was already 24; but he looked older owing to his scruffy stubble, and long pony tail that was part of him. She loved him more than she had loved anything in the world.
It was hard to believe that all this had begun just 7 months back. It was Peggy’s 16th birthday; and the girls were at Togo’s to celebrate the cause.
“Happy birthday, girl”, Ruth wished Peggy, as she arrived at the table.
“Thanks darling. Come, take a seat”, Peggy offered.
“I will. Excuse me, I’ll be right back”, she said, as she excused herself to visit the ladies’ room. On her way there, her eyes fell on the gorgeous man who was seated at the bar. He was looking right at her. There was something about that look that pierced through her skin, to get the better of her.
When she returned to her seat, she kept turning behind to catch a glimpse of him.
“What’s up, girl?” Peggy asked.
“Do you know that fellow, sitting there by the bar?” she whispered in her ear.
“The guy with the pony tail?” she asked.
“Who is he?”
“Heard he’s related to someone on the faculty. He’s here to do some research on his thesis.”
“Interesting”, she said, as she touched her chin with her index finger. “Wouldn’t really hit you as being the ‘academic’ kinds, would he?”
“Not really; but he’s attractive in the ‘bad-boy’ way. Isn’t he?”Peggy added.
“Ma’am, these are from the gentleman there by the bar”, said the waitress; as she placed the Virgin Pina Coladas on the table.
Ruth and the others turned to the bar; he was looking right at them. He flashed a smile.
“Maybe, you should thank him when we’re done”, Peggy suggested.
“I must”, Ruth said, as she rose from her seat. But when she turned around, his seat was empty.
“He left”, she said, the tone of disappointment hung in her words.
“Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll bump into him at the campus”, Peggy had said.
“Goodnight girls! See you tomorrow morning”, Ruth yelled, as she crossed the street. She lived a block away from Togo’s. As she was walking, a car screeched to a halt right next to her. She bent over to see who was driving the car. It was him, the mystery man from the bar.
“Need a ride?” he asked.
“Not really, I live close by. But thanks for asking”, she responded.
“Would it be okay if I walked you?” he asked.
“Sure, I could use the company”, she added.
He had parked the car and walked back with her. “Alrite then, this is me!” Ruth said, as they neared her house.
“This is where you live, eh?” he asked.
“Yes”, she replied. “Alrite, goodnight”, she said, as she turned to walk away.
“I still don’t know your name”, he shouted out.
“Ruth”, she smiled.
“I’m Nathan”, he said, as she walked away, a smile plastered on her face.
They’d ‘accidentally’ bumped into each other the next day on campus as well. And that’s how it had begun. They had somehow managed to keep things under wrap. Nobody knew about their little ‘affair’. Nathan had wanted to keep things under wrap; because a family member worked on the faculty. “It wouldn’t be right for us to announce things as yet, plus, with you being younger than me, I’m not sure how people would deal with this just as yet”, he’d said.
Keeping things this way suited Ruth too. Her older brother Timothy also studied in the same school. If he ever found out about her relationship with someone older than him, he would freak; and in turn, her parents would also get to know the truth; and they would definitely freak a lot more than Timothy. She might as well end up being ‘grounded’ for life.
So they continued to meet secretly. Before hours and after hours, preferably, while on campus. They kept the meetings off the campus at a minimal; because, if someone they knew bumped into them outside, they wouldn’t have had a viable excuse. While they were on campus, some plausible explanation could always be made up.
She was panting heavily, as she got off him. She looked at him and smiled.
“You’re awesome. Do you know that?” he said.
“Tell me something I don’t know”, she teased. “Alrite, I’m super late for Physics now. See you later, hun”, she said, as she planted a firm kiss on his lips. She hurriedly dressed up, straightened her hair. Before leaving she looked at him and said; “Get out of here before someone catches you.”


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mumbai vs. Muscat...

(Please note: This was written 2 weeks after I’d landed here)
I had my first stay-over pyjama party at a school friend’s place... I was around 10 years old when this happened... We three little girls spent the night at Akshata’s place and slept in her brother’s room... He had a bunk bed... Akshata and Aditi slept on the lower berth, while I made myself comfortable on the upper berth...

I hardly slept that night... Why? It was because I was in a bed which wasn’t mine... You always know the feel of your own bed and can tell it apart from any other beds that you sleep in... I say this with absolute confidence, because as a child I had the good fortune of staying only in one house; unlike some kids who have parents in the army or the navy, owing to which they spend their childhood years moving around a lot... (I’m sure they have lovely experiences of their own... Not meaning to demean anyone here)

I had only two mattresses on which I have spent the whole of my 22 years until now... I obviously know what my bed feels like... There are very few other beds in the world that I have gotten accustomed to...
But why am I talking about beds here, eh? I have a point that I am getting to...

Being a person who is so fussy about the bed she sleeps in; how much more fussy must I be about the country I live in!!!
My only prerogative being that, I need to live in a place that I can call ‘home’...

I am Tabitha Thomas... 22 years of age... Turning 23 this October... I am currently in Muscat which is the capital of the Sultanate of Oman...

This is my 2nd visit here... My first visit was when I was 18 years of age... In fact, I had celebrated my 18th birthday here, in Oman.

On my second visit here, I notice that things have hardly changed here... The roads are still the same... So is the Malayalee-Omani ratio...

So why is it that I feel the urge to write about things this time? May be because I realize that our memory has its’ own limitations to take into consideration... I may not remember the more intricate details of my current trip a year or so later...

The first thing that strikes you about this place is the fact that it is much more peaceful than the bustling Mumbai that I come from... (After spending 20 odd years in Mumbai, I guess any place in the world will seem peaceful.) The first thing that seems missing in the scene here is auto-rickshaws... They are what contribute to the maximum chaos in Mumbai...

There are very few two-wheelers on the road... (The high temperatures during the day are the main reason for the same.) There are hardly any honkers on the roads here... (The existent honkers are Indian; you can be assured of that...) People seem more cordial... I have had drivers stop their vehicles, so that pedestrians like us can cross the road... I have also noticed Dad stop the car for other pedestrians too... It’s a classic case of everyone following in each other’s footsteps...

People actually follow the rules here... You will very rarely see people jumping signals... The tough punishments and high fines that the offenders have to face act as a natural deterrent... Nonetheless, it seems like a joy ride, driving here in Oman...

However, getting a driver’s licence here is like hitting your head against a stone wall... You might get the wall to have cracks, but at the expense of a bleeding head... They have something they call the ‘drum test’ here to ascertain your driving skills... They place drums/barrels at equidistant positions... They are placed in such a manner that there is exactly enough space for your car to turn through them... They obviously take into consideration the dimensions of the car you will be using for the test...

The deal is this... You need to swivel through those drums without touching them... If you happen to touch the drums, regardless of whether they fall with the impact or not, your plea for a driving licence is rejected... The idea is that you have to make it through without touching the drums/barrels...

Sheesh.... Sounds like a pain in the posterior end, doesn’t it??? It’s so much easier to get a driving licence in Mumbai... If you are adept at placing your leg on the accelerator and the brake; and can rapidly manage to interchange between the clutch, accelerator and the brakes, you’re doing fine... Or you have the easy way out... Bribe the ‘kaka’ who is with you... Simple!!!

Who has to really drive in Mumbai anyways??? If you can keep your cool during a traffic jam, you’re the man!!! On that basis I shall go on to give the following vote...
Oman – 0
Mumbai – 1

I have been sitting at home, here in Muscat... I do not have much to keep myself occupied... Hence, I have been keeping myself occupied with cooking and some booking (reading books, I mean)...

The best thing that could have happened to a lost soul like me was an ‘internet connection’... We already had the laptop; so all we needed was a valid internet connection...

Little did I know that getting an internet connection here would be like a big head-ache... If you wanted to get a connection here, you would need to apply for a landline, then apply for a modem, and then get your precious connection...

The other option was that of getting a data card, which would be worked by your cell-phone service provider... This is the option we settled for because the earlier option (Landline-modem-internet) would take around 2-3 weeks to become active...

But things weren’t as easy as they sounded... If you take up the data card system, you had to choose between 2 options -
a) You could purchase 24 hours worth of internet access for 1 Omani Rial.
b) You could purchase 72 hours worth of internet access for 3 Omani Rials.
We chose option a) the first time... This meant we had to have at least 1 O.R. (Omani Rial) worth of charge left on the sim card... And then, once we sent a sms to our service provider, the internet service would be activated... And we could then use the internet service for the next 24 hours... But at the end of 24 hours, we would have to either renew the service, or it would expire... We could activate the service next when we needed it...
If you were to use the internet everyday with this service, it would mean you would have to shell out around 30 O.R. every month, which in Indian money would roughly come up to around Rs. 3600/-...

Expensive, eh??? And I used to complain about shelling out 1000 Indian rupees every month to get an unlimited usage connection from MTNL in Mumbai... Seems like a frivolous complaint now... At least I had access to the internet everyday... And I didn’t have to be tense about how long I was using it for...

Oman – 0
Mumbai – 2

If you need to shop here, you have a zillion places to go... This is the hometown of every shopping centre in the world... In Mumbai how you find a pan-tapri at every corner or nukkad as we call it; that’s how you find supermarkets and malls here... They are scattered all over...

This is the only place to pick up your weekly quota of veggies and groceries... You do get a large variety of veggies here... They come for pretty reasonable prices as well... (The section with the chocolates seems the most tempting, for obvious reasons... I doubt I have ever been this tempted by chocolates while I was in Mumbai.)

On the over all, the things seem cheaper here... But are they that cheap when you convert it into Indian rupees... Not really!!! I am doing these calculations because at the end of the day, the savings made here are going to be converted into Indian rupees when we return to Mumbai... So the more we can save, the better it is for us...

Oman – 0
Mumbai – 3

Here, when you get out of the house, you have to ensure that you are modestly dressed... And you do not owe this only to the Omani men who are used to seeing their women covered from head to toe... You have to do so to protect yourself from the million or zillion Indian and Pakistani men as well; who belong to the worker class... They are here in a foreign land, away from their families and especially their wives... They are sexually starved beings who might probably pounce on the first unassuming female creature that walks their way...

To add to this, they can freely view soft porn on their television sets, with some channels being aired only with this purpose... How then can they keep their animal sides under control? The poor people... It’s not their fault... It’s the fault of Omani Television...

Given the complexity of this, it’s better to not provoke any of them and keep yourself as covered as you can... Like they say, ‘While in Rome, do as the Romans do...’ So all my skirts and shorts have taken a toss for kurtas and longer tops...ALAS... You can’t afford to be yourself here...

Oman – 0
Mumbai – 4

There is one thing that majorly goes against Oman, or any other place in the world, other than India for that matter...

NO OTHER PLACE CAN BE CALLED HOME... Regardless of how many years I spend in any foreign land, that’s what it will always remain to me... ‘A foreign land’... I can never call it HOME... To it, I will always be an OUTSIDER... Cause I will never truly be a child of that soil... Will I??

Oman – 0
Mumbai – 5

I hope to be back in Mumbai by the end of April or the beginning of May... I am going to be missing Mumbai until then... Every aspect of it... The chaos... The skirt wearing days... The friends... The freedom to walk out of the house to catch a rickshaw even at 12 in the night... The freedom to give gaalis to the guy driving the car, because he pushed on the brakes at the last minute... The freedom to walk around with a friend of the opposite sex without people questioning your ‘intentions’... The freedom to eat yummy, butter-laden pav bhaji from the neighbourhood thela-wala... The freedom to have house parties and harass the sweet neighbour... The freedom to sweet-talk the cop who caught you jumping the signal... The freedom to say ‘namaste’ to any aunty or uncle from your building who you bump into at the mall... The freedom to call the place you live in YOUR HOME...
Missing Mumbai... They’re right when they say, distance does make the heart fonder...

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A matter of Luck - 2

But after a sheer matter of luck, things had changed overnight for us... It had been 7 months since the incident...
Today, however, was a special day... It was exactly on this date, 27th Aug, that Sam and I had met for the first time... And 7 years later, today, we were still together...
‘I wonder if he remembers’ I thought to myself...
I opened his cupboard to pull out a fresh pair of boxers for him... I pulled open the drawer where he kept his briefs and boxers... The drawer, which normally opened quite smoothly, seemed a little jammed today... I tugged at it... But it refused to yield...
“Honey... What’s wrong with this drawer?” I yelled...
“What drawer, baby?” he asked, as he walked out of the bathroom... He already had a pair of boxers on...
“Oh... I thought you would need a pair of shorts... But never mind...” I shrugged my shoulders...
He came and hugged me from the behind... And playfully kissed my shoulder...
“I have something very important to tell you...” he said...
“And that would be?” I asked...
“I love you...” he said and planted a kiss on my lips... “I love you too” I replied...

We walked into Hawaiian Shack at 15 minutes past 11... “It’s not me... It was the traffic...” I pleaded with a flustered Angy...
“It’s a Saturday night... What did you expect???” she replied angrily...
“Hey Clifford...”
“Hey Jo... You look fabulous...” said Clifford as he bent over to hug me...
“She already has a boyfriend... You’re mine...” Angy joked while she pulled Clifford towards him...
Sam joined in the laughter...
Two drinks later, I was getting into the groove of things... I was enjoying the music and my feet were moving without any help from my brain...
Sam pulled me in close to him, he bent over until his chin rested on my shoulder; and he whispered in my ear, “So you wanted to know why that drawer was locked, right? This was why...”
The music changed to a slow romantic song... “You look wonderful tonight...” I gasped in delight as I recognized the song playing in the background... This was ‘our song’... The ‘Jo n Sam’ song...
Sam went down on one knee, and from his pocket he pulled out a small box... He flicked it open...
“That’s the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen... You’re so lucky, girl...” I could hear Angy squeal...
“Joanna Machado, will you do me the favour of marrying me?” Sam asked...
“Of course... I mean yes...” I replied, the tears not seeming to stop as he slipped the ring over my finger...

Today, we seem so happy together... But this wasn’t how things had been until 9 months back... The distance had begun getting to us... I seemed cranky whenever he called... I used to miss him a lot... And I felt very lost without him... He would reprimand me for going out to a lot of work parties... And said that I could go out all I liked when he was here with me... His insecurity was getting to me... Did he doubt me??
Angy told me that all of this was normal; and men are used to getting a tad over-possessive when they were away from their women... She told me not to pay attention to it...
I started praying in all earnestness... I hoped for some way where he could come back from the ship safely and never have to go back...
Sam, however, wouldn’t be happy with a normal 9-5 job... I knew that all along... He was the kinds who was used to a luxurious lifestyle... Even when we were in college, he preferred the Barista outlet to the college canteen... I, however, was content with a vada-pav n a cutting chai... He always teased me about not having ‘√©lan’... He would take me to really expensive stores and buy designer clothes for me... But I preferred the hard-earned clothes I bought off Colaba Causeway and Linking Road, after having haggled with the shopkeeper for over an hour...
So if God had to answer my prayers, it would have to mean that Sam could come back to Mumbai; and it would also mean that he should have devised some plan to make a lot of money; and that too quick...
I wasn’t okay with any hanky-panky ways of making the money... So I prayed for white-money...
My prayers were answered... And how!!!
Sam was on board a cargo ship that belonged to ‘Star-line’, which is a US based shipping company... His contract was valid for 6 months; and he was due for vacation soon...
When the engineers went for a routine check up in the engine room, they noticed a technical failure that could have amounted to a huge blast in the engine room... The entire ship could explode... The captain of the ship asked the engineers to rectify the issue at the earliest... No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t seem to fix it...
After all had that was in their capacity had been tried; the captain gave orders to evacuate the ship... They lowered the lifesaver boats and rowed away to safety... On reaching a safe distance, the captain did a head count again, just to be sure...
“24...25...26...27....” he counted...
“Holy Mother of Jesus...” the captain gasped... “We’re missing one man...”

In the meanwhile, Sam got up from his deep sleep... It was his day off... He had been in his cabin, snoring away to glory... He got up, stretched his stiff body... He walked out onto the deck, sleepily rubbing his eyes... He desperately needed some breakfast...
As he walked around the ship, something seemed wrong... The ship was quieter than usual... Where was everyone??
“ROGER... EVAN... SMITH... Where are you guys??” he shouted out loud... He hoped it was a prank the guys were playing on him...
He checked the other cabins... No one was there... While he was on his way to the control station, his attention fell on the place where they usually had the boats and other life saving material... It was all missing...
“They evacuated... Without me...” he gasped...
Sam ran up to the control station and tried to manually radio any port that he could... He felt a frequency coming in... It was from a port in the UK... They gave him directions to get to the port...

When he got to the port, they questioned him about all the on-goings that had landed him there...
In the meanwhile, the officials had a team of engineers check the engine room... They realized that there had been a technical snag... However, they added that it had been a rather small problem... The engineers on board had probably not been able to correct it coz they were already in a state of panic...
They checked the contents of the ship... The ship was carrying electrical items to the shores of USA...

They asked for Sam’s contract... On checking his contract they noticed a detail that was going to change Sam and my life forever...

“Did you know your contract expired 2 days back?” asked an official...
“I hadn’t noticed, sir... I knew it was close to my time of leaving sea... But I hadn’t checked the date...” Sam replied earnestly... He wiped the sweat off his brow...
“Do you know what this means Mr.Sameer Rathore?” the official quizzed him...
“No, sir...!”
“Since your contract with Star Line Shipping Co. Has expired, it means you no longer are an employee of the company... And as we have understood from your narration of events, there was no other valid employee of Star Line aboard the ship when you brought it to this dock? Am I right?”
“Yes, sir...” replied Sam.
“By the virtue of the rules of the sea, any man who finds a ship without a captain or a valid employee on board is the rightful owner of the ship and all its contents... So what do you wish to do with the ship now??”
“I... WHAT??? I own this ship???” Sam gasped in disbelief...
“Let me make this simple for you... You can sell your ship and all its contents to us... We would be more than happy to pay the desired amount for it...”
If you even go to sell an empty ship and its spare parts as scrap, it seems that you can get money that will go into crores... Sam got to sell a ship full of electrical goods, that were brand new and in undamaged state at the time of the deal...
“Thank you very much sir...” said Sam, as he left the official’s office; armed with a cheque for an insane amount that would mean he would never have to work ever again... Forget about him... The coming generation could also just sit at home and enjoy the fruits of Sam’s luck...
And that’s the story of how Sam came back home to me... And that’s how a junior copy editor with a leading lifestyle magazine owns her own magazine today... That’s how we live in a 4 BHK apartment at Cuffe parade...
That’s our story... As they say, it was all a matter of luck... *wink wink*

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A matter of luck

“Bhai sahib, woh toh bolna ka daam hai... Dena ka bolo na” I argued...
“Kya madam... Apun ko to siraf dus rupya milta hai upar ka... Woh bhee aap chheen loge, toh apun khayega kya?” he argued...
“Main dedh sau ke upar ek rupya nahi doongi...” I shoved Angela’s hand off my shoulder... “Wait na... I’ll get if for less than 200... Just be patient” I whispered to her...
“Theek hain madam... Na aapka, naa mera... Ek sau assi mein final kar do...”
“Nahi nahi... 160 mein fix kar do... Chalo done done...” I shoved some folded notes into his hand... And I snatched the bag out of his hand... “Thank you, bhaiya... Dekhna... Main apne saare friends ko boolongi aapke dukaan pe aane ko...”
Angela giggled... “So who are all these ‘saare friends’ you told the poor guy about??”, she teased...
“Yaar you know me na...” I replied... “I can’t resist it when I see a good pair of slippers...”
“Yeah yeah!! I know...” she smiled...
“Alrite...” I said and jumped across the divider along with her...
“Alritee then... Shall we make a move??” Angy asked... “Sure...” I replied... “Do you want me to drop you anywhere??” I asked...
“Nopes... Am fine... It will be out of the way for you...” she replied...
“Cool... See ya at the shack then... 11:00 pm sharp... Don’t be late...” I yelled, as I crossed the road to get to where I had parked my car...
“Taxi...” I heard her yell, as I turned around to hunt for my car... All the little lanes in Colaba looked the same... I could never seem to remember where I had parked my car...
I found my darling car at last... There it stood, in all its glory, parked next to the silver Ikon...
I walked over to my car... Many women would have shuddered at the thought of driving a car of this size... But not me... I was a confident driver... Moreover, I would never drive after drinking... I stepped into my Honda CRV... I had been driving this set of wheels for the last 3 months now...
I pulled into the parking lot of Oceanic View Apartments, Cuffe Parade...
I entered the elevator... “Good afternoon, Mrs. Arora...” I smiled and greeted her...
“Good afternoon, Jo... Went out shopping, eh??” she asked, gesturing at the bags I was carrying in my hand...
“Yes... Girlie time out... I met up with a college friend; and we hit Colaba Causeway... Oh this is me...” I said, stepping out of the elevator... “Want to join me for a cup of coffee?”
“Ummm... I guess I could... Bittu is at school and Sanjay isn’t at home...” she said, as she stepped out of the elevator with me... “Let me help you” she offered, as she took some of the bags from my hand... I juggled with the keys and managed to get the door open...
“Home sweet home...” I proclaimed as I entered the house... “Please make yourself comfortable...”
I entered the kitchen and opened the fridge to fetch the milk...
“By the way Mrs. Arora, I have some exquisite red wine on me... Would you prefer that to the coffee?” I asked out loud...
“Sounds better...” she replied...
I brought out the glasses... As I poured out the wine, Mrs.Arora asked “So how’s the magazine doing???”
“Oh it’s doing great... We seem to have outdone most of the established names in the same category... And we’re just 4 months old... Let’s see how we do in the next coming months... ” I said while I offered her the glass...
“Lovely set of wine glasses you have there... I love your taste, Jo...” she said... “So what’s it like to own a magazine???”
“It’s a wonderful experience for someone like me; who never thought it would be possible to run something of my own...” I replied...
“To a new friendship” she toasted, as she raised her glass... “To a new friendship” I echoed...
“Let me see what it is that you shopped for today?” she asked...
I brought out the bags... We started skimming through the myriad of items I had picked up...
A multi-coloured dhoti...
A purple tank top to go with it...
A brown and black pashmina shawl...
A rustic looking hand held mirror...
A pair of purple slippers...
Pair of pink-silver slip-ons...
Couple of short asymmetrical geometrical patterned skirts...
Pair of wooden paduka-style slippers...
“Oh, these are fab, Jo... How much did you get them for?” she was almost squealing with excitement, as she held up the wooden pair of slippers...
“Guess...” I teased her on...
“I don’t know... Tell me...” she sounded impatient...
“A mere 150 Indian Rupees...” I said with pride...
“Dammit... How do you know so much about these tiny little places?? I can’t bargain to save my life...” she chuckled... “I should come shopping with you next time... What say, Jo??”
“You’re more than welcome...” I replied...

Dressed in a pair of pink and green shorts, with a tee that read ‘My friend went to London, and all I got was this Stupid Tee Shirt’; I sat down on the swing in the balcony... I was enjoying the summer breeze that was blowing... ‘The joys of being on the 23rd floor of the building’, I thought to myself...
Strange, how things change overnight...
Not even in my wildest dreams had I thought of staying a house in this part of the city... And now, not only did I stay here, but I owned a 4 BHK... That translated into 5.5 crores worth of property in Indian currency... Phew!!!
And guess what!!! I also had enough money left to comfortably buy 3 more apartments like this one...
The door bell rang, disrupting my thoughts...
“Hey honey...” I kissed him lightly on the cheeks as he walked into the house...
I took his jacket for him... I hung the jacket up on the stand and turned to face him...
“I need to take a shower... You wanna join me?” he teased...
“Shameless fool... Freshen up... In the meanwhile I’ll whip up something for you to eat...” I said, as I gave him a playful push towards the bedroom...
“Joooooooo... Gimme my towel please...” he yelled from the bathroom...
After living under the same roof with Sam for the last 5 months, I was sure that all men in the world were incapable of functioning smoothly without a woman around... If the world was a place without women, you would have had one set of very filthy unkempt men, happily scratching their crotches with one hand, holding beer with the other; and belching as they argued over the recent cricket/soccer match...
But that’s not to say we women are any different... If there were no men in the world, we would have really happy, content, overweight women with bars of chocolates in both hands... Grinning away to glory...
I chuckled at the thought...
“Coming...” I yelled, as I went to hunt for a fresh new towel... I had given the house-help an off today... I had a holiday from work... And Sam was also going to be home soon... I wanted some time alone with him... “Here...” I said, as I placed the towel on his outstretched hand; he bent over and gave me one of those ridiculously cute smiles of his... That was one of the primary reasons why I had fallen in love with this man...
Sam and I went to the same college for five years... During our junior college years, I had seen Sam, but he had never even noticed me...
Sam was really popular in college... I was just another noob, getting used to the Mumbai style of life... I had come down from Hyderabad... And was still not accustomed to the way of life here... But one thing that I was darn sure about was dancing...
That’s how we first met...
Sam and I were paired together for an inter-collegiate dance competition... He wasn’t sure if he was okay with being paired with a ‘nobody’... But I guess all that changed when he saw me...
It wasn’t long before the entire college knew of our little blossoming love story... Samarth Veersingh Rathore and Joanna Daniel Machado had become ‘Jo n Sam’... People could hardly take one name without the other...
After graduation, I went on to work with a leading lifestyle magazine... I always wanted to write... And this job let me do exactly that...
Sam, however, went off to training school... He wanted to join the merchant navy; just like his dad...
When he left for training school, Angy and others told me that it wouldn’t be long before we both moved on to greener pastures... But somehow, that didn’t happen...
We continued into a committed long-distance relationship... Even after he left to go on board, we were still as much in love as we had been 4 years back...
But after a sheer matter of luck, things had changed overnight for us... It had been 7 months since the incident...