"Another cup of tea? You must be really excited about this. I've had too much for the day."
"For the kind of day you've had, am sure you wouldn't mind. I promise, this shall be the last one. Now, before we call it a day, tell me how on earth did you manage to fool death more than once, on the same day?"
"Ok! Well you see death has its flaws... and I got lucky too..."
"I shall remember that for the next time. Thank you."
"What did you put in that tea? Who are....."
"Your not-so-elusive death!".
On most weekends, one could find them there, piling bottle after bottle, until they had run of topics to talk about. Their educational pursuits had taken them apart.
They had met at their favourite joint for old times sake.
As he read the article next morning, he figured the nausea wasn't her doing. It was the unsanitary bottling. The mainstream brands and technology were destroying the labour oriented industry. He couldn't help notice the similarities in their situations. He was outdated and the ghosts in his closet were not helping his cause.
That one-last-time had proved costly, again..
"One last time, can you explain inherent risk, control risk and detection risk?" *He took another puff to keep sleep at bay*
"Why is that bee circling us time and again? It's like it is trying to capture our conversation!" His counterpart lousily said, clearly jittery from lack of sleep and explaining concepts throughout the night.
He woke up with a start! What was it with those concepts and old men, he wondered. Then his eyes wandered to the glowing screen.
"Drat! I missed another one", he murmured under his breath as he got ready for his exam..
One moment it was all unreal, quiet and peaceful. Nobody was talking more than required. There was nothing beyond an occasional friendly banter.
Then Kanti-ben told Saraswati-tai, "Did you know the watchman is said to have a second wife in the city..."
Ancient myth had it that when the stars were aligned in a fixed pattern, any act covered by a triangle formation witnessed by dual elements of nature, would have a multiplying effect on that species.
Turned out the watchman wanted his wife to stop taking him for a ride. The women folk suddenly started gossiping..
For weeks, he went away on his work missions, as he called them. So when he went missing nobody gave it a second thought.
It wasn't until his body had washed up the shore did the police decide to step in. Investigations revealed he was tracking the mafia kingpin. His cloud backup had just one image file. The profile of the don hereto unknown, was now a blurred image.
Somewhere, sometime, as he looked down, "Damned autofocus!", he cursed to himself. .
"I am sure he would be weaving a story around the couple behind, and us. I wonder if I would ever be the protagonist in it. Centering it around the couple would be too mainstream for his liking. It could be you, the silent killer..."
"If you don't take up my suggestion soon, I will do it for you."
"Hey! He likes his space. Don't ruin his story, please.... I will cross paths somewhere else."
He signed off on the story and submitted it. The drizzle would convert into a pour anytime. He couldn't let his office-equipment get wet..
My father probably needed a stitch on his pockets. I had just gotten my very own DSLR!
It was my favorite festival. I clicked a photo, every time I found a colorful object moving on its legs.
Carrying a few kilos of equipment had taken its toll. My hands and shoulders were feeling sore. But, as I uploaded the first few shots, and the likes started to trickle down, I could feel the tiredness wash. It wasnâ€™t until I read the comment that the truth dawned.
â€œHow come you arenâ€™t seen in any of the pictures? You didnâ€™t play?â€.
I tried my best, but it wasn't enough. I was alone on the defence front. I wouldn't last long. In my last living moments, I remembered my grandpa's dying words, "We bow to none, but the King!". People considered him a lunatic and I stopped trying to figure it out.
It suddendly made sense now. I made my move.
I am a sorcerer. I can turn into any person on the field, dead or alive. I am a potential queen.
I am the pawn.
She was inconsolable. It was all her fault. She had insisted that he had ear-phones plugged in. He would seem genuinely lost making the image look authentic. She was using a super-telephoto lens for the bokeh effect. She had no way of telling him. It was too late before he realised. The train was too fast for him.
The officer-in-charge had read about the report where a girl had been killed by a speeding train amidst the selfie madness. This is a conspiracy, he mused, as he closed the case as an accident.
Revenge had been served..
"So this week's theme is farmers' suicide."
"Why do you have to be such a spoilsport, dad? The crop looks so rich and beautiful."
"Managing to get a healthy crop is only one of the concerns. When managing to recover the cost can itself be challenging, marketing it for a good price is more worrisome."
"Instead of funding thousands of crores on consumer discounts, if someone funded agriculture, wouldn't we have gotten back to our farming glory?"
"The ex-farmer turned IIM grad just got his next startup idea.".
I watched the stranger come, order, eat and leave in a jiffy. He seemed in such a hurry that he not only skipped change but also left back his bag in the process.
"God is kind", I said.
"No sir! If I keep what is not mine, it will find a way to leave me one way or another.
By the time I could process the enormity of his goodness, he was already off, saying, "Please don't leave, I will be right back. I know you are still hungry!"
Now I had to find another way to help him..
"Look ma! You won't believe what I found today! I didn't know you were so romantic! When was this taken?"
"Oh that... It was our wedding day."
"Wow! Tell me more..."
"Aren't you supposed to be writing that story of yours?"
"Please ma, I will write this one!"
"Very well... I had the setup all planned and ready. As soon as he came, I pretended to have something in my eye and asked him to blow it out.... snap! We had our image..."
"Tell me once its published.".
"Thank you for having my back out there. Might have been a little hard to wiggle out of that one!"
"You mean, saving your life? You are welcome. Although, it is the least I could do..."
"You couldn't have done anything about that. Having her in my life placed her under the cross-hairs."
"So you read my file.."
"I had time to kill while recovery walked like a snail.."
"Why are you telling this to me?"
"Your performance was being effected by your guilt. More importantly, she wasn't your responsibility, they are mine."
She had always known she was different. Today's encounter was a proof of it. She had been handed a ticket stub and told, "You know the way to the platform".
"But I don't have a passport to travel abroad", she had countered.
"There are many portals to the station. The right pole your folks use to dry nets at your premise opens up to one", the catlike woman had said before disappearing.
"Why on earth would you run into a pole?"
"Daydreaming about one of your fantasy books again, were you?".
"Good Morning sir, would you mind if I captured your image?"
"Would it feature my facial traits?"
"No. I was hoping to do it with my words."
"What if I were to give you something better instead?"
"If it makes my story interesting, I am game!"
"I am here to intercept the republic day attack!"
"You are a spy? You got to be kidding! Why would you even tell me?"
"People love fictional thrill. Your words will be left at that. My face, on the other hand could compromise my mission. Also I can spare your life!".
"What do you think is his story?"
"I can't seem to get any vibes off him. I must be having a reader's block."
"Is there even such a thing?"
"I am facing one now. He could be having a writer's block for all I know."
"Let me make an image for the others to fictionalise."
"Can you folks keep your discussion to yourselves? A man is trying to find some peace here. And, you were bluffing about the block right?"
"No Mr. Akthar, I wasn't."
"You can call me Farhan. Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr...?
It was that bright afternoon that they had parted ways. How long ago, he wasn't sure anymore. He had made peace with it; but the realm of dreams were beyond his control. She visited him occasionally. They rarely spoke, but he felt they were happy. His mornings would later be groggy and he would wonder when had she gotten a tattoo done. Maybe she had now. It wasn't strange, he could always talk to her without being present.
"Did you see those birds in flight? I know what my tattoo design is going to be!"
I was late, yet again.
She was simply happy to be blissfully free, not really concerned about my timings. She knew I would be there sooner or later.
"The website had too much traffic. We needed the filing to happen, like yesterday. The client would lose.... erm, Sorry, I got delayed!"
"Its ok. But do you ever wonder where your life is headed?"
"You see that tree there? Its barren now. It isnt permanent."
"And here I was just wondering, why I can't stay angry with you.".
"Dad, why don't we ever get Bappa to our house?"
"Can we please invite him over this year?"
"Why doesn't he stay longer?"
"Is his vacations as small as ours?"
"Stop pestering and look! Or you will miss the view! We can't stay back for long, its already late."
"This should make him happy. Hopefully Bappa will change our fortunes too", I thought, as I picked the unbroken idol from the debri carrier that had just arrived from the beach side..
It had been a great day. He was able to connect every delivery. His flight and slow deliveries were unbeatable. To lead a team at that age, people saw a lot of promise in him.
That tired but triumphant walk, reminded me of myself. I no longer had the stamina. I was rusty and hadn't played for years. These days, I clicked pictures. The blues were mesmerizing, the subject was spot on. It was a perfect image.
I cast a lazy glance at the frame that hung on the wall, and went back to finalizing the consolidated financials.
The festive season was round the corner. The area would always be filled with mammoth idols, all in varied postures, colors and variants. It was their ground zero for endless fun of hiding and seeking.
As she watched the teenage couple walk by, she couldn't help but smile at the memory of how she had met him around that very intersection. She could hear giggles now. She grinned at the thought of new age hide and seek. .
The damage caused by the calamity was incalculable. I caught myself wandering aimlessly, beaten by the thought of having lost my entire project when I came by the duo, who I found, now only had each other in life.
Ricky's owner had woken up to see his house being one mother earth. Life had come back to square one. And yet, here he was sleeping as peacefully as ever.
I walked up, hoping to find out his secret, waking myself in the process.
The scene was mesmerising. As I made the image, I could bet I caught Ricky smirking. .
After a long day at work, she leaned back and streched. It had been a while since her last stint at writing. The deadline pressure had her so worked-up, even a cup of coffee wouldn't make the image speak.
She blinked, and there it was, the image she was supposed to see. An old framed canvas with two distinctive wears and some-more. It wasn't the whole picture. It was simply a little detail in the grand scheme of things.
And it struck her. Deadlines were no different. Her tomorrows were going to be so much better. .
"Was she trying to hide her face after she caught you pointing your bazooka at her? Or was it an effort to gain some respite from the heat? Don't tell me she was wiping sweat off her brows and you timed it!"
"You can take it anyway you like for that story of yours. If you want the truth, she is a scarecrow.".