Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 17 My Father, a Polyp and I

It was the Monday after the news of Sreedevi’s passing. The nation waited with bated breath to learn the exact details of what might have taken the life of one of India’s brightest stars. I waited with bated breath as well, but for my father’s CT scan report. My little tragedy in the glare of a much bigger tragedy was slowly emerging from the scans of the Radiologist’s computer.

It was seven in the evening and I made it a point to get home earlier than usual, waiting for the scans. When the report finally came I plucked it out of the big heavy envelope and tried to make sense of the medical terms. Polyp said the report. I had no idea what that meant. In the colon said the report, I had a fair idea where that was. Adenoma or Adenocarcinoma with a question mark said the report in conclusion. My heart was beating so fast that I could hear it above the din of the children playing in the garden downstairs.

I called the Radiologist, Dr Shetty. He said, “Riddhi the news is not great. It is a tumor but it looks like it is early and I would suggest you see a gastroenterologist.” He was dear enough to make an appointment for me.

My father got back from the gym and he done his own sleuthing and knew what the report said. There was no keeping the truth from him. I began to make my calls. I called Boss. He gave me a few numbers and told me to hang in there. One day at a time is how things went on planet polyp.

Dr Parikh met us as quickly as he could and explained to us in detail what was wrong with my father. He said that the polyp could be cancerous or not, it really depended on the findings of the colonoscopy that we needed to do. We decided to get on with it and do the test.

Early in the morning at the hospital, the colonoscopy did not take long but the Doctor told us that we would have to wait for the results of the biopsy. That took really long. Not in terms of the time that it took but in terms of the wait. It seemed like the longest two days of my life.

Saturday evening, I called the Doctor and he said, “Riddhi, it is cancerous says the biopsy. We need to meet and discuss the way forward.” I hung up on the Doctor and for what seemed like a long while I stared at a sheet of white paper which had some numbers on it that I may have written down in a more emotionally coherent time. I had no idea what those numbers were. It was more like blue ink scribbles. My father had cancer; it came to me slowly and crowded my senses till it became an unbearable drumbeat in my mind. Boss told me that I was having the usual reaction to the dreaded C word. I should be patient and strong. Yes, I had to be patient and strong.

My father’s friend Dr Rai, his gym mate, was guiding us at every step of the way. He was also of the opinion that Dr Parikh was, that surgery was probably the way to get this growth out. He was also pretty certain that we would get all of it.

Dr. Sanjay Sharma put us at ease almost instantly. Affable with effervescent positivity; he promised us that he would get the adenocarcinoma out!

My father and I walked into the hospital early in the morning and I had him settle in his room. The surgery was scheduled for the next day. I stayed with him all day. We spoke about everything but not about the surgery that was about to happen. It was the elephant in the room that we chose not to look at lest it make us weak and break us.

It was going to be a four-hour surgery. The Doctor would remove a portion of the colon along with the polyp and stitch the rest up. Sounds simple when you think of it on paper but when you deliberate and understand that it is going to happen in the human body and your Father’s body at that, it can get very unnerving.

He was wheeled in and I waited in his hospital room. I did not want to think of the surgery and tried reading but the pages felt like they had nothing written on them. I stared at the paper and my mind was filled with memories of my father and me through the years. I fought the tears and they would retreat only to come back again.

I did not turn the light on as the evening slowly turned into night. My father’s cell phone beeped and I walked to it to check if it was important. It was not. I chanced on his whatsapp. On a whim I went to his profile and saw a picture of him laughing and the tears came back when I read his status. It said, “spreading smiles’. It was his whatsapp group where they sent each other jokes and laughed all day. I wiped my tears instantly.

Doctor Sharma called me half an hour before the operation was due to be completed. I sat in his office waiting for him. Hoping and praying that everything was all right. He came in with an assistant wheeling in the tumour. He smiled and said, “We got it. We got all of it!” I wanted to collapse on his desk and thank him, thank God, thank everyone, so much gratitude burst through my heart.

28 May, 2018; As I write this, my Father gets better everyday. The Doctors have asked him to walk around and though that helps him immensely, it does cause him a lot of pain and discomfort. Last evening he prayed for some good sleep and no walking in the morning. He was tired and wanted to rest. I asked the Doctor to excuse him for one session and the Doctor agreed with a smile.

This morning I found him walking when I got to the Hospital. He never stops surprising me! “You did not want to walk?” I exclaimed. He smiled, “Must walk. This is no way to live life,” he added. My eyes filled up with tears again but this time I knew why. They were telling me that my father had not stopped teaching me. Even this morning he was giving me a lesson in life. If there is an art to living, this is it.

As for me, I have taken on from where my father left off on the day of the surgery. I put funny tales on my Twitter everyday. We have to spread them smiles you see!

-Arsee.

Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 43 A letter from a father to his daughter

A letter from the man that taught me –

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

Our normalcy is in our madness.

Time gave us a little bit of a run, but there’s nothing some swimming can’t fix.

I love you Papa, the most special man in my world x

Thinking Chitalia

My story today is a special one. Here’s the most precious gift I could have asked for! In a way it is the sum of my father’s various experiences or in other words, the essence of his life’s stories put together so it can be of some use.

24th April 2018
Dear Riddhi,

It is a very special day today. At the stroke of midnight you turn twenty-one. Which is a remarkable feat considering the klutz you are! I am also overjoyed by the fact that you can finally cross the road and make difficult calculations in regard to velocity and acceleration of moving objects, we call cars, and negotiate a crossing by adjusting your own speed. Belive me, that’s very advanced calculas.

Jokes apart, I am happy you are now in adult land and boring adult things will be expected out of you. You have fought so many battles…

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Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 16 The Third Person

Bob was a star. No one had an idea of how big a star he would be one day before his film released. On the day after his film released he was a sensation. In a matter of two days he went from nobody to the heartthrob of the country. Such was the Goddess of glamour; she took you dizzying heights if she fell in love with you. In Bob’s case she was clearly head over heels.

Me? I was just a writer. I had written the film that had catapulted Bob to the top of the heap. The success of the film did not change my destiny like it did his but I was happy for Bob, he had been my friend through our infinite struggles and I knew he deserved his place in the sun.

It wasn’t easy anymore; doing things we did when he was a nobody. Now, everywhere we went he was surrounded by people and inundated with attention. No more quiet beers and long walks with Depeche Mode on the stereo, those days were over. Yet, I was excited for him and his new life.

It was late one afternoon when Bob drove up to my house in his new swanky car and asked me to accompany him to the opening of an art exhibition. He had no desire to go but he was committed. And it wasn’t like I was doing anything much in any case so I hopped into the comfort of the zero to eighty-in-three seconds-kind of sports car.

“I need a cigarette, real bad,” he whispered into my ear in the middle of all the attention the paparazzi and the invitees to the exhibition were showering on him.
“Sure,” I was going to fish out one from my pocket when he stopped me and said it had to be in the room, where no one could see him smoke. I put the cigarette back into my pocket and planned a room smoking opportunity for him.
“Why the secret cigarette rendezvous?” I asked when we were alone in the room. He looked at me like I was his village cousin. “I am star now Amy,” he explained, taking pains to speak slower. “I must have an image. I want people to see me as this role model, as this good guy. I want all mothers to ask their kids to be like me, I want to be a role-model.”
“Why not just be yourself and let the mothers figure out what they want for their children?” I asked him with all earnestness. He laughed and shook his head like I would not understand. Perhaps, I did not.

Years went by, Bob and I lost touch. I did write some more successful films but never really hit anything out of the park. Bob in the meanwhile just grew from strength to strength. He did become Mr. Nice guy like he had planned for himself. I don’t really know if the mothers were talking to their kids to be like him but if they were I wouldn’t be surprised.

And one day a creaky cupboard opened up somewhere and a skeleton came tumbling out. Bob’s female assistant filed a police complaint against him for repeated sexual harassment. The media went berserk. Mr. Nice guy a molester? The news was too good to be true!

Once the creaky cupboard opens there is really no stopping it. Stories of other women came out accusing Bob of similar behavior began to crop up all over the place. Then the reports of some rehabilitation program for drug addiction, drunken driving; it was just like a free for all.

Late one night I got a call from him, “I need to see you Amy. I need a friend.” He surely needed one. I drove up to his place.
I found Bob sprawled drunk on the expensive marble floor of his extravagant house. He smiled at me and asked me to come and sprawl next to him. I did.
“I have figured something about life Amy, I want to share it with you,” he said slurring his way through the words. I nodded, all ears.
“Remember the cigarette in the room? The day I began my Mr. Nice guy journey?” I nodded remembering it only too well. “You know what happened that day? Another me was born.” I nodded again. Then he tried to stand up and failed. Fell back on the marble and with some effort begun to talk again.
“When I gave birth to a new me, I really gave birth to another me. The older me never really went away. He was always around mocking at the new one. I was being this but I really wanted to be that. And you know what happens when you are two people Amy? Somewhere the two people meet and conspire to become a third person. That third person does everything that the first guy always did but the second guy; the nice guy makes the third guy do all this things deviously. When what you always were meets what you are pretending to be a third guy is born Amy, and this third guy takes all your innocent wants and turns them into perverse and devious actions. He is very dangerous, this third guy…. Very very dangerous.”

Half an hour later, Bob was dead. I had no idea that he had stuffed himself on a drug cocktail.

Three days later when they lowered him into his grave I thought back to what he said, “When what you always were meets what you are pretending to be a third guy is born Amy…” He was right. I had to get home. I had to write again. I had to tell the world what Bob had found out about life. About this third guy.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 15 The Last Letter

Rob was only twenty-one when everything in the world went instant. Instant gratification was the most marketable commodity and strangely among the first things to go instant was food, they called it fast food. Just a few pounds could buy a meal and you could be out of the establishment way before the pennies in the parking meter ran out. No more waiting and listening to the boring pipe music in restaurants and staring at the cutlery wondering when you would be able to use it.

For a loner like Rob fast food made the whole meal effort more bearable. It was a Saturday night and Clock Work Orange was playing at the Odeon. Clock Work Orange had to be seen, it was a message from heaven for cinema buffs. Rob made the pilgrimage and immersed himself in Kubrick’s classic. It was late in the evening when he stepped out of the magical darkness into the real world. Spring was in the air, the night was making way for more daylight and Rob decided it was going to be the pizza kind of fast food that would fill his stomach while he ruminated on the movie.

Marcy’s Pizzeria played some fabulous Depeche Mode making it a clear choice for the evening. He did not see her clearly at first. She was standing with the menus in her hand looking at a couple of bills. She must have sensed someone standing behind her, which was probably why she turned around with a ready smile on her face. Rob had never seen someone as beautiful as her. She had large light brown eyes made to look prettier with the use of a simple liner. A straight nose and perfect red lips added to the perfectness of what destiny had planned for her face. A creamy complexion on curves to die for, Rob wondered if she was the advertisement for the pizzeria. He stared at her like a teenager who had just discovered the opposite sex; Clock Work Orange had obviously stopped ticking.

She let him finish staring, with a patient smile for him and waited for him to come back from his round trip to that man place in his head. Then she showed him to the table and asked him if he wanted to have anything to drink. She did notice that Rob was looking at her nametag that announced her name to be Anna. It was with great effort that Rob managed to order his pizza, with greater effort he managed to eat it and no amount of effort could make him ask for the cheque. And yet he had to, it was a done thing, people usually left after they ate and when you had waited around for an hour after you had finished eating you had no more excuses to stay.

He was back the next day and asked her if she would like to sit at the table and eat with him. Anna told him politely that she worked at the pizzeria, she was a stewardess and she was not allowed to eat with the patrons. She was touched that he would inquire and that he should be so thoughtful.

It was evening again and Rob was back. Anna was beginning to see that Rob was completely besotted. She would have to tell him the truth. Rob asked her out and she told him that she would see him after the pizzeria shut down close to midnight. From the window of the pizzeria she could see Rob wait for her, it was four hours before she could meet him and for four hours Rob stood under the streetlight, waiting for her.

Then they went to a bar close by. Rob blabbered on like a schoolboy who had found his first friend ever. He had been friendless and he had so much to share. After a polite drink Anna broke the sad news to him. She told him that she was married. It broke her heart to see the tears flow out of Rob’s eyes. He was devastated. Anna had never seen love like that. She was choked with as much pain as Rob. They sat together in silence. Then Rob took a serviette and scribbled his phone number on it and looked at her sadly, “If you should ever be alone, ever need a shoulder, ever need a friend and more than ever if you should ever need someone to take care of you the way you deserve to be taken care of, would you call me?” Anna smiled, “And how do I deserve to be taken care of?” Rob looked deep into her eyes and whispered, “In the way that should a man allow even a hint of sadness cross those eyes he should be cursed to lose you forever.” Anna could not see him anymore. She just took the serviette and left the bar.

Anna never called Rob and Rob grew up to think how stupid he was. How stupid that he expected her to call. He became a writer of great repute, wrote wondrous books, won many an accolade but through all that he never forgot that beatific face that he had seen at Marcy’s Pizzeria.

It was about two weeks past his sixty-second birthday when his assistant announced a young man at his office. The young man had an envelope with him. Rob asked the young man who he was but the young man was not forthcoming. He handed Rob the envelope and said, “My Mother died last Thursday, she left this for you.” Even before Rob could open the envelope the young man had left his office.

On the envelope was written just one word, “Rob”. When he opened the envelope he found the serviette with an old telephone number of his scribbled on it, in his own handwriting. He recognized the serviette immediately and he knew whom it was from. Behind the very same serviette was written a note for him, “Dear Rob, I looked at this serviette every day of my life. This paper napkin told me that there was a Rob out there who loved me like no one else could ever. This paper napkin made it possible for me to live through all these years. If this serviette has reached you then I am dead and I have no commitments anymore. I have finally dialed your number. I love you.”

Rob sat down and closed his eyes, a girl with menus in her hand turned around and looked at him with a smile.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 14 Another Chance

Reema did not think she was capable of hurting the one person she loved the most in the world but Kartik had just crossed the limit of propriety over the weekend. He had no right to insult Sameer that way. Life had been harsh for her, what with her husband going off with another woman, the divorce battle and the demon of loneliness that hounded a single mother.

Sameer had been her friend long before she was married. But now it was turning out to be more than that, she needed a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry and someone to love. Sameer was all of that and more but Kartik did not want any man to take his father’s place. It was an understandable emotion for a ten-year old to feel but that did not give him the right to say what he did at the dinner. Sameer… when Sameer was only trying to help him with some problems at school.

“Just because you are fucking my Mother does not give you the right to become my Father,” was what Kartik had said. Reema did not even remember when she had picked her hand up and slapped him across the face. She had never done that in her life. Kartik had burst into tears, flung his plate away and walked off to his room. Reema had burst into sobs herself, the pain that she had kept back for so many years was just all coming out.

Sameer just sat there holding her and he fought his tears as well, not because he felt any kind of insult but… but because he felt pain of ten-year old and his Mother. It was just sad when happiness became like parachute between two people and someone had to let it go.

And now, this message from school! He had stopped doing his homework, grown his hair and stolen from the stationary supplies. The school was threatening to have him rusticated. Reema knew he was acting the rebel but there was no way that she would get him admission in another school. What was she going to do?

“Let me handle this, please?” Sameer asked her. “Handle what? Kartik hates you and even if we do get a reprieve from school he is not going to change his ways. He is going to be the rebel till you walk away from us.” Reema wiped her tears and sat down on the chair by the kitchen table. “You speak to the school and I speak to Kartik? He and I should both get a chance after all.” Sameer smiled enigmatically. “You are going to talk to Kartik? Good luck with that!” Reema seemed resigned to her fate. “Can you convince the school to give him one more chance?” Sameer asked again. Reema nodded, she could perhaps. “Good, let me handle this then.” Sameer said.

Sameer was waiting for Kartik in the school parking lot. Kartik looked away when he saw him. Sameer could see the resentment in his eyes. No little boy should have to go through what Kartik was going through.

“I have come here to help you in what you are trying to do.” Sameer spoke in a gentle voice to Kartik. “What do you mean? What am I trying to do?” Kartik asked, his little eyes perplexed, his forehead creased. “You hate the world. And you want to burn it down. Don’t you?”
Kartik did not respond. “You and I can sit on the bench under the tree for ten minutes. If you agree with me you could take a ride with me in my car and if you don’t I will leave you alone. What do you think about this deal?” Sameer moved a little closer to Kartik, his smile trying to engage Kartik.

Kartik thought for a moment and then agreed. They walked to the bench and sat on it a little far from each other. Kartik looked at the ground, his feet playing with a stone. “Everything is a club Kartik. You understand clubs?” Sameer asked him. Kartik shook his head. “When I mean club I don’t mean a resto-bar or a gymkhana kind of place. I mean an association of people. When you are little that club of people is handed to you but when you grow older you can decide on the club. You are put into a play school, which is a club and then into a school and later into a college. You may not like to be a part of these clubs but they have knowledge to impart, something that you will need to run this business of your life.” Kartik was beginning to listen to Sameer though he did not understand fully. “As you grow older there will be other clubs. These are very dangerous and they will affect your mental health. Let me tell you how they work. They will start a club by inviting a few people into that club and then restrict the invitation, so that you yearn to be a part of that club. Take for instance an award given every year to people for their excellent work in a field of art for example. They will advertise the award, they will make you yearn for it, they will make the award a recognition that you need to have or else life will be meaningless. Then you will strive to be a part of that club. You see it is simple. Start a club and then restrict the entry. There will be a club of luxury car owners, there will be a club of designer wear owners, there will be a club of diamond jewellery owners, there will be a club of the high society parties, there will be the club of big corporate guest lists. Everywhere you go there will be a club. They will make you yearn for it. Its nonsense! You understand so far?” Kartik nodded and moved closer to Sameer. Sameer smiled and continued, “Don’t get fooled by these clubs and do not let them decide how successful or meaningful your life is, you decide how meaningful the club is for you. If a club like a school is important to you, play the rules of that club. If not, let it go. Remember Kartik no one can insult you without your permission. Sometimes it just smart to give a club that permission, not because it’s great but because you need something from it.”

“So I should play by the rules of the school cause I need something from the school?” Kartik suddenly looked like a lost innocent boy and Sameer just wanted to hold him tight.
“Exactly! You could walk away but you would be the loser.”

Kartik thought for a moment and then he smiled, “Would you drop me home?” he asked Sameer. “It would be my pleasure.” Sameer said. “It is smart to be the part of a club that owns a car,” Kartik said slyly. Sameer laughed out loud, “You got the drift my friend.” he said.

From the school window Reema saw Sameer drive off with Kartik in the car. The principal had agreed to give Kartik one more chance and life had agreed to give her one more chance.

-Arsee.

Krishna · Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 13 Selfish

Kanha could sense there was something wrong with Arjun from afar. His usual grace and vigor were clearly lost, he seemed unsettled about something and then for him to come to Dwarka unannounced was a little out of the ordinary as well.

Kanha welcomed Arjun with a tight embrace and led him to the satin throws the chambermaid had placed by the window. It was a beautiful night, far away in the harbor the boats could be seen bobbing in their luminescent lanterns making for a magical horizon but Kanha could see that the magic was lost on Arjun.
“You must be tired from the ride, I could have the cooks make a special meal for you my dear brother?” Kanha offered Arjun with a smile.
“I stopped to eat at dusk and then I don’t feel so hungry,” Arjun tried to offer Kanha a smile in return but failed half way.

Kanha let him soak in the sea breeze for a while and then lovingly put a hand on his shoulder, “What steals the hunger of the greatest warrior of Bharata?”
Arjun sighed and Kanha could see the struggle on his face. He could see that Arjun was in a lot of pain.
“I am ashamed. I don’t know how to talk about this Kanha,” Arjun said in a pain filled voice.
“And yet you ride all the way here because you know that I am the only person you can talk to, is that right?”
Kanha’s eyes glowed with the light of scores of oil lamps that lit the hall. Arjun nodded. Kanha allowed him the time he needed to say what he wanted.
“I am jealous, very jealous. I am finding it very hard to share,” Arjun said finally. It was clear that it took all his strength to bring that forth.
Kanha still maintained a soothing silence.
“I won her, she is mine and still I have to share her with my brothers,” the pain was making his voice tremble. “Draupadi is mine, I cannot bear the thought of her being with anyone but me and yet I know it is wrong. Mother has ordained that we are all to be her husbands but I am envious. Save me Kanha, please! Save me from this selfishness. I love my brothers but I love her too. I have no clue what to do!”
Kanha felt Arjun’s pain; love could humble even the greatest of warriors.

“Why is a man selfish Kanha, why can he not think about others before him? Why can I not do what is right?”
Kanha looked at the boats in the distance and sighed, “The problem is man is not selfish enough. Selfishness of the greatest denominator and the smallest denominator is lost to man. If he found that it would take care of all the troubles.”
Arjun looked at Kanha flummoxed, this was not the answer he had expected.
“Humans were made selfish for a reason, if they were not selfish they would not be able to survive and they would not be able to progress in their soul journey. However, humans have failed on both the fronts.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about Kanha,” Arjun knew Kanha well to know that there was a celestial secret that he was going to learn, he also knew that he would have to be patient.

“Explain to me Kanha,” he beseeched.
Kanha nodded and turned around to face Arjun.
“It’s like this, let’s look from the smallest to the greatest denominator. A man is first selfish for himself, is that right?”
Arjun nodded.
“Next he is selfish for his family, then for his tribe, then perhaps for his city, in rare cases for his country but the greatest denominator is lost to him. Do you follow, Arjun?”
“You mean the entire planet?” Arjun’s eyes widened with realization.
Kanha smiled, “Yes, after a point when the numbers start becoming too big Man stops caring. It is too much for him to grasp but he does not understand that in the largest good is his good. If he is not selfish about the planet there is no point in being selfish about the country or the tribe.”
“What is the smallest denominator then,” wondered Arjun.
“The soul Arjun, your soul. You may think that your body is the smallest denominator but there is something even more valuable and smaller, the soul that your body hides. If you are selfish for your soul then you will never think of the body.”
Arjun sat awe-struck looking at Kanha.
“The creator made you selfish for the extreme ends of the spectrum where Man unfortunately never reaches. Arjun, if you are selfish for the entire planet and then selfish for the soul all your decisions will be wise and moral. You shall see yourself. Your feeling selfish about Draupadi is a bodily selfishness. Now think what your soul would want?”
Arjun nodded and whispered, “The soul would never agree to carry the burden of such jealousy…”
Kanha did not respond, he let Arjun live with what he had just learned. He knew that Arjun was reaching out to his soul, it would probably take him all night, but the morning would be well worth it.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 12 The Dream Machine

The silence was deafening. The silence was screaming for silence. The web of love and lies that people weave and then the day when it all comes to light, it is a lot of shouting, harsh words thrown at each other, accusations, insulting barbs and then silence. This was that silence.

Fred sat looking at the woman whom he had lived with for the past ten years, his lawfully wedded wife but what he saw was someone he could not even recognize. He had no reason to look away from her, she did. Gloria, she knew it would come to this. But then life had thrown her the one chance and it was her last chance. She had to take it.

“You do know that the dream machine does not work twice for the same person? If you get it wrong there is no coming back to this marriage Gloria. Do you really want that?” Fred spoke in a quiet tone, now that all the shouting was done.
Gloria took a deep breath and spoke with all the equanimity she could gather. “Fred, you are everything that a woman would want but you are not everything I want. I loved Michael. Always have. And now this dream machine gives me the chance to relive the one dream that I want most and I want that dream. I know you don’t have the money. I have saved enough money and I can pay the dream makers for my own dream.”
“Do you know how the dream machine works?” Fred was almost accusing her of being careless and thoughtless once again. “Yes, I have done all the research. You get one shattered dream to mend and I want the dream I had of being with Michael to be mended. I fought with him, moved away from him over… over something really petty and I have missed him everyday. I cannot let that one chance go.”
Fred could not stop the tear from escaping his eye. He was shocked. He was shocked that she did not love him like he had imagined all through his marriage. What was worse, now she wanted to make use of this new invention that mended a shattered dream and correct her one dream. But what about him? What about his dream?

“You are going to mend a shattered dream by shattering a dream that I am living?” Fred asked Gloria in a choked voice.
“Don’t make this more difficult than it is already for me Fred. It’s been a tough decision for me. The Machine will go back to the time when Michael and I parted and warn me not to fight. I hope that means that we end up together. It is a big chance I am taking. I could well be alone and all by myself at the end of all this.”
Fred said no more. He stood up from the couch and walked out of the house. He needed air and some clarity. By the time he got back home Gloria would be gone and the dream machine would have changed all the reality around him. All signs of Gloria for the last ten years in his timeline would be wiped out. He cursed the man who had invented this machine. He wondered how many dreams were broken for every dream that was mended.

He was surely going to sign the petition to the President that wanted only those dreams to be mended that did not shatter someone else’s living dream. But he also knew that the petition would do nothing. The dream companies were paying millions to the powers that be. Nothing was going to come out of it.

When Fred got home he saw that all the signs of Gloria were gone. What hurt him the most was to see himself alone in all the pictures in which they had been together. She had gone to the man she loved. And he… he had to now live with the memory of the woman he loved.

Six months later, Fred was at an agency that sold virtual office spaces for start up businesses. He had no idea that he would bump into Gloria and Michael. They seemed very happy together, beaming even. Michael seemed to be starting something big and wanted all the space on the island sim that was available. Gloria looked at him and smiled, she had never met him in her timeline. She did not know who he was but he could see that she found him familiar. He was right.

So Gloria walked up to Fred and asked him in her lovely voice, “Excuse me, have we met before?”
Fred smiled back, “I am… I am afraid not. You must be mistaken.”
Gloria looked at him for a moment longer and then nodded. “I must be mistaken. Wait a minute! Have we not met at the dream machine? I thought I saw you there.”
Fred could feel a lump in his throat, “I could never afford a dream machine. I realized that a dream is nothing but a reality that refuses to change and so I just changed my reality.”
Gloria suddenly looked very sad. “That is a beautiful thing to say.” she said. “Beautiful. I have been to the dream machine guys but they tell me I have already used my chance of mending one dream. According to the rules they won’t tell me what my reality was before that dream but when you said what you did I felt you touched something inside me.” Fred smiled. “When you shatter one person’s dream to make your dream a bit of that nightmare always follows you.” Fred could say no more and he walked away.
Gloria could not understand why but she began to sob.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Krishna · Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 11 The Time Machine

It’s easy to imagine a time machine and even easier to imagine the wonderful worlds it could take you to. The exotic past and the wondrous future that was available at the flick of a button. But the reality of time travel was rather different.

Unnikrishnan or Unni as his colleagues called him was all set to test the machine. The problem, what was the assurance that the time machine would land in the year that the dial of the machine had ordered? A little error in his calculations and he could land anywhere. Was he ready to sit in a time machine and flag himself on a one way trip to nowhere? It was worrisome to say the least.

The scientist that lay in Unnikrishnan did not give a damn about the perils of a journey without a return ticket. But the Unni the little boy from the South of India was worried. He was worried about his parents, his unmarried sister and the EMIs that he took care of.

That night Unni could barely sleep. He tossed and turned in bed. The buzzing of the mosquitoes was the only music to accompany him. To time travel or not to time travel? He turned to the picture of Lord Krishna that hung on the wall of his bedroom. It was the only thing that had lasted in his room since the time he was born. It was not fashionable for men of science to believe in God but Unni was a man of faith. He agreed with Edison that if there was a creation then there had to be a creator. After all just a couple of hundred years ago the human race thought that the Earth was the center of the solar system and that the Earth was flat. So what was to say that God was just around the corner and he would soon show himself.

Unni had a very strange way of asking Lord Krishna to point out the right choice for him. He would ask for a sign and then acted on the basis of the sign from the Lord.

That night, restless in his bed Unni spoke to Lord Krishna and said, “Hey krishna, if you want me to take this journey let there be parathas for breakfast.” Now mind you, in a South Indian house parathas were a rarity and not like the normal idlis that showed their face every morning.

The next morning, Unni approached the breakfast table with a fair amount of trepidation to be welcomed by steaming hot parathas. The choice was made.

Time waited for him to travel and he could not keep time waiting. So, he drove to his lab and uncovered the machine. He went through the pre flight checklist set the date to 1500 A.D. Five hundred years back was far enough. He then went over his calculations, turned the nuclear fission generator into critical mode and then minutes later…. whoosh!

There was a lot of rumbling. Tumbling. Unni felt like someone was tearing his skin apart and the G forces were more than any aviator in history could have encountered. A sharp high octave sound almost split his eardrum and then suddenly it all went silent before one final heart stopping crash.

Unni stepped out of the time machine and found himself at the bank of a river. On closer inspection he found that he was stuck in a marsh. His legs caked with mud and the flies buzzing around him like he was a half eaten discarded sweet. The Time machine was gutted and so was he in some pre historic time. Served him right for messing with the dimensions.

It was precisely at that moment that he heard a human sound, screaming, hysterical. He hid behind the twisted metal. He was going to be found out and a tribal chief was going to behead him. Or probably, have him for breakfast. He was certain of that.

To his surprise, the man did not even notice him or his gutted machine and to his shock he knew why. The man was screaming, “He is coming! He is coming! Krishna is coming to Mathura!” He had travelled back not five hundred years but five thousand years. He was in the time of Lord Krishna. And then in his mind he saw the Krishna in the picture on his bedroom wall smiling at him. Krishna was coming to Mathura. He was going to see Krishna. If he could go back to his time, he would be the man who discovered God.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 10 Other Ways

There were two things that Zehra found out the hard way. When she had met Ahmet he was a young handsome footballer and the Euro cup hopeful for the country. Ahmet had even taken her to Bebet hills along the Bosporus where the rich of Istanbul lived to show her the mansion that he intended to buy as a wedding gift.

Life seemed a bed of roses for Zehra and that was the first thing that Zehra learnt. Life was sadistic, it would show you the possibility of a good time and then snatch it away from you. It was not tragic that you failed, it was tragic that you almost succeeded and that was where Ahmet came in. An accident injured him and from the footballer of repute he turned into a drunken wife beater. That was the second thing that life taught Zehra. It taught her that misery sought someone else to blame. And in the case of her marriage Ahmet’s misery had sought to blame her.

It was like clock work. Ahmet would wake up in the afternoon while she was already at work. He would call her and find her something to abuse her about. By the time she got home he had already had his first drink. She would try hard to ignore him and even harder to do nothing wrong around him but the more she tried the more she failed. It was as if Ahmet lived to traumatize her. He would find an excuse to assault her with anything he could… Slippers, belts, sometimes throw the very glass he was drinking from.

Zehra’s trips to the hospital became a weekly ritual. Doctors who stitched her up could scarce believe the story of a woman who seemed to have some kind of a accident every week. They knew. They suggested that she should approach some woman’s organization. Some organization that dealt in this matter. But Zehra shrugged it off. It did not matter.

It was a week after the annual Mesir festival that Zehra found out that she had a new neighbour and also that she was six weeks pregnant. What should have been a cause of celebration turned out to be a cause of deep sorrow for Zehra. How was she going to bring up a child with a primordial beast like Ahmet? Should she tell him about the child? Would that change him, make him more humane?

She didn’t have to think about the problem for too long. That evening in a drunken stupor Ahmet kicked Zehra so hard that she lost her child even before it could take its first breath.

In the early light of a spring morning Zehra sat on the bench in the park that ran along side the street where she lived. She had enough. There was only one way out of this. She had to kill Ahmet. Just kill him. That was the only way.

Then she looked at her apartment building across the street and found her new neighbour in his balcony, staring at her. Like he had picked up her thoughts. He did not even care to look away. He just stared.

How does one take a life and make it look like an accident? Zehra was so consumed with this that she thought about it all day. She did not care about the beatings anymore. She didn’t even cry out loud or make a sound when Ahmet chaffed her peaches and dove skin with a burning cigarette. It just had to be done. He had to be killed.

One week of interest research on the subject matter told her that poisoning was perhaps the best way. There was the old arsenic concoction it would show up in blood. So, how does one do it? Lost in her thoughts Zehra did not see the neighbour stepping out of his house in time and bumped into him quite literally. She apologized quickly and then she noticed that he was wearing a police officer’s uniform.

No! Her mind screamed, God could not be doing this to her. She could not have a police officer for a neighbour! Was this why he was staring at her? Did he know what she was up to? She walked aimlessly through the market street all day. Even if she bought the poison the police officer next door must have heard enough through the thin walls and he would know what would have happened. This killing plan was not going anywhere. But she had to kill… herself… not her husband. She would have to end her own life.

Ahmet was home earlier on that day. Drunk as usual. He seemed to be in a particularly fiendish mood on that day. In a fit of rage he went for Zehra and grabbed her neck to strangle her… when the deep rooted instinct for survival made her grab a knife and slash Ahmet across his throat. Then his face, then his chest, his arms, his torso, his legs…. over and over and over.

Then a knock on the door. “Please open the door, I know you are in there.” It was unmistakably the voice of the police officer who lived next door. He had heard everything through the thin walls. The humiliation, the screaming, the beatings, the horror she went through everyday at the hands of the man she had married. And now he lay there in a pool of his own blood, dead but with the police outside. She looked at herself in the mirror, the knife still in her hand, blood splattered all over her. She knew she had to open the door. It was all over.

The Police Officer walked in, looked at the blood soaked scene then turned to her and said, “we must first get rid of the body”… All Zehra could do was stare.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 9 Rebel with a Cause

Bunty had always been a problem child, a rebel without a pause! All he to do was meet authority and it would be fireworks. Very often it seemed like he went looking for authority just so that he could rebel against it, a compulsive rule breaker.

Sharada, had enough trouble keeping a large household together and Bunty problems, as everyone in the house called them, were getting just too nerve wracking for her to handle.
Bunty was the youngest of her three sons. Akhil and Amar, they were both married to lovely girls but Bunty remained obdurate in his views about marriage. He called it an ‘outdated institution’ and a ‘bloody waste of time’.
Sharada’s husband had died leaving her alone with her three sons when Sharada was still a young woman but she was indefatigable in her mission as a mother who wanted to give her Sons the best. It was Sharada’s belief in her God that had seen her through those trying years and aided her in her mission. So when Bunty insulted her belief in her God she decided enough was enough! An intervention was needed. A Family meeting had to be called!

Bunty had been a veteran of many a family intervention, not many things really worried him.
“You really hurt the Panditji,”Akhil fired the first opening salvo after dinner on Saturday. The two Brothers, their wives and Sharada had accosted Bunty, he had to answer for his behaviour.
“What did I do?” Bunty was almost dismissive in his demeanour.
“You knew there was a pooja in the house and yet you stayed in your room all day, not venturing out even for the aarti and when Maa asked you to take the Panditji’s blessings you shrugged and walked away. That is no way to behave,” scolded Amar.
“I don’t believe in pooja,” Bunty shot back.
“Why? Why must you be so troublesome? Why can you not follow tradition?” Sharada exclaimed woefully.
“Cause it is nonsense!” Bunty kept his calm, refusing to get drawn into this game.
“Do you not believe in God?” his Mother asked him.
“I do but not in pooja,” Bunty retorted.
There was no point arguing with the boy and the family came to that decision much sooner than Bunty had anticipated. Sharada was disappointed in Bunty but Akhil and Amar explained to her that it was the arrogance of youth and as time went by he would understand the value of tradition. Sharada secretly prayed he would.

What no one in the family expected was that in the coming days Bunty’s behavior would go from odd to bizarre.

One evening the intercom in the house rang and when Sharada answered it she found it was the building security on the line. The Guard had a message from Bunty, he was hungry and wanted dinner. Sharada was convinced that Bunty had lost his mind.
“Why do you have to ask the apartment security to talk to me? Can you not tell me that you are hungry yourself?”
Bunty said nothing in response but an hour later the security guard called again with another message, “Bunty says that he did not want to hurt you and he loves you. It was just that he was very hungry.” Sharada said nothing, she only wished she had a way of rebooting Bunty’s mind.

As the days went by Bunty would speak only through the security guard. Everything that Bunty wanted it was the Guard who would ask Sharada. Finally Sharada had had enough; she barged into Bunty’s room with the rest of the family in tow and told him in a firm quiet tone that she had decided to leave the house. It was obvious that Bunty and she could not live together. Her Sister had been asking her for the longest time to move in with her and Sharada had decided to take the offer. “Enough!”

Bunty smiled at his Mother and then walked up to her and gave her a tight hug,
“Now you know how God feels Mom?” he said lovingly. The best the family could do was look at Bunty confused.
“Like I love God, I love you. You have suffered endlessly to bring us up. You are my Hero and yet when I talk to you through the Security Guard does it not feel bizarre?” Sharada was more perplexed than ever.
“God loves you and Akhil and Amar and Bhabhi, He’s been with us through everything. Do you think you need a Pandit to talk to Him? Do you think He needs tradition to get to Him? Do you think God speaks Sanskrit and does not understand our language? Do you think He needs for you to extoll His virtues and… and pay obeisance to him for your love? Is your God like that? Mine is not.”

For the first time in her life Sharada understood that though Bunty was a rebel, he was a rebel with a cause! She hugged her son tight. He reminded her that the greatest tradition of our land was “Vaad, Vivaad, Samvaad!” The freedom to argue, question and discuss. She thanked God for him and this time spoke to God without an interpreter.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 8 The Hate Diary

People you meet on your way up are the people you meet on your way down. Harold held on to that maxim in those difficult days. He knew he had talent; he only needed that one opportunity to showcase his talent.

At first even the bit roles on stage were hard to come by. He would audition everyday, learn the lines backwards and know them better than anyone else, even the lead, but it was all a matter of chance and chance was in the habit of ignoring him.

Then very slowly the bit roles began to stream in, sometimes a couple of lines and at other times just standing on the stage like a tree. But it was the humiliations that were heaped on him that kept him going.

Harold kept a diary of all the people who had hurt him deeply, his talent and his desperation. The casting director who made a joke out of him and refused him a role, the writer who thought he should get out of town and stop spoiling his script, the director who scratched his lines and gave them to someone else and the actress who refused to be cast opposite him.

He remembered the lines from “Ben-Hur”, “Your eyes are full of hate forty-one, that is good, very good, hate keeps a man alive.” Hate was certainly keeping him alive.

Time went by and Harold’s fortunes began to change, a character role here and there, then praise from critics and the applause from the audience won him even better roles, till he made it to the lead.

Fifteen years after he stepped off the bus to become an actor Harold was finally considered the next big thing. Yet Harold had not forgotten. He kept his hate diary close to him. It was his turn now; he would do to them what they did to him. The very people who once snubbed him were willing to do anything to work with him but Harold would not work with any of them. He made sure that people on his hate list had no part to play in his projects, from casting directors to writers to lead actors, no one was allowed on his projects.

Quincy Quinn was one such director. When Harold was a bit player Quinn was a star director but now the tables had turned, Quinn could not land any work and Harold ruled the marquee. It took a lot of cajoling from Harold’s agents to get Harold to grant Quinn one face-to-face meeting. Reluctantly Harold agreed.

“Lets make this as quick as possible Quinn,” Harold told the director dryly. Quinn nodded, smiled. “I believe you don’t want to work with me for the way I treated you when you were still a nobody?”
“That is correct,” Harold responded, the hate still evident in his eyes.
“No great work can be created in the climate of hate and so I have not asked to meet with you to beg you for work. I just wanted to share a secret of the universe with you, that is all,” Quinn kept his smile alive.
“Really? And what is that secret?” Harold asked sarcastically.
“No one stays successful forever, the crest and troughs are a part of life but remember Harold, in good times or bad, people are never against you, they are just too much for themselves, think about it. People don’t want to do what is bad for you, they just want to do what they think is good for them.” Having said that Quinn stood up and showed himself out of the room.

Harold sat alone in the room long after Quinn was gone, then he walked into his study, picked his hate diary up and threw it into the fire that burned bright in the heat.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 7 Golden Opportunity

Since the early age of seven there were just two things that Sam was very fond of, one, hamburgers and two, computers. By the time Sam was nine he could break the code of all the school computers and rewrite most of the exam papers, much to the joy of his friends. And by the time he was eleven Sam broke into the National Bank server making his own gateway, though he had to quickly scramble out before all hell broke loose.

As Sam grew up he came to realize that hacking was not really a good job, if you really wanted to be on the honest side of the fence. Sam had an idea. He wanted to float his own Internet Security agency but the idea collapsed even before it started. No one was really interested in paying for Internet Security; no one really took the dangers of the Internet world seriously. Well it was what it was!

His Father had a friend who had a friend that owned a stock broking firm. Sam managed to get a day job at the firm. All he had to do was punch away at numbers and take calls all day. There was one advantage, a Hamburger joint close down the street, he could eat as many as his heart desired.
The owner of the firm, Ghanshayam Shah, insisted on calling Sam by his given name, Shyamsunder. Not that it terribly bothered Sam but it was just the way he called his name. He added a sarcastic lilt to it and stretched the yam of the Shyam a fair amount. It made all the other employees at the terminals laugh out loud. Sam would just grin and just bear it politely . Amongst Ghanshyam Shah’s peculiar habits there was one he had of sending his investors text messages of “golden opportunities” that they might want to invest in.

It was on a rainy Monday morning when one such “golden opportunity” misfired completely. Ghanshyam was besides himself with rage. His investors had been pulling out all day and all his begging and pleading had helped very little.

Now, on the other side of the room Sam was munching away at his hamburger and punching away on the numbers. From the un-scrubbed glass of his cabin Ghanshyam watched this sight with growing anger. Imagine relishing a burger while he was losing investors that he had worked a lifetime to gather around! Insensitive to the core! He marched up to Sam and grabbing the burger from his hand threw it out of the window.
There was a collective gasp from the office and a stunned Sam. “It is because of lazy bastards like you that I have to see a day like today! Eat all day while I lose my money! Get the fuck out of my office! Now!”

Sam had no idea what had happened. What had he done to deserve such humiliation and have his burger thrown out of the window? Everyone in the office could see tears of humiliation in Sam’s eyes. He picked his bag up slowly and walked out of the office.

“It must be your fault! I am sure you did something that you are not owning up to now, I am going to call Ghanshyam in the morning and apologize on your behalf,” his father bemoaned. Sam’s cries of innocence were lost in the melee of accusations.

That night Sam went to his room and cried himself to sleep. He could not get the image of Ghanshyam Shah grabbing his burger and throwing it out of the window off his mind.

Sam woke up to the sound of his Father pleading on the phone with Ghanshyam, he felt his heart being crushed under the weight of his Father’s disgrace. It was in the way that his Father hung up the phone that he knew that Ghanshyam did not want him back… But he, he would have to get back at Ghanshyam. There had to be jusitice!

Now, all he needed was a laptop and a Wi-Fi.

Sam had saved enough money to buy a second hand laptop, it was just for a day’ in any case, then a coffee shop with a free Wi-Fi area. It took Sam less than five minutes to get into the computer network of Ghanshyam’s Stock broking agency. Creating red herrings and using the agency’s IP address Sam hacked into the websites of The Press Service of India and The Indian News Network, the premier news agencies, and posted a bit of a breaking news, he posted, “Attack on PM’s motorcade, PM could be gravely injured, two bodyguards dead!”
He then threw the laptop in the garbage can down the road and walked away

By the time the agencies could correct the breaking news, report the hack and send out an explanation the Stock market had lost its bearings. In the fifteen minutes that the mayhem lasted investors panicked and went on a selling spree. In an hour when the dust had settled investors had lost more than a 100 million rupees. Sam, he bought himself a burger.

Fifteen days later the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister looked at the report of what had happened. Someone had played a prank from Ghanshyam Shah’s office, a stockbrokers office. Ghanshyam was behind bars and all his employees were being questioned but they really could not pin the blame on any one person. The Owner, however had been ordered to close the firm down and he was facing some really serious charges that could have him in prison for the rest of his life.

The National Security Advisor smiled and shook his head, “It’s not that Idiot behind the bars or any one working there, let them go, this is a work of a genius.”
The Sleuth in front of him nodded.
“Did you not tell me about a disgruntled employee who had his burger thrown out?” asked the Security Advisor.
“I did Sir,” responded the sleuth.
“Find him!”
“But what can we charge him with?” probed the sleuth.
“We don’t want to charge him, we want to hire him for National Security!”

-Arsee.