On 10th Jan, 2022 I had attended a censor film screening at Peddar road office. I think it was at 11am. I reached back home around 3pm. Somehow I was feeling tired, so I slept in hall. It became a rather lengthy sleep session. Tiredness was still there. I did not think much about it. I should have actually. I don’t sleep like this every time I return from a film. I was called again two days later, on 12th. After returning home I was again just too tired, so slept again. People told me that I should go in my room and sleep. They got thermometer. It seems I had 101 fever. It was confirmed now I was sick. My throat in the meanwhile had started misbehaving. I would cough too much and for rather long time. I spoke to my doctor on phone. He immediately prescribed medicines and sent the prescription by text message. I in turn sent it to medical store and they sent me 5 days medicines. 10 tablets, 2 a day, morning evening. Since I fell sick when Omicron is a very popular infection, ‘Covid-19 test’ was booked for next day that is on 14th. Lab guy came at 8am. Took swabs and went off. I knew I have got it. Rightly enough ‘Covid-19 positive’ email was received next morning. Now I had to be quarantined in my tiny room. My door was to remain shut properly. My food will be placed on a chair when required. After I go to washroom no one will go there for 30 min. My appetite went down drastically as there was no walk due to body-ache and no place to walk. Sleep, sleep and more sleep. I would return half my meals uneaten. These must have been some of my most troublesome days that I can remember. I felt suffocated.
Three days later I realized that we did not have to be quarantined. So out I came and started taking short walks in hall. In the meanwhile medicines had started showing results. My fever went away after 2 days. On day 3 it was completely normal. Slowly appetite returned, throat became fine and body ache also evaporated. All the tablets were consumed between 13th and 18th. I was told medically I could go out on 22nd Jan. So promptly I did get out for a 20 min walk on that day.
Although by then most of the world’s population had been Covid affected, I woke up to really late to get positive.
This book is my collection of short stories, memoirs etc. I have been writing and blogging since 2006. So I had a fairly large collection. Out of 34 stories, at least 6 or 7 have Gautam as the protagonist. This Gautam does not mean the Gautam Buddha at all. But yes he has qualities of a calm person. He does not shout or gets angry or aggressive. In ‘Immortal Side of Life’, there are flashbacks supporting the story that’s running in the present. Story’s end happens with help of spirituality, particle physics and super natural drama. Ringing ears’ is about a person over thinking or even deep thinking. ‘In Myth of freedom’ I have analyzed lives of people and whether anyone is really free in various sense of the word. ‘Karma Happens’; the title story is most lengthy. It is like a regular pot boiler with all commercial elements for a hit film. ‘Hope what hope?’ is set in kind of future. It shows that life has become difficult on earth, due to various problems like Ozone layer, climate change etc. ‘24 hrs. love story’ is based on an incidence that did happen. In ‘Just Think’ I try to tell how badly we are treating this earth and nature generally. ‘Leopard in my dream’ is an interesting experiment that takes off from my own experience of getting bitten by a local dog and then how it merges into a very real sounding story that happens to be a flash-forward. In ‘Soothing night’ I have used emotions that are usually shown on urban populace. So I tried it in a village, a hut with a hole in the roof. ‘Enlightenment of the day’ is my take on a regular morning while I would leave for my Yoga class. On similar lines is ‘Power of letting go’. ‘Absence of presence’ is another one of my experiment. Entire court room scene is only through Gautam’s dialogues, while judge’s dialogues are absent but understood. ‘A mosaic of gloom’ is what I wrote when I had stopped writing after Mumbai terror attacks in late 2008. And then my niece told me if I can’t write then I should write about ‘why I can’t write! That worked. ‘Red eye effect’ is a mad idea. I let them take their own course and go where ever they want to go. My science and cinema background helped me with this short story. ‘That he’ and ‘Escape to death’ is also similar genre. It just flows like my mad thoughts.
He was in the far end of the room, sitting cross legged. Eyes were shut and face tilted up, just a little, as if concentrating on his forehead or somewhere high up. No movements could be seen outwardly, except for the faint expansion and contraction of his chest with his breath.
Train must be going somewhere but was passing through nothingness. They were sitting on the floor of the train door; with their legs hanging out. Young boy was very tired. Every now and then a village would pass where little children would wave at the train and get overly excited if someone waved back at them. At the end of every village would be a sleepy unshaven man holding a green flag at the railway crossing… Rhythmic ‘takaak takaak’ of tracks was relaxing and so was the hide and seek of setting sun from behind the trees. With lullaby rhythm of train along with sun going on-off, sleep overpowered boy. His eyes shut and his body bent over forward with a jerk. Ramu’s swift arm blocked his fall and held the door rod on other side.
Small beads of sweat appeared on his upper lip and forehead. Gradually his face began to shine as a layer of sweat spread around. He seemed to be fighting to resolve his eternal inner conflicts, calmly, as his face did not show any signs of disturbance. It was difficult to judge whether he was a ‘yogi’ or not.
Don’t talk to me like this. I am not going to take it lying down any more. How dare you throw my books like that! You have no respect for books, bloody illiterate! Or you have no respect for people of this house? How dare you raise your voice here?
He moved a little. His shoulders tightened. Then without opening his eyes he took his shirt off and dropped it on the floor. He must be feeling hot. His shoulders, neck and back were wet. Little drops were becoming bigger, then turning into a stream. What in the hell… is happening to him, and why?
She was rolling on the ground writhing with pain, while he watched her from the other room. Was he so helpless to get up and go near her; call a doctor or an ambulance for her? But he did call his relations to do something about it. How could he see this sight so passively? After all they had spent 67 years of their life together!
His face turned towards right with a jerk, as if he was trying to avoid looking on his left. He was now beginning to look worried, distraught and even scared. He seemed to be going over something that was forbidden for him; going over the ‘past’. No one is allowed to revisit past or indulge in fantasizing about the future. The ‘time’ whose time is yet to come, cannot be thought about. It imbalances the present and wastes the most important resource, ‘peace of mind’, which affects the capacity of fair judgment, which in turn is important for smooth functioning of universe.
No!!! He screamed suddenly, please don’t go. Wait, wait you cannot, please, just… I will sort it out with you and with everyone here. It will be fine. No… I will leave everything and everybody… This had to happen and weren’t we supposed to be ready for this? No? Didn’t we decide that?
His arms went forward. But there seemed to be something drastically wrong with his arms. They extended much further than they normally should. In fact soon his palms went out of the door and his fingers were making the desperate actions of ‘come back’ to someone. It was frightening to see human arms, so long. They were beginning to look a bit diffused or a bit translucent, perhaps due to reduced density. One could see through them. His left palm came in and wiped sweat from the forehead, while the other held on to the door. In spite of his body showing tremendous turmoil, his eyes remained shut. A guttural sound came from his mouth. It carried no intelligent meaning.
His hair flew in strong sea breeze and so did the flames. Black hair, red flames… Put his feet inside they are sticking out! Push them in, under the wood. Pour some oil on them. There is no fire this side. Add some wood this side too… Yes I know him. Two of us shared the room. Yes this is his diary. I have known him, for the past two years… Where are you people taking the ashes? He took a pinch of the ash and stealthily placed in his mouth!
Something out of the world was happening to him. He was sitting at the same place; but now his body seemed to be spreading all over. It was expanding in all directions. It was also getting porous. It looked huge in this condition. After a while small little particles of his body started rotating and buzzing in the air, but remaining in the form of his body. A gentle wave of breeze entered from the door and displaced his left shoulder, making him look rather strange; but soon the dislodged particles returned to their place. His right hand had come back in too. As he was expanding continuously, it was difficult for the body to retain its form inside the room. Particles were trying their best to retain the shape of the body. In a while the body morphed into a large, round spherical shape. This somehow made the particles excited and they started buzzing around in a large circle at an ever accelerating speed. Entire room was full of the little atom like particles humming around in the shape of a perfect globe. There was no sign of him, of his real shape…
In the space, outside the room similar clusters had started appearing. They would turn left and right as though looking at each other. They noticed a row of particles in the window. New clusters came closer to meet them. In a flash, trillions of particles from inside the room had come out and joined the visitors. There was an instant communication between them. In no time they all started rising up… They moved towards the setting sun with the speed of light and in a flash they had dived into it… Sun was becoming bigger, redder, heavier… and soon, it sank down into the darkness.
He walks very fast. It has been his natural instinct. As soon as he is out, he shoots off. It has happened in the past that he shot off in a wrong direction and when he realized it he shot in reverse with the same speed without feeling sorry or stupid.
That day he walked towards the station to go home. Half way down he realized his left shoulder did not have the usual strap of his bag. Oh no! He turned back swiftly and headed towards the studio he had been. Due to walking with the bag his left shoulder sometime gets a bit sore. He then shifts the bag to the other side. He had gone quite a distance without bag. But there was no alternate. He had do this. He walked even faster. As the door of the studio appeared in vision, it wasn’t looking right. It was locked. They had told that, that was the last job for the day for them. He asked the adjoining shop but was told they all left 10 min back in a cab. You could have met them at the station. He said actually he wanted to walk, so…
So much confusion! Disappointed he looked around, as though trying to find as solution. A man was looking at him quizzically. What! He thought, what is he gaping at me for. He realized he was wearing worn out shorts, a faded t-shirt and a pair of house slippers. How! He wouldn’t step out of his house in such attire. And he is here at the other end of town. So shabbily? No way! He has always been well dressed if not one of the best dressed. This is not him. But; there he was.
He sat down on step outside the locked door. He had to figure his next move. Since his bag is safely kept in the space behind that securely locked door; so is his wallet, phone, house keys and other smaller stuff. Main problem was phone and wallet. He couldn’t figure a plan was feasible. It wasn’t appearing in his mind. Not even a foggy or rough one.
He cannot go to a bus stop or train station because they invariably sell tickets at a price, right now unaffordable. He decided that he need to move from there. A solution if any isn’t here. He started walking yet again in a direction but without intent. Maybe he felt should he walk home, that was nearly 35 km. He was confused and foggy. There was metro tunneling job being done. Huge number of workers were milling around carrying things. He did not realize that he had walked into a non-pedestrian area. No one noticed that. He was in ‘no entry’ zone and was wondering why suddenly walking had become so difficult. Path was full of iron rods, wood planks, bags of cement, bricks and the related things. Somehow he could not realize that he was on the wrong side. Many workers passed by him but did not care as they too busy themselves. Only a security or some engineer could have stopped and guided him what to do. His slippers were soiled and rest of him had splashes of wetness. Finally someone perhaps thinking he had ‘lost it’ guided him out of the mess and he found himself at the Marine Drive. Here he knew which way to head.
He started walking again with same speed but with a heavy heart. He was about to ask the most asked question in such situations, “why me”. Façade of a familiar building emerged. He recognized it. It was Famous Laboratories and recording studios, Tardeo. He had been here for many song recordings of his films. But somehow everything about the building was looking very depressing. It was very shabby. It was perhaps had been painted years ago. Walls were broken in many places. In fact side wall of the building had fallen in the lane. Unknowingly he took a look at himself. Is Famous looking like him or he is matching Famous? Back of the building leading to the film laboratory also was in ramshackle condition. People had to dodge and walk between bricks and other broken parts. In such a scenario he found something weird and surreal. He saw a small group of well-dressed people organizing some kind of sale or exhibition. They had a banner in which name of a book and its author was mentioned. Copies of a rather fat book were placed around; on a soiled hanging wooden plank. They had made small platform of the bricks fallen around and placed some copies of the book on it. Just one book was placed high on front wall, where some photo frame might have existed ages ago. A man perhaps the author was signing a book. He recognized him, but couldn’t exactly place. Man looked at him and said, ‘hello here take a copy. It’s a gift’. He refused politely. He did not want it and no way could he have carried it. Author insisted, ‘please I will be happy if you took it.’
He had started walking away. Swiftly distance started growing between him and Famous. As he walked Famous was being left behind. Soon he had put a lot of distance between them. The Lab now did not look so bad. The author in the crisp white shirt seemed insistent. He held up a copy of the book looking at him as though calling him out, ‘here! Your book.’ Figure of the man in soiled clothes was fading fast. And soon it merged among others.
It was difficult to distinguish the man in soiled clothes from crisp ones.