Going Blind

April 8, 2012

Fiction

Image Credit: internetstones.com

O Scorpio-cat
When you have gone
My eyes will turn
To lumps of stone

~Vikram Seth

Not that he was cooking often, yet a man must have a morsel to live. Usually, he would just warm up a bun or scramble the odd egg. And just as the food was ready, he would run into soiled plates, festering with fungi. But he would always clean the non-stick pan, a gift from Roma, by pouring water onto it while still hot and rubbing it dry with a sponge. And like the pan, he wouldn’t allow anything to smear his heart for long. Roma was another matter though.

He threw the omelette on the smug face of the previous year’s topper of the civil services examination, peering through the cover of a competition magazine. He stiffened as he remembered something. Passing by the side of table, he spun to his left viciously and plunged the dagger full into the belly of the pumpkin in one swift motion. He had been perfecting the act on a bunch of them over a week now.

His fingers trembled as he swapped Etta James with Chicken Shack in the cassette player. He liked the latter’s version of the song better.

“Something told me it was over,
When I saw you and her talking….”

 The smoky contralto of Christine Perfect rang out in the room. He sat brooding on the wooden bed. The omelette went cold.

 “…I would rather, I would rather go blind boy,
Than to see you walk away from me….”
She went on.

From within the song, the voice spoke to him again, “Given a chance, which of your favourite poems would you recite to the Prime Minister?”

Was he sick of the innuendos hurled at him for being a student of literature!

“What difference would it make?” He heard himself saying. “They would all sound the same to a puppet.”

As if a master switch that plunges an entire city in darkness, it quickly concluded the interview. The ensuing gloom engulfed all future hopes in one sweep.

“…I was just, I was just sitting here thinking,
About your kiss and your warm embrace.”

 Christine Perfect poured out her guts a bit more flooding him with memories of their first kiss.

He and Roma were quickly drawn to each other early in their postgraduate course in English Literature. Their first meeting in the King George Library was a chance encounter but the rest that followed were carefully planned accidents. They’d sit in the journals section whispering to each other. Time and again one of them would lean to point to an article or an image in the other’s magazine and their shoulders would join for a few seconds more than needed.

The noon show at Mayfair was an act of impulse and they were soon holding hands through ‘The Notebook’, a romance based on a true story. He was quite touched too but she wept silently many times before the movie came to an end. All this while, he was battling a deep urge to pull her sweet face to his.

It was drizzling softly when they emerged from the theatre. They stood silently by the roadside where many auto-rickshaws approached them and wheeled ahead when they showed no interest. One was particularly insistent, “Nice weather! Let me take you to Residency, sir! All silence in the ruins, sir, not even a bird to disturb! You still have two hours before it closes.”

Image Copyright © U. S. Pandey

The jagged ruins of the Residency stand in a stunned silence till date, corners and facades of its buildings blown away by hails of bullets and cannon balls. Their walls with countless holes stand witness to the grim deaths of over two thousand British officers, Indian sepoys, women and children besieged within, during the fateful Mutiny of 1857. Death came in many forms to them; to some it came riding bullets and cannon balls while for others it emerged from within themselves in spores of typhoid, cholera, malaria and dysentery. Today, though, these structures are a witness to a conflict of more primordial kind. The cavernous halls, thick with broken pillars and partitions, are a perfect backdrop for the game of hide and seek. They have become a magnet to the hungry lovers and desperate paramours of a city living in false glory.

There was no one at the ticket window when they arrived and the clerk had to be cajoled out of his impromptu tea break from a nearby canteen. Finally, they were walking up the cobbled incline under a lone printed umbrella which shuddered like a feather in the rain which was falling heavily now. To their left lay an inviting building whose erstwhile resident was certain Dr Fayrer, or so said a small blue sign. Holding hands, they sauntered towards the crumbling structure. Roma yelped at something she saw in a dark corner.  It turned out to be a pair of lovers who sat entwined like cobras at play, the woman’s wet hair wrapped around their faces in a veil of sorts. Shortly after that, they arrived at a semi covered enclosure and he quickly pulled her into a deep embrace. Her face was wet with rain and she closed her eyes. He kissed her eyes and moved to her lips softly. Soon their mouths locked in a passionate duel.

Chakra looked ruefully at the pile of sealed polythene bags all containing slaughtered pumpkins. He would have never guessed disposing off the remains would prove so cumbersome. They were in various stages of post-mortem, filling the room with a faintly cloying smell even through the sealed coffins. He felt a queer tinge of sorrow for them all and he almost smiled. Thanks to them, he could now strike like a bolt from the sky and hopefully, she will never see what hit her.  He wished he had a gun to reduce her pain instead.

Justice held a high perch in Chakradhar Shukla’s set of convictions. He had sealed his own fate with a fitting decree for when he would have ripped open the belly of the girl he had once loved so deeply. The dagger, soaked in her blood must be driven quickly into his own innards, uniting them in death forever. Thereafter, his corpse would be donated to the anatomy department of Lucknow Medical College. The students will ensure further revenge by piercing and scissoring him beyond his living days.

A motorbike with molested silencers roared away to somewhere. These days, it always reminded him of Sandeep, the spoilt brat of a politician in Delhi, forever airborne on a smuggled Honda ‘beauty’.  Everything had an amazingly short shelf life for him; the wardrobe, the hairstyle and the girlfriends. The thought of Roma filling the last slot of late was gut-wrenching to say the least. Will Sandeep accompany her to Residency where Roma had agreed to meet for the last time, to reclaim her outpourings on letters and greeting cards addressed to him on various moments?  Knowing that he was an avid collector of memorabilia, she had asked him to repatriate them to her, ‘You never know what twists life may take tomorrow.’

Twists were there for sure. Roma was already under pressure from her parents for settling for an arranged marriage in a respectable family. She had become ill-tempered and there were days when she remained inaccessible. But she had hugged him in front of a bunch of classmates when he had cleared the ‘Main’ examination of the Union Public Service Commission. She had scribbled his roll number on her palm with a ball pen, ‘217025’, and drawn a heart around it. ‘Know what Chakra, it totals up to ‘8’, a number that has never failed me!’ It did fail her though, when she checked out the final results a few months later. The ‘eternal love’ slumped like a castle of sand. Soon afterwards, friends started coming in with stories of how she had been sighted pillion riding Sandeep’s ‘beauty’. Some of them were kind enough to elaborate further. If Sandeep was quick to take girls to movie shows, he was quicker to plunge his hand below their navels: ‘God gave you fingers; put them to some use!’

He let Christine Perfect had a go at it once again.

At around 10 am in the morning, it was unusually hot for an April. He could feel rivulets of sweat snaking down his back and armpits.  His palms had become clammy and he could hear his heart thudding.  Many waves of remorse had raised their heads since the morning but he kept reminding himself of the slippery fingers of Sandeep Singh. He wouldn’t have trusted his jealous friends reporting on her if he hadn’t seen her with own eyes, crouching on his bike, her bosom buried in his back, as he zipped away to some God-forsaken place. He loitered behind the dilapidated banquet hall of the Residency, at the agreed time. He had carefully chosen a Monday when the Museum remained closed and visitors were few, especially, in the morning. Apart from the man watering the lawns with a hose and the mustachioed security guard, he couldn’t see anyone else.

Peering from behind a pillar, he could see a group of noisy people trudging towards him. A girl in Jeans and a light blue top was trailing them with bowed head. So, she had decided to dress to his taste! Too late for that, though.  He quickly fell back to his ambush. He could feel the blood thumping in his temples. What now! The moment of deliverance had come. Should he do it in full public view? Why bother when his own life was coming to a close within minutes. Abruptly, the noisy group changed their mind and started moving away in a different direction. The girl however kept advancing towards him. Why was she taking so much time? Was she scared of him now? Or, did she know?

She took a long time reaching the pillar behind which he was lurking. The dagger was naked and ready in his violently shaking hands. Just as she was about to pass the spot he gritted his teeth and lunged at her, driving the blade full into her stomach with a blinding force.

In the end, it had been quite unlike the pumpkins. Unlike the stolid vegetable, she had fallen herself on the dagger in a huff, making it easier. A muted grunt escaped her throat as she slumped to the ground with the dagger still inside her. Shell-shocked, her eyes had opened wide with the stab. They soon started fluttering as she tried to hold on to the stones in a disoriented way as if to get up. He had full view of his victim now as his eyes rested on her face finally, and the earth swam under his feet. It was not Roma! God, no! That was surely not Roma!! 

The recognition cured Chakra of his blindness like a flash of lightening. The ruins stood in all their ragged beauty under the sparkling sun as Roma’s sister Mona squirmed on the green grass losing her life like sand in a timer. A splotch of red was spreading quickly on her dress and the ground beneath her. The faithfuls girl who had come to reclaim her sister’s bundle of sin was sadly retrieving her death.

Trembling spasmodically now, Chakra looked around quickly. Soon people would start pouring from everywhere. He started walking towards the exit and almost bolted when he came upon the security guard halfway through it. Once out of the gates of Residency, he turned to his right on the road when he saw the Police Van parked on the road, its contents spilt on the road with walki-talkies. He quickly moved to the makeshift newspaper stall and picked up a paper. It was only then that he noticed the blood on his fingers. Worried that he would pass out any moment now, he started flipping into the newspaper noisily as his vision swam in and out. Suddenly, he froze at a UPSC Press Note on the recently concluded civil services examination:

The candidature of candidates with following Roll Numbers, earlier withheld for various reasons, has now been recommended for recruitment:

S. NO.                ROLL NO.                NAME OF THE CANDIDATE 

1                    000199                  SUREKHA SAXENA

2                    217025                  CHAKRADHAR SHUKLA

….                  ….                              ….

9                     480794                 AMIT BARUAH

CONCLUDED

He realised the hawker was yelling at him, “Look at you Man, you are hurt…!”

The newspaper slipped out of his hand and its sheaves flew in different directions. The vendor cursed loudly and ran after them pouncing. Someone saw him collapsing on the road and fetched a jug of water from the tea stall.  He realized he was lying on the road when the cold water hit him like a slap and he sat with a jerk, remembering what he had done. “Help her! Help her, please…!” He started sobbing violently, his crimson fingers pointing to the monument of death.

~

,

About umashankar

The question then is, am I a writer? It is true I wriggle a pen to colour my notepad, or tap at a keyboard to darken the pixels of my desktop screen. If the strings I weave paint a canvas to my readers, borrowing the hues of their own vision, maybe I am.

View all posts by umashankar

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87 Comments on “Going Blind”

  1. Asif Says:

    Enjoyed reading this story, kept me hooked till the very end. Couldn’t guess which way it would go and that I think is the strength of this story and generally the short story format.

    I also ended up cursing myself for not being an avid reader and added at least 5 new words to my vocabulary.

    Reply

    • umashankar Says:

      Thanks for the fair assessment, Arif! I’ve tried to write differently this time. There is no harm in enriching a language you already know and English happens to be one of the best out there!

      Reply

  2. debajyoti Says:

    I consider myself lucky that I get to read such stuffs for free :D that too in this blogsphere. We should actually be paying to read these. Publish your work dude. 2132 words (yes, I counted :D) but I was glued till the end.

    Reply

    • umashankar Says:

      Deb, you made my day with that comment! Thanks for counting the words but there was no way I could have compressed it further. As for the payments to me, who says I am not keeping an account of receivables from you? :-D Only, I have an equal sum in payables to you too!

      Reply

  3. Zephyr Says:

    That was so well narrated. The beginning didn’t betray for a second what course the story was going to take. The end of course was ‘gasp-worthy’. Great stuff. Take Deb’s advice and book an autographed copy for me :)

    Reply

    • umashankar Says:

      Thanks for the analysis and the solid approval, Zephyr. I have been seriously contemplating Deb’s advice and here I am, already daydreaming, signing out the first copy to you!

      Reply

  4. sudhir srivastava Says:

    Gripping till the very end. How many times do I have to tell you that the time has come for you to publish. I totally agree with Asif about valuable addition to the vocabulary. You have a natural flair with the storytelling. You are not cut out for banking. You should be writing full time and reach out to many more than just a lucky few like us.

    Reply

    • umashankar Says:

      Somewhat like a real-life road-test, I am happy to get the approval of an avid reader like you. I really don’t know what I am cut out for: so many things come to my mind, including photography. But writing has been a childhood dream and I am happy to be finally doing it.

      Thanks for your magnanimous comment.

      Reply

  5. bhavana Says:

    Great writing Umashanker. I am new to the blog world, but the last post of yours was also so good that I had subscribed immediately. It is a joy to find good writers in the blog space. But I must say the stabbing was quite intense for me, having read so many news stories of women being injured/killed because they rejected their lovers/would-be lovers. It is hard for me to read the incident from the lover’s perspective.

    Reply

    • umashankar Says:

      Hey, Bhavna! Please don’t unsubscribe from me now! I am truly sorry about the stabbing event myself and trust me, I had a tough time writing it. It is also sad in the perspective of the existing state of law and order. Let me just say that the story needed it. Please remember, however, in no ways do I subscribe to the views of the protagonist, Chakra, who had lost his mental equilibrium in the extant case.

      Thanks for appreciating my writing.

      Reply

  6. Rahul Says:

    USP, this was a brilliant narration and story telling! Like some previous remarks, suggest you do justice to your writing by increasing the reach, by publishing these stories:)

    Reply

  7. suranga date (@ugich) Says:

    USP, I first read this almost 9 hours ago, and sort on marinated in a wordless rage. Against all the participants in the story. And then in admiration of a story so well told. I just wondered what the remnant stones stuck in the Residency ruins must have thought…..

    The red stones.
    Closing in on
    two hundred years
    into physical
    emotional outrage,
    they watch
    as nothing
    appears to have changed…

    Bloody conflicts,
    seiges,
    attacks,
    retributions,
    Hazrat Mahal,Awadh,
    Nana Saheb and Bithoor,
    blowing up places,
    bravery,
    but Taluqdaar traitors too,
    sidling up
    to the powers of the moment.
    All wanting India.

    Today,
    it’s the seige
    of a manic obsessive mind;
    in bipolar oscillations,
    Power ,possesiveness,
    and a burning jealousy
    potently mixed with
    disappointed eyes.
    All spelling Roma.

    The audible 2 wheeler canons
    sleek in power
    and smiling in victory
    blast his mind
    blinding him
    as he approaches the window
    watching her come close
    and strikes.

    Spurts of red surprise,
    as he watches
    a mild recognition
    flicker
    in the wrong eyes…

    The Seige ends
    and the Occupation begins.

    Of remorse,
    anger,
    fear,
    and longing
    in a mind,
    smashed to smithereens
    like the pumpkins
    lying covered with fungus
    in his Cerebral Cortex.

    Reply

    • umashankar Says:

      Am I happy, Suranaga, that you let you wrath suside! :-D

      I hope you realise by now that I do not subscribe to the views of the characters I have created.

      Your poem is magnificent as usual! And as always, I read it over and over again! It said a lot more than what I could weave into the story.

      Reply

  8. alkagurha Says:

    The hallmark of a good short story, other than a gripping narrative is the unexpected ending.. Your stories have unpredictable ending, keeping the reader hooked….I suggest you send them for various competitions like Katha, Commonwealth short story competition and there is one by Deccan herald too..The stories are worth publishing….I hope some publisher is reading.

    Reply

    • umashankar Says:

      I am grateful to you for the continued support, Alka. The idea of finding a wider audience does present itself to me at times. however, I have a deep-rooted aversion to all kinds of competitions. (Its a long story!) ;)

      Many thanks for your kind words and suggestions.

      Reply

  9. Rachna Parmar Says:

    The end was mindblowing. It took me some time to recover!

    Reply

  10. arun1151 Says:

    Nice story you have here. I became motivated enough to restart my stuck hobby of short stories. Thanks and wishing more like these from you.

    Reply

  11. Varsh Says:

    OMG…I was reading furiously with bated breath, curious to know what’ll happen next. I love the way you use words…pile of sealed polythene bags all containing murdered pumpkins….wow!

    Reply

  12. Akshay Kumar G Says:

    I do understand that you don’t subscribe to the views of the characters you have created but still looking at it even from the sick and twisted mind of Chakra who wanted to end the life of the woman he once loved is something I don’t subscribe to. Why is death the only way to end a sore relationship?

    I was a bit disappointed because he didn’t die in the end, I mean assuming Mona died from her wounds and as I inferred he was going to take his own life after the crime he was going to commit, which he didn’t. So he killed the wrong person and he didn’t even die in the end. I was like WTF? :D

    But Sir, I have to say you are an absolute genius in terms of story-telling, breathtaking in fact. As you can understand I was so immersed in the story, it left me wanting more. :)

    Reply

    • umashankar Says:

      Akshay, I admit my flute has played a grim tune this time. I can understand your outrage at the gut-wrenching end too. Remember, however, I have merely tried to present a sick man’s perspective without seeking an endorsement of the same. Also, tell me if art has no business dwelling on the blacker strains of the society?

      I am glad I’ve not only been able to hold you through the story but arouse your sentiments enough to wish for more.

      More may follow!

      Reply

  13. Sangeeta Reghu Nair (@Sangrywords) Says:

    Umashankar – You are brilliant .. and i thoroughly enjoyed this .. I agree with Deb, Zypher that you should publish your book .. I am definitely going pre-order it ….

    P.S. – I have marketing n PR background .. I could be of some help to promote the book :)

    Reply

  14. Saru (@SaruSinghal) Says:

    Like everyone I will say the same, please publish your book. Unlike others me and Farida already have a deal for your autographed copy. I loved the narration…

    Reply

  15. Ramakant Says:

    Wow!! You sure pulled a “Kahani” here. Loved it!!

    Reply

  16. dnambiar11 Says:

    My, My! What an intense plot. This story is imprinted in my mind, now.

    Reply

  17. Giribala Says:

    Good one!! So this is how literature students behave :-/

    Reply

  18. magiceye Says:

    Violence, romance, passion and societal mores – a deathly concoction brewed by the master!
    WOW! WOW! WOW!

    Reply

  19. Hariharan Valady Says:

    Very nice story! Every one has talked about the excellent narration. I subscribe to their views. I would like to emphasize the thrilling climax. It needs a special mention.

    Reply

  20. Samir Shyam Says:

    USP………. I am still shivering with the mixed emotions generated from your awesome love story, melodrama & a brilliant thriller……..boss you must publish these stories to let it reach millions of lovers……….it is a blend of perfection….. couldn’t take my eyes off the monitor till the end. Good job brother keep it up….!!!!!

    Reply

  21. ruchi jain Says:

    yo, a different one ..

    Reply

  22. chsuresh63 Says:

    What more can I say than has already been said!! Great story and Great language too. I must repeat what others have said. You ought to get yourself published.

    Reply

  23. DEEPAK KARTHIK Says:

    No words to appreciate this stuff !
    I have one word and that is “Thank you” for sharing…
    That braile stuff really touched and hooked pretty well.
    Great work again.

    Reply

  24. Chotu Says:

    simply zabardastttt.. the frying pan portion seems real.

    Reply

  25. sujathasathya Says:

    very intriguing! after i was done, i couldn’t help but wonder how come you aren’t published yet! seriously gripping story

    Reply

  26. Leo Paw Says:

    Wonderful narration. loved it from the very first line till the end and the way you took me through the entire post. you can easily write a book. I think you should, if you haven’t published one yet.

    Reply

    • umashankar Says:

      I am happy you loved the narration from the opening line till the end. Thanks a lot, Leo. I have always loved writing but I reckon having it published is another ballgame altogether.

      Reply

  27. raju070 Says:

    wow.. I am simply awed after reading this story. It had all the elements of a great story; quite phenomenal. As everyone above have rightly pointed out, the story is clearly in the league of excellent professional writing. You must work on getting things published for sure. I was amazed by your vocabulary and also its perfect usage. And one other thing I loved about the story was the exemplary detail to go along with the main story. Simply brilliant!

    Reply

    • umashankar Says:

      Raj, when a writer of your caliber appreciates my work, my confidence soars to the sky. Words can make a world of difference when used aptly. Also, one cannot venture far from the thread of credibility. I am thrilled at your approval of my usage of these elements. Thanks for believing that my writing is in a professional class. Hope to meet you in print soon.

      Reply

  28. sudhagee Says:

    Umashankar, what do I comment here that others haven’t written already. But let me do it again. It’s a brilliant gripping narrative and you are only getting better with each story that you post. As someone who has worked in the publishing industry, I can say without hesitation that your stories are eminently publishable. But, if you do intend to publish your short stories, then stop posting them here.

    Looking forward to more in whichever form you are willing to present them — as a blog post or as a book. :-)

    Reply

  29. geetasing Says:

    remarkable !!

    Reply

  30. makpossible Says:

    Sir, it was a pleasure reading your wonderfully narrated story.

    Reply

  31. Jyoti Mishra Says:

    your story fantastically depicts the horrific actions a person can take in rage and sometimes its too late to realize what he has done.. It’s almost impossible to detect that extreme darkness hiding deep in someone’s mind.

    Minute details and sudden twists make your stories more enticing :)
    I’ll second the opinion of many others… Go for publishing.. n add one more in that autographed book list :P

    Reply

  32. ab Says:

    I liked the story, your narrative is brilliant as usual, but I have a deep aversion to characters like Chakra…Roma might have been a gold digger, but everybody has a right to choose…but I agree with one of your readers, you deserve a wider readership…try to publish your stories

    Reply

  33. The Fool Says:

    Beautifully narrated. I loved it just for the sheer beauty of the language you use. Plot was also well engineered.

    Reply

  34. Rohiensis Says:

    Absolutely amazing! am speechless! the suspense, the expression, the style of writing. I didn’t miss a single word. The way it depicts the misfortunes of misunderstanding and impatience!
    Kept me hooked. Hats off to you!! This is a masterpiece!

    Reply

  35. Premangsu Bhattacharya Says:

    A very strong narrative, a vivid imagery and an abrupt ending..almost like a hesitation…
    Contains all the elements of a good short story finely embedded.
    A job well done. Congrats.

    Reply

  36. umashankar Says:

    Premangsu, thanks for the positive feedback.

    Reply

  37. Latha Says:

    Hmm…your writing reminds me of O Henry stories..all kinds of unexpected twists at the end. However, I felt there is a continuity missing somewhere in the starting paragraphs. I enjoyed it though..as always..:)
    You asked me for the comments long time back. sorry for the delay. Read this in Changi airport as I have some more time to catch my flight. Going back after a month’s trip to home. Will read the rest also pretty soon.

    Reply

  38. JayadevM Says:

    Hey, your post lost to football. Couldn’t complete. Will come back tomorrow. Cheers! :)

    Reply

  39. Talkalittledo - For Life Is Funny. Says:

    Great Story. Kept me hooked to it till the end. After that a lump in my throat and a heaviness in my heart….kind of like the feeling you get after reading a Roald Dahl.

    Reply

  40. nothingprofound Says:

    The shock of the ending, uma. I felt as though the dagger had been plunged into my own belly. The despair, the horror, the pain, the pointlessness of it all. Chakra’s perfect plan of revenge sped forward with the inexorable and pitiless force of a Greek tragedy toward its savage and ironic conclusion.

    Reply

  41. iancochrane Says:

    The mood so wonderfully set –
    `…a magnet to the hungry lovers and desperate paramours of a city living in false glory.’
    (I too am attracted to the ruins of the past…beautifully put.)

    And a moving read US, with your usual magic, twists & turns; & those gruesome moments so succinctly captured.

    Cheers, ic

    Reply

    • umashankar Says:

      Ian, to someone like you who can wade through the past and present of a place simultaneously, ruins should hold deep fascinations. I am glad you liked the tale. Thank you for those kind words.

      Reply

  42. Rum Punch Drunk Says:

    Wow, this really had me hooked all the way through.

    I totally enjoyed it and thought I had it all worked out in my head long before I got to the end but it was not to be and I loved it. What more can I say than Brilliant Post Umashankar.

    Reply

  43. Helena Fortissima Says:

    I certainly didn’t see this end coming, not even with the pumpkins at the beginning. It’s a nightmare gone wild, and the worst part for Chakra was being awake through the whole thing. Kind of makes waking up to boring old reality after a bad dream seem like a privilege!

    Reply

    • umashankar Says:

      The word is full of weird people, Kris; a psychotic could be a doorbell away. I put one of them in this story. Sorry to have upset you with this one.

      Reply

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