There hangs a small painting, silent and unnoticed by most, on a wall of my house. It is a lonely work of art, facing a quiet space in the narrow passage leading to the door. It was a present from Zenia who was as reticent and prim as the stalk of flowers in that rectangular carapace. Zenia, who may never pass through that door again and see how solitary it has become.
Some days when I sit on a chair knocking the shoes off my tired feet, my eyes stop at it for a fleeting moment, triggering memories of the moments spent in her company.
Back in those days, our workplace was a veritable flea market having all male members but one. Nina, the exception, had hit disaster early in her life and it had made her moody and desperate. In and out of marriages, her previous conjugal fixture was lying in shards while the jigsaw of a new one was to still fall in place.
Nina and phones were inseparable like conjoined triplets. She was one of the early birds who soared on wings of dual mobile handsets. We were accustomed to noises of all tenors emanating from her workspace. From honeyed soft clucking to blood-curdling growls, whimpering sobs to husky whispering: exposure to her tonal range was a humbling experience. She was unravelling the marital equations of her life with real-time precision, ignoring the social cravings of her colleagues in the process.
Nina had her share of work too which she attacked with the fierceness of a Genghis Khan. Loath to pause and ponder on trivial matters, she would slosh her way out of the tasks mercilessly. It was normal for us to inspect the battlefield post-skirmish, and salvage whatever survived her fury and phone calls, once she left for the day.
It was in such climes that Zenia arrived like a surprise lash of rains in the wasteland.
Zenia had the aura of someone used to acknowledgement and respect. Though not straight out of the pages of a glamour glossy, the fullness of features and the elegance with which she carried herself, compensated for the lack of textbook magnificence. She had beautiful full length Japanese hair that went well with her dusky complexion.
Having spent a few years in the Land of the Rising Sun, she had deeply imbibed that oriental obsession for perfection. She had that determined look about her which is not easily shaken. She met everyone at work the first day and had nice, small things to say to all. Afterwards, she could see through people at times as if they didn’t exist and glide past the hall like wind. Yet, she managed to instil a sense of dignity about herself somehow, and all those she interacted with.
The encounter between the two women was nothing short of hate at first sight. The distrust between them was instant and mutual and it multiplied like fungi on a petri dish. In time, we witnessed many pantomime battles as their paths crossed and converged. Since Zenia held a senior position, Nina mostly squirmed in silence, unable to fall back on her amazing repertoire of sounds. While Zenia would let her eyes do the talking, Nina would knock around box files mercilessly. And the moment Zenia was gone, Nina would crib about her loud and fast, even to the execrable husband she was running away from but was a phone call away.
Gradually, we started noticing changes of both evident and subtle kind in Nina. Her unkempt hair quietly acquired a new lustre and a chick wavy pattern. The bushy eyebrows turned into slim arcs one day as if by magic, accentuating her eyes. Her waif-like face developed an unmistakeable glow as if a mask were ripped off. It dawned on many how beautiful she actually was and she was discovered anew and reassessed. However, no one was sure whether it was the new beau resurrecting her life, or she was just resolving the Darwinian dilemma.
Suddenly the monotonous workplace, the land without poles, transformed into a severely bipolar world. Slowly but surely, lines of allegiance began to take shape and harden. Those seeking perfection, sobriety and commitment gravitated towards Zenia. The haberdashers, the laggards and the time-killers started camping with the natural leader, Nina. There were no vacancies of the non-aligned kind making it tough for derelicts like me. But, in a kind move, Zenia stepped out and put her mark on my hump, confirming my creed. It helped greatly that she was allotted a flat in the same building as mine. It would change my commuting life for those few days from painful grinds to memorable evenings.
Zenia and I travelled separately in the mornings due to different reporting times at the office. However, I would finish work early and wait for her in the evenings. This did upset my old schedule and I started missing the usual 06:15 local train often. I preferred that train because of the group of fellow-commuters who had become travel-mates to me. They would take the same train from the origin point and manage to occupy the same door frame in the same first class compartment, always reserving a foothold for me. Getting into locals other than that was Lumberjack wrestling of sorts. For one, I was always boarding at midpoint and that too, during peak traffic hours. Add to that, my fondness of stuffing my bag with a DSLR camera and a couple of hardbound books, and my misery was compounded by factors.
One such evening amidst the incessant drizzles of Mumbai, I was kicking my luck for missing the preferred local because of Zenia. She was acutely aware of my predicament and the fact that she had it easier in the lady’s compartment. Suddenly she struck upon a ‘Zen solution’. Smiling sweetly at me, she hailed an auto-rickshaw and pushed me in, declaring we were going all the way to Borivali, 30 kilometers in all, in that puny black box on three wheels.
The rains started pattering the roof of the boxy auto as it sputtered its way to our homes. The driver was an astute man and he quickly pulled down the tarpaulin to both our left and right. Suddenly, we were sitting close together in a dark, cramped space, separated from the rain and a sea of traffic.
Very interesting. Enjoyed the sparring of the colleagues and the division of loyalties based on the work culture. The first part certainly has stoked the curiosity to a high level of expectancy. you are quite a story teller, able to retain the interest of the reader. Waiting for the second part. 🙂
Zephyr, holding the attention of the reader in the highly fickle Internet age is quite a task. I am thrilled by your approval!
Really interesting story. I am also feeling being a part of the story. Waiting for part II of the story.
Mukesh, am I glad to see you here! Watch out for what comes next!
got confused between the two protagonists; had to read it twice. eagerly waiting for part 2 coz we don’t know what’s in store for us, readers. as always beautifully narrated.
Thanks for the compliment, Deb. It means a lot.
The suspense is a double-edged sword. At times, it kills the author too!
As other readers have indicated, I am also in the same boat as them. Waiting curiously for the coming part…you better be quick Mr. Pandey 🙂
& As always, your choice of words leaves me wordless! Hats off to you.
Many Thanks, Shaifali! Only, a pack of auditors are baying for my blood at my workplace. Do read While I Be the Banker from the archives!
Very well written Umashankar, will await the second part…
Thanks a ton, Satish Ji. The second part will pressed soon into your service.
You have a wonderful way with words. ( I have been perusing your blog since yesterday!)
And with this story, you have me hooked.
I am grateful for the honour, Sumanyav. I will try to deliver more.
This is my first time to your blog. Of course, I am pretty new to blogging world…one good narrator you are ..:)Waiting for the 2nd part soon..:)
You are welcome. Thanks for liking it. Part-II should follow soon.
Wow, so neatly written. I love the way you have sketched your characters. This is what I call craft. You know what…I can’t wait for the rest. 🙂
Many thanks, d.Nambiar. I am happy I passed your test. The Evening that Kills will return soon.
March triangulates on the love couple. No burden of financial closure I suppose.
O my God! When did you join as our new ED?
You’ll probably tell me to wait till Part II, but I need to know this—which camp were you in? Please, please, pretty please…
Sudhagee, now that you ask it, I am not sure which camp I was in! 😀 What I distinctly remember though, was an evening that killed….
You are not sure, or you don’t want to remember 😛
The surrealistic twilight of emotions is the stuff the heart thrives on.
I came here from zephyr”s cybernag. This post was a mesmerizing read. Great build up to Part 2. You have an excellent writing style.
Glad I discovered this blog !
Thank you, Ruchira. I am honoured by your presence here.
Gardens of his life
little clumps of marigolds.
often considered Marry-golds.
distinct in their
orange and green,
constantly looking for a white
to declare their independence,
deploring the absence of it.
Amidst the gerberas
that monopolised the place
grew a lily,
with a flower
that resembled a jet in flight;
dedicated in action,
considered a cut above all.
as the rain lashed out one evening
in the helter skelter of the mind
he stood with his coat
held above the lilly,
as the marigolds,
swayed and dodged
running trampling shoes.
In the wild scents
and winds of change
scattering a few petals of doubts,
aghast at the fact
that the gardener
had locked and left him in the garden….
Locked in the garden
of life, I ask the warden,
why the wrath so chilly?
Why of all, kill the lilly?
ps: Those are amazing lines, Suranga.
Really poised at a nice juncture. Can’t wait to read the next part. 🙂 While reading my likeness tended more towards Nina than Zenia. 🙂
Next part will surface soon. Yes, Nina is the born-free kind. thank you, for your interest.
lovely to see that you have introduced the ubiquitous autorickshaw in the story!!
exciting times ahead!! 🙂
Thanks for your magical words, as ever. The auto had a critical role!
For the non-aligned,
occasional tilting happens
of the speeding kind…
waiting to know
if potholes were de rigeur
on roads to Borivli then…
I assure you, Tuscan Bard!
Many a bump has left its mark
in the hollow that once
contained my heart!
interesting, lets see what happened in the rainy night ……
Never trust the rains!
Ahem, the non-aligned kind making such minute observations of the femmes fatales!! Beautifully written 🙂
Sometimes, a detached view, even if feigned, helps! Thanks for the endorsement. 😀
very beautifully written ! eagerly waiting for the next part…
Thanks for dropping in Khawani ji. The next part will be delivered soon.
You paint such a vivid picture with your words, Umashankar. I am so glad you visited my blog, because your visit led me here. I look forward to coming back often. Thank you.
And now, I await part 2 🙂 Have a great weekend, followed by a super week!
Thanks for the compliment and the wishes, Vidya. Part II will surely come by.
That was good reading. Will wait to read part 2- Thanks for stopping by my space!
SRS, many thanks for visiting and promising to return.
I just woke up man. First time on your blog; and I am really confused. The writing style and stuff is immaculate as always… but what kind of a workplace is this? I mean is it like any other company office, or has it got something to do with painting?
Or should I silently wait for part 2?
Is the setting Bombay? If so, then I got it, for the most part. 🙂
I know one thing though: its a blog that does deserve a lot of reads per post, unlike a lot of bullshit blogs on Indiblogger, that have 5 lines and get a thousand reads.
Rohan, my ED is already on the page (check the comments above!) You surely don’t want me fired, do you? I am indebted for the compliment and would request you to wait for the sequel. Till then, mum is the word!
Rain, auto,Zenia….hmm….interesting. waiting for part 2.
I am glad you’ve started reading my blog too!
your narration is awesome.. I was hooked till the end.. 🙂
waiting for part II
Thanks for your interest in the story. The Part-II will be here soon.
Drat, its actually true there are people who can write better than me 😉
You have a way with words, my man, and that shall always hold you in good stead.
Ha ha ha! Now isn’t that the sea calling the river deep? Thanks for passing by.
The story is enjoyable! It is really moving on in unexpected ways. I’m kind of surprised that the focus shifted from the ladies to the author.
You do have an eye for unusual details. Are you a photographer? 😉
Lovely plot. Can hardly wait for the second part of the story.
Thank you, Ramakant. The wait will be over soon!
Lovely. Flawless piece. I can smell anti-climax of part II.
Enter the Wizard of Oz!
Ah…finally i think i will be able to post the comment on your blog, after some issues, not sure why.
Landed on your blog for the first time from Indiblogger. Unlike most blogs I land on from Indiblogger, you site had a pleasing and professional design.
With respect to this post, you have very lucid writing style and the wordplay in the story is just amazing. The plot is uber-interesting. Looking forward to part 2.
Many thanks, Asif, for the many compliments. I do not know how professional my site appears, but I do prefer an uncluttered look. Will surely deliver the second part soon.
You write well!!! So easy, so much of a joy to read your post!!! Aah, thank you!
Glad to be of service, Bhavana.
I envy you for your amazing skill with words and for all those fascinating ladies in your life ! Come out with the next part soon……so far it has been an intriguing build up.
Dear AB, fascinating ladies and men touch everyone’s life. It is just that I am being dogged by the memories.
Umashankar am slowly getting exposed to your skillful repertoire of words and narrative! Zenia appears to be quite a lady with strong character! Await the next!
I assume that is a compliment! Thanks for waiting for Part II
Very interesting read! Looking forward to Part II!
Thanks for your interest.
First time on your blog! I enjoyed the way you play with words and built the characters. I found my attention meandering in the middle, but the end was ripe with promise and will bring me back to the next part!
Thanks for the feedback, Rachna. I will keep this in mind hereafter.
The ladies sure added glamour and colour to your workplace….I like your flair for fiction , unless you are narrating a true story. In that case I would be very interested to know what happened that rainy night.
Alka, there is a razor thin line between fact and fiction. What is a fact for me will be fiction to others. Not only that, sometimes what I believe to be a fact could well be a figment of my imagination. If I could interest you regardless of fact or fiction, I consider myself blessed.
I loved the way you described both the characters, be it the triplet connection of Nina or the oriental approach of Zenia. Also, I could visualize when you wrote that you untie the shoe laces looking at the abandoned picture in the solitary corner of the house.
Waiting for the next part.
Glad you liked Nina and Zenia. I will have untied the bundle of memories a bit more next time around. Thanks for stopping by.
This is like a breath of fresh air on Indiblogger. I almost gave up trying to find something interesting on it though there are bloggers with hundreds or maybe even thousands of posts to their credit. I was once a banker too but wish I could write as well. waiting eagerly for the next part of the story.
Your kind words tricked my eyes. Thank you for the wonderful compliment.
That was great. You have a very good narrative style and an awesome vocabulary. Eagerly awaiting Part 2.
Thanks for stopping by and appreciating, Jaishvats.
Excellent narration. Felt like the start of a novel. Enjoyed reading
But in my opinion, the novel kind of narrative won’t work for serial blog posts. I feel it should be more like serials with some suspense ending every episode to bring the reader back for the next. But such a narrative will fail if put together as a novel.
Sir, your observations are astute. Quick and exhilarating as the weblog format can be, it has its own limitations. It cannot afford to publish a novel broken into parts or a series on a blog. Also, It cannot probably hold the reader’s attention for long. But the reason behind both remains the same. Surfers land on blogs expecting short and sweet nourishments. It could be in forms of humour, satire, tirade, indictment and so on and so forth. This is what I keep in my mind when I am writing the posts and I have almost always restricted myself to single independent posts. There have been instances, however, when the narration has grown longer in the tail and a shortening has not been possible without seriously diluting the essence of the subject matter. In such cases as in the one extant, I have dared to break them into two parts.
I am indebted to you for your visit and the insight.
Hey Umakant…….part II & fast please…..
Very well written……awesome narration……language and topic very interesting…….reader friendly & amazing……waiting eagerly for the continuation, wonderful piece of writing……..
I don’t have words to praise.
Hey Umashankar – Brother I apologize for my error in addressing you…….in the above post.
What is in a name, Samir! Thanks for dropping in and liking what you saw. Come April, I will revisit the Evening that Killed.
Let it be come April & not come September……. 🙂
I love the way you’ve developed the characters in your story! Eagerly awaiting part II.
Thanks for the stamp of approval. Part II is close by.
Excellent narration. You have kept the interest alive till the end. You have ended the first part at the most appropriate place.
US Pandey!!!! I am thrilled with no words coming out of ma mouth… 🙂 they way U have mentioned Zinia. And agree, the Auto has played a more important role here.. 🙂 🙂
Hey jkhona, I am thrilled to thrill you! Thanks for dropping in.
Very interesting. It kept me glued right down to the last word.
Welcome, SC! Thanks for your interest.
You have a gift, my friend.
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