Monday, May 14, 2007


This is a short story that I wrote really long ago! :-) But due to several reasons, been unable to publish it. The version I am posting is unedited. I will post one chapter at a time.
The story is about two teenagers. Shiva and Shweta. How they met, how they became friends, and... How their relationship elevated to the next level.

Do we fall in love? Or do we rise in it? Find it out, in, "REIGNING HEARTS AND FALLING MINDS"...

Read and Enjoy!

Sunday, May 13, 2007


His hand went numb. He couldn’t feel his right hand. The pain that consumed his hand made it numb. He wanted to kick the large man. So he kicked him. Kicked him HARD. But nothing happened. The heavy set man with the eyes of a hound was still smiling. He could see the man’s lips moving. But he heard nothing. He wanted to put his fingers into the devil’s eyes and pop them out of their sockets. He groped like a blind man searching desperately for his cane. He kept clutching the air. He was losing consciousness. He kept telling himself not to black out. His vision blurred. He struggled to maintain balance. He fell. But he still kept wriggling like the lizard’s tail which had separated from its body.

He COULD NOT black out. He had failed in his duty. He needed all his strength now. He was trying to summon every bit of it. However, what he failed to realize is that, there was none left in him. He didn’t like staying down. He stood on his knees. He was not able to see anything. His eyes were blinded by his own blood. ‘No! I should not leave him! I WILL not let him go!’ He could hear his heart pounding. His mind was racing. He was confused. His mind was caught between the past and reality. Thoughts flooded his mind. His childhood days, the picnic near the lone oak tree in the middle of nowhere along with his parents, the first time he had a long conversation with his best pal, his brother, his classroom, his ambition, his dream… HIS DREAM!

The very thought of his dream made him come back to his senses! He began to hear the screams again. He was back! He couldn’t let his mind play tricks now! He had to do something. He wiped his eyes. And he saw what he shouldn’t have seen. He shouted! Shouted like a man being castrated, like his scalp being peeled off… He could not help but struggle towards that scene with all that was left in him. And then it came. He felt a crashing force behind him, followed by a white hot pain searing through his neck down to his spine. His legs weakened. He staggered and fell.

His eyes were fixed on the scene though. He couldn’t take his eyes off it. And he cried. For the first time since he was a kid. And the tears welling down his cheek wet his dry, parched lips. Eventually, the darkness descended upon him like a cloud of dust settling down after a truck had passed on a dirt road. There he was, sprawled in the middle of the road like a drunken man who had been knocked off his feet. Curled up like a child curling up on its mother’s lap. Sleeping… Sleeping without any pain or sense or feeling. He was still there when the last possible man was returning back home on that street.

The ambulances came soon and the entire place was buzzing; with people milling about, some agitated, some filled with nervous excitement and the rest showing no emotions. The policemen examined every inch of the usually deserted road with powerful lights. They recovered his motorcycle on the road. There were no documents in it to trace its identity. Its blood-stained key was found a few feet away. Multiple fresh tire marks pointed to the involvement of a car at the time of the incident.

Shiva lay motionless in the stretcher inside the ambulance. But he was breathing. It was weak. And the monitors showed his heart was struggling. The doctors worked frantically, trying to stabilize his pressure. His pulse was erratic. He was lucky to be alive. Outside, Inspector Shakthi searched Shiva’s mobile phone for his home number. He didn’t find an entry that said ‘Home’. He called up a couple of numbers. But those guys were out on a tour. He called two other mobile numbers, but his call went unanswered. He then found an interesting entry named ‘Shewt Sweetie’. He called that immediately. But that also went unanswered. Shakthi silently cursed the present generation. He kept trying till he finally found a guy who gave the Inspector Shiva’s home number.

At the hospital, Shiva woke up with a cough. His dream was interrupted. His mom came running and kept calling his name. She was crying. His dad followed her. Shiva didn’t know where he was. He couldn’t remember how he came there. He tried to move, but realized he was literally tied down. His head was banging. His right hand was supported on a structure. His face was so heavily bandaged that only one of his eye was visible outside. Then it all came back to him. The night…

Two days had passed by the time his eyes fluttered open. But to him it was less than a minute. He felt as though he slept and woke up the next day.

The police arrived soon. They hadn’t found anything substantial with which they could proceed further. They wanted his help. Shakthi came up to Shiva and asked him a few questions. But he continued doing what he had been doing from the time he regained consciousness; stared blankly at the roof.

He stared like a dead man; evidence of life given by the tears rolling down his cheek. Shakthi returned Shiva his mobile which he had taken when he first reached the scene. Shiva looked at it. There was a number on the screen. It read, ‘Shakthi – 9840271563’. The inspector said Shiva that it was his mobile number and requested Shiva to inform him when he felt like talking.

To Shakthi, making the boy talk meant a lot. He had been having bad times lately, especially with no real lead coming up. He desperately wanted to make this boy talk. But he also knew he couldn’t force him to. After all, the kid had been through a lot. So he kept hoping he would talk soon and walked off.

For Shiva, time ticked excruciatingly slowly. Doctors wanted him to be there for two weeks. His hand had been operated upon and attached to his fore arm with nuts and screws in the elbow. It would take two months for Shiva’s hand to become functional. His face too was disfigured. It had to be operated too, but he would never get back his real identity.

He slept when sleep took him away with it. His friends Vinod and Ramya came to talk with him. Shiva could not talk with the bandages that surrounded his jaw. So he listened to whatever they talked. They told him what had happened to Shweta. She was not found yet. The police were working hard to find something with which they could proceed further.

Ramya and Vinod didn’t want to sympathize too much. Healing didn’t need sympathy alone. It needed just a few good hearts and a lot of time…

For Shiva though, re-living his life became the only way to while away time…

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Chapter One

His 12th standard exam results had been announced! He had secured 92 percentage! He was happy! Very happy! Now it was up to his mom and dad to make him join in a good college. His aspiration was to become an Architect. That was where his life was. And he knew it. He was a bright kid and was considered THE BEST in innovating new things. His idiosyncrasy was amazing. He wanted to do things his way. And wanted to do it perfect!

Playing tennis was his passion. Other than the normal things like reading story books, watching movies and hanging out with friends, he had a special liking to drawing various structures of his dream buildings. And he had even constructed a tower using just match sticks! He knew what he wanted. He knew his path. He knew how to live his life. He knew where his actions would take him to. And he was happy.

He was also an emotional guy who had a closed group of friends. He stuck with a few friends than to have a huge circle. Vinod and Ramya were his two best pals. They have been with him for nearly eight years. And they were more than just friends. They were together all the time; be it happiness or sorrow or anger. They used to fight because they loved each other so much! There was no boundary for their friendship. They lived like three lives inside one body. Each one couldn’t live without the other. They had other friends too. But those friendships had its limits. What these three shared was beyond one’s imagination. It was heights of pure love. It was their similar lines of thinking that bound them together.

Shiva’s home was the place you could find him most of the time. His mom and dad worked for the same firm. He had a younger brother doing his 9th grade. They were a good group. He spent a lot of time talking with his mom. His mom was his best friend at home. His attachment with his dad was hampered a bit because of his dad’s general attitude. They just wouldn’t gel together. His dad’s ideas were a complete contradiction to his. That used to put him off quite often and he decided to tell his dad minimal of things so that he could be able to maintain a healthy relationship without any bad feelings. His brother was at a lower plane in terms of thinking. And they didn’t make an attempt to know each other.

Shiva’s dad made him join a college of his choice. For Shiva though the college was just a stepping stone. A launching pad that he was going to use to launch himself into the sky! And he knew too well, HIS efforts would make him attain his goal and making use of what was available mattered a lot. He joined a college in the outskirts of the city. The college’s students were known for their notoriety. He was confident; their presence would not deter him from achieving his dream.

The first week at college was real hell for Shiva. He was ragged and tortured. He was forced to smoke and drink! Was made to strip in the classroom after forcing the girls out! He was beginning to hate it… But his determination kept his head above water. After a few days, it all settled and some sanity returned. Classes were interesting at times. But boring most of the times. Shiva’s idea of college life had been different to what he experienced.

He was a slow starter. And he found it difficult to make friends. He was afraid to make friends. He didn’t know whom to trust and whom not to. And for the first two months he stayed to himself. Talking occasionally when prompted. The bus journey to the college from home, and back home interested him most! He wanted time for his thoughts. He talked to himself all the time. For that he needed time and had to be away from everyone. Bus provided him just the right environment. When everyone were busy doing something, be it chatting, or reading a novel or sleeping or listening to their favourite track in their walkman, he spent time looking out of the window. He sought inner peace. He knew that mind was the architect behind all actions. Controlling it and understanding it meant he would not be disturbed by external factors. He knew his mind was too precious to be wasted. But he had been experiencing difficulties lately. One thought has been ‘pinging’ his mind frequently. He kept trying to force it away. But it just kept coming and was growing in magnitude. When he realized he wanted some outside help, he went to his two soul mates.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Chapter Two

Shiva, Vinod and Ramya met at Vinod’s place one weekend. Shiva told them that the image of a girl he saw kept coming back to him time and again. They first teased him… After a few rounds of ragging sessions, they started thinking about it seriously. Shiva was too strong for all these silly thoughts. They knew this was not right. Because this was HIM; the guy with exceptional strength to control his mind. For him, a relationship, a love relationship in particular, was unnecessary when his work was to study. This may sound odd. But his thought was justifiable. He had to do his duty first. And at that age, his duty was to study. And whatever thought or feeling that threatens it should be killed. And Shiva was an expert at that. It was the image of a girl he saw every day. She was in her first year too. And he had seen her in the first week of college while he was being ragged by his seniors. She had walked past him, giggling, seeing what he was doing. It was not her beauty that held his mind. But something about her had attracted him. And what it was, remained a mystery even to him.

Days passed by. His first semester got over. He had a very short vacation of just one week. Shiva’s family decided to go on a tour to Goa for five days. He went to meet Vinod and Ramya the day before he left. He knew he would miss them…

Goa was a place Shiva had never been to before. And he was thrilled. It was not the kind of thrill children get when they go on a vacation. The feeling that he would have a break from his routine made him feel light. He needed a break. Things were not going too great for him at the college. Had been picking unwanted conversations with a few friends and it was bothering him. This was just the kind of break he was hoping for; to disappear. Be out of the world. Give room for just his thoughts and to think of nothing else. And to spend some time with the family too. And Goa was just about THE perfect place to escape to. The time they had chosen was perfect too. But the weather played spoilsport. They reached there almost a day behind schedule. With effectively just four days left, they wanted to make the full use of it. Some plans were cancelled and new ones were drawn quickly.

It all went as planned and just one more day remained. The previous three days were wonderful. Shiva had had a long conversation with his bro for the first time. He got to know his brother. He was feeling very good about that. And he felt his brother would be a really nice company to have. More so because, he would also grow soon and in about another year, the differences in their thinking would disappear. The time he spent with dad also helped ease a few nerves.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Chapter Three

That night, the last night they were to stay in Goa, Shiva had a dream. He saw her in his dream. The same girl…

Because of Vinod and Ramya’s repeated insistence, he had enquired about her with his friends. Her name was Shweta Rao. She was from Mumbai. She had come to Chennai when she was studying 10th grade. An extremely quiet girl and very intelligent too! He learnt she was doing B.Sc. (Micro Biology) in his college. Those were just information to him. They meant nothing.

When he woke up in the morning, he still remembered the dream. And he spent almost the whole of next day trying to question himself why he is thinking of her. He couldn’t find an answer. It was as though his mind had a built an invisible wall, preventing him from accessing it when he thought of this girl. He was very irritated because of that. He loved clarity. Clarity of mind and thought. Everything had a reason. And to tell that something happened without a reason just indicated fear to look beyond. Or the negligence to look beyond. To probe further. His principle was, if he stopped questioning his thoughts, or his motives, he would stop growing. The very essence of growth is to question the governing dynamics. For every thought he wanted to know the cause. In this case, he was unable to do that.

The journey back was uneventful. He was confused. The feeling of inability to understand his thoughts, made him feel uneasy.

Back home and being in the confines of his den, his room, made him feel nice. He loved perfection. He would grab a book from his room with his eyes shut. Everything was in place. And he expected others around him to also be the same! And that made him look like a moron. And it made him appear repulsive. But whoever stayed away from him missed someone very cute. A friend who should be around. Someone to idolize.

He called Ramya to tell about his Goa experience. She was excited to know about it. And then before hanging up, he told her about the thoughts of Shweta that disturbed him. She thought about it hard and advised him to have a chat with Shweta. Just like that. Nothing in particular. Just talk with her so that he could relax a bit. Even if not him, his mind would relax a bit.

He thought about it. He was not sure if he had to go and talk to someone just because his mind is playing tricks. He has never done that before in his life.

Life keeps throwing different challenges. He cannot approach them the same way he does it all the time. He had to change. He decided to talk to her in the near future. He wanted to put an end those thoughts.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Chapter Four

It had been a hectic day for Shiva. He had been running around from the morning. He had never praised the lunch interval as much as he did that day. He wanted rest. Lunching with his friends was becoming more fascinating. People around him were beginning to understand the humor in him. He was no longer considered ‘a moron’. And he was no longer being criticized of being obtuse. They were beginning to accept his way of doing things. They sat in the canteen and were talking about a girl in their class. About her ‘curves’… And how her movements accentuate them! He closed his eyes to imagine how she would appear when she stood naked in front of him. After all, he was a normal human.

His eyes opened twice as quickly as he closed them. She was there again. HER image… His friends were still chatting. He had momentarily taken him out of the place and was lost in thoughts. They were talking about another girl. He wasn’t interested in it any longer.

He turned around. And there she was! The scintillating Shweta. Walking ever so slowly. With an aura of difference surrounding her. With a smile that sent his pulse racing. It was her lazy elegance that held his thought. And he was beginning to realize that. Her movements appeared so graceful to him. She stood out. He could make her out amidst a million girls. She was different. He could read her face. It conveyed so many things to him. It was filled with such happiness that he couldn’t find any where. But there was something beneath that layer of happiness. He could see that as well. But all that didn’t matter now. She was coming towards him. And his heart was thumping. He was trying hard to conceal it. He wanted to get away from there. He wanted to stop thinking about her. But he also started feeling he could not cheat himself anymore. When she was about to cross him, he instinctively stood and called her name out.

It was just a mutter. But she was so near, she heard it and turned around. “Yes! Did you call me?”

He heard one of the most beautiful voices he had ever heard. He was afraid to look up. Had he done something wrong? He was not sure. “Are you alright?” Again the same voice. He had to do something. His mind was thinking. He was trying to phrase a sentence. The database of words in his brain was being searched at a pace; it wouldn’t have worked so hard even when he was writing an exam!

Then he finally looked up at her. She was smiling. A fake smile. He could see that. There was no real feeling in that smile. But that was expected. Someone had called her. And to her, he was a complete stranger! Then he spoke “ah… mmm…. I am Shiva. And I came to know that you are Shweta Rao. I want to talk to you. Definitely not here and certainly not now. Can you call me up some time? Or shall we meet somewhere?”

She was staring at him. Now she was thinking. “Is it urgent?” This was the best possible reply he could have got! And this strengthened his position! “ah… Yes! It is…” She thought for a while again… She rolled her lips inside her mouth. She was visibly confused. Her eyes narrowed. And the smile faded. And her gaze turned into a stare. A stare so intense, it would burn anything in its path. But he stood his ground. Responding to that stare of her with a neutral smile. He was working hard not to flinch. Her gaze was getting more intense by the second.

After a few agonizingly silent moments, she talked again… “Give me your number. But I can’t promise you a call. I shall, if I remember” He was more than happy. He was experiencing a feeling of goodness that he had not experienced ever before! He was doing something that he had not done before. He was confused. But that feeling of goodness melted away all that confusion like a flake of snow disappearing seeing the sun. He gave his number. “56549224” he said. She didn’t carry a pen or a paper. He lent her his pen. She pulled out a face tissue from her purse and scribbled his number in that. She then returned his pen with a straight smile and said, “Bye” He stood staring at her like a child looking at a candy its dad refused to buy. A look filled with a desire. This was not HIM. He is acting strangely. His friends had been looking at him silently all the while. But he had been too occupied to notice all that. Then he started blushing. He hung his face and bit his lips. He was blushing! And his friends were going to have a nice time! The ice had begun to crack.

He stood smiling. Smiling without any reason. His friends were re-enacting the scene. But it kept ringing in his ears… “Yes! Did you call me?”

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Chapter Five

He walked back to class. He was beginning to feel confused again. Something said what he was doing is wrong. He was caught in a dilemma; whether to follow his mind or his heart. It was a fight he was not able to manage. He had never been in this situation. He had ruled his mind till now. He could not accept the fact that this was happening to him.

It was one of the longest days in his life. Classes were boring. He couldn’t concentrate. He was completely lost in thoughts. And the question ‘Why? Why? Why?’ kept haunting him. His sleep that night was disturbed.

It had been a good day for Shweta till Shiva popped up. She wanted to know what was so urgent. But the thought that a guy approached her made her spine chill. She has been preventing herself from getting close or even talking with a guy. She had to. She had no other alternative. Her sleep that night was erratic too. The problem with her was she for some reason liked the way he talked to her. She felt a sense of purpose in his talk. He was not playing with her. Of that, she was sure. But…

The question that haunted him was now probing her the next day… ‘Why? Why? Why?’ She decided to call him up that night and wanted to make it as crisp as possible. She didn’t want a guy to think about her.

She called that evening. Shiva picked it up. She asked him what was so urgent for him to talk with her. He was caught off guard. He had not expected her call. He had forgotten that episode. He was totally under prepared for a conversation with her. He knew what he had to convey. But he didn’t know how to convey it. Then he spoke, “you disturb me a lot…”

She was left speechless. He heard her breathing hard. She was suddenly nervous. She spoke in a whisper, “means?” Not knowing what to tell, he blurted it out bluntly. “I seem to have developed a liking for you. I won’t term it a liking… It is something that I cannot define. It is beyond my thought process. But your image is disturbing me a lot. I seem to like your ways. Your way of doing things. The way you carry yourself. The difference that surrounds you. You are not like any other girl I have come across. There is something different about you. Your face conveys a million things to me. You portray yourself to be happy all the time. I like every bit of whatever you do. Be it your smile or the way you walk or the way you throw your head back while you laugh. Your naughty smirk smile… In spite of all these things, one more thing is very evident. It stands out. You ARE NOT happy! There is something deep within that is disturbing you all the time. The mask you’ve created for yourself hides that inner feeling of helplessness. But…” He stopped. There was muteness.

The silence was broken by her breath. She was sobbing! Sobbing so quietly and so unintelligibly that he could hear only her deep inhale of breath. And he was confused even more!! What had he done? He knew! He had felt this was going to land him in trouble. He kept calling her name. She started crying uncontrollably!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Chapter Six

Shweta stopped sobbing and was unsure of what to tell him. He didn’t want to ask her anything. Finally she spoke and asked him if he could come over to her place some day. She gave him the directions. She didn’t know why she was doing this. Her instincts were guiding her. Her mind was against talking to a guy. But her heart had always craved for a company to share her feelings. She needed emotional support. She needed a sense of security. But she was afraid. But afraid of what?

He was more confused than ever. He wondered if his confusions would ever decrease. They have been torturing him all day and all night. What started as a small image grew. It grew so rapidly, even HE could not stop it. And it was looming so large it was threatening to swallow him.

She had asked him to come to her place that weekend. Shiva didn’t know what he would talk with her once he went to Shweta’s place. He had been thinking all morning about how he could start a conversation with her. He was talking to himself and assumed replies from her. He did that the entire morning. When he was confident about his replies to the questions he assumed that she would ask, he left his home and walked to Shweta’s place. As he walked his mind was diverted away from her and he began enjoying the evening. He loved to walk. When bored, he would opt for a long walk if he had to choose between talking over the phone or to walk. When he reached her neighbourhood he walked into a shop and asked for directions.

He found it. It was an independent house. He entered and rang the bell. Her mom greeted him. Their home was small and cozy. But it was neat. Everything was in place. He could find no unnecessary item. The furniture was simple. The shelves contained glass doors. There was only a single window in the hall and it overlooked the garden in the entrance. Every room’s entrance was covered by a screen that contained flower design in them. He liked it.

As he waited he heard a faint humming. It was a melodious song. Shweta's mother asked him to remain seated and said she would send Shweta over. He was beginning to feel uneasy. He expected to be treated like a stranger. But he was being treated royally. He sat admiring the paintings that hung on the wall. They were genuine paintings of nature, a horse galloping, two swans in a pond and that of people working in the fields. They were all signed 'Shweta'. They were really impressive works. He was beginning to like this girl's diversity. He saw a lot of trophies and medals in the show case.

Five minutes later she appeared. She was different today. Her eyes were clear. Devoid of any confusions that he had visualized when they last talked over the phone. She was wearing a white pajama and a light pink cotton shirt with teddy bear forms printed in it. And she was wearing specs too!! They made her appear wiser and a bit older. She introduced him to her mother and a casual conversation followed. She then asked if they could go to the terrace to talk.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Chapter Seven

It was lovely twilight. The light was fading. And the sun was setting over the horizon. It was throwing a lovely orange glow that made everything appear orange. It made him feel nice. The sky, the trees, the clouds; he loved it all. A gentle breeze caressed their face. The moon had risen early and had made half its journey. It appeared above their head now. The birds were flying back home. This was THE PERFECT setting he could imagine to settle down after a day of hard work.

He could see even she was enjoying it. Then she talked, "So.. You like it eh?” And he described what he liked most in this lovely romantic nature's gift. Then they talked through the evening. He forgot everything he had prepared before he came to her place. They talked as though they had known each other for years. He was known to be a slow starter. And so was she. But they had no problems in getting started. They seemed to share common interests. Even the words they used turned out to be the same at times. She was beginning to laugh. True laugh... Happiness from the heart. He felt it. He was euphoric as well.

When they ran out of topics there was a momentary silence and he looked at his watch. It was 8 20 PM! They had talked for two hours! He was awestruck. He was expecting her to react the same way.

But those clouds of confusion started filling her eyes. Like a bright afternoon sunshine being darkened in a minute by storm clouds, those clouds filled her mind. She began feeling uneasy standing there with him. She wanted to break the conversation. She wanted to go down. They went down and her mother asked if he would stay for dinner. He decided not to and left soon after.

His emotions had dried out. He was happy beyond words. It was impossible to express it. He danced all the way home. But her reaction at the end was worrying. All said and done, it was a day to remember.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Chapter Eight

A week passed. She had called him twice. He had not expected that from her. He had a feeling she was becoming more interested in him than he was. He had hoped just to talk to her. To put is thoughts to rest. But that had resulted in blooming of a friendship. He still felt something was not right about the entire thing. His mind didn’t approve of it.

He talked about his new found friend with Vinod and Ramya. They felt good; he was beginning to look forward. They wanted him to make friends. If the time came when they had to leave him, he would be left with no one to share anything. They had been trying to make him more interactive with others. To think forward when it came to developing friendships. They felt happy about it.

As days rolled by Shiva and Shweta started calling up each other every day. Their closeness was increasing leaps and bounds. For her, it was like a starved man stumbling on a stone to uncover hidden cave filled with food. She began to open up. She hadn’t done this in years. She felt a knot in her stomach when she thought of him. His speech had the kind of force that attracted her. Talking to him gave her a childish thrill. It reminded her of the olden days. Those golden days… She had been forcing herself to stay away from that. But Shiva had run into her life and she could not afford to lose him. She wanted him. A close relationship. She wanted a feeling of security. Her heart was cut deeply. So deep that the scar will NEVER disappear. Should she tell him? Does she mean so much to her? Does he treat her and have her as high in his mind as she does? These were the questions she tried to answer every night. But sleep was not so generous. It wouldn’t let her find the answer. Her mind though, didn’t want to lose him. He was too precious. This feeling will not arise everyday. And surely not with everyone she comes across. He was unique to her.

But why was she so confused? What does she fear? Or who?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Chapter Nine

Three more weeks passed. Days came and went. Shweta lost track of the days. She was too deeply involved. She was completely dependent on him. This was too little a time for her to have become like this. She was falling for him. She felt he deserved to know her story. She cannot spoil her life fearing some shadow. Yet she was not ready to sacrifice on Shiva’s safety either! She was caught between the angel and deep sea. A sea which threatened to swallow the angel if she chose that.

On the other hand, even he was as thrilled as she was! She mattered a lot to him! This relationship was different. It was a new experience for him. But that didn’t prevent him from doing his duties. It was just another friendship.

The day passed slowly for Shweta. Most of the classes were free that day. She had plenty of time to think what she had to tell Shiva that evening.

After returning home and after rehearsing what she wished to convey Shweta called Shiva. When he answered the call, she said it was something important. He was eager to hear it. She said just two words “am afraid”. He couldn’t understand. She said it again. He asked if she could be a bit clear. She said, “Am afraid something will happen to you”. This made him laugh. She stopped and told him a story; her story.

After she finished, she continued talking, “I like you very much. I want you for me. I am too afraid”. He was silent. She carried on, “I am beginning to fall in what I define as love in my opinion. I want to share my life with you. It is one of those feelings a girl gets only once. I really don’t expect anything from you right now. I said what I felt. I’ll try not to talk about it again.”

Silence… Then Shiva spoke feebly, “does he still follow you?” It took Shweta a few moments to correlate what he was saying and then she replied, “ah… at times… yes…” He tried to sound reassuring and wanted to instill some confidence in her. But he was not able to do that. He said, “Whatever you’ve told is very disturbing. I meant your past”. He paused for a while, “and regarding what you feel, I don’t know what to tell. I think it is best for us not to talk about it unless it is impossible not to…”

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Chapter Ten

He was despondent. After all, his intuitions were correct. Their relationship had taken the turn he never intended to happen. He had to respect her feelings and still could not commit on any relationship or promise anything he was not sure he could handle. He wanted to be free. He didn’t want to make himself tied down. However her closeness had not imposed any restriction on his life. And his mind more importantly. He liked her too. But… He didn’t want to think of a relationship before he settled in life. He had not thought of that even once.

Even a week after Shweta conveyed her like, he didn’t inform Vinod or Ramya regarding her ‘feelings’ for him. Every time he had a problem he went to them. And he felt he was out-sourcing his problems to them. He wanted to decide on his own. He wanted to make his decisions. At least, try to… Though he knew he needed their intervention, he wanted to challenge himself. More than that, he knew they would never approve of any relationship with a girl. And he didn’t want to stop thinking about that. He liked Shweta. But he didn’t know whether to continue the present relationship or elevate her to be the one to share his life with. He wanted to decide that on his own.

It was May Twentieth. The next day was Shiva’s birthday. It fell on a Sunday. Meeting Ramya and Vinod on his birthday was a ritual. And last year he had missed seeing Vinod as he had gone out of the city for his project work. This time around, being a Sunday, Shiva was happy he could meet them and spend the entire day with them. He had planned for a small party in a hotel. And he was to invite very few friends. After the party he wanted to go to the beach with Vinod and Ramya.

It was eleven fifty at night. Shiva sat in the couch, changing channels in the television looking for something interesting. The phone rang! He was momentarily thrown off his seat. He hadn’t expected the phone to ring. He had forgotten that his birthday arrived in ten minutes time. He didn’t want to let the phone ring for long. His dad hated calls late during the night. He fumbled with the receiver initially and finally picked it up. It was Shweta. She was having problems with her internet connection and wanted Shiva’s help. He instructed her to do whatever he said. When finished, she thanked him and when he least expected it, she started singing the ‘Birthday song’.

His heart swelled with happiness. He expected only two calls every birthday. One from Vinod and the other from Ramya. Vinod had been the first to wish him for six years now. Shweta was the last person from whom he would have expected a call. To be wished on the birthday had not fascinated him much. But to be wished by someone unexpected made him feel good. It made him feel he meant a lot to her. She wanted to convey her like for him in every way she could.

After she hung up, Shiva sat smiling. He was thinking of Shweta. The way she giggled the first time he saw her. The way she walked. The way she appeared pretty to his eyes alone.

His thoughts were cut short by the phone’s ring yet again. It was Vinod this time. He had tried calling at midnight. But Shiva’s line had been engaged. Shiva told Vinod how he was surprised by his first caller. They chatted for a few minutes and hung up. Few more friends called after that but Ramya’s call never came. And to his callers, he informed about the party the next morning. And they all agreed to it. When the clock struck one, Shiva decided he wouldn’t get any more calls and he went off to sleep.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Chapter Eleven

Ramya was the first to arrive at the hotel the next morning. She was profoundly sorry for not having wished Shiva at night. She had been thinking of him all day and had completely forgotten about it when she had to remember. Shiva asked her not to feel bad about it and told her that he knew she remembered him. Rest of his friends, Vinod, Mani, Caaxton, Shivlal, Aloke and Shweta arrived later and they had a wonderful time. After the lunch came the cake and before they could make a mess of it on Shiva’s face he instructed them not to waste it and that they were expected to eat it.

After they had finished and while they stood at the hotel’s exit, Shiva waved bye to Mani, Caaxton, Shivlal, Arun and he indicated to the others to stay back. He then produced four tickets from his pocket. They were going for a movie! Ramya was surprised to know Shiva could be such a nice host. She had been thinking him to be an amateur at these things. But he had disproved her.

The movie was bad and they were jovially irritating Shiva for his inability to select a good movie. They proceeded to the beach from there. Being a Sunday, the beach as overflowing with people. They made their way through the crowd and walked along the water, the water lapping against their ankle. They didn’t talk while they walked. After walking nearly a mile they found a place that was free from the mad crowd. They sat in the sand and talked about what each one felt about being wished on his and her birthday. They then talked about each one’s house and what was happening in their family.

When they were done, Shiva told them he would buy some corn and he walked off. Vinod and Ramya were left behind with Shweta for their company. They were unsure of what they could talk with her. It was the first time they were with her in Shiva’s absence. They sat smiling at each other. And Shweta broke the silence. She asked, “What did Shiva tell you regarding my like for him? Does he like me as much as I do? I’ve promised him not to talk about this. And I’ve been holding myself from asking him what he feels about me. I am sure he must have told you something. Please.. Can you tell me? I won’t tell him whatever we talk now. I am really desperate to know” As she spoke every word, Ramya and Vinod listened open mouthed. And they looked at each other not knowing what how to react.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Chapter Twelve

Shweta finished talking. She didn’t look at them. She was too shy to look into their eyes and spoke looking into the ground. When she looked up, she was surprised to see Vinod and Ramya’s confused reaction.

Ramya and Vinod stared at Shweta for few moments and Ramya talked first, “When did this happen?” Shweta felt a punch in her face! Had Shiva not told them about this? Had she messed it up? She said what she thought, “Shiva didn’t tell you?” This didn’t impress Ramya much. Her face reddened with anger and she repeated her words, “When did this happen?” Shweta began feeling uncomfortable sitting in front of them. Vinod stood up and began walking in circles. He was angry too. Shiva had held back from them, something that could spoil his life. They knew what was best for him. And they wanted to know the reason why he had not told them about Shweta’s interest in him.

Shweta told Ramya what she wanted, “I… I told him this about two weeks back. Twenty days maybe. I don’t remember the date. Didn’t he tell you? I assumed he would have told you, just like how he tells you everything else. I am sorry! I didn’t know” Ramya’s anger was evident in the reply she made, “Why should you feel sorry? There is nothing you could do” Vinod walked over to Ramya and asked her to relax. Shweta felt ashamed and she stood up and patted her jean to dust away the sand sticking to it.

Vinod ran over to Shweta and asked her to relax too. He held her by her shoulder and made her sit. Ramya was seething with temper by now and was staring hard at Shweta. To Shweta, it was a look that meant, ‘how dare you try to take my friend away from me!’ She blinked innocently and wanted to run away from the place.

Vinod sat next to Ramya and spoke into her ears. Ramya calmed down a bit and talked to Shweta. “What did you tell him? Tell me why you feel that way. Why Shiva?” As she began to explain, they heard Shiva screaming and running towards them. He held in his hand four corns. He came over and said, “Sorry people. There was a mad rush out there. Almost lost my way! Phew… Crazy idiots! They never seem to look where they walk” He handed them each of them a corn. Ramya refused to get it and looked away. Vinod got it from him and again spoke into Ramya’s ears. Shweta sat looking into the ground. Her face filled with guilt.

Shiva knew something had gone wrong. He asked Ramya what had happened. But she didn’t care to look at him. He then turned to Vinod and asked the same. He heaved a sigh and didn’t tell anything either. By then Shiva began figuring out what would have gone wrong. He turned to Shweta and nodded at her as though he wanted to ask, ‘Is that what happened?’ She nodded back to him and looked down again.

He moved near Ramya and sat near her. She moved away from him and stood up. He asked her to remain seated and told that he wanted to talk. She started walking. Walking away from them. Shiva stood up and followed her. Vinod sat near Shweta and tried to console her. Shiva kept walking behind Ramya and pleaded with her to stop for a while and listen to what he said. Vinod caught up with them by then and asked Shiva to go and console Shweta. He also assured Shiva that he would take care of Ramya and asked him not to worry.

Shiva stopped. He turned back and saw Shweta sitting with her knees bent and her face hidden between her laps. He looked back at his two soul mates. And he saw Ramya resting her head on Vinod’s shoulder as they walked away. He stood between them, not knowing whom to run to. he needed all three of them.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Chapter Thirteen

A month passed. He had talked to Ramya and Vinod. He had made them understand his feelings and the reason why he didn’t let them know about Shweta’s like for him. They were not satisfied with his explanation. But as days went, their anger and hurt, Ramya’s in particular, subsided and they began being normal.

Shweta called Shiva’s home that evening. She wanted him to come to her place. He said he couldn’t stay for long as he had works to be completed. Her mom and dad were leaving to attend a marriage reception when he reached her place. They asked her to be careful while they were away. She was wearing a black casual pant and a yellow tee shirt. It suited her complexion perfectly. And it also showed how perfect her figure was. He told himself not to stare at her or look at what he was not supposed to look.

Shiva and Shweta talked for a while. She showed him photos of her childhood. She was very cute even as a kid. She still was! They were sitting together. Next to each other. Their shoulders touched. Her thigh rubbed against his. The smell of her perfume combined with her shampoo gave rise to a fragrance that was intoxicating. She finished showing the photos. She asked him if he had to leave. It was more a request not to leave than an enquiry whether he had to. He joked that staying a little bit longer wouldn’t hurt and he winked. They sat together without a word. She made no effort to move away. He also hoped she doesn’t. He liked it. He had not expected this. But he liked it.

He was having his hand on his thigh. She suddenly put her hand on top of his. He didn’t know what to do. He misunderstood that to be her want to feel protected. So he put his other hand on top of hers, tried conveying her not to fear and that he was with her. She withdrew her hand that was sandwiched between his two hands. And she held his arm with both her hands, rested her head in it and started sobbing. She was holding on to him like a kid holding on to its mother. The kid feared it would lose its mother if it released the grip. She felt, she would miss him if she left him.

She wanted him to tell her that even he liked her and wanted her as much as she did. She also wanted him to feel the magnitude of her want. She wanted to hug him. But she hesitated. Even after making her want for him so evident he was not reacting much. All he did was, move about restlessly in his place. He squirmed. She closed her eyes. She wanted him. She was not worried about the immediate consequences. She wanted him to feel her want. She wanted him to want her.
She moved a little away from him and stood. Pulled him away from the bed. They both were standing now. Their eyes locked. Like a snake jumping on its prey before it escaped, she flung her arms around his shoulders and held him tight. Their bodies were together. He could feel the soft swell of her breasts against his chest. His heart began to pound! He was speechless. He couldn’t move! She wouldn’t let him move! She tightened her grip. He stood not knowing what to do. Her weeping made those soft yet firm breasts press harder against his chest. He closed his eyes too. He felt his manhood coming to life… What was he doing? He was not supposed to be here! This was madness! Complete madness! His senses were screaming! They were asking him to push her aside and walk away. But he couldn’t.

He stood frozen like a statue. He was in a state of utter amazement and shock. His fingers were out stretched. His toes were digging the floor. He bit his lips and breathed in hard. Finally he put his hands around her fleshy hips. He also held her tight. His ‘disturbing’ senses began to die down. He was now being ruled by his wants, desires and needs. They both remained still. She stopped sobbing. The silence in that room was broken by the creaking of her ceiling fan and the pounding of their hearts. They stood united. Their souls mingling. Their unsaid feelings were conveyed to each other through their bodies.

Then he broke that silence. He moved his hands up, caressing her while doing so. He brought his hands to her chin. He held his head a few millimeters in front of hers. He could smell her skin. It was a smell he could feel only when he stood as close to her as he did. He pulled her hair back and moved his head forward. He stopped next to her ears. And whispered into them… Audible only to her…

“I love you too……”

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Chapter Fourteen

He repeated it again. “I love you too…” and gently kissed her cheek. She moved back and looked at him with her moist eyes. Her next motion was so swift, before he could realize what she was up to she stood on her toes and locked her lips with his! His eyes widened! He could feel his dry lips being wetted by her soft, moist lips. And her tongue was probing his closed lips, looking for a way to get inside. He lowered his hand around her back and began squeezing them harder as she started probing further inside his mouth… She intertwined her legs around his. He moved backwards and tripped over. They fell together on her bed. She was on top of him. They continued kissing each other. Her abdomen prevented his flesh from swelling further. She felt his swell against her lower abdomen. This made her feel hornier.

Here were two young hearts satisfying their unconscious physical wants… He slowly lifted her tee shirt a little. She sat upright on top of his mid section feeling what he did. His pulse raced! Was she going to slap him?

With lightning speed, she peeled it out of her body and threw it aside. She then stared down at him as though she wanted to ask, ‘is this what you wanted?’ She pulled her hair back and tied it into a bun. She realized he was looking at her pants. She smiled and said, “You are a really naughty fellow” and climbed down and got out of her pant too. After having done that, she stood with her hands on her hips and posed for a while and then climbed back on top of him.

She was sitting on top of him wearing nothing but a semi-transparent panty and a cream coloured half cup bra. He could see through her panty, the triangle of pleasure within which was concealed an entry to heaven! Her breasts were popping out of her bra and his eyes were transfixed on them! She appeared much lean than what she appeared when she was wearing her usual chudidar or salwar. She appeared godly to him! Her soft skin glowed under the light. He could not think of anything else but to stare at her wide eyed. She fell on top of him again and they kissed. She then rolled over and fell by his side. They were lying next to each other, holding each others hands and looking into each others eyes. In her eyes he could see the trust she had in him. The faith. Above all, he could see happiness. Undiluted happiness!

She was looking at him. She saw his eyes and she saw them filled with love. After all, he saw her first. He liked her before she did. Now he owned her. OWNED HER! They hadn’t talked anything for nearly ten minutes. They were breathing heavily. They knew they had crossed their limits and proceeding further was insane!

As quickly as it came, the surge of love subsided. She started feeling shy! He felt that and made her sit near him. Took her hand and placed them on his chest. She understood what he meant. It was ‘I am there. Don’t worry. We are one now”

Before he left, he again held her by her shoulder and said, “I love you Shweta” and placed a kiss on her fore head and stroked her hair.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Chapter Fifteen

He walked back; dazed. She returned inside and fell on her bed. Sense of happiness held her aloft. She was floating! He was experiencing the same! But he also felt, he was cruising towards an unknown foe on a cruiser with no captain to steer it. However didn’t want his fears to consume the luxuries he found in the cruiser… He loved her too. He had thought hard about it. Only one thing came to mind; her serene smile. It came from the deepest part of his heart. He knew that instant that he loved her…

He was crossing an intersection with no traffic at all. He was lost in thoughts and was too busy to notice the two men who had been following him for more than 10 minutes. When he crossed and entered the section of road darkened by the shade of the dense leaves above, one of then men walked past Shiva and turned around to face the other man coming behind him. Shiva veered instinctively and saw a large man coming towards him. The large man was angry. And his eyes were bloodshot. Probably because of heavy drinking!

Shiva walked backwards till he hit the other man and stopped dead on his tracks! He felt weak. He felt he couldn’t do anything. The large man came and caught him by his throat. His grip was like that of a steel vice! He was choking Shiva! And he also talked something in Hindi. No! It was not Hindi! It was something else that sounded like Hindi. What he was saying didn’t matter. He was beginning to feel dizzy. He was running short of air. When he finished talking, he released Shiva. He coughed and his vision was blurred. By the time he regained stability the two men had disappeared. Who were they? What did the large man tell? What did he do? Why him?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Chapter Sixteen

Incidents that happened the day before filled Shiva’s mind. Recently, his happy moments were short lived. They were followed by periods of trouble or agony. Did this imply any impending danger?

He was finding it difficult to concentrate. Time seemed to have stopped forever. Every minute seemed to be an hour! His attention was diverted else where. Not just today. He has not been able to perform to his full potential for quite some time now. External thoughts; unwanted to him a few months ago, were beginning to occupy significant portion of his mind! He was beginning to flail.

He remembered the book he read a few months back ‘The Power of NOW’. In it, he learnt, best way to free up mind was to admire beauty of the ‘NOW’; things happening at present. The things happening around him and around everyone. Little things like observing the path of a fly’s movement, the sound of water splashing against the hand while washing in a basin, the soap bubbles while rinsing the hand or anything else that goes unnoticed normally. It keeps the mind occupied and kills unnecessary thought process.

That evening, he wanted to try that when he was returning home from college. He made a conscious effort not to think of anything but the scenes he saw. He sat looking out of the window and listening to the songs he loved.

When his bus passed over a bridge, he saw the sun above the water in the river. Its light making the river glitter like glittering diamonds strewn about on the ground. He saw kids swimming in that river. They were playing. They were happy! They seemed to have no troubles. It appeared to him as though life was sagacious to them! Before that scene escaped his mind he saw an old, dilapidated church. Between the church’s bell and the structure that held the bell, he saw the sun shining bright! In the church’s garden was a small pond. Covered with lotus leaves on one half and pelicans finding their catch on the other half. Sight of white birds on a green backdrop of water and trees was a refreshing sight. He kept wondering how he missed it all these years.

The country side ended and his bus began its ride within the city. A funny incident followed. A banana vendor had left his push cart unattended, and a cow was eating the bananas! When his bus passed over railway tracks he saw children running on the rails. They were playing ‘train’; something he had wanted to do so desperately when he was a kid. His bus slowed down. Three little boys were standing on the road, wearing just a pair of shorts. They were chatting their way to glory! They seemed light with so much happiness in them. One of the kids saw Shiva watching them and he waved at him. Shiva waved back and saw so much excitement in their faces; he felt he hadn’t seen such excitement anywhere. He closed his eyes and began wondering. Why did I miss all these things everyday? Why do they seem to be much happier than I am? What is preventing me?

He sat thinking. The answer flashed in his mind like a charge of lightning; we seem to miss the happiness that we can find everywhere, pursuing what we term as ‘happiness’ and that will always remain something we keep pursuing and will never come within our grasp. To be happy, it is enough if we could make ourselves content with what we have…

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Chapter Seventeen

When he reached home he heard an excited conversation between his mom and dad. They both were having a mobile phone in their hand and were trying hack into it. He found it amusing. They were playing with it like how a dog played with an object it found on the road; with an interest to know what it is, but with limited knowledge to explore it. He asked why they never informed him before they bought it. They said it was given to them in their office as a complement to commemorate its successful completion of thirty years of its existence.

He taught them how to use it. When he was done, his mother made an offer he couldn’t resist. She asked if he would like to have one! He gleefully accepted it.

As he settled to do some studying Ramya came to his home. It has been a long time since he saw her. It was long since he met Vinod too. He was happy to see her. However she didn’t seem to be in the best of her moods. She appeared glum. They talked about the happenings in their college and about the cricket match that was played a couple of days back. He didn’t talk a word about Shweta.

After a while, he couldn’t resist asking her… “Hey Rum… What happened to you? You seem to be dull. Are you alright?” She remained mute. Her reply perplexed him. “You remembered to ask that at least. So nice of you” Her tone was filled with sarcasm. He couldn’t make out the reason. She never talked to him that way. Never to HIM. He was more like a kid brother to her. She had always protected him, bearing upon herself any amount of pain. She never let him to be affected because of her. But ever since he began to get too attached with Shweta she had begun to react wildly. He felt she was feeling possessive of him and didn’t want him to let any other girl get the place she enjoyed in his heart.

He moved closer to her and asked again if everything was alright. He was genuinely concerned. He could feel her anger. She was very angry! She then said whatever she had in mind.

He realised he had been ignoring her for a few days now. Even when he talked he was doing it with no real involvement. He had never done that to her or Vinod. Vinod too was feeling the same but never came out with it. The undivided attention he used to give them was disappearing thick and fast. They wanted him.

He began to understand the reason behind her anger. He would have reacted the same way had she done this to him and probably much earlier and with higher magnitude than this. She left soon after. All they wanted out of him was to be normal. They were missing him.

He knew that the reason for their plight was him.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Chapter Eighteen

A week passed. Some sanity was restored in Shiva’s mind. He was beginning to find his rhythm. He was on damage control mode now; trying to spend time with his two soul mates and also with Shweta. Her possessiveness was dragging him down. He loved her. But he was unable to satisfy her. She expected a lot out of him. Small, inconspicuous things that didn’t matter a lot were becoming issues. The sweet sugar candy had few stones in it! And it hurt when bit. Shiva began to learn everything comes at a cost. Even love. It has in it a few harsh words, sullen days and fits of fights. He was determined to swim across those blue waters. Shiva and Shweta loved each other so much that they were unable to convey it to each other especially over the phone. Shweta too had bought a mobile the week after Shiva got one. She wanted to reach him whenever she missed him.
He was beginning to feel bugged. He was doing things for others’ sake. His works were getting delayed. He felt squeezed. He wanted his friends. He wanted Shweta too. But he wanted her to give him some space. He wanted her to accept his love in a way that he could give. He was unable to wholly satisfy even one of them. Top of that being his mind. Like a weighing scale falling to the side where there is maximum weight, Shiva fell to the side from where there was maximum pressure. Also, he was beginning to get selfish.

Shweta and Shiva reverted back to how they were. Ramya and Vinod were disdained seeing the way Shiva’s priorities had changed.

In between all this, Shiva had another encounter with a strange guy while on the way to Shweta’s place. He had kept all that hidden away in his mind and didn’t bother to tell anyone.

Ever since he had the second encounter with the strange guy, he stopped going to Shweta’s house. They talked over the phone. But that didn’t do much good to either of them. Shweta and Shiva wanted to spend time together. They needed each other’s presence. They decided to meet that weekend and planned to hang out for the night. Shiva got his dad’s nod by telling him he was going to his friend Kishore’s place to stay for the night.

Shweta managed to convince her parents by telling them she was to stay at her friend, Sneha’s place that weekend as her Sneha’s parents were going out on a tour.

Their real plan: to dance that night away in a disco!

He didn’t notify Vinod or Ramya about his plans to go out with Shweta. He knew they wouldn’t approve of it. In addition to not approving, they will try to influence him and make him return to normalcy. He didn’t want them to do that. He wanted to be with Shweta. He desperately wanted to spend some time with her.

The weekend came. They both went to their friends places in the evening. The very thought they were going out together and were going to spend the night together gave them both goose tickles. He called her from Kishore’s place when it was quarter past ten. She was ready to leave. He borrowed Kishore’s bike for the night.

He reached Sneha’s place and saw Shweta wandering outside. She appeared sexy in her blue top and grey jean. The jean didn’t fit her properly though. It appeared as if she had bought it when she was a bit bulky and seemed to have lost a few kilos after that. He was looking at her with the same desire with which he used to look at her when he first saw her in college. As he kept telling to him, he liked everything about her. He had liked her even before they talked. Why had he liked her? It was some extreme feeling. From where it came, he still couldn’t figure out. He liked her. She liked him too.

Her movements appeared so graceful to him. His friends teased him for having fallen for her when he could have gone on to get someone pretty than her. He paid no heed to what they said. They could see just her physical appearance and her outward features. They didn’t see her mind. He did.

He liked her crooked smile. She seemed to find childish pleasure in doing something new and that showed her want to explore. She was a kid! An over grown kid! How much he loved her, only he knew. Today she was having her hair differently. It made her forehead appear high. He liked that too. There was a certain manner of aloofness in whatever she did. But that was purely her nature and unintentional.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Chapter Nineteen

Shweta stood near him, looking down at the ground in front of the bike. Her nails kept prodding the handle. He could see she was nervous. It was understandable. They were going out clandestinely. They wanted each others presence. He asked her to relax. It didn’t seem to ease her. He got out of the bike and embraced her warmly. He stood in front of each other, his belly touching hers. Shiva looked around. They were standing in complete darkness. There was no one outside in that quiet neighbourhood. He turned around and looked at her. Cradling her face in his hands, he kissed her. She flinched. She had not expected it. But she made no effort to pull out. She closed her eyes and let him rule her.

He realized she wasn’t responding. He thought she didn’t like what he did. So he backed off and hugged her yet again. Her smile returned; her ever-splendid, naughty smile. They both got on the bike and drove away.

They were to go to the discotheque ‘EC41’ on the East Coast Road. It was a long drive from Sneha’s place. They both had never danced in their life! And to do it for the first time with the other gave them both intense excitement. They both had different plans for the night; plans about what they would do there. They didn’t talk after he started driving. The roads were deserted. Being a weekend, people had retired early for the night. The road from where they were to reach the city was normally deserted during this time of the day. Today it was more so.

Shiva noticed in the rear view mirror, a car trying to overtake them. He pulled over slightly to the left and slowed down a bit to let the car pass. It did. Then it did something else too! The car braked hard, making its tires screech to a halt and it swerved to its left, getting parked on the road, blocking the entire road. Shiva also applied the brakes, throwing them out of balance and stalling the engine too. He was unable to bear the weight of the bike and he dropped it down after it came to a halt. Shiva and Shweta tumbled onto the road. They were dreaming about the night and this brought them back to their senses. The car’s door opened. Three men climbed out. Two of them walked over to the bike and pinned Shiva down. Shweta stood between them and the car, staring with rapt amazement combined with fear. The other door of the car opened and a fourth man emerged. He was the man who had caught hold of Shiva’s throat!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Chapter Twenty

Shiva started yelling, asking Shweta to flee the place. She was caught in a quagmire of confusion; whether to flee or help Shiva. He wanted her to run. Her confusion cost a few precious seconds. Finally, she decided to run but it was too late by then. The large man was just a few feet away from her. Before she could stride a couple of paces, he was on to her and lifted her on to his shoulder. Shiva was trying with all his might to wriggle out of the thugs’ grip. He twisted his face and bit one of the man’s fingers. He bit so hard it almost fell off! He let out a cry and withdrew his grip letting Shiva’s upper torso to become free. In a single motion, Shiva sat upright, took the bike’s key from the keyhole and jabbed it into the other man’s throat! He croaked loudly and fell to the ground. Blood sprayed out of his wound! The key had hit some vein!

With both men down, Shiva got up and charged towards the man taking away his love. The man turned around hearing the sounds and saw Shiva charging towards him. Shiva gathered all his power and delivered a punch square on the man’s nose. He caught Shiva’s fist with ease and dropped Shweta down. She was now in the other man’s custody. The ‘muscle’ man twisted Shiva’s hand. Notwithstanding the pain, he bent down and let a scream! With his other hand, the huge man hit Shiva’s elbow. Shiva let out a blood-curdling shout!

Shweta stood watching as it all happened. Her love had come to rescue her. But he was now going to feel the pain. She saw the large man lift his left arm. She hoped and prayed he would release Shiva. But her prayers were short lived. He brought down his hand with such might, when it hit Shiva’s elbow she heard a nasty crack! It was followed by a cry of death! Shiva’s forearm fell loose and was sticking to his arm only with the help of flesh and skin. He fell to the ground…

The large man kicked Shiva on his face. Shweta screamed. She was crying. Shiva lay motionless. The guy who was stabbed with the key was still struggling on the ground and the other guy who was bitten by Shiva stood watching the action that unfolded in front of him.

Shiva turned around. His face was a mess with blood splattered all over! He coughed. His vision was blinded by his own blood. He lifted his right hand to wipe it off. It wouldn’t respond… He stood up with the help of his other hand and started to walk about randomly. He was feeling dizzy. Shweta screamed harder. He started walking towards the man who had incapacitated him. Shweta realized Shiva was struggling and would lose consciousness any moment. She kept yelling his name over and over again. As he neared the large man, she saw Shiva trying to lift his leg. But he lost his balance and fell down again. His eyes began to close slowly.

She mustered all her strength and freed one of her hand. Clenching her fist with her thumb extended, she poked it into her captor’s eye at her back. He shrieked and fell back! His eye was gone for good.

She started to run towards Shiva. The large man shouted a few obscenities and kicked her hard in her chest as she approached him. It connected inch perfect on her solar plexus and she was thrown against the car’s door, knocking the wind out of her. She lay with her mouth open. She saw whatever happened but couldn’t speak.

Shiva who had watched it all helplessly staggered to his feet and stood yet again. She heard him scream like a mad man. He started running towards the beast that had kicked his love. She wanted to shout out for him to watch his back. But only air escaped from her mouth. She moved her hand and pointed in his direction. But that wouldn’t help. The log slammed hard on the back of his neck. She closed her eyes. Shiva fell down again. He was out cold.

He experienced no pain after he entered the void, the darkness…

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Chapter Twenty One

She woke up and found herself lying in a ragged bed with a bundle of old jeans for pillow. She had been semi-conscious when they had brought her there. Her chest was badly concussed. The pain was unbearable. Pankaj, the large man, came to her and offered water to drink. She threw the bottle away and kicked him. He walked away. He ordered his men to give her water and food to eat when she asked for it. But she swore to herself that she would rather die than to ask them. It was night when she woke up. So she assumed she had been knocked out for an entire day!

Fear consumed her. And the thought of her parents made her feel even weaker. Will she see them again? What was he going to do to her? Will he harm her? Will she be alright? Will she be saved? How could she protect herself now? She was unable to think anything more. She was too tired and felt sick. She wanted to return home.

The next day passed; she came to senses for brief periods of time. Tiredness made her sleep all day once again. When she opened her eyes first, the birds were chirping and the air was pleasant. When she woke up again, it was hot! A small fan placed on top of her head spewed hot air on her face. She slept again. When she woke up for the third time that day, the evening sun was setting into the concrete structures visible over the horizon. Its orange glow penetrated through the lids and hit her eyes to wake her up.

Orange! His favourite colour. Shiva’s thought came up in her mind. How had she not thought of him for so long? She didn’t know! She then remembered the day Shiva came to her home for the first time and that evening when time flew past before she could batter her eye.

However, the time had come to a grinding halt now. She cried softly. And slept again. When she woke up, it was searing hot and she found a screen surrounding her. It was wetted with water. Someone had put it around her to lessen the heat. She couldn’t sleep after that. She cried. That was all she could do. She knew trying to escape was madness. She was ravenously hungry and would swallow a raw elephant. But she didn’t want to ask them. She was thirsty too.

What had happened to Shiva? From where did Pankaj pop up in the middle of the night? How did he know they were going out that night? Where was Shiva now? Was he alive? This thought made her cry harder! Pankaj pushed aside the screen and entered. He sat near her and smiled at her. He stroked her hair. She pushed his hand away. He asked if she wanted to eat something and said it was more than two and half days since she ate. He gave her a pack of biscuits. She slapped him hard. But he didn’t flinch. He stared at her and smiled. She spat on his face. His smile receded and he walked away wiping it off his face.

She lay in pain, hunger and thirst. She thought of her past. That took her mind away from the present misery. But raised more questions…

The night set in and the moon shone bright. They were in a construction site with a partly constructed building was left unattended. They were in one of the middle level floor’s room. The room had no side walls. She could see the ground about fifty feet below.

Her captors were sitting in the far end of the room and were playing cards and smoking. She needed water. She was dying of thirst, her lips were beginning to crack and her stomach muscles were beginning to cramp due to lack of water. She crawled on her hands to the place where a few water bottles and biscuit packs were placed. One of the thug rose to help her. But Pankaj stopped him and asked him to continue the game. When she reached there, she found a few mobile phones amidst the water bottles! She found her phone too! It was switched off though. Its battery would have drained by now. She looked up at the men again. They were totally engrossed in their game. They were not watching her. Any hasty movement would catch their eye though.

She carefully took one of the mobile phones with her along with the water bottle and crawled back to her place.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Chapter Twenty Two

Shweta crawled back to her place, curled up and hid the phone between her lap and stomach. She drank the water. She was so weak, even slight movement of her muscles made them pull. She looked down at the mobile. To her captors, her eyes would appear shut. She turned on the mobile phone’s silent mode.

She could not make a call without being caught. She could only send a text message. But she could not message anyone other than Shiva. She didn’t know any of her friends’ number by heart. Whatever she remembered were just landline numbers. And that wouldn’t help now. She didn’t know if Shiva had his phone with him now or whether he was awake to see her message! Or was his mobile lying in a corner letting her message go unnoticed? But she didn’t have a choice. This was the only opportunity to seek help. If she delayed further they would find one of the mobile had gone missing.

She began typing slowly, “Shiva… Where are you now? How are you? I am held captive in a construction site inside a partly constructed building. This place is 15 minutes non-stop drive from the place where we were hit. I heard a pile foundation being laid somewhere nearby. And, I can feel it Shiva, though you may be hurt, you are safe. DON’T REPLY TO THIS NUMBER! This is one of these guys’ mobile that I flicked. Going to put it back now. I love you… Please help me… ‘The US’ Shwets” Before crawling back to put the bottle in place, she opened the ‘Profile’ menu in the mobile and just before she placed in back, set the mobile back to the mode in which it was when she took it from there.

Pankaj was missing when she went to put the mobile back. After placing it she turned around and heard his voice drifting across from the nearby room. He was furious over something. She couldn’t associate the other voice with anyone in the gang. The new voice told Pankaj that tickets to Abu Dhabi for Shweta and Pankaj were ready and her visa was ready too! But his visa processing had got delayed. He would get it only after a couple of days. The voice also said the car to reach Cochin was also ready and would pick them up the next evening.

Blood drained from Shweta’s face! She was going to be smuggled out of the country! She had to inform someone! She had to call for help! She hoped Shiva received her previous message. She turned back to pick up the mobile again. But it was gone!! Someone had taken them away. She was stuck in that place. She crawled back crying. She was lost now. She lost hope for the first time.

Then suddenly she saw a way out! She wondered why this hadn’t occurred to her earlier! She got the answer too! She hoped she would be helped. Now that the hope had disappeared, she saw this way! The way to end this madness! She crawled as quickly as she could to the ledge of the floor and looked down at the ground. Fifty feet seemed very high! She hesitated. She quickly made up her mind and took a deep breath and took the jump of her life.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Chapter Twenty Three

Shweta jumped. Just when she thought she would plummet down, someone caught her from behind. It was Pankaj! He held her in both his hands like a master carrying his dog. He ordered his men to pack up quickly and move. They were moving to a different place. They could not stay here any longer. It was dangerous. He put her down and assigned of his men to take care of her. She cried. Her door to freedom was shut.

She saw a cigarette pack lying next to her hand. She inserted it into her palm. When the man walked off for a short while to check if everyone else were ready to go, she took a piece of brick from the ground and scribbled something on the back of the cigarette pack and dropped it to the floor just before his captor arrived to take her away. She was taken and they were on their way to a new location.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chapter Twenty Four

The vibration of his mobile phone was a welcome break for Shiva. He had been dreaming. He felt at least someone remembered him and messaged him. He expected it to be a forward. But even that was ok! He needed a break from his mental trauma.

He picked up the mobile and looked at it. It was from an unknown number. He opened it. He thought of Shweta before the message was displayed.

When it opened, he couldn’t believe what he read! Hope filled his mind like sea water filling a sinking ship! Why had she signed it off with that? Why was she so particular about ‘The US’?

But she was safe. It made him forget all his pains. Shweta was still nearby!

He called Shakthi. The inspector said he would come over as soon as possible. Shiva was beginning to get excited again. He had lost any hope of finding her. The police had turned up with no clues for 3 days now. There were no witnesses either. He was the only other witness. And he could not provide them much information. He had noticed just a few things. The car which Shweta’s captors used carried Maharashtra registration. It was a black Sonata with a ‘trishul’ sticker stuck to its windscreen at the back. Its glasses were tinted bluish green.

His thoughts were interrupted by the Shakthi’s sudden entry. His shirt was wet with sweat. He apologized for the delayed arrival. His car had stalled in the middle and he had to run a few blocks before reaching there.

Shiva showed Shakthi the message he received. Shiva was not able to talk, with the bandages around his jaw. Shakthi could see the enthusiasm in the boy. Shakthi analysed the message. Then Shakthi asked Shiva, “What is the confirmation that this message was really from Shweta? Someone in that gang could have sent it across to confuse and mislead!”

This made Shiva think. The reason for her insistence on ‘The US’ struck his mind. Shiva wanted to tell something. But he experienced pain when he tried to talk. Shakthi placed a paper and pencil near his left hand. Shiva wrote slowly and as clearly as he could. After he finished, Shakthi read its content. “Few days ago we were talking about the USA. While we talked, I mentioned the name as ‘The US’. She complimented me by telling I was the only one who used that word correctly and that she had never before heard anyone else mentioning the name as ‘The US’. This message is definitely from her inspector. No one else knows about that conversation. Please help her. Please rescue her from that bastard. Please… Go there soon! Please sir…” Shakthi looked at Shiva. Shiva was crying. The inspector felt a pang of pain in his heart; such young hearts, such powerful love. He was moved seeing their attachment. This guy was treated for broken bones. And he still cried for his girl. It was very new to Shakthi. He then patted Shiva on his head and hurriedly walked off.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Chapter Twenty Five

The lead was a very substantial one for Shakthi! Could this be the end to the case? He was beginning to think in terms of returning the girl back to the guy than thinking it as a case he had to close. However he wanted the ‘muscle’ man too. He ordered his men to search for a place as the one described in the message Shiva got from Shweta; supposedly. And he wanted them to call him as soon as they found it.

In the meanwhile, he called up the service provider from where the message was sent to Shiva and requested them to tap into all the calls from that particular mobile number as it was involved in a case. They informed him that his request could not be carried out over the phone and that he had to produce them a warrant to arrest the man who owned that number. Also Shakthi had to go there in person. Even if he could give that to them now, their office would open only the next morning and it would take at least six hours to be process a high priority request of this kind.

He decided to do it the next morning. He could not produce them the warrant. He didn’t know who that man was. But he was confident he could convince the service provider.

As he finished thinking and re-thinking what should be done if the hide-out was found, he got a call from his deputy. They had located a half constructed structure with a pile foundation machines nearby. He was thrilled to hear this. He asked them to surround the area and didn’t want them to make a move till he came by.

He reached there in less than twenty minutes. The entire area was deserted. There were no signs of the workers involved in the construction. The thug had chosen the place carefully. There were lights in just one of the floors; the fifth floor. Shakthi had only a few men. Few men whom he trusted and who were qualified for stealth attack. They drew a plan and would enter the place according to it. They studied the first floor layout and assumed the fifth floor also would have the same layout.

They reached the fifth floor. Shakthi and two other men entered through the front. His two other men entered through the rear. Two other men provided them cover in case of an attempted escape like a rabbit trying to escape a smoked hole. But they found nothing in the room from where the light was! It was empty except for stack of charred wood, a few whiskey bottle caps and cigarette butts. They collected all that. The wood was still slightly warm. He had missed the thug by a whisker. Shakthi saw a cigarette pack lying on the floor. He stuffed it into his pocket.

Shakthi was furious. Furious at him! If only he had got there earlier… But he could not afford to lose his temper. It would disturb his concentration. He returned home very disturbed. When he changed his dress the cigarette pack that he stuffed in his pocket fell out. He had forgotten about it. He would have put it along with the crime scene evidences had he remembered. He sat in his table and looked at it. It was a pack that contained Wills Scissors cigarettes. He wondered how long it had been since he smoked. He had done it in his college days when his friends forced him to.

He flipped the pack. There was nothing in it. He prepared to write his diary and switched on his table lamp. As he wrote, he looked at the pack again. There were some deep inscription marks on it. Something had been scratched on it. But he was not able to make out what it was.

He took a piece of paper and placed it on top of the pack. He scratched the paper slightly with a pencil, letting the impression to get printed on the paper. When he looked closer, he saw a rough figure of two birds. And under that were three capitalized letters. Two were spaced closely and the last one was wide. “SR P”.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Chapter Twenty Six

This was not a coincidence. Someone had tried to convey something. He felt the pack was dropped there deliberately and it carried in it something very vital. He kept thinking what it could mean. But his mind refused to think. He realized it was more than three days since he had slept. Rest was a weapon. He understood that better than anyone else. His work demanded that.

The next morning he went to the hospital to inform Shiva about the happenings the previous night. He wouldn’t have done this normally. But he developed a liking for this boy. He told him about the cigarette pack. Shiva also thought hard about it. It was intriguing to him too. Shakthi prepared to leave. When he was about to exit the room, Shiva called him back by tapping his mobile against his cot’s steel structure; he couldn’t talk. Shakthi returned back. Shiva wanted to tell something. He gave him a piece of paper and a pencil yet again. Shiva wrote in it, “SR may be her initials. Shweta Rao! Please check out her house if possible. Have you enquired her parents about the guy who threatened them when they were in Mumbai?”

Shakthi stared at Shiva! HOW COULD HE HAVE MISSED THIS! When Shakthi had gone to Shweta’s place to investigate, her parents had told him they came to Chennai because of a threat in Mumbai. But he never looked into it much as they claimed they didn’t have any problems with that now. He suddenly felt that the missing part of the puzzle lay in her house! And he rushed there.

At Shweta’s house, her mother was still very emotional. She was crying when he entered. Her father was talking with two other people. Seeing Shakthi, he excused himself and came over to him. Shakthi wanted to know more about the incident in Mumbai and why they came to Chennai.

Shweta’s father briefed him again. He was a partner in a small firm manufacturing brake parts. His other partner betrayed and Shweta’s dad was left to rot. The money lender had threatened him to pay his money back or face the consequences. He had threatened to kidnap his daughter. The man had sent over a guy to their home and he threatened to take Shweta away with him. Mr. Rao managed to re-pay him with everything he had left with him, including his house and fled to Chennai with his family. And they hadn’t faced any threat from that person since.

Shakthi wanted to search Shweta’s room. Why he wanted to do it even he didn’t know. His brain commanded him. And he decided to go ahead. Mr. Rao didn’t object.

There were nothing much to find in her room. It was very clean and everything was in order. Finally, he checked her computer table. That was also in order. Not even a piece of paper was out of place. When he tried lifting the keyboard, he noticed something behind the monitor! He removed it from its place. It was a brown cover wrapped inside a plastic cover. When he opened the brown cover, he found inside that, two dozen papers. It was all dated and arranged chronologically starting from the oldest. The first one was dated three years back! It was written and signed in Hindi! Shakthi read it. It said, “I am here. You can’t try to escape me. I will get you somehow. Have this in mind. You are mine.” And it was signed, “Pankaj”. The remaining letters too conveyed the same. The last few letters were dated very recently. Three months back! And it contained Shiva’s name too! Pankaj had asked Shweta to stay away from Shiva!

Now it all made sense!! Pankaj was the ‘muscle’ man Shakthi was looking for. He had Shweta in his hold now. Mr. and Mrs. Rao were left speechless! Shweta had shouldered this threat all alone for just one reason; her parents’ happiness! Her mother started weeping uncontrollably. Shakthi’s mind raced. What should he do next?? He called up his friend in Mumbai and asked him to check out on the money lender who threatened Mr. Rao’s family. Time was running out. He had to act fast. Or the girl would be lost…

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chapter Twenty Seven

Shakthi went over to the office of the service provider of the number from which Shiva had received the message. He explained to its head the complexity of the situation. The man hesitated at first. Then Shakthi’s repeated request melted him. He agreed to do it. And it would take at least that evening to have the snooping device in place. And he wanted Shakthi to get some sort of approval from someone higher up in the echelon. Shakthi agreed to that.

Three hours after he had called his friend in Mumbai, he got the call back from him. His friend was a police too in Mumbai. He had questioned the money lender and it had turned out that the money lender had threatened them just to make Mr. Rao pay. He had even sent them a letter of apology to them after they reached Chennai but that letter was returned back to him. The money lender, Rishi, had shown Shakthi’s friend that letter. And the threats on Mr.Rao’s family were made with the help of a man named Pankaj. He was an occupant of Rishi’s house and was used at times to scuffle up people who refused to pay their loans in time.

But Pankaj too had left the place a month after Mr. Rao moved out. And Rishi hadn’t heard from him since. Shakthi’s friend, Inspector Kumar, managed to get a photo of Pankaj though. It was a photo Pankaj had taken with Rishi. And Kumar agreed to have it faxed to Shakthi’s police station.

Shakthi was very pleased with the developments that morning. He got the feeling he was closing in on the suspect. The rest of the day was not as fruitful as it was in the morning.

Shiva in the meanwhile continued thinking of the good times with his friends and Shweta. And was also thinking of the prospects of seeing her again and how he would react when he sees her.

Shweta in the mean while was being transported to Cochin along with Pankaj. Her hands and feet were bound and her mouth gagged. She had eaten heavily that morning. Fatigue was consuming her. But she didn’t want to give up. She felt someone would come to her rescue. And she needed to take care of herself before that.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Chapter Twenty Eight

Shakthi went home and prepared to sleep. He slept well that night after a long time. He had a lot of dreams. When he woke up in the morning he remembered some of the dreams and one of them was fresh in his memory. He had dreamt of shooting down birds in some hill side. He didn’t know why he got such a dream. He had never thought of shooting birds!

As walked over to his desk to pick up his things and was preparing to start his day, his sight fell on the pencil-scribbled-paper in which he found the letters “SR P”. Two birds… He kept wondering what those two birds could signify. Then he remembered his dream. Birds… Birds fly… “SR” may refer to Shweta Rao. Then what about “P”? Was it ‘P’ for Pankaj?? It made sense. And the pieces began to fall in place again! Shweta and Pankaj were to fly somewhere! They were going to use the plane! Shweta was indeed a very clever girl! She knew she couldn’t afford to make any visible marking in the building where she was being held. Her captors would notice it. So she made the scratch and had hoped it would be found eventually! And her hope had been answered!

But where were they flying to? From where were they flying? He had to know the place!

As though his question was being answered, his mobile phone vibrated. He picked it up. It was from the service provider. They had some good news for him. The guy who spoke asked why Shakthi hadn’t answered the call in the night. He realized how big a fool he had been! He had slept with his mobile in its vibrating mode and he hadn’t felt it while sleeping! The guy had tried calling him at night, but in vain. The information he carried was, there was a call that had originated from the mobile he wanted to trace. The call was too short for them to start the recording process. It had lasted for just six seconds. But they had been able to locate the place from which that call had originated. It was from Cochin!

Shakthi was on top of the moon hearing this! This could be it! He was confident he wouldn’t miss Pankaj this time around! But what confirmation did he have that they were going to Cochin? The call could have originated from there and Pankaj could be in any place. But something above all that feeling made Shakthi feel Pankaj was in Cochin! He trusted his instincts. It had saved his life on more than one occasion.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Chapter Twenty Nine

Shakthi went to Shweta’s house and borrowed from Mr. Rao, a recent photograph of Shweta. He then called up the Cochin airport and briefed them the gravity of the situation. He then faxed them the photos of Shweta and Pankaj and also informed that Shweta might be injured and requested them to have a medical team standing by. If caught, he wanted them to detain the girl and the man in the Airport Security’s confines till he reached there. He made the same request to the Chennai and Coimbatore airport officials as well. Pankaj could not have managed to go any farther within that short period unless he had decided to travel for more than fifteen hours at a stretch. But that sounded absurd especially with the girl in his custody. He could not risk being caught by the highway patrol if his vehicle had to be checked. And bus or train travel was out of question.

Shakthi along with his deputy boarded a flight to Cochin. It would take them just about one hour to reach there.

Half way through, one of the flight attendant called Shakthi over to the captain’s cabin. It was something important. When Shakthi reached there he was informed that there was a message from the Cochin airport control room. The flight captain had been instructed to tell Shakthi that the baggage had been secured!

He had not expected to hear this! It all was over! He had done it! It was an anti-climax! It had got over so soon! He returned back to his seat and informed his deputy that the hunt was over and they could return back with the heist!

As soon as they got out of the plane, Shakthi and his deputy rushed to the Airport’s security room. They were greeted by a yawning guy at the desk. Shakthi had expected more security personnel to be present. But there were only two other men, each one standing next to a separate door. Shakthi showed the guy at the desk his ID and asked where the girl was. The guy pointed at the door to the left and asked man standing next to it to open the door for Shakthi.

Shakthi entered the room. It was a small room that had been cleared hastily to make it a cell to hold someone temporarily. Shweta was sitting near the window, looking out of it. She turned hearing the door open and saw Shakthi enter. She stared at him for a while and resumed looking out of the window. Shakthi stopped in his tracks. What had happened to the girl? She didn’t appear normal. She was pale and she stared blankly. He called out her name. She didn’t respond to that either. Shakthi walked over to her. He kneeled in front of her and held Shweta by her chin. She didn’t look back at him. Her body was burning with fever. She remained seated like a zombie.

Shakthi got up and walked over to his deputy. His deputy then went to Shweta and tried talking to her. Even he wasn’t able to make her react. Shakthi wanted to inform Shweta’s parents that she had been found. He slid out his mobile from his pocket. But there was no signal inside that room. As he started walking out of the room, his deputy called him. Shakthi turned back and saw his deputy holding Shweta’s hand. He walked back to the girl and saw what his deputy had seen. Needle marks! She had been drugged! He was surprised that the people who secured her hadn’t noticed that! She needed immediate attention.

Shakthi let his deputy take care of Shweta and walked to the other door which was guarded by another man. The guard opened it. Shakthi chewed his gum harder. He told to himself that he had to remain cool. He wanted to break Pankaj’s neck. Shakthi clenched his fist and bit his teeth. Trying hard not to lose his temper, he entered the room. And when his sight fell on the room’s occupant, his eyes popped out! It was someone else! It was not Pankaj! Had they caught the wrong person?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Chapter Thirty

Shakthi exited the room and walked over to the guy at the desk and spoke to him in an irritated tone. He demanded why he had been misinformed. The guy was taken by surprise. He regained his composure and replied politely that they caught this man when he had escorted Shweta towards the check-in. They knew this was not the man and they were still looking for Pankaj.

Shakthi slammed his fist on the desk and went to the room at the left. Shakthi knew he didn’t have the time to make the captured man talk. It would take at least an hour before he breaks up and starts talking. Shakthi went back to the guy at the desk and apologized for his outbreak. He then asked him who was in-charge of the situation. He was told Mr. Menon was the one he had to approach.

Shakthi ran downstairs and scanned the area. He felt his left belly. His gun was missing! He remembered where it was and cursed the Airport guys. They hadn’t let him take it in the plane when he had boarded the plane at Chennai.

The Airport was mostly empty. There was not much activity in the inside. Outside though was pretty busy with people waiting to see their loved ones arrive. He walked out. He knew he had to scan every face in the crowd. He knew the face alone didn’t matter. He had to look for anything out of place. Any reaction in the face, any hasty movement, any over exaggerated reaction or anything else that was not normal. He walked slowly, observing everything around him. Everything appeared normal. Where was Pankaj? He was supposed to be there. If he was not there, then who was supposed to travel with Shweta? Was it the guy who was caught along with her? Shakthi was beginning to feel bad about this. Had his instincts misled him?

He didn’t want to give up. He wanted to be absolutely sure Pankaj was not here. He continued searching. He went to the car park. There were quite a few cars. He looked into every one of it as he walked past it. He didn’t find anything there either. He returned back to the lounge. Shakthi spotted a lot of police in disguise trying to monitor everyone inside the lounge.

He went over to one of the chairs and sat down. He wanted to get back his thoughts. He knew he could not afford to relax. Still he wanted a minute for himself. He closed his eyes and thought of nothing. It was interrupted by a nasal voice crackling through the speaker over head, announcing that the check-in for the Mumbai bound flight would end in five minutes. He turned around and saw a group of tourists rushing to the check-in at the last moment. He was beginning to feel he had made a mistake. Pankaj was not here. But he was able to rescue the girl at least. He felt happy about that.

Shakthi remained seated. He was beginning to feel restless. He stared at the balcony railing above him. He saw a couple leaning against it. The young lady’s ear ring was visible to him even from this distance. He was not able to see it clearly though. He squint his eyes to get a glimpse of its shape. As he did this, another shape came to his mind. The ‘trishul’! He had seen it some time back. But where had he seen it? He remembered seeing it just a few moments back but it hadn’t struck him when he saw it. Where was it? After fighting for some time with his brain, it came to him. He had seen it when he was in the car park. He had seen it through the front windscreen of a car. It was a sticker stuck to the windscreen at that car’s back. He then remembered Shiva’s description of the car that had attacked Shweta and him. Was it a coincidence? Was it another car carrying the same sticker? A renewed hope filled Shakthi’s mind. He suddenly felt confident that his instincts hadn’t misled him. He ought to find Pankaj here. He WAS here. Shakthi sensed it.