Wednesday, January 25, 2017

TRUST - A Short Story.

Wilson almost fell off his chair. He had a friend request from 'her.' Did she know? Did she know that he had been stalking her on Facebook? Does Facebook suggest you as a friend when you stalk someone?? Wilson knew so little about Facebook. He had no photos up on his profile because he didn't know how to upload them, and he never tried to figure it out because the only reason he was on Facebook was so that he can stalk Jesse. But all she had set to 'public' on her profile were the 5 profile pictures, all portraits of herself, with no sign of her husband in them. Wilson hovered over the 'accept friend request' button for a moment before accepting the request. Now he could see her entire wall. All her statuses. All her sad, depressed statuses. What he felt was a mixture of emotions. A tinge of sadness that was being quickly overwhelmed by a sense of excitement. Her marriage seemed to be on the rocks. There were vague statuses about how she felt lonely and about trust issues. And not even a single mention of her husband in any of them. Wilson suddenly wanted to get back with her. Screw her marriage, he thought. He and her were always meant to be together. But he forced himself back to reality. Sure, he and Jesse were in a relationship for more than 5 years. Sure, they were going to get married, but they broke up a year ago. She wanted to honor her parents' wishes and marry someone they found for her who they thought was more 'suitable' to be her husband. And 6 months ago, Wilson himself was forced by his family to get married. Wilson, who had never been on Facebook, signed up just so that he can stalk Jesse. At first, there were only 2 public profile pictures, and the 3 others showed up at random intervals. He had always logged into his Facebook account in his office so that his wife wont catch him looking at Jesse, but she eventually found out about it. After he married Sandy in an arranged marriage, he found it difficult to consummate their marriage. Whenever they attempted to do it, he would feel disconnected, unable to perform. He felt this was because he had always imagined it would be with Jesse that he would be sharing this intimate experience with. Jesse wanted to wait till they had gotten married before they had any form of physical intimacy. She was even part of an online purity ring movement. She had vowed not to have sex till she was married, and even ordered one of their rings online and wore it. At first, Wilson was horrified at his inability to perform, but Sandy seemed surprisingly understanding, assuring him it was just the nerves. Wilson began to struggle with his emotions, and then his close friend suggested him a solution: "Imagine its Jesse you are making love to." Wilson was skeptical about this advice, but that night, it worked. A few weeks later, in the middle of their love-making, Wilson called Sandy 'Jesse.' What followed were a few days of unrelentless questioning about who 'Jesse' was. Finally, to put to rest the suspicions that he was having an affair, he told her the truth. He told her about his relationship with Jesse. He also told her about how his friend had suggested the brilliant idea of imagining she was Jesse. "I wanted to sleep with my chemistry professor when I was in college," Sandy interrupted. A few moments of awkward silence followed. Was this a test? Was he supposed to say something? "What....?" "I want you to role-play him, and I will be your Jesse," she quipped. Wilson had slowly fallen in love with Sandy. A week ago, he realized he was no longer imagining her to be Jesse while having sex, but he didn't admit this to Sandy yet. Not even when Sandy joined a dancing class because he had told her how Jesse was a dancer. At night, she would come into their room dressed the way Jesse was in her public profile pictures. Yes, Wilson had shown her Jesse's Facebook pictures. Its like she completely understood him and never judged him no matter what. And Wilson realized that he was not prepared to give this up, not even for Jesse. Wilson stopped scrolling through her statuses and closed the browser. The next day, Wilson couldn't resist and checked her Facebook wall again. She had not replied to his message, but had put up more statuses on how depressed she was, how her trust had been broken. Wilson felt a tinge of guilt. Was she talking about him now? She knew that now he could read her statuses. Were these for him? May be she had expected him to fight for her harder after the breakup. May be he gave up too easily. "Hi, how are you?" he messaged her. He checked it in the evening before he left his office. There was still no reply. He downloaded the app to his phone so that he can be notified in case she replies to him. Luckily, Sandy had taken his mind off her when she turned up that night in her dancing class attire with a huge gold plated designer necklace on. He remembered showing her one of Jesse's photos that was taken right after she had taken part in a dance competition, and Sandy had gotten the look pretty much spot on. "Do you like it?" she said, seductively. Wilson realized he was grinning like a kid. By the next day, there was still no reply from Jesse, and there was no activity on her wall. Then at noon, she posted the following: "I have had my trust broken too many times. Its time to end it. To end it all." Wilson was alarmed by this. What does she mean to end it all? Her marriage? Her life?? He knew Jesse suffered from depression. He quickly sent her another message, "Jesse, is everything alright?" No answer. An hour later, there was a like and few comments on the status, but no response from her so far. Wilson finally remembered that he had the number of one of her friends. He called her up and asked her about Jesse only to be said, "Wilson... she's... she's gone." "What do you mean she's gone?" "She's dead," she said. It took Wilson about 30 minutes to grab hold of a friend who knew Jesse's present address and get there. Just like the girl on the phone had said, there were cops in the house. Wilson walked inside the gate only to be stopped by a cop at the door. "I was.. am her friend," Wilson said. A guy who stood inside, turned to look at him, jumped at him and punched him right across his face. Wilson stumbled down, dazed. The cop grabbed and held the guy back, but he kept shouting, "Its him! I know it was him!! He loved her, but she married me! This is his revenge!!" Another cop walked to Wilson and helped him up saying, "Come in, I have some questions for you." Wilson was too confused to say anything and just followed him. What happened here?? He walked with the cop into the living room and saw Jesse's lifeless body on the floor. He felt a lump in his throat.
"Sir, this could just be a burglary gone wrong," one of the cops said.
"And the neighbor told us she heard her shout 'thief' a few times. She said she heard it about 10 minutes before she came over and found the body," another cop added. The cop who accompanied Wilson to the living room, knelt down beside the body and took a closer look at her. Another cop was checking out her laptop on the table nearby. He opened a folder with pictures in them, and he began to scroll through them one by one. "I dont think this was just a burglary gone wrong. If it was, she might have been stabbed, or say hit with something to incapacitate her so they may get away, but this..... " he pointed his finger around Jesse's bruised neck, "this is personal. Someone wanted to kill her. He took the time to squeeze her neck till she died. We are talking about a crime of passion here." "It was a burglary!!" the husband said storming into the room. Everybody turned to look at him. "Things have been going missing from our house for the last couple of months. Jesse knew it was somebody she was close to. I had been on a business trip for the last 4 days, but yesterday she told me over the phone that she finally found out who the thief was." "And...? Who was it?" the cop said. "I dont know, she didn't tell me," the husband said, with a tinge of disappointment in his voice. Wilson's eyes caught something in the photos on the laptop that the cop kept scrolling through. The pictures were of Jesse along with her friends from her dance classes. And what caught Wilson's eyes were the recent selfies taken by Jesse with her arm around Sandy.
- Rejo John

Sunday, January 22, 2017




For the past hour or so, Shankar had been tossing around on his bed.  His wife slept like a log.  The barks echoed in the bedroom.  It would stop momentarily and when he would begin to finally fall asleep, it would start again.

The damn dog!!

Shankar jumped out of the bed.  He marched to the toilet and took out the half empty packet of rat poison stashed away in the cupboard.  He fetched some raw chicken from the refridgerator and proceeded to push the powdered poison into a pocket he created in the meat.

"What are you doing?" his wife said who stood near the door, watching him, stunned.


The first time, Shankar had tried mixing the poison and spreading it on a piece of bread, but the dog must not have eaten it.  May be the dog doesn't like bread.  But chiken, he was sure the dog would love it.

Shankar continued to ignore his wife and finished pushing the poison into the meat, then walked over to their bedroom balcony.  The short trip made him short of breath.  He hated his expanding mid section, but he didn't mind it anymore.  After all, he turned 53 last month.

He leaned out of the balcony and prepared to throw the parcel into the next balcony where the dog continued to bark.  He stopped.  The balcony now had a metal mesh covering it.

Shit.  His neighbours must have found the poisoned bread and put it up.  Frustrated, Shankar threw the meat at the balcony anyway.  It bounced off the mesh and dissappeared as it began its journey 10 stories down to the ground below.

"Lets just close the windows.  It wouldn't be loud then," his wife suggested from behind.
"The windows are already closed!" he shouted walking back to the bed.

Luckily, the dog had stopped barking after sometime, and he could finally get some sleep.  He woke up to find that it was 8 a.m.  He was late for office.  He was never late.  He woke his wife up and started getting ready.
"Dad, the card is maxed out," his son, who was in his late 20s, and spent his days partying around, said.
"Ya.. ya.. I will put in some money into your account today," Shankar said absentmindedly as he picked up his laptop.
"Can I have one of your cards? I need to be going somewh....."
"Ya.. ya... here." Shankar said quickily handing him a card from his wallet.

A few minutes later, Shankar was in his car.  It was 8:45.  Normally, he would be in the office by 8:30 before his team even arrived.  He wanted his team to be in the office by 9.  If they came in late, he would mark the day as absent.  If anybody took an uninformed leave, he would mark them as 2 days absent.  He was one of the most feared team manager in his company.  But today, it seemed like he himself would be late, something that hadn't happened atleast in the past decade of his career.

He took a chance in one of those little roads away from the congested main roads.  A bike came into view without warning, and Shankar turned sharply to avoid it.  A second later, his car had smashed into an electric pole.  His face was pushed into an airbag.  He quickly sat up pushing the airbag away.  He saw the bike guy accelerating with quick backward looks at him and his car.  Shankar shouted at him, but the bike had already dissapeared around the corner.  The front side of the car seemed to be severely damaged.  It was at that moment that he noticed from the corner of his eye, one of his front wheels gently rolling away from his car on its own.

After calling up his mechanic, Shankar hailed a cab.  He was already late and things were made even worse by the stupid cab guy going right into the main road in the middle of the morning rush traffic.  Another hour later, Shankar was at the office.

He felt a tinge of shame as he walked into his floor.  He could feel everybody's judging eyes on him.  That's when he remembered.  Shit.  He had forgotten to take his hypertension, diabetic, and cardiac medications.  But no worry, he thought, I would send one of the office boys to fetch me some from the local pharmacy.  That's when he caught Arjun glaring at him, judging him.  Shankar glared back at him.  Normally, people would turn away if they were stared at by their bosses, but not Arjun.

"Whats the matter??!" Shankar barked at Arjun.  Arjun managed a difficult account that nobody would even touch.  He was basically indisposable.  The truth was, he needed Arjun.  The management needed Arjun.  And to make matters worse, Arjun had a very sarcastic, careless attitude when it came to his superiors.

"Nothing.  Its just that, you are..... you know, late," Arjun said.
"I was in a meeting with the other managers," Shankar said immediately.
"But I noticed all the managers in their offices at 9," Arjun shot back.  Some of the employees nearby suppressed their laughter.

Shankar could feel the blood pulsating in his head, but he had to stay calm.  He pretended like he didn't hear what Arjun had said and walked into his office.

He decided he was going to write the HR a mail.  Tell her that it was high time we trained some people in the account that Arjun worked on.  May be hire some new more experienced employees who can do the work so that he can then fire his ass.

In his office, as soon as he opened his laptop, a notification popped up in the corner stating he had 8 unread mails.  The first mail that caught his attention was the one from the CEO.  The mail was CC'ed to all the managers and also CC'ed to that asshole Vikram.  Vikram was in his early 30's and eyeing for Shankar's position.  Shankar had felt an increasing pressure to perform these last few years, almost as if the management wants him to fall back, so that they can fire him and replace him with their pet, Vikram.  Shankar forced himself to concentrate on the mail.  It stated that the filings for Ajmax Inc had to be submitted by 12 noon at the earliest.  Ajmax was Arjun's account.  Shankar decided he would let Arjun know about the urgency...... Shankar saw something through his office transparent glass wall that made him rush out of his office.

Arjun was standing and packing up his bag in a frenzy.

"What the f.... hell are you doing?" Shankar almost shouted at Arjun.  Arjun disregarded him and continued to frantically put things into his bag and started to rush towards the exist.  Everybody turned to look at what was happening.  Shankar rushed to the exist from the other side and reached it in time to stop Arjun.  He was surprised himself at how fast he moved.

"Where are you going?? Ajmax fillings is due by noon!!" Shankar shouted.
"Listen, Mr. Shankar, I just got a call that my wife has been in an accident, and I need to go."
The blood drained from Shankar's face.  Shit.  This was it.  He was going to lose his job.  That asshole Vikram will take over his office with a smug look on his face.  And he will have to spend the rest of his life getting turned down at interviews because he's too old or too experienced.

"I.... I can't let you go!" Shankar was now standing between him and the door and pushing him away.
"I dont care! I quit!!" Arjun said throwing his ID card on the floor.
"No! You can't! You still have to serve your notice period! I want you to go back and finish the fillings on Ajmax righ......"

Arjun charged at Shankar like a bull.  Shankar's heavy frame turned out to be too hard for Arjun to take on and he struggled.  Shankar wrestled back, and it became a test of strength.  A moment later, both had fallen on the ground.  A rage came over Shankar and he punched Arjun on his face.  While Arjun covered his face in pain, Shankar gingerly stood up, his hand hurting.  But as soon as he was up, Arjun jumped up and charged at Shankar again.  Shankar was pushed back up against the table with the copying machine on it.  He grabbed the copy machine and smashed it on Arjun's head.

The gasps that had been brewing for sometime turned into screams.  Someone screamed.  Someone was calling the cops.

A couple of hours later, Shankar was taken to a station and put into a holding cell.  From what he heard, he knew that Arjun's injuries were fatal and that he would probalby die.  The security cameras in the office was damning evidence to the entire incident.

Shankar was alone in the cell.  It was very quiet.  He felt tired.  He knew that from that time forward, he was going to spend the rest of his life thinking and regretting about what he had done in those few life defining moments, but before he could finish that thought, he was fast asleep.
The best sleep he had had in more than 2 decades.


- Rejo John.




Saturday, January 14, 2017


4-year-old Tony saw her, standing there, waiting for her mother to pick her up.  None of their classmates were around them.  This was his opportunity.  He took out the folded piece of paper from his pocket.  In it, he had drawn a picture of her.  He had spent a lot of time working on it.  He had drawn as many as 6 strands of hair on her head which was a circle.

Earlier in the day, he had shown it to his friend.  Tony felt that this friend was the only sensible guy in his entire class.  The friend had looked at it, and said that the heart beside the picture was a nice touch, and also suggested that he write her name beside the drawing just in case she didn't realize it was her.  Tony felt it was a sensible suggestion.

Right now, just a few feet away from Kalyani, Tony stopped.  He noticed Ms. Divya standing nearby.  She was talking with a man and laughing until she noticed Tony.  Her expression suddenly turned stern.  She is becoming another hurdle, Tony thought.  It was like the universe was trying to keep Tony and Kalyani apart.  Just when Tony was gathering up enough courage to ignore Ms. Divya and hand over his drawing to Kalyani anyway, her mother came over and took her away.

Disappointed, Tony placed the drawing back into his pocket.  His sister who studied in the 6th grade came over with her nose up in the air and grabbed his hand and pulled him away.
"I will catch you guys tomorrow!" his sister said to her friends who stood hunched together in a group, gossiping.  It bothered Tony that his sister acted differently at different places.  At school, she acted like she didn't like him, but at home, she would be a caring and loving sister.  Grownups were complicated.

That night, Tony and his sister sat on the floor in front of the TV.  They were watching a romantic bollywood movie.  In the movie, a young couple were having a candle lit dinner, and the boy snaps his fingers and produces a rose out of thin air.  The girl gasps, then blushes, and receives the rose.

"Awwww.... so romantic! I wish my husband was just a itty bit romantic," they heard their mother say from the sofa behind them, cuddling up to his father.
"I heard candle fumes are unhealthy," his father said.
His mother playfully hit him.

Tony's sister turned to look at him with a blush.  Tony looked back at her with a blank stare.  She took out her phone and started typing something into it.  Tony tried to take a peek, but his sister shielded it away from him, and put it away.  A moment later, there was a chime, and she looked at the phone and blushed again.  Grownups are weird, Tony thought.

On the TV now, the girl's parents were dragging her away while she cried.  Tony could hear his mother sniff from the sofa behind him.  On the TV, the couple finally were united after running towards each other in slow motion.
"I wish somebody had asked my dad for my hand in marriage instead of just running away to the marriage registration office," Tony heard his mom say when they saw the hero asking the girl's dad for her hand in marriage.  Tony saw his dad roll his eyes, and get up and walk to the bedroom saying,
"Good night, kids."
His sister's phone chimed again.  She blushed again.

Next day, Tony noticed a rose on the rose plant in his mother's little house garden.  Making sure his mother wasn't watching, he carefully cut out.  He used a nail clipper to carefully cut out the thorns, then placed it in his bag.  Now he had to wait for some 'alone time' with Kalyani to give it to her.

The first 2 hours were spent by Ms. Divya teaching them numerals 80 through 90.  After that, they were taken to another room where there were no tables or chairs.  The walls were painted with colorful pictures of animals.  Here, they would sing nursery rhymes and dance in dull choreographed movements.

Tony felt this was stupid.  He never could make himself like these rhymes.  But Kalyani seemed to enjoy it.  And all his friends seemed to enjoy it.  Even his sensible friend sang along and did the motions with a smile plastered on his face, but Tony knew the truth.  A while ago, Tony had opened up about his feelings on the nursery rhymes to his sensible friend.  His sensible friend said that once he too had refused to take part in these practices, and he was beaten down into submission by his games and internet time being taken away.  He had finally decided to fake his way through it all.  He said it was easier to just pretend to enjoy it and be done with it than trying to fight against it.
"Its part of growing up.  You gotta do things you dont like," his sensible friend had said.

Suddenly, everybody stopped singing and looked at Kalyani.  She had fallen down.  Tony rushed to her and helped her up.  Gasps spread through the room.  The boys believed that the girls were beneath them.  They always made fun of them, mocked them.  The girls believed that the boys were beneath them.  The boys would get into fights and have dirt and mud over their uniforms all the time.  And now, a boy was helping a girl up, and he still held onto her arm.

"Tony, ewwwww!" his friends said in unison.

Almost on cue, all of Kalyani's friend crowded around her, giggling at her.

Tony let go of her arm in an instant and stood stunned.  Kalyani then shut her eyes and slowly opened her mouth and a cry escaped it that steadily grew in its volume.  Ms. Divya knelt down to her and tried to soothe her,
"Stop crying, kiddo.  Is this how you want to remember this place by?"

But Kalyani continued to cry and was now pointing at Tony.

"Oh, its him, is it? I will send him away," Ms. Divya said, and turned to give Tony a stern look and said,
"Go to the classroom, Tony!"

Tony felt hurt.  He walked out of the recreational room and went into the classroom.  He could still hear her crying, and it made him feel really sad.  After some time, the crying had stopped, and the nursery rhymes resumed.

Tony remembered the rose.  He had stumbled upon another opportunity.  He took out the rose and placed it on her desk, and waited for them to come back.

About 10 minutes later, the rest of the class filled the room.  From the corner of his eyes, Tony could see Kalyani going to her desk and picking up the rose.  He could see her smelling it.  He could see and hear one of her friends trying to touch it, and she turned away with it and held it close to her heart.  Tony realized he was blushing.  May be accepting the rose was her way of saying thank you.  May be today will be the day he will give her his drawing and seal the deal.  The bell rang, and Kalyani along with others rushed out.

Even though Tony tried to catch up with her, he lost her in the sea of students.  He accidentally walked into his sister who was talking to a boy her age.  She was blushing and talking in a strange voice.  But as soon as she saw Tony, she sighed and said with her old tone of voice,
"Oh, my brother is here."
"Fine! I will message you later," the boy said.
"Cool!" she said with a wide smile.  Tony had never heard her use that word before.

Next day, Tony found one of Kalyani's friends sitting in Kalyani's seat, and there was no sign of Kalyani anywhere.

During snack time, Tony confronted the friend.
"Kalyani, told me I can use her seat," she said.
"Where is she?" Tony said.
"She said shes going away."
"Going away? Wher....."
"Listen! I dont want anybody to see us talking, okay?" with that, the girl walked away leaving Tony lost for words.

Tony would spend the rest of the day in a daze.  He felt like his insides had turned hollow.

That evening, his parents dropped him and his sister at their grandparent's house.  His parents were going to have a candle lit dinner at a restaurant.  Even though his mom was excited, his dad looked like he was being dragged into it.

Tony had fallen asleep in their room and was awoken by his sister yelling into her phone.
"Its over!! Dont talk to me ever again!!" she shouted and threw her phone at the floor.
She spent a moment staring at the floor at her broken phone, then she turned around and, almost as if just realizing that Tony was in the room, said in her caring voice,
"Oh! Did I wake you up?  I am soo sorry."  She rushed to him and adjusted his blanket over him.  She was smiling, but her face was red and her eyes watery.
"Its okay.  Go back to sleep," she said gently.  Tony took a leaf from his sensible friend's book and pretended like he had gone to sleep.  Grownups are crazy, he thought.

Next day in school, Ms. Divya was teaching them the numerals 101 through 110 when she was interrupted by someone at the door.  A man was excusing himself and requesting a word with her.  As Tony watched, bored, he noticed someone peeking into the classroom below the man.  It was Kalyani.  Tony couldn't make out for sure if she was looking at him, but before he can be sure, she had disappeared again.  Along with her, the man and Ms. Divya had walked out of the room.  A low murmur started to grow in decibels in the class as the kids started to chat, sing songs, and say random stuff that came to their minds.

Tony knew this was another opportunity that the universe had granted him.  He took out the folded piece of paper from his bag and walked out of the classroom.  Outside, he noticed Ms. Divya talking to Kalyani's mother and the man who Tony guessed was Kalyani's father.  And Kalyani stood next to them.

Then something happened.  Kalyani started running towards him.  Tony stopped, stunned.  He could almost see her running towards him in slow motion.  A moment later, she had ran past him and towards the girl's toilet.

"Tony! What are you doing away from your desk??" Ms. Divya shouted bringing Tony back to his senses.

His first impulse was to run back to his classroom, but he stood his ground.  He had to do this.  If he couldn't give this to Kalyani, the least he could do was to make sure she got it somehow.

He walked over to Kalyani's mother and handed her the folded piece of paper with his drawing in it and said, "Please give this to Kalyani."
Her mother didnt say anything, but took the paper with a curious look on her face.

Tony felt relieved.  After giving a look of defiance at Ms. Divya, he turned around to walk back to his classroom, but stopped.  He realized the universe had granted him yet another opportunity.  He turned back to face Kalyani's parents again and said,
"I would like your permission to marry your daughter."


- Rejo John.

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