A Reality without a Shadow- A mist descending.

Maya does not love being helpless. It’s the last thing she prefers to be. She closed her eyes, and tried to calm herself down, pressing her eyelids hard, as if desperately trying to erase the gloominess that is slowly crippling her. She knew something else was going on. She instinctively opened her eyes. There he was, with a wide baby-faced grin. She never fails to notice that. “Prakash!” she exploded.

“I just thought I shouldn’t bother your meditation, or whatever it is,” he replied. “You gave a bloody start,” she said, as her left hand caressed her heart slowly. Prakash was still smiling. “Won’t you stop smiling? Even at a time like this? For god’s sake man,” she reached out to fetch a brown file from the right side of her desk, and opened. She released a weak sigh, and with that landed her head on the table, cupped by her arms. “Haiyo,” she groaned with skirmish, almost girlish face. “You look so Indian when you do that,” he said, now seated on the chair across the table. He pulled the file to his side of the desk, from under her buried face; and flipped around for his viewing. “Intriguing,” he said. Her face scorched up. She shot him a venomous look. “I swear…,” she started. He immediately grabbed the file, stood up, and walked to the door. “I’ll study it at my own peaceful desk, without an angry but beautiful monster to contend with across the desk, and come back to you when I have something to share,” he said, half sarcastically, and disappeared in no time.

Maya sighed. She needed help. And there’s only one person she would call now to ask for that help.

“Damn,” she said, walking to and fro the sofa once again, as Yuva sat calmly, watching with a slight grin. She stopped and looked at me. “Is that a guy thing or what?” she asked, exasperated. “What is?” he asked back curiously. “You are doing it just like him, smiling while I’m baking myself here,” she said. “Who, may I know?” Yuva took interest in this new diversion this conversation was having. His smile got wider. “Shut up and solve this issue for me, at least help me solve it,” she snapped. He wanted to know more, his interest definitely lies in the other topic now. She raised him and stopped him before he could even ask anything further. He knew she would not answer, and sighed. “Ok, I’ll do it, which idiot can commit murders and think he’s smart enough to escape my glances?” he started walking, and grabbed his sling bag. “It might be a woman you know,” she said ignorantly. “You feminist,” he retorted. “You chauvinist,” she said, and accompanied it with a mocking giggle.

Yuva walked down the pavement, and while he was at it, decided that he would at least have a look at the file one more time, to see how really he can help Maya with this new mysterious case. He took the clippings out of his bag, and munching a bread, read whatever that has been written, said and found about the case so far. The enthusiasm with which he took the file out of his sling bag soon dissipated as he tried to read further. He immediately closed the file, place it back where it came from, grabbed a chair at a café he was passing by, and took his seat. He steadied himself, and that temporary chagrin at not being able to comprehend the case was erased as he returned to his normal playful smile. “So?” he asked enthusiastically across the table. Sipping on a cup of coffee, looking all worn out and tired with a sling bag of her own; was Priyanka. She hesitated a moment, but continued sipping her drink right after that. She placed the cup down and looked at him. “Want a drink?” she asked. A small sarcastic smile appeared in his face, and she did not have anything to say about the smile that she obviously had noticed either.

“Deviation. The oldest trick in the book,” he said, tapping his fingers on the glass table. “It’s only been a week, please do not speculate,” she said, though not dropping any other concrete hint either way. “And this is our third date already,” he finally got himself to order something to drink as well. “Please, don’t…”

“You have to admit it Priya, it is a date, the previous two were dates,” he kept plugging on the issue. He needed to hear something concrete from her side. “You are being extremely impatient,” she said, letting off a sigh in exasperation. Yuva looked at her, but he knew that she was being persistent. She would not come forward to clear the air about what she actually thinks can happen between them. How far she likes him? How far does she think this can go? She won’t tell, because she’s not sure for herself yet first of all. But was Yuva sure? Is he sure how far he believes this can go?

“You are sweating,” he said, slowly, as if not trying to offend her. He knew the rules. No sweet talking allowed. He adhered to the rules in the first two dates. But he had to say this. “You look quite horrid, your hair’s all messed up,” he added, as she looked intriguingly at him. “You might have done that on purpose so that I’d leave you alone. Or maybe it is the way you are after a tiring day at work, dancing your ass off,” Yuva wasn’t about to pause what he already started. “But,” he had to look in her eyes when he says this. He forces himself to keep focused. “But, I still like looking at you, something so charming about you still. I know you are neither the best dancer nor the prettiest. But I do know that I can’t take my eyes off you, and that’s why we are here now.”

With that, Yuva took a quick sip at the cup of tea that was just served in front of him. The drink burned his tongue, but Yuva allowed it to go on, and only stopped after emptying half a glass. He looked at her, she seemed calm. He was defeated. How could she be unmoved by his carefully constructed words? Is it because he broke the rules? “By the way, I wasn’t sweet talking. I was just being honest,” he said before that matter could even be raised by her. Her expression did not change. Yuva can feel restlessness consuming him to the core. He stood from the chair. He tried to say something, but walked away. No words, nothing. Priya turned to her right, away from the direction in which he was walking, and a wide grin appeared on her face. She tried hard to cover it with her hands. Her right hand reached out for the cup of tea Yuva just drank from. She touched the cup from outside to feel the heat. The grin re-appeared. “Looks like somebody’s shy afterall,” she whispered to herself.

When Maya glanced at her office, she knew for a certainty that today would be a horrid day. She hasn’t slept all night long, and this case that has been taking her sleep away must definitely put to rest sooner rather than later. Her eyes were burning.

“Maya,” Prakash was standing in her way as she wanted to head to her desk. She looked up at him. She neither could ask him anything nor tell him off as she usually does. “A third one has happened today,” he said, ending her misery. It’s now descending into a full blown professional nightmare.

To be continued…

A Reality Without a Shadow- Stars.

Yuva hates crowds. And he despises himself for he had gotten into this mess by his own will, not due to anyone forcing him to do so. “You wanted entertainment, and you got it,” Naresh said, noticing the beleaguered look on Yuva’s face as he starred at the gate with utter discomfort. Naresh’s smile was bordering on sarcasm. Yuva reached out for a bunch of papers he almost left behind in the car- they were his treasure. He did not entertain Naresh’s teases; he proceeded slowly ahead to fulfill his task.

Are, the door!” Naresh shouted as Yuva began to walk. “The door, who’s going to close it, your grandfather?” he continued, louder. “I don’t have one,” Yuva replied nonchalantly and disappeared into the crowd parked right outside that one big gate that nests under a humungous sign- AVM. Yuva could still hear Naresh uttering profanity as he had to get out of his driver’s seat to close the backdoor, and drove away. Yuva knew it’ll be a very long time before Naresh would volunteer to give him a ride again.

The crowd was Yuva’s biggest nightmare, something that he utterly hates- but being in his profession, he doesn’t have a gun anymore, to just show the people that they have to make way for him, but now he is someone who is after information just as much as many other in the crowd- to win his bread and butter. Why did he insist that he wants to cover an entertainment news for today? All these went in his head, as he, like a hero diving into a pool of mud, nose closed, in order to retain a diamond or a pearl dropped at the bed of the lake, instinctively ‘dived’ into the crowd, pushing and shoving his way through, but all the time making sure his grip on the stack of notes in his hands remain strong- not a single paper he could afford to drop.

And as if the gates of heaven open when you start knocking on it, the gate opened, right at the moment when Yuva was about to reach to front end of the crowd, he finally slowed down and took a breather as the swoosh of crowd left him behind. He panted. “Damn Aishwarya Rai,” he muttered himself, feeling lucky that he was not assigned to be part of this incessant madness and obsession with India’s most popular female face. He made his way around the studio, wondering as to how much a significance this studio is for local Indians. Having spent almost his entire livelihood as an American, in a somewhat experimental capacity- he does not understand the essence of this place, yet. Thinking back, he feels he does not understand the essence of neither India or America. He was India’s child who was given away to America so that he become a guinea pig for someone’s smart idea of solving police inefficiency issues in India; and while he was raised in America, he was never the American son- he was always the Indian son under temporary American shelter. A shelter that lasted 21 years.

He had now reached where he wanted to go. He cared less about Aishwarya Rai, and more about this debutant actress who happens to be performing for a song in this very same studio. Away from all the hype, if that actress had even felt a pint of jealousy that ‘Ash’ is stealing all the attention away from her; Yuva will be her compensation package for the day. Yuva knew, when he walked in to interview her, that he would never volunteer to cover an entertainment news again. Navigating through a crowd during a political or social matter that does have significance to the bread and butter of the people does make sense, but doing the same to just get a glimpse of a film star doesn’t.

The studio was almost empty, except for the few dancers, the directors and all the what-nots that are needed to make a song in this industry. The actress was about to perform, so Yuva had to wait. He took a seat after much hesitation, as the seat very much looked like a seat that belonged to a director, a producer or someone important for the film- maybe the actress herself. But he was tired for the hassle he went through at the front gate. An office boy (Yuva could identify this seeing a white cloth draped on his shoulder, with an empty tiffin plate on his hands- obviously having just served someone in the set) turned around and looked curiously at him. “Are..” he started, obviously pointing in Yuva’s direction. But Yuva had a wonderful memoir that he managed to sneak years ago; and occasionally uses it just for the knack of it. He produces his badge, puts up a stern face, and utters, “Police, go do your work.” The boy scrambles off without much ado. The respect policemen get sometimes, heaven. The boy stopped at the door, turned around and looked at Yuva. He was apparently waiting silently until Yuva would glance towards him so that he can say something. Once Yuva did, the boy pointed out his thumb, towards his mouth, nodding mildly. Yuva knew what he was asking about, and nodded. He had gotten a tea without much hassle.

It was about an hour or so that Yuva was sitting there and watching these individuals dance, and Yuva was prepared to do all the waiting that he has been doing. The started scribbling on his papers, after making sure not even one of them is missing. He glanced up occasionally, ogled at the skimpily dressed actress and dancers, and went back to his paperwork. Peculiarly, he found himself not ogling at the actress as he generally thought should be the case, but found his eyes rather locked on one back-up dancer; she was strewn among the crowd of dancers, somewhere in the middle, insignificant. She wasn’t the perfect dancer. She made an odd mistake here and there, obviously why she was placed somewhere beyond the most visible dancers of them all.

She was insignificant, yet she caught his eyes. A tanned skin, sweating profusely as she came walking down once the director called for a break, her hair all messed up; nevertheless she seems to be good friends with the choreographer and also the actress. Yuva can’t stop glancing at her. She had a strong South Indian accent, and Yuva could figure that she was a local Tamil. A benign smile sprouted on his face. He had taken to her.

Priyanka quickly draped her scarf over the shoulders and took hastening steps outside the studio. She is sweating, and feeling sticky within her body. A shower is what she desperately needs. Not a journalist who is suddenly after her autograph. “Why are you after me anyway?” she asked out aloud, panting as she stopped. “Are you like running away from me?” he asked, with a small smile on his face. He had an accent that resembles a foreigner. Priya hates foreigners who think they are too good for this country and that they are entitled to few things just because of who they are and where they come from. She threw him an unimpressed look.

“I just want to talk,” he added quickly. Yuva wasn’t about to give up. Her reaction is only proving to be even more intriguing for him. Here is an Indian woman with an ideology, with an opinion about something. “About? The development of dance culture in India or something? Or the lives of backup dancers? I see you writing something,” she asked, crossing her hands. She sounded ignorant enough for Yuva to know that even if he was going to use such a valid excuse to sit and talk to her, she wouldn’t come. She obviously finds such reasons to be of no interest to her. “You don’t read such books, I got it,” he said. She is smart. He had to catch up, and he likes this.

Ore meal, Pucca Madras food. Any stall would do. Hawkers? I’m on. I can walk and talk. No problem. Just a few minutes,” he added. She was quick again. “Date? Is that what this is all about?” she asked. Yuva nodded without any hesitation. “So convenient for you huh? Fresh off the plane I suppose, with the accent of yours; if you are someone whose idea of date ends at your house’s bed, then I’m not in,” she clasped at his advances one more time.

“I’d say that’s not my idea, and I’d say give me a chance,” he said. She sighed. “If I say okay, you’ll let me go peacefully?” she asked. “That’s the plan.”

“Tomorrow, 4 pm. You’ll have half an hour only, come here and I’ll tell you where. And add it that I don’t like coconuts like you generally, and don’t have to try to floor me, woo me, seduce me. Anything flattering uttered, and I’m walking right out, shoving it in your face.”

Yuva stood perplexed. This is much tougher than he originally thought. It took him two years to get attracted to a woman in India and he found quite a ferocious one for a first date. He realized he still can’t erase that smile from his face.

To be continued…

A Reality Without A Shadow- Indianised

“This,” he said, muttering under his breath. “Is the most useless project that has ever been implemented.” She shot him a scathing look. “That’s disrespectful to two awfully big countries,” she retorted, buckling her seat belt. Her looked at her, wanting to argue. “Shut your trap till we get there. I want to enjoy my last moments as an American,” she snapped at him.

What followed was a series of completely sarcastic glances from Yuva, and he absent-mindedly browsed through a magazine; but Maya seemed intent to keep her glance away from her friend of 20 years. She was locked to the view that perked outside her window, a window that shows nothing but a cluster of white clouds moving about under the shimmering sun.

It was the last time that Maya Rathod would ever feel serene in her life over the next few years.

“I can’t hear a thing,” Maya screamed at the top of her lungs, with the wet khaki jacket she was wearing making it utterly difficult for her to walk about. “I might as well strip naked, it’s fucking heavy,” she muttered to Yuva, partially shivering with the gun trembling in her hands. Both of them are hunched behind a TATA Sumo a good meter away from the officer in charge, who had asked them to remain in their current position. Flashes of light sprinkle in the rotten old building, indicating gunshots, but the monsoon is ensuring even that sound wouldn’t be hearable enough to their ears.

Within the blurred sight of Maya, she saw a pair of hands frantically waving at them, hands covered in another khaki jacket. “I think we are on,” she said to Yuva. He flexed his muscles. “This is even more ridiculous,” he uttered as both of them rushed under the downpour, past their police chief, past a barricades of fellow police comrades, and finally endeared themselves at the entrance of that chaotic building. Hunched temporarily at either side of the entrance, they overheard sarcastic shootouts directed at them by those guarding the entrance. “Here come the American pigs, not time to send proper police into the building yet I suppose, I didn’t know you guys are this disposable,” ranted a policemen clad with inspector uniforms. Yuva noticed his tag. S. Kumar.

And with that, they moved into the building. It was a brief second of silence, like the calm before the storm- there was almost nobody downstairs worth taking a shot at. Or at least Yuva thought so as he watched suspectly, lowering his gun, until a clicking sound made him realize he has blundered. The bullet had splashed on Maya’s thigh, as she immediately crippled down, tumbling to the floor like a chair which legs have just refused to support the body anymore.

“Nice suit,” Nassar said, glancing at Yuva as he walked past him and took his place two seats away. Yuva glanced at him, indifferent to the supposed compliment he just received. “It’s trouble, isn’t it?” Yuva asked, caressing his reddish knuckles, with parts of its skin peeling off. “You bet,” Nassar said, seemingly locked at seeing Yuva’s knuckles as well. Nassar was even more dumbstruck as Maya trudged down the silent floor alley, with a walking stick to her aid, but assuredly making more walking progress than a regular man would do. Her emotion read out in her face.

“You fucking moron!” she hollered at Yuva once she came a distance close enough to start speaking to him. He looked up, seemingly mute. “That’s brute,” she added, pointing slyly at the little mark of wet blood that appeared on his Versace suit.

“That’s why he is suspended,” Nassar added with a gloomy face. “I don’t want a suspension,” Yuva retorted. “I have no choice buddy. Look, there are people down there who would love it to see you go. You’ve been a threat from the moment you came. I mean, don’t expect us to throw tiffins at you when you come to steal our bread.”

“I’m resigning. Not stealing anyone’s bread.”

“That’s not what I…,”

“I’m leaving Nas, let me go.”

Maya shot Yuva a puzzled look, but Yuva had already made his decision. One of the only two adopted law enforcement, outsource trained law enforcement officers in India, had denounced the purpose of his arrival in the world’s second most populated nation.

Maya would, over the next three years, completely forget how to be an American. A report would land in her table stating the outsource program implemented between America and India was an immense success. And she would become the museum toy who would be used as an example, the only one there is, as to why this program was a success. She had a spiral staircase that would lead to an ala-attic house, designed just enough for two people. The place where she escapes from all of the attention- from both as the newly appointed Chief of Police and also as the guinea pig for a political experiment conducted by two countries who are too smart for their own good.

Drinking coffee at the balcony and glancing over, she wished that he, Yuva, would experience what she is experiencing. That he would be in her shoes. He should be. He’s the other guinea pig who went into hiding. “Now the whole world will declare you as my husband,” she said, turning around and looking at him, as he was busy writing something on his messy desk. He paused momentarily. “React, pig,” she raised her tone. They have been living together since the day they arrived in India, why would thoughts of a couple of conservative people matter to them now? For Maya it does, with the amount of uninvited attention she has been receiving of late. She had to do something about it. She looked at Yuva with a glint in her eyes. “I can use you,” she said, nodding to herself. “What?” he asked, still immersed in his writings.

….the continued implementation of this program would be hazardous for the law enforcement environment and would make it hostile. I wish this mistake is not repeated. It undermines the capacity or efficiency of local, Indian-bred police officers, and I have had to overcome a lot of hostile relationships for no warranted reason since I came here, all because the country had, in adopting me back here, signaled that my colleagues are incompetent. My success is not, and never should be, a gauge. I have immense passion for this profession and that is the sole reason I wish to be accounted for my success, not my American training process, or my education and upbringing there. I wish to point out that my friend Yuvaraj, the fellow participant in this program, who was with me from our times in Chicago up until now in Chennai, retracted for he couldn’t take this heat. A nominally calm person with a jovial exterior, the adverse reactions of this outsourced program was visible in the way he got into feuds with our colleagues, and in order to impress them went out of his way to release his frustrations in other ways. He eventually resigned while facing suspension for assaulting the lawyer of a criminal we caught in an ambush in Chennai three years ago. And it all started with me getting shot in my thighs while both of us entered the already gunshot-ridden building during that rainy day. The reason I’m  narrating all of these events again is because human emotions are very subjective, and whatever mission or ambitious program there were to be implemented, we should never forget the complexity of human emotions. Now a journalist by profession, Yuva had discovered his smiles and jokes again, something which went amiss in his days as an Indian policeman. Let’s not disillusion ourselves that this program works. There are no shortcuts to crime eradication. Bred in America doesn’t read as intimidating for criminals.

For a better India. For a better future.

Maya Rathod.

“You didn’t have to psyche me in there,” Yuva said. “Digging old dust, you pig,” he muttered. “Why did you publish it then? It’s your column, your space in the paper,” Maya told, fiddling with her gun while sitting on the sofa. “Well, a writer can’t say no to well written pieces, and you could have just mentioned about us. You know, botch the myth that we are married or anything like that.”

“Nobody would believe that we are just friends; that nothing ever happened. Not even in America would they believe us,” she retorted.

There was a momentary silence. There wasn’t the typical crack, the typical lame argument that Yuva would put forth.

“I have something to tell you. Well, just, you know, to share,” he said after a while, dropping down the magazine he was browsing through and sitting up straight, with a flickering grin installed on the features of his face.

She smiled. She knows him so well that she knew what is coming.

Thoda, American boy met an Indian girl.”

To be continued…

Preview of TAsB’s treasures

THE RAINFOREST UNICORNS

Set in the backdrop of a contemporary Kuala Lumpur, TRU explores the most diverse plateaus of human emotions- driven by six characters who are totally different in their own ways.

In a world where many of us stumble as we try to decide what will we use as our life’s guide and measure, the only common characteristic that pertains these six individuals would be their decision to just follow their heart completely.

As with anything, following your heart completely and jumping into vital decisions based on that faith does have its own ups and downs, but one thing is ever so apparent- the heart never fails to tell you a story.

From a buccaneering female lawyer to a young college student confused of her sexual identity- TRU is a bold, enigmatic, imaginative reveal of how life measured by heart breaks endless barriers and is constantly changing.

A REALITY WITHOUT A SHADOW

ARWAS is a criminally imaginative story, also one of my earliest and most ambitious brainchild. An epic science-fiction caper, the story not only explores the medium of science fiction itself, but also has elements of human attitudes strewn into it.

Sometimes the ambitious and seemingly ridiculous dreams you develop when you are still a raw teenager does seem to have the deepest substances, it only takes you time to realize what you were capable of.
Writing ARWAS again is an abode to my fiery, radical-minded youth, something that we have to keep flaming with a measure of maturity and calmness if we were to attain and fulfill our potentials in life.

ARWAS starts with the story of two close friends who are deported to India in a special program as junior police officers, and how a series of mysterious murders set a chain of events that went beyond everyone’s comprehension, leaving the baffled characters to pursue a larger truth that puts the entire humanity’s longevity at stake.

TRU will post its first episode on August 8

ARWAS will post its first episode on August 10.

Ram Anand. 2010.