A Reality without a Shadow- The unexplainable

The mist glided slowly, and the chill caught Maya unaware. She shivered all of a sudden, and felt a sheepish rush of blood in her body, a rush that also indicated the first ever traces of true fear. She closed the final page of the book. It’s 5 am. She has never been much of a reader, but for extraordinary circumstances, she has decided to become an avid reader, finishing Yuva’s novel in two days- which is quite an achievement for her. She stretched herself and laid her feet against the wall, pushed against it, in an attempt to stretch her leg. And before she knew what happened, she crushed on the floor, the last page still clutched in her palms. She yawned. “Ouuuuccch!” she yelled. Yuva came rushing out from his room. “What happened?” he asked urgently, trying to control a small giggle that appeared on his face as her saw her on the floor, having fallen down from the chair.

“Where’s the last page?” she asked, repositioning herself to sit on the floor. “It happens, leave that aside,” she brushed off Yuva’s concerns about the toppled chair, the strewn papers of his novel, and the fallen Maya herself. “Where’s the last page?” she continued her question. “Or a few pages, I mean, where is the ending part?” she said. Yuva blinked. “That’s it,” he said. “This is it?” she asked back, and repeated that question again.

“Yeah, that’s it,” he said. “This is not an ending Yuva, or has the way novels changed so much since I last read a book?” she asked. “I did not write an ending,” he said. “And the last thing you read was Rapunzel,” he added, with another giggle.

“Noo! The last thing I read was the first book of Harry Potter,” she said back.

“Wow, what an improvement from Rapunzel,” he remarked. She frowned at him.

“So there was no ending?” she asked.

Yuva sat down on the floor with her. “Nope,” he said. “Why?”

Yuva could not find an answer.

“Because nothing seemed natural. It just stuck there,” he said.

“There is a flood coming, you have this saadhu who is trying to unite people to build a dam, and yet until now they haven’t built it, so the answer is simple- either they build it or not,” she said.

“We don’t have two choices, Maya, I think,” he said.

“What you mean?”

“I think the saadhu appears, and is tormenting us, because there is no happy ending in the story,” he said.

It did not make sense to both of them. They are actually pondering a possibility that a character from Yuva’s book is somehow coming alive at times and its mere presence, which correlates to Yuva’s presence in places, can kill people around them.

But they did dot disagree or brush it off. Maya did not know how else she can explain the headache she had a few days ago, and the image she saw on the mirror.

“I’m becoming more conscious of his presence of late,” he explained. “I think this is the only explanation. He is an angry character. That’s how I made him be. He will not be at peace until the dam is built.”

“Or until he dies. Even if there’s a bad ending, he will die like the rest of the characters right?” she asked.

Yuva nodded, there was a spark on his face. “Do it. Try it,” she said. There was hope and a solution, even without an explanation of what is actually going on.

Yuva became a man obsessed for the next three days. He was writing simultaneously, both a good ending and a bad ending. The tale will end. The saadhu will end. Yuva felt like he knew the saadhu so well, as if he is attempting to kill someone who resides within Yuva. And then he finished his writing and went to bed that night.

Maya however, was cautious as to what was going to happen. She stayed up that night, in heady hopes that everything will be alright, and it will be a night with no disturbances. There weren’t any. Another three days went by. The pair jubilated, celebrated. No more murders. Nothing. Maya went back to work. They did not know what happened, but at least the nightmare was over.

Maya had her smile back. Prakash enjoyed seeing the old Maya again.

And Yuva was ready for work again. He folded the sheets on his bed, and shed a couple of tears seeing the empty bed where Priyanka was supposed to be lying down. He regretted not finishing the book earlier. If only he knew the solution to a problem so big would be as simple as writing a couple more pages. He decided he will not publish the book. Or maybe he will, and dedicate it to Priyanka. He couldn’t even figure how he got the idea to write the story that he wrote.

He dressed up and looked into the mirror for a while. And he did not see himself. He saw the saadhu. There was no shock. It was not an unfamiliar face to Yuva, Yuva knew this person, he created this person through the realms of his imagination.

“You think you can kill me,” it was not a question that the Saadhu was asking. It told Yuva everything he had to know. The saadhu is not a cheap imagination. He is an imagination that has somehow been embedded into the reality. But Yuva did not remember what happened next.

When he opened his eyes, he saw Maya sighing while sitting near him. There were almost tears of despair in her eyes. “He’s back,” she said.

“I know,” he said. “How you knew?” he asked back.

“Three murders,” she said. “In this very colony we live in,” she added. He felt angry.

At that moment, it felt better if they have indeed died, because they do not have to live with this haunting mystery. If there’s nothing they can do about it, they might as well just give up. Yuva however felt responsible, since it was all his imagination.

“I’ll figure a way,” he said. “I’ll figure a way of explaining everything,” he added. Maya wasn’t confident, but now she knew the saadhu can’t be erased with a pen or anything such, he is just as real, and has to be taken seriously.

To be continued…

A Reality without a Shadow- When morning comes

The glass coffin was being laid off on the ground floor, as the people stood watching silently; Priyanka being the only one whose eyes weren’t open, seemingly etched in a deep peaceful sleep. The pain is not hers anymore, Yuva thought. It’s all his. But there is another problem that he needs to address as soon as possible. He turned to his right, where Maya was standing. It’s still early in the morning, the sun is just beginning to show itself, and Maya’s eyes were red due to the lack of sleep she had last night. He is unable to explain what happened last night, in fact he is unable to explain anything that has happened in the last 12 hours. His life and everything didn’t make sense anymore. It all seemed and tasted like a bad nightmare full of haunting riddles, only that he knew he wasn’t dreaming. This is all real. But that’s how he is surviving this nightmare. By convincing himself that it is all, afterall, a dream.

Priyanka’s body was place in the coffin and the funeral house workers carefully closed the coffin. Priyanka’s parents were flooded with grief, sitting by her coffin, watching their daughter motionless. Yuva needs to know. He needs to know what went wrong, whose fault it is, and everything related to it. He needs to find out, even if not for his own sake, at least for Priyanka’s sake, because she died without having the faintest idea what is causing her death.

“We’ll talk after this,” Maya patted on Yuva’s back. She knew this was not the right time to discuss what has happened last night, even though she is eager as ever to find out more about this sickening mystery that has descended their lives into a living nightmare.

Prakash was busy tending to the funeral works. It was something he didn’t have to do. But he felt like doing it for Maya, to help all three of them recover from these haunting murders, to be able to recover and finally find the culprit who is behind all this. He knew neither Maya nor Yuva would be able to do it. Yuva is broken into pieces, and Maya needs to be there by his side in order to put him back together. They needed his help. And he is more than willing to do it for them even though they never asked.

Priyanka Raj was buried that very morning, before noon came upon, at a small graveyard at the outskirts of Chennai. There were people from the film fraternity, the police force, her parents, her one-day husband, her one-day sister-in-law and few others who attended the funeral. Her death was classified as sudden death due to severe brain damage. The medical practitioners are still split as to whether she was murdered or whether there is a natural cause to her death. They do not know the murder patterns that have been happening of late. Only Yuva, Maya and Prakash were all aware of them. The funeral was an incomplete one. Yuva did not dare to face her parents as their looks itself told the story that they demand answers for her death, and that they suspect he might have done something to cause her death.

Yuva held his head down, only occasionally looking up to see her dead body. He felt as if everyone else who came to the funeral want answers, want to know this and that, and in fact many of them asked questions aplenty, but Prakash was quick to send them away under the reason that everything is being investigated and no further questions should be asked. Forensics were not allowed to see the body; none of the normal procedure took place. Prakash used all the authorities that he and Maya together possessed to make sure Priyanka is buried and not used as a specimen to aggravate the grief that they are already suffering from.

Yuva sighed, and slowly looked up. Maya was looking at him. Yuva not only felt like a suspect, but instead he felt like he was the criminal. Now the closest person to him will tell him that he indeed that the best clue as to what is actually going on.

“Maya,” Prakash said slowly, exhausted, and he strolled over in almost slow motion towards the table they were seated at. “I did some checking, and a lot of tracing,” he added, sweat pouring profusely, something that he clearly wasn’t used to being the normally elegantly dressed man that he is. He let go a sigh himself. Yuva and Maya looked at him eagerly.

“Yuva is somehow connected to all these people who died. Of course Priyanka is the closest, but that guy Pritam is the one who shot Maya a couple of years back,” Prakash said.

Yuva was looking for words. He needs to defend himself. He didn’t even know the identity of Maya’s shooter.

“I’m not accusing Yuva,” Prakash explained before Yuva would come to any conclusions. “There’s something we need to figure here. I know something happened last night as well. You need to explain to us,” he added.

What will Yuva explain, when he does not know anything?

“The figure I saw,” Maya started. “Was a bearded saint-like person, something like a saadhu, he had a stick on his hand, he had a very cynical look on his face,” she said. She was struggling to explain his appearance, but there was a glow on Yuva’s face as he spoke.

“One of the dead guys, Pritam, apparently called one of his friends before he died, and asked him whether the friend had sent any saadhu to his house to do any rituals,” Prakash said.

“And what Pritam said on the phone matches, somewhat, to what Maya has said,” he added.

Yuva looked stunned. But he wasn’t about to make a deduction.

“Then you know how the culprit looks like. Do I look like you friggin’ saint to you?” he asked.

“He went away when you woke up Yuva. And I could only see a reflection of him on the mirror. He did not exist in real,” Maya said.

Yuva felt a surge of ridiculous thoughts. He did not like it. These didn’t make sense. But it’s time he starts considering aspects that don’t make sense. They might all make sense at the end of the day.

“What color was his cloth?” he asked, after two minutes of utter silence to regain his composure.

“Orange,” both of them answered simultaneously. Yuva was exasperated. He is indeed living a nightmare.

He turned around and looked at his desk, on where he had been doing an abundance of writing work of late. Maya walked to desk, intrigued. There were a stack of papers clipped together, all written on, about a 100 pages.

On the cover, in Yuva’s scrambled handwriting, there was etched- ‘A Reality without a Shadow’.

“A Reality without a Shadow,” she said. “This is the novel you have been working on,” she added. He nodded.

“This sounds ridiculous, but that book might have some answers,” Yuva said.

All three of them were dumbstruck. This is impossible. But nothing that has happened so far seemed even remotely logical.

To be continued..

A Reality without a Shadow- Deep into the night

It was at least a different privilege for Yuva as he was being escorted not in that dusty, old khaki jeep that he despised so much, and that he was not having handcuffs. Innocent till proven otherwise, he told himself. There was a cold silence that was sweeping through the respectable Hyundai they were travelling in.

Maya, his best friend, the best woman of his wedding, Yuva couldn’t believe it was just yesterday that the mysterious murdering maniac who has wrecking hell in Maya’s professional life seemed to have nothing to do with their happiness, at least not when Priyanka sneaked in ten minutes before the traditional proceedings begun, and hug him so tightly, and said ‘I will never let you go’.

She has let go. Probably it was him who let her go. He did not hold onto her tight enough. She disappeared; fell on the floor like a beautiful rosebud that was just contaminated with poison. Tears swelled in his eyes. That rosebud deserves a proper sending off, at least. And what is he subjected to, being escorted to the police station. All those dead bodies don’t matter to him. Four rowdies. Do they matter? No, Priyanka matters, because she doesn’t deserve all this. Probably he should have listened when she said she didn’t want an American-bred boy. He lured her, and tried so hard, all so that she could meet an end the first day of their marriage?

There was another call. Prakash, by now, was tired of answering these calls. The car stopped, and he let out a big sigh. Maya was quiet all along. She didn’t like looking at Prakash like that. He has given up, exhausted. The charm that comforted her has finally disappeared. He is vulnerable. And for the first time, she did not ask what happened. That did not matter. And for the first time again, she reached out, patted him in the back, in a reversal of roles for what has been happening in the past few days.

They pulled up in front of another secluded area shortly later. Prakash decided he would do this alone. He walked in. Pritam was there- eyes wide open, his mouth wide open- just like how a fat lazy henchman like him would open his mouth when presented with a pack of briyani. No external damage. No blood. He lied there, just by his bed- lifeless. Prakash had been on the phone just moments before with him. And now he was also swept by the haunting bug.

Prakash got back into the car. “I’m trying to make sense of it,” he finally spoke . “Prakash,” Maya called out slowly. “Drop the two of us back home?” she added.

Prakash looked back at him. “We left Priyanka alone,” she added. Yuva tried hard to fight back tears.

The door creaked open, and both of them walked in slowly. Maya decided to stay away from the body as much as she could. Yuva might be a suspect, but she will not let the humane aspects be lost in pursuit of a mindless murderer or whatever that is taking these lives away. It will not rob her off her humanity, it will not take away the person who is able to be compassionate, be loving, and above all, trusting a lifelong friend. She doesn’t care about professional wisdom. Yuva deserves to say his goodbye to her, no matter what- even if it means Maya getting sacked.

She mixed a couple of drinks for him. She wouldn’t drink hers. It was a ploy, to at least make that grieving man have something in his stomach.

Yuva was kneeling down in front of Priyanka’s body. Maya did not plan to move the body anytime soon. She did not know how to call Yuva for a drink without sounding so ignorant either. She walked slowly towards Yuva. She kneeled down behind him. She raised her finger to touch him, but like a small boy who was waiting for his mother to come back just so that he could cry to her, he grabbed her shirt and buried his face in it. He had been cheerful, jovial, happy. The only times he ever got angry was when anything happened to Maya or someone did anything to hurt her. But she never saw him cry before. She still haven’t seen him cry. She can only hear. But that is already bad enough.

They carried the body and rolled her under a blanket later, toughening themselves. Maya decided she would let Prakash rest before he drops by in the morning to help cremate Priyanka. She managed to have him drink, and later decided she would sleep beside him. She never saw him this vulnerable, and she wouldn’t take the risk. What this grief might drive him to do- she didn’t know.

She slept in some peace that night. She managed to stop crying. Because if there is a devil out there that is on a killing spree, it would know that neither she, Yuva or Prakash are spending any time talking about the devil. It’s time to talk about the humans. About Priyanka. She preferred it this way- don’t talk about it. It doesn’t matter. She closed her eyes.

Like a pre-set alarm she opened her eyes every now and then, checking on Yuva. He seemed exhausted, he was rambling. But at least, he was asleep. She made a point to sleep with her back straight. She did not flinch, did not roll over to her right or her left. She wanted to keep her guard.

And then, late into the night, she had a headache. She woke up. A searing pain through her head, as if someone was squeezing her brains. She struggled. She shouted. But she knew nobody was hearing her. Everything seemed muffled out. She did not try to look at Yuva, she just felt that she is going to die. And then something happened.

The room has a huge life-sized mirror located right opposite of Maya. And in that mirror she was a man, a sage, a saint, or something along those lines. He was bearded, charismatic, with a synical smile. He was looking at her. She still did not turn away to check on anything. She was dealing with her pain, with her disappearing resolve to fight back and live, and the other part was occupied with this image. She knew, she has to hold on to this image. Every detail of it. It would unlock the mystery. But first she has to live.

And, with one final push, She kicked Yuva. And like waking up from a deep, disturbing dream in which you are dying, she felt relief all over her body. She gasped for breath. Yuva had fallen on the ground, and woke up to see her panting. She took her time to regain her composure. She looked at the mirror. The man was gone. And he was gone when Yuva sprung awake.

She did not know where this will head, but a clue is something she will accept. To end all this, this is a start.

A Reality without a Shadow- The Chilling Night

Prakash ran all he could, as fast as he could to his car and started engine. On a silent Chennai street, his car skidded through, rushing as he felt that he had finally gotten his tabs on the person who had been wreaking havoc in the professional lives of both him and Maya for a considerable amount of time now.

There were no cars and yet he was speeding through as if a glimpse of light could make the mysterious killer disappear.

Pritam placed his phone on the table nearby, and jumped on the bed with his fat belly pressing against the bed. The bed frame creaked a little. “Amazing,” he repeated.

For Pritam, that has been the case for him. He never commits a bout of serious crime, yet he becomes a fan of any serial killer or any goon who goes about killing people in the utmost stylish, fashionable way.

He started to slowly snore a little, reciting an old Tamil song which has always been one of his favorites.

Beside his little old Nokia handphone was his gun. He opened his eyes and looked at his gun again, looking at it peculiarly. He decided to take the gun, and slowly caressed it. He had hassled and parried for the gun his whole life.

It took him five years to gain proper confidence from the don to be able to get a gun for his own usage. However, the only time he ever used the gun was in an old shack on a rainy day sometime bag.

He was nothing but someone who does what he is asked to do. It was heavily raining, and the meeting took place in an old building that is just waiting for its ruins. All of them were met while making their way to the meeting. Drugs were being distributed, and Pritam listened to the instructions carefully.

“Pritam bhai,” the don stood up and put his hands around Pritam’s shoulders. He felt a surge of importance.

“You asked for something,” he said.

Pritam felt a prickling sensation on his tummy, and he looked down. The don was pointing a black gun right at Pritam’s ribs. He pressed them further, Pritam could hear the creaking sound of the trigger about to be pulled off.

“Boss, but I didn’t do anything,” he said.

“Take it,” the don said.

“What?” he asked back.

“I said take it,” the don pressed the gun against Pritam’s ribs again. That’s when Pritam knew what it meant. He was getting the gun that he had always been asking from the don.

Pritam took the gun.

“It’s fully loaded, use it carefully,” the don told Pritam.

As the don wore his coat and started walking out the small room in which the meeting took place, a gunshot sound reverberated in the house. In an instinctive reaction, the don, who is at the door, drew out his own gun, and took cover behind the walls, starring angrily at Pritam.

“You mother…,” the don started.

Pritam looked blur. He was still standing, and the gun was still in his hands, but he had not released any shot, he was merely looking at his gun. The don knew what was going on.

“You lucky bastard,” the don said.

“You can’t choose a better time to get a gun. It’s police idiot, go downstairs and take cover. And shoot any police dick that enters this place,” the don told him sternly.

Pritam didn’t know hoe to be cautious. He walked his big fat body down and saw, from the top floor, a hoard of police cars perched in front of the building, many aiming for a shot, and many more seemingly prepare to enter.

A little fear triggered inside him, but he was rather more excited with the prospect of being involved in something important this time. At least, now, with a gun in his hand, he matters.

He took hide at the ground floor, at a corner that he realized was the darkest in the whole building, but a corner corresponding very well with the entrance into the building. Faint gunshots could already be heard around. Pritam realized he couldn’t be aware all the time regarding who is where. He could only keep his eyes on the entrance, and gear up for whichever police officer walks through it.

Pritam closed his ears to help his concentrate from the surrounding noise, and then saw two figures entering through the door, each with a gun in their hands. He knew what he had to do. He took his fingers off his ears, and aimed. He never shot before. He never aimed before. But he had to shoot. And he did.

All he saw was the figure crashing on the floor, and letting out a scream, holding her legs. It was a woman. It was not someone with a dick.

“Maya!” There was a guy nearby. He shouted that word. That must be her name. A couple of Pritam’s friends covered him up and the shooting escalated. But he never got another piece of the action.

Pritam was arrested, and that was how he knew Prakash, who was a normal inspector back then. This was two years ago.

Now he is in a special branch, working for a lady who is the police chief. All Pritam knows is that the police chief is one hot lady. He rubbed his belly, and let out a burp.

He heard a sound, and his house door sprang open. “Who is that?” he asked, still with his face against the pillow, refusing to get up and have a look. “Who?” he asked again.

There was no answer from whoever or whatever that opened the door. Pritam finally got himself to sit and up and have a look for himself. There is a person, but someone whose face cannot be seen in the darkness of night. But there the person is, standing silently at the door.

Pritam looked silently at him. “What are you, a saint?” Pritam asked. The person had a beard. Pritam’s face reaction changed. This is something else altogether.

Prakash got down from his car, and there were already police lights flashing around the place. Maya looked worn out, worryingly worn out that she had ever looked.

“How many?” he asked.

“Four, four freaking dead bodies,” she said.

“This is getting insane,” he added. He knew he had missed the killer.

“All the same?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

Wrapped around with a warm cloth in the middle of the chilly night, sitting at a corner, was Yuva. “How is he?” Prakash asked. “Horrible,” she was being very honest. These were not good times.

“Including Priyanka, with these four dead at this freaking dumb street here, it has been five people tonight alone. What the hell is going on man?” she asked, increasingly frustrated.

“Raj!” Prakash called after the forensic expert, who was busy looking at the bodies.

“I know Prakash. There’s ever going to be only one answer. No external damage. Only brain damage, all internal. I have to tell you nobody invented a killing method such as this, as far as I know. Unless it involves something beyond human,” Raj said, sighing.

“But you have not examined these people at the labs yet,” Prakash exclaimed.

“I know when I see them by now Prakash, this has been going on for two months now,” he added.

Prakash sighed and turned around, looking at Yuva, who was hugging himself in the cold. He looked at him, and then at Maya. Maya knew what he meant.

“Yuva,” Maya called out. Teary-eyed and shivering, he looked at her. “We need to bring you under our custody,” she said.

These are very bad times indeed.

A Reality without a Shadow- The shadow creeps up.

“I chased, I chased, and I chased,” Yuva said. That’s the know-how. That’s all there is to say. Maya allowed herself to direct a sly smile at Yuva as she passed by and over heard Yuva blabbering about the science of enticing Priyanka to fall in love with him to Prakash.

Maya knew there is trouble around the corner. It is just a matter of time before the media and higher authorities would come after their department for their apparent inability to trap or catch the serial killer who has been at large among the public for a considerable amount of time. No profile was ever gathered on this purported killer, and they are as clueless as the people around them are.

But today is Yuva’s day- Maya has no right to ruin his day by leveraging on these issues. “You look tense,” Prakash said as she passed by him in one of her fervent rushes up and down the stairs to prepare for the wedding. “Don’t worry too much, we have time to worry about all of that, you should just be content today,” he added in a whisper, before she continued.

Maya had done almost everything. Negating the details of the wedding; and also convincing Priyanka’s parents that Yuva is the right choice for her. She refused to be identified as his elder sister when people tried to label her as such. She was his friend, and a very good friend at that who grew up together with him. There is no reason to find a new name to their relationship just so that the general public would feel convenient in reference to it. A friend is a friend. Nothing changes.

If Yuva put so much energy in pursuing Priyanka over time, she put almost an equal amount of effort to make the wedding happen as his only representative, well-wisher and family member. “I’ll do it even better when your turn comes,” Yuva said, as she sat exasperated on the stairs, feel uncomfortable with sweat making her feel uneasy in the well-decorated, expensive saree. It is the first time in Maya’s life that she is wearing the traditional Indian outfit. “Don’t worry, I am not getting married,” she said, wiping away the little sweat that dribbled from her forehead. Yuva sat beside her, himself dressed in a decorated groom’s outfit. “Well, I think you do have a suitor,” he said. His sight was pointing in Prakash’s direction.

“Stop it,” she said and walked away. She walked away because when she thinks about it, it does seem like a good idea. Except that she is superior to Prakash in terms of rankings and she strongly believes the ego of an Indian man wouldn’t suit such a situation.

The wedding commenced and ended successfully thereafter. Maya took a few more rushed steps up the stairs and ended up with a sprained ankle, to which the doctor had advised her to an extra day or two off duty, to which Prakash duly repeated his advice- ‘The time is not ripe to worry yet. Now you deserve to rest’.

And when the night fell, all of whom were involved knew something has changed and something is changing. Unsolved mysteries tinged curiosity.

Pritam is a local mob leader, a henchmen who can gather people to throw flakes of flames into shops or the streets to create chaos, under the orders of a bigger power that be around the area. He was courted to be arrested by Yuva a couple of times when Yuva was still in the force, but slipped from his grasp. Tensions run high between those two. Maya and Prakash have been keeping tabs on him ever since.

And it was his old, cranky Nokia phone that rang that night- at around 2 am. He struggled to get up from his bed, with his fat belly making things difficult for him. “Ayye,” he grumbled, as he stuttered to recall which button should he press to answer the call. “Pritam?” it was the polite, professional voice of Prakash at the other end of the line.

“Yes,” he continued in his grumbling tone.

“There is a word on the street. One big bhaiyya has been going around, killing people at his own whimsical wheel. And obviously the bhaiyya’s ways of doing it is so smart we don’t even know how he does it,” Prakash said. Pritam did not say anything. He knew he is speaking to a  police officer. An introduction is not necessary.

“Bhai, I don’t involve in killing people,” Pritam said.

“I know, we are not fools to call you if we suspect it’s you who are doing it, wouldn’t we?” Prakash retorted.

“I want possible names.”

“At this time? Are you for real?” Pritam asked.

“I want names Pritam bhai,” he continued sternly.

“Tell me the full story first,” Pritam demanded.

“Someone’s doing it smart, bhai. No external damage. The person just falls off and dies, holding the head,” Prakash said. Pritam rubbed his eyes to make sure they are wide open.

As Prakash was busy probing into the issue at his home, Maya massaged her ankle, looking solemnly over the view at her balcony. She needs to make a decision- she needs to move out. She needs to allow Yuva and Priyanka to have the privacy that they deserve as new couples.

Priyanka couldn’t sleep. For all her pessimism about finding the right guy, she is right here, sleeping beside the man that made her feel treasured for the first time in her life. She kept her eyes open, running her finger on Yuva’s nose as he was fast asleep, almost on the brink of snoring.

“Bhai, I never head of something like this before,” Pritam said, now wide awake, as a stern, interrogating conversation meandered into a personal conversation. Prakash was yawning, as he received a message in his other phone.

“I don’t know anyone who can do things like this, I swear,” Pritam insisted.

Maya continued glancing at the moon outside, when she heard a shuffle at Yuva room’s door. She turned around, and blinked. She was taken aback by the sound, but she remained in her seat, not doing anything.

“Shit!” Prakash said, upon reading the message. “Got to go,” he blabbered off to Pritam and ended the call.

“Amazing stuff,” Pritam whispered to himself once Prakash ended the call.

Maya heard the noise again, and she shuddered. It seemed to have gone up a notch. She walked to the door, and knocked it.

“Yuva, slow it down,” she said, almost feeling embarrassed about the whole episode. The door, the traditional wood types which opens like a gate, was now slanting rather untowardly towards Maya. She tried pushing it back so that it will be straight, but to no avail.

She realized the door is on the verge of opening up from the inside. She gave it a slight nudge and it parted ways.

Lying on the ground, perched against the door was Priyanka. Yuva was seated on the bed, shirtless, panting, but looking blur as if he could not comprehend what had happened.

Maya placed her fingers over Priyanka’s nose, and checked her pulse. Maya stopped bending down and just sat down on the floor. Priyanka’s dead. She looked up to Yuva in a perplexed manner.

The story begins after this

A Reality without a Shadow- Cupid in the town

“How long has it been?” Maya asked, pushing another mouthful. “How long since what?” Yuva asked. It was an amazing contrast, and a weird one at that. Maya, being the woman, was galloping down her food merciless while Yuva wasn’t doing any justice to the food’s existence as he scribbled at every grain of rice and hardly ate any of them. “Your love story…I can’t believe you hid it from me,” she said.

“No, we are not together,” he said.

“Then?”

“Well..,”

Maya blinked and stop eating.

“Wait…what have we got here?”

Yuva looked down on his plate and sighed. Maya drank a little water, and choked halfway seeing his reactions.

Thoda,”

“What?” he asked.

“One-sided love? Oh my…what has happened to you? What’s up American boy? What’s with suddenly being filmi?” she asked.

“Please, it’s not one sided, don’t underestimate me,” he said.

“Oh, then, what are you waiting for?” she asked. Now Yuva looked at her, and carved a smile on his face, a very wide, cheesy one.

“Here?” Maya asked, looking at the studio from outside. Yuva nodded. They walked slowly inside. “I’ve got nothing to do with this place,” she said as they were walking.

“Neither did I.”

“What made you come here in the first place then? You knew you were going to fall in love the only time you would ever venture to cover an entertainment news?” she asked.

“Please don’t tell me you believe in destiny now?” she continued before he could react.

Yuva chose against his urges to react to her mockery. He had mocked her one too many times to make a fuss about this. He pushed open the door to the almost-empty studio, and there, at one corner, practicing dance with her colleagues, was Priyanka.

“I suppose this isn’t an official meet?” Maya asked Yuva. Yuva still chose to remain silent. He even chose to remain silent by not interrupting Priyanka from her dance. Both of them looked at her from a distance until she noticed their presence and froze in her tracks.

“Hi,” she said, sweeping her sweat using a considerable large towel as she approached them. Maya smiled. “Not bad macha,” Maya said.

“Remember I told you that I have someone that has to say okay after meeting you first before we can go ahead?” he asked to Priyanka, while putting extending his arms across Maya’s shoulders.

“She?” Priyanka asked.

“You didn’t tell her?” Maya asked.

“I think I’ll leave you guys to it,” Yuva said, and started walking away. Both of them tried calling him to come back, but decided against it as they started to open their mouths, before looking at each other and releasing an awkward smile.

“You want to go first or…?” Maya asked, realizing there is something they need to clarify each other with before they can continue with their casual conversation, which has been going surprisingly good for the past half-an-hour.

“Do the honors,” Priyanka said. “He hadn’t told me much, except that he is from the US, and wanted to be a cop and ended up a journalist,” she continued.

“Well…we are not actually Americans. Both of us are Indians. We were born in India,”

Priyanka started reacting with interest.

“We were adopted by the American government because of an arrangement they had between these two countries back then. We were guinea pigs basically. They wanted to train us in the US, breed us as cops, and send us to back to India at a certain age, with a set of skills that can be better than local Indian cops. So basically we were at our foster home all these years, and now we have come back to home. Only that it hasn’t quite felt like home yet,” Maya explained.

“And he didn’t end up being a journalist. He resigned. He was pretty good at what he did, but there was plenty of attention on us, in a negative way, especially when your colleagues are jealous of your special position, it isn’t easy. He cracked, and he resigned. I’m still here, weathered the storm, and am the police chief now,” she added.

“Well, that basically means the program did work then. I mean, you guys came out good,” Priyanka said.

“Not necessarily. He was there for barely months. It’s a failed program anyway, they have decided against continuing it after I wrote an official latter making it public,” Maya now looked intently at Priyanka. The tables have turned for the storyteller role.

Priyanka smiled.

“Well, I can’t believe he is asking me to meet you and approve you before he wants to start a relationship with you,” Maya said with a grin.

Deep inside, she is flattered by how important Yuva had considered her to be in his life that would to put a relationship on hold so that she could give her stamp of approval.

“Did he say its about making me his girlfriend?” Priyanka asked curiously.

“Yeah, about being together,”

“I thought it was supposed to be for marriage,” Priyanka said.

Maya looked stunned.

“What..?”

“I would have killed him if he had said wait, someone needs to approve before we got into a relationship. I mean, he was literally chasing and wooing me all over. I thought I can never trust someone of American lifestyle that easily so I wanted him to commit further. And, here we are, for that reason, I guess,”

“That son of a…,” Maya started.

“Please, no bad words,” Priyanka retorded.

“Oh my, he found himself a damsel,” Maya exclaimed.

Priyanka mustered a smile.

“Oh my god, you two are going to be so mushy,” Maya added.

To be continued..

A Reality without a Shadow- The Punch

Beyond these files, a truth out there is still left untold. Missing. Escaping and sliding out of their views and their comprehension, as if making a mockery of them.

It was the first time in her life that Maya felt incompetent. Hapless. Unable to do anything. She felt like everyone in the office should stand up and take a bullet to their heads. Somewhere, someone, was laughing, giggling. There was a smile somewhere. How could they? How is it possible for them to do so? How ignorant are they to do so?

She cupped her face in her palms, as Prakash stood watching quietly, not quite knowing what to do next. And then she stood up with a spring in her step, she looked rejuvenated, almost too energetic for her own good. And as Prakash guessed, the spring wasn’t a good one.

Nas took slow, assured steps as Prakash guided him into the office. His previously dark hair now have shades of gray, and most of them have fallen off as time seemed to have caught up with him within a blink of an eye. “Cancer, selfish bitch,” Nas said meekly as Prakash seemed to almost blatantly analyze him as they walked side by side. “It sucks out everything from you, you have to beg for it to spare you something at least,” he added. Nas left his post as chief once he was diagnosed with leukemia nearly two years ago. He felt life outside the office was too valuable to spend the remains of his life confined to office spaces, or even carrying a gun and hunting down a criminal. “Here?” Nas asked, seemindly indecisive whether to turn right or left when they reached a corner in the crime lab. Prakash was surprised. This is Nas, his and also Maya’s mentor, who seems to have forgotten the way to get around what was once his own sanctuary. How much he has changed, as he seemed frail, almost too human, rather than the assured leader he once was in these spaces.

Prakash guided him all the way to where Maya was now seated. “Hi Nas,” Rajeev greeted with a formal handshake as Nas came close. Maya was still shaking her head in utter refusal. “Maya?” Rajeev is more occupied with getting Maya to agree with his suggestion. Another shake of the head. Maya would not comply to his request and what nots. “Let’s give Nas a chance, shall we?” Prakash interrupted. There was a momentary silence. Both Rajeev and Prakash looked at Nas. Nas is now supposed to play the doctor, the psychologist. To the toughest woman that has ever walked into this office in years. As far as the conscience of these three go, they have not met a woman like her. Nas seemed busy fondling the depths of his mismatched khaki pants for something. He seemed clumsy. And finally he took out what he was looking for all along. It was his taqiyah. Slowly, he placed it on his head. He made sure it was in place, neat and tidy. The same can’t be said for the manner in which he was dressed at the time. “So,” he cleared his throat. Prakash and Rajeev already were smiling at each other. Here was a man who would skip Ramadan for his favorite briyanis, now seeming all pious. It was unfathomable for the two who have known him for so long. However, for Maya, it was not the same case. Having known him personally, and having kept consistently in touch with him over the past one year since she was promoted as the new chief, in Nas’ place, she knew how he goes about his business nowadays.
“Jhansi Rani,” Nas said. Her popular nickname. That’s how she was known in the office during his tenure. All three of them let go a burst of giggle. She smiled broadly, looking at him dotingly. It seems like she always saw this tender, frail man beneath all those strengths he portrayed when he was in office. Cancer changed everything about Nas. “Bitch,” he said again. That was the nickname he gave for his illness. He never uttered that word in his life before. The counseling had to start. But Maya knew it was already done. Prakash knew too. All Nas needed to do was to make himself present.

“You showed them who is boss,” Nas said, almost in a whisper. “Where is the golden boy?” he asked. Whether it was coincidence or not, Maya did not know. But Mukesh happened to be walking right into the crime lab as Nas asked that question. Maya looked at him and pointed. Nas looked at Mukesh’s face. There was a red bruise around his eyes, and his eyes were swollen. He threw a scathing look to Maya as he walked by. “Ouh,” Nas said.

“You are violent,” he said. Maya did not say anything. “You are the best there is, if you can’t solve this, nobody can,” he whispered to her ears. “And I have become so pious that I don’t lie anymore, not even to please anyone, so I’m telling the truth,” he added before she could react. The punch of Mukesh’s face afterall, did release a substantial amount of anger that she had within. She was unable to bear with his giggling, which was probably the only he did every day in office consistently. And if he thought it was okay to do so when your boss is fretting and breaking over an unsolved case with you doing nothing to help her out, he learned his lesson. Mukesh had gone to speak with Rajeev. Prakash, who has been speaking to Rajeev the whole time, came walking back to Maya and Nas. “He’s not going to do anything to you. You are too good to be found out for a matter like this,” Prakash said casually to Maya. He bent down and got close to her ears. “I have been wanting to do that to Mukesh for a very long time. Thanks for doing it,” he said and made himself stand straight again. Rajeev and Mukesh glanced at them from far.

“He only knew how to giggle, gossip, and eat. He has a humongous belly, thinks he is good, a sexist because he despises me being the boss, and is too happy at times when we are unable to solve cases,” Maya said eloquently. She needed to put forth her justification for punching Mukesh as such. Yuva starred at her. “Am I allowed to laugh and giggle in front of you?” he asked. “Help me Yuva, help me,” she cupped her hands together, and kneeled down. “Oh great man, please, I’m begging you,” she continued. Yuva signaled at her to stop. “I am, I am…,” he started. “Can you stop trying to stabbing yourself with cupid’s arrow and help me figure this case? Please?” she continued with her childish tone, still kneeling. Yuva nodded feverishly.

“I love her,” he said after a silence. Maya’s jaw dropped.

To be continued..

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…