Featured Guest - Uma Majumdar
I have just lived my life watching people and enjoying their capers. I've read a few pages which have given me intense happiness and made me think and rethink. Looking forward to more such days - when I shall lay back watching the worthy do their stuff.
See more of their work below!
It was quite late by the time the movie got over. Switching off the tv, Sunita went out to the balcony. The rain had now turned into a fine drizzle. She was on the first floor and could see the droplets falling off the dark leaves of the huge Bakul tree on the right. The street light couldn’t get through the dense dark foliage but the rain drops caught the light as they slipped off the leaves. Occasional gusts of wind swayed the branches. Sunita leaned over the wet railing and looked down to her left where in the distance the road curved away to the right. It was empty as far as she could see, not many people would be out so late in weather like this, especially in late November, with winter was setting in.
Sensing a movement, Sunita looked around and found a blue Pulser scooter had stopped near the tree. Sunita knew the make. Her daughter had one. The rider got down. He wore a helmet and some sort of a dark jacket. He bent down near the curb under the tree and seemed to be searching for something. What could he be looking for, so late and in this weather? At least, he should have switched on the headlight ! Rather silly of him not to.
A few days later, they were having some friends over for dinner. As Rahul and Abhay stood smoking on the balcony, Sunita joined them. Abhay said - “I grew up in this area, in fact we used to stay in the house right opposite. Sadly it has now been taken down, thankfully most of the other houses are still the same. “
Sunita said, “I really like this area, there is a kind of old world charm here. So peaceful and homely.”
Abhay took a long drag of his cigarette, and in a voice half choked with smoke, said, - “ when I was in class VIII, there was a tragic accident right here. The road in front had been dug up to lay some cable or pipe. It was repaired by the evening, but a small part was left undone for the next day. Very late that night, a man riding a scooter hit the dent, the scooter turned over and the man was badly injured. It was a rainy night and no one was around, the man lay there helpless. Early next morning he was found to have crawled a distance, may be in searched of help - but"
Abhay shrugged his shoulders.
“Poor bugger had a small teddy bear, all gift wrapped. It lay near the curb for a couple of days".
They went in to join the others.
A week later on a Sunday evening, Sunita was enjoying a hot cup of coffee in the balcony. Sundays, in this area were rather quiet. The wedding season was yet to take off, there were hardly any cars or passerbys on the road. A couple of boys roared past on a noisy bike and then the road became quiet again.
A scooter turned the corner, came and stopped under the Bakul tree - a blue Pulser. A man got down and searched for something under the tree, near the curb. He had kept his helmet on. As Sunita leaned over to look, a vague thought disturbed her. Just as she recalled Abhay’s story, the man raised his head and looked at her. Through the dark visor of the helmet a pair of piercing eyes looked at her. As the hair on her nape rose and a chill ran down her spine, Sunita clutched at her throat and stepped back, the cup fell from her hands. With her heart racing, she stumbled back into the room. Maybe after ten minutes or so she heard a low tooting and the sound of a scooter driving away.
Sunita stopped going out to the balcony, but when she lay in bed with a sore throat and a fever, she often heard the low tooting horn - mostly in the evenings but later also during the day.
Her daughter had come over for a few days and they all had gone to her favourite coffee shop at the local mall. When they came out, with a sudden start, Sunita noticed a blue Pulser scooter parked behind a pillar. She drew in a sharp breath and stumbled. Getting into the car quickly she slammed the door shut.
On the way back, as they stopped at a traffic light, a blue Pulser stopped by their car. As Sunita turned her head, a pair of piercing eyes looked at her through the dark visor and the now familiar horn tooted. Sunita clutched at Rahul’s hand which lay on the knob of the gear shaft.
"That, that scooter", she stammered .
“What, where", asked a confused Rahul, “Really, Nini, not while I am driving."
Rahul noticed that Sunita hardly went out to the balcony, though it used to be her favourite place to relax. The cane furniture and the coloured cushions looked neglected and dusty. The untrimmed hanging plants lost their charm, and still the horn tooted - now at any hour of the day and night, or so Sunita thought.
Whenever they went out Sunita kept her eyes down and looked up only when they reached. A scooter would pass by, tooting it’s horn. What if it stopped in front of her house one of these days and that pair of piercing eyes looked at her through the dark visor! Like it did when once she was crossing a road!
What if - if -if ever strange footsteps sounded or not sounded on her stairs and the one in dark helmet appeared at her front door and the piercing eyes looked at her!
The doctor checked her racing heartbeat and the cold perspiration on her forehead. Sunita neither opened her eyes nor did she answer any question. What could she say?!
“Extreme fatigue and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Needs a rest cure and a change of scenery. Take her to the mountains”, the friendly doctor advised.
As the aircraft started cruising at a high altitude, Sunita looked out at the bank of fluffy clouds and started to feel better. With a relieved sigh she smiled at her husband and leaned back for her first carefree snooze for many days.
In her dream Sunita sensed a pair of piercing eyes looking up at her through the clouds, while a blue Pulser drove on the highway some thirty thousand feet below.
(c) Uma Majumdar