Saturday, 30 April 2016


The Maharaja* was rather a weak and simple fellow. John Rand, the English Resident, was aware of his frailty.

Rand had been appointed as the Resident about six months back. He was an ambitious and reckless person who hated the Maharaja. He kept provoking the Maharaja to take such decisions as would, at some stage, enable him to charge that the Maharaja was incompetent to rule his state; he could then recommend his removal from the throne.

The Maharaja had his own private zoo behind his sprawling palace. Spread over an area of about three miles square the zoo had a large variety of birds and animals.

‘I have not seen any rare animals in your zoo? Your people should try crossbreeding,’ Rand said to the Maharaja during his first trip to the zoo.

‘Would that be a good idea? An animal that does not exist in nature may not survive in the zoo. Besides, it would be unnatural.’

‘When I was in Africa I saw many strange animals produced by crossbreeding. There was a tribal chief who would crossbreed all types of animals. If you wish I will put my man on this job, he is an animal lover.’

The Maharaja acquiesced to his persuasion.  Rand set about the job with undue haste. He forbade people from visiting the zoo when the experiments in crossbreeding were being conducted. Even the Maharaja was denied access at such times.

About a year later he invited the Maharaja to visit the zoo. He was shown a couple of strange animals that had been bred by the Rand’s man. The Maharaja found nothing exciting in the crossbreeds; rather he felt that the poor animals looked ridiculous and pathetic.

‘You have to wait for at least one year more to see the astonishing results of these experiments.’

The Maharaja disliked these experiments but he felt helpless before the Resident; he had no option but to accept what Rand was doing.

A year or so passed away. One day Rand appeared before the Maharaja, full of exuberance. He presented an animal that partly looked like an ape.

‘What’s that? Looks like an ape or is it a bear? Did you cross an ape and a bear?’ the Maharaja said sharply; he was unwilling to hide his disgust.

‘Sir, no it is not that. It is the finest outcome of our experiments at crossbreeding.’

‘And what is that?’ asked Maharaja apprehensively.

‘It’s an offspring of a bear and a human.’

The Maharaja was stunned. He could not believe that Rand would do such a ghastly thing.

But before the Maharaja could even say word, the animal jumped and caught Rand by his neck. It had quietly managed to open the cage which the keepers had not cared to lock. The zookeepers were unaware but the animal had learnt to open the cage.

Its claws dug deep into Rand’s neck; he stood paralysed and with a great effort cried out for help.

The Maharaja remained seated on his throne, he was apparently shell-shocked; his guards kept waiting for the Maharaja’s order.

The animal slashed Rand’s neck and walked out of the palace.

*Maharaja- King

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Friday, 29 April 2016

Spinner of Yarns

The grandpa was adept at spinning a yarn. The moment he entered his bed we would promptly surround him; one of us would start rubbing his feet, other two would massage his arms and hands. He would, sometimes, make one of us walk lightly on his back before he would start telling a story.

‘Grandpa, now tell us what happened when you went with your English boss on his yacht. Yesterday you said that it was an exciting adventure. ’

‘My boss was as big as a yeti….’

‘What’s a yeti?’ My brother was always asking stupid question.

Yeti is a snowman, big and powerful. When I went to Tibet in …….’

‘Grandpa, tell us about your trip on the yacht,’ my sister disliked digressions.

Yes, our yacht was moving at a leisurely pace; we our enjoying our trip.  Out of nowhere a small ship came rushing towards us. A man, who looked like a Yehudi*, was standing on the deck of that ship. He was yelling loudly, “Please help me, the ghosts have taken over my ship”.

‘Suddenly someone appeared behind the Yehudi and yanked him below the deck. I quickly looked through my binoculars; I saw the ghost and what a scary ghost it was.’

‘What did he look like?’ it was the brother with his next question.

‘He had very large red eyes on a queer yellow face. He was very tall and very thin.’

‘How can a ghost….’

‘Stop yapping and let us hear the story,’ I shouted at my brother.

‘Bad manners; let him ask as many questions he wants to ask. He is still a little kid,’ grandpa admonished me and yet he went on with his story.

‘The English man was big and powerful but he was a coward. In fact he was a sad, unhappy man; the poor fellow had been yearning to go back to England but the company would not let him go. He was a great engineer. That year we were completing a project in Dunga river valley.……’

‘What happened on the ship?’ my sister intervened, a bit rudely. Grandpa never felt offended at her rudeness. But we boys could never dare to talk to him like that.

Yes, yes, we had no weapons with us. I looked around and found a yardstick. I thought I could use it like a sword. As a young boy I had fought and won many battles with tough boys using just my foot ruler.

‘The ship was almost touching our yacht. In those day I was a reckless man. Like a fool I jumped on that ship. I shouted and waved the yardstick as if it was a sword. But the ghost on the deck did not get scared. Soon other ghosts appeared on the deck and they all surrounded me.

‘There were five or six ghosts. Every one of them was ready to pounce on me; but the next moment they were all on their knees, begging for mercy.’

‘How did it happen? How did you frighten them?’ my brother asked.

‘I had acted bravely; I had threatened them; I had waved the yardstick at them. But I will admit I was very scared. I knew that I was in a horrifying situation. I knew that only my Guruº could save me. I silently prayed to my Guru…..’

‘You have a Guru?’ I asked incredulously.

‘Did I never tell you about my Guru? The year your father was born I had gone to Himalayas with a friend and there I met a great yogiª. He………...’

‘Grandpa, why did ghosts beg for mercy?’ sister asked sharply.

‘My boy, we will talk about the Himalayan yogi some other day. Now when I prayed to my Guru, he immediately appeared on the ship. I did not see him but the ghosts had seen him and they were all terrified of his yogic powers. Soon, I too felt my Guru’s presence and I knew that I had nothing to fear; I shouted at the ghosts, “Go back from where you came, you scoundrels.”  And in a jiffy they all vanished.’

‘Why were they terrified of your Guru?’ asked my sister.

‘That’s a secret I can’t tell; my Guru’s order. But my boss, the Englishman, he was very happy….he had not seen my Guru.…. he thought that it was me…...who had scared away the ghosts………..….….he was impressed by my bravery and…………and recommended my name  for…….for…….’

‘For what?’ we all spoke in one voice.

In reply we only heard grandpa’s loud snore.

*Yehudi - Jew
º Guru-Master
ª Yogi- one who has mastered yoga

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Thursday, 28 April 2016

X-ray Vision

‘You are kidding me. It only happens in story books.’

‘Trust me, I have met this man and I have seen his collection of magic potions.’

‘Did you try any? Did it work?’

‘Did I try? Of course I tried, but he has forbidden me to tell anyone about it.’

‘This is all jiggery-pokery.’

But Franek did not turn back. He was willing to believe that his friend was well acquainted with some magic-man who lived in a forest far away from his friend’s village.

The magic-man’s hut was almost hidden behind big, dense trees. It was in a pathetic condition. But as they entered the hut, Franek was surprised to see that the interior was spacious and well furnished.

The magic-man was quite old; he was shockingly ugly. But after a few minutes Franek realized that what he was seeing was not the real face of the magic-man; he was wearing a hideous mask and he had painted his body with garish colours.

‘Looking for a magical power? But you may not be prepared to pay the price.’

The magic-man’s harsh tone unnerved Franek. But egged on by his friend he said, ‘Can you give me x-ray vision?’

‘You too?’ the magic-man laughed; it was a sinister laugh that unnerved Franek.

‘What does that mean?’ Franek asked meekly.

‘It means you will never grow up. But let me advise, you may not find x-ray vision very exciting.’

‘It would be a fascinating power to have,’ Franek said rather impatiently.

‘Are you willing to pay the price?’

‘What’s that?’

‘You will have to pledge your soul to me.’

Franek promptly agreed, he had always thought that soul was a fiction created by religious people to exploit the ignorant.

‘Prick the little finger of your right hand and let the blood drip into this bowl.’ He placed before him a bowl containing a greenish substance.

Blood dripping from Franek’s finger turned the greenish matter into a blackish syrup. The magic-man took a sip from the bowl and then sprinkled a few drops of that magic potion into Franek’s eyes.

‘At sun rise you will get the x-ray vision.’

Franek was excited about the power he was going to acquire, ‘It would be real fun and no one would even know that I have x-ray vision. ’

But the sun rise left him devastated. Everything around him looked different and unearthly.

He could see nothing but the bones of every living being around him. Everyone appeared like a radio-graphic image of himself. He was in a world that was full of living skeletons.

He wanted to scream but could not. The magic had worked and he had acquired the x-ray vision.

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Wednesday, 27 April 2016


His death was as tragic as it was unexpected; he had fallen down the stairs and broken his neck.

Amaan, who was his man Friday for over thirty years, muttered to no one in particular, ‘This had to happen; they will keep chasing him, even after his death. And now it must be my turn. Even God can’t help me.’

He was the richest man of his village and owned almost all cultivable land. Every inch of this land was let out to the landless farmers; the dealings were conducted ruthlessly and anyone daring to default was dealt with appropriately.

His elder son was a fun loving person who liked to read and write poetry and hated the business matters of his father. His father treated him with utter contempt. The younger son was clever; he had convinced the father to allow him to go abroad for studies. He never came back.

Once funeral rites and the seemingly unending ceremonies that followed were over, the sons decided to dispose of all the assets.

‘What of all the wealth that he had amassed; cash, gold, other valuables?’ the younger son asked Amaan.

‘I don’t know where he had kept it. He never told anyone. But I am sure it is hidden in this house.’

‘But where do we look for it? It’s such a big house.’

‘I just don’t know. You may have to dig at some places, perhaps everywhere.’

‘It may be a wild goose chase.’ But they did dig up the house at many places.

While searching in an isolated store house the younger son observed that the walls of that building were unusually thick.

‘There is something odd about these walls, don’t you think so?’

‘I don’t know; perhaps your father was worried about the security,’ Amaan said reluctantly with a trace of tremor in his voice.

‘Now I know where he hid his wealth,’ the younger son was excited with his idea. ‘It is hidden in these walls; there could be hidden cavities. Yes, there must be some secret safes built in these walls.’

‘No, there’s nothing hidden in these walls. Let’s not waste our time; let’s go and search at other places,’ Amaan had suddenly become jittery and desperate. His behaviour surprised the young men.

‘You can’t be sure; father did not tell anyone where he had hidden his wealth, did he?’

The younger son was becoming suspicious of Amaan and decided to dig into the walls of that store house. Amaan turned pale and weak.

The very first hole that was dug in the wall shocked them beyond their belief; it opened into a cavity and inside the cavity they saw a human skeleton.

‘What’s this?’ the younger son screamed, almost hysterically.

Amaan stood tongue-tied. The younger son threatened him. He wanted the truth.

‘These are……..remains of……..a tenant.’

Both the young men failed to comprehend the import of his reply.

‘Your father was very harsh on his tenants. If any tenant defaulted in payment of rent for two years then your father would punish him; he would……he would…..he would seal him alive in a wall.’

The sons could not believe that their father was capable of such inhuman cruelty.

‘It’s a lie, it can’t be true.’

‘At least ten people are lying sealed in the walls of this store room. And….and this is not the only store room that your father had built……’

The young men were too stunned to say anything.

‘But the dead have had their revenge…….and they will not even spare me.’ Later in the evening Amaan fell into a well; a well that had dried years ago and was now nothing but a snake pit.

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Tuesday, 26 April 2016


Duncan was checking in when he saw Bones entering the hotel. Their eyes met; they pretended that they did not know each other. But the pretension couldn’t last for long.
‘It’s been a long time.’
‘Twenty years, five months and fifteen days,’ Duncan answered sullenly.
‘How come you recall it so precisely?’
‘How come you can’t?’
‘Did you meet Corbin and…….?’
‘Never, you?’
They were not aware but Corbin and Jack too had checked into the same hotel.
None of them had even imagined that they would all be staying in the same hotel for one week. They had studiously not maintained any contact with one another for twenty years, five months and fifteen days.
They met in the bar; it was not a planned meeting. Each one had come to enjoy a quite leisurely drink, not knowing that others would also be there. They met reluctantly, their past weighing heavily on each one of them.
The conversation was desultory and difficult. They avoided any definite eye contact with one another; and there wasn’t even an oblique reference to the days gone by.
Suddenly Bones got up; he wanted to leave. At that very moment a woman, walking past their table, tripped. By a strange coincidence, she extended her arm towards Bones who instinctively grabbed it. She was lucky; she had avoided a nasty fall.
‘Thanks, what an awkward thing to do. You often help falling beauties.’ She looked straight into his eyes. Bones averted her gaze. All four of them looked at each other, sheepishly.
‘May I, if it’s not a bachelor’s party?’
‘It would be our pleasure….’ Bones almost mumbled.
They threw surreptitious glances at one another. Everyone was harbouring doubts in his mind. No one was even willing to indulge into pleasantries.  But the woman seemed totally unaffected by their mysterious silence. She did not even wait for an invitation; she ordered a drink for herself.
‘What’s wrong with all of you? Meeting for the first time? I thought you were friends, no?’
No one answered; instead they quickly got busy ordering fresh rounds of drinks.
Slowly their past loosened its hold on their minds. They observed that not only was she very charming but she was also a pleasant person to talk to. But something about her was disturbing Corbin; she vaguely reminded him of someone else.
Either it was the intoxicating influence of her company or of the extra drinks they had, they began to talk of their past.
‘But you haven’t been meeting for last twenty years.’
‘Last time was precisely twenty years, five months and fifteen days ago,’ Duncan said rather sourly.
‘That’s the day the blue-eyed girl died; or did you all kill her?’
Her words stunned them.
‘No, it was just an accident. She threatened us; she had come of her own choice. Why would we kill her?’ Bones blurted. But the moment he uttered these words he realized he had blundered.
‘It was not an accident and you know that.’ Her words were painful like a whiplash on a bare skin.
Corbin looked around; the bar was almost empty. He looked at his watch it was past midnight.
‘Who are you? How do you know about that girl?’ Corbin asked in a slightly threatening tone.
‘Look at me; can’t you recognise me? I am the girl you killed that day.’
They could not believe what they had heard. Stupefied, they looked at her fearfully but they were unable to comprehend what she had said.
‘No, it can’t be; you can’t fool us.’ This was Jack.
‘We had burnt her body in the incinerator, although it was the most abominable thing to do. I have hated myself ever since,’ Duncan spoke vehemently and then he shrank into himself. Soon he was sobbing; he had carried the weight of his sins far too long.
‘How could you do such a horrible thing?’ the woman had tears in her eyes.
‘Who are you?’ Corbin’s eyes were burning with fear and hatred.
‘I am the dead girl’s sister, I have been tracking you for years; you are here because of me, not because of some stupid conference.’
She paused for a few moments. She glared at them and then said, ‘I wanted a confession before I killed you all.’
‘You can’t do that,’ hissed Corbin.
‘I already did.’
All four of them were stunned.
‘Your drinks were poisoned. You will not die tonight. But you will all die, surely.’ She looked towards the bar and smiled at someone on the counter.

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Monday, 25 April 2016

He was in tattered clothes; but somehow the clothes did not go with his personality. He was a strong, handsome and well-built person, not used to wearing shabby and worn out clothes.
He was feeling uncomfortable in his dress. The umbrella was another oddity. It was an expensive umbrella which no poor man could afford. It was his own umbrella that he had allowed them to use for the shoot.
‘Why do I have to dress like this? And this umbrella is a nuisance. They could have thought of some other prop.’
He looked around. No one had turned up; the delay annoyed him. After fretting for a few minutes he thought it would be rather prudent to recollect what all he was required to do.
‘I have to approach an area of the park where a fairly large number of people would be present. I have to attract people’s attention and then loudly say, “Wake up you fools; wake up from your deep slumber. Wake up you sinners or the Lord will strike you with His thunderbolt.” Then I have to open this umbrella and look towards the sky and shout at the top of my voice, “Look at the dark, raging clouds, it’s our Lord’s warning. Wake up or prepare to die.” And then I have to run towards the far end of the park……..What sort of documentary is it? It makes no sense.’ 
He was not wearing any watch but he was aware that everyone was late by at least one hour. He had to reach back by six and it was already half past twelve. He felt irritated and nervous.
‘I think I am also supposed to do a rehearsal before the shoot. Of course I have to rehearse; I must……let me not waste my time.’
At that moment a group of students appeared from nowhere and mobbed him. One of the students whispered in his ears, ‘It’s a setup. You are being manipulated. Don’t open the umbrella. It will trigger a bomb and kill many people. You are so gullible but we will take care of everything.’
For a few seconds he did not comprehend what the boy had said to him. He observed that that person was not actually a young boy; he was a young man masquerading as a student. Even before he could ask anything, the young man had vanished, as if in thin air. 
He stood rooted to the ground, tongue-tied. He felt that the hand holding the umbrella was trembling slightly.
Two men, standing at a good distance, had been intently observing the umbrella man. They looked at each other and nodded gravely.

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