Games Ghosts Play

This story is a translation (not word by word) of an original in Tamil authored by Venkatesh Radhakrishnan, a prolific writer of, among many things, interesting short stories like this piece. His stories have a certain indescribable quality that pushes one to read more. It is difficult to capture in full the ingenuous charm of his words and the local color of the original. This is as close as I could get.

Here we go:

**

Well, there’s no place like Tambaram, if you ask folks here – I’m one of and with them. The fog in the morning, the cool breeze, entirely unknown to the citizens of Chennai living not too far from here.

Returning last night after a month of as much sweat as of toil out in Madurai and Trichy, abs oppressive if anything, it felt nice to be back and, out on a walk this morning with, on my wife’s insistence, a muffler wrapped chic around my neck.

In the caress of the gentle breeze, I craved for the warmth of a cigarette. Walked up to the tea-stall near the Kamarajapuram bus stand.

Awash with a hedonistic first lungs-full, I dreamily gazed around looking but not looking until…

it was such a shock to see him, Victor! The cigarette slipped from my hand. My face turned pale, mouth agape – a ripe uncut Alphonso would have had an easy passage, and goose bumps in full bloom (horripilation is the word for it? Sounds bloo#y pedantic, wouldn’t want to be caught live saying it).

Victor was my class-mate in college. We joined the air-force together and, at the expiry of our Short Service Commission, we opted for discharge at about the same time. Back into civvies, I took up marketing in the corporate sector and Victor set up a computer sales and service shop and later extended himself to mobile phones and devices. A fairly big outlet doing brisk business near Tambaram Camp Road.  Over the last seven to eight years, we had not kept in touch except for an occasional unplanned contact.

‘All fine, but what made you go pale?’ I hear you asking.

Well, last evening, over dinner, the lady of the house brought me to speed on happenings in and around during my month’s absence, trying as best as she could not dropping the thread, and me distracted by a succession of phone calls urging me to buy stuff we didn’t need – like a gadget that would read off from a news paper held in one’s hands, in 5 different languages and, what more, 12 different voices/accents! Had to sadly stop the poor kid mid-way in his script to say I had stopped reading news papers long ago, the world, since, looking a much better place to live.  Am digressing – getting back to where I was, the update from my wife included the sad news she had just heard: Victor was no more, he had passed away some months ago in an accident. Or was it some ailment, she said? Couldn’t be sure what it was, those dam#ed phone calls. Felt sad for him – a pity we had not seen much of each other over the years.  The lady further decreed I visit his house without delay and convey my condolences along with the reason for my tardiness – she had already done it for her part. Human mind being what it was, he was soon crowded out by other mundane matters demanding my attention until…

Now you know why my legs turned into jelly.

Knew a bit about ghosts and their ways of life from the stories I had read in my younger days; also, real life accounts from people who have exchanged ‘Hi’ and more with the denizens of the ‘spiritual’ world and lived to tell. Informed as I was, I did not put it past a ghost wanting to catch up with an old friend. They are often known to make amends for lapses in their living lives.  

‘Hey dude, when did you return?’ Victor (italics for the reason you know and quite a bother actually to keep it up) inquired, moving closer; strange, this again was completely at variance with my knowledge of them – they always kind of ‘floated’, walking firm-footedly was for us, the lesser mortals. Reasonable guy I was, I let it pass, putting it down to their evolution with time – they can’t be denied in the days of equal rights.

Pausing in his stride, he turned back to the shop-keeper to ask for a cigarette.

Again, an inconsistency. These folks are known – authority has it nailed down – to shun flame and fire. And here this guy was lighting up and smoking a cigarette with utter disregard and supreme nonchalance! What to say, this was Kaliyug when norms and rules did not hold – all foretold in our infallible sacred books; did this apply to Victor too, a non-Hindu? WTH (What The Heck), I wasn’t going to let the thought bother me, as I already had enough on my hands, you’ll agree. The situation demanded a clear head and that’s what it was going to be.

‘So, when did you come back?’ he repeated ‘himself’. ‘Didn’t know you had. And, sister (my wife) didn’t tell me either.’

Struggling to maintain equanimity – the circumstances were very trying, as you can see, I said: ‘Came yesterday evening, Victor. Was planning to visit your place today.’ Stopped short, with an effort, of adding ‘to convey my condolences over your unfortunate death.’

Victor: ‘It’s all fate. Who would’ve knownit was all because of that dam# car coming the wrong way

It was quite creepy – here I was listening to him describing the incident leading to ‘his’ transitionweird.

He continued: ‘Why do you look so ashen? Did you see a ghost or something? So how is sister (my wife) doing? Please do convey my regards to her. Why don’t you come home, say, sometime after eleven? One more thing, pal: Don’t have change on me. Pay for my cigarette too, won’t you? See you then.’

Before I could untie my tongue, he was gone – disappearing into the morning fog.

With a demeanor of a chicken under a spell trotting in a daze, I went up to the counter and paid the shop-keeper for the two cigarettes.

OMG, it seemed ghosts were common place in these parts. And to be transacting with them, selling cigarettesno one appears to sense anything untowardit didn’t matter time-tested laws of physics were being seriously challenged. How could they be facilely hobnobbing with roving ghosts? Though, to be fair to all, in some of those stories and anecdotes, ghosts do come across as well-behaved social creatures.

Suddenly my hands, palms and fingers went cold. I shoved them into my trouser pockets for warmth andfound my cell-phone.

I called up Victor’s residence.

After a few rings, ‘Hello!’ It was his Dad.

‘Uncle, it’s Venkat here, Victor’s friend, you remember?’

‘Yes, Venkat, I remember you. You sound flustered. Are you alright?’

‘I’m fine, Uncle, a little short of breath – it’s just the walk and the chill out here. Called for Victor. No particular reason. Is he around?’

Victor’s Dad: ‘Don’t know how you air force guys are so alike. He said he’s going out for a walk and would be back within the next half-hour. I’ll tell him to call you when he returns.’

I felt sorry for the old man. Must have been in his seventies. Still living under the delusion his son was very much alive and going about his routine as always. Sad.

I signed off politely and turned homewards curtailing my walk, not feeling up to it.

The aroma wafted in pulling me to the kitchen. Thanks to my wife. Hot coffee was just the thing for this weather. Took a couple of gulps (we don’t sip in the south of this land – coffee tastes so much better, we believe, when poured off the lips of a metal tumbler, hot and bitter, straight onto the back of the mouth),  

To my wife, ‘I met Victor on my walk. Had a few words with him.’ (not in italics!)

She was far from startled: ‘I suppose it was all perfectly inane remarks that he could perfectly do without. You never pay attention to what I say. And I suppose you didn’t express your condolences over his father’s demise in that unfortunate accident. What would he think of you

The still-half-full tumbler fell from my hands wasting good coffee on the floor.

**

End

 

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What No City But Mumbai Teaches …

3, 4 and 5 are my favorites!

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Source: The Nationalist Mind

Mind Is A Many Splendored Thing

The comments that follow a post is a great window of opportunity available, if you have the inclination, to observe that wondrous thing called the human mind.

Look at this picture and the small selection of the comments it elicited. And, be ready to be amazed at the myriad ways the mind responds to the same single stimulus.  

Here’s the photo:

And here’re the eleven minds at it:

BS: Don’t venture out on the jetty….!!!! It steals your youth…..😲😲😲😲

SM: The days are long, but the years are so short.

KM: Where is the divorced guy with 2 kids on the pier?

RW: Not mine!! You need to add 10 ft. waves, loose boards, holes in the walkway, railings ready to fall if you touch them… THEN it would be close!! lol

GT: 🙂

LP: What, didn’t want kids? 🙂

KNL: That’s love

NL: So true!

TBT: The best part of life is not there – being a kid 👍

BC: That’s how quick your goes 😏

TB: Before and After

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Source: facebook.com/icreativeideas

My Search Ended On Seeing This…

Can you fault this logic?

Personally I think it looks so becoming on Bezo, no hair is just right on his pate.

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Source: Gautam Iyengar in FB.

If You Look Closely…

she’s me masquerading!

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When Life Is Taken Away…

Removing life from a man renders him dead;

and from a woman, in her place a mother is born!

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Source: Ravi Kumarபடித்ததில் ரசித்தது

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall, Who’s The Cruelest Of Them All?

Source: gopalswamy

See here: Time Will Tell

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