Urban Legend

I’m not a big fan of Priya. I mean who in their right mind would like that big mouthed bitch? However, Kush had convinced me to attend a party at her farmhouse. It was in March two years ago. That led to some gruesome yet nostalgic experiences.

That evening, Kush picked me up in his old hatchback. I remember he made a comment about my choice of outfit on the way — I wore a dull white kurta with a white salwar.
I didn’t mind or care much. “You’re putting on weight, Tina. Watch your calorie intake”, “Can you not laugh like an owl?”, “Hey, could we possibly be a little less loud?” — that was my boyfriend Kush. However, he also happened to be the guy who spent his nights at the hospital during my mother’s chemotherapy (while I slept at home) or the one who offered to pick up my cousin from the airport when she flew in from Italy amidst a taxi strike in Delhi.

We reached the farmhouse by a quarter past nine. Only a dozen guests had turned up thus far. A soft rock buzzed in the air. Kush and I were the first couple to hit the dance platform.

By twelve, I found myself slouched at a corner with my sixth drink. Kush was amongst the thirty odd people dancing on the floor. I was suddenly nauseated. A strong smell from Colonel Jalal’s cigar added to my misery. I needed to escape the din and take fresh air. Thus I staggered towards the parking spot. On the way, my fidgety fingers picked up Kush’s car keys from the table.

To be honest, I find it easier to drive than walk when drunk. It was in a bid to ditch the wretched music that I sped away from the party. No-one noticed when I swooshed past the open gate. However, I was almost ten kilometres from the farmhouse and my bladder cried for attention when I realised I had to go back. Something in the car was burning. I paid no heed to the smell and approached the next U-turn.

It was fifty metres from the turn where the car acted funny. I frowned. Was it the car or could it be the alcohol that affected my driving at last? Next moment, the engine groaned and the car croaked to a halt. Damn! I looked around. Thankfully, I was close to the left of the road and didn’t block the way.
I sat in the dead car till my bladder allowed. After that, I dragged myself out and tottered to the pavement. A row of swank stores frowned at me. They were all closed. But for cars swerving past my car now and then, there was no soul around. I squatted to pee behind a pillar in front of a furniture store. A brilliant LED board read out the store name. Urban Decor. That name was familiar. It ripped open a stunning bout of recollection while I peed. Two years ago, a female employee of Urban Decor was kidnapped and gang-raped. After shutting the store around ten, the girl and two male colleagues were about to board a taxi when the monsters pulled over, overpowered the men, dragged the poor girl into their car and fled.
I looked at my watch. It was twelve twenty. I was all alone. Without my mobile phone. On an open road. Well after midnight. In a city that was arguably the rape capital of the world. I stood up and shivered.
Locking myself in the car, I tried to start it. Although the ignition worked, the dreaded gear would not budge. Cold sweat screened my back and forehead. A pair of tears streamed down my cheeks.
The only option left was to seek help from a passing car. However, that would leave me at the passengers’ mercy. What if they were potential sex predators? At this point, the drunken me came up with a plan. I would appear too repulsive for them to consider forcing themselves on me.
Thus my eager hands picked up a pair of tissue papers from the dashboard and smudged my lipstick. Later, they rummaged through my hair. I stopped only when my head looked like a rainforest on the car’s rear-view mirror. Disheveled hair blurred my face. With Mission Disfigure accomplished, I took the road to flag down commuters.
The first car sped away. So did the second one. I walked up to the middle of the road. An approaching motorcycle swerved past me and fled.
“God, please help me,” I cried out. Tears clogged my vision. I tried to throw myself at the next car. It screeched a loud groan, almost hit the divider and sped off. This continued for around ten minutes. At least twenty cars took great pains to run away from me.
At last, an SUV screeched to a halt. Four men including the driver crawled out of it. They looked like call-centre employees being dropped by their company cab. Were they going to attack me? I started crying again.
One of the passengers said, “Can we help you?”
He didn’t sound like a rapist.
I sniffled, “My car broke down… I’m not carrying a phone… please help.”
I heard the driver complain, “She’s drunk like a sponge.” The passengers glared at him.
The first guy asked, “What happened to your car? May be we can help you fix it?”
The driver sniffed the air and said, “It looks like she fucked up the clutch. If you want to help her, drive it without a gear. I’ll follow in our car.”
“You’re suggesting I drive her car?” The guy looked flummoxed. “Where to?”
“Drop her somewhere? Perhaps let her rest in your place for the night?”
“Take a drunk woman home now? It’s less than six months since I married. You’re technically asking me to forge a divorce.” He looked at me and asked, “Is there someone we could call for help? A number that you remember?”
“07973681XXX.” The number literally escaped my mouth. He dialled it from his mobile phone.
“It’s ringing. Whose number is this?”
“Neel,” I heard myself take that name after ten years.
“Hello, Neel?… There’s a woman stranded on ABC Road. She gave me your number and hopes you’ll help…”
He asked me, “What’s your name, ma’m?”
“Tina.”
“She’s Tina… Thanks a lot, sir… Yes, right in front of Urban Decor.”
He cut the call and said, “He’ll take twenty minutes.”
I put up with the driver’s occasional grumbles for fifteen minutes before Neel’s SUV turned up. The other guys were quiet all the while.
It took them ten minutes to drag the hatchback to the roadside. I was too occupied with Neel to thank those beautiful men (God bless their noble souls) — was he pissed up with me? Inconveniencing him at this hour ten years after our violent break-up? I rolled my eyes anticipating an outburst from my ex. With the alcohol still working, it was delirious inside Neel’s car.
We didn’t break the silence even inside his apartment. I collapsed in his couch. He stood there for two minutes and then retreated to his bedroom. I spread myself on the couch and sleep engulfed me.
Next morning, I woke up to a woman smiling at me from a photograph on a centre table in front of the couch. I was puzzled and tried to recall where I was. A splitting headache tore me apart.
“That’s my wife,” someone said. It was Neel. He sat on a chair across the table.
I said, “Sorry.” What did I apologise for? The nuisance created last night? The ugly breakup? Shutting the door on him for the last ten years? Perhaps for everything.
He said, “It’s ok. Sorry about being so blunt, but you need to leave now.”
I might have still been with you had you not been so artless. I said, “I understand. Please call a cab.”
The cab reported ten minutes later. Neel opened the door for me. I grabbed his shoulders and stole a light kiss on his lips. His startled eyes followed me as I floated out the door.
“Tina,” he called.
I turned back. The world was mute for a second before he said, “Good to see you after all these years.”
I beamed.
He added, “This meeting should remain our secret.”
“You bet.” Asshole.
I nodded. And left.
Thus ended my night of horror. Of course, a huge aftermath followed. 1500 words would be too small a space to explain how I latched on to Kush despite vanishing from his life with his car that night. However, let me instead tell you that stories took wings at other fronts. If you ever mingle with night-time cab drivers in Delhi, they’ll talk about a woman in white who attempts to flag down cars at night. When they speed away, she follows them, floating in the air.

 

Copyright: Souptik

Red Christmas 🎄

I’m enthralled to announce that my work of fiction Somewhere Near Bethlehem is about to be published in a Christmas anthology. The book is titled Red Christmas, and is slated to be released on 15th December.

It’s an anthology of 10 stories and a poem. All centred around Christmas. Each story is dark, disturbing and challenges conventions. Besides me, eight other writers from four continents have contributed to Red Christmas.

The stories:

Our Second Christmas by Rob Cooke 🇺🇸: a fifty something divorced American writer met a younger South African woman writer online. They began an online relationship, became best friends. Feelings blossomed. Until a Thanksgiving gift changed his life forever.

Dashing Through the Snow by Gloria Ogo 🇳🇬: A kidnap. A suicide. Unending guilt as Meg is forced to take responsibility for the disappearance of her sister. A burden carried for over 20 years. When Meg returns to the very spot where Anne had disappeared, her search takes a deadly turn. Will she survive long enough to find the sister she seek?

Two Turtle Doves by Richard Wall 🇬🇧: my first guitar saved my life. And I wish now that I’d never set eyes on it. A tale of a demonic guitar.

Somewhere Near Bethlehem by Yours Truely 🇮🇳: Melchior, Balthasar and Gaspar, three wise scholars, travel from Persia towards Bethlehem – to meet a holy child. A mysterious woman joins the travelers along the way. Gaspar dreams. An impending tragedy. He is convinced one of them will perish. Will the group succeed in meeting the holy child?

Horror on the Housetops by D A Schneider 🇺🇸: A fierce blizzard rages to the south,
a storm to end all storms. Yet, Kris Kringle presses on. Nothing will impede the delivery of gifts to all the good little boys and girls around the world. Not even the horde of possessed clowns stowed away in his sack. Will Kris get away from the homicidal dolls? Or could this be the end of Christmas as we know it?

Santa’s Gift by Allegra Khan 🇺🇸: A dark basement. A disgruntled child. A familiar man in red, tied to a chair. Can Santa reason with the child before the boy’s rage consumes them both? A Christmas tale both dark and light. About anger, sorrow and forgiveness.

Naughty Children List by Esosa Kolawole 🇳🇬: When the magic of Christmas passes on to a powerful sorceress, she must save all the naughty kids from Maseri, an evil sorcerer. But first, she must keep her son away from him.

Every Christmas by Aaron Campbell 🇺🇸: Every Christmas, I hold your memory close, refusing to let go. You keep me at peace as I fight self doubt and apologize every Christmas. I dance to the sound of your humming. I think of it often. I miss you dearly. And that may be my problem.

Roof Top by Susan Opata 🇳🇬: Christmas was never the same for Sarah since the day they wheeled him away. A new neighbour moves in, and soon Sarah finds out what they both have in common. Including a message from her father.

Red River Christmas – a poem by Rob Cooke 🇺🇸

 

Here are the links:

US kindle edition: Red Christmas

US paperback edition: Red Christmas

UK kindle edition: Red Christmas

UK paperback edition: Red Christmas

India paperback edition: Red Christmas

India kindle edition: Red Christmas

Our Facebook page: Red Christmas

The First Bald Step and How it Fizzled Out

On 30th June 2016, Gurpreet Sandhu became the first Indian to play at the UEFA Europa League qualifying round when he started for Stabæk F.C. against Connah’s Quay. This article, however, is not about him. This is rather about the first Indian to have played abroad.
Yes, an Indian had played for Celtic. The same club where legends like Paul Elliott, Henrik Larsson, Paul Lambert and the current Liverpool and Holland centre back Virgil Van Dijk played. I am talking about Mohammed Salim. He was the only footballer ever to have played barefooted for the Scotland club.
Born in 1904, Salim started his career at the Bowbazar club in 1926. He joined the Mohamedan Sporting B team by the end of that year, and moved to Sporting Union next year. He spent 4 years at Sporting Union. It was ages before football became a profession, and Salim worked as a chemist for a living. He joined the East Bengal club in 1932, and spent a year there before joining the Aryans next year. After 2 seasons at Aryans, Mohamedan Sporting picked him up in 1934. That kicked off an explosive stint that saw Mohamedan Sporting pick up their first Calcutta League.
In 1936, a hastily prepared Indian XI played against the Chinese Olympic team in Calcutta. The Chinese coach and officials were so impressed by Salim, Rahim and Abbas from the Indian side that they proposed a second such match next year. Before this match was organised, however, Salim seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. It later emerged that one of his relatives, who was settled in Glasgow, urged him to accompany them to Scotland and try at Celtic.
At Celtic Park, Salim went barefeet for trial. The officials were so impressed that they let him start the next match against Hamilton Accies. He was the first Indian not only to play at Europe, but also to score at that match which Celtic won 5–1. He even scored at the next match that Celtic won 7–1. These two games were enough for the Celtic people to anoint him “Twinkle Toes”.
Following this, however, he became homesick and, despite what was arguably the most generous offer in British professional football those days (an 1800 pounds contract) and another offer at Bundesliga, he came back to India and joined Mohamedan Sporting in 1936.
Celtic F.C., however, never forgot him. When he fell sick in 1980, his helpless son wrote a letter to the club seeking help. They obliged by sending him a 100 pounds bank draft. However heartwarming that gesture might have been, it was fruitless, as Salim died in 1980.

 

COPYRIGHT: Souptik

Imran Khan Reaches Out to PM Modi

Times of UNESCO

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Recently elected Pakistan PM Imran Khan has come up with a seemingly beautiful offer to India’s prime minister Narendra Modi. He made this proposal on his first official call to the Indian PM on Saturday.

His suggestion sounds unique and out of the box in many ways. If implemented, it has the potential to put the long running Indo-Pak tension surrounding Kashmir to a permanent rest. In fact, not just the Kashmir issue, but several other deadlocks may be broken following frutification of the Pak PM’s suggestion.

Being an erstwhile cricketer, the new PM’s proposal centres around the gentleman’s game. He suggests that India and Pakistan play a ten over veterans’ cricket match with the following rules:

  • Only two people bat for each side
  • Only two people bowl for each nation
  • While the four above mentioned players need to be veterans, the rest of the fielding side will comprise of…

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10 Reasons Why You Should Not Work Out

Satire 🙂

Times of UNESCO

1. It takes a lot of time. They say time is money. Stop being the prodigal son. Save some time aka money. In case you don’t know about the prodigal son, invest some time in learning about him
2. It consumes a lot of energy. Energy is precious.We all need to consume it for our own good
3. It takes a lot of patience. You may run out of it. That may lead to severe consequences like falling out with your significant other, spat with the guy at the petrol pump, arguments with your boss that may have far-fetched consequences. You would be safer with some of your patience intact
4. It’s unhygienic in a way. You sweat a lot while working out. Sweat is gross. You should never sweat. Besides, sweat stains on your brand new Cristiano Ronaldo shirt? Can you afford that? Ever?
5. It affects your personality.

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Sorry, Asifa

 

Our depleted conscience will,
some day,
sink deep in the earth and
await the world’s end.
We’ll be a sea of dead pigs
walking in the garb of men.
Conscience?
What’s that?
All we care for is the
head to be held high –
not our’s, but Napoleon’s head.
We adorn him with the
crown and
our minds wag their tails.

 

Copyright: Souptik Banerjee

Deplete

The Curse of the Dead Leaves

 

‘Twill be 15th April tomorrow.
We’ll light a candle on our front porch
or at the India Gate.
The hounds will smack us
and draw our blood.
The squirrels will still say
you brought it on yourself –
By choosing a wrong set of parents,
by being kind to that pony
and lurking alone and
by having a hole between your legs.
Facebook and twitter will
burn for two weeks –
burnt by people who
died with you, or by your killers –
shameless and not dead.
The lamps will gradually die, un-dieing us.
For we’ll live again.
In the confines of a cold
little tomb shut by a sigh,
your little maimed body
will die
as our Facebook, twitter and
our obese minds
will swim through the
Indian Premier League.
Some little weed will creep
from the graveyard as
Liverpool will probably play
the Champions’ League final.
Soon, you’ll be completely dead
and the World Cup will grip the planet –
England will probably win.
Days, months and years will crawl.
At every corner of the cursed continent, an Asifa will cry

and die.

 

Copyright: Souptik Banerjee

For anyone who cares:

Link

Sorry, could have used the word glimmer somewhere in the piece, but didn’t feel like doing it.

 

A Tribute to Joy Goswami

Sorry, this one’s in Bengali 😉

 

কাফকা নামের কেকটি খেতে যেদিন
পৌঁছে গেলাম মন্জিনিসের ঘরে
আমার নিজের মেঘবালিকা সেদিন
চড়লো এসে মাঝরাতেতে ঘাড়ে.

ফুঁ মেরে এক ক্যান্সারেতে
ঘুম তাড়িয়ে বললাম আমি,
“মেঘ হয়েছিস, বৃষ্টি হবি?
দিস ভিজিয়ে মনের জমি?”

সে বললো, “বৃষ্টি হবো নাকো,
তার বদলে বাদলা হাওয়া হয়ে
তোমার মনে বৈব সারাদিন,
জাগিয়ে দেব থাকবে যখন শুয়ে.”

বেরোলো এক দীর্ঘশাস,
মেঘবালিকা তার ধাক্কায়
হয়ে গেল উথাল পাথাল
ছড়িয়ে দুঃখদ নীলচে হাওয়ায়.

সে এখন উড়ে বেড়ায়
এদিক সেদিক এখান ওধার —
সাতটি সাগর, তেরো নদী,
গুনে গুনে বাইশ পাহাড়.

এত ঘোরাঘুরির মাঝে
যখন আসে আমার কাছে
ঘুম ভেঙে যায় রাতবিরেতে,
চোখ দুটোতে বৃষ্টি আসে.

 

Copyright: Souptik Banerjee

(Please provide due credit if shared)

Dystopia

It’s the kingdom of beans,
and beans are its prey.
It’s the era of shrimps,
and shrimps are at bay.
For every inch you tend to fly,
stick to the manual,
don’t stray.
For your meagre beanhood’s
sake, don’t stray.

It’s the kingdom of beans,
beans we all are.
Beans we ever tend to stay –
rich or ripped ass poor.
If you ever aspire to sprout,
they won’t even show the door.
Highway not an option,
consequences galore.

They’ll ram you,
split you and
incise through
your skin and
leave you to rot
akin
to a pinch of dirt.

You ask me who they are?
Of course, they’re beans.
In fact, they’re the more equal beans.
Remember Orwell’s Napoleon?
All beans are equal,
but some are more equal.

 

Warning