Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Mystery of the Disappearing Blogger

The following story is my first attempt at fiction. I submitted it to the Coffee Beans Competition and won. My very first Story-writing Award! Here is the story for your kind perusal!

The Mystery of the Disappearing Blogger
By Brendan-Anton R. Dabhi

I had been summoned to the police station at two on Monday morning. Two cops came over and hauled my ass to the waiting jeep. I tried asking them what the problem was but they just cryptically answered me saying that their senior officer wanted to have a little chat with me.

They sat me down in one of the offices and brought me a glass of water to clear my head. I gulped it down. “Can I get some more?” I asked. 

“In a moment, um… Bendaam.” he said, stuttering, trying to pronounce my name with a kind of swagger that was supposed to impress me but which rather gained him a sigh and a withering look. I didn't care to correct him at two in the morning. I’m not exactly a morning person.

“What am I here for, sir?” I asked.

“A woman has gone missing in Mumbai and you were the last person to contact her before she went off the radar.”

I was immediately apprehensive and the first thought was for my cousin who I’d messaged on Whatsapp just two days prior to this interrogation. I, however, kept my thoughts to myself. “Well, who is it?” I ventured, dreading the very thought of someone I knew, being lost.

Officer Pundit, the officer interrogating me, said, “Do you know a lady by the name of Namrota Mazumdar?”

I was shocked! Namrota? Missing? How was that possible? I had sent her a mail just… And then I realized that I had sent her a mail over the weekend and had got no reply.

“Oye? Boy?” officer Pundit snapped his fingers in my face as I escaped my reverie. “Yes, yes I know her. What happened?” I asked; the nervousness clearly evident in my shaky voice.

Completely ignoring my question, he asked, “When did you last contact her?”

“Umm… I don’t know, may be yesterday or the day before that.”

“I need a better answer than maybe, kid.” He growled, evidently not very happy to be jogging my memory so early in the morning. “Yesterday or the day before that? Come on, answer me.” He demanded.

I took a guess and told him that it was the day before that I had sent Namrota a mail regarding a blogging competition. He looked at the paper in his hand and nodded approvingly. He then asked me if I had noticed any change in her writing style or if she seemed stressed the last time she’d contacted me. I replied in the negative, but the fact was that I really didn’t know. Our mails to each other were just really short one-liners.

He seemed to relax visibly. He leaned back in his chair, arranged his papers, put them back in the folder and got up. I got up too. He looked at me and gave me a smile. I was bewildered. Where was the rock-hard piece of stone that was questioning me? Why is he smiling? Is this interrogation over? All these questions were running through my still sleep-addled brain at the sudden change in expression of Officer Pundit.

“Come on” he urged, putting out one hand towards me and pointing at the door with the other. “Let’s sit in my office” as he waited outside the holding cell till I exited it too and then closed it behind me.

We had to cross the main doorway of the police station to reach his office and I noticed a number of policemen lounging about, poring over files and talking to people. My eyes also managed to wander over to the big wall clock above the doorway which proclaimed that it was just a quarter to three in the morning. How was that possible? I thought to myself. The interrogation felt like it had continued for over an hour or two.

When we reached his cabin, we asked me to sit in one of the chairs facing his desk as he took a seat behind it and regarded me in quiet contemplation for a while, making me even more uncomfortable and nervous than I actually was. He then gave another of his beatific smiles and said, “Don’t worry, Brendaam. It’s over. Now you can relax. No need to be scared. You’ve been cleared.”

“What?” I asked, in a voice that came out about a pitch higher than I’d anticipated. “I was a suspect? You thought I had something to do with Namrota’s disappearance?”

“Well, yes. We have to regard everyone as a suspect until proven otherwise. Don’t you watch CID?” he asked, chuckling at his own little joke. “But now it’s OK, I know you’re not involved in any way.”

At that moment, a constable came in carrying a file. He showed it to his superior who approved of whatever he saw and then sent him off. As he was leaving, Officer Pundit shouted after him, “Order two cups of tea, Balwant.”
“Yes, OK sir.” He shouted back, already halfway across the building.

“Now Brendan”, he said, “I need you to tell me what you know about this lady and what do you think happened to her.”

My elation over him pronouncing my name right was dampened by my apprehension over Namrota’s disappearance.  “I don’t know sir. But we are fellow bloggers. I follow her blog regularly and I've noticed something strange there.”

“Do go on”, he urged, placing before me a cup of steaming hot tea that had just been brought in by the Kitliwala.

“Well, her last post was an advertisement about some product or another. It seemed very unlike Namrota. I don’t think she had ever done anything like that before; using her blog to advertise something. I don’t remember what it was exactly but I think I know why I remember it; it was because the post had a kind of forced quality. It was as if she had been forced to write that particular post.”

“Uh huh? You think so?” he looked perplexed.

“Yeah, it was as if she was coerced into writing that post. Do you think she might have been blackmailed or be kidnapped by those people, sir?” I argued feebly.

“It is possible, we cannot rule out any possibilities…” he trailed off, looking into the distance and sipping his tea. The silence of those few minutes was so intense that I could hear the gears in his head turn and creak as he sought to make sense of the information I’d just piled onto him. “Very well, we’ll keep that in mind. Thank you.” He stood up and shook my hand. I took that as a cue that I was being dismissed. “Balwant will drop you home, alright?” he asked.

“Yes sir, thank you. Could you please inform me when you do find her?” I asked hopefully.

“Sure boy”, he replied absently as he picked up his phone to make a call.

I was driven to my apartment by the constable and as I sat down at the dining table, the shock hit me. I suddenly realized the enormity of what had happened. One of my blogger friends was missing, in another city, possibly without a trace. I was stunned, unable to move. When I finally came out of this trance, I groped at my box of cigarettes and struggled to light one with my shuddering hands.

I know not how I lived through those four days in the constant fear of my phone - the fear of bad news.

However, on the fifth day, just as I was about to leave for office, my phone rang. It was Officer Pundit and he informed me that my hunch was right. Namrota had indeed been kidnapped by the company whose advertisement had appeared on her blog. She was being held against her wish by those people because they wanted her to keep writing for them. Both the accused, the owners of the company had been apprehended and were being held in police custody. I thanked the officer for the good news and breathed a sigh of relief. Namrota was safe.

I reached office and got online only to see that I had a mail by no other than my lost-and-found friend. It was a letter of thanks and heartfelt gratitude for my help in solving the case. She said that she hadn't been mistreated and that she was unhurt. I was very glad to hear that.

Later that month, I heard on the news that the two guys responsible for her disappearance had been declared unfit to stand trial because of their mental instability. They had been admitted into an asylum for the criminally insane.

Later that day, I sent Namrota a one-line E-mail that went:

“Wow! What a Week!”

Note: This story is a work of fiction and any/all characters bearing resemblance to real people are mere coincidences.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Light after Dark

It’s one of the best Sundays this year is going to have for me, or so I think. I can hardly believe my good fortune. I was not surprised that I didn't make it into the winner’s list at the IndiBlogger awards because I’m an infant blogger as yet but imagine my absolute delight when I realized that in lieu, I had won two other awards to make up for the earlier disappointment.

The first award of the two that I was nominated for was by Niranjan. He nominated me for the Awesome Blog Content Award.

ABC Award by Niranjan

The second award was presented to me by Namrota. She selected my first fiction story writing attempt as one of the three best that had entered her Coffee Beans Competition.

Coffee Beans Competition Award by Namrota

I’m very thankful to my two fellow-bloggers who thought I deserve these prizes. These accolades hold much importance, especially for a new blogger like myself; for only when appreciated as such, does one realize that readers like your work and you try to perform even better and in fact try even harder not to disappoint those who have come to expect something from you.

I shall strive, to the best of my ability, to serve my readers.

Yours truly,

Brendan-Anton R. Dabhi.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

A State of Mind

I’m sure a lot of people reading this post will have heard this phrase on the news in context of the poor, so eloquently spoken by our very own Rahulbaba. He said that poverty was a state of mind and that it had no relation to materialistic wealth, whatsoever. While many people, mainly the opposition parties, went up in arms about the Gandhi scion making fun of the poor, it got me thinking about the rigidity that prevails in each of our minds. The set patterns and the type of thinking that we are used to, the mould we are set in and the fact that we absolutely refuse to think outside of the same.

Our set notions of our society, our country, our traditions and our systems refuse to change. It is as if we are stuck in a rut. We allow ourselves to believe that things cannot change. We let ourselves be fooled into thinking that things are better the way they are and they can only get worse if we attempt to meddle in these powers that are (apparently) beyond our control.

Well, I really think the problem is that we are afraid of change.

We think that we are in a good place; we want to delude ourselves into thinking that it’s all good and that things should keep running as they have been, for decades and perhaps centuries. Well, there must be a reason why nobody changed them before, right? But nobody ever questions the past. Or maybe they do, and they do not like the answer, so they bury it right where they found it.

A very intriguing line spoken by one of my professor’s comes to mind, “A revolution comes, but on an empty stomach.”

I think this holds quite true. We have this ‘chalta hai’ attitude that has come close to destroying our country, this ‘let go’ attitude that has even brought us to the brink of war… and yet we do nothing. We do nothing, not because we can’t but because we still have reason not to. But the day our false mirrors of excuses collapse, we will realize that we should have checked our mindsets long back.

That we can do something – Today!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Haiku #4 – Blight

Photo Courtesy: Google Images.

Down with infection,
A viral contagion;
Common cold it is.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

India under Attack

It has recently come to my notice that our great country, India, is a sovereign nation. I was surprised at this revelation. I always thought we were an open nation for anyone to come in and chill out and leave if and when they wished to do so. I didn't know that foreigners couldn't just stroll into our borders and kill people and claim our territory as their own and basically try to intimidate this great giant of South-East Asia.

Well these false notions of mine must have been generated due to what the successive governments of this country have been portraying to its people and the world for the longest possible time I remember. This country seems to do nothing at all when its neighbours deliberately try to provoke it. This country not only refuses to retaliate, but also stubbornly seems reluctant to even defend itself.

Our Western neighbour constantly keeps sending terrorists into India to blow up people and places and lots of other things but we behave like all is well and invite their politicians to hang out in Delhi. We even agree to start peace-talks over and over again because they manage to break the cease-fire every now and then.

Just some trigger-happy buffoons, eh?

Then there are our Eastern neighbours who ‘unintentionally’ just wander into Indian territory and settle down in our eastern states .These people are also known as aliens because they have no right whatsoever to settle in another country without permission from two respective governments first. But since we believe in the phrase, “Atithi Devo Bhava” (Guests are God), we let them stay in our big beautiful land of opportunity.

Population problem? No problem!

Our very friendly Southern neighbours can’t be forgotten. Just because they have an unmitigated prejudice towards some of our countrymen, they cannot be deemed bad, right? Yeah, they treat human rights like toilet paper and consider the sea corridor between our nations to be their own personal waterway but so what? They can be allowed certain indulgences for being stuck on a small piece of land next to our humungous country. So we keep quiet about their tantrums and just because they are too tiny to bother about, we pucker up the courage to condemn them in the United Nations.

Wow! We did that? Sweet!

Last, but not the least, let us take a look at our Northern frontiers. The land-where-everything-is-made has apparently run out of space to build more factories and they need a little territory from us it seems. And well, they’re not asking for it, they’re just claiming it to be their own. And we just stand and stare and send our minister for defence to have a little peace talk. Wait! Where have I heard that before?

Hey, you want some land? Ask the Gujarat chief minister, he’s giving out land for free anyway.

Now I know that we cannot afford to antagonize all our neighbours because we certainly aren't ready for war but can we not do a little more than lodging letters of protest or holding futile ‘peace-talks’? Then there is the argument that we will be called perpetrators of war in the UN but I think that the time for making excuses has passed and we need to do something to protect the interests of this nation.

For how long are we going to stand by and watch while Pakistan wrecks havoc within our nation?

For how long are we going to tolerate Bangladeshi nationals residing illegally in our states?

For how long are we going to be pressurized by Sri Lanka, an island country the size of a peanut?

For how long are we going to keep watching while China claims that the northern half of our country is their backyard?

… And they say that India is a Superpower.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Give me your money… in the name of God!

Yesterday, I was sitting and talking to a friend outside a McDonald's when this incident took place.  There came along a woman in a shining red albeit a well-worn sari, with a plate in her hand. I knew what this was before I even looked into the plate. It was, as expected, a picture of one of the many Goddesses from the Hindu mythology. I don’t know which one and I didn't bother to ask, for I had met many a person trying to sell blessings like this in my comparatively short time in this world. This woman was no different. She first tried coming dangerously close to crossing the line into my personal space but I like to think that I scared her into stopping short of doing the same. Then she made her bid.

“Paisa de do mata ke naam pe” (Gimme money in the name of the mother goddess)

“Maa dua degi aapko” (The mother Goddess will bless you)

When I outright refused to part with my father’s hard –earned money, she tried another tactic.

“Beti saath me baithi hai, de do beta” (The girl is sitting with you my son, come on give some money)

Yeah, she actually tried using my friend to shame me into giving her some money. But she didn't yet know how shameless I could be! So naïve, the devotee of the mother Goddess! Look what she tried next.

“Beti ko achha pati milegaa” (The girl will get a good husband)

“Bachho ko dua milegi” (Her kids will get blessings)

Oh, the look on my friend’s face, Priceless!  You might not believe me, but the woman actually talked about my friend getting a good husband and her future kids getting the blessings if I paid her. Heights of Divinity, I say!

“Chalo beta, kuch nahi toh tere naam pe ice cream kha leti hun” (Alright son, if you’re not paying me, I’ll just eat an ice cream at your expense)

I went, “Huh? Naa!” Since we were sitting next to a Havmor dealership, she actually tried to buy herself an ice cream on my behalf.

I was royally pissed by now. I was just trying to spend some quality time with a friend who I hadn't seen in over 4 months and this woman was trying to sell God to me! Well, she finally got the hint and moved on, muttering what I only assume to be a curse or something (not that I care) and trying to get hold of someone who actually gave a damn.

Note: By this post, I’m not trying to insult any religion or any person’s beliefs or anybody’s God(s). I’m just trying to portray the depths to which people will sink to earn a quick buck instead of working. I’m also not trying to question their spirituality, just their ethics and morals in having no qualms about selling blessings for a few coins, in the middle of the road.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Shift

It is now three months that I started blogging and the initial fervour is not exactly starting to die down like I thought it would. I have shifted cities once more and now finally getting into the mood to get cracking on my studies again. My long vacation of four months is now both fortunately and unfortunately at an end.

I had started this blog as a way to escape the boredom and nothingness that is ‘vacation’ but after my third blog post, I realized that this was going somewhere. This relationship would not just culminate with the vacations but go on in the long run to be a steady affair. Now that I’m going to resume my daily life with its share of workloads and projects, I have a lingering feeling that I’m not going to be able to shrug it off and move on to something else like I've been doing for the past three years. This is going to be a lasting relation with its ups and downs and grief and joy and moments of writer’s block!

And, in the field of study that I've chosen, my blog is one of the factors that affords me as much learning and experience than I can manage to glean out of a classroom or a lab. Communication, i.e. effective communication is learnt only by dialogues, I believe and not just one way traffic. Writing, being read and then answered by your readers, that’s the type of learning I’m talking about and that is what, in effect, communication is all about.

So I hope that the fire of this blog never goes out and even if it comes close to doing so, I’ll just add a little of either Brandy or Whiskey to rejuvenate it again. (wink, wink)