Thursday 15 August 2013

Short Story 2013 Shortlist, Romila Chitturi

‘Hurry up students, last 30minutes,’ announced the invigilator.
I was writing my last paper of the 10th board exams, ICSE, English paper II.

‘God why does the time run so fast, I have another question to write’, I said to myself.
The last question – ‘How does Shakespeare set about delineating his chief characters as compared with other authors? Importance of his secondary personages in this particular?’

‘Thank god I know the answer, I said and starting writing the answer- ‘the distinguishing feature of Shakespeare’s delineation of character is ………………………, but which would have instantly jarred upon us had they come to us from the lips of the chief characters themselves’.

‘Hey Rimi, stop writing so many papers, do you want to top the entire nation?’ without a question, you better pass me your answer sheets so that I can copy from it, demanded Kaveeta who was the top brat of my class and my frenemy (both friend and enemy, a relationship that is both mutually beneficial or dependent while being competitive, fraught with risk and mistrust)
I looked at her, while still writing; I ordered my hands not to stop.  Kaveeta looked at me like I was her prey.  I continued ignoring her.

‘Time up, its 5pm stop writing’, shouted the invigilator on top of her voice so that the last student in the big hall of 100 students would hear her well.
‘One day’ Kaveeta said between teeth tightened with rant and rave ‘I am going to kill you, Rimi’. ‘You better be careful and watch out’. These were the last words I heard from her mouth which buried in my mind deep inside.

My Blackberry alerted me of a new email, I was busy copy editing the latest issue of the magazine for which I was now the Assistant Editor. I opted ignoring the email.
It alerted me again and again. I finally decided to check it. It was an email from one of my oldest friend from school times; it was an e-invitation, which read

‘Dear Rimi,
 ‘It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years! Come and reminisce with The Class of 1998 of Noble High on February 15, 2013 from 5pm until 12:00 midnight, Raddison Blu, Road No.11, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad’.
‘A reunion party and did I read properly, I am being invited for it’, I could not believe my eyes what I had just read.
‘Today is only 5th, February 15th is long, and I have few days in hand to plan it’. I logged off from my inbox and got back to work.

I was sitting on the bench with my baggage on the platform number 10 waiting for the southern bound train. To kill time, I paced up and down browsing at the book stalls. The train was 1hour late.  I watched the stray dogs being fed pieces of food by fellow passengers. The trains came and passed but my train was nowhere near. Trolleys passed me, various vendors selling paranthas, curds, buttermilk and sweets. I lost interest in all that as I was waiting for the train from past half-n-hour. I continued staring across the railway tracks, feeling jaded and lonesome.

‘I am going to kill you’, yelled the woman very loudly. I looked at her immediately. She was talking on her mobile. I saw a dark face with big black eyes. She wore no jewellery, dressed in a simple yellow salwar kameez. She was on the heavier side of weight.

‘Kind attention to all passengers, train from New Delhi to Hyderabad is arriving shortly in platform number 10’.
I was over content hearing the announcement.
I got into my compartment hoping to be alone with my music and books.
The guard waved his flag, blew his whistle and the train began to move slowly away from the platform, with a rush of solidity, a fat woman about my own age hauled herself into a berth opposite to me. She was the same loud yelling woman.

Keeping my eyes down, I pretended to be reading the newspaper. While I observed out of the corner of my eyes her thick set legs dangling inches from the floor. The train began to gather speed and at the same time her fat legs swung back and forth in time with the motion of the train. The woman was now once more on her mobile repeating the same statement yet again ‘I am going to kill you’.
Kaveeta was somewhat of a bully, she always made us do her homework and assist her in the exams. Everyone helped her except me. She was always furious with wrath; her awful globular eyes peered into mine.

Back in the train, my eyes hanged on for a while upwards, our eyes met, I lowered mine hurriedly, but my eyes were drawn again to the woman struggling to remove her shoes.
She half turned to me; her breathing was profound and difficult. The narrow slit eyes full of hatred as she gasped ‘So we meet again’ then like a rattle snake spitting its venom she leaned forward as if ready to strike, the lips curled above her teeth ‘You are Rimi, am I right?’
Terrified, my voice shook ‘Who are you?’ I whispered, as if I didn’t know gaining time, hoping for I knew not what.

‘I said I would kill you one day remember’? The fat woman told me.
15 years to this very day, was the day when we all went our different ways.
Kaveeta the bully had grown strong and fatter than ever, I was small compared to her and she was going to kill me I was sure for not helping her in exams and so many other occasions. How could I forget her admonition?

I closed my eyes and prayed. I caught a glimpse of the fat legs coming to-wards me, I felt the fat podgy hands squeezing my throat. In desperation I screamed holy murder and clawed the air in an endeavour to free myself; my legs flayed wildly this way and that away; I could feel myself suffocating, I gave one last almighty scream that echoed through the tunnel, the train screamed an encore.

‘Wake up now’ yelled my mother, ‘it’s your school reunion tomorrow and you have a flight to catch, remember, fifteen years isn’t it?’ she looked at me and my books stumbled on the floor.
‘What were you dreaming about? The way you screamed and threw yourself anyone who would hear it would think you were being murdered.

I gave an perceptible sigh of release ‘I've been on a train journey, maa.’
‘What!!! When did you start traveling in a train’? She questioned me.
‘And where did you travel to?’ she asked.
‘Hell and back.' I replied.
‘Were you traveling alone,' she asked

‘No, the woman on platform number 10’ was with me,’ I replied.

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