Friday 15 September 2017

Short Story 2017 Featured Trippayar Sahasranaman Priyaa

City Lights

Could they care less about how others walking down the hallway would feel?
The stretch between G-103 and G-109 was strewn with tufts of garbage. There were beer bottles, rotten uneaten morsels of leftover food on melancholic plastic plates and cigarette butts, name it and you had it there! Radhika gingerly hopped through the little gaps between the litters hoping to keep her shoes clean. Her brows contracted as she thought of how the litter-bug would savor sound slumber after his party on this quiet morning   while those poor uninvited souls struggled to keep their eyelids open after a sleepless noisy Friday night. “I need a massage to relieve me of this awful spectacle,” she murmured as she escaped the last bit of garbage in front of G-105. “I am a Samaritan, and I will take the bull by the horns, soon enough.

The vibration of her phone sufficed to shake off her reverie. “Yep. I will meet you in thirty minutes,” Radhika paused. “Yep, Ravi, at the office” she answered her call in a reassuring voice. “Thirty minutes I think, it depends on the traffic…Yes. Sure..Bye.”
As she disconnected the call, something dawned on her. She turned around and walked back to the corridor with alacrity on her face. Within seconds, her slick silvery mobile was put to utmost use. Mobiles served more than just the calling purpose, though it had been only a decade after their genesis. Radhika scrutinized each picture she had taken with a streak of victory in her eyes. Relief wiped the frown of her face as she headed outside the building.

Ring road had always been a place of slow moving traffic, but that day the pace of traffic was destined to make a mark in its history. Disgruntled, Radhika gaped out at the road that had become the nightmare of the citizens off late.      
A thin layer of dust on the outer side of the clean pane of her cab told her volumes about the polluted exterior. Each tick of the watch seemed to detonate a bomb in her head as she patiently waited for the traffic to move. The driver gorged on a pack of biscuits as they advanced at the pace of a snail. Radhika’s eyes wandered outside the window that had been wiped clean that morning and caught a glimpse of the neighboring KSRTC bus. There were people standing on the footboard of the overflowing six-wheeler. Radhika wondered how the country grumbled under the yoke of so many filthy citizens with red paan dripping from the edge of their mouths and their sweat racing onto the body of others as the people stood close enough to get strangled by the presence of one another. 

“I think that there has been an accident madam,” said the driver with his upper body drooping outside the window. He got down from the car in a mission to observe the traffic that trailed behind them. It took a couple of seconds for his words to seep through Radhika’s head. She stared at him for a few seconds in silence, then stepped out of the realm of qualms into the world of reality. “Okay, so here is your money,” she said handing out the fare. 

The humidity of the hot afternoon made her wonder if the weather would ever let go of its vengeance towards the city. Long were those days since the benevolent trees were cut down and the once green hinterland had turned into an industrial hub. The thought made her sigh. She took a few fast paced steps towards the site of the causality. She halted for a few seconds when she saw a motley group of people surrounding a bleeding man a few meters away. She inched towards them as her painful heels begged her feet for a break. As she stretched her neck over an array of shoulders her eyes caught the sight of the injured man. Soaked in blood, his hands and feet shook deliriously. Radhika took a closer look at the man who bore uncanny resemblance to someone she knew. The subtle wrinkles on his forehead complemented his silvery hair. His skin though old looked supple and had the clarity of a youngster’s.
A few fruits rolled out of a plastic cover that lay lifelessly beside him. Blood continued to spurt out of his knee. However his face with closed eyes seemed to be intact.

 For a minute Radhika could feel her heart stop. It took a few more seconds for the horrifying spectacle to send a jolt down her spine. It intrigued her as to how not an ounce of concern constituted the emotions the rest of the crowd. “Give him some space and someone call an ambulance and take him to the hospital,” she cried out. Her voice seemed to disappear into the inkles of the throng. “Why don’t you take him?” she could hear a comeback from a man who stood nearby. Halfhearted, she walked as fast as she could occasionally turning back. 

The morning had given her such a bitter start that could suffice to keep her gloomy for the rest of day. The face of the injured man kept flashing through her head as she sat in her cubicle. Discomfort manifested itself as a frown on her face while she ruminated over various thoughts until they were interrupted by a familiar voice.

“Good afternoon Rad’s. So… you were on time once again today,” exclaimed Ravi with a streak of sarcasm laced into his premise. “I had a hard morning. By the way, thanks for asking,” Radhika replied with a stern face.
“Looks like you are in a bad mood,” sighed Ravi. “Just tell me what happened and you’ll feel better.” His husky voice was promising.
                “Don’t remind me of it, man! One of my neighbors keeps the rest of us awake every Friday night with his noisy parties. This has been happening for the last one year.” Radhika grunted. “And the cherry on the top of it is that every Saturday we wake up to a corridor that looks like .. well, just see this picture.. You know, my day begins like this!” she pulled out her phone, opening her gallery . “I took a picture of this to show the owner.”
                “Why can’t all you people put your heads together and talk to your noisy neighbor by yourself. You could put an end to this weekly menace. I mean you have been living there for over a year and he is your neighbor after all!” Ravi’s lips curled into the merest silver of a smile as he put forth his remedy.
                “You really think that people like us have time for all this?” Radhika retorted. Her answer seemed to push her listener’s brows upwards. “We are interns, Rads, interns and it will take another year for us to be called “professionals”. I come from a village and for a person like me it is an utmost duty to know who I live around. You city people are so different.” The intensity of Ravi’s voice attenuated as he spoke. A minute of awkward silence transpired between them.
                “Well, it doesn’t end there!” said Radhika after a moment of prudence and reasoning. “On my way to work, I see this man, you know, badly injured and bleeding after a hit and run probably.”
                Ravi raised his eyebrows. “And?”
                “And what? People surrounded him and watched the whole episode while he shivered and blood oozed out of his wounds. Nobody seemed to bother about taking him to the hospital.” A gush of warm air humid with uneasiness escaped Radhika’s lips. “He seemed to be a well of person wearing decent formals, must be in his mid-forties.”
                “And does the word ‘people’ include you?” Ravi’s inquisitiveness seemed to puncture Radhika’s garb of self-righteousness.
                “I hardly saw the man, I just happened to pass by,” she said in a soft voice. “Let’s put this to rest for now.”
                It was five minutes past six.  Radhika sat by the window with her chin rested on her fist. She looked down at the street illuminated by the bright street light. It had cursed every bit it had ever fallen on. It hadn’t spared the immobile trees or even their shadows - they disappeared as the city light grew brighter. How had it encroached on the privacy of the birds and their little nests on the solitary lifeless tree that stood beside the road? They would soon be extinct, she thought. As she aimlessly gazed at the cluttered road five stories below, her eye caught the sight of a woman dumping trash near a lamp post and rushing back into their building.
                “Oh yes, yes,” Radhika threw her fist into the air as she added one more relic to her phone’s gallery for that day. She walked with her held high up towards the door and slammed it from the other side.
                The stairs weren’t lovely, but they were dark and deep indeed; Radhika took careful steps towards the top. Soon, she was on the seventh floor, pounding on the door of Mr. Nayak. A woman with a vacuous visage opened the door.
                “Where is Mr. Nayak?” inquired Radhika.
                “He has gone out, something urgent came up. Any problem?” asked the woman as if it was a rhetorical.
                “Actually, yes,” said Radhika with an asymmetric grin. Unfazed, the woman stretched out her hand pointing to the black velvet sofa. “He should be here any time, please wait.”
Radhika parked herself on a corner of the sofa. Her fingers ran over the touch screen of her phone as the woman of the house kept herself busy with her household chores. “Would you like to have anything? Tea or coffee?” asked the woman in a voice with a silky touch to it.
“Yes, coffee please,” replied Radhika. The woman’s expression changed. She dropped the broom she was holding and stomped into the kitchen as if she had expected her guest to nix the offer made out of mere courtesy.
The coffee never made its way to Radhika until the minute hand of the clock traversed quarter of its circle. The door left ajar creaked as it swayed back and forth. Bored of twiddling her thumbs, Radhika rose up to put an end to the groans of the wood tethered by rusty hinges when a fifty something man barged in. His face looked as if it shrieked out of sorrow in silent agony.
 “Mr. Nayak,” Radhika exclaimed. “I want to show you something.” She unlocked the keypad of her mobile. 
“Hi Radhika, how are you?” said Mr. Nayak with no modulation in his voice.               
“Fine, fine,” Radhika’s words raced out of her mouth as fast as they could. “See how people of our apartment dump garbage carelessly, while the rest of us work so hard to maintain our surroundings.”
Mr. Nayak opened his mouth to say something, but Radhika continued. “I mean, there are some us,” she said resting her hand on her chest, “who work so hard to be good citizens. We help people around, maintain things clean and spread the word about cleanliness and organization, while others like this,” she pointed to the picture she had taken that morning, “who dump garbage outside their own home and that of others too. I mean look at this; the people of G 103. I took this picture at around 9 30 this morning. Can you see the garbage that he has freshly dumped outside his house and that of others? It doesn’t end there. Every Friday night ends with awful party noises. These neighbors of mine seemed to be annoyed by the notion of peace. ” Radhika heaved in a morsel of air as her lungs held her back from ranting.
“G-103,” sighed Mr. Nayak. “I have heard this number more than once today. You stay in G-102 don’t you?” he asked her. Radhika nodded in affirmation. For a few seconds Mr. Nayak stared into Radhika’s wide open eyes as if he was searching for something inside them.

“And I suppose the picture you showed me was that of G-103,” he continued. “And you stay in 102,” he rephrased his redundant sentence as if he had been desperately waiting to show off the knowledge he had about his tenants. “Don’t you know that your neighbor from G-103 met with an accident around 9 am this morning on Ring road? And for your information I caught a teenager red handed while he was dumping garbage outside homes on your floor this morning. I have told him to vacate as soon as possible.”

 The whole subject of their discussion seemed to tour out of her mind by the mere mention of Ring road. Radhika stood still, lost in thought. Mr. Nayak continued. “What a pity! You didn’t know your neighbor who has lived next to you for over a year, and now you are blaming a dead man for dropping garbage outside his own house! I can vouch for one thing, neither he nor his old mother who live there would have ever contributed to a fraction of noise that you spoke of. Life of senior people like us has become hell in this city. You youngsters bully us – elderly people so much; you make noise, you dump garbage outside their homes and make fun of us when we do anything. The city has become so corrupt, but really, when did it get this bad, that you people don’t know your own neighbors?”

Tongue tied, Radhika walked towards the window recollecting how the face of the man who had shivered and trembled bleeding to death while she had chosen to blindly walk past him that morning. Was she a Samaritan anymore? Had the city light fallen on her as well?

Paan: betel leaves prepared and used as a stimulant.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant choice of words.... The story is well crafted with an interesting idea and can be the absolute magnet to the readers... you have a great future ahead as a writer...