Monday, February 20, 2012

North East Chronicles 7- The love bug and the moon-lit elephant ...

It was the Year 2000.   The year of the computer catastrophe.   The world was watching the possible armagaddon with bated breath.  But, life to him was suddenly bright and green, especially after the tumultous 1999.   The hapless yacht of his life had lost its sail, oar and the anchor.

The year end of 1998 had delivered a Richter 9.0 tumblor - his heart had broken into thousand pieces.  Life and work had become meaningless.  He got a below-performance rating, for the first time in 5 years.

Then, Assam beckoned.  This time to complete unfinished business - the project had to be signed-off.   Somehow, somehow, he had scrambled into that flight to Guwahati and finally reached Numaligarh.  There he would spend the entire year rebuilding his mind-machinery from the left over debri of 1998.   His parents decided to re-engineer his life.

On that Valentine's day, only coincidentally though, the die-hard romantic got engaged.   Was he happy?  Not sure.  More so, he was confused.   Vacillating between the first love and the fiance', his mood moods switched between bursts of ecstasy, confusion and despair.  

The marriage was to be 5 months later, in South India.   He would leave Assam for good after this business.   He had got his transfer orders ready.  His thoughts about the future was blank.  His job, though, right now, was to finish and collect the outstanding payment - a large value, that.

Slowly, slowly the love bug started biting him, yet again - only this time, it was his fiance'.  The purse would be opened - a glance at the picture of her, and again he would be hit by a zillion emotional pins.  He would want to talk to her about it, for a long time. 

The phone booth was yellow in color.   The glass was polished and painted in black - ISD- PCO-FAX -XEROX.   The kid at the PCO would disappear every now and then, and come back with something to eat.   Occasionally there would be commotion - but the lady from the closed door behind the phone booth would admonish the kids to be silent.   The place was kept clean.   This was serious business for the phone booth waali.
He would spend
long hours talking to her

The phone booth was more than 3 kilometers away from the township.   The workers and vendor-officials would have to walk the distance to make phone calls.   There would be a queue of atleast 4-5 people till 11 pm, when the lady would chase away the eager customers still wanting to talk to the person on the other side.  

The curse of waiting long would be the dreaded walk back to the township.   There were two major threats.   One was a pack of barking mongrels - with luminous eyes against the pitch black darkness and the other was a type of huge beetle, the size of a cricket ball.  

The dread was compounded by some recent incidents - couple of eager-beavers were chased down and biten by a pack of dogs (nobody was a witness).  And recently, there were skin lacerations from some unknown insect.   The fear spread like fire. 
Love bug made him
immune to fear

The dogs and the bugs did not stop him.  After all, he was bitten by the love-bug, wasn't he?   He would get there just after an early dinner and would speak for about an hour  - that would be eternity - for him, her and the increasingly impatient people behind the line.  They would curse him and cajole him to get their ears and mouth to the talking device.  

That day was an exception.   They had returned late to their rooms.  There was no food.  So the rice had to be boiled and the potato had to be mashed and fried.   That took time.  He ate impatiently, put the plate and the dishes unwashed and rushed towards the phone booth.  

The sky was lit with the full moon.   The air was fresh and tingling against his skin.   But he had no time to enjoy  - he had to get to the phone.
It was a moon lit night

She was waiting for him, patiently.  Nobody would lift the phone, but she.   Today, the phone did not ring, yet.  

He  had somehow managed to rush inside before the phone booth waali - decided to shut shop.  Some cajoling, and she allowed him to start - but admonished him that he had only 5 minutes.  He said, he would take only few seconds, just wanted to say hello and hear her light voice.

The phone rang, finally.  She picked up and went straight into demanding an explanation for the delay.   The voice on the other side was impatient but eager to explain.  She could hear the heavy, short breaths and the muffled, angry voice of the impatient phone booth waali

After some incoherent explanations, he said he would call her again.  He put the phone down quickly and reluctantly.   He paid the bill in cash and left the phone booth.  Atleast he could hear her voice today - even if it was angry.

The phone booth was shut and lights went off quickly, in no time.   He walked now, slowly. The air was still fresh, young and tingling.  The moon played consort to the wind.   The trees, resembling dark curtains, swayed gently in the breeze.  

He could see the lights of the township at the distance.  The refinery chimney was spewing fresh white smoke and the amber neon lamps lit the refinery -  it was surreal.  All was quiet.  He was already thinking about sleeping. 

It was 9 foot mass - moving towards him
There was a sudden movement.  At the corner of his left eye, he saw the tree quickly swaying faster and then snap.   A 9 foot black mass was rolling on to him, like an army tank.   There was a distinct rumble, sending shivers down his spine.

He froze.  Dark, silent and swift.  The thoughts about fiance' and the sleep vaporized swiftly.   It was here and now.  

He quickly moved behind a tree and hid.   He was counting his stars, literally.  The black mass seemed to move in his direction for a second, and in another, changed direction and went into the paddy fields on the other side of the road.

He took a deep sigh and thanked his stars.   He kept mumbling to himself that he was fine.  

His heart was pounding unevenly like a machine gun fire.  The skin was wet with sweat - and he was full of fear and relief.   He moved at a fast pace towards his guest house, and drank loads of water.

Later that night, he walked up to the window and his eyes took into the surreality again - the trees were still swaying to the wind,  the chimney was still spewing white smoke, and the neon lights in the refinery glowed amber.   Nothing seemed to have changed.   Nothing.

- The One

( Pics courtesy Internet)

PS - I learnt that Elephants are a common occurrence in these parts and what I did, was right.   Elephants can't see in darkness.   One had to just stand still, preferably hidden in darkness, to escape the mammoth's eyes.



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