Sunday, May 06, 2012

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT - A short story

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT

The private bus-stand was moved from the main bus-stand at C.M.B.T. or Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus to ease traffic. This move brings untold misery on all folks who have to take a bus to visit places like Coimbatore, Bengaluru, Trichy, Madurai etc.

It's absolute chaos as harried announcers look at a clip-board coordinate on the mobile phone and announce bus departures and arrivals on a public address system. The P.A. system functions on a strange audio frequency that mysteriously converts sound waves - 9:45 PM to 10:45 PM and vice-versa.

I was travelling to Coimbatore to attend a school-mate's wedding and looking forward to meet my batchmates after a gap of almost ten years. With great difficulty I managed to navigate through the crowd of passengers - mostly the 'IT-group' on their weekend getaways!

I found my bus - Bhagyalakshmi Travels - semi-sleeper non-A/C coach. The bus was painted in a combination of black, silver and shocking pink - a standout piece in comparison to the other demure and dull white and black buses in the terminus. I boarded the bus - J-18 window seat and looked at the other early-bird passengers. Seated in the adjacent row were a mama and mami enjoying a dinner of chappathis and brinjal curry - the row before me - a couple of nuns were arguing in Malayalam about a passage from the Gospel.

Suddenly - 'Kaadhalin Deepam Etrinale Yenn Nenjil...' started playing on the bus's sound-system and that is when she entered the bus dressed in a pista-green salwar kameez embroidered with rose-petalled flowers and silver sequins. She was carrying an Adidas adventure back-pack and held her mobile phone in her right hand.

My heart skipped a beat - what an angel - truly lucky would be the man who would get to marry this beautiful girl! She walked slowly looking at the seat numbers displayed atop the window-frames. She stopped next to the J-row - looked at her ticket said 'J-17' and smiled at me. Then the song changed to 'Inji idippu azhagi, kalla chirippu azhagi..' the smile turned into a full-throated laugh as I too joined shared her laughter and helped her put her back-pack in the luggage-rack.

A quick round of introductions followed - she was Priya a fourth year engineering student, she was going home to Coimbatore before she began work on her final-year project. The bus made it's way slowly outside the terminus and we spoke about each other family, friends studies, etc. - time flew by in a flash and I was lost in her hazel eyes and angelic smile.

The bus picked up speed as we left the city limits and the bus came to a scheduled stop just beyond Sri Perumbudur. The bus attendant announced a 15-minute break before the journey would resume.

Priya looked at me and said - 'Can you get me a couple of bananas and a Lays packet?'
I said yes and in spite of my protests she tucked a 100 hundred rupee note in my shirt pocket. The bus stood in a clearing and about 100 metres away on the opposite side of the road there was a petty shop a small hotel and further away a row of shacks that served as pay-and-use toilets.

I went up to the shacks took a leak and paid the attendant two rupees and stepped out making my way to the petty shop to buy the bananas and the Lays packet. Then there was a deafening blast followed by flames and burning metal everywhere. The impact of the blast hit me hard as I flew across the air and landed back near the row of shacks. I got up bleeding from my face and noticed that the bus was no longer there it was replaced by a strange metallic skeleton. With tears in my eyes I attempted to run to the bus but I was pulled back by the attendant from the pay-and-use toilet. He said - Saar vedigundu saar - evannum thapikka mudiyadhu - correct ka date a paatu kuri vechanga! - Then it struck me the last two weeks had carried news of the capture and death of LTTE leader Prabhakaran and there had been umpteen protests and gatherings throughout Tamil Nadu.

I fell down in despair crying thanking my lucky stars having escaped with a few cuts and bruises and then I realized that Priya had been on the bus and then realization dawned - when I had helped Priya keep her back-pack up on the luggage rack I had heard a discernible tick-tock sound and I had joked - 'Bomb' and she had said with a smile - 'No, no it's a fancy alarm clock for my younger brother.'

I felt at my shirt-pocket and took out the 100-rupee note that she had thrust so forcefully into my pocket - on it was scribbled - 'Sorry - May be in another life - Love P :(' - I fell down to the ground in tears - disillusioned, angry, hurt and as a range of emotions flowed through me the tears stopped.

The sirens of the ambulance vans and the police-jeeps broke the uncanny silence of the night. I got up and walked towards the approaching police-jeeps.

6 comments:

Benedict G said...

OMG!!!! Priya its people like who make me understand that I must hate my life and give it for a cause in order to gain it.

Brilliant one ..

mahesh said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and posting a comment Benedict :)

Ashwini C N said...

Wow. Wonderfully written. Absolutely Loved the plot. It felt real!
Nice :-)

Sowmya Swaminathan said...

Visiting your blog for the first time. This is very lovely piece of fiction :) Loved it, especially Priya's final message :) Hoping to read many more of your works.

mahesh said...

Thanks Ashwini and Sowmya - have a germ of an idea for another short story in my mind now - hope to write and publish it over the weekend :)

Hope to meet everyone at the next - Bloggers' Meet :)

Karen Xavier said...

Mahesh, seemed so real... then it hit me like source code. Did you see that movie, the blast takes you by surprise. Captivating story...

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.