The Red Umbrella

There was a sudden rush in the silent Dhruvnagar colony. It had barely started drizzling when all the boys of the colony were out to experience the bliss of playing some solid football on the colony ground in the first rain of the season. The monsoon had finally arrived in Vizag. The rain was getting heavier. There were puddles on the ground and one could barely see the ball. Thanks to the absence of a referee, kicking, abusing and pushing was totally legal. One of the pro players, brought the music system from his place and placed it under a shed to add to the entertainment.

I had met with an accident a couple of days back and my right hand was plastered. I was cursing my stars since I couldn’t go and kick the ball and adding insult to injury, I was made the DJ for the game. Each team had scored one goal each and was pretty evenly poised. I was playing all sad songs, much to displeasure of the players of both the teams. I could see the frowns on their faces and that gave me enough sadistic pleasure to make up my not being able to play. A little later a truck and a Maruti Alto came our way and parked in front of the apartment. By telepathy,the half time break was declared and everyone came to see who the new tenants were.

The luggage was not much, in fact very minimal, too little for a family. I was under the impression that some not so well-to-do family had moved in. The match had resumed again and jobless that I was, comfortably sat on the porch and observed what all were being moved upstairs. I played a track Gali Mein Aaj Chand Nikla from Zakhm. While the song was still playing, the truck left and the door of the Alto opened. A red umbrella came out first and then came out someone. And as far I could understand; it had to be a girl. No guy would open an umbrella in a rain for a 10 foot distance. Since I could barely see the girl and for all my knowledge it could have been a guy as well, I walked back to the shed to the catch up with the fierce match.

You see, the bus stop of Dhruvnagar is about half a kilometre from my apartment. It was around five in the evening the next day and it was still raining while I got down from the college bus. The doctor had ordered me that the plaster on my right hand should not get wet. So, I waited at the bus stop so that someone I know would come by and offer me something I could cover my hand with. I was losing patience when some 15 minutes later, an Infosys Volvo stopped and out popped the red umbrella again! It was a girl. Definitely a girl. And very pretty too! She was walking very briskly and by the time I realised I could take her help, she was a good distance away from me. Not knowing what to do, I yelled

“Hey Red Umbrella. Help”

The girl, visibly embarrassed, turned around. We were the only two people on the road. I walked towards her.
“Hi. I met with an accident a couple of days back and the plaster on my arm is not supposed to get wet. Do you mind walking me to my place please?” showing my broken plastered hand.
She put up a pseudo confused, pseudo question mark face.
“I live in Nigam Apartments. It’s very close by” I said with my best smile on.
She smiled and signaled me to come by and offered some place under the umbrella.

So we shared the umbrella, half by her and the other half by my right hand. When we were less than a 100 meters from my place I realized we could talk to each other.
“Hi. I am Badrul. Am studying Mechanical Engineering final year at Andhra University”
She smiled again.
I was stunned. Just a smile, not even one word. Not even a Hi. I decided to give her one last try and that was it, I thought.
“I am sorry I screamed out “Red Umbrella” at the bus stop”
And she smiled again.

I was pissed and stayed silent. We had reached the apartments and I thanked her in a rude way and ran up the stairs in fury while she took the lift. I had apologized, introduced myself and she did not even say a hello in return. What the hell would she have lost by saying something?

I rang the bell of my house and my mom opened the door.
“Did you keep your hand from getting wet?” she asked as soon as I entered.
“Haan haan ma. It’s dry”, I replied in an irritated tone.
“But how? You did not even take your rain coat”
“That new girl from our building shared her umbrella with me.”
“Oh Sonali. Be nice to her beta.”
“And why? Why should I be nice to her?” I questioned, with all anger.
“I met her parents yesterday. They told me she’s mute. She can’t talk”.
I was speechless.

All characters are purely fictional. Any resemblance to the living or dead is totally unintentional.
P.S. Image Courtey DeviantArt

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Kritika

After what seemed like an eternity, Kritika finally got up and walked out of her desolate cubicle. She sat on the fifth floor and at that hour of the night, she was scared that if the elevator stops midway, there would be no way out for her. Alex had been waiting for her, as he always did, for that cup of tea at 3 in the night, across the road, on the grey and red pavement. She never really cared about what the trend her generation followed. She liked tea and if the rest of the world was gung-ho about having coffee at “coffee shops”, she remained loyal to her cup of tea and that individuality of her’s appealed to Alex. When all his guy friends used to ogle at girls in skimpy outfits, he was  in awe of the girls driving big cars, those hot-shot managers and social servers. It gave him a feeling that such girls are so damn sure of themselves, that they cannot be controlled by the regular norms of the society. There was something about these girls that needed a guy to rise above these norms to command their respect.

Kritika was no different, she rebelled against her parents wishes and came to Hyderabad, a city vastly different from her parent’s Chennai. It was a taboo in her society for girls to work and that too after 8 in the night. It was a criminal offense to family pride but she had stopped caring about such things a long while ago. Working in an IT company was not her interest in life but surely gave her the financial independence and lifestyle she wanted to live in. It gave her the time and peace of mind to figure out what to do with the rest of her existence. One thing was sure to her, her family would never take her back. Everytime she reminded herself of that fact, it sounded more like a relief to her than anything else. Alex was surprisingly patient when it came to Kritika, more than he was with Kavya too. It did make Kavya furious but he knew how to calm her down and she understood the nature of the friendship between him and Kritika. Kritika is a girl who never had time for anyone or anything apart herself and Kavya knew that this was the only reason Alex would not dump her. Kritika was not content with what she ever had, nor will she ever be and this desperate struggle to get more than what she has, has made her despise herself and life all together. It was better knowing what you want and not getting it than not even knowing what you want and which case you would not know whether you have it or not.

She crossed the road and was waving her left hand at him. There still were many people at this hour, it was what they called the peak season. The recession that started last year was in full swing and people there know fully that it will continue till mid 2009 and that there was one more year to bear with this extra pressure and job fear.

“I think you need to work on your punctuality “, he said, not looking too happy.

“I make wait you because you are willing to” she replied.

She looked around herself and saw about twenty guys who were smoking and the smoke rising above their heads. Against the steel buildings and dark sky, the smoke had a hazy look and the whole taboo against smoking seemed silly to her at that moment. She started weighing the pros & cons of smoking. Except for the age-old lung cancer issue, she did not find anything against it. She felt that she can rise up the corporate ladder quickly if she smokes with those who matter! Career. Now, there was nothing that could stop her from plunging into it.

“Hey Alex. Get me a cigarette of the best quality” she told him. He was a little confused, whether he should let a friend do something he felt was wrong but he was furious at her for making her wait. He crossed the road, bought exactly one cigarette of the most expensive brand and gave it to her. He felt guilty while doing so but his ego overrode the guilt and watched her as she was trying her first cigarette.

With all the poise of an independent girl she started smoking. It was bitter and was stinking. Two puffs in and she was coughing,  rubbing her lips against each other and not being able to take it anymore, she threw away the cigarette. She turned to Alex and saw him laughing his heart out.

“You should have told me it sucks big time, stinks so badly and also leaves this bad taste in mouth. I hate you Alex.” she yelled.
Trying his best to control his laughter “Serves you right!” he snapped.

She did not intend to say “I hate you” to him and yet he did seem as if cared a damn. She was confused.

All characters are purely fictional. Any resemblance to the living or dead is totally unintentional.

The Girl at the Coffee Shop


I felt some movement in the air and turned to my right and heard this:

“One Tropical Iceberg Please”

It was a crisp, properly paused, confident, accent-free female tone. You rarely get to listen to such tones these days, without any of those trying to be American accents. It sounded neither like an order nor like a request. As I turned, I found myself ogling with my eyes and mouth wide open. She took out an exact Rs. 65 and placed it there and did not care to ask the guy at the counter how much it was for.
“And make it fast”, she added, in the same tone.

This is the first time I have seen her and that too, at CCD. Being a regular here, I shamelessly admit that I can almost recognize everyone who comes here and in fact I am on a first name basis with the other regulars. She’s definitely new here.

With the phenomenal rise of the make-up industry, men world over are being fooled by their own eyes whenever they try to guess a girl’s age. I am not complaining, plainly stating a fact. That said it’s not right to add a few years to the guessed age in every case, where we assume that every girl is older than what she appears. Coming back to this girl, it was not her fully formal attire or the red scarf that gave away her “new girl” status but just that CCD here charges Rs. 53 for a Tropical Iceberg. Damn her over confidence.

Even I wanted a Tropical Iceberg (TI), but there was an imaginary throat block. Sorry, I want two TIs. For some godforsaken reason, every time a guy sees a pretty girl, his confidence gets a kick in the back side. Any guy, mark my words. So, this scene being no exception I, Alex, too succumbed to one of the very few flaws of Mankind. When you think of it, there actually is a quote that goes something like this:

“God made woman beautiful and foolish; beautiful for man to fall in love with her and foolish for her to love him”.
But trust me, this girl is no fool. Damn her again, and this time for being just pretty.

STOP. STOP. What nonsense am I thinking? Why are these utterly meaningless thoughts coming to my head when all I have is that little time before which that guy will get her, her TI, and as she had “ordered”, it will be fast. My head started talking telling me “Say Hi, say Hi, say Hi, Alex, say Hi. Don’t be a fool. This is your only chance”. It’s tough not to be a fool at moments like this.

Divya came from behind; she had waited long enough for me to place the order. So she came and stood right next to that new girl, and in a very disapproving tone said
“Two Tropical Icebergs” to the guy at the counter. That guy was a little disappointed, where’s the PLEASE? he must have thought. Least does he know that my girlfriend is at the moment showing her disapproval of me, at him. Sounds confusing right? Women. They are experts at these things.  Divya then turned to me and said
“Alex, you want anything else?”

This new girl, let’s call her K, turned to see me. She was standing between me & my girlfriend and was surely the centre of attraction of the whole coffee shop. I felt good about the fact that she had at least heard my name.

“Alex”, Divya said again, now in a visibly irritated tone, eyes narrowed and the breathing, a little heavier. Now that, is an order, you know, one of those implicit ways of saying “Come back to your senses Mister”. I like her when she looks at me this way, looks far more mature than the girl she actually is. I replied with a sheepish
“Eh. Ah. Nothing” This is the guy lingo for “Where was I?” and very commonly mistaken as “Sorry” by the you know who. The confused look was still on.

K turned to me and smiled. I know fully that she did not smile because she saw a charming knight in the shining armor in me but smiled at my confused expression. But heck, that too is mine, certified trademark of Alex. Huh. I started smiling too, and she too kept on smiling.

At that moment, I forgot about my commitment. I was simply in awe of the power of the smile this girl unknowingly possessed. That moment, when you see someone so beautiful, you just can’t help but stare. I took all the liberty to appreciate that beauty and needless to say, Divya was furious, and rightfully so. Any girl would be furious if her boyfriend was shamelessly ogling and smiling at another girl and that too, right in front of her. But trust me folks, that needs some courage and a masterly way of apologizing.

That was when I took a glance at Divya, my girl. She’s short and cute. We have so much in common, like our taste in movies, books and food and also pretty trendy in her choice of clothes. Divya is not jaw dropping gorgeous and neither am I a Greek God. Good job Alex, I told myself, you do have a good girlfriend. While I was thinking about her, time had lapsed and she had walked away, least knowing that I was thinking about her. She looked better when she made those small eyes of hers even smaller and walked furiously to a chair, sit silently and stare back at me.  It’s weird that when someone is angry, it gives happiness to us, even the ones we adore.

K’s Tropical Iceberg had arrived and so did mine. It is moments like this that make me believe in providence. If you are wondering what it could be, Divya went and sat at the last empty table in the whole of that CCD. With both the TIs in my hand, I dutifully started walking to my girl and out of nowhere I turned to K. Calvin once said that his lips move while he thinks and I guess he was talking of this moment. I was looking at K:

“Would you like to join us” my lips moved.
“Sure” came her reply.
Not bad, not bad at all, I said to myself and this time making sure that my lips remained sealed. We walked till the table silently and introduced the girls to each other.
“Meet Divya. Divya this is” and paused, expecting K to fill the pause. She got the cue.
“Hi Divya. I am Krithika and you are Alex right?” and she too paused, and turned to me.
“Yes” Divya said, without allowing me to say my full name out in my best voice but boy was I glad that I gave her a nickname of K for Krithika. Providence, again!

The following few minutes passed away with some formal questions as to where who is from and etc. I gathered that she’s from Mangalore and is NOT a fresher and did put across my point that I am from Kerala and that I am damn proud of it and so on. The usual boring talk of education, work and all continued till half my TI completed and suddenly Divya got a call from her manager who wanted her back to her desk as soon as possible.

Providence struck again and again and while I was lost in the “too good to be true” type of thoughts, Divya turned to K and said:
“Nice meeting you Krithika. You guys carry on, will catch up some other time.” “Sure Divya”, Krithika replied.

It was my turn to say bye and as I got up, she turned to me and said:
“Bye Sweetheart”, boldly and started walking away.

My face turned cold and a meek “Bye” escaped my lips. Krithika turned to me, the smile was replaced with an exclamation and asked:

“Your girlfriend?”

“Naah, friends since college” I bluffed.

Barely had I completed my “naah”, when from a short distance came an angry “What?”.

All characters are purely fictional. Any resemblance to the living or dead is totally unintentional.