मैं


कुछ दिनों से
मैं ये सोच रहा था
एक कहानी
कह दूँ

फिर कल,
हुआ कुछ ऐसा अलग,
सोचा नहीं
कह डाला

खुशी जो अंदर थी
अब बाहर भी है
और हैरत की बात तो ये है
कि मैं उनके बीच में नहीं

किसी और का मैं
आज मोहताज नहीं
किसी और का मुझे
इन्तज़ार भी नहीं

मैं मैं हूँ
मेरी कोई और
पहचान नहीं

Hi Anonymous – I remember your name!!

He felt the fresh air sift through the vestibule. He bent down to peek through the double glassed tinted window separating him from the pouring rain and the vast stretching landscape. He fished into his shirt pocket for his packet of Cigarettes. He opened the pack to find two cigarettes left. He picked up one and started to light. He decided not to do so, considering the closed doors of the AC compartment. The fresh air came as a welcome change from the stifling artificially monitored atmosphere. He always felt stifled by the closed AC compartments, yet he always traveled AC 1st class. It did give him the necessary privacy and the additional time to work. Well he couldn’t afford to travel in anything else. He was Amit Deshmukh….The Amol Deshmukh…owner of half of the country’s annual budget plan. He was rich, famous and a very important man.

He moved further across the vestibule, purely based on curiosity or possibly the childhood desire to travel the traverse of the train and watch its entire spine turn. The train was sparsely occupied.

The remote countryside destination had not reached the levels of popularity in the touristic circles. But Amol could see the value of the place far beyond what is seen through the amateur DSLRs. He was looking for a site for his expansion plan. This factory would cater for the growing demand for his product. He always called it the OH revolution. And he was the king of the “spirits”.

Lost in his thought he never noticed that he had crossed over another vestibule and entered the 2nd class sleeper compartment. Realization dawned on him as the strong gust of wind mixed with spray of water hit his face. It was rejuvenating. He paused to light his cigarette. It was proving to be a difficult task considering the heavy wind that blew into the train through the door. He drew a long drag from his cigarette, savouring the smoke filling his lung, mixing into his blood stream and numbing his senses. One more cigarette and he promised he would quit. But right now it was serving the purpose as it transported him away from the everyday grind. Away from the dreary financial details of their investment plan that his staff was working on, back there in the AC 1st class.

The gaping door of the train inviting him to it. He gingerly moved towards it. It had been some time since he had hung over the open door screaming at the wind, which tore at his face to match his passion.

That was a long time ago. He had grown up and there was so much at stake.

He glanced at the coach. It was deserted. The empty coach rattled, labouring unwillingly, as if unhappy with the lack of sponsorship. Amol found the solitude comforting. The warm cloak of anonymity, comforting him amidst cold and wet breeze. The solitude emboldening him to move closer to the door. Edging dangerously closer to very edge of the floor. He grasped the handle grip hard enough to make his knuckles turn white. He resolutely placed his foot against the door, making sure it did not close in on him.

Things were under control. That was the way he liked it.

He could hear his own heart beats over the din of the train playing a drum beat on the rail. He sheepishly looked around if anybody else could hear it too. The empty coach stared back at him. He smiled at himself. He was feeling increasingly comfortable, increasingly closer to himself. It was some time since he was alone with himself.

The tug on his sleeve startled him. he was sure he was alone. He looked around but couldn’t see anybody. The tug returned. This time on his trouser. He looked down to stare at a young boy casually sitting on the floor with his legs dangling beyond the edge. He must be in his early teens. He was casually dressed, albeit on the shabby side.  A cap trying in vain to keep his overgrown hair from falling over his eyes.

 

His emotions moved from astonishment to irritation. Just when he had begun to enjoy his new found solitude, last thing that he expected was an unruly teenager to spoil the tranquility. He fumbled for his purse for some change to quickly get over the intrusion. He was irritated to find only 2000 rupee notes and he wasn’t sure if getting rid of this boy was worth as much in currency. His moment of indecision was interrupted by an irritating chuckle by the boy.

 

“Do you give money to everybody who tugs on your sleeve.” asked the amused boy.

Amol was infuriated. He arrived at his decision. 2000 rupees was worth spending. He took out the note and thrust it to the boy’s face. The boy looked up through his unkempt hair. The amused look stayed in his eyes. For an uncertain fleeting moment, the eyes felt familiar. He shook the note once more as if catching the boy’s attention to the denomination. It was an embarrassing. The boy turned to watch a passing bridge over a stream overflowing its banks. Amol had had enough of it. He fumbled with a single hand to put back the soaked currency note back into his purse as his other hand clutched the handle with great force.  It wasn’t the way he had thought this would turn out to be. He was finding everything irritating. He was even bothered about the 2000-rupee note being drenched…an amount, almost insignificant. He was clearly enraged.

“Why don’t you sit down; it will be easier for you” said the boy without even turning. The boy’s candor and his audacity made Amol smile in disbelief. He managed to put the purse back into his pocket with the wet note before he asked the boy “What do you want from me if you don’t want the money?”

“Is that the only thing you can offer?” asked the boy. Amol searched the boy’s face for mischief. He could find none of it.

Amol felt embarrassed. He wanted his solitude back.

“Well, I don’t have much of the time”, snapped Amol finding no other way to get rid of the boy.

“Ahhh, Time. That I am sure you don’t seem to have enough” said the boy. “Come to think of it, I have plenty of that. And that too of good quality. Couldn’t I just sell that to you in exchange of the money you seem to have in plenty.”

Amol was in no mood for jokes. “You don’t seem to know who I am” he scorned. No response from the boy did not stop him from continuing his contemptuous introduction, “Half the world knows who I am and I presume you live in the other half.”

“I am Amol Deshpande” he said, with a practiced ease. It was line, which would invite laughter from his audience at the futility of such an introduction of a household name. However, there was no response from the boy as if it wasn’t enough introductions. “You wouldn’t dream of meeting me, let alone speaking to me.”

“I am Amol too” said the boy unmoved by Amol’s extravagant introduction “And I am sure I haven’t dreamt we would ever meet.”

He extended his hand saying “ Well nice meeting you.”

Amol shook his hand hesitatingly. He was surprised at the boy’s audacity. His hand was warm and the grip longer and friendier in contrast with the official ones he was accustomed to.

He suddenly was enjoying the company. Wasn’t this the exact anonymity he was looking for. He had longed to meet somebody who would meet him just because he was just another Amol and not ‘Amol Deshmukh – The Liquor Baron’

“Why don’t you sit down” offered the boy “it would be comfortable.”

Amol hesitatingly sat down. He shrugged thinking WHY NOT? The cover of anonymity allowing him to shed the inhibitions attached to the persona of Amol Deshmukh. He was just plain Amol just like the boy. He could do anything.

“Since you are such a famous person” asked the boy, “you must have many friends.”

Amol started to list his partners or the Facebook followers, but he wasn’t sure if that is what the boy meant.

The boy went on “…friends you play with. The friends you are happy with. I have a lot of friends with whom I play.”

“No, there was no body” Amol could confidently answer the rephrased question. He felt a nostalgic tinge for all his close friends from his humble beginning. Those were the friends he played with. They were the ones he felt happy with. He was amused and surprised at using the same words the boy had used to describing his own friends.

“Why do you smile if you don’t have any friends?” asked the boy interrupting Amol’s reverie.

“I just remembered my friends of the childhood days.”

“Where are they now?” enquired the boy.

Amol wasn’t sure how to answer that. Neither did he care. He only had business partners or friends of convenience. The only game he played was power games.

The boy seemed to sense Amol’s reverie. He changed the subject.

“Where are you going?”

“Well me and my collegues are headed to Begampur”, answered Amol feeling relieved of the change in subject.

“Begampur!!?  That’s my village. It’s a beautiful place. I am sure you would love the stay.”

“Why are going there?” asked the boy turning to face Amol.

Amol stared into the excited eyes for a moment. The eyes bored all the way to his soul. He looked away a fraction too late he feared. He was afraid. Amol Deshmukh was afraid of this frail non-existent boy in front of him.

It all started not so long ago.

Everything had gone as per plan. He was an instinctive hunter. He knew what to use as the bait, what would hurt and when to move in for the kill. He had earned his reputation to be ruthless.

The modus operandi remained the same, although the stakes had gone higher and the means were more devious.

The land was easily available at villages at the fringes of civilization. The resources were in plenty with nobody to share it with. The hunting team identified the man who called the shot, who they could negotiate with. The man was pampered, seduced into seemingly favorable deal. The man was forced to sell his soul and in turn was coerced to sell the diabolic idea to his followers. The land and their life assets changed hands on flimsy threads of fake trust. If ever the leader did find out the folly, it was too late. He would be too deep in the mire. He was an accomplice to the crime. He dreaded the consequence of the rest knowing the truth. The truth was far uglier to him and the consequences far more dreadful to him.

“Well if you don’t want to tell me that’s fine. You seem to hide a lot of things.” said the boy, bringing Amol back from his reverie.

Once again his voice seemed to slice through Amol’s thoughts. It appeared to echo from within, invading the fortress of solitude he had created for himself. His insulated space had been breached. It irritated him somehow.

“We are setting up a large scale production centre” said Amit trying to not react to the irritation “with the state of art automated bottling plant.”

Amol felt awkward about his urge to glorify his business as a noble cause.

“The project will bring jobs to the people of your village. It will raise your standards of living. We will provide you better place to stay. The place will be known to everybody in the world…”

“But our village is already the best place in the world” interjected the boy. “We have the fields that are green and bountiful. We have the stream that are full throughout the year. We have abundance of laughter in every house.”

Amol hesitated to interrupt the boy but he did not have the heart to tell the boy that the factory was looking to tap into these these very resources. He shuddered at the very thought and irony.

Amol sat next to the boy. His feet dangling beyond the foot rest just as the boy’s. He was no longer worried about his expensive clothing as it got drenched and dirty. He sat there as if he was once again a ten-year-old. He left happy and free. Irony seem to return with the vengeance. The boy was giving him a peak into his long forgotten childhood just when he was on his way to rob the same from the boy.

“… We walk all the way to the school, playing and fighting” the boy continued blissfully unaware of the impending doom. “We love our school. Patil master ji does so much to make us feel comfortable. But there are things even he can’t do.”

“Why? Whats wrong?” enquired Amol.

“The rooms are so dark and there is no electricity.” answered the boy in a matter of fact manner. “The building is crumbling which makes it safer to be outside in the open.”

The boy became pensive as though experiencing the discomfort.

As an afterthought he asked, “Can you fix that?”

Amol was speechless as he was confronted by the merciless irony. He was saved from the trouble as the boy continued as if he never needed any answers.

“… but we have a lot of fun in the open ground. And you must see the rock that is there at the pond. We jump from the rock and make merry in the pond after the school to beat the heat.”

“You know even I used to have a pond at our village where I used to play with my friends” said Amol remembering his own childhood. “…and there was a story of a killer crocodile which lived at the very depth of the pond. We were all afraid of it till one of the elder boys… oh, I forget his name…oh yes, Dilip dived deep and searched for the killer beast.”

“And, you know what?” smiled Amit remembering the past, “he had a frenzied fight with a piece of log which really looked like a dead crocodile (at least to our young eyes full of fantasy). He dramatically killed the beast. The jubilant kids danced and celebrated the conquest.”

Both the Amols laughed heartily together.

“Hey, this guy Dilip must have been a real hero” asked the boy.

“Who Dilip?” asked Amol.

“The guy who killed the crocodile” prompted the boy, “You talked of him just now”.

“Ahhh..Oh yeah, Dilip …yes, he was a hero.” Amol suddenly felt guilty of not knowing where Dilip was. He never cared to remember.

“Where is he now?” asked the boy not letting go.

“Dilip?…eh..Well, I don’t Know?” replied Amol almost apologetically. There were so many memories which flooded his mind. Names and faces of the young gang at his village haunted and prodded at his guilt even more. His eyes welled up with mixed emotions of nostalgia and guilt.

And they chatted on, sharing stories of their lives. One talking about the present while the other talked about the past. Both, talking about the childhood they savored. One who had lost it long time ago to the daily grind and the other, who was about to lose it to the vice of the world. They were oblivious of the surrounding…alone and free, enjoying the new found friendship, relieved of the shackles of the make believe world.

“… Mr Deshmukh!”

The call of his own name jarred him off the bliss of anonymity. It was one of his staff. They must’ve come looking for him.

He got up apologizing to the boy saying that he will returned in a minute. He did not want any of his staff to break this spell.

Mr Dixit was almost at the vestibule when Amol met him enroute. Mr Dixit was an accountant when Amol had started as a young entrepreneur long time ago. He had earned himself Amol’s trust to be one of the major decision makers in the company. He was known to have earned his place in the core group of the Company due to his meticulous and business accumen.

“Where have you been Mr Deshmukh?” enquired Mr Dixit “We have been looking for you.”

“Well I was just sitting and having a chat with this young boy.” said Amol trying to end the conversation.

Mr Dixit frowned to convey that he was unconvinced.

“What do you mean? Which boy?” asked Dixit, now clearly worried.”

“That boy sitting at the door” exclaimed Amol as he was beginning to get irritated with Mr Dixit’s mode of enquiry

“There is no boy at the door!”, Mr Dixit was calm as he tried to hide his concern.

Amol turned around. The boy wasn’t there.

Amol stood there staring at the gaping door. The rain had stopped. The landscape glittered in bright new sunshine. Droplets fell from the door opening at the place where the boy had been sitting. It had formed a puddle. It mirrored the green fields washed clean by the rain.

Amol smiled and turned. He started to walk towards his coach.

“Where is he?” asked Mr Dixit as he followed Amol. “ I can’t see anybody.”

Amol wondered as he smiled…

“Who was telling the story? And whose story was it anyway? “

The words fluttered and flew in the wind.

“He is there, Mr Dixit, he is there” mumbled Amit, without looking back. I know it, because I had left him there a long time ago. He is there. He has always been there.”

“But…” Mr Dixit protested.

“We have lot to do” said Amol in a business like manner. “How much will it cost for the electrification of the Begampur Village?”

“Er…um, we never planned for that” mumbled Mr Dixit in astonishment.

“Then lets plan for it” said the two Amols in unison.

 

 

My secrets spilled

And I saw the two tall building talk. I strained my ears but could not hear them. I realised they did not speak using sound. But i still strained to hear what they said. I wanted to hear if they spoke about me. Did they even know about me? Did they feel it when i banged the walls? Were their hearts as stony as the hard plaster that bruised my knuckles?

They are non living things. I was taught that. Who would believe that they could talk, even if i heard them. There were so many lives in them. How could they be not alive. How could they not share what they heard in those closed rooms, those lonely corridors and the claustophobic lifts. They were rooted and had walls within them. Walls which saved one being from another and yet seperated each one to their own loneliness.

I saw the tall building lean as the wind blew wild. Leaning closer to whisper to the the other pile of concrete and steel. I heard the whisper this time. It seemed to speak so many words together. Each life losing its exclusivity in the cacophony. It was the wind… yes, the wind it was. The one that spoke. Making the sound for our noisy world. Our worlds that needs the sound of the words to make meaning.

Building are created by us but they aren’t controlled by us. At least for what they communicate.

Therefore I strain my ears. I bang the walls and bruise my knuckles. I wait for the secrets to be spilled so that I can create more. As I imagine the buidings talk, I create more fantasy. Who will know the difference. If I couldn’t know the truth from the fantasy, I presume the building will not know too.

But who knows.

I see it clear

On the 6th floor
the blind rolls up with a whir.
Turbulence and calm, converse in silence
with a drunken slur.

The glass fights the noise
and wins
Allowing private space
for the divergent twins

Flashes of lights
leave a trail on the busy arrow of time
Reminder of the many scars
as the face meets the grime

Cacophony of noise
create a din
Numbing the senses
And I keep repeating the sin

Every noise startling
Every flash blinding
Every face threatening
Every face scared

The images speed up
while my anchors weigh me down
Each “Like” holding back a part of me
keeping me afloat, as I perpetually drown

I get split and stretched
afraid to lose any thread
Hoping these divine looms
will help stitch me back instead

Sitting on the 6th floor window
the glass screens the Cacophony of the Seen
The blinding flashes turn to glitter
and the chaotic images look serene

The elevation reveals the picture
hidden by the hectic sieve
The distance saves the real
from the elaborate make-believe

There is light beyond
these flashes so phoney
and there is the sound
beyond this cacophony

I am a speck
Entwined in the knots of the divine tapestry
I am a pixel
in the vast pattern of the grand canopy

The window allows
me to hear.
The blinds open with a whir
And I see it clear

TALES WITHIN – Stories that seek me out

They scream
and they shout
They hunt,
and they seek me out

Orphaned and unheard,
in me, they often confide
Listen I must
For this solemn rule I must abide

trapped in the nether
their voice echo no sound
In my ears, blessedly,
the voices resound

So they seek, the hearer of the sound
Tracked by the resonant union, I invariably am found

Once heard,
Onus is on me to yell
It’s their story
but now, it is for me to tell

Yes it’s a blessing
But also a curse
For I hear, not only the pealing laughter
but also the sinister cries, so perverse

It’s an obligation
to be a medium of no biases and whys.
to weave the borrowed truth
with vain..yet eloquent, threads of lies

Words carry the fragrance of feelings
The feelings, that narrate the glory
The words flow on the paper
rearranging the sentences into a story

Stories are mine now
I saw them and I heard them shout
For My tales within
Truthfully mirror the tales without

DSC_0711

Wishes come true

It wasn’t just another ordinary day. Mikey knew it from the very start. Loud noisy argument between his parents woke him up. His parents were arguing over who would take him to the dentist. He wasn’t sure what worried him more – to be woken up, his parents having a fight or the prospects of his going to the dentist. Whatever it was he was sure this wouldn’t be the best day of his life. He put the pillow over his ears and tried to go back to sleep.

‘Mehtas’ had moved to New York just a year short of the 21st century. Rohit had been offered a job in Microsoft as a software developer. Latika wasn’t too keen to shift. She was emotionally attached to their house at Bangalore. She, being an interior designer herself had painstakingly decorated every nook and corner of the house. She never joined a job. Rohit never insisted and neither did they need it. Mikey had joined the school which was just two blocks away. She was happy with the routine and the predictable life.

But, that was two years ago. A lot had changed since they moved to New York. Mikul had become Mikey as his American friends in the 3rd grade preferred to call him. Latika had started working herself, driven by the growing needs and a higher cost of living. Rohit and Latika fought a lot more. And…Mikey’s teeth had developed cavities.

‘Don’t be so insensitive, Rohit!’ pleaded Latika. The frustration showed in the tone of her voice. ‘You Know I can’t possibly take leave now. It’s been just a month since I have joined the job!’

‘So quit’, retorted Rohit as he threw his wet towel on the bed,’

Latika ignored his comments and the towel on the bed.

‘Don’t start that now. You know we can’t afford to do that. But then that’s not the point. We need to decide who takes Mikey to the dentist? I need to go to the office now. Your breakfast is on the table.

“Well, thanks” said Rohit full of sarcasm as he struggled with his tie.

Latika ignored the sarcasm and her maternal instinct to help Rohit with his tie.

“Mikey!!” she called aloud. This time the tone was full of warning of immediate retribution.

Mikey grudgingly climbed down the stairs dragging his best friend ‘Spidey’. Spidey, the stuffed Spiderman toy was as tall as Mikey himself. Both Mikey and his brave ‘Spidey’ were full of worry.

Latika continued the monologue with Rohit as she dragged Mikey into the bathroom. ‘Spidey’ meekly followed.

Latika’s loud monologues petered into grumbles occasionally spiked by irritated shouts at Mikey. Her last words’ saying she was leaving, was drowned by the banging of the door. Banging of the door voiced months of frustration and bickering. Banging of the door was also a failed attempt of Latika to put all the problems behind as she moved to another day full of impatient clients and ever demanding boss. Exit of Latika left an awkward silence, which neither Rohit nor Mikey could break.

The silence was broken by an unnecessary grumble by Rohit, “Why don’t you brush your teeth properly. You would have saved us so much of trouble.

Mikey wanted to protest but decided against it keeping the prevailing situation in mind. He however failed to comprehend how his decaying teeth were a problem for his father. It was he who would have to bear the brunt of unforgiving dental drill and be pierced by the horrifying needles. He imagined himself being strapped to the dental chair while the dentist who looked more like a monster with eight arms each holding menacing equipment designed to induce unimaginable physical pain. He wanted to scream but no sound seemed to escape his parched throat. He shuddered at the very prospect of going to the dentist.

“…and, I promise you I will throw all those bars of chocolates and candies”, grumbled Rohit as he packed his laptop into the worn out leather case.

Mikey knew his father was not in a state of mind to consider amicable solution to the situation. His feeble attempt to pledge good conduct in the future was neither said with the required conviction nor the with sufficient decibel level to be acknowledged by Rohit. Mikey gaped with dread and despair at the bleak future prospects as his father bit into the over toasted slice of bread. He had even lost the chance of gaining pardon by offering sacrifice of his treasure of chocolate (which as it is, was being thrown away).

Today Mikey was not the least worried of losing his prized treasures nor of the reprehensible and wasteful action of throwing the selected assortment of chocolates and candies only to be eaten by ants and flies located at the lowest rung of the food chain. Today he was petrified for his own life’s sake. He wanted to go back in time and brush his teeth three time a day, and keep a dissuading distance between himself and the chocolates.

Today, he needed a miracle.

“Don’t just sit there like a zombie, Mikey, finish your breakfast” growled Rohit.

Mikey gulped the last few flakes of corn, reluctantly. The impending doom was triggering panic thoughts in his mind full of fantasies. Today he needed God to come to his rescue as he always did in the fairy tale stories.

Mikey was in a state of disbelief as his father struggled to lock the door with one hand while clutching him with the other. Mickey’s mind raced as he looked for opportunities to wriggle out of this impossible situation.

Rohit had already pressed the ground floor button on the control panel of the lift. As the countdown on the display of the lift raced to the ground floor, Mikey knew his time was running out.

“Well, God”, muttered Mikey, “If you are waiting for the opportune moment to save me, it is NOW!” The lift opened and the moment was lost. Mikey was disappointed. All he wanted was to be granted his set of three wishes…Just the standard offer of three wishes”.

Rohit dragged Mikey past the watchman. He was watching the news on the cable. Mikey wished (the first wish) that the watchman would stop his father from moving out of the apartments because there was a storm warning, looking at the bright sunny weather this did not seem a likely possibility. But then God has his ways and he wants to help somebody, who knows, anything could happen.

Just when Rohit was at the exit gate, he heard the watchman call for him. Mikey’s heart soared. He was about to witness a miracle.

The watchman came out from behind his desk and walked up to Rohit. He produced a slip of paper from his breast pocket. Mikey was surprised with the ways of God. Why did he have to make the watchman give a written warning when a mere mention of an approaching storm would have done the trick? Mikey, however approved the theatrics employed as a written warning surely would have a greater effect.

Smile on Mikey’s face turned brighter as he watched the frown on his father’s face turn darker. The storm was coming. Mikey was the seeing dark cloud around the silver lining.

It did not last long. Rohit thanked the watchman and pulled Mikey out into the bright sunny day.

“Aren’t we going to get back in the house?

“Why?” Rohit asked bewildered.

“Isn’t a storm coming?” Persisted Mikey determined to fight till the end.

“No!” shouted Rohit, clearly astounded by the sheer disconnect of the query.

“Then, tell me what was written on that note which the watchman just gave you?” persisted Mikey. “Wasn’t it a storm warning?”

“No, it wasn’t a storm warning” explained Rohit in a calm tone keeping an extreme control on his temper, “It was a note from your mother saying that the appointment has been delayed. Now, I will have to take you all the way to her office. She would be taking you to the dentist.”

“Now hurry up” said Rohit as he dragged Mikey to the waiting cab. Mikey followed meekly just like ‘Spidey’.

Mikey was disappointed but hadn’t given up. Even though the dark clouds had failed him, there was a silver lining. At least, the appointment was delayed. God had given him more time. ‘Things would work out’ he remembered his mother saying that so many times when he was sad…Things always work out. And he still had two more wishes to try.

‘Just one wish…’ thought Mikey as he stared out of the closed window of the speeding cab.

Mikey watched as his father in no time was feverishly working on his laptop while he spoke to his ‘only friend’ – the cellphone through the Bluetooth. He for once was not troubled by the curiosity as the primordial question, as to why that black little thing in his father’s ear, which was neither ‘blue’ or a ‘tooth’ was called a Bluetooth. Mikey was enough to understand, that there is a time for everything.

Mikey shelved the idea of any negotiation and tantrums of a child so as to sway his father from this suicidal plan. There was an unmistakable irritation in his father’s tone. A menacing frown on Rohit’s brows further deterred Mikey from such a misadventure. The frown seemed to cut deeper with the additional burden of Mikey’s visit to the dentist on a week day. Mikey was sure all that his father wanted was to drop him at his Mother’s office and ‘get free’. Mikey’s mind was racing. Time was running out as the cab moved closer to its destination and Mikey’s doom. That’s when Mikey made his second wish. He made a wish and his mind worked out the elaborate possibilities full of juvenile fantasies. He wished to God (his second wish) … Let there be a major traffic jam which would delay them long enough to miss the appointment with the dentist.

Mikey’s mind, worked out the many possibilities. He imagined a big bus breaking down in the middle of the intersection. The sudden break down would trigger a massive pile up of speeding cars stretching over a mile on either sides. Any attempt to extricate the ‘Mammoth’ would be defeated as all approach would be blocked by the converging traffic of the ‘office goers’. The ensuing delay was going to save him today. Mikey felt sure … if only the gods would conspire.

The cab took a turn to merge into the busiest morning traffic. Things were turning favourable. Rohit paused to look at the dismal row of waiting rush hour traffic, cursed the crawling traffic and resumed his work on the laptop. He failed to notice the future shaping upto Mikey’s plan.

It was working. Mikey craned his neck to spot a bus, a big one would be better, to seal the deal. C’mon God…just a Big Bus!?!

After a few anxious minutes he saw a bus approaching the intersection. It was on his right side, closer to the window on Rohit’s side. He kept his fingers crossed and for some strange reason wished that his father should not spot it. The cab drew closer to the crossing as did the bus. It was a BIG BUS.

As both the stream of traffic from either side waited patiently for the lights to turn green, Mikey saw there was a flaw in his plan. What if the cab crossed the intersection before the bus? All the breakdown of the bus and the ensuing traffic jam would be in vain.

His heart started pounding as the cab and the bus were both the first in line on either side to step into the intersection. The driver of both the vehicles revved up their engine in anticipation. His life for once depended on the traffic signal. He closed his eyes and started to pray. And the light turned green. The cab accelerated with the rest of the competing traffic. Mikey’s heart broke as he saw the bus wait at the traffic light. He looked at bus from the rear window. For a moment he met the gaze of the driver – as the soldier left out of the battle.

It was over. The opportunity was lost.

The 110 floor skyscraper loomed large as he stepped out of the cab. Rohit paid the cabbie and grabbed Mikey’s backpack to usher him into the building. His eyes were wide with awe at the marvel of architecture. But presently fear was the predominant feeling as he entered the venue of his final end. The expression “Venue of his final end” seemed ominous, but somehow his vexed mind could not figure anything better.

Rohit was relieved as he spotted Vandana walking towards them. Vandana was a colleague and a friend of Latika.

“Latika is busy. She had asked me to take care of Mikey till she gets free. She told me you would be in a rush.”

Vandana escorted the reluctant Mikey.

Rohit thanked Vandana. Rohit silently thanked Latika for caring for his lack of time despite how they had parted ways today. He decided he would make amends when they met in the evening.

Mikey and Vandana moved towards the grinding teeth of the lift as they opened and closed periodically to devour willing and unknowing swarms of people.

Mikey and Vandana were part of its next meal. It seemed to be groaning and rolling its eyes as it digested the last morsel which had gone till the 100th floor. Mikey was headed to the 80th floor. That’s where his mother worked.

It was 8:45 am. He still had an hour to work out his strategies. But he did not intend to wait that long. He looked up to the countdown of the floors as the lift moved down. The beast was getting ready for its next meal. He looked beyond the beast and talked to his accomplice in the plan…God, we need to act fast!!!

The lift door opened, and a stream of people poured out. Busy and preoccupied, rushing out of the lift and some moving outside the tower. Possibly, blissfully unaware of surviving the beast.

Vandana ushered Mikey into the lift. Mikey was pleasantly relieved to find no molars or an abrasive tongue inside. It was a well-lit cavity with music. Maybe the beast had finished his breakfast and now was feeling like having some relaxed time and doing some good deed of taking people to their place of work.

Mikey wondered if the lift knew of his plan and predicament. Could the beast be a worthy ally? Mikey’s brain raced. Maybe, the beast could for a while or to be more specific for three hours clamp its jaws and retain the present group of the cud. Mikey was banking on the busy schedule of the dentist. Which, as per his mother if once missed is less frequent than the Haley’s Comet.

He searched for a sign from the beast.

“Talk to me, Beast!” said Mikey under his breath. His voice masked by the music for the mobile thumbing mass of humanity. They were inconsequential in this conversation.

The beast creaked, groaned and stopped at the 52nd floor. There was no body at the floor. The beast seemed to pause and think whether to be part of this conspiracy. The jaws open as if in contemplation. The people in the swallow of the beast were getting impatient. They seemed to be poking him to move on. Mikey hated these people for being selfish. Why can’t they see the bigger picture?

The beast stirred conclusively, as if having made a decision. The jaws closed in a determined grit. In a way to show disagreement to be part of Mikey’s plan, the beast started to lumber towards its destination.

The uncooperative jaws opened to the 80th floor. Vandana was speaking on her mobile phone as Mikey moved out with the exodus. He couldn’t find his mother. Panic struck at the core of his existence. For once he stood there all alone, rooted at the exit of the lift, nudged and shoved by the hurrying feet.

Vandana caught up with him and guided him to a glass office. He could see scurry of activity inside. As Vandana swiped her identity tag to swing the automatic door open, Mikey noticed his mother, in one of the glass cubicle. Her hair strands were no longer in place, it was irritating her as it repeatedly fell over her left eye as she worked on her computer.

She got up and took Mikey’s hand, and thanked Vandana. She kissed Mikey on his forehead and made him sit on a sofa next to a huge window. The view was breathtaking. He could see the Hudson River and the milling specks of the traffic on the street.

He knew he had to work out something quick and spectacular. Halfhearted and small time plans would not do. It had to be a bolt from the sky.

That’s when he saw the airliner appear on the sky line. The “bolt from the sky’, the idea seem to light up Mikey’s eye. Why couldn’t he think of this before.

“Well, desperate times call for desperate actions”, said Mikey to his own image on the window glass. “God, this is my last chance…the last wish.

The plan was building up in Mikey’s mind. What if he could use the airplane to hit the beast and break his jaws. Apart from the justice that the beast deserved, it would also stop all the ways to move out of this building. What a master plan. If only God would play along.

Mikey closed his eyes. “God…please “, prayed Mikey.

He opened his eyes full of expectations. He could not believe his eyes, as he saw the airplane changing course and head straight towards the twin tower.

His eyes widened as the airplane closed in on to his tower. His wish was coming true. God was playing the dice…His dice. God was his accomplice.

He couldn’t contain himself. He needed to tell people of the Miracle.

That’s when he felt her mother hand on his shoulder. He turned excitedly.

“Mom!!! Look, it’s….”, his voice trailed as he saw terror in his mother’s eyes.

He turned around to see the airplane. It was close enough for him to see the pilot. He saw the similar terror in the bearded face.

BANG