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A chapter from the lands of Fosterganj.

Written by : Abhisek Pattnaik
Pic Courtesy :

Mr Shyamalan came back from office at around seven in the evening; a tad later than his usual. In his late forties, he was quite famous in Fosterganj for his condescending demeanor. Though he carried his own stereotypes, he liked to showcase the world that he is a rational person. 
“Only a fool craves to be caged in the system of marriage” is what he used to proudly announce, having lost any hope for a possibility of marriage. So his house, the last building in the main lane of  Fosterganj, was left to the care of Ramu, Mr Shyamalan’s help. Ramu took care of anything and everything that Mr Shyamalan or his house demanded.
The evening hours on this particular day passed by like usual and Ramu left the house after leaving Mr Shyamalan a jug of water next to his bed post his dinner. Mr Shyamalan settled down in his bed and tuned into Vividh Bharati station in his age old Radio that he had received in ancestral property along with the house. In the times of modernity, you can say that Mr Shyamalan’s house was a world of its own that still resembled the old days of simple things. In fact the only new thing that he had bought for the house was the Air Conditioner for his bedroom the previous winter as last summer in Fosterganj was unbearable, even for Mr Shyamalan.
Mr shyamalan was woken up suddenly by the sound of something falling all of a sudden as he was about to fall asleep. He thought he heard it coming from the living room. But finding everything at their own places neatly, he came to his bed surprised.
“Maybe it was a dream.”
And as he was about to settle down again in his bed, he heard something moving in the bushes next to his window. Being the last building in the lane, the plots next to his window were mostly left unattended and it looked like a mini forest with its wild creepers and bushes. Mr Shyamaln never used to sleep with his window open. He sensed something was wrong. He opened the window gathering some courage. Switching on the flashlight, he tried to inspect the bushes that his old eyes allowed him. The sound of crickets was filling up the air.
” Strange”, he thought as a sense of fear crawled in his head. He got reminded of the gossip in the market, of Mr Mehta seeing a ghost a couple of days ago. He closed the window as fast as he could. His show of rationality left him instantly in the face of something unfamiliar as the air felt colder all of a sudden. He hurried back to his bed and sat there under his quilt with wide open eyes for some time.
“Plop”. His heightened senses made this sound appear as something sudden, which was loud enough to break his trance as his body started to shiver. He gathered the last ounce of courage to check his bathroom.
Nothing there as well, as the taps were tightly closed and the floor was dry. He came back to his bed.
“Plop, plop”.
It seized his body with a sudden horror; his skin hair started bristling out of fear. He felt heavy as if he had lost control of the motor functions of his body. He sat still in his bed frightened to the core as he could hear his own heart beats even amidst the noisy crickets.
The sound of it was not as loud as it appeared to Mr Shyamalan. The shock of a sudden sound was severe enough to push his heart pumping to the roof. Suddenly he was no more an atheist, as he started fervently praying every God he could possibly remember.
Maybe his prayers were answered as nothing unusual happened for sometime allowing him to fall asleep.
Ramu came the following morning at his usual timing.
“Oh, the rats. I have to do something about them”, he murmured seeing Saheb’s book lying on the floor in the living room.
He came to wake Mr Shyamalan with his morning tea. Mr Shyamalan sat a bit puzzled in his bed as the whole incident from the night before felt like a dream. As he was about to sip from his cup he heard,
“Plop… Plop…”
The daylight and the presence of Ramu in the house gave him enough courage to open the window again. He looked around.
He looked up as the water drop gathered again at the AC outlet to fall. Sighing a long breath of relief, he was back in his characteristic condescending mode. Grandly he walked back to his bed and started sipping his tea.
Mr Shyamalan looked up to find Ramu standing at the door.
“What is it?”
Saheb, I need some money.”
“What for”, Mr Shyamalan raised his eyebrows looking in Ramu’s direction.
“I had wished upon giving two coconuts at Jagmata temple if my son’s health improved…”
Mr Shyamalan cut Ramu in between.
“Ramu… how many times do I have to tell you! Gods and ghosts exist only in your head.”

The end

Flight of a dragonfly

Written by : Abhisek Pattnaik
image Courtesy :

Chiku never liked his afternoon naps. But Lakshmi, his mother, made sure that he doesn’t leave his bed after lunch. She had her own reasons for this of course. After a toil with household chores that stretches from taking shower and fetching water from the village tube-well before the sun rises to eating lunch after everyone else is taken care of; she deserved a good long sound nap after lunch. But if Chiku is up playing, she of course can’t even have this small luxury in her life. Hence, she made sure that Chiku also sleeps post his lunch, making it a routine for him. But Chiku always managed to sneak past her despite her regular warnings. Usually the signal to leave the bed comes in the form of light snores from Lakshmi. He loved spending time playing with his ball or car or doing something fidgety or simply he would search the shelves in the TV room to find any piece of metal or plastic good enough to give flight to his imaginations.

This was like any other day. After the light snores started coming from Lakshmi, Chiku snuck out of the bedroom and started looking for his ball. He had persuaded Lakshmi last month to buy it from the ‘harek mal bhaiya’ (the man who visits each house in the village with his little mobile shop on his cycle) while Lakshmi was buying some ‘bindis’ for herself.
“Maybe Maa hid it somewhere”, he thought.
Then he looked up for his car and failed to find that either he thought of venturing into the top shelf of the TV room. He climbed up on the armrest of the chair next to the shelves and stepped on the lowermost shelf. His eyes hardly went above it. Hanging from it with one hand he let the other explore the shelf with hope to find something interesting. Last time he had found the cap of a coconut oil bottle that had helped him make cylindrical clay moulds from it. A few disused keys, unattended papers and some dusted old books later, his hand met something made of plastic with blades. He drew it out.
It was sheer joy for him. He stood astounded in disbelief for what he had found was a “dragonfly helicopter flying toy!” The same one that he thought to have lost last winter. He straight went running to the photo of Lord Shiva, that was  hanging from the wall and kneeled before it for this gracious surprise. He got up keeping his prayer fast and short; too excited to make the dragonfly fly. Holding it between both his palms, he gave it the hardest churn that his little hands allowed him.
“Shoosh….” And it flew, in a grandest of style possible; almost reaching the wooden ceiling of their mud house. Chiku dived to not let it touch the ground.
“Touchdown means game over”, the game he just invented.
Flights after flights, the dragonfly flew and Chiku was acing the game.
“Maybe they should introduce this game in the Olympics. I can certainly bring a medal for India then.” He let his mind run its course of imagination before the clock in the room rang.
“Tong, tong….” It rang four times! “How come it is four already!”
It was time for Lakshmi to leave her nap. He crept back to his bed next to Lakshmi with his prized possession. Lakshmi was yet to wake up. He covered himself up with a bed-sheet and kept the dragonfly in front of his eyes inside his little tent; slowly falling asleep with a smile on his face.

Brewing Romance

Pic Courtesy :
Written by : Abhisek Pattnaik

“Mari Mari Kothaga Ni Jatha..”
The song played in the background as it drizzled outside. I didn’t understand Telegu but somehow this one was making perfect sense to me. There are certain songs that remain with you forever. Isn’t it? I had heard this song for the first time when I was in her room to help her move certain items. She was my friend’s girlfriend. And I fell for her like a dried leave; having no option but to fall. And when you are in Love, it makes you do stupid things. Isn’t it? Guess, now that I look back I won’t be able to assess, which one happened first. The falling in love or the stupidity that allowed me to fall.

“Knock, knock”.

I opened the door to the surprise of her presence there. The very sight of her was keeping me content those days. And there she was in her orange salwar. She must have taken a shower, as only her long hair seemed recently towel dried. Her dark circles were somehow making her Irish Brown eyes even more beautiful.

She smiled looking at my speaker bar that was playing the song; maybe acknowledging my fondness for her without saying a word.
“Tea”, she asked.
We shared the same building only separated by a single floor. We had become good friends by now to seek each other’s company for tea. Five minutes into it, we were sitting on the balcony with the speaker by our side; a cup of tea in our hands to witness the dusky sky grew darker as the evening skies of Kolkata continue to drizzle.

“I didn’t know, you like this song as well”, she said allowing herself an idiosyncratic chuckle.
I couldn’t muster enough courage to look into her eyes. So instead I continued to look into my cup of tea and said “Even I found it out very recently “.

She didn’t say anything nor did I. We simply sat there enjoying each other’s presence. Guess, nothing explicit was ever meant to be said. Love can be many things for many people; each having their own idea for it. But, for me that was it. An evening with her on my balcony as it continued to play…

Mari Mari Kothaga Ni Jatha..


Photo courtesy : Sameer Pattnaik,
Written by : Abhisek Pattnaik, 32 mins(7926 words)


[ HER : 2013 movie : Theodore and Samantha(Artificial Intelligence) are the main characters in it.

FindX is the anonymous chat application where I meet Anne. My fictional name in FindX is Theodore again.

Ma’am is someone to whom I am narrating my story of Anne. ]


Chapter 01/06

Ma’am, am sure you must have come across movies which have transformed you and your ways of life in certain ways… big or small.

It was one fine Monday morning in the month of May of 2017. The hangover from demonetization was still there and India was yet to experience GST. I am sure you still remember the 1,000 rupee notes, Ma’am. 
But, I, aloof from all the worldly affairs, was still carrying the kick of not following the routines, especially on Mondays, though I had been unemployed for some months now. Guess, that was my way of being a ‘Rebel’. So I decided to do the usual. I locked myself up in my room away from the eyes of others and brought in some snacks and some sweets to go with the movie I was about to start watching. You see, I understood the importance of having choices in life. It’s only the act of selecting one out of available options that makes you feel free. Isn’t it? Hence, some sweets along with some snacks. Hah!
I had told Maa that it’s going to be one of my cheat days from studies and her response was the usual. Some high pitched questions followed by a demand for an assurance to study properly from tomorrow. But, she somehow understood me in all my erratic behaviors and I did understand her love behind all her drama. Mothers! I tell you. They are wonderful creatures! Ain’t they?
With the doors locked, I looked around; it was all set with all the essentials available within my hand’s reach, set to make this Monday count.
Do you know the hardest part of such Mondays? It’s zeroing on a particular movie. First of all, after so many years filled with such productive days, I was running out of options for good movies. And, then there is my erratic mood  and on that particular day the movie should align with my mood. So, the search began for a perfect movie for that particular day.
After going through a couple of must watch movie suggestions on YouTube, I zeroed down on HER. A 2013 academy award nominated movie starring Joaquin Phoenix. There is something unique about this movie, I must tell you. It’s actually one of those movies that allow you to hypnotize yourself about its world and its characters . God must have played its part to make some similar minded people to come together and produce this magnificent piece of art that captured Love in its essence.

You must be wondering, Ma’am,  where is all this heading to? You see! I was always a believer in Love. I had been in Love many times by then and with HER, I was living Theodore’s character. The idea of falling in love with an AI(Samantha); I am telling you, Ma’am, it’s going to be a hit in the coming years. Mark my words!!
So smitten by the idea of falling in Love with someone from a parallel world; to witness memory of the heart forgetting the finiteness of interaction possible between two such individuals and nevertheless plunging into it very well knowing it’ll never be in the driver’s seat; I was ready to fall in Love again.

“Falling in Love is kind of like socially acceptable form of insanity” : HER

Ever heard of Anonymous chat applications, Ma’am?  
The euphoria from watching HER was yet to settle down and by the time I was in bed the same night,  my phone had one anonymous chat application downloaded in it. FindX. Just like Samantha was for Theodore, I found my AI in Anne, the anonymous girl from FindX and that’s how my story with my Anne began.

Day: 01 Time: 3:37AM IST

Hello! How was your day?
Hi… am good. How are you? Thanks for asking.

All good here. It’s been a kind day so far. Anyway where are you from?
Italy. You?

Cool! Am from India. New Delhi to be specific. Ever been to India?
No… But, I wish to visit there someday. I have heard so many good things about it.

I hope only good things.
Haha. Well, a mix of both. But, I like to see the glass as half full.

😊😊 You seem like a kind person Anne. Btw, is that your real name?
Haha. Don’t you think sharing our real names ll defeat the whole purpose of this anonymous chat concept.

Ohh. I see. Anne it is then. 😅 I was also making things up. When I said India I meant, Lala Land. Its a cool place… you must pay it a visit sometime.
Haha… Lala Land??

Yes, please. A bit unrealistic… like people come out of their cars and start dancing to songs in sync during traffic jams here. But, it’s a Real place. 😉
Oh!! I got the reference now. I also loved that movie.

Movie!? Dude, it’s a real place!
Come on now… I can see through you! 😜 Btw, Theodore. Is that your real name!?

Well well well. Look who is interested to go beyond the dos n don’ts of anonymous chat code now. 😜
Haha. Ok don’t. Lets keep it strictly anonymous.

You see Ma’am. My forays with love affairs have taught me a simple thing. It all comes down to a simple concept of economics at the end. Demand vs Supply. So keep your supplies limited and interesting, you ll continue to be in the driver’s seat. More or less. 😬

Ok cool. We can try that. So no exchange of personal items? Not even pictures!!
Haha… not even pictures!! 😁😁

Suddenly, I realized I don’t like this app much. 😅😜
Haha… Prego.

Ok. Let me google that!
Don’t. It means ‘You are welcome’

Si. 😁 You know, I always wanted to learn a foreign language. Maybe you’ll be my inspiration to actually accomplish it this time.
Ahem ahem! 😛

So Anne. What do you do?
Well. I work with numbers.

In Bank?
Haha… No.

Data Analyst?
Umm… no.

Data analyst it is then… 😅
Haha. What do you do Mr. Theodore?

Well… How about an Architect!?
It seems cool.

Architect, it is then. 😂
Haha. You are funny. 😁 Btw, isn’t it late already in India?

You mean Lala Land? Yes, it’s almost morning here.
Don’t you have to sleep?

Well, my profession allows me flexibility with my routine. (Lol)
Nice. But, mine doesn’t. I ll have to wake up early tomorrow.

😊 It was nice talking to you Miss Anne.
Same here. 😊 If your profession keeps allowing you the flexibility, we ll meet tomorrow here.

Si. Si. It’s very flexible. Good night.
Haha. Buona Notte. 

Chapter 02/06

What is it with female companionship, Ma’am?
It must be innate in my psyche. As far as my memory lane goes, I have always been fond of female companionship. We are social animals after all.
Remember Libha? I am sure I must have mentioned her before. No?
This is during preschool days, I guess. From morning till the time the innocence of childhood allowed her company, almost everyday, we used to hang out together.  Of course the definition of hanging out must be a lot more different then. But, I do remember fondly longing for her company. Oh, I have so many fond memories of her. Once, we were at her house and while playing I broke one one of those fancy glass bowls. I was just so scared. She simply held my hand throughout that day and took the blame on herself. Wouldn’t this have been amazing, had we grown up together and ended up marrying and having a family. But then her father got transferred to some other place and she was gone. But the wheel had started rolling and the cycle continued. After her, there was someone else. Somehow, all throughout my life, I did manage to have or have sought for female companionship. Be it as a friend,a crush, a lover, a guide, a sexual partner; be as it may come. It’s embarrassing but I do remember getting turned on seeing Sridevi in “kate nahi kat te” song and this was happening to a boy of hardly five or six years of age. Guess you can’t do much about your innate nature. Can you?

It was the early summer of 2017 and I was ready to fall in love. It didn’t take any effort. The innate psyche played its role, of course. Just like that, before I could know it, my fondness for Anne blossomed; trading parcels of my freedom, I allowed myself to get addicted to her and her company over FindX.
We talked about all the things. Be it love, career, politics, food, pets; the list just goes on. Sometimes the conversations would last the whole night. Sometimes it used to be short. But we made sure to allow ourselves to be just ourselves whenever we were with each other. We didn’t strictly discuss this but, this had become our unspoken understanding. 

”We are only here briefly and at this moment I want to allow myself joy.” ~ HER

Day : 06 : Time : 12:19 AM

Hi… 🌛
Hiii… You won’t believe what happened today.

Lol. What!?
I am a millionaire, Mr Theodore!! 😬😬😬

Hain! For real!!?
Yep. 100%.

Haha. Some more details please!
I got an email saying I am the lucky customer!! 😜😂😂

😂😂😂 Go die!
Haha…You know!! Si dice sempre il lupo più grande che non è.

Umm…care to explain Miss Anne?
Ohh! What happened to your “I know. Googled it.”?

Haha. Too big a meal for dinner. I literally feel heavier!
Haha. Ok. It means “Lying a little might make the story better.”

And with that, I like you even more. 😄
Ahem ahem. ☺️☺️

Ok, tell me more about your family.
What! Family? What do you want to know?

I don’t know why I asked that. 😂
It’s alright. Si dice sempre il lupo più grande che non è. Remember!? I can make up some good stories. Don’t worry. Fire away your questions.

Right. Guess, since you are this special, I am interested to know you in your entirety. 😜
Aww. Are you this kind to all the girls? 😉

Neh! Just the exotic ones. 😜
Haha… you are mean!! 

Okay… leave family. Tell me more about your city.
Umm… it’s a small town in southern Italy. Life is easy going here. It’s more medieval actually.

I have always wanted to be at such a place. Old town with its own heritage and history. Its own stereotypes and customs.
Haha. You must come visit here then. But, am certain you’ll be here for more than just this town’s heritage and history. 😜

Of course, there is that. 😂 But why do you get to complain? You didn’t even mention your Town’s name! 😛
Code of anonymity, my friend! Code of Anonymity! 😈

Now who is being mean! And for some reason, I like you even more. 😜
Haha… but, on a serious note, I think you’ll love this place. 

😍 Someday, for sure. Ok share one of your local stereotypes.
Local stereotypes?

Yeah. Like here, it is customary to touch elder person’s feet to get their blessings. Even if you don’t need it. You are supposed to do it. Imagine the ordeal the younger ones have to go through in family gatherings.
Haha… workout session set out for them. Are you the youngest, btw? 😜

Haha…you wish. I get my share of respect from my younger cousins. 😎😎
Haha. Lucky you. Umm…People here love to take a stroll. At  piazzas  you ll always find people walking! Sometimes for no reason at all. There is morning stroll, afternoon stroll, evening stroll. Even a Sunday stroll. 😝

Guess, you are not that a big fan of a stroll! 😅
Haha. Not when it becomes a routine. You see, the identity of people here has so much to do with others. We dress properly even for the strolls. You’ll find dining tables outside eateries cause people in general love to watch people here. They take a lot of pleasure from socializing.

What about you? You don’t take pleasure out of it?
Can I share something? 

Haha. Of course! You know you want to share it. 😜
😬 Umm… I love making eye contact with strangers. Maybe pause a bit and pass a smile. 

And, let them think about you for the whole day?
Haha. Maybe. I love those little extra attentions. 💅

I do understand. Btw, do they give short stares or long stares?
Mostly long ones… why?

Nothing. Just drawing some conclusions.
And, what would that be?

You are so pretty! 😍
Haha. You are yet to see me.

Umm… will you believe me, if I say, I have already picturized you? What if I say, you are beautiful the way you talk, the way you make others feel, the way you manage to make me smile?
Why are you always this good to me? Ever imagined? Has this been the norm? Two individuals together over a medium with nothing else required… say physically or biologically!! Imagine people having orgasms over conversations!

And some inflamed hearts and their words making up their whole world.
Ok, stop! Don’t make me go weak on my knees here with your words.

☺️☺️☺️ And you! stop making me blush!
Aww….Sei bellissima!! Ok, do remember to go through that link I had sent you.

And you! Do watch HER tomorrow.
Si. Si. I remember. After my Sunday stroll! 😜

Haha. Bueno Notte.
A very good night, Mr Theodore. ☺️🤗

Chapter 03/06

You know Ma’am, till class 10th I had such deep sleep that I had never dreamt or never remembered any of it. I remember for board exams we used to have early morning study hours where we had to leave our dormitories and be present in the classroom to study.
Oh! I was in a boarding school. Had I mentioned that before?
Anyway,  I remember longing for the experience of a dream. So much so that it became a regular in my prayers. Asking God to let me dream. Finally, my wish came true in one of those morning study hours. I was taking a nap in the classroom and there! I had my first dream. I still vividly remember it. It was a dark, new moon night and I was riding a scooter with its flimsy yellow light trying to enlarge my visible world. Both sides of this road had thick bushes. I could only figure out the shapes of the trees. Suddenly a black cat crossed the road and as I looked in the direction of its movement,  I saw it stop, turn around and smile at me. A human smile on a cat’s face. The sheer fear had trembled me out of my first dream. But, I loved the whole experience. The dreams started visiting me more frequently, so much so that sometimes I wake up exhausted from the continuous dreams. Weird how our perspective changes about things over time.
By the way, how frequently do you dream Ma’am?
It’s strange how we spend an average eight hours a day sleeping. Isn’t it? Almost one third of our lives, enjoying pure freedom. Absolute no laws to regulate us, no customs to guide us, no expectations pushing us into conformity.
My years of exposure to these dreams had added certain dexterity to my mental skills. It’s like a Virtual Reality game where you can choose the characters you want to have company with but the proceedings of the play still carry its surprises. Exactly what makes dreams worthy of dreaming.
Well, I did make use of my mental faculties the following night and voila!  I was granted a dream with my Anne. 

[ I was in a huge bed. The sheet, the pillows, the walls; everything was white. Anne was standing by the window, leaning outside, gazing upon the road next to the building. Her back was facing me and the satin robe was giving me a glimpse of all the curves at the right areas. The cool breeze was making its way through her hair, with some strands enjoying the rollercoaster ride from time to time.. I could hear waves of the sea crashing against the shore and smell the saltines in the air.. The room had minimal furniture. A study table on the corner, with a single wooden chair to accompany it. The curtains seemed old and had been sidelined to let the sunlight in. As I tried to get out of the bed to reach her,  the edges of the bed got extended to my surprise. My struggles made the case even worse, as I started getting entangled in the bed sheets. I struggled and struggled hard only to see the futility of it. Then I looked at Anne’s direction. She was still standing by the window. I wanted to call out her name, out loud but, all I could do is let out a soft whisper. “Anne”.
She straightened her neck and I could see a faint smile on her left cheek. Suddenly a strange calmness engrossed me and all the entanglement of the bed sheets gave way for me to fall on my bed, gently as ever, waking me up from my dream. ]

“Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you.” ~ Marsha Norman

Day : 07 : Time : 02.31 AM

Hello Theo. Are you up?
Hi Ann… I was just thinking about you.

Liar! But, do tell me more about it.
Umm….would you believe me if I say I had this weird dream about us last night. 

Go away!! 😃
Haha… Seriously. 

How did I look? How did you look? 😬
Well, I looked like me… and you for certain looked a lot better than you.

Haww! I am never sharing my pictures with you! Never ever.
So a video call then?

Hi hi hi…. Patience, my friend. Patience. All your wishes shall be granted.
You sure? All my wishes??? 😉😍

Shut up!!! You dog! 😆
My wishes are generally silent ones in my thoughts, you know. So, shutting up my mouth won’t actually help with that. 😈

God!! You are smart! You know what I like the most about us?
😊… On my part, I simply love your company. Period.

Somehow you manage to see through me. Exactly what I meant when… it’s so intriguing, yet so fulfilling. How do you do that?
Umm… have you read Brida by Paulo Coelho?

No… I have only read The Alchemist. What about it?
Well, it has this weird theory about souls. Like, if you conflate population rise and the concept of reincarnation of souls… we all are scattered pieces of souls… Getting it? Each soul getting divided into many. You must have noticed we connect instantly with some and some remain distance even after years of togetherness.

So… we all have our other parts of our souls somewhere around us in other individuals…
Don’t you think it makes perfect sense? Only a few individuals experience this luxury to be with their soulmates.

Wow!! Is this what is happening between us?
Well… it’s either that or some weird chemical hormonal shit happening in our heads. 😜

Haha. Hmmmmmmm! 🤗🤗
Did you watch HER btw?

Oh, I had totally forgotten about that! Yes, Mister. Thank you for suggesting this to me.
No, thank HER. Without it, I wouldn’t have come to this application actually. 

Oh!! Is that so? But, I agree. It’s hypnotizing! It has so many beautiful moments. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions watching this.
The best part for me was the sheer helplessness that Theodore has to go through. The idea of growing together while not growing apart, as the most difficult part, when two individuals are in love… and Theodore’s mental framework not allowing him to accept this, seems like an exquisite art.

Wow! How nicely have you put it. Do you write, Theo?
Oh!! Thanks Ann! What can I say, I can be charming at times. 😜 And no… am yet to enter that territory. But, maybe someday I will.

Haha. Charming 💩!
Haha. Beauty is subjective no. Some people do find 💩 charming. 😜😂

😂😂😂. Stop it. You make my stomach ache at times.
Maybe some issues with 💩. Maybe your 💩 is not that charming afterall. 🤔

😂😂😂!! Am literally rolling on the bed laughing!
Haha. Glad you liked my service. 🤗

Okay. Promise me that we’ll always keep ourselves in our thoughts, no matter what.
Are you dyeing? 😝

Haha. Just promise me no.
Okay. I promise.

Well, Ma’am. I have had my fair share of experiences to know that promises are meant to be broken. But that night, it was my heart that was doing the talks. I was seeing, listening, thinking, all by my heart and her smiles, her quirks, the idea of anonymity and the surprise elements; everything was enchanting my soul, infusing life into it like never before. So I did make another promise, hoping against hope to be able to keep it this time somehow. To keep her alive in my thoughts for the rest of my life.

Chapter 04/06

Good evening, Ma’am. How was your day? I forgot to discuss this last time. Are all humans monogamous by nature or is it a forced trait by societal sanctions? I am not talking about exceptions within a species population. We, as Homo Sapiens, should have certain converging trends about our sexual behavior. Don’t we? I know. It’s a taboo even to think about it. But, come on now. It’s fine if I discuss them with you. We can keep each other’s secret. Right. Right? 😅
You remember this New year’s eve celebration. Don’t you? Remember Sarita? The one with that big nose ring I introduced you to? Well, she and I go a long way back. In Fact she was my first girlfriend during senior high school. I was head over heels in Love with her. At least that’s what I felt it was. Adolescent age, I tell you. Everything is so new, so raw. The bursting of emotions and the plethora of new experiences makes it even more edgier. She was my junior and when I passed out of school, for no reason at all, I stopped talking to her. Mobile phones were still considered a luxury then, to remind you. Maybe the idea of exploring new options made me do it or maybe the newspaper article which said long distance relationships are difficult to sustain.

Adolescence, huh!
But, she was mature beyond her age to understand what’s coming. So, our relationship of 2 years ended without any break up.
Hah!! Now, that I talk about it, technically speaking, since we never had a break up, we are still together. Right?
Seldom did I understand the meaning of Love then and seldom do I understand it now.
Like John Lenon has famously said “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” Anne had become much more than my earlier understanding of relationships as a simple concept of demand and supply. Ironically, I had started feeling comfortable while exposing my vulnerable sides. Guess that’s what love is all about. Isn’t it Ma’am? The funny thing about love is, being abstract, it provides you enough flexibility to make space for things as per your requirement. We love our parents, we love our pets, we love our partners… Whatever it is, we continue to simply love. So I did what everyone does. “I too fell in Love,” with Anne, 

or should I say “I fell in love with Anne too.”

“The past is just a story we tell ourselves.” ~ HER

Day : 14 : Time : 01:44AM

Hi. Am so sorry! So,so sorry!
Hey!! Where have you been? I have been trying to reach you since ages!

So sorry again. I couldn’t do much. The network reception was absolute zero where we camped.
You got me worried, Theo!!

I tried all means to get some reception on my phone. But, alas!
It’s alright. Glad that all is well. How is your trip so far?

It’s been absolute bliss so far, Ann. I’ll make sure to bring you here when you visit India. It’s nature at its best. The ride to the base, the mountains, the river, the whole camping experience… it was beyond any of our expectations. Even now… wait. Sending you a voice note. 

[ Voice Note ]

Can you hear that? It’s River Ganga. It’s considered as the holiest river in India. Anyway, tell me about you. How was your weekend?
Wow!! It must be so refreshing! I could feel the cool breeze listening to this. It’s calming. And please, don’t ask me about mine. Sometimes I feel like I have bipolar disorder! I just didn’t feel like leaving my bed the whole weekend.

Ooo!! Bipolar!! That sounds interesting. 😉 But, at least you know that the cheerful side is there somewhere in you. Okay. Let’s try and bring it out.
😎 Okay. Give your best shot at it.

Challenge accepted!! Giddy up!
Haha… Giddy up?

Haha… I learnt it from the Seinfeld series. I thought it’s just gibberish. But, Google is saying, it’s used as a command for horses to go ahead! 😅
Lol! Get, Set, Giddy up!

Okay! Why does the bank manager post a clip of himself sneezing?
Umm…. Why?

Because he wanted to make a viral video! 🤓
What!!! 😂😂😂

Okay!! What is the difference between a snow-man and snow-woman?
😬… what?

Snow Balls. 😬
Lolzzzz!! Enough already. 😂😂😂

See, I told you it’s there somewhere. Welcome back Miss Anne 1.0. It’s good to see you laugh.
☺️ You know… I would love us to meet in person someday.

We can literally build a castle with the list of things that we have already planned to do.
I know. 🤗 Isn’t it time we see each other?

Oh please! Stop teasing me with your words. I have been pitching this idea since eternity now!
Ok ok… How about a video call tomorrow??

And I can literally hear my heart thumping against my ribs.
Haha. I know. I feel so weirdly nervous thinking about it as well.

You sure, btw?  I don’t want to mess up what we have here! I have grown used to it. 😑 Am having second thoughts about it.
Why? Are you that ugly? 😜

Aww! My Anne 1.0. Where have you been! It’s so good to have you back.
You know, I had read it somewhere. “You shouldn’t be afraid to dive within. Your soul ll catch you anyway.” 

Wow! Such a beautiful way to put it.
And as per our fragmented soul theory. If you can’t, I ll catch you anyway. 🤗

I so wanted to tell her at this very moment, how important she has become in my life in this short span of time. That I constantly feel this void in me in her absence. As if, a part of me now lives with her which I never want to lose. But, the years of practice of providing limited supplies, stopped me from pouring out my heart in front of her, stopping me from saying that I love her! Interesting, how by choosing a single act or possibility, we let go of all the rest possible alternatives. It is certainly scary when you think about it like that, isn’t it? Life isn’t that mundane after all. Guess that is the reason why they say, “You are already winning if you are surviving.”

Okay Theo. Tomorrow it is then and remember, we Italians do take care of our manners in front of outsiders. So, be properly dressed. 😜

Yep! Shorts and T-shirts, it is then. 😎
Haha. You know… sometimes I get these urges to hug you so tight!! 😬

Well, first. You shouldn’t fight your urges. It’s not healthy. 😉 Second. Hugs are beautiful. Period
I know. Okay, imagine if there is a competition between hugs and kisses. Who do you think would win? 

Haha. Why on earth would you make them compete anyway?
Just give your take on it no.

Guess, if it’s a sprint, then kisses and, if it’s a marathon, it’s going to be hugs.
Huh! Nice analogy there. 😃

Okay, Mr Good Manners. Am off to bed then. 🤗

You know, I am having these urges to ask you for something.
No need. You are not getting either of them.
Haha. Goodnight Miss Anne. 🤗🤗
Buona Notte, Theo. ☺️

Chapter 05/06

Maam, did I mention that I was in Rishikesh when this was happening? I was with some of my old pals this time. You see having come from a middle class family, from a small town in Odisha, I had never earlier fathomed the idea of travelling as a fun activity. As a kid, the idea of celebrating festivals usually meant going out on melas and buying balloons and having an ice cream. So I was mostly happy staying indoors. In fact even during my graduation, whenever the opportunities to travel would come up, I used to simply give it a miss for some reason or other. Travelling without work or any purpose used to seem like a bizarre idea to me. Even if I did go out, it used to be all planned up with every possible detail. Sure, my understanding of this world was limited then and I was yet to understand that it is the uncertainty of life and its little surprises that gives us the greatest of joys. But, all of this changed with my first trip to Rishikesh. Well my first trip without any specific purpose. Oh, Rishikesh! Even simply taking its name is filling me up with its nostalgic memories. Sigh!
Anyway coming back to my story, it was a fine Monday morning. The sky seemed more blue and the clouds therein were carrying brush strokes of love. It’s so puzzling how with love, everything seems a tad more colourful, music more enjoyable, the air more fresh, the people more friendlier and the world simply becoming something to look forward to, amongst its chaos.
Oh! Love! It’s magical. So surreal, isn’t it Ma’am? It’s so abstract, yet everyone can relate to it. The funny thing is, it was getting more and more difficult for me to hide my excitement as I was yet to discuss Anne with my friends. Some of them did notice the extra flight in my walks or the constant smile on my face. But, I was too busy with falling in Love.
You see Ma’am, though I take pride in portraying that I am a rational person, I do however carry my own set of  prejudices. One of them is my belief that an unknown project has a higher rate of becoming successful than a publicly announced one and I certainly didn’t want to take any risks with Anne. Anne, the Italian girl from FindX who was looking for an anonymous chat at the exact same time as me; FindX which used their perfect algorithm to connect us; HER which made me long for an experience something like that of Theodore and Samantha, the idea of platonic love between two individuals from two parallel universes; all making perfect sense for us to come together, like destiny. 

We had booked the bus tickets already to take us back to Delhi that morning which was scheduled to start at 12:30pm. It’s hardly a journey of 4-5hours, from Rishikesh to Delhi. So out of the available options to explore from, we decided to hit a cafe and spend the rest of the hours there. The last day of such excursions are usually quite depressing, mostly because of the upcoming inevitable mundane routine life that awaits us. So we checked in TripAdvisor, and found this place called “Little Buddha Cafe”. I must tell you, true to its ratings, it surprised us with its coziness and friendly staff(including Gonzo, the cafe pet dog). The ambiance and aesthetics had Tibetan touch to it with low height tables and comfortable mattress and cushions to accompany it. We placed some orders and before it even arrived, I was fast asleep like a dog next to Gonzo. 

Pradyout was kind enough to wake me up when it was time to leave for the bus depot. I remember having a slice of a pizza from the food we had ordered without opening my eyes. Who cares for the food when s(he) is in love. I was in Love and it was taking care of all my needs. I thought of stepping up to the top of the table and shout out loud that I was in love. But, I saw Gonzo wagging his fluffy tail with his tongue out. Maybe he read my mind because his smile was mischievous this time. I gave Gonzo my departing kiss and we left for the bus depot. It was a volvo bus with  its comfortable sitting arrangements. We took our seats and our journey back to Delhi began. I got one window seat and I love window seats, for day journeys especially. Allows you space to reflect upon things with guidance from nature. So, I dived back into the net of thoughts having its core as Anne. Funny how love defies logic, concepts of economics, all cognitive rationality altogether. You keep wanting for more, no matter how many hours you spend with your beloved. A statement to one’s helplessness, how one slowly loses control of oneself, allowing cognitively in one’s full senses to be enslaved by love and love alone. How can it be so universal when it is personal, private to the highest degree. I certainly was high with my very own personalized drug called Anne. They say you see your lover in every other individual when you’re in love. What if one is yet to see that individual but is infinitely in Love with her? I experienced something metaphysical, experiencing her presence in everything and anything around me. Love, allowing me to experience something which they advocate, is only possible with God.

Almost thirty minutes down the line, most of the passengers had fallen asleep. But, I didn’t want to miss out on the grandeur landscapes that the route offers from Rishikesh to Delhi. At one point, there came this curve on the road opening up to this gorgeous valley; with steep high mountains on both sides; with serene Ganga flowing within in all its youthfulness; the sun shining overhead, making the rapids look like soft cotton beds laid out by nature for some exhibition; providing a perfect landscape. I thought of sending a picture of this natural picturesque to my Anne, to share some more of what I considered as mine with her. And, it is at this very moment I was struck with gut wrenching horror. I raised from the seat and shouted,”PLEASE STOP THE BUS.”

Chapter 06/06

I immediately took Anup’s phone to reach my cell phone.
“The number you are calling is currently switched off…” It felt like a blow, a physical blow in my guts. Everything was happening so fast and I seemed to have seized for a moment or two amidst all that rush. “But, there is a possibility that it might have run out of battery”, I thought.
Quickly, I explained my situation to Anup and Pradyout. Your friends can somehow read the gravity of the situation from your mannerisms. Next call was for the Little Buddha Cafe to know if they have found it, but to no avail. My anxiety was gearing up with each such failed attempt. My theatrical “Please, stop the bus” almost had woken up every passenger. But, to find that it’s about just a phone, an important contact therein, they soon lost interest and most of them went back to sleep. Some did come forward to suggest that I can always find it over Google Contacts or can reach that person over Facebook and all. Well! How could have I possibly explained my story; the vagaries of walking on a tightrope of strict anonymity? FindX never asked about my personal details nor had asked me to create an ID there. You simply click the connect button, to randomly start a conversation with a stranger. The very idea that allured me into it was fast changing its shape to haunt me for the rest of my life, making me sick with each passing second. We discussed about it and my only way forward was to try and find my phone back and  it made us to get down from the bus at this small town called Kankhal near haridwar. My desperation was out in open now. We booked an autorickshaw and straight left for Rishikesh.

I must tell you here that my life till that point had been full of such surprises. Wallets, keys, mobile phones, ID cards; I have had my shares of losing them at important junctures before this. I swear, there is something supernatural about it. They just used to keep happening to me from time to time. Once, I lost my wallet in Howrah Railway station on my way from Silchar to Bhubneswar, on the same day I had missed my flight due to a newly introduced rule of reporting 45 mins prior to departure and I had to wait for 1 day in the station itself before one of my sister’s friends came to my rescue. Another time in Kota, where I was preparing for JEE examination, on not finding the key in my jeans pockets, I had to carry my bicycle over my shoulders to a repair shop and had a new lock installed, only to find the key reappear from my jeans pocket. With many such incidents, I had no choice but to accept that such weird shits are going to keep happening and with that came the indifference. Maybe life got tired of my indifference to its puns and raised its stakes and made me desperate again, forcing me to play again. 

I was feeling a lot heavier. As if someone had pierced his hand in my chest  and placed the idea of losing out on my love. The autorickshaw seemed a lot slower than its usual pace. We took the same route back but, hardly I noticed the grandeur of scenery around. The Mountains, the river, the air, the sky; everything seemed utilitarian now, bereft of any taste, any life. And all through this,  I had only one thought in mind. Anne. 

We reached the bus depot and I visited all the points I had been a couple of hours ago. The Mother Miracle Bakery where we had tried the carrot cake, the pharmacy from where Anup had bought some medicines, the side stall near Laxman Jhula from where Pradyout had bought an earring for his sister, the beetle shop where we had one smoke each after our lunch and the Little Buddha Cafe, where I remember using my phone, the key to the world of my Anne for the last time. Slowly, the idea that I may never meet my Anne again was taking a concrete shape. After revisiting these places again and again, only to see the futility of it, we went to the Rishikesh Police station to file an FIR. It’s some five odd kilometers from the Laxman Jhula area and we took an autorickshaw again to the police station.

You see Ma’am, some of the peculiarity about India stems from its huge population. With such a big population comes everything in huge numbers. So does the number of lost phone cases to the police station and so does their irritation when someone approaches them with such stolen phone cases. It’s quite understood that once a phone is lost here in India, you should simply buy a new phone. My experiences till that time had been no different. For this reason maybe, I have always felt a bit uneasy around policemen. The way they talk, the unapproachable exterior, the idea that they can simply make you sit in the police station for hours altogether for no reason at all. Ironical no? They are instead here to keep us safe. But, contrary to my ideas, hawaldar Shivem Singh was quite dutiful and he filed the FIR without much hesitation.

On extending our stay by another night, we decided to hit the Beatles Ashram. The entry gates close at 4 in the afternoon and we must be the last ones to make an entry that day. What now remains is only the ruins but, one can easily figure out the vibrant life this campus once captured. With its old structures and new graffiti all over the walls, the ashram was providing a blend of both old and the new. I stopped at one of the corner mutts while Anup and Pradyot left to explore the rest of the Ashram. I sat on the floor and to my surprise  the wall of that mutt had graffiti saying “Let it go”. I smiled thinking that even after years of abandonment, this ashram is still providing answers to the seekers. You see, what I was left with was her memories in my head and I knew for certain from my childhood that memories fail us over a period of time. I must be only three or maybe hardly four and out of the blue I had this revelation that I can’t recollect any of my past other than the recent happenings and a select few moments. So, I remember sitting there in our old house and making sure to memorize the happenings of that particular day. Though I don’t remember what I was repeating to myself, I do remember this hilarious act of a 4 year old for trying to hold on to something, be it some memory for life. So, I sat there with my eyes closed, trying to repeat to myself every bit of what I had shared with my Anne… trying to relieve it so that I can continue to relive it. 

You can’t stay in the Ashram beyond five unless you want to make an acquaintance with a leopard or a tiger. So, we left for the Ganga ghat to witness the very famous evening Aarti. Amongst all these, I kept reciting myself the moments that I had shared with Anne. The evening hours flew by and we were taking a stroll in the ghat. The dark night had brought with it the cold winds and we found two fakirs sitting next to a fire. Both of them had saffron attire of sadhu babas, with ash smeared all over their bodies and the dreadlocks and their skinny structure were giving witness about their lives away from the material worlds. We asked for their permission to join them and one of them nodded with a smile. Guess he was the older one. We joined them around the fire encircling it and suddenly I realized that Anne and I were meant to have this video conversation tonight and that she must be trying to reach me by now. 

You see Ma’am, when you are in love, in true love, you develop this tendency to care thousands times more for your partner than yourself. Love changes its shape to acquire a definition of giving without expecting anything in return. So, I witnessed the pain; pain of separation of two individuals without their consent, a dirty game life played with them not even allowing them any form of closure. A loss which was thousand times more painful because I couldn’t help her than help myself. It was like those fated events that change the course of one’s perspective towards life violently unsettling their present to the core. Like a husband’s wish for use of a different sentence during that fated heated argument with his wife before their separation, like a son’s for a different attitude towards his father on his last day before his departing; I also got weighed down by the question of doing things any differently repeating the same set of questions in loop again and again wishing to change the course of my history. 

“How can you be so irresponsible?”, I murmured to myself.
“Dhundega tabhi to mileage”, the older fakir said which roughly translates into “Unless you seek for it you won’t find it”.
I got pulled back to the present from my train of thoughts and I looked in the direction of the old fakir. His eyes were steady like a rock and he was looking in my direction. As our eyes met, I felt this numbness in my whole body.  Something assured me that he had already read my soul. Years of meditation must have made him capable of reading others’ minds I thought. I must tell you I had never felt this vulnerable in my entire life. So, all I could do is simply smile in acknowledging my helplessness. He looked away and started lighting his chillam, taking a big drag out of it and said
“dvā suparṇā sayujā sakhāyā samānaṁ vṛkṣaṁ pariṣasvajāte |
tayoranyaḥ pippalaṁ svādvattyanaśnannanyo abhicākaśīti ||”
His eyes rolled back and I could easily see the faint smile on his face was not his own, as his voice echoed in the air. I simply couldn’t take my eyes off him as if I was transfixed by him. In that moment, those hymns made perfect sense somehow as if it’s not the words but the sound of it carried meaning within it. He explained, “Two birds, inseparable companions, perched on the same tree, one eats the fruit and the other eats not, silently watching.”
He continued, “The first one is our individual self feeding on the pleasure and pains of this world while the other is the universal Atman witnessing it all.”
“Tu wo vi he aur yeh vi.” (You are that and also this)
It felt like my world had narrowed down to me and the old fakir. As if I was hypnotized to let go of things that I was trying to cling on to so tightly, to let go of my Anne.  He gave me a wry smile and gave me the chillam.
“Bom Bhole”, he said.
And I did what was asked of me. Closing my eyes, I took a long drag. There was this absolute calmness for some seconds. No thoughts, no sounds, so fear, no agony, nothing. All the pain gave way to ease; a certain sense of contentment filling every void in me. My eyes were still closed and I felt like I was falling through a tunnel of soft bright cottons. I didn’t fight it, nor felt anxious. I simply let it go. Then, suddenly my fall came to an abrupt end, making me land gently as ever on this bed. It was quite bright. I opened my eyes and Anne was there facing me! We were both lying on the bed, facing each other. I simply smiled looking into her beautiful glassy eyes which were equally puzzled and excited to find me and said,

“Hello. How was your day?”.

The End.

Honk, Honk!!

Written by : Abhisek Pattnaik
Pic Courtesy : Leher.Org

I was zoned out in the middle of the traffic, amidst the rush in one of the Delhi’s mobile zoos. The beautiful zoo for motor vehicles, where you find all kinds of specimens with the recent additives of e-rickshaws. Usually everyone is in a hurry at such jams, to move past one another by only a few meters, cursing and making hand gestures, to prove their competitiveness and it was no different this time. I was on my way from Karol Bagh to Connaught Place to meet a friend, in one of the infamous Delhi’s auto rickshaws. Our auto stopped at the Jhandewalan crossing for obvious reasons. Suddenly, a child shook me out of my midday slumber; she was  pulling my pants and asking for something. I was not sure whether s(he) was a girl or a boy. Maybe a girl, hardly 5 years of age. The usual tanned brown skin; frisky light brown hair that hasn’t been oiled since birth; a torn cloth that has given up on its original colour and acquired a colour to be uniquely identified with street beggars. Street beggars of all ages; you just find them everywhere in Delhi and traffic lights seem to the hotspots for them.

I had seen plenty of movies and had read many newspaper articles explaining how the begging network works and only recently had decided to pay the begging children in kind rather than in cash during one of my conversations with my flatmate. She mumbled something which I couldn’t understand. I simply presumed she was asking for money, So, I maintained a stoic expression and continued to look ahead. “Best not to entertain them” is what I had learnt from my limited interactions with them. Another guy stopped by the auto asking me to buy some pens. You see, they are either begging for money or selling stuff. They sell all kinds of stuff at traffic lights in Delhi; books, stationery, flowers, small soft toys, car accessories, balloons; the inventory of lists of things can be quite long actually. She shook my leg again followed by a similar mumbling and my thought this time was to shoo her away. Instead, I leaned in her direction to ask her what she wanted. She had big beautiful glassy, Irish brown eyes. The fair skin had tanned to dark brown by the constant exposure to sun but innocence was yet to bid her adieu. She murmured again.

“Bhaiya, Paani dedo”. (Give me some water)

I was taken aback. My inherent prejudice against the so called “Them”, made me take a few more seconds to understand her words. I forwarded my water bottle to her. She didn’t take it. She simply cupped both her small palms and extended it forward. I poured water into it as she tried to drink from it without dropping any, diligently. I felt simply miserable for what I have become. How did I even manage to let go of my childhood innocence? 

“Honk, Honk.” 

The traffic light had turned green again and the competition to get past one another, the honking,  the tryst to prove one’s competitiveness resumed once again and I went back to my state of indifference again, excited to meet  my friend after so many years.