Sunday, March 21, 2010


he school year was coming to a close. Balu had just finished his Eleventh Standard and the summer holidays were going to start in two days. He was walking in the corridor adjoining the principal’s room when he saw a girl waiting with her parents. She looked very familiar.

Balu stopped to take a second look at her. He couldn’t recognize her, but his instinct said that he had seen her before.

Three months later when the school reopened, he found that she had joined in the Eleventh Standard. It hit him like a ton of bricks. It was Suji! How could he not remember her?

* * *
It was the last day of their Fifth Standard. Balu and Suji had been sharing the bench from class two onwards. Suji’s father got a transfer to Bangalore and they were moving after this school year. It was the last day that they both were going to see each other.

Suji got better grades than Balu consistently and he hated that! But he could not do nothing about it all these years. Other than this sense of competition, they both were good friends.

As they walked out of the school, Balu felt an unexplainable feeling in his gut. They reached a fork in the road and it was time to say good bye.

“All the best… and good bye!”

Balu and Suji parted ways.

* * *
‘Ha! It is Suji, after all… But wait! What is she doing in the Eleventh Standard? She must have lost a whole year. Or maybe they couldn’t get admitted in Twelfth and chose to lose a year… That doesn’t make any sense… She must’ve failed a year! Yes, that it. The Great Suji has got her comeuppance.’

Balu was smug with satisfaction. He even felt that he was flying in the air.

That last year that he spent in school, he never spoke a word to Suji. She was beneath his status... she had flunked a year! When they would cross paths in the school corridors, Balu would avoid eye contact with her. He was busy with his studies with the single aim of getting into Engineering and never spared a second to think about Suji.

* * *
Two years later the classmates had gathered to meet over a weekend. Balu was doing his Engineering as he always wanted. They all talked about the various escapades during their school days—getting caught for plucking mangoes from the only mango tree left in the school that was built in the location that was a grove at one time; dissecting a garden lizard near the badminton court; leaving a dead rat on the shelves; stirring a mutiny of sorts when the cricket team was announced (and later getting ‘the treatment’ from the very strict vice principal). It was all fun and frolic as they shared past experiences.

The evening was getting to be a very memorable one for all. That’s when one of them interjected, “Did you guys hear about Suji? You know, the girl who used to sit next to Balu until Fifth grade. She also rejoined a few years ago one year junior to us…”

“Yeah, what about her?” Balu asked nonchalantly.

“She died! Cancer, they say...”

“What?” Balu couldn’t believe what he just heard.

“She lost an entire school year in treatment. All of that in vain… May she rest in peace!”

That night, Balu cried. But, he never forgave himself.

The Flu

ayatri and Raghu were waiting for their appointment with the doctor. Their daughter Shruti had been complaining of cough, cold and body ache since last evening. There were two other young kids in the waiting area with masks on.

A newspaper lay on the coffee table in that waiting area with the headlines “Swine Flu: Many city schools closed as precaution”

The nurse called them in.

The doctor examined Shruti. “When did the symptoms start?”

“From last evening, doctor. She has been complaining of body pain, cough and cold.”

“The symptoms are indicative of H1N1. I will prescribe a test. There are only three places in the city that are authorized by the government to collect samples and perform the test as of now— The Government Hospital, Chennai, The Communicable Diseases Hospital at Tondiarpet, and King Institute at Guindy. Private hospitals will not admit H1N1 cases until the government issues a directive.”

Shruti looked up at her parents. Gayatri and Raghu were worried.

“There is a private lab that can also do a test. They have also been permitted by the government to collect samples just recently. You can also try that out.”

He handed over a prescription for the tests.

* * *
There were a steady stream of people coming into the Healthtech lab. A small temporary room was created outside the main lab to collect H1N1 samples.

The medical officer at the lab walked up to Gayatri and Raghu.

“Are you sure you need the H1N1 test to be done. We need to speak to your doctor and confirm this. Do you have his number? I am sorry we have to do this because there is a serious spike in requests for H1N1 test requests!”

Raghu gave him his number. The medical officer returned a minute later after speaking to the doctor.

“Please give a throat swab sample. There are two tests that we will do. The first one is only an Influenza A or B discrimination test. If it is Influenza B, it is not Swine Flu. That test costs 250 rupees. The H1N1 test is done with an experimental kit from Korea. That will cost 5000 rupees.”

“Would you need a separate sample for that?”

“No. We can do that with the same sample that we collect now.”

“Okay. In that case, please run the A/B discrimination test and we will decide on the H1N1 test.”

They paid the cashier. They were asked to come back at 5.00 PM to collect the report.

* * *
Raghu collected the report that evening and opened it to see what it stated. It came out positive for Influenza A. He met the medical officer and asked him to do a full H1N1 test, paid the cash and returned home. The report would take 24 hours.

The doctor had already called Gayatri before Raghu reached home. He had enquired about Shruti’s health and wanted to know how the testing went.

Raghu called him back to update that Shruti had tested positive for Influenza A and they had asked for the full H1N1 test to be done.

“In that case, I suggest you also give a sample at the GH, CDH or King Institute. Which location is convenient for you?”

“We will go the King Institute doctor.”

“Okay. King Institute is only the collection facility. You will have to go to GH or CDH for treatment.”

“Thanks Doctor!”

* * *
Their car entered the service road that led to the King Institute, Guindy. It was 7 PM. There were people streaming in even at that time. The institute’s sample collection center was open 24 x 7. There were signs that directed them to the screening location.

They were asked to fill a form. There were at least 20 other families waiting.

A panel of doctors examined every patient. After a few minutes of wait, it was Shruti’s turn. Raghu and Gayatri went in. They showed the Influenza A positive report from the private lab to the doctor. She wrote a remark in the form, directed them to the sample collection center and said, “Please ask the technician to prioritize this case.”

Gayatri and Raghu walked a hundred yards to the collection center. There was a door with a biohazard sign that read “H1N1 samples collected here”

The lab technician in a clinical mask collected a throat swab from Shruti. Raghu showed him the report and the doctor’s remark on the form and requested him to prioritize the case. The technician made a red X mark on the form and added it to the top of a pile of forms with red X marks on the top right corner.

“It will be 24 hours. You can collect the report tomorrow at 8.30 PM.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Sir, we used to get less than a 100 samples each day two weeks ago. Today, we are getting 3,000 samples a day. King Institute is where samples from all over the state are being sent for analysis. We are stretched, but you will get the report. Please come back at 8.30 PM tomorrow!”

* * *
The family walked back to the car. On their way they saw the office of the Head of virology. Gayatri said she would like to meet and speak to him.

She walked into that building.

The Head of virology was in the middle of his staff meeting. The institute was doing three shifts and the load was going to increase in the coming days. He stopped when he saw Gayatri at the door.

“Yes. How can I help you?”

“Our daughter is unwell and we came here to give a sample. She tested positive for Influenza A. We are really worried. Will we get the report in 24 hours? I hear that we need to start treatment within the first 48 hours of onset of symptoms, if it is H1N1. I am really worried.”

“Ma’am! Please don’t panic. The report will be ready tomorrow. You should come here at 8.30 PM and collect it. The reports will be dispatched from here.”

* * *
The next 24 hours were a great ordeal for Gayatri and Raghu. Shruti was quarantined in the bedroom and all family members wore masks.

Raghu worked from home and sent a note to his office colleagues asking them to seal and sanitize his cabin as a matter of abundant precaution.

That evening Raghu and Gayatri left to the institute to gather the report. The grandparents were watching Shruti.

The dark night lent eeriness to the institute. The roads were illuminated by street lamps. The screening center was closed. Anyone who was coming in to submit samples were asked to directly go to the sample collection center.

The office of the Head of virology was open and the lights on. But there was no one in the office. A motorcycle was parked outside. Raghu and Gayatri waited there for a few minutes. Each passing minute increased their anxiety.

Just then, a staff member arrived in a bike. He had gone out to buy dinner. He parked his vehicle and walked towards the couple.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes. The Head of virology said that we need to come here to collect the report.”

“When did you submit the sample?”

“Yesterday… We were told to come and collect the report today.”

“Let me check. He is probably at the back of the office having his dinner.”

He went to the back and returned back a minute later.
“He is here. He will be with you in ten minutes. Can you please wait?”

The couple waited. Finally, the doctor emerged.

“What is your child’s name?”

“Shruti, 9 yrs old.”

“And you sir?”

“You would have received a call if there was anything to worry. Did you get a call?”

Gayatri and Raghu looked at each other. “No doctor. We did not get any call.”

“Ok, good. Let me check the computer. Give me a minute…”

He came back a minute later with a paper in his hand accompanied by the staff member.

“Here is the report. It is just common flu. Don’t worry. She will be alright in a few days. Follow your doctor’s advice.”

Raghu and Gayatri heaved a sigh of relief. They thanked the doctor profusely and headed out of the institute. The street lights appeared to shine brighter.

DISCLAIMER: Although this is a story based on actual events, this is a work of fiction. All characters depicted in the story are fictional and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Trip

aghavan had one message from the Med Center waiting for him in his inbox. He knew for sure that it was bad news and dreaded opening it. He left it unopened for a while and went about his morning chores. Half an hour later he sat down for his breakfast. He had finished half a toast when he stopped eating, pushed his plate away and walked towards his computer.

He opened the message. It was bad news as he had predicted. He was going to die in 5 days. The Med Center had fixed an appointment for him in an hour to discuss.

* * *
The chief doctor at the Med Center had explained the situation to Raghavan.

The uneasy silence between them was broken by the doctor’s secretary who peeped in and said “Trasportation Services is on line 2!”

The doctor picked up the handset. He must have heard some very good news because he almost jumped from his seat. He profusely thanked the person on the other end, looked at Raghavan and rubbed his hands together unable to contain his excitement.

“Son, get ready to travel. You are going to meet someone very special.”

* * *
Raghavan was onboard the TTX2. He wore his favorite dark blue suit, a new white shirt, a silk tie and silver cuff links. He had a dossier marked CONFIDENTIAL that was given to him when he boarded the vehicle. The dossier contained information he was not aware until this moment—There was a version of himself alive in a parallel universe and he was going to meet him!

The Time Travel Express departed on schedule.

* * *
Raghavan did not know what to say. He felt very awkward sitting before someone who looked exactly like him. On second thoughts, he was probably overdressed for this occasion meeting his other version who was dressed in a round neck tee and shorts. He wore dark glasses and seemed to stare at the horizon, except that he was blind. He had a small scar an inch above his left eyebrow.

“Do you know that Transportation Services has never allowed someone to travel on these grounds before? Although you and I are genetically identical multiple versions that spawned from a single spacetime event, we are different because of the environment in which we grew in… and I am going to die if I don’t get a bone marrow transplant. You are a natural match and Transportation Services made an exception on humanitarian grounds.”

“I am sorry to hear about your condition. In my universe, I have had a lonely life. When my parents—our parents—took the decision to make that trip that eventually led to your creation, I was orphaned in this universe. I grew up missing a lot of things that you probably would have taken for granted. ”

“You do understand that I did not know anything and had no part to play in that decision, right?”

“I know!”

He was silent for a few seconds and then said, “I will do it. But, I need a favor from you!”

* * *
They were waiting for their train when a well-dressed young man in a dark suit, white shirt, silk tie and silver cufflinks approached them. He was in a hurry and was not wanting to be noticed.

“I am Raghavan, your son from the future that you are going to create.”

The couple was shocked. Raghavan’s mother started crying unable to bear the revelation and the insanity of the situation. His father was trying to pacify her.

A few seconds later, the train arrived.

“Why did you take this decision?” asked Raghavan.

“We were supposed to go back in time before you were born and take care of the defect that caused him to go blind through genetic engineering at the right time. The scientists told us we had to leave him here since we were going back in time when he was non-existent!”

Raghavan thought about what he was going to say.

He said, “You need to abort this plan. Get back home and take care of little Raghavan. He needs you more than I need you or the two of you need me!”

His parents left the station, thanking him in their minds for saving them from a big blunder they were about to commit.

Raghavan sank into a bench on the station and loosened his tie. That’s when two agents from Transportation Services came to him and said, “Mr. Raghavan, you are in contravention of time travel rules. We are taking you into custody for deportation proceedings!”

He looked at his watch which showed that he still had three days to live. 

The Consignment

There was someone banging the door. Moolchand was annoyed and yelled, “I am coming! Wait a few seconds…”

Moolchand opened the door and was surprised to see the King’s men at his doorstep. The messenger handed over a scroll to him and waited. Moolchand read the scroll and his face lit up. He was to deliver a consignment of goods within two months to the location that the King had ordered. He would be paid a premium price. The King wanted nothing less.

* * *
“I need the job very badly sir. My wife is seriously ill and I need the money to pay for her care. The medicine man is very expensive!” pleaded Natwarlal.

Moolchand pondered. Natwarlal was a trustworthy man with a family here. He could definitely use him to deliver the consignment.

“I have other people waiting to take this. If I were to give this job to you, I will only pay you 80% of what I would pay the others. Are you willing?”

Natwarlal nodded his head in agreement. His sick wife was his priority and he was ready to sacrifice some cash for a job that would keep him busy for the next two months.

“Ok. You will be paid by the King’s treasurer when you deliver the goods. Your family is collateral for me until you return with the cash. Collect your dues on delivering the cash to me!”
* * *
Natwarlal left the village in the bullock cart on the long journey with the King’s consignment. It was a perilous journey. Halfway through, he was waylaid by dacoits. They beat him black and blue and left him when they found out that he did not have any cash.

One of the bullocks fell down while navigating a treacherous path and injured its legs when he was about two weeks away from his destination. Natwarlal had to trade that bullock for another one at a nearby village and he was lucky enough to find a buyer. The bullock he got was much smaller and weaker than the one he had earlier, but at least he could move on with his journey.

He was worried about meeting the time commitment.

* * *
Natwarlal reached the outskirts of the city. He could see the huge construction work going on. He was happy that he had reached on time. The King loved his wife very much and was building a monument for her. King Shahjahan called it the Taj Mahal in memory of his queen Mumtaz. The King’s consignment of white marbles from Rajasthan, one among the many hundreds from all over the country had finally made it to Agra.

“Deliver the marbles there and collect your cash!” ordered the soldier at the checkpoint.

* * *

Natwarlal was happy to return back to his village. He gave the cash to Moolchand.

Moolchand counted the cash and was happy that everything was in order. He then gave Natwarlal his due.

Natwarlal counted his money and was surprised to find it less than the 80% that he was promised. He was seething with anger. “It looks like I am being paid less. That is not fair.”

“When you were away, your wife died. We couldn’t hold her until you returned, you know. So, I paid for the funeral. I have discounted those charges from your wages!”

Natwarlal fell to the floor and cried inconsolably. Even the hard-hearted Moolchand was shaken by Natwarlal’s grief.

After a few minutes, Natwarlal gathered himself up and said, “I would like to buy some marble for my wife’s tomb with this money. Can you help?”

“Yes,” Moolchand nodded his head.

The Traffic Stop

“I am very happy that we moved out of that single bed room studio in Cincinnati!”

“Me too! At least for the next two years we will be here in the Detroit area. The company has allowed me to use the leased Camry for another month until we find a suitable apartment and buy our own car.”

“Okay then. Your friends had already mentioned a few apartments that we can check out. Let us go around town this evening and scout the places. The leasing offices are going to be closed since it is already evening, but we can at least create a shortlist.”

Jamuna and I decided that we will leave in half an hour on our apartment search.

* * *
It was just starting to get dark. I pulled out from the parking lot of the Hampton Inn. I got on to Stephenson Hwy. Just as I crossed the traffic light on 14 Mile Rd, I heard the sound of a police siren and a squad car followed me with its lights on.

I pulled over to the left near a Michigan U-turn, stopped the Camry and rolled the window.

“Driver’s license and registration, please?”

I handed out the documents to the officer.

“Please wait here for a moment…”, said the officer. He walked to his cruiser and checked my license in his computer and returned back.

“You guys seem to be new in town. Did you just pull out of a parking lot or something?”

“Yes sir, we are staying at the Hampton Inn!”

“Well, your car’s lights were not on. Please turn them on and have a safe trip.”

He returned the documents to me and went back to his car.

* * *
Two weeks later, I received an e-mail from a friend in New Jersey. I read it along with Jamuna:

From: ….
To: …
Subject: Driving safety tip
If you are driving in the night and you see a car coming towards you without its headlights on, be careful. Be very very careful…

It is natural to flash your lights at them to indicate that they have their lights off. BUT DON’T DO IT!

The reason is this—In some parts of the country, gangs use a macabre initiation ritual that consists of the newest member who intends to join the gang going around town during the night in a car with its headlights off. The first car that comes in the opposite direction that flashes their headlights at them is the mark and they are supposed to turn around, pursue them and shoot the driver. That is their rite of passage to get into the gangs. So, please don’t flash your headlights!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Love's labor lost (and found)

“I am sorry. I cannot marry you!”

“What? Who talked about marriage here?”

“I know you haven’t so far. But I want to avoid that conversation altogether. I don’t see that happening.”

“Just hypothetically—if I may ask—Why?”

“Let us just leave it that. I don’t want to go into explanations!”

He finished his lunch as she watched him without speaking a word. He got up and left.

* * *

“Hello Dr. Verma”

“Hi! Please sit down. Dr. Canterfield referred you here. I got your blood work report. Your blood sugar levels are high. With your pregnancy, this can be an added risk. It is called Gestational Diabetes.”

“Do we need to worry doctor?”

“It is nothing to worry. You will need to take insulin each day before meals. You need to spread out your meals through the day and have smaller portions. You also need to monitor your blood sugar every day. If you keep your sugar levels in control, we can eliminate most of the risk associated with GD. I will see you again in two weeks.”

She resolved that she will take care of herself. Over the months leading to her due date, she created a regimen for her diet and followed it to the T. She would never miss her daily exercise and walks. As they entered the sixth month, they joined a course for new parents at the Birthing Center at the Woodlawn Hospital. They learnt a few more exercises, he learnt how to count to help her in breathing while she would practice how to push. During the class, she would break out for a few minutes to get her insulin and have her snack on time.

* * *

Dr. Canterfield was her obstetrician. He smiled at them as he walked into the room with her file.

“We are now twelve weeks away. You need to get an ultrasound scan done each week so that we can monitor progress. Is that fine?”

“Sure, doctor”

They kept their ultrasound appointments on Wednesdays and he would take an hour’s permission from work to pick her up and get the tests done. Two months later on a Tuesday evening, she felt unusually wet. The next day when they went for the ultrasound scanning, the nurse checked her and was alarmed. She did a preliminary test and then came to them.

“It looks like your water broke. Since when did you feel this way?”

“From last evening…”

“We are paging Dr. Canterfield. He is on his rounds. He will be here any minute. Don’t worry. We will take care of you!”

As they waited for Dr. Canterfield, he thought about the day when their marriage was fixed.

* * *
After a lot of back and forth and initial shock and disapproval, the families had reconciled to the fact that the two of them were serious about marriage. So, they took the logical next step of arranging the formalities. A date was fixed and his family visited hers.

He hated ‘Adai Avial’. Of all South Indian food, that’s what they had for snacks that day at her home! His mom looked at him and had a good laugh as the girl’s sister brought more Adais by the time he finished.

* * *
She was on epidural and her contractions had started. The paper tape from the monitor showed the start of a big one. He held her hand tightly and coached her on breathing.

“One.. two..”

She felt the pain shoot up her spine.


The contraction reached a peak. A tiny little head could be seen.

Dr. Canterfield used a pair of tongs to get the head out. The next contraction was coming.

In concert with her pushing, the baby’s left shoulder came out followed by the right.

The contractions were getting quicker and more pronounced. With one final push, the baby was out. Dr. Canterfield held the baby while the nurse cleared its nose with an extractor. Dr. Canterfield dropped the baby on her stomach and turned to the nurse. The nurse got a pair of scissors.

“Why don’t you do the honours?”

“Me. I can’t do that! I wouldn’t even know how to do it…”

“Sure you can.”

Dr. Canterfield thrust the scissors in his hand and he cut the umbilical cord.

“See, wasn’t that easy? Congratulations, both of you!”

The baby wailed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mind Reader

heila punched in the access code and unlocked the door that led to the lab. There was a sign on the wall that said


Sheila was twenty eight years old and had joined Dr. Russell’s laboratory as a research assistant a month ago. Dr. Russell had used a variant of functional MRI to build a prototype mind reader. She was top of her class, Summa cum laude and had published a paper on how to boost signal strengths that improved the range and capability of Dr. Russell’s mind reader. But the reason why she joined the lab was not that mind reader. She wanted to research the pièce de résistance at Dr. Russell’s lab known to everyone as Dave.

* * *
Dave was picked up by Dr. Russell when he was six years old from an orphanage. The nuns at the orphanage had a tough time with Dave. He always won every card game that they played. He never talked too much and generally kept to himself. He would find out every one of the boys if they ever played hide and seek. All the other boys thought Dave was a freak. But he got into trouble when he tried to expose Father Daniel just in time before he could harm an eight year old boy. Nobody believed Dave and he reacted violently, scaring other kids. That is when Dr. Russell was called to do a psych evaluation of Dave.

Dr.Russell had never seen anything like it before in his life. He was astonished to discover Dave. This six year old boy could read minds! Dr. Russell would use Dave to break new frontiers in understanding the mind, how it works and contribute to the greater good of the society.

* * *
Dave and Sheila were sitting at the cosy table facing each other. Sheila had the mandatory headgear that anyone within ten feet of Dave was required to wear to protect the privacy of their thoughts from Dave’s peering mind eye.

“How was your day?”

“Just like any other. You need to inform Dr. Russell that I can now hear the people who sit in the table adjacent to this wall in the adjoining cafeteria during lunch!”

Sheila consciously adjusted her helmet while Dave smiled. He continued to draw doodles in his notebook.

“You have been in this lab for almost twenty years. Have you ever wondered how it would be outside this lab?”

“Yeah, I have lived a few years outside before Dr. Russelll found me. I don’t like to recall those years.”

“I am sorry. I did not mean to upset you.”

“That’s okay. So, why do you wear that helmet, Sheila? Are you afraid I might learn your darkest secrets?”

“No, the lab protocol requires me to wear this!”

“Protocol Schmotocol… Listen! There is no one around here except for that camera on the ceiling over there. Jack is the security guard who is on duty and I know at this time of the day, he is not watching the monitors. He won’t be back for another ten minutes.”

“How do you know that?”

“Did I not tell you that I know what people in the cafeteria are thinking? Trust me. C’mon… Enough of that.  Let us play Truth or Dare. I will start. I dare you to take off your geeky helmet!”

Sheila hesitated for a second. Then she removed her helmet.

“That-a- girl! You are a sport.”

Truth – I’ve fallen in love with you, Dave. But, I’m afraid to ask or admit. Sheila hadn’t spoken a word.

Dave was stunned. His heart missed a few beats and then his mind galloped. Should I say, ‘I love you too?’

Yes, Dave you should. Sheila leaned forward and kissed him.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Heist

Present time—3:43 PM
“Die!” he said, pulling the trigger. The muffled sound of the bullet was drowned by the unremarkable song playing on the radio.

He drove the van on the hilly terrain for almost half an hour. He stopped the vehicle for a few seconds and checked the rear view mirrors to ensure that there were no vehicles following him. He turned right, drove through the clearing in the brush and floored the gas pedal as he saw the deep gorge ahead. He threw the three black duffel bags out and jumped from the van seconds before it plunged into the gorge.. He dusted off the dirt from his clothes and walked towards the bags.

Three days ago
Kasinathan ran down the options in his mind, thought about it intently for a few minutes and finalized his team. The armored car would carry half a day’s cash transactions from Safetrust Bank’s busiest branch in the country. He would assemble a small team consisting of a fixer, who would get them access to the vault, a wheelman who would arrange transport, a trigger man who would arrange weapons.

Two days ago
They went through the plan again for the third time. Sridhar was the wheelman, Sam was the fixer and Reddy was in-charge of weapons. Sam said it was going to be impossible for them to get in and out of the vault in sufficient time and accomplish their goal. Kasinathan wasn’t happy about this, but he had to improvise based on Sam’s assessment. He would take care of Sam later. They agreed to change their tactic to an attack, precisely timed to occur when the cash was transported from the vault to the armored car.

Kasinathan would be at the branch and feign a heart attack just after the cash was readied for transport from the vault. Sam would make the call. Sridhar and Reddy will arrive at the branch in a fake ambulance within 3 minutes. They would attack the guards just as the cash gets loaded into the armored car.

The plan was risky, but Kasinathan was clear what he wanted to do.

Twenty hours ago
Kasinathan turned the DVD on. The opening scenes of The Dark Knight were his favorite. His plan wasn’t original after all. He was going to do exactly what The Joker did during that heist in the opening scenes of that movie—Kill off his entire team after the heist was complete. Kasinathan wanted to retire.

Day of heist, 2 minutes 44 seconds after Sam’s call
The ambulance screeched to a halt in front of Safetrust Bank. Sam came out along with another man who was assisting him carrying Kasinathan. As soon they got out of the building, Kasinathan jumped down and grabbed the man who was assisting Sam by his neck. The crew shot the guards who carried the cash and transferred the three duffel bags into the ambulance van.

After that, Kasinathan shot his three accomplices. He held the gun to his captive’s head and ordered him, “Drive!”

The ambulance van sped away.

A minute ago
“You were not part of the original plan. But I needed a hostage anyway, just in case the police were on my tail. Don’t try anything stupid and you will live. I am going to put this gun away”, gestured Kasinathan.

“You don’t mind if I turn on the radio, do you?” asked Kasinathan lighting a cigarette.

The hostage was silent while Kasinathan reached forward and turned on the radio.

“What did you say you did for a living?”

The hostage pulled out a Glock that was concealed under his jacket and pressed it against Kasinathan’s head.

“I didn't. I head security for Safetrust Bank that you just robbed!”

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Paper Airplane

here were four comments when I logged into Facebook. All of them were from schoolmates, about the Alumni reunion at school on Jan 26th. The last one caught my eye:

‘Have fun guys. I am going to miss it. Do convey my regards to all the teachers who are still there and especially the lab attendants.’

 ‘Will do!’ I posted my reply and picked my cell phone to call other local friends who will be attending the reunion.

* * *
The year was 1979. Subbu was waiting for the school bell to ring so that he could run out. He had already made his paper airplane from a page that he had torn from his class notebook.

“I bet you this plane will fly higher and farther than any that you have made!” he challenged Zubair who sat next to him in class.

“Lets see!” replied Zubair, clearly unimpressed.

The bell rang. All the kids let out a squeal and rushed out of the classroom. Subbu picked his backpack and ran out holding the paper airplane in his hand. Zubair was close on his heels. Subbu stopped at the corridor and looked down three floors below. He kissed his airplane for good luck and pulled back his arm to fling it into the air when his hand bumped someone.

Subbu gulped. It was Ram Charan, the mathematics teacher, standing there. Subbu had his hand right near his tummy. Ram Charan clearly wasn’t amused!

 “Come with me!” He dragged Subbu, holding him by the ear. Subbu leaned his head to one side as he walked alongside Ram Charan to the staff room and he could see Zubair thumbing his nose at him as he left to board the school bus.

“Sir, I am going to miss my school bus!” Subbu was almost in tears.

A few minutes later the school bus left the campus, without Subbu.

* * *
The reunion was coming to a close. I walked out of the auditorium and noticed Joseph, an office attendant. I was surprised to see him after almost twenty years. I walked up to him and shook his hand.

“How are you doing?”

“Very well, thank you! I am very happy to see you.”

“Do you remember Subbu?”

Joseph tried hard. He was finding it difficult to recollect the face from the name.

* * *
It was 6:30 PM and Subbu’s father was getting very anxious. He was a prominent man in the city, prominent enough that he had enemies. His son did not return in the school bus that evening. He had already dialed the police to report a missing person.

* * *
The principal was tense and so was Ram Charan. They had never encountered a case like this before. Both of them were sweating as they waited. A police jeep pulled into the driveway of the school and Subbu’s father got down along with a police inspector. They both walked into the principal’s room.

“Where is my son?”

“Sir, please calm down. Mr. Ram Charan here was the last person to see him. He might have committed a mistake.”

“A mistake! What do you mean?”

 “He held him a few minutes after the school as a punishment… meanwhile, the bus left without your son!”

“I am very sorry sir. I did not mean for this to happen…”

In a fit of rage, Subbu’s father pulled the revolver from the police inspector’s holster.

* * *
Joseph could still not recollect Subbu. He shook his head.

I held out my hand and made a gesture like a revolver. Shaking the imaginary revolver in the air, I said, “Who is the driver?”

Joseph’s face immediately lit up. How could he forget that? That’s exactly what Subbu’s father was saying when Joseph ran into the office to announce the news that Subbu was at his cousin’s place.

“Subbu conveys his regards to you!”, I said.

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