The Incident of the Blundering Blogger

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Story...

Was in doubt about what to put up. In the end, decided to post this story I had written a few weeks back. The purpose for which it was written is served, thus I am free to put it up on blogworld and hope for some random publishing house to offer me zillions (is that enough to buy off the whole world? If not, more would be necessary) for it....I know you sceptics, that's why I said hope.

The Descent of Mr.Gupta

Relics

Some twenty kilometers from Dhanaulti lies the village of Bataghat. Travelling down the spectacular road from Dhanaulti to Mussorie, it is unlikely that you would ever notice such a shabby and insignificant little village, and even more so the little dirt road that breaks off to the left and disappears into the woods. This trail moves through thick pines for some two kilometers before rising steeply to a hill-top. This place is locally referred to as "Didina" or the "flower of the hills". Not many people know of this place, and very few actually come here.

Didina is a place haunted by memories. Before Independence, it used to be the place where the cream of the British ‘high society’ would spend their lazy summer afternoons. It was a place where only the distinguished could afford a cottage. Yet today, it is only a shadow of its former glorious self. As one by one the British left, Didina became a memory in the minds of those few that cared to remember the past. There are some old men in the village who could tell you tell you a story or two. The tales that they have to tell, no doubt fascinating, are caught somewhere between their imagination and the fragments of some old memories. Yet, all these have little to do with us.

Didina has some old cottages. They are built in the old colonial style and bear the mark of a refined arrogance. Most of these are in ruins; only three are maintained and occupied. They belong to three old ladies.

The dirt road follows a twisting path through a mountain meadow till you can see the tiled roof-tops of the first few houses. The last cottage down the dirt road belongs to a Mrs. D’Souza. It bears a small sign which reads, "D’Souza’s Cottage: Room For Rent". Mrs. D’Souza is a thin, pale woman who suffers from chronic bouts of rheumatism. During these painful hours she often goes to her neighbour, Ms. Sherbetwallah, for her home-made remedies which though grossly unscientific, provide miraculous cures. Ever since her husband, the Judge, passed away some twenty years ago, she has had to rent out her cottage to earn her livelihood. Bad investments have left her with little money, and the cottage is her only source of income. Her neighbours, Ms. Sherbetwallah and Mrs. Chadwick, have always been so kind. Though money might be difficult at times, Mrs. D’Souza could never ask for financial assistance from her neighbours. She could never do it. It would be against her principles. After all, Mrs. D’Souza was a proud woman.

But today, something is wrong with Mrs. D’Souza. Her wrinkled forehead seems to have acquired at least a hundred new wrinkles, and her walk seems to be slower than usual. She is a woman faced with many problems, but today she is worried about something specific. Mr. Gupta, to whom she had rented out her cottage back in January has refused to vacate and leave. Summer was here. Mr. Verma would be here in only a couple of days. She had so much to do. The pies would be difficult to make this year. But she had to make them; she would manage…somehow. She had promised him the pies. She couldn’t bear to disappoint Mr. Verma; he really loved those pies.

Mr. Verma was Mrs. D’Souza’s favourite lodger. He had come every summer, for the past sixteen years. He would stay with her for about fifteen days and then drive back to Delhi where he worked for some newspaper. Mrs. D’Souza knew that. Mr. Verma had written those sweet things about her pies in his paper. She had it framed on the wall of the living-room. He also brought with himself really nice presents for the three old ladies every year. Mrs. D’Souza treated him like her own son. They would talk for hours about different things. She really enjoyed his company. It was one time in the year when Mrs. D’Souza was truly very happy.
A Most Peculiar Man

Mr. Gupta was a strange man. In appearance, he was most insignificant. He was short, with a wheatish complexion. He was one of those men you may see any day and everyday on the road, or on the bus or at the local tea-shop. He had arrived in Didina some five months back. He had promised Mrs. D’Souza that he would leave in a month or so. He had gone back on his word. He had refused to leave. Mr. Gupta led a strange life. He rarely went down to the village, and had never shown interest in social interaction. In fact, he rarely came out of his room. Though he looked an average man, he had an extraordinary temper. Mrs. D’Souza had seen flashes of it, mostly when he conversed over the telephone. In the beginning it had scared her. But now, she no longer felt scared of him. Mr. Gupta had arrived in Didina with two suitcases. The first contained his clothes. He never opened the second. However, Mrs. D’Souza was not a stupid woman. She knew what the second suitcase contained. It contained money; it contained a lot of money.

At first, Mrs. D’Souza had thought that Mr. Gupta was one of those men who really enjoyed their privacy. There were always some like him who would come for a couple of days, to get away from the rush of daily life. All of them had enjoyed their stay at her place. It seemed to give them the break that was necessary to face the trials of everyday life once again. However, in course of time she understood that though Mr. Gupta refused to leave this place, he was not exactly fond of this place. In fact at times Mrs. D’Souza would think that he hated it with vengeance. Yet, he refused to leave. It was as if Mr. Gupta had exiled himself from the rest of the world, by some compulsory choice.

Mrs. D’Souza was a soft-spoken woman. She had tried to explain her problems to Mr. Gupta at various instances but he had shown little interest. It was not in her nature to scream or shout and make a public demonstration of her problems. That was just not her. She could never dream of involving either of her neighbours in this messy business; it was against her principles. Her pride would never have allowed that. However, this was not what Mrs. D’Souza was actually worried about.

The Well-Wishers

Mrs. Chadwick knelt down to attend to her rose bushes. No matter how much she had tried, her own rose bushes could never stand up to Mrs. D’Souza’s rose bed. Mrs. D’Souza took great pride in it. Mrs. Chadwick wondered how a woman, as old as Mrs. D’Souza managed to keep such a beautiful garden all by herself. Each time a group of visitors left the cottage, they would invariably leave behind a trail of wreckage. Mrs. D'Souza never complained. She would go about cleaning and organising the house in her own unhurried way. But the garden was different. It was the neatest, tidiest and the prettiest garden Mrs. Chadwick had ever seen. Mrs. D'Souza resented what she considered as an encroachment on her garden. She would get very upset even if a leaf from the neighbouring tree would fall on her rose-bed. But her anger never found outward expression. In all the years that Mrs. Chadwick had lived next door's to Mrs. D'Souza, she had never seen her get angry. No, Mrs. D'Souza had her own way of expressing her resentment. Her thoughts drifted towards Mrs. D’Souza’s lodger. Over the years there had been several lodgers. Some had returned over the years, some had simply vanished out of memory. Mr. Verma was one of those who couldn’t resist the enchanted beauty of Didina. With him of course, it was different. They all adored Mr. Verma. He was such a sweet man. It was only last year that he brought her all those lovely boxes of chocolates. But how was Mrs. D’Souza going to accommodate him? The Gupta chap had made it very clear that he was in no mood to leave this place. He was a thoroughly unpleasant man; Mrs. Chadwick knew that for certain. She even remembered seeing a picture of him in the newspaper. He seemed to be a man wanted by the police for some fraud or scam that he was involved in. His real name wasn’t even Gupta; what was it? Mrs. Chadwick tried to recollect, but failed. Old age seemed to have caught up with her. In this age she certainly didn’t want to tackle criminals, she was too old for this. The physical as well as mental exhaustion would be too great for her at this age. She had talked about this to Mrs. D’Souza. She already seemed to be aware of he fact. What surprised her even further was Mrs. D’Souza seemed vaguely unworried about the fact that Mr. Gupta refused to vacate his room. No, it was not this that worried her. Her thoughts seemed to lie somewhere else.

--x--

She felt desperate. She knew she had little time. Something had to be done. She turned the old silver hammer in her hand. The silver surface had lost its shine. It required polishing. It was all that her late husband had left her. She wondered how long it would take her to make the pies. Mr. Verma would be arriving soon.

--x--

Ms. Sherbetwallah was preparing her latest self-invented remedy against the common cold. It was a concoction made of several herbs which she had gathered from the forest. Though she weakly admitted that it had a rather foul smell, she had no doubt whatsoever that it was the ultimate cure against the common cold. However, fortunately or unfortunately, Ms. Sherbetwallah had an incredible resistance against practically every ailment or disease: thus self-treatment was quite out of the question. Perhaps Mr. Verma would be kind enough to try out this remedy she had prepared. He seemed to be suffering from one ailment or the other every time he came. Mr. Verma had, in the past, tried her remedies and enjoyed its miraculous effects. He would never object against trying out this concoction; he was such a sweet man. He brought her that wonderful book on mountain herbs the year before last. She could not but wonder what Mr. Verma would bring this time around. He always brought such beautiful gifts. Mrs. D’Souza had assured her that Mr. Verma would stay with her. How it was possible with Mr. Gupta leeching on to the room seemed to puzzle her. Mrs. D’Souza had seemed really unconcerned about this situation. But she was worried. It was just not this.

--x--

She looked at the hammer again. It seriously needed cleaning. She could always go to the police. She was sure, that if Mr. Gupta ever came to know of such a visit, he would be gone that very moment. But that would not solve her problems. No, that would not solve her problems.

A Proud Woman

Mr. Verma uncrossed his legs. This was like his second home, and he enjoyed the company and attention of the three old ladies. All the three old ladies were there. They seemed ecstatic at Mr. Verma’s arrival. "So you finally polished the hammer? Finally! ". Mrs. D’Souza replied in the affirmative. "Yes. I cleaned it. I needed to.", said Mrs. D’Souza as she thought about the pies. She hadn’t let him down. She felt satisfied. Conversation drifted from the kinds of visitors Mrs. D’Souza had had, to the work that Mr. Verma was engaged in now. Finally, the moment which they had all been waiting for arrived. The mince pie was served. It smelled delicious. "What’s different this time? It tastes better than ever!", said Mr. Verma as he shoveled large portions of the mince pie into his mouth. Mrs. D’Souza was beaming. She had worked really hard for the mince pies this time. A feeling of warm contentment seemed to pass through her. She was no longer worried. She pottered about, mainly fussing over Mr. Verma, encouraging him to have more of the mince pie. After all, all the trouble she had gone through was to savour this moment, and she enjoyed it to the full extent. As Mr. Verma retired to his room to get the gifts he had brought for the old ladies, Mrs. D’Souza took the moment to remind her neighbours of that little trivial fact that she thought would be better left unsaid to Mr. Verma. "I’m sure the poor dear really needn’t know that there has been no meat in the market for the past two months." The two other ladies nodded their heads in the most understanding manner.
--x--

Mrs. D’Souza no longer has a rose bush. Instead she is now growing peas. They are the apple of her eye at the moment. Under the peas lie the remains of Mr. Gupta. He was a rather unpleasant man. With him lies his ill-gotten wealth. After all, Mrs. D’Souza was a proud woman.
--x--


22 Comments:

  • bilu,
    this is 2 inform u that in the middle of a very interesting and enlightening sajni di class u had managed 2 make sum of ur fellow students read the"whatever" that u have written.moreover tintin-da will also have to read it.
    no that u already have so many readers is it correct 4 u 2 expect even more readers??(and expect money on top of taht?)
    so much HOPE is not good 4 health.

    By Anonymous amrita, at 4:15 PM  

  • Achha is this the version you submitted?I don't see any changes.
    This should be good enough for a 6 or 7,i guess.As i said,the ending is really chilling...the whole thing can be seen as a dig at the Miss Marple figure-the old spinster solving crime!

    By Blogger ziggetyzoo, at 4:44 PM  

  • @Z'zoo: Sorry about this. I did put up the older version. I've replaced it with the newer one. There aren't too many changes but there are some, e.g you'll find the section "The Well-wishers" slightly modified. Thanks for stopping by and reading it AGAIN!

    By Blogger bilu, at 6:27 PM  

  • Zigzoo, you actually read it again!! I didn't even bother. On principle i don't read anything that's too long and NEVER read anything twice!
    Amrita, I hope you too haven't read it AGAIN!

    By Blogger Insiya, at 8:35 PM  

  • bilu : ai beta, I re-read the entire thing trying to figure out what's new. Me thinks ziggetyzoo and me deserve compensation for being duped into believing that we had been served something new. Compensation chai nohile bhook-hartal (I mean u'll have to go bhooka) :-)

    By Blogger Bhooter Raja, at 9:07 PM  

  • Nice stuff....Sajnidi's class huh?? Wow.... don't tell me that she actually inspires this much creativity in you??
    p.s. u really are fond of this particular theme aren't u? Ref: the lines accompanying ur photo in the blog account.

    By Blogger "sen"sational, at 11:23 PM  

  • You won't believe the number of "beef" momos we had at Yuksom :).

    Hurray for altitude.

    By Blogger expiring_frog, at 1:11 AM  

  • insiya:NO NO NO i don't read long stuff like u , and re- read sumthing bilu has written , i would rather do sum translations from old english!!
    z'zoo & bhoot:u r the ones who seem 2 b off food, read a bilu story again??!

    By Anonymous amrita, at 10:21 AM  

  • acchha, i told you before, but i'll condescend to repeat myself - this is very good.

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  • Best regards from NY! » »

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