To the Sunday school children, she is a shadow in the window, a welcome distraction from the humdrum classes. Her eyes have a hollowed-out look, too, and her red scarf is askew, but she can easily pass as one of their truant classmates. Over psalm recitals and the sound of chalk scraping the blackboard, you can hear the caw-cawing of the crows and, if you listen very closely, her gentle tap-tapping on the misted glass. These taps are soft and hesitant, as though she hasn’t made up her mind about attending class or not.
When the bells finally toll for home, the children rush out. They look for her, searching for a sign in the gravel, in the rustling leaves, in the birds artfully hidden in the swaying branches. Underneath a grey sky, they mournfully share their packed lunches, leaving a few scraps for the stray cats and mongrel dogs that have made the churchyard their home. They talk about the girl they sometimes see at the window and invent stories about her.
“I – can I talk to Prakash ji?”
“Speaking. May I know who’s calling?”
“I, sir – I am one of your readers. A fan. I love your science fiction stories.”
“Thank you! Can you tell me which ones you liked?”
“Yes, sure. I read your latest story just two days ago. That’s why I called you. Prakash ji, that story of yours – Carry On, I totally loved it!”
” Carry On? Thank you very much. May I know your name, please?”
“Sujay Mane. Prakash ji, I need some information from you.”
“Sir, regarding this story. I mean, I like the way you showed time travel in it, sir.”
“So, Prakash ji, you have shown a device in the story. Like a watch, the hero places it on the hand and sets the time. Then he goes to that time.”
“So, sir, how to make this time travel device is not given in that story. Can you tell me that?”
“Look, Sujay, it’s a story. Fiction. Everything is imaginary in it.”
The night is coming to a city wrapped in fear of war. The sirens scream, telling me it is time to hide. I hurriedly closed my shop and placed a small curse on the rune-lock. Thieves are prospering, using these blackouts as their cloak. If someone chooses to break the lock, he shall suffer from a sudden outburst of explosive diarrhea. That will deter the malevolent parties for the time being.
I watched for the wandering eyes and wink at the beggar sitting on the opposite side of this narrow Bazar Road. He keeps an eye on my shop in exchange for an anna or two, and I can sleep at night with relative peace. Despite the ersatz appearance, my shop has become a site of attraction, particularly to the troops from the faraway lands. Not because I sell ginseng at the cheapest rate in the entire Calcutta, not because I sell untraceable opium, but because [আরো পড়ুন]
“I name you Baqir Iftikhar; my son. Baqir because you are my beloved and Iftikar because you fill me with pride,” exulted the new father Intaj Iqtidar Raza, better known as Barq Bhai in the Indian underworld.
His name, Barq, had evolved because he struck like lightning. Like lightning, no one knew where he would strike and he struck with equally devastating effect and swiftness. Yet, Intaj was also a devoted family man and Noor Banu, his wife, closed her eyes for the last time secure in the knowledge that he would give their new-born every luxury the world had to offer.
Diwakar Dighe, Intaj’s right-hand man for over three decades wiped his eyes. “I told you; Baba listen to me. Do not buy Baqir a Lamborghini Aventador for his seventeenth birthday. Our roads are not ready for it. I begged you, Baba, listen to me.”
The writing was on the wall.
Baqir Iftekhar and his Lamborghini Aventador were both “totalled.”
The doctors said as much about their seventeen-year-old patient.
Time: 0110 hours
Date: 26th April, 1986
Place: Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine, U.S.S.R.
You cut could the tension with a knife. Every single person present in that room – the scientists in white, their assistants, even the lowly workers in their gear – everyone’s eyes were gleaming – was it greed? A few licked their lips, as if they could physically taste the success, the culmination of their years of labour. Arunabha found this distasteful. He felt put-off by the buzz around him. This place was nothing more than a prison for him, a prison from which there was no escape. His gaze shifted from the blue glare of the computer screen to the glass wall across the room. He could see the people feverishly working there, covered head to toe in protective gear. It was more than five years ago – that he was invited by the Soviet Union to work in this [আরো পড়ুন]