26 January, 2009

Mr. B

It was 8:30 pm. Late enough in the sleepy town of T.pur for the last shop to close. Just a few forgotten neon lights flickered uncertainly in the empty streets. No eerie howls pierced the silence, the mandatory drunkard with his foolish dance was missing and even the moon had deserted her sky.

He sat at the counter, with as much diligence as one could put in an activity so mundane. His grey hair was neatly combed back, a fiercely straight parting firmly demarcating every strand’s territory. His half-sleeved brown sweater hid the defiant stain which ran across the front of his shirt in embarrassing conspicuousness. He looked around the table and spotting a speck of dust, flicked it with his finger. The act made him smile in satisfaction. He opened the ledger book, his eyes running over the entries of the day. Each entry was noted down in his meticulous handwriting, all the details relegated to their respective columns. Perfunctory pleasantries were exchanged with each person that came to his counter, hospitality meted out in its briefest form. As he looked at the list of people on the page, he smiled fondly.

The little boy with the Punjabi family had demanded to hold the keys to his room and inspected it in great detail before approving it as his lodging for the night. The couple had been predictably irritating, with their demands for a room with a view. Whoever came to T.pur for a view? It was a place you came to when you were on your way to somewhere. T.pur was almost never a destination, just an inconvenient halt on the way to a prettier place. An inconsequential blip on the traveler’s itinerary as he moved onto more adventurous landscapes.
He looked at his ink pen, something he cleaned and refilled every morning and came second only to the ledger. It was as old as the lodge and certainly better kept. The corner of one page was slightly folded – he straightened it out with the tip of his finger making sure not to leave any smudgy prints. His ledger book was his temple with him as its self-appointed guardian. The cook or cleaner were reprimanded for as much as laying their eyes on it. Even the customers were not allowed to enter their details in it. He kept his precious book under lock and key, with the key hanging safely on a string around his neck.

The rhythmic ticking of the clock was making him feel sleepy. He slumped forward slightly, his chin digging into his chest, inches above the V-neck of his dull brown sweater. It had been a long day and the fatigue was reflected in his heavy breathing. Suddenly he was woken up by the commotion downstairs. As he opened his eyes he tried to focus on the person standing before him. There she stood with her tresses framing her face in untidy abandon. She placed a long hand on the desk and through a haze of grogginess he realized she was asking him for a vacant room. Taken in by her unfathomable eyes, he fumbled between scoffing her off as an unattainable dream and swooning in a celebration of her beauty. Realizing she was as real as the night, he opened the ledger book, prolonging the activity in order to steal glances at this lissome wonder that had graced his doorstep. As he wrote down her name in painful neatness, she pulled out a bottle of water from her backpack. He watched her carefully uncap it and raise it up quite high before she tilted it slightly. He noticed how her little finger didn’t quite curl around the bottle with its taller cousins – it was happier suspended in mid-air. He was happy to see the nail on it was slightly chipped – it made her more human somehow. He remembered thinking that it even made her more attainable for some inexplicable reason. He heard the water move down her throat.

At that precise moment he asked her for her address, to note down in the book. Startled she choked and he would remember the sequence of the events that followed in slow motion. She choked and one manicured hand moved to cover her mouth. A second too late. The water spurted forward, out of that perfect mouth onto his ledger. The neatly arranged names gasped in amazement at being defiled in a manner so degrading. The Punjabi family ran into the finicky couple. Numbers bumped into each other in dilute hurry. The pages cooked up a soggy story. Horrified, Mr. B gasped, his mouth opening and closing in alarmed rapidity.

That night he slept to the sound of the cook sniggering.

10 comments:

  1. ahhh.. interesting.

    inspired from real life travels? :)

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  2. Nice. I like the way its written :)

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  3. To say I loved it would be an understatement. It's exceptional work. I wish I could write something like this. I am not joking.

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  4. THAT .... was beautiful

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  5. You seem to love anti-climaxes.

    And I thought it was going to be a love story! Shit.

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  6. T.pur = Tezpur. Girl equals you?

    I can only imagine he affe effects of water on a ledger written with an ink pen. Kuch bacha hai uss ledger ka btw?

    ps: like what Marvin says, even i want to learn to write like this. Btw, he writes great too - I wonder what more he wants to learn from you.

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  7. JD, Sleepwalker: Thanks :)

    Marvin: To be super honest, I thought this to be quite a mediocre post. Maybe because, as I told you, I wrote it in two sittings, thus completely the train of thought which inspired it. Anyway am happy you liked it. Calling it exceptional is :|

    Piper: A love-story? Now THAT would have been an anti-climax.

    Prasoon: Yes T.pur = Tezpur but the lissome wonder = me? No no no. I couldn't be passed off as lissome by ANY stretch of imagination :D The incident is fiction, so don't worry about the ledger too much.

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  8. hey..very well written... and ya.. i was reading the comments...the image of u with manicured hands... wow.. i have to really try hard to imagine that.. hehe.. when i think of chewed up nails.. i always think of 3 people.. u, me and neha singh.. haha

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  9. nive: ha ha ha neha singh wins HANDS down. she was the limit man.

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