Sunday, 28 June 2020

The Road Wrongly Taken - A Micro Short Story On Relationships




Sharadh had just finished his drink in a dingy bar downtown. A few years ago, he would have not even let his driver have a drink in such a place. It was he believed his misfortune, that forced him to go to a below-par watering hole. 



When he drove out his car, he was not sure whether he would reach home in it or would it be seized en-route by the loan sharks. He had changed his number 3 times in the past month to escape calls from his debtors.


  It was only in the evening that he had paid a visit to a famous mendicant fortune teller `XY Godman'. This godman slept on the hard floor in an all weatherproof room and travelled in an imported car seated on a rag, placed above the costliest leather seat. His diet consisted of a little rice, dal, roti, and fresh fruits & vegetables. He had predicted that tonight will be the beginning of the end of Sharadh's worst phase of life. To ameliorate his condition, XY Godman had asked him to leave his hermitage from the western direction, spend the night under the oak tree precisely 14 kilometres away. He had asked him to forget about signing the land deal which would have cleared all his debts and start a new business with substantial capital. Sharadh was happy that the turbulence in his life was about to end, but he could not understand why that this was linked to not signing the land-deal that night. However, he was not in a mood to reason or rant.

 

Sharadh’s life had been a roller coaster ride. He had seen forty-nine summers and a life full of incidents. His fiftieth birthday was a fortnight away. Sharadh, the son of a retired head post-master, had done his post-graduation in Commerce. More than education, it was his innovative thinking and convention defying actions which saw him touch meteoric heights both in business and social life. It is these very qualities which brought him to the nadir of his life.

 

As on today he had a broken marriage, couple of failed businesses, a pile of loans, a pregnant unmarried daughter in her 20’s, a few lost friends, and failing health. He had sold his swanky house and got rid of a good portion of his debts. All that was left with him was his ancestral house in a prime area of his city, adjoining the international airport that had come nearby. He had promised to sell the land. Possibly, his father had some psychic abilities, he had written a will that Sharad could sell this property only after he reaches the age of fifty. It was further ordained in the will, that he could use only 50% of the money immediately, and the balance would be deposited in the fixed deposit of a bank. Sharadh or his successors can enjoy the interest for another 25 years, beyond which the principal will accrue to them.


Sharadh had come to know of the peculiar will just couple of days back. Even his daughter was not aware of. The proposed land-deal would have made him debt-free, and provided him with working capital to start a new business. Sharadh had tucked away a neat amount of money with a reliable friend, to take care of his daughter, for a few years, should anything happen to him. Just before he left to meet the fortune teller, he had informed his daughter of the fortune left with his friendHe was in the danger of being bumped off by the loan sharks at any time.


 

Lost in his thoughts while driving, Sharadh stopped at the 14th kilometre, he saw an oak tree on the left side, switched off his mobile, and parked his car beneath it. Just before he switched off his phone, he received a call from a female whom he thanked for introducing him to the fortune teller. He also confirmed to her that as per his advice, he will be sleeping for the night under the said oak tree. He began to wonder how nice it would be if he can go back to his past, and correct some of the mistakes he had made. It was then he realised the eastern direction he took, contrary to the western side as mandated by the fortune teller. He sighed because his whole life was all about him doing the opposite of what was required. He decided that he was doomed for failure, and his bad times will never end thanks to his reckless manner. He decided to rest there itself for the day. If things get worse, he decided he is going to sell the land, settle accounts with the creditors, and drive off the cliff.


The place looked spooky, but he did not mind being lynched. There was nothing worth stealing from him except his costly wrist-watch, and a few two thousand rupees in his wallet. It was 12:30 midnight, and the day would break in a few hours. Sharadh stretched out his legs on the back seat and closed his eyes. Soon he was asleep and was woken up by a gentle thud on the window panes. He woke up to see a guy in whites, garnishing his teeth. Before he could open the door, the guy was sitting next to him and said "Hi".


Sharadh, without blinking his eyes asked, "So who are you, a highway devil, life has scared me enough, what can a spirit like you do to me?"

 

The guy replied, "You wanted to meet me."

 

Sharadh unable to fathom shot back, "Who are you?" (thinking in his mind maybe I would have called him)

 

The guy replied "I am the Time Keeper; you wanted to go back in time and correct your faults. I have come to give you an opportunity and till I am with you, time will freeze".

 

Sharadh was a drowning man, and he was ready to clutch at the proverbial last straw. He pinched himself and screamed "Wow! Let us get started then". This was the first time in the last one year Sharad had got so excited, otherwise it was always a grumpy face for him.

 

Time Keeper said "Don't get excited so much, this is always your fault, first listen, you will get a chance to revisit 6 situations in your life and correct them. There will be two Sharadhs'; one in the actual situation and another you from the future. You will never get a chance to correct yourself physically but only can advise/shout to Sharadh at the spot. You can instigate any other individual in the situation to save it. You can be in each incident only for 10 minutes, and so you will have an hour to correct your past. Is it OK with you?"


Sharadh nodded his head in agreement. He had no option, did he?

 

Time Keeper "Now write down your choice, take your time, and you can always correct the choices before I begin your journey" and gave Sharadh a pen and a piece of paper to write on. Without much thought, Sharadh wrote down the following choices:

 

1. Neglect of his health after 2005.

2. Refusal to support Preetam's business (Sharadh's best friend) with a loan of Rs.5 lakhs. 

3. His second marriage to Nisha.

4. The decision to send his daughter Veda to a boarding school.

5. Based on the advice of Nisha, the decision to invest in the garment export business.

6. His decision to invest in reality shares during early 2016.

 

Sharadh handed over the slip to the Time Keeper who remarked, "As always fast".

 

Sharadh grinned sarcastically, looked at him and quizzed with a shrug of his shoulders "What next?"

 

Time Keeper whispered a verse into his ears and told "Close your eyes and repeat it 12 times. Remember you cannot come back till you revisit all the six situations and during this time you cannot contact me. All the best to you."

 

Sharadh thanked the Time Keeper with gratitude, closed his eyes and repeated the verse 12 times. Suddenly, a beam of light ejected him into a clock way. He could see the clock reversing at a rapid speed, and suddenly it stopped in his flat which he had purchased from the first million he earned.

 

 

07/11/2002 Time 5:30 am, the alarm rings and a blanket unfurls.

 

A young Sharadh gets up and goes to sleep, banging the alarm. Till then, Sharadh was very particular about maintaining his health and used to exercise regularly. This laziness had set into him with expanding business.

 

Future Sharadh could see what havoc this laziness would cause to him in future. As on date, he was suffering from diabetes, high cholesterol and weak joints. He had to undergo bypass surgery and a knee correction in the past two years. FUTURE SHARADH shouted at the younger one "Please get up, go for a workout, don't spoil your health". He would not listen, and time was running out. FUTURE SHARADH shouted expletives at him still of no avail. He tried to kick him but could not. He remembered the Time Keeper's condition "You will never get a chance to correct yourself physically". Just then he saw his first wife Sita opening her eyes. He pushed her into pouring a glass of water on the sleeping Sharadh. Sharadh got up and shouted, "Shut up, Si, I am tired". She could not understand why she poured a glass of water on his face, so she kept quiet and slept back. FUTURE SHARADH was left banging on his head and soon the time was over, and he found himself in the clock way forwarding till he reached August 2004 when Preetam, his best friend was sitting in front of him.


***********


15/08/2004 Time 7:30 pm, Preetam after hours of talking virtually was begging with him for Rs.5 lakhs. His friend Rajesh was seated besides trying to reason with Sharadh.

 

Sharadh by that time had become a multi-millionaire. Preetam was trying to start a business on his own. He, along with Rajesh, had come to request Sharadh for an Rs.25 lakh loan. Rajesh was settled in his own job, and had come along with Preetam to convince Sharadh. The amount by Sharadh's standard was a petty one, but he refused to neither invest nor lend this amount. Sharadh was not interested in giving the loan or making an investment because he did not believe that farming can be a sustainable business.


Preetam even offered to pledge his house documents with Sharadh. Sharadh displaying arrogance, had said, "I don't have enough servants to accommodate in your big house, who wants those documents?" 


Rajesh held Sharadh by his collar and slapped him. Sharadh gave a contemptuous smile, and Rajesh walked out of the house.


Preetam went down on his knees, but Sharadh would have none of it. FUTURE SHARAD tried to scream at the top of his voice, but his past would not listen and stuck to his stand. Soon Preetam too walked out.


Rajesh stood surety for Preetam's loan. Slowly but steadily Preetam repaid the loan and grew richer than Sharadh. Most childhood friends distanced from Sharadh after this incident but Preetam still retained a soft-corner for him. As fate would have it, it was to Preetam that Sharadh had entrusted the last bit of his savings. This was to be handed over to his daughter in the eventuality of his being got rid off by the marauding money lenders .


Time for FUTURE SHARADH was over, and again he was thrust into the clock way till it stopped when Sharadh's mother arguing against his decision to marry Nisha.


******


10/10/2010 Time 8:45 am, Sharad mother is asking him not to marry Nisha


Sita had expired during November 2008 due to Leukaemia. She was the source of strength for Sharadh ever since they fell in love during college. Though she was from a different language, Sharadh parents readily accepted her. Her death had upset the balance of Sharadh's family. Soon his father died, and his mother was also incapacitated. Sharadh became a loose cannon, and had many illicit relationships.


Subsequently, Sharadh had met Nisha during a party. She was a small-time model/TV actress. True to her name, most men fell for her charms. Playing around with men was not new to her. She had never dated a rich guy like Sharadh. She did everything to entice Sharadh into her web, and he too willing fell for her.


Sharadh wanted to marry Nisha. His mother, daughter Veda, and relatives were against it. His mother was pleading with him not to marry Nisha. He would not listen to her and chided his mother for being old fashioned. He got up and announced, "on 10/01/2011, I am going to marry Nisha; if you want you can come". Saying these harsh words, he rushed out of his mother's bedroom.


FUTURE SHARADH knew of all the tragedies that marriage to Nisha would befall him. She made him a drunkard. She regularly made him buy costly presents and skip crucial business meetings to be with her or take her on a joy trip. Sharadh started neglecting Veda. She got him to invest in the wrong businesses like that of a garment factory owned by a mysterious cousin of hers. It later turned out that this cousin of hers was a boyfriend in reality, and used as a ploy to fleece Sharadh of his wealth. FUTURE SHARADH screamed all this to Sharadh, but he would not hear him out. The 600 seconds were over, and he was back on the clock way to reach April 21, 2014.


*****


21/04/2014, Time 8:45 pm, Sharadh is about to announce his decision to send Veda to a boarding school.


Sharadh’s mother expired during July 2012 and Veda was left alone in the house. Sharadh’s interest in his daughter had dwindled. Though she was doing academically well, she had become a neglected child. Nisha had begun to despise Veda's presence in the house. She planned to send Veda to a notorious boarding school for spoilt rich kids and had succeeded in convincing Sharadh.


Sharadh "Veda, I am sending you to ****** boarding school."


Veda "Papa, you want to send me to a boarding school, I have no problem, but don't send me to that one. It's notorious and a spoilt one."


Sharadh "Enough, your mama has made a choice, and you are going there."


Veda agitatedly remarked "This female is not my mother."


Sharadh came rushing towards Veda, caught hold of her, slapped her couple of times and threatened, "If you don't go, you are dead". Veda wept inconsolably on the dining table, but there was no one to console her at home or to stand for her rights.


Veda reluctantly went to the boarding school. It was a school for all the rich spoilt kids. Veda did hold on her ethics for a short while. Soon, the pleasures of youth took her over. She started with gambling, dating, boozing, drugs, and finally landed up being pregnant before she could complete graduation.


FUTURE SHARADH screamed all this to Sharadh as he was leaving the dining hall but of no avail. FUTURE SHARADH was desperate to get back to the Time Keeper to ask him what sort of option he had given him but could not do so. Soon FUTURE SHARADH was on the clock way and stopped in Aug 2015 where Nisha was introducing her cousin who wanted Sharadh to invest his "Hi-fashion garment factory".


******


11/08/2015 Time 3:45 pm, Nisha's cousin, is explaining the project to Sharadh.


Nisha's cousin was convincing Sharadh to invest in his "Fashion Garment Factory" which he claimed had a lot of committed orders from abroad. The magic of Nisha was wearing away for Sharadh. Nisha realised her time was up and was getting ready to pack off. This supposed cousin was her boyfriend, and they had hatched this plan to fleece Sharadh's fortune. Though his CA was against this investment, Sharadh agreed to invest in it just to keep Nisha happy, and the projections made by her cousin were too tempting to ignore. FUTURE SHARADH tried to scream for sanity to prevail. He shouted several questions about the project to Sharadh. He questioned the intimacy of Nisha, and her cousin but all these, as usual, fell into deaf ears.


As planned, slowly the investment started turning into a nightmare for Sharadh. Nisha became the managing partner, and he had less power to question its progress. Every second month there was some mishap or the other, draining out funds. By December 2017, Sharadh had lost 70% of his wealth on the project. He had started to borrow, something which he had not done for the past 12 years.


Then one day, he got up to find a piece of chit "Bye Buddy – Nisha". Nisha had rendered him bankrupt and flown out with her "cousin" to Bangkok. Sharadh never got a chance to divorce, and till date she and Veda had equal share to his property.


FUTURE SHARADH lost yet another chance to correct his past and soon was back on the clock way to find himself in June 2018, when Sharadh was doing the proverbial "last throw of dice".


****


16/06/2018, Time 10:30 am, Sharad is handing over a cheque to his investment banker


He was handing over a cheque of Rs. 2 Crores for investment in reality shares. Sharadh had over the past two months made some informed trading calls in the market and made substantial money. His friend Rajesh had given him these bits of advice. Sharadh financial position was beginning to look up when he decided to invest in reality shares. Rajesh advised him not to do so, but Sharadh would have none of it. He felt that Rajesh was jealous that he would become affluent again. FUTURE SHARADH knew there was no point in advising Sharadh, and remained a mute spectator. Sharadh went ahead and made the deal. As luck would have it by the end of October 2008, the investment value was less than Rs.35 lakhs. Sharadh had to sell off most of his remaining property except his father's estate.


The time for FUTURE SHARADH was over, and he was back in the car with the Time Keeper. As soon as he reached, he howled "What a cruel joke that was! It was like having a read-only document. I had no chance to correct my past except being a screaming unheard witness to the disaster."


Time Keeper "That is not my problem, Sharadh did not listen to you. What can I do?"


Sharadh "Where is the question of listening, he could not hear me."


Time Keeper "Come, I will make you listen to what your mind and soul was telling during those six incidents."Sharadh listened to it. He realised that what he spoke just now had gone through his mind and heart when the incidents actually took place. He knew that it was wrong to neglect his health. He had felt at that time it was inhuman not to support Preetam in his business. He seemed to remember telling to himself that the decision to marry Nisha can turn out to be catastrophic. He had felt sending Veda to that boarding school or to invest in the stupid business of Nisha's cousin were decisions bound to end in disasters. When he took the decision to invest in the reality shares, his conscience told `This is the final nail in the coffin’. It is just that he did not listen to it, all the six times.


The Time Keeper reminded Sharadh "Your future is always there with you in the form of your soul and mind, just that you have to listen to them. Henceforth you will do that, and you will have a bright future". Saying these words, he disappeared.


Soon the sun began to rise and as Sharadh started his car, committing to listening to his inner voice. To go home, he had to take an U-turn. While travelling back, he passed the oak tree, the fortune teller had originally asked him to park his vehicle under. The tree had been felled, and it had smashed a car parked under it. Out of the car, two dead bodies of a naked boy and girl was being removed. A little distance he saw Nisha's best friend, gesticulating and talking to someone on the phone. She was the one who had introduced him to the fortune teller, and also checked his whereabouts the previous night. He deciphered the sinister design and decided to close the land deal. It would get rid of all his loans, and help him start a new life. He was not sure whether this decision was rational, but his heart and mind seemed to be in harmony. Moreover, the expression of shock on the lady’s face, when he waived at her made him doubly assured that a new horizon was waiting to unfold itself for him, Veda, and his yet to be born grandchild.


 



4 comments:

  1. Read it out. Superb thought process and what a revelation. Nice work Balu. Can't wait for the next one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What an engrossing short story, sir.. thoroughly enjoyed reading it :)

    ReplyDelete

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