Burning Bridges – Chapter One

 

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


Jason Fernandes rung the slightly rusty bell on his bike before turning right into the old brick building. The old guard, smoking a cigarette to drive away the early morning chill, stood up, startled, as the 25-year old whooshed by on his bike.

“One of these days I’m going to stick out my cane when you waltz in like that on your rattle-y old bike and you’re going to get a good ol’ smacking in the head.”

“You can’t!” Jason shouted back. “They’ll fire you!” he said, beaming a smile as he took another right, heading to the parking lots.

“Smartass. Pfft.”

The brick building housed the newspaper agency that Jason Fernandes worked for. It may have looked old and dreary from the outside, but the building was very well-furnished, spacious and airy on the inside. It was very old, though. Close to 150 years old, some said. Built when the English still had an iron fist over India, it stood there, evidence to having sustained the test of time. That’s how a lot of South Mumbai is; historic, memorial. You step out of Churchgate Railway Station, have a walk around and look at how different this part of the city is from the rest and you get a vibe of just how majestic it is. A Mumbaikar knows this vibe.

Jason wasn’t even six months into the job, but people liked him. He was enthusiastic, curious, smart, good with words, and tried hard at the job. Came in early, stayed a little long most evenings, and looked for new stories with vigour. Barely six months in, so he was still low down on the pecking order and hadn’t really worked on a lot of big stories but he had been sniffing close to the action. He’d made friends on the news circuit, friends that were fairly well-connected themselves. Influential, reliable. Well, most of them. There were at least three dudes who were compulsive stoners. And, he figured his boss was beginning to develop a liking for him. That’s always a huge plus.

The air-conditioners hadn’t been turned on when he got into the big office full of cubicles, and surrounded by glass offices of the superiors, all smelling a lot of coffee and paper. Among all the identical cubicles was one that didn’t quite conform. It had a little white handmade sticker stuck on the wall that stood in the aisle. ‘J. Fernandes’ proclaimed the sticker. Jason was quite certain there weren’t any other J. Fernandeses in the same room. The sticker would have more written on it, but Jason didn’t quite have a title. Yet. He walked over to his distinctive corner in the office, placed his bag under the desk, switched on the computer and went to help himself to a cup of coffee until the machine came to life. Put quite simply, the coffee tasted like catpiss, not that any sane man’s ever tasted catpiss, but Jason tolerated it. Frankly, the caffeine and the metaphorical early-morning-kick-in-the-balls is all he needed.

The cursor was dragged to the little red, yellow and green circle in the bottom left corner of the screen. Google Chrome opened up. It suggested ‘gmail.com’ as soon as Jason had typed in ‘g’ in the search/address bar. He typed in his account details and was scanning his inbox by 8 A.M. Scam, scam, scam, newsletter, scam, family photos, and then finally something useful on a morning such as this. An email from Wayne Polk, titled ‘Important. Or Maybe Not.

Polk was a newsman himself, much like Jason, but five years older and much more senior at the foreign news agency he worked at. The two had met at a conference – cum – seminar a few months back and Jason’s boss had introduced the two. They shared a sort of weird love for the job they did. “Youthful curiosity. Wait till you see some blood, some of the corruption going around, that’ll all die down. Trust me,” Jason’s boss said. Either way, Wayne and Jason got to know each other and stayed in touch, trading knowledge, with Wayne almost always learning as much as he taught Jason himself. Occasionally Polk dropped a nugget here or a tidbit there of some story he’d picked up somewhere.

Jason opened up the email.

“Yo, Fernandes.

Got back to Manchester from Beijing a day back. Got to be the press for the China – Pakistan deal that went down. It was pretty textbook. Boring, tbh. 

Sidenote: Do not got to China. The pollution is crazy as fuck. When I say crazy, I mean crazy. I mean, yeah, sure it ain’t everywhere but most of the big cities, well, they’re screwed.

So, yeah, the Pakistani PM arrived, Chinese showed him around and stuff. The usual stuff. Went in the room to get down to business the next day. Sat there for 4 and a half hours straight. When the PM left, it seemed more like he was storming out, because it took the Chinese a minute to follow. That was all that was unusual. Of course, we press are obliged to make a big deal of it, but the PM and all really made it seem like it was all rosy. They did get back in the room and as it seems, came to terms.

Ask me, though, I heard whispers about some real shady shit going down in those talks. And it should draw your attention. I don’t know anything for sure but there’s been rumours something went down, and wasn’t exactly revealed. My best bet would be to say it is somehow related to the tensions between China, Pakistan and you guys. Nice little three-way you got going there. Tense shit. Keep your ears up, something about this is got to trickle out on your end as well. 

Be in touch.

W. Polk.”

Jason was immediately intrigued. He realised he hadn’t had a sip of coffee while going through that email. He took a deep sip, felt the heavenly feeling of the warm liquid at the back of his throat, and proceeded to Google all he could about the China Pakistan deal.

***

The two bikes swerved this way and that, trying to weave their way through the horde of cars between them and the toll booths and subsequent entry to the huge, white bridge in front of them. Its slight arch to the left, and its tall and elegant pylons accentuated its already flamboyant figure in front of the majestic city of Bombay.

Both bikes were occupied by two members each, both wearing black jackets and blue trousers with black helmets. Their jackets concealed the handgun tucked underneath. The passengers on both bikes had big black duffel bags slung over their shoulders, which housed all sorts of equipment required for the effort underway.

As they got closer to the toll booths, two more bikes joined them from a narrow entrance to the highway, on their left. They were all similarly dressed and each rode the bike as recklessly as the next.

Then suddenly, all four split up and each went to one of the four functioning toll booths and patiently waited in line. People in cars around them cast curious glances at them, but they looked straight ahead. None of the toll booth attendants knew anything about them and it was essential that it stayed that way. Each rider co-ordinated their approach to the toll booth with that of the others’. It was apparent that they all intended to reach the toll booths simultaneously. If one was left behind, the others dropped behind by a vehicle or two to make up for it.

It was close to 9 in the morning and traffic was starting to roll in. As the bikes approached the booths in their queue, the four passengers moved their duffel bags to their front, and opened up the zip in such a way that it was convenient to get out whatever was inside, while concealing it from onlookers until it was outside. They were very casual with the whole movement.

At 8:49 AM, all four bikes rolled into the four toll booths and the attendant held out and open palm in which they were supposed to place the toll money. The riders turned off their bikes.

In a swift motion, the drivers of the bikes pulled out the guns out of their holsters and four distinct gunshots were heard and four toll booth attendants held out their hands to motorists for the last time. Commotion ensued. Some cars tried going around the toll booths and escaped onto the bridge but did not know of the existence of three similar riders in the middle of the bridge and four more at the other end. Others tried reversing out of the toll lanes and what resulted was a frenzy of hitting the reverse gear, and lots of screeching tires.

Three policemen stood by the toll booths, leaning on their armoured cars. As soon as they heard gunshots, they all threw the doors open and scampered inside. The roof hatch was thrown open and one police officer immediately positioned himself to use the submachine gun if necessary. One police officer slowly drove the giant vehicle towards the booths while the third one contacted other patrolmen.

“Shots fired at BWSL toll booths! Shots fired! Assistance requested!”


Whew, this was the first chapter to the story I’ve been working on for many a month. It took me this long because there’ve been a lot of roadblocks. My preliminary exams came up, then my Boards and then I’d been away on holiday for a couple of weeks, but now its finally here.

I’d published a prologue of sorts to this, which you can check out by clicking here.

I’ve thought quite ahead on this story, unlike the Traitor series on my blog which I started and then it sort of just faded away because I didn’t really plan ahead on it and made stuff up as I went along. This is different. So, there are going to be more chapters. At least another four chapters. Yeah, a total of five chapters sounds good enough.

I hope you guys liked what you read, because I had a lot of fun writing it, and I’m sure its going to be a lot of fun writing this story. Let me know what you think down in the comments!

I’ll see you next time.

Advertisements

Makin’ it Right

There’s those few times when you’re really pumped for something. Like, completely excited. Sometimes its more of an amalgamation of excitement and nervousness, confidence, and the lack thereof, surety and doubt. In that kind of state of mind, there’s a million different thoughts shooting to and from every nook and cranny of your mind, some appearing from corners you may not have thought you had. Little paradox, I made up right there, eh? It does feel like that is the case, at least in those kinds of moments.

I had that kind of moment earlier today.

Some of you may know my Boards are going on. In fact, they just began today. I appeared for the English exam this morning. Now, a few hours before that, I was sitting on the couch at home, and revising a couple of questions from the chapters I had to study and I was going through some notes I had on my phone simultaneously. The chapter I was studying at that moment, had something to do with the education system in the country, and a question the textbook posed to us was whether we would change anything in the current education system of the country, if we had the power. It also asked to elaborate on what that would be, and why. Anybody who has had the littlest of experiences in the Indian education system has definitely considered a lot of changes that should be made to the same, and I admit I’m no different. It is evidently a flawed system. Of course, nothing’s perfect, but sometimes the flaws are just plain stupid and worse, unfair. So I went through the answer the textbook guide had, thought of whether I agreed with it (which I did), and thought up what I, personally, would write if such a question were to appear on the exam, before quickly moving on to the next chapter, like we usually do.

Well, not quite. Something must have stuck, since I found myself circling back to this topic a little while later when I’d put aside the books and was just sitting there thinking about how I’d be managing my time during the exam, because the English exams I’ve given in the 12th Grade so far have all been lengthy.

This, precisely, was one of those moments where I had a shit ton of different thoughts and muddled in all that was one thought that I somehow managed to hold on to. There’s gazillion different things floating around our minds and its not even surprising that we lose so many thoughts that could potentially be huge.

The thought I had was about that same question I read in my English book. It occurred to me how we always reminisce and say things like, “What I would give to go back to school/college. Ah, those days!” I realised that what we actually mean is to go back to the time when we were that young, with the kind of circumstances back then, not literally back to school or college. We generally mean to refer to friends and the experiences we had with them. We hardly ever want to come back to school or college, and especially not for the academic-side of it, because that’s just plain boring, no?

Well, yes, partly, but then that’s exactly what must change. The kind of change I want to see in the education system should make me want to go back to school or college to study again, but in the changed environment. It should make me go, “Oh, what I’d give to be able to study that way!” And although I won’t be able to do it and it may make me envy those that would be, I’d be able to deal with that fact because of the sense of pride I might then get, and the satisfaction in the fact that there’s at least somebody who is studying the right way, or at least a better way.


I know that that is a very vague answer to that question, but it still holds true in a way, doesn’t it?

Now, I hope I don’t come off as a complete dick in what I wrote up there. Like, some may think, what is a 17 year old suggesting changes to complete education systems; a 17 year old that’s barely through college himself. Just expressing a thought of mine.

Thank you very much for reading!

Before I sign off for today, I’ve got an Awesome Quotes post coming out tomorrow. I’ve scheduled it, and kept it on auto-publish so bar any glitches in the matrix, it should be out tomorrow, so do come back for that. In case you haven’t been here for a while, then I’ll have you know that the post coming out tomorrow is part two of a two part awesome quotes feature, and you can check out the first part by clicking here.

See you guys next time 🙂

 

After the Storm Passes

Some of us have anxiety. No scratch that, a lot of us have anxiety. It may not be something we have all the time, every day but it comes and goes. I guess anxiety is just something we have to live with. It is bound to happen considering the kind of lifestyles that living in cities brings. If you wanted a fast-paced life, you couldn’t have asked for a better place than Mumbai to have it. I like to call it Bombay. Lets call it Bombay.

Bombay is one of those places where you get crushed if you don’t keep moving. No, literally. Here, days start with a bang. Come live in Dadar and enjoy the never ending crowds around the Plaza Theatre locality. Come to any of the northern suburbs and you won’t find a single stretch of road that isn’t filled with people. We’re like ants, we just find every empty space and fill it with ourselves.

Your home is literally the calmest place you might find in all of Bombay. Once you step out of it, be ready for a hell of a day.

Its the same with your life when you’re living in Bombay. You have to wake up at 8, get dressed, go to the gym maybe, finish that report once you get back (body soreness is no excuse), then grab a bite or two, get that printout, go buy some groceries as fast as you can, travel for 2 hours to your workplace, travel back for 2 hours in the evening, the traffic doesn’t move, but you’re used to it by now. Bombay is a unique experience.

But then when you’re moving this fast, your mind can’t always keep up. There’s a lot of pressure when you’re in places like this. Sometimes it gets to you. Okay, a lot of times, it gets to you. And then you shrivel up into a ball for a little bit just contemplating where your life is going. Then your pressure cooker goes off, or your dog knocks himself into a table or something so you have to get up and see what all the bawling is about. But you catch my drift right? Sometimes you don’t even have time to think.

You know what I do when stuff like this happens? I imagine a storm. A really violent one. Think up a really big storm, swirling around. Now see what its swirling around exactly. It swirls around the eye of the storm, right? And the eye of the storm is calm, serene, unfazed by the shit that’s going down all around it.

You’re the eye of the storm. Imagine you’re in it. Imagine, for a moment, there’s no cars honking around you, no hustle and bustle of people, no constant noises, you have no deadlines, neither the kind your control-freaky mind has made up, nor the office-work kind and there’s nothing bogging you down. Just you, your mind, and what you really, really need to do. See, when you live in such times, and places, some people say you need to be good at multi-tasking. I think that’s bullshit. Plus, multi-tasking just reduces your net productivity at whatever you’re doing so just stay away from that pseudo crap. What you really need to be good at is prioritizing. Do the most important shit first. Sometimes you gotta be selfish though. I, for example, am sometimes too helpful. Sometimes I help people even when I’m pressed for time, but if I think I can help them, I’ll try to do it. So what happens is, when they need help again, some of them ask me because I helped them last time. Now if this happens to you and this time you’ve learnt prioritising, cause I just told you about it, you gotta see if you really have the time for pro bono. If not, then know that you don’t owe that person any help. They’ll just have to ask somebody else this time.

You’re the eye of the storm. Because above the rat race, the summit of it all, its a quiet place.

Untitled Fiction Piece – Preview

I’ve been working on a new piece of fiction for a while now. It may seem pretty mainstream at first (maybe it is) but I believe I put my own twist on things so, anyways, hope you have fun reading this one. This is actually just a preview of sorts to see how it fares with the audience. I’ve got more on the way, having already written enough for another chapter or two.


The two bikes swerved this way and that, trying to weave their way through the horde of cars between them and the toll booths and subsequent entry to the huge, white bridge in front of them. Its slight arch to the left, and its tall and elegant pylons accentuated its already flamboyant figure in front of the majestic city of Bombay.

Both bikes were occupied by two members each, both wearing black jackets and blue trousers with black helmets. Their jackets concealed the handgun tucked underneath. The passengers on both bikes had big black duffel bags slung over their shoulders, which housed all sorts of equipment required for the effort underway.

As they got closer to the toll booths, two more bikes joined them from a narrow entrance to the highway, on their left. They were all similarly dressed and each rode the bike as recklessly as the next.

Then suddenly, all four split up and each went to one of the four functioning toll booths and patiently waited in line. People in cars around them cast curious glances at them, but they looked straight ahead. None of the toll booth attendants knew anything about them and it was essential that it stayed that way. Each rider co-ordinated their approach to the toll booth with that of the others’. It was apparent that they all intended to reach the toll booths simultaneously. If one was left behind, the others dropped behind by a vehicle or two to make up for it.

It was close to 9 in the morning and traffic was starting to roll in. As the bikes approached the booths in their queue, the four passengers moved their duffel bags to their front, and opened up the zip in such a way that it was convenient to get out whatever was inside, while concealing it from onlookers until it was outside. They were very casual with the whole movement.

At 8:49 AM, all four bikes rolled into the four toll booths and the attendant held out and open palm in which they were supposed to place the toll money. The riders turned off their bikes.

In a swift motion, the drivers of the bikes pulled out the guns out of their holsters and four distinct gunshots were heard and four toll booth attendants held out their hands to motorists for the last time. Commotion ensued. Some cars tried going around the toll booths and escaped onto the bridge but did not know of the existence of three similar riders in the middle of the bridge and four more at the other end. Others tried reversing out of the toll lanes and what resulted was a frenzy of hitting the reverse gear, and lots of screeching tires.

Three policemen stood by the toll booths, leaning on their armoured cars. As soon as they heard gunshots, they all threw the doors open and scampered inside. The roof hatch was thrown open and one police officer immediately positioned himself to use the submachine gun if necessary. One police officer slowly drove the giant vehicle towards the booths while the third one contacted other patrolmen.

“Shots fired at BWSL toll booths! Shots fired! Assistance requested!”


So, that was a sort of first chapter or a prologue kind of thing to the new piece of fiction I’m working on. Its got crime written all over it with a potential terrorist angle round the corner (probably, maybe). I still haven’t managed to come up with a name for this story. Believe it or not, this story has been lying in my drafts folder for over two months now, and I’ve admittedly been just too slow with this one.

I’m going to need your help in coming up with a name for this one! Maybe its a little premature for you guys now, having read only this preview so I’m going to publish a second chapter in the near future, so look out for that and then we’ll get to the naming ceremony. However, if any of you already have a potential name in mind please drop it in the comments!

I’ve got more written, I wanted to split it up into chapters, build it up, create suspense (it’s fun!) and before I do that, get some opinions. How did you people like this so far? Should I describe the situation a little more before getting to the actual toll booth shootout part? Or is it fine as it is? All opinions welcome! 😀

Thanks a lot for reading! 🙂

See you on the other side.

On Bad Decisions, Tailspins and Oxygen

Honest Disclaimer is Honest: This post does not contain deep philosophy that miraculously uplifts those who heed it, although it may contain some philosophy that is sometimes evident to everybody, apart from the people who really need it.

There are times when you’re happy. Or not, but you’re getting by. And you’re confident, even if in the slightest degree, that you’ll be out of the woods in a short while. Maybe you see the light at the end of the tunnel, maybe you’re visualising it, or you see lots of lights ’cause you’re high but you see light, in one way or another. And then you go on to switch on the telly to watch the match of your team 4 lyf and then it all goes to shit. Not because you lost a puny bet but because you actually have a heart and you can’t watch your team lose. If you’re one of those followers that really follows the team and somehow has an emotional connect to them (it could be because of their tradition, history, style of play, aura, anything), then you just cannot watch them lose. It ruins your day. Probably the rest of your week. Or the next as well, if its a Saturday or a Sunday.

Today, I want to create a bridge between two of my favourite sports and two teams that I feel need some oxygen. A few hours where you chuck everything aside, sit down together, ram into your brains what you’re doing wrong and how you’re going to lift your ass off the ground and launch yourselves onwards and more importantly, upwards.

The society of the country I come from is deeply religious. You probably won’t find as much religious diversity anywhere. If a child wasn’t told what community he was born in, maths would no longer be the most confusing thing for him. But here in India, there’s religions, and then there’s cricket, on a whole different level. Its almost like an addiction. It gives a different level of euphoria. A unique high. Don’t believe me? Watch this video tribute to a certain Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar (aka Bhagwan, Hindi for God), created after India won the 2011 Cricket World Cup, full of perfectly synced dramatic music, et al.

I’m not going to burden you with details, especially since not many really get cricket.

The Indian cricket, about a year back, many thought that the bunch of 11 guys they saw playing on the field could actually push to retain the World Cup. They spoke too early. What ensued was a horrible tailspin by the Indian cricket team, and I can’t remember a single win abroad for India, apart from that great great one at Lords in July last year. Make no mistake, I believe they were right. I always did. Because people, as individuals, are incapable of nothing. Cliche, overly optimistic, you call it what you want, but I believe. Its time others did too. Because nobody wants to hear the reasons why we can’t do something. Because nobody wants to be searching in the crowd for somebody wearing their jersey. Because a big part of doing something daunting is believing. And though the first opposition this surprisingly out of depth Indian team faces tomorrow morning is bitter rivals Pakistan, I believe. Its time the team does too. Sports aren’t just games. We say that very few things truly unite the warring races that make up the human species, and sports is one of those. Yes, that statement was probably said from a negative point of view, but why can’t it be something more?

Ah, good times.
Ah, good times.

Much north of London lies a theatre. The theatre. The theatre where dreams come to fruition. A theatre that has seen some of football’s greatest sporting spirits battle together and against one another. It goes by the name Old Trafford. It wasn’t called a fortress for nothing. Noticed how I said ‘wasn’t’? Well, I meant it. And this coming from a diehard Man Utd fan is saying something.

A few months back I wrote this post about how the draw with Chelsea could be a turning point, not just of the current season, but of the club’s fortune. That could mean pinning a lot on a single fixture. But it wasn’t without a reason. If you saw that match, you’d know what I’m talking about. It was a great match to watch. And though the equaliser was in the dying stages and it wasn’t perfect, it meant more than the world to the fans not just for the one point, but for the way the team played, it looked inspired. It meant more to the players. What followed a while after that that was what I feel, a series of bad decisions essentially and resulted in a tailspin that, gratefully enough, isn’t conveyed by the healthy position of the team in the table.

My rants don't mean I've given up on United. Never.
My rants don’t mean I’ve given up on United. Never.

Both these band of men are capable of much, much, much more than what they have been achieving lately. They need to be given the right kind of push to play the way they’re most natural at. They need to shed the baggage and although each day is a new day, they really need to make tomorrow the freshest day they’ve known in a while. And more than anything, its the support staff, the guys behind the scenes, that also need to get their heads out of a knot. Stick your head out above the thick, dense growth take in some of that fresh air and thank whoever you believe in for that dash of oxygen.

Wacky Quotes: Cricket

Not many people get cricket. Even in countries that play cricket. Even in countries like India where people pray more to Sachin Tendulkar and seldom go to Siddhivinayak. Like who’s gonna stand in line at a temple from 4 in the morning so that you can get a spot at 10 in the morning, when you can be jostling for space in the North Stand at Wankhede? And for what? Just to have a fraction of a peek at some idols for not more than two seconds before you’re pushed away by the pujari so other’s can have their share of almost-peeks. Come to India and you realise everything is a business here. Even religion. Religion is probably the biggest business. But, apparently, Srinivasan and Dawood Ibrahim have made cricket a bigger business than it has ever been.

Like any other game, though, cricket is riddled with funny occasions, players and commentators trying (and subsequently failing) to appear witty, and generally embarrassing things.

So here are a few wacky quotes from the world of cricket, for your pleasure. Sit back, relax and enjoy!


“A very small crowd here today. I can count the people on one hand. Can’t be more than 30” – Michael Abrahamson

You know what they say about people with big hands.

“That slow-motion replay doesn’t show how fast the ball was travelling” – Richie Benaud

Yeah, no shit.

“How can you tell your wife you are just popping out to play a match and then not come back for five days?” – Rafa Benitez struggling to come to terms with Test cricket

“Clearly the West Indies are going to play their normal game, which is what they normally do” – Tony Greig

“The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey” – Brian Johnston as Peter Willey faces up to Michael Holding

Now read that out loud, without the comma.

“It’s a perfect day here in Australia, glorious blue sunshine” – Christopher Martin-Jenkins

Apparently the sun’s blue now.

“Sorry, skipper, a leopard can’t change it’s stripes” – Lennie Pascoe

I think you got the wrong animal there, sir.

“And there’s the George Headley stand, named after George Headley” – Trevor Quirk

How would you react to this if you were on a tour of the stadium and the guide said this?

“No good hitting me there, mate, there’s nothing to damage” – Derek Randall to Dennis Lillee after being hit on the head by a bouncer

Hehehehe

“This ground is surprising. It holds about 60,000 but when there are around 30,000 in, you get the feeling that it is half empty” – Ravi Shastri

Facepalm.

“A brain scan revealed that Andrew Caddick is not suffering from a fracture of the shin” – Jo Sheldon

Facepalm of the highest degree.


Aaaand that’s it for Wacky Quotes!  I hope this little change in theme and name wasn’t just an awesome thing in my head.

Speaking of awesome, next week onwards we revert back to Awesome Quotes so do drop in next Friday!

Until next time, folks!