|The steak was succulent. The chicken juicy. The entire meal had a certain…character to it. He tucked into it with unusual abandon. She finally spoke when he’d finished licking his fingers.
“You like it?”
“Like it? It’s magical! Where did you find such a genius chef?”
“Oh, he’s good, no doubt. But the magic here lies in the ingredients and also,” she hesitated before adding, “the meticulousness with which they were sourced.”
“Stop!” My companion smashed his fist on the bar counter, spilling some of his beer in the process. “I’m not going to listen to any more of this tripe. I can see the twist coming a mile away. She served him a human being, didn’t she?” he asked.
I smirked in that annoying way which always got on people’s nerves.
“No, she didn’t. How predictable would that be? And who said anything about there being a twist anyway?”
“Fine. Continue then,” he said.
“Where was I now…oh right…the source.”
“Where do you source your food from?” he asked.
“We grow it ourselves,” she replied.
“What’s your secret?” he asked as he not-so-discreetly mopped the remaining juices off the plate with his fingers.
“Our farm animals are on a special diet. So are our vegetables. We don’t use ordinary feed or fertiliser.”
“She grinds humans up into the fertiliser and the feed, doesn’t she? Is that it? It’s even lamer than I thought!”
“Why are you being so morbid? And I do agree — that would have been very lame. Now, if you don’t have any more ‘theories’, shall I continue?”
He nodded. A cold, steely determination had crept into his eyes.
I smirked again.
“I’d love to meet and compliment the chef in person. This was the best meal I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.
“I’ll summon him immediately,” she made a couple of gestures at the server.
A few seconds later, a voice coughed behind him. He looked up to see a tall slender man in a chef’s hat standing over him.
“Well, that was quick,” he said.
“Meet The Count, our head chef. He has apprenticed under a lot of culinary masters and is now a man who possesses the sum of their skills. He’s absolutely lapped up their talents, so to speak,” she said.
The Count smiled at him. He smiled back. The Count’s teeth glinted.
“This, sir, isn’t chic-lit!” I said with as much indignation as I could muster.
“What’s your secret?” he asked.
“Would you believe, cauldrons? I always cook in cauldrons. And I like to sing with the other chefs while I do it,” The Count replied.
“That’s…interesting,” he said.
“Surely, there must be something else?” he probed further. He knew that The Count was hiding something.
The Count hesitated for a bit, then leaned into his ear and whispered.
“Salt. Lots of it,” The Count said. “And a shitload of MSG,” he added with a wink.
“You’re horrible at spotting the twist,” I said. And then I ate him.
Telling that story always gives me the munchies.
She showed him the horror again.
Clear as crystal. His own. It can really affect you, that.
It was the curse, she told him.
He had heard about the curse before. From her as well as the elders. Three centuries ago, an ancestor had burnt a witch in cold blood. The witch’s sister, who plied the same trade, hadn’t been impressed. Every male heir since then had met with a gruesome, albeit creative, end.
He believed what he’d seen. He believed in the curse. But he also believed that he could undo it.
It had required a lot of effort, but it was finally ready. He sat at the controls and drew in a deep, purposeful breath. This was it. He was ready to rewrite history, and his own future in the bargain. He pressed the button, the science did its thing, and the machine hurled back into time.
He peeped through the window again. The witch still lay asleep. There was no sign of any tip-toeing ancestors in the vicinity. He guessed he had some time to kill before he’d have the opportunity to prevent the deed from being perpetrated. He sat down in the bushes, lit himself a cigarette, and waited.
The screams jolted him out of his nap. He rushed to the source. The machine was up in flames. So was the witch. She must have gotten inside, curious to determine what the contraption was. Maybe she had fiddled with the engine. Maybe there had been a short-circuit. It was too late to save her, or the machine which would soon become her coffin.
A cold tap on the shoulder caused him to turn around. It was who he’d thought it’d be. And she was mad.
“Don’t eat that pear,” she said.
“But why?” He asked, giving it a look over.
“It’s forbidden.” She tried to snatch it from him but he dodged her attempt.
“Who are we, Adam and Eve? And this isn’t even an apple!” He chuckled, taking a huge bite out of it anyway.
“Well, it isn’t a pear either.”
He was too busy choking on the wax to notice her joy at having nailed the punchline.
“How can you not believe in yourself?” The others always ask me. They find it amusing.
Maybe they have a point though. I can fly like a bird. I’m faster than a train. Bullets don’t even tickle me. I can perform feats which no ordinary man can. Why do the doubts still persist then? I’ve tried to push them away. I’ve tried to see what they do when they look at me. But the doubts always return. I can’t do it. I can’t get myself to believe in ghosts.
After years of heartbreak, the adoption agency finally called. We were happy. We were complete. At least, until the sickness engulfed his tiny frame.
He offered to help. In exchange I’d have to sacrifice another human on my son’s first birthday. I’d have taken a worse deal. He kept his word. When the dreaded day came, I kept mine. Her eyes will haunt me forever.
I hid the body and returned home. My hands still trembled. My wife greeted me with a bemused look. “You won’t believe this. The adoption agency called a few minutes ago. Apparently there was a mix up with his birth certificate. They said his actual birthday is on the fourth of next month.” She looked around at the decorations she had spent all day putting up and laughed. “What a waste,” she said. I nodded in agreement.
I followed the screams. I had to reach her. She continued to run down the wrong path. I tried to warn her, called out to her to stop, but my voice muffled by the thunderous rain always seemed to fall short. For the first time in my life, I was truly afraid.
And then I heard the sickening thud. She had fallen. I filled with dread when I saw a figure run towards her, with a pistol gingerly extended in front. I had to reach her before he did. Her screams were barely coherent between her frightened sobs now. “Help…daddy…please,” she repeated, over and over. She finally looked in my direction. I waved at her between strides, trying to tell her everything would be fine, but I could sense the fear in her eyes as they darted between me and him. I suddenly realised, with almost paralysing apprehension, that her life depended on who won this race. I think she did too. She closed her eyes, and waited.
Luckily for her, I came in first, and I knew what I had to do.
I plunged the knife into her ribcage with all my might, twisting it in, until all that remained was silence. I looked up to him as he finally reached her. The family resemblance was obvious – she had his eyes. I watched calmly as those eyes, now brimming with tears, aimed the pistol at my head. I wasn’t afraid anymore. The screams had finally stopped.
This has been a very interesting overseas series for India. The results haven’t been very different from the ones that have come before it, yet the way they have got to them has been. For starters, the team hasn’t been shamefully outplayed – there is a possibility that this series may be the one the ‘most competitive whitewashes’ that India has been part of in recent times, if that makes sense. We haven’t been ineptly bounced out of the game. There have been a couple of long sessions where the batsmen have taken the fight to the Aussies. Even the bowlers have come up with the odd decent performances where they’ve been able to restrict and control the scoring with some incisive bowling before letting the session wander away. And most noticeably, our fielding has been consistently top notch, even among the members of that not-so-exclusive slip cordon club. In both the preceding test matches, India have found themselves at least once in a position where they could have gone on to a memorable overseas victory, before squandering it away in a way that the Indian fan is very familiar with.
The other standout aspect of the series has been the ‘banter’. Virat Kohli gave this very peculiar no-holds-barred press conference yesterday after playing yet another great knock in Australia.
People predicting that the game may become a bit gentler in the aftermath of the massive tragedy that preceded the series were proved very wrong, very quickly.
Now, Virat is a naturally aggressive individual who likes to take on his opponents. In fact, he actively seeks opportunities to do so. It’s a refreshing trait for Indian cricket fans to see in one of their star players. It makes for great television every time he stands his ground and gives it back to a bowler like Johnson, or when he blows kisses to the people inside as well as outside the playing field. That’s the Kohli way and he’s God’s gift to cricket broadcasters, commentators and writers everywhere. But , as with everything, it seems to come at a price.
In the press conference I’ve linked above, a visibly agitated Kohli says that the banter doesn’t affect his batting, but then goes on to contradict himself by saying that he made a conscious effort to ‘back up the talk’. Bowlers the world over have already figured out that it is very easy to break his concentration by getting under his skin, even if it may not always work out in their favour. But hey, they’ll say, it’s definitely worth a try when things aren’t going your way. As one of the best batting talents of his generation, Kohli needs to think about whether there will come a day ten years in the future, when he will look back and wonder if he could have scaled higher peaks, if he wouldn’t have let these things bother him. For the sake of Indian cricket and his numerous fans who have already been witness to some scintillating Kohli innings, let’s hope that question never needs to be brought up.
My dad(or pops as we called him!) turns 60 today. If he were here today, we’d be watching the cricket match and having detailed discussions about it’s nuances on a phone call(if we were in different cities) or over a hot plate of pakoras(if we weren’t). It’s moments like that, which I’ll always cherish, and miss, Pops.
I don’t think we ever truly realized how lucky we were to be able to call someone like you our dad. I guess we never think about those things until it’s too late, especially us sons. But, I hope you knew, you understood, how much you meant to us. Every little good thing that the world sees in me, in my brother, is a reflection of how you brought us up, the examples you set, the things you opened our eyes to, and the belief you had in us. I hope we’re able to let those parts of you live on within us. On a related note, the jar-opening trick you taught me never fails to impress people 😉
I’d like to believe that you’re still watching over us somehow. Have a great 60th birthday, Pops! Our world’s always going to be a poorer place without you.
It was a dark and stormy night. As it always is when these things happen.
Two figures sat uncomfortably in a pub. Their silhouettes clung on languidly, resulting in unusually dull sentences like this, especially for one that has silhouettes in them. Their eyes were glued to the huge screen which stood at one end of the establishment, screaming for everyone’s attention, often literally. Something was not right. And they could feel it.
Figure A suddenly stirred to life and tapped Figure B on the shoulder with a couple of quick, pointed, intent-filled jabs. Figure B, on his eighth pint, wasn’t prepared for the assault. Applying a superhuman strain on his faculties, he tried to focus on his assailant through his spectacles. His eyes argued frantically with each other about where they should look. They eventually settled on a mutually agreeable spot on Figure A’s nose, deftly avoiding the failed attempt at a mustache, which hung around in the vicinity. A micro-eternity later, as his thoughts finally flirted with coherence, he articulated them.
“Oye!” he said.
Figure A blinked back at him. Once. Twice.
“What’s with the brutality? That hurt, okay?” Figure B voiced his disapproval.
Figure A appeared disoriented by the question. Time stood still as his thoughts tried to infiltrate the resistance put up by the alcohol. Then he remembered.
“I know what’s wrong!” he announced.
“You do? Do tell.”
“It’s pretty simple, Bala. Elementary even. I know who the killer is. Quite obvious, really.”
Bala was quite impressed. He silently regretted not having recognized his companion’s glaringly above-average detective skills. He was about to express this to Figure A in no uncertain terms, when he had another moment of coherence.
“Karthik, I can’t be sure of course, but I wasn’t aware that we have a murder to solve.”
“We don’t?” asked Karthik, a little uncertainty trailing in his voice.
“I don’t think so. No. Not today.” Bala replied. A bit more sure of himself now.
“Oh.” Karthik said.
“Yup, I would have noticed if we did.” Bala raised his mug and drained the remaining liquid in one go. He was quite pleased with his astute powers of observation. No murders would go unnoticed past him tonight.
“A pity, I am pretty sure who’d have done it. If he had done it.” sulked Karthik.
“Always annoying, that. My sympathies…” He interrupted the conversation to order another round from a disinterested waiter for his friend and himself. Then added, “…but I’m afraid that this place has been relatively murder-free this evening.”
And of course, right at that moment, a large figure crashed onto their table from above, spilling his as well as the table’s contents all over the place.
“Aha!” cried Karthik. He knew a murder victim when he saw one.
“And I know who’s responsible!” he declared as he got up.
Bala recovered from the shock in time to see Karthik dramatically point his finger in the direction the entity had originated from.
“I give you, my evil twin.” Karthik said. Bala allowed his gaze to follow Karthik’s finger. A gasp escaped him.
There was no one there.
“There’s no one there.” said Bala. Nothing escaped him. Except the occasional shock-induced gasp, of course.
“Hardly surprising. He was always the nimble one.” Karthik said. He cursed his brother under his breath for having ruined his dramatic introduction.
Bala decided to withhold the skepticism. He had been working with Karthik at a detective agency for the last four years. He was well aware by now that Karthik’s crazy babble often led to unforeseen breakthroughs. He was shaken out of his thoughts by a sudden pull on his sleeve. The body that had just crashed their small party was trying to say something. Evidently, he hadn’t graduated to murder victim yet.
“It w-was h-he.” the body said. The shock of the fall seemed to have had an impact on his speech.
“Are you sure? I mean, who even has evil twins anymore?” asked Bala.
“Twins? No…this was…just one man…it was he…the guy who always comes here and orders…tea…I knew….there was something…suspicious about him…asked him who he was…next thing I know I’m…here…on this table…dying…am I dying?” the body said.
“Possibly. We should probably get an expert opinion though. Might be a good idea to get that knife sticking out of you looked at while we’re at it too.” Bala called the ambulance from his speed dial.
“The medical reports just came in. The victim survived but isn’t completely out of danger yet. You will probably want to take a look at it.” said the receptionist as she handed a folder to Bala.
Bala thanked her and settled down in one of the waiting room chairs to read it. Karthik walked in with a couple of coffees and took the chair next to him.
“There coffee hasn’t improved since the last time we were here.” he complained as he gave one to Bala.
“We were here less than 24 hours ago.” Bala stirred the cup and took a sip. He cringed as the concoction slid down his tongue.
“We’re one of their most frequent customers. The least they can do is to take our feedback.”
“Just think of it as hangover medicine and gulp it down.”
“Hmm. Is that the report? Anything interesting?” Karthik asked.
“Nothing much. Just your standard run-of-the-mill stabbing in the chest. The wound isn’t too deep, nor is it anywhere near the heart. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be fatal.”
“Or maybe my brother was just in a hurry.”
“Will you stop with that nonsense already? There is no evidence whatsoever to support your bizarre evil twin theory. Where did he even come from? I didn’t know you had a sibling, let alone an evil one.”
“Well, it all started on that fateful day in 1980. It was a dark and stormy…” Karthik began.
“A quick summary will do.” Bala interrupted, quickly.”
“Mom had twins. Karthik and Karan. Karthik was the smart, intelligent, blue eyed boy who could do nothing wrong. Karan was the black sheep. Karan was jailed for stealing at age 16. Been in an out of prison since then. He sent me a letter a few days ago saying that he was going to kill someone in that pub today.” Karthik paused to crush the cup and throw it in the dustbin. “I hope that’s quick enough for you?” he asked.
Welcome to yet another edition of ‘Dear Know it All'(or DKIA as my millions of readers like to call it). I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to my millions of readers(have I mentioned them before?) for the slight delay(six months) in getting this edition out. So hold on, sit tight, and say goodbye to those pseudo-know-it-all hacks that you may have turned to in the interim.
Our first question comes from a cricket fan who finds himself lost in the football fever that has gripped the nation. Very current-affairs and all:
I am an honest, god-fearing, hard-working and simple cricket fan. My life was going absolutely brilliantly – I was the life of every party with my abundant knowledge of cricket trivia. People were always in awe when I rattled off scintillating facts like the number of times Sachin Tendulkar has been out on 17, while playing with his collar up, in the second innings of a match, which started on the third Monday of a month. But off-late, things have changed. People don’t seem to be interested in listening to my detailed analysis of Sachin and Dhoni’s favourite nursery rhymes, and how they’ve applied the learnings from them to improve their cover-drives. All they want to talk about is football and some guy with cleanliness issues(messy, I believe he’s called) and Ronaldo(who seems to have made a comeback after fixing his tooth and having grown some hair – people have conveniently forgotten that Sehwag and Bhogle were the pioneers in that field). I decided to watch a game or two but I was extremely disappointed by what I saw. How can I ever get behind a game where mastery over off-side play is considered to be a bad thing? I am losing friends at a faster speed than Ravi Shastri’s tracer bullet and I’m very unhappy. Please help.
– feels like the perpetual thirdman in this cricket match called life
Dear feels like the perpetual thirdman etc. etc.,
This is an extremely serious epidemic that has plagued the cricket-buffs in the country. The ICC has sponsored a lot of research programs to find a permanent cure, but they’re no closer to one yet. One home-grown solution that seems to have worked in alleviating the associated stress for some people is to lock oneself inside a room for a month and watch that channel which shows Sachin making his Sharjah century, all day long. Chanting ‘Whadddaaplaaayaa’ in Tony Greig’s voice seems to bring relief too.
If you absolutely must go out and mingle with the football fanatics in this period, it is advisable to take proper precautions which include memorizing a few phrases:
‘Cricket has been become so commercial! Everything’s fixed!. That’s why I switched to watching a proper sport like football when I was 4.”
“Baichung Bhutia is not the only good player that India has produced, okay? There’s also that guy. You know who I’m talking about!”
“Brazil are favourites. But I wouldn’t discount Argentina, Germany, Italy, Uruguay, Cameroon, Ghana(just list the names of all the teams that are still in the running). This world cup has been so unpredictable!”.
If all else fails just scream the following every couple of minutes:
Is the referee blind??! That was clearly not off-side!”
And now for the most important tip of all – while bluffing your way through these conversations, it’s very important to remember that Manchester United is not playing in the World Cup. Many a reputation has been sunk that way.