Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Apologies

“Umm.. I am sorry. I am SORRY.. I AM SORRY!!! THAT’S ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY.” She didn’t realise she was screaming by the end of the sentence. Sudhanshu’s ears were realising it too much.

“I just slept with a girl. It’s not like I fell in love with her. It was just physical.” Sudhanshu said casually. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t care about Pallavi’s overreaction.

“We are in a relationship. How could you do this? How can you be nonchalant about it?” Pallavi said and threw her phone towards him. He grabbed it and kept it on the bed.

“Our relationship is still as it was. I still love you and care about you. This is just plain sex with a skank because I was missing sex with you. I did this because I was missing you.”

Pallavi burst into tears. She felt a strong pain in her heart that started to flow through her body. She was unable to breathe properly and was gasping between sobs.

“Sit down Pallavi.” Sudhanshu said and Pallavi obeyed. She didn’t think she could handle the stress standing.

“What is happening?” Pallavi said looking from Sudhanshu to the girl lying naked in the bed.

The girl was looking at the whole scene with a smirk on her face.

“It’s nothing Pallavi. You are taking it all very seriously.” Sudhanshu said and got out of the bed. He wasn’t wearing anything but didn’t care about it in the least.

“Who are you?” Pallavi asked the girl.

“Hi. My name is Pallavi as well. I work in his office in a different department. He talks about you a lot. It’s so good to finally meet you.” The girl said extending her arm towards Pallavi. Her blanket slipped a bit showing that she wasn’t wearing anything. Pallavi felt like she was punched.

“You two were really doing it.” Pallavi said. She realised that until she had seen both of them naked, she was still harbouring some hope that this was a prank.

“Of course. Sudhanshu is extremely good. And nice to me too. You are a lucky woman Pallavi.” The girl said.

“How long have you two been having sex?” Pallavi asked.

“A few months ago. Only when you are not in the city and I miss you.” Sudhanshu said drinking a gulp of water from the glass. He poured some water and gave it to Pallavi as well.

Pallavi took a deep breath finally. It was alright, she said to herself. Only a few months. In their 5 years of marriage, these few months are just a blip. This was just a phase that they would survive. Pallavi looked at Sudhanshu who was smiling at her. She turned to the girl, the other Pallavi who was beaming at her as if meeting a star.

“Oh don’t mind me. I have just heard so much about it. I have wanted to meet you for some time now.” The girl said and hugged Pallavi. She couldn’t understand what was happening. When she had entered her home, she didn’t imagine being hugged by a naked girl who was sleeping with her husband.

“You should leave now. Me and Pallavi will sort this out. Let’s meet after that.” Sudhanshu said to the girl. She got dressed, kissed Sudhanshu on the cheek, gave Pallavi another hug and left.

“This is not acceptable Sudhanshu. You can’t cheat on you. You can’t be this casual about it.”

“I wasn’t cheating on you. I was missing you.”

“How would you feel if I did the same on my trips?” Pallavi asked him looking at him directly.

“Like when you slept with my friend just before the wedding five years ago.” Sudhanshu said knocking the wind out of Pallavi.

“You knew about that.”

“Not then. I found out about it only a year later. He told me once drunk. Apologised and what not. Said to me that he didn’t know we were engaged.” Sudhanshu said with an old bitterness entering his tone.

Pallavi looked at him, heart broken.

“Why didn’t you confront me?”

“I love you Pallavi. I kept hoping that you would tell me some day. That someday, we would again be in a monogamous relationship.”

“I have never cheated on you since we have been married. It was a stupid mistake. I got scared by the prospect of marriage. Trust me.”

Sudhanshu smiled. “It’s alright. Maybe we can start over now. Honestly, I have only ever wanted to sleep with you anyways.”

“Really.” Pallavi looked at him smiling hopefully.

“Yeah. That’s why I was so happy that her name was Pallavi. It was so weird calling other girls Pallavi. They don’t like it one bit.” Sudhanshu said grinning.

“Other girls. How many?” Pallavi asked crestfallen. Sudhanshu started to laugh.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

World War III

The world was breaking and there wasn’t she couldn’t do everything about it. The pain of incompetence was too much for her to handle.

“Should I just end the pain?” She asked herself.

“NO!” A loud voice boomed in her head. Mahevash looked around bewildered. She couldn’t see anyone and assumed that the pain was getting to her. Mahevash started the procedure for the complete annihilation.

“STOP!” The voice again shouted, scaring Mahevash into stopping the procedure.

“Who are you?” Mahevash shouted. She got no reply. She looked around. The trees were slowly melting. The buildings were crumbling unto themselves. The sea was almost black towards the shore and Mahevash knew that the situation farther away won’t be much better. The Earth was done for.

The growing environmental problems had suffocated her for so long and then the nuclear war had reduced whatever hope Mahevash had to zero.

The only question was, whether the death should be slow and painful or should the pain be eased.

“This pain is terrible.” Mahevash shouted to no one. There was no one to hear her.

“It will pass.” A soothing voice came.

“How?” Mahevash pleaded.

“By more pain.” The voice chuckled.

“It’s not funny.” Mahevash cried still looking around. “Who are you? Where are you?”

“I’m coming. I’ll cause you great pain but I will help you live. I’m sorry.” The voice said trailing off.

Mahevash didn’t understand anything that was happening. She looked around at all the destruction. She had loved humans. They had caused her immense pain but she hadn’t wanted this to happen. All of them dead. She just wanted to know what happened.

“I’m here.” The voice came. Mahevash looked far and saw him coming. A huge meteor was hurtling towards her. Handsome and young, the meteor had a sheepish smile on his face.

“You caused all this.” Mahevash said angrily.

“Not directly. But I guess I am going to the cause of great pain to you.”

“I didn’t want any of this.” Mahevash said helplessly.

“I can’t change the fate. Time for you to start afresh.” The voice said as the meteor came close.

“Not again.” Mahevash replied as she felt the impact on her. The pain was excruciating. However, she knew, like last time, it would stop soon and she would have to start all over again.

“And the biggest news today is that US and China have declared war. Since it has been confirmed by NASA that the meteor will soon destroy humanity, all nations have openly started to fight. US and China are the last two countries to enter this World War III.

The end is near. Pray to your God. Thank you.”

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Among the Aliens

The light was blue. Uday looked at it with a weird look on his face. He was looking at it disbelievingly.

“Are you sure it is supposed to be blue?” Jennifer asked.

“I am sure it’s not supposed to be blue.” Uday said.

“Oh!”

Jennifer went close to the light but there was no perceivable source to the light. It was just there.

“Maybe it is supposed to be blue.” Jennifer said doubtfully.

“The scriptures clearly state that the colour of the light reflects the mood of the individuals. The possible colors are red for anger, green for envy and yellow for fear. No other colors are mentioned.” Uday said going through the papers in his hands.

“Doesn’t mean there are no other possibilities. It just means that there are colors that they hadn’t explored, or written.”

“Yeah. But what does blue denote? Anxiety? I sure feel that right now.”

“Or hope…” Jennifer whispered.

“ Hmm.. Yeah. Maybe it is catching on our hope to bring back this stone and gain prominence in the world.” Uday said his heart beating faster. He had looked for this for years. It was his personal dream and soon, he would be known as the guy who changed the world, twice.

First time, Uday had saved the world from an attack of the aliens. The attack was not a full-fledged one but has put the whole of Earth on high alert. It was Uday’s calculations that had helped the armies to win the war. However, Uday knew that it was important to prepare for another onslaught. This search for possible alien artefacts started after that. He had formed a team that collected them and analysed to protect the planet. All of them have led to this. A light without source — called infinite light by the aliens. Driven by unknown energy and affected by the emotions surrounded it, the source could help Earth jump into the next phase of technological advancements.

“How will we take it Uday?” Jennifer questioned. Uday had been working on the problem for some time but now that he was here, he knew the problem was more complicated than he had initially thought.

“I will need to make some more adjustment to this device. We should have brought Imran with us.” Uday slammed himself.

“Umm.. He’s just outside.” Jennifer said rolling her eyes.

“Yeah. Wastes time. I’ll go. You keep an eye on this light. Lemme know if this changes color.” Uday said. Jennifer nodded. As soon as Uday left, the color of the light sharpened. The blue color deepened as Jennifer kept looking at the light longingly — the last source of infinite light.

Jennifer had helped Uday built the carrier of this light. She could have instead held it herself and took it but that would have meant her being captured and experimented on by Earthlings. She had no interest in that.

She wanted to survive. She knew that as long as she was alive, they would come for her. She had spent days scolding herself for taking part in this initial scouting of this new planet. Being the princess, she should have had better judgement. If something had happened to her, her parents would have been devastated, along with the whole planet.

Jennifer realised that the only way to survive was to become part of the alien hunting team. This way, she could lead them in a way that was non-lethal to her species.

The sharp blue light dimmed and flickered.

“I’m back.” Uday said.

Jennifer quickly dabbed her hand on her eyes. She hadn’t realised that she had tears in her eyes.

“Any wild guesses till now as to what this colour means?” Uday jested.

“Hope.” Jennifer whispered under her breath.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Woman’s Luck

Janani picked up her bag. She spit on the ground and then looked up. There were five boys and she knew that she won’t survive this. At best, they would all rape her and leave her to die. Worst case, they would make sure she’s dead.

“I won’t be going down alone.” Janani whispered and opened her bag and thrust her hand in it.

The boys, uncaring of this action laughed. One of them — Barua — whistled. He was already holding Janani’s dupatta. Another one, the leader — Ram — of the group cracked his knuckles.

“I’ll be first.” Ram said in a deep baritone. He was the tallest boy in the village and twice as wide as anyone. Janani gulped, her hand still in the bag. Ram made a swipe at Janani.

Janani whirled to avoid his hand and thrust her bag into the leader. He gasped and looked down. Blood started to ooze out. The knife had torn the bag, his shirt and stomach. The other four gawked at the scene. The one holding the dupatta dropped it and moved five paces away from Janani.

Janani screamed challenging the other four. They turned and left. Janani couldn’t believe her luck!

— –

“But sarpanch ji. This is unfair.” Janani’s mother wailed.

“He was Sharmaji’s only son. Janani will have to pay for her crime.”

“He was trying to rape me.” Janani said, anger flashing in her eyes.

“If he would have succeeded, he would have been punished. But that didn’t happen. You killed him. Besides, Barua was there. He has told that you were only teased and over-reacted.” Sarpanch said. Janani looked at the whole scene and screamed.

“HAVE YOU GONE MAD?”

“It is decided. Janani has lost Sharmaji his son, she will bear him another one.” Sarpanch said. Ram’s father — sharmaji — joined his hand to sarpanch and thanked him. He then looked at Janani greedily. Near him, Ram’s mother was standing, crying. She looked at her husband and then at Janani. She didn’t know whether to cry for her son, her own fate or Janani’s.

Janani couldn’t believe her luck!

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Daddy

“This is preposterous.” Puneet shouted.

Raima looked at him bored. She had heard all this before and was not interested in any of this.

“You can’t stop me from seeing my son.”

“I’m not the one who made that decision Puneet. Just move on with it.” Raima said yawning.

“You bitch!” Puneet said and ran towards her. Before he could reach her, he stumbled and fell face first.

“You are drunk right now?” Raima said amazed.

“Yeah, so.” Puneet mumbled unable to get up.

Raima looked at him with disgust and left.

Puneet struggled but held the chair and pushed himself up. The door opened and Rahim entered.

“Really! This is how we are supposed to get you the custody of your daughter.” Rahim tried to stablilize Puneet but Puneet pushed him.

“Its all lost anyways.” Puneet mumbled and moved towards the door.

Rahim looked at Puneet and wondered if Puneet should really get Riya’s custody.

“I’m sorry Mr. Puneet. You are an addict. Before you can change your ways, we don’t feel Riya is safe with you. Her custody is being given to her mother Raima.”

“NO!!” Puneet shouted but to no avail.

Raima gave him a look of pure fury, took Riya’s hand and left. Riya looked at her father with tears in her eyes.

“DADDY!”

“DADDY! WHERE’S MY BAG?” Riya shouted at her loudest.

“Coming honey!” Puneet replied running towards her, her bag in her hand. He picked the toast from the plate, took a bite and a swig from his beer.

“Jam.” Riya said as Puneet picked up butter to put on the bread.

“Yes, mam!” Puneet said throwing back the butter and picking up jam.

“And today is my play.”

“I know love. 7 pm. I’ll be there.” Puneet said and put toast in front of Riya.

Riya chewed the toast slowly and swallowed with all the time in the world. Puneet didn’t approve when she tried to speed-eat.

“Not at 7, I want you at 6. I need the dress by then and your help in fitting.”

“Of course, princess. Will be there on time.” Puneet said and kissed Riya on her forehead. He then took her to the bus and came back to the sofa.

The biggest advantage of being a freelancer was that Puneet could work from home and also in flexible times. Puneet had decided to shift from a 9–5 job to a freelance when Riya came into his life. Earlier, he had thought that he might one day regret the decision. He had been so wrong. Every day since had been magical.

Puneet took the beer and finished it off in one go.

“Time to work on the angel dress.” He said and attacked the almost complete white costume.

“Are you sure about this?” Puneet said sipping his whiskey. The single malt was his most prized possession, until some time back. He had opened the bottle six months ago and had savoured every drop of it over the last six months. This peg was the last of it and he had resorted to tiny sips instead of gulps.

“Yes Puneet. I know what I am doing. Just promise me you won’t screw this up for me.” Raima said signing the papers.

“I promise you. I’ll make sure everything is perfect.” Puneet said and held six months old Riya in his hands.

Puneet roared over the phone when he heard the news. He was going to be a father. He and Raima had met a couple of years ago and Puneet had been thinking of proposing to her for the past few months. This news just confirmed that his intentions were right.

“Hello. Puneet. Puneet!! Listen to me. I have yet not decided what to do.” Raima replied from the other side.

Puneet came back to the phone hearing the words.

“What do you mean by that?” Puneet asked.

“Let’s meet tomorrow.” Raima said.

“I can come over right now.” Puneet said taking down a large glass of wine in one gulp.

“No. Not today. I will meet you tomorrow.” Raima insisted.

“Ok.” Puneet said apprehensively.

Puneet spent the day fidgeting. He thought of calling Raima again but he knew it won’t help. Raima was short tempered on a good day and right now, she was facing a new challenge. Puneet knew he needed to give her some space. Yet, the prospect of becoming a father gave him goosebumps.

“I don’t want this child Puneet. I’m sorry but I have too many things to focus on and this would only distract me from my career. I hope you understand.” Raima said in one breath.

Puneet looked at her aghast and then quickly tried to hide his emotions.

“It’s alright Raima. We can have kids in future. It’s not a big deal.” Puneet said with a lump in his throat. He tried to wash it down with his beer.

Raima took a deep breath of relaxation and then braced herself once more. Puneet felt like he was seeing a gun reloading.

“Also, I think we should take some time for ourselves. I… I have gotten a job in Singapore and I’m moving there next week.” Raima shot.

Puneet looked at her unbelievingly and kept staring.

“Say something.” Raima said.

“Bye.” Puneet said and left.

For over a month there was no conversation between Puneet and Raima. Puneet delved deeper into his work with baby-names roaming in his head any time he wasn’t working. Raima had messaged him in the first few days but he didn’t bother with replying them. One day however, he got a call from an international number.

“Hello.” Puneet said in a grogging tone.

“You were asleep. I’m so sorry Puneet. It’s morning here so I called.” Raima replied.

“Raima!” Puneet said shocked.

“I need to talk. Please don’t keep the phone.” Raima said hurriedly.

“Yeah. You are in Singapore?” Puneet said, his voice cracking from thirst. He took a sip from half-filled peg from last night.

“Yeah. I am in Singapore. Puneet. I couldn’t get an abortion.”

“WHAT! You are still pregnant? You decided to keep our baby.” Puneet said, suddenly wide awake.

“Not exactly. The doctors said, I couldn’t have an abortion. Some complications have happened.”

“You still don’t want this baby.” Puneet said in an even tone.

“I don’t. Can you please take care of this?”

“THIS is not a problem Raima. This is our baby.”

“Please Puneet. I am coming back to India for one year for a project. I don’t want to take it back once I am done in India. Can you take it?” Raima pleaded.

“Of course. I would love to.” Puneet said immediately. His spirits had never been higher.