-->

Download the Android App of THE TALKING PEN

Sunday, 28 April 2019

The Mysterious Ailment of Sameer Ansari (story)


THE MYSTERIOUS AILMENT OF SAMEER ANSARI
-asif uzzaman
1
It was around middle of May when Sameer Ansari began to show signs of epilepsy. Those moments were characterised by Sameer falling to the ground and twisting his body, turning his hands and legs at most unusual angles. His eyes rolled as he slithered on the floor, and all that came out from his mouth was a harsh gurgling sound which made the scene even more ominous to behold.

The summer holidays had just begun, and thus, most of our co-lodgers had already left for their homes and could not be expected to return any time before three weeks at minimum. Which meant that I was left alone for three weeks in two-storey, fifteen-roomed lodge with Sameer who had caught this ghastly disorder lately. Sameer lived in the room next to mine, and we often used to study together. We were the only two who had not left for our homes this summer for our own different reasons. Sameer was an only-child and his parents had gone for Hajj pilgrimage, which practically left no one whom he could go and meet in his house. Moreover, he was not a homesick person. I, on the other hand, could not leave because I had joined a summer camp programme where they taught riding motorbikes.
So, it first happened on the second day of my biking class. The weather was particularly extra hot that day, and I had returned to the lodge all sweats. I made my way into the corridor calling for Sameer but he never replied. I was as irritated as I was tired. Riding bikes in circles and 8s continuously for three hours in such weather was no child’s play. Walking in the corridor towards my room I remembered vaguely that I had regretted joining the camp sometime in the middle of the practice that day, which by now had vanished. Also vanished had the heat by now. It was typical summer dusk and I was amazed why Sameer had not switched on any of the bulbs in the passage that day. I switched on all the lights on my way to my room which was at the far end of the corridor. And there he was. Sameer. He was lying on the floor on his stomach, and his head was twisted at almost hundred and eighty degrees. His left hand was raised unnaturally straight upwards as if someone was pulling it, while the right one was inserted in his open mouth, pulling down his jaw. His legs had gone stiff and were stretching wide enough in opposite directions so as to make a man able to sit between them on the floor. ‘Dumbstruck’ would be an understatement to describe what I felt at the sight. I dropped my bag, and in a hurry nearly dived. I pulled Sameer’s hands and legs and tried to collect his whole body in my hold. After struggling for what seemed like hours, I was able to get his hands and his head in my control. Leaving his legs to fate, I held his hands and head and torso in a bear hug, and remained in the position till his body slowly eased out. Then he fell asleep. I lifted him up from the floor and lay him on the bed.
The whole fiasco had made me so very tired and so very hungry. I went from the room, put a lock on the door for the fear that he might not go anywhere if the fit hit him again. I could not wait for the dubba-wala to arrive with our dinner. There was still hours left for his arrival. So, I went to a nearby restaurant which was neither posh nor particularly low-class and treated myself with two full plates of pasta after having two samosas. It took a lot of time to finish my meal, but I needed that. By the time I was about to get up from my table – I was finishing my second bottle of Sprite by then – it was 8 O’clock.
When I returned to the lodge and opened the lock of my room, Sameer was still sleeping. The dubba-wala had left our box outside the door. I woke Sameer up and talked to him very normally. I told him he had taken too much sleep today and he agreed with a smile, never knowing what he had been through.
“I am feeling very hungry, Rishi,” he said to me innocently.
“Don’t worry. You can eat my share as well,” I smiled. “You’re lucky that I’m filled up to my neck right now.”
“Thank you.”
Sameer was looking as innocent as a newborn and also as cute. I debated in my mind and calculated that it would be a little rude of me if I told him about his epileptic fit, of which he did not remember a thing.

***

2
Two days later it happened again, and around the same time at the dusk when I returned from the camp. This time his body was twisted in very different but equally unnatural and horrible position. Once again, I locked him in the room and went out to eat. Eating junk food was becoming my personal way of dealing with stress.
That night, while offering the two tiffin-boxes to him, I asked him if he had been feeling something unusual happen to him lately, or if he had eaten something unhealthy, or if he had done something which was not usual in any way.
“I don’t remember such a thing, but why do you ask?” he said very confidently, and then his confident vanished. I saw him reconsidering my question in his mind, and then he spoke at length. “Three-four days ago, when you were away, Rishi, a boy came to me here in this room of yours in which I have been living since others have left. He was a small boy, about eight or ten years old. He came and told me that his kite had got stuck on a tree and that he wanted me to take it down for him. So, I went with him and he led me to the bungalow behind the lodge. You must have seen the guava tree there. It is outside the campus of that old bungalow. I thought no one lives there. Anyway, I went there and climbed the tree and dropped the kite down which the boy caught and ran away after thanking me. I remained on the tree and enjoyed the wind. I was looking around when I saw that...”
“You saw what?” I asked.
“I saw an old lady watching me from a window of the bungalow. She was wearing a black saree and black skullcap. Looking at her gave rise to a very horrific scene in my mind and I fell off the tree. I don’t know how it happened, but I am sure that it was seeing that woman that provoked such a horrible imagination in my mind.”
“And what did you see in your mind?”
“Well, I don’t know how to express it in words. But it was very horrible. It was like...umm...an interior view of a wooden house, wood planks were creaking...a man was sitting on a chair singing a horrible song in Sanskrit...and there were many, many things which could not be expressed in words but made my heart sink with fear. And so I fell from the tree.”
“What happened after you fell down?”
“Nothing,” Sameer smiled. “I just returned to the room.”
‘And your body got twisted,’ I thought of saying but held myself back.
Listening to Sameer’s account made it certain that the reason behind his epilepsy that he had caught all of a sudden was the bungalow behind the lodge and the lady living in it. If I wanted to help my friend, I had to take a step ahead. Which I did.
Next morning, when Sameer was still sound asleep and the sky was still dark, I woke up and wrote a message before going to the bungalow.

Sameer,
I know you are not aware of this, but you have caught a rather unusual disease. You have started to get epileptic fits. I have seen your body twisted on the floor of my room twice, and I have been hiding it from you. The account that you gave me last night made things clear to me. I know your disorder has something to do with your experience at the bungalow behind the lodge. And so, I am going to help you. If you are reading this letter, I am out to the bungalow trying to solve the matter. Don’t even think of coming there to assist me. Remain in the room; eat the breakfast when it comes. Eat my share as well. I will be back by the time you finish the breakfast.
Rishi

***

3
I was determined to solve the mystery once and for all. While I could not quite succeed, I did not completely fail either. Here is what happened when I went there. What happened was very similar – almost identical – to what had happened with Sameer. When I climbed on the tree which Sameer had climbed, I saw an old lady watching me from a window of the bungalow. She was wearing a black saree and black skullcap. Looking at her gave rise to a very horrific scene in my mind and I fell off the tree. I don’t know how it happened, but I am sure that it was seeing that woman that provoked such a horrible imagination in my mind. Well, I don’t know how to express it in words. But it was very horrible. It was like...umm...an interior view of a wooden house, wood planks were creaking...a man was sitting on a chair singing a horrible song in Sanskrit...and there were many, many things which could not be expressed in words but made my heart sink with fear. And so I fell from the tree.
But nothing bad happened after that. I returned and Sameer stopped having fits.
As I am writing this, Sameer is sitting beside me, leafing through Concepts of Physics. The other lodgers have returned and it has been about a week since I visited that bungalow. From then, Sameer has never had a fit, and everything is fine. All have indulged back in studies and everyone is living as they are supposed to. Most schools have reopened after summer vacations. The lodge is alive once again, but I and Sameer are still living in my room only. Today someone left an envelope outside our room which we have not opened as of now. I am going to read that now.


Rishi,
Since we have returned, we have noticed that you and Sameer wake up very late. But that is alright. You must have noticed that none of the boys are talking to you and Sameer since we have come back. That is because we are afraid of you two. Each morning, we see you and Sameer twisted in the bed or on the floor. And you both sing a ghastly song in that position, probably in Sanskrit. Most of us are afraid, and do not have the courage to talk about it to your face. We don’t know what happened here while we were away, but it is really terrifying and is becoming difficult for us to reside here. Two of the guys, whose name I won’t disclose, have already packed up and will leave this lodge in a couple of days. I am also afraid to disclose my identity before you. Consider this letter from all the boys living here, and do something about it. We are all leaving this lodge for the time being.
Get well soon!
Co lodgers.
***
END

Originally published on Juggernaut and the winner for Author of the Week on the same.




Thursday, 17 May 2018

It's Got to Be Love by Prashant Kaul : Book Review


IT’S GOT TO BE LOVE by PRASHANT KAUL :
 BOOK REVIEW

I have never been a fan of love stories in general and those by Indian writers in particular—not to mention, I have not even read many since a long time. However, recently, I was handed over this book, IT’S GOT TO BE LOVE by Prashant Kaul for a review. At first, I was not willing to read it, but then decided otherwise. I do not know if – or in what ways – this book is different from most other romance novels, as I have not read many, but certainly IT’S GOT TO BE LOVE is a thoroughly entertaining book. 
 
The protagonist, Dev, is a University student, who falls in love with a girl named Carol while ragging her batch of students. Dev has two friends, Vikram – who loses some of his memory after an accident, and his friends jokingly call him Ghajini since then – and Amrish – whose first interaction with Dev was not very friendly. They are his closest friend, nonetheless, throughout the story. Not to put forth much of spoiler, I would say, the transition of Dev’s love from Carol to Vaani, another girl in another city, where Dev goes for his higher studies, is not a smooth one. It creates a lot of trouble for them all, but Vaani is an understanding girl and does not give up easily on Dev.

Overall, It’s Got to Be Love by Prashant Kaul is an excellent companion for spending time alone, reading some light romance. The novel grips the reader from its very first page itself, and while it seems to loosen its hold a bit in the middle, it grips even tighter in the latter part. The choice of words is utterly simple, and so is the structure of sentences, that is to say, it does not make it a point of necessity for the reader to have any certain experience of reading novels.

If you are looking for some fresh voice in the Romance genre of novels, then you should definitely take this book up. The story is successful in lightening the reader’s mind, and providing a good time reading.