Today is the last day of examination, the ever boring subject of Psychology. Four hours from now at 9am will ring a bell after which the theory of relativity will be proven right. How I wish, can those slowly ticking two and a half hours be skipped and I am set free to spread my wings and enjoy the summer vacation. I just hope that the paper isn’t tough coz I haven’t studied anything. After watching the entire T-20 cricket match final and playing on the Xbox all night long, I had hardly anytime left to mug up a few questions.

I started reading the questions in the paper and I thought this must be some kind of a joke. These were the same questions I had ratto’ed in the morning. HAHAHA, it was my day and I wrote the exam in a flash, all waiting to dash out of the examination hall. I rushed back home and stuffed a few T-shirts, a couple of shorts, my favourite NY cap and a tent into the haversack. I tanked up my Pulsar and set the trip meter to zero. This trip meter was to measure the most exciting kms of the days to come.

As my Pulsar wheeled outside the Pune city limits, it knew where it had to go. I was heading towards Kolthare, a small virgin beach that I had discovered on my last trip to Konkan. My lean machine was roaring on the rough hilly roads from Mulshi to Tamhini, on the beautiful NH-17 stretch Mangaon to Lonere, before I took a small pee break. After munching on a sandwich, I started riding again, but this time I took the helmet off and put the NY cap. We passed through the quiet roads of Konkan and finally reached the destination after making way through Lalthan, Dapoli, Kolthare.

It was around 6pm when I parked my bike in ‘Srushti’ waada, owned by Mr. Purshottam Pandit. As soon as I entered the waada, the feeling of coming to Konkan imbibed in me. The entire courtyard was freshly plastered with cow-dung with a nice rangoli at the door entrance. As I stepped in, Mr. Pandit greeted me who was till now sitting in the jhoola in the open living room. The wooden pillars and jhoola added their own charm to the rustic waada. I told Mr. Pandit about my plans of tenting on the beach who happily gave his consent. I came out of the house and started walking towards the backside. As I walked through the backyard, the air was much cooler, thanks to a thick blanket of tall coconut, betel nut and mango trees. I closed my eyes and started following the sound of the waves coming from ahead. I did not care if I would fall down as the excitement of seeing the panorama of the sea, beach and sun was far stronger. As the steps increased, so did the intensity and loudness of the waves. Suddenly the ground below me felt soft. I knew this transition meant that I had reached the beach.

I opened my eyes to witness the ball of fire giving itself into the hands of the sea. I sat down on the beach to see the sun go down and the sky change its clothes with shades every few minutes from yellow to orange to pink to crimson to navy blue. I setup the tent at the edge of the backyard for I knew, the beach would be engulfed by the waters of the high tide. I went back to the waada for an early dinner. It was treat for the taste buds as I savoured on chapatti, aloo sabji, rice, amti and the Konkan speciality….Solkadi. Mr Pandit had asked his servant to setup a bonfire in the meanwhile.

So when I returned back, the tent was glowing against a dark background, as the cover reflected the yellowish-orange light from the bonfire flames. I sat outside the tent for a while watching the distant lights of the fisherman boats. The beam of the tireless light-house on top of a hill was the only companion for the entire night. I lay down thinking how peaceful this was. Away from the hustle-bustle of the city life, away from the pressure of examination, career, away from Dad’s yelling, away from the caring motherly touch. Around 2am, I witnessed a spectacular sight of moon setting into the sea. This is something I had never seen in my life. As the moon was dipping into the sea, the landscape appeared completely unreal, like a weird wallpaper from digital-arts. The grey clouds gave the feel of a dry stretch of land. On the horizon, the glittering sea had transformed into an endless wet beach and the stretch of sea towards the shore appeared like dark black sky.

I don’t know when I fell asleep that magical night. TRRRRRIIIIIIIIIINGGGGGGGGG$$$$.....Shoot, the alarm in my cellphone is rining, I thought. Why the hell did I not turn it off?? Wait a minute, I had never put an alarm in my cellphone, so where is this ring coming from? I made an effort to open the eye-lids. I got up and scratched my eyes to find myself in the examination hall. The bell that I heard signaled the end of time. I looked into my paper to find it completely blank. I had just written my name and roll number. WTH, I had slept off the entire time, I was surely going to fail. I had made a fool out of myself. But I didn’t care much, cost it came at the cost of a virtual holiday….a holiday, I will cherish all my life.

Singapore, 28 September 2008 – In a milestone for Formula One™ races, Singapore hosted the first ever Night Grand Prix in Singapore Downtown at Marina Bay. The organizers of the inaugural 2008 FORMULA 1™ SingTel Singapore Grand Prix went beyond just staging Singapore’s largest sporting event, it was a fiesta of sound and colour put together to tantalise and engage the senses.

s'pore   fernando-alonso

Race Details:

Race Map

No. of Laps: 61
Circuit lenght: 5.067 km
Race Distance: 310 kms approx
Grand Stand Capacity: 32,000

Massa lead the race with Hamilton and Raikkonen on 2nd and 3rd positions resp. Detailed Qualifying Results. I had thought these 3 guys would end up on the podium since the track does not offer many overtaking manoeuvers.

Fernando Alonso was crowned the Prince of darkness, after his post-qualifying wish of a miracle came true on Sunday. Alonso streaked to the chequered flag after having started on the grid in 15th position. Nico Roso and Lewis Hamilton finished on the podium on 2 and 3 resp. Some consolation for Force India fans as Fisichella managed to complete the race. Final Standings..

It was a treat to watch a F1 race in the floodlights and what a better place than Singapore!!

"If you always do what interests you, atleast one person will be happy"

I was watching my gardener work in our rose garden. I had complained to him that there were not many roses blossoming for quite some time now. I had thought that after monsoons, the entire garden would just flourish with red, yellow, pink, white coloured roses. The gardener unearthing the soil around the roots of the plants. I asked him curiously as to why was he sort of reploughing the whole garden. He replied that the rains had made the soil very sticky, he was just re-surfacing the soil so as to aerate it. The soil needs this once a while sahaab so that it provides better nourishment to the plants. He promised me that by doing so, I would see a colourful garden in a couple of weeks time.

That night, I thought a lot about how mundane life had become. Getting up, going to the office, fighting your way back home through the traffic late in the evening, having a peaceful dinner with the family, watching television and slumber. Why am I getting wasted in this routine?

I have seen Nikhil hang his guitar as a show-piece on texture painted wall. Some have given up their passion for trekking and exploring new places. I also know people who unpack their camera kit once in 6 months to clean the unused lens; the same lens that had captured some of the most stunning images. Rajesh has been mentioning about the hidden writer in him, but hasnt managed to get him out and compose his writings. Kunal and I keep cribbing of not encountering snakes and other creatures during our outdoors. 

There is a need to light the spark and unearth the hidden or may be lost interests from within us. I am sure most of us have compromised their talents/aspirations/interests in this world governed by some stupid rules. I know there is a necessity to work so that you earn your bread and butter. But we have succumbed to the other worldly pleasures and made ourselves so busy that there is no time to open the wish-list lying inside for so many years.

"This story is inspired from a short film seen on the internet. I loved the script and direction of the film and thought of penning it down."

I was driving my Sab on the deserted roads of State Highway 44. The radio was playing 'Wild world' by 'Cat Stevens'. The song was so apt, I thought, taking a sip of the decaf I had picked up from Starbucks in Robstown.

The radio flickered. The radio display ran into a frenzy. My head started hurting as the screechy sound was getting amplified. I gulped few more pills that I had been taking to keep me off the mood swings. I gave a hard wack on the radio panel to shut the damn thing off. The sudden quietness felt so relieving. With every sip of decaf my mind started intoxicating slowly.

As I approached the Richmond county, I started looking out for a refill. My body was taking a toll from the two sleepless nights. My nervous system was shutting down and the brain signalling the eyes to pull their shutter down. I saw my car enter a dark tunnel. The loud thud gave me a jerk as I woke up realising where I was. There wasnt a tunnel anywhere. My car had hit something. I pulled my car over and was shocked to find a female mannequin lying just behind the rear tyres. How is this possible? How can an inanimate object be standing in the middle of the road?

I looked around to find Ricky's Boutique just around the corner. I assumed it must have been left back by a worker carrying many of them across the road. From the wrinkles on her face, I could make out she was in her late 50's. Not spending much time thinking, I left her as it is on the road and started looking out for a restaurant. It was weird to find the street absolutely deprived of human activities. All I could see were mannequins sitting on benches and posing for a stroll. Ignoring the scenerio, I barged into Larry's Cafe and was again taken aback to find just mannequins over the counter and around the place. What's happening here?? Am I on a different planet??

Suddenly I heard the siren of an ambulance. I looked out of the glass door and found another lady mannequin next to the one lying down as if she was trying to provide some kind of help. I turned around to find all the mannequins staring at me. I got scared by their looks and ran out to reach for my car. I sat down on the drivers seat and tried to start the car. In the rear view mirror I saw the ambulance and 3 mannequins dressed up like the ER folks. I could even hear the rolling of the wheelchair but when I turned back, everything was still. The car engine refused to start as I pushed harder with trembling hands.

Suddenly the siren from police's car could be heard at a distance. I left the car and started running. I didnt know where I was heading to, but I wanted to get out of that site. I bumped into a couple of mannequines on the way. As I ran through the neighbourhoods of the county, the siren started sounding louder with every footstep. I saw a house on my left. I heard the screeching of brakes of a car a block away, but couldn't see anyone.

May be I could hide in here for sometime till the cops go away, I thought. I forced myself into the house. The house was light with dim lamp shades. I saw a male mannequin wearing light blue shirt and a navy blue trouser near the window in the drawing room. There was a mannequin of a boy sitting on the dinning table. I heard somebody using a knife in the kitchen. As I turned around, the big guy was standing two yards from me with a baseball stick in his hands. Even the boy had got up hastily from his chair which made it roll on the floor to the face. I snatched the baseball stick from the mannequin's hands and gave him a whack on the head. It blew off his head from the body. Then with another smack, I took down the little fellow. I ran inside the kitchen and hit the lady mannequin who was holding a knife in her hand. She bounced off the kitchen platform and fell down.

As I gasped heavily, I heard a baby cry on the upper level of the house. I took the dark stairs up and tried searching for the room from where I heard the cry. A police car braked outside the house. I plunged towards the window to see what was going on. Somebody opened the front door and shouted "Police!!!" My heart started pounding as the voices seemed to come up. That is when I saw my reflection in the mirror hanging in the room. My face was mucked with blood. Blood was dropping from the stick in my hand. I dropped it down taken aback with fear. I went towards the passage way. Two cops pointing their pistols shouted "Get down on the floor. Put your hands behind your back!!!" One of them pulled me down and hand cuffed me. The other cop helped him lifting me up.

They pushed me down the stairs when I saw a man with light blue shirt and navy blue trouser lying in a pool of blood. His head had been smashed very badly. A small kid was lying dormant next to him with face all messed up. I could see a lady with a broken neck and twisted body resting next to kitchen platform as the cops dragged me out in the bright.

"Darna Mana hai....Jo dar gaya woh mar gaya.........." Sunidhi Chauhan screaming on top of her voice on Salim Suleiman's haunting score. Suddenly Titu, who was sitting next to me on the front seat, reduced the stereo volume and turned around. "Why did u lower the volume", screamed Mona, who had this passion for music. She was one girl whoz Ipod had albums from all genres in English and Hindi. "Bossi, does this song not hint at something?" "Titu, tu kya baat kar raha hai samajh nahi aa rahi, sidhe sidhe bol, jo bolna hai", Mona said in an irritating tone.
"Guys, do you believe in ghosts?", asked Titu. "Shut up yaar Titu. I am scared of all this shit." "Fattu tu bhi na..." and everybody started laughing at Fattu. "I have heard there are a lot of haunted spirits in Kokan" I added. "My Mama is a big landlord in Chiplun and he used to tell me stories about ghosts when I used to go to his house. Do you want to hear some really scary ones?" "Oye class, Jijo!! I surely want to hear some" said Mona. "Me too" added Sweetu, sitting upright after a nice nap. "Mujhe nahi sunni hai koi bhoot pret ki kahani. Jijo tu chup kar yaar, hu main Fattu". "Fattuuuuuuuuuuu tu so jaa" said Mona. Sweetu overpowered Fattu and pushed him down.

Our car was zooming at about 90 through the dark, single lane roads. The canopy of Mango, Banyan and Peepal trees. Nice cool breeze was making a gushing sound as it entered through half pulled down window adding it own background music to scene.

"This is called the Milestone 27 story. On this very highway to Guhaghar, there is a milestone indicating 27kms from Guhaghar. 4 years back, a man and his kid were killed in an accident. An unkown vehicle, must be at fearsome speed, hit the cycle from behind. The hit was so powerful, that the man and his kid were thrown high in the air and rammed into a big banyan tree on the sides of the road. The branches speared through their bodies and they were left hanging in that state till next morning when a villager saw their bodies. The tree where their bodies were found stands tall on milestone 27. Ever since that day, numerous people have seen the same man riding his kid on a cycle close to milestone 27."
Everybody were quietly listening to me and I could even see through the rare mirror that Fattu giving ear to my story.
"My Mama says that many cars have met with an accident at the same spot trying to avoid hitting a man on cycle and believe me, most of these accidents have been fatal." "So are we guys going via milestone 27?", Mona was quick to interrogate. I nodded looking at Titu with a grin on my face. "Wow, cool man. What is the percentage of seeing this fellow man. Is he sighted everyday?" "I dont have a clue Sweetu, but you dont know when the Undertaker awaits you."

"Guys do you remember the scene from Darna Mana hai, the one in which Sohail Khan turns off the car headlights?" Titu had this nasty adventurous shade to him. The kida factor in Titu knew no bounds. "Why dont we try that out? Jijo kya bolta hai?" "Jijo tu iski baat mat sun. Tere dimag main bhusa bhara hai Titu. Kuch bhi ho sakta hai yaar". "Waise Fattu main iski baat nahi sunta tha, par kya hai, tujhe darane main mujhe bada maja aata hai" and I switched off the headlights for a second.

It was pitch dark on the road. I felt suffocated, felt helpless as if I was blinded. This one second seemed to be like an eternity with heart beat suddenly shooting up. Instinctively I turned the lights on.

"Man it was scary" said Sweetu. "But it was adrenaline pumping, wasnt it" added Titu trying to show as if his pants were not wet. "Dont you dare try this again Jijo. Dont get influenced by Titu's fake adventurous attitude. He will get us in trouble one day." "Fattu, tu chup kar. Bossi, gand fatne main bhi ek maja hai", Mona adding fuel to fire.

"Dont you think we should set a record, Jijo. We can create history buddy. Dont you think your genes have that X-factor to push yourself to limits." I knew Titu was psyching me up and I didnt want to succumb to it. But, the Titu kida was empowering my mind and I nodded. Mona jumped and said that she would start the countdown. "No more than 5 seconds babes, no more....." I warned Mona. She patted on back in affirmation.

With trembling hands I turned the knob and switched off the head lamps. "5,4,3,2......." "Bang $$" with a bang our car hit something. Instinctively I applied on the brakes hard and turned on the lights. With a screeching sound, the 4x4 came to a halt. A cloud of dust rose in the air. I felt a chill run through my spine. Nobody uttered a word for the next ten seconds. Sweetu had already clamped herself on Fattu who looked pale with fright. Titu managed some courage and said "Jijo, what happened dude?" "I think we hit something or may be somebody" and I got out of the car. I couldnt see much as light from the head lamps scattered through the rising dust. I took a few steps ahead and then turned back and called out for Titu. "Jara peech to dekh, take the torch from the side of your door's pocket." Titu's flashing torch light scanned the dark tarmat, but there was nothing except the fresh tyre marks. "Nothing man" Titu shouted, "check your front bumper and see if there's anything under the car". "Not even a scratch yaar, I am confused. Whats going on, we definitely hit something and I dont where it disappeared. Cant see anything under the car as well." "I agree, it was a big bang that shook us off our seats", Mona said grabbing my arm, "get in the car, before somebody comes." "How can we Mona, what if the thing we hit is lying helplessly somewhere and needs our help?" "Mona is right, Jijo. We dont see anybody 50 ft on either sides. Plus there are no scratches on your car. We didnt hit anything dude. It must have been a speed-breaker or something else. Lets get in", and Titu grabbed my other arm and pushed me in the car.

I started the car ignition and with a roar, the Dicor started. With a throttle we were away from the mystic spot. I was driving with only same thoughts running through the mind. Nobody uttered a word for another 30 minutes till we reached the Guest house at Guhaghar.

I dont know how time flew in the next two days. Playing volleyball in the white sands was the highlight of Guhaghar. Aah the yummy Sol-kadi, modak, rice and curry had left their own mark on our taste buds. Early morning yoga on the beach provided the much needed peace of mind from the mundane city routine.

The sun tan was clearly seen as I wore a ganji and sat on the back seat to let Titu do the driving back home. Mona became the navigator this time. The sun had already sunk in the waters of the Arabian sea. I was pretty sure that we would no enter the Pune city limits before 1am. I was too exhausted to particpate in the Antakshari, so I lay my head on Fattu's lap. Slowly Titu's loud, out of rythm voice faded away. I had never slept off so quickly, but guess the brain didnt want to be taxed any more.

"Monica........Oh my darling!!!!!", everybody screamed in my ears and blew me out of my sleep. Half dazed I tried to check the time. These buggers didnt let me sleep for more than 20 mins. "Kyu utha diya yaar. Kitni acchi neend lagi thi. And more over, its better to sleep than listen to you crows." "Oye aise kaise sone dete tujhe, chal humare saath gaane ga. Aur tu to bada Sonu Nigam ki paidaish hai na...", Sweetu winked.

The winding road through the hilly Konkan terrain was a treat to watch during the day, but darkness seemed to dilate upon the roads, expanding itself into a shapeless monsterly image. The monster trying to sieze you in his dark black rug as the car's head lamps tried to break the obscurity.

Everybody was having a great time as the genre of the songs shifted from Romantic to Item numbers. Everybody laughed their hearts out as Fattu displayed some nasty actions on "Babuji jara dheere chalo, bijli khadi yaha bijli khadi...."

"Shit...", Titu shouted. "Did you just notice that the head lamps turned off on their own?" "Cut the crap Titu, we are in no mood to enter into the horror zone again." "No Mona, I swer on God, everything blacked out for a second", Titu tried to convince us in a serious tone. "Titu, this is not a time to joke dude. Fattu ki waapis fat jaayegi", I said. Mona and Sweetu gave me high-fives and joined me in the mockery. "Guys you have to trust me. I must admit that I am shit scared right now and dont want history to repeat itself. I have had sleepless nights after hearing the Jijo's haunting Cycle waala story." even Fattu now burst into laughter. "Mujhe Fattu bolta hai, saale teri bhi fat gayi na..." "Dekh Titu, I need to confess something. The story was all made up. There is nothing like Milestone 27. Infact I dont even have a Mama who stays in Konkan. So, if you are trying to scare me now, by pulling off an automatic black out stunt, then I am not falling for it buddy." "What, so you lied to us. Man but it sounded so real dude. You should be a part of RGV's company", said Mona fisting me on my face. "Thaaaanks" and I saw the car head lamps go off. Everybody looked ahead in scare as the road was again light by the powerful fog lamps. "Sambhal ke Titu" shouted Mona as Titu swerved the car to avoid something. The car skid off the road and went air-borne to smash into a tree.

With a heavy head and soring body I tried to get up. Fattu's torso had smashed against the wind shield, but the thrust was so powerful that half of his body was lying on the bonet and the other half on the dashboard. Mona seemed to have broken her neck as her twisted face stared at the car roof while her body reclined on the front seat. "Titu.....", I moaned seeing him sit upright and Sweetu resting her immobile body on the driver's seat. He did not move, so I pushed myself forward with the help of the 2 front seats. "No........", I screamed as I saw Titu's body speared by one of the tree branches. The wood had pinned his body to the seat. I tried to pull Sweetu off the seat, but I just could move her. I gathered some strenght, but her body offered a lot of resistance. I was thinking that it shouldn't have been so difficult, so I grappled her body from front which is when my hands felt something solid near her right rib cage. My trembling hands tried to search for the 2 ends of the wet rough surfaced object and to my dismay it was the same branch that had ripped Titu's body.

"Why am I alive? I should have been dead too. What am I going to tell everybody. I dont have a reason to be alive. Why did this happen?" Zillions of questions swamped me. I tried to reach out into my pocket to get the cellphone as some human figure appeared through the shattered glass of the right window. I couldn't see properly as blood was dripping from my forehead. The figure appeared stationary on the road and seemed to be staring at our car. I cried out in help and waved my hands but there was no movement. I pushed myself out of the bloody turmoil and grabbed the door handle to open the door, but it was jammed. The dim moonlight wasnt coming to any aid as I spotted some movement. The figure was slowly moving towards our car. I closed my eyes for a couple of seconds to thank the lord for having answered to my prayers. I took a long breath and opened my eyes to see the most horrifying scene in my life. I saw a man with a kid on cycle starring into my eyes a couple of yards away from the car. Their pale faces and dark eyes grew big on me as I struggled to breath. I chill ran down my spine and my vision started blurring once again.

"Take him to CT scan. Also take an X ray of his pelvic region." I tried opening my eyes, but it was too flashy. "Where am I?", I muttered and I tried to get up. "Calm down, you are at the Noble Hospital in Guhaghar. Our ambulance got you here from the accident spot, 27 kms from Guhaghar".

At the outset I was falling. And I was falling from quite high up, falling through the sky. I don't know how it came about or how I got into this situation, but I had no parachute and I was coming down fast. I was in trouble.

Way down below I could see the earth, green and vast. The air tugged and tore at my clothing as it whistled past my body. My stomach was tight from dread as I realized I could never survive the impact that was to come.

I noticed that I was falling into a field, and there was a large tree right in the center of it. I had a sense inside that this tree was my only hope and it became the focus of my attention as I thought, "Maybe I could somehow grab one of its branches as I am falling past." With luck it would be supple enough to break my fall without cracking off. Whether my reasoning made sense or not didn't matter because I was doomed anyways, and the tree was suddenly right there.

Whoosh! The branch gave, but refused to snap, bending down in a graceful arch to within inches of the ground. Unbelievably, not only did the limb break my fall, it absorbed perfectly the momentum of my plunge. At the very last, as my hands let go, I flipped backward in an acrobatic tumble, landing upright on my feet. Astounded? I couldn't believe it.

In my mind I replayed the last segment. What a phenomenal show! I should have had an audience. It should have been captured on film. I replayed it again. I could hardly wait to tell my friends. They'd never believe it. I gave myself another mental screen replay. And another. What a remarkable death-defying performance! I bowed to acknowledge the applause and adulation of imaginary friends. Yes, I was tremendous.

My jubilation was cut short, however, when I became distracted by the sound of a small airplane that had flown directly over me way up in the sky. It almost seemed to hover as it dropped something from its belly. As I watched, a parachute opened like a great white blossom.

A sense of expectancy came upon me. I soon saw that it was a woman dressed in white. It seemed as if she were a bearer of tidings of some sort, and a curiosity seized me. This messenger from the sky, what news would she bring?

She descended slowly, almost unbearably so. I waited and watched as she drifted down to where I stood. She landed upright on her feet not more than ten feet away, her expression serious and grave. I wanted her to speak, to say something. Instead, she shook her head. With severe silence she communicated perfectly: "No."

Her look devastated me. I stood trembling as I watched her turn and walk away.

But I knew what it was about. I understood. My glorying had been stupid and ill-conceived. Like a good clunk on the head, this "sent one" brought me to my sense again. She helped me to appreciate and value a truth that I had too quickly forgotten. It was the TREE that saved my life.

With no where to go from this alien land, I cried for help. I could hear a distant voice, but could see no one. Suddenly somebody grappled my shoulders and with a firm shake, I was awake. I had seen one of the most scariest dreams of my life.