29 May, 2008
It was the day of my last exam after which the summer holidays were about to begin. My parents had already planned a trip to Ooty during the holidays, and I was too preoccupied with it, that I hardly prepared for the exam. Not that the exam needed preparation. The subject was General Knowledge, in which I was the topper, every time. I was also good in quizzing, and my general knowledge was much higher than that of an average seventh class student.
I parked my bicycle in the parking area, and proceeded into the exam hall. Though all other exams had a definite seating arrangement, in this exam, we were free to sit in any order we wanted. I managed to get a seat near a window, and was hoping that any of my friends would come and sit next to me. But unfortunately, I didn't notice until it was too late that the seat next to me was damaged, and no one wanted to sit on it. And all the other seats were occupied already. But one student was yet to come, because the all the seats were meant to be occupied, and the seat next to me was empty.
It was almost time for the exam to start, and I was wondering who this guy or girl was going to be, when Amritha entered the classroom. She was the most studious girl in my class, and was the most good-looking too. I thanked my lucky stars that I chose that place, as she had no other place to sit, except the seat next to mine, where she eventually sat. I was blushing profusely when the exam started, and I spent half my time looking at her than at the exam paper. I finally decided to concentrate on finishing the exam first, and focused fully on the question paper.
Most of the questions were easy, and I managed to answer almost all of them. When I finally managed to finish the paper, twenty minutes were still left for the exam to get over. So, I was sitting idly staring at the paper and trying hard not to stare at Amritha. Suddenly, I heard a faint voice calling my name. I turned to see who it was. It was her!!
"Hey, do you know the answer of the seventh question?" she whispered to me.
I checked what the seventh question was. Mention the name of the current Finance Minister of India. What a pity! She didn't know the answer for this!!
I whispered back the answer.
"Huh?" she couldn't hear me.
I increased my volume a little.
"Got it. Thanks da!" she replied gratefully.
What happened next was unbelievable. A girl sitting behind me overheard the answer, and wrote it down. The guy sitting next to her copied it from her and passed the answer to his friend sitting in the next row. This way, the whole class had wrote the same answer, though I came to know of this much later.
The exam got over and I cycled home quickly to pack my things for the holiday trip. I was still packing when my dad came home from office and switched on the TV, just in time for the 7 o clock news. I sat next to dad and watched as the news reporter read out the headlines. Finance Minister Mr.P.Chidambaram has announced full waiver of farmer loans in his budget. What?? How??
"Hey, do you know the answer of the seventh question?" she whispered to me.
I checked what the seventh question was. Mention the name of the current Finance Minister of India. What a pity! She didn't know the answer for this!!
"Lalu Prasad." I whispered back the answer.
"Huh?" she couldn't hear me.
"Lalu Prasad!" I increased my volume a liitle.
"Got it. Thanks da!" she replied gratefully.
I cursed myself for having been such a fool. How will I go and talk to her again? And the whole class had written the same wrong answer. I suddenly had a vision, as if all the students in my class had surrounded me and were looking at me menacingly. I wished that Amritha hadn't noticed my mistake at all.
It was time for the new academic year to begin. I parked my cycle as usual, and was climbing the stairs, when I saw Amritha going in front of me. I decided to tell her a sorry, and so went up to her.
"Hi." I told her.
"Hi Karthik. What's up?" she replied.
"Uh..during the GK exam...I guess you would have realized by now....er..I'm sorry..." I stammered.
"What? I don't get you. I should thank you, in fact. Why sorry?"
Just at that moment, the bell rang and she ran inside the class. Poor girl. May be she didn't realize that I gave her the wrong answer. The day got over soon, and I pedaled back home as usual. When I entered my room, I realized that Mom was cleaning up my room. I decided to help her. My table was filled with papers, and I was arranging them neatly, when I stumbled upon my GK paper. I was still deciding whether to keep it or throw it off, when I read the seventh question again. Impossible.
Mention the name of the current Railway Minister of India.
28 May, 2008I have been experimenting with different templates for my blog to enhance both the visual appeal and the reading experience of the readers. I stumbled upon a template called Neo, which looked quite professional, and is also extremely quick to load. Do you like the new look? Or did the old one suit better? Leave your feedback!
27 May, 2008
The sky grew darker as I stepped out from the elevator on to the terrace. A strong wind was blowing across my face and dark clouds were gathering everywhere. I felt as if the sky reflected the situation inside my mind. Life was so perfect, some years back. The company was doing good and his family life was so happy. Everything was moving as if nothing could go wrong. Then, everything went wrong.
I started work on my dream company as soon as I finished my Masters degree in Automobile Technology. The idea of becoming an entrepreneur blossomed into reality, as I put my thoughts into actions. The money came from various banks, the technology was imported from Germany, and a large factory was in a small town with ample natural resources. I took care of even the minutest details so that there was no mistake anywhere. Close to thousand skilled workers were employed from various places, and I personally interviewed every one of them. After six months of sleepless nights, "Delta Motors" became a reality.
I started off by manufacturing tractors, as I felt that there was enormous potential in the market. Delta tractors were marketed in every village of the country, thanks to the best marketing and distribution team in the whole of the country. The tractors became a phenomenal success, and Delta motors became a mark of quality and dependence. It was then, that I decided to start the next step.
I introduced the next category in the product portfolio- small cars. The "Kat" was introduced into the market at a lower price than all other cars in the class, and featuring the best technology in the country. The car gave an exceptional mileage, and featured top class technology, thanks to the company's R & D department. Another success story was thus scripted.
The company grew, and so did the portfolio. The next car was a sedan, the "Elegante", and then came two more small cars, the "Dude" and the "Spider". Though the Spider was expected to sell more, the other cars became bestsellers. The company got listed, and the shares sold like hot-cakes. Delta Motors exported their first car to the USA, five years after its inception, to compete with the likes of Ford Motors, General Motors and Honda. The "Elegante" was renamed as "Crystal" to suit the American market, and the initial response was excellent, with sales of more than five hundred cars in the first month alone. After about eight months in the American market, an USA-specific model, the SUV "Ranger" was introduced. It was an enormous success, and three months after the introduction, the Ranger became the market leader in its segment.
I first saw her when I was interviewing people for the marketing wing of Delta Motors, when she had come to apply for the job. She had this heavenly glow surrounding her, and something about her attracted me towards her like a magnet towards iron. At 31, I myself was a handsome, and charming young man, and I summoned all my charms when I asked her out for the first time. We clicked instantly, and six months later, we got married. It was the happiest moment of my life. It was after she came into my life, that every step I took was a success.
I became a father one year later, when she delivered a beautiful baby boy. He was the source of all our happiness, and as years passed, he became a smart young boy, ready to attend school. He was sent to Cognizance Public School, the best school in the country. He always got the best clothes, best food, best stationery, and all the latest games. I made sure he always got what he wanted. I was too happy, and may be should have realized it then that turbulences were soon to follow.
That morning, a scandal was discovered in the stock market, Numerous number of stock brokers were found to be frauds, and the stock market crashed. The stocks of Delta Motors were the worst hit, since a large number of the fraudulent brokers were found to deal with Delta's stocks. Many other companies were badly hit too, and a couple of banks became bankrupt. The price of Delta's stocks became cheaper than the money spent on printing it. It was the worst day of my life, but more was to follow.
I came home dejected, and found that the door was open. I searched the whole house, but both my wife and my son were missing. When I was searching the bedroom, I found a letter written by her saying that she had eloped with her long time secret lover along with my son, and they were going to marry that day. I was devastated that she had chosen to leave me when I needed her the most. I didn't want to live anymore.
The wind was gaining more strength, and once I almost lost my balance. I walked cautiously towards a corner of the terrace and looked down. The building was fifty floors high, and there was no chance that anyone would survive the fall, The dark clouds were gathering above my head, and there were streaks of lightning all over the sky. I paused for a moment as there were sudden claps of thunder, as if they were waiting for this to happen for a long time. I closed my eyes, and prayed for my wife and my boy. Then as I stepped over the wall, the sky became silent, and the clouds started to cry.
25 May, 2008Guys who missed out on Part 1 and Part 2, please click on the respective links to read it.
The alarm woke me up at exactly 4 in the morning. It was still dark and cold, but there was work to do. I had already decided what to do that day. After a shower and a quick breakfast of roast bread, I was on my way to my office. I called up Harvey on the way.
"Good morning Harvey. Be in my office in ten minutes."I told him.
"Sure, sir." he replied obediently.
"Good." I said and ended the call.
I was there in my office by five o clock, and Harvey was waiting outside the door. No one had the keys to my office other than me. I opened the door and asked him to come in.
"Do you have the videos taken by the CCTV camera in the museum?" I asked him as soon as he entered.
"Yes sir, just give me a minute. Will bring them to your desk."
"Ok, be quick."
I switched on my computer and let it boot. Harvey was gone for a couple of minutes, and came back with the DVD of the videos. As soon as he gave them to me, I inserted the disk and watched it play.
"How long does it run?" I asked Harvey.
"About one hour, sir. The power cut happens about twenty minutes into the video."
"Ok, but I want to watch it from the beginning."
The museum had six cameras, and the feed from each one of them was displayed in one part of the screen, so that I could see the feed from all six simultaneously. I watched every movement closely, taking care not to miss any detail. Nothing notable happened for about fifteen minutes. Then I saw it.
It was no more than a blur on the screen and passed through the side entrance right at the moment when the security had turned back to attend to a phone call. I paused the video and made it rewind slowly. Still it wasn't clear who passed by. I decreased the speed again to the minimum and watched closely. It was then I found who it was. I remembered what had happened the previous day. Yes, it was the only possibility.
I watched as he moved from one part of the museum to another, along with the crowd so that he couldn't be seen in the camera prominently. Surprisingly, nobody took notice of him, and he moved with freedom, close to the ruby. Then, the power cut happened, and the camera got switched off. When the power came back again, there were scenes of tension when it was discovered that the ruby had been stolen, and all the people were being sent into the curator's room. I felt I had seen enough to determine the culprit, and turned off my system.
"Come with me, Harvey. I think I have found the culprit."
I started my car as soon as Harvey entered it, and I zoomed to the museum. It was still closed for the public, and I parked the car in the parking area. Now was the tricky part. I called up a couple of security men, provided them with the details of the appearance of the culprit, and asked them to search for him. They looked at me with bewilderment, but started the search. I felt that if I was lucky, he would still be in the same area.
I decided to search for him in the area close to the museum. I went around the place a couple of times, and went on to search the whole neighourhood. I searched everywhere, but there was no trace of him. One hour into the search, and I had almost given up on him, when I saw him. He was sleeping peacefully under a tree. I, at once called up all the security people and asked them to round him up. Hearing the noise, he tried to run off, but he couldn't. Frustrated, he tried to attack one of the men, but he was then shot, and went down.
The operation was a success, and the ruby was safely removed from the dog's stomach. It was then nursed back to health, and released back into a place far away from the museum.
1. The Museum Mystery (Part 1)
2. The Museum Mystery (part 2)
Posted by Karthik Padmanabhan at 9:48 AM | |
24 May, 2008Taking a break from the "The Museum Mystery",I thought this was worth posting. I'm a great fan of Tintin and one of the most lovable characters in the comic series is Captain Haddock. One characteristic feature of his, is his use of imaginative swear words. Now my roommmate managed to write down all the swear words in one of the episodes, "The Crab with the Golden Claws". I'm listing them all down:
FRESH WATER SWABS!
And last, but not the least,
BILLIONS OF BLISTERING BLUE BARNACLES! and THUNDERING TYPHOONS! :)
For those of you who missed Part 1, please click here to read it.
I walked into the curator's room. It was filled with press and media persons. They rose as I entered the room, and asked me to comment on the situation and about the suspects. I was in no mood to interact with the press, and therefore declined to comment, saying there will be an official press release soon.
"Have u detained all the people who were present inside the museum at the time of the robbery?" I asked Harvey.
"Yes, sir. They have all been asked to wait in a separate hall. We were waiting for you to start the interrogation."
"For how long have they been detained? And were they searched?"
"They haven't been allowed to go home yet. They have been here all through. And yes, they have all been searched. The whole place has been searched. The ruby was right under a CCTV camera, but it got switched off due to the power cut. There has been no fingerprints or clues yet."
"Okay. I would like to start the interrogation immediately. Arrange a room for me within five minutes."
"Done, sir. Here is the list of the people and their details."
I went through the list. There were ten people who were inside the museum at the time of robbery. All the people on the list were middle class people, three of them were employed with the government, a couple of them employed with the local bank, and the rest five were from the same family who had come on an evening trip. It was hard to guess who would be the suspect, and I decided that it would be clear only after the interrogation. Harvey was back within three minutes and lead me to the room. I asked him to allow the first person in. It was one of the two bank employees.
"Sit down." I said as he entered.
"Good morning, sir." he started cheerfully.
"Morning, Mr.Adams. Where do you work?"
"In the local branch of Churchwood Cooperative bank, sir." he replied.
"Did you come to the museum alone, Mr.Adams?"
"No sir. I came with my colleague, one Mr. Perry. We came here straight from the bank, sir."
"What was so important in the museum that you came here directly from your bank, Mr.Adams?" I asked him.
"Actually sir, we had something to talk. So we decided to walk to the museum and talk as we go around it."
"Talk about what?"
"My son, sir. I want him to enter an engineering college, but he wouldn't listen to me. So, I thought I would ask Mr.Perry to give him a piece of his mind."
The rest of the interrogation revealed nothing fruitful. I was convinced that neither Mr.Adams nor Mr.Perry would have committed the robbery. The interrogation of all the ten people took eleven hours, and I was thoroughly exhausted at the end of it. The three government employees were honest persons, and this was confirmed by the sources in the government. The family consisted of two adults and three children, and head of the family, Mr.Taylor, was working in a nearby car factory. They were immigrants from Austria, and Mr. and Mrs.Taylor had immigrated right after their marriage, looking for jobs. They had lived peacefully and had a good relationship with their neighbours. It was almost impossible to suspect them.
I was perplexed. The case was getting tougher, and the day was almost over, without any suspects. I decided to take the day off and go home and analyze the case in peace. I told Harvey that I would be back by the next day and left home.
I called her up as soon as I went home. I knew she would be furious at me, but I had a solid reason for not calling her. She answered the call on the first ring.
"What Mr.Detective, you don't have time to even talk to your girl friend?" she asked sarcastically.
"No dear, had an important case. Left early in the morning. Just came back home. Sorry." I tried to be as apologetic as possible.
"Ok ok. At least now you remembered to call. Do you know what happened today?" she asked me.
"No dear. What happened?"
"I went to the beauty parlor and had a hair cut. It looks so pretty." she said.
"You always look pretty, my love." I lied.
"Oh!" she blushed. And continued talking.
"And ya, my poor Jimmy!! He was having constipation till afternoon. Didn't know what happened to him. I then took him to the vet. It seems he had swallowed a rat. He was then operated on, and the rat was removed."
Jimmy was her pet dog, and she loved him very much.
"Oh that's bad darling. How is he now?" I asked her.
"He is fine now. Anyways, me feeling sleepy. Good night."
"Good night dear."
I prepared my supper, my mind considering the various possibilities in the case. Who could have done it? It must have been someone from the ten. But all of them seemed equally innocent. All the exits and windows remained closed. What other way could the culprit must have used to escape with the ruby? Who was the culprit? My mind was full of these questions as I dozed off to sleep. Who would have thought that one of the events that had occurred that day would lead me to the culprit?
to be continued...
(Please leave your comments in case you find this story interesting. In case of any clarifications regarding the story, please put up your questions as a comment. And the final part will be posted tomorrow. Thanks. Cheers!)
The Museum Mystery (Part 1)
22 May, 2008She was standing on top of the Eiffel tower. She was wearing a black dress, in which she looked ravishing, as usual. She looked very happy, and was calling me towards her. I went towards her with glee. I was inches away from her as her lips parted and came towards mine. Then suddenly, she started singing "Scotty doesn't know" in a coarse male voice. I couldn't get understand a thing of what was happening. Then I realized it all....
I woke up with a start and noticed that my cellular phone was ringing. I answered the call.
"Good morning sir. Harvey here. Sorry to have woken you up at this time. But it's really urgent."
"Good morning Harvey. Go on." I replied, yawning.
"A new case has come up. I think you better come up to the Central Museum sir."
"Ok Harvey. Will be there."
I rushed to the bathroom and managed to brush my teeth and have a quick shower. I dressed up and started my black Jaguar. The roads were empty since it was only five in the morning. Being in the top few of the country's investigative agency did have its perks. But with it came a lot of responsibility too. I reached the museum in ten minutes. It was pretty crowded, with lots of police cars and policemen surrounding the entrance. I parked my car in a corner and went towards the entrance. The policemen at the entrance recognized me immediately and saluted me. I accepted the salute and entered the museum.
I saw Harvey, my deputy, standing near the curator's office talking animatedly on his phone. I went near him, and he immediately ended the call and came up to me.
"Good morning sir."
"Morning, Harvey. Tell me what happened."
"A robbery, sir, We don't have any clues."
"That's interesting. What was the object stolen?"
"The Renaissance Ruby. One of the most precious exhibits of the museum."
"Oh god. How did they manage to steal that? Isn't the museum monitored on CCTV cameras?"
"Yes sir. That is the most intriguing part. There was a power cut for about half a minute. But no one was allowed to leave or enter the museum during that time. When the power came back, the ruby was missing. And everyone who left the place was checked thoroughly. It wasn't crowded that much. But no one seemed to have stolen it. The whole museum has been searched. There has been no clues at all so far."
It seemed to be an easy case. I just had to interrogate all the people who were present inside the museum. And track down the suspect. Surely it would have to be one of them. I thought the case would be solved within one day. How wrong I was!
to be continued....
It was a really hot day. The bus stop was crowded and there wasn't any bus in sight. I was sweating profusely and my shirt had already become wet. I was praying that a bus should come soon, when I saw her crossing the road from the college gate towards the bus stop.
Anjana was my classmate and the prettiest girl in my college. Though we were classmates, I hardly spoke to her and she could, at best, be classified just as my acquaintance. But I harbored a big crush on her and though I tried to keep it to myself, some of my classmates came to know of it since I drooled at her quite openly. As it happens always, they started to tease me with her in class. Anyways, I somehow felt that she knew that I was drooling at her.
She came and stood at the bus stop a few feet away from me. I had to try hard to control myself from looking at her, because she was wearing my favourite black and brown salwar. She looked absolutely stunning. She affected me so much that I didn't notice that a bus had come at last and all the people who were waiting had already got into the bus, including her. I cursed myself for being such an idiot and got into the bus the same entrance through which she entered the bus.
The bus was jam-packed to say the least. I decided that I should stay as distant as possible from her since I could then look at her without her noticing it. I saw that she had somehow managed to get a seat in the front, so I chose a place way behind her near the conductor's seat. But the view was not proper from there and I had to strain my neck to see her. I was still trying hard to get her view when a voice spoke from very close to me.
"Searching for someone?"
I turned to see who it was. Oh my!! It was her!! And she was standing right next to me!! I started to blush very badly and words failed me completely.
"Er..no...i mean ya...the conductor." I managed to blabber something.
I was flabbergasted. Then who was the girl sitting in the front? Just at that moment, the tall guy who was so far, blocking my view, moved away from his place. It was then I realized that it was some other girl wearing almost the same dress.
"But he's right behind u. Just turn back and see." she replied with a knowing smile on her face.
"Ya. I just realized that. How silly of me!" I felt that I was gonna shrink into myself with embarrassment.
She smiled at me. I smiled back sheepishly. How lovely she looked when she smiled!! Once again, I had to prevent myself from drooling at her. I had a feeling that she was enjoying my embarrassment, but I didn't care as long as she smiled. I got myself a ticket and prevented myself from looking in her direction. I chose to look in the opposite direction instead. I wondered whether she knew that i was drooling at her. I assumed finally that she was smart enough to know that. Then something unexpected happened.
I had rested my right hand on a bar of a seat near her, and I felt a soft hand grip it. I was stunned. Was it Anjana's?? I turned and looked at her, and she smiled at me, the same knowing smile. My heart skipped a couple of beats. So, it was her! I felt myself blushing openly and turned away from her, but her hand was still rested on mine.
I started to sweat more. What does this mean? She has a crush on me too?? I felt like I should take her hand in mine as if to assure that I was in love with her too. What would she think of me then? I somehow managed to collect all my guts, and gripped her hand softly. I then turned to look at her face to see her reaction.
Just at that instant, she looked into my eyes and gave a hearty smile, almost a laugh. I was on cloud nine! I wanted to throw out everyone from the bus so that we could romance alone. Maybe I could text her "I love you". Or "I love you sweetheart". I wished the journey could go forever. It was then I realized that she would get down at a stop before me, since her house was a couple of minutes before mine. And she was due to get down at the next stop.
Sadness engulfed me as her place approached. I let go of her hand so that she could get down. I slowly turned to watch her climb down the stairs of the bus. I watched as she turned back towards me, and gave the same smile. I smiled back eagerly and thought of giving her a flying kiss, but decided against it at the last moment. The bus then started as she disappeared from my view.
I kept my hand back at the same place.How I wished that she could come back into the bus and keep her hand back on mine!! How i wished that we could continue our romance!! Then suddenly, I felt the same hand on top of mine. I was astonished! Was she back in the bus?? But that was impossible! I had just watched her get down from the bus! I strained my neck as much as I could, and tried to see who was holding my hand. Then I saw her.
It was a small girl who was sitting on her mother's lap in the same seat where I had kept my hand. She had obviously found my live-strong bands amusing, and was playing with them. I realized my stupidity. But why had she smiled at me? That too every time I looked at her?? I didn't have to wait long for my answer. I got a message on my mobile as I got down from the bus. I opened it. It was from Anjana.
"Hi karthik....sry 2 hav laughed at u inside de bus...cudnt contrl myslf...ur hair luks really pathetic...pls hav a hair cut... :) bye...sry again..hope u dint mistak me!"
21 May, 2008
The bell rang exactly at 2 o clock, signaling the start of my Process Control exam. The examiner started giving out the question paper. I had hardly prepared for the exam, with it being the last, I had already gotten into a holiday mood when I had written my previous exam. This being the toughest paper in the semester and having the highest number of credits, all my friends were breaking their head trying to memorize all the formulae amd work out all the problems given in the reference books. I had spent my time sleeping, eating and blogging. Only on the night before the exams, did I touch my book. I just browsed through the important concepts and managed to memorize a couple of formulae. Before I could blink, it was already 11 in the morning. I had to rush to the exam hall and managed to reach just in time.
As soon as I entered the exam hall and sat down in my place, the examiner shouted, "Is there anyone who doesn't have a hall ticket?" I checked mine, and saw the words "Examination Admission Card" written in bold. I thought I would raise my hand and say, "Sir, I don't have a hall ticket, but only an Examination Admission Card!" but decided against it.
As soon as I got my question paper, I directly went to Part-B to check out the detail answer questions. I couldn't believe my eyes!! It was a fully theoretical paper! There was not even a single problem!! And all the questions were general questions. Nothing specific. I had this feeling that I could do this very well.
I went on to read the two-mark questions. State Beer's law. I remembered studying this in my school, but the only beer that came to my mind in the exam hall was Foster's, and I didn't know what law they discovered, so I proceeded on to the next question. Define the term overshoot. Now I was definitely reading that term for the first time in my life. What do I write!! I decided to analyze the term critically. Shoot is something they do to kill someone. And "over" is something that denotes more. So, more killing?? Definitely not. And what was a "proportional band" supposed to be?? A band which had all its members having the same height and weight?
I decided that I should may be attend the detailed answer questions first. The first one was a walkover, which was about an optical pyrometer. Though my diagram was pathetic, and I wasn't sure whether it used a rheostat or a Wheatstone bridge, I somehow managed to fill in a couple of sheets. I went to the next question. Explain in detail the software programs used in process control. This was tough. The only program I knew control systems used was MATLAB. Now, that wouldn't be enough for a 12 mark question. What other program would a process control engineer use?
I decided to think like a process engineer. If I were a process contol person, what programs would I love to have in my computer? Answers came flooding into my mind. Winamp to listen to songs, VLC media player to watch movies, Firefox to browse the internet, Google talk and Yahoo messenger to chat with friends...I smiled to myself. I decided to never become a process engineer, because I would be fired anyways.
I lost interest in writing the exam, but somehow filled my sheets with my "creative writing". I came out of the hall half an hour before it ended. I realized I wasn't the only one who finished the exam so soon. I even saw that Andy, my department topper, had finished before me. I went up to him asked him how he did it.
"Machan, very bad da. I sat for the past two days and worked out all the problems in the book. But look at the question paper!! Scoundrels!! Nitwits!! @#$#$#@$@!! $%#@#...."
I consoled him and started to walk to my hostel. I felt sorry for all those who wasted time studying for this dumb exam. And thanked God that I didn't waste my time studying and was blogging instead!!
Posted by Karthik Padmanabhan at 12:21 AM | |
20 May, 2008
It was our fifth day aboard USS Kentucky. The dipping temperature told us that we weren't too far from our destination. It wasn't exactly a smooth voyage. We had encountered a horrible storm near French Polynesia, and another in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. It was noon, but the climate was so cold that we had to wear layers of warm clothing.
It all started two weeks back. NASA scientists were trying to map the glaciers of the south pole when they stumbled upon something big. Their satellite, "Terra", captured live images of the largest ice-shelf of the Antarctic, the Ross ice shelf, which signaled a potential catastrophe. It triggered of a series of urgent high level meetings, and within the next week, the US President signed an order authorizing an expedition to proceed to the South pole to witness the cause of damage. Being one of the top geologists in the US Government, I was to be in a group of twenty people from all across the globe, who were chosen to be a part of the expedition.
The press were kept away from this of course. If it had leaked to the press, it would have fueled widespread protests against the US Government since it was the largest contributor of green house gases and especially because it refused to sign the Kyoto protocol. Everything was planned secretly, and all the scientists chosen from different countries- Dr.Donghai from China, Dr.Rutendo from South Africa, Dr.Holturen from Brazil, Dr.Sukumar from India, Dr.Davies from Australia, Dr.Taro from Japan, Dr.Conaire from the UK, Dr.Landon and myself from the USA, all of them were pro-US. Apart from the nine scientists, the other eleven consisted of the ship's crew.
Two hours later, we saw the first mass of ice. It was floating in the middle of the ocean, and was enormous, about twice the size of the ship. Then we realized it wasn't the only one. As we passed the first one, we could see only glaciers as far as our eyes could reach, with the ocean water just filling in the gaps between them. It was now that absolute care was required to navigate through the glaciers without being hit by any of them. Even though we were equipped with the world's most advanced navigation system, it was still scary as we passed each ice berg at close range.
It was almost six o clock in the evening when the captain of the ship announced that the ship would go no further. Indeed it was a sight to behold. We were surrounded by ice on three sides. The only possible transport after this would be to use a motor boat. We decided that it was too late to venture out into the sea at that time, and postponed it to next morning, though we were all very anxious about what we were going to witness the next morning.
It was unbearably cold when we got into the motor boat early next morning. We took enough supplies for it to last a minimum of three days, though we wouldn't be spending more than fifteen hours outside. We also took with each of us a SatFone. The boat navigated the ice with ease and we progressed very quickly. About an hour later, we saw it. The Ross ice shelf. And it was full of penguin carcasses.
We anchored the boat near to the shore and got out on to solid ice. The whole place was like a mass graveyard and thousands of penguins lay dead, as far as our eyes could reach. It was a pitiful sight. The biologists among us, Dr.Davies and Dr.Sukumar, started to analyze one of the dead penguins. We wondered what could be the reason. Surely it couldn't be due to rise in temperatures because penguins are known to live in much warmer climates.
The remaining seven of us decided to venture out a little further. We trod past the dead penguins towards what was known as the Barrier. It was the highest point on the ice shelf, and it rose to around 500 feet towards the sky. All around it were layers of some thin and some thick ice. We decided to look beneath the cliff for any clues that explained the death of all the penguins. As far as we could see, there weren't any. So we decided to move further,
It was Taro who noticed it. A particular area covered by thin ice was vibrating continuously. We went closer to see what was happening. On closer inspection, we found that there were gas bubbles circulating in the water under the layer of ice. I took out my pocket gas analyzer and inserted it into the water through the ice. I let the gas to come into contact with the sensor and tried to tilt it into position slightly. Big mistake.
Before we could know what was happening, the ice cracked and the the gas escaped out with an explosion. I tried to rushed back, but the whole area of thin ice started to disintegrate and before I could move, my lungs were full of the gas. I could no longer stand still, and fell down on top of the ice. Before I lost my consciousness, I saw the others lying unconscious on top of one another.
It seemed like eternity before I finally regained consciousness. I was lying down inside the medical center in the ship. As soon as I opened my eyes, Sukumar rushed towards me.
"How are you now?" he asked.
"Quite okay I think." I answered weakly.
"We have found the reason for the death of the penguins. And that is exactly the same reason why all seven of you fell unconscious. Carbon monoxide."
"Carbon monoxide? But how come under the ice? And that too the cause of death of so many penguins?" I was astonished.
"Yes. I will tell you how we found out. We analyzed the lungs of the dead penguins, and it was full of carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide entered their lungs, and by oxidation, got converted to carbon dioxide. How it came to be deposited under the ice? By oxidation of methane gas. There were huge deposits of methane gas under the ice, and due to global warming, the thick sheets of ice got melted and formed thin sheets instead. Due to action of UV radiation on methane, it got oxidized into carbon monoxide, and not carbon dioxide, because of the low concentration of oxygen under the ice. These deposits are all over the place, and you just blew one up yesterday."
I closed my eyes. I could still not forget the sight of all the dead penguins. All due to man's stupidity and selfishness. I wished that all the people in the world could know what was going on, but I knew it was close to impossible. This news would never reach the media. It would all be covered up. No one cared if penguins lived or not. For the first time in my life, I was ashamed of being born as a human.
18 May, 2008Love was something that never appealed to me. Since the time I entered college, people all around me were falling in love. I thought it was all stupidity when people described love as divine, everything in life. Every time when I heard of some guy who had committed suicide just because his love wouldn't accept him, I felt as if I should go and slap him in heaven or hell, wherever he is. How the hell he forgot his parents, who were alive only for him to succeed in life?? In a nutshell, I loathed love, and once even swore to my friends that I will never fall in love in my life. All this was true, until I saw her.
She was not the prettiest girl in the college. She didn't have loads of guys behind her. She wasn't the most popular girl in college. But she was beautiful. One look at her face and it made me forget the whole world, and I felt as if I should go and hug her. Before she was known to me, I never made any attempt to groom myself properly. My hair was always unkempt, and I wore clothes that were shabby and loose-fitting. But I changed myself completely. I cut my hair to the bare minimum (used to have long hair), wore smart clothes (loaned from my roommates) and for the first time in my life, used a deo. My friends were amazed at my make-over. I even noticed girls glancing at me, and my parents were happy when I went home the next time that finally their prayers had been answered.
I used to wait in places wherever she frequented- temple, canteen (during the interval times), the college bookstore, and all other places (except the girls' toilet, of course). But somehow I never got the guts to talk to her, or even approach her. I just used to stand and watch her go by. My grades dipped to a new low, because most of the time was spent in either thinking about her, knowing about her, or hatching up plans to talk to her. The more I thought about her, the more crazy i became,and the more I fell in love with her. I managed to get her mobile number from one of my friends, but didn't dare to call her or even text her. My friends dismissed me
as a lost case.
Then, the day I can never forget in my life, arrived. It was Friday, a day she went to the temple after classes were over. As usual, I was waiting under the same tree near the entrance of the temple. She strode towards the temple with elegance, and once again I felt as if I was in heaven. I forgot what was happening around me, as I watched her smiling, laughing and chatting with her friends. Suddenly, she looked straight at me. Her friends stopped near the temple, while she passed the temple and came straight in my direction. For a moment, I thought she was coming to talk with me, but what happened next was unbelievable.
She walked to a thin middle aged woman standing outside the temple and hugged her. When I watched closely, I realized that it was my mom! They started talking to each other as if they were mother and daughter. My mom kissed her on her cheek, and then I noticed something else. Our car was standing in the parking area adjacent to the temple, and my dad was coming out of it!!!
I couldn't comprehend anything of what was happening. I decided to come out of my hiding place and ask an explanation from my parents directly but before I could move, they had gotten into the car and bolted out of the college. I was confused, and went back to my room. May be they figured out that I was in love with the girl and had already fixed an alliance with her parents?? Impossible. I thought of calling my mom on her mobile, but decided against it. I decided that I should talk to her in person. I knew that for the girls, the hostel in-time was six-thirty pm. So I figured out that they should be back within that time. I walked back to the entrance, and sat on a bench. Time passed, and it was almost time. It was then I noticed the dark green Matiz entering through the gates. It went past me and into the road that lead to the girls' hostel. I waited near the gates for the car to come back. And before long, I saw the headlights of a car coming down the road. I stood in the middle of the road, and signaled the car to stop. The car stopped, and my mom got out of the car.
"Karthik!!" she exclaimed.
"Mom, you have got some explaining to do. Who is that girl?" I asked her as soon as she came near me. My dad came out of the car and stood near me with an expressionless face.
"We're sorry, my dear child. We should have told you this before, but we thought we could tell you once you finish college."
I didn't know what to expect. May be they had really fixed an alliance? My heart started beating rapidly. I waited for the next words to come out from her mouth.
"This will be a little hard for you to digest. Take it slowly. You are not the only child to me. I had twins, a boy and a girl. You are the boy, and the girl is Swathi, the girl you saw us with."
It was like a bolt from the blue. I couldn't believe my ears. I wondered if it was some April fool prank, but April was months away. I just listened to her as she continued.
"When you both were born, we didn't have enough money to raise two children. So we decided to give away the girl child to one of your dad's friends who didn't have a child for many years. We knew it was foolish, but we didn't have any other option then. We thought that once we came to a good position, we could take her back, but by then, she had grown attached to her new parents, and so we couldn't bring her back. But we followed her studies in school, paid her fees, and made her join college. Unfortunately one day, she accidentally overheard your dad's friend and his wife talking about us, and discovered the truth. This happened when you were in first year. We had never wanted both of you to study in the same college, but both of you had no other choice, and by fate, you both joined here. After that, we made frequent visits to meet her, and made sure that you never noticed us. But today you saw us somehow."
I was shattered. Things started happening quickly afterwards. My parents went back to the hostel and brought Swathi outside. They told her who I was. Though she knew she had a twin brother, she was never told anything about me, nor shown my picture. After all the flash backs were over, there was complete silence. I wanted to ask Swathi many things. Were you also seeing me like I did? Did you know that I was in love with you? Do you love me? Thoughts were flying across in my mind when suddenly, she came near me and smiled at me. I smiled back stupidly. I wondered what she was going to tell me when she opened her mouth to talk to me for the first time.
"I love you....my brother!!!"
Posted by Karthik Padmanabhan at 2:30 PM | |
We reached the usual place where we regularly had lemon juice at around eight o clock. It was another hard day at the tuition center. There was a surprise test in chemistry, and we couldn't answer even one question. As usual, we ordered each of us a lemon juice and were seriously thinking about what we were going to do in the Board exams, even if they were half as tough.
Sam had brought along his new bike. And me, being the most knowledgeable guy in motorbikes among the four, he wanted me to test ride it to check how smooth the engine was. I myself had a two-wheeler though the others would rather call it by a derogatory name, 'moped'. It was a decent bike, gave a good mileage even when I was handling it rather roughly. But still, they wouldn't listen, and the name stuck with my poor bike.
We started, and i drove Sam's bike with him sitting in the pillion. I usually never gave my bike to anyone, because none of them except me even had a learner's license, but that day, without realizing it, I gave the keys to Sid, and Krishna was to ride pillion with him. I took off, with the 15 bhp engine powering my pick up, and I was in Krishna's place by 2 minutes. The bike was great, and I just loved the feel of it. I told Sam what i felt, and he beamed with pride. We went on chatting about the bike, when we realized that Sid and Krish hadn't turned up.
We rushed back to the juice shop and searched for them along the road, but they were nowhere to be seen. We came back to Krish's place and just parked the bike outside when his mother called us from inside the house. We rushed inside, and she told us that Krish and Sid had had an accident and they were admitted to a nearby hospital. We took the bike and raced to the hospital, and entered into the OP ward.
Krish was standing next to a doctor, who was attending to Sid. Krish seemed to be fine, but Sid was the one who bore the brunt. His hands were full of broken glass pieces and he was writhing in pain. I called Krish aside and asked him to explain what happened.
"I don't know how it happened da. But we were going at sixty, and suddenly there was an auto taking a U-turn right in the middle of the road. Sid panicked, and forgot to apply the brakes!! He dashed against the auto, and I fell sideways on the road. Sid fell in the front due to the jerk, and hit against the windscreen of the auto. That's why his arm is full of glass pieces and they are mostly going to do an operation to remove them."
"Okay. Where's the bike now??" I asked him.
"Come with me. I will take you to the accident spot. The auto driver has got hold of your bike and is not letting us take it."
We walked to the place, and indeed the auto driver was sitting on the bike. The first thing I searched for was to see whether there was any damage to the bike. I couldn't notice any. Then I saw the auto, and knew instantly why the man was not giving us the bike.
The auto looked as if it had been hit by a lorry. The windshield was completely smashed. The headlight was twisted , and the front of the auto had caved in. I couldn't help but smile to myself. Sam was amazed. He couldn't believe that an auto could be damaged so much by a moped. Even I couldn't believe it. And the incredible part was that my bike had not even suffered the slightest damage. From then on. no one teased my bike as moped, but it came to be known as the "Super Moped"!!!
Posted by Karthik Padmanabhan at 1:05 AM | |
06 May, 2008It was late in the evening when I entered the crowded street. It was unusually more crowded that day. The more the crowd, the better, I thought to myself. The streets were not only full of people, but also of rotten vegetables and fruits, and other such waste. I negotiated the crowds carefully and after a walk of five minutes, reached the designated place.
It was a tough decision for me, but I had to take revenge. The amount of pain and suffering I had to undergo. The pain of losing my loved ones. It was still fresh in my mind. It was almost forty years back. Still I remembered every single moment. It was as though it happened yesterday. I could never forget it in my life.
Everything was happy in my life. My father had a good job, and I was the only son. The town was a very peaceful one, and my family was one of the most respected ones. All was well, till the then Prime Minister of India, Mrs.Indira Gandhi, declared war on Pakistan in the year 1971. The war ended with the birth of an independent nation, but with the death of my parents.
After the war started, my father decided that we were no longer safe in East Pakistan, and decided to move to India. So, all three of us moved into a refugee camp in a small town in West Bengal close to the border, where thousands of other refugees also stayed. It was a difficult time, since the food was meagre and the sanitary facilities were improper. But still, we managed to survive, and my father was happy that his risky decision had paid off. But he didn't know what was coming.
One day, my mother fell sick. She was running a very high temperature and her face had become pale. So, my father decided to take her to a government hospital nearby and I went along with him. It was a very old and run-down building and the whole place was filled with the stink of urine and excreta. But since there was no other option, my father took her into the out-patient ward, where a middle aged doctor was sitting and chewing pan. My father explained to him what was wrong with my mother. The doctor asked him to wait outside and took her inside an observation room. After sometime, a couple of hefty men came from inside the room and asked us both to accompany them. They told us that my mother had a communicable disease and they were going to check us whether we had it too. They then took us to a room and before we could realize what was happening, tied us both up. We tried as much as we could to free ourselves, but we couldn't.
Then we heard it. My mother shouting and crying for help. My father went mad with anger and tried to bite the rope off. But it was to no avail, and he collapsed on the floor. I tried to wriggle out of the rope, and almost succeeded, but before that, one of the men came and hit me hard on the head, and I fell unconscious. When I finally regained consciousness, I was lying in a heap of garbage, and the body of my father and mother were lying next to me. My mother's clothes were all torn, and my father's throat was cut.
I went to the police station adjacent to the refugee camp, and tried to talk to the inspector, but the only answer I got from him was a slap on my face, and a night in jail. The next day morning, the first thing I did was to go back to the garbage dump and bury the bodies of my parents. It was then I decided that I should somehow within my lifetime, take revenge.
Months passed, and after a lot of struggle, I got a job as a car mechanic in a shop in Calcutta. I worked there for five years, and then got a better job in a automobile factory. It was then, that something good happened in my life after a long time. I fell in love with a girl working as a receptionist in a nearby factory. She reciprocated my feelings, and we got married the next year. Life was smooth and lovely, and she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. We named her Asha, and she became the love of my life. Though all this was happening, the thought of revenge was still running in the back of my mind.
Finally, one day I got a chance for my revenge. I stumbled upon an old friend from my school days in East Bengal. I learnt from him that he was working for an organization that carried out frequent terrorist attacks in various cities in India, what he termed as 'jihad'. I was immediately interested, and told him I wanted to join the war too. He told me he will contact me later and left.
Days passed, and I didn't hear from him. About three months later, he came to my house. He told me that he had spoken to his leader, and I was free to join the group. He left me with all the details regarding whom to contact and where to assemble for the meetings. I was overjoyed, and at last, had the feeling that I was going to succeed in my revenge after all.
I attended the meetings regularly, and gained the trust of the group. I somehow managed to conceal my activities from my wife, until one day, she found a gun and a lot of grenades inside my suitcase. She got suspicious, and asked me to explain. I told her the truth, and she was shocked. She tried to reason with me that what I was doing was completely wrong. But I didn't listen. The next morning when I woke up, she had vanished from the house with Asha, who was five years old then.
I tried searching for them for a month after that, especially for Asha, but I couldn't find them anywhere in the city. I decided that they must have left the city. I put my heart into training for jihad, to forget the loss of my daughter. Many years went by. I gained ranks, and was ready for any combat. One day, I was called for an urgent meeting in the house of the chief. I went there and learnt that I was to be one of the three chosen ones to carry out one of the most destructive attacks in India. I was delighted, and thanked Allah that my time had finally come.
There was intense planning. Everything had to work precisely on time. The whole mission depended on how quick we acted and we underwent rigorous training. The date, place and time had to be planned so as to cause maximum damage. Everything was taken care of- the weather conditions, the security that would be in place, and the mode of transport. When everything had been decided, we had half a dozen trial runs to make sure that the plan worked out perfectly.
I entered the chat shop in Hyderabad at exactly 7 pm. The shop was full of college students from a nearby engineering college. It seemed like it was somebody's birthday, and all of them were having fun. I got reminded of Asha. She too would have grown to attain the same age. I wondered if her mother had enough money to make her go to college. How would she look like now? I still remembered the unique smile she gave. It was unique because it would look as if she was biting her lip. But she looked beautiful when she smiled. I let my mind wander away when suddenly my cell phone started ringing. I knew who it would be before I even spoke and answered it.
"Everything ok?" the chief asked.
"Everything fine. Will take place in ten minutes exactly." I replied"Good. Take care."
I put back the phone in my pocket, and went towards an empty corner of the shop. I placed the suitcase in the corner and camouflaged it so much that nobody could tell that there was anything kept there. I then stood near a large mirror hung from a wall. It would take exactly five minutes more. The college students were still there, making a hell of a noise. Four minutes passed. I stood facing the mirror, when suddenly, I noticed a beautiful young girl among the crowd. She was sitting along with a couple of more girls and chatting happily. She looked oddly familiar, something about her face. The girls were all laughing, but she didn't smile at all, but just kept biting her lips. It was then I realized what she was doing. She was smiling, and she was Asha. I rushed towards her, but it was difficult to move because of the crowd. I checked my watch, exactly thirty seconds left. I somehow wished the bomb wouldn't work. I pushed the crowd, and finally managed to reach her, and grabbed her hand. She was startled, and tried to pull away from me. But I had a firm grip on her, and tried to take her out of the shop. Suddenly, a blast ripped through the shop, and a huge ball of fire engulfed the whole place. We both fell down, but I never let go of her hand. By the time I closed my eyes never to open again, hers had already closed.
Posted by Karthik Padmanabhan at 12:32 AM | |