Friday, February 10, 2012

GRAVEYARD SHIFT


It is again one of those frequently familiar days that just pass by without touching his life in any way. It is a day which he doesn’t live, he doesn’t remember. He just exists or even worse persists to exist.  Bound by commitments, weighed down by expectations, held captive by fear of failure, accentuated by languor and marooned by his own conviction, he lives an ordinary life of real misery and virtual happiness. He seeks a heroic life, but only in the eyes of others. He yearns for a poetic death but dreads its reality every single moment. Everyone sees him as a successful and happy young man. Does he? Well, he has stopped looking into the mirror for good!

He goes through the torturous grind of the week in great expectation of a dull and uneventful weekend. Come this weekend, he will be busy mourning the dreadful week ahead. It is Friday and he is almost there. He walks out of his apartment in a dreary slumber. He wonders if he had a dream last night. That’s right. He stopped dreaming when he became a practical man. The snow flakes falling on his body can’t kindle any emotion in him. Not any more! He has forgotten the pleasure they had in each other’s company. It was a long time ago!

His laborious stroll is brought to a screeching halt by a small boy who rams into him at breakneck speed. The boy was chasing a butterfly which has disappeared into oblivion now. The boy has a grin on his face and he, a frown.

“Watch it son. You don’t have wings like butterflies do.” There is a hint of sarcasm in his tone which camouflages a pain deep inside. 

“But I want to have wings. I want to fly with butterflies and play hide and seek with birds.” The boy has a big smile on his face which irks him even further. It is not fair.

“You ain’t getting them. Now off you go! And don’t run! Go home and study.” He feels the boy lacks discipline.

“No. I am going to play in the rain!” The boy jumps in excitement. “What rain? Are you mad?” He looks to see if there are any clouds. All he sees is white smoke.

“No, you are. Take off those glasses and open your eyes!” The boy runs away into the woods. The boy’s face troubles him. It looks strangely familiar.

He shrugs off the boy’s image from his mind and continues the journey to his daily misery. All of a sudden, snow flakes seem to have changed form to tiny droplets of rain which are kissing the earth and mud and stirring up a refreshing aroma that has filled up the air with magic. He pinches himself to confirm his sanity. A young man is standing in front him, watching him eagerly with a smirk on his face.

“What are you laughing at, pal? Do I look funny?” He barks at the young man in anger.

“No. You look sad. Like you don’t have a life!” The young man’s remark pricks a wound that has been kept concealed for years.

“You don’t know what life is all about. Wait for a few more years and it will teach you all the lessons you need to learn. By the way, where are you going with that cricket bat in hand?” It was his turn to mock at the young man.

“Well, I prefer to learn the life lessons my way. And they can wait. You want to join us for cricket. Do you know how to play?” The smirk is still there in the young man’s face which infuriates him even more.

“Of course I know to play. I was the best at it. But I don’t play anymore. Anyways it is raining now and you want to play cricket?” Meanwhile, his mind had taken a small trip down memory lane and for one long minute, he relived those memorable cricket days of his youth. And the next moment, he came crashing back to reality.

“What is wrong with you? It is bright and sunny.” The young man gives him a “you must be insane” look. He wipes the water droplets from his glasses in disbelief. “Where is the sun? You must be crazy?”

“No, you are. Take off those glasses and open your eyes!” The young man walks off cursing him for wasting 5 minutes of his life.

He is not able to get the young man’s words out of his mind. There is something uniquely familiar about his voice. He looks at his watch. He is getting late and tired. This walk doesn’t seem to end. There is no sign of rain around and he can no more feel the scent of the earth’s freshness in the air. A black smoke fills his nostrils and chokes him. He gasps for breath and settles down in a bench outside a park. An old man sees his misery and offers him water.

“Thank you very much. You look very familiar Sir. Have I seen you before?” He still feels nauseous.

“No. You couldn’t have. Not yet! I have seen you though, long time ago!” The old man’s words leave him bamboozled.

“I don’t quite understand Sir. Anyways... where are you off to? You don’t look very sprite early in the morning!”

“Well, I am probably the only one you have met today who is more miserable than you. But you will get there. I will pray you don’t. I am off to my grave which is just a few paces down the street. Would you like to join me?”

The old man’s words send a shudder through his spine. “You carry on, Sir. I will rest for some more time!”

“Well, in that case, can you lend me an umbrella? It is raining heavily!” The old man’s eyes have seen something in him which makes him feel very uncomfortable.

“What rain? You are crazy. Take off those glasses and open your eyes!” He yells irately. The old man smiles and walks away. He sits there for a while wondering about the strange conversation with the old man. He then gets up and sets off again.

He saunters along carelessly for another 10 minutes uninterrupted and untroubled by any more familiar faces or voices and finally reaches his destination. His office is no longer there. Instead he sees an abandoned graveyard which has a single grave that is yet to be occupied. He looks around for the old man but there is no sight of him anywhere. He looks at the tombstone erected over the grave. He sees his name engraved on it! 


61 comments:

  1. ohhh my!i gasped and closed my mouth when i came to the end!

    every time he was told to remove his glasses, it was a moment of epiphany for the reader too along with him

    this post overtakes the place of 'mystic meander' & enters the slot of my 2 fav posts on ur blog - right away.

    now the only wish i have is: i don't ever ever want to be his shoes. ever. nor for anyone dear to me. it is an awfully horrible space to be in. but even so, i must add that you etched it out so well with your words that it wrung my heart

    and just imagine this is the post i read right after "where ur tax money goes" or "show me the money"!!!!!!!!!

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    1. OMG Sujatha. :) Thank you so much for such a lovely comment. You made my day (and the next day as well :)). I am really humbled by your compliment and soo happy as well that you liked this one so much.

      Yeah.. I dont want anyone to get to this state of mind or life. Everyone should feel happy enough to do the things they love to do without any constraints. It is so easy to be bogged down in life by so many things we have absolutely no control of.

      I can totally imagine the experience of reading this one after those 2 heavy financial posts.

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  2. I really admire your brilliant narrative style Raj. I kind of had an idea when I came across the part where he was talking to the young man as to where the story is headed. Loved the ending. :) Superb writing. Wish I could write like you.

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    1. Thank you so much Akshay for the lovely compliments. And that coming from a wonderful writer like you. :) Means a lot to me.

      Yeah.. I kind of wanted to depict this one in a metaphorical fashion. Dunno if I succeeded completely or not though. ;)

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  3. As always a well written story!! Your stories are not only great to read- but they make the reader sit and think...ponder the message behind the story! Very well done!

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    1. Thank you so much Anjuli. :) Really so glad that you find it interesting and meaningful at the same time. And such lovely compliments.. thank u once again. :)

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  4. Take off those glasses and open your eyes! - happiness exists all around us, it is we who turn a blind eye to it.

    Beautiful..poignant...and the last line sent a chill down the spine.

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    1. Perfectly said. Happiness exists around us waiting to be experienced. Yet we choose to harp over and worry about trivial problems which are anyways inevitable.

      Thank you so much for the lovely compliments. That from a brilliant writer like you makes it even more special. :)

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  5. Brilliant story! Can't wait to read more :) Following your blog!

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    1. A very warm welcome to you Sujana. And so happy you liked the story. Thank you so much. :)

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  6. Isn't it sad that we are blind to the joys around us and mourn for something that probably exists only in our brains. We do need some jolts like this to bring us back to earth and its pleasures. Life is too short. I was hoping that he would change till the last, but the end put paid to that hope. Brilliant.

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    1. Perfectly said. Life is too short to worry about the trivial problems. Sometimes it is just good to let go and live. I am sorry to disappoint you with a sad ending though. :(

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  7. Reminds me of a quote by Jerome K Jerome -"Opportunities fly by while we sit regretting the chances we have lost, and the happiness that comes to us we heed not, because of the happiness that is gone."
    Reading ur stories have always left me inspired to write better myself. nice work!!

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    1. Ohh.. lovely quote. :) Thank you so much for the lovely comment. Am really humbled. :) You made my day.

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  8. You are good at your imagination for writing any story like this. I have been reading your stories for quite sometime and every story of yours has a hidden moral in it. And this story - Graveyard Shift - is another wonderful creation of yours which tells how life could seem miserable, looking back, if one ignores every little happiness.

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    1. Thank you so much Elvirah. Am glad you liked the story. Yeah.. very true. One should grab the little joys on the way rather than live in the anticipation of some unknown future happiness.

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  9. Another beautiful story by you. It reminds me of a book which I read many years ago where the hero meets 5 people after he dies. BTW, just wanted to say why don't you publish a book of short stories. It would be great...

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    1. I am really humbled by your comment Saru. Thank you so much for considering that I could write a book. And that coming from a brilliant writer like you makes it even more special. I do intend to write a book. Don't know if someone will publish it or not though. :P

      Btw.. when are you publishing your poems? :)

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    2. You know getting a book published is rather easy but selling it is an uphill task. There is a blogger from NJ area (Indian, Shilpa M Mirza), her book is releasing on March 6th and he is the Acquisition's Editor of the publishing house (Inkspell Publishers)

      If you wish you can contact her or talk to the publishing house directly.

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    3. Thank you soo much Saru for the contact. :) I will definitely talk to her about this. I have not started work on the book either. I have been flirting with 3 ideas but have not yet put pen to paper. But your comments certainly add inspiration to my resolve.

      You didnt answer my question.. when are you publishing your poems? You should seriously do it. :)

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    4. Don't know, I feel I can't continue my blog for a long time. Book is a far far cry. But, you should think about your book...I will be first to buy it...:)

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    5. You and words are inseparable. :) And your poems are as fabulous as anything I have seen. :) So the book should be a problem at all.

      As for you.. if I manage to write a book.. you dont have to buy it. You will get it even before it is published (or even if it is not published). :)

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  10. This was a really good read. As I came to comment, I realized that Saru had just said what I wanted to say, that you should now look at compiling your best stories into a book. This is easily one of the best pieces of yours that I have read, and I have not yet read all that you have up on the blog. Great work, brother.

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    1. Thank you so much Subho. Am so glad you liked the story and you think that I can write a book of them. It really means a lot to me. :)

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  11. Shudders and shivers! Brilliant story, Raj. Enjoyed it.

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    1. A very warm welcome to you you here KayEm. Thank you so much for the lovely comment. :) I am so glad you loved the story. :)

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  12. I came through Indiblogger and it sadly gave the ending away :( I am kicking myself for not going through google reader. anyway as others have said, this is indeed your best work I have seen. Truly wonderful and I second the opinion of Saru and Subhorup.BTW a very happy Valentines Day to you :)

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    1. I am so sorry to have given away the ending that way in Indi. :( But am really glad you still liked it and am deeply thrilled by all your appreciation. It really means a lot to me coming from wonderful writers like you. :) And a very Happy Valentines day to you too. :)

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  13. Briliant one... i will not read such big stories, but with these comments, i gave a try.. honestly i admire it and your narration is fabulous !
    you rock :)
    Anyone who reads this post honestly, will appreciate you right from heart !
    --Dee..

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    1. Hey Deepak... that is a really superb comment. Really made me smile. You made my day. I really appreciate the fact that you gave the story a try and you liked it. :) I tend to keep it short but still it manages to get long. :( Anyways.. am soo happy you liked it.

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  14. Oh My God. Absolutely Brilliant Work. Just luv your style of writing and the way you've narrated the story. Happiness is always around is, it is up to us, if we choose to see it or hide it with our so called miseries. Really Good one :-)

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    1. Thank you so much Ashwini. I am soo happy that you liked it and thank you for the lovely appreciation. Means a lot to me. You are absolutely right. Happiness is always around us. Sometimes we just ignore it. :(

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  15. Lovely piece of work! Gripping writing style..Keep them coming :)

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    1. Thank you so much Divya. I am so glad you liked my writing style. :)

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  16. Er.What can I say..The writing is stunning.Honestly..loved it:).But I thought there would be a happier ending.But it did end pretty well.

    Awesome writing! You have the knack of holding the audience under your spell:)!!

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    1. Jen.. thank you soo much for all the lovely comments. You made my day. :) I am sorry to disappoint you with a sad ending though. :(

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  17. Raj, you do have a voice of your own..lovely narrative!
    Loved each bit...yes, we are oblivious to the joys around us; the simple pleasures of life as I like to call it. I love to notice and enjoy such pleasures...immensely! Else it would turn into too sad a plight...living would become existing, right?
    Wonderful story! I totally agree with Saru:)

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    1. Thank you soo much Deepa for your lovely comments and appreciation. I am so glad you liked it. So true. We are oblivious to the simple pleasures around us and lead a life always expecting something that is not there yet.

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  18. YOUR POST SHOWS YOUR BRILLIANCY. FABULOUS. FANTASTIC. NO OTHER WORD.

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    1. Thank you so much Latha for those lovely adjectives. :) I am really thrilled by your compliments and appreciation. Thank you so much. :)

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  19. Amazingly written man..the shallowness in our lives, I can feel it..really loved it!

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    1. Thank you soo much Keerthana for the lovely compliments. It really means a lot. Yeah.. the shallowness in our lives engulfs our ability to be happy.

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  20. u just rocked dude right from the beginning till end. most of us can relate to the despondency of a mundane life that u portrayed and the latter part was just outstanding; had goosebumps. brilliantly narrated.

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    1. Thank you soo much Deb. :) Those lovely compliments made my day. :) Yeah.. I wish we can shake off our mundane lives and just live it to the moment.

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    1. Thank you so much. Am so glad you liked it. :)

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  22. Hey Raj, I have a surprise for you. Please visit this link, I'm sure you'll like it. :)
    http://akkishaki.blogspot.in/2012/02/liebster-blog-award.html

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    1. Thank you soo much Akshay. I am really humbled and thrilled to receive the award. Thank you so much for the appreciation. :)

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  23. hey Raj this was an extraordinary read.. Loved it right from the beginning and the way it ended was rocking.. Keep writing:)

    N Hey, I have something for you on my blog.. Please do come and collect it:)

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    1. Thank you soo much for the lovely comments and compliments. I am soo glad you liked the story.

      And thanks a ton for the award. I am honored to receive it. It is indeed very special and means a lot. Thanks once again. :)

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  24. The Post reminds me of the book 'Five People you meet in Heaven' by Mitch Albom. I know, that your post is not similar to the book, but the narrative and the way the person is meeting other people (or his own self in the post) and the thoughts that goes on in his mind reminds me of that.

    I like how the 'Remove the glasses' is used here as a metaphor to see the world in all its bounty with our open eyes and watch its splendor and not limit ourselves in our thinking and actions and instead be a bit insane and have fun along the way..

    Thank you for this wonderful post.

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    1. Thank you so much Kunal for the wonderful comment. I have heard about this book but haven't read it. Now I want to read it. Thanks for mentioning. :)

      yeah.. you are absolutely right. Being a little insane is not a bad idea after all. It might help us live life a little more. :)

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    1. Ohh.. that is very sweet. Thank you so much. :)

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  26. wonderfully written.
    almost perfect, if you would have made it short and disguised it with a title.

    added you to my fav. bloggers :)

    Keep writing

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    1. Thank you so much Mukesh for the lovely compliment. Am glad you liked it. And a very warm welcome to you here. :)

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  27. Although the plot was predictable, the style held me tight.. especially the change in season and those little conversations! I am becoming a fan of ur writings.. will come back for more!

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    1. Thank you so much for the lovely compliment. Am so glad you liked it. :) Made my day.

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  28. Mitch Albom's The Five people you meet in heaven is what I was reminded of while reading ur post its very very well written fantastic narration.
    Following you!!! keep writing!

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    1. Thank you so much Ramya for the wonderful words. :) I am so glad you liked the narration and it remined you of the book. I have heard wonderful things about the book and I certainly will read it. :)

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    2. And thank you so much for following and for the encouragement. :)

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