Thursday, 5 October 2017

The village.

The village.

Salim, checked on his blinker which was still flashing red, and gently slid it back into his pocket.
 Taking the last drag of his cigarette, he flicked it away to the piled trash which lay just outside the medical examination building. Courtesy of a recent virus breakout causing a decline in almost half of the population, one of the village huts was converted to a makeshift examination center.
Salim was tasked with controlling the epidemic as the chief public health examiner, specifically sent by the WHO considering his vast field experience in controlling many previous epidemics all over the world.
This unknown virus, was first reported in this village a couple months back, immediately alarming the medical authorities and notifying the WHO about the virus.
The only documented and proven pathology of the virus was that it spread through air, and resulted in respiratory manifestations finally leading to demise in an average time frame of 10 days.
The cases had significantly decreased the past weeks due to the strict quarantine measures taken. The whole village was under quarantine.
As Salim entered the building, a middle aged woman, extended her hand for a quick handshake “Welcome, doctor” she gave a brief smile and immediately pulled up her face mask.
The examination room was a huge, plain hall without any pillars to support the semi pukka hut.
 The uneven floor was only slightly more domestic than the streets to walk on. Most villagers walked barefoot. The rough terrain hardly bothered their thick keratinized sole.
Two rows of examination stations were setup either side of the hall along the length. Two doors at the back, from where the people were called in to the stations.
The people who passed the quarantine would be shifted to the other side of the village, and kept there until the WHO were happy with the virus control.
“So, did you find anything today” He went straight to the task at hand.
“Nothing actually, fifty-six residents have been sent to the other side of the village, we haven’t found anything yet. Gripalan was the last detected case two weeks back and he passed away a couple day back. Nothing significant found yet.”
“OK, but that is good news that no new cases detected, how long before we finish the whole  village. Then maybe we can break it down and compile the data”
“Maybe a week more, then we are done. Yes, we can then finally compile the date and send it over. A week, and we are done” there was a slight relief on her face as she said those words.
She escorted Salim to his station, and quickly continued to her.
Before Salim could settle down, the first person was called.
An old cachexic man, barely managed to walk across to the station.
Salim, pulled out the syringe ad first attempted the brachial artery, but couldn’t draw any blood. He was severely anemic and veins were barely visible in his arms.
He tried the radial but then he went for the carotid, along his neck. The last resort
Salim pushed his thumb against the carotid and felt a feeble pulse.
Piercing the vein almost parallel to his neck, he went a little deeper till finally the brick red fluid started filling the tube.
He took a drop of the blood and scanned it in the detector, still red. He was negative.
The person was free to go but Salim decided to add a few words of advice
“The test is complete and you are free of the virus, but I suggest you do a complete body check, in a hospital somewhere. You don’t look too well.”
“Yes, I seem to have a lot of weakness these days and..” a gut wrenching cough with a blood filled sputum splattered to the floor.
“And I have some cough also” he wiped the blood with his faded yellow shirt.
“OK…….” Salim took a back seat and let the old man finish off with his coughing.
After he was done with spreading blood tinged mucous all over, Salim continued “Please get yourself checked in a nearby hospital immediately” He handed over a receipt for checkup and sent him.
Salim already had a handful in controlling the virus. It wasn’t his job to take care of this guy.
So he moved on.
Luckily for him or his colleagues, their blinkers didn’t switch to green the whole day. Smooth day for the disease controllers.
The blinker was a special detector in invented by Salim himself, which was coded to detect any of the known microbial infection to ever infest a living being. On setting the blinker to any virus, a positive result would give the green signal.
In this case, all the known viruses and no virus was set red and anything outside code would turn green. A previous sample of the new virus from one of the first victims was coded to the blinker.

 The Sun had slowly started setting, few rays of light passing through the center revealing the infinite dust particles in the hall, when a young woman with a child clinging to her arm walked nervously to his station.
She wore a loose white top with sleeves dangling down her arms and wrapped around by the child, coupled with white linen jumbo pants.
The child wore the miniature version of the same.
The young woman sat ahead and tried to make herself comfortable.
“Good afternoon” she gave a warm smile to Salim.
Noticing the mainland Asian features Salim was curious to know her more “What is your name”
Salim nodded.
“OK, where are you from”
“I am from Manipur” she answered quickly, as if she was expecting it.
Salim gazed at the little kid.
“And she is my…………I look after her………I am her companion you can say. Her name is adana” She gently patted adana’s back pushing her in front but Adana shied away deeper into her arms.
‘OK, is it possible to ask her to extend her arms like this. We need to draw some blood from the both of you”
Apalna, gently took the kid’s arm and extended it.
Only a slight wince on Adana’s small round face as Salim took out her precious blood.
He poured it to his blinker and it was still red. Salim was happy.
“Is she related to you” Salim questioned Apalna as he drew blood.
“Oh….no……but I take care of her and look after her. She has nobody else.”
Salim was taken back a little. He didn’t expect the kid to have tough past.
“One of my colleagues who worked with me in the cloth factory always bought Adana with her. So we developed a bond. One day she told me that she was running away with a landlord from a neighboring village and asked me to take care of Adana till she returned. So I took her. It’s been a year now. I am the only one she has.” Apalna gripped Adana’s hand tighter and reassured her with a smile. More than love and affection, there was a sense of determination and responsibility which Apalna upheld towards the child.
Salim didn’t respond, he had an agitated look on his face and kept fiddling with his test tube. He poured the last few drops of blood again to the blinker. He was checking the previous result again hoping his blinker was wrong.
As Salim lifted the blinker over his head, against the ray of sunlight seeping through one of the ventilation vents. The red light in the blinker slowly diffused to orange and finally blended to dark green. She was positive. She had the virus.
Salim had it confirmed.
He called his colleague and gave her the report.
A tinge of fear creeped into Apalna as she saw the nervousness on Salim’s face “What is it”
Salim looked over at the kid, innocent and totally unaware of painful and recurring abandonment she would face during the course of her ill fate childhood.
“I’m sorry Apalna, but we have detected the virus in your body” Salim gently placed the green blinker on the table confirming again, letting everyone look at it.
Apalna immediately held Adana tighter, knowing she only had a few more moments with her.
“We have to take you to our quarantine center, Apalna. We will have to run you tests and keep you away from human contact. I know it will be hard but that is what is best for everyone.” the middle aged woman took over.
“Don’t worry we will try our best” Salim added.
A couple of personnel’s in their white masks with plastic see through, and a huge white jumper suit were ready to escort her.
Adana was immediately pulled over by the middle aged woman to our side, with minimal force. There was no much resistance from Apalna, considering the only fact that only her being away was good for the child.
Adana was lucky to not have contacted the virus from her companion.
“Please can she come with me, to where we are going. I will stay away from her. But please let her come. She has no one else here” Apalna asked just like any other responsible caretaker would do.
“It is not possible, Apalna, the kid has to stay here. The village is quarantined, no one leaves the village without permit and detected cases are taken to our center. She has to stay here. We will make the appropriate arrangements for her. But more importantly we have to take care of you. The virus, inside your body has claimed a lot of lives and we need your cooperation in helping us prevent more casualties. Apalna you have to understand this. This is the only way and you have to help us.”
The middle aged woman had Adana gripped in her wrists.
Apalna knew there was no other way. So she mustered up all her courage and nodded in approval to be taken away.
She glanced over at Salim and he gave a slight nod. It was telepathically conceived by both that Adana had to protected and kept safe till she could get on her own feet.
Apalna was escorted out through the front door.
She could potentially be the person who would end the catastrophic course of this virus or she could be one of the many victims, leaving a small girl alone to fight this virus infected world.

Monday, 21 August 2017

The field.

The field

Lukewarm breeze, gently swept the 5000-acre hybrid maize field, swaying the slender crops and glimmering yellow against the evening sky.
Rajesh hopped down from the farm simulator tractor, after coating the last 100 acres of soil with new upgraded government sponsored fertilizer (nitrogen and phosphorus doubled in the sprays).
Last summer, the government had experienced a very serious shortage of crops and their slackish behavior faced heavy criticism from the public.
In a bizarre attempt to calm down the situation, during the budget allocation last year, the ruling party proposed the “Maize field project” investing one fourth of the village economy on agriculture sector. They bought the most fertile piece of land along the banks of the controversial Cauvery river and converted it to a hybrid Maize field.
Over the last decade, blood, disruption and economic instability had been making the headlines over the state affairs. The small village won over the responsibility of the water running through their land after the “Maize field project” was approved by the central agriculture ministry.
This maize field was the most important project the government had invested in both economically and politically, in this state. The field would not only provide food for a minimum ten districts over the south state, also implemented properly, it would be a great source of income for the government. The scheme provided the public with quality maize at cheap prices but no one else could privately sell the maize crop without government consent, essentially making themselves the sole producer of the hybrid crop.
They also cut down the taxes for the districts who bought the crops from the government trying to lure more and more district under the “Maize filed scheme”. The center had implemented this trail run in the south considering the reserves of fertile land, lack of food and the political conflicts in the area. The south a perfect test area for agricultural reforms.
If this worked maybe they could do it all over the country. Invest in farmers, in farm lands, in agriculture and solve the economic crisis.
It was great idea, but also precarious for the quick downfall.

Rajesh, the manager/ head farmer of this farm walked back to his small hut, dragging his brown waist jacket along the fertile sand and finally dumping it to a pile of older jackets.
His pants were plastered to his legs with dirt and sweat. He began peeling down the pants when his wife walked out of the hut. A steady flow of steam squeezed out through the hinges and gaps.
She was cooking their routine brown rice along with some red beans curry.
As the manager of the farm he was given a decent salary, a small hut and daily rice for the family by the government. For looking after the farm he was given about a hundred employees but he was responsible for farm in totality.
Rajesh was completely government sponsored.

Ignoring his wife, Rajesh, turned on the tap and crouched underneath it. The warm water gushed down on his scalp in full force, producing a slapstick noise.
An overall sense of relief as he faced up towards the tap.
His wife, Sukeshini wiped the sweat of her forehead with her faded yellow saree “You are back early; the tractor didn’t give you any trouble today?”
“No, it worked just fine.”
“Yes, as I can recall the tractor has never worked fine for more than a couple days a month. So you have finished the quota for this month” she chuckled.
“Yeah…. yeah I know” he rubbed his armpits and the nape.
“I have told you so many time, to request the resources development to get the tractor repaired and provide you with some more men. It is too much of a burden to you.” Sukeshini asked.
“Yeah……. ok…. I will ask” he said disheartedly.
“Why not, why not, you are a governed employee, you work hard every day for a very small amount compared to the workload you have, the least they can do is replace the old rusted machine”
“I know, but we have a good life now, me and you, we have food on our plates and a place to stay. I don’t want to risk it. We have settled down and we can think of having a child soon. Let’s not worry about the tractor now.”
Sukeshini wasn’t happy with his recessive nature. She shrugged and
“Ok, I will ask the resource team to look at it next week. Ok” he satisfied her.
“Ok” she said.” Now dry your hair quick, you don’t to catch a cold” she said and grabbed the cloth from her shoulders.
Few more refreshing seconds of water and face interaction and finally he turned off the tap.
Sukeshini, was quick to dry her husband. Thoroughly scraped his scalp and handed over it to him. Wiped himself clean.
Tied the wet cloth around his thin waist. They entered their home for their much awaited replenishment.
The sole yellow 250watt bulb lit up their hut. Kitchen, at the right corner and their mattresses at the left. And latrine, they didn’t have one.
Sukeshini, placed the steaming hot pot of rice first, where Rajesh was already seated, just below the light bulb. She got the bean curry and set up the plates.
He served the meal for both of them. Both of them were quick to start digging, separating
After a few more times of the separation, the heat had come down enough to freely tuck into it.
 “So, when do they need the supply.” Sukeshini asked.
“By the end of this month, but the resource development has asked me to deliver at least a couple days early, so that they can do a final test on the hybrid before sending it out to the public”
“I though all of the testing was already done.”
“Yes, they have done it but they need to adhere to a few more guidelines and specifications. This initiative hasn’t been planned very well, they have rushed.”
“But the government has to look at all this beforehand and not just before giving it to the public. But I suppose this isn’t something unexpected from them.”
Rajesh agreeing “I know, but this filed, this hybrid, it is more of a political act than an economic one. The government had to do something to stay in power and this field was their strategy, it worked well. Even the investment has been very unsteady throughout, the agriculture ministry has been given only one fourth of the budget allotted.”
“I just hope the public benefits something from this”
“Maybe they will, maybe.” He took a mouthful of the rice and bean.
“I hope so” she said as she let out a small burb.
The steam of the rice boiling had now escaped and a sense of resentment had taken over the room
Rajesh finally let out his frustration, months after taking his job, he wasn’t satisfied but he was bound to it for survival.
“We are just puppets for them, slaves we are. They pay us, put food on our plates and in return we shut our mouths, and simply exist like any other animal. We don’t matter. The government also just like us, work for money. Capitalism has taken over human nature as such, not just the government. Now the officials don’t want to stay in government for power, they stay for the money.”
Sukeshini couldn’t agree less.
He stared at the floor, in trance, his hands resting on his thigh and dripping curry over his legs. He didn’t mind.
“It will all be ok.” Sukeshini went over and hugged her man.

Far away from their hut, on the outskirts of the field, a man slowly crawled his way through the soil, the golden yellow crop brushing his nose. He was a worker of the opposition party, trying to sabotage the enemies project.
His job was simple. To set fire to the field.
He took out his lighter and set fire to a single crop and let nature take care of the rest.

Friday, 11 August 2017

The pharmacist

The pharmacist.

 Traffic across the street had slowly dwindled as midnight approached, the moonlit sky casting occasional shadows over us.
I could begin my process of the closing the shop. 5am-12pm was my work routine. It was a life sucking routine but the timings gave me extra customers, elderly in the morning, the younger later at night and also I could save the extra electricity costs by not keeping it open 24 hours. It was my shop and I didn’t mind working extra time to earn a few more bucks. I didn’t have a family to attend to, so this shop was pretty much everything I had.
As I was summing up my day’s earnings, my favorite customer, Syed dropped by.
“Hey, how’s it going my man. I can see you made good money today. Keep it safe. Especially from me” He joked, giving me a wide grin as he made his way to the neighboring shop, which was also mine. A popular smoking hotspot among the locals.
I could sense Syed’s rush to take a drag of tobacco.
Syed, the same age as me, worked as a welder in a factory in the outer city. Low wages and family circumstances had dragged him down to the world of crime. Petty crimes had now to bigger crimes, including demanding hafta from shops. I was the only one exempted and also protected by him. I was probably the first guy who he had made acquaintance with since coming to this city.
I went back to counting my cash.
2(2000) 4(500) 8(100) 10(50) 20(20) 30(10) and a few 5 rupee coins. And Syed was right, it was a good day.
“I can say from looking at the money you know; how long have I been coming here. 15 years now. Yeah 15 years. Long time buddy.” Leaning over my counter, he took a deep drag of his cigarette (ice burst blue) and puffed out a couple of smoke loops before letting it all out.
“Yes. I don’t remember a day closing the shop without scooting you away” we both laughed briefly before turning back to our jobs again. Over the years we cultivated ourselves not to take the remarks seriously. We could take a jibe at each other, make personal comments and still laugh it away.
But thinking about our long history, it scared me, that he knew everything about the shop, the money, the routine. He could even break into my shop if he wanted to.
 But also, I knew he would never do that to me. We both had mutual respect for each other much more than just friends and besides, he has got away with a lot of free cigarettes.
“Oh you have got more customers coming in, and this one looks like a lottery to me” Syed warned.
A young girl, in a short pink crop top and white shorts, descended from a red sports car, she walked right past us to the smoke shop, bought a cigarette and lit up our pants as she took the first drag.
Both of us were lost by the wonderful sight of this girl, her long fingers, gripping the cancer stick, as she placed it in between her red painted lips and inhaled deeply, creating a depression and accentuating her cheek bones.
Nothing beautiful lasts forever and a harsh adolescent voice interrupted our minds. “Hey……Hey……. HEY, whom are you staring at, you CREEPS.” a skinny teenager, wearing torn jeans, white printed t shirt and red dyed hair showed up at the counter. He could barely hold himself upright with those jeans hanging so low from his waist.

“She is my girlfriend; you creep get out the way” the kid
“You know what, why don’t you mind your own business, before I break your bones and take your girl.” Syed walked up to the kid, cigarette in his mouth and gave him a stare down.
Syed’s facial muscles started twitching, this was a sign of immense danger. He was really pissed off with this kid, firstly for spoiling his fantasies and secondly because he was an arrogant kid.
‘Guys. Guys relax. Syed its ok……. Let’s just give that boy what he wants and send him away. We don’t want any trouble. Kid. What do you want.”
“Next time, Ill rip that red hair from your scalp” Syed let out the smoke to the boy’s face and walked away.
“Let’s see about that, you pervert” the kid was cocky and refused to back down.
I gently pressed my hand on Syed’s shoulder, as he settled back to the counter.
“OK, what do you want. We are closing now. Please be quick” I asked.
“Get me a box of condoms” arrogance radiated from the kid, directing it at Syed, taunting him, clearly stating that he was the superior one, the guy who was taking the girl home.
“Extra small, you forgot to mention” Syed retaliated and smiled by himself. I joined him as well.
“Its none of your business” the kid swallowed the insult.
I glanced to the corner of the street. The hot chic, put out her cigarette, with her white shoes and walked towards us.
She had a swag about her as she walked the narrow street, all eyes focused on her, jaws split wide open as she passed.
Getting back to my work, I looked for his condoms. I never had any customers, asking for it so probably it was stashed somewhere in the bottom closets.
As I was searching for the extra small sized rubber. I got another order/customer.
“Excuse me” an elderly man was waiting for the counter.
“Yes, what can I get you, Sir” I asked.
“My wife is having severe stomach ache since morning and I need these tablets. He handed me the doctor’s prescription”
“Yes sir, I will get it right away”
“Hey, I came her first. Get me my condoms first” the kid spoke with no hint of sympathy for the old man.
“But he needs it urgently, you can wait for a couple of minutes”
“NO……. if you don’t get me my condoms right now, I swear I’m going to sue you so bad, I’m going to take away everything from you.” the kid threatened.
“Give the kid what he wants” the old man said wearily, he didn’t want any more nuisances to deal with. He wanted to get back home to his wailing wife and comfort her.
“OK” I said, only after giving the arrogant kid a deathly stare I went back to searching.
Luckily I found it and handed it over.
“No, no I want the ultra-thin one, the other company, the……I can’t seem to remember…...” he was delaying it, enjoying it. Sadistic creases formed around the corners of his mouth. He was an arrogant, spoilt, heartless asshole who didn’t work a day in his life and got everything in return.
“Which one specifically. I don’t know which brand you are talking about” I asked sternly.
“…………. let me think…… the pink box…….” his right hand around the hot chic’s waist, creeping down to her rear end.
“OK, you keep thinking, while I get to the other customer” I said still trying to maintain diplomacy in this
“Hey, I remember now………. its……….” chuckling with his girl.
And then out of nowhere, Syed’s right hand landed straight to the kid’s temple. It was a perfect full power hook.
The kid fell unconscious to the floor.
“Give the man what he wants, I will take care of it” Syed instructed me, which I followed.
As I got the medicine from the back of the store, I saw the girl walking to the car with the semi-conscious kid on her shoulders.
Syed was at the counter, lighting another cigarette.
“He deserved it” I said.
“No he deserved more than that” he said and chuckled.

Next day.
It was quarter to 12 noon. Grey clouds had swarmed over us and it had started drizzling.
I pulled down the blue, plastic cover sheet over the counter, just for some water protection.
Syed made his entry.
Sometimes, he came in the afternoon if he passed by to buy some raw materials for the factory.
“Hey” Syed wished.
“Last night was really unexpected, wasn’t it? The kid had totally crossed the line……. he deserved it. You did a good thing yesterday.” I said.
“Yeah and you know what, after that blow to his head, I am sure he doesn’t remember what a condom is anymore” he said and chuckled.
“But the girl man………I just can’t get her out of my head.”
“I know” I said with a heavy sigh. Both of us already in acceptance that it was just a passing by instance.
“She is the real loser man, being with that guy, who has no respect whatsoever. She lost my respect man” Syed said. That made us both feel better.
He lit his cigarette and let out a satisfactory smoke.
As soon as I turned away from the counter checking on the new stock items, I received over boxes of antibiotics from Sun pharma, 50 boxes from Hindustan pharmaceuticals and a few boxes from the small time players.
Today morning I was elated as I read the news headlines.
India the world’s largest consumer of antibiotics.
No surprise considering the population and the low hygiene standards. But It was good for business. India is currently the best place to be in the pharmaceutical industry.
A loud shot penetrated through the established afternoon sky and a splash of thick liquid across my face.
I was blinded, till I wiped it out of my eyes.
Blood was all over and Syed head was lying on my counter with a hole on the back of his head.
I could see a couple of guys escaping on their bikes. I knew those guys. They were local gangsters and more importantly members of Syed’s rival gang.
Looking at the blood pour out from his brain, I was numb.
Sad that I had lost a good friend, a good guy.
All of my thought converged to a conclusion that maybe this is what he deserved.
You get what you deserve.

First line

First line. Metal creased the plant, documenting a milestone Balancing himself upright. The page adding to his queries, Trying t...