Archive for June, 2011

The Curious Incident of the Room

Posted by Freddy on Jun-25-2011

I could feel the muscles of my face tightening with the intensity of the situation just as these words were spoken. Raziya gave a start which spilled the tea from her cup. We knew that we were encountering a very singular case. As it was my way of preparing for the situation I made up my mind to face any kind of sinister outcome from the ordeal which I found myself deep into.

We must act quickly! I exclaimed

So there is indeed something to worry, isn’t it? Aahana’s voice sounded low.

Let’s hope not. And with this I tried to force a smile on my face and continued.

“I will inspect it myself tonight. I know it carries a lot of risk which we can possibly avoid by letting the Pai’s know of it, but then it would amount to alerting our midnight ‘intruder’. We must catch him off guard, for which it is essential to carry out this operation myself. You both will no doubt assist me in this?”

“Tell us what to do”. My wife, who appeared evidently much disturbed, said.

We will inspect the site of your building now. I expect to find answers to some of my doubts in the structure of the building.

Raziya and Aahana looked at each other in utter disbelief that I have already formed my theories, when things were still in utter darkness for them. Raziya knowing my methods chose to follow me silently.

“You have the amazing gift of silence, my dear Watson, which makes you as indispensable as a companion” the voice of Sherlock Holmes echoed in my mind’s ear.

The evening was getting late and we knew that in about an hour the darkness would render all our efforts futile. We had to literally rush to the locale of the Mr. and Mrs. Pai’. The building was a beauty- small yet with all the elegance of the British yore. It was situated in a corner where two small lanes met, which made the house quite vulnerable for an incident like the same. Aahana showed me her part of the house and I went round and round the place to take as close as possible as to find out the openings on the walls that led to the insides. There were two windows and a door. The door opened to the terrace. The windows were on the Eastern side. Just as everything seemed to be in perfect order to Aahana’s narrative, I made a turn around the corner of the road which made me see from the side the western side of the house. There was a closed window! I turned around to ask Aahana, but stopped short noticing the shock and horror on her face. She murmured in a low Tone.

“How come I don’t see this closed window from the inside?”

The three of us were in utter disbelief. Instinctively I dug out a telescope from my pocket that has been my companion at sea for a long time now. It was a fairly powerful telescope which had the greatest advantage of being really miniscule, which could be hid in my palm. I held it to my eyes, Adjusted the focus and my Jaws dropped! I have seen nothing like this before. It was a relief carved on the wall and painted so well, undoubtedly by a good artist to resemble a closed window!

A FALSE WINDOW!!!

I had made up my mind and started looking at all the possible ways to get on to the terrace by climbing up the wall, and to enter it by the terrace before it is time for the terrace door to be closed. Both the ladies waited outside with abated breath as I slid into the room. No one had noticed anything. Especially the owners of the house. So far so good! I remained as silent as I could, but couldn’t help my heart from pounding on my chest. I wondered if my heartbeat could be heard outside. Seconds and minutes passed by. The darkness was getting thicker and thicker outside, and the world started going silent, with very few hums and dins of distant vehicles. I sat on the bed near the western wall, and I couldn’t throw out the illusion of the window from my mind- why would anyone want to do it? Whom did they want to deceive? And why? A million questions! The room was now in complete darkness! The hour was getting really late. The world has gone to sleep.

Just then, I heard a faint creek. All the muscles of my body twitched as I focused on the creek sound. I started up from bed careful enough to be as silent as possible. I kept my left ear stuck to the wall and slowly moved forward in the direction of the sounds. A meter or so away where one wall meets the other, I saw a faint light that shook my mind violently! There was a false chamber beyond the wall. The light was escaping from a very narrow crack, which in day light would have appeared like an ordinary crack on the plaster. I moved close. I was sweating head to toe, and every fraction of an hour appeared like ages! I was sure there was someone ‘there’. Whether he is armed or not? I did not know. There was no option for me…so I slid like a snake towards the crack and with all my might brought my eyes as close to the crack as possible to see the other side. I did so, and to my horror of horrors, a face sprang up towards me from the crack!!!

THE FACE WAS MY OWN FACE!!!

I fell backwards as every inch of my body froze, and with a start, I opened my eyes!!!

The terrible room had disappeared and I was in my comfortable little bedroom! I reached out for the glass of water from my bedside, and heaved a sigh of great relief!!!

The Curious Incident of the Room

Posted by Freddy on Jun-18-2011

(Part I)

It was a warm summer in the south Indian port town of Tuticorin that my reminiscence now leads me to. I was enjoying a few months of sojourn waiting for my ship to arrive at the docks of the Tuticorin port situated about 590 Km south of Madras. I was with my wife Raziya in our moderately comfortable villa built during the British period. The villa was a perfect place for resting as it had an air of tranquil luxury about it. We spent our days breathing in all that we could, of the historic place. Raziya had engagements with the music concerts and the public library of the place.

It was one such evening about 6 o’clock, Raziya returned from her evening walk. She came in with another woman of about her own age. I was introduced to her as her old school mate Aahana. She had met Aahana on the way back home, after a long while. They were so excited to meet and to enlighten each other of their lives on all the years that had gone by. Raziya invited her to our home for an early dinner. She was a quiet woman, with a suppressed smile as she listened while my wife and I talked about the place and its people. It wasn’t difficult for me to notice that Aahana was feeling uneasy. There was something about her demeanor that displayed her anxiety, no matter how hard she tried to conceal it. Point blank as I am when something engages my keen attention, I approached the subject without any ceremony. “Aahana, what is troubling you? Pray, tell us about it. Tell us everything”. Aahana knew there was no point in hiding anything when she has become so transparent to me. I could also feel a very subtle feeling of relief escape her countenance!

Raziya got her a glass of water in the mean while. Aahana took a sip, which seemed to ease her from within. She sat up straight, and began her narration.

“You know Freddy, how delighted I am to have come across my old friend Raziya and you, at this juncture when I need a friend’s company the most. My mother had died at a very early age and it was my Dad who brought me up, in all the wonderful ways that a single father could bring up his only daughter, with all the norms of the society and an education which he used to say would set me off flying to explore the world. He was a hard working man, who never lost an opportunity to earn an extra rupee by working overtime at the Indian railways, where he was the engine driver. Years of his exposure to the hazards of pollution while at work, he contracted a very severe kind of chest infection, which debilitated him for a while and eventually took his life. I consoled myself by thinking that it was God’s way of putting an end to his sufferings. After my father’s demise, I was left a complete orphan. Luckily for me I got a job as a music teacher at the public school at Tuticorin, and for the past 2 years I am picking up and placing back the pieces of my life. I was offered accommodation moderate enough for a woman who is contended with her means, with decent food by an old couple in the neighborhood of the school. I live there with them as their paying guest. Mr. and Mrs. Pai is a sweet couple who have had no children. They have a big house and a large sum in the bank with which they lead a wonderfully happy life. I have been leading a happy trouble free life until a few days ago, when something started stirring my mental peace.”

She paused to drink water and I could notice that she was shaking from head to toe.

My mind started racing. “Pray continue” said I. The house where I am living is an old duplex house. The lower portion is occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Pai. I occupy the top portion that consists of a small study and a bedroom with an attached bath. “

“Where is the staircase to your portion situated?” I interrupted.

“It is from inside the house, from the living room of the ground floor.”

“The owners of the house are early sleepers. I retire to bed after my regular reading and writing at precisely 10.30 and very soon I would be fast asleep. Three days ago I was woken up by a strange sort of murmuring sound that somehow seemed to come from very near. I distinctly remember the sound even as I am telling this to you. Words were unintelligible. It went on just for a minute or so intermittently. I noticed with the faint light in the room brought by the glass windows, that the clock on the wall showed half past one. There are two windows in my bedroom both facing the east. On the south is the bathroom. The north side has the door that leads from my study. There are two other doors in the study. One leads t o the open terrace and the other one comes from the staircase. I lock these two doors invariably. My bed is near the west wall which is a blank wall. There is nothing beyond that wall. The strange murmuring sound as if a man was talking to himself in an undertone, came from this blank wall which causes my anxiety. I waited for sometime frozen in fright to hear more such sounds. None came, and I slowly drifted into sleep. The next day I spoke to the housekeepers and they, out rightly dismissed it as a figment of my imagination.”

Last night again the same thing happened! I could not sleep after that.

At this point I interrupted again. “When it is just a murmur that you heard which didn’t have any manifested results, and harmless as it appears, why do you have to pay too much heed to it?”

“That was exactly my own thoughts Freddy, and I was ready to throw it out of my mind when the event took a frightening turn last night!”

I was sitting on the edge of my seat, when Aahana continued.

“Last night the voice CALLED OUT MY NAME!”

(To be continued…)

Next week… The Invisible Intruder…

Journal of a Sailor…

Posted by Freddy on Jun-11-2011

Preface

There is something unchangeable in the life of an ancient ship and modern hi-tech ships. It is the life of a sailor. The loneliness, the hardships, the toil and turmoil, are all the same. Above all, are the strange happening on board that comes with the fact that you are not in contact with the land for a long time, drives even the bravest of sailors to madness. Bizarre occurrences that may seem straight out of a fairytale theatre or a horror story book. Things, that leaves you wondering if you had been dreaming all the while or had you really been a witness in real life. Things those are too strange to be true.

I have been going in and out of consciousness every now and then and this fever is taking its toll on me. I see people who for sure are not travelling with me. I even see people whom I know are dead. I see my house back in my country. I even see characters coming out from the pages of those ancient dog-eared, leather bound books that I have been my companions in loneliness. I also see the places I have been to all these years.

Some inner compulsion is pushing me to chronicle each and every event as and when they happen in my brain – for, there is no witness than myself in the infinite vastness of my mind. Partly from the inspiration I have derived from the huge amount of books that I have devoured; the indefatigable Dr. Watson who noted down every trivial detail of the ways of his companion Sherlock Holmes, Lemuel Gulliver who noted every strange thing that he encountered on his lonely voyage, much like Sindbad the sailor of the Arabian lore, Abbe Faria , who painstakingly documented each and every bit of his vast knowledge, while in incarceration, which later helped the Count of Monte Cristo on his path of being an instrument to the divine retribution.

Sometimes I pause to absorb the gravity of the situation. However as my moving finger writes, you will get to read them all here in my journal. The singular occurrences that, can in no way reconcile to the settled order of nature!

“Due for next week… A curious incident of the room…..”

Keep reading…

To be continued…..

The Mysore Palace

Posted by Freddy on Jun-5-2011

One of the most unforgettable images of the city is the image of the illuminated Mysore Palace against the dark black sky. It takes ninety seven thousand light bulbs to produce this enchanting image of the Palace. The Palace is situated in the middle of the city and is a reminder of the grandeur of a bygone era and is today an invaluable national treasure.

The Palace that stands today is the fourth one to be built in the same site. When the capital was shifted back to Mysore from Srirangapatnam, after Tippu Sultan’s death, the Palace was hastily rebuilt with wood and mud, in a Hindu style. The Royal family moved into it in 1801. But this Palace was burnt down in a fire that broke out during the wedding of the oldest daughter of Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar in 1897. The reconstruction of the Palace was undertaken immediately and the Royal family moved to Jaganmohan Palace. The English architect Henry Irwin designed the new Palace and it was completed in 1912 at a cost of about Rs 41 lakhs.

The Amba Vilasa Palace as the Mysore Palace is known, is an excellent combination of Dravidian, Indo-Saracenic, Oriental and Roman styles of architecture. The Maharaja’s Palace is a beautiful three storied stone building of fine gray granite and rich pink marble domes, overlooking this structure is a five-storied 145 foot tower whose domes are gilded in gold. One enters the Palace through the Gombe Thotti or the Doll’s Pavilion; this is a pavilion of traditional dolls from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. This collection also has a wooden elephant howdah (structure for carrying people on the elephant) that is decorated with 84 kilograms of gold.

There are seven canons in front of the Gombe Thotti and are used to this day to mark the beginning and the end of the Dasara festivities every year. Ahead of this is the elephant gate, this gate in the main entrance to the center of the palace. The Kalyana Mantapa or marriage pavilion has a central octagonal gabled roof that is covered with stained glass. This pavilion is in the south of the building. The floor of the Kalyana Mantapa has beautiful geometrical patterns created by using shining glazed tiles imported from Britain. The Ambavilasa or Diwan-e-Khas, is the hall used by the emperor for private audience.

This room is one of the most ornate rooms in the Palace and is located on the first floor, facing east. The Diwan-e-Aam is on the same floor facing south. The Palace has a number of visually delightful rooms like the portrait gallery, the royal armory, collections of costumes and jewellery, delicately carved doors of mahogany and solid silver, graceful chandeliers, decorative stained glass ceilings, ornamental frescoes. During the Dasara the Royal throne made of 200kgs of pure gold is displayed. It is claimed that the ancestry of the throne can be traced to the Pandavas. On the walls of the Palace the Dasara processions have been painted in such a way that, no matter where and how you stand the procession seems to be heading towards you.

There are twelve temples inside the Palace complex dating from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries and have varying architectural styles. The Palace is set in a carefully laid out gardens.