How can I amuse you?

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An Ode To The Beautiful Primes

When I was in school, I never quite liked math, like every other kid. But being the son of a mathematics professor, my love for math was eventually developed. It can also be seen as an interesting case of Stockholm Syndrome maybe. And now, I like to think math is just like life. Whether you love it or hate it, you can't escape or run away from it.

The beautiful primes (Pic Source: https://www.helpingwithmath.com/printables/tables_charts/misc/Prime-Numbers01.svg)

Revisiting my childhood days, I guess I was in third grade when I first learnt about prime numbers. For all those who have never ever heard of prime numbers before and the ones who think math is Satan's language, allow me to elaborate what prime numbers are.

Prime numbers are numbers that are ONLY divisible by one and itself. In much simple terms, they cannot be evenly divided. As kids, we were told to memorize these numbers and we were supposed to know prime numbers up to at least 100. And we were told that they're important numbers. But I never understood why they are important. Back when I was a 9 year old kid, the concept of primes to me, was as abstract as it could get. And back then I couldn't care less.

It was much later in life that I finally understood the beauty of prime numbers. Prime numbers can be thought of as the crazy diamonds among all the numbers. The misfits among the crowd. Primes are irreplaceable and indivisible by other numbers, which is what makes them special. This makes them like the atoms of numbers and they cannot be decomposed. Sort of like the building bricks of numbers.

So, you might ask how many prime numbers are there in the number universe? Well, the answer here is infinite. And their occurrence is unpredictable, as we move higher and higher up the number line. But for me, the most fascinating thing about prime numbers is that they have no patterns and there is no way to detect when they'll occur. All you can do is check if a number is prime or not. You can't predict their occurrence.

Curiosity has often been one of the primary driving force behind mankind's progress and we humans have always been asking questions. Be it about our existence or our purpose here, we love questions. And we always try to find answers and patterns in things. Right since 300 BC, from the time Euclid wrote his theorem of infinitude of prime numbers, prime numbers have continued to enchant mathematicians and have even made them lose their sanity at times. Primes have always been mysterious and fascinating.

Sometimes in life, you'll meet people who're exactly like prime numbers. The original, the special ones of the world. There's no way to predict when they'll enter your life. But when they do, they'll turn it all upside down and sweep you right off your feet.
Just like mathematics and life, one can't escape running into a prime number. And as on the number line, the frequency of their occurrence is quite rare, as we keep moving ahead in life. So what happens when you meet a prime number in your life? Well, you can't help but fall in love with them. Personally speaking, at least I surely can't. I'm sure you must have met a few of prime numbers in your life. If not, well, perhaps you are the prime number!

But sadly, there's one catch, people most often end up misunderstanding these unique beings. But it's the primes that make up this world a beautiful place. The wonderful freaks who just scream out their individuality in your face! Our habit of finding patterns in things to simplify our lives eventually end up stagnating our lives. Our curiously restless souls seek out for adventure in our lives. And these prime numbers are nothing but living-breathing adventures! Their sheer eccentricity, an unconventional outlook towards life and the courage to differ is what makes them so interesting.

And this one is dedicated to all the prime numbers of my life. Thank you for making my life interesting and keep shining on, you unpredictable & beautiful little snowflakes!

I'll leave you here with some lines by Matt Haig from his book, The Humans - a classic and humorously wholesome read.

“Because prime numbers are fucking serious, man. Some serious shit. They can make you lose it. They’re like sirens. They call you in with their isolated beauty and before you know it you are in some major mind-shit.”

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Behold The Grapes of Wrath

Last year, when I was in Prague, I saw across this huge statue standing in the middle of Wencelas Square.

Statue of King Wencelas, Prague

I was on a walking tour and the guide started narrating me a very interesting story.

In 1960s, when the Soviet Union's Warsaw Pact army had occupied Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), there was a growing anti-communist sentiment throughout the nation. However, the resentment against the oppressors was sort of blunt. There was a cold apathy among the people. It seemed as if no one cared about anything anymore and were gradually getting accustomed to the tyrannical communist regime. Right then, a horrifying yet fascinating event took place at Prague's Wencelas Square. A 20 year old young man, and a student of philosophy at Charles University did something which later turned out to be the turning point in the history of freedom of Czechoslovakia.

On 16 January, 1969, Jan Palach stood atop Wencelas Square, doused in petrol and set himself on fire, to protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. An act that was bound to send shivers down the spine of every living human being of that nation. He succumbed to his burn injuries a couple of days later and his unfortunate death shook the entire nation. His funeral turned into a major anti-communist protest.

A young Jan Palach (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Palach)


This was a very brutal act for a mere 20 year old student. But this very act lit up the embers of the fire of freedom and revolution, in the cold hearts of the people. A couple of months later, two more students Evzen Plocek and Jan Zajic also immolated themselves in protest against the communist invasion. This then led to the Velvet Revolution of 1989, which was primarily led by students and eventually succeeded in ending the communist regime that had lasted for 41 years.

Just when the tour guide finished his story, I was left awestruck about what I had just heard.

And now, when I read about the current protests against NRC and CAA happening in India, I can't help but think about how it's always the students who have been the ones to raise their voice, whenever it has mattered the most. And it absolutely shatters my heart when I hear and read up about the atrocities committed on them, during the protests.

We as a society are often cynical towards the younger generation, judging them for their views and ideals and reprimanding them from time to time. And it scares me when we, time and again, make the mistake of underestimating the impact of their collective voice and fail to understand what they're trying to say. It's the students and the youth who form the backbone and the future of any nation. They have the power to build our future or perhaps destroy it too. Violence, tear gas, lathis and bullets can never suppress ideas. It was John F. Kennedy had said that those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. And I believe his words to be true.

It's said that history repeats itself. Maybe because we never learn from our mistakes and overlook them. And now, when everyday it seems like history is repeating itself, it's you who'll get to decide what side you want to be on. Whichever side you choose, as human beings, one should never forget that nothing stands above love and humanity. Nothing ever will.

I'll now leave you here with the words of the man who wrote our national anthem;

"I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity, as long as I live."  
~ Rabindranath Tagore

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The Empty Pots

It was a bright sunny afternoon of May and the temperature was hovering around forty degrees. Outdoors, not a single person was in sight. Everyone snuggled up inside their houses to avoid facing the wrath of this unbearable heat. As the old woman watched from the window, a light breeze blew the ground dust on the windowpane. She looked for a while and then got up, heading towards the kitchen. The pots were empty and dry. She picked up a couple of those pots and took them with her. Just when she was about to leave, she saw a man on a motorcycle, pulling up in the front of the verandah of the house. The man got down from the bike and gently knocked on the front door.

"Mother?"

The old woman opened the door.

"What happened?", she inquired suspiciously.

"Well, nothing. I was just passing by here and I thought I should visit you."

She looked at him momentarily.

"Okay, come on in.", she said and the man entered the house and sat on the creaky bed.

"I can't offer you water since there's no water to drink. The pots are empty. I was just going to get the water from the neighbouring village well.", the old woman spoke.

"This water issue is getting terrible these days. Summers are the worst here.", he replied nervously.

There was a silent pause for a while.

"So, how's your stomach now? Does it still hurt?"

"It hurts ocassionally."

"Okay, I hope you're taking your medicines on time."

"I am."

"Please let me know if you require anything. And you know it goes without saying that you can come to stay with us anytime, if you're facing any problems here. The kids love to be around you and constantly keep asking for you."

There was an uncomfortable silence again.

"I must go now, it's getting late. Sheela must be worried."

"Okay."

The man got up and reached for his wallet. He waded through the 2000 rupee notes for some time and then stopped abruptly.

"Well, I don't have any change right now. But I'll surely get you the money for the medicines, the next time I visit.", he spoke hesitantly.

"Oh, please don't bother. I've already got my this month's pension. I'll get my medicines", she replied in a wry manner.

"Okay then.", he came forward and hugged the old woman. The old woman just stoically stood there.

The man put his helmet back on and started the motorcycle. He nodded at the old woman who was now leaning on the doorstep and then he left, his sillhoutte disappering in a cloud of dust blown over by the exhaust of the motorcycle.

She closed the door and stared at the photograph hanging on the wall. A man standing beside a woman, a beautiful farmland in the backdrop with a little kid sitting on a tricycle. Their faces in the photograph lit up in a cheerful glee! How happy she was in that photograph. She pondered how cruel time had been to her over the past decade. The man standing beside her in was now having his own separate photo hanging from the wall, with a garland of plastic flowers around it. She wondered why did he have to leave her so early. She remembered the time when he used to play his guitar and sing to her in the evening, out there in the fields, after a long tiring day of plucking cotton;

You'll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four

The old woman stood watching the photograph as hot tears started trickling down her face. The burning tear droplets fell to the ground and evaporated in thin air. She went inside to get the empty pots, which were now as empty as her heart and her forsaken existence.

“You have to die a few times before you can really
live.” ~ Charles Bukowski (The People Look Like Flowers At Last)
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Strange News From Another Star


And when we parted, I hurried home. Wary of my solitude like never before.
I woke up hung-over with the disco lights still flashing in my head. I had been on a pub hopping spree the previous night and it was a wild one. The hostel room was eerily quiet and empty as all the roommates had already left. Also the cranky old woman on the bunk bed beside had left. I checked my watch and it was almost noon. I got up from the bed, put on my floaters and lethargically headed towards the bathroom. I took a shower and freshened up, ready for the day. It was my last day in Budapest and I had kept it free. I had no schedule as such and had planned to explore this marvellous city one last time before I catch my flight back home. I grabbed my camera and my small backpack & went downstairs in the hostel cafeteria to see if they were still serving breakfast. To my disappointment they had wrapped up an hour ago. The coffee was still available though and so were the fruits. I poured myself a cup and picked up an apple while putting two apples in my backpack. They'd save me during my hunger pangs through the long day ahead. After finishing my coffee I ventured outside and damn it was still cold. It was sunny but cold. I took out my sweatshirt and put it on. I didn't have a winter jacket as the weather tricked me and I hadn't predicted this early onset of winter. The chilly breeze was pleasant but at times it cut through the meagre sweatshirt and made me shiver.

Strolling over across the street, towards Deák Ferenc tér, I reached the Lutheran Church. I stopped there for a moment to finish off the apple that I had picked up from the cafeteria and to think about where to go next. Since it was my final day here, I wanted to do some shopping. Gabon, the local tour guide with whom I had went on an orientation walk of the city, a day before, had told me about the Great Market Hall where I can pick up some of the finest Hungarian wine. I saved that place on Google Maps and then threw away the apple bud in the nearby dustbin. I just kept walking leisurely. Not towards the Market Hall as I was going to visit there in the evening. I kept walking ahead, wandering away with my camera, capturing everything interesting that I saw along the way. Trying my best to steal away these beautiful moments from time, in the form of pictures to lock them away in my nostalgia cupboard. Couldn’t get touristier than this.

I now reached the Danube River and could see the Buda Castle on the other side. Taking a left towards Széchenyi Chain Bridge, I saw a throng of tourists following their guide on a walking tour. Those vibrant and happy faces. I greeted the guide and after enquiring a little, I came to know that it was a free walking tour. She said I could join along if I wanted to. Since I had no concrete plans, I agreed to tag along with this horde and see where it goes from there. We all crossed the Széchenyi Chain Bridge and I clicked a picture those two giant and majestic toungless lions who greeted everyone right at the entrance of the bridge. The guide was telling a fascinating story about the sculptor who sculpted those lions and how he jumped off the bridge. I stood there motionless for a moment and gazed at those lions and the river gleaming in the sunny afternoon. It was all so graceful. I wanted to soak it all in. We kept moving and reached the other side of the river, which is known as Buda. There the group stopped for a refreshment break. I saw a small souvenir shop and entered it. There was a woman inside and she greeted me with a warm smile. I smiled back and pointing at the rack of postcards, I asked here "Good afternoon! How much for these postcards?"

She told me the price and then after choosing a few of those postcards I handed her cash. She said something in Hungarian returned me the change and smiled. I didn't understand it. I put the postcards in my bag and I replied "koszonom" and left the store.

Outside, the group had now again assembled for the further part of the journey and I was considering whether I should join them or just saunter on my own. The guide was waving her pink umbrella at me and signalling me to come over and join as they were planning to move ahead. I waved back hesitantly and crossed the road to join the group. We then went walked upwards towards Buda Castle. I tried some small talk with the guide. Although I suck at it and I'm terribly shy when it comes to initiating conversations. She asked me where I was from, how many days I had been here, where I'm headed next, yada yada yada. Her name was Christina and she was from Switzerland and had been in Hungary for the past two years or so. I also came to know that she worked as an assistant in some company and that this was her weekend hobby; to take tourists on free walking tours.

"You see, I love interacting with people. Also, tourists are always happy creatures and sometimes they tip me quite handsomely!” she laughed innocently.
"You'll enjoy it up there. The entire Pest region is visible from Buda Castle. It's a wonderful view"
I nodded in agreement.
"You'll get to click nice pictures from up there"
"Yes, I'm looking forward to it", I replied and smiled.

For the next 15 minutes or so, we kept treading upwards. And she kept on narrating the history behind each of the statues, sculptures & the type of architecture of the structures we encountered on the way. She was also entreating us not to record her while she was narrating. She joked, "I don't want to be famous on Youtube!"
After a while, we finally reached the castle. And she was right, it was indeed a splendid view from up there. The magnificent panoramic view left me mesmerised. I took out my camera and clicked a few pictures.

The tour went on for next hour or so. It ended after we reached Matthias Church. Some street musicians were playing traditional Hungarian music nearby and a tourist couple was dancing to its tunes. Christine gave her mini-farewell speech and people started offering her tips. I reached out in my backpack to get my wallet and took out some cash, about 4000 forints I guess and I gave it to her. She shook my hand and thanked me, wishing me the best for the rest of my journey.

Now I was feeling hungry. The morning apple had already evaporated and I needed to eat. It was almost 3pm now. The walk down was less tiring and reached back to those lions in no time. I had heard about this famous local dish called Lángos and wanted to taste it. I spotted an eatery which served it and went inside. The guy welcomed me.

"Hello Sir, what would you like to have?"
"Well, I want to try the Lángos. Would you recommend me the best in your opinion?"
"Awesome! Do you like cheese?"
"Who doesn't?"
"Well, then I'd suggest you go with this one", he said pointing to a random name on the menu card.
"Okay, whatever you think is the best!"

It was delicious! Imagine a deep fried pizza topped with lots and lots of cheese. After filling my belly and satiating my hunger, I decided to finally start with my intended shopping. I reached the Market City Hall. Skimming through that plethora of shops, I picked up the bottle of wine, a few boxes of chocolates and a t-shirt. That’s it. I was getting tired now and decided to walk back to the hostel. It was almost a kilometre from there. The light blue sky was now turning tangerine due to the setting sun and an uneasy feeling of restlessness was creeping upon me. The feeling you get just when you’re reading the last chapter of a book that have enjoyed reading so much or the last fifteen minutes of a wonderful movie.

I reached Deák Ferenc tér and I remember there was this quaint little bookshop right beside the hostel. I’ve always loved books and I’m guilty of even hoarding them. Anyway, I entered the bookshop and spent almost half an hour just looking through the various titles they had. Kafka, Nietzsche, Fitzgerald, Rilke, Proust, Flaubert and so on. I asked the lady who was dusting off the books to recommend me some Hungarian poetry. She handed me this book called ‘The Lost Rider’ which is an anthological collection of some of Hungary’s finest poets. I picked that up along with a collection of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald called I’d Die For You and a collection of poems by Charles Bukowski titled The Pleasures of the Damned. There are ardent critics of Bukowski but I admire him for his raw and unabashed style.

Upon reaching the hostel I found that it was jostling with new tourists now. The lobby hallway was filled with people. Some were playing pool, a game of chess was underway between two friends, another group of pretty ladies just sat there in the bar, giggling and laughing away in merriment. I went up to my room and entered inside. There was one guy on the upper tier of the adjacent bunk-bed. He nodded and said hello and I nodded back in courtesy.

I put down my backpack near my bed and put my phone and camera for charging. I crashed in my bed and lay there staring at the ceiling. It had been a good day. I was thinking about how these past ten days had been magical. And this sudden realization dawned upon me that it’s all ending now. I had to get back to the same old routine in a couple of days. That’s the worst part about travelling or escaping away I guess. I think whenever you travel, you leave a part of you at the places that you visit and a piece of your soul with all the amazing people that you meet. You’re never the same person when you return. I was feeling depressed now and pitying myself for feeling this way. I had to get my mind off from this and so I started reading. As I was scrolling through my Kindle, I heard the front door unlock. A tall lady entered.

“Hello!” she greeted cheerfully. “Is this occupied?” she asked me pointing to the empty bed where the old woman had been this morning.

“Hi! It’s not occupied as of now. There was a woman here before but she left in the morning.”
“Okay, I’m taking this one then.” saying so she put her bags down on the bed and sat there.

I saw that she was holding a paperback in her hand. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I hadn’t read the book but I had heard about the writer. I noticed she had a lovely face. Only to later realize how wonderfully charming as person she was!
I kept staring at the book in her hand and was momentarily lost in my thoughts.

“What are you reading?” her voice broke my stupor.
“Oh there’s this collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. The book’s called Interpreter of Maladies”
“I’ve read that book. It’s a good book!”
“Yes. I just read a couple of stories and I enjoyed them.”
“So, where are you from?” she asked.
“India.”
“Oh, India! Awesome!”
“And you’re from?”
“I’m from Amsterdam. You’ve been to Amsterdam?”
“Nice! No, unfortunately I haven’t. It’s on my travel bucket list though. Right at the top of the list, I must say!”
“It’s an amazing place. You’ll definitely love it.”

We kept on talking for the next hour or so and I still remember everything we spoke about. I’m sort of a taciturn person and I speak only when I’m spoken too. But I must admit, I never had such an engaging conversation with someone who happens to be a total stranger. She asked me how long I’ve been here in Budapest, what do I do and where I’m headed next and general details about my overall trip and purpose of travel.

She told me she was a professional jazz singer and then we went on to discuss our musical tastes at length.
“Have you listened to jazz music?”
“No, unfortunately I haven’t explored that genre yet. I’m more of a rock n’ roll person you may say. Classic rock to be specific. Floyd, Beatles, Led Zep…”
“Oh, I used to listen to rock n’ roll when I was young. But then I discovered jazz and fell in love with it.”
“Could you recommend me some jazz musicians I could start with? Like something you’d suggest to a total newbie?”
“Well, let me think. Uhm… I really like Ella Fitzgerald. So you can listen to her, she’s really amazing! Apart from that you can also try Louis Armstrong. He’s a great too. Listen to their duets.”
“Let me note that down” I scribbled those names on my pocket mini dairy that I carry with me.

We talked and talked. She told me about her musical expedition to Nepal where she was teaching music to kids. She told me how she knows a few Hindi songs which those kids taught her back then.

“You know that song? Piya piya o piya piya?”
“Oh yes, I do!”

We excitedly hummed together a few verses and gradually the conversation moved from music to literature, discussing our favourite books. I told her about my ardent love for literature and writing in general. And how literature was the primary motivation behind this rather romantic trip of mine. And how most of my favourite writers are European.

“So you really do love literature and you want to write a book but you’re working as an analyst in a corporate firm? That doesn’t match eh?”
“Well, I’d have to blame capitalism for it I guess” I laughed.
“Also, my job helps me pay my bills and it also helped with this trip. So I guess, it’s not that bad after all. Writing or any other art from requires financial freedom. And my job’s providing me that currently.”
“I totally agree with you on that.”
“I have this belief that if you’re good at something, never do it for free and if you love doing something, never do it for money.” I added nervously and then immediately cringed at what I had said.
“Hahaha, interesting!”

Later I found out that she too was a fan of Hermann Hesse, who’s sort of like my favourite author. I showed her an old paperback copy I had of Hesse’s fairy tales and also the books that I had picked up at the bookshop earlier.

She had a delightful persona and I was now very much engrossed in the conversation. It was already 9pm. I absolutely hated doing it but told her I need to go now to have my dinner as I have an early morning flight and I need to sleep early so that I could wake up at three in the morning to catch my flight.

I took her leave and headed downstairs to the bar and she went back to her bed, working on her laptop about a certain project that she had to finish off that night.

Downstairs in the hostel bar a small band was jamming some songs and a group had assembled around to listen to them. The guy was playing the acoustic guitar quite brilliantly. I got myself a stool near the the bartender and asked for a glass of beer and some nachos. The band kept on playing while I sat there sipping my beer. I even had a few shots of Palinka, upon the bartender’s recommendation. I tipped her and then went outside to eat something.

It was freezing cold now. The temperatures dropped drastically at night. The puny sweatshirt wasn’t warming me anymore and the cold wind was making it too uncomfortable. I decided to just grab a couple of Doner kebabs from this nearby outlet and head straight to my room to sleep.
It was midnight now. The city was beautifully shining with night lights as I was walking back towards my hostel. I entered inside and told Jason at the reception to book me a cab for the airport, scheduled for 3am.

After heading back to my room I saw that the lights were turned off. I waded through the darkness towards my bed and put on my bedside lamp. After setting my alarm for 2:30, I dozed off.
The vibrating phone under my pillow woke me up and I checked my watch, it was about time. I had already packed away by stuff. I went to the bathroom and splashed ice cold water on my face to wake up those melatonins. I picked up my backpack and headed towards the door. I glanced at the lady and she was fast asleep. I wanted to say goodbye to her but it’d be really horrible to wake her up at such ungodly hour just to bid her farewell. I closed the door behind me and waited for the elevator.
In the hostel lobby, I sat alone waiting for my cab. Jason said it’ll be here in 15 minutes. I plugged in my earphones while John Denver’s Leavin’ on a Jet Plane started playing. Perfect. I had a flashback of my past three days in Budapest. The places that I saw and the wonderful people that I met, the conversations we had. This entire trip was a magnificent experience that will always be with me, till my last breath.

Instinctively, I took out that old paperback copy of Hesse’s fairy tales and started writing on its first page.

To N,
Here’s from one Hesse fan to another. May you shine on like a diamond with your music! 
~ Emil Sincliar

I ran back upstairs and entered the room. It was dark. I went over to my bed and turned on that bedside lamp once again. I took that book and kept that paperback right beside N’s bed. I hate parting with my books and I never like giving them away to anyone. But this time it felt different. I went back towards to door and had a one last look at the room.

The cab was waiting right outside the hostel gate. I handed over my room’s key card to Jason and thanked him, bidding him a final goodbye as he helped me with my heavy backpack. I entered inside and the driver asked, “Airport, sir?”

“Yes please.” I replied.

He started the car and I saw Jason in the rear-view mirror, waving me goodbye. I waved back at Jason. I leaned my head against the window and sat there gazing at those droplet shaped lights as my vision blurred away with John Denver soothingly singing in my ears;


All my bags are packed
I'm ready to go
I'm standin' here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin'
It's early morn
The taxi's waitin'
He's blowin' his horn
Already I'm so lonesome
I could die...

The streetlights went passing me by, one by one, like these past ten days had gone by. It had been nothing less than a fairy tale. Like a rainbow in the night sky. Like sonorous melodies from a guitar. Like some strange news from another star. 

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The Lizard

“In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”~ Albert Camus

I woke up with the sound of the alarm ringing loudly in my ears. It was already nine in the morning but the bedroom was still unusually dark. I got up from the bed and pushed aside the curtains to let in the morning sunlight. No luck. The sun was obscured behind the grey clouds and the sky outside was grim and melancholic, flaunting a rather dusky look today. Perhaps it'll rain. I gazed outside the window for a few moments and then went in the kitchen to prepare my morning cup of coffee. The wall lizard upon seeing me quickly ran towards the container racks and hid behind them. I flicked on the light switch but no use. The electricity was out. Maybe yesterday night's rain had a role to play in this. Grabbing the milk carton from the fridge I poured it in the cup and then added sugar and coffee powder to it. Stirring it with a spoon I took the cup in the bedroom and placed it on the small table, adjacent to my bed.

I needed the newspaper now. Or at least something to read. So, I went to check on the newspaper. Upon opening the main door, I found that neither the newspaper nor the milk carton was delivered today. I glanced on both sides, across the hallway of the building. Eerily quiet for this morning hour. Even Mrs. Periera's door was shut. I slammed the door shut and then went back to my coffee. On the way, I picked up my earphones which were attached to the music player. Clapton, Porcupine Tree, Simon and Garfunkel, The Smiths, Joy Division, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Opeth. Okay. Opeth. I put on the Damnation album and the beautiful tunes of In My Time of Need started to flow through my earbuds as I slid the music player in my pocket and headed towards my coffee. I took a sip from the cup. Too bitter. More sugar. Just when I was about to get the sugar I heard a knock on the main door. I removed my left earphone to confirm. There was a knock again. Who could it be as this hour, I wondered. Even though I hate doing it, I paused the music and strolled towards the main door to check who it was. I slid down the latch and opened the door.

"Hi John! How are you?"
"Oh hi! What brings you here so early in the morning."
"Nothing my friend. I was just getting bored and also the weather outside isn't suitable for going on a walk, So I thought why not go & meet John!"
"Come in, have a seat. Water, coffee?"
"Coffee will do for now. Black. No sugar."
"Okay", I said and then went inside to get him the black coffee.

"It's too dark in here John, why don't you put on the lights?"
"The electricity's out since morning" 
"Oh. Last night's rain might have blown out the fuse I guess"

I came back with his black coffee and handed him the cup.

"Thank you!", he took the cup and started sipping it right away.

"So, what brings you here at this hour?"
"As I told earlier John, I was just getting bored. And it's almost been a week since we met. So I thought I should catch up with you. What's up with you these days?"
"Nothing much. Just the usual.", saying so I picked up my cup and started drinking. The coffee had gone cold now.

"Okay.", he leaned in closer "and what about the ghost?", he said in a low whisper.
I stopped sipping my coffee and just stared blankly at the cup.
"John, are you okay? I didn't mean to scare you."
"Yes. I'm fine."
"Thank god! So, did you get rid of him? The ghost?" 
"I haven't seen him in a while. It seems that he's probably gone now. I hope so."
"That's good. You don't need to be scared of things like ghosts or whatever. They can't do shit to us you know."
"Yeah.", I nodded hesitantly.

There was silence for few minutes and it was getting uncomfortably cold now since it had started raining heavily outside.

"I'll shut the window. The breeze is too cold.", I said and got up from my settee.
"Sure"

I went near the bedroom window and latched it shut.
"You need anything to eat? I have biscuits."
"Well, I'm a bit hungry too. Get me some."
"Sure"

I went inside the kitchen to get the biscuits. The lizard was peering intently at me from behind the container boxes. I picked up the box which contained the biscuits and the lizard panicked and ran over to the ceiling. It scared me a bit. Actually scared is not the right word. I felt nauseated. I put the packet of biscuits in my pocket and placed the container box back where it belonged. All this while the lizard was eyeing me. Its timid yet strong gaze made me feel sick. I had to get rid of this fucker. I couldn't stand this unwelcome guest anymore.

So, I took the broom and held it as a sword.

"John, did you find the biscuits?"
"Yes.", I shouted back.

I still had the broom in my hand and a drop of sweat trickled down over my nose and landed on my lower lip. Damp and salty. The kitchen was still cold as an ice room. I raised the broom and tried to scare the lizard away. It moved sideways. My aim now was to get it near the window so that I could successfully drive it out of the house and my life. I shoved the broom once again towards the lizard and this time it lightly shaved its tail. Plump. There was a sound and it fell down on the floor. My breath stopped at this and I was almost about to puke. I don't know who was scared more. Me or the lizard. Upon falling, the lizard haphazardly tried to find a place to hide. A place from where it could save itself from the broom and still be able to leer at me with its disgusting eyes.

"John, is everything okay?'
"Yes. I'm just washing the plate to put the biscuits in"
"Don't take much trouble John, it's fine if you just get the packet too. We'll eat the biscuits out of the packet."
"I'm almost done here", I replied in a shrilly voice.

Meanwhile, the lizard was on the floor looking at me and my broom. Oh the audacity of this creature. Trying to scare me in my home. Trying to make me uncomfortable in my home. I couldn't stand it anymore. I shooed at it one more time. This time I was more aggressive than before. But I had to be careful not to kill it. A dead lizard is far more terrible to look at than a live one. Fortunately, it ran towards the window this time and stopped near the edge of the window sill. Still reluctant to leave. Still staring at me. Enough. I raised the broom to hit it this time and the lizard knew it had to run for its life. And it vanished outside the kitchen window. Peace. At least for now.

"John?"
"Yes, coming with the biscuits", saying so I hurried back towards the bedroom with the packet of biscuits.

"Here's the biscu...", the words stopped in my throat. There was no one in the room. Terribly silent and cold. The empty coffee cups still lay there on the table. I just stood there with the packet of biscuits in my hand. Standstill. It was getting unbearably cold. Almost killing me. I had to put on the heater now.

I picked up both the coffee cups and shoved them in the wash-basin. I turned on the thermostat and dialed it way up. Sinking down in my bed I put my earphones back on. To Rid the Disease was playing. I lay there looking at the ceiling and pulled the blanket over my head for comfort. I had gotten rid of the lizard. At least for time being. And then sweet sleep came and devoured my troubled mind. Peace and harmony. The battle was over but the war is still on...

***

(It's been ages since I wrote a short story. Do let me know your views on this one and please share it, if you enjoyed reading it. Thank you! Until next time, adios!")

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