The Stalker-Betal tales I
There he was. Shwetha froze when she saw him up close. She was walking towards the lift when she saw him standing inside the lift with a raised hand, presumably to press the buttons.
She changed direction and walked towards the staircase and he would have definitely known it. But…but why was he staring at her like that? Surely he wasn’t waiting for her to step in to the lift.
He was there, and he was not planning to go to another floor .
He was also looking at her with an intensity that made her shiver. May be he was a psychopath. May be he was some…
Curse ! Why did she have to wear that nice dress today? But …this was a different kind of stare altogether.
She didn’t know how she ran down the steps or how she jumped in to an auto or how she got in to her office…but not before she spotted him standing outside her office. He smiled at her , a kind of humorless smile and sped away in a bike. She ran in to her office and tried to calm herself. No one can come in to the office without an identity card! Office ,it’s the safest place to be…
She walked in to the lobby area as she wanted to look at the newspaper,only to find him sitting on the visitor’s chair. She somehow managed not to scream and ran back inside.
Ranjith had to be called! This was getting serious! This is probably the tenth time in two days she had caught this man staring at her and…
“Hey, nice dress. Did you run a marathon or something? You don’t look well.” She mumbled something to Amrita about a head ache and Amrita practically dragged her to the canteen, which thankfully was accessible from within their high security premises.
“Anything to do with Ranjith?” Amrita knew about the budding romance and a possible engagement. Shwetha shook her head. “No , it’s not him. I am scared of a man who seems to be following me. EVERYWHERE!”
“Not so loud! Tell me , if there is any problem you don’t have to suffer alone. I’d let Daddy know and he’d know what to do.” “I don’t want to go to the police just yet…I want to get out of the office now and go …somewhere”.
“Hey, Shwetha,..you are being paranoid and …”
Shwetha insisted on taking sick leave , talked to her manager who agreed to “let the goat out for a day ” and Amritha, despite herself, ended up accompanying her.
The girls asked the auto man to go to Velachery at first where Shwetha lived but almost a kilometer from her place , Shwetha changed her mind and asked him to go to Mylapore instead.
He called them “saavu krakki” [ ‘death” customer in transltion] and she shivered.
Amrita looked at her with some worry. It was pouring when they reached Mylapore.
Abhirami complex”. Shwetha said and the driver looked as though he wanted to kill her but he apparently changed his mind and said, “I’d take you to America. Just pay a little extra.”
The Egyptian theme interiors in Abhirami complex scared her some more .Mummies! Egyptian death curses!
What a setting for a climax scene.
Suddenly she spotted him near the coffee shop they were approaching. “It’s him! Amrita, it’s him! He wants to kill me, no, he wants to kidnap me!” He was sipping coffee ,.He looked at them over the rim of the paper cup and lowered it in a deliberate manner.
He must have been about thirty and was decently dressed. But there was something in his eyes. they were shining with a fire she had not seen before on any face… a Jack the ripper who followed women who were successful!
A psychopath Tamil movies were fond of. A serial killer or a pervert who…
He was looking at Shwetha again with the same intensity and this time, Amrita shivered too. The girls ran out of the complex , jumped in to another auto and asked the driver to go to Alwarpet.
“Alwarpet! I have to meet Ranjith! He ‘d know what to do. Amri, you can get down at your place on the way”.
Amrita laughed and said, “Ok, you won’t need anyone else just now. Have a nice time with Ranjith and don’t kill him with your fears. May be it ‘ s all a coincidence. Yes, he looks terrible but let’s not be too scared. And, call me if you need anything. Sigh!some Friday it has been, especially for some auto drivers. Bye!”.
Ranjith was delighted to see Shwetha at first but when he heard the whole story he looked worried. Worried about her sanity.
They were having coffee in a nearby restaurant and she stiffened suddenly when she saw the man walk slowly towards the empty table nearby…
He looked at her, pulled out a lap top , started it and seemed to be busy checking something. Her heart was in her mouth as she saw the monitor that had her smiling image and she said , “Ranjith, there is proof! He is looking at …””
“He is working on Excel. Don’t be silly. If you want ,I’d talk to him and ask him why he is following you. “The man was indeed working on Excel and seemed very busy suddenly.
Ranjith planted himself in front of the man and had a talk with him as a trembling Shwetha watched. Ranjith came back with a smile on his face and told her the man was reporter who was working on a story about how women coped in a big city.
Shwetha didn’t find it convincing at all but as Ranjith talked about possible honey moon destinations ,she relaxed a little and even managed to smile. He dropped her at her music class and asked her to call him if she needed any help.
The music class went on uneventfully and as she plopped herself on the sofa in the lobby she saw him again. “Not you. It was some other Shwetha. We’ll meet much much later. I am sorry for the inconvenience I caused.”
He said in a flat voice and walked away. She suddenly felt a momentous rage, walked over to him and caught him by his shirt collar.
He was one head taller than her and it wasn’t easy.
“So you admit you indeed stalked me. Why? Why did you lie to Ranjith? Do you have any idea how much I suffered these few days? TELL ME WHY!”
The man looked around . There was no one in the hall and he seemed to be considering something.
“Okay , no one would come here now. I ‘ve made sure of that. The same way I made sure your friends laughed your fears off. I’d tell you why I stalked you.”
He looked at her and smiled.
“Your name was on the list .Was.”
She looked at his dark intense eyes .
“I didn’t want to repeat old mistakes. I am supposed to pick up a girl called Shwetha and I was stalking you to check whether you were the right person. I found out that your accounts are not yet there and decided to tell you in person before going back.”
“Glad you asked.” he said and smiled an almost handsome smile.
No , Shwetha, he is strange. Don’t be attracted to him!
“I am the messenger of death. This is one of my first assignments. I am only a trainee but you know our department is very busy these days and trainees like me get sent on death missions too
I once picked up a wrong person and returning him back was such a pain. My PA suffered too…not fair, isn’t it , that trainees have appraisals?”
Shwetha stopped twisting the ends of her kurta and laughed. She didn’t know why she found that hilarious. May be she had cracked up. May be she hadn’t.
“I see. Death Sir, why aren’t you wearing those jewellery we know you people wear?””
He looked sheepish suddenly.
“Yama lok* has amended some employee rules. Friday dressing, you know.”
“I don’t believe you. You are queer. Very strange. You want me to like you or something.”
He looked at her again with the same smoky intensity and she reeled under the strong gaze.
Her life flashed before her, all the fourteen reels , her first day at school ,her first actor-sweetheart who didn’t know she existed, her first job, her first meeting with Ranjith…”
He lowered his hand that seemed to be writing something on air and smiled .
She wasn’t there at that moment and when he asked her if she believed what he said she nodded in the affirmative.
He talked some more about how tough his job was but why he loved it.
“…the fear on their faces when they know…the change of heart when it’s too late , the reluctance they show in following me when I have them in my control…but they get used to it eventually. The ones left here scream and cry but they don’t do that much unless…ah, that’s my job for you, a guy has gotta do whata guy has gotta do.”
“Bye for now, Shwetha.”
“I don’t believe this.”
“You believe I exist .Why can’t you believe people like him exist?”
“Betal**, you don’t understand. Do you think messengers of death would make mistakes?”
“They do and they correct those mistakes hastily when they are pulled up. I’d tell you another story…”
Vikram sighed . “I am destined to listen to endless stories from you. I think that silly girl has a fertile imagination. May be a little loose in the head region. Or she may have a strange interest in intense eyed , mysterious men. Freud says…”
Betal laughed . “You can’t be without making theories, can you ? You’d never get me.”
Betal blew an air-kiss and flew away.
Now back to some real problems.
His wife was wondering who he was seeing every night. She wouldn’t believe in “stories” either and he thought facing the M . of D. would be far less scary…
From this link ,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yama_(Hinduism)
*Yama (Sanskrit: यम) is the lord of death in Hinduism, first recorded in the Vedas.
From this link, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baital_Pachisi
**Baital Pachisi or Vetala Panchvimshati (“Twenty five tales of Baital“) or Vikram and The Vampire is a collection of tales and legends from India. It was originally written in Sanskrit. Like Arabian Nights, it is a set of tales, within a frame story.
The story revolves around the semi-legendary King Vikram, identified as Vikramāditya (c. 1st century BC). Vikram promises a yogi to bring him the Baital (or Vetala in Sanskrit), a huge vampire. Baital hangs on a tree and inhabits and animates dead bodies. Vikram faces many difficulties in bringing the Baital to the yogi. A series of Hindu fairy tales are strung on this frame story, which typically include the following sequence:
- The Baital agrees to accompany the Vikram, provided the latter does not speak.
- The Baital tells Vikram a tale in which one or more characters’ behaviour seems to be awkward or unjust.
- The Baital concludes the tale with a question about the character’s behaviour, which is actually a cleverly-disguised riddle about righteousness and/or politics.
- Vikram answers and succeeds in justifying the character’s behaviour.
- As Vikram speaks, violating their agreement, the Baital flies back to the tree.
Can they make mistakes? My Father used to tell us about a Ramasamy from his native village who died and when preparations for his funeral were going on, he “woke” up , as though from sleep. But another Ramasamy who lived in the next street died soon after….This story was inspired by that anecdote.
Seems to me, it is better to have a rare name or a rare [ improbable] spelling [ numerology induced] for one’s name. On second thoughts, the person who was “recalled” may have what is called as a “near death experience” and may be changed by that experience forever…
Previously posted in Sulekha almost a year ago at this link.
More posts by this author:
- Betal Aur Betal
- That night, in Nanda’s humble home
- The Suitor-A Micro Story
- The Green Guava
- Who was that ?…and who’s this?