Aug 18, 2011

"One Serving Moon" - a story

A little story that I wrote last year. Thanks to Harish, George, Vinay, Aditya, and others for suggestions and criticisms.
No sooner had the car left to take its owner to his early morning tennis session that a buggy rolled to a halt outside the house. The driver, a pale and sweaty man, peered outside. He was blessed with a natural talent in looking like the kind of person you did not want appearing outside your house, especially early in the morning. This was fortunate for Kato, for it contributed to his successful career as legal summons executive (recently promoted and now on overseas assignment).
Kato was not a morning person himself, but he had a long list of people to confront that day. This town of plagiarists, copyright-violators, and inspiration-thugs slept late into the day and was most likely to be at home at dawn. It was also a good idea to let the young intern with him know that in this job, comforts such as a leisurely start to the day did not exist. But there were compensations: for instance, the satisfaction of personally delivering bad news to the doorsteps of reprobates.
"This seems to be the house of 'Singh, S', said Kato, looking around. "You got the papers, kid?"
Aftab, the intern, nodded. He pulled out some papers from a cream envelope, and appeared to be checking that he had everything. But he continued to fiddle with them, unwilling to step out.
Kato had seen this before. One of the perils of seniority was being saddled with namby-pambies, of having to "show them the ropes". Such phrases always made Kato feel like a master executioner. He found himself drifting into a daydream involving a pair of gallows and some unknotted nooses, but snapped himself out of it. It was the heat, he reminded himself. He longed for some tranquility instead of this noisy, sun-lit city.
"See, kid, it's just as they tell you in training. You walk up, you knock, you ask for the guy - in this case, Mr. Singh. You serve him the papers. If he has any questions, you tell him the answers are in them. If they press on, you point to the toll-free helpline number. If they begin to sob, you simply walk back, without leaving yourself vulnerable to an attack from the rear."
Yeah, the agency had got it down to a business process.
"I've heard other agents have had things thrown at them. Just last week..."
Kato cut in. "That happens, yes. But these war stories are often exaggerated. Get going kid, we got lots of other places to go to."
He watched Aftab reluctantly pull himself out of the buggy, and drag himself down the walkway past the gate, and to the front door. Kato looked at the print-out in his hand, trying to figure out the route to the next villain in fake-town.
Even before he could finish, he heard footsteps and looked up to see a relieved Aftab.
"Done already? Good start, mister."
"No, no", said Aftab, trying to catch his breath. He's fled back, thought Kato. There were no signs of blood, so perhaps whatever was thrown at him had missed its target.
"I couldn't deliver the notice - he wasn't there. Mr. Singh, I mean. Oh, he's not Mr. Singh. Gulzar sir has gone to play tennis. I mean he must be Mr. Singh, but he's not there."
The scaffolds, the blindfolds, the last meals...the images came flooding back into Kato's head. The guillotines and electric chairs patiently awaited their turn.
"Rubbish! What are you talking? - sober up, fella. Explain yourself."
Aftab was a roly-poly law school graduate whose fifteen-plus years of formal education had rendered him unskilled in presenting a cogent explanation of anything outside the syllabus. Yet he tried.
"Sir, what I am trying to say is like this. Gulzar sir lives in this house. I saw a photo of him inside. In the living room, behind the person who answered the door. That person who told me 'sir is not there, he has gone for tennis'."

The rest of the story continues (on page 3) below:
Can't access the document above? Download a pdf from here.

Aug 8, 2011

Mood Indigo India Quiz questions

Last December, I conducted an India quiz as part of the quizzing festival at Mood Indigo (IIT Bombay's annual college fest, for those not in the know). The questions (from the prelims and the two main rounds in the final) have been uploaded to Slideshare:

I also have another quiz of mine (called "Balls, Ballots, Bollywood") in the same account. It can be accessed here.

If you have a look at these questions and have any comments, do let me know!