Lurking Shadows

“Smarten up, young man!” thundered Colonel Shekhawat, his voice resonating in the society central park. Ramesh, the chowkidar came running expecting Colonel Sahib engaged in a brawl like always. To his surprise, there stood the Colonel, making a conversation, but to whom? Ramesh stood puzzled as there was no one in sight at the receiving end. “Oh Lord! he moans. There goes Shekhu Baba once again.” “Old habits die hard.”

The young men he commanded ages ago probably still lurk as ghosts around him. This seemed to be the only justification Ramesh could figure out.  He has been in quite a few such interludes with the old man. Most of the time, he runs from the gate to push the old man into the ground floor pitch dark flat no 102.

This assignment is probably the most trying one he has encountered in his short 5 year career graph as a security guard.  While most days pass peacefully, on many others, he is trying to convince the Colonel at midnight that there stands an empty beer bottle or a half-full whisky glass at the receiving end.

Shekhu Baba is an appellation bestowed on the Colonel by the society kids jeeringly. The society dwellers have always held a suspicious view of his old habits which continue to remind them of the lurking flickers of the past. Stories have travelled and traversed each door and melted into multiple interpretations. Ramesh continues to be intrigued as his vehement efforts to know which ‘old habits’ are yet to die, are all in vain.

One night, it is past midnight, when he is caught off guard by a light tap on his shoulder. He almost jerks his neck and turns around to find himself staring into Shekhu Baba’s cold eyes. “What the hell?” the instant muffed response.

“Sahib? What are you doing here at this hour?” Unable to elicit any response, Ramesh stands muddled, his smile converting to a grave look. “This is the moment, he mutters, let me unravel the hidden life of this man.” He gently nudges, Shekhu Baba forward, edging him to move towards the flat. He was hopeful that in this trance-like state, answers to his many questions would not be difficult. Only if this was to be……

A sudden push lands him against the metal gate breaking the medley of thoughts. Struggling to regain balance, it isn’t long before he feels a sharp, sparkling metallic Swiss knife pinching against his neck.

“Sir ji, what are you doing?” “You are not in your senses.”

Gasping for breath, Ramesh constantly tries to push back Shekhu Baba, being very sure that he was deep in sleep or under the influence of liquor.

All efforts are futile. The strength with which he is pinned down is unbelievable. Before Ramesh realises, the pinching knife leaves two deep gashes on his neck. And suddenly the grip loosens. Ramesh dashes towards the guard hut knowing very well that it isn’t over yet…..

A seemingly feeble foot is placed in the door blocking it leaving Ramesh terrorised.

Leaping for the phone, the familiar commanding voice engulfs him, “Don’t even try, if you want to live!” “Don’t meddle with my affairs, don’t dare to seek my past, remember old habits die hard and you may not live to recount them to anyone.” “Smarten up young man.”

Beyond this the voice trails…..as if turning into a whisper.

He is woken up by the second guard relieving him at 7 am. Life seems to go on as usual in the society.

He can feel the cuts but nothing else!

Straining his head for answers, he mumbles, “Some questions are best unanswered.”

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Saravjot Hansrao
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