|Creative Writing Competition 2012 India|
|THEME||A Strange Day/Night|
‘I’m sorry. I’ll be right back’, John said, excusing himself as he walked out of the meeting room, cellphone in hand. He cursed himself for not turning it off during the meeting. He stood outside the door and answered the call.‘ Hello’, he said hurriedly, in a loud whisper.
‘ Good morning sir. I am calling from HSC bank. As a privileged customer we are offering you a premium credit card…’
‘Shut the f**k up, b**ch’, he wanted to scream into the phone. But in a clipped voce between gritted teeth he cut her off, mumbling that he was not interested .
These telemarketers were getting out of hand, some government regulation needs to happen, he thought angrily as he went back in his meeting, taking a sip of water to calm down .
The next day he sat in front of his computer, tearing his head over a rogue piece of Java code when his phone rang again. With one hand still scrolling the mouse, he picked up the phone and barked into it,‘ Hello’
‘ Good morning sir. I am calling from HSC bank. As a privileged customer …’
This was it. These idiots need to be taught a lesson, he thought. ‘ Yes, tell me’, he interrupted the lady on the other end. Surprised by this response, she started all over again. ‘ Good morning sir. I am Preetha from HSC bank. As a privileged customer we are offering you a premium credit card. It has exclusive benefits and tie ups with more than a thousand establishments across the country…’
‘Err, Preetha’ he said.’ I am interested in this card, but can you call me tomorrow at around 12 oclock in the afternoon?. I’ll be at lunch then, so I can listen’.
The girl’s voice perked up. ‘ Of course, sir. I will give you a call tomorrow. Have a nice day’, she said.
He hung up the phone and went back to his code.
At exactly 12 noon the next day, she called him again. ‘This is going to be fun. I’ll teach this moron a lesson’, he said to himself, smiling. He was not irritated now. He had a plan. He was going to lead her on for a week or more, asking her all sorts of technical questions and then tell her that he was not interested. He felt some sadistic pleasure in this plan. It was also a social experiment, he thought. ‘I can test the perseverance levels of these telemarketers and maybe blog about it’, he said to himself.
And so again and again, he listened for a while, asked her a few questions and told her to call him back the next day, at the same time. She happily agreed.
This went on for the whole week. John made up some complicated questions about the credit card and asked her to explain. She answered some, and for the rest, she said that she will get back to him on Monday after clarifying it with her supervisor.
‘ No issues, take your time’, John said with an evil grin on his face ’ Call me on Monday at 12 and let me know. I’ll tell you when your representative can come and collect the documents from me’.
The weekend passed uneventfully and on Monday, John wolfed down his breakfast and rushed to his motorcycle. He was late and there was some work to be finished before the client meeting. As he drove outside the apartment gates he realised that he had forgotten his phone at home. Cursing under his breath, he applied applied the brakes and took a sharp U turn to return home. The sand laden lorry hurtling in front of him was the last thing he saw.
John lay there in the open coffin, dressed in his wedding suit, sleeping peacefully. Wailing relatives threw themselves on the body, weeping and beating their chests. The house was crowded and chaotic, like all Indian funerals. And somewhere from the crowd, John’s three year old son squeezed himself between the adults and tottered up to the flower laden coffin. He had John’s phone in his hand, playing with it as he usually did. The child leaned over the coffin and placed the cellphone in John’s coat pocket. ‘ Here appa, enough. Now go to office’, the child lisped in all innocence. And in between the hugging, the wailing and the mourning, no one noticed this.
‘From dust to dust’. The priest mouthed the cliched verse from the Bible as they lowered him into the earth.
Even today, a year later, if you walk past the graveyard up the hill next to St. Antony’s church, you will hear a cellphone ring. It will ring for a long time and then stop. At exactly 12 noon.
These strange days still continue in that little town. The locals are scared. And baffled.
And in a call center in Hyderabad, a young lady working in HSC bank picks up her phone at 12 noon and dials. 909****345. John Sundaresan. Savings bank account number 1004 **** **** 1674.
Afternote: The locals say that it is a ghost. The rationals don’t believe in ghosts, but they are still not able to explain this strange phenomena. However, they are sure that the cellphone that rings in the graveyard at 12 noon every day must be a Nokia Symbian. Had it been an Android phone, even supernatural forces will not be able to stretch a battery life more than 15 hours, they say.