Sitting on the white sand, nicely rested on his elbows and twiddling with his toes in the sand, it felt soothing. He would bury his toes in the sand and then flick some white sand out. It was so simple an act and yet so much of intrigue, it amused him. He kept at it for a while surveying how far could he flick the sand. A gust of wind made him look up at the sea. He looked at the waves, they were gentle, the sea was calm, it was October and the ocean too was probably relaxing after a torrid and long monsoon. He gazed as each time the waves came up a little more. Watching the waves was also a rejuvenation of sorts. He released the support of his elbow and lay down flat on the sand, feeling the warmth of the sun baked sand… as he looked up it was a cloudless evening sky… pristine… the sun was setting and had coloured the sky around it in a orange pinkish hue, he gazed at it and looked up again, he lay there completely content.
He felt lighter, freer and more relaxed !
It had been 4 years since he took a break, constant work at the Pigments plant at Ankleshwar had been gruelling. Ankleshwar, Asia’s largest industrial estate was a place of filth, it was horrible, the smell in the evenings when lights would go down and all companies would actually start emitting their true colours would be killing for people who’d come in there the first time.
He did at times 4 shifts together, overtime and kept working in his plant, rarely said anything, a smile and a nod, he kept it simple. It was time to hibernate for him, slowly allow the memories of his past to fade. He never travelled farther from the plant and his one room shack that was to be his home, he didnt want to be spotted, he wanted to work and be forgotten. He kept running to keep himself in shape and exercised in free time so he would always be ready for any eventuality. In the 4 years he decided to collect & save money and spend the least. The pigment plant though took its toll, even the dogs in the area were blue coloured and so was he ! Thanks to the blue dyed pigments his company kept manufacturing.
As he lifted his hands to his face he could still see the blue dye around the edges of his nails, it would take another week of scrubbing for them to go… As he sat up from soaking the sun he could feel his throat dry and he longed for a drink, he got up and looked around, a few visitors adorned the lonely beach at Alibaugh.
It had to be Alibaugh and not the pricely Goa for he wanted to be alone, he wanted to be away from the crowd and most importantly didnt want anyone from the past recognising him. As he looked a shack with a vendor selling fresh coconut water he moved towards it, there was a couple quietly holding hands and gazing the sky above the ocean to his left, he gazed at them, it had been a while since he felt a woman or even been close to one. He wondered how it would feel holding hands and then when the girl spotted him looking he turned away his gaze and smiled to himself and nodded his head.
Another family was making a small racket at his right near the water the kids playing with the ball and the father busy photographing them, he looked at them and saw the lady was busy making sandwiches for the family..
he thought to himself, how much had he missed all this in the last 4 years. He had overcome his deepest fears though in the last 4 years he thought to himself, he felt as if he had erased all past memories in these 4 years, he quietly started believing he could go back and start again.
It was a price he believed he had to pay for not appreciating things in life he got without asking. He was not grateful of all little things. He reached the coconut vendor’s place and was happy to see a smile welcome him, two teeth were missing in the smile and yet it was so welcoming.
“Malai wala ?”
he shook his head, picked a green fresh coconut and just handed it to the toothless & smiling coconut vendor, who immediately got to slicing it open. He observed him as the man with a lot of finesse, speed and ease had a spring shooting out of the nut !
He put a straw in it and handed it over !
He handed a twenty and off he went walking towards the trail back to his resort that went through a coconut plantation a lil further up the coast, he sipped a couple of times and it was soothing to his throat, ideal he thought to quench a thirsty guy, as he walked further surveying the coast line and the palm trees, he put his hand in the pocket of his 3/4th’s and took out a small sample bottle of vodka he had picked up from the hotel and poured a generous portion in his coconut. He stirred his drink now with the straw as he kept walking.
As he kept walking carefully to avoid sand from entering his floaters he had an uneasy feeling that someone was following him he looked in the direction of the plantation and he couldnt see anything suspicious, it was as calm as ever, he shook his head and took a sip and thought it was still not out of his brain even after 4 years, his instincts still told him to look out for all followers.
The Vodka he thought to himself wasn’t easing himself one bit and he took a big sip through the straw. It was a bit too much for his throat which had lost the habit in the last 4 years and he immediately coughed and amidst that tripped his leg on a fallen coconut leaf and fell and
It was a shot fired, the gun had a silencer but he knew it, it was a shot, the ring was so familiar, it just was his destiny that saved him, he had to fall down at the right time, he lay down and looked to see which direction it came from he was sure it was from somewhere to his left.
It wasn’t the Vodka. His instinct was right. Someone was following him and actually shot him, he wondered who the naive sharp shooter would be ? Had it been a smarter bloke he wouldnt have let him reach the plantation, he should have been shot at the beach. Arrogance of the Sniper, he thought, silly to not take his chance in the open and now he had allowed his prey to be camouflaging himself inside the plantation.
His brain started working as fast as it once used to, scenes flashed in front of his eyes, he knew what was to be done, he threw the coconut and got on his haunches and looked around, no movement by the marksman, he knew the shooter had lost his prey but the survey was on, one bad move and it was over.
He slowly moved to his left and then got up and broke into a sprint, a totally haywire sprint it might seem, but he went left and then right and then left through the palm grove and was consciously slowly but surely moving to his left two shots were fired and they missed badly. He again stopped on his haunches, he had sprinted like old days, he gathered his thoughts and knew the shooter was now exactly behind him and between him and the beach, if only he could lose him, he could round him up, it was growing darker and he thought that was to help him. Another thought flashed to his mind 4 years weren’t enough, he had been spotted so easily, so soon !
is what he then thought to himself. He had to concerntrate on his survival first. In the games of the war, patience is something that helps brave men. He could sense the restlessness of the shooter, he had lost his prey badly and he didnt want to make a move but it probably seemed nervous enough to him as well. Minutes passed and the shooter moved and a few leaves crumbled below his foot and that was enough.
“The prick couldn’t last me, he gave himself away!” a smile now started surfacing at winning the game of patience.
The hunter was to be hunted now, the prey knew where its hunter had positioned himself.
the hunter unsure and vulnerable !