Dead Man's Umbrella

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
It started way back in the year 1994– It was the year that Kurt Cobain shot himself. That changed everything. The end of the Grunge era! Music as we know turned to ashes. My generation moved on. Most of us did pretty well especially the women. Many of them found successful partners and moved on. Let me confess to the reader that if I’m found to be the protagonist of this tale, may you shoot me in the end. The years after were filled with events of self-discovery–Much of which form the central theme of this story.

Submitted: December 02, 2016

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Submitted: December 02, 2016

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Dead Man’s Umbrella-A short story

In the beginning

 

In the beginning it is all gloom. Its Ashtami ……the eight day of Durgo Pujo ( a festival in West Bengal, India) and I’m broke. I’ve spent 80,000 rupees on women and booze. It’s like the sky has opened up and that’s the only way to go. An unbearable heat builds up till you are sweating in your shorts. The birds start fleeing to their nests unaware of the fact that many of them may not see the next daybreak. It all begins with a flash of light crisscrossed by several others, followed by an infernal sound. The thunder starts booming and the incessant water from the heavens drenches the earth around. I stand beneath the electric skies in fascination and wonder, dripping from head to toe. “Dilip Da…..Dilip Da”– A distant scream breaks my reverie. “It’s not safe…..Come back home!” I turn around and scream “Gobindo, it’s hard to see far out in the distance even with my spectacles”. I try to run but fall in the muck. Everything turns black as I pass out.

 

My name is Dilip Roy. Many years ago I was a regular 9:00 to 5:00 working guy in Mumbai till I found a profession that has been both a boon and bane. I’m talking about being outsourced. I was alone—my parents had passed away recently. I didn’t have a girlfriend and in very plain terms, I was choking up the pain of their loss. Working in odd hours of the day seemed like a remedy and speaking with strangers on the phone taught me how to reach out to people. Let me say this very honestly, I wanted to be an astronaut. Oh! The feeling to be in space….zero gravity….I always wondered what it would be like to jerk off in space and get paid for it! However, that never really happened. I had to go with the flow as they say in the industry. And so I stayed…..It’s been 13 years in this business and who knows I might stay for life or till destiny deems otherwise.

 

 Gobindo has been my trusted lieutenant, friend and philosopher till he found me blacked out on the banks of the Ganges that stormy night. It’s no wonder that Gobindo is completely freaked out and he thinks I’m insane. He was livid because he loves me too much.  Every time I step out on the balcony of this house I curse the weather. I curse Gobindo for not getting the other flat two months back. The lights go out ….. Then they come back on …… then they go off almost permanently. Gobindo didn’t come back. I screamed even more…..”Gobindo amake bachao (Gobindo help me please!!!!!!). . “Gobindo”…..’kothai tumi (Where are you)?” “Kortaa ami aaschi (Master I’m coming)….ektu daraoo (just wait)”! The words reverberated. It seemed like the sound just echoed from the walls and hit me in league with the thunder raging outside.

 

 Another flash, another boom, then darkness all over again. I blacked out. When I came to….. I was on my bed……electricity had yet not been restored…..there was a lamp emitting a smoky yellow light and then I yelled ‘Ke tumi (Who are you)?’ “Ami Gobindo kortaa babu…..ghumiae poren (This is Gobindo Master, please go to sleep).” It wasn’t sleep though…..it was a strange stupor. Gobindo had put me to sleep with something only he can know. I remembered that I had to go out that night for an important meeting.

I needed a cup of coffee and an aspirin. And then it struck. I saw her moving in the shadows. Never to be found ever again.

I was in bed for almost a fortnight after that. The doctors diagnosed pneumonia from extreme exposure to cold. Gobindo kept me alive and didn’t ask me a single question about the events that had brought me into this situation. The rains had abated…..and I could hear the birds every morning when they came to nest and every evening when they flew away to reunite with their families. I started recovering and soon found my breath and composure…..It was like being reborn…..Can I possibly explain it any other way? And then I saw it. That wretched umbrella! I screamed “ Gobindo…..what’s that thing doing in my house?”

“Keno Babu? Ki holo (What happened Master)?” Gobindo retorted….”Arindam da diye gechilo….. keno ki holo babu (Arindam da gave it to me, what happened Sir)?”. “Ota fele de sighiri (throw it away immediately)…ota fele de (throw it immediately)….ota obhisopto (It’s cursed)”…I admonished him.” “Keno babu…ekta chaata to….brishti te kaaj debe (What’s the problem Sir, it’s just an umbrella, it helps when it rains)”, replied Gobindo. And so that cursed umbrella has been at my home for the last 3 years. Whenever I chance to stare on that cursed broken umbrella, I just grimace. Yet it is still there in my home, where else can it be? Battered and broken but more important…..it stays. I really don’t know whether things can be bewitched or whether they influence people or not. Like dolls, perfume boxes, even wallets and credit cards or Ouija boards, even your Grandfather’s walking stick. Yes they haunt them all! And so….. And so hear this story.

The Back Story—3 Years Ago

 

How many readers of this story actually believe in supernatural elements or entities? Have you ever been haunted? I have been. This fucking umbrella still freaks me out. It belonged to someone very close yet distant. This incident happened in Kolkata, my adopted city. I’m originally from Mumbai but that is another story. And It started with this guy…..he introduced himself as Arindam Dutta. He used to live in Kalighat with his sister Nirupama.  On our first meeting, we bonded well…..I still take interviews but this dude was special…one of a kind that you meet rarely in real life……He was just nineteen and raring to go. So, I hired him. And he proved his mettle. In 6 months he was the best performer on the Production Floor. More than that he had unscrupulous dignity and unwavering loyalty. He had a lot of family problems though that included a step-father who was perennially drunk and a mother who always pestered him for money to feed her husband’s drinking habit. His father Sisir Dutta used to beat his wife black and blue for booze money.

It was the same night that I called him for a major assignment. He came as usual with his bubbly enthusiasm and elaborate charm. It was raining very heavily that day …so he had an umbrella with him. I told him to relax… he asked me  ” Dada, aajke koto banabo ( Sir, how much will I make today)?” I said “$4,000”. His breath reeked of liquor. I told him to back off–that he needed rest. Yet he insisted, brought his umbrella to the floor and started taking calls.  He made a breathtaking sale of $1400 that night and we made a staggering $4,952 which was a notch above my expectations that night. It was only 4:30 am and I gave the logoff signal. He came to me all sweating and shivering. I hugged him to calm his nervous state. He just asked” Taka ta pe jabo naaki aajke hi? (Will I get the money tonight?). I said “Ha, kintu puro taka aajke paabi na. Kaalke bank holiday. (Yes, but not the full amount….tomorrow is a bank holiday….so you will get the money day after). “Puro taaka kaalke paabo. Cholbe Dada” (Ok….big bro), he said. “ Aajke koto debe; dao na Sir khub stressed laagche (But I need money right now).” Maybe that was the stupidest thing I ever did.  He asked for an advance of 30,000 rupees. And I paid him. He left his umbrella in the office. And that changed everything. It changed my life forever.

2 Days Later

The first thing he did was to get uncontrollably drunk. He called me to say ‘Dada I’m sorry, “Vul hoe geche, onek mod khe niechi  (I’m sorry Dada….I’m so drunk)”. So, I sent Gobindo, my first lieutenant after him. He tried everything in his power to control him. In the end I told Gobindo to drop him home. His home was just one station away at Liluah on the Howrah main line in Kolkata. Gobindo bought the tickets…….The train came rumbling in……But Arindam was too inebriated with all the booze. Gobindo caught the train and Arindam came running as the train moved on. Gobindo extended his hand but Arindam fell right to the bottom and the train run him over. His body parts extended over two railway stations as per police records. I conducted extensive investigations.

I went to find a woman called Nirupama Dutta. She was untraceable…… We put an advertisement in the papers. We checked it out. It turned out to be a really scary story. I went to find his sister to pay off the dues for the last rites. I asked the villagers–everyone confirmed –no one relented. In the end I brought his body from the morgue or what was left of it and cremated him. I was so distraught. So I went looking for her with his ashes. She was in jail convicted for murdering her husband in broad daylight on court premises. He had been accused of raping a 6-year old. I realized that the charges on her were severe–she could face upto 14 years. The young child had been her own.

And so I walked up “Howrah Bridge”. And I tipped the remains over right into the Hooghly River. Nothing left to be done. I thought I was making a difference. It didn’t quite work out. All I am left with is this wretched umbrella. I hate to look upon it. Who do I return it to? Is it a curse that I have to live with for the rest of my life?

A Short Story by Somnath  Dilip Chakrabarty


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