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The Newspaper Photograph

May 11, 2009

I am posting a story I wrote some time back when I was part of a writer’s club and the trigger was “newspaper photograph.” I have posted this story on this blog earlier but am re-posting it. I am not writing a fresh post as some urgent work has come up and I cannot write a post for 2-3 days. I just hope I don’t bore people with this story. If you have the patience to go through with it, fine! Otherwise just skip this post!

newspaper-photo_1_1.jpg Arun wondered why they had protected him. His uncles, his grandmother, his cousins. They had all rallied around him after his parents died, after his little brother died. Even after he told them that he had killed them. They protected him even though they believed him. That was obvious in the way they behaved when around him…as if he were some sort of pariah. As if he were crazy. But still, they didn’t tell the police…it was some crazy thing about family honour, he was sure. In fact he knew.

Personally, he had no regrets. Two years had passed since The Time but he didn’t miss them. His father, his mother, his little brother. He was just relieved that they were gone. And he had done it. Done something properly at last.

He had always been good with cars. What the hell, he had been all of nineteen and who wouldn’t know how to fix a brake? He had even hung out at a garage for a few days, to make sure he would get it right. And then he had done it at the Right Time, at the Right Place. They had been on a holiday in Matheran. When he has seen the narrow hairpin bends, the loose gravel, the steep inclines he couldn’t help thinking of that this was the perfect opportunity to make an accident happen! And he had made it happen! The car had plunged into a deep ravine…he could see it in his mind’s eye as it careened down the slope trying to avoid an oncoming vehicle until it skidded off the edge. He could still hear their earsplitting screams as the Maruti van tumbled over and over and went down, smashing itself against a rock.

Arun sighed. Years had passed and the memory was fading now. What surprised him was that his uncles and aunts kept telling him that it was time to move on. Maybe it was Time to move on. But how could he explain to them that it wasn’t the death of his parents and brother which bothered him, but the time before that?

The memories still haunted him. His mother screaming at him the whole day long, without reason, and for little things like his coming late, his watching television, reading, sleeping. Dammit, everything! Then there were his father’s crazy demands. Demands that he top the college, work with him in the business…that he not wear that pink shirt…that he not see that movie…that he get up at six…do this do that, the whole bloody day! God, how he had wished that his father was dead. That his mother and father were dead. He had felt bad thinking it. But he couldn’t control what he felt.

What had driven him over the edge was his brother Tinku. Tinku they called him, although his name was Tanmay! They had been crazy about him since the day he was born and Tinku had loved them back …loved them with a sickening intensity that had revolted Arun. They hadn’t seen what a little monster he was turning into. If Tinku had shown even a little love for him, a little respect, then he might have spared him. After all, Tinku had been only eleven. But Tinku had never shown any respect, and just the day before the accident had hidden a book of his called “Repair your own car” in a tree! It had rained all night, and the book had been ruined. That was when Arun had decided that enough was enough. They all had to die.

It was over now. Tinku was dead. Dead, DEAD. Like them.

The idea to murder them himself had been ignited by a photograph in a tabloid which the boys in college were circulating. It was a picture of a girl in a red bikini that everyone was excited about but Arun had hardly glanced at her. It was the other photograph at the bottom of the page that had caught his attention. It was face of a man…a criminal. The police had him in custody for murder. The man’s hair was rough, tousled, and his expression was akin to something that Arun had never seen before. It was the man’s face which stunned him. Incredibly, it was his face. Arun’s.

Arun had surreptitiously taken the newspaper home and studied the photograph for days afterwards. The more he looked at it, the greater seemed the resemblance. To check it out, he stopped applying oil to his hair and let it become rough, like the hair of the man in the photo. He even tried to mimic the expression on the man’s face…the vacant look in the eyes, the sullen turn to the mouth, the defiance in the way he held his chin. Arun changed his style of dressing as well. He started to wear his oldest clothes, torn jeans and faded T-shirts. He attempted to talk differently, a little loudly, a little rudely, the way he imagined the man would talk. Then one day he took a photograph of himself in his new avatar and compared the two pictures. There was hardly any difference! The man was his twin!

His family had noticed the change in him. They became alarmed. He saw that and it irritated him. They asked him whether he was on drugs. They came to his college. Talked to his teachers. His class-mates. He had been attending classes as usual. True, his grades had dropped but Arun knew that his teachers didn’t know him well enough to say anything of substance. And as for his class-mates, no one cared. He had no real friends.

He didn’t tell his parents about the photograph. How could he? If he accused them of what he suspected they had done to him, they would deny it. They could hardly admit now that he was adopted and that they hadn’t adopted his twin, could they? They wouldn’t admit it even though it was obvious that he wasn’t theirs. He didn’t look like them…he didn’t behave like them…he looked and behaved like his twin.

Arun had gone to the Santa Cruz lock-up and located the man. He had seen him from up close and managed to exchange a few words with him…but the police hadn’t let him stay.

Raju. That was his twin’s name. Short and simple Raju. Raju the murderer. Raju had killed his father, mother, and sister, in a fit of rage. With an axe. Arun felt a strange empathy with him. He too felt like killing his family. He could never be as violent as Raju ofcourse…it had to be something discreet, something seemingly accidental…

One day it had happened – his dream had come true – and it was all because of Raju. Raju’s photograph had revealed to him who he really was. Someone who would not take things lying down. Someone who would fight back. When it was all over Arun had confessed to the police, hoping that he would share a cell with Raju.

It didn’t happen that way. The family – his father’s brothers, sisters, his cousins – had protected him, surrounded him. It was like being under house arrest. They took him out from college…and monitored his calls. In his presence they were careful not even to mention the accident. He knew they talked about it, but it was in whispers. They wanted him to forget everything. They didn’t want him contact Raju. Arun realised that if he wanted to get out of this prison that they had made for him he had to cooperate with them. So he did. He kept living his life, quietly.

He got his chance one day when his Uncle Jai came to visit. It was not the first time his uncle had some to see him after the killings.
“Arun, you need to get back into college. What happened was terrible, but it’s been over two years now,” said his uncle.
True, he should get back to college, thought Arun. But he knew they would want him not to talk about the killings. They also wanted him to forget Raju…but he couldn’t. Wouldn’t. Perhaps this was the Time then. Time to try and pretend to have forgotten.

“Arun, are you listening to what I’m saying?” his uncle asked.

Arun looked at his uncle. Uncle Jai looked a lot like his father, and that was why he had always hated his Uncle Jai. However, today he looked different, his expression was different. His voice was softer and his expression kinder, and in his eyes there was a sadness. Maybe he really wanted to help. And then it was Time.

“Arun…” his uncle pressed on. “You have to talk to me…”

“Yes, I want to go back to college,” said Arun quickly, before his uncle changed his mind about helping him.

“Good. I’ll talk to some people and when you meet them please don’t mention the accident. This is very important. Don’t talk about the accident…say that you’ve coped with it…say that you didn’t kill anyone…then they’ll know you’re improving.”

Arun nodded. “Otherwise I won’t get admission into college…”

“This is not about admission. Listen to me, listen carefully. You’ve been ill …”

“I know.” Arun had heard them saying he was Depressed. He nodded. ‘That’s why I have to take pills…”

His uncle seemed relieved. ‘Yes. Your cousin Reena, my daughter, had the same problem. She used to take the pills too but I think she still wasn’t okay. She killed herself yesterday…”

To Arun’s shock Uncle Jai had started to cry. ‘She was ill, like you…I couldn’t help her, but I can help you. I don’t want you to meet the same fate.”

“But I won’t kill myself even though I know I did a bad thing,” said Arun. He didn’t want to explain why he didn’t feel like killing himself. They would never understand.

“You didn’t kill them! In the investigation the brakes were found to be fine! Besides, you were in the accident, with them. Your father tried to avoid a collision with a truck, but lost control…it was a miracle that you survived. Did you imagine you killed them because you hated them? I don’t know, tell me why Arun. I know you had problems at home, I know.”

“No.” Arun felt panicky. This wasn’t right. He had killed them. He had done something well. He had been successful. “I killed them. You should have told the police.” He wanted to also tell his uncle that he wasn’t like Reena. He was evil. He was bad. His mother had told him so many times. He hated people and if you hated someone you had to do something about it. His father always told him. Act. Do something. Don’t be lazy. And he had finally done it. It had been the Time.

“Listen to me! You are a schizophrenic, not a murderer, and it’s hereditary. I keep telling you this but you refuse to listen! Your cousin Reena was a schizophrenic too, the poor kid. Once you realise you haven’t killed anyone, then you can start to heal. It’s the first step towards getting you out of this damn mental hospital…”

© This story is copyrighted.

Other fiction can be read here.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. Shikha permalink
    May 11, 2009 10:25 pm

    This is an awesome story!!! I hope its published somewhere… !!

  2. Dev permalink
    May 11, 2009 10:43 pm

    Nita, I read it and found it to be quite interesting and even bit spooky. I suggest that you should compile your stories together and try to find a publisher. Perhaps they need bit more editing, but Iam sure you can find some publisher. Yes, putting all of them on this blog might not be a good idea at this point; even though your readership is very good, I suspect it still cannot beat the number of readers you will get if stories are published in the form of a book. Good luck!

  3. May 12, 2009 12:27 am

    good story.

  4. May 12, 2009 12:48 am

    Hi Nita!

    What a fantastic story!! I am totally your fan, the ending twist was perfect.🙂

    There are lots of fine points to explore, and since everyone will see the story from their glasses, lemme point what few others will see (hehehehe).

    (1) Arun is gay.
    //(Arun shouldn’t) wear that pink shirt
    //girl in a red bikini that everyone (boys) was excited about but Arun had hardly glanced at her
    //photograph at the bottom of the page that had caught his attention. It was face of a man
    //he couldn’t control what he felt.
    //…He kept living his life, quietly

    (2) Arun’s family was in denial, and like most people, they thought that his homosexuality can be cured.
    //he were some sort of pariah. As if he were crazy
    //His family … became alarmed
    //they would deny it
    //They wouldn’t admit it even though it was obvious
    //They wanted him to forget everything. They didn’t want him contact Raju
    //dont talk about (it)… they’ll know you’re improving
    //They (relatives) would never understand.
    //You are a schizophrenic
    //You’ve been ill
    //then you can start to heal

    (3) Arun was in love with Raju
    //studied the photograph for days afterwards.
    //Raju’s photograph had revealed to him who he really was.
    //He didn’t tell his parents about (Raju’s) photograph. How could he?
    //Raju’s photograph had revealed to him who he really was
    //hoping that he would share a cell with Raju.
    //They also wanted him to forget Raju…but he couldn’t. Wouldn’t.

    Pretty cool, eh?

    cheers,
    Priyank

    • May 12, 2009 7:32 am

      Wow priyank that was a good analysis! I agree there are a lot of finer points that can be discussed and in fact Arun does have a back story and he is not a killer and nor is he evil. I have many incidents in his earlier life in my mind but I did not include them here as I wanted this to be a short story. Actually I could have written a novel based on this plot!🙂
      I did not think it terms of him being gay though. But your analysis is on the spot! His being gay could easily be woven into the story.

    • May 12, 2009 10:44 am

      You sound excited.

  5. May 12, 2009 7:36 am

    Shikha, no I have not sent it to anyone for publishing. Somehow I feel it is not good enough! I guess I could have worked on it a little more to give it polish and then sent it, and maybe one of these days I will!

    Dev, thanks. I agree this story needs to be a little tighter and it needs working on before it could even be sent to anyone to consider for publication! Some of my stories have been published and there are others which I have on my pc. A couple of them are I feel better than this one but which I don’t want to publish as there could be copyright issues. This story was already there on the blog for the last two and a half years and so I thought I would re-publish it. Yes, one day I do plan to make a concerted effort to publish my stories.

    Reema, thanks.

  6. sraboneyghose permalink
    May 12, 2009 8:27 am

    Awesome!!!

  7. May 12, 2009 10:40 am

    Nice story…

  8. May 12, 2009 10:44 am

    Who hasnt felt like bumping off their parents from time to time? I often say we should have the ability to divorce them just like we do for the partners. I read an article a while ago about how you feel grief and a sense of freedom at the same time when you become an adult orphan.

  9. May 12, 2009 11:23 am

    this could have really happened. people have these kind of problems at home and when they can’t handle it, they (Involuntarily) lose control of sense and reality to avoid coping with it. that is schizophrenia, having irrational beliefs.

    Great story.

    though i have a few confusions.

    1. was Arun schizophrenic before the accident too..?
    2. was Raju for real, as according to the story Arun met Raju before the accident.
    3. if yes, who was he? really a twin?
    4. was Arun adopted as he thought, because if he was, then schizophrenia could not be in his heriditary as uncle Jai suggested.

    • May 12, 2009 12:13 pm

      oorja, Arun was always a schizophrenic as it is a genetic disease. However this disease often lies dormant for many years and that is what was the case with Arun. It flared up later. I wanted to mention this but it was a little difficult as the story was told from Arun’s point of view and he had no idea that he had the disease. And yes Raju was very real, a criminal. Your other questions can be how you interpret it! But no, the resemblance was entirely Arun’s imagination. Schizophrenic can suffer from hallucinations and often suffer from paranoia. He did go to meet Raju in the jail though but that just increased his paranoia!

      Odzer, your remark that “Who hasnt felt like bumping off their parents from time to time?” had me chuckling!

      Aathira, sraboneyghose, thanks!🙂

  10. May 12, 2009 11:51 am

    This story kept me nailed to the screen and picked me up to carry me along to an unexpected resolution.
    Good, clean writing with an effective and believable voice for Arun. Just great, Nita! Thanks for sharing. G

    • May 12, 2009 12:15 pm

      suburbanlife, a compliment from you is something I always treasure! And a compliment about the writing! Wow, thanks! You are such a wonderful writer and I can never hope to be anywhere near as good, but I think I can tell a story. Thanks again!

      • May 12, 2009 8:27 pm

        Nita – are there any literary publications in India which publish an array of writers in, say, quarterly publications? This piece is one which should be submitted by you, and most likely would be published. Though, recently i found out that most publications might only consider previously unpublished pieces, and even putting writing on a blog is considered publication. So you may want to keep gems, such as this writing, off the net and in a file of submissions you fire off from time to time. Go for it! You are a writer with a special voice which should be read by many. G

  11. May 12, 2009 1:03 pm

    hallucinations yes. that explains a lot of it. thanks.

  12. May 12, 2009 2:22 pm

    I simply loved this one!🙂 What more can i say… in a short story certain finer points can’t be emphaised as the novelist have a liberty to do so… but you have done a great job🙂

  13. May 12, 2009 6:01 pm

    A really nice story ..and simple as well…And well , contrary to what most people think , simple things can have a lot of effects…who knows maybe Arun’s parents had dreamt up something for him , maybe they had gone through something and were determined to fight it and in that had forgotten that he was just a kid…

  14. May 12, 2009 8:16 pm

    That was nice narration. A gripping one. Normally the writers don’t focus on the point of view of the patient! That focus, made the read doubly impressive.

    Destination Infinity

  15. May 12, 2009 9:24 pm

    Nita, That was absolutely awesome!

  16. May 13, 2009 3:22 pm

    Great story. I totally loved it

  17. May 13, 2009 8:40 pm

    Nita, this is the first time I read something” non-journalistical” from you and I am impressed! I remember you mentioned to have been writing a book – now I know it will be an exellent piece of work.
    keep it up and let us see more of this!
    LOVE;
    axinia

  18. May 14, 2009 3:36 am

    This is a good story Nita. I had no idea about this side of yours.🙂
    The end was great!

  19. May 14, 2009 1:53 pm

    You’re 3 votes away from winning the IndiBlogger of the Month!

    • May 14, 2009 2:04 pm

      Well, I hope those who read this vote for me! I have not announced it on my blog although at the back of my mind I had this feeling that I should. So whoever reads this please vote!!

      The site is here:

  20. Salil permalink
    June 22, 2009 11:42 am

    Hey nice story. Very good narration. The story itslef twists and turns like the hairpins in Matheran Ghat where it happens.
    Waiting for a sequel/ prequel…

  21. Gayatri permalink
    August 29, 2009 9:14 pm

    Hey Nita,just read your stories and must say you write fiction very well. I like the detailing your put into your stories.good luck with the contest.

    Gayatri

    http://thepoeticwanderer.wordpress.com

  22. September 1, 2009 8:36 am

    sinister at a level, deeply sad on the other. I’ve met scizophrenics as part of our college assignment in psychology..this was years back. But one visit to the asylum and I knew I couldn’t ever make a profession out of psychology. I wasn’t strong enough🙂. Great blog, Nita.

  23. September 2, 2009 5:46 pm

    Very very nice. Nice twists as the plot reveals itself..

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