Monday, 22 September 2008

Run Interrupted

My run was kind of doomed today. First on the way out, I was interrupted by a call. A very special friend wanted my opinion on a blues concert. Felt like a connoisseur! And well, connoisseurs don’t go about sweating like a pig on some beach track, do they? Forced myself to continue. Reached the ocean. She looked really angry today. A part of the beach had been cut off by the waves. I decided to skip the swim and continued running.  On the way back I saw a militia man, his AK – 47 slung carelessly on his shoulder, talking to an old man by the rail track. As I neared them, the old man pointed at me. The rifle slowly dropped into a more menacing position as I crossed them. Our eyes met, they were the same vacant eyes of a child soldier. He was no more than sixteen. I raised my hands to wave, but something in his eyes took the wind out of my gesture. Suddenly my brain was working in overdrive. Something was not right. I heard, rather than saw, the kid slip the safety of his weapon off. I came to a halt, my hands open, to my side, trying to present as inoffensive a stance as possible. The kid shouted something in Tamil. He sounded surprisingly angry. I realized that the old man had slowly slunk away. We were all alone on the track now. For some silly reason I remembered the drunk man who had warned me against going for my run on this track. I had just started to explain in my broken Tamil when the kid moved up and shoved me. I staggered back, angry and bewildered. Without realizing I raised my voice and said something, I forget what. He continued to shout at me and then gestured dismissively. I thought he was telling me to go away. So I turned and started running along the railway track. I used this route as it was covered with sand and was really good exercise. I had barely gone a few yards when I heard him shout. I stopped and turned around. He laughed. It was almost triumphant. Something inside me snapped. I turned back and started running again. I heard him shout again. I looked back, still running, and saw that he had started chasing me. Something told me that I could out run him on the sand. I increased my pace. A little later I looked to confirm that I was gaining on him. Suddenly I heard a shot. It made me involuntarily increase my speed. I looked back and realized that the kid was actually shooting at me. This was getting bizarre. He fired again – this time a burst. I saw the sand about fifty yards ahead of me go up like four Diwali anaars in tandem. “You can’t outrun a bullet” the words of my instructor in military academy suddenly rang in my ears. I could see his face as he paused after he had said these words of wisdom and he waited for our response. I saw the satisfied look on his face as some of us obliged him with knowing laughs. And I realized suddenly that his advice should be taken immediately. I swerved like a wild horse and ran into the bushes that grow on both sides of the railway track. It provided thick cover and it had enough space in between to run through without losing too much speed. The kid let off another burst as he saw me disappear.  

Six. Seven. Eight. Nine.

Instinctively, I counted the number of bullets he was expending. I remembered that he was just carrying his rifle – no spare ammunition. I was crashing wildly through the bushes now. Branches and thorns were cutting through my skin.

Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen.

He could see the bushes move and was aiming wildly at that. I could hear the bullets pass uncomfortably close. It’s surprising how fast you can get out of the habit of having bullets fly overhead. I was heading towards a sparse patch. Shit!

Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen.

Nineteen. Twenty. Twenty One. Twenty Two. Twenty Three.

Our kid was getting impatient. And very angry. I swerved wildly again. Seeking taller bushes. The kid read what I was planning. He changed course to cut me off.

Twenty Four. Twenty Five. Twenty Six. Twenty Seven. Twenty Eight.

I could actually see the last burst as it clipped some branches just ahead of me. I stopped short. And dropped down and started crawling. The kid was rushing ahead, suddenly surprised by my lack of motion. I could hear his footfall just ahead of me. I waited for him to cross me. He was slowing down. I could now see his legs. Moving tentatively. He crossed me. I don’t know why I did what I did. In retrospect, there were a lot of other options. But at that moment everything in my system screamed for me to rise and rush him from behind. I heard a blood curdling scream. I realized that it was me. The kid turned, startled and pressed the trigger.

 Twenty Nine. Thirty. Click.

I was on him now. For a moment the vacant eyes registered surprise. Then we were crashing down together. I had his neck. And I fell on it. I heard a snap. I looked into his eyes. That’s when I realized, nothing is more vacant than death. 

When I interrupt my run, this is what happens. My imagination runs wild.


Maybe I need a shrink.



manju said...

oh my god i read thru the whole thing with my heart pounding like crazy......
it was soooooo good!
good work keep it up!
raunak also loved it........

Anonymous said...

Love your blog. Makes for very interesting reading. Don't stop.