A Treasure Served Cold

52 minutes ago

Challenge: In 500 words or fewer, imagine a scenario in which a pirate discovers a trove of treasures

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he man stood calmly with a sword at his throat as the captain spoke, “So you understand, I cannot carry you on my ship. We have little food left, and we must find a new loot soon. Which by god, we will!” The crew hooted and shouted as the captain raised his hands to calm them down, “You must be given to the sea.” As two pirates held him at the edge of the ship, his tattered shirt fluttering in the air mimicking the ship’s flag, the man turned his head to the captain and shouted, “Captain, do you like gold?”

The captain turned around. He loved gold. “I hid a large box of gold coins at the island that I was trying to escape.” the man continued, “I can lead you there.” The captain turned, looked at him for a moment, then gave the signal. The man went into the sea. Did the captain see fear in his eyes? No, not fear. A strange glitter.

They sailed for many months on the endless sea, but found no merchant ships. A mysterious disease spread through the crew, and in time the crew was reduced to half it’s size. Food reserves dwindled. They would soon have to dock at a town. But once in town, how will they survive without money from loot? The captain pondered as he looked at the horizon speckled with black clouds. A storm was coming. There was only one choice left.

“But captain, how do we know if the man was telling the truth? It might be a last minute trick to save his life!”, the quartermaster protested. “That is a risk we have to take,” the captain said in a tired voice, “prepare the course.”

And so they sailed back to where they had found the unfortunate man in his little dinghy. Soon enough, they saw the island a few miles away. It looked barren, covered with nothing but rocks and sand, uninhabitable! But it raised their spirits and they now sailed in excitement. But as they were within miles of the island, the storm caught up with them. Darkness covered the sky as heavy rain poured over them, strong gusts of wind violently swaying the ship. Suddenly, they hit a rock at the shore of the island and went down down down.

The captain awoke on the shore, every bone in his body aching. He found some of his crew on the shore, none alive. As hunger and thirst grew within him, he searched the island desperately for food and water. He found nothing. As he sat down in despair, he noticed a little mound with rocks huddled around it like a sign. He ran to the mound, dug in the sand and found a chest full of gold coins. He fell down, remembering the strange glitter in the man’s eyes. He now knew. It was revenge. He would happily give away all this gold now for a loaf of bread.


Rahul Jha

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A Cosmic Dance

8 days ago

Written in response to the challenge: In 500 words, imagine a scenario in which the only way out is to dance. Dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut.

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he earth was destroyed. I was on a little spaceship like a few thousand others searching for life. The ship had twenty to begin with, now only I remained. I had lost all hope. But one day, as I ran the exploration routines and stared at the familiar messages run past the screen, something new appeared.

“Planetary systems: 1 system detected.”
“Distance: 2 light years.”
“Suitability for life: 68%.”

I sighed and fell back on my seat. So it was me that fate chose, to find the planet that will be the Medina of long lost inhabitants of earth. I programmed my ship to route to the planet, went to my bunker, and opened the last bottle of wine. The planet appeared on the screen and slowly grew larger. It was beautiful.

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As I walked for a few miles on the planet, I saw them. They looked like humans. They had eyes, but no mouth! The flesh where their long trunk like noses ended connected straight to their neck. On seeing me, they started hopping from side to side in a rhythmic fashion. As I tried to shout at them in vain, they grew nearer wielding their strange weapons. As fear grew inside me, I started mimicking their tap-like dance. Suddenly they stopped and looked at me curiously. Encouraged by this, I did some of the moves of tap dancing I had learnt in high school. At this, they grew very excited and started hopping vigorously. So these pathetic creatures communicated using dance!

I spent a few days learning basic phrases like “I am hungry”, “I am going to sleep” etc. as I collected information about the planet to send to the other ships. One day I was studying the soil as a few of them arrived with a new and obviously important person. He looked very amused to see me and asked me, “Why are you here?” I respectfully danced “To study you”, even though I didn’t exactly remember the dance for study. You see, I had not seen any other word even closely resembling study, so I figured it’ll work out.

But they started doing the dance that unquestionably communicated a lot anger. Before I knew, one of them used his blade to cut my right hand off. The world went dim as I looked in horror at the blood gushing from the stub on my right shoulder.

I now spend my days in a cellar. I have no hands and legs and am hung from the wall with metal chains attached to my shoulders and thighs. They have kept me alive.

In due time, I found that instead of saying “To study you.”, I had said, “To kill you.” Obviously the word was so offensive to them it wasn’t ever used in daily life, so how would I know? Thus I learned my lesson, even though I have little life left in which to use it. You must be careful with language. And dance.


Rahul Jha

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Forks in Roads

130 days ago

G reat Sunday morning! Sun in the sky, not the useless winter sun we got used to: it was warm! Spring this year teased us far too long, but I figured it was here now. I was walking down the road from the coffee shop to office. Yeah, working weekend this one. Don’t mind them much myself to be honest. Got no wife, no kids, can spare an extra weekend working. Pays pretty good too — the overtime. Whoever thought of that idea deserves a medal. My old man used to work like a slave all the time and never heard of that thing.

But yeah, the cafeteria was closed so had to walk a mile to fetch my morning caffeine fix. Annoying, but weather’s nice so don’t mind much. Most of the snow had melted, finally could see the grass. It’s still brown, but makes me happy. Light wind blows, by god it’s fantastic out here! My eyes wander around and spot something weird: a fork on the road! No, I mean a piece of silverware, right there in the middle of the road. It was funny, I mean they try to keep this area pretty clean. Wasn’t it Yogi Berra who said “if you see a fork in the road, you pick it up”, or something like that. I mean I love the man, but ignored his maxim. Had to hurry, was worried if Jess already reached office.

Jess my colleague, who I am supposed to work on this new project together today. She’s great: one hell of a coder, and doesn’t mind putting in a few extra hours to get the job done. Quite a looker too, if you ask me, but never tried anything. She’s got a boyfriend, for one, but wouldn’t try it even if there wasn’t, too close! But do enjoy hanging out with her after hours sometimes, so I guess we are kind of friends.

Took out my key, opened the office door and there she was.

“Hey morning, I was about to call you”, she said rising in her chair. Her cubicle is opposite mine.

“Good morning, just went to get my coffee, the damn cafeteria is closed”, I said putting my cup on my desk. “I can start whenever you’re ready.”
“Yeah I got breakfast too. But I can eat that in a bit. Let’s work from my machine.”

I nodded and rolled my chair to her desk. That’s when I noticed her face. “By god Jess, you look awful. I mean, sorry, but what’s up?”

“Yeah nothing, I mean, I broke up last night.” she said with a blank expression, I wasn’t exaggerating, she looked wretched.

“I am sorry to hear that. What happened?” I thought they were about to get engaged or something.

“I don’t know man, what always happens when things get serious. He freaked out, couldn’t commit. And he keeps travelling all the time, so we don’t get to spend as much time together anyways. I knew this was coming for a while, so you know, it is what it is. No big deal.”

“Oh well, none of my business, but you look like you’re dealing with this fine.”

“I am fine, yeah, I’ve had enough experience to let this bother me. I mean life is just shit sometimes you know, you just gotta go with it.”

“True that, okay may be we can go get a drink tonight.”

“Yeah sure, let’s see what we’ve got to do for the project here”, she said and opened her email. We spent the next thirty minutes going through all the mails and creating a list of things we needed to get done. I hate these big projects with external clients, always ends up getting more confusion than work done. But sometimes you just gotta roll with it.

“OK, I guess that’s all the things we have to do, four to five hours of work, I think” I said stretching my arms, “I am gonna get a glass of water. You want?”

“No I am fine, I’ll eat my breakfast, it’s getting cold.” Jess said, yawning a little. Should have gotten her a coffee too. Oh well.

I came back from the water station and saw Jess just staring outside. Went to Jess’s desk and sat at my chair, “That water is so damn cold, hey you’re not eating?”, I looked at her. She looked miserable.

“Can’t eat, I forgot to get the silverware. I am so forgetful these days. Jeez Mannie, I am a mess”. She looked so angry, I couldn’t understand, just stared at her. She continued, “I mean we have to work on a Sunday because of my fault, I didn’t reply to Monica’s email on time and now she has us working. I keep missing little things everywhere, and everyone suffers. Oh god Mannie, I am so sorry.”

“Hey Jess it’s okay man, you don’t have to take it so hard on yourself, no one’s blaming you.” I said. Honestly, I had no idea what to say.

“No Mannie, I am going to screw everything up. My code sucks, I haven’t had a promotion in two years, the upper management hates me.” She was in tears now.

“Listen Jess, relax man. Let me pick up a fork and knife for you from the kitchen. Then you take a break and we will continue after that, okay?” I said as I ran out the door to the kitchen.

I was clueless, but I guess forks in roads can lead to all sorts of misery.


Rahul Jha

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On mornings in Bangalore

489 days ago

I wrote a novel, it’s here.

edit: There are other formats if you prefer: PDF, ePub, mobi

I learnt about Nanowrimo in 2010 and had told many friends since then that I wanted to participate (you know who you are). But november, the usual month for Nanowrimo, is a bad time for me in terms of deadlines. I couldn’t ever bring myself to write the necessary 50,000 words. This year though, they had CampNanowrimo in July: a low anxiety Nanowrimo where you could choose your word limit. I decided to take the plunge with a modest goal of 10,000 words.

The idea for Mornings in Bangalore had been brewing in my mind for a while. I wanted to describe Bangalore, and I wanted to break a certain stereotype, which would hopefully be obvious to you a few pages into the novel. Surprisingly, and unintentionally, I actually ended up breaking through a huge stereotype of my own as well.

I didn’t end up putting in a lot of mornings, but there’s a lot of Bangalore. There are still passages in there that I absolutely hate, but I realized that at some point I have to stop editing and throw it out in the open. So there it is, my first novel. If you do manage to get through the whole thing, I’d love to get some feedback, even if you think it’s absolutely rubbish!

love,


Rahul Jha

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Change

1028 days ago

Y ou’re such a nice guy, thanks!”, said Divya, putting the notebook in her bag. It was his notebook, and her singing voice made him angrier. He had spent hours solving all those difficult math problems, writing all those solutions that just went into that brown bag. “I’ll return it on Wednesday morning before class, pakka!”. “Sure!”, he said, masking his irritation with a fake smile as he packed his bags. The day before, he had skipped playing the daily game of cricket in the park in front of his house, skipped his favorite show on television and ate all his meals in 5 minutes straight: all to get the homework done in time. “She must have watched all her favorite shows, talked to friends and done whatever she felt like all day yesterday”, he thought sulkily as he walked towards the school bus. And now she had the audacity to come and ask him for his homework. But he said yes! Damn, why did he say yes? He couldn’t understand it. He thought it was wrong, he wanted to say no. But then, he said yes. Yes! He felt he had made a complete fool of himself, he was in 6th grade now; “I should have learnt these things by now”, he thought to himself, in fact echoing — but without realizing — his mother’s constant complaint in those very words.

He was quieter than usual in the bus. He was thinking. He was silent all evening. He chose not to bowl during the evening cricket game, and missed quite a few catches. Before sleeping he had reached the culmination of all the thought process: “I am going to think about myself from now on. I’ll be selfish, no need to worry about others.” He wrote it down on a piece of paper so that he doesn’t forget it and then went into an uneasy sleep.

He didn’t smile at anyone in the bus next morning. He hastened his pace during lunch to grab the best seat on the table, making his best friend sit on a broken chair that was the only one left. He didn’t even notice some of his friends while on his way to the water tap: no time! Being a new person wasn’t easy.

In the afternoon, their English teacher, Mrs. Roy, who was also the school magazine supervisor called him to the staff room. He was on the editorial board of the magazine, along with another friend of his. “We’ve got a lot of entries this time and need to filter out 10”, Mrs. Roy said, as she sipped her tea. He always envied the tea teachers got in the staff room. “Why don’t the students get the tea, we pay the fees after all!”, he wondered for the millionth time. He could already imagine himself sipping a nice cup of tea in class while studying dates of dynasties no one cared about, or reading about the average temperature of a place he was never going to visit. “Rohan!”, the teacher roared. “Sorry Ma’am, I got distracted”, he said blushing. “Boys at your age always seem to do, except Vaibhav. He is the most sincere boy in the whole school”, she quipped. Vaibhav was his co-editor standing right next to him, with a new pride in his eyes now. He was everyone’s favorite, and everyone seemed to feel compelled to reaffirm it all the time. Rohan flushed. The teacher did not pay attention, “Okay, so what I need you both to do is to select 5 articles each, edit them and give them to me by tomorrow morning 10 am, now run out of my sight!”

Rohan came back to class, but his mind was already crunching. Vaibhav had now been an editor for two years. He was popular among teachers, and always got good marks. Rohan wanted to be like him, and certainly wanted to end up in the editorial board next year. What if he finished all the 10 articles himself, and gave them to Mrs. Roy at 9:30 am tomorrow? Surely, that was the sure shot way of getting into her good books. She might wonder a little about why he did all of them, but he already had a plan. He would avoid Vaibhav’s calls all day. Then when he gave her the articles, he would tell her he couldn’t talk to Vaibhav, and just did all of them for backup. He would rank the articles so that if she wanted to take only 5, she could. He was amazed at his new found scheming, it wasn’t so hard being selfish after all! Pleased with himself, he finished school, went back home and finished all the 10 articles. The phone rang four times, but everytime it rang, he was alone at home and didn’t pick up. (this is from a time with no cell phones)

Next morning, in a stroke of good luck, he spotted Mrs. Roy passing near his class early in the day. He promptly took out the articles and gave them to her, but she was in a rush and didn’t look at them. “That’s fine”, he thought, “she’ll see my rankings at the top of each article. Worst case she would just call me to ask and I’ll explain”. He spent the rest of the morning rehearsing his story, but she didn’t call him. He was sort of relieved, he wasn’t good at lying.

During break, while he ate his lunch, Vaibhav accosted him. Rohan felt nervous, but ate lunch calmly: he had his alibi ready. “Thanks so much yaar, you’re such a nice guy!”, Vaibhav exclaimed, and gave him a big hug. “Wh…what?”, Rohan said in a choked voice as he struggled to gulp that last bit of food with an enormous pressure on his chest: Vaibhav was a strong hugger. “So I had to go to a marriage yesterday, and couldn’t finish my 5 articles. I tried calling you but couldn’t reach you. I was running late, so I told Sakshi to call you. But I got back from the party late and wasn’t able to talk to her. I didn’t know what to do…(cough)”, he said all that in one breadth. “Okay, relax, here take a sip of water”, Rohan offered him his water-bottle, he was curious now. “Thanks, so well, I thought I’ll just talk to Mrs Roy and say sorry. So I went to her today at 10. But before I could tell her anything, she told me that you had given her all the 10 articles: yours and mine!”. At that instant, Rohan realized what had happened. He didn’t know what to feel about all this. “I think you’re the most amazing guy ever. I don’t know why we never became good friends, but now we should!”, everyone gathered around as Vaibhav told the entire story passionately, at least his version of it. Rohan was stupefied, but then he saw the deep gratitude in Vaibhav’s eyes and felt the appreciation of his classmates who gathered around them now. “Being nice isn’t that bad after all”, he thought to himself. “People like you when you do nice things for them”. “What are you thinking again now? Let’s go to the canteen, I’ll buy you a chocholate”, Vaibhav pulled him out of his thoughts. “Yup, let’s go!”, Rohan packed his lunchbox and ran after him.

The next day, Divya returned his notebook, with a big coffee stain on one of the pages.


Rahul Jha

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