Multilayer Neural Network – Implementing Back-Propagation Algorithm-sciLab Program

//Multi Layer neural Network BP Algogithm
//Author : Srinath Krishnamoorthy
//Date : 10-08-2017
//(c)Copyright Srinath Krishnamoorthy-2017

clear
clear all
clc

//Initialise the input values at Layer 1
x=[0 0
0 1
1 0
1 1];

yd=[0;1;1;0];//Desired Output at Y
ya=rand(4,1);//Actual Output

//Initialise the weights from i/p to hidden layer

w_ih=rand(2,2);
w_initial=w_ih;

//Initialise the weights from hidden to output layer

w_h1y=rand(1); //Hidden Neuron 1 to o/p neuron Y
w_h2y=rand(1); //Hidden Neuron 2 to o/p neuron Y

w_h1y_initial=w_h1y;
w_h2y_initial=w_h2y;

//Set the bias of the neurons-h1,h2 and y

bh1=-1;
bh2=-1;
by=-1;

//Set the thresholds for each neuron

th1=rand(1);
th2=rand(1);
ty=rand(1);

//Error at Y

err_y=0.00;

//Error gradient at h1,h2 and Y
err_grad_h1=0.00;
err_grad_h2=0.00;
err_grad_y =0.00;

lr=0.5;//Learning rate

flag=0;
net_h1=0;//Net ouput at h1
net_h2=0;//Net ouput at h2
net_y =0;//Net ouput at Y

//Actual output of h1,h2 and Y will be the sigmoid of their net outputs.

actual_h1=0.00;
actual_h2=0.00;
actual_y=0.00;

epoch=0;//Counts the number of cycles

delta_wh1y=0.00;
delta_wh2y=0.00;
delta_ty=0.00;

//Sum of squared error. Will be executed till it gets below a certain range

sum_sqr_err=0.00;
errors=zeros(4,1);

while flag==0 do

for i=1:4
//calculate the net output of hidden neuron h1
for j=1:2
net_h1=net_h1+[x(i,j)*w_ih(j,1)];
end;

//calculate the net output of hidden neuron h2
for j=1:2
net_h2=net_h2+[x(i,j)*w_ih(j,2)];
end;
//Applying Bias and Threshold, net values at h1 and h2 will be
net_h1=net_h1+(bh1*th1);
net_h2=net_h2+(bh2*th2);

//Actual Output is the Sigmoid of net output at h1 and h2

actual_h1=1/[1+%e^(-1*net_h1)];
actual_h2=1/[1+%e^(-1*net_h2)];

//Now we need to calculate the net output at Y
net_y=(actual_h1*w_h1y)+(actual_h2*w_h2y)+(by*ty);
//Thus actual output at Y is sigmoid of net_y
actual_y=1/[1+%e^(-1*net_y)];

//Calculate the error at Y
err_y=yd(i,1)-actual_y;
ya(i,1)=actual_y;
errors(i,1)=err_y;
//Calculate the error gradient at Y
err_grad_y=actual_y*(1-actual_y)*err_y;
//Now we go for weight correction
delta_wh1y=lr*actual_h1*err_grad_y;
delta_wh2y=lr*actual_h2*err_grad_y;
delta_ty=lr*by*err_grad_y;

// Now we calculate the err gradient of hidden neurons
err_grad_h1=actual_h1*(1-actual_h1)*err_grad_y*w_h1y;
err_grad_h2=actual_h2*(1-actual_h2)*err_grad_y*w_h2y;

//Weight corrections for hidden neuron h1:

for j=1:2
w_ih(j,1)=w_ih(j,1)+[lr*x(i,j)*err_grad_h1];
end;
//Adjust the threshold of the hidden neuron h1
th1=th1+[lr*bh1*err_grad_h1];

//Weight corrections for hidden neuron h2:

for j=1:2
w_ih(j,2)=w_ih(j,2)+[lr*x(i,j)*err_grad_h2];
end;
//Adjust the threshold of the hidden neuron h1
th2=th2+[lr*bh2*err_grad_h2];

//Now we adjust all weights and threshold levels from hidden layer to output layer

w_h1y=w_h1y+delta_wh1y;
w_h2y=w_h2y+delta_wh2y;
ty=ty+delta_ty;

//We reset the output values prior to next iteration
net_h1=0.00;
net_h2=0.00;
net_y=0.00;
actual_h1=0.00;
actual_h2=0.00;
actual_y=0.00;
err_y=0.00;
err_grad_y=0.00;
err_grad_h1=0.00;
err_grad_h2=0.00;
delta_wh1y=0.00;
delta_wh2y=0.00;
delta_ty=0.00;
end //End of main for() loop
epoch=epoch+1;

for k=1:4
sum_sqr_err=sum_sqr_err + [errors(k,1)^2];
end;
//Sum of squared errors (SSE) is an useful indicator of network’s performance. As per Nagnevitsky 3rd edition page 183, ideal value is set less than or equal to 0.0010

if sum_sqr_err > 0.0010 then
flag=0;
else
flag=1;
end;
disp(sum_sqr_err,’Sum of Squared Errors = ‘);
disp(errors,’The errors after this epoch is : ‘);
sum_sqr_err=0.00;
errors=zeros(4,1);
disp(ya,’Actual Output = ‘);
disp(yd,’Desired Output’);
disp(epoch,’end of epoch’);
disp(‘********************************************************************************’);
end
//End of the do-while loop
disp(epoch,’The number of epochs required is :’,lr,’For the learning rate’)

disp(w_initial,’Initial Weights between input layer and hidden layer is : ‘);

disp(w_ih,’Final Weights between input layer and hidden layer is : ‘);

disp(w_h1y_initial,’Initial weight between hidden layer neuron h1 and output neuron Y is : ‘);

disp(w_h2y_initial,’Initial weight between hidden layer neuron h2 and output neuron Y is : ‘);

disp(w_h1y,’Final weight between hidden layer neuron h1 and output neuron Y is : ‘);

disp(w_h2y,’Final weight between hidden layer neuron h2 and output neuron Y is : ‘);

plot(yd,ya);
//The plot should yield a straight line

Backpropagation algorithm

Backpropagation algorithm2

 

If you have any queries, you can e-mail me at : srinath.krishnamoorthy@villacollege.edu.mv

About me :

I m Srinath Krishnamoorthy. I m an MTech in Computer Science and Engineering from MA College of Engineering, Kothamangalam, and BTech in Information Technology from Government Engineering College, Palakkad. I m teaching Artificial Intelligence for the University of West of England (BSc Computer Science) in Male`, Maldives. My area of interests is AI, Data Analytics, Computational Intelligence and Theory of Computation.

Srinath Krishnamoorthy (1)Srinath Krishnamoorthy

sciLab Program for Training a a Perceptron

//Author : Srinath Krishnamoorthy
//Date : 10-07-2017

clear
clear all
clc
//initialise the inputs
x=[1 0 0
1 0 1
1 1 0
1 1 1];
disp(‘Input is :’);
disp(‘ B x1 x2’);
disp(x);
yd=[0;0;0;1]; // This is for AND gate you can change it to any linearly separable function of your choice
disp(‘Target Output Yd Is :’);
disp(yd);

ya=rand(4,1);

//Initialise the weights
w=rand(1,3);
w1=w

disp(‘Initialise Random Weights:’);
disp(‘ W1 W2 W3’);
disp(w);

lr=0.5;
disp(‘Learning Coefficient =’);
disp(lr);

flag=0;
net=0;
err=0;
epoch=0;
thresh=0;

while flag==0 do
for i=1:4
for j=1:3
net=net+w(1,j)*x(i,j);
end;
if net >= thresh then
ya(i,1)=1;
else
ya(i,1)=0;
end;

err=yd(i,1)-ya(i,1);
for j=1:3
w(1,j)=w(1,j)+ (lr*x(i,j)*err);
end;
net=0.00; //Reset net for next iteration
end
disp(ya,’Actual Output’);
disp(yd,’Desired Output’);

epoch=epoch+1;
disp(‘End of Epoch No:’);
disp(epoch);
disp(‘************************************************************’);
if epoch > 1000 then
disp(‘Learning Attempt Failed !’)
break
end;

if yd(1,1) == ya(1,1)& yd(2,1) == ya(2,1) & yd(3,1) == ya(3,1) & yd(4,1) == ya(4,1) then
flag=1;
else
flag=0;
end
end
disp(‘Initial Random Weights -‘);
disp(w1);
disp(‘Final Adjusted Weights -‘);
disp(w);
disp(lr,’Learning rate is – ‘)
disp(‘***********************************’)
plot(yd,ya);

 

Fuzzy Logic Controller for an Automatic Braking System

This is a step-by-step tutorial on how to create a Fuzzy logic Controller for an Automatic Braking System using MATLAB(R2015a).  Below is a typical automotive braking system and we shall discuss how the system can be automated based on a set of input parameters.

Image result for Automatic Braking System

Source: www.carparts.com

The problem at hand has been adopted from Artificial Intelligence Illuminated – by Ben Coppin (1st Edition, Jones & Bartlett) – p.516-522.

Image result for ai illuminated ben coppin

Before we look at the problem, we need to understand the four key steps in creating a Fuzzy Logic System (FLS):

  1. Define inputs and outputs
  2. Create a membership function
  3. Create rules
  4. Simulate the fuzzy logic system / Fuzzy Inference System (FIS)

To get clarity on the above steps, we have to analyze the problem at hand. The problem given in the text book may look trivial but the actual scenario might be quite complicated and may comprise of thousands of rules.

Rules 1

 

As per the above problem, there are three inputs:

  1. Pressure on the brake pedal (brake pressure)
  2. Car speed
  3. Wheel speed

And one output:

  1. Brake (which has two decision parameters- Apply Brake or Release Brake)

To apply these rules, using Mamdani inference, the first step is to fuzzify the crisp input values. To do this, we need first to define the fuzzy sets for the various linguistic variables we are using. For this simple example, we will assume that brake pressure is measured from 0 (no pressure) to 100 (brake fully applied).

We will define brake pressure as having three linguistic values: high (H), medium (M), and low (L), which we will define as follows:

                                             H = {(50, 0), (100, 1)}
                                            M = {(30, 0), (50, 1), (70, 0)}
                                            L = {(0, 1), (50, 0)}

Even though the author has considered the the membership function for the input parameter “brake_pressure” as triangular, I would opt for gaussian membership function (which suits the input requirement here)

You can create FIS using MATLAB or sciLab. Both have built-in fuzzy logic toolkits for this. I’m using MATLAB.

Step 1 : Open Matlab and type fuzzy on the command line to invoke the  FLT as shown:

fuzzy

This will open the fuzzy logic designer console as follows:

FL Designer.JPG

Step 2 : Click on the “inputs” section (in yellow) to add inputs. Note that an input is already defined here, we need to add two more for our problem. For this goto–>edit–>add variable–>input

inputoutput.JPG

Step 3: Double click on “BrakePressure” and click on the red-curve. Rename it from “mf1” to “low” and change the Type from ” trimf to gaussmf” as shown below. Similarly, do it for medium and high as well by clicking over the curves:

brkprss.JPG

Step 4: Now let’s fuzzify the car speed input. This can be trapezoidal and triangular since we have a speedometer that can objectively tell the speed (eg. 55.5 mph). Double click on the rectangle that has CarSpeed variable. We will define the car speed as also having three linguistic values: slow, medium, and fast.We will define the membership functions for these values for a universe of discourse of values from 0 to 100:
                                                          S = {(0, 1), (60, 0)}
                                                         M = {(20, 0), (50, 1), (80, 0)}
                                                         F = {(40, 0), (100, 1)}
If the wheel speed is in fact 55, then this gives us membership values as follows:
                                                           M[slow(55)] = 0.083
                                                           M[medium(55)]= 0.833
                                                           M[fast(55)] = 0.25

**M[] for “membership of”

carspeed.JPG

Step 5 : Set the wheel speed on the same parameters as car speed and based on three linguistic variables: Slow, Medium and Fast.

Slow

wheel speeed 1.JPG

medium

wheel speed 2.JPG

fast

fast.JPG

Step 6 : Now that we have defined the inputs, let’s define the output- that is break (Apply_break and Release Break). Both are trapmfs:

brake.JPG

Source: AI Illuminated, Ben Coppin, p.520

 

brake2.JPG

By default, the system uses “Mamdani” model. Here the defuzzification is centroid methoddefuzz.JPG

The formula for centroid method is:

formula

How the fuzzy values for the antecedents of the rules are applied to the consequents is being shown below:

clipping.JPG

Source: AI Illuminated, Ben Coppin, p.521

Step 7 : Remember the rules? Yeah… now since we defined the fuzzy variables and their membership attributes, we need to create the rule base by feeding it into the system. For this go to –> edit –>rules to get the Rules Editor. You can add-edit-delete rules as shown below. Once done, click ‘close’ to return to the fuzzy logic designer.

rulesrama.JPG

Step 8 : You can save it to the hard disk by exporting it as shown below:

save.JPG

You can export it to your workspace as well so that it’s instance is available throughout the session and you can invoke it whenever you want. To do this goto –> file–>export to the workspace:

click “OK”

sys.JPG

conso.JPG

Step 9 : Now your FIS (Fuzzy Inference System) for the automatic Breaking System is ready.

Click on your Fuzzy Logic Designer window-  view–>rules to see all the rules sets as shown below:

rulesets.JPG

You can drag the red line (|) to left (<–) or right (–>) and see how the crisp output varies for various inputs as below:elow :

vary.JPG

Step 10 : Plotting the surface. If you are using sciLab, you need to use a function called “plotsurf()” to plot the surface of the plane created by the FIS you have just created, but MATLAB makes things easier. You just have to click –> view –>surface to view the surface as shown below:

Surfaceplot.JPG

You can rotate it by dragging the surface :

drag.JPG

You can aslo view the output in terms of just one parameter by varying the selection criteria :

single.JPG

The above plot shows how the output (brake) varies with respect to Car_Speed. You can try it out for other input parameters like Wheel_Speed and Brake_Pressure.

References:

  1. Artificial Intelligence Illuminated, Ben Coppin, First Edition, Jones and Bartlett.
  2. Artificial Intelligence – A Guide to Intelligence Systems, Michael Negnevitsky, 3rd Edition
  3. http://www.mathworks.com

If you have any queries, you can e-mail me at : srinath.krishnamoorthy@villacollege.edu.mv

About me :

I m Srinath Krishnamoorthy. I m an MTech in Computer Science and Engineering from MA College of Engineering, Kothamangalam, and BTech in Information Technology from Government Engineering College, Palakkad. I m teaching Artificial Intelligence for the University of West of England (BSc Computer Science) in Male`, Maldives. My area of interests is AI, Data Analytics, Computational Intelligence and Theory of Computation.

Srinath Krishnamoorthy (1)
Srinath Krishnamoorthy

 

 

 

 

Perceptron Learning Algorithm in C

Image result for rosenblatt's perceptron

Capture1Capture2Capture3Capture4Capture5Capture6

You can vary the learning coefficients (0<lr<1), the desired output, initial weights etc. And then see the difference in the number of epoch’s it takes for the perceptron to learn a particular pattern.

For example : For AND Gate Yd=[0 0 0 1]  and for OR Gate Yd=[0 1 1 1]

Here we display the output for AND operation:

Capture7Capture8Capture9

 

Thank you.

 

The Author is an MTech in Computer Science and Engineering from M.A. College of Engineering, Kothamangalam. He currently teaches Computer Science(UWE) at Villa College, Male`, Maldives.

For any queries, you can reach the author at – srinathtk86@gmail.com

The Lesson

 

Image may contain: 2 people, selfie

A big lesson for youngsters who are thinking that revolution is just around the corner:

1. Study well and get a good job.

2. Family first. Because those who are giving heart thumping speeches, writing lengthy blogs and making revolutionary movies have cleverly insulated themselves and their families from the very thing they stand for. Look around. They are getting hefty salaries and pensions. Their children are millionaires riding fancy cars and bikes. Most of them are studying abroad and are enjoying a luxurious life. Don’t waste your time on political parties, politicians or political ideologies. They are never gonna make your life better. In fact, they have never made anybody’s life better. They are used to using you. When was the last time a student body; affiliated to any political party in India; stage a protest against unemployment and lack of infrastructure in educational institutions?(Hard nut to crack… )

There is absolutely no point in wasting your time idolising politicians or movie stars or anything or anybody for any reason.

They have their lives and most of them don’t care beyond that. Plain and simple.

3. Never let any ideology or politician or religious entity brainwash you for any fu***’in reason under the sky ‘coz that baggage will be nothing but a burden in the latter stages of your life. You gotta live with it forever or flush it down the closet at some point in time.

4. The loss is yours and yours alone.

5. The people you are willing to die for will drag your parents on the streets once you are gone. That’s just how important each one of you(us) are for them and maybe for the society as a whole.

6. Movies will come, rake profits and fade out into the oblivion. Do not let the things that you watch in theatres get into your brain. Try to critically evaluate things.

7. At the end of the day, your life is your responsibility… ‘coz no one gives a shit.

8. And last but not the least, people who revolt on #Facebook and #twitter will remain there forever. They will never swarm the streets and stand for you. Open your eyes and get a life before it is too late.

– Srinath Krishnamoorthy

#Justice4Jishnu

Forward by Suhail Mathur

Image result for hope we never meet again

The first thing that comes to my mind after reading Srinath Krishnamoorthy’s spellbinding novel is that the savage in man is never quite eradicated. I’m a person who loves travelling and many a time has come across random phone numbers scribbled on nameless walls. But I never gave it a second though and never expected in my life to read a mesmerising thriller that spins out a plot from a mobile number scribbled on the walls of a railway toilet.

Hope We Never Meet Again is a novel that explores the journey of a man and his evolution from existence to death. The book is a deep dive into our own minds and our own sense of truth and fallacy. After reading the novel, I am sure most of the readers would contemplate a lot on the fundamental questions of existence. About death and its aftermath. About crime and the ultimate punishment at the hand’s destiny.

Are all deaths natural? Or are they murders in disguise? Will the murderer ever get punished in this shallow world?   Srinath Krishnamoorthy was successful in creating a plot that keeps the reader hooked, and he does answer it all. The novel is unique in its narrative and the craft. Yes, it’s a new way of storytelling.

When I read the first chapter, I was hooked and did not put it down till I had finished the last page.  Srinath immediately caught my attention by breaking the silence and taboos of sexuality and relationships by the way he described the thoughts of desire that naturally run through everyone’s mind.  He has carried that “Indian spiciness” throughout the book especially in the last three chapters… Wow!   He gives the auto-rickshaw a whole new meaning!  No wonder this book is flying off shelves and into the hands of readers who turn the pages like the wind!  Sexuality is a normal part of life but some refuse to acknowledge that.  Pretending it doesn’t exist is unrealistic and unfortunate. Bravo for speaking up about it all, I was hooked and obviously, I wasn’t the only one!

What I feel is unique about the novel is the fact that the author has masterfully blended the idea of dreams, realities, myths and the bitter hard truths of life into an intricate, yet beautiful novel.

I was literally stunned by the way the author had bound different story lines happening within flashbacks and suspenseful twists and turns at the end of each chapter. It’s all tied up with one astounding string called “words”. There are several lessons in life integrated within the book as well like how it’s important to say what you need to say to someone before it’s too late.  And sometimes by taking the wrong path in life is okay because it leads you to the right one eventually.  Most of all, one small shift or decision such as scribbling a phone number down from a dirty railway toilet wall can change the very course of life because ultimately it’s our actions and decisions that shape us.

I would like to give two big thumbs up for Srinath Krishnamoorthy and “Hope We Never meet Again”. It is one of the best novels I have read in ages.

Suhail Mathur

ENDINGS MATTER

 

Beginings and endings

It does not surprise me when someone says- “Every individual is born with a potential to change the destiny of this world forever.” But, the realisation that most of us go from here… without realising this fact, comes in as a shock.

How sadly surprising 😦

I agree that man comes with nothing and goes empty handed. But, we all can leave behind something. We all can leave a legacy !!!

We keep complaining about our circumstances.The middle-class family we are born in, the country to which we belong and socio-economic conditions we are exposed on a day to day basis. We keep bitching about our political leadership and even blame the god for not providing us or satisfying our expectations in life.

As a society, we are more concerned about our rights than our duties… towards our nation, environment and most important of all… ourselves.

Beginnings matter but endings matter more. The biggest challenge most of us face today is “What will others think?”. Most of our dreams are buried alive inside those 4 words… “What will others think?”

And another coffin we nail out on ourselves is- “What if I fail?”. Which stops us from taking even the smallest possible risk that could be owned with the minimum of resources we have. I would like to call this risk as “exploring opportunities”.

Well, we never try. Fear 😦

Remember, winning is not an accident, it is an attitude.

Most of the highly successful people we see around us have faced failures time and again. For many, their birth itself is frowned upon as a symbol of penury and slavery.They were not brilliant geniuses but they were persistent. And sometimes, persistence pays more than sheer talent.

Success is not about winning all the time. It is about getting up and fighting back every time you fail… every time you fall.

We set mediocre targets in our lives and compare our on destiny with someone else’s and find solace in meeting those targets. Remember, you might have won the battle but not the war. Vision is an important thing in life.

Life is a journey. It takes us through the strangest of the strangest roads. And it ends at some point in time. But, it is a journey where it does not matter where you started. What matters is where you end up being.

Dreams are always eager to become realities. How sad we hardly give them a chance 😦

Srinath Krishnamoorthy

‪#‎Srinath_Krishnamoorthy‬

A Government Job

A GOVERN
#PART_1 – A MAN WHO CAME FROM NOWHERE.

The story had started well before it had begun.

Venkatesh came from a very poor Brahmin family in Sreekrishnapuram. He belonged to a caste that crowned the social hierarchy of India for ages. Legend has it that, in three steps his people had conquered heaven, earth and hell. The holy thread that ran diagonally across his body symbolised intelligence, supreme power and prestige for thousands of years. But today, Venkatesh had to jiggle his pockets a hundred times, just to fish out enough coins for his bus fare. Oddly, the sacred thread today symbolised nothing but tyranny. Though weightless, sometimes it just felt so heavy around him.

Venkatesh held a first class degree in Economics from VTB college but jobs were hard to find. The monsoon of 1999 had taken away a portion of his century-old ancestral house made of clay and wood. Due to this, his family comprising of his ageing parents and three sisters had to squeeze themselves into the main hall which was the only room in the house that provided a decent shelter. Like any Valluvanadan illam, it was an ancestral house that boasted infinite abundance once upon a time. But for Venky (as he was popularly known among friends), it was a decaying structure that symbolised penury and irrelevance of a lost generation.

The family was so hard struck with poverty that Venky’s father had to sell their only cow, Nandini, to a butcher in Vaniyamkulam so that he could afford enough money to pay for Venky’s final semester exam fee. For Venky, it was the most disastrous day in his life. More than a cow, Nandini was family. Every member of the household would share their happiness, laughter and pain with Nandini. She was the silent listener to their sorrow and pain. Venky was not at home when this happened and he had a huge row with his father for doing what he did. He cried a whole week because images of Nandini being slaughtered kept haunting his dreams. He was deeply disturbed, day and night, for things that were happening in his family. Venky almost thought of running away from home. But the innocent faces of his sisters and ageing parents stopped him from doing anything stupid.

But each time…through every struggle, Venky’s mother used to say one thing:

“Venky, Kanna…get a good government job… and all our problems will be solved…you have three sisters to take care and our time is running out. You cannot stay away from home and have to be here. Get a good government job and all our problems will be solved…”

Venky was immensely disturbed by the plight of his family and the worse part was that he could hardly do anything without a degree certificate. Finally, by the grace of god, his internal conflicts died a happy death once he got the degree. He was sure about one thing and that was, he was going to get a government job to put an end to all his problems… once and forever.

As soon as his results were out, Venky dashed towards PSC coaching centres in and around Palakkad and Ottapalam. But disappointment awaited him everywhere in the form of money. The funds required for coaching was by far unaffordable.

” 8000 rupees or there is no place for you….” This was what every front desk girl kept telling him. And Venky, who hardly had coins for bus fare, was shattered by this huge chunk of cash required to grab a government job. At one point in time, he thought about preparing on his own. But Venky was intelligent enough to measure his own ability to train himself. He needed coaching and there was no other way he was going to get a government job. So he decided to try his luck in every fucking PSC Coaching centre in the town.

The best PSC coaching centre in Palakkad was LOTUS and they were very expensive. The lady sitting behind the front desk turned him down even after he told his problems.

“I cannot do anything boy… I’m just an employee… 8000 or no seat…” the lady shrugged. Which literally meant -“Fuck off you beggar boy…”

As Venky walked out of that coaching centre, he saw a very handsome man leaning over an expensive Honda City car just outside the entrance. He was almost 6 feet tall, broad shouldered and had an extremely fair complexion. He was fiddling with a white Nokia 1110 mobile phone and suddenly looked up when Venky was about to cross him. For a fraction of a second, their eyes met. Venky was mesmerised by the other man’s gleaming blue eyes. There was some kind of magic in them… something mysteriously divine. The yellow shirt he wore, the mundu (dhoti) with a golden embroidery work, clean-shaven face with a shade of green, his slick black, well-combed hair and the subtle smile that ran over his lips, all strangely reminded Venky about lord Sree Krishna. For a fretting moment, they smiled at each other. But Venky knew, God existed merely to test him and not help him in any possible way. A permutation and combination of miseries was what god has always thrown at him. Venky knew that happiness was never his destiny.

Even though he knew there was no hope, Venky went from one PSC Coaching centre to another, just to see if he could get some kind of a discount or concession.

After LOTUS, the next was LILY PSC COACHING centre and man in charge of the front office was as ugly as his words. Hard luck hit Venky once again. He was turned down because he could not afford the kind of money they asked for. To his surprise, as he walked out, he saw the handsome man with the Honda City car waiting outside. This time, he was busy talking to someone over the phone. The man pretended not to notice him and Venky followed the suit.

The day was damned in the sense wherever Venky went, the fee they asked for PSC Coaching was unaffordable. The day was so hot that he could not stop himself from buying lemon soda and iced serbath. And by the end of the day, he was two rupees short of bus fare to get back home. There seemed to be no hope and Venky was shattered.

The strange thing was that wherever he went he noticed this strange, good looking , rich fellow following him in his white Honda City. And, when Venky walked out of the final PSC coaching centre in Palakkad town, the man left his car and came towards him. He spoke to Venky softly. Venky was stupefied by his charm. The man introduced himself as Jason Puthanpurakal, a planter from Kalladikode and before Venky could say anything, he spoke:

“I have been watching you all day. I can understand your problems and I’m ready to help you….” and he smiled

“Thank you so much sir…” a tired Venky thanked him meekly.

“I will bear the cost of your PSC Coaching till you get a Government Job Venkatesh… I will pay for all your personal expenses related to this cause…” Jason smiled as he spoke and extended his right hand to Venky.

Venky was almost startled and wondered how this Mr.Jason knew his name. Suddenly, he became alert and hesitant but eventually shook hands with Mr.Jason and smiled at him. Venky could not believe his luck.

An unlucky day had just spun itself to be the luckiest day of his life. Little did Venky know that the day was going to change his destiny forever.

“Thank you… thank you so much …dear sir… I don’t know how to thank you ….” Venky almost cried as he showered his gratitude for this great Mr.Jason who towered like a God in front of him. Venky bent down to touch his feet… but Jason held him and spoke to Venky:

“Yes…you are welcome Venkatesh. But, I will fund your cause if and only if you agree to my conditions…”

Venky was taken aback and stared at Mr.Jason:

“What is it… Sir? What are the conditions…”

“Nothing… once you get a government job, you will have to pay me 1/4 of your salary…every month.”

Venky bit his parched lips and closed his eyes to fathom what the man had just spoken. He then opened his eyes and asked Mr.Jason:

“Every month…???”

“Yes. Every month. A quarter of your salary…how much ever it maybe. Even your pension. A quarter of it, till you die. Whatever direct monetary benefit you make out of this job, you will be liable to pay me a quarter of it. You are free to run any sort of parallel business and I would not stake my claim in that. No…not a single penny. But, you should never resign from this job…getting promoted is fine but never leave this job…are you ok with my offer Venkatesh?” Mr.Jason flashed one of his godly smiles after saying thus.

Venky listened to the man as if dumbfounded. He could not make up his mind and did not know what to say. Finally, he gathered his nerves and replied:

“Sir, please give me a day’s time to think over and decide…”

“OK. Tomorrow, same place…same time. I will be waiting for you here. ..”

“Sure Sir… thank you for the offer…” and as Venky turned around to leave, Mr.Jason called from behind.

“Venkatesh…this should remain between us…strictly. Not even your shadow should know what happened here today…”

“I promise you Jason Sir… no one will ever know…” Venky promised and Mr.Jason smiled in return.One of those reassuring smiles…like the smile of God himself.

***
gec
A mysterious man lurks in the annals of power…
 ‪#‎PART_2‬ – A STRANGE LETTER FOR A LETTER

That smile cost Venky his sleep that night. He kept tossing himself in his ragged bed all the time, thinking about what he was supposed to tell Mr.Jason the next day. Venky even thought about waking his father in the middle of the night. He was desperate to discuss his dilemma with someone but then, he decided to act otherwise. He remembered the promise he had made to Mr.Jason, that he won’t let even let his shadow into their secret. Moreover, his father was too proud to let someone else pay for his son’s PSC coaching. By early morning next day, Venky knew that his options were limited.

That day evening, Venky met Mr.Jason.

Mr.Jason was already waiting for Venky in front of the PSC Coaching centre and he looked completely relaxed. The only difference was that he was wearing a red shirt instead of a yellow one. There was a kind of serenity in his face.

As Venky approached, Mr.Jason smiled at him.

“So what did you decide young man?” Jason asked Venky

“I accept your offer Sir…” he replied

Jason gave a penetrating smile…a smile that said he knew what Venky was going to say way ahead of time.

Hence, from the very next day, Venky’s PSC Coaching started in the earnest from one of the top notch centres in Palakkad. Every penny was paid for and every need of his was taken care of by Mr.Jason. Venky started working hard and took it up as a penance to grab a government job at the earliest. More than his commitment towards his family, he felt obliged towards Mr.Jason who was paying for his future. Venky felt really awkward when he came to know that most of the students who trained along with him had no aim to work hard for themselves or their country once they got a government job. They were all sweating hard so that they could chill out in some nondescript government office for the rest of their lives. For Venky, the situation was different. For Venky, a government job was the only solution to save his three sisters, two ageing parents and a house that would fall over their heads any moment. They were all but his sole responsibility.

Strangely, he never met Mr.Jason after that evening. Whenever there was any requirement to remit fee or any financial need, the money would reach him well ahead of the need itself. Venky wondered how Mr.Jason managed to do that. His penniless SBI bank account was now in a better shape with funds that allowed him to concentrate on studies and nothing else.

But finally, after two tiresome long years, he met Mr.Jason again.

Strangely, it was the day he had cracked the Secretariat Assistant Examination. Venky had secured a top-rank in that statewide competitive test. That day evening, Venky was in the PSC Coaching centre with everybody congratulating him on his success. And that’s when he saw Mr.Jason waiting outside his PSC Coaching centre. This time, Jason had a bag in his hand. Venky ran out to meet him and fell onto his feet, but Mr.Jason held him. He hoisted Venky and praised him for his grit and determination. Mr.Jason congratulated Venky with highly motivating phrases and handed over the cover. There was a brand new pair of Raymond Shirts and Trousers.All branded. Venky could not stop his tears from rolling down his cheeks and onto the fine fabric.

Suddenly, Mr.Jason received a call and his smile vanished. As if caught in the middle of some urgency, he walked towards his white Honda City car and opened the door near the driver’s seat. Before getting behind the steering wheel, he summoned Venky with his index finger. Venky ran towards Mr.Jason who slipped a neatly folded white sheet of paper into his pocket. Mr.Jason patted Venky’s shoulder in a matter-of-fact way and then without uttering a word, he started the car and drove off. Venky stood there for a long time and watched the car slip out into the oblivion of that evening, being eaten by the small town traffic.

He took the neatly folded sheet of paper from his pocket and opened it. The words did not shock him exactly, but gave him a tinge of reality:

Remember our agreement. A quarter of your monthly salary should be remitted in the following Bank Account. It should be done without fail. The money should be transferred exactly the day you receive your salary. Defaulting is not an option.

Account No: 398256723456
IBIBI Bank

All the best for a great future and hope we never meet again.

Jason.

 

Venky could not comprehend whether those final words meant a nostalgic farewell from a man who nearly equalled god or an outright threat from a stranger who had some kind of control over his life. He was not mature enough to fathom the inner meanings of the civil world.

He read Mr. Jason’s letter one last time before folding it back into his pocket.

“A strange letter for a letter…” Venky thought.

***

Venky received his posting in Trivandrum. He disposed his property in Sreekrishnapuram and rented a flat near Sreekariyam. The coincidence that both the places had a prefixed “Sree” did not surprise him since prosperity poured down every walk of his life. Venky along with parents and sisters moved into that new city with fresh hopes and new dreams.

The next few years saw the rise and rise of Venkatesh both as a government employee and as a bureaucratic sweetheart The multiple promotions that enabled him to rise up the ranks at lightning speed was a manifestation of his sincerity, intelligence and hard work.

Venky got all his three sisters married into very good families and in a very grand way. The 5th year saw his father’s death and the 6th saw the demise of his mother. Venky fell into depression. He felt all alone in that big city because his workaholic nature hardly earned him any friends. Somehow, his sisters put their heads together and conspired to get their brother married.

They succeeded in convincing Venky to marry a beautiful girl by the name Meenakshi. She belonged to a devout Brahmin family from Kalladi. In another three years, the couple were proud to parent two beautiful little girls, Anjana and Krishna.

Through all his ups and downs… through his happy times and bad times…. through his triumphs and defeats, Venky stuck to his word to Mr.Jason. He transferred 1/4th of his salary to Mr.Jason’s bank account every month. Thick or thin, he never failed to meet this obligation to the man who made his life. This went on for a decade until one fine summer day in March when Meenakshi caught him red  handed .

Venky came home late that day and Meenakshi was nothing less than Durga incarnated.

She was silently keeping track of all his financials and she stumbled across this huge financial mismatch between their bills and her husband’s salary. She tried her best to figure out where all the money went but failed miserably to make head or tail of it. Meenakshi was now almost sure that Venky was running a parallel family with another woman and that he was cheating on her.

As soon as Venky got into the house that day, she closed all the doors and windows. Then she raised a hell fire. Meenakshi accused Venky of having an illegitimate relationship with someone since huge chunks of money went missing from his account every month. Puff… it just seemed to vanish. Venky tried to argue and reason with her, but Meenakshi was persistent and wanted to get to the root of this mysterious fund transfers.

“You are having a relationship outside our marriage…. being a Brahmin, do you think that this kind of immoral activity suits you…Do you have any idea that you have two daughters to take care of? Have you ever thought about them even once before squandering your hard earned money? ” Meenakshi went on wailing at the top of her voice. And she kept shouting as if she would not stop until her vocal chords would burst. Venky could not hold back anymore and he knew it was time for him to give in. A long kept secret will not remain a secret anymore.

There was no way out. Venky prepared himself to reveal the truth. And then, it was a complete mess.

***

Sri V

‪#‎PART_3‬ : One man. One face. And a hundred names.

Venky finally gave in and revealed his little secret to his wife Meenakshi and she could not believe her ears. At the same time, Venky felt guilty for breaking his promise to Mr.Jason that he would never let anybody into their little pact, not even his own shadow

Meenakshi was much stronger than Venky expected. She meddled into the issue with all her strength and a vehemence unlike anything that Venky had ever seen in his entire life.

“From next month onwards you are not gonna give a single penny to this Mr.Jason…not a single penny….” she argued hard.

“But I have to keep my promise Meenu…” Venky tried to retort meekly. But his arguments were nothing more than squeaks coming out a mouse trapped in the jaws of a ferocious cat.

“OK. Fine. You keep your promise and I’m leaving you…this very moment…and I will be taking our daughters along with me…” Meenakshi resolved and Venky shuddered.

Like every household, ulitimately it was the house captain who won every argument. And in this case, it was Meenakshi. Venky had to give up . There was no other go but to agree to Meenakshi’s conditions.

Venky was disturbed throughout what remained of the month. Slowly, everybody started noticing unusual changes in him. Sullen eyes, unshaven face, erratic mood swings and most importantly, many found him taking solace in alcohol, sitting alone in the Officer’s Club near Pattom.That was completely unbecoming of Venky and his colleagues and subordinates genuinely started getting concerned towards him.

The only friend he seemed to have in the secretariat was one Mr.Raghuram. Raghuram and Venky joined the government service almost at the same time. They both had similar upbringings, similar family backgrounds and both of them worked their way to the top with grit and determination. One day, it became too much for Venky to bear and he went with Mr.Raghuram for a drink in the Officer’s Club. Over the drink, Venky spilled the beans on Mr.Jason to Raghuram. To his surprise, Raghuram also had a similar story to tell.

“So what is your story Raghuram?” Venky asked with mounting curiosity in his voice.

Raghuram’s story was nothing different. He wanted to get a government job but hardly had cash to join any coaching centre. Raghuram had given up all hopes but then, a very good looking man with a white Honda City car came to his rescue. He introduced himself as Mr.David Muloorkadan, a planter from Pala. And, as with Venky, the stranger funded all his studies till Raghuram cracked the PSC exam. The only difference was that Raghuram took 5 long years to clear it. He was not as lucky as Venky to pass the exam during the first attempt. Even after numerous attempts, he was unable to get into government service. But then finally, he did crack the exam. Back then, it was kind of unbelievable for Raghuram since it was the worst exam he ever wrote. He was damn sure that he scored exceptionally low, but then mysteriously he did crack the exam.

“The bastard lobbied for you Raghu… Damn!!!” Venky almost shouted over his beer.

“Yeah…now I understand how I got this job. But how the fuck did he…” Raghuram shrugged and slammed his beer glass on the table with a thud. The people sitting around them in the nearby tables were startled for a moment. They all threw eager glances towards Venky and Raghuram, expecting one of those rare beurocratic brawls. Usually, fists flew between PWD guys and Water Authority guys since both ransacked or blew up each others hard work. Today, they were disappointed since Venky and Raghuram were on the same page.

Anyways, the only difference in Raghuram’s case was that the name of the mystery man was Mr.David. Except for his name, the general description of the person matched to near exactness in both their cases. By the end of their drinking session, Venky was cocksure that Mr.Jason and Mr.David was one. It was an eye opener for both Venky and Raghuram.

Next day in office meant business for Raghuram and Venky. The only point was that it was all too personal and too secretive. They dug into it and dug at it hard. New names surfaced in the secretariat and other important public offices in and around Trivandrum every day for the next two weeks. By the end of that month, Venky and Raghuram drew up a list of 100 government employees, all belonging to various departments. They all belonged to different age groups, different religion, different castes and belonged to different districts in the state of Kerala.

Other than being government servants, there was one thing… just one thing that connected them all. And that was, they all came from very very poor background. They all belonged to the lowest of the lowest socio-economic stratum before they were called in as public servants by the Government of Kerala.

Each of them had got the same letter from Mr.Jason, but with a different bank account to deposit money into. For Koya from Malappuram, the mystery man was Mr.Hameed Arrakal. For Alex Chandi from Kottayam, he was Mr.Eldho Elias. For Sumithra from Kannur he was Mr.Mahadevan Kartha.

One man. One face. And a hundred names.

Venky and Raghuram were dumbfounded.

Who was he? What was he? And what was his real motive? Nobody had an answer.

None of them saw him once they got their job and nobody ever dared to be a defaulter. In a way, they all loved him more than they feared him.

Venky and Raghuram sent out an exclusive invitation for a secret meeting to each of those 100 employees.

On the 31st of March, they all held a clandestine meeting in Kovalam and came to a unanimous conclusion that they were dealing with a criminal mastermind. They all had met the same man with the same offer at different points in time. They also made a collective decision to stop depositing money into the stranger’s account anymore. Many did raise the point of going to the Police, but then decided otherwise. They would wait for the salary day to pass before taking any drastic step in those directions. Somehow, nobody fancied getting their hands dirty by stepping on to the murkier side of the law and Police.

Finally, the D-day for the employees arrived in high tension.

April 1st… the salary day for most of the government staffs. Venky kept his fingers crossed and did not make the usual transaction into Mr.Jason’s account. The other employees followed suit as per the resolution in the secret meeting. The day went without an incident.

Venky and Raghuram deemed the matter to have ended there. They drank to their full that evening to celebrate this newfound sense of freedom. And yeah…nothing happened that day. And the next…and the next.

The day in office went fine as usual for Venky on April 4th as well. Even though Venky was bogged down with work that day and was late to leave the office, he was happy that there was no trace of Mr.Jason so far. It was as if Mr.Jason had started to vanish from his sphere of thoughts.

“Maybe he is dead…or left the country altogether.Now, who cares…” Venky thought gleefully.

But, as he left for the day and approached the parking lot walking towards his car, he caught a glimpse of the very same white Honda City car. Initially hebthought he was just imagining things. But no, it was all too real to be mere hallucinations. The white HONDA CITY was parked right next to his red WV Polo. And standing in front of it was Mr.Jason. The very same Mr.Jason he had met more than a decade earlier. The very same Mr.Jason who made him what he was. For a fretting moment, Venky felt his heartbeat was completely arrested by the magnanimity of what He was seeing. He felt as if his heart had jumped out into his mouth and then, he tried swallowing it hard.

Mr.Jason looked up and then, he smiled.

***
The Circle
 
#PART_IV : THE CIRCLE- The Story Ends
 
Venky was really surprised to see that Mr.Jason had not changed a bit over the past ten years . The very same glowing skin, those deep, piercing blue eyes and the same slick black hair combed to perfection. Not even a single strand of grey could be found. And his smile was the same. Enchanting, divine and most importantly, as godly as it can get. Like before, it simply touched your soul. Fountain of youth still burst through his skin. Even the tides of time had not dared to touch his youthfulness, Maybe they were afraid to hurt him…but Venky had dared. So did Raghuram. And so did those hundred other innocent government employees. The thought made Venky uncomfortable.
 
His stomach churned at the very thought of betraying the man who did so much for him. Venky staunchly believed in keeping promises and as a Brahmin, he considered betrayal as the highest form of sin.
 
Did he annoy Mr.Jason? Venky’s thoughts raced like a rabbit being chased by a leopard. Whatever, Mr.Jason’s smile seemed to hide his every emotion. It was hard to read what this man was thinking. His face revealed absolutely nothing.
 
Mr.Jason left his car and walked towards Venky and a chill ran up his spine. To Venky’s surprise Jason smiled and extended his right hand, exactly the way he did 10 years back:
 
“Hello!!! Venkatesh… Oops sorry… Venkatesh Sir…”
 
“Hello, Mr.Jason…” Venky reciprocated the gesture by shaking hands with Mr.Jason.
 
Strangely he did not address Mr.Jason as ‘Jason Sir’ like he had done before. Venky suddenly realised how much older he himself looked in comparison to Mr.Jason. He was at the verge of getting completely bald, had bags under his eyes and flaunted a gluttonous, sagging pot belly for a tummy. Was it this lightning fast aging process or the high position he held in the government machinery that made him omit the “Sir” part..Venky never knew.
 
They stood there, staring at each other for seconds that seemed to stretch into eternity.
 
Finally, Mr.Jason broke the silence:
 
“How are you? It’s been so long yeah…”
 
“Yes… I’m fine… how are you Mr.Jason?” Venky muttered
 
“As always…I’m doing good. Was passing this way…thought I will drop by and meet you…Venkatesh Sir” Mr.Jason smiled as he spoke and Venky noticed that there was complete casualness in his demeanour.
 
Venky swallowed hard yet again before opening his mouth. He did not know how to pitch in the issue of non-payment of the agreed sum of money, but he somehow gathered the courage to spit it out:
 
“The money… I mean… I have two daughters…They are growing up Mr.Jason… I cannot deposit the cash from now on…” Venky blurted out, to which Mr.Jason merely smiled and said :
 
“Yes, I know… You have a gorgeous wife and two daughters… You have personal commitments and I can understand that. Anyways, I’m so happy for you….” Mr.Jason touched Venky’s shoulder reassuringly as he spoke. There was not a bit of anger or any other emotion in his voice. Strangely, Venky felt relaxed. So relaxed that he felt he was in the presence of a saint who emanated an elixir of positive energy, goodness and well-being.
 
At that precise moment, Mr.Jason’s phone rang. The magic was broken. The spell was shattered.
 
He took the mobile phone from his pocket and then rejected the call. He looked up, smiled at Venky and said:
 
“Sorry. I think it is time for me to go Venkatesh Sir… see you…”
 
“Ok…” Venky returned the smile.
 
Venky noticed that Mr.Jason was holding the same Nokia 1110 he was using when they met last time, more than a decade before.
 
“Even smartphones had failed to impress Mr.Jason!” Venky thought with a tinge of amusement.
 
Mr.Jason turned and walked towards his Honda City and opened the door to get behind the wheels and Venky kept watching him.
 
Those decade-old, vivid images of Mr.Jason walking away towards his car after gifting him those brand new clothes, flashed in front of Venky’s eyes. And as Jason was about to get inside the car and close the door, Venky jolted back to his senses. Venky took a few quick strides towards the Honda City car and said:
 
“The money…from now on…” he almost shouted at Mr.Jason
 
“Oh… there is no need for that anymore. You will never have to pay it again. You remember those last few words I wrote in the letter I gave you back then…no more worries in life…Just enjoy and chill with your family!!!” Mr.Jason smiled childishly at Venky.
 
“Errrr….” Venky grappled in the dark trying to remember those words Mr.Jason had written in his letter. But he failed to recollect those exact wordings.
 
“Anyways, leave that…Good night…” Mr.Jason slammed the door, started his car and drove off leaving Venky open mouthed, exactly the way he had done 10 years back.
 
Some people are like that; they just come with a lot of surprises and leave us with a lot of unanswered questions. A man who came from nowhere and vanished as if to never meet again for a long long time… Mr.Jason. Venky did feel a pang of regret for breaking every promise he had made to Mr.Jason.
Venky got into his own car and as he drove through that beautiful city, dazzled with lights, he tried to remember those final words in the letter that Mr.Jason had given him. No. He failed to recollect. It was 10 fucking long years…and well…who cares. By the time Venky reached home, it was almost 9:30 PM. Meenakshi was anxiously waiting near the entrance and came running to the car porch to greet him.
“Why are you so late and why is your phone switched off…” she asked Venky as soon as he got out of the car. He experienced a sudden surge of anger towards his wife because somehow he felt that she was the reason why he had to conspire against Mr.Jason. But then, he kept his anger to himself.
“Ohh… the battery got drained out Meenu… I forgot to take the charger… Where are the kids…?”
“They are already in bed. By the way, can you please get some milk from the grocery store, please… there is a strike tomorrow…it is all over the TV and there is hardly any milk for the kids…”
“Ok.. first lemme change and have something…” Venky said in an irritated voice.
 
Though he wanted to discuss his brief encounter with Mr.Jason with Meenakshi, Venky held back due to some strange reason. He somehow did not feel like opening his heart to his wife who was ready with a list of things to brought in the middle of the night. Moreover, Meenakshi would bombard him with questions and Venky had no energy left in him for tackling them.
 
“Better keep quiet than waste my energy for no good…” Venky told himself.
Venky changed, took a bath and had a silent dinner. He then took his two-wheeler, a yellow Vespa, and went out to get two packets of milk. He searched for those final words in the letter that Mr.Jason claimed to have written. But the harder he thought, the further those words ran into obscurity.
 
“Was it something about ‘never meeting again’…. something like ‘hope we never meet again’…???”, Venky was not sure and exactly at that moment, his concentration got diverted because of a very bright light reflecting off his rear view mirror.
 
So Venky made it a point to read the letter once again when he reached home.
But unfortunately, he never got back home.
***
Raghuram opened the newspaper next day and was shocked to read the news of Venky’s untimely death in the obituary. Raghuram read out the terrible news with shivering hands. A boulder laden truck ran over Venkatesh who was riding a Vespa towards a grocery shop in Ponganmoodu to buy milk. The accident had killed him on the spot.
The remaining 100 employees also read the same news in various Malayalam dailies. It was a morning news that literally shocked a hundred hearts.
The message was clear. To each and every one of them. The man they betrayed was much more powerful than they had imagined and the deal they disrespected may cost their very lives. They were all gripped in mortal fear…the fear of losing their life…the fear of a gruesome death and the ultimate fear of their own families coming down to the footpath.
 
No complaints were raised. Nobody moved a finger. That day, without any delay, the remaining employees transferred the money into the account numbers given to them by Mr.Jason or Mr.Mahadevan or Mr.Hameed or whoever he was. They were all afraid for their lives from the man who came from nowhere.
#EPILOGUE
Sree Lakshmi was a poor Brahmin girl who lived in Kalpathy, Palakkad. She wanted to desperately get into a government job. But her family could hardly afford decent PSC Coaching for her. As she went from one coaching centre to another, disappointment hit her hard since everybody turned her down. Mainly due to her poor financials.
 
Finally, as she walked out of the last PSC coaching centre in Palakkad and was waited for her bus to get back home, somebody touched her shoulder from behind. She was almost startled by that touch. But when she turned around, she knew she was staring at the most handsome man in the entire universe . A man as goodlooking as a Gandharva, was smiling at her. His smile seemed to penetrate her heart and soul. As she gazed deep into his magical blue eyes, he spoke to her softly:
“Hi, I’m Venkatesh Iyer…and I can help you achieve your dream…”
Sree Lakshmi could not believe her luck and glanced sideways to see if any known face watching her talking to this handsome stranger.
 
All she could see was a white Honda City car staring innocently at them.
***
a Srinath Krishnamoorthy novella.
 
Hope you all enjoyed this simple work of fiction!!!
Thank you, my dear readers, for appreciating my story and my words. The fact that many of you waiting eagerly for four days to read the entire story gives me immense hope and motivation as a writer.
 
Thank you once again and have a beautiful day ahead 🙂
 
#Srinath_Krishnamoorthy

MIDNIGHT3

Midnight3

‪#‎MIDNIGHT3‬ -A Short Story

Devaki, along with her husband and three sons, lived in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Mettupalayam Street, Palakkad. Theirs was a fairly large house, with 4 bedrooms, a hall, a kitchen and a work area. She took personal pride in the way she ran the household with no helping hands. The garden and the lawn, laden with Australian grass was nothing short of a Kohinoor that shimmered on her crown as the queen of that house. It was winter and the trees that lined either side of the compound was busy shedding their leaves. The dry leaves weightlessly danced across the lawn to the mad tunes of the winter winds.

It was an exceptionally cold, December night. The wind was howling through the street like a hungry wolf. A wolf that no one dared to challenge.

Devaki was sleeping with her eyes tightly shut. Like always, she had her green woolen blanket over her head, covering her ears. It was when the analog clock, kept in the main entrance hall of the house, struck three that she stumbled out of her sleep with a jolt. She pulled down the blanket and instinctively searched for her husband sleeping near her in the darkness. But, there was no one in the bed except her. That’s when she remembered that her husband, Laxmanan, a senior auditor in LIC, was out on his annual tour of North Malabar.

Her ears twitched as she heard the rustling of feets moving over dry leaves scattered across the lawn. Initially, she speculated that it was a kind of dreamy hallucination. But then she heard a thud. She swiftly sat upright with a heavy, pounding heart. This time, she was sure she heard it right. The noise clearly meant that someone had climbed over the compound wall and was walking across the lawn. There were more than just one.

“Thieves…”, she thought as her mind and body panicked.
Then she saw the shadows of three ghostly figures right in front of the wall facing the bed. The thieves were silently crouching towards the rear. The bright halogen lamp across the street was too powerful for the thieves since they could not escape its glare. The light from the street lamp momentarily cast the shadows of the intruders into Devaki’s bedroom wall as they silently moved within the compound.

Her heart started hammering against her chest and even the chilly December night could not stop her from perspiring. She heard a feeble din of metal meeting metal. She sat still for a moment. A moment that seemed to stretch into eternity. She could hear the ticking of the wall clock, the yelling wind outside and then, the hushed noise of an iron-saw meeting the lock of the rear door. The thieves were meddling with the lock that secured the rear door of the house.

That very day she had read a newspaper on an infamous bunch of thieves from “Thirutu Gramam” who were on the prowl. She had read the entire report on how they murdered the entire household before they looted. She had a frozen spine when the news ended with the statement that the police had failed yet again in nabbing the thugs.

Her gut feeling confirmed that the trespassers, trying to break into her house, were none other than the ruthless burglars from “Thirutu Gramam”. They were going to kill her. Devaki wanted to cry out for help or maybe run out for aid. But, not even a single muscle in her body would move. It was as if her nerves refused her command. She clutched the bedspread and closed her eyes in dread at the thought of the impending tragedy.

As she listened, Devaki became numb with shock when she realized that thieves had already broken into her house. The lock had given away since there was this mild screech of an unwilling rear door opening up for the robbers. Anytime the burglars will be in the main hall and quickly, they will walk into her bedroom. And to make the situation even worse, her husband was away. She had no clue as to what was to be done in a situation like this. She just has a few seconds to decide what was to be done.

And that’s when a stray dog howled with all its strength somewhere in the streets. Miraculously, it impulsively triggered a kind of determination into Devaki. She gathered her senses. In a fraction of a second, she decided to call out for her sons, who were enjoying an engrossed slumber. Devaki sprang out of her bed like blitz, banged her fist against the wooden almirah near to her bed and screamed at the top of her voice:

“Siva, Ashoka, Shankara….wakeup… Siva, take the knife and sword, Ashoka bring the club… Shankara, take the iron rods…. there are thieves inside… DO NOT LEAVE THEM…BREAK THEIR SKULLS ….KILL THEM…. KILL THEM ALL….”

She yelled at the top of her voice and it was nothing short of blood curdling. And as she screamed, she pulled down the heavy, dressing table made of teak wood, creating a terrible noise and it felt like complete mayhem.

She heard the thieves rocketing out exactly the way they came in, but at triple the speed. Devaki could hear them scrambling out of the compound. She opened and closed the doors of the wooden almirah with all the strength she could muster. The neighbours woke up to the noise and then lights came on across the street, one after the other.

Devaki heard people pouring out of their houses to quench their curiosity and if need be, offer help to their neighbour in distress. With a nervous relief, she stared at her three sons sleeping in the far end of the room.

Only the eldest, the 6-year-old Sivan had woken up. He was rubbing his eyelids as if his mother had woken him a bit too early for school.

3-year-old Ashokan was still lost in his sleep alongside Sivan, oblivious to whatever was happening around him. He slept as if nothing had happened. And Shankar; he was in his cradle, enjoying a dream, sucking his left thumb.

Devaki gave a sigh of relief as she sent a silent prayer to every god she had ever prayed. She realized that presence of mind was the most powerful weapon a woman can possess in situations like these.

Devaki knew that it was going to be a long night with neighbours and police pouring in. Moreover, when her husband returned home the next day, she was going to tell him an exciting story over a coffee.

Srinath Krishnamoorthy (1)
Srinath Krishnamoorthy

Reach him at srinathtk86@gmail.com

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