Ms. Gecko’s Salvation

(Photo courtesy DC Stultz)

The pinnacle of salvation was just one murder away. But time was fast running out. The Gecko turned right, and twisted left before springing up the stainless steel cutlery holder. Ms. Gecko had to act swiftly and decisively before the drunken rotund man would take the bowl of steaming hot stew placed near the microwave.  A few yards right in front of where Mike stood was a razor sharp upturned kitchen knife. It’s sharp edges gleamed and glistened reflecting the light from the kitchen lamp. Ms. Gecko hurled herself against a paper cup filled with cheap wine. “What the hell”, Mike screamed as the contents of the cup spilled over the tiled floor making it slippery.

Flinging herself onto Mike’s neck she plunged her teeth into his throat. Feeling the stinging pain, Mike instinctively reached out to squelch Ms. Gecko. In a lightning quick motion she leaped towards the knife. Mike took a step in pursuit. Slipping over the wine he plunged headlong in front before his jugular made a crunchy contact with the knife.

A fountain of blood gushed out. Ms. Gecko darted her tongue out twice. Mr. Gecko could now rest in peace. His death was avenged.

(Word Count: 199)

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction. Write a story of around 200 words based on the photo prompt given (above). Hosted by Donna McNicol . For more details visit HERE

To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, click HERE

 

To Take or Not To Take – The Hotel Conundrum

Image result for Resort + Creative Common

(Image Credit: Creative Commons)

Over the past two days, social media has been set alight by an incident involving an Indian family on vacation in Bali. Twitter timelines are flooded with a video approximately two and a half minutes in length depicting hotel staff removing objects (including hair driers & hangers) that were apparently ‘pilfered’ by the family. The chastised family can been seen pleading with the Indonesian hotel staff, who in turn are threatening to call the police. In the midst of this unpleasant haranguing, the guests can be heard repeatedly offering to ‘pay’ for the stuff taken from the hotels, and more.

This video, which makes for some obviously unpleasant viewing has triggered a vociferous debate where the revered and the reviled have pitchforked themselves into the fray offering their own take on the incident. The very fact that a deliberation has been spawned to discuss, debate and decide upon whether the family in question and the hoteliers – the two sparring protagonists in the unsavoury fracas – were in the right or wrong, bears monument to the diverging mindsets possessed by society on framing what constitutes right and the defining what is wrong.

On the one spectrum we have the likes of Ms. Sai Swaroopa, noted author and content writer who posted the following emotional tweet:

Sai

While the above logic is flawed on multiple counts, even assuming for the sake of argument, that Ms. Swaroopa is correct, it behooves the question as to why steal something which is to begin with “stupid” and of neither consequence nor worth. Further, boycotting a country or the hotel situated within its territorial jurisdiction is not a solution for preventing this kind of unfortunate episodes. Moreover it is not that the hotel in Bali is going to be rendered bankrupt without an influx of visitors from India.

Against those batting for the family, stand a section that is baying for the offender’s blood. According to the more aggressive opinion, the “shame”, and “disgrace” foisted upon the image of an entire nation requires punishment of a stringent nature.  While television host and actor Mini Mathur found the escapade of the family nauseating, yet another Twitterati called for a public naming and shaming of those involved:

Mini

Priya

Some extremely inventive people also chose to bring into the whole picture a racial angle arguing that if the pilferage was to have been either attempted or pulled off by a non-Indian or even a non Asian family, the hotel staff would not even have deemed it a utilitarian use of their time bothering to check! This interesting although arguable view was given further teeth by a tweet shared by Mr. Harsh Goenka, Chairman of the RPG Group of enterprises. The tweet made reference to an extremely racist notice addressed by a Swiss hotel in Gstaad “specifically to guests from India” on the rules of etiquette to be followed at the buffet tables:

Goenka

Gstaad

At the time of this writing, it is reliably learnt that the Hotel has tendered an apology – as it should rightfully have done a long time back. In an article published by the web site travelskills.com and titled “Which Nationality Steals Most From Hotels”, it is comforting for an Indian to note that India does not make the list of the top 10 usual suspects. Even though the article is dated 8th June, 2015, there is no need to suspect that India would have made an astonishing ascent leaping over the rungs of this ladder of infamy!

In the defense of the service providers it would be an injustice if it is not mentioned that most of the times, it is the servicing personnel who bear the brunt of the rants and raves of ‘unsatisfied’ and ‘disgruntled’ customers. Social media becomes a platform of convenience for highlighting in an unsparing manner the inadequacies, intransigence and insouciance of the hosts towards their guests. Hence when a guest becomes either abusive or engages in an inappropriate act such as the one in question here, it is “payback” time!

All of which brings us to this most important and urgent question of what can be done to ameliorate or even reverse this regressive practice of impulsive pocketing of seemingly trivial stuff, although in the current instance, some of the materials stuffed into briefcases ranged beyond toiletries alone. It is not that the people who engage in such practices come from deprived or under privileged backgrounds. Spending significant sums of money to fly, sail or drive across countries and even continents, incurring -or even splurging – material sums on accommodation, recreation and entertainment, the tourists cannot scour for sympathy that has at its spine monetary constraints. In fact, a man in the video in question can be heard loudly proclaiming possessing or owning a sum of Rs.50 lakhs. If this was to be the case then where was the need to indulge in such a shameful and totally avoidable act?

Irrespective of nationality or background, it is qualitative traits and attributes such as perception and upbringing that matter. Unless the concept of “whatever is rightfully not ours should not remain with us and should never be our preserve” gets drummed into collective brains from a young age, such incidents would continue to recur. More over measures such as counselling for travelers prior to their embarkation to a new geography and imparting of particular codes of conduct that are more a necessity than de riguer by authorities such as the visa processing staff at airports, ports and land clearing stations would greatly assist as well. While all these may sound like fundamental tenets of common sense, one would be surprised to note how uncommon common sense can be at times! Best of all, curricula in schools and colleges should include a segment on global etiquette and behaviour. While this measure should not be construed as ad implemented in a fashion neither regimental nor canonical, it should serve the basic purpose of equipping travelers to fully assimilate the philosophy of thinking global but acting local.

Finally coming back to the current issue under discussion, the last thing we ought to be doing as responsible citizens is circulating the inglorious video without discretion, thereby making it go viral. Naming and Shaming is not the solution at all and in fact such an act may have tragic and unimaginable consequences. The video also has two young girls looking on in a bemused fashion. The trauma which they would be (if they have not already) undergoing as a result of the societal stigma associated with the entire episode should not also be discounted. The stain of humiliation might lead the humiliated to undertake measures that are impulsive, spontaneous, unthinking and quite often tragic.

Hence let us just stop debating over this entire incident and move on. There are a thousand other more pressing issues that require our collective imagination and concerted action.

ASH – THE BIOGRAPHY

(Image Credit: Bhutan | Google Maps)

“You must write a book”, Ash exhorted for what must have been the billionth time. “If at all I write anything it will be…”  Before Venky could even finish, Ash interrupted furiously and hollered, “No, it won’t be on me!” Her cheeks framed by high cheek bones had now turned an angry red and her blazing eyes signified she was in a no-nonsense vein. Venky instinctively smiled. Her otherwise captivating beauty was embellished manifold when she was driven to a state of rage.

Now surrounded by the lush and magnificent landscape, Venky sat at a small desk placed against the wall of a spartan structure isolated from the hustle and bustle of capitalism and construction. Amidst the plunging valleys of regal Bhutan, Venky put the nib of his felt tipped pen to paper.  “She was of an unencumbered beauty” he began.  Of course his book had to be about her.

(Word Count: 150)

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw

For the complete list of entries, please click HERE

 

Ash Tracks Redux

(Image Credit: Sandra Crook)

There was something about trains that was both reverential and reviling to Venky.  he could spend hours sitting on the uncomfortable iron bench in the station and watch trains come and go by in a steady stream of babble. But the hustle and bustle of the locomotive also drove him to the point of hysterical despair.  Years ago it was one such train that ferried his Ash away from him to a distant land. But a land that offered her prosperity and progress.

Venky got up and brushed away the solitary tear that threatened to roll down his cheek.

(Word Count: 99)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

For more stories based on the above prompt, click HERE 

 

The First Wave – Alex Kershaw


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2019 marks the 75th Anniversary of one of the most storied and epochal events dotting the annals of global and military history. The colossal Allied invasion at Normandy (“D-Day”) that set in motion the defeat of the greatest racial bigots that humanity had the misfortune to be associated with, has become immortal not just for the supreme sacrifices made by thousands of brave soldiers, but also for the lessons it imparted for the very future of mankind. As may be expected this momentous Anniversary has spawned a deluge of books on the subject. One book that stands apart for its unsparing prose and distinctiveness is “The First Wave – D-Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War II” by Alex Kershaw. Mr. Kershaw views the invasion of Normandy standing upon the shoulders of a unique set of individuals. The first wave of soldiers to be air dropped, flown and shipped to the Northern French region to face the merciless onslaught of Hitler’s abominable albeit powerful Nazis. These are the shoulders that neither drooped nor sagged nor complained. They may have creaked with the physical burdens entailed by the rigours of a ruthless combat, but creak was all they did.

On the 6th of June, 1944, an armada the likes of which was never seen before and has never been spotted since set sail from the shores, and took off from the skies of Britain. Destination: France. Mission; to liberate Europe from the clutches of the sadist Adolf Hitler. The phalanx consisted of 5,333 Allied ships and landing craft embarking nearly 175,000 men. The British and Canadians put 75,215 troops ashore, and the Americans 57,500, for a total of 132,715. Adding to this tally were 20,000 Airborne troops. Waiting for these troops on the highly fortified beaches of Normandy were steely German soldiers all set to mow down the invaders.

Kershaw’s heroes make for an eclectic mix of the refined and the rough; the grizzled and the gentle and the rustic and the refined. But all of these indomitable warriors were bound as brothers in their objective, intent and action. The fast paced, adrenaline pumping and extraordinarily emotional book recounts some of the memorable heroics that will forever stand the test of time. Staff Sergeant Jim Wallwork, of the British Glider Pilot Regiment, demonstrated incredulous feats of airmanship. With only a stop watch, map, and compass as navigation tools, this legendary pilot landed his glider with a precision bordering on the perfection right next to a bridge whose capture was the objective of Major John Howard and his company. Captain Frank Lillyman of New York and the 101st Airborne Division executed his duties as a ‘pathfinder’ and during the course of discharging his duties faced some hair raising trysts with mortality. Then there was the incredible Brigadier Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat and 4th Baron Lovat, DSO, MC, TD, JP, DL. Lord Lovat, described by Winston Churchill to Joseph Stalin as, “the mildest mannered man that ever scuttled a ship or cut a throat” was one of the most endearing, enduring and egregious characters to have participated in the Normandy offensive. Assuring a green eared twenty-one-year-old bag-piper Bill Millin that the latter would be a part of the “greatest invasion in the history of warfare”, Lord Lovat rendered friends and foe alike dumbfounded when he ordered a dazed Millin to play the pipe while carnage was being wrecked on the beaches of Normandy. For his exploits, Lord Lovat was awarded the Légion d’honneur and the Croix de Guerre by the French in addition to a Distinguished Service Order (“DSO”).

The Allies concentrated their assault on five beaches code named Utah, Omaha, Juno, Sword and Gold. Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt exhibited a degree of unparalleled courage and composure at Utah Beach. Wielding a cane and a revolver, Roosevelt ailing from heart disease and arthritis, admirably helped his troops from being maimed and mutilated by the German gunners.

While the British troops along with their Canadian counterparts landed at the beaches of Gold, Juno, and Sword. But as Mr. Kershaw points out, the most abysmal carnage was reserved for Omaha Beach. “In all, the United States had landed some 55,000 men on D-Day. By far the greatest losses had been suffered on Omaha, where more than nine hundred were killed. For their heroism on Omaha beach, 153 men would receive the Distinguished Service Cross, America’s second highest award for bravery.” The losses would have been much higher, but for the breathtaking feats and razor sharp decisions made by the likes of Lieutenant John Spalding, Captain Joe Dawson and Sergeant Streczyk. Mr. Kershaw also highlights in agonizing detail the political shenanigans that deprived many a brave warrior from getting his due accolade. “Some of the medals received for extraordinary courage on Omaha should have been Medals of Honour – without doubt in both Spalding’s and Streczyk’s cases – but army officials far from the maw and horror on the front lines worried that ‘too many men would get the highest award for bravery and its significance would somehow be diminished.’” Blood boiling travesty! The failure at Omaha Beach was courtesy an astonishing intelligence blunder. The attacking forces were blissfully unaware of the fact that the 716th German Division was replaced by the more formidable and experienced 352nd Division.

To rub salt into the wounds, Omaha Beach also boasted some of the best prepared defenses of the entire Normandy coastline, with massive fortified bunkers filled with artillery, mortars, and machine guns that could sweep the landing areas with a vengeful crossfire.

But Mr. Kershaw’s best and most haunting narratives are reserved to describe the agonizingly lingering combat state of mind for many of the survivors. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (“PTSD”), survivor’s guilt, unfortunate suicides and restless bouts of living all constituted a heavy price to pay for these patriotic lion hearts who gave it all for humanity in an uncomplaining, untiring and undiminishing manner.

Mr. Kershaw does a yeoman service by bringing to our attention the sacrifices made by those who survived as well as those who were scythed down, just so that generations in future can lead a life of tranquility, peace and bliss. History however would never allow the unsuspecting to remain that way, and rightfully so. There would be intrepid souls like Mr. Kershaw to revive the spirits of the dead and bring to light their thrilling and selfless exploits. Exploits in performing which these magnificent men and women adopted an attitude that was chillingly eschatological!

The world is perennially indebted to these incomparable souls. LEST WE FORGET!

Noting The Future

(Photo Credit: Crispina Kemp)

The sea was unusually quiet that morning. The rolling waves breaking upon the sands with their usual merry vigour was insipid and flat. Every approach towards the shore depicted an attribute of reluctance, guilt even.  A single parasol provided refuge from the baking of an unusually violent Sun. The conflict between a docile sea and the dazzling Sun was unmissable. However, Venky, was in no mood to distill neither contrasts nor contradictions.

Paradoxically his visit to the beach itself was an eschatological contrast. Instead of a pair of footprints that usually marked the sand, there was only one this time. His own. Even the soft sand seemed to sense the total absence of gaiety and the imprint of his feet was just a haphazard assemblage of lost steps.

Gently easing himself into an armchair underneath the parasol, Venky unfolded the note from Ash. It had just one word. “Goodbye.”

(Word Count: 149)

Written as part of the Crimson’s Creative Challenge #37 More details regarding this challenge may be found HERE.