Book: Transition and Other Stories
Security guard Pandu Ranga Rao was on the beat around the community when he noticed the floodlight outside house #21.

The Full Lights


Security guard Pandu Ranga Rao was on the beat around the community when he noticed the floodlight outside house #21.

The villas stood tall and recognizable around him. The windows were all impassive eyes that rarely revealed a secret. He knew the road he walked like the palm of his hand, and every villa of the community was like a room in a mystery house.

The houses in the community had floodlights, which were usually turned on when the residents had a meeting or a party. But there was no meeting or party scheduled for today; in fact, there was no living being anywhere in the vicinity of the house.

Pandu pressed a button on his walkie-talkie and said, "Pandu here."

"Yes, Pandu." The person didn't have to tell his name, the baritone was the hallmark of Samuel Prakash, the Chief Security Officer of the community.

“Sir, house number 21 has the floodlight turned on, sir,” Pandu announced with a steady voice.

“Do you want me to call them on the intercom?” Samuel suggested, “Why don't you ring the doorbell and tell them to turn off the light?”

Pandu nodded to himself, then added, “Sir, the door is locked from the outside. It's a big padlock, sir.”




They were waiting for death at this point. He could see it in their eyes. In how quiet they were. None of them had been strangers to the horrors of war before now. He had seen his fair share of it as well. But starving to death or dying of thirst was a whole different level.

They looked at him for guidance. For healing, for a small bit of comfort in the situation that they had found themselves in. He dressed their wounds when they got here, took care of them as much as he could. And he was still failing them. Their blank stares kept him from awake at night. What good was a healthy body if morale was lacking? He didn’t know what to do, how to bring the light in their eyes back. They needed something to show them they hadn’t been forgotten; they weren’t destined for death. Something heroic. Or at least something positive to block out the dark thoughts.

But what type of heroism could you show when you were stuck in an underground barrack with twenty soldiers and barely enough supplies to last a few days?

The supply drop had missed them the last two times. And they couldn’t get close enough or risk tipping off the Chinese radar. He was not a technician or an engineer, but the process was simple, they were always under the watchful invisible eyes, so they had to keep quiet and stay in the dark. It was a hopeless situation even before the infection hit.

It was one infected wound. A small one, but he was already losing consciousness and babbling, with a high fever. Veera Babu was a brave soldier and he should not go like this. But without the medical supplies the man would not live. And then the rest would die. If this situation persists, he is going to fail them all.

He had been sitting on his cot, if you can call the makeshift sleeping place a cot, and was hearing the engineering team talk. Apparently, they had a half-an-hour window when they would not be under Chinese surveillance and today’s window started in ten minutes.

The words made him jump. The air drop! If he used that thirty minutes to get detected by our side, they could drop the supplies and send a few men to pick them up. We just need to be seen, to pierce the darkness with something, he thought. With light. The full lights of the barracks.

But why wait till tomorrow?

The barracks didn’t have an automated lighting system. Heck, it barely had any technology, for fear they’d be detected. But they had lights. If we turn on all of the lights, the spike could be detected in the golden window available today.

He stumbled through empty areas. He had to flip everything on. Every bulb, every device he could find. A blaring sound grew louder but he ignored it as he stumbled to the next cave.

He reached a new crevice. A rock almost made him stumble but he ignored it as he looked for every switch. There is another one further on the wall. He rushed towards it.

We only have thirty minutes, he kept telling himself.




Samuel knocked on the door, “Hello, anyone inside?” There was no response.

Pandu looked at the Chief and asked, “Sir, shall we call Madam on the phone?” He meant Mrs. Revathy, the lady of the house.

“Yes,” Samuel replied confidently. He waited while Pandu spoke on his walkie-talkie to a guard at the security office requesting Revathy’s phone number and gave it to him. Samuel immediately dialled the number.

“Hello,” a lady answered.

Samuel greeted her politely but with authority. “Hello, Revathy garu, this is Samuel. There is a situation here at your house,” he stated.

Without missing a beat, Revathy replied, “What?! What happened?”

“The floodlight at your house is turned on,” Samuel replied.

“Oh, is it?” Revathy answered. She didn’t sound as shocked anymore, but certainly confused. And with each passing sentence she sounded more and more anxious. “My husband, Vasanth Kumar, is inside,” she added. “We came to a dinner party. Did you knock on the door?”

“Yes madam, we did, but there is no answer,” the chief replied.

“We will start from here right away,” Revathy promised, her voice starting to shake, “Should reach there in twenty minutes.”

Samuel sighed. “We will be losing valuable minutes if we wait till you come. We don't know what the situation is inside,” he explained slowly, but his tone left no place for arguments. “We will break the lock and enter the house.”

There was a pause on the other line of the phone. “Yes, please go ahead.”

After finishing the call, Samuel and Pandu acted fast. They broke the lock on the door, doing as little damage to the property as possible, but being unrelenting.

When the two men walked in, they stopped just a few steps ahead. They could see a man lying across the sofa with both feet on the floor.




He turned on the lights, fans. He flipped every switch, not remembering which were for the lights, which were for the fans.

The medicines are missing. He wanted to search for his medicines. He rushed, he screamed. He searched for his prescription pills on the bed and on the bedside drawer. Oh God, I have to search the whole house now. I should turn on the lights in the entire house. I will find the medicines.

All sorts of conspiracy theories ran through his mind. Are there ghosts in the house? Or some animals that munched the pills? But why would they take my medicines only? Who is trying to kill me? For what? Is it a plot of an old enemy from my past? Someone so vile my mind protected itself by erasing my memory? What if it is more complicated than that, what if it's bigger than me? This could be arranged by the government. Even worse, a foreign government. But why me? Why do I matter? Did I do something terribly wrong, or was it a case of an unwanted success? What did I do? Or is it Revathy? No, no, perish the thought. Revathy is a loving, caring and devoted wife. Or is it the son? Is he influenced by his wife and conspired to get rid of me? But why? Somebody wants me dead, but why? I am a doctor, not any ordinary doctor.

I only have thirty minutes, he kept telling himself.




Revathy, along with her son Deepak and daughter-in-law Hema arrived in exactly twenty minutes, as she had said. As they entered the hall, Samuel and Pandu who were seated on the sofa stood up and greeted them respectfully, “Namaste, Revathy garu.”

Samuel took the lead and started explaining. “Sir was lying on the sofa,” he gestured at the sofa and then nodded in the direction of the rooms. “We took him into the bedroom and laid him on the bed.”

Revathy and Hema rushed into the bedroom. Once there, Revathy immediately shrieked, “What have you done? Have you taken the medicines?”

The old man mumbled weakly, “No medicines, I searched.” His voice was hoarse.

“What? I put the medicines by your side before we left,” she said as she regained her composure. “I have some with me, take them now.”

Revathy took a few tablets from and gave them to Vasanth. The old man got up and sat down more comfortably on the bed. She gave him a water bottle and he slowly took the pills before lying down again.

Afterward, Revathy returned to the hall and thanked Samuel and Pandu for all the help, their alertness and alacrity.

Samuel nodded with a smile and Pandu said, “We just did our duty, madam.”

“Really appreciate what you have done. You both are on night duty, let me get some coffee for you,” she said and went into the kitchen.

Pandu noticed a framed photo of Vasanth on the TV set. He was in army attire but it’s not clear as to what rank he might have held. In the picture, he was middle aged, and extremely fit, as a soldier should be, more than he was at the moment and there was a depth in his eyes that said more than a thousand words.

Pandu asked Deepak, “Your father was in the Indian army?”

Deepak nodded. “Yes, he served, not as a soldier but as a doctor,” he explained, his smile faint.

“Wow! As a doctor!” Pandu gasped lightly, clearly impressed.

“His is a different, somewhat sad story,” Deepak continued, and shrugged, “Since we are waiting for the coffee, let me tell you his story.”

Deepak recounted the whole heroic act that he had heard from his father many times. Samuel and Pandu were all ears, hearing with rapt attention.

"Like I said, he served as a doctor in the Armed Forces Medical Service (AFMS) and when he was stationed in Arunachal Pradesh facing the Chinese Army, though he was not responsible for fighting or procurement, he went out of his way to get supplies for his army unit,” Deepak started, his voice steady and a proud smile settling on his lips. “China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its territory and our government denies these claims asserting Arunachal as our integral and inalienable part. They even constructed a road within our territory, which our brave army subsequently blocked. The Chinese Army units routinely enter Arunachal Pradesh, sometimes up to Anjaw district, do a patrol and retreat.”

“I’m afraid I know almost none of this, I barely know about Arunachal Pradesh, really,” Pandu looked down.

Deepak wasn’t affected though, he kindly explained further. “You should know that Arunachal Pradesh has a very hostile terrain, shares borders with not only China but also Myanmar and Bhutan,” Deepak gestured a bit with his hands, and then continued with the story. “The Indian Army, unknowing to the Chinese Army entered Chinese territory and built makeshift underground barracks, so that if the Chinese Army starts gunfire or using their tanks, the Indian Army unit will surround them. ”

Just then, Revathy came back from the kitchen and served coffee to each of them.

Samuel hummed thoughtfully and shook his head at the gruesome description of the war that he was hearing. “It makes a perfectly good scenario for the best and worst sides of humanity to show, doesn’t it?” he sighed.

On the other hand, Pandu continued to look at Deepak with wonder in his eyes. “What happened to your father?” he inquired.

“His effort had been of great help and rescued his unit from death. But it was not part of his official role and duties and the administration did not approve it.” Deepak went on with his story, but some darkness started to show in his tone and his features. “When he got transferred from the fighting posting after the stipulated three years, the government forced him to go on voluntary retirement. It devastated him and he lost trust in everybody.”

“I can’t imagine what that must have been like,” Samuel whispered.

Deepak nodded in acknowledgement and continued talking. “He spent his years doing nothing most of the time. He only played tennis now and then, and occasionally gave free tuitions to school children,” he paused to get his emotions in check. “Fate was not kind,” he added, and tried to make it sound with finality, but he clearly hesitated on saying more.

“What happened then?” Pandu timidly asked, “If I may ask.”

Deepak, knowing that most likely he couldn’t manage a smile, nodded again. “During a visit to Chennai, he had a mild paralysis stroke which damaged some of his nerves and weakened his lungs. He was advised to be on bed rest as much as possible and take the medication properly at the exact times."

There was a long moment of silence while Samuel and Pandu processed the information that Deepak just shared. Eventually, Samuel said, “Very inspiring, though things could have been better. My role as the chief security officer of just a gated community itself is a demanding job. The security of a country is infinitely more important and complex. My respects to Dr. Vasanth.”

After finishing the coffee, they bid their goodbyes and left.

Hema, who was in the kitchen, came into the hall. “This is the first time we left dad alone and I think he panicked,” she said.

Mrs. Revathy shook her head sadly. “Not because of the loneliness but because he did not see the medicines and all sorts of conspiracy theories must have run in his mind,” she sighed dismally. “Plus, he has this impulse to act immediately.”

“But why did he turn on the flood lights?” Hema wondered.

Mrs. Revathy explained, “Though his body is not at its best physically, whenever he tries difficult work, he replays his heroic army act in the mind, to motivate himself.”

Hema hummed thoughtfully. “In this case, he not only remembered his heroic act, but also enacted it,” she whispered, her voice full of emotion.

“Yes, he must have thought his survival is in his hands. He must have kept searching for the medicines while continuing to switch on the lights one by one,” Revathy's voice drifted off. She cleared her throat and then added, “Chalo, it's gotten late now, let's turn off the lights and go to sleep.”

The next morning, Revathy searched for the medicines. No ghosts, supernatural forces or animals stole them; she found the medicines had slid into the pillow cover that Vasanth was resting his head on and that was the only place the brave army doctor had not looked for them.

The Deadly Scream


Gaurav is a twenty-nine-year-old software engineer, and his wife Harshita is a lawyer. Although their professional fields differed greatly, Gaurav and Harshita had one thing in common—success. Gaurav is a game developer with a hardcore passion for soft jazz and Harshita is a criminal lawyer who defended the poor. They were passionate and thrived in their careers, supporting and having a mutually synergistic influence on each other.

      Gaurav’s profession made it flexible for him to work from home most of the days. He kept his study semi-bright with a desk lamp that softly illuminated the room. The reflected light enhanced the presence of the plentiful technical gear in his room—two CPU boxes and two laptops with different operating systems, high fidelity speakers, a big scanner-cum-printer, a USB hub, a KVM switch, two monitors – one on the desk and one wall-mounted – a shelf of technical books on operating systems, databases, programming languages, networks, the whole works. The shelf also had half a dozen hard drives. The whole ambience was the epitome of a hardcore techie’s life.

He listened to smooth jazz when he was hard at work and today was no different. With his noise-cancelling headphones on, he did not hear the click of the front door when Harshita came home. Gaurav’s cheerful voice calling her “darling” welcomed Harshita home on most days. When she didn’t hear anything after two minutes, she knew Gaurav must be listening to his music on loud and that typically means there is a crisis at work. Being married for three years made them perceptive of each other’s habits.

Harshita showered, changed into pajamas and made coffee. She took two cups into his room and tapped on Gaurav’s shoulder. Gaurav pressed some keys on the keyboard, removed his headphones, drew her close with his left hand while taking the cup with his right hand and said ‘darling.’

As they drank their coffee, Harshita said, “Still listening to your jazz, huh? It’s 7:30 in the evening, meaning….”

Gaurav interrupted her. “Yeah, there is one urgent patch to be pushed today. But listen, how many times should I tell you? It is smooth jazz, not jazz. Please, they are different,” he insisted.

 “Oh yeah, I know,” Harshita said nonchalantly, as she took their empty cups and left the room.

Gaurav’s eyes followed Harshita and then he looked back at the monitors.

Her voice and tenor, he felt, were inappropriate.

Enough is enough. He had to ...

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