Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Package

A short story.

It was a normal day at the Ingine Corporation’s head office on the 26th of July 2007. The clock struck 9 and everyone was on their desks - working, reading, typing, chatting on the phone, day dreaming…and some were lost.

But in the cabin of Mr. Ashfak Ali Khan, the CEO of Ingine Corporation, the mood was not the same as every other day. Mr. Ali was not working, not checking on his employees, not making phone calls…and not even calling his secretary Miss Bella to his cabin for taking dictations.

Mr. Ali’s eyes were fixed on the table. Motionless, speechless, thoughtless. He was still like a stone. His right hand rested on a sheet of paper on his desk. He was sweating even when the Hitachi A/C maintained a constant 22C in his cabin. The royal bond paper had a fax on it. It had arrived this morning directly on his private line.

Mr. Ashfak Ali Khan was quite an old man now. Probably in his 60’s. has a very descent nature; at least in office. He has two sons, Asif and Feroz. His wife died in an accident 8 yrs ago. He’s been a little cold ever since. But to add to his misery, his second son, Feroz, got messed up in a terrorism case. He was proven innocent later. But Mr. Ali could never relate to his son properly after that. Feroz also went into disconnection and got involved in drugs. His first son on the contrary leads a very good life. He manages his father’s company’s Biometrics Department.
When Mr. Ali came to office today, Miss Bella informed him of a fax that had arrived for him on his private line. This is what the fax read:

Don’t call the Police. Don’t talk to anyone about this. Feroz is in our custody. You will receive a package at 11:00am today. It will be a bomb. We’ve already tied up Feroz with explosives here. The package will be a briefcase. The locks of the briefcase are wired to a remote toggle switch. If you open it, it will blow. If you don’t open it the switch will trigger a remote after 15min that will blow up your son.
It’s a game Mr. Ali. Do or die. Die or let die. You’ll have one hour after the package arrives to decide. Have fun.

Mr. Ali was perplexed. Is Allah not watching? What test is this? What sin did he commit so great for this punishment so strange?

He thought about Feroz. He used to be his mom’s candy when he was young. Second kids are like that. Closer to their moms then to fathers. But fathers would love them as much too. Ali remembered how Feroz used to put the cat in the water. And how he would put the torch lamp into the coffee cup. And how he pulled Asif’s nose once and cried himself. He remembered all the things, small little things, things forgotten in the everyday foray of making a living. When his mother died, Feroz did not cry. No one understood why. He stopped talking. And time went. Distances kept building. Between father and son. Between brother and brother. Between one human to another. And Feroz started keeping away from home most of the time. No one knew what he was doing. And one day the cops came looking for him. He was arrested on suspicious grounds for involvement in terrorist activity. He got released later. But Ali couldn’t get over it. The distances now became a wall. A high and thick wall. A wall cholesterolic enough to numb down blood relations.

The clock struck 11. And as promised the package arrived. He saw it kept on Bella’s desk. Waiting to hunt him down. And as Miss Bella walked towards Mr. Ali’s cabin, each footstep split Ali’s soul into two halves. Bella entered the cabin. Told Ali about the package. Ali was speechless. He didn’t know what he was supposed to tell her. His elbow on the table, head in his hands, he just looked at her. Bella asked if she should bring the package in. Mr. Ali just nodded in helpless agreement. And so the package was on his desk.

15 minutes. What should he do? Open it? Open the briefcase? And die? Or not open it, and live? But Feroz?
The distance between Ali and Feroz had numbed their relationship over the years. And Ali was now a rational man himself. Doing what he sees profitable. Relationships were a abandoned ship now. So what does rational thinking say to this? Should Ali take his own life for a son who probably won’t even remember his father’s name? and what guarantee is there that his son would actually be freed if he dies. So would it not be better that at least one survives? So what’s it going to be?
15 became 10. And 10 became 5. And 5 become 3. And 3 has now become 1. But Ali did not open the briefcase. So he is a rational man. Thinking based on probability. Smart decision. But does it not show how heartless a man can become? But Mr. Ali was not a heartless man. For in the last second of the 15th minute, Ali’s hands rose, to open the briefcase, to close his life and open a new one for his son.
And as soon as the briefcase lever pulled; TRRRIINNNNGG! The phone rang. No, there was no explosion. For there was no bomb. And on the phone was a voice ever so trembling, and humbled, and weeping. It was his son, Feroz. The briefcase was sent not by a terrorist, not by a enemy. But by a lost son, who wanted to know if his father still knew him.
Feroz only said, “Sorry abba”
And Ali said,” Come home, Son”

Nithin Davis N.

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