The Sixteenth Hour: Prologue

A tale from the highly enthusiastic team members of Team 'Supernova'.

The Rajdhani Express started gaining speed as it left the platform on New Delhi railway station.

As he placed his luggage under the berth and took his seat in the AC two-tier compartment, Shekhar Dutta smiled to himself. In less than 16 hours, he was going to be back in Mumbai, the city he had made his home many years ago and the city which now housed his little family.
Design Credits: Siddhesh Kabe, Team Supernova

Being a freelance writer who specialized in travel writing, he had travelled the length and breadth of the country over the past few years. It had been a welcome relief to get away from the confined-to-desk job he had had for nearly nine years. It was his marriage to Tara that had allowed the much required change.

“Excuse me, would you mind moving a little away from the window?” a female voice startled Shekhar.

He looked around, a little confused.

“I want to get a perfect shot of the setting sun. Would you mind moving a little away from the window for a moment?” the young lady replied standing close to him.

“Of course. Go ahead. Take my seat,” offered Shekhar.

“Thank you,” she said quickly and took Shekhar’s seat.

She was a dusky looking girl in a casual short and tee, average height. She was carrying a DSLR camera and was soon enough adjusting the lens to capture her perfect sunset.

A college student or a fresh passout at most, Shekhar thought.

One out of the two seats right in front of him had been occupied by a young man. He was wearing big glasses, had curly hair on a very stern face and was engrossed in an issue of The Week, one of the most popular weekly news magazines in the country. The only dark parts on the extremely fair face were perhaps the eyebrows and the little beard on the chin.

The other seat was empty. Perhaps someone was going to get aboard at one of the next stations, Shekhar thought.

He took a few gulps of water. It had been a very tiring week and he was hungry. He hoped the food gets served soon.

“Hi, I am Jennifer,” the voice of the lady startled Shekhar yet again.

He turned and saw her smiling gently.

“I am Shekhar,” he said courteously.

He now noticed the lady carefully. Apart from the DSLR strapped around her neck, there were quite a lot of accessories she was wearing that included a set of huge Sennheiser headphones, a couple of fancy bracelets on the left hand and what looked like a very old watch on her right arm. She had a tattoo on the lower right arm, but he couldn’t distinguish what it was.

“I am sorry I didn’t introduce myself before. The sun’s image seemed to be overpowering me. I had to capture it fast,” Jennifer said.

“Oh, not a problem. You don’t need to apologise,” said Shekhar with his ever-present humility and smile.

“Are you a photographer?” he asked her.

“Actually yes I am. I always had an eye for the little beauties and anyways, engineering never got into my head. So I left college just before the final year and started my journey into the world of professional photography,” she replied.

“That’s really great,” said Shekhar.

“What do you do?” asked Jennifer.

“I am a freelance travel writer. Started off in a small company as a content writer, worked for a few years, got married to a media professional and ultimately gave up the secure job to carry on with what I loved the most,” smiled Shekhar.

“Those are great stories both of you have got there, I must say,” it was the guy in the front seat who had spoken.

Shekhar and Jennifer looked surprised. Keeping the magazine aside, he continued, “Yeah I have been listening to your conversation. Thought I would let you guys continue. Being a law student it has got into my habit you could say. I am Cyrus by the way. Cyrus Daruwala.”

Shekhar and Cyrus shaked hands. Jennifer seemed to be lost in thought for a moment before replying.

“Hey Cyrus”, she said finally as she struggled to remember why the name seemed so familiar.

“So all headed to Mumbai, are we?” asked Shekhar.

“Yes,” said Jennifer. Cyrus only nodded, picking his magazine back up. The stern look on his face never changed. Shekhar wondered what latent stories might lay there.

“Lawyer, photographer and writer, this journey should be fun,” Shekhar said looking at his co-passengers, one of whom was now deeply engrossed in The Week and one who was clearly in a dreamy state of mind and staring out of the window as the sun finally seemed to have crossed the horizon.

What none of them knew was that by the end of the 16-hour journey, each of their lives was going to be more intertwined to the others in ways more than they could possibly imagine or even wish.

“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

Read the next part of the story here.

Links to all available parts of the story after the prologue: 
Ch 1: A Strange Journey
Ch 2: Kick-off
Ch 3: The Other Side
Ch 4: Mash Up
Ch 5: Cutting the Obvious
Ch 6: Air-lift
Ch 7: Jennifer
Ch 8: Finally An Answer
Ch 9: Batch of 2020
Ch 10: Being Cyrus
Ch 11: Enemy Lines
Ch 12: The Undeniable Truth
Ch 13: Down the Train
Ch 14: She's the Fighter
Ch 15: The Countdown is on!
Ch 16: Capital Crime
Ch 17: Curiosity killed the cat
Ch 18: Keep your enemies closer
Ch 19: New World Order
Ch 20: Face to Face
Ch 21: An Endless Night
Ch 22: The Kingmaker
Ch 23: The Sixteenth Hour Begins
Ch 24: She is a Super Woman
Ch 25: Living a Lie
Ch 26: Deliver us From Evil
Ch 27: Xombie Apocalypse

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