The Creative Section (Vol. 5, No. 1) is on its way and will be published by the end of May, 2024.





-         Sagar Mal Gupta (India)


Human heart always craves for an experience and there are souls that would do anything for a kick. But this hunger for new experiences may sometimes put one in a pickle from which it becomes difficult to extricate oneself and only a miracle save one.


A friend of mine, during his first visit to Europe, had such a miracle. After his jaunt in Switzerland, he landed in the proverbial city of Rome.  After checking in a three star hotel and sprucing himself up, in the evening he glided out of the hotel for a rendezvous with the city life. The first place he decided to make way to was the ARTISTS SQUARE, where the young artists not only sell their paintings but also do paintings on the spot. The city of Rome looked fresh and beautifully decorated like a bride. The dazzling neon light, huge electrified ad boards, broad avenues dotted with trees thrilled him. With great excitement in his heart, slinging a ‘Pentax’ from his shoulder, he sauntered along the avenues thanking his stars which made his journey to this exotic but exquisite country possible and knowing little what was in store for him.


As he was strolling along the road, drinking in the beauty of the city of Rome, he was accosted by a Stanger in the following words: “Excuse me, Sir.  Can you tell me the way to the Spanish Stairs?” “I’m sorry.  I can’t.  I’m a stranger here”, said my friend.  “Which country are you from?” piped the stranger. “Oh, I am from India” came the reply. “What about you?”, enquired my friend.  “Oh, I am from Egypt. As we are from two friendly countries in a strange land, what about having a drink with me?” suggested the stranger. The invitation was readily accepted by my friend.


The stranger took him through so many lanes and by-lanes. The journey seemed too long and unending but the excitement of having a drink with an Egyptian in an exotic bar kept him moving. At last they came to a seedy looking place. The pothouse looked like the Shakespearean trap door. For a flash of a second, my friend hesitated but the romantic fancies led him on and like an automaton, he descended the stairs.


As soon as they entered the bar, a familiar bevy of beauties surrounded the stranger as also my friend.  They were led to a gorgeous and ornamental table. One of the beautiful girls sat with the stranger: another one with the friend of mine. The stranger ordered champagne for himself and the girl. Like a robot, my friend also ordered the same for himself and the girl chirping with him. But soon my friend experienced an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach. He saw the barmaid and the stranger shooting furtive glances. He realized that there was something fishy about the place because it was completely deserted, eerie, and spooky. He soon realized that the stranger who invited him for a drink was no stranger but one of the inmates of that den of vice. He was at a loss to know as how to get out of   that den of vice unscathed. Pretending as if he had an appointment, he looked at his watch and said aloud, “I’m afraid I’ll have to go. I have an appointment.  Get me the bill, please.” The bill was brought but he was petrified as he looked at the figures.  It showed fifty pounds. That was incredible. He fumed and thundered and said that it was preposterous. “How could they charge fifty pounds for a sip of champagne?’”, he remonstrated.  The owners of the bar were unrelenting. But he put his foot down and said, “Nothing doing.  I can’t pay. I don’t have this much money.” Soon all of them surrounded him and were about to pounce upon him when they heard the shuffling of feet. Perhaps three or four persons were coming down the stairs. The owners of the bar changed their tactics and asked my friend how much money he had.  He replied, “Fifty pence.” They thundered, “Out with it.” He parted with the fifty pence coin and ran out of the bar as fast as his legs could carry him. He thanked the visitors in his heart of hearts for the miraculous escape from that den of vice.