Welcome Readers and Listeners, today's story is about a watch lover who visits a large outlet of The Great Berlin Watch Company for buying a classical German watch. Instead, he loses the sense of reality. Come, let's find out what happened.
Welcome to OBSCURUS, your weekly dose of paranormal fiction. Every Wednesday OBSCURUS features new short stories and serialized novels written by novelist, screenwriter, and voice-over artist Biswajit Banerjee. The realm of the paranormal stretches far beyond the usual horror story. So, while you will get to listen to lots of ghost stories on this podcast, there will also be many tales of lesser-known paranormal themes. To get us started, here's your host Biswajit Banerjee.
HOST TALK 00:00:47
Hello, and welcome to OBSCURUS. I am Biswajit Banerjee, your host for this show. These are challenging times, aren’t they? The entire world is in the grip of this pandemic. From all sides of the world, you get to hear no-so-good things. But we mustn’t lose hope. No matter how difficult things get, we got to fight on. I urge all my wonderful readers and listeners to be hopeful and look forward to a better future - times that are bright and happy. Rest assured, good times will follow.
And of course, our show must go on. Before starting the story, I request you all to visit my website biswajitbanerjee.com and become a part of my mailing list. All OBSCURUS episodes and their transcripts are available on the website. Also, do visit obscurus.buzzsprout.com, my dedicated website for this podcast. Apart from the OBSCURUS episodes and their transcripts, you will also find the chapter markers of the episodes for easy navigation.
Now, a disclaimer – all the stories and characters presented in OBSCURUS are purely fictional. Any resemblance to anyone is purely coincidental.
With that said, let’s jump into the story now. A watch lover visits an outlet of the Great Berlin Watch Company in Connaught Place, a busy market place in New Delhi. The visit makes him lose the sense of reality. Come, let’s find out what happened.
THE GREAT BERLIN WATCH COMPANY 00:03:03
Written and Performed by Biswajit Banerjee
The year was 2018 — it changed my perception of things. Would you like to listen to my tale? I am not sure you will believe me, but I will tell you the story nonetheless. Accept it or reject it — your wish.
With a small gift in my hands, I was waiting for my friend Rachit. For about six months, he would be away from India — working in Berlin for one of the major entrepreneurial projects with his business partner. Well, Rachit deserved every bit of this success! About six years back, when he started the business with his partner, there was little hope the concern would go far. His parents were not sure he was taking the right steps. We told him giving up a relatively secure corporate job for what we all believed to be a hopeless plunge would do him no good.
Well, Rachit didn't listen to any of us. And he was right and proved us all wrong!
Today, we had plans for a sumptuous dinner in the most happening place in New Delhi — Connaught Place — to celebrate the new component of the business in Berlin. Both of us being huge fans of South Indian Food, the choice of the restaurant was clear. It was the biggest and most popular joint of the shopping complex.
Otherwise, punctual, for some reason, Rachit was late that day. 00:05:13
"What got you late, Rachit?" I said on the phone.
"Oh, I am sorry, Mahendra, I am fixed up in a jam."
"How long will it take?"
"Another half-an-hour, I guess. What are you doing?"
"Moving around the complex, waiting for you, what else?"
"Why don't you wait in the restaurant? Order yourself some coffee."
"Well, I will see," I said, "you take it easy. Please don't rush through." 00:05:44
The idea of ordering myself some coffee was a good one, but I had a better plan up my sleeves. For quite some time, I had thought of buying a watch, a top brand from Berlin (yes, Berlin somehow figured in my scheme of things again that day). A new watch store had opened in the rear of the B-Block of Connaught Place — an office colleague had told me about it. Oh, yes! I should be there, I reasoned. Good, I remembered the shop.
It didn't take me long to be at the rear side of the B-Block. Indeed, it was a huge shop — it looked like a repository of all German watches ever made. Never had I seen a watch shop as big as this one.
"Welcome, Sir," a sentry said as I entered the shop. 00:06:48
At least a dozen attendants were at work. And quite a few customers filled the outlet. A young attendant, a man in his early thirties, smiled and came over to attend to me from the other side of the sizeable U-type table separating the staff from the customers.
"Good evening, Sir," he said.
"How can I help you?"
"Well, I am looking for a classical-looking Berlin watch."
"Sir, there are so many of them in our stock. Could you tell us which exact brand you are looking for?"
"Close to a hundred years back, the Great Berlin Watch Company used to sell 'The Splendor.' In a recent article, I read that these watches are being revived powered by state-of-the-art digital technology."
"Oh, yes, Sir," the young attendant nodded, "you are right. And we have those watches in our stock. But they are the most expensive ones."
"Well, I would like to take a look, if you don't mind."
"Not at all, Sir. I will get them."
Within minutes, the young man was back with a box full of ‘Splendor' watches.
"To tell you the truth, these are the best watches in our collection, Sir." The young attendant grinned.
Spellbound, I was by the look of the watches! So elegant! So royal!
"Although you seem to know about these watches, Sir, I would like to tell you a little about their history. Would you be interested?"
"Sure, please go ahead," I said.
"A while back, you said these watches were released about one hundred years back by the Great Berlin Watch Company. Just a correction there, Sir. These watches first got released about two hundred years ago. They were the pride of the intelligentsia and the royal! And about a hundred years back, they had become the common watches of the city-dwellers. They were now more affordable. However, during the war years, the production stopped, and the watches were out of the market for quite some time. Eventually, they were released in the late nineteen fifties. Immediately, they found popularity again. Towards the eighties, the company suffered certain losses, and the production yet again plummeted. And then, for the last twenty years or so, the 'Splendor' watches have been in regular circulation. These are not just watches, Sir. They are history!
"Yes, you are right. And the 'Splendor' watches didn't just captivate the German imagination. They fascinated the entire world."
"Indeed, they were a rage both in the Americas and Europe. The people in the United States of America loved them. And in England, people of all ages went crazy for the 'Splendor' watches."
"And in India? I guess the people loved the watches even in India in the nineteen fifties and the sixties."
"No doubt, Sir. People in India loved these watches ... and they still do. The younger generations are so crazy about these watches." 00:10:19
At this moment, the young attendant took note of the watch I was wearing.
"Oh, you already possess a German watch, I see," he said.
"Yes, I love German watches. This is an old one, though ... one of my uncles had gifted it to me."
"Can I take a look, Sir?"
"Sure," I said and took off the watch and gave it to him.
"This is beautiful, Sir," the young man said with a smile, "this is not a Splendor watch, but it is by the same company — The Great Berlin Watch Company."
"Yes, I know."
"And this is functional, Sir."
"Umm-hmm, it is functional. I take excellent care of my watches."
"So, you want to change it now for a 'Splendor' watch. We have good replacement discounts available."
"No, I wouldn't like to replace it. It is a prized possession, you could say."
"Okay. So would you like to go ahead with a brand new 'Splendor' watch?"
"Well, yes. But it should be within my budget."
"Let's hope it is, Sir." 00:11:34
The young man took out a beautiful watch with a silvery dial. Nostalgic - I whispered as I picked it up. The needles of the watch were so classical in look, I found the timepiece irresistible.
"You appear to like it, Sir," the young attendant smiled.
"Well, sure, I like it, but what is the price?"
"It's a bit expensive, Sir."
"About twenty thousand rupees, Sir. But we run a discount scheme. Perhaps we can bring down the price to Rupees eighteen thousand."
"Oh no, sorry, but I can't afford this watch now. Maybe I will consider it at some other time."
"But Sir, the demand for the 'Splendor' watches is too high. One cannot be sure one will get the timepiece of one's choice later."
"Yes, I understand, but at this price, I cannot buy the watch."
"If you decide on the replacement discount, then the price may come down by another rupees two thousand."
"Well, that is one option I am not willing to consider."
"Okay, please wait for a while. Let me see what the best price we can offer you is."
The young man went to exchange a word with his manager. In a minute, he was back with a new offer.
"Sir, we will be happy to offer you this watch at rupees seventeen thousand."
"Thank you for your offer," I said with a broad smile, "but I still can't afford it."
"Please understand, Sir, this is the best offer a watch store can make you."
"Well, I would love to go for it, but I don't have the budget."
"In that case, can I offer you some other watch?"
"Isn't the one you showed me the best in your stock?" I asked.
"Without any doubt, this is the best piece we have. Of course, we stock other expensive watches, but this one surely is the most classical and the most nostalgic."
"Yes, you are right. I loved it at first sight. So, why should I settle for something inferior?"
"Don't settle for something inferior, Sir. This watch is made for you, it seems."
"But the price tag, you see."
"In the long run, you might not think about it, Sir."
Maybe the young man had a point. Not that I couldn't stretch myself to buy the watch, but then my monthly budget would be upset. It would be challenging to meet the family needs — education, health, entertainment, shopping — but then I didn't indulge myself too often. Maybe, on this one occasion, I may ...
"Sir, go ahead, buy it ..."
"Not so easy for me, but then ..." 00:14:28
My mobile phone rang. The screen flashed the name of Rachit. Oh, yes, Rachit ... I was sure he could lend me a few thousand rupees. After all, he was such a great friend ... I had absolutely no problems borrowing some money from him. And, of course, he would be glad to offer the money to me.
"Rachit," I said, "have you arrived?"
"Of course, I am waiting right in front of the restaurant."
"Look, I need some help."
"Help, what help?"
"I need some money — maybe around five thousand rupees. Rest assured, I will put it into your account before you are back from Berlin."
"Oh, come on, Mahendra, rupees five thousand is no problem at all. I am fine making you a gift of Rupees five thousand."
"No, no, you need to lend me the money."
"Okay, but where are you?"
"I am at a watch store, Rachit."
"Oh, so you need the money to buy a watch, I believe."
"Yes," I said, coming out of the watch store and walking towards the front side of the B-Block of the market complex. Soon, Rachit was in view.
"Hi Mahendra," Rachit said, walking forward, all beaming.
"Hi, first give me the money."
"Oh yes, I will, but which watch store are you buying the watch from?"
"Haven't you heard about the huge watch store they opened in the rear of the B-Block?"
"The rear of the B-Block," Rachit whispered, "Do you mean the outlet of Great Berlin Watch Company?"
"Oh yes, what a huge shop it is. And do you know? I chose a Splendor watch for myself?"
"I believe you are making a mistake, Mahendra."
"What do you mean?" 00:16:19
"The Great Berlin Watch Company outlet hasn't started functioning yet."
"What are you talking about, Rachit? I was just there inside the watch store."
"But I am more than one hundred percent sure the watch store is still not operational."
"How do you know?"
"My business partner has stakes in that shop. We talked last evening on the phone, and he told me that it would still take about five months to begin functioning."
"Your business partner has stakes in the Great Berlin Watch Company?"
"Of course, he is a big man, Mahendra."
"But, I have no reasons to believe what your partner told you last evening."
"Mahendra, he has stakes in the outlet that is yet to open at the rear side of the B-Block. He will know the position, won't he?"
"Come on, Rachit. Minutes back, I was in the outlet of the Great Berlin Watch Company. And, I had also chosen a watch for myself. That outlet, I tell you, is fully operational."
"There must be a mistake, Mahendra. You must be making a mistake."
"Don't you believe me? I was in the outlet minutes back."
"Let's check, come."
"Yes, come along."
We took the turn to the rear side of the B-Block. Oh! What I saw shook all my sense of reality. No, there was no watch store! Evidently, a watch store was under construction. It was far from being ready, of course. The glitter and the glamour I witnessed were not there anymore! There was a large poster in front of the large entrance to the half-ready watch outlet — as big as a giant cinema screen. And on that poster, I could clearly see the U-shaped table separating the staff from the customers. Well, yes, the same attendants and the same customers. Without a trace of doubt, I had spotted these people — alive and kicking!
"Do you see this?" I asked.
"Yes, Mahendra, but it's just a poster."
"For you, maybe."
"What is that supposed to be mean?"
"I was right inside this poster ... it looks like a poster now. Believe it or not, it was a watch store, a full-fledged outlet for the Great Berlin Watch Company."
"What are you saying, Mahendra?"
"Well, I am speaking the truth, Rachit. You got to believe me."
"How's that possible?"
"Perhaps I can make you believe."
"Make me believe what? That this poster was in the shape of a watch store a while back?"
"Yes, correct. See that young man." I pointed at the young attendant who had been so warm to me.
"The picture of the young man, you mean?"
"Indeed, he attended to me in the store."
"There's something seriously wrong with you, Mahendra."
"Let me finish, hear me out."
I pointed at a shiny object lying close to the picture of the young man.
"Do you recognize that object, Rachit?"
"Not quite. What is it?"
"Look at this," I showed him my empty wrist, "I had the shiny object right here about fifteen minutes back."
"What are you trying to tell me? The shiny object lying close to the picture of the young man is your watch?"
"Yes, Rachit, that's my watch. Unfortunately, it has now become a part of the poster."
After giving himself a minute to gather his thoughts, Rachit walked closer to the poster and took a close look at the watch.
"Well, this actually looks like the watch."
"That is the watch ... I lost it for good. But, I guess I still have reasons to be happy."
"Reasons to be happy?"
"Yes, Rachit. If you had not ringed me up at the right time, it wouldn't just be my watch ending up there in the poster. I, too, would have become an irretrievable part of the poster's universe — you would lose your friend to an unknown dimension. This is a strange world — you see — today, I cannot tell between reality and immateriality."
Thanks for listening to OBSCURUS. If you like what you heard, please subscribe and visit biswajitbanerjee.com for more information about Biswajit's books, movies, documentaries, and other creative pursuits. We shall see you next Wednesday with another episode of OBSCURUS. Till then, take care!