Monday, April 23, 2012

Story 2: The Tale Of The Madman

3 pm was always a tough time for Ganesh Lad. Customers were beginning to crowd around his tea stall. The benches were full and business peaking. Javed was already running out of milk. He asked chotu to keep an eye on the boiling tea concoction and stepped out to get the other packet of milk kept in the storage container.

'Bloody Fuckers! Deccan Chargers lost again!' screamed Rishi.

'Saale, what are you crying about a 5 re bet. Stop pretending like you lost a big amount on betting. You embarass me.' Mukesh cringed.

'Sure. The money was mine. Cost me a cigarette, you know.' Rishi spat back.

'Don't worry. The money goes nowhere. I won more than the complete betting pool. So the tea's on me,' Sanjay gloated to his 'poor' friends.

'Bhenchod! Aise bol raha hai jaise daan de raha hai. You forget the days I lent you money. Anyways, you are still paying for the tea. I did yesterday. And Rishi the day before that.' Mukesh

Javed served their orders with an eye on the door. He hoped that everything went smoothly. At least today.
'Did you read about the iPad coming out? A mini? I mean, what the heck were they all thinking?' Rishi got back to his topic he loved. Gadgets.

Manoj would have replied, and considering his vast knowledge it would have been difficult to shut him up, before the commotion on the street distracted him.

It was an argument. The waiters were trying to move an old man from the pavement. He was, naturally, not willing to move. The waiters were now beginning to curse, and he was giving it back. The argument had now caught the attention of everyone in the hotel.

'Another one of those beggars on the street starting a fight. Why can't the BMC take these people off the streets', Manoj grumbled.

'So says another executive from the upper echelons of the bourgeouise'  Sarcasm was Mukesh's skill and he enjoyed mocking his friends. After spending 8 hours in a cubicle reading lines off the computer, wit and verbosity were his catharsis.

'Yes. I pay my taxes and I expect my streets to be clean, my tea time to be stress free' snapped Manoj. He hated when Mukesh got the better of him. 'And the guy is clearly crazy.'

'And how did you know that? From your previous experience in the Psychiatry ward?' Mukesh snorted again. He was loving this.

'Guys, ease up. Don't start another team meeting here.' Rishi said without looking up from the newspaper he was reading.

'Whoa! Hey, you started that fucking argument, saale. Stop acting like you had nothing to do with it.' Manoj half willed his tea to cool down, but the steaming hot May sun had not let up yet.

'I am convinced, Manoj. You do know the insane old man. You show his traits. Close relative, is he?' Mukesh sneaked in sarcasm between the snorts of his laughter.

'No, I wish. He is just another businessman, who lost his entire fortune in the stock market. Another one of those idiots who believed in the 'India Shining' prophecy. Doomed, i tell you.' he shrugged.

'That is not it at all. I heard that he was thrown out of his house by his sons and daughters in law. That drove him crazy. That is what the watchman told me.' Rishi added.

'Are you both making up stories again? Seriously, that is what this has come to now?' Mukesh scoffed.

'No. Rishi is making up stories. I know that the guy is mad because he lost his money in stocks. People, I have been working here since before you two novices came along. Believe me; I know more about local stories than you do.' Manoj was not about to give up the argument.

'Shut up! I got authentic sources telling me the story. Our watchman roams around these tapris more than us. You know, it is always them who have more information. And i source my information right from the bottom of the ladder. So don't gimme that crap of being here before me.' Rishi

'So what has this got to do with his having to be removed off the street? I mean he has every right to be here. More so, since he has been here before any one of us.' Mukesh argued.

The tapri was now closing down. People were returning to work. Manoj reached for his cigarette and lighted it. 'C'mon, don't start up with another one of your Anna hazare rants. I got no time for that. He is an old man. Maybe he would be better off staying in an old age home.'

'Really? With the facilities our government offers. He might be better off on the street. Actually, to think of it, he is living a better life. No payment, place to live, free food and no worries in life. What are you bothered about?' Mukesh stepped up to the argument.

This would have continued, but the solemn premises of the corporate workplace filtered out sounds of argument. They had other things to worry about.

'Shit! I still have the Accounts file to submit. Any ideas what I should put up in the Investments part? I really need to cut down my taxes.' Rishi wondered.

'So much for saving the country and helping old men on the streets. Bloody fuck!' Manoj laughed.

Back at the pavement, the old man opened his gunny bag. The office goer crowd would be coming out in a couple of hours. He had to increase his sales today. His son's school fees had to be paid. He had to work.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The First Lines.

There was a man that died in the street today.

'That is a great start for a story,' she said, 'not a conversation.'

He stared  at her wondering if she will ever know the seriousness of his situation.

'Why do you never let me complete my point?' he grumbled.

'Why are YOU being such a girl?'

Her laughter tinkled through the glass cups and fell in with the ice cubes. 'Is this about your latest crush?' For a moment, her eyes paused on the question her lips had formed.

'Maybe. If only you'd let me talk'.

'You are not really serious about her? I mean she is so not you..'

'Maybe I am. Does that bother you?' He was beginning to get annoyed.

'No. Why should it? Weren't we talking about a story?', she fumbled,'Are you going to write it down or will another one be lost amongst the shadows of your diary?'

'Look at you forming big words. You should have been the writer, not me.' He laughed mixing the drink. The whiskey was clear and so was his head. He had been long waiting for someone to have a conversation with.

'Do you even remember how we met?'

'No', he said,'Does that matter? I have a bad memory anyways. I often forget my birthday'

'7th of April'. Her reply was matter of fact. No suggestions. No pride at remembering the right date. Just plain fact. As cold as the ice cube in the glass.

He hit the shot and stared at her. The seat next to the window was perfect. The mid afternoon sun was drawing her silhouette against the window frame.

'Yes. It is me', she said,'Stare all you like. It ain't gonna change. Its not gonna be her.'

'My eyes. My view. I will stare as much as I like'. He was burning from the inside. The whiskey had hit the spot. Someone had picked the sore scab on the inside of his stomach. 'I've spent 20 years confined within 300 sq foot of bad wall color and peeling plaster of paris. The only way I travel is with my eyes.'

'And that is why you are the writer and I am not'

The afternoon chores next door had begun. Neighbors were out talking. He never spoke to them. They hardly saw him. Theirs was a unspoken, discomforting truce. The 'No Ask No Tell' Policy. Visitors to the place were pointed with the courtesy that neighborhood demanded. Nothing more, nothing less.

'It hurts. Everyday. I just can't find a way out. It hurts.' he said

'You should see someone about it. This is not healthy. You look crazy, you know?'

'Well, I am. Isn't that one reason why you hang out with me? I thought that was a prerequisite with you.'

'So much for the inspiration and intellectual discussions.' she huffed and went back to staring at the street outside.

'So why are you still here?'

'Do you want me to leave?'

'No, its just that I am not used to having someone else sitting beside me during my silence. It is weird.' he hit the shot again. The bottle was halfway through.

'Don't bother about me. I am perfectly fine. Catch your train of thoughts and go back to la la land.'

'I can't. Not anymore. Not with you around.' he replied.

'Ok, then I am leaving.' She stood up.

He watched as she stood up. The table was littered with books, writing paper, a couple bills and the last dregs of whiskey in his glass. The bottle was still on the ground. As dead as his last train of thoughts.

'I know you love her' she said softly as she moved to the doorway.

'Love is too strong a word'.

'...then you definitely more than like her.' She just can't let go of the topic, he thought.

'I don't know what love is.'

'You are just afraid. That is why you never tell her.'

'Maybe.' He thought out aloud.

'She is not your type, however.'

'And you are?' He smirked.

'Yes. Absolutely. I am perfect. So why not me?'

He smiled. He knew it was right. The sounds were beginning to return. He could hear the parking music by a car outside in the complex.

He leaned to touch her skin. The last drink had done him in. His fingers disappeared through the wisps of smoke drifting in the doorway.

'You are perfect. Yes. But you are not real.' He smiled as he turned to the sheaf of papers on his desk.

He was still stuck at the first line. ' There was a man that died on the street today.'