He never knew it would come to this. Ever since recession struck the Indian shores he knew that his job was in danger. Last January his company Asian operations lost 800 people, they never admitted they had lain off. The thunder stuck in month of April when his Connecticut based manager asked him to leave. He was given only 3 months advance salary as per his contract and no other benefit. No farewell was accorded to him, the best employee of Asia region in last year itself.
Ever since then he is at home 24/7. He has changed his home since. From the 3 bedroom mortgaged house in an upscale metropolis to his father’s old two rooms flat at middle class colony in an old city. He has already sold off his car. He stopped using the air conditioner when he faced the frequent power failure. He has changed his lots of old habits. He now gets up early, fills up water for his home, does some house work and always eats at home. Although he has increased smoking but has shifted to low cost brands. Now is only drinks local whisky.
He hasn’t got any job since then. Every time he applied he was told that he was over-qualified and under-experienced. He has plethora of degrees and qualifications to boast. But he was still in his mid-twenties, which hasn’t helped. Although he has lowered his salary expectation considerably, but it still cannot comfort them, after all who wants an over-qualified junior. He now secretly laments that he has little too much of qualifications. All his friends have deserted him. They only talked to him whenever he calls them; they make tall promises but are short of actions. Sometimes they even don’t pick up his call. He leads an almost lonely life. Almost nobody visits him, and he also has no one to visit. He spends most of his time on the computers. Searching for job or satisfying his carnal self. He can still afford a cheap broadband connection.
To kill his time he decides to write. But it occurs to him that he hasn’t written anything informal for a long time, in short he cannot write. He remembers that he used to write poetry when he as in love. But when his love left him his writer had died within him. Thinking of his love he wanders into past, into his college days when he was going in for multiple degrees but still had had time pen a few words. He feels the shivering feeling that used to emasculate him when he used to see her. He loved this weakness. He loved to lay his head on her lap and he loved the way she uses to kiss his forehead. He still remembers the events of the day when she left him. On that day he was cold, and showed no emotions, it was a shock, he was able to hide his emotions.
He mind then wander onto his father; A municipal employee, before that he has dabbled his hands in singing. He has a love hate relation with his father. He still feels the warmth of the cold mornings of his childhood when his father use to take him to long walks, to movies, fairs and plays. But he also remembers him as sour man who has ruined his mental peace during his teenage, after his mother died of cancer. When he was in college he urged him to take a job in the city council, he has refused as he was already working part time with an advertising agency. This saw a flared up temper in his house, and exchange of angry words. The other day he left his home. He was 19 then and only visited his father on weekends.
He is 26 now, and has lost his job after spending two years in the company. Before that he had a lot of part time experience. When he return to his father’s two room flats, his father was bearing the attitude of I told you so. Though he didn’t shared much words with his father, but he can see from his face what he meant “You and your degrees are useless, you should have taken the job of clerk right after school. You could be head clerk now. With a stable income, you would have being much happier.” He hated his father, but he had no other option. He has also promised his mother.
A gentle shock of slipped elbow from his chair wakes him up. He has being day dreaming. He looked at the image of the naked woman in his monitor. But he was in no mood now. He changed the webpage for his email. He didn’t have any, except for some spam and few free subscriptions. He changed it to the porn site again. His desktop has being strategically located, beside the window with monitor facing the window. Nobody can have a clue of what he is doing until he or she is able to push himself between the table and window. Outside the window no one can see his monitor, he is using the protection.
He looks outside the window. With rampant illegal construction in search of more space and privacy, has left nothing but lack of individual privacy. He can easily peep into many bathrooms now, and see what is going on inside them. An empty mind is devils workplace. He tells himself, but still he cannot stop himself from seeing the same women, whom he calls aunties or ‘bhabhis’ or some newly married women taking bath in their bathrooms. He has become a pervert. But he doesn’t care anymore. When he was good, he was fired, now what worse can be in store for him?
He lights his cigarette. His eyes kept moving outside. They were waiting for someone. ‘Ah! There she comes’ he tells himself, looking at a middle aged woman recently shifted to their colony. He examined her more clearly. He wants to meet him once, but he can’t she was married with kids. Secondly his reputation will be hammered. He looked at him intently, and then she moved inside. Now he was in mood. He went to bathroom. He came back after few minutes. He lights up another cigarette.
He wonders, was he always like this. Working his way out his graduate and post graduate and finally his permanent job, he only had one serious affair. That was in college. After that he has dated many and slept with few, but he was not serious. But he had never being a frustrated guy looking at anyone lasciviously. He was smart; he can be seductive but not lascivious. What had he done to come to this?
His thoughts are again broken by the knock at the door. A courier boy has just delivered a package. It came from his former office. Some documents has arrived in his name, they had delivered it to him. That the least they can do for him, he thinks. They were his subscription of magazines and bank statements. He returns to his computer.
He again dwells into his unanswered thoughts. He has always being a good employee and helpful friend. Even in the college, he has helped many in getting some part time job. In employment he has helped many of his colleagues without any expectations. He was hard worker and was awarded best employee for the year 2009. But it never had come to this. Why me? Breaking into laughter he suddenly remembers the reply or Arthur Ashe to this question.
He has a share of his good times. After he left his father’s house, he stayed at a rented accommodation with his 6 friends for 4 years. Every night was almost a party night; they worked hard, studied hard and partied hard. Amongst them he was only one who got more than two qualifications, landing himself straight into the middle management of Indian operations of an MNC. All others were well employed. After joining he bought his new house, the 3 bedroom flat, a new car, plasma TV and all other luxuries his money can buy. Flat, car and TV came on loan, others were outright purchases. He has developed a taste for single malts, imported cigarettes and cigars. He went to disco every second night. Good times seem never to end. But then it stuck.
“Shhhaaa…” he wheezed, he was thinking about one thing again and again, the thought. He goes through the same cycle also every day. He shuts down his computer and decides to go for walk. It was noon; with delayed monsoon streets were hot and humid. He walked till the nearest market, unable to bear the heat, he returned. His thoughts again take him over. Why does father treats me like this? Why does he blame me for everything wrong in his life? Am I really responsible for my mother’s death? Again a gentle tremor wakes him up. What he is thinking and why so? He decides to read.
Reading the hindi newspaper was again new to him. He last student the subject in his higher secondary. But now he has to content himself whatever his father buys. Turning through the pages he shuffles through the news of murders, crimes, rapes, prices, illicit relationships and every other thing but not anything about jobs or economic condition. A cheap newspaper, he shrugs. It was lunchtime, but he didn’t want to repeat the cycle now. He decides to give lunch a miss. He decides to stay hungry.
His cell rang up at 3 PM. It startled him; the call was from an unknown number. He took the phone and talked. When he kept the phone, he was happy and bewildered. The girl whom he loved once wants to meet him, how did she got his number, he wondered. And why again she wants to meet him? Wasn’t she married? Why she remember him after long 6 years? Since he has nothing more to do, he had said yes.
He left the keys to his next door neighbors. She told him that she would pick him up. Many questions were going in his mind. At 4 PM sharp she came in her car along with her driver. They picked him up, she instructed the driver to drive towards their old college. For some time they cannot talk, silence seemed to have crept into their lips. Adjusting his thoughts, he spurted out, “Hi! How are you, so long, how did you got my number..” he ate up many words as he tried to speak them at once. Regaining her composure, she began to reply, to what he has asked and what he had supposedly asked. She wanted to meet him ever since she came to know about his job loss. She got his number from their common friend. She is still living with her husband. She had indirectly followed his career, and was shocked to know about his job. The car came to a halt at the backside of his college.
She opened her door and got outside. He wanted to come outside but she stopped him. She wants to see off her driver. She wants to spend some time together, alone. Her driver also got out. She escorted him towards the main road. Again alone, he looked towards the wall which he had jumped many a times. He remembers his first kiss. How he and his friends used to smoke here. All his memories were going around in his head. He was feeling happy, after many months someone actually wants to talk to him.
He was lost in his thoughts, suddenly, his car received a jerk. He saw a battery of policemen encircling the car. They pulled him out of the car and handcuffed him. Shocked, he asked the reason. They told him he is being accused for murder and stealing.
The trunk of the car has a dead body. He is accused of murdering him and stealing his car to dispose off his body. He furiously refuted the charges, but was taken to lock up immediately. Circumstantial evidences were against him. At the lock up he heard a woman testifying against him. He had heard her voice before. She was his former girl friend. She was it he thought who bought the car at the first place.
He slowly went through what she had said.
She called him for consoling him for his job loss. But he insisted on meeting her. She then sent a car for him. The car was driven by her friend, who was also at the scene of crime. He came, and began to argue with her. Her husband, who had just return home at that moment overheard it and asked him to leave. In fit of fury he held his neck and broke it. Then holding him as booty he took the car, put the body into the trunk and fled. Her friend, who bought him there, was also attacked by him at the first place. Then she contacted the police.
Bag of lies, with his eyes wide open, he began to shout. But there was no one to listen to him. Police was used to such shouting. He wanted to cry. He cried whole night. Next day he was presented before the magistrate. Magistrate handed him 14 days of custody. That day was not his usual day, he can at least smile for that, he thought. But there was no trace of his father. Why hasn’t he come, after all it’s his son who is in jail. He asked a policeman. He coldly told him, the moment your father came to know you are arrested, he packed his bags and left. He left no note. He was stone cold. He has now lost the person who loathed him and who he loves to loathe.
He was again thrown back into his cell. But that evening he has a visitor.
His former love visited him, along with her driver. He can recall his face. But the manner they held each other hands suggested something else. He shouted, on seeing her, what the hell is this. Smiling, she first introduced the guy, apparently he was a friend to her late husband, and then she told him, ‘sorry honey, but you were the only one free. At least I am able to rescue you from your daily boring routine. I needed to get rid of this man. But I have to weave a solid tale, when I came to know about you, I got the man I wanted. Frustrated and alone, without family or friends, you were alone, doing nothing. I decided to do you a favor; in jail you won’t be alone.”
‘But why me?’ he shouted.
She replied, ‘well dear, you fitted the bill, an old lover, recently unemployed, talks to love, gets passionate and kills, no one will have doubt about it, after all unemployment can be heartbreaking. Isn’t that you learn in business, to use people effectively and efficiently. Secondly if you don’t want to go to jail, I can do you another favor, they’ll prove that you are mental patient and then you will be thrown at an asylum. At least that much I can do for my old love. Isn’t that generous on my part? Think it over.’
Then she left. Leaving him alone.
He was seething in anger, but only question he can ask is the question he can ask to god only. It was the only question he kept murmuring.
© Tarun Mitra