Posted by: Mojo Jojo | September 20, 2008

And golden flows the dawn…

Scene: A crowded booze shop in Malleshpalya, Bangalore. 

Mission: Get myself a bottle of Hercules Deluxe. 

A bottle of Hercules Deluxe.

Busybee that he is, the man behind the liquor store counter breezes past – my request falling on deaf ears. No, the customer’s no king in these places; they just seem to know that we need them more than, well, the other way round.

A bottle of Hercules Deluxe.

The guy’s now involved in an intense argument with another character on the far end, who – quite obviously – wants more namkeen to go with his cheap liquor than he is actually  entitled to. Even with my feeble grasp over Kannada, I can see that the fight is undeniably one-sided. Finally – accepting defeat – the customer dunks his entire glass in one go, wipes his mouth with the unbuttoned end of his shirt sleeve and stomps indignantly into the horizon. Ah… now that’s taken care of, I might finally get what I have been asking for….

A bottle of Hercules Deluxe.

I might as well have been trying to strike a conversation with a stone wall. A stone wall with a major goddamn-them-all attitude.
So, as he tears past me again to address some person screaming whiskey, whiskey nearby, I let out a heavy sigh and start thinking of ways to attract his attention. A well-aimed bottle of Kingfisher Strong at his shiny scalp, maybe?
It was then that I see them. An old couple dressed in rags, with only a begging bowl between them.  They are standing at the counter, counting their earnings of the day coin by coin, coin by coin.
The man is bald, and the few strands of hair jutting out of his head look white, withered and droopy – like eucalyptus leaves on a hot, summer day. The cheeks on his sunburnt face are no cheeks at all; they are gaping depressions that bear the grotesque impression of a row of cracked teeth beneath. For clothes he wears a dirty woollen blanket – probably provided by one of the very few that may have felt sorry for him.

A bottle of Hercules Deluxe.

I could have saved my breath. So, I turn my attention to the old couple again.
The woman looks even worse than the man – though the clothes on her back are in a better shape than his. As she counts the ones and the twos and the fives, I see her eyes light up. She’s going to put the money to good use, from the looks of it.
They are done counting. She looks up at the booze guy, who is still racing around the shop pretending to look busy, and says something in Kannada. His feet screech to a halt. Apparently, they are quite well-acquainted with each other.

A bottle of Hercules Deluxe. By now, I am just saying it for the heck of it.

The man throws the handful of coins in the drawer beneath the counter and reaches out for a bottle that has Big Bullet Rum written on it in bright red Verdana. The way it looks, the dreary bottle might as well have contained liquid rat poison.  A big blotch of red splashes into the dirty glass tumbler he has in his hand,  followed by a flood of Bisleri. The old couple look on, obviously thirstying for the golden ale before them. Hard-earned stuff, this.
The old woman takes a long swig from the tumbler, and the old man stares on – wanting to make sure that she doesn’t have more than her share of booze.  Then, even as he sees the alcohol level in the glass go past the danger line, he shakes her by the shoulder violently, making some of the rum spill. Quite understandably, the missus gets annoyed and thrusts the glass towards the object of her discomfort. Then she says something really harsh in Kannada, something that probably translates to: You want the booze? Then keep the booze, buster!
But would the old guy be concerned by some bad language coming his way? Naah, he looks the other way and performs an enviable bottoms-up on the glass, before stepping on to the street again.  She runs after him, still screaming at the top of her lungs.
I never get a chance to prepare for what happens next. The old man stops suddenly, smiles.  Then he holds out his hand, which she takes with some reluctance. And the next thing I know, he is leading her back to the road – arm in arm.
A couple of minutes later, they are squatting on the road again with the begging bowl between them. A picture so romantic, it has to be from another dimension. A picture so real, yet so humble that it would never find itself framed in some billionaire’s bedroom.
Aur tumko kya chahiye?!
The ape seems to have awakened to my presence after all. And he is talking in a tone one would reserve for somebody who has butted into his home through the bedroom window.

For the sixth time, I say A bottle of Hercules Deluxe. I get it this time.

On the way back, I drop a fiver in the old couple’s begging bowl. Unlike some people I know, I don’t care what they do with it. If Big Bullet Rum works for them, so be it.

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Posted by: Mojo Jojo | August 28, 2008

The here and the now

Sitting in a chicken shop waiting for my kilo of meat and bones.
The attendant nods absently in my direction and stares at the chicken cage in front of him. It is packed with birds, a few squatting contently while the others peck busily at the molehill of foodgrain in their midst. Some black, some white, some speckled, some small, some big – but all oblivious to the fact that death is staring at them right in the face.
The attendant turns his face a little, a thoughtful smile playing on his lips. Trying to decide who measures up to death today.
Then, suddenly, he opens a hatch on the nearest cage, causing it to disintegrate into a scene of complete chaos. There are birds cackling and trying to scamper away from the outstretched hand that’s now groping into their universe. Which, incidentally, had been so tranquil just a few seconds ago.
But they needn’t have bothered; the attendant has his eye on just one of the birds. For now, at least.
A deft move later, he has the chosen creature in his grasp. The chicken tries to escape, pecking and clawing as it does so, but to no avail.
It is dealing with Yama here.
The attendant closes the hatch, weighs the bird and confirms that it’s indeed the right one he has in his hand. A content smirk later, he takes it behind a tin construct – a big butcher’s knife in his hand. A screech follows. Then, silence.
Meanwhile, the hoolabaloo in the chicken cage has subsided. Slowly, they settle again to cluck, sleep or do whatever they do otherwise – the encounter with death completely forgotten.
Five minutes later, I find myself carrying their dead friend home in a black polythene bag. But they hardly seem bothered, do they?

The chicken and I

A year ago, when a childhood friend of mine died, I remember thinking hard about death and how she would one day claim me for her own. But I have moved on in life now. After all, I am a busy man; I have my words to cluck and my grain to chew.

Posted by: Mojo Jojo | August 18, 2008

The ghosts of MCC

The ageing buildings of the present Madras Christian College, the place that lent direction to the aimless soul that I was ten years ago, was born in 1937. Okay, the institution did exist before that – somewhere in the heart of the city – but that’s another story. I am talking about the buildings of the Tambaram MCC here. The ones with the yellow walls and creaky doors that seem to come alive once the moon rises onto a dark blue heaven.
Well… what do the movies tell you about old structures like these, which have felt millions of feet walk past its dusty corridors and witnessed people die in its midst every passing decade? That they have unhappy spirits which take form everytime somebody stupid draws out the Ouija Board? That the strangers you see passing through them only to disappear into the shadows of the nearest tree may not be actual people at all, but grotesque reminders of the ones who had breathed their last on its country roads twenty years ago?
If you have seen MCC at night, in the dull moonlight and near-total absence of streetlights on untarred roads that wind through its heavily-wooded campus,  you might actually believe them. Beautiful as my alma mater was in all its dark green glory, it could also get very very spooky if it wanted to.
And, as expected, many a ghost story lived in its midst, told by one student to another over candlelight booze parties and packets of potato chips from Penguin Bakes. Some were mediocre, some were scary. Others, they insist, were true.
They may have been, they may not have been – but I loved the shiver they sent up my spine on those sultry Madras nights.

Heber’s room no. 148

Or was it 147, or 143? Can’t say I remember, but I sure know that no student had lived there in more than five years.  In time, after realising that nobody was ever going to use the room, the college chaplain had it attached to his house and converted into a storeroom for books and old clothes.
It is haunted, they say.
Haunted by the ghost of a student who hanged himself from the ceiling fan after breaking up with his girlfriend. Which explains why I had to make do with a small table fan when I joined the Hall ten years later – they did not want to see any more corpses hanging from the ceiling.
But people kill themselves, don’t they, I asked the senior who was telling me this story, That doesn’t mean they always have to haunt the place they die in…
The guy just chuckled and replied, But you haven’t heard the whole story yet, have you? There’s more…
Then he went on to explain how the room was given to another kid the following year. The first two nights went okay, but on the third one, he reportedly woke up at 2:00 am to find a pale young person, naked from the waist up, sharing his bed. When he screamed, his neighbours came running only to realise that the whole thing was apparently just a figment of the occupant’s imagination.
Or maybe not.  The night after that, he saw something written on one of the walls of his room. In blood.  The words spelt, ‘Y…O…U    A…R…E    N…E…X…T!’
He packed his bags and left the hostel that morning (by when the letters had mysteriously vanished), and nobody ever stayed in Room no. 148 (or 147, 143 … whatever!) again.  So, do ghosts exist? Can’t say for sure – but that empty room in Heber sure has to mean something…

The question

I found the next story spookier, probably because it happened at a time when I was a resident of the Hall. More than just a resident, in fact. Its Library and Reading Secretary.
Well, I heard from credible sources that a particular resident athlete would probably be staying away from the annual Sports Day. The news was a complete downer, considering that we were counting on him to go get a couple of laurels for our Hall.
What happened to him, I asked A-Block Kovilpatti, who was quite close to the guy.  Kovilpatti was sitting in his room (periliously close to his matka soundbox) and listening to Nirvana’s Rape Me for the thousandth time, smoking a small joint. The air, quite obviously, stank of pot.
And even as he began replying, his glazed eyes staring into mine, I realised that in our very hostel lived a storyteller who could put Stephen King to shame. And give me the shivers like even The Exorcist couldn’t.
Okay, so this athlete (shall we call him Raju? I can’t remember his real name) used to live on the ground floor of Heber’s D-Block along with some of his sportsperson friends. But on that that fateful Friday, Raju decided to crash in a friend’s room on the first floor – little expecting the horror that awaited him later that night.
It was at around 3 am that he got up from his sleep to take a leak. Still half-dazed from sleep, Raju stumbled through the dark hostel corridor, entered the bathroom and relieved himself of the agony of a full bladder. Then he turned.
A man stood outside the bathroom window (which faced the great dark outsides), sporting a dirty white shirt and particularly unkempt hair. Hello, he asked, Could you tell me who lives in Room no. 57?
Raju didn’t know, or wouldn’t care. He shook his head and proceeded to the exit and on to the corridor again. But hardly had he taken ten  steps in the direction of his friend’s room that realisation struck. He had gone to the first floor bathroom and there was no way a man could have been standing outside its window asking questions unless… unless…. he was STANDING ON THIN AIR!
Panicked, he let out a meek cry and started running towards his room. But halfway down the corridor, he stumbled and fell, hit his head against the cold concrete floor, and lost consciousness. For five days after that, he was confined to a room in the Hindu Mission Hospital with a very high temperature.
And the actual occupant of Room no. 57 also decided to find someplace else to sleep for a couple of months,  in the hope that the ghost may start looking elsewhere by then.

Kovalpatti wasn’t the most credible of sources, but I had to admit that his story was rather interesting.

The Zoology wing

They have always said that the college’s zoology wing is its Amityville mansion, and strange noises can be heard coming from it at unearthly hours. But, despite so much promise, repeated after-dark (Old Monk-fuelled) investigations in this regard by my friends and I went in vain.
Maybe it was just a rumour. Or, probably, the Zoology ghosts don’t like to be in the company of drunk people.

Posted by: Mojo Jojo | August 6, 2008

Rag-a-Tag

Okay, I gotta admit… I m no longer the avid blogger I used to be. Once upon a time, I couldn’t sleep easy unless I had posted something on Monkey Business. Today, I keep putting off the task and going to sleep, instead.
No, it’s not writer’s block – and if it is, I guess it’s gotta be the longest block this blockhead has known. But anyways, here I am again because of Ab, who tagged me. Thanks for keeping me going, friend. Or my stupid blog would have remained stuck in time all year long.

What I have to do is simple: Post five links to five of my previously written posts. The posts have to relate to the five key words given : family, friend, myself, my love, anything I like. Then, after this is done, I gotta tag five other friends to do this. Gosh, Im getting so lazy i actually copy-pasted this too. or maybe im just too used to ctrl-c, ctrl-v for my own good (And omigosh! Think I ctrl-Ced that bit from Ab’s post too).

Okay, this should be a breeze.

Family: Well, I have referred to them in a post entitled Home again, written way back in 2005, when I was back at my parents’ place at Kerala. Then, more recently, I wrote about my dad forcing little me to say “I want to become a doctor” in And one for the road. There are just too many to count, actually, probably because I blog a lot about my childhood…

Friends: I have written quite a lot on this one too, but my favourite is one on my last day at MCC… with Fela and I sitting on the Heber bridge and staring at the setting sun before heading off to Star Wines for a drink. If I recall right, it was called One last drink and that’s it.

Myself: Oh, lots of them. Being a narcissist helps. Actually, read any of my posts –  except the short stories, of course – and you’ll realise that my blog’s all about me, me, me! Well, there are some social commentaries too, but take it from me – they are crap.
Believe me not? Try this, this, this … in fact, all of it.

Love: Well, I really don’t believe in putting stuff like that on the net but, well, there was this time when I did do it once. A long time ago, when I was still using Rediffblogs.com. It tells the tale of a time when I tried calling an ex-girlfriend who had  completed her course in Literature and gone home to Mizoram. Oh well, don’t feel like posting that link here…

Finally, Anything i like! Hmm. I think it was the one on the quakes.Y’see… I’ve had the good fortune to see two of them in my life, and the better fortune to never be affected by any of them. I must say it was one of my posts that actually bordered on being humorous. It was called, well, let’s see…. Fire burn, and cauldron bubble

Your turn now…

Now to give away some worms. One for you, Shain… another for you, Liz… and I have been sparing you too long, Chup Chap . My heart bleeds for you, dudes, but you know how the rules go…

Posted by: Mojo Jojo | June 26, 2008

Two hate mails…

  • TO: THE HAIR ON MY HEAD…

Dear hair on my head,
……………………………..F**kers, that’s what you are. Ok, I have always known that you never did like me a lot… this letter’s just to tell you that the feeling is very much mutual. Thank you.
For one, you were never very obedient. I’d comb you this way, that way… but you’d always have to have your own way, na? Forever acting up like how Jack’s stupid beanstalk did. You’d rather break than bend. So, one day I’m gonna rip you off your stupid roots and weave somebody else’s more obedient hair into my head. That should teach you a lesson. Bah! (I’d stick out my tongue at you, if I could)
Then came the time when I carried you on my head to college. But no, you didn’t help me much there, either. Quite obviously, I was the only one being educated to be nice.
So I decided to make the most of you while I still could; thought I should colour you blue. But no, you had to play spoilsport again, didn’t you? You decided to turn a dirty shade of green instead, and for months to come, I had to go around the place looking like I had leafy vegetables growing on my scalp. Oh, how I hated you!
But the last straw was yesterday. I could set you on fire for it, but you know how much I hate the smell of you burning.
You know I have always wanted to grow you a few feet and look a bit like Val Kilmer in The Doors. And while I am at it, straighten you into submission.
So, it was all going fine… I even went to a few haircut saloons to check how much they would take to knock some sense into you and finally, I just looked a few weeks away from my biggest dream realised. At long last, I was going to look the way I always wanted to.
Which was when you started rebelling again.
You suicidal moron. It was just then that you decided to start falling by the dozen, didn’t you? You’d rather kill yourself than see me happy. And even as gaping patches started appearing on my head, I realised that all was lost – the barber’s scissors were inevitable now.
So I gave in to all that pressure. What my parents couldn’t do… what my friends’ jibes couldn’t do, you did just by starting to come off. A pity. All that willpower (and five long months of growing you) gone waste.
Anyway, when I asked the barber to take his time slicing through you, I meant to cause you a lot of pain. Which is probably what you wanted in the first place.
I don’t understand you. You are so incorrigible, you could put me to shame. I hate you.

  • TO: THE A-HOLE WHO DROVE A NAIL INTO MY BIKE TYRE THE OTHER NIGHT

Dear a-hole who drove a nail into my bike tyre the other night,
……………………………………………………………………………………….You are probably feeling pretty pleased with yourself. This letter’s just to tell you – don’t bother.
It was twelve-thirty in the night. I had innocently parked my bike beside the road, and gone to meet a friend who was recovering from an accident. I came back an hour later and hopped on it, only to find the poor thing wobbling weirdly. Which was when I discovered that little pointed object you had driven into my tyre.
What followed was a painful experience. I had to drag my crippled vehicle for nearly a kilometre, all the way to the nearest shelter. Then I caught an auto to a friend’s place in the vicinity (He charged 50 bucks! May you burn in hell).
Okay, it was a pain. I had to come back the next day, drag the bike again to the nearest motorcycle maintenance shop and pay 200 bucks more for a new tube. But then came the silver lining… the repair guy said it was good that the tube got punctured that day, because it was in a pretty weak condition and was going to happen sometime in the near future anyway. And I thought that yes, probably it was a good thing you drove that stupid nail in.
But I know you didn’t do it with any noble intention in mind. And there are many bad things I have wished for you, most of which I wouldn’t tell the nice people who are reading this. But they will all come true, y’know – and I would hate to be in your shoes when they do.

Remember, you drew first blood.

Posted by: Mojo Jojo | June 7, 2008

And one for the road…

There was this time when I was just twelve, and everybody was oh so eager to know what I wanted to do in life.
These guests would come in, pesky ones, and they would pinch me hard on the cheek until it turned strawberry red (like it’s the best thing you could do to a person) and ask, “So! Tell me, baby (Oh chooo chweeeettt!)… What do you want to beeeee when youuuu grow up? Tell us, baybeeeee!”
And I, grimacing from the pain and wondering furiously if I should retaliate, would just forget to answer for whole long seconds. Which, in turn, would make my parents interrupt the sweet conversation and explain hastily, “Doctor, doctor… He wants to be a doctor.”
Now, I wasn’t really fascinated by the possibility of becoming somebody who checks people’s heartbeats for a living. Hmm, I do remember my father saying at some point back then that doctors get the best wives, but – well – at twelve, I wasn’t really interested in wives either.
Not that he would understand, anyway.
Then, finally, there came an evening when I decided that enough was enough. I needed to get an answer ready for the visitors, at least something that may stop them from mutilating me in front of my family. So, after a lot of thought, I formed an answer in my mind.
An honest-to-God truthful answer.
But, like ol’ Jack said in that movie with Demi and Tom, “You can’t handle the truth!” Well, at least my parents and the guests couldn’t.
“Truck driver?!” the pesky auntie-next-door asked, horror writ all over her face, and repeated again: “Truck driver?!”
“Truck driver,” I confirmed, nodding my head sagaciously, “I would like to become a truck driver.”
Well, at least that got her claws off me. And the topic as well.
I remember mentioning this incident in an earlier post, and so I sha’nt dwell on it anymore. But the point over here is: why did I choose such a profession? A classmate of mine wanted to become a cricketer (I last saw his photo on Orkut, sitting somewhere near the Grand Canyon with a digital notebook on his lap), another didn’t want to do anything less than become an astronaut and fly to Mars (joined his father’s cycle shop business, I think) and the third’s aim was to become an engineer (he became an  engineer). I wanted to become a truck driver.
Well, my dad changed all that as soon as the guest had left, but that’s another story.
Maybe it was because I felt so shackled by everyday rules back then (get off that bed, brush your teeth, comb hair, rush to school, get bullied by teachers, come back by six, eat that cabbage, take a deep breath, do some math, off to sleep), and a turbaned traveller’s job was what I envisioned as liberating. Now, I knew that truck drivers don’t have it easy either, but at least they get to go past the horizon – don’t they? I was even forbidden from looking at it. My life was here, with my ball and chain.
Back then, I couldn’t wait to grow out of my Bata Naughtyboy shoes and head for college. There was where all the freedom lay, I thought. And I was right – to an extent.
MCC was what made me. No, it wasn’t like some gnarled peepal tree under which I went and sat, and got enlightened five years later. Quite to the contrary, it spoilt the shit out of me, introduced me to stuff that would have made good folks go climb a tree, and taught me a little about heartbreaks and the wasted years that follow them. But it also made me look into myself and see me for the person that I want to be. It taught me to break (remember the ragging year?) and then rebuild myself soon after. It goaded me to go down paths I had never been before, but it also helped me see the line of no return.  And it gave me some very good friends, for whom I am eternally grateful.
But no, freedom was still an eternity away. “Maybe you need to be standing on your own legs to achieve that,” I thought. And got myself a job.
I was wrong again, as I realised a few months ago. I couldn’t do anything I wanted to even if Dr Hook’s richer uncle died and passed on all his gold doubloons to me. There are bonds that tie me, I realised, and they are as much a part of me as the very flesh on my bones. And no, they are not going to let me drive that truck down that horizon. Even if I fled to the darkest part of Africa, they would be there – yanking me back and standing before every step I take.
And it’s all for the good, I know. But before those final cords come to tie me down into an institution, I shall get away for a few days – maybe 10 – and fulfil a childhood dream. Go to places without a plan or map. Eat and sleep at strange places. Get exhausted walking through landscapes that I had only seen in schoolbook pictures. Try my sign language skills on passing strangers.
No, I may not have a truck to drive but I sure hope they will let me hitch a ride now and then. For saying goodbye to something that I had so naively wished for seventeen years ago.

Posted by: Mojo Jojo | May 5, 2008

Bangalore

I love this city one moment, I hate it the next. But I love it more because it’s closest to what I could call home right now.
I remember the first time I came to Bangalore for a job. I stayed here for fifteen days and ended up spending five grand, losing my brand new mobile phone to some petty thief, not getting the job anyway – and when I finally decided to buy myself a ticket back home with some borrowed money, somebody pinched that too.
Back then, I thought Bangalore was a harsh city… it wouldn’t let me stay, nor would it let me leave. It was only because I knew a few friends here that I finally managed to get into that homebound bus. And even as I watched the city lights recede into the dark horizon, I found myself vowing that I’ll never ever return.
Two years later, I found myself working with a media organisation in the very place I had decided to keep myself off. Don’t know why – guess Bangalore wasn’t done with me yet.
But it grows on you, this place. After a while, you don’t mind all that traffic trying to envelope you from all sides; you don’t mind that autorickshaw guy yelling at you because you aren’t willing to give him a hundred buck note more than the twenty he actually deserves (not that I really travel much by three-wheeler, though) ; you don’t really feel all that suicidal after seeing the twentieth traffic cop try to get a bribe out of you by accusing ol’ Avril of doing something it couldn’t possibly do; and, no, the nagging desire to hit that super-honker driver behind you with a brick finally splutters and dies with time. And you tend to become more careful with your wallet.
Because there came a time when I realised that it’s my world to be – like it or not. No… it may not be where I intend to stay a lifetime, but until the day I catch a train out of this place, it’s going to be home for me. And I shall love it.

Posted by: Mojo Jojo | March 29, 2008

The movies and I (Tag)

Saala Ram Gopal Varma ki aag!

Okay. The Vagabond tagged me, and so I was forced to look back into my dreary past and try to recall every single flick I had been affected by. But I decided to go easy on myself and keep the categories at four points each. Anyways, here goes nothing…

Four songs that describe me:
1. Agar mere paas paisa hota
2. Thoda hain, thode ki zaroorat hain
3. Thodi si jo pee li hain
4. Aadmi musaafir hain

Four Bollywood characters I can relate to:
1. Rahul (Sharmaan Joshi) in Life in a… Metro
2. Ishaan in Taare Zameen Par
3. Sameer (Saif Ali Khan) in Dil Chahta Hai
4. Behroopia (Shreyas Talpade) in Dor

Four film titles that describe my life:
1. Ek duje ke liye
2. Kaun?
3. Is raat ki subah nahin
4. Qayamat se Qayamat tak

Four characters I want to kill:
1. Parvathi (Tabu) in Kaala Paani
2. Thakur (Mohanlal) in Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag
3. Ghungroo (Nisha Kothari) in Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag
4. Hero (SRK) in Oh Darling Yeh Hain India

Four characters I would like to date:
1. Simran (Mallika Sherawat) in Murder (Ooh so hot, methinks…)
2. Simran (Kangana Ranaut) in Gangster
3. Zeenat (Gul Panag) in Dor
4. Anjali (Ayesha Jhulka) in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar

Posted by: Mojo Jojo | March 19, 2008

The woman on the railway bridge

She was a very old woman, and I would always see her sitting in a busy corner of the railway bridge to West Tambaram. Even her wrinkles seemed to have wrinkles, and her scrawny age-gnarled body spoke of times infinitely cruel.
She wouldn’t ask you for money. Well, she couldn’t.
This old woman was near-blind, and I had never seen her move her lips to say anything. Or lift a finger. Or look up. And there would always be this stink around her, probably because – as far as she was concerned – going to the bathroom was not an option. She was a very old woman, and I remember there were times when I wondered how she could live her life the way it was.
This was during my first year at MCC. “She won’t last the year,” I recall thinking back then. Not unkindly, though.
I was wrong. She was still there five years later, on my last day of college.
One year later, I landed a job in a media organisation at Chennai. My job was making pages, part of which dealt with choosing the hierarchy of the stories that have to go on it.
Suicide stories would generally be small fillers – things that have to be stuffed in empty gaps if some stupid celebrity report doesn’t fill up the allotted space on a page. And mostly, they would be fifty words long with headlines that went Youth commits suicide over love affair or Student flunks exam, kills self.
And even as I battled against time to get the page out before the deadline, my mind would race back to that woman on the bridge – and wonder why. Warped as my thought process may be, I could never think of anybody who had things worse. But still, she would hold on to every breath that she could take in, and every coin that fell into the copper vessel before her.
So why these suicides, I would ask myself. A broken love affair or a red-stained exam paper is nothing compared to what people like her go through.
The first dead person I ever saw was also because of this very phenomenon. I was about seven years old back then, in a sleepy little industrial town called Gadchandur.
The time was about 1:30 in the morning, and I had just woken up from my sleep because of a particularly bad nightmare. I looked around – it was dark and there was nobody on the bed but me.
Which was scary, considering that I could remember my parents being there when we had all gone to sleep a couple of hours back. I jumped off my bed, but I couldn’t see much – save for the moonlight streaming through a distant window in the living room. “Maybe they are playing a joke on me… they are hiding,” I thought to myself, a hard lump starting to form in my throat. But I knew that couldn’t be it; my parents were not of the kind who would do something like this for a giggle in the middle of the night.
But I ran around – shouting, searching, looking behind every shadow lurking in the house. I ran to my elder brother’s room, but even his bed was empty. The ceiling fan in his room, however, was still running – still making that howling noise it always did. “Maybe I’m still dreaming,” I thought, though it didn’t look like it.
And then I heard it. Sounds outside.
I ran to the kitchen and opened the backdoor – the one that opened into the garden. A few people had gathered at the neighbourhood dispensary, and I could hear my dad’s voice among theirs. Relieved, I ran out to meet them.
It was then that I saw her lying on a wooden bench. A woman, amost as white as the sheet that covered her to the shoulders. Of course, I didn’t know I was looking at a dead person then. A dead person who had been a teacher at my school a few hours ago.
And suddenly, somebody scooped me up and held his hand over my eyes. I couldn’t see, but from his voice I could infer that it was Bala, the dispensary compounder. And he was saying, “You shouldn’t watch… you will have bad dreams.”
Moments later, my mom joined us and before I knew it, I was being carried off home again. I can’t remember if I fell asleep immediately after that, it’s all quite hazy – but the next morning they told me the dead person was Miss K, my community living teacher. Apparently, she had consumed poison after a tiff with her husband.
Miss K, as I recall, had scolded me in class for not doing my homework on the very day she took the extreme step. It was days before I could fully comprehend what this meant. It meant that she had gone and killed herself, and another teacher would be taking my community living classes from then.
But even back then, I remember wondering what would have prompted her to do it. Far be it for me to judge her actions in the situation, but still…
Seven years later, a classmate of mine drowned himself in a nearby reservoir after being scolded by a teacher. The question lingered on.
Many a time, I have wondered what I would have done if I were in their position. If things got really bad and I could feel the walls closing in on me with each passing second.
I think I would still give life a chance. Maybe if it got so bad, so very very bad, I might even leave everything – my house, my family, my commitments – behind and catch a train to a land far far away, but I don’t think I will give up on life. Probably because I think it may change for the better with time.
Or probably because I am damn scared of death. Who knows what lies in wait for me on the other end of the hanging rope? If it’s nothingness and I am just going to go up in a wisp of smoke, well – that’s good. But if it’s a place where I am going to pay for every sin I have committed in my lifetime (and Heaven knows there are many), I wouldn’t mind keeping the inevitable another minute away.
And will I be betraying the ones who depend on me by running away? Probably, but it would still be a better option then giving up my ghost. This way, if things change for the better down the line, I could always come back for them. This way, everybody stands a chance.
But the point of no return is still the point of no return, and I will never be able to change my mind once I cross it. Neither for me or the ones I love. That’s that.

EPILOGUE

A couple of weeks ago, I had been to Tambaram again. This time, I didn’t see the old woman on the railway bridge.
“So, it did happen finally,” I thought, though I couldn’t make myself believe it. Every instinct in me insisted that she just had to be alive in some corner of the town… maybe she’s shifted base. Or maybe she’s ill or something.
I walked down the steps and out of the station. Far ahead in the distance – under the shade of a tree – was a banana seller, and next to her was a familiar figure. I squinted my eyes to see who it was, even as the passers-by jostled me for the right of way.
There was no mistaking it. It was the old woman.
I walked up to her and as I dropped some money in the copper utensil, I looked at her face. The wrinkles were deeper and she still couldn’t see the ones around. But defeated she wasn’t – not yet.

Posted by: Mojo Jojo | March 5, 2008

Mojo’s back!

In reality there is only room enough in this world for one Mojo Jojo. One shall be the number of Mojo Jojos in the world, and the number of Mojo Jojos in the world shall be one. Two Mojo Jojos is too many, and three is right out. So the only Mojo Jojo there is room for in the world, shall be me! And being the only Mojo Jojo in the world, I will rule the world in which there is only one MOJO JOJO.
And I’m back, Powderpuff Girls!

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