Wednesday, March 14, 2007

THE DREAM (A collaborative Short Story)

(My collaborator for this short story is Mr. Jayesh Jagasia, a PGP Student at IIMK.
Jayesh was branded insane when he quit his software job to pursue a career in motoring journalism. As a correspondent for CAR India and BIKE India magazines, he led a tough life - road testing some of the best cars in the country and then writing about them. After living the good life for a year - driving fast cars, eating good food and staying out of five-star hotels (all at someone else's expense) - he gave it all up.
Jayesh was branded insane when he quit his motoring journalism job to pursue an MBA at IIMK. The tag has, since, stuck.)

I woke up with a start. The damn electricity department was at it again - unscheduled power cut at a godforsaken hour. It was dark around me and it was humid. Sweat puddles were forming on my stomach waiting to trickle down on to the bed. Flashes of lightning at a distance seemed to play with the shadows in the room. I reached for the torch by my bedside. The beam of the torch fell on the still ceiling fan before I directed it to the alarm clock on the bedside table. It was five minutes past two. I reached for the bottle of water. It was empty. I cursed the electricity department as I heaved myself off the bed, and on bare feet wandered into the kitchen for a drink of water.
The distant roll of thunder accompanied by a sudden waft of cool breeze assured me that the long awaited monsoon was arriving. It was the 6th of June or was it the 7th... who cared? The rain was overdue. I opened the door of the refrigerator and groped for the bottle of water. It was then that the phone rang. It startled me. It was quite an eerie sound at such a very early part of what would be a wet dawn.

Clutching the water bottle I stumbled into the living room. The flashes of lighting were becoming brighter as they guided me to the phone, which was sitting on the desk by the window. I stumbled to the phone and picked it up in the midst of the fourth ring. "Hello". My voice seemed stuck. I cleared my throat. The voice on the other end was muffled. It was that familiar voice that I hated. “Did you do my work you bastard?” he said. Just then there was a discharge of lightning and the phone went dead. I must have muttered something as I dropped the phone on the cradle. The clap of thunder that followed startled me.

I was annoyed; he has the gall to call me at two in the morning and call me a bastard. I wasn’t upset with the name; I have been called worse names in the past. I wondered if he was drunk. The voice was menacing, as it usually was. Not that I was scared, but it annoyed me. Why at two in the morning? He could have called me at a convenient time.

I opened the door of the balcony and stepped out. A mixture of warm air followed by a waft of cool breeze hit me. The first drops of rain fell to the ground. The earth welcomed the first rain with a warm scent of mud. I paused and took a deep breath. Another discharge of lightning streaked in the sky. For an instant it lit up the earth beneath. The clap of thunder that followed was loud and long. I pondered a while longer then stepped in and closed the door of the balcony. The rain was coming at a steady pace bringing a coolness that was much needed.

I took a long swig from the bottle of water and sat down on the bed. I felt a chill or was it my imagination. Lying on the bed I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. The combined effect of the dream and the phone call prevented me from falling into deep slumber. It must have taken a while for me to fall a sleep. The reassuring rhythm of the rain and the coolness that it had imported must have helped. I slept like a log. No dreams, nothing.

The whirr of the ceiling fan woke me up. I shivered in the cool breeze. My eyes fell on the clock. It was ten minutes past seven. I heaved myself from the bed and switched off the fan. The bed looked inviting but the toilet beckoned my swollen bladder…

There were only two calls that had to be heeded at all times. This was one of them. The other was one was the one that had rudely shaken me up last night. That word still rung in my ear. And it stung me hard. What business did the rascal have talking to me like that at that unearthly hour?

Someone up there, meanwhile, seemed to have a swollen bladder too. It was really pouring now - strange for this time of the year. Just as well, though. Yesterday's job hadn't gone off as easily as I had imagined.

My thoughts went back to yesterday's day at work. I had always thought that the fat pig would be nothing more than a cake-walk. It had turned very messy rather too soon. Some fight the pig had put up. The cool breeze brought me back. Bombay being Bombay - nothing had changed from 2005 to 2015 - the almost-instantaneous flooding at Bandra would only help matters. The rain would wash it all away. It would wash away the blood and the fingerprints. Fear would wash away the eyewitnesses. Time would wash away the memory. What would wash away the sin, though?

It was a lazy Sunday morning, and I was sitting in the balcony. My thoughts were a drift, just like those black clouds in the distance…

It had been three years in this profession now. The depression of 2011 still brought back painful memories. It was possibly the most inappropriate time to be doing an MBA. I was, and I couldn't help it. The fact that I was studying at India's best business school didn't help. Multi-crore salaries - the norm only a few years before - had all but evaporated into nothingness. The jobs had dried up, and desperation had set in. Everyone, after all, was doing an MBA only for the money.

Bhai had recruited from campus for the first time that year. When 'Bombay Supari' approached the Career Advancement Cell with the intention of participating in Final Placements, there was shock all around. The desperation drowned out every other feeling pretty soon, however. Bhai picked up seven 'Assignment Officers' that year. I was one of them. It was always going to be a tough life, a dangerous existence - Bhai had warned us. But then, those were desperate times. And desperate times call for desperate measures.

Three of my batchmates were killed in a police encounter within months of joining the 'Company'. With them, one part of me had also died. I stopped fearing death that day.

Bhai's behaviour had stunned me. Everyone could be replaced here, I realised that day. At most times, within minutes. Bhai didn't care about lives. Bhai didn't bother his conscience with the potential that these young men held - the potential that was being clinically destroyed. We were just soldiers in Bhai's pointless war. Nameless & faceless soldiers. Bricks in the wall.

From then on, my relationship with Bhai went downhill. Things had finally come to a stand the day before - just before the last bit of 'work' that Bhai had wanted me to execute in Bandra. Bhai remained obstinate - perhaps it was old age catching up with him. I had no option, but to go with his plan of action. Few people ever had an option when Bhai spoke. The pig had put up a fight. Wouldn't have, had Bhai heard me out for a few minutes.

Bhai would have to be taken care of, were the Company to flourish. Survive, even.

It was still raining; and pretty heavily too now. The rain would have washed away last night's killing. And it would wash away tonight's too. I checked the holster. The Smith & Wesson 0.44 was there all right. It always was. One-two-three-four-five-six. Wouldn't need all of them - but in the three years in the profession, if there was one thing that I had learnt, it was that one can never be too sure.

Bhai was alone in his room, as I had expected. He turned around at the sound of my footsteps. I pulled out the 0.44, took aim, and…

…I woke up with a start. The electricity department was at it again - unscheduled power cut at a Godforsaken hour. It was dark around me and it was humid. Sweat puddles were forming on my stomach waiting to trickle down on to the bed.

3 comments:

Boogerwormie said...

Amazing...

Anonymous said...

A brilliant piece of work ...

Sharlon said...

wow.. a very creative mind.. excellent narration too ...