Rhymes For A Working Man


I. Sitting here, looking there.

My mind on nothing.

its not easy I tell you;

the words in front of me;

on my screen move around.

They run into each other;

merge, converge, disappear;

till I can see nothing.

II. Tad dat dat, tad dat dat.

The phones now a days don’t ring.

They go tad dat dat, tad dat dat.

The one next to me goes tad dat dat,

then the one behind me, then all the ones around me.

Ta dat dat, tad dat dat.

They hit each other, punch each other; till I can hear nothing.

III. Its not easy I tell you, to keep your mind on nothing.

They teach you this in meditation.

Keep your mind free. Think nothing.

Think nothing, see nothing, hear nothing.

Quite soon you feel nothing, imagine nothing, do nothing.

Dream nothing, desire nothing, yearn nothing.

Now I know, I truly madly deeply love nothing.

Quite very soon I’ll become nothing.

IV. That’s nirvana for you, served fresh on your desk.

Goes well with piles of paper stack.

Piles and piles of paper stack and stacks and stacks of paper piles.

And those black little binder clips.

Exist to point that you are even smaller blip.

Anomaly in the System dude, you are still thinking.

But don’t worry, they’ll sort you out.

The last remains of sanity, they’ll extort out.

Shout out, cry out, laugh out.

Don’t blame anyone though, you see the window, if you have the guts then jump out.

Death is the Road to Awe: of and about The Fountain


“What if you could live forever?”

This is one of the taglines for The Fountain. It is also a question which has haunted humanity since its beginning. The quest for eternal life has no other parallel in the history of mankind. Be it science or mythology, we have always been fascinated with the possibility of finding elixir, the Fountain of Youth, the Tree of Life, aabe hayaat or amrut!

The Fountain is the story of the quest of a man (Hugh Jackman) for immortality for his love (Rachel Weiz). It spans across three ‘life’ times and in many ways represents the struggle of Man himself against mortality.

In 1500 AD he is Tomas, a warrior, the Conquistador who has to find the Tree of Life to save his Queen Isabella, the Queen of Spain from the Inquisition for heresy. As he sets off for the Mayan jungles, his queen gives him her ring and promises that when he comes back successful, they will together forever.

In 2000 AD he is Tommy/ Tom, a scientist who is searching for a cure for cancer afflicting his wife Izzi. She is on the verge of dying. He is on the verge of a breakthrough. He watches in anguish as she slowly slips away from him. He decides that death is a disease like any other. There is a cure for it and he would find it.

In 2500 AD he is (still?) Tom who is traveling through space in a floating bubble with the almost dried Tree of Life. His destination is Xibalba, a dying star which is the Mayan Underworld where the dead souls go to be reborn. He plans to revive the Tree of Life and perhaps revive Izzi. All these years he has survived not so much on the bark of the Tree but the memories of Izzi. As he tells a vision of her, “all these years, all these memories, there was you. You pulled me through time.”

What happens eventually when Tomas drinks the sap from the Tree of Life and when Tom reaches Xibalba as it explodes around him is the answer to the questions haunting Tommy and the rest of us- Is there a cure for death? Can we ever achieve immortality? The answer is No and Yes. No, there is no cure for death but yes it is possible to achieve immortality. Death is the path to immortality; death is the road to awe.

The sap from the Tree of Life does not revive the dead, it gives rise to new life. And what happens to Tomas who drinks it and is horrified to see saplings spurting out of his body? Does he die? No, he becomes immortal. He becomes the trees. When Xibalba explodes, it gives birth to new stars. Which is why a dying star is the Mayan Underworld. Which is why the guard of the Tree of Life kills himself because his blood will feed the Earth and make him immortal. Which is why Tommy plants a seed over Izzi’s grave. Of course Izzi knew this before him which is why she was not afraid of dying.

So, perhaps it is not possible to become immortal without dying. Perhaps it’s not possible to move on without letting go of the past. This means that it becomes all the more important to live in the moment. One of the pivotal scenes in the movie is where Izzi asks Tommy to take a walk with her as it’s the first snow of the season. But Tommy is working furiously to develop a cure for her cancer, so he refuses rather harshly. This scene is flashed many times in the movie as Tommy goes through guilt and regret for not spending time with her. In attempts to get more (life) time for her, he gave away the time that he could’ve had with her.

One last bit of advice: watch The Fountain. Watch it for the heart wrenching eyes of Hugh Jackman as he traverses through hope, helplessness, anguish, desperation and regret. Watch it for the quivering lips of Racel Weiz as she says, she’s not afraid anymore (of dying). Watch it for her glorious face which makes a man waiting 500 years for her seem perfectly logical. Watch The Fountain for the visual ecstasy that it is; one that you would have never tasted before. Watch it for its majestic soundtrack. Watch it because it took Darrren Aronofsky (the guy who had earlier made Requiem for a Dream) six years of blood, sweat and toil to bring The Fountain out overcoming disbelievers and doubts-from within and without. Watch it so that you would never use words like magnum opus for movies like Troy or Jodha Akbar. Watch The Fountain because its been condemned like any other attempt which dares to challenge the way we think.
Watch it because there is hardly any other love story which is so pure, moving and grand that it truly deserves to be called an epic.

A Cold Obituary


Sid C (30.9.07): Al got stabbed in a street fight. He didn’t make it. Passed away around 1.

I waited for it to sink in. it didn’t. Somehow it didn’t seem real enough. Maybe because it was Al. The guy had been through hell and back many times over. Did he really run out of luck this time. It was not shocking that he got into a street fight. He had in the past and it was equally normal to expect him to come out it just about unscratched. People don’t just die in street fights at least not Al.

If there was ever a concrete model of flawed genius, it was Al. An exceptional natural athlete with one of the sharpest brains in law school. A rare combination without doubt. No one could argue that his heart was in the right place even if at times his head worked in a ‘different manner’. It were his excesses at times which made him both abnormal and normal at the same time. If not for such extreme streaks he would have been too perfect, almost a superhuman; a non human.

Cruel as it seems his getting killed on the day he finished law school, it was not devoid of some poetic sense. I mean, imagine Al going through mundane office chores everyday!

And of course he had lived! That’s what everyone would say. He had lived his life before he died. There are not many people dying at 22 that you could say things like that. People wouldn’t say such things about ‘achievers’ or people who had been perfectly genteel and ‘normal’. No, but when a guy who half the world called ‘mad’ dies, we say that he had lived.

It says something about the rest of us, what exactly I am not sure. Perhaps it shows what hypocrites we are. What we truly admire is also what we detest, fear or ridicule. Perhaps because we lack the courage to act according to our whims that we are uncomfortable with people like Al, who do so. But now that he is dead we see the futility of pretensions. In death there are no masks and no need for niceties. Why we need to carry them through life is something people should think about once in a while.

BITCH: short story


Everybody loves a good train story and almost everyone has one. It is of course not difficult to explain why. What makes a good yarn after all? A bit of adventure, a sniff of mystery, a trace of the unexpected, a bunch of strangers and a lot of time with practically nothing to do. There! now you know why train travel makes storytellers out of normal, simple and god fearing folks.

The year was 2008. Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated; Modi had won the elections in Gujarat, the French President was dating an Italian supermodel, India had just won the test match at Perth and I was about to graduate in four months.

I was traveling from Jaipur to Bombay for an internship. It started out as a routine train journey- entertaining enough and boring enough. Exactly like one of the numerous train journeys that I had taken earlier. Now my dear reader you know what I am going to say next and well, I am not going to disappoint you; yes…..little did I know what was in store for me.

So, sure enough I ate my home packed dinner at around eight o clock, flipped a few pages of Outlook, doodled a bit in my writing pad and then dozed off. In all probability I would have slept like a log till the morning but for the wannabe IAS aspirant occupying the berth above me who had to get down at Ratlam at ten thirty. In the process he banged the door thrice, called the mother of the coolie a ‘professional worker’ of a different kind and managed to crush my almost non existent nose with the bottom of his fake Nike bag, thereby rendering me quite wide awake.

Then of course, she entered. There was a backpack dangling from her shoulder and apart from that she did not seem to be carrying any luggage. Obviously a short distance commuter, I thought. She threw the backpack on the berth above with a brutal casualness.

“I hope you are not going to sleep right now”, she asked bending down; her face inches away from mine.

Her face! Dear reader if you haven’t noticed, this was the first time that I saw her face. Now, I could fill many a pages describing the lines and contours of her face or rhyming metaphors to pay tribute to her but I would get nowhere close to describing her angelic beauty or the effect that it had on me.

“eh…no, I’m not”, I managed to elicit a reply out after what seemed like an awful lot of time for a pretty simple question.

“Good! Because I am in no mood to sleep and I want someone to talk to” she exclaimed rather jubilantly much to the annoyance of the retired CA struggling to sleep on berth number twenty six.

Then we talked for a long time or rather she talked and I intervened from time to time. We were of course talking about all random things and I think it was I who brought up the killing of Benazir Bhutto and what would drive suicide bombers to kill themselves.

“I don’t know what it takes to kill yourself but I can assure you that it feels horrible to have someone’s blood on your hands.” Suddenly she became grim and her pink cheeks turned crimson.

“Well, one would think it should but then I am sure there are a lot of murderers around who feel no sense of guilt at all.” It sounded pretty reasonable as I said it.

“I am sure even the most cold blooded killers can’t forget the faces of the people they kill. You don’t know how it feels to kill someone. I do. Trust me on this.” She appeared lost as she said this.

Wait a minute. What was this girl on to? Was she serious?

“Hey, what do you mean by that?” I had to ask.

“Nothing forget it.”, she shook her head.

Now we all know that when someone says, ‘forget it’, they are just waiting to be persuaded further. So I prodded in my most eloquent fashion,

“I mean……come on………like………..actually have you…………what………killed?”

“Yes…I ran over a guy. I mean… I’d got admission in NIFT so I went out to celebrate with friends, while coming back alone………………..was a little drunk……….and this guy came out of nowhere……..when I hit him, it felt like a road bump. I did not stop. I couldn’t stop. I knew he was dead…………I knew from the look on his face a split second before the car hit him. Two days later when I saw his photograph in the newspaper, I couldn’t stop vomiting.”

OK. I’m admittedly not one of those chirpy talkative types but even assuming I was what could I say in a situation like this. So there was an uncomfortable period of silence, after which I managed to say,

“ehh…..I am sorry, its all right” or something like that.

“You know this is the first time that I’ve told anyone about this incident…………..because it never happened!

I can’t believe you fell for it!!!

Look at your face you poor child! ”

She started laughing hysterically.

My dear reader if you think that I was feeling miserable at this point of time, you couldn’t be more wrong. I was in the heaven of delight. That laughter! Clear as fresh spring water was sufficient to cure all mortal medleys. To this day that laughter rings clear in my ears.

“So what do you do apart from telling charming lies?” I asked as her laughs were finally reduced to giggles.

“What would be your guess?”

“Well, I think you could be a successful model.”

“Wow, I wonder how you could guess that?” I think for a second I detected sarcasm in her tone.

“But yes, you are correct. I am into modeling……mostly on the ramp but am starting to do some commercials.”

“Well, it must be a great life as a model” I said rather than asking her.

“Yeah….its pretty good….All this traveling………..glamour…………the money’s pretty good as well….”

“Cool……”, I was satisfied.

“but yes………it stinks also……… especially if you are young and gullible……..you can get really fucked in this line”, she said.

“Yes, I think its important to be well grounded or you can go astray with all that money and glamour”. I said earnestly.

“Not just that. Its so important in our profession to be well connected, know the right people and maintain relations with them” she said almost insisting.

“Well, I guess its true for most professions.” I still couldn’t see how this was a problem only with the fashion industry.

“But this can go horribly wrong as well. I have a friend who stayed with this almost famous photographer for two years. He kept promising her work but finally she realized that he was merely using her. That was the first time she tried committing suicide by slashing her wrist. Since then she has tried at least twice again to kill herself. Though, for good or for the bad she’s still alive.” She voice gradually faded to a stop.

There are not many occasions on which you are relieved to see the ticket checker but on this occasion I was as it ended the uncomfortable silence that was building up. I produced my ticket for his perusal. She got up to retrieve her ticket from her bag on the upper berth. As she stretched to open the bag, the sleeve of her shirt slipped back a little. I saw there: three wide and deep slash marks on her wrist just below the slim gold watch!

To be honest I was not shell shocked. I felt like perhaps something beautiful being destroyed but more like a sense of losing something you never had in the first place.

As the TC left, she sat again in front of me and moved her hair back to tie them in a knot. I committed the folly of looking straight into her eyes even as I tried to come up with something to say. She instantly realized what had happened as I tried to avert her gaze.

“I know you saw the marks. Yeah, its obvious I am that friend of mine! But don’t worry I am not planning to jump off the train or something.” She said quite matter of factly.

I nodded and hoped that I could get the ‘its fine, I understand’ look on my face.

“Oh ! I am such a terrible person!! Please I am sorry.” Her words were generously interspersed with giggles.

“I am sorry…..none of this is true. I just made up the entire story. These marks I got as a kid when I fell on a barbed fence.”

This was followed by a brief spell of hysterical laughter after which she finally spoke,

“But you know. It was worth it. The look on your face. I am sure you would have offered to marry me to prevent me from jumping off the train.”

My dear reader, you would be justified in thinking that I must have got irritated and fed up with her. But as I told you earlier I was spellbound. Though I felt bad as she was having fun at my expense but secretly I enjoyed it.

“And I am not a model. I am a journalist. I had gone to Ratlam to cover a story. So what do you do?” She asked.

I told her that I was a law student and to impress her I also added that I struggle to write. Well, sure enough it did get her attention. She perked up, leaned forward and put her chin on her knees, “So what kind of stuff do you write?”

“Short stories, reviews, generally all kinds of random stuff.”

“Oh…and I guess your stories come out of your experience. That’s what everyone says.”

“Yes to a certain extent but it is true that every time you write something, you expose a bit of your self to the readers. I think I read that in Atonment.

“So am I gonna figure in one of your stories?”

Strangely I was expecting this question. “Perhaps. But I need to know your name first.”

“If its for one of your stories, call me Jasmine. I kinda like that name.”

“So Jasmine, are you single?” I tried to change the topic of conversation drastically.

“Yeah… I just broke up with my boyfriend for four years just two months back.”

“What happened?” as soon as I asked this I realized that it was too snoopy question.

Thankfully she did not think so and replied, “Oh…he was cheating on me.”

“Fine”, I said.

“But that’s not why I broke up with him.”

“Its not? Then what happened?”

“Its actually an interesting story.” She did not ask me whether I was interested in hearing it. “I was going out with this guy for almost two years before I moved in with him. He works for the same newspaper as me. But after a year or so we grew weary of each other. I think he was the first one to start seeing others but I am not sure as I also was not being exactly faithful.”

“We were still staying together and we never confronted each other even if we knew that the other was cheating. For the record we were still in a mutually exclusive relationship. This would have continued for some more time at least if I had not met that charming banker when I was doing a story on the market crash. I was smitten at our first encounter itself. Anyways, jumping ahead, the fateful day was a Friday. I was supposed to go to Nasik directly from the office that night. But at the last moment they told me that someone from the Pune office had already reached there and I was not required to go there. This left me with an unexpected gift of free time. I met up with this investment banker at Leo’s for a few drinks. This was I think our third or fourth date. As it turned out I had a few drinks more than usual and we ended up doing it in his car.”

“By the time he dropped me back, it was midnight. I was still a bit tipsy as I opened the flat using my key, switched on the lights and……..whoa………..what did I see?”

“Your boyfriend with someone else.” I offered.

“Yes. They were at it in our bed but wait here comes the shocking part……………..the chick in bed………….she looked exactly like……………..this guy………the banker……who had dropped me back………..except of course for the long hair and you know….well……..the boobs”

“Admittedly, I was still a bit drunk but as I told you I had switched the lights on so I got a pretty clear look of her face. It completely freaked me out. I mean really really freaked me out!”

“Seriously what the hell?”, I found it a bit difficult to swallow.

“Anyways I later found out that she was indeed the twin of my investment banker but again think what are the odds of such a thing happening?”

“The next day itself I moved out. Though still I feel a little bad about my ex boyfriend as he thinks that I was indeed not cheating on him and was shattered on catching him in bed with someone else. I obviously did not tell him the real reason of my shock.”

“What about the investment banker?” I asked.

“Oh…I never saw him again. He did call a couple of times but I never answered.”

“That’s a pretty amusing story but is it true?” I had to ask her.

“Well…………”, then came that now famous giggle again, “no…….but you do agree that its an interesting one, right?”

“Yeah, it is”, I smiled.

Then we chatted for some more time and finally went off to sleep.

Jaipur sai Mumbai Central jaane waali…….” The announcement at Bandra Terminus woke me up in the morning as the train slowed down.

“Hey….am getting down here. Bye.”

I turned to find her standing in front of the open door, the wind blowing her hair all over her face.

“Hey…see ya…” I said sleepily, trying to get up but realizing that it was too late as the train had come to a complete stop and she stepped forward to get down.

But then she hesitated for a second, leaned back in, turned her head towards me throwing her hair back and said, “By the way, one of the stories that I told you last night was actually true.”

“You are such a……….bitch…….” I said with a chuckle.

“Yeah…I know that’s what everyone says.” She smiled her infinitely beautiful smile and then…..she was gone.

An Ode to Her : meta fiction


There is pretty much nothing in my life except her. When I go to sleep it is her voice which is whispering in my ears. It forces me to listen to her but I cannot understand what she says. I yearn to make sense of her words. Maybe she is confessing her love for me, maybe she is sharing her inmost secrets with me. No matter how hard I try, I cannot make sense of her. Yet, her voice is clear as water from a fresh spring, cool like the first breeze in the morning after a night of rain. It soothes me and soon pushes me in a trance like sleep. I am still aware of her, she gets closer to me but I cannot see her, or feel her, I can only listen to her, sense her. I try to tell her that I love her; that she is my life but she doesn’t reply. I hear her laughter, it is not a loud, shameless laughter of a child. It is a shy, muted laugh. She knows! I don’t need to tell her, She knows! She pushes me further in my daze. I try to resist but then I realize that it is her spell and I cannot resist her. I succumb to her shoves and embrace senselessness.

I wake up and she is beside me. I am not surprised, I am not overwhelmed. My head is over her hair. I turn slowly towards her and my nose is buried in her long hair. The smell is not intoxicating, it is refreshing. For a couple of moments I feel like burying my face in her hair; forgetting about everything else, losing myself in the silky dark maze. But no, her face beckons me. I turn my head further to see her face. My nose brushes hers. She breaks into a smile. A smile more beautiful than anything I have even seen before. A smile like drops of dew on a windflower swaying in gentle breeze. A smile which tells me innocence is not dead. It has the freshness of a thousand glorious mornings. It lasts for barely five seconds but I want to freeze this moment. I close my eyes for a while, there; now it won’t leave me. Her eyes ask me the meaning of what I just did but I pretend not to notice her question. I move my hand behind her shoulders and bring her closer to me. Now, the warmth of her breath is upon me. Her breaths come and go quickly revealing her apprehension. I move my lips to kiss her and feel the smoothness of rose petals. Gently first, then with slightly more fervor. There is a taste on my tongue. It is not wine or nectar. It is not sweet or salty. It is a purplish red taste. I withdraw slowly. Her eyes are closed. Perhaps she is still savoring the moment or maybe she is also creating a snapshot for her memory book. As she opens her eyes, she finds me looking in them; searching for something, looking for an answer to an unasked question. She is no mood for answering any questions. She rebukes me for being too inquisitive.

There is a tress of hair in front of her eye which troubles her every time a gentle breeze revisits her face. I move it aside with my hand and let my hand fall down to caress her cheek. Her skin has absorbed the chill of the morning but it warms under my hand. I repeat the movement with the back of my fingers, as I reach the top of her upper lip, she lowers her eyelids. It is an invitation but she could have as easily given me a command. I throw my hands around her shoulders and embrace her. The voluptuousness of her body is pressed hard into mine. Her breath is on my neck. Her fingers are playing with my ear lobe. As I make love to her, I can feel her breasts heaving against my chest. I do not wish for this moment to continue forever, I know it can’t. I do not wish for immortality, I wish for death, death at this very moment. This is the consummate moment of my life. I do not seek anything more; I know there can’t be anything better.

After sometime, while our bodies are still intertwined, I look over her. A morning shower is pelting against the glass of the window. I catch a reflection in the glass. It is not her reflection, not my reflection; it is our reflection. In this moment of our accord, it is impossible to tell where she ends and where I begin. There is pretty much nothing in my life except her.

Shine On: reviewing Superstar


It’s not fashionable to sing praises to Kunal Khemu. Its certainly not cool to rave about a movie called Superstar especially when its released on the same Friday as a Ranvir Shorey, Vinay Pathak Mithya which of course has to be a sophisticated and superbly hilarious movie meant only for the self proclaimed classes.
So probably Rohit Jugraj would not get the due credit for making a roller coaster of a drama which reflects the ethos of a typical Bollywood masala much better than OSO claimed to.
One reason why he deserves the accolades is because it would not have been easy to recover from James to make Superstar. No one held back in slamming the movie which it probably deserved and his own mentor RGV disowned him (that the latter then remade the movie himself as Shiva which met with an equally disastrous fate is an amusing story in itself)
With Superstar, Rohit has redeemed himself. He can only go up from here.
There has not been a movie in quite some time where you could identify nay feel with the central characters. (ok, leave TZP aside for a moment). In Superstar you laugh when Kunal laughs, you cry (at least shed a tear) when he cries and your heart actually sinks every time his dreams are shattered.
The secret to the visual craft of Rohit Jugraj lies in its rawness. In James it was at display in the brutal punches but he went overboard there. In Superstar, he has started to learn the beauty of subtlety. So here when the dreams of the middle class struggler are crashed because of his look-alike becoming a star you get a close up of Kunal’s face with his head on the edge of roof and a single tear rolls out his right eye. There are a few more of these subtle touches like the shot of Marv from Sin City before Kunal takes on a bunch of goons or the portrait in rich Kunal’s room which clearly show that the director was in no hurry when he made the movie.
When the need arises to go lavish, Rohit does it in style again with near picture perfect frames. Despite being an out and out masala movie, Superstar avoids a number of clichés. So the rich brat is not exactly spoilt and though lonely he is not filled with self pity. Again, despite being a bumbling actor, he is not stupid and nor is he apologetic for his undeserved riches as he explains to his middle class look alike, “I’m just lucky, not stupid”.
In supporting cast, Sharat Saxena shines in the role of a middle class father who is ashamed of his son being a struggler. One scene stands out, when he explains why he never praised his son but is showing off his achievements when he is dead, he says, “Kya karen, middle class jo hain…sharm kuch zyada hi aati hai…” touché.
Tulip Joshi is so beautiful and not a bad actress at all as she proves yet again, so why she’s not seen more often and in bigger productions makes one suspicious of the ‘skills’ of the other actresses who do manage that.
The music again is quite good and gells really well with the mood of the movie (if you think this is a standard line, watch Welcome and you’ll realize what happens when the music is totally out of sync with the movie).
So in a nutshell Superstar rocks and if it had names like SRK or Farhan Akhtar associated with it, it probably would have been one of the year’s biggest hits but now it’ll be just one of those movies which came and went. But just as well, because it does mark the birth of two new stars, Kunal Khemu and Rohit Jugraj.

PS: This got published in April 2, 2008 Filmfare. They cut it down quite a bit actually. Took out most of the sting and the barbs leaving it quite bland. To be fair to them some of the portions they left out were not exactly "movie review".

The Colour of Love is Red: short story


The End
An abrupt squall with deafening noise of screeching tires forced the old man on the bicycle to close his eyes as he felt a train thundering past him. He opened them just in time to see the scarlet Skoda crashing into the crumbling boundry of the small puliya, about a hundred meters ahead of him. It dangled from the edge for a moment as he watched, reflecting the morning sun and then slowly tipped over to fall in the deep valley. ‘At least I don’t have to worry about getting any rescuers now’, thought the old man.

The Beginning
It was a match made in heaven. When they bumped into the dusty narrow corridors on the first day of the college, both of them fell down. She was the first one to get up. She did not offer her hand to him but rather took his hand and pulled him on his feet even as she kept cursing him for having made a mess of her favorite red dress. A week later she surprised him by kissing him just as he was talking about his failed attempts at understanding poetry. For the rest of the five years at law school they were almost always seen together so much so that the rare public appearances that they made separately would spark off hopes of their break up in the cynical gangs of the college, all of which and all of whom would be crushed the next day when they would be spotted back together. When the job offers were being made in the final year, it was quite expected when both of them chose the same law firm in London.
A year later, after a day of hard fought rounds of negotiation in the office while they were waiting for the tube on a windy London night, she gave him the option of a dingy Chinese place or a slightly better Italian one as she said they were too tired to cook anything. He surprised her for the first time in a long long time by telling her that he had already made reservations at a posh continental restaurant. As they stepped inside the elegant interiors of the restaurant, she suspected there was something wrong with his head and when she saw the exorbitant items on the menu, her fears were confirmed. Twenty minutes later when they were sipping on an exclusive claret, she got her second surprise of the night as she found her drink spiked with a platinum ring. Rohit’s eyes asked a question and Shweta smiled a “yes”. They got married in Bombay a month later. Two months later, they started a new law firm there along with three of their batch mates from college.
The first time Atul saw Mahak, she was standing stiff upright dressed in a sari, awkwardly trying to smile without showing her teeth. He did not like the photo and told his mother that he would never marry an ugly girl like that. He had to soften his position after he was shown around twenty probables over the next six months, all of whom made her look like a fairy tale princess in comparison. The second time when he was forced by his parents to see her, he realized that she did not look as bad in person as she did in the photo. It certainly didn’t hurt her looks that her father was the biggest supplier of rotators for his father’s wind turbine company. Also as she had done MBA from Australia, after marriage she could help in managing the family business. So, three months later they were gotten married.

The middle (what else!)
One of the first major challenges that Atul had to face after taking charge of the company after his father’s death was that of dealing with the strike in one of the factories. It was a tough time for him. Till his father was there, he had been working with an attitude of a carefree employee and never took seriously his advice to take part in the management of the company. Sensing this to be a perfect opportunity, the other major shareholder launched a bid to takeover the company which led to a bitter legal battle.
His domestic life was also in dire state. Mahak turned out to be the typical rich snooty wife he had had nightmares about marrying. It was futile to expect her to help him out or even understand his problems. She was completely preoccupied with her own passion of socializing from parties to charity dinners to art exhibitions. Of course what mattered to her were not the malnourished babies or abstract expressionism rather being seen in the right places with the right people.
But then someone came in his life and one by one all the clouds got cleared. To begin with their relationship was strictly professional but soon she became a personal friend and it was not long before that they realized that they had something special between them. Words which are often exaggerated as a mode of communication had minimal importance for them. Even through the most tense times, they could share comfortable silence. A mere glance at his face and she would be able to sense if there was something wrong, a mere glance at her and a smile would cross his face. So almost a year after she had walked into his life, Atul gathered up the courage to ask her if she would marry him, of course after he had divorced his wife. He was expecting a ‘no’, though hoping for a ‘yes’ but was shattered when Shweta replied that she was already married. But why had she kept it hidden from him? Before he could ask her, she had left the room.
It did not take him long to find out the reason. Just six months after Shweta’s marriage, her husband met with a terrible accident which left him nearly dead. After some time the doctors gave up almost all hopes of him making a recovery but somehow he had been holding on in that vegetative state; a constant reminder of the cruel joke played on them by fate. Slowly, Shweta tried to pick up the pieces of her life again but she got tired of the sympathies of her friends and colleagues. That was the time when she quit and joined Atul’s company as a legal adviser.

“You have to move on, how long can you go on like this?” Atul pleaded with Shweta.
But how could she? It has already been four years and yet it did not sink in. Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night and think that it was all just a bad dream and everything would be normal in the morning as it had been. She still remembered the awkward manner in which Rohit had reacted when they had kissed for the first time. She could still clearly hear his laughter in her ears; feel his touch on her skin.
Of course time had slowly and quietly taken its toll. It always does. Even the strongest of emotions or memories become faded over the years. Then again there are times when one’s refusal to let go of the past starts distorting it. She started becoming unsure of how his voice was. Because she wanted to hold on to his memories so much that she could not accept the fact that she may have forgotten how he exactly sounded. To delude herself, without knowing she started putting a voice to his face in her memories which was quite different from his real one.


Somehow Mahak felt suspicious. It was nothing in particular that concerned her but he seemed to be a bit different recently. Now, that she was thinking about it she was surprised that she hadn’t noticed that sooner. While, earlier he used to get quite irritated with her social life which often lead to heated altercations between them, off late he had almost stopped bothering her. He had also started behaving with her with a touch of politeness which made one of her friends remark that it was as if he was talking to his neighbor’s wife. She had taken all this as a victory over him, a sign of his submission to her dominance in their relationship. But now all of a sudden she felt uneasy. Though she did not understand it but it was the fear of losing Atul that made her nervous. Of course she took him for granted but that did not mean he did not matter to her. She was married to him for life and the thought of separating from him never even crossed her mind. Love has many manifestations. Possession may not be the most dignified of them and certainly not as beautiful an expression as sacrifice but it still is love.
So it was quite expected that when she found it, her world came shattering down. Actually, it was nothing much but in her mind clouded with suspicion no testimony would have been more reliable. Atul’s cell phone bill showed an alarmingly high frequency of calls to a number which she knew to be of his beautiful legal adviser. Also, a number of them were made late in the night convincing her that something was amiss. A sudden rush of blood in her head made her go almost blind as she jumped into her Skoda, hoping to confront Atul in his office or better still catch him in the act with his lover early morning.
She had been sitting there for quite some time and probably had fallen asleep for a while but could not be sure. He was lying in front of her. Sometimes he would open his eyes. The doctors said that he could recognize faces. But even if he did there was no acknowledgement of it on his face. Those blank eyes would keep staring at nothing in particular. It appeared as if life was draining out of those eyes ever so slowly. Those were the eyes that had once reflected dreams, hopes and promises of future.
She got up and twisted the knob that controlled the amount of oxygen being forced into his lungs. She wanted to hold on to his gaze all this time, accompany him till the threshold. For a second she felt she saw an expression of gratitude in them but soon his eyes were closed. It was as if he did not want her to see death in his eyes. For a brief while his body seemed to struggle. Then the thrashing stopped almost as suddenly as it had started. She reopened the knob and walked out of the room.
BLANK. It was as if all her senses had stopped working all of a sudden. No sound reached her ears; her brain registered the whiteness of the morning sun and nothing else. She felt light and free like she had never before. She did not even realize when she got into her car and started driving. Of course, she had no idea where she was going.

Justice is Blind or it is for the Blind: Reviewing Blind Shaft


It seems unfit to write a substantial piece on a movie without explaining its basic premise and the plot. So here it goes: Blind Shaft (2003, Chinese (Mandarain), Director: Li Yang) begins with the two central characters of the movie (as we discover later) Tang and Song speaking with a fellow miner in a coal mine. As they talk about his longing to return home, they hit him over the head killing him and make it look like an accident. They come out of the mine and start acting as if the dead was the brother of Tang. After some shrewd negotiations they manage to extort twenty eight grand from the mine captain to hush up the matter. They leave the mine soon after and go on a spending spree enjoying the pleasures of life. Soon they run out of money and as they stand in town among the crowd waiting for work opportunities, they stumble into a young 16 year-old boy and it is only inevitable that they immediately see in him their new victim. They get him to memorize a new name and ask him to lie about his age. They take him to the mine as the nephew of Tang and plan to kill him off at an opportune moment and make a killing from his death.

An unknown death: is forgetting denial of justice?

Blind Shaft the name itself would seem to suggest not only the dark cold mine shaft cut off from the rest of the world but also a place so dark and isolated that it is beyond the reach of the law and justice. A place where neither there is “no union, no safety standards, pitifully low wages, no law given such an environment, it perhaps isn’t a surprise that the worst aspects of humanity rise to the surface.” For all the state and its law knows the mines have been closed after being considered too dangerous and don’t even exist. The workers working there are of course then the “non existent non people”.
The person who is chosen as the target by the duo is obviously someone who is alone and has no other friend or relative working with him. In all possibility even his family is also not aware where he is. There is no one who knows the story of his life. No one would come to know when he dies that who it was that died; that is who other than a nameless and faceless mineworker. If the only impact of a death left in the world is in the memories of the dead, then perhaps someone who dies an unknown death is not dead at all. In Before Sunrise, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawk go to a cemetery, which does not have the names of the dead on the tombstones. No one knows who the dead were. Most probably they were dead from capsized boats and suicides at the beginning of the 20th century. It is called the cemetery of no name. She says to him, “….if none of your family or friends knew you were dead…its like not really being dead. The people could invent the best and the worst for you.”
In one instance in blind shaft, Song is quite disturbed by the possibility that Song the kid that they plan to kill might be the son of one of their earlier victims. He does not want his entire family line to be ended by killing the kid. The family line is not about the gene pool. It means to keep alive the name of the family; to keep alive the memories of the dead. If the entire family line would be wiped out, there would be no one to remember the dead. That seems to Song as being a greater injustice than actually killing a man.

In Blind Shaft, there is no justice for the dead because firstly they are not dead (because their friends and family do not know that they are dead) and secondly because no one alive except their killers know that they were murdered. As far as the law is concerned it does not know that they are dead or they were or that they existed in the first place.
So of course, there is no hope for justice for those whose death has also been forgotten or rather not registered in the memory at all. That is no justice before the law but there is always narrative justice.

The Villains: or rather the victims?

Somewhere down the line in the movie one starts feeling for the killer duo. They are not exactly maniacal blood thirsty criminals. For them it seems to be just the only possible way of making a decent living and supporting their families. Well, they are quite cold blooded in the sense that they do not feel sympathy for their victim or suffer from guilt pangs but they do not enjoy it as well. They have a rather a very business like attitude and a meticulous routine for everything right down to the lines of conversation with the soon to be deceased just before he is murdered. But as the movie unfold you realise that in the land of abject poverty, lawlessness of the greedy mine owners and callous ‘hand in glove’ agents of law, they are indeed walking on a thin line between survival and elimination. Even when they are extracting the money from the mine owners they have to be careful not to ask for too much because if it would be cheaper for the mine owner to kill both of them off and instead pay the cops to hush up the matter, the ruthless mine owner would not hesitate from doing so. In a dog eats dog world, they are at a quite low rung in the food chain.

Narrative Justice in Blind Shaft

In a piece of fiction whether on paper or movie screen, it is possible to do justice even when the law has failed to do so. This is what is called ‘poetic’ or narrative justice- perhaps a literary equivalent of the ‘divine justice’ in real life. So the good guys have to win and the bad guys have to lose (unless of course one is making a movie like Zodiac where winning or losing are quite immaterial).
So Blind Shaft also employs narrative justice to make the ending of an otherwise bleak and uncomforting movie rather ‘just’ and acceptable. The killers get their ‘due’ and the innocent not only escapes unharmed but also earns a substantial amount from the death of his ‘would have been’ killers. It is quite ironical that the contract that Tang and Song enter into with the mine owner to make money from the death of the kid actually ends up in earning money for the kid. Although one can feel sorry for Song who actually develops traces of affection for the kid and is reluctant to kill him and the story is as harsh to him as it is to Tang who remains dispassionate, focussed and rather cruel. But then hey, Song still has to pay for his past deeds, right? So the way he meets his end is quite ‘just’ as per the statutes of narrative justice.
If retribution is the only manifestation of justice then narrative justice delivers justice quite efficiently and effectively. All the victims of Song and Tang who did not have access to law or justice get redemption in fell swoop through narrative justice by their dying of each other’s hands.

PS: This was published in Silhouette Vol. VI

Smoke ‘em up: of ‘No Smoking’ and smoking no’s


What is it to be alive? To have desires; to be free to love someone; to have the choice to die; to have the liberty to smoke!

K is a narcissist. He loves to admire himself in the mirror and no one tells him what to do. Nicotine flows in his blood and the smoke of cigarettes creates a thrilling aura around him. But when his wife decides to walk out on him, he agrees to go to Prayogshala- a rehab not so much to give up smoking but as to have a look. Prayogshala-a blend of ultra modern and the ancient turns out to be an omnipresent, all knowing, and all powerful entity. Once you are in, there is no escaping from the grip of the ‘Pryogshala’. It is run by one Guru Ghantal Baba Bengali. His methods involve putting the patient’s relatives in gas chambers, chopping off his fingers, bumping off his wife and so on to cure the addiction.
In the second half of the movie the surreal becomes quite indistinguishable from ..well, the ‘real’ and you are totally at the mercy of the director. To borrow an overused phrase, he is quite ‘self indulgent’ and makes no attempt to explain the movie to viewers. So K keeps on dipping in and out of dreams even as you are left wondering whether all the trauma that he is going through is happening only inside his head.
The plot reaches its logical conclusion with his ‘antar atma’ being separated from his body and thereby ridding him of all his desires.

Technically the movie is brilliant. Some shots like the panorama of Mumbai’s skyline and the streaming traffic below from K’s apartment and those of middle of nowhere in Siberia are simply breathtaking. The instant disgust and revulsion that the atmosphere of ‘Prayogshala’ evokes is no less an achievement. The use of sepia frames and comic book like blurbs to humorous effect is another first for Hindi movies.
John Abraham is at his best when he is not speaking and thankfully in this movie, he does not have a lot of dialogues and his body language does the talking quite brilliantly. Paresh Rawal is menacing and funny in just the perfect proportions.

A number of people have criticized the movie because it did not make them tremble before lighting another cigarette. Perhaps with a name like 'No Smoking’ they were expecting a ‘Requiem for a Dream’ for smokers (that the latter has a cult following among the junkies makes for an interesting study in itself).
But then I am not sure that Anurag Kashyap (AK) started off to make an anti smoking movie in the first place. That is a job best left to a certain Dr Anbhumani Ramadoss. In fact cigarette at best is a metaphor here for freedom. If you have killed all your desires, then perhaps you are as good as dead. Not having desires does not mean that you are close to Nirvana or perfection but perhaps that you are closer to depression! No smoking is of course at the core a story of rebellion but in total opposition to what you would expect such a movie to be, it does not romanticize or encourage rebellion. It shows the plight of a rebel, the price that he has to pay. It is not a movie for rebellion; it is a movie about rebellion. And it ends with an ominous message: sooner or later, a rebel has to die. Die by conforming himself.

‘No Smoking’ is one movie which would be remembered in the popular memory not for what it was but what people (or rather the people who call themselves ‘critics’) said about it (not very unlike Jhoom Barabar Jhoom). Almost everyone panned it. They called it a tribute of a self obsessed man to himself. The reviews read like admonitions to Anurag Kashyap for his vanity. “Why”, they shouted “make a movie which no one can understand? What is the point of making a movie which makes no sense? Why make a movie which neither entertains not conveys a message?”
This is what Khaled Mohammed wrote in his review,
“Sir Kashyap, your genius is blinding. Thank you for Quitters’ Inc which you have set in Mumbai and Siberia. And if you ask me, at this very point, I don’t want to quit smoking. I want to quit Kashyaping. See a Bhojpuri or a Blogpuri movie. Just don’t do this to me sir, please, don’t. The rest of the world needs your brain. Ulp, I don’t”

Well, one can’t but help remembering something written by one Mr Ellsworth M Toohey,
“It is not our function –paraphrasing a philosopher whom we do not like-to be a fly swatter, but when a fly acquires delusions of grandeur, the best of us must stoop to do a little job of extermination.”

But if you google the phrases ‘No Smoking’ and ‘Reviews’ the first few results would be of ‘reviews of reviews’, in other words bloggers pitching in for AK and condemning the ‘old men of reviewing’ as senile in the choicest of abuses. It would not be incorrect to say that AK asked for it. With shouting all those cries of rebellion and angst on PFC he has encouraged people- both his detractors and his supporters to focus on him and not his work. He has sought to become larger than his movies. If a guy starts comparing himself with ‘Howard Roark’ publicly, there is something wrong with him. If for no other reason then for the fact that Howard Roark would never do that. He would let his work speak for himself; something AK has to learn. Hopefully with Hanuman Returns doing well and AK keeping a relatively low profile about the movie things will be back on course for him. After all he has movies like Black Friday and Paanch also to his credit which even the most staunch of AK bashers can’t damn.

PRODIGY: short story

As he slipped out of the shining new Porsche Cayenne, a gust of wind carrying sand hit Aditya Singh straight in the face. As he gently brushed the corner of his eyes to remove the sand, he found himself transposed to his tiny little hamlet in Banswara. He was thirteen years old again, walking beside his father to the weekly haat bazaar in the nearby village. It was difficult for him to keep up on the sand covered pathways with his father’s brisk pace but he did not want it to be seen that he had to run to be at par with his walk. This resulted in his taking hilariously long steps.
A smile crossed his lips.
Of course then he did not see it as funny, it was an assertion of growing up, of declaring to whoever was watching that he was ready to step into the shoes of his father. No one called him Aditya, back then he was just Adi.
In the market he would watch with disdain as his father would spread a rough cot on the side of the dusty road and slowly arrange his things.
While other traders selling all kinds of things, from tit bits to utensils to clothes would be shouting at top of their voices to attract the customers to their wares, his father would make the barest of attempts of doing so. Most of the times unable to sell much during the day, he would, in the evening settle for a barter exchange of his goods with other traders which would invariably be a bad deal as opposed to have been paid in currency by the customers. Also, the only goods left unsold at the end of the day were the ones which were the worst. Even on days when he managed to sell things, he would not fare much better as bargaining was not his cup of tea. While, other traders would relish bargaining and start with four times of the price they actually expected, his father would settle to whatever price the buyer would quote without much haggling. Soon he stopped standing by his father’s side all day and suffer through the monotonous routine. He would roam around in the market and see how other traders would be doing much better business through their social skills although their goods were not any better than his father’s. He realized how inept his father was at trading and the only reason why his family did not starve was because he did this only for six months in the year. In the other half of the year, the family would cultivate wheat in the small tract of land that they owned and after satisfying their subsistence needs, it left them with enough surplus to sell and afford the luxury of his father’s poor trading.
It did not take him long to realize that he could do a much better job as a trader than his father. He was smart and he knew it. Although he had gone to the school for only five years, all his teachers had proclaimed him as a brilliant and exceptionally bright student. He had to leave the studies when his mother fell sick in the agricultural season and his father needed his assistance. Somehow, he never felt like going back to the school after that and instead he took a fancy to the market. As he would show keen interest in the transactions, other traders would teach him the nitty-gritty of their trade. They would pass him on the tricks to lure the customer and extract the maximum out of him depending upon factors like his need and economic status. All these had to be picked up from his appearance and tone.
On one of those days in the market he saw a trader who he had never seen before. He had a rather impressive appearance as compared to the rest who were mostly farmers from villages or from small towns and looked pretty shabby. But this trader was wearing shining deep blue robe over a white shirt and had a rather different turban with a feather tucked into it. He had erected a kind of tent over his goods and was turning over what looked to young Adi like a manuscript. He showed no interest in the customers or the proceedings in the market and even others seemed hesitant to approach him, clearly he was an outsider.
“What do you want?” barked the man with the turban as he curiously approached him.
He told him that he just wanted to know what he sold since he did not see any goods on display. The man in the turban chuckled at the interest shown by the young boy and said, “I do not sell; I buy things, old and rare pieces.”

“I see, and what do you with them?”

“I go to the cities and sell them there.” The man in the turban had probably not talked to anyone all day and decided to play along in this little game of the kid. This is why he took his queries with the sincerity that was reserved only for serious prospective clients.
“What are the kinds of things that you buy?” asked Adi with a little more confidence.
“Mostly old paintings, swords, jewelry and other decorative items; the older the better.”

“And how do you pay?” his tone was now acquiring the assertiveness of a seasoned trader. That he made a good profit out of the trade was clear to Adi from his attire and demeanor.

“With these”, he said, flashing a couple of crisp ten Rupee notes, “and I pay well.”

“Will you be here next week as well?”

“Yes, why do you have something to sell?” the tinge of mockery in his voice suggested that the man was finally bored with this little game with the kid.

“Maybe”, and with this Adi walked off.

He spent that night turning over and over in his khat. This was his chance to enter the trade. Other traders knew him well but they would not deal with him as they thought that he was merely a kid. But this outsider would have no such qualms. All he needed was to sell him something; make a decent profit on it and then it would be easy for him to convince his father and other traders also that he was old enough to enter trade. But what was there within the mud walls of his hut that could be of some value to the trader with turban? This question kept him troubled all night.
As the first rays of sun filtered from the creek between the wooden doors, he woke up with the answer. His mother had a heavy golden colored necklace which was certainly the most attractive piece of her jewelry, not that she had many. He remembered asking her if it was pure gold, and she had laughed and said that it was merely sone ka paani (gold plated) and when he kept asking her how much was it worth. “Not more than ten Rupees” she had said distantly. He had seen her wrapping it in a red cloth pouch and putting it in the big wheat container after coming from marriages and religious ceremonies.
The first opportunity that he got of being alone in the hut, he removed the stone slab covering the container and slipped his hand inside. After a bit of groping around in the wheat grains, he found what he was looking for. He did not take the pouch out and let it remain there.
Next Sunday as his father was getting ready, he took out the pouch and tied it in the folds of his dhoti and covered it with the kurta. He felt a slight hesitation in doing this because he knew this was stealing. But what he also knew was that there was no other way. He had to start somewhere and his parents would not let him do anything on his own.
Is it not the case always? The parents have no clue that their children have grown up, that they can do things on their own, maybe even better than what they themselves could do. Many a times it is only when an outsider tells them about their exploits that they realize the capabilities of someone who until then was completely dependent upon them.

After spending an hour and half by his father’s side, he slipped to look for the man with the turban. Yes, he was there. He was talking to someone. Although he was at a distance it was clear that the discussion that the men were having was not a very cordial one. Both of them were raising their fists now and again. Finally, the other man left with a strained face, muttering abuses. This was nothing new in the market though; he had seen the traders as well as the customers lose their temper quite a lot of times. When it came to blows the people around interfered but as long as it was merely a verbal altercation, everyone stood by and enjoyed the abuses being hurled all around. It was almost a regular feature of the market which everyone enjoyed; sometimes he wondered that even the parties involved derived a perverted pleasure out of it.

As he approached the man with the turban, he could see that his was still scarlet from the exertion that the last interaction had involved.
“OH, its you again; what do you want today?” clearly the man was in no mood for humour.
“I have something which you may want to buy”, now that he had come this far he was not going to waver in confidence.

“Really, then show me” the man was regaining his composure.

“Here” he said and untied the top of the packet and took out the necklace.

The man did not evince much interest in it as he took the necklace in his hand. But Adi had spent long enough time in the market to know that seasoned traders do not let their interest drip from their faces.
“It does not look very old” the man remarked as he casually yet carefully turned it over.

“It has been in our family for four generations”. He was not sure of this but then he knew neither was the man in turban and it certainly looked quite old.

“Certainly not gold.” The man clearly did not need his opinion on this one.

“But still quite valuable because of the design and the gems” It had to be, it looked beautiful.

“Maybe, I’ll be able to sell it some foreigner in the city. How much do you want for it?”

“How much can you pay for it?”
(Rule number one: Never tell your reserve price, let the customer value the good first.)

“Not more than twenty Rupees”

“Ha, you think that I am a child and you can fool me, or maybe you are just kidding with me. Please, give me back my necklace.”
(Rule number two: If the customer refuses to let go of the good, he will buy it, you just have to find the maximum price he’ll pay for it.)

“No, no. You tell me how much do you want.”

“Not less than a Hundred Rupees.”
(Rule number three: Start bargaining with five times the minimum price that you would be willing to accept.)

“Come on, now you are asking for too much. How about thirty?”

It took some twenty minutes of bargaining and finally they settled for sixty Rupees. At the end of it both of them acted as if the other had practically robbed him. Although, in his heart Adi was more than content with having made a profit of six times the investment. Now, all he had to do was to look for a place to invest this money.
He spent the entire day looking for some things he could buy to invest his new found finances. When till evening he could not find anything interesting, he decided to come back again on next Sunday to continue his search. As he was walking back with his father, he noticed that the man in the turban was loading his tent and goods on a cart; from the conversation that he was having with his servants it was clear that he was moving to another village. He avoided looking at the man, lest he may say something which would reveal to his father what he had been up to. His father was leaving that night for a close relative’s marriage at a distant place. The visit would take him ten days and although, he won’t let Adi sell the goods on his own in the market, he could certainly come here on his own. This was all the better for him as he would have plenty of time and would be able to haggle with the traders without the fear of his father looking over his shoulder.

He had decided that he would not break the news that he had sold the necklace till he had invested a part of the money in some other transaction; that would mean at least till next Sunday.
As it turned out, he did not have to wait that long. Soon after his father had left, his mother discovered that the necklace was missing. She was taking out some wheat for grinding it in the chakki, when she looked to feel the packet as a habit. When she found it to be missing, her first reaction was that she must have kept it somewhere else but as she failed to find it anywhere, it turned into disbelief and horror. Thefts were almost unheard of in their little hamlet and that one had happened to them, instead of anyone else was a really dreadful thought. As an afterthought she started asking Adi about it. Now, he knew that there was no point in hiding it, since anyways sooner or later he would himself have told them and it was not something to be ashamed of.
“I have sold it.”

“What?” his mother reacted as if he had spoken in a foreign language.
“Yes, I have sold it. But do not worry. I got sixty Rupees for it.” he took out the money.

“Sixty... It was not worth less than seven hundred. Pure gold…..” his mother’s voice trailed into silence. She did not shout or hit him but staggered and sank to the ground.

“But you said…..” he suddenly felt he had been hit on the head with a plank.

What happened after that was mostly hazy in his memory. That was the last night he spent in the village, before the sun rose, he was in Murea village, catching a train to the city.

As the durban executed a quick salute to the man emerging out of the glass doors of the building, Aditya Singh was brought out of his trance. He put his white cap back on and held the back door of the car open.