Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Thin Line

K worked as a Java programmer in a multinational firm which made artificial intelligence software that aided automated trading. He was the best in business and was regarded highly by everyone in the company. He could conceive algorithms and write software programs in his sleep. Naturally he was well paid. He was thirty seven years old and still a bachelor. It was not that he never fell in love or someone did not fall in love with him. He had had many flings ranging from one month to two years. It was not that he lacked commitment. It was not that he was unfaithful. It was not that he was not willing to compromise. He was always the one willing to make a sacrifice. He always thought he gave more than a hundred percent to any relationship he had been in. Despite of this for some reason all his relationships lacked longevity. Quite simply it never worked out. Every relationship of his had left a bitter feeling inside him. It was not just in love that he felt betrayed. He had the same feelings for his friends. He had befriended many but for some reason the friendship would sooner or later lose steam. Whenever he looked back he could not see what his fault was? "Why do people leave me high and dry?" was a question that he could never find an answer for. As far as he could think he had always been deceived. By girl friends, friends, relatives, colleagues, bosses, parents, everyone. He felt used. Everyone around him had deserted him. No one gave a shit about him and he didn’t really know whether he cared or not. It had been two years since he had any conversation that was not about finance or software. His life all but revolved around his laptop. It was hard but he had made peace with it. Every now and then he would have a bout of depression but he would pull himself out of it. Alcohol or when it hurt real bad marijuana always came to his rescue. Life was not that bad either he would think. It was then on a fateful evening that he found Mush.

It was a day no different from any other. He came back from his office and opened up a can of Coke. He booted his laptop and surfed to his favourite porn site. After a little while he went to the kitchen to heat up the pizza from last night. He picked up the pan and was taken aback when he saw a mouse devouring on what was supposed to be his dinner. It was slowly working upon a little piece of chicken. A small mouse that was as big as a one year old baby's hand lay besides it and was sucking on its nipples. K's initial reaction was to throw the pile in the dustbin and that's what he did. He had lost all his appetite and got back to his bedroom. He lit up a cigarette and turned on the television to divert his mind. He smoked five cigarettes one after another.

It was time to sleep. He picked up the completely filled ashtray and walked towards the kitchen. He opened up the bin's lid and emptied the ashtray in it. The cigarette butts and the ash fell on the two creatures inside. The big one lied motionless upside down with its protruded belly and the chicken piece still stuck in its mouth. It was dead. The little one slowly opened its eyes, probably for the first time. K felt wrecked that he left the mother and the offspring to die in there and his heart was filled with sudden guilt. He picked up the small mouse with its tail and got it out of the bin. He rested the mouse on his left hand and observed the creature carefully. The small mammal had a short tail. The eyes were half open and it was breathing heavily. There were patches of brown hair alongside the short white hair. The hair were so short that he could see its pink skin. The cigarette ash was stuck all over its hair. The touch of it was soft and a tender. The mouse was weightless and K felt like holding a cotton ball in his hand. He stroked its hair gently and carefully cleared away the ash with his right hand. He gazed at the little creature for few minutes. He picked it up, opened up his apartment's door and carefully kept it outside on the floor. He felt elated with his little act of kindness.

He got ready for the office next morning and saw the little one lying where he had left it last night when he was about to lock his door. The mother was no more for it to feed upon. Left alone there it would surely die. Feeling responsible for its mother demise he went in and poured three tea spoons of milk in a small plate. He put the plate on the floor and moved the little mouse on it. Its eyes were completely open now. K looked at it adorably. The creature did not move for two minutes and then stuck its small tongue out. With a considerable amount of effort it gulped the cold milk. It was obvious that the little one was hungry. K took the plate to the kitchen and poured seven more tea spoons of milk. This time around it worked on the milk even more labouredly and left an ample portion. Then it closed its eyes and was fast asleep. K was amazed with the fact that it took a few drops of milk only for it to satisfy its hunger. It was enough of an effort for it to be tired and fall asleep. K left the little one there and rushed to his office.     

He was relatively free and Googled for 'mouse' after taking care of that day's work. He scanned some images to conclude that the little one at his home was known as a house mouse. He surfed to a Wikipedia page that had detailed information on it. He estimated the little one to be two weeks old based upon what he read. The introduction told him that people keep mice as pets. The idea struck. It was the least he could do for the creature that he had orphaned. He got back home later that evening to find the mouse sleeping on the plate. It had drunk all the milk. He picked it up and observed it. From the information that he had gathered on web he concluded that it was a male. The Wikipedia page mentioned that it belonged to the species of the genus Mus. He thought for a while and named it Mush. He got a big bowl and tucked some cotton on one side of it. He kept the bowl in his bedroom besides his bed. He put Mush in it. It was supposed to be its home. He put some milk on the other side of the bowl. He gazed at it endearingly for few minutes and then went about his business.

The next four weeks went as usual. Every morning K would get up to see Mush lying in its home. It became a ritual for him to pour some milk as soon as he got up and stroke his pet gently. He would repeat the same exercise in the evening. Once every day he would clean up the bowl that stunk from Mush's excretion and put some fresh cotton in it. By the end of week two Mush could stand on its four legs. Mush was nocturnal like any other mouse, most active in the night. Lying in his bed K would look upon the little creature running inside the bowl trying to make its way out. The bowl however was too large for Mush to escape. He would get Mush out of the bowl and let it roam around chasing it. "Run boy run. No don't go in there, that's the bathroom. Turn around. You think you can run faster than me? You cute little boy. It’s time to sleep". He would pick it up and put it back into the bowl. Apart from milk K started feeding Mush on chunks of bread, vegetables, cereal and at times tiny tender pieces of chicken. At times when K would get back from office he would see Mush eating its own droppings. He would pick it up and scold it lovingly like a mother does when her kid sticks his or her thumb in the mouth. "Stop. Don't you dare do that Mush. How many times I have told you? Stop eating your potty. I will give you a tight slap you naughty boy". Mush was growing rapidly and K knew that sooner or later it would make its way out. On one hand he was waiting for that moment like a mother waits for her kid to walk and on the other hand he was worried for Mush to pop out of its bowl one day and get lost. He decided to lock his bedroom door whenever he was away.

Mush was almost seven weeks old when it finally made the breakthrough. K returned from his office and didn't see it in the bowl. He closed the bedroom door immediately to ensure that it didn't escape and started looking for it anxiously. He scanned the floor, looked beneath his bed, and looked behind his wardrobe. He even peered inside his shoes. Mush was nowhere to be found. K looked at the little space beneath his bedroom door. It was too small for Mush to have escaped from there. Worriedly he sat on the bed and saw Mush resting in its bowl munching cereal. He immediately picked it up. "You little scoundrel, you scared the shit out of me. You have become very smart, haven't you? You think you can play these games with me?". He kissed him for the first time. He moved the bowl to the other side of the bed and left Mush on the floor and observed keenly. After running around for eleven minutes it found its home and jumped in it. "My boy is so sharp" K said happily. Despite the fact that Mush would get into its nest like an obedient kid K would keep the bedroom door locked. 

It was on a Saturday when K realized that he was not the only one in the house with a passion for heavy metal. It being a weekend he got up late and fed Mush as usual.  He played Black Sabbath and logged onto his laptop to check his email. Mush would always go to sleep after its morning meal but on that day as soon as the song 'Paranoid' started rocking the bedroom Mush got out of its bowl and started running around as if in exhilaration. Engrossed in his laptop K didn't take a notice. Mush moved its head and wagged its little tail to the guitar riffs. K stopped the music to take a phone call. Mush rested on its tail and tilted its head towards K as if asking him to play the song again. K made the connection when he played the song again after his phone call. Mush was back in action. K was thrilled to see its reaction to the song. He played the song repeatedly and head banged himself as he saw Mush leap all over the bedroom. "This is Black Sabbath my boy. Black Sabbath, the greatest rock band ever. How about I play some Iron Maiden for you?". He played 'Hallowed be thy Name'. Mush seemed to enjoy it as much as he did. That day and the next were spent giving Mush a crash course on rock music. It was also the day when he started talking at length with Mush. He played all the bands he loved and with every song would give a brief about its genre, the band members, its history, and his favourite songs. Mush seemed to enjoy Black Sabbath and Metallica the most. It didn't show any particular interest in Pink Floyd, a band that K was in love with. K tried his best but every time he would play Floyd Mush wouldn't show any interest. "Try it Mush. They are the best. It will get on to you slowly". After repeated attempts he gave up. "Ok. Ok. I won't play Pink Floyd when you are around. Look at you. You have already started throwing tantrums. It's my love and affection that has spoilt you". Thus the original ritual changed slightly. Every morning with its meal Mush would get a dose of heavy metal. Of course only the bands it liked.

K returned home disgruntled a few weeks later after a bad day at work. "Mush, my office management is full of lunatics. First of all they hire this idiot of a woman named Aarochita and then appoint the bitch as manager for the project I had been working on. I tell you the only reason they hired her was her big boobs. The bitch can't even spell the word finance but she spends half the day giving me lessons and asking me to give her a walkthrough of the code. Why can't the whore simply do what she has been hired for? Suck everyone around. My previous manager was so good to me. He never interfered in my work and let me do things my way. I am not going to bloody take this shit. If this goes on I will find a new job". He made himself a drink. He realized that it had been almost two months since he had one. Mush had kept him busy. He came back to Mush and went on and on talking about everyone in the office. People he didn't care about. People he disliked which included a girl that he had crush on at a point in time. A very small and elite list of two new team members that he thought he liked. As he was talking he poured some scotch in Mush's bowl. Mush smelled it and turned its head. "Have it baby. It's a magic potion. You will get a sound sleep tonight". Despite all his efforts Mush did not relent. "Why don't you listen into me? If I tell you something it’s for your good only. You'll do as I say" K screamed. It was the first time he screamed at his little friend. A scared Mush got out of its bowl and ran out. K realized that he had been rude to it and got it in his hands. "I'm sorry my boy. I'm sorry. It’s all because of that bitch who wants me to do things her way". That night he put Mush on the bed alongside him and slept caressing it. From that day on he would always sleep with it. Every morning when he woke up he would find Mush either in its nest or running around in the bedroom. He stopped locking the bedroom door and let Mush run around in the house trusting that it would always get back to its nest.

It was time for Mush's day out. It was thirteen weeks old now and K thought it was good idea for him to take Mush out for a movie. For the first time in last three years he had company for a movie. He put it in his jacket's pocket and got inside the movie theatre. He bought popcorns and got settled himself on a corner seat. After the movie started playing he got it out. He kept it in his hand all the while and fed him popcorns. Twenty nine minutes into the movie the guy seated next to him screamed out loud as if he had seen a lion. The security personnel came in rushing and after they realized what had happened asked K to get rid of the mouse. K told them that it’s his friend and not an ordinary mouse but no one listened. He barged out of the movie theatre angrily. "Don't you worry dear. I will get DVDs so that we can watch movies at home". He rented a few DVDs and got back home. They were glued to the screen and watched three movies that day and K played commentator narrating every little detail about the movie as it played. K hadn't been laid for almost a year now. He called up a number and it was arranged. At the stipulated time his door bell rang. "Hello! I am Pratayakshika" she said in a voice that was enough to seduce K. She was hot and K had an instant erection. He got her to the bedroom and it was her time to scream now. Mush woke up. "What's the problem?" K asked. "Get this filthy creature out of here. Right now". "How dare you call it filthy you bitch? That's my friend Mush" K screamed back. K's excitement had gone from the crust to trough in three seconds. He asked her to leave. "Don't worry Mush. The witch is gone".

Mush was a full grown healthy adult. K realized that over a period of time its penchant for music had gradually diminished. It was eating less and remained dull. K would speak to it trying to cheer it up but all in vain. All day it kept on sniffing as if searching for something. K was worried and thought may be Mush was sick. He decided to visit a veterinarian. The doctor checked Mush and told K pointing at Mush's large testicles that it was looking out to mate. He knew the feeling and planned some good times for Mush. He bought a female mouse and returned back home that day a happy man. He let loose the two of them and waited for them to make a move. It was the first time that Mush had seen a fellow mouse. He sniffed the female and chased her. Both of them seemed to have fun and K felt elated seeing Mush. He had never seen it so pumped up. He waited for them to get into the real action but nothing happened. They were probably checking each other out. When he got up the next morning he didn't see Mush in its nest. It was the first time that it had happened. He looked around and there it was making out love. He stepped out of his room without making a noise and whispered, "I am going to leave the two of you here. Have some fun all day today". K got back that evening and saw the two lovers chasing each other and having a ball. He fed them and left them alone. The pattern continued for three more days. The two little ones were very fond of each other and inseparable.  

The bitch in the office continued to annoy him. He wanted to talk it out with someone. Mush was out dating in the living room. K approached it and said, "Mush I need to talk to you and discuss something important". He picked it up leaving his date in the living room. He moved to the bedroom and realized two things. First, the female mouse followed him to the bedroom. Second, for the first time in its life Mush tried to break free from his hands. "What's your problem Mush? You have had so much fun lately. Don't you see I am having a hard time? I am planning to change my job and I can't get my mind straight if that's the right thing to do. Nothing will happen if you don't have sex for a day. I haven't had it for one year now. I let that prostitute go when I saw that she scared you. This is what you give me back in return?" he said annoyingly. Mush's ears were closed. It made further attempts to come out of his hand. K was not going to let go. After many futile attempts Mush bit him hard. His hand started to bleed. He let go of it and saw Mush jump out of his hands and join the company it wanted to be in. K left the two of them there. He picked up a book lying on his bed and threw it on the wall in anger.

It went on for another week. One morning when he got up the two of them were fast asleep in the bowl. He got ready and quietly picked up the female. On his way to the office he left it out in the open. "Mush, I did it for both of us. That little bitch was trying to come in between us" he said to himself. He got back home in the afternoon to see how Mush was doing. He did not find Mush in its nest. It was running and sniffing all over the house. Mush knew what it was looking for and it pissed him. "I am not going to feed you if you behave like this" he screamed. After Mush realized that it would not find what it was looking for it settled itself in the bowl looking for its meal. K picked it up and put it in a larger bowl and put a lid on top of it leaving a little gap so that it could breathe. He could hear it running around and jumping inside it all night trying to come out of it. "I punished you because you left me with no choice" K said as he picked him up next morning. "I'm sure you are hungry. I will serve you chicken today but you have to promise that you won't act as you have done in the last few weeks. We are friends. Aren't we?". Mush savoured the meal but as soon as its hunger was satisfied he jumped out and ran towards the living room in search to satisfy another one. K watched him closely for next few days. He tried to lighten it up by talking affectionately, playing music or a movie. He took it out for long drives but nothing seemed to work.

He took Mush to the veterinarian again. He asked the doctor to neuter it. He had thought over it and it was the best solution possible. "There will be no way without the will. Once Mush's mind is of that bitch it would get back to me. There are so many things I have to tell him. I have decided to move on and few interviews are already lined up. I have a job offer already and I particularly seem to like the folks there". It all went south after Mush was neutered. Mush grew more irritable and started skipping its meals. K decided to keep the bedroom door locked. Every other day out of frustration he would put Mush in the larger bowl and put the lid over it. He drank till 5 am one of those nights and asked himself the same question. What wrong have I done? He also realized that it was only the second time that he got to alcohol and the first time to marijuana in the last six months. He returned one evening unaware of Mush's plans. As soon as he opened up the door Mush rushed out of it. It had been waiting there all day. K ran after it. Mush was fast but not fast enough. Mush looked around to find a hole or an opening where it could hide himself. Unfortunately, it was out in the wide. K made a big leap and got both hands to it. He bruised his elbows in the process but caught Mush successfully. Mush bit him hard but this time around he maintained his grip. He got back home and pushed it into a bucket.

Not for the first time in his life K felt betrayed. Often its love that makes one hate. More often than not one doesn't realize when the thin line between love and hate is tripped. The last seven months of his life K had spent taking care of Mush. Mush had been the one, the only one with whom he had shared all his feelings. Mush was his best friend, his support system. So he had thought. Despite all the love that he showered Mush had estranged him. It was a dagger right through the center of his heart. Alongside the dagger were millions of needles that pierced every millimeter of his heart. It bled real bad. He was filled with a plethora of bitter emotions. He no longer wanted to live, not for the first time. He no longer wanted to be with Mush.

He came out of the house and got in his car. "Fuck you Mush. Fuck you. You tried to run away from me, from K. Who gave you this life? I did it bastard. I gave you so much. I gave you everything. More than what your mother could have ever. You used me".

He drove to a pharmacy and bought bromadiolone, a rat poison. He didn't know how much was enough so he ended up buying a large bottle. "Now that you have cheated me, what's the point living"?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

An Unfinished Story

The naked body appeared to be a Mathematics book. It was a piece of art, not a cold blooded murder. A sharp knife had been used to engrave Maths equations all over the body. The body was found in the victim's car which was parked outside Juhu Beach. The body had been carefully washed to remove all the blood stains so that the equations in form of deep cuts were visible. The quadratic equation (-b ± b2 – 4ac) / 2a was etched on the forehead while the trigonometric equation sin2θ + cos2θ = 1 was inscribed on the left cheek. The neck, the flat belly, thighs, legs, back, buttocks and arms were all engraved as well with other Mathematical equations. A right angled triangle was drawn on the left breast and alongside the Pythagoras theorem a2 + b2 = c2 was scribbled. The head had been shaven and the numbers from Fibonacci series were neatly marked all over it. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5… right up to 1346269. "The murderer must have worked on this for hours, may be even days. It's a job of a sick and a completely fucked up mind" exclaimed detective Paripakav. He received a phone call. "The victim has been identified. Her name is Sankhya and guess what she was a Maths teacher at a government school in Baijnath a small town in Himachal Pradesh".

K was sipping his coffee in his cheap one bed apartment. He had found the green binder in his car's trunk. He was driving towards a mall to run a few errands. Led Zeppelin was helping him with his hangover when he heard a loud screech and braked instinctively. The front right wheel was flat, a long nail stuck in it. He opened the trunk and saw it lying beneath the spare tyre. He drove an old Maruti 800 that he had recently bought from eBay. As per the previous owner K would be the fourth owner of the car. The previous owner told him that he was a part time short story writer and was trying to get some of his stories published but had been unsuccessful. K thought that the guy must have accidentally left the binder there. K picked it up and put it in his bag. He loved to read. He worked as a clerk in a government office in New Delhi and did not have enough money to buy books at the pace he could read them. To quench his thirst he would read the same old books he possessed again and again. His favourite book was Catcher in the Rye which he had read at least thirty seven times. When he was bored of books he would pick up an old newspaper and read it front to back, multiple times. He could not let go of the opportunity that the binder presented. He thought of reading the contents and after that returning it back to its owner. Once he was back at home later that evening he opened it up. It contained few sheets of what looked like manuscript of a short story that the eBay guy must have been writing. To his utter surprise only a few sheets had text on them. The others were blank. Some sheets had only few lines written on them. The text was neatly written with hand. There were no page numbers and a quick scan was enough for him to understand that everything was jumbled up. Over all it was nothing but a few paragraphs in no particular order. The eBay guy had just scribbled those paragraphs probably outlining the plot of his next story. He thought of dumping it when his eye caught on a polynomial. He hated Maths but his curiosity got better of him after seeing the polynomial. "What is a polynomial doing in a story?" was a question he could not simply let go off. He dumped the useless sheets and retained the ones that had even a single line of readable text. He had just finished reading the first sheet in one single breath. 

The school was popularly known as the school of terror. An ex-Army man Jalaad Saini had been the principal of the school for the last nine years. He was a short tempered man and was notorious for handing severe punishments to anyone who crossed the lines he had created. "Life is all about discipline. As teachers it is our responsibility to inculcate discipline into our students. We can't rely upon parents as they are in love with them. You can't make a loved one learn. Today's generation is fucked up and as constructors of the society it's our job to straighten them up. Show no mercy cohorts" he would shout out loud in his meetings with the school teachers. He had laid down the guidelines that every teacher had to follow. One, he had built special bamboo canes for all the school staff. Two, every teacher had to go through a rigorous training. How to effectively slap a lad? How to use the cane? Where exactly to hit to induce maximum pain? How to humiliate incompetent students? Three, he had a rule book for the teachers. A rule book he had written himself. Four slaps and three cane hits on the buttocks for being late to the school. Two slaps and one cane hit for every mistake committed in the homework. Eleven slaps on the face, thirteen cane hits on the knuckles and seventeen cane hits on the buttocks for missing homework altogether. The list went on and on.

K made himself a toast and put some jam on it. He got back to the sheets. He gazed at it for few minutes. He turned the radio on. Galloping pages was bread and butter for K but for some strange reason he was reluctant to pick the binder up and move on. He hesitantly picked up the next page that contained a little paragraph only.

The boy was admitted to the hospital. The left leg's kneecap had completely come off and was hanging by the shredded skin. A quick surgery was performed but the boy would never walk straight. A class mate had complained that he had stolen his pen and on a thorough search the pen was indeed found in his bag. A red eyed Jalaad was livid and he pounded over him like a soccer player would do seeing the ball and an empty goal. He slapped him, kicked him and beat him up with the cane. After a while it seemed that it was the cane that was being beaten down. He kept on hitting him till the cane broke up.    

K set the binder aside and made himself some more coffee. He roamed around in his little apartment with the coffee mug in his hand. The old clock showed 10:38 PM. It was a Sunday evening. An evening that was just perfect before K had started reading. Now he could not get his mind of what he had just read. He looked at the binder lying on his bed. He picked it up but immediately put it aside. He sipped the coffee. He didn't notice that it had grown cold and gulped it in one shot. He minced some curse words and got back to the binder again. "I am not going to read this fucking story. I know now why that stupid fucker can't get a publisher. This is insane. Who would want to read this shit?". He picked up Catcher in the Rye and slept only after he had read it one more time.

K kept to himself the next day in office which was not unusual for his colleagues. He could not get his mind of the few pages he had read the last night. He thought of returning the manuscript the next day. He came back early that evening and turned the radio on. It did not help so he resorted to what had worked for him all throughout his life. Newspapers. He had not read a newspaper for one week. He picked all the newspapers from the last week. For the next one and a half hour he went through them front to end till he stumbled upon a news article. A small piece that was published seven days ago.

"A retired history teacher found dead". He found the small piece on page five and read it at least seven times. An old man Praachin Sharma was found dead in his house in Kanpur. He was a retired teacher who used to teach history. He was found dead by his maid servant. His naked body was found lying on the floor. A brief narrative on the 1919 satyagraha initiated by Gandhi against the Rowlatt act was scribbled on the dead man's belly. The buttocks were engraved with a brief on the Anglo-French hundred year’s war. The thighs gave the story of the 1857 revolution. The entire body was an encyclopedia of a tenth grade history book. The news also mentioned some minor details about Praachin and his family.

The striking similarity between the murder mentioned in the newspaper and the manuscript could not have been a coincidence. He lit a cigarette and pondered over the similarity. He had bought the car four days ago. There was only one possibility. The guy had read the piece in the newspaper and then cooked up his short story by changing the subject from History to Maths. "So this is how the bastard cooked up that filthy story. What a mother fucker? Why did he keep the manuscript in his car's trunk? Who gives a flying fuck? I am not going to return this binder to the leech". He made himself coffee and opened up The Outsider. It was a book he had read twenty nine times. 

Six months had passed. K could not get the story out of his mind. Once every two or three weeks he would pick up the binder and read out a paragraph. He would never read more than one at a time. He wouldn't sleep well the day he read anything from those sheets. The brutality that played out in the school and its gory details disturbed him immensely. The story had completely hijacked his mind. There was mention of other murders. All teachers. All the victims had at one point or the other taught in the school of terror. A science teacher was found dead in Palampur under similar circumstances. Physics and Chemistry formulae were scribbled all over his body. Another man who was a Biology teacher was found dead with his body engraved all over with organ names. The killer had ensured that the organ names were written at the right place. The murderer had gone at length to engrave the word 'tongue' and 'penis' on the dead man's tongue and penis respectively.

There was one paragraph that was devoted to the futile investigations that had gone on.

Once the link between the victims had been established the detectives had tried to dig through the school records. The school was shut down after the incident in which a boy almost lost his leg. Going by school's history it was quite possible that an agitated pupil was taking revenge on all the teachers. So many students had been thrashed throughout the history of the school that it was a mighty impossible task to track each and every one of them down. The detectives concentrated upon four students as their clobbering was still etched in local's memories. This included the boy who had stolen the pen. They could only trace two out of the four. A girl named Anusamarana who was drubbed by Sankhya using the cane. She was hit so bad that her skirt had come off. Sankhya was unperturbed and kept on spanking. Show no mercy. The girl kept on bawling. Her red bum became blue and then black. She had moved to Australia and the cops ruled out of any link between her and the murders. The second was a boy named Mastishk who was found eating his lunch during his history class. It was Praachin's turn to show no mercy. After beating him to pulp he had put the cane down his throat to ensure that all the food came out. Any link of the murders with Mastishk was also ruled out when it was found that he had died several years ago in a car crash. 

K was on his way to the office when his car broke down. The fucking engine had heated up. He opened up the bonnet and had to wait for next five minutes for the smoke to subside. He got the coolant and poured into the car's radiator when his eyes fell on what looked like a bus ticket. He picked it up. Himachal Pradesh Transport Department. He looked closely. Even though it was not clearly visible he could make out the date printed on the ticket. It was more than a three month old ticket. His mind started to race and his heart started to pound. After his car was functional he rushed home instead of his office. It took him few minutes but he found what he was looking for. He checked the date on the newspaper. Five days after the bus ticket. The eBay guy had travelled to Himachal and even though it was not clear where he had gone, K could not help thinking. He started to sweat and grew anxious. He could feel ants crawling all over his body. He picked up the binder and this time read it all. Word by word. Multiple times. There was no further information or clues he could find apart from the fact that the cops had tried their best but had not been able to locate Jalaad Saini. There were some other names mentioned in the story. Teachers who used to work in that school. The cops were trying to get in touch with them to find any clues. K felt restless. He had read a story. A story that could be more than fiction and it was unfinished. He made a decision. The story had to be finished.

He sent an email. "I know your secret. I will dig it out". After that he packed his bag. Two t-shirts, one jeans, two underwears, toiletries and a towel. He did not intend to be away for more than two days. He got to the bus stop and found that there was no direct bus to Baijnath at that point in time. He had to board a bus to Pathankot and from there take another bus to Baijnath. The state transport bus was way past its expiry date. The bus engine made a sound louder than an air plane's engine. It shook like an airplane landing all the while as it rumbled on the national highway. K got a window seat for himself and gazed outside at the scenery. Despite all the noise around he felt asleep. He was at Pathankot when he opened up his eyes. There was a slight nip in the air and he regretted not getting a light jacket with himself. He got a cup of tea and immediately boarded the next bus to Baijnath. This bus was no different and the journey became even more treacherous when the bus entered the hilly regions. This time he could not sleep. He looked out into the hills. The tipsy-topsy curves that the bus took all seemed the same. It was as if he was moving in a circle and got back to the same point after a while. Every curve reminded him of a curve he had seen before. He got the manuscript out one more time and read it again and again till he reached his destination. He got out to what seemed like a familiar territory. The temperature had dropped further. He found a cheap hotel and checked in. He ate at the hotel itself and had three cups of tea along side. It was evening and he was tired from his journey. He slept as soon as he laid his head on the pillow. When he got up the next morning he quickly took a shower and set out to finish what he had come there for. To complete the story. To know the truth if there was any.

He came out of the hotel and a local boy in his teens chased him asking if he wanted a guided city tour. K thought for a moment and agreed. Adhinaayak was a boy full of energy and kept on blabbering about the city's history which K was not at all interested in. He took K across the city known for its temples. At times someone in the crowded street would give him a gaze as if he was an acquaintance. He waited for the right moment and asked "Adhi, have you heard of the school of terror?". "Who hasn't heard of it sir? The school shut down before I was born but every boy around knows about it. My uncle used to study there and he tells me some nasty stories about the school. How do you know about it?". So it was true. K remained stoic and did not show any emotion. "I read about it in a newspaper. Can I meet your uncle?". The question took Adhinaayak by surprise. "I will give you five hundred bucks if you take me to your uncle". It was more than he could make in a week and he readily agreed. They walked through the narrow streets of the city and then had to hike for half an hour to reach his house.

"This is Mr. K from Delhi. He wants to talk to you about your school". The bidi that his uncle was smoking fell out of his mouth. K handed a five hundred rupee note to the boy. "I read about it in the newspaper. I was quite astonished and wanted to know more about it". The uncle was a young man named Unmaad. He showed no interest and was not even willing to talk. K took out a thousand hundred rupee note. He was not left with much himself now. The thousand rupee note was not enough and K had to work to convince the man but he finally succeeded. "What do you want to know?". "Have you heard of the Sankhya or Praachin? Did they use to teach at the school? Jalaad Saini?". The names sent a shiver through Unmaad's spine. K could clearly notice the fright on the man's face and he knew the answer even before the man uttered it. The young man did not have a lot of information apart from telling K about the brutalities that played out in that school. He knew that the Science teacher Vigyaan had been murdered. He knew it because Vigyaan had settled in Palampur which was a city not very far away. He however had no clue of the other slayings. "Do you know where Jalaad is?". "No one knows. He disappeared after the school was shut down".

K enquired for another twenty minutes. He asked about other teachers. He mentioned some of the names that were mentioned in the story. The young man knew most of the names but couldn't help K with their where abouts. "Most of them moved out of the city to may be find new jobs after that incident". "Can you help me find them? Any one of them? I promise I will pay you thousand rupees more". The young man was perplexed but it was a lot of money. "I will try". "OK, I will visit you in the evening. Please see if you can find someone for me. I will pay you double the money if you can find Jalaad" he said and bade him good bye. He had time to kill and he decided to pay a visit to the school building. The young man had told him that it still existed. K came down the hill he had hiked and got to the school building on his own. He did not need directions. It was a shabby old building on the verge of crumbling down. "Welcome back sir. How are you?" an old man who seemed to be the gatekeeper welcomed K. "You must be mistaken. I am here for the first time. Can you let me in? I want to take a look". "I'm sorry. I am an old man. Someone had come last year and had made a similar request. You can surely go in. But there is nothing inside apart from ghosts". The school was a two storied building. It smelled of saw dust. He went from one room to another. The blackboard and the desks were still there. There was at least three inches of dust on the desks. Spiders were having a ball with webs sprawled all over the place. He coughed. He entered a room and saw a bamboo cane lying in the corner. He was instantly filled with rage. He thought of the kids getting thrashed down. Beaten to pulp. He saw Sankhya. He saw Anusamarana and her bare buttocks getting the pounding from the cane. He clenched his fists. He walked towards the cane and extended his hand to pick it up. He did not. Instead he turned around and walked out of the school.

He hiked up the hill to meet Unmaad in the evening. "I asked my old class mates. No one had any information but one of my friends who is settled in Mandi told me that he has seen Anunasika the Sanskrit teacher many a times in town". "Give me your friend's address. Tell him that I am coming to see him" K said handing him a thousand rupee note and noted down the address on his twentieth century Nokia phone. He rushed to his hotel and checked out. He was not left with a lot of money but he could still survive for a week. He found a direct bus from Baijnath to Mandi. It took him a little over three hours to get to Mandi. To save money he decided to sleep at the bus stop itself. It was slightly cold so he wore another t-shirt and tucked himself in a corner. He met Unmaad's friend Dhrupedra early next morning. He had a small cigarette shop in a local area called Indra market. He told K that he had seen Anunasika many a times shopping in the market. K told him that it was urgent for him to meet her and asked him if he could stay at his shop till they located her. He promised to pay him five hundred rupees. Dhrupedra had no reason to refuse the offer.

For the next three days K stood by Dhrupedra watching him sell cigarettes. Every now and then K would buy a cigarette himself and would smoke it away. He waited. Every night he would go back to his spot at the bus stop to sleep. K got lucky on the fourth day. Dhrupedra identified Anunasika. She had the look of a teacher on her face and K thought even he could have identified her. K followed her. After she entered what seemed to be her house he waited for half an hour. Then he rang the door bell. The old lady opened up the door. K asked her to allow her in as he wanted to talk about a very urgent matter. The old lady was about to shut the door on him when he mentioned that it had got to do with the school of terror and he was there to save her life. The name of the school took her by complete surprise. She dropped her guard and let him in. Once seated he told her that Sankhya, Vigyaan, Praachin and two others were dead. Her jaw dropped. She was terrified. K got in to the kitchen and offered her a glass of water. He asked her for her phone number and said that he would call her up when she has calmed down.

Once he came out he checked himself in the cheapest hotel possible. He got out and found a local book market and scanned through some school text books. He found what he was looking for. Once he was back at his hotel room he waited and rang her up after three hours. He asked her to come down to the hotel and told her that he needed to talk with her at length about the school. He also wanted to see if she knew the where abouts of other teachers especially Jalaad. He wanted to help them. All of them. Anunasika obliged and paid her a visit that evening. She only knew about Alankaarini, the Hindi teacher. He saved her address in his mobile phone. She did not know anything about Jalaad. 

K was on his way back to Delhi. This time he had taken a bus from Mandi to Chandigarh. At Chandigarh he walked from the bus stop to the nearby sector-17 market. He got into an Internet cafe and logged onto eBay. He bought a few blank sheets and a ball point pen from the cafe. After that he walked back to the bus stop and boarded a bus to Delhi. Before reaching Delhi he threw the pen out of the window.

Back in Delhi the first thing he did was to slip the sheets he had bought into the binder. Then he unzipped the small glove behind his car's passenger's seat and dumped it there. He got the memory card from his phone out and pushed it beneath the car's carpet. He got to his apartment and took a long shower before going to bed. The next day he logged onto eBay. He found what he was looking for. He accepted the offer. He was told that he was the fifth owner. He cleaned up his email inbox. He decided to stay at home the entire day. 

The next morning he got ready for the office and limped towards his new possession. The story was not yet finished.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Posthee - A Business in Recession

10th Jan 2010 13:17 - I make a new friend
I met him on an airplane. We had got adjacent seats. The man seated next to me had a short and plump figure. He was bald and wore metallic circular glasses. He kept on staring out of his window and seemed to be lost in the vastness outside. I was in the middle of my deep slumber when he nudged my shoulder and said "Sorry, I need to pee". After we settled back again I introduced myself. "Hi, I am Seti" he responded as we shook hands. "Is that an Indian name and what does it mean?" I asked. He smiled "It was my parents who gave me this name. They were both astronauts. Their job was a passion for them. They didn't work for money as they had millions from my ancestors already. They used to work for NASA in the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) department. On a mission dad and mom had to stay in the space for an year. In the fifth month mom got pregnant and the mission had to be aborted prematurely. NASA fired both mom and dad for their negligence. Mom and dad claimed that they didn't uuh uh uh do it. It's impossible to do it in space. You need gravitation to do it they claimed. They named me Seti after I was born and till date they still insist that they didn't do it. I believe them". I couldn't stop myself and burst into laughter. He did not mind it and just shook his head. "Where are you headed to in India?" I asked. "I am headed to Varanasi. To take a bath in the Ganges" he said. We exchanged numbers and decided to meet again. We did meet in a week's time. After that we met every time our schedules allowed. In India, in States, for drinks, for lunch or for coffee.

23th Jun 2010 19:21 - The eleventh meeting
We met for drinks. He started talking "I have my own theory on spirituality. Spirituality in my opinion is an attempt to dismiss your existence, to lose yourself, to commingle with your surroundings. It helps you be a perfect soluble to the air. The gurus and babas of the world ask you to do pranayama which in my opinion is to do nothing at all. I don't buy that. My spirituality concept is to do something as long as it remains new. The point is that when you begin something new, it is about the thing and not about you. As you make progress the “you” takes over, the whole perspective changes. You start doing yourself and stop doing the thing". It was all Greek to me and I asked "What the hell are you saying?". He responded "Mr. Khurana, it's very simple. Last year I picked up tennis. I enjoyed every moment that I spent on the court. I would dissolve in the tennis racket. I could not distinguish where my hand ended and where the racket began. I was the tennis balls, the clay on the court, the tennis net and they were all me. A few days into it though and it all changed. It became about how do I beat my opponent, how do I win this point, am I better than him? I would get upset if someone defeated me. Tennis took a back seat and it was all about me. I moved on as the novelty of tennis was gone. I became a caretaker to a three year old girl. Once again I felt that thing that you call peace. It was fun playing with her. Even cleaning her poo was fun but within a month my thought process changed. Does she recognize me? My voice? Does she love me? Will she still play with me when she is old? It was time to move on and I became a chef. Mr. Khurana, I have flown planes and I have swept the streets. I have all the money in the world to live by this theory. Winning misdirects. Competition corrupts. I do things and enjoy them till I extract the juice out of them and when the thing takes over ready to suck my juice; I simply quit and move on".

6th Aug 2010 14:21 - The seventeenth meeting
I liked him even though I could never make sense out of what he said. Only heaven knows what happened in the space many years ago but the name was apt as this guy was truly out of the world. He asked me "When was the last time you felt this bliss that I speak about? When was the last time you got dissolved in the air?". I told him honestly that I find whatever he says nothing but gibberish. "That is the problem with you educated fools. No, that's not the problem. The problem is that you have not experienced it but that you don't know that you have", he exclaimed. "What do you do? You are a software architect. Aren't you? When you are deep into what you do and create what you create there are times when you get so immersed in the experience that you don't think about the where, the how, the what, the why, and the when. You just do the God damn thing. That is meditation my dear friend. Those are the moments you can't be separated from the surroundings. You become an eternal part of them. You become the software code, you become the computer, and you become the documents. You know what Mr. Khurana, I like you. I really do. You know why? That's because I really feel glad when I see you. I feel elated because I am reminded that I didn't go to a school".

14th Sep 2010 13:21 - A business idea
It was my birthday. It's a day when most people find it hard to place their feet on the ground and check their phone every twenty minutes to ensure that no calls or messages went unnoticed and commence an year long wait for the same day as soon as it's gone. Girls feel like fairies. I as usual was engrossed in my work. There were projects to be delivered and deadlines to be met. "I am in Delhi. Let's meet in New Friends Colony tonight. Need to discuss something important" I received a message from Seti. We met at the Pebble Street, a famous bar. He started by telling me that he had worked as a cab driver for two months in Mumbai and was looking for a new experience. "People think that recession is over but in reality it is not. People are still losing jobs. It's just been stewing for last three years but the worse is yet to come. The cookie will crumble soon. Everybody knows it but acts as if a divine force will appear from the heavens and would overturn the inevitable" he remarked excitedly. "It doesn't affect you in any way Seti, so why are you all gung-ho and what the fuck are you charged about?" I asked. He pounced on to it as if he was waiting for me to pop up this question. "I am going to launch a new business. Since you are an entrepreneur I need your help" he said. "On one hand you tell me about recession and then you talk about entrepreneurship. They don't go hand in hand. It doesn't make sense to me" I remarked. "That's because you are you and I am me" he smiled. He refrained from divulging any details on the business and handed me a return ticket to Bangalore. "Thanks for your help. I know you wouldn't say no" he said. The bastard had completely forgotten my birthday. I was pissed but the draft beer, the fact that I didn't remember his birthday, a free trip to Bangalore and the fact that he thought I could be of help in his business made me feel better. On my way back home I thought of businesses that emerge in financially tormenting times where surviving is more important than thriving. I packed my bags.

17th Sep 2010 07:00 - Kick off
I was curious to know what Seti's grandeur idea was. We started at 7 am in the morning at Royal Orchid Bangalore. Seti was accompanied by three guys. Raj BakwaasKarey, AndiMeinMuthu Raja and Chaalu Prasaad Yadav. I was told that the three of them had been in troubled waters recently and were looking for a new venture to clean up their tarnished image. After the initial pleasantries were shared we followed Seti to the meeting room. It was a huge room which could easily fit in twenty people. Each seat had a name tag and a document binder. As we walked towards our seats Seti pushed a button that closed the room's only door. He looked at us, asked us to sit down and pushed another button. The lights went out and the projector made a couple of grunts while it warmed up. Like the dawn the first slide came in front of our eyes.

"Gentlemen, Welcome to Posthee!" said Seti. "Our time is precious, therefore I would like to get on with the business straight away. I have already incorporated the company and we can start our operations right away. It is important for all of us, the leadership team to be on the same page" he pushed the button for the next slide.

17th Sep 2010 07:45 - Business Plan
Soon after we were through the introductions Seti rose from his seat. "Let's move on to the meaty side gentlemen. The slides you are going to see only summarize what is already there in the detailed business document that is present in the binder in front of you. Do go through it in detail to understand what we stand for".

"Gentlemen, do you know what guilt is or why do we feel guilty? Guilt is a man made thing. For centuries the society has taught us what's right and what's wrong. The same society feeds it into us to feel guilty when you do what it tells you is wrong. Have you ever felt the need to confess and seek forgiveness after feeling guilty? I hope not, but most people do. Do you go to a temple, a church seeking forgiveness? Closed your eyes and think that God has all the time in the world to hear you and then forgive you? But doesn't the God already know what you did? If you really believe in God then wasn't He a part of you when you did what you seek forgiveness for? Doesn't it all sound very unconvincing? People invest billions every year seeking peace of mind, seeking forgiveness. Do you think they get their return? Do you think it is forgiveness they seek at the first place? Its monkey shit. The reality though is that there are millions of institutions that sell forgiveness and make billions. They make a joker out of these men and women. It's all a propaganda cooked up by these companies and the society. The society teaches people to seek forgiveness and then go to a temple, a church or some random rogue baba to pay for it. You know what the truth is, the truth is that ultimately what people seek is a let out. A release to convince them that they did the right thing or they didn't do the wrong thing. We are going to change the dynamic of the world and define a new let out mechanism".    
"We stand for all the people who have been fooled by this empty rhetoric for centuries. Posthee stands to create a forum where people can talk their heart out in front of others and freely share what's making them feel guilty. This in my opinion is the real let out. The let out is not talking to a God you don't even see and are always in doubt about whether He heard you or forgave you. You all already know that sharing helps. We will give them this let out which is better and effective than the services rendered by the existing companies. That's our mission statement. Expose thee in front of others and be relieved". 

 "See the next slide to understand why Posthee will work? Any questions?" he said his face brimming and teeth shining.

There are times when you want to bang your head on the wall. There are times when you want to bang your head on the wall, but you don't see the wall. At that point in time it was none of them for I could clearly see the wall. It was just that my head went missing. I decided not to utter a word. He moved on.

"We have solved a problem that has troubled mankind for thousands of years. Imagine the potential market guys, it’s the entire world. It is such a lucrative product that the cost for sales/advertising/marketing would be minimal. Have you even seen marketing campaigns by prostitution houses? I can tell you one day we will sell better than sex. There is nothing out there like us and by the time they imitate us we would have rushed light years ahead. I will now show you the research that went behind it and I can bet it will make Archimedes in the bath tub proud".

17th Sep 2010 11:00 - Recession the Motivation
Immersed into the presentation Seti was an unstoppable force. "I broke down the human crimes into two broad categories. Stuff that is driven by money - theft, larceny, robbery, fraud etc. went into one pool and what you see here on the slide is the other pool like murder, rape, assault, arson"

"This slide shows crime per a sample set of people in India picked for the last 4 years. A monkey can see the pattern here. The crime rates are pretty consistent, slight increase every year but nothing remarkable. One can see the hump around the Diwali season which is understandable but over all nothing to be excited about. Now take a look at the next slide".

"Do you see what I see? If you don't then you don't deserve to be here. Since the end of 2007 money is driving a lot of crimes. The number is increasing consistently. Pay a close attention to the next slide".

"This is the last piece of the puzzle. This is the number of people going to the temples, churches and other such corporations. You can see that people do make a point to visit them during the festive or holiday season. Once again last few years show a tremendous growth in the customers. The astonishing similarity in growth of money driven crimes and people going to these institutions holds the key to our business".

"What we need to understand is that there are 25% hard cores who don't need what these institutions sell. They won't need us either. The rise of people going to these institutions in last few years can be directly associated with the hump in the money crimes. These novices that made their first crime seek an immediate let out. These are the low hanging fruits for us, customers we should be able to capture through aggressive sales & marketing initially and proving that our technique works better than our competitors. The fact that they made money out of whatever they did also means that these customers have their pockets full. It is easy to shed 10-20% of the loot if it helps you achieve a let out. The recession has just helped us by creating this pool of customers who will catapult us into the millions. This of course does not mean that we are not going to target the other category of goons. I believe in customer focus and would expect the same from you guys. We are creating this business to serve these folks. We have to help them come out of the entrapment created by our competitors".

Chaalu, AndiMeinMuthu & Raj rose and started applauding, the kind of applaud most leaders live for but eludes them. I mocked it up well. It was lunch time.

17th Sep 2010 14:00 - Operations
It was about the 'What' before lunch. It was time for the 'How' now. Four of us had been mute and it was going to be that way only. Seti started where he had left. The heavy lunch did not seem to have any sort of effect on him as his energy levels remained the same.

"We are going to buy local restaurants that have decided to shut down and we will turn them into Posthee outlets. The food & drinks menu, the chefs will be retained. The managers will be fired and trained Posthee people will be installed".

"Let's talk about what we will do and how will we charge. There are two categories of customers. First category is people who think they need forgiveness and seek a let out. The second category is people who are just there to listen into other people. Customers will come in and will decide upon a table size. The tables will range from 2 to 7 seats. They will be made to seat on a random table of the size that was picked with complete strangers. Once you are on the table you will share what makes you feel guilty. The others around the table will console you, and then you listen into them and console them. It is so easy sharing stuff with a stranger and it is very effective as well" he stopped and let it sink in.

"The bigger the table, the higher the cost. The logic is extremely simple. A bigger table means an easier let out. Because you have got more number of people listening into what you think needs to be forgiven. Also you get to listen into a lot of other stories. With the size of the table increases the chance that you will find a crook worse than you. It is certainly a great help to meet a rogue nastier than you. You thought you have done something bad and then you see a man who has done worse. It will make you feel better indeed. The mind anyways exaggerates the good it does and understates the bad. Therefore two people could be talking to each other sharing their apathy and both of them rating the other one a bigger crook than themselves. Both of them would therefore get their let out".

"If you feel uncomfortable and rather not show your face then you can rent or buy a mask at the reception for a cost. Nike has already agreed to create these masks. Now let me move on to how the outlets will operate".

"The structure of employees at a given outlet will be as follows"

"The seating managers would have to be the smartest guys. They are the ones who will optimize the seating based upon their experience and the incoming crowd. Complex computer science algorithms will have to be used. I mean you could have six guys ready to pay for a table of seven. Do you put them on a table of six or make them wait? How do you resolve the conflict when four guys come in but what to pay only for a table of three. Quick decisions will need to be made. We are targeting IIT Computer Science graduates with a minimum CGPA of 7.0 and expertise in algorithm designs. The senior managers have to be MBAs. These are the guys that will manage an entire outlet. I am talking to IIMs already and have already interviewed a couple of toppers. Food managers will also need an MBA but any local MBA would do. All the junior team members need to be at least Xth passed. Posthee will start with one outlet each in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The senior managers will report into the region heads. Chaalu Prasad for northern grid, Raj BakwaasKarey for the central grid and AndiMeinMuthu Raja for the southern grid. I have already bought the places. We need to complete the hiring by 1st October and start our operations by 15th October".

17th Sep 2010 15:00 - Finance
The most significant part of any business is money. This is where any business plan starts and this is where it ends an MBA would say. Seti however is no MBA and he was so confident that he said he is only going to spend little time on these slides and move on to the next topic.

"As you can see about 3.89 crores are required to be invested in year one. These numbers do not include your salaries because you don't get any. You only get dividends from the profit made by the company".

The next slide displayed what a guy seating at a particular table will end up paying. Seti said that this number was an average charge based upon let out seekers, listeners, food, drinks, and masks.
"Based upon the charges that you saw and a survey that was done to get approximate number of customers every day our projected earnings for year one are on the next slide"

"So gentlemen we stand to earn a little over a crore in year one only. You must have observed my conservative approach when I bumped up the cost by 1.15 and reduced the earnings to 0.85. This is just year one. I bet as we grow you will have to design new pockets to stash the cash" he said and we took a coffee break.

17th Sep 2010 16:00 - Roles and Responsibilities
"What" and "How" were done and dusted. "Who" was simple. He had already discussed about the region heads. All the region heads would report into Seti, the CEO. I was an advisory to the CEO. Seti held 75% equity, I had a 1% share and the rest was shared equally amongst the three region heads.

17th Sep 2010 16:30 - What's in the name?
"Any questions" he asked. As usual I decided to keep my mouth shut. He looked at me and said, "You have not asked any question Mr. Khurana, looks like you are not convinced. Please go ahead and get any of your doubts clarified". I was being forced into asking something and I all could muster was, "What does Posthee mean"?

"That is simple. You see the three region heads did not agree with the initial name which I had suggested - "Expose Thee". Chaalu spoke to his family's pundit who said that for us to be a success the name has to start from the letter P and has to be one word worth seven English alphabets. That's when AndiMeinMuthu suggested that we shorten "Expose Thee" to "Posthee". I liked the name. I feel there is a mystical sound to it. Don't you think so? Posthee! Posthee! Sounds like a chant" he repeated 3-4 times with his eyes closed and with that we came to an end.

My head was hurting bad. I consumed more than half bottle of Hennessy and flew back to Delhi the next day.

31st Dec 2010 23:59:59 - The New Year
I had been busy with my endeavours and had completely forgotten Posthee. I skipped all board meetings and did not bother to call Seti asking him how it was going. I got a New Year call from him but we did not discuss Posthee at all. I assumed Seti must have changed his gears and moved on to something new. I did not ask what he was up to as I was simply not in the mood.

15th Jan 2011 11:11 - The Rise
I was bored and lonely. Everybody around me was not. I needed to talk so I called up a couple of friends and they had their own problems. Problems those were bigger than my boredom. Seti was in town and even though I wanted to avoid him I asked him to come over for drinks. He was still living Posthee and that’s all that he talked about.

It had been three months since the operations started. He told me that everything was as expected. Even though the Bangalore office didn't give as much revenue as expected they would still meet their overall sales target in ten months! The response from customers had been out of the world. They were smoking hot. People from the entire spectrum of the society would keep the place busy all the times. As expected there were a lot of crooks who had played dirty with money but that was not all. Molesters, rapists, bandits, politicians, CEOs who were making millions even when their companies were falling apart, rogues, and thugs. They would all come in with a frown and leave enlightened after they had shared their deed and listened into others. After they had forgiven their table mate and their table mate had forgiven them. There was a minimum of twenty minutes wait all the times. At peak hours people would wait for an hour. They were travelling in from all places. They had hundreds of positive testimonials from the customers. After all no advertisement tag line is better than a satisfied customer's quote.

"I feel relieved. I slept with my cousin sister. I was afraid and was always haunted as if God is going to strike lightning on me. Just after two lunches at Posthee I feel alright. I want more of her" lawyer Dhurt Singh from Chandigarh.

"My father died of guilt after he had molested a three year old girl in the neighbourhood. He paid huge sums of money to a local temple seeking peace but it did not help. He even went to Haridwaar and paid money to few independent consultants. It did not help. If Posthee was around, he would still have been alive" fashion designer Aalangana Suri from Delhi.

"I thinked I am worst. Me bad, very bad. I rob bank and thought me bad. No, No. I see other peoples now. They bad, very bad. Bad than me. I am good. I am OK. No bad. I love Posthee. I take friends after any theft we do. They like it. We love Seti" a local goon Raju Jha from Patna.

"I slept with my fellow actor who played my father in the movie. I was so worried that God will punish me. My husband will find out and all that. Posthee changed it all. I met a Chandigarh girl on my table that had slept with her real cousin brother. What I did isn’t as bad as I thought" a famous Bollywood heroine gave the testimonial only if her name was kept confidential.   

"I stole the source code from my software company when they fired me and sold it to a competitor. I was so guilt ridden than I was headed to police station to confess my crime. In came Posthee and paved the way. I recently launched my own product, of course using the same source code" Saadhan Goel an IIT graduate from Bangalore.

Seti said it was immensely popular but he did not understand why some people were pronouncing the company's name differently. For some reason they replaced the 'P' with a 'B'. I chuckled.

1st Mar 2011 13:32 - The Bangalore Office falls
Seti called up an urgent board meeting. Surprisingly AndiMeinMuthu was not there. He was put behind the bars for a scam by the government of India. Seti had already fired him before that on account of fraud.

"He is the biggest fraud I have ever known. How greedy can one be? He had just executed the biggest scam in India and then his eyes fell on Posthee. He did two things and I was left with no other choice but to fire him and close down the Bangalore office. He cooked up the sales numbers and showed only 75% of the customers coming in and pocketed 25% of Bangalore office profits. Secondly he allowed a lot of people in the store for free. The scam he led that got him rightly behind the bars involved thousands of people. All of them needed redemption and Posthee was the best choice. AndiMeinMuthu provided all of these men and women free one year membership to the store. Thus they were all having fun in there without paying any money. The bastard gave a life time free membership to some of his close buddies like CunningMozhi and her dad".

He warned the two remaining region heads especially Chaalu given his past to stay away from any kind of fraud.

1st Apr 2011 16:34 - The Mumbai Office falls
It was Mumbai's turn now. Posthee was a magic lotion. It provided a perfect let out to its customers. It gave the pleasure of an ejaculation but it left a void once people left the outlet. The let out made people happy for a while but they would start feeling empty. They needed to visit Posthee again but there had to be a reason for it. They tried sharing the same deed again but it did not help. The satisfied customers thus got encouraged to go one level up and committed more crimes. It became a cycle. Crime led to search for a let out which led to Posthee which led to more crime and overall more business. On the other hand some customers were feeling let down when they met a bigger crook than them and got inspired to be the best in their respective business. A guy who molested a two year old was disappointed to meet someone who had molested a one year one. As soon as he came out of Posthee he was looking for a six month old baby. All of this led to a sudden increase in the Delhi's and Mumbai's crime rate. The competition sales had dropped drastically. The entire Bollywood swung their monies towards Posthee instead of donating it to them. It was all good for the business but this is where BakwaasKarey and his Mumbai team of goons made a grave mistake. A mistake that proved to be fatal.

Some innocent team members got upset with the sudden increase in the crime rate and blamed themselves for it. They thought they had created these thugs. They felt guilty and it was they who needed a let out now. Instead of finding it in the institution they worked for they got wooed away by pundits and babas from the competing institutions. The competitors who were constantly seeking an opportunity soon caught these goons on camera participating in a Satsang at a local temple. After that they started a huge anti-campaign and drove the point home that Posthee's leadership didn't have faith in their own services. The anti-campaign was lead by Raj's uncle. What would happen if Coke employees are shown on TV drinking Pepsi? It led to a sharp decline in the sales. Seti decided to close operations in Mumbai and fired BakwaasKarey.

Chaalu asked Seti not to worry and claimed that he and his team are not morons like Raj. They are immune to any sort of guilt and would never seek redemption themselves.

3rd Jul 2011 23:54 - The New Delhi Office falls
I was about to catch my flight to Berlin when Seti called. "It's all over. We are finished. It was not meant to be. The dream is over".

New Delhi was the last outlet left and it was flourishing nicely. This did not go well with two guys. Baba Aam Dev who runs his own organization and Madarmod Puthalik, the head of Haraam sena. Posthee was pouncing on their customers left and right. The two of them combined hands and made a devilish plan. They worked in parallel on two separate fronts. Aam Dev lead the "no violence" movement where he spoke publicly against Posthee as being an Anti-Hindu company and made personal attacks at Seti. He said that Nimonia Jhandi at least has an European origin but Seti wasn't even born on earth. He went on to a hunger strike asking Prime Minister AlwaysYesMam Singh to get Posthee closed. On the other hand Haraam sena took an opposite approach. Brute Force. It was something that had always worked for them. They could just show up anywhere and beat up few innocent people to remind India of their monopoly in this business. At 1:15 am in the morning when the Delhi outlet was completely filled they barged in and raised hell.

They broke everything that came in their way - chairs, tables, bones. They burnt Seti's effigies. The customers started running everywhere as the sena created havoc. In the fury they did not realize that Dhulaayam Singh and his ex-friend Namard Singh were in town to get their share of the let out. The sena got hold of five customers including Dhulaayam. They blackened their faces, tied them to donkeys and ran away. The next day a business man and a police officer filed law suit against Posthee claiming one crore Indian rupees each for the mental agony they had faced. Dhulaayam who had been seen sitting on an ass created a political agenda out of it and claimed that Posthee has joined hands with opposition to tarnish his image. He threatened to go on hunger strike if strict action was not taken against Posthee. All this chaos led to the inevitable. Seti decided that it was time.

4th Jul 2011 01:10 - Good Bye
"I managed to settle the lawsuits outside the court but Dhulaayam is such a bastard. He used his political clout and they put me behind the bars this evening" he said. "What the fuck? Are you in jail?" I asked worriedly. "No, you idiot. If I was in jail, how would I be calling? Someone was kind enough and get me bail. Someone very sweet" he said. I was relieved that Seti was out. I told him that I felt sorry for him and Posthee. He said it's OK, "It was time anyways for me to move on". My flight took off.

5th Jul 2011 18:00 - Seti's new venture
I had only my scotch bottle for company in Berlin. Seti gave me a call. "It was Mahamayapati who got me out of the jail. She is a very nice and warm lady. She really likes me. She tells me that through Posthee I have achieved a lot of eye balls and that I have enough controversies under my belt to move onto the next level. She has offered me to join her party and fight in the next elections. Mahamayapati is so kind, she offered me 17.35% discount and I only had to pay her around 1.5 crores for the Noida ticket. That's what I am going to do next. I hope you will vote for me".

My head was spinning. May be the head was still and my body was spinning. I looked at the scotch bottle and smiled. May be it was the bottle that smiled. 

The Posthee experience had left a strange ugly feeling in my heart but then I have never gotten myself into a situation I couldn't drink my way out of.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Curious Case of a Marriage (Part-II)

"Nice" K almost whispered and made a futile attempt to hide his exhilaration. She smiled mildly as if she knew what exactly he felt and said "So where are you taking me today?". K thought now that the dust is settled this is the best time to ask the question. Who is she? Where has she come from? What does she want? Who all are behind this conspiracy? What are they trying to achieve by playing this stupid game? What are they after? "How about Italian?" she asked before K could frame his question. "OK, let's go" K said lost in his thoughts.

It was a five minute walk to the restaurant from the parking lot. The streets were still buzzing with the evening traffic. They needed to cross the street and K could not help being irked seeing a scared Suvaasini trying to cross the road. It was as if she had come from a planet where people did not have to cross streets. She would take a couple of steps and immediately retreat seeing a vehicle that was still light years away. K was on the other side of the road and after waiting for a couple of minutes he casually crossed the street to be on her side to help her out. She held his hand. He had never held a girl's hand in public, in fact he had never held a girl’s hand. He grew too cautious to be able to walk let alone cross the street. They remained stuck on one side of the road for minutes. "This is ridiculous. Someone's trying to play with my mind". After several attempts they finally crossed the street.

If eating food was optional then K would have taken a pass at it. He knew all the food joints around and would always order one fixed item depending upon where he was. "Chicken penne pasta" he ordered as soon as they were seated. "K, Not again. Why don't you try something new today?" Suvaasini said scanning every item on the menu. "No, that's the only thing they prepare well. I don't want to try anything else" he said irritatedly. "Come on K. Let me order the pasta for myself and something else for you. In case you don't like it you can have the pasta" she said. K felt incapacitated once again. Let me ask her the question before she spoils my mood further he thought. He prepared to frame his question in the best possible manner and just when he was ready she started talking.

"I had a wonderful day today at office. My boss praised me today and seems to be mighty pleased with my work" she said and that was just the beginning. She spoke about her colleagues Madhulika who she thought was a bitch, Madyaa who was jealous of her, Kshanika whom she thought was the dumbest girl on planet earth, Sushobhita who was having serious issues with her authoritative husband, Aarambhana her college friend who was pregnant and Vreetika her niece who was wasting her life at Art of Living. She spoke about her company's managing director who was having an affair with the office receptionist. The food arrived. He looked at the Baccala that she had ordered for him as if the fish was still alive and was ready to pop out of the plate. With all sorts of doubts in his mind he took a bite. It took a few moments but he liked it. "How is it?" she asked. "It's OK" he said mincing his words. Suvaasini continued. "I'm waiting for the end of the year. It's been so long since I saw an SRK movie. You know what, I have seen 'Kal Ho Na Ho' three times in the movie theatre and twenty nine and a half times on television" she smiled. "Why I am telling you this? I know you already know". The irony was that he did not. Even more ironical was the fact that the same movie was playing on TV when they got back. She immediately got hooked onto the TV. "Let the movie finish and that's when I will ask her". He could not because tears came flooding out of her eyes as a melodramatic SRK died on the screen. After a while sobbing softly she put her arms around him and slept off. K couldn't help but caress her hair.

K woke up the next morning to realize that Suvaasini was nowhere to be seen. The house was spick and span but there was no signs of her. He rushed to the kitchen looking for her but did not find her. "Thank God. Looks like the game is over. Heaven knows who played it, but it's over" a voice came from his mind. Despite that voice he searched the entire house. "Suvaasini, Are you there?" he said looking for her. "Why am I worried?" the mind spoke again. He thought he heard her. The voice had come from the patio. He got there and turned back with a heavy heart after he didn't see her there. He thought for a moment and rushed to his cell phone and scanned to see if she was there in the directory. He found her there. He thought of giving her a call but pulled himself back. "Why are you feeling relieved?" his mind asked. It was then that his eyes fell on a small note lying on the bed side. "Sorry. I had an early morning meeting. Did not want to wake you up. The breakfast is in the refrigerator. Didn't have time to cook lunch. For a change enjoy your office canteen's food. Please don't forget 6 pm today. Love :)".

Lunch didn't taste good as it had done a day before. The day chugged along at a deadening pace. K could not get his mind off the question. "Can't be late today. I need to close this chapter today" he thought. He cancelled an important meeting and was there at the sandwich tasting event fifteen minutes prior to its commencement. He had framed the question in his mind, every word of it. Suvaasini reached just when the clock struck six and was visibly miffed. "I tell you this girl Madhulika is so annoying. She was bitching about me with the boss today. She spoiled my day". "It's OK. You should not be bothered by what people that don't matter have to say about you" K said. "You are right. I am such a fool. I haven't had my lunch in anticipation of the event" she held his hand and dragged him to the sandwich counters. "I am going to try at least half of them" she went berserk seeing at least fifteen types of sandwiches. K was amazed at the fulminant change in her emotion. K picked up a chicken panini and munched on it while she hopped from one counter to another like a small boy would do in a toy shop. She would take a couple of bites, leave the rest of it and move on to the next counter. "Panini! Not again. Leave that and try the smoked meat, its yummy" she handed over a half eaten sandwich to him. "Let's go have some drinks" she said when she was all done. 

They went to a TGIF. "The happy hour is ending K, let's place the drinks order right away" she said and ordered four long island ice teas for herself. She gulped the first one as soon as the drinks arrived. A soft music was playing in the background. "Go slow Suvaasini" K said. After sometime he found the opportunity he was looking for. "I want to ask you something". She smiled and said "I already know what you are going to ask. I know it because you have asked it to me so many times before". "I have asked this to her before?" K thought. "You want to ask how I can be so crazy for sandwiches". She gulped another one before K could blink an eye. "I don't know why myself" she kept on smiling as K slowly sipped his scotch. "I am dizzy already" she blabbered and stroked her hair. She was tapping to the music and K's heart skipped a beat. "No, that's not what I want to know" he said and waited for a couple of seconds to recollect the question he had framed. "Who are you"? That was not exactly what he had framed. "Who am I? I am a witch and I will suck your blood tonight" she said enacting dramatically by smacking her lips and showing her long painted nails and then she laughed. The laughter continued. K could only shake his head. She dropped on the table before she finished her third drink. The distance from TGIF to the parking lot was a tough one. She was sloshed totally and K had to hold her tight as he dragged her to their car. 

"I have missed my cab. I am so late and my head is still spinning. Can you drop me to the office?" were the first words K heard the next morning. She guided him to her office and got herself coconut water. "Coconut water is the best recipe for a hangover" she said and then started to complain endlessly. "You should have stopped me. Why did you let me drink?". "I did ask you to go slow" K defended himself. "No, you did not and even if you did you did not pressurize me". K shook his head and could only offer a meek smile.

She came late that night. Ankh and Aaradhaya had a dispute over their marriage preparations and she did her best to patch them up. She did it convincingly. "You are lucky to have Suvaasini as your soul mate. She is a complete package" Aaradhaya texted him.  A week passed by. His curiosity to find what was going on had only grown exponentially but asking the same was becoming harder by the day. He got to know her better. She was beauty in the simplest form. Little things that K never paid heed to made her extremely happy. One moment she was upset the next she would react as if nothing had happened. One moment she would be stupid the next as if sensibility was her name. She was irrational and rational at the same time. An esoteric smile sat on her face most of the times. She handled the household with amicable dexterity. "She is happiness personified" K's heart would say staring at her picture on his office desk. Underneath that chirpy cloak of hers sat an untainted soul. She had the multidimensional personality that amazed K. "Who is she?" his brain would ask. 

"I will be at Madhulika's place this weekend. She just broke up with her boyfriend and is feeling very low. I am really worried for her. Can you drop me to her place?" she said on Friday. Just a couple of days ago she was the biggest bitch in the world. Once again K could not help but smile.  On their way out K turned on the music and played Nirvana. "How can you listen to this crap? I still haven't understood" she said and changed the song to a mushy Bollywood song. It was a song K hated. She hummed the song along. On his way back after dropping her K to his surprise played the same song and seemed to like it. He missed her that Friday evening. He missed her all throughout the weekend.

Two months passed and he grew to like her. Her delicate touch, her detailed hourly narrative of how her day was, her exquisiteness, her warmth, her jolliness, her lovingness, her eyes, her naivety, her bravura, her colours, her charms. Love can was away all the cynicism. K missed her when she was not around but the question still haunted him. "I need to ask before I get used to her. I don't want to be in a situation where I am used to her" he thought. Asking her directly was an option he wanted to avoid. He wrote a small note. "I like you. There is no two ways about it. But deep down inside I know that we never were married. It was a crazy morning two months ago when I got up to see you. I have wanted to ask you this from day one. Who are you? Who all are involved in this prank?". He was trying his best not to fall in love. The harder he tried the more difficult it became for him. The war between the heart and the brain is the oldest and has been fought more than any other battle on planet earth. K found himself discombobulated and didn't know what emotion to express.

He held onto that note for several days and then slipped it in her bag one Sunday morning. He knew she would go out shopping. He remained at home the entire day waiting. Every now and then he would check his cell phone to see if there was a message or call from Suvaassini. She came back in the evening. K heard her footsteps. He could hear her rush towards the bedroom. She entered the room and threw her shopping bags. She was completely drenched. "Are you stupid or what?" she remarked. "How dumb can you be? You don't know, do you?". She must have read the note. He was all ears and ready.  

"You don't know it's raining outside. Enough of your cricket match. Let's have some fun. Let me show you something". She dragged him outside. "Look at that. Isn't it beautiful?" she said pointing her fingers towards the rainbow. There was not a sign of single cloud in the sky.  The sun was nowhere to be seen. "How is it possible? How can it rain without the clouds? How can a rainbow appear without the sun? There is no moon either. Just the light from the glowing rainbow. Also, do you see this rainbow has nine colors" K asked looking up in the sky. "K, Please. Not again. Enjoy this moment. Savor this weather and please for God's sake stop searching for a cloud or the sun. It doesn't matter" she said annoyingly. "It doesn't matter". The words ringed in his mind. It was after a long time that he got soaked in the rain. He let the rain fall on him. To cleanse him, his anxieties, to wash away all his fears. Then he held her tight for as long as he could. He no longer needed to know. It didn't matter. Nothing matters when you are in love, not even the fact that you are in love. "I love you" he whispered. "I love you too K".

Once they were back in the house K decided to remove the note from the bag before Suvaassini finds it. He quietly went in the bedroom and found her bag. The note however was no where to be found.

~The End~