The boy stood on the edge of the street and waited impatiently for the traffic signal to change. The Botanical Garden Metro station was straight in front of him. He looked at his cheap ten year old wrist watch, the numbers barely visible, 8:27 AM. He was not going to make it. He looked to his left, an assortment of vehicles moving gingerly. Cars, motorbikes, rickshaws, bicycles, hand-pulled carts, a bus, top it up with an early morning chaos. To hell with it. He jumped onto the road and ran to the other side. He was confident that he would achieve the feat without a scratch and the only thing that would probably hurt is his ears. As expected, there was a flurry of honks as he sped his way through. Someone lowered his car window and screamed some not so very nice words. He couldn't care less. He would take those honks and the foul words over Girdhaari Laal's outburst, any day. He reached the other side of the road and kept on running. He made his way through the early morning rush and got to the stairs. He ran up, breathing hard, hearing his own heartbeat. He got to the platform, looked at the train that must have arrived a few seconds ago and rushed towards the closing doors. 8:31 AM. He made a sigh of relief after having timed his run to perfection.
A drop of sweat trickled down his neck. The number of years that he had travelled from that station to his workplace, Karol Bagh, ensured that he exactly knew the cut-off time for him to get onto the train and still reach the shop on time. He worked as a clerk in a jewelry shop. His job was to serve tea, coffee, and cold drinks to the customers, whatever they preferred. Usually he would get in early to account for any disruptions, that day was not one of those. He prayed for a smooth ride or else he knew that he would be praying for his balls. Even one second of a delay and Girdhaari would chop them into pieces. The train stopped at the next station, Noida sector-18. A small group of people rushed in and pushed him towards the center. He turned around and bumped into someone. He couldn’t believe what he saw.
Standing in front of him, holding the handrail, head down, eyes fixated to a point on the floor was his master, Seth Girdhaari Laal, the gold jeweler. Girdhaari didn't look up. He shuddered, the usual effect of Girdhaari's presence. How could he be here at this hour of the day? He used to live in a posh house close to the shop. He rubbed his eyes. There was no mistaking that it was his ruthless master. What was he doing in the Metro rail? Girdhaari hated public transport. Hate was an understatement. He detested the sheer idea of it. "How can you commute in a Metro? Isn't it disgusting?" he often asked him. "The thought of hundreds of men and women hoarded in a compartment, random foul smelling bodies rubbing against each other, the stink of sweat all around. Can you even breathe inside? How can you travel in that shit hole?"
"Maalik, what choice do the poor have?" he always responded.
He took a couple of steps back and observed Girdhaari. A cream colored kurta, hairy chest, white pyjama, brown colored sandals, oily hair, heavy duty gold's bracelet and two necklaces. He was the Girdhaari he met every morning and yet he was not. His pupils remained fixated to the imaginary point on the floor, his face didn't twitch when the train stopped or people moved around him, the fury in his eyes missing. Imagine a wall, a white wall, the whitest it can get. Imagine a painting that's hung on that wall, a black background, the blackest it can get. A gory painting, hundreds of dead lying on the battle field. Dead meat everywhere, pulpy flesh, heads, arms, eyes, legs, ears, all soaked in blood. Hearts, livers, veins, intestines, bones, all sprinkled across the painting. A seven course meal for vultures. Imagine that this was the painting that you saw every day. Then, one day, whoosh, it's gone. The only thing that you see is the white wall. That was exactly the expression on Girdhaari's face.
He thought of approaching him but was wary of his master’s unpredictable mood. A couple of days ago he had thrown out Birju. "I don't care that the Metro line had a problem. I don't care if it is an earthquake or someone in your family is sick or dead. The time to reach at work is 9 AM. Have you ever seen me opening the shutters late? Am I not a man, the way you are? Every one, listen, if you are late, I will cut your penis and shove it up your ass." he had screamed. The initial shock of seeing Girdhaari in the Metro had subsided and he was enjoying the sight now. It gave him immense happiness to see the very man who had loathed the Metro rail since its inception now himself travelling in the train. The compartment was jam packed. Girdhaari hated every grain of men that commuted in Metro. It was orgasmic to see him stuck between those men. He was part of the stench. The sight made him lose sense of time.
Rajendra Place. Damn, he had missed his station. Girdhaari was still there, similar stance, the gaze however had changed to a different point. He wanted to stay in, to know what Girdhaari was up to but decided to come out. On a normal day he would have sprinted towards the shop but there was no need on that day. He walked leisurely. The shutter was down, as expected. He sat on the pavement and lit a bidi. He waited, and waited. It was late afternoon when someone tapped his shoulder. "Why are you sitting here? Go home. The shop won’t open today. Girdhaari Seth died last night. He had suffered a massive heart attack."