Monday, October 31, 2011

filthy friday, black ka ticket, and her deadly smile- IV

          My mind goes blank as she fills the space around me.; a minor fight has ensued at the box office, most of it verbal- the usual maa bhen stuff. My heart is racing, while she stands still; her eyes looking around, searching for something.
          She turns to me, brushes hair off her forehead, smiles, and asks, ‘what time does the show start’. I go numb for a moment before she asks again, ‘शो  कित्ते  बजे  स्टार्ट  होगा ’. Those Hindi words come like a gust of fresh air for my suffocated self and stinking consciousness.
          I am now in my element. I reply, “Official time is 12 noon but…”- I pause for a split second- “the show starts around 12:30. 12:35 to be precise, which is after they have assaulted you with three वीको वज्रदंती ads and 8 public interest messages like ‘कृपया  सीट पर पैर न रखें ’ and ‘In case of fire don’t panic. Stay calm and get burned”.
          By the time I finish, she is smiling. And trying to gag her laughter with her left hand, which is frivolously placed over her mouth, reversed- her palm facing me; perhaps, trying to hide her partly broken front tooth shaped as a right angled triangle (30-60-90).

She: “You seem to know quite a lot about this place?”
Me: Yes. I black tickets here, every Friday. You need one?
She: Hehehehehehe. You kidding me? And by the way, Why would I buy from a blacker?
Me: Yeah,
       with all that beauty, merely a smile can fetch you a 100 tickets for free.
She: Come again !
Me: You’re beautiful.
She: That I am. Throw in another one.
Me: Can I have your autograph?
She: Hehehehehe…are you hitting on me?
Me: Only if I knew anything about you.
She: What do you want to know?
Me: What do you want to tell?
She: Nothing.
Me: ‘Nothing’ is impossible.
She: Impossible is nothing.
Me: Finally ‘Nothing’ comes closer
She: to?
Me: telling your name.
She: how close?
Me: let’s figure out.
She: I think it’s far too close… Ok. My name is Kalawati. What’s yours?
Me: what are you doing here?
She: I’m looking for my dad. And you?
        apart from blacking tickets, of course.
Me: Trying to figure out whether Kalawati is bunking her classes.
She: What’s your name?
Me: I am Shyam Sundar Shukla.
She: That’s quite an alliteration.
Me: So Kalawati wha… Holy Fuck !!!

          “I’ll be back in a while” is all I say before leaving for a safe haven. It’s our own Pandey ji briskly headed in my direction. His face is in weird contortions. He’s just been hit by a flying turd. Or so it seems.

          For all of Pandey ji’s characteristic quirks one thing I’m quite confident of- that Pandey ji will find gluttonous pleasure finding me at the cinema hall. (He secretly envies my family for having me, for him himself being prosperous his son is just shy of attaining the status- ‘privileged loser’.
          He is good for nothing save for one thing: He seems to have a talent for spending monies at the drop of a hat, over such great things as ‘frandship’, with girls who draw pleasure from his wallet while he dreams of drawing them closer. In addition, he likes to call himself यारों  का  यार , रामजी  पण्डे.)

There’s no doubt Pandey ji will derive orgasmic pleasure communicating my exploits to my stingy father.

His diatribe will sound something to this effect:
a)      I have a girlfriend (‘Laundiabaaz’ will be the definitive term), at which point my father will have his first cardiac attack.

b)       I regularly bunk my coaching classes. (‘चूतिया बनाता है’ will figure somewhere in the sentence). This calls for another bigger attack.

c)      I splurge money (stolen from his pockets?) on girls and movies, at which point my father will die a rather convenient death. Or, he might get a better idea and kill me instead.

          I take refuge in Shankar’s Paan shop while keeping an eye on Pandey ji and Kalawati (she looks confused). But, it seems Pandey ji is on a mission to track me down; or maybe to take a puff or two at Kailash’s. I make a move to a relatively safe place.

          I stand near a broken down wall, accompanied by two gentlemen taking a piss. I see straight towards the wall pretending to open my fly while I wonder if Kalawati is still there. A third person joins in. He’s lending his rather sweet voice to the background music of ‘Kaanta Laga’.

          I find the voice familiar. I squint through my left eye. Everybody, even my luck which had been sound all along, seems to be conspiring against me;.. Jesus fucking Christ!!! It’s Pandey ji again. Thankfully he’s concentrating on his yellow-ish stream rather than my Yellow T-shirt. I retreat to Shankar’s shop. I decide to concentrate on Pandey ji and act accordingly. I see him hitting the main road. He is bargaining with an auto-driver. He sits to the left side of the seat, meaning the auto will pick another couple of passengers on the way (It costs less that way). be continued

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

filthy friday, black ka ticket, and her deadly smile- III

  Today was the last day of availing concession on coaching fee. My coaching center offered 25% discount to students who have cleared IIT-JEE prelims in one of the previous years. Some kids paid their yearly fee in two installments.
          The faculty used to call them meritorious kids, a euphemism for poor hungry kids. ‘Hungry for knowledge’, he used to say jocularly. ‘Hungry’ I was okay with, but the word ‘poor’ was too hard to swallow; as it came with a filthy baggage of sympathy from every single person around- a burden heavy enough to kill me.

          I’d have never availed the two installments facility had they been asking questions about your economic background. Besides, some of the well off kids preferred to be poor and gratified themselves with this extra little privilege.

          The procedure was simple: Show your previous IIT-JEE scorecard. The counter guy would, without even looking at you, stamp a receipt. You hand him the cash. He hands you the receipt. The transaction lasts hardly thirty seconds. No words spoken. No condescending stares. Just pure business.

          As the clock struck seven I started searching for my scorecard the whereabouts of which had slipped off my mind a week after I paid the first installment; while she, sitting in her lawn, her chin rested over her knee, started searching for something unknown in her mind. Something was amiss today.

          After rummaging through 17 books, 8 notebooks, a stack of Reader's Digest and a ream of pages from ‘Kachhi kaliyaan’ and ‘Manohar Kahaniyan’ along with 2 older editions of Mastram, I found it in an 8 months old edition of ‘Outlook’.

          It was a yellow colored postcard size card, in contrast to her A4 size light blue report card that lay on her Victorian style study table waiting to be signed by either of her parents. There was this interesting play of numbers in our cards.
          We had similar digits against similar subjects, only (the digits) reversed on the other card.
She had scored 85 in Physics. I had 58. Similarly, she had 92 in Chemistry against my meager 29 and 56 in Mathematics against my handsome 65. In addition, she had 98 in English and 84 in Computer Science which have no consequence to the story other than to indicate her inclination towards literature.

           I picked up the scorecard along with the Outlook and rushed, as I was already getting late.
I reached 15 minutes late. Deposited the fee. Complex numbers was today’s topic. As soon as the class got over, I almost ran towards the ticket counter.

          The queue was just beginning to form. I joined as the 8th person. By the time my turn came, the queue had grown into a snake of 50 odd people. I bought 10 tickets as against my regular average of 7, including one for self. Reason: Ajey Deogan is a bigger star than Amita Bachchan in Jhansi. And this one had both. Plus Akchhay Kumar and Aiswarya Rai to boot. (The box office here is funny, even Saaruk Khan bites the dust)

          I was happy today for, in addition to wholesome entertainment (Rajkumar Santoshi is one of my favorite directors), I’ll be earning 200 odd bucks as against my usual 100-120. More chaos at the box office the better I felt. I decided to wait for the tickets to run out. But then, something struck me. And I started strolling about the end of the queue that was no longer a queue. Anarchy would seem somewhat like it.

          I started doing the routine, tees ka pachaas. Two of the persons- they must have been 124th and 97th in the queue- realized that by the time- if they were lucky enough- they get to sneak in their wrists into the semi-circular opening of the counter, it’d be too late. This dawned upon the 91st and 93rd too with an additional insight- that black ticket prices shoot, sometimes up to 100, within minutes.

          And now I’m left with 6, 5 of which I need to sell; a matter of another 15 minutes. But those 15 minutes would elude me, and I will be confronted with this specimen of ravishing beauty, stunning enough to stop time itself.

          Her attire tells me she’s from St. Francis’ Convent. She’s wearing a white shirt revealing a hint of her perfectly carved collarbones, a grey skirt that ends very well above the knees, and a subtle smile toxic enough to kill; the curves of her lovely legs precise, as if they have been constructed with about as much concentration and detail as exercised while attempting the 10 mark ‘Geometric Constructions’ question in the 20 marks mathematics paper; her hair melting against the sunlight falling over her slender neck.
A subtle curve on her lips seem to whisper hundred love poems into my ear; left ear to be precise. (Scientifically the right ear for matters pertaining to love is the left one.)

My eyes track her while my mind is lost. Everything else is turning invisible.

          Lo and behold, she turns, facing my direction. A cloud is covering the sun. The sunlight is fading out. Time is slowing down. It will halt when she reaches within hearing distance from me. With her coming closer, my senses seem to be going further, away from me.

I feel an urge to accost her. It’s funny, in situations of crises the mind works in rapid succession- pretending to suggest a solution, only to add to the confusion. It goes into the details like what and in which language to speak if I ever muster enough courage. Hindi would sound lowly and English- though I’m quite fluent- I’m not too confident about.

This lack of confidence- even if you write debates that win competitions with public schools- is earned from an all boys sarkari school background, and a lower middle class background makes sure you get sucked into the black hole of self consciousness.

to be continued...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

filthy friday, black ka ticket, and her deadly smile- II

 Few would buy from me. Others would keep their unquestioned faith in the genuine black ticketeer. And the rest of them- Well! Do they deserve a mention? In fact, they do.

           I hate people who come with a high head and an intent of watching a movie, and go with their heads dangling about their necks and a movie schedule leaflet sticking out of their pockets. They’d come asking in earnest, “कित्ते का दिया?”

Hey, do I look like your regular gutkha chewing ball scratching grocer whom you’d enquire, haggle over the price, strike a bargain, and then walk away, for no reason at all.

          And some of them already have a ticket. They just want to know what the current worth of their prized possession is. This ain’t stock market you prick !

          One of the customers had joked, “if it’s priced 10 bucks less than the black ticket, would it be called a grey ticket?” I remember I had smiled while cursing him on the inside- not funny dude!

          It didn’t take me much to figure the dynamics. My approach needed a change.
The first time I used the right vocabulary, ‘tees ka pachaas’ that is, it was strange, and I was awkward, which reflected in the delivery.
It took a day’s practice in private and a couple of days’ sheepish utterances in public to get the tone nearly right. The body language still lacked the abandon of a true blacker. It would take some more time to be corrected.

           Of course, valuable tips from Kailash disguised as small talk can’t be ruled out.
वईसे पुलिस-वुलिस का जादा कौनऊ  चक्कर नहीं है .. अगर कौनऊ पुलिस का आदमी दिखाई देवै, तौ तुम न दिखाऊ देओ..इत्ती भीड़ में बिलाय जाव चाय जहां..

           And thus I began, aping genuine ticketeers, trying to be as professional. And boy! I did rather well for a debutante. 4 tickets within an hour: a net profit of 100 bucks. Not bad. At all.

           A special mention to the stares I was met with. It was the same expression, only articulated with different words. The look they gave is however worthy of a mention:
It was the look you’d give him should you spot Rahul Gandhi at a traffic signal, pulling in by the side of your silver Santro, mounted on silver colored Hero Puch.

           I wasn’t rich. Not even middle class. But something (let’s call it an unknown force for now) rendered me an air of a suitable middle class background: Middle class enough to be ashamed of blacking tickets and proud of preparing for the so called toughest entrance exam;

          Middle class enough to be ashamed of calling an illiterate paanwala your friend and proud of conversing in broken English (often with a put-on accent);

          Middle class enough to be ashamed of wearing a stylish Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt that had seen better times on somebody else’s shoulders and proud of selling your old clothes in exchange for a frying pan or a thali. You call it recycling.

          Middle class enough to be ashamed of attending a poor man’s wedding and proud of attending a rich man’s funeral.

           The stares though I had a fair idea of beforehand. It was no matter of grave concern, unless I, by sheer coincidence and a heady mix of rotten luck and inevitable fate run into an acquaintance that’s got the slightest stake in my future.

           And, as a matter of fact, everyone- right from my father to the neighborhood Pandey ji whom I had once spotted at Kamal cinema sitting in the third row watching ‘Qatil Jawani’- seemed to have varying degrees of stake in my academic career.

           Pandey ji is prude, plump, ideally bald, and is playfully or deliberately (depending on the context) mispronounced as पाँणे जी in the neighborhood. He is known to be slightly haughty, moderately bitchy, enormously pious and sexually celibate. He doesn’t like watching movies, so he says.

          He had once advised me to write ‘Jai Mata Di’ at the top right corner of my notebooks and answer sheets, and chant Gayatri Mantra while studying in order to prolong my mental masturbation; all this to cure my short attention spans.

           Nineteen years ago, the very moment his son was born, he had named him ‘Ram’. 24 hours later, he renamed him ‘Ramji’. 
Lest the God must take an offence on His name being used without even a slight hint of reverence; so was the warning Lord Ram had conveyed him that particular night through his abstract dream.

          On the other hand, my parents, despite their religious inclinations, refrained from naming me after some well known God. They probably must have been far too God fearing, lest the God sued them on serious charges of blatant plagiarism.

It had been a fairly successful run for me until now, the day I speak of.

I woke up to a chirping of sparrows and the sight of a pigeon on my window sill. She woke up to an alarm clock that broke into a song of the sparrows.
The same pigeon would later fly down to her house and feed on the sunflower seeds she had scattered in her lawn, essentially to feed stray birds. be continued

Sunday, October 9, 2011

filthy friday, black ka ticket and her deadly smile

 Luck was supposed to interfere that fateful afternoon- and it did, bit too late and rather too well- when the sun, shining bright on me, disappeared at once into the wilderness of the winter clouds.

          It had been a rather cheerful day for me, until I first saw her. I was looking around for a prospective deal when, out of nowhere, she emerged.

          This ‘nowhere’ happens to be an eating joint that claims to be a hotel - Apna hotel, to be precise. Apna hotel sits comfortably beside ‘Damru cinema’ where I can be conveniently located in a yellow tshirt -my color of the day according to TOI horoscope - blacking tickets for the noon show.

          It’s a Friday today in Jhansi. Although I know it is Friday elsewhere too, I’m not quite sure, somehow. I figure, the mass hysteria at the ticket counter is the difference.

          The air smells of a blend of Panama cigarettes, Mulaithi paan, 502 bidi, Rajshree gutkha, and some fake (custom seized?) deodorant -I guess ‘Brut’- thrown in as a weak neutralizer.
‘Kaanta laga’ hasn’t lost its flavor yet. I can hear it playing somewhere in the distance.

          Tickets are running out faster than the numerous queues that eventually converge at one counter. The other two counters have been rendered dysfunctional. The lone counter has progressively begun to become a battlefield of wrists.
        The smiles on ticket blackers’ faces have broadened. The frequency of their catchphrase has increased- tees ka pachaas, tees ka pachaas, tees ka pachaas …

          It was the beginning of 2004, the year I now single out.
In September of the previous year, Indian PM had offered friendship to Pakistan from inside a bulletproof glass in Srinagar.
          In October, Coke had been put on trial accused of sucking a bunch of Indian villages dry.
In November, I had started generously bunking my IIT coaching classes.
          In December, Irfan Pathan had debuted against Australia.
It was late January now. Nothing of much significance that I can recall had happened in January (of course apart from the happenings of this story).

          The winters were gradually bidding goodbye. People had started stuffing their quilts in their storerooms. The average temperature hovered around 24 degrees, and I, around cinema halls- mostly on Fridays.

          In the autumn of 2003 I had approached my father with the special intent of obtaining money for my pocket (essentially to watch movies). My father, a man of simple reactions, had slapped me on the face.
He had then tried to justify the slap by quoting my performance (or rather the lack of it) in previous year’s IIT mains exam. I had missed the cut-off by a whisker then, and hit the wrong chord now.

          Every Friday I found myself in the queue at the box office of either of the three cinema halls- Damru, Khilona, Nataraj -parked in a cluster near Elite crossing (pronounced 'E-light').
Elite crossing was named after Elite cinema which occupied the ground floor of an archaic building.
The first floor, however, was a sarkari office where my father had been given a wooden desk, a squeaking chair, and a small chamber in a big locker.
I always avoided Elite cinema for obvious reasons. Besides, I had never liked its seats.

   The very afternoon I was slapped I had taken a resolve, which would result in me blacking movie tickets for the love of movies (healthy pocket? Well, I didn’t really care.). I loved movies as much as I hated academics.

          My IIT coaching center was just across the road from Damru cinema. The class would end at 11. And every Friday I’d trust my books with a paanwala named Kailash who pronounced his name as ‘Kailas’.

ई किताब बहुत भारी है, कईसे पढ़ते हो इन्हें, he had asked once.
इनमे कहाँ बोझ है, बोझ तो वो है जो घरवालों ने डाला  है, I had joked.

अउर का करोगे, पिक्चरें देख के जिंदगी नहीं न कटती.
अब हमहिं को देख लेओ अगर पढ़ लिए होते तो हियाँ पान पे कत्था और ई फटी सीट पे गांड न घिस रहे होते...
सही कहिते हो , I said, fervently shaking my head in approval.

        He continued, पिक्चरों का ज्यादा सौक है तो सेहत बनाये लेओ और बम्बई निकल जाओ..
हमाये मालिक का लड़का निकल गया, ‘खंजर’ पिक्चर में सुनील सेट्टी का नौकर बना है, he added in a neutral tone.

        I always wondered if I could invent a jugadu machine that would print those flimsy pink and brown and green and yellow tickets. Such was my craze for the silver-screen that today you name a movie, however obscure it is; chances are, I must have seen it in the serene company of empty seats. There hasn’t been made any movie I couldn’t sit through in those days.

        I tried making friends with the ticket checkers, but to no avail. They offered to let me in only during the night shows. ‘Thank you, but sorry’; nothing less than first day first show would do. Besides you can’t come home at midnight saying your coaching center is conducting extra classes.

        I started off with a very matter-of-fact approach. I would approach people at random asking whether they managed to get a ticket. On hearing an answer in negative I’d start pitching my case: I have an extra ticket which was meant for a friend who didn’t turn up. You could be my friend who turned up. And the price, 40 bucks- only 10 bucks more than the actual price, and 10 bucks less than the black ticket’s. be continued

Sunday, October 2, 2011

pickpocket- VIII

                 दुनिया में इतने सारे काम हैं, तू लोगों की जेबें क्यों काटता फिरता है  I asked him, due to my curiosity about his chosen career. I mean, he could have chosen anything that didn’t require a sound education. Although, education sounded vain when it concerned me.
It (education) was the last thing that would get me out of those four walls that were witness to many such intellect ridden, unlucky souls as our proverbial hero.

तुझे इंजीनियर ही क्यों बनना है ?, retorted he, with a bit of a sentimental pique.

…क्योंकि तुझे इसमे मज़ा  आता है, समझा कुछ ,

boy ! he was passionate about what he did…

अपनी मर्जी के मालिक हैं. काम करना है करो, नहीं करना है मत करो . लौन्डियाबाजी करो, सिटियाबाजी करो,

मतलब डेटिंग ?, I asked with a big question mark.

                 हाँ वही डेटिंग-शेटिंग. तुम रईस्जादे भेन्चोद तिल का ताड़ बना देते हो. ज़रा बताना लौन्डियाबाजी और डेटिंग में क्या अन्तर है- हम सीटी मार के लौन्डिया पटाते हैं और तुम गिफ्टें दे कर…आखिर अंत में चाहिए तो लौन्डिया ही न…तुम्हारे पास पैसा है, और हमारे पास सीटी मारने का हुनर, ज़रा सीटी मार के दिखा…

I nodded my head in utter embarrassment. नहीं आती ?. देखा भेन्चोद ! अब गिफ्टें दे दे कर अपना चूतिया कटवाते रहना. तेरे घरवालों ने धेला भर भी दुनियादारी नही सीखने दी

                 एक पते की बात बताता हूँ तुझे – जो लौन्डिया गिफ्ट से पटे वो पूँजीवादी लौन्डिया कहलाती है, इसलिए कह्ता हूँ मेरे दोस्त, जिन्दगी में कुछ और सीखो न सीखो, सीटी मारनी ज़रूर सीख लेना, वर्ना लव के डिपार्टमेन्ट में धोखे के अलावा और कुछ खाने को नहीं मिलेगा.
I was about to embark upon a cerebral journey to make learning seeti my ultimate goal in life before he butted in -

और हाँ , हमारे धंधे में किसी भेन्चोद के तलवे नहीं चाटने पडते.

और ये पुलिसवाले ? said I, with a slight gloat of pinning him down.

But he was naturally smart.- अरे इनका क्या है, ये साले उल्टा हमारी कमाई पे जीते हैं. एक तरह से ये हमारी चाकरी करते हैं, न कि हम इनकी…

और हमारे धंधे में तन्ख्वाह का इन्तजार भी नहीं करना पड़ता. मेहनत करो, तुरन्त पगार पाओ.

जेब काटने में मेहनत किस बात की ? I asked, again for argument’s sake.

दिमाग, और हाथ की सफाई.
लेकिन वो तो………..

तुझे क्या लगता है, दफ्तरों में बैठ के लोग ईंट-गारा उठाते हैं ?

भाइसाब,सब दिमाग का खेल है.

He had, to an extent, justified his stance. Again, getting curious I asked,

तू इतनी आसानी ये सब कैसे कर लेता है ?

                 हुनर है, तज़ुर्बा है, और थोडी सी बुद्धि है . इस धंधे में इससे ज्यादा और कुछ नहीं चाहिए. Talent, experience and intellect- I guess these are the qualities an employer looks for in an employee in a white collar job. I wondered if a proper school and college education was so important to be successful in life. Maybe a proper education equips you with the right amount of money to buy gifts and not learn seetibaazi.

Whatever it was, I felt a sense of pity for both of us, apparently for different reasons. Atleast somewhere we were on the same plane.

हाँ, और कभी किस्मत भी बेवफाई कर जाती है I said referring to his ending up in jail time to time.

                   किस्मत कुछ नहीं होती , सबको मौका मिलता है, ज्यादातर लोग या तो मौका पहचान नहीं पाते या फिर उसे तुच्छ समझ कर जाने देते हैं. एक बार मछली हाथ से फिसल जाए फिर भेन्चोद किस्मत को कोसते हैं.

और कुछ लोग गलत मौका पकड लेते हैं , और फिर किस्मत को कोसते हैं. बेचारी किस्मत, हर कोई उसे अबला समझ उसकी मारने पे उतारू रह्ता है . जाहिर सी बात है, वो वफा करे तो क्यों .

I had no fucking idea as to what was he talking about. It was just as bizarre as Om-dar-Badar. And so I thought I should tell him,

यार तू बातें बडी घुमा-फिरा कर करता है .

दुनिया गोल है बेटा, तेरी तरह सीधी नहीं है,.इसलिए बातें भी गोल-गोल करनी पडती हैं. , was his reply, laconic and redundant with wisdom.

यार एक बात बता- इस धंधे में तू कितना कमा लेता है.

कोई नौकरी थोड़े ही करता हूँ जो फिक्स तन्ख्वाह होगी.

फिर भी., I insisted.

यार देख, मौके की बात है. कभी मुट्ठक चना, कभी वो भी मना .

अब हर मैच में अकरम को ५ विकिट तो नहीं मिल सकते न ?, he said with the confidnc that would assure Akram never gets consecutiv five wicket hauls, ever.

फिर भी एक महिने में कितने मुठ्ठी नसीब हो जाते हैं ?. I asked, my insistence taking a higher leap, like it happens with greed.

                क्यों, इन्कम टेक्स का छापा पड़वायेगा ? , he laughed while saying. And this was the first time I noticed his teeth. Almost all of them were irregularly placed, unlike mine. And yet he had the most contagious smile. Sometimes imperfection is a virtue. I wondered if it brings out the best in you. Afterall, the essence of a being lies in imperfection.

                महिने में यही कोई आठ-दस  फिक्स बन जाते हैं, पुलिस का कमीशन हटा कर. वैसे कभी-कभार ज्यादा भी कमा लेता हूँ, he winked. His face revealed his innocence with that wink. Or was it deception ?
Apparently I was too naive to figure either. And so, I continued,

और वो कभी कभार कब् होता है?

                जब तेरे जैसे बुद्धजीवियों से पाला पड जाता है, he said with absolute nonchalance. That brought me to the wad of notes I was carrying. A sudden chill electrified my entire being from inside. I wondered, yet again, if he was in the knowledge of my money, or vice-versa. You see, money and pickpockets have a bond of mutual attraction. Yet I mustered some courage to ask him. This time all I could ask him was through a gesture. Words were too afraid to come out of my mouth. I mean, come on, he wasn’t going to kill me for the money and yet I was petrified. Maybe it was the money that would kill me. And here goes his reply to my gesture that almost prevented me from showing any signs of anxiety-

अमूमन जेबकतरे जनरल डब्बे वालों की जेब साफ करते हैं. मिलता क्या है १००-२०० रुपय, एक छोटी सी डायरी, बीवी या गर्लफ्रेन्ड की
फोटो , या फिर कुछ आल्तू-फाल्तू कागज़ जिनपे पता और फोन नम्बर लिखा होता है.

लेकिन मेरा अलग हिसाब है.

मैं हाथ मारता हूँ रिज़र्वेशन वाले डब्बों में. क्योंकि उनकी जेबों में भावनाएँ नहीं, सिर्फ पैसा होता है .

मेरा काम है पैसे चुराना , किसी के इमोशन पे हाथ नहीं डालता मैं.

…to be continued.

pickpocket- VII

                 दरोगा जी ...ओ दरोगा साब …his voice broke me from my fantasy.

In came a constable, relatively young and short in height, reciting with absolute poetic fervor- क्या है ? भेन्चोद को रात को भी चैन नहीं है...

दरोगा जी, प्यास लगी है, थोडा पानी मिल जाए तो लोंडे की जान में जान आए...वो क्या है, पहली बार है इसकी...
हाँ, थोबडा बता रहा है इसका…the constable said while he looked at me

                खूब छन् रही है तुम दोनों की ...
 Before I could say anything our hero interrupted, अरे साब किस्मत ने एक ही छत के नीचे रखा है,
लड़का नेक मालूम पड़ता है , और दूसरे रईस लोंडों की तरह नक्शेबाजी नही दिखाता ...
साब, देखना एक दिन इंजीनियर बनेगा ये, और फिर तुम सलाम ठोकोगे इसको ...
क्यों बे, इंजीनियर बन के इस जेल की मरम्मत ज़रूर करवा दियो, तेरा मेहमानों जैसा स्वागत् हो रहा है ...The three of us shared a good laugh at the thought of renovating the sacred place.

                  अच्छा साब पानी ले आओ इसके लिए...शाम को हट्टा-कट्टा आया था, अभी देखो सूख के लकडी हो गया है...शुकर है गर्मियाँ खतम हो गई हैं वर्ना जाने क्या हाल होता इसका... 
Constable: ठीक है , लाता हूँ ...
Lalli: और हाँ साब …
Constable: अब क्या हुआ ?
Lalli: ठण्डा पानी लाना साब…
     बताता है इसका मामा आगरे में कमिशनर है...

                  I was stunned at the revelation of my mama being a commissioner. I always thought the luminary in question was a smalltime veterinary doctor. I shivered at the thought of being asked if he really was a commissioner.

Constable: (while going back) होता तो ये यहाँ सड रहा होता ?...

Lalli: दरोगा साब एक चीज़ और ...
Constable: (voicing his irritation) अब क्या हुआ साले ...
Lalli: साब ये बोतल भी साथ में भर लाना… रात को फिर से प्यास लगेगी तो खा-म-खा आपको तकलीफ़ उठानी पड़ेगी...
दरोगा साब sensed the logic, relevant or otherwise, and came back reluctantly.
He whistled me to throw the bottle.
Obediently, I obliged.
साब, ठण्डा पानी… Daroga ji was not amused in the least capacity. Angrily he took the bottle and walked away.

I was furious at the sudden discovery of a ‘commissioner mama’. And a heated argument followed.
Me: झूठ क्यों बोला तूने उससे ?
Him: क्या झूठ बोला ?
Me: यही कि मेरा मामा आगरे में कमिशनर है...
Him: तो क्या नहीं है ?
Me: नहीं है l...
Him: चल, तो मैं सच् बोल देता हूँ उसको...
         फिर झूठा कौन बाबू मोशाय !... he said, looking at me askance, with a sly grin on his face.

At this point I realized I have no choice left. So, I kind of surrendered to his wit and started believing in his soft skills.
Me: पर अगर उसने कुछ पूछ लिया तो मैं...
Him: वो सब तू मुझ पे छोड़ दे...
         पांच साल घास नही छीली है मैने ...तू बस इतना याद रख कि तेरा मामा मथुरादास आगरे में कमिशनर है ...
Me: लेकिन...
Him: बस अब ज्यादा सवाल जवाब मत कर,
     अभी देख, तेरे लिए ठण्डा पानी लायेगा वो...

ठण्डा पानी पिला कर मरवाएगा तू , I said laughing and appreciating him.

Me: अच्छा एक बात बता, वो तो मामूली सा कोंस्टेबल है , तू उसे दरोगा क्यों बुला रहा है ...
Him: मैं भी तो मामूली सा जेबकतरा हूँ , तू मुझे जेबकतरा क्यों नही बुलाता ...
      इज्ज़त मुफ्त में नहीं मिलती मियाँ ...

The constable made a comeback with a mug of water and the bottle filled as requested.

तो, कमिशनर है इसका मामा !...said he, looking at me while handing over the bottle and the mug to Lalli.
Me: नहीं...मतलब हाँ ...
I corrected myself before Lalli came to the rescue.
Lalli: अरे दरोगा जी क्या बताऊँ आपको , मियाँ एक नम्बर के बोढ़म हैं...
कहते हैं- "घर पे डांट पड़ेगी, और चौबीस घन्टे की तो बात है"...

वैसे दरोगा साब, रात में आप की ही ड्यूटी है ?...He skillfully diverted the topic.

               Constable: हाँ, तो...?
तो, कुछ नहीं साब..एक गद्दे का इन्तजाम हो जाता तो ...मतलब इसके लिए ...अब ये बताए न बताए , कभी तो कमिशनर साब को पता चलेगा कि उनके भान्जे की कैसी खातिर हुइ थी ...रेपुटेसन  का सवाल है दरोगा साब ...और एक गद्दा कौन सी बडी चीज़ है ...अब पलंग-पोश तो मांग नहीं रहा ...

ठीक है मैं देखता हूँ...said the constable reluctantly and strolled back.

                ये ले पानी पी...
तुम्हारी दुनिया में ठण्डा मतलब, कोका कोला, और हमारे यहाँ, ठण्डा मतलब ठण्डा पानी  ...अरे, मैं तो भूल ही गया...तुम्हारी प्यास पानी से बुझती कहाँ है ?  कोका कोला मंगाऊँ तेरे लिए ?...He mocked, and then laughed, I too followed.
I was impressed at his expertise in clinching seemingly impossible deals so effortlessly.
I gulped the water down my dry throat with hidden gratitude towards him. be continued...

pickpocket- VI

                चल छोड़ उन बातों को... तू  नहीं समझेगा l .
और वैसे भी, तू भेडिया कम और भेड़ ज्यादा लग रहा है...

खैर, आज की रात तो हम दोनो ही भेड़ हैं...

                ला, वो पन्ने इधर दे ...He segregated the pages with so much care I could picture a pundit arranging the mixed up, torn pages of Bhagvad Gita.

                ये ले तेरा हिस्सा...he split them into two unequal parts and offered me the lesser part.
मुझे कम पेज क्यों दिए, I asked at the unforgivable injustice I was meted out to.
बेटा अभी इतना हजम कर, और वैसे भी जितनी देर में तू एक लाइन पढ़ेगा उतनी देर में मैं एक स्टोरी खतम कर दूंगा....स्कूल में कोई भी भेन्चोद रीडिंग में मेरे से तेज नहीं था , he said with insured confidence.

                यार प्यास लग रही है l...
लो भेन्चोद, मियाँ को अब लौन्डिया भी चाहिए l
...यार पानी की प्यास लग रही है l
...वैसे पानी तो है मेरे पास, पर थोडा सा ही है ...I said while taking out the 500 ml bottle of coke containing approximately ‘chullu bhar paani’ .

                100 ml FREE, said the yellow extended strip of the red label of coke scraped at random places resulting in white patches. It looked like an artist’s rendition of Coke’s new identity for re-useable bottles.

                 मताई इसमे क्यों भर रही है ?, ये बोतल पुरानी  है, I had said while my mother filled the bottle with water from the suraahi using a homemade lota with a long handle. 
ले मताई इसमे भर, I proposed her a new, recently consumed bottle of 500 ml coke.

 दो पैसे की अकल नहीं है तेरे अन्दर ...बिल्कुल बाप पे गया है ...देख ये बोतल तेरी बोतल से बडी है ...इसमे १०० ग्राम ज्यादा पानी आएगा

             ...तो दो लीटर वाली क्यों नही भर देती...पूरे दो दिन चलेगी, I said with irritation induced sarcasm. 
गम खा, मैं अभी लाई, whether she didn’t get the sarcasm or she was acting smart was beyond my comprehension.  
...अरे नहीं-नहीं मताई, रहने दे , मैं इसी से काम चला लूँगा …I had said yielding to her indomitable wit.

                The ‘chullu bhar paani’  left in the bottle was probably the extra 100 ml that my mother boasted of, to win the battle of the bottles. Afterall she was a veteran. And the ‘chullu bhar paani’ proved to be a fitting testimony to it.
As soon as the bottle saw the light of the night- the light of the lockup bulb, to be precise- he reached for my hand with the sudden agility of a leopard and snatched the bottle.

                Before I could understand what had dawned upon him to pull off such an act of bravura, he had it all gulped down his throat.

                ये ले... तेरी बोतल, he said with languid pace clutching the now empty bottle with two fingers poised to release his grip on it.
I was furious at this noble act of benevolence.
भेन्चोद,, पूरा पानी पी गया मेरा ...I blurted out, almost instantly realizing and regretting the the cuss word uttered, and suppressing my angst in the last few words.

              He dropped the bottle in style that would put a host of bollywood actors to shame. The sound of the bottle making random collisions with the floor sounded like the inevitable drumbeats in bollywood films before someone gets hanged.
The next moment I found myself praying, and wishing he doesn’t hit me for calling him a bhenchod.

               रुक,  मैं कुछ इन्तजाम करता हूँ ... said he nonchalantly. It seemed he was immune to cuss words, it didn’t, even remotely, affect him.
He stood up and strolled towards the lockup gate.

               It was probably a full moon night. The moonlight lighting up the meager open space outside the cell. An adolescent guava tree stood right in the middle of the space bathing with the moonlight. It’s stark shadow looked like black ink spilled artistically over a white canvas making it an abstract painting. Add to it the mesmerizing background music of the creatures of the night, going about their busy lives, making the night worth sacrificing your sleep.
I instantly went into a romantic reverie.
               I imagined how my shadow would look in the vicinity of the guava tree sharing the space with my beloved, with me reciting a poem, and she getting closer to me with every line recited.

                ‘Could I, my love, belong to anyone but you.’ says she, slowly casting aside her dupatta, removes her clothing and appear naked as the day she was born. She is as soft and white as milk cream.
Her whole being exude a scent. I take her in my arms probing her curves. My hand rove over her lovely limbs , her slender neck, and through the ripples of her hair.
She responds by eagerly displaying her many gifts. She possesses the sinuous grace of thesine curve and the narrow passage of the theta.
                 Each embrace become a coupling, and each coupling the wildest fornication, until, weary from our passionate writhings, we fall asleep in each other’s arms, inebriated with pleasure. be continued...