Saturday, June 28, 2008

By Cheque Or Cash


E didn’t want to get involved with the money. Money was alien territory to him. It was impossible to handle. He had decided at the start of the first year of college that he would be careful. Careful about everything, every expenditure. Foreseen, unforeseen, anything. It was something he had imbibed from school. He needed to preserve money. Just as he needed to use it carefully, he needed to save it up for something ultimately nice. Like a trip somewhere, a hike in the mountains. It’s grossly exaggerated when people say the mountains are cheap. The mountains are not cheap. They don’t only involve the trip up till the hills, they mean staying there. Staying is expensive. No one really says that on the brochures. They only have enticing pictures in these. That’s it, besides a little tidbit about the “top of the world” or the “abode of the clouds”. So, that’s what E wanted. He wanted a parsimonious life. And he was going to live it. But, like all good people in their first year, he, in fact, has grossly exaggerated his own cautiousness. Well, he was stingy. He knew that obviously. But he wasn’t cautious. Some abominable things happed by the end of the first year. He had lost approximately, well, not approximately, really, really, four phones. This meant he had bought five by the end of it. A disgusting number. And very hurtful, too. He knew it was totally in waste. All the phones, all the interminable conversations, all the purposeless running around and all the lousy, corny messages. He hated it all. The only thing that didn’t hurt him was the fact that he had now a rather decent phone. This one would survive.

The laptop was lost in the middle of the year. It was the penultimate effusion of guilt into an already depressed bursary burgeoning with self-reproach and biliousness.

In his own mind, there was a clear indication of things to come. He would have to spend some time with S in the various restaurants they went to, the pubs, the drinking places. Investments in drinking-binges. Investments in trips to their friends’ houses. All such other nice things. But he wasn’t clear about how it could cost him. For instance, the liquor was expensive, but how much exactly? It couldn’t be much, he surmised. As he always did, he leant too much on estimation. He estimated everything. Even the potential costs of visits to the loo. He knew they couldn’t be much. Well, they were that much, and more. It took quite a heavy toll on the dwindling coffers. He needed these binges not infrequently, but he needed them on time. He couldn’t possibly wait for long dry-spells and intervals. They were meaningless. Badly mistimed. He had a penchant for instantly done things. Immediate gratification and the like, you see. He was very restless. S didn’t keep a tab on her expenditure. She could spend money, and she did. She never felt the pinch of it, so why bother? In fact, she was incredibly conscientious. Only not in this department.

The restaurants were essential. He would have to go there often too. He couldn’t be cooped up in the hostel mess. Inadequate food and inadequate life. They were all moribund. Even the food was moribund. They sucked so hard. They were a miserable lot of pariahs feeding on cadavers. They sucked. He couldn’t eat there happily. He hated the dreary staring, hated the facetious, meaningless, semi-completed sentences, the bland conversations. One can’t converse like this, while eating, or sitting in a row of teeming mongers intent on feeding. One can’t really talk, or say something important, well, maybe important-sounding, when the others aren’t even looking your way. They looked here and there, above your head and beyond your right shoulder, at all the people floating in, but hardly ever at you. The whole place was at best an opportunistic set-up.

At home by the end of the year, the rains had started. There was this time something very universal about the rain. Normally, it deluged the small town, flooded villages irreparably, took away cattle and crop. It did the usual things, caused the usual inconveniences. Made the usual sorrowful depredations. This year, it wreaked havoc. Not only here, but everywhere. In every city, and in every country, the news proclaimed the onslaught of the rain. Very merciless rain beat against people in Sechaun, and in Myanamar, and even in faraway Iowa. How considerate of the news, it’s presentation always said: Sechaun – Iowa – Myanmar. Very tenuous link, but all in the throes of rain-damage. Here, it rained and it flooded the town; it smashed against the pavements and jolted umbrella-wielding, emaciated old pedestrians on to the road. It flooded already muddy, unpaved by-lanes. But all in all, it also attacked other people, in distant lands. Their distant sorrows, in distant places, somehow, in one act of compassioned unconcern, assuaged those here. Meanwhile, E received a formal bank statement. He realized he had spent much beyond his own stipulation. It was bad, bad maladministration. He looked at the statement. It was quite accurate. He had made a withdrawal that day. He had taken out an additional sum on that other date. All the dates were conspicuously written against their sums. So were his exact recollections. His exacting, accounting mind hadn’t skipped a beat. It had calculated pettily and wrongly scorned its more corporeal paper counterpart.

E waited then for a week for his stipend. He had worked for a month. He waited and waited for the stipend to arrive. He waited for egregious, lazy, lying accountants to send it to him. He waited and he wished, very much, that he could kill them all.

The Office Worker


He hated the office. Something inside it made him feel sick in the stomach. He woke up this morning and felt it strongly. Something was troubling him more than usual. The phone rang on time for the wake-up call. He checked it several times. Several messages awaited his attention. He slowly got out of bed and sat on its edge. Perfunctorily looking through the messages. Not many useful ones; just the usual about the unfinished project, the presentation he would have to do for his co-worker, the one who was getting married, the movie update from the service-provider. A lot of other details. None of them particularly different. None of them particularly energizing, especially in the overcast and boring morning it was. The sky threatened rain.

For someone who is a man of the office, a worker, a salaried office-bearer, a corporate man, it is difficult to live wake up in the morning. He got up and went slowly over the toilet. Standing at the sink, letting loose a stream of water from the taps. Eager, unstoppable water, gurgling into the recesses of a clean and pristine sink. It was difficult to soil it. Imperfectly, something about it wrought the imagination dry. It was incredibly efficient, so strong and solid in its continuous efficacy. One wouldn’t have thought of the sink as his place of origin. It was. It was where he derived himself. His pristine cleanliness, his unstoppable efficacy. His eager, asseverating ways. He needed the sink so badly. It didn’t need him so much. Something egregious about him felt inadequate, not good enough for its precise solidity.

The phone was horrible. It was beautiful. It had to be. It was something he owned and had bought with the pure intention of work-place use. It was needed there. He needed its display, and that’s why it wasn’t simple in the least. It was a complicated machine that could do with some changes and some more involvement. It was a wonderful machine. But yet entirely unexplored. Certainly not under-exposed. It was something he had to carry around welded to his skin. Beautiful appendage. Like an external critical organ. He looked at it every now and again and he felt he had to. Sometimes, walking on the streets, he would keep looking at it. It was so secure. Something terrifying about the blank and unemployed stares of people on the road frightened him. It did not offend him that people stared. That was perfectly all right. But he didn’t like the persistent stares. They were the troubling ones and he despised them. He felt afraid of the staunch, unrealistic and most abominable superiority of the wretched. Those dressed in tattered, ugly rags. Those feeding off the remnants of once wholesome meals. He hated them. He hated the way they looked at the world with unmatched hatred. He hated their reliance on the meanest peel and layer of survival. He hated their stares that said that they didn’t care. They didn’t need to look preoccupied. There was nothing to occupy them. They simply blithely stared like the world was absolutely theirs to stare at and ogle. Because the world had been their undoing and was their cadaver. Theirs to look at and disdain. He needed his phone then. He needed his phone to protect him from the unashamed look of the street performer. He needed his phone to protect him from the blankness and unhappiness on the faces of rickshaw-cyclists. He needed his phone to protect him from the condescension of the walking, promenading musician, twice removed from the next record label offer. He needed his phone.

That morning he looked at the messages again.

His friend wouldn’t be able to deliver the presentation. He had the engagement to get through. No, he wasn’t invited because the girl wanted it private. Only members of the immediate family, and some unable to make it. They didn’t have much time left for the wedding. Her tour couldn’t be kept on hold forever. Her supervisor needed her on the overseas team. No, her parents weren’t willing to spend much on the wedding. They suspected her munificent ways of spending on the spouse. They were slightly annoyed at receiving bills from their club, where she had taken him several times. He liked her. She liked him. The engagement needed a ring and needed getting over with.

Half Nelson was playing at the threatres. Cast included Ryan Gosling and Shreika Epps. A young teacher’s life is marred with so many things. He teaches History and coaches the basketball team. They are fond of him. He uses drugs and one of his students encounters him whilst on a high, sitting aloft a toilet-seat. Her life and her interactions with him become so much more intense and powerful. She desultorily tries to find solace in her brother’s earlier way of life. She finds her teacher again, to help her and enable her.

He would have to get the data sheets ready. The viewers’ responses were very strange and messed up. They seemed to like the pilot-show, but didn’t like the actor in the lead. Some of them couldn’t understand what he seemed so confused all the time about. They didn’t like the look of the lead actress either. She was either too skittish or too beautiful for him, overcompensating on both deficiencies in a way that didn’t really make sense to the viewer. Archetypical viewer: mid-thrities housewife, educated, stay-at-home. The producers were slightly agitated. They wanted this below-par-attractive, discombobulated lead character fixed.

He went out of the house, out the door and stood on his doorstep. The apartment people were beginning to leave their homes, head for the garage downstairs. The security-guard posted in the foyer looked incredibly sleepy and very disgruntled. His uniform showed tears. He moved to the front of his care. Some spaces beyond it, three men got out of one of the cars. They were young as well, though slightly younger. Their tee-shirts were soaking wet and their hair disheveled. Loud, stentorian laughter and nimble quick steps to the elevator. They looked at him and he looked as well, just that slightly. He didn’t noticed that they were all actually looking in his direction. For a while. He hated the sound of their laughter. They were all so juvenile and so silly. Their laughter infuriated him. It sounded so bloody hollow and enervating. Not a real, bellicose laugh. Absolutely dreadful ersatz laughter, simpering away like a joke had been told. It annoyed him. He hated it. He hated it. He hated the look on their faces. How incredible these people were. They would go upstairs to their untidy, paper-strewn room and switch on the television. Dumbly and obsessively gape at it like birds perched on overhead wires. Look at it for interminable hours. Look, look and look some more. Oh, he hated them.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Every Morning


He hated the office. Something inside it made him feel sick in the stomach. He woke up this morning and felt that it strongly. Something was troubling him more than usual. The phone rang on time for the wake-up call. He checked it several times. Several messages awaited his attention. He slowly got out of bed and sat on its edge. Perfunctorily looking through the messages. Not many useful ones; just the usual about the unfinished project, the presentation he would have to do for his co-worker, the one who was getting married, the movie update from the service-provider. A lot of other details. None of them particularly different. None of them particularly energizing, especially in the overcast and boring morning it was. The sky threatened rain.

For someone who is a man of the office, a worker, a salaried office-bearer, a corporate man, it is difficult to live wake up in the morning. He got up and went slowly over the toilet. Standing at the sink, letting loose a stream of water from the taps. Eager, unstoppable water, gurgling into the recesses of a clean and pristine sink. It was difficult to soil it. Imperfectly, something about it wrought the imagination dry. It was incredibly efficient, so strong and solid in its continuous efficacy. One wouldn’t have thought of the sink as his place of origin. It was. It was where he derived himself. His pristine cleanliness, his unstoppable efficacy. His eager, asseverating ways. He needed the sink so badly. It didn’t need him so much. Something egregious about him felt inadequate, not good enough for its precise solidity.

The phone was horrible. It was beautiful. It had to be. It was something he owned and had bought with the pure intention of work-place use. It was needed there. He needed its display, and that’s why it wasn’t simple in the least. It was a complicated machine that could do with some changes and some more involvement. It was a wonderful machine. But yet entirely unexplored. Certainly not under-exposed. It was something he had to carry around welded to his skin. Beautiful appendage. Like an external critical organ. He looked at it every now and again and he felt he had to. Sometimes, walking on the streets, he would keep looking at it. It was so secure. Something terrifying about the blank and unemployed stares of people on the road frightened him. It did not offend him that people stared. That was perfectly all right. But he didn’t like the persistent stares. They were the troubling ones and he despised them. He felt afraid of the staunch, unrealistic and most abominable superiority of the wretched. Those dressed in tattered, ugly rags. Those feeding off the remnants of once wholesome meals. He hated them. He hated the way they looked at the world with unmatched hatred. He hated their reliance on the meanest peel and layer of survival. He hated their stares that said that they didn’t care. They didn’t need to look preoccupied. There was nothing to occupy them. They simply blithely stared like the world was absolutely theirs to stare at and ogle. Because the world had been their undoing and was their cadaver. Theirs to look at and disdain. He needed his phone then. He needed his phone to protect him from the unashamed look of the street performer. He needed his phone to protect him from the blankness and unhappiness on the faces of rickshaw-cyclists. He needed his phone to protect him from the condescension of the walking, promenading musician, twice removed from the next record label offer. He needed his phone.

That morning he looked at the messages again.

His friend wouldn’t be able to deliver the presentation. He had the engagement to get through. No, he wasn’t invited because the girl wanted it private. Only members of the immediate family, and some unable to make it. They didn’t have much time left for the wedding. Her tour couldn’t be kept on hold forever. Her supervisor needed her on the overseas team. No, her parents weren’t willing to spend much on the wedding. They suspected her munificent ways of spending on the spouse. They were slightly annoyed at receiving bills from their club, where she had taken him several times. He liked her. She liked him. The engagement needed a ring and needed getting over with.

Half Nelson was playing at the threatres. Cast included Ryan Gosling and Shreika Epps. A young teacher’s life is marred with so many things. He teaches History and coaches the basketball team. They are fond of him. He uses drugs and one of his students encounters him whilst on a high, sitting aloft a toilet-seat. Her life and her interactions with him become so much more intense and powerful. She desultorily tries to find solace in her brother’s earlier way of life. She finds her teacher again, to help her and enable her.

He would have to get the data sheets ready. The viewers’ responses were very strange and messed up. They seemed to like the pilot-show, but didn’t like the actor in the lead. Some of them couldn’t understand what he seemed so confused all the time about. They didn’t like the look of the lead actress either. She was either too skittish or too beautiful for him, overcompensating on both deficiencies in a way that didn’t really make sense to the viewer. Archetypical viewer: mid-thrities housewife, educated, stay-at-home. The producers were slightly agitated. They wanted this below-par-attractive, discombobulated lead character fixed.

He went out of the house, out the door and stood on his doorstep. The apartment people were beginning to leave their homes, head for the garage downstairs. The security-guard posted in the foyer looked incredibly sleepy and very disgruntled. His uniform showed tears. He moved to the front of his car. Some spaces beyond it, three men got out of one of the cars. They were young as well, though slightly younger. Their tee-shirts were soaking wet and their hair disheveled. Loud, stentorian laughter and nimble quick steps to the elevator. They looked at him and he looked as well, just that slightly. He didn’t noticed that they were all actually looking in his direction. For a while. He hated the sound of their laughter. They were all so juvenile and so silly. Their laughter infuriated him. It sounded so bloody hollow and enervating. Not a real, bellicose laugh. Absolutely dreadful ersatz laughter, simpering away like a joke had been told. It annoyed him. He hated it. He hated it. He hated the look on their faces. How incredible these people were. They would go upstairs to their untidy, paper-strewn room and switch on the television. Dumbly and obsessively gape at it like birds perched on overhead wires. Look at it for interminable hours. Look, look and look some more. Oh, he hated them.