Action Manifesto

‘Controlled aggression’ was the headline of an ad for a mutual fund in today’s newspaper. The image was that of a bowler pumping his fists and screaming after scalping a wicket. I gave a hint of a smirk before turning over the page.

Forget a newspaper ad, no force on earth could change my mind.


Amol Badwe, Learning & Development Manager with an MNC at Pune, used to think that genuine cordiality was the best demeanor one could have. Winning over people was very important. No, he wasn’t too keen about collecting a virtual army of ‘friends’ on Facebook. They were just names for most part, he thought. Winning over people at work, his professional contacts, and his limited set of friends of course.

Amol never said ‘no’ to people. Even if he had to, he would take extreme pains to get them to empathize with him before letting him off the hook. There were instances when people would tell him irritably, “theek hai yaar, tension kashaala ghetoyaes? Naahi jamnaar tar naahi jamnaar. Its Ok”.  He never missed an opportunity to compliment people on their attire. While he was more vested in women, he would do an occasional, “that’s a nice shirt, man!” to the men around him too, just to reassure himself that he was being fair to both sexes. He knew it himself that he was looking for avenues to flirt. Yes, he was married and, in a love-filled one at that. But who has set in stone the definition of propriety?

People well-acquainted with Amol knew that he wore his heart on his sleeve. His face betrayed emotions. He was aware that people could manipulate him, but rationalized it saying it was because of the face God had given him.

If he hadn’t rehearsed, he couldn’t lie. When Ravi, an old friend had once asked him on phone what his weekend plans were, he had said he’d be traveling to Andheri East in Mumbai to meet his cousin, the latter had exclaimed, “Wow! You’d better have made plans to meet me. You know I live in Andheri right?”. Amol could have said any random thing to Ravi and shake himself off obligations. What he instead was, “ohh.. yesss.. of course you live in Andheri!! You see, my wife will be a little impatient. I’ll be done with my meeting at 6.30. To meet you would mean another hour. If I leave at 7.30,  I won’t be at Pune before 11.30-12! I’m sure you can understand”

“Why would she be impatient? You would have driven down, right? And the day after is a Sunday anyway, how would half to one hour make a difference?”

“I agree with you buddy. In fact, it would be so great to catch up with you after so many years. But I’ll make proper plan and visit you sometime soon. We should do a good lunch with drink, what say?”


It was on one of the pleasant Friday afternoons, when the general mood at office was to not work, with many of the folks ready to leave early for the week and board a train or flight to their hometown, that Amol Badwe’s idyll was disturbed. Milind Raut, the guy who he had no clue about the existence of, came visiting. The receptionist got Amol on his desk phone.

“OK. I’m coming. Ask him to wait for a minute.”

He entered the reception lobby and caught Milind, flipping a newspaper. Milind, a scrawny bespectacled chap wearing a steel watch that placed itself perennially on the dorsum of his palm, a checkered slack with sleeves curled inward in an effort to hide his tubular arms, and jet-black denim trousers standing heavily on colorful sneakers.

He came up to Amol at the glass access door, looked right into his eyes, and said in an unexpectedly gruff voice,

“Amol Badwe na tumhi? Yaa majha barobar. Please come with me”

“Hello, boss, I don’t know who you are? Aani Kuthe yaeoon?”

Abbe saale! Kaana khaali ek dega na, you’ll understand!”

“What??? Please get out of here, right away! Prerna, ask the security to take him away please!”

“Call the security if you have to, but before that here goes”, Milind took a step closer to him menacingly, and whacked him hard across the face, sending Amol reeling. Amol heard these words before he collapsed, “Bhenchod, next time you send those Whatsapp messages to Gauri and act like a saint na, saale bajaake rakhdoonga!”


When he came to, Amol found himself on a hospital bed. His colleagues had rushed him to the hospital, just to be sure. They had imagined that a defibrillator or some such technique would be needed to revive him. But the doctor had just shaken him up violently and given him water to drink. He presently asked Amol to take rest for a while before heading back home.

 The  motherfucker mentioned Gauri! I could just chokeslam him and he wouldn’t get up ever! He looks puny, but I must give it to his temerity! Whatever happened to the thing called civility? Maybe he is Gauri’s boyfriend; others wouldn’t have given a damn! And whatever on earth did I do that he almost finished me off? A Whatsapp message? Really?

These thoughts swam in his head. He was anything but resting.

Gauri Verma was the girl he used to chat to at the gym. A joke or two he would have exchanged with her at the most. And maybe a compliment here and a harmless coffee invite there. Not that anything ever materialized. It’s the cheap thrill I get, seeing the Whatsapp notification with her name appear on my phone, he rationalized to himself. The bitch! She has ratted on me, though I can’t for the life of me understand whatever on earth had I done to tick her or that good-for-nothing boyfriend of hers off.  If this is the kind of people she hangs out with, then to hell with her.

But something still needs to be done about Milind all the same.


At the start of the week, I launched a Blitzkrieg of sorts against Milind. I didn’t have to do many enquiries before getting to know where he lived. Wanowrie. I went over to his apartment complex, told the security my name was Gauri Shankar, and he only had to say Gauri, Milind will know. I was let inside. I knocked on his door on the 2nd floor. To my luck, he answered. I had carried an old defunct laptop with me. I smashed it on his head with one lavish swing. His mother came out alarmed. I held a Whatsapp message on my phone, to her face. It said, “You’ll get your money if you fuck my mother”. Obviously, I had stored some random number as Milind Raut. In the fury and shock of the moment, she wouldn’t bother to check if her son could indeed write with near-impeccable grammar. I told her to have a hold on her son, else he will be a confirmed sociopath. Having ensured Milind wouldn’t move an inch and that his mother would spend all night wondering if she should finish off the work I had started – breaking her son’s head – or attend to his evident concussion, I headed back home and flipped open my other functioning laptop. I dashed off an email to the editors of Pune Mirror and Sakaal, who I knew personally. I tipped them off on the newly surfaced menace called Milind Raut,  a gerontophile on the loose. A photoshopped picture to boot. I was confident they would publish the story with discretion. The next morning, on the way to work, I lodged a complaint against Milind at the police station. Showed the inspector the doctor’s report and the morning’s newspaper. That evening I tracked Gauri at the gym and told her that her boyfriend was done for. All thanks to her brainless tip off. It was a pleasure to see the horror on her face.  Finally that night I went over to Mlind’s apartment, bribed the security to stick a note on his door, which read, “try acting smart, and you won’t know what hit you next time. Tu gelas re!”


The next morning, nothing seemed to have moved. It looked like a lazier Saturday than usual. Amol had woken up late. Of course, having dreamt a revenge dripping with venom, he’d needed time before he had soaked his illusion in.


But who on earth was Milind Rau ? Gauri, whom he met later in the day at the gym, denied knowing him. She may have lied, but I’d made it known to her she would be on my radar right then.

Later that evening, he got a Whatsapp from an unknown number.


“Hey Amol. Don’t trust Gauri. Regds, Milind”

Amol was visibly flustered. And he thought, ‘this time, real action, no shit’.

 

——-  Could be continued ——

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Nightmare by invitation

Swapnil Pednekar had never foreseen this problem. Intractable as it was, the predicament didn’t seem to offer a way out and he was getting knotted up by the minute. Whatever  happened to our dear Swapnil?

Fancying himself a creative writer, Pednekar always tried his hand at smart and quirky themes. He believed he would have rocked the field of advertising, but his ‘well-wishers’ advised him against taking up an ad agency stint, citing pathetic pay scales. Resigning to his concession of being a typical Indian middle-class young man with an eye on a secure future, he took up the first available job at an IT firm in Pune.  As with many individuals of his sensibilities, he went about pursuing his passion for writing by the moonlight. Never did an evening pass without him scribbling his thoughts; never did a day break without his resolution to quit his nine-to-five compulsion.

Swapnil had a hundred short stories to his credit, but just a handful of them published. He always wanted to be known for that one piece that would end wars and vanquish poverty. In his constant endeavour to churn out that seminal work of art,  Swapnil always meditated on different approaches to telling a story. His latest brainwave was to tell a story featuring a writer whose characters came to life, literally, and threw his life out of gear. Kicked about this revolutionary idea, he dashed home from work on a breezy evening, and pulled out his laptop without bothering to change even. This was a grand idea, and he would not rush it one bit. He just wanted to make a start, save the draft and sleep over the flow of the story. He wrote, “Ron from Bombay wanted to disrupt the literary world and wrote a story in which the characters came to life and started talking.  The protagonist was a female prostitute who commanded respect in the alleys of Bombay, and was sought after by the media. During an interview with the Times of India, Mala Dy,  the prostitute was asked if she ever thought of changing to a respectable line, and being a model for many of her followers. Mala Dy retorted , “But why should I change? This has given me life and today I’m sitting here talking to you because of what I do, night and day!” The interviewer seemed to be convinced.” With these lines Pednekar saved his draft and proceeded to finish dinner and then call it a night.

He went to bed, with a smile that refused to leave him till he drifted off. The smile sat on his lips right after he woke up early, and resumed dancing ever so gaily.

Till he opened the saved draft.

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In continuation, Swapnil wanted the interviewer to ask Mala Dy about what was the median age of people visiting her. But the last line read completely different.

“Dude, can you get me a job that pays this kind of money? If yes, come and see me tomorrow. Or do you wanna make it tonight itself?”

Swapnil rubbed his eyes a dozen times and stared at that last line. Was he seeing what he thought was happening? It was still the same, “… tonight itself?”

He was wide awake now, and could hear his pulse racing. For a good five minutes Swapnil let himself lose all calm and started howling, wondering as he did, if THIS was the sound of his impulse.

Back at his laptop, Pednekar scrolled up and saw that the one paragraph he had stopped had had crossed a page.  As he eyeballed the activity on his machine while he had slept in ignorant bliss, Swapnil saw that there was a conversation in progress.

Ron: “Hey Swapnil, kaay re! Tu svatah la kaay samajtos? Who do you think you are?”

A few blank spaces down.

O baba, aiktoyes ka? Do you hear me?  I just wanna know what made you think I’m a writer. Man, I wanted to be an MLA and go on to become CM. Hell, maajha naav Roshan Galande, Ron naahi. Chaaila! Jai Maharashtra!

Swapnil read on and realized that the belligerent Roshan Galande had decided to peek into the character that his own character had supposedly created.

“O writer bhau, hullo, ithe bug! Tula sex manje khup aavaData ka? You seem to like this sex business a lot! Writers are like that only. Given a chance, they write out their imagination! Hello madam, interview vinterview sagaLe bandh kara aaNi ghar zaa! End this interview business and get going!”

To which the feisty Mala Dy responds, “Oiy, mera baap bhi aise baat nahi karte. My dad would think twice before yelling at me. Look at your guts! This is my interview, and I have every business being here.”

Galande: “Wait till I go get my boys! You will face the heat. Aattha bug! Jai Shivaji!

Mala Dy, returning to the dumbstruck interviewer, “Can we please continue? Don’t mind these thugs, huh? I know how to deal with them. What was your question, again?”

Interviewer: “Have you ever considered changing your line and getting into the mainstream,  and being a model to your followers?”

…. ….  …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. ….

Pednekar, fairly in control of himself and alert now, realized it didn’t make sense to continue this story. But then, should he be quitting? Wasn’t it THIS great idea that had found favour with divinity or mysticism or black magic or whatever? He could close the file and destroy it forever. Or should he let the characters tell the story themselves? All he had to do was trigger a conversation and stop worrying about the proceeding. Wouldn’t that mean he was relinquishing his creativity for inanimate characters that decide to start typing on their own? Still better, should he start conversing with his characters and arrive at an agreement, and complete the story in harmony? But seriously, would that even work? A writer who doesn’t want to be one, gets to be a politician and goes about terrorizing the neighbourhood. A prostitute cannot survive a story, because she’s being tormented by the politician. How does one even kill a character?

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What was that? Kill a character? How about bumping off the MLA? And make the prostitute very peaceable?

—- —- —- —- —- —- —– —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-

He looked at his watch and realized that he was a couple hours late to work already. Darn the bloody story, get to real business, he decided. While at office, his laptop’s hard disk crashed.

The computer died. Swapnil Pednekar survived!