MONITOR GOING TO SLEEP
He shut down his laptop and tossed it carelessly. His eyes brimming with sleep after what seemed like an endless search for a vacancy in software engineering, Sameer crashed on his sofa bed with a thud, next to the laptop.
The next morning would bring a realization that he has completed two months of unemployment, an easy feat to achieve in the nose-diving economy.
He woke up disgruntled, coughing from the clouds of dust emanating from the curtains as a persistent breeze made ricocheting noises on an unusually sunny day. ‘Great! Thank you God for giving me this day,’ he uttered through clenched teeth as he threw on the floor a pocket calendar with a deity’s image. It had been safely kept underneath his pillow since a long time. Then, again from under the pillow, he took out the knife that his friend had brought a week after he was fired by his company, where he had worked for over four years. The knife was supposed to ward off buri nazar, as his friend put it.
He was sure that his mother would have said the same and must be doing puja at this very moment before hurrying off to meet her daily dose of religious and societal gossip – the sanctimonious neighborhood ladies.
The doorbell rang. Before he could drag himself out of bed, a friend of his banged the door open. ‘Catch!’ he said and threw a copy of Hindustan Times on Sameer’s face.
‘Don’t start cursing before I commence my puja,’ said Sameer.
‘Hypocrite. Pick up that photograph lying on the floor first,’ his friend chided. ‘The sun almost killed me on the way and I still came to see you, you depressed disheveled man. So, hand me a beer and bunk your rituals.’ As Sameer motioned him to be quiet and resumed his puja after brushing his teeth, his friend continued, ‘Aunty must be really proud of you though; what she tried her whole life and could not do was done by your ex-employer. She also should have kicked you out.’
Gulping down a few beer bottles after having ganga jal, Sameer headed out with his friend to a barber’s. The employment office was supposed to be the next stop.
A procession forced them to change lanes. ‘Janamashtmi,’ Sameer mumbled and shook his head in disapproval. ‘Bloody political parties will use this festival as a piece of meat. I don’t know if I even believe in God now. Godmen seem more real. At least they do leave a lasting impression on people.’
‘No puja, no goddamn rituals from today!’ Sameer said and turned his bike around as another road was blocked.
‘Kill this man, God. See another naastik and worse, unemployed!’ his friend laughed.
After getting his name enrolled in the employment office, Sameer dropped his friend home and cancelled the plan of heading to Jimmy’s, a newly opened pub in the locality as he started feeling dehydrated and gave his bike a raise.
As the last person walked out of the few present in the tent erected on the ground floor of Sameer’s building, his friends started folding up the white sheets and carrying the mattresses. They had heard that Sameer’s mother, or aai as they all used to call her, had a relapse and was now in the hospital.
Then, they came back for Sameer’s photo. A few days later, the report read that the deceased had mixed drinks.
Only one friend of his knew what he had mixed after his morning prayers.
He was the same friend who had met him the morning before and stood with his arm around Sameer in the garlanded photograph.
Sameer never got a photograph clicked alone. He used to say that it reminded him of funerals.
His friend had brought the photograph home and days passed, but could not bring himself to remove the garland.
His mother sprinkled ganga jal on the photograph; she used to force him to remove the garland from when at least he had been alive.
Meanwhile, a throng of people danced on the streets and celebrated the birth of Lord Krishna.