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Digya

About Rakesh

Rakesh Pandey is an engineer by qualification and a Manager with Microsoft by profession. Basically from the holy city of Benaras, he’s settled in Bombay. He is not much of a talker and being an introvert, he is usually lost within himself.

When things become sour, he either picks up his flute, pen or fists, in that order. Music, writing and boxing are his Guardian Angels, who always rescue him and prevent any sort of mischief, which is his wont to indulge.

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Digambar Ramachandra Kulkarni.

The name evokes an image of an old Maharashtrian Brahmin with a shaved head, who visits our homes for the annual Satyanarayan Puja.

One of my favorite authors Mark Twain once proclaimed that Truth is stranger than fiction. Digya was nothing like that imagined Maharashtrian Brahmin. He was a bumbling kid of 17, who was usually spotted whittling his time away on road. He was what we call in Bombay lingo, a Tapori. The word Tapori literally means cute in Marathi. But actually it means someone who’s a brat. A wayward kid, who doesn’t care for any manmade laws and rules. His father Ramya, aka Ramachandra Govindrao Kulkarni was a taxi driver. He used to ply his hired taxi at nights and tried to improve the world on the day after, drinking half a bottle of whatever poison he could afford. Till date Ramya succeeded in improving two watchmen from our chawl, who decided to leave the place where a monster like Ramya could create a havoc and started elsewhere to improve their lives. A lovely fellow!

Part 1

My Chawl in Mazagon was a beautiful place. We all were poor and lower middle class. The biggest room was 180 Sq. ft. and the smallest was 45 Sq. ft. Somewhat the same size as your bathroom. A family used to live in it. They used to cook food there and sleep outside in the balcony. How they managed to procreate is one of those miseries, is something that baffles science and humanity. The chawl had a long unbroken balcony, which was shared by all 120 residents and acted as a community hall or a battleground, as the need may arise. At 150 Sq. Ft., our room was one of the bigger ones. Though our homes were slightly better than a pigsty, living in a chawl had its extra perks. We acquired additional space in our hearts, in which we could park the entire world with place to spare.

Digya was the proverbial ‘Wise Guy’. You could never get a straight answer for any question from him. It’s tolerable if you get a smartass answer from someone of your age, but it rankles if it comes from a 14 year old kid! No one liked him.

It was a dark Monday in July of 2000. The skies were darkened by the unpredictable Bombay monsoon clouds. I left my newly wed wife and walked towards my 1972 model Royal Enfield Bullet. I looked back at her in the pathetic way the newly married couples exhibit their romance. Ask them to repeat the performance after 10 years and you will find that her sickeningly sweet smile has transformed into a grimacing scowl and the cooing cuckoo turned into a lioness. The male of the specie turned into a squealing mouse from a hitherto dancing peacock and evolution rules.

Digya was sitting at the banister of the stairs, looking at her waving and blowing kisses to me from the balcony and was retching mockingly. I tried to catch and thrash him, but he was too nimble for me and scampered, laughing derisively.

I cursed roundly and loudly to show off my bravery and familiarity to spoken swear words to my bride, kick-started my Bullet and was off with deep-throated beats, which only the old Royal Enfield with right side gears could produce. Digya was on my mind. How dare he insult me! We never mind insults from our seniors. We resent humiliation from our peers, but we positively hate derision from our juniors. I was brooding imaginary vengeance and riding when suddenly a car appeared out of nowhere and I smashed my 300kg bike into it at the speed of 80kmph. Bullet is a bewitched bike. You won’t find many of them involved in an accident. Although I wasn’t hurt much, it was technically a road accident as two vehicles were involved. I and the car driver were hauled to the police station for statements. A biker loves his steed more than he loves his lady, so I was heartbroken at the thought of bent shock absorbers and the Tiger Head of my Bullet and tried to talk my way out with the inspector in-charge.

Around 7pm, my wife was at the balcony, waiting for me. Digya was sitting on the hood of a car, eating a stolen melon along with his partners in crime. His drunk father was trying to educate an unwilling municipal sweeper about the correct method of sweeping the street, and in the process, deposited himself into one of the overflowing gutters. Digya was least bothered. Then he saw my anxious wife coming frequently to the balcony and trying to peer in the distance and smirked. Maybe he told an ugly joke about a waiting wife and her missing husband. His cronies laughed. My wife later said that she wanted to kill that 17 years old abomination by throwing a well aimed flowerpot at his head but her maidenly instincts intervened. God knows where those maidenly instincts are now when she’s fighting with me! Probably on a visit to her maiden home! Anyway, let’s continue with this chronicle…
Part 2

Around 10pm she again came out to the rails of the balcony and found Digya smoking a cigarette, which he promptly hid when he saw her and started strolling with a swagger, befitting an outlaw. Maybe his dream was to become a dreaded dacoit in future. My wife didn’t even notice him. Her eyes were peeled for her bearded rider. I had beards then, but shaved it off as she hated it. That was the age when all film actors wore clean shaved looks. I grew it again, after 15 years as she doesn’t care how I look now. There’s a time when you look for beauty in your partner, but later on you just love the person and not their looks, when you know them better. That broken nose holds a romance for her. So does all the scars on my face and body. I was never handsome, but as Shakespeare said, ‘Beauty is skin deep.’

Digya expected some harsh exclamation, which was music to his ears, or at least an angry eye, which is so dear to a young outlaw who thrives on public hatred and remonstrance. Well, that makes sense in a way. How can you enjoy being bad if there’s no one to tell you how bad you are and how much they hate you for it? When there’s no one to stigmatize you, stigma loses its charm. Sometimes I think, if people stop looking at the negativities of the life, they will desist, shamed by the lack of attention. But, as Zen teaches, the positive must be there to counter the negative. Unfortunately, it also enhances and glorifies the negative darkness by its brightness!

My wife was scared and asked my stolid father, who was unconcerned. “He will come, beta!” was all he said before changing the channel on TV. Someone knocked at the door. My dad opened. He was as tough as those hard headed nails you get. Hell! When I used to box with him for practice, he used to floor me either by knocking me out by his hard knuckles or by his wrestling prowess. My quick fancy footwork and lightening fast punches always failed to touch him. He was a man to invoke inferiority complex in Mohammad Ali too! He was a Guardian and a Thorough Gentleman. All warriors are very gentle. The only reason being, they know that they can always win. If they don’t, it will never be because of the want of the fighting spirit. I hope, I follow my dad!

My gentle dad growled at my wife suddenly, “He wants to talk to you” and kept the door open and left in disgust. My wife stepped out of our one room villa.

Digya was hiding in shadows. “Vahini, aalet kai bhau? Tumhi maghapasoon baghat hota. Kahi traas asel tar sanga.” (Bhabhi, did brother arrive? You were looking for him since long. If you have any problems, please let me know.)

My wife was unable to understand his lingo, but could understand the emotions. She broke down. He asked where I went, till then my Dad thundered, “Digya! Chalta ho yethun, baghu! Tujhi pudhchi naatke nakot aamhala!” (Digya, get lost! We don’t want any of your drama!)

Digya was scared and pleaded to talk to my wife for a minute. My wife explained that I had a site in Dahisar, 45 km from Mazagaon, where our chawl was. As a structural engineer, I went for a regular site visit. Digya was ignited like a rocket on Deepawali. He was in his elements. He proclaimed, “Vahini, ghabru naka. Me bhau na sodhnar. Pan, please tyanna sanga, majhya Biodata banwayla.” (Bhabhi, don’t worry. I’ll find my brother. But please ask him to write my resumé!) Digya had requested me for his One Pager, which I was dallying for one reason as he didn’t have much qualifications. After all one cannot mention fighting in the back ally as a qualification!

Part 3

I came back around 3 or so. Bushed! Rajni was standing on the balcony and squealed when she saw the bike thundering in.

My parents asked me gruffly, where I was and I explained. We Indians don’t believe in public display of affection. We never hug our spouse in public but never make any bones about hugging a willing girl in parks. We never kiss our daughters. We never tell our parents that we love them. We never portray that we are humane.

My wife did the unforgivable. She hugged and kissed me. I was scandalized. I looked around but my father was interested in a dripping tap and my mom was trying to find an elusive bed bug. We Indians are also a master at what Nelson excelled at… turning a blind eye.

Just before we slept, she suddenly remembered about Digya and asked me to prepare his Curriculum Vitae. I nodded sleepily and chalked it on my mental wall to do it on some future date. I still use this trick whenever I wish to avoid her bidding. Just like females of the specie, we males have evolved too, at deflecting distasteful and unwanted tasks. But, like all good generals, she shook me awake and made me swear that I will make it the first thing and show it to her. Unlike me, she was a Lady of Words! And, did I say: We indians are also good at Kasams, the promises?

Next morning, I prepared his resumé, after asking questions about his father, his mother etc. It was a pathetic one pager. His father was unsure about his date of birth. I decided to ask Digya. He had vanished as usual.

Digya, in his overtly friendliness, had once offered to wash my Bullet and I agreed to pay 100 per month. My bullet was always washed, except today. I was looking at my mud-smeared beast, when I saw the police van. An inspector jumped off the cab and saw me.

He asked politely, “Who’s Rakesh Pandey here?”

There are very few things in your life, which can herald your doom and cause you to quack in your shoes, with your fanciful bravado flying afar like a bird burst out of a cage. Finding a police inspector enquiring for you is one of them.

The inspector threw a pic on my face and asked politely, “Do you know him?” and I dutifully denied. Actually, it wasn’t a face. It was the tearful map of Shillong, without the happiness of the country, and my denial was just for the matter of principles.

Like all policeman, calloused by all the death and desolation they have to witness, even this inspector was devoid of any finesse. He said, “We found your visiting card in his pocket. This boy was cut in half, while trying to cross the Churchgate Corridor. You are an architect?” He looked at me with a new interest. “I have a bungalow in Tarapur… ” I was already lost in my thoughts and shook an uninterested head.

“Typical Digya! Why government makes overbridges? A draconian disregard for rules was his motto!” was the first thought that crossed my mind.

Inspector asked me, “Do you know him?”

I pulled out a cigarette, lighted it, looked back at my worried wife hanging from the balcony, then his drunk father trying to climb out of the ever-flowing drains and said, “Yes, he was my brother in law.”

Digambar Ramachandra Kulkarni.

The name evokes an image of an old Maharashtrian Brahmin with a shaved head, who visits our homes for the annual Satyanarayan Puja.

One of my favorite authors Mark Twain once proclaimed that Truth is stranger than fiction. Digya was nothing like that imagined Maharashtrian Brahmin. He was a bumbling kid of 17, who was usually spotted whittling his time away on road. He was what we call in Bombay lingo, a Tapori. The word Tapori literally means cute in Marathi. But actually it means someone who’s a brat. A wayward kid, who doesn’t care for any manmade laws and rules. His father Ramya, aka Ramachandra Govindrao Kulkarni was a taxi driver. He used to ply his hired taxi at nights and tried to improve the world on the day after, drinking half a bottle of whatever poison he could afford. Till date Ramya succeeded in improving two watchmen from our chawl, who decided to leave the place where a monster like Ramya could create a havoc and started elsewhere to improve their lives. A lovely fellow!

My Chawl in Mazagon was a beautiful place. We all were poor and lower middle class. The biggest room was 180 Sq. ft. and the smallest was 45 Sq. ft. Somewhat the same size as your bathroom. A family used to live in it. They used to cook food there and sleep outside in the balcony. How they managed to procreate is one of those miseries, is something that baffles science and humanity. The chawl had a long unbroken balcony, which was shared by all 120 residents and acted as a community hall or a battleground, as the need may arise. At 150 Sq. Ft., our room was one of the bigger ones. Though our homes were slightly better than a pigsty, living in a chawl had its extra perks. We acquired additional space in our hearts, in which we could park the entire world with place to spare.

Digya was the proverbial ‘Wise Guy’. You could never get a straight answer for any question from him. It’s tolerable if you get a smartass answer from someone of your age, but it rankles if it comes from a 14 year old kid! No one liked him.

It was a dark Monday in July of 2000. The skies were darkened by the unpredictable Bombay monsoon clouds. I left my newly wed wife and walked towards my 1972 model Royal Enfield Bullet. I looked back at her in the pathetic way the newly married couples exhibit their romance. Ask them to repeat the performance after 10 years and you will find that her sickeningly sweet smile has transformed into a grimacing scowl and the cooing cuckoo turned into a lioness. The male of the specie turned into a squealing mouse from a hitherto dancing peacock and evolution rules.

Digya was sitting at the banister of the stairs, looking at her waving and blowing kisses to me from the balcony and was retching mockingly. I tried to catch and thrash him, but he was too nimble for me and scampered, laughing derisively.

I cursed roundly and loudly to show off my bravery and familiarity to spoken swear words to my bride, kick-started my Bullet and was off with deep-throated beats, which only the old Royal Enfield with right side gears could produce. Digya was on my mind. How dare he insult me! We never mind insults from our seniors. We resent humiliation from our peers, but we positively hate derision from our juniors. I was brooding imaginary vengeance and riding when suddenly a car appeared out of nowhere and I smashed my 300kg bike into it at the speed of 80kmph. Bullet is a bewitched bike. You won’t find many of them involved in an accident. Although I wasn’t hurt much, it was technically a road accident as two vehicles were involved. I and the car driver were hauled to the police station for statements. A biker loves his steed more than he loves his lady, so I was heartbroken at the thought of bent shock absorbers and the Tiger Head of my Bullet and tried to talk my way out with the inspector in-charge.

Around 7pm, my wife was at the balcony, waiting for me. Digya was sitting on the hood of a car, eating a stolen melon along with his partners in crime. His drunk father was trying to educate an unwilling municipal sweeper about the correct method of sweeping the street, and in the process, deposited himself into one of the overflowing gutters. Digya was least bothered. Then he saw my anxious wife coming frequently to the balcony and trying to peer in the distance and smirked. Maybe he told an ugly joke about a waiting wife and her missing husband. His cronies laughed. My wife later said that she wanted to kill that 17 years old abomination by throwing a well aimed flowerpot at his head but her maidenly instincts intervened. God knows where those maidenly instincts are now when she’s fighting with me! Probably on a visit to her maiden home! Anyway, let’s continue with this chronicle…

Continued in Part 2

Around 10pm she again came out to the rails of the balcony and found Digya smoking a cigarette, which he promptly hid when he saw her and started strolling with a swagger, befitting an outlaw. Maybe his dream was to become a dreaded dacoit in future. My wife didn’t even notice him. Her eyes were peeled for her bearded rider. I had beards then, but shaved it off as she hated it. That was the age when all film actors wore clean shaved looks. I grew it again, after 15 years as she doesn’t care how I look now. There’s a time when you look for beauty in your partner, but later on you just love the person and not their looks, when you know them better. That broken nose holds a romance for her. So does all the scars on my face and body. I was never handsome, but as Shakespeare said, ‘Beauty is skin deep.’

Digya expected some harsh exclamation, which was music to his ears, or at least an angry eye, which is so dear to a young outlaw who thrives on public hatred and remonstrance. Well, that makes sense in a way. How can you enjoy being bad if there’s no one to tell you how bad you are and how much they hate you for it? When there’s no one to stigmatize you, stigma loses its charm. Sometimes I think, if people stop looking at the negativities of the life, they will desist, shamed by the lack of attention. But, as Zen teaches, the positive must be there to counter the negative. Unfortunately, it also enhances and glorifies the negative darkness by its brightness!

My wife was scared and asked my stolid father, who was unconcerned. “He will come, beta!” was all he said before changing the channel on TV. Someone knocked at the door. My dad opened. He was as tough as those hard headed nails you get. Hell! When I used to box with him for practice, he used to floor me either by knocking me out by his hard knuckles or by his wrestling prowess. My quick fancy footwork and lightening fast punches always failed to touch him. He was a man to invoke inferiority complex in Mohammad Ali too! He was a Guardian and a Thorough Gentleman. All warriors are very gentle. The only reason being, they know that they can always win. If they don’t, it will never be because of the want of the fighting spirit. I hope, I follow my dad!

My gentle dad growled at my wife suddenly, “He wants to talk to you” and kept the door open and left in disgust. My wife stepped out of our one room villa.

Digya was hiding in shadows. “Vahini, aalet kai bhau? Tumhi maghapasoon baghat hota. Kahi traas asel tar sanga.” (Bhabhi, did brother arrive? You were looking for him since long. If you have any problems, please let me know.)

My wife was unable to understand his lingo, but could understand the emotions. She broke down. He asked where I went, till then my Dad thundered, “Digya! Chalta ho yethun, baghu! Tujhi pudhchi naatke nakot aamhala!” (Digya, get lost! We don’t want any of your drama!)

Digya was scared and pleaded to talk to my wife for a minute. My wife explained that I had a site in Dahisar, 45 km from Mazagaon, where our chawl was. As a structural engineer, I went for a regular site visit. Digya was ignited like a rocket on Deepawali. He was in his elements. He proclaimed, “Vahini, ghabru naka. Me bhau na sodhnar. Pan, please tyanna sanga, majhya Biodata banwayla.” (Bhabhi, don’t worry. I’ll find my brother. But please ask him to write my resumé!) Digya had requested me for his One Pager, which I was dallying for one reason as he didn’t have much qualifications. After all one cannot mention fighting in the back ally as a qualification!

Continued in Part 3…

I came back around 3 or so. Bushed! Rajni was standing on the balcony and squealed when she saw the bike thundering in.

My parents asked me gruffly, where I was and I explained. We Indians don’t believe in public display of affection. We never hug our spouse in public but never make any bones about hugging a willing girl in parks. We never kiss our daughters. We never tell our parents that we love them. We never portray that we are humane.

My wife did the unforgivable. She hugged and kissed me. I was scandalized. I looked around but my father was interested in a dripping tap and my mom was trying to find an elusive bed bug. We Indians are also a master at what Nelson excelled at… turning a blind eye.

Just before we slept, she suddenly remembered about Digya and asked me to prepare his Curriculum Vitae. I nodded sleepily and chalked it on my mental wall to do it on some future date. I still use this trick whenever I wish to avoid her bidding. Just like females of the specie, we males have evolved too, at deflecting distasteful and unwanted tasks. But, like all good generals, she shook me awake and made me swear that I will make it the first thing and show it to her. Unlike me, she was a Lady of Words! And, did I say: We indians are also good at Kasams, the promises?

Next morning, I prepared his resumé, after asking questions about his father, his mother etc. It was a pathetic one pager. His father was unsure about his date of birth. I decided to ask Digya. He had vanished as usual.

Digya, in his overtly friendliness, had once offered to wash my Bullet and I agreed to pay 100 per month. My bullet was always washed, except today. I was looking at my mud-smeared beast, when I saw the police van. An inspector jumped off the cab and saw me.

He asked politely, “Who’s Rakesh Pandey here?”

There are very few things in your life, which can herald your doom and cause you to quack in your shoes, with your fanciful bravado flying afar like a bird burst out of a cage. Finding a police inspector enquiring for you is one of them.

The inspector threw a pic on my face and asked politely, “Do you know him?” and I dutifully denied. Actually, it wasn’t a face. It was the tearful map of Shillong, without the happiness of the country, and my denial was just for the matter of principles.

Like all policeman, calloused by all the death and desolation they have to witness, even this inspector was devoid of any finesse. He said, “We found your visiting card in his pocket. This boy was cut in half, while trying to cross the Churchgate Corridor. You are an architect?” He looked at me with a new interest. “I have a bungalow in Tarapur… ” I was already lost in my thoughts and shook an uninterested head.

“Typical Digya! Why government makes overbridges? A draconian disregard for rules was his motto!” was the first thought that crossed my mind.

Inspector asked me, “Do you know him?”

I pulled out a cigarette, lighted it, looked back at my worried wife hanging from the balcony, then his drunk father trying to climb out of the ever-flowing drains and said, “Yes, he was my brother in law.”

The End

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