I have moments of crippling anxiety where I want to tell the person talking to me that they don’t have to apologize for their words.
But I don’t.
I mean I won’t. From this day
Call me selfish but I don’t want the increased guilt of letting them know that they apologized. Not because I care for them don’t get me wrong.
I care for me. I’m afraid of the guilt.
I’m sorry I said that, I care for them too, but if a person has found solace in saying
“I’m sorry I talk so much”
“Please don’t apologize”
Seems rude almost, and unkind. But until this moment that I have decided to not say it ever again, while I write this, I have always said
“Please don’t apologize” even if sometimes I have not meant it.
Actually a lot of times
Not because I don’t want anyone talking about themselves to me, but at times when they open up so much I do not know what to say, and I want them to keep talking and not pause
“I’m sorry I talk so much”
“PLEASE KEEP TALKING HONESTLY I HAVE NO APPROPRIORIATE RESPONSE TO WHAT YOU JUST SAID, BUT PELASE DON’T STOP”
Of course I‘m not always so benevolent, at times I really don’t like what the person is talking about, and when they say
“I’m sorry I talk so much”
“YOU SHOULD BE, WHAT ARE YOU EVEN ON ABOUT” it’s not unkind to think it is it?
I don’t know, I never know. So
“Please don’t apologize” I lie
I’m sorry I talk so much.
I usually only write short stories, but the last three years has been one short story, so might as well. I came here after years of schooling, a safe zone, for most of us, spoon fed and pampered. I came out of a space that had all my close friends, scared that the space here won’t accept me.
Took me a while to figure out that it’s about us accepting the space more than the space accepting us.
Boy did we accept the space.
One year spent trying to understand the politics of it all.
Where are the cool kids? Who are they? Should I be one of them, should I say Hi or should I let it be?
Can’t do parties. Aaah but don’t want to be the loner. But really can’t do parties.
Football will help make more friends.
How much of sharing is okay? Apparently one can share a lot atop a hill in a secluded place.
“I love you all! Each and every one of you”
Another year spent trying to apply the political learning from the first.
A couple of weeks to understand that the politics is a farce and that everyone is just as confused and scared.
A couple of weeks more to refine the “I love you all” to “I love some, don’t mind the rest’s existence”.
Then came the third year, everything else led to this: Degree film.
Pre production, then shooting, then more shooting
Fuck, continuity, “Tune baal kyu kataye!”
Shooting, re shooting, footage lost, formatted cards, lost H1s and a lot of sticking together.
Then post, but fuck that, I’m not talking about it. Then screening.
“Did you see mine?”
“Koi baat nai, share zaroor karde”
Parties? Fuck yeah, parties.
Then the puking and the hangovers.
All the hangovers
and the puking
and the other green things
and the canteen
and the ground
and Rohan Mithila (e block, parijat all of it)
and madras café
and Vada pavs
and high spirits
and the movies
and the momos
and the activity lounge
have put us into a space that is safe and secure. Where we were not bothered by real life. A space that shields us from a lot of things. This three year long bubble is going to burst the moment I pack all my stuff and head back.
That’s what I’ll miss the most I think.
The safety of it all.
“What do you do Mr. Jones?” everyone would ask. They knew, they knew what he did, but they would ask anyway because saying
“That sounds horrible”
has a certain satisfaction to it.
It really does.
As for the question, yes what Mr. Jones does is horrible.
Mr. Jones works as a hangman.
“I work as a hangman for the warden of the district jail”
“That sounds horrible” see? One can’t not say it.
“Not at all, it’s an important job”
Yes he believed in his job. Why shouldn’t he? Everyone believes in what they do, why should the hangman be any different? He has a family to feed, a devoted wife. He had a son, but he ran away. Mr. Jones made no effort to bring him back; “He died” he would tell people. “That’s horrible” people would say.
“I deliver justice”
He called it justice.
He believed in it.
He would eagerly wait between “You have been charged….” to “….would you like a cigarette?” and as the cigarette burnt one could almost catch a hint of a smile on his face. All he did was pull the level which opened the trapdoor which tightened the noose which killed the prisoner which released shit and piss.
Lever – trapdoor – noose – kill – shit
15 years of this. Every year Mr. Jones would lose a little bit of religion.
Just a new god.
March 23rd was just another day in Mr. Jones’ life. He went to work and everything was as usual.
“Would you like a cigarette?”
They took his mask off and for the first time in his life, Mr. Jones would shudder at the thought of it all.
Why should he? He knows what to do:
He would pull the lever which would open the trapdoor which would tighten the noose which would kill the prisoner…..
….the noose would kill his son…..
he had to pull the lever that opened the trapdoor that would tighten the noose around his son’s neck….
Lever – trapdoor – noose – son?
“How is your son Mr. Jones?”
So did his god.
“That sounds horrible”
There are three things you must never if you find yourself imprisoned due to some unfortunate circumstance.
By some unfortunate circumstance I mean you did something out of being broken and spat out by the society, not if you did something out of intention. It may seem like a weird sentence, but trust me there is a difference.
One, do not bend down to pick up the soap. I am not encouraging a stereotype; it’s more like a word of caution. Human hormones are extremely demanding.
Two, stick to your own, um, how do I put this, ethnicity? Culture? Colour? Basically stay with people that are accepting and stay in the group. The outside world also has the same rules, stay in groups, and don’t wander. Societies do not welcome outsiders; it’s the same in prisons. Stay within a group.
Third and most importantly,
“Do not ask a fellow inmate what he did” I read this somewhere or heard it in a film or something, not important. Like most of things in life, I heard this in the background.
I was determined to follow the three rules. One and two were relatively easy. Groups come naturally to us. I was no different. But something else comes naturally, curiosity. Curiosity –as the saying goes – did not just kill one cat; it killed generations of cats. Now that I have established my thirst for curiosity I can tell you about inmate 826, I know his name, but that is not important, to this story – as to most – names aren’t important. I used to stay in cell number 23 on the second floor, alone. Then he walked in one day during one of those days, when I was imagining how it feels to be dead. In prison one does not have much to do, but has a lot to think. Stay in prison long enough, thinking becomes more like breathing. That is one thing that the outside world does not facilitate. So as I was thinking, he walked in. Thin, tall and spectacled, seemed about 40 and that’s where my observational skills end.
826 and I got off to a less than desirable start, to say the least.
“Stay away from my side” were the first words he said to me, there was a certain ruthlessness in his voice, ruthlessness or desperation, I wasn’t very sure about that.
I had mastered being silent so I just nodded. He didn’t look like he was in a prison for the first time.
“Transferred from maximum security” said guard number 31 “don’t know what he did, but he’s a legend” I had befriended 31 slowly, just to have an edge when it comes to getting food or getting toiletries, but in a while he even smuggled me some coke. But I must admit, I had to pick up a few bars of soap to get this friendship and the favours that come with it. But in this case he was of no help; he really didn’t have a clue as to what 826’s crime was. But I was determined to find out. There were a few rumours here and there:
“He raped his wife and daughter and slit their throats”
“Obviously a drug lord”
“I know his kind, probably touched children”
“He snapped and killed his whole family”
In those years we became closer to each other, much more than just friendship, as is the case with most beings stuck inside prisons- of life and such.
What had been initiated as a casual curious state of mind, morphed into romance and I still didn’t know.
He was a typical kind: broody and scarred, and we’d spend meal times together, silent, trying to figure each other out. There were mornings when I’d want to hold his hand and coax him into talking to me; then there were nights when he’d press himself against me, in the loo, and call me his “love” and all I wanted in return, was for him to talk.
Talk to me, I’d sigh into his ears.
I could never figure out why I was so determined for him to reveal his story, but I was.
I had to know.
“Whom did you kill?”
“Why do you think I killed someone?”
“You look like a killer”
“It’s the truth”
“This is hardly bedtime talk”
“They found my brother dead, in his bedroom.”
“They assumed it was you?”
“We used to have fights”
“I used to beat him up, he landed up in the hospital one day”
“Oh? That makes sense”
“I didn’t do it”
“I am not a robber either, I didn’t kill that old lady”
“NO REALLY! I DID NOT KILL MY OWN BROTHER! SOMEONE BROKE IN”
“Denial is pointless”
“ IT IS THE TRUTH…….
He kept on ranting about the event. Then he talked about his family, his dead mother, his house, his neighbourhood and everything else. I realised something. I remember this incident; I saw it on the news years ago, before getting indicted. I remember feeling proud of myself. Why? Because I had broken into that house thinking no one was home and a teenager walked in on me. I had bashed his head into a wall because he had started a fight. Huh! Young blood! I saw him bleed and I fled. I found out he died a while later on the news and the next day they even found the killer. I was proud of myself. I got away, scot free.
So he really didn’t kill his brother. It was me.
“I believe you” I interrupted his rant.
“You do?” he smiled.
“Yes, you just found him didn’t you?”
“Just lying there on the floor, in his bedroom?”
“The Poster on the wall had blood on it didn’t it?”
“I didn’t tell you anything about the poster”
“Yeah, but I know”
“I was there”
There, I just told my lover I killed his brother and that he had served years for my crime. He looked at me, expressionless, detached. He took minutes to recover, he put his arm around my neck, the way he generally does, in love. But this time he started strangling me, locking my neck with his elbow, I did not protest. How could I?
I loved him.
He deserved to kill me.
But just as I breathed my last, one thought crossed my mind. Why did he kill me? Was it because I killed his brother or because I took away years of his life? Did he really love his brother? Or did he love himself more?
I didn’t know.
I had to know.
There wasn’t much for him to fight in the court. He knew what the judgement would be.
Don’t reckon it is going to matter anyway he thought as he looked at her, sitting there in the stand, he glanced behind him and saw her mother, I’m sorry. She seemed cold and distant when she looked at him, as if to say I know you are, it doesn’t matter anymore.
“To be hanged by the neck until dead” announced the cold one. The rest of the cold ones nodded in support. Then he banged his cold hammer thrice
He was given this case a few days ago. He didn’t want it, he knew how it would end, but he didn’t have much choice in the matter.
“There isn’t much I can do”
“We don’t need much, absolutely anything is enough for us” said her father
“The truth is, there is nothing I can do, you know the way things are, the verdict always goes against the defendant”
“The victim” he corrected
“She is the victim, not the defendant” he said
I agree old man, I’m on your side “But sir, you know them, you’ve seen such cases”
“Of course, of course, I’m sorry, I’ll see you on the day then” he said “Good bye”
We shook hands, but he didn’t come that day, he was later informed that the old man killed himself or something.
Maybe he thought this would sway the public and help his daughter’s cause
”Such a shame” said the public “on to important things now”
This was a straight forward case, the girl had been raped and it became news. The dominant opinion was that she provoked the attack.
“Homosexuality is the problem” said a priest of the highest order “They are the cause of such incidents”
“Such incidents bring shame to our country, all this Chinese food is westernising us” said one famous politician
“But sir, China is in the east”
“You are missing the point” came the reply “No more questions”
“Punish the boys, hang the woman” said another famous politician
Well to the credit of the court it spared no expense in punishing the boys
“For their ungodly crime, they are to apologise thrice from the bottom of their hearts to the parents of the woman” said the judge looking at the boys “from the bottom of your hearts”
“Sorry, we didn’t mean to do that to her, this wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t said no in the first place”
“I changed my mind, apologise once more” said the judge
“Now for the defendant, the court has decided that it was the attire of the woman that provoked the attack, bearing this in mind, the defendant is to be hanged by the neck till dead” announced the cold one. The rest of the cold ones nodded in support. Then he banged his cold hammer thrice
“But sir, she is already dead! Those jerks have raped and killed her! Why hang the corpse?” he tried, one last time.
“That is not the point” the judge replied sternly “This is to send a message”
Thus she was hanged, for her second death, in the trial of the twice dead.
I have a few friends.
11 to be precise.
With so many friends it is hard to remember names. So instead of names, I have numbered them. So 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and 11. Imaginary friends don’t get offended, so it’s okay to call them by a number. It seemed like a fair deal to me, imaginary ones are easier to please and a lot less drama. But real friends give you a lot more privacy than imaginary ones. One cannot do what one normally does when there are 11 others hanging around constantly judging and telling one what one must do. Now there isn’t much I can say about all of them. They are the usual talkative, repulsive and obnoxious bunch of friends anyone has. Only one of them is worth talking about. Number 1. Number 1 because I can’t understand her. This one doesn’t talk to me. She looks at me and she smiles at me. But she always seems guilty of something when she looks at me. I know she can speak, because I’ve seen her talk to the others, especially number 5. It’s weird that I still don’t know what they talk about. It’s not like I haven’t tried to find out,
What does she talk to you about?
Oh! Her?, you know, stuff.
Well, stuff, private stuff.
All of you are figments of MY imagination, how am I not aware of what you talk about!?
Everybody needs privacy, just because we are your imagination, doesn’t mean we don’t have our own shit to deal with.
At this point the conversation started becoming weird and I had to stop talking, so I asked him to leave. Fair enough, there is nothing wrong with them wanting their own space, it’s weird, but it’s okay.
I’m very accommodative like that
How many are there?
How often do they talk to you?
How long have they been with you?
What compelled you to come here?
I came here because I needed to find my reality.
This is getting out of hand. The past few days she has been talking to them and one by one they have all started leaving, I can’t find 3, 4,6,7 and 9. I started to panic, that fear, the fear of losing all your friends. Granted they were just figments of my imagination, but somehow they were real to me. The panic got to my head and I fainted.
After a while I was waking up; expecting to see the familiar scene of 10 faces staring at me, while number 1 just stays in the background, but it was different this time. There was only one face looking at me, with that familiar guilt ridden smile.
Hi this was the first time I heard her speak, she had a nice voice
Where are they?
They’ve all left
What do you mean?
I’m leaving too, goodbye.
Before I could say much she was gone. I followed her. She went outside, then onto the road and then she walked into this house, and as if urging me to come in, she accidentally left the door open, but she hadn’t seen me, of that, I was sure. I went in; she was sitting on a couch facing towards the door I came through. She saw me, but didn’t seem surprised; there was someone else in the room, sitting on a similar couch, but this one facing away from me.
What compelled you to come here? I heard the stranger ask.
What compelled you to come here?
I came here because I needed to find my reality, the others have left, but he doesn’t leave, he thinks he is real.
It hit me hard and I fell down, kneeling near the unknown woman’s chair, trying to hold back tears. She wasn’t my number 1, I was hers. She came running to me, with tears in her eyes.
Why? Don’t be, I will leave, this is your reality.
I left the room, I left her life, I left her alone with her therapist and her reality, after all it was hers.
While I walked I could feel myself fading away.
It hurt, I will admit that. The realisation that my reality was fabricated hurt. The realisation that she kept me boxed in the reality she created for me, simply to escape her loneliness, hurt. It might be fair for me to be mad at her, but I’m not.
I’m very accommodative like that.
“You must not question, love, this is god’s will”
“But what if his will is wrong?”
“His will can’t be wrong, he is god”
“So he created everything?”
“Everything? Every bit of our existence? With all its complexity?”
“Pretty much, yeah”
“So god must also be very complex?”
“Who created him then?”
“He created himself”
“What? How the fuck did he do that?”
“What kind of a language is that Kate! He is god; he can do anything and everything”
“How can he do everything and anything?”
“Because he is god”
“So let me get this straight, he can do everything and anything because he is god…”
“..and he is god because he can do anything and everything”
This wasn’t working for Kate, talking logic was out of question. Her father was adamantly religious. She was a woman of cold calculated logic; he was a man of religion and religion crumbles in front of cold calculated logic.
“Dad, you’re wrong, the whole world was created by an invisible jar of jam”
“What rubbish Kate!?”
“Yeah, the invisible jar of jam guards us against everything”
“Yeah, with her loyal servants a slice of bread and butter”
“The god is a woman?” he was amused, so was Kate.
“Yup, she is the all powerful all knowing Omni – present invisible jar of jam, she keeps us in check you know, and through every jar of jam on earth she controls our lives. She even disapproves of our sexual practices, especially homosexuality; I sacrifice a slice of bread you know, every now and then, that’s how she keeps us happy”
“How is this jar of jam so powerful?”
“Well, obviously she was better than all the other jars”
“How was she better?”
“She had a better shade of red than the others”
“Why did she have a better shade?”
“Well, I told you, she is the all powerful all knowing Omni – present invisible jar of jam”
“So she has a better shade of red because she is the all powerful all knowing Omni – present invisible jar of jam and she is the all powerful all knowing Omni – present invisible jar of jam because she has a better shade of red?”
“What rubbish Kate!”
In St. Joseph’s street somewhere in London there lived a Doctor among other doctors and he was called Dr. Jack.
Dr. Jack believed in perfection. He lived a perfect life. He had a perfect home, with perfect chairs and perfect tables and perfect curtains and generally everything was perfect.
Dr. Jack’s life was perfect, like a cube.
Then Dr. Jack got married. How did he get married? Who would marry such a perfect person? No one knows. Everybody assumed the perfect matrimonial websites helped out.
Nevertheless, he got married, a perfect marriage. The tables were impeccably arranged and it was an esteemed guest list, filled with members from the top of the food chain, because predators were esteemed. It had a great menu and the cake was surprisingly, perfect.
Then came the wedding night, he expected a perfect night. Why shouldn’t he have? All the websites on his computer had promised him one.
His perfect night didn’t last for a very long time.
Dr. Jack was disappointed.
Then morning came and life began. Now slowly Dr. Jack realized that his wife wasn’t perfect. She had flaws. She didn’t look perfect. She wasn’t the woman her picture promised and boy was he pissed.
“YOU LIED” yelled Dr. Jack
“But I’m still the same person you talked to” came the reply
“But you are not beautiful, not anymore!” reasoned Dr. Jack
“I’m not?” she asked beautifully
“Most certainly not!” cried cruelty
“I’m sorry” she wept
“Now what do you have to say about that!?” he asked
She remained silent, still weeping
Dr. Jack thought and he thought and he thought to find a solution. Then a commercial encouraged him and he went to the market to buy beauty for a 100 bucks.
“Sir this cream will most certainly make her pretty” promised the salesman, with gleaming eyes
“Really?” Dr. Jack was amazed “show me more!”
“And this tube sir! And this sachet! And this sublimely shaped bottle!”
He bought all of those promises filled in sad tubes and sachets and sublimely shaped bottles.
Every day after that she plastered herself with promises, seven days later the beauty meter said she was still the same and Dr. Jack was angry. She got a share of his anger and then Dr. Jack set out to think again.
He thought and he thought and he devised another great plan and “Eureka!” he cried.
Dr. Jack had a doctor friend who was the doctor of beauty, Dr. Jeff. Both the doctors believed in the righteousness of men and were admirers of beauty.
“I can make her perfect” said Dr. Jeff, with gleaming eyes
“Oh! My friend thank you” replied Dr. Jack, relieved.
“All you have to do is convince her” said Dr. Jeff, with gleaming eyes
“I will take care of that, don’t you worry” came the reply “but the bill?”
“I will take care of that, don’t you worry” eyes still gleaming
Dr. Jack went home, a happy man.
Well, moderately happy, considering the bill.
She protested fiercely at first,
“NO Jack! ANYTHING BUT THAT”
She pleaded after that,
Her protestations grew tired,
“Maybe the creams will work?”
“Are you sure this is safe?”
And then, so did she,
“Then will I look perfect?”
Thus she agreed
Days later she landed up on the table and the scalpel set to work. The doctors carved her and bleached her and many other things were done to her body and finally she was ready.
“WOW!” exclaimed Dr. Jack, visibly pleased, “you look beautiful”
She smiled. Then she was shown the mirror and she looked at herself.
She was angry to say the least.
Dr. Jack’s life was perfect again.
She waited for him to make one wrong move.
Dr. Jack was happy.
She was not.
A few months later she gave birth to a child, a baby boy.
The child shattered Dr. Jack’s perfect life, “He is positively ghastly!” he exclaimed “I think I shall take him to Dr. Jeff once he is old enough” he smiled.
There was the wrong move.
The murder was planned, preparations were made and the execution?
How did she kill him? Nobody knows. All evidence pointed to a heart attack.
That’s what Jack would have wanted she thought to herself a perfect death.
Then Anna lived happily ever after with her son, because the world needs ‘happily ever after’s.
As for Dr. Jack, well, he was perfectly dead.