Friday, May 22, 2009
Mr.Happy Was Happy Till He Heard the Bell Buzzing
Mr.Happy was absolutely happy till he was woken up by a harsh buzzing of the calling bell, which god alone knew why the landlord had placed right inside the bedroom.
Happy opened his bleary eyes half and looked at the watch. It was 2.35 in the afternoon. He had gone to bed at eleven in the morning. For the last seven months this has been his routine. Generally he wakes up at four in the evening.
The moment he wakes up, Happy checks his mobile phone for the missed calls and text messages, mostly from the friends who have just changed their shifts from night to day at the Charlton Inc., a BPO, where he works. He returns only one call, the call from his girl friend, Lucky. Since she changed her shift, he speaks to her everyday at least for half an hour over phone.
Then he goes to the bathroom, pee wearily while looking into mirror to see the three fourth of his face, which Lucky had told him, really looked good. ‘Great’ was the word she used to qualify the three fourth profile of his face. Later he grabs a sandwich or something from the fridge and sinks into a beanbag, which is placed at a comfortable distance from the plasma television, which he bought on the day he received the first salary from Charlton Inc.
Happy likes to read newspapers. Perhaps, he likes to read the city pages filled with film gossips and party circuit pictures. At the same time, as a post graduate in Economics, with a background in political activism in a small town college, Happy always felt that it was very important to read newspapers regularly, catch up with national politics, watch television news, wear hip T-shirts with Che Guevara prints, collect souvenirs that send symbolically pronounced messages to his ‘good for nothing’ friends when they came over for weekend parties at his flat.
Generally speaking Happy is a happy guy. At the age twenty four he earns Rs.45000/- per month from Charlton Inc.
‘What if my company’s sister concern is involved in the manufacturing of Arms and Ammunition? That’s happening in the US. I am not involved in that. I do my job, solve problems of the clients who call me up at odd hours to know more about investment issues. I am getting a fat salary for helping the people out. Oh, during college days I was against all those multinational corporates etc. I was against all those imperialist forces that did gun running in the poor countries in Africa and South East Asia. I had participated in a lot of protest marches and all. But looking back I can see how foolish I was. I cannot change this world. But I can change myself. Look man, I have a good job, decent living and I will be marrying Lucky in a couple of years’ time. We will set up a good family and lead a great life. These protest calls and social responsibilities…bullshit. Why these guys don’t understand that I am no longer interested in all those even if I am interested in the politics of this country. One should be aware of the politics. But why should one become an activist?” Happy thought. He was actually looking at text message sent by one his college mates, Priya, who too had shifted to the city to join an NGO almost the same time Happy came to the city.
Happy could not think in that line for long as the bell rang again and after a few moments it gave way to a rude knocking at the door.
Happy scrambled himself out of the bed and came out to the hall, then as if in sleepwalk he inched towards the door, still yawing.
At the opened door, there stood a man, who must be somewhere around fifty, clad in a Safari suit. Happy could not see his eyes as he was wearing a pair of Ray Ban goggles. “Is it original or from Palika Bazaar?” Happy asked himself in mind. “I have become too brand conscious these days,” he thought.
“Can I come inside?” the man in Safari suit asked him without any change of expression in his face. “You have been sleeping and I have been buzzing this bell for long time. Why do you sleep during day time?” he asked.
“That’s none of your concern,” Happy wanted to retort, but he didn’t.
The man came inside, looked around and sat in the beanbag and stretched. “It’s goddamn hot out there. Oh, by the way, I am State and they call me Mr.State,” he extended his right hand and Happy could do nothing but take it hesitantly and shake.
“I am Happy…” he cleared his thought.
“Yes..yes ..yes I know…you are Happy. I know most of the things about you,” State said.
Happy felt some churning in his stomach pit. He felt like going to loo. “Can I get fresh and come back?” Happy asked the Man.
Inside the toilet, Happy sat like a bundle of wet clothes. Some unknown fear gripped him. “On what earth this asshole tells me that he knows everything about me? I have never met him and he has never contacted me before even on emails. What’s going on?” While flushing he thought that he should be stronger and deal with the situation the way he wants. “I should not just turn weak-kneed before some fucking old man who has no business in my house. He is an intruder and if need be, I should call the police.” He made sure that his mobile phone is there in his short’s pocket.
“Can I have a glass of water? You young guys have lost all sense of decorum. You should be offering a glass of water at least to a man who comes to your home from this bloody heat out there,” the man said without hiding his irritation and he was glancing through the Che Guevara poster on the wall and the books on the side table.
“You read a lot?” Without expecting an answer State said when Happy came back with two glasses of water.
“Yes, at times…I don’t get time these days. But I do buy books,” saying that Happy felt why he was answering all those stupid questions of that man. He should show his defiance rather than compliance.
“But I think you have a choice….Look at these books, all literature…shall I say revolutionary literature…” the man chuckled.
Damn it! Happy thought. He, as if for the first time he was seeing his collection of books, just cursorily read through the titles of the books there.
I Married a Communist- Philip Roth, About Trade Unions- Lenin, Chomsky Reader, Rebel Sell, Jail Diary, Motor Cycle Diary, Life of Fidel Castro, Lajja- Tasleema Nasreen, Aranyer Adhikar- Mahashweta Devi, Fear of Small Numbers- Arjun Appadurai, News of a Kidnapping- Marquez…..
“Collected Speeches of Chairman Mao….hmm….All revolutionary literature…” the man looked at Happy quizzically.
Show off traps at times, thought Happy. He had carefully selected these books from his collection and displayed at the front table in order to show his friends that he was ‘different’ from them.
“Actually, these are just for collection sake…I read the popular stuff like Who Moved My Cheese, The Google Story, Biography of Hillary Clinton, Slumdog Millionaire, One Night at Call Centre, Your Are Here, Almost Single, Sex and the City, Three Mistakes I Made, My Friend Sancho etc…Those are in my bedroom. If you want to check please come in,” Happy wanted to tell him all these. But he could not move his tongue. He just stood there like a Wax Museum statue.
“Mr.Happy, a young man with a lot of life and a great future should not be involving in anti-national activities,” said State without any introduction.
“Who are you?” Finally Happy mustered up all his courage and asked the man.
“I have already told you who I am. I am Mr.State. Doesn’t it explain everything to you Mr.Happy. I thought you are intelligent enough to understand things…”
“I am not anti-national….” Mumbled Happy. For no reason he thought of Priya. Fuck. I should be thinking about Lucky at this time. Why the hell I think about Priya.
“You have been under surveillance dear. We have been following you for the last seven months. And we have all the clinching evidence to prove that you are involved in anti-national activities,” said Mr.State in a menacing voice.
“What the fucking evidence you have against me?” Happy had regained his courage by now.
“Mind your language, young boy,” said the man and Happy felt that word ‘boy’ as disgusting as an obscene word which he had ever heard in his life.
“Why did you meet that Maoist at the Café Coffee Day joint at New Friends Colony in February? What was the purpose?” Mr.State asked coldly while sipping from the glass. He sipped as if he was having one of those fancy cocktails in a posh restaurant, complete with a miniature umbrella. Happy never understood why a cocktail comes with a small umbrella. But it was not a time for such frivolous thoughts.
“Maoist…who?” Happy scrambled through his memory to identify the ‘Maoist’. “No…I don’t remember.”
Mr.State whipped out a photograph from his suit pocket and placed it close to Happy’s face. “Now, do you remember? Don’t you?”
Shit…thought Happy. Priya’s friend from Bastar. What had she told me? A doctor? Yes, he was a doctor and his name was Praful Chatterjee. I remember now. But he was such a nice guy. He came to Delhi, Priya told me then, for attending a seminar organized by the Ministry of Human Resources Development. He was presenting a paper on ‘Rural Health and Twenty First Century Aspirations in Poverty Alleviation.’
“He was a state guest, Mr.State,” Happy blurted out. “Yes, I met him and we had a good chat. He sounded absolutely well meaning. A Maoist. I don’t believe this.”
“Oh, yes. He was a state guest. Now also he is a state guest. Don’t you know he is detained for his anti-national activities? Don’t act my boy. His computer has been confiscated and we have found evidence that you have been one of his contact persons here. Now…come on, out with truth,” Mr.State thundered.
Happy did not know what to say. The evening schedule flashed in his mind for a second; meeting with Lucky for a cup of coffee before punching into duty, an online conference with the Charlton executives and the regular stuff.
He also remembered a few poems written by Praful Chatterjee, forwarded to his inbox by Priya.
“What nonsense are you talking, Mr.State. Me, a front person for a Maoist?” Suddenly Happy asked himself why he had already assigned the title of Maoist to a man whom he had met only once in his life. “Mr.State, now I understand who you are. But let me tell you, I don’t have anything to do with this guy. I need to go to office and please let us call off this meeting.”
“Sorry, Happy, my boy. You are under arrest. And you know why we are detaining you. We have the history of your college activism. And we even know that you are a plant in the Charlton Inc. So let’s go. Get ready.”
Happy was frozen. He remembered the face of his parents, a man and a woman, who toiled throughout their lives to make him happy. He remembered the face of all those friends in college. He remembered the faces of Priya and Lucky. It should have been the other way round, he thought instantly.
“Shall I make a call?” Happy was now polite. All his aggression was gone.
“Make as many as you want. You may not be able to call anybody in the coming few days,” said Mr.State, who looked apparently relaxed now.
Happy dialed Priya. It took some time for her to come on line.
“Priya…,” Happy’s voice was broken. “Priya…they are taking me.. I don’t know why. But they are taking me. Take care of me Priya…please….” Happy was already crying.
The Scorpio in which Mr.State came, pulled near. A couple of other men in Safari suits were also there in it. Mr.State gently pushed Happy inside.
Happy was happy, absolutely happy, till he heard that harsh buzzing of the calling bell just above his head in his bedroom in that hot afternoon.