Should Students be Allowed to Cheat in Exams?

“Why aren’t you helping the kids?”

“What??? Are you mad? I am invigilating this exam. I have been walking across this big fat classroom for the last three hours.?

“Why? Werent there any chairs?”

“Stop being stupid.”

“My original question. Why aren’t you helping the kids in the exams.? History must be tough for tenth grade, with all the excitement over Katrina Kaif and IPL. When can they concentrate and actually study? Must be hard. Don’t make it harder for them.”

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“No. Kiran. I am teaching them an important lesson in lifetoday.”

“They are all going to fail. You are teaching them lessons on exam day. You are a disgrace to your profession. Disgrace I say!”

“No you idiot. Its about life.”

“Seems complicated. Whats the lesson?

“Things come to people who work hard for them.”

“Come to people? Like Magneto? You extend your hand and break the Golden Gate bridge?”

“Not a movie. Be serious Kiran. I mean hardwork is the key to success. You cant take shortcuts in life.”

“Ever tried negotiating Hyderabad roads? You need shortcuts all the time.”

“No. You idiot. Kiran!!! Please don’t irritate me. Im tired of invigilating these brats. I just reprimanded a kid for trying to cheat.”

What was he doing?”

“He was trying to ask the kid behind him for answers. I scolded him. But since I am a nice person, I didn’t snatch away his answer sheet.”

“You are evil. You should have been helping them.”

“Kiran. I did tell you earlier that…”

“I know. I know. You wanted to teach them a lesson. But you helping them in the exam teaches them a much more important lesson in life which is actually more relevant to the world outside schools and helps them make the transition to real life much more easily.”

“What bullshit. What lesson do I teach my kids if I help them out and let them cheat in the exams?”

“The lesson is that If you know the correct people, you can get away with anything.”

“What? What sort of rubbish are you talking.? You are mad. Totally mad.”

“I am not mad. Look around. Politicians. Officers. Cops. Employees. Everybody follows only that rule. If you know people in high places, you can get away with anything. Isnt that right?

“Don’t confuse me Kiran. Kids shouldn’t cheat in exams. That’s all I know”

And grown ups should do scams and indulge in corruption. Right?”

“Right”

“But they do so anyway. Why do they so? Because they know people in high places and they can get away with it. So I seriously suggest that you teach the children the truths of life now”

“Truths of Life? You mean the bees and birds story? I am NOT going to teach my kids about sex on exam day.”

“What a simpleton you are. I pity you. Im sure the internet has taught them stuff much better than we all can.  They could teach us. Anyway I meant the truths about how the world really works. You owe it to them.”

“I am not going to…”

“Listen now madam. I shall complain to the school administration that you are impeding the growth curve of these young impressionable kids and as a result they shall become maladjusted and unable to compete effectively in the ever changing global world, and consequently they could turn to a life of crime or overeating, whichever seems more convenient to them and it shall all be on your conscience. Remember. All on your conscience.”

“Yeah right. Go ahead. Call my principal and tell her this. She will ask you to jump off the Sea Link.”

“Ouch. I thought these missionary school nuns are the epitome of goodness and cheer.”

“You are mistaken. My principal is the devil incarnate. Oh. You think I committed some sin by calling a nun the devil?”

“How does it even matter? You are anyway going to hell.”

“That’s also true.”

“How about I tell her that you are teaching abuses and encouraging them to swear? How about a prankcall to that effect?”

“I am going to kill you.!!!”

“So now go and help those kids in the exam. They need to pass. You should be the bigger person here and give those kids some direction in their lives.”

“Kiran!!! I am not going to help kids cheat in their exams.”

“Your choice. But don’t blame me if you get murdered by one of your students after fifteen years for not teaching him the Truth about Life.”

“Please man. My head is already aching. I am going to hang up now. Please.”

“Sure. But you know that I am right. I am always right”

*phone disconnects*

 

 

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Mumbai speaks to the Monsoons.

You are early this year.”

“I wanted to see you”, he whispered slowly and gently moved in for a hug. Steadily his arms wrapped themselves around her shoulders and he leaned forward for a kiss.

She brusquely brushed him away and looked into the distance. She stared at the large bronze statue across the street as it shone with the light reflecting off the ancient alloy. She pointed to the triple domes of the building behind the statue and spoke.

Lets sit there on the BMC Building. I want a view of VT

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They walked across, oblivious that there existed gravity and that thousands of Mumbaikars were hurrying across the road in the opposite direction underneath them. It was just past eight and the Island city was emptying, as its inhabitants made a beeline to return to the cozy suburbs and dilapidated slums, in lands far far away.

They nestled themselves in one of the corner towers of the second stone edifice in a cozy alcove in the front of the building which officially housed the executive of the city. She leant onto one of the petrous gargoyles that stood guard atop the structure and looked at the majestic terminus in front of them. It had risen like a promise of future grandeur of the city and remained thus.

Aah. Victoria Terminus” she sighed. “I never get tired of looking at it in the evenings. Prettily lit and decked and all with all my people rushing home. You are making them run today.” She gently laughed as she looked at one particularly anxious person run across the road, precariously balancing himself over the slippery road.

Slow down for a minute. Let Anand pass

He smiled in mischief and the rain seemed to suddenly intensify. The person in question, the unfortunate mortal called Anand was now caught in the middle of the road. He stood there, struck in sudden shock and unable to make a decision whether to run towards VT or sprint back towards the VadaPav stall where he had spent the greater part of the last twenty minutes, waiting for the showers to abate. With each drop of  rain that fell, he grew wetter and restless. He looked down at the leather sling bag under his shoulder. Important Documents.

Suddenly out of nowhere, a woman ran upto him with a large bright yellow umbrella. Actually it was more of an ochre shade than yellow, similar to the colour of the paint they use on the Mumbai local trains. She approached him without hesitance and grabbed his shoulder and pulled him under her umbrella. Before his brain could process what happened, he was under the foyer of the station, being pushed into the main entry hall by the tired huddled masses. He looked back and forth, searching frantically for the yellow umbrella. But all that could see was a sea of black, with a smattering of reds and pinks. No yellow.

The young man atop the BMC building looked at his lady companion, amused and proud. He looked back at the station, only to see Anand walk out in search of the yellow umbrella and spoke slowly.

“Three things. That’s not Victoria Terminus. Its now known as the Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus. And secondly. How do you know his name? Thirdly. Who uses a yellow umbrella?” his gaze still fixed on the young man who walked inside dejected and crestfallen.

Its always VT for me. And secondly I know everyone’s name.” She smiled back smugly at him. “Thirdly, there are people who use yellow.” She contemplated the yellow umbrella at her side, which she finally showed him.

“That makes me love you even more. Now where is my kiss?” He bent forward eagerly, searching for her lips. She pushed him away.

Listen. I am still mad over 2005. I have not forgotten it.”

“I have been apologizing for the last 8 years. I am sorry. I didn’t mean it. I was angry that year. I have been apologizing every year. I even touched your feet . Will you ever forgive me?”

No. I have forgiven you. I never said I haven’t forgiven you. I just haven’t forgotten it.”

The man was certainly not accustomed to his overtures being thwarted so prematurely. He bristled into a tirade as they stood up and walked. In minutes, they were walking towards buildings in the lanes of old city of Bombay, a place called Byculla. Here the lanes twisted and crossed each other at acute and unexpected angles and opened into tiny vestibules and verandahs. The fresh rain had raked up the mud from the crevices and garbage from bins and strewn them across the above mentioned narrow lanes. The couple stood on the parapet of a flyover that split into two lanes as it landed. Between the two prongs of the flyover, stood a statue. Yet another silent memory to the changing fate of the city, this Parsi gentleman was going to be the sole spectator to the impending diatribe.

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“I hate coming to Bombay. I don’t know why I come here every year. This is a dark city. Just like you. We suffer. We make others suffer. We are in a mad rush for money, power, sex or revenge that very often, we forget our humanities.” The rain had turned into a downpour. Her saree didn’t seem to pick up the rain as it continued to fly and flutter in the gusts that accompanied his trite complaint.

“Broken Promises, missed appointments, lost jobs, aborted fetuses, abandoned children, molested kids, unfaithful marriages, tortured wives, raped women, beaten men, defeated dreams, destroyed hopes, misplaced files, torn pages, faded ideologies, spilt blood, ostracized communities, ghettoized populations, deracinated generations, failed exams, lost causes, dried taps, unpaid bills, unkept commitments, decomposing garbage, clogged drains, submerged suburbs, This is what you have to offer.” His arm spanned across the city, right from the cotton mills of Bhiwandi to the plush apartments of Cuffe Parade.

You are right. All that you say about Bombay is true. It’s a dark city. But it is the city of dreams. It represents freedom, success, fame and most importantly opportunity. People leave family and friends behind and come here to live and die. They struggle here. In the locals, in the shanties, in the offices and homes. Everywhere. They come to me to make a living. Most of them times, they make a life with me. I bear their pains and support them on my shoulders.”

I need the energy to survive another year. A whole calendar of running people’s lives is extremely draining. There is always a man whose suicide has to be foiled. There is always a girl to be safely escorted home. There is always a lady whose delivery I need to supervise. There is always a kid whose chocolates I have to protect. There is a marriage I have to attend. There is a death I have to mourn. There is always a young man  who needs a guardian angel”

She looked at him “I am alone and weak. This is why I invite you to stay in Mumbai for three months. I need to cleanse myself of these maladies and responsibilities. I need a new start in October. I need to go on. This city is an eternal enterprise. This city is me. I am Bombay.”

She suddenly sprinted into the great unknown above the city. He ran behind her. He clutched her hand in the rain and drew her closer to him. They embraced. Two tired souls finally found peace. The rain finally touched her and she allowed it to drench her. Beneath them a fast local pulled into Kurla. Next to them an airplane took off from Sahar. The rains had landed in the city of Mumbai.

         

After three months…

It was another evening. The clouds thundered as they crashed against each other. You could almost feel their pain as they knocked against one another, over and again and the ensuing friction produced streams of searing flashes of lightning, which formed giant wavy creepers coursing across the skyline of the city soaking Bombay in moments of brilliance before dying out, only to be replaced by another bolt somewhere else. Random dark clouds rolled in from all directions as if a divine power had thrust them inwards They crashed and burnt. Below them sat a man, angrily pointing his index finger into the air and swirling it with fury. The clouds followed his movements.

Stop it. You’ll scare the city.”, she implored as she hid in his shirt, both hands cupping her ears in a futile attempt to drown the terrifying noise. “You behave like a kid every year. Its raining very heavily. Stop it. Ankle deep water has started flowing into Parel. I am not cleaning up again.”

They sat under the stars, albeit you couldn’t see any of them as a thick blanket of clouds shrouded the city like a woman in mourning. It was one of the less romantic spots in Bombay. It was a large park stamped firm on the chest of the city in Dadar. A regal statue of the Emperor of the Marathas stood guard in a corner. The entire park was flanked by trees which drooped graciously onto the narrow paved pathways that circumambulated it and provided plentiful green cover. The two of them strolled around the parapet of the wall for a while, her dress surprisingly dry inspite of the heavy downpour and splattering mud across their feet. The park was deserted, except for the occasional passerby on a bike or a speeding car.

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“I don’t know why you insisted that we meet here this time.”

I like this park. It doesn’t have the airs of the South Bombay parks. It is much simpler and the people mild mannered. I have fond memories of this place. I still remember sitting in this very corner with the edge of my saree draped over my head as I listened to a young Marathi leader create fire with his words in 1966. That was a speech I would never forget.I come here every year on Vijayadasami.” She smiled weakly as she pointed towards a spot in the park.

  “I don’t want to leave.”

You never do want to leave. But we are lovers for the eternity. It isn’t like you will not return next year. I can have you only for three months of the year. That was the initial pact when the God of the Oceans retreated to bring me to life.

“I shall miss you. I shall remember you every moment until I return. It shall be a winter of loneliness and a summer of sorrow for me. I love you like the very rain I bring you.”

He snapped his fingers and a bolt of lightning descended from the heavens into his palm and sparkled and shimmered like the moon itself. He gently opened her palm and pressed the splinter of energy into it and curled his fingers around hers. The bolt flickered iridescently for a few seconds and then dissolved into her hands.

“Here. I give you my energy to last you through all pain until I return.”

Why do you love me so much?”

“Because you are the City of Bombay.”

And you are the Prince of the Monsoons

The star crossed lovers closed their eyes and kissed. As she opened her eyes, he was gone and so was the rain. She turned back and walked towards Dadar station, just like everyone else in the city did.

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Excerpts from a Novel i am Writing.

The following lines are an excerpt from a novel i am writing. Having been stricken with writer’s block for several months, i have decided to share a little of it with people so i can get a push ( either frontward or otherwise)

 

They laughed as they thought of that day.

What was his name ? Shashi? Wasn’t it?”

“Yeah yeah. Even that godforsaken name wasn’t gender clarifying. Where did you pick him up from? Grant Road?”

“No. I think he was from Parel or something. I don’t remember. But you were horrible to him. He felt bad.”

   “You think I am horrible? Have you spoken to Vishnu’s mother? She has got a mouth like a Koliwada fisherwoman. Yeah. Yeah. We met her when she was in that conference in Belapur. You cant imagine her. Hey Ram.! She was so abusive. That taxi-wallah literally cried.”

“Well. His meter was rigged and he was trying to steal money from us”

“So? How do you know the meter was rigged? Only because Vishnu said it was. I saw his face when he was complaining to his mother. He had this devilish grin. And so did she. They were like two lions waiting to take down a poor deer. That taxiwallah must have seen his wife as soon as he got up that day. His mummy created such a scene. I thought she would beat him with her chappal. She almost reached for it. No. I am not joking. She bent forward to take it..Yes. Her chappal. Right in front of that guesthouse in Colaba. All those aunties were looking at us.”

“Her job demands it nani.”

“Since when did a government officer need to swear like a fishwife? But she is fun. And she has got that self-obsessed aura about her which makes her a treat to watch. Looks like Vishnu got it from her.”

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Mom vs Me. Gay vs Straight.

One of those wonderful days at home. You mom is visiting and she has generously agreed to your request of cooking “Pesarattu” for you. For those who have not yet heard of or tasted this wondrous dish, I pity your misfortune. It’s a flat pancake made out of whole green gram and sprinkled with chopped onions, green chillies, ginger and cumin seeds soaking in ghee. I am sure it is the breakfast of the Gods.

I was humming a gentle song and spreading out the heavenly batter on a cooking pan when I hear my mother yell out my name. The tone was louder than normal and shriller than maternal.

 

Cheppu Amma ( Tell me Mom)

“What is this?”

What is what? I set the stove onto low and walked into the bedroom.

What is THIS?” She was standing behind the far side of the bed and in her hand was dangling a bright coloured dupatta.

“A more relevant question would have been whose is this?”

I froze. A blue dupatta. I needed to think of something quick. I am usually quite the person to think on my feet. I could get out of work, trouble, hospital postings, night duties, skirmishes with policemen and the occasional run in with boss by coming up with excuses and explanations that were generally so outrageous that they would be swallowed with absolute credulity.

But this was Mom. Your brain turns to jelly and slowly pours out of your ears in front of her.

Er. Amma… Actually… I don’t remember whose it is

Among all the answers I could have given her, this was the worst. In cricketing terms, I just managed to “hit my wicket”

“What? You don’t remember? Are they so many girls coming into this house that you can’t keep track? Oh Lord Balaji.!! My son has fallen on the ways of the world after coming to this god forsaken city.” She began to rant and rant with hands flailing all over the place.

The series of events just spiraled out of control. I have no idea what happened next as she bombarded me with a series of questions and demanded answers. She kept tugging at my hand and pointing to the picture of my grandfather and asking me how he would react if he were alive. I had this certain feeling that I could see my grandfather smirking at me in joy. No. I am sure. That picture was smirking at me.

By the time I looked back at my mother, she wasn’t there. She was replaced by Arnab Goswami who demanded all the answers from me but wouldn’t give me any time to defend myself or even to breathe in front of her. She had become the victim, accuser, prosecution, witnesses, judge and the jailor in one stroke.

“Who is this girl? Who are these girls? Who are these women of other castes or religions that you are inviting home?. No . Leave it. We need to end it. We need to get you married. You had enough of running behind locals and girls in this God forsaken city. No. Kiran. You need to get married.”

MARRIAGE!!!? I couldn’t get married. Im too young. I haven’t dated anyone from Virar yet. How could I get married? I need to think quick. What do I say? Married? Impotent? Heartbroken? Poor? Committed? Possessed by the Devil? Gay?

Yup. I choose Gay to save the day.

 

No. Amma. That dupatta doesn’t belong to a guy. It belongs to a guy. Yes. Im gay. I like guys. Plump cute ones.”

I had played the gay card. This was the last card a guy can play. I had already played the girlfriend card. I had played the “too-young-for-marriage” card. I had played the “grandpa-dead-i-am-heartbroken” card. I had played “i-don’t-have-a-quarter-in-Bombay” card. I had played the “Too-much-work-stress-cant-support-family” card. I had even played the “i-am-too-immature-for-a-girl” card. This was the last card . The card of desperation to stall an impending wedding. The last card of deceit and lies and of abandoning ones sexuality to postpone the inevitable.

“What? What do you mean you are gay?”

Im gay. I like guys

“I know what gay means. Ive seen Dostana.”

Good. So im gay.”

“But I don’t see any chiffon skirts or make up kits in the house Kiran”

Amma. Im Gay,  im not a cross dresser” . The conversation was getting exceedingly uncomfortable.

“Ok. Let me process it. You like boys.”

No. I used to like boys. Now I like men.”

“Ok, Fine”

And then she did the unimaginable. My mother’s actions are truly the acknowledgement of the “Mad-Gult” gene that runs in my family.

She grabbed her bag and took the phone out. She began to dial.

“Hello. Its me. We were looking for a groom for Kavita na. We need to look for another groom as well. For whom? For my son. Yes. Kiran only. I am not joking. He likes guys it seems. How am I supposed to know. He has had a string of girlfriends. I never suspected. But leave all of that. We need to get him married. A tall boy of in the 24-30 age bracket. Are you writing this down?”

Amma. What is wrong with you?” I was appalled at my mother. She had taken this thing exceedingly well. This card, which I had supposed would temporarily save me from marriage was throwing me under the bus, a totally new unexpected bus.

“Let me see. Kiran will like tall guys. Atleast 5’10. Telugu ViswaBrahmin. Well built and fair. Perhaps someone with gym body. What do you say Kiran? No. Ok. Atleast an MBA or MD. Must be working in Bombay. You know his horoscope no.? He is Mithuna Lagnam and Visakha Nakshatram. You put it up on the website na.”

I grew increasingly paranoid. Website?

Amma what is this? Who was that? What is this website you are speaking to him about?”

“It was only Ramana Murthy uncle Kiran. The marriage broker. Your father and I have decided to get you married within six months. It doesn’t matter who you marry a boy or a girl. You are marrying in six months.”

I began to panic suddenly. This woman had gone lost her marbles. “Amma. Are you mad? What will the relatives say?”

“I don’t care Kiran”, she declared loudly. “ I love my little gay son.I don’t care what the world thinks. Your happiness is paramount for me”. She hugged me and began to weep. “I know it will be difficult. It has been extremely difficult to find a guy for your sister. I shall be harder to find a guy for you. But we shall do it. We will find you a boy in our community. I promise you my son.”

What the Fountain!!? What do you mean in our community?”

“Yes. Ofcourse. Just because you are gay, doesn’t stop you from becoming a Telugu Vishwabrahmin. Your father will not approve you marrying some Marathi or Punjabi boy. Oh I Forgot. I need to tell your Dad also. Let me call him”

I froze in terror. My dad finding out that I was gay was unimaginable. He would kill me. Wait a minute. I am not gay. I was pretending to be gay. Well. My dad finding even that out would be more mortifying. He will kill me either ways. I would be the first guy in history who got killed for pretending to be gay. I couldn’t let my mom tell him. This woman had gone totally whacko and was behaving in an exceedingly difficult to handle manner. Next moment she could ask me to wear her stilettos.

She was still sobbing at regular intervals and breathing silently. She finally started to dial the numbers and barked “ Yemandi ( Telugu way of wives to address their husbands). I need to tell you something about your son.”

I lunged forward and grabbed the phone. “Nothing father. Mom is just complaining that its raining too much and that the roof leaks a little. Bye for now

Amma”, I implored as I fell on my knees to apologise. “ Don’t tell dad. He will kill me. I am not gay. I was just acting to get out of the wedding. I am not gay. I agree that I like Idina Menzel but that’s it. I was just acting. Now you don’t tell dad

She caught hold of my shirt and drew me closer. And in a deep scary, almost satanic voice, she whispered to me, “You think you are the only one who can act.? I am your mother and I was born on the banks of the Godavari. Don’t underestimate me. Now look at the pictures of girls Ramana Murthy has sent”

She went into the kitchen whistling a happy tune. I think I regained consciousness after an hour.

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An Unusual Letter

My beloved  “dearly repentant after bout of anger

Sweetheart. ( Yes. I referred to you as my sweetheart. Get used to it).I like you too much to lose you on such a trivial thing. We are dear friends and more as well. Don’t think that one incident or a few harsh words can make me cut you out of my life. We are stronger than that (even though looking at icecream makes us both weak in the knees)

This incident was too minor an inconvenience to come between us. Whatever was said was said. We cant change it. It has transpired and we have to live with it. I must admit that it wasn’t one of your better speeches but let us forget it.Yes.It made me mad at you and i am probably a little even now. But it’s all temporary madness and shall blow over. You are lucky I believe in second chances ( in your case, fifteenth chance, isn’t it?)

And anyway I have no idea how you look at me or looked at me. I have always looked at you as a very dear person to me (for reasons unknown and possibly due to some degenerative condition of the decision making centres of my brain).

There was never anything overtly carnal in my feelings towards you and there shall never be. Any subtle indications in that direction can only be explained by the reflexive reactions an intense attraction might trigger. But believe me. I never meant it deliberately. Those “looks” that you say I give you are all a part of that involuntary reaction that you trigger. And admit it, you also have given me those looks. Do I trigger such a reaction in your tummy as well? ( I know ive used the “word” trigger thrice already, but I genuinely like that word). I can see pretty well through the corners of my eyes to notice the looks you give me. These are minor flirtations and as we have decided, let us leave them at that.  And I accept it, I wouldn’t mind touching your gentle skin once and feeling my hand run through your hair once.

Let me try to explain what my feelings towards you are. It is essentially “a distinct persistent fondness” that i possess for you and it shall remain thus, unwavering and unfaltering ( unless ofcourse one of us does something singularly catastrophic). It has survived the years and it has survived our relationships with others as well. (Heck. It has outlasted two of my girlfriends) We have been to the abyss and back several times and each time we have survived it ( thank god for our passing moments of sanity which enable us to process things in maturity)  Every situation that looked like it shall tear the fabric of our friendship was somehow surmounted and we managed to remain close ever since. Remember the Bandra West incident? Or the incident when you insulted Rafael Nadal? Those were the days when the fog of war, a war of two warring stubborn egos crashing against each other ( much like waves crashing against the tripods outside NCPA- neither will budge).

Anyway I don’t think we can call it friendship anymore. Its something more than that. You know it and so do I. We aren’t just regular friends. I think I couldn’t do justice to you if I introduce you to my parents as my best friend. But I wouldn’t be doing justice even if I introduced you to them as my lover. We have taken a tangential detour on the bumpy road that lies between friendship and love and we have landed ourselves in this romanceless limbo. I don’t even have a word for it. (Perhaps the Germans do. They have a word for everything.) And in my opinion that limbo isn’t even the worst part of the entire scenario, but it is the lack of an exit clause without mutating the entirety of the relationship, perhaps with disastrous and irrevocable consequences.

In reality, I couldn’t even kiss you ( or even toy with such an idea in my mind) because I don’t know what form our relationship shall don once our lips part. ( I am actually kidding. I would love to kiss you. No wait. I wouldn’t. Or would I? ) . Each time I think about giving our faceless relation a label, I find myself fumbling for words. So for operational convenience, we shall call it our “Bond”.

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These minor transgressions from either side (they shall be minimal from my side, i can assure you that) are only inconsequential blips on the greater radar that is our relation.

As you always say, “It’s a clean slate” once again.

                                                                                         Yours lovingly,

                                                                              “Confused but forgiving

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The Ex GirlFriend

A whatsapp ping can change your life

“Real Mature KKK.”

“Kiss and tell much.”

What??? What happened? Whats wrong?”

“You told Shantanu”

Getting back together with an ex is always a road fraught with innumerable number of reasons. This is just one such case where an otherwise reasonable guy (like me) falls for the old trick of returning to the Ex.

Let me recap. It was a wonderfully sunny Sunday morning and I was downstairs helping the neighbour cook ( to be read as “waiting for the cooking to be done so I could get free food”) when the phone rings. You always jump a little when the number of the girl who hasn’t called you in a year suddenly flashes on your phone. Especially so when your break up was loud, spiteful and acrimonious. (After the breakup, we had even shared our friends. The joke was on her. I got the cool friends)

Hello. Whats up??

“Listen Kiran. Im in the neighbourhood. In BKC on some work. Im coming over in 30 minutes. I haven’t seen your new place.”

Is that permission? Or information?”

“Whatever you want it to be” A chuckle and the line hangs up.

Forget free food. I was going to get action. I forgot the Upma slowly cooking on aunty’s stove and ran upstairs to clean my place and hide my dirty laundry.

30 minutes later, she showed up. She was always on time. That was one of the things I loved about her. Always on time. As she whirled in and waltzed around my place, I remembered the good times we had spent together. As she picked holes and suggested design changes to make the house look more better, my mind rewinded back to a year ago. Our weekly movies in Mulund and Andheri, our sneaking back to my hostel room, our lovie-dovie messages, our midnight chats,  and everything else that seemed colourful and perfect about us.

In retrospect, I think this was the exact moment where my mind started failing me. I got carried away by the wonderful times we had that I forgot all the bickering, fighting and the name calling.

As I guided her into the library to flaunt my huge book collection, I gently neared her and there it was. The moment that made my knees weak. Her perfume. I could sense it. That was one thing that drove me mad. I pressed my face into her shoulder and inhaled deeply and sighed slowly.

“I knew you would like it. Marc Jacobs Kiran. I knew you loved me in this” and she bent forward and smelt my shirt “ Aah. You remember? I loved your Ralph Lauren.”

I leant forward for a kiss. My mind had abandoned me totally now. Like all men, the touch of a woman and all the synapses in your brain snap. All that grey matter goes for a hike. I was on the fast train towards hell, spiraling out of control. She replied with the same intensity. “ Don’t expect anything much mister. I am still mad at you” A muffled mumble was all that I could reply.

 

Dude. Shantanu. You there? She came over earlier today. We made out.”

“What the freaking lord is wrong with you???? Why did you do her Kiran?”

We just made out. Nothing happened. It was an accident Shantanu.”

“I know. You slipped and fell on her mouth. Again and again. Right?”

Somewhat *sheepish smiley*”

“Wait. Let me tease her.”

Let me introduce Shantanu. He is the person who introduced me to her two years ago. He is the best friends to both of us even now ( He is one of the people I won in the break up but I graciously granted her access to him also). He knows the entire story of my twisted relationship, from its unorthodox inception to its untimely demise. He had even mediated most of our fights. He had comforted me ( and I presume, her also ) after the disastrous breakup. So I told him. I needed to tell someone. I am human folks! Couldn’t tell my brother because he would beat me up. So Shantanu it was

So now apparently he sent her a message to let her know that he knew.

I assume it was something like. “Hi. I know you made out with Kiran. He is such a hunk that I would have lost control with him myself. Good luck falling asleep at night”

Apparently it wasn’t that. It was like “You little minx! You wait for the instant I am out of town and you jump on Kiran. You bit his lower lip off it seems. You little tigress! I want full details asap”

Ergo we return to the original whatsapp fight.

“Was it supposed to be a secret? I thought Shantanu was always in the loop.”

“Cant you keep anything to yourself? Why do you have to go around telling everyone.?

I didn’t tell everyone. Shantanu is family. And you NEVER told me that it was supposed to be a secret. You had ample opportunity to tell me on Sunday. Your mouth was near my ear the whole time.”

“Stop being a pervert. You are disgusting. You broke my trust.”

What trust? You never explicitly mentioned that it was supposed to be between us only. I repeat. There was never a contractual obligation of non disclosure.”

“Shut the F up Kiran. You haven’t changed. Always proclaiming your conquests.”

Was it a conquest for me? I seemed the other way around madam.”

“And to think I wanted to get back together. Thank god for my lucky stars”

:God? I thought you were an atheist?”

“See. You are a smart ass. Can never get over yourself. Coming back to you was a mistake.”

What? What is this getting back together.? As much fun as we had, we were a horrible couple. Ask Shantanu.”

“Screw Shantanu. I am not talking to you anymore.”

Hello. I don’t understand what my mistake is. Did you want it to be a secret rendezvous?”

“I don’t care if the whole world knows. I wanted it on my terms.”

God. I apologise if I did something wrong. I am sorry” As soon as I sent the message, I realized something. Why was I apologizing? I had for a moment become her boyfriend again, apologizing for no mistakes of mine and awaiting her approval. I had no reason to be apologetic.  How I wished that last message could be erased.

Ex-girlfriends are strange. They are weird. They are downright dangerous. This one was the cream of the crop when it comes to weird girlfriends. Even when we were together, she scared the day lights out of me. Never go back to ex-girlfriends and past flings. They are your past and they are in your past for a particular reason. Move ahead. Find better women and women whom you can atleast make an effort to understand

Luckily that last message never reached her on whatsapp. She had already blocked me.

 

*This is inspired fiction. Elements are based from real life. Could be mine. May not be mine.

 

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The Mother and the Mistress.

 “No. We need to wait. Wait another half an hour. That’s all.”

“What is this sir.? Rahukaalam( inauspicious time according to the Hindu almanac) will start soon. The dead body has to be taken to the graveyard.” the priest was getting impatient, and increasing restless.

No sir. We are waiting for an important relative. That person may come anytime soon. Please understand.”

“Who is it Kiran?”, My mom asked. “Noone. Absolutely no one”, I shot back.

Where is she? I am waiting for her only. People are shouting at me now. Where? Vinayaka temple? Okok. That means five minutes.” I mumbled into my mobile.

Sir. Another five minutes. Rahukalam and Yamagandam are irrelevant now. He has already passed away. A few minutes this way or that wouldn’t matter now. You take some coconut water sir.” I winked at my sister who ran in to get some coconut water for the irate priest who had resigned himself to the slight delay.

An autorickshaw stopped right in front of our house. A single lady got out of it. A tall, fair woman in her early fifties stepped out of the rickshaw, clutching only a handbag. She was exceedingly pretty even at this age. A strong jawline, aquiline nose and heavy hazel eyes, fresh with recent grief revealed a familiar face. A gentle coffee brown saree was draped carefully around her shoulders and neck, revealing only an old gold necklace (strikingly similar to one my grandmother had) and her sharp piercing gaze scanned the crowd intently looking for recognition. Those standing were familiar visages to her memory but were strangers for all practicality. None of them smiled at her or even betrayed even the slightest of emotion. She walked hesitantly towards the porch. Whispers rose in the gathering and she walked closer.

The body was in his favorite reclining chair and was seated in the porch, facing east. Dabbed with turmeric, vermillion and tulasi leaves and hair wet with holy water, my grandfather would have easily passed away for being just an elderly man in deep sleep. The two day stubble, the cheeky smile and the blue chequered lungi on the body would have fooled an innocent passerby about the lack of life in it.

She saw me. I smiled hesitantly. She gathered a little courage and walked forward. She saw the body. And immediately her composure melted and she fell on her knees in front of the gate. Her pink face was instantly blanched of its colour and she began to wail loudly and beat her chest. Her voice rose to a steady yowl as she got up and walked up to the cadaver and fell at its feet, still crying loudly.

 “Dude. Who is she? Some long estranged relative?”

No. She is Manjulavani. My grandfather’s mistress.”

“Oh fuck. So this is the lady you always speak about. Manjulavani. The famous house wrecker. You were right dude. She is pretty, even at this age. Your granddad had kickass taste man.”

Shut up. My mother hates her with the depth of her heart. If she hears you praising her, we might need to dig another grave for you. Hold your tongue.”

“Wasn’t she informed?”

She was. But late in the night. My dad was saner than my mom. He informed her. My mom would have never allowed her to come. But whatever has happened, she has been in my grandfather’s life for a greater part of 25 years. She does have the right to a last visit.”

 

Manjulavani was still crying at my grandfather’s feet. She wailed and wailed, and set entreaties to the gods and abuses to the fates, and reminded everyone of her impending misery and loneliness. A few other women who had been silent until now, started to sob loudly, obviously a reflex reaction to this outburst. She got up finally and walked up to my mother. They looked at each other.

“This was not going to be good”, I whispered to my friend. “Not at all good. Brace yourself. We may need to physically separate them if need be.”

My mom (and my grandmother during her time) had hated her for all I remember. All interactions between them had been famously acrid and acrimonious. Ofcourse, no other emotion could be expected. My mother had even blamed her for my grandmother’s untimely death 7 years ago (which was stupid since my grandmother had lifelong issues with endocarditis and ultimately died of congestive heart failure). Manjulavani had been successful in retaining my grandfather for 10 days a month, even now.

She hugged her suddenly. My mother, overwhelmed with grief and despair hugged her back. They had spent their whole lives hating each other and trying to get one up against another. The daughter who thought her rightful share in the affection and inheritance of her father was being usurped by a tramp from a small village on the banks of Godavari versus the mistress who had spent a lot of her life in the shadow of a legal spouse, living with the proverbial sword hanging over her neck about being cut off from the one man she adored, living the life she wanted in her own terms.

The women hugged and cried. Both of them had lost an important part of their lives. My grandfather was a towering personality. All his relatives had lived in his shadow. Even I. For an instant, these two women had decided to put aside long standing differences and grieve in unison for the man who meant the world for both of them.

Death is a great leveler. Death is also a great unifier. People are brought closer during deaths. A common loss is all that it takes for people to be united, albeit temporarily. A shared misfortune is often a stronger bond than a shared gift or a mutual bounty. People can identify with someone who is going through a similar rough patch as their own. Communal bonding is often centred around this concept of death and the subsequent rituals are designed to draw relatives and friends to the house of the bereaved, as a symbol of lessening the pain and sharing the grief.

In my case, it was the daughter of the deceased making peace with the mistress. It might be a short lasting peace. But its still a peace for today.

 

Later in the day.

As we had finished our rituals in the graveyard and walked back, I saw Manjulavani standing in the corner of the cemetery. She was holding a large hand kerchief as she continued to dab her face at regular intervals.

You shouldn’t be here. Women of the household aren’t allowed into the burial ground during the burial, according to custom”, I spoke as I approached her.

“As your mom has reminded me several times in the past, I am not a woman of the household. For that matter, any household.” We smiled weakly. “I am going back home now Kiran. You wont hear from me again.”

 

*Loosely based on real life. Poetic licenses have been taken

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A Night Duty in the Emergency Unit

 

Sir!” I came running to the bedside where the postgraduate was desperately trying to resuscitate a patient who was rapidly worsening.

“Whats it Kiran?” He didn’t even look at me, and just curtly barked as he heaved upon the patient, chest compressions in full force.

A fourth patient has gone bad. What do we do?”, my voice quivered slightly as I waited for my supervisor to make a difficult decision.

 

 Let me rewind a few hours ago.

AMCU. Acute Medical Care Unit.  A dark dingy ward in the King George Hospital where the patients requiring intensive medical care are lodged. A night duty here is the most difficult time of a House Surgeon’s life. Surviving a night duty without a death (or a wicket as the emotionally detached doctors would call them) is considered to be the equivalent of a miracle.

This was one such particular night duty. Night duties in our hospital usually last from 2 in the afternoon till 8 the next morning. One hour later we had to report for our routine rounds. It was 2:05 pm and I had just dropped my bag on the chair in the nurses’ station and extricated my steth from the bottom of it when I heard the staff nurse call out “ Doctor gaaru. Patient bad. Come quick”

Ten minutes later, I was scribbling notes in casesheet while the staff nurse was disconnecting intervenous lines from the rapidly cooling body of the patient. “Time of death. 2:10 pm

Madam. Looks like this shall be a night for fast bowling. Wickets seem to be falling faster than India’s batting line” This was the stale, recycled joke every house surgeon would crack with the head nurse on duty every afternoon at which she would throw a fake laugh and go back to counting her diazepam vials. Who were we kidding?

The evening steadily worsened. We had lost two patients by nine in the night. I had known they would die the moment I saw the case sheets. “BAD PROGNOSIS EXPLAINED TO RELATIVE” was scribbled across the header in bold in both the cases.

Patients steadily kept pouring in throughout the night. Monday duties were always horrible. Snake bites, Acute Asthmatic attacks, Pneumonias, Liver failures, Nephropathies, Suicide attempts, accidental ingestions of poisoning.

Rajiv. Whats happening? Why the rush?” I spoke up as I entered vitals into a case sheet.

“Dont you realize who is on duty.? Amruthavarshini is the duty nurse. You are the house surgeon on duty. And Rajkumar is on night duty in the casualty. All three of you have reputations to attract heavy workloads individually. And today all the three of you are on duty together. It’s like three evil planets have aligned and are smiling crookedly over the ward. Malevolent intent”

No need to be so dramatic man! Anyway I protest man. My shifts aren’t so bad.”

“Oh! Really? Don’t remember the Gynaec duty of 16th March?? Its in the history books now. Your shift saw 8 C-sections in one night. That was a record. After that they start posting an extra intern along with you.”

That I admit. I must have transfused 15 units that night. God only knows how I managed.”

 

Fast forward to present time. We were two house surgeons and one Post graduate on duty.

Four patients going bad. Three doctors on duty. Sophie’s choice.

“Who are these patients Kiran?”, my postgraduate asked , as he lifted the patient’s shorts searching for a femoral pulse.

“Mine is female. 42. Snake Bite. Her vitals have dropped. Bed 36. Outside first left. The trainee nurse is attending right now.

Who’s your patient Rajiv?” I yelled into the distance “Male, 65, Acute Malaria. Bed 12, Inside last right”, shot the reply from within the bowels of the dim lit hospital ward. “I can’t find a vein sir. He is too irritable and is not cooperating!”

“And this is our third bad patient” He looked at his own candidate and then shouted over my shoulder. “Staff!!! Another ampoule of atropine! This fellow has a fighting chance. He is 26, Infective Meningitis”. The head nurse scurried to the bedside and unloaded the ampoule into the IV line. The pulse oxy-meter attached to the index finger seemed to have picked up this new push of drugs into the blood stream and beeped slightly strong.

Who is the fourth patient?”, I asked the head nurse who was standing next to us, in silent anticipation waiting for orders. It was surprising how the experience of 25 years on the phenol soaked floors of the hospital wards would silently fall in line at the sight of a degree of 5 years.

“This is 35, female, Diabetic Ketoacidosis. Bed 3. Inside 4th left. Her peripherals have started going cold.”

 “Looks like she might be going into organ failure. Just our luck”

What do we do sir?”

Before he could say anything, the nurse spoke up. “I have already called up the Nephrology ward. The intern there is already tied up. Overseeing two dialyses. He can’t leave the post. IRCU doctors have a bad patient themselves. The surgery interns are in theatre. Some accident case. Paediatrics and Gyneac folk cant leave their wards. The Cardio intern said he might be able to come in half an hour, if there are no fresh admissions. The casualty is already backed up. Kiran sir just spoke to them.”

I nodded in assent. “What do we do sir?” the sense of urgency in my voice only rose a few levels higher as I saw my trainee nurse run towards me. Apparently my patient had taken a turn for the worse.

My post graduate looked out of the window for an instant. Took a deep breath, and spoke. He didn’t look at me but at the head nurse. “Leave the oldest. Attend to the rest”. She gave him a wry smile and rushed off in Rajiv’s direction with the case sheet of the snake bite victim.

A moment later Rajiv appeared running across the corridor into the other end of the ward, changing gloves midway without even breaking his sprint.

I still stood there, frozen in disbelief. “Sir? What was that?”

“It’s called triage Kiran. I am short staffed. I shall attend to the patient who has the best chance of surviving the night. Now go to your bed. This trainee nurse is already petrified. Five more minutes and she will need a bed.”

Sir. This is not right. We don’t have the right to….”

“Get the fuck out of here Kiran. Your patient needs you. That snake bite is your responsibility”

Yes sir.”,I broke into a run “ kutti ( looking at the Malayalee trainee), get me an NS line and double dose of epinephrine!

By morning, we had lost two of the above mentioned four patients. None of us had slept for a moment. We had skipped dinner. I had broken a bottle of 25% Dextrose and drank from it. I had spent the whole night at the foot of my snake bite victim, on a small stool, monitoring her vitals. She had made it through finally. She was discharged three days later. I never found out her name. For me she was always “Female 42 Snake Bite”.  Right now, in retrospect it doesn’t matter. All I remember is the yellow of her sari.

Life goes on.

 

 

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Claustrophobic in the Cosmopolis

I don’t remember the house I was born. It was in a Railway quarter in the hot sweaty town of Titlagarh in interior Orissa. It was in the height of Summer and the Hailey’s comet had just passed us by a month earlier. My grandfather even joked about naming me after the celestial visitor, but his mother, our matriarch (who supposedly sat next to my mother during labour with a HMT watch in hand to record the time of my arrival) who put her foot down and dictated that I be named after the Lord of the Seven Hills. That scotched the matter.

All I know that it was a large quarter close to the station and closer to the local temple. Fleeting memories visit me when I think of Titlagarh but they are too scant and too hazy.

My first concrete memories are my ancestral homes, in Rajahmundry from my maternal side and Berhampur on my paternal side. The Rajamundry house, nestled in the delta of the Godavari, was a large three storeyed building with a mango and guava grove where a majority of my summers were spent.

Dad’s place in Berhampur was more of a farmhouse. Straddling the border of the Telugu and Orissa cultural spheres, the village where the ancestral farm essentially meant large stretches of paddy fields and banana plantations. Winters were spent here, trying to play with kids who knew little or no Gult and older cousins who teased the city kid.

Home in Vizag was a large government quarter in the Railways. A modest quarter in the Gurkha Lines was our initial residence but a promotion to the grandfather landed us pretty early in a large bungalow. That was where a large portion of my childhood was spent and my formative years were developed. The bungalow had five bed rooms and my grandfather had the walls between two of them knocked down to give me an extended room. I enjoyed my life there. A servants quarter and a cowpen were the added advantages of that place. Flowers grew in abundance, large parties could be thrown, we made a rainwater harvesting pit, and a cousin even got married there. I graduated from a tricycle to a bicycle to moped to a motorcycle in that house. Its not surprising that I still dream about it at night. It was home for me. The mango trees and the jasmine flowers and the dogs we had.

It was 2003 and my grandfather retired. After 37 years of serving faithfully the Indian Railways, we moved to a plush 2BHK house in an upmarket area of the city. 1200 sft of space is a large space for three people but the joy of a bungalow is a pleasure within itself. This house was in the heart of the city of Vizag, and any family would be more than happy to live here. But my grandmother never got over the downgrade of her lifestyle. She had lived in bungalows the size of small palaces when my grandfather was working, supervising vast vegetable fields and cattle herds, and lording over a small contingent of servants and maids. Unable to abandon the city she loved for the wide open spaces of her village, but incapable of making a transition to this bookshelf (that’s what she called our house), she passed away in a few years.

I mourned her death and mourned our shared misery silently. I hated the small place myself. “Where is the room for the dog to sleep in?” had been my innocent question when I was first shown the apartment. I shared her passion for the great outdoors. But I had begun to resign myself to a smaller lifestyle. The days of large houses are over. Those houses are extinct now.

When I was packed off for training to Mumbai, I shuddered at the thought of a hostel room. But I was lucky to have been given a single room in the officer’s hostel in Bhandup East. Even though it was only a small room, the fact that we had a huge lounge, a large cafeteria, a gym and a billiards room, a badminton court library and a fine lawn made the campus look comfortable and comely. It couldn’t come close to my earlier homes though. I still hated the fact that I could see my entire residence within my field of vision.

Now I live in a 1BHK Hall Apartment in Bandra, falling back on savings to pay the hefty rent. It’s a pleasant locality in the middle of Kalanagar, within walking distance from the Bandra station and biking distance from my office in the International Airport. I live alone. But its still not big enough for me. The 1 BHK opposite mine is shared by 4 girls. I don’t know how they manage to adjust. I could never live with three more folks in a house like this.

Claustrophobia sets in. Walls seem to close in on you. You need to open your windows and attempt to claim some of the world for yourself. You need to drown yourself in your work, in your tears or in alcohol. Or else for a person like me, who has spent childhood in large houses and with an army of servants, this transition is extremely painful. But we have to shrug it off. We say it’s the Bombay life. We unwillingly admit that this is the reality of this cosmopolis. Bombay tends to do that to its citizenry. Space is a constraint of this city. People born here have grown up used to confined small spaces and frequent intrusion of privacy or a complete lack of it. But for a recent implant like me, someone reading your whatsapp chat over your shoulder in the local, or the neighbor aunty coming over asking about your friends isn’t acceptable.

But what can we do? When my brother asks the reason for the expenses, I reply “This is Bombay”. Why haven’t I made substantial savings? “This is Bombay”.   Rents are exorbitant and homes as big as matchboxes and, if lucky the size of shoe boxes. I know friends who inhabit houses that were smaller than the kitchens of my older homes. It’s been two years in Bombay and I still haven’t been able to get over the fact that I live in a much smaller house than all my life. The floor space just isn’t enough. I love the peaceful view though. That’s the only advantage of this home.

Image

The walls seems to be winning the war on me, closing in slowly as I grow older.

Call me old fashioned. Call me princely. Call me spoilt. Call me fastidious. But this is me. Claustrophobic in the Cosmopolis.

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Recovery of Arrears: A Tale of Two Men

This is not a piece of fiction. This is a true story I have encountered in the course of my work. Of course names have been changed.

I work in the Indian Customs. Posted at Sahar International Airport, I am the Assistant Commissioner in-charge of the Tax Recovery Cell of the AirCargo Customs Commissionerate, among other sections..

Two cases have always struck my imagination. The amounts involved are inconsequential to the story, but I shall mention them nonetheless.

Case 1.

Party- M/s Prachi Overseas. Offence: Undervaluation of knitted garments. Amount involved: 50, 000 Rs (a paltry sum for a commissionerate which churns out revenue in excess of 7500 crores annually.)

Offender : Mr Vikram Ved

My officers had visited his house, a little known lane in Nallasopara East. Later recollecting the visit, my officers spoke thus.

“ Sir. There was absolutely nothing in his house. I don’t even think he has an attached toilet. Except one old Videocon TV, nothing is worth even a second look. His wife is there sir. Old lady with arthritis I think. She can’t even walk properly. Always is in pain. He has a son who works in a call centre. Except for a French beard, that boy doesn’t have any airs of a Call centre employee or a Bombay chap. Vikram Ved is also not doing well. He has had a cataract operation recently and is suffering from some kidney problem it seems. He was thin and frail. But very cooperative sir. He offered us tea and all”

After receiving the demand notice, Mr Vikram Ved turned up at my office three days after the visit. He had asked for a personal appointment to which I agreed instantly.

“Sir. I have nothing to do with Prachi Overseas. It was a friend of mine who was doing this fraud. He gave me five thousand rupees and took my ration card. I didn’t know that he forged my signature, procured an Import –Export Code and was running this smuggling racket. Finally he was arrested and the case was decided. The Commissioner imposed a penalty on me also because the import was carried out on my name. I am innocent sir. Or only guilty to the extent of falling prey to the lure of quick money. I am not a smuggler. I am a respectable man. It was so horrible to have government officers to knock on my doors like this”

But Mr Ved. The adjudication is final. There is a confirmed penalty of Rs 50,000 against your personal self in this order. We cannot disregard this. Nor can you. You will have to pay this amount. Now tell me. When you can make the payment?”

“Sir. I have nothing. Arrest me if you want. Atleast I shall get food in the jail. I have no money to pay my electricity bills right now.” He paused for a moment and spoke again “ Sir. Can I pay it in installments?”

My officer looked at me and conveyed it through his eyes that there was no provision for installments. “But there is a provision for part payments”, I smiled as I spoke.

My officer speaks up, “That circular says that a maximum of three payments are allowed.” “I know. I have read the bloody law before sitting in this chair. I have not jumped over the wall to come here.” I bark impatiently.

“Saab. I am leaving for Vapi tomorrow. I have got a small job there. I shall be earning enough to run my household. I shall make a payment everymonth. My son shall deposit it on the 5th without fail. I shall clear my dues to the Government. I am an honest citizen.”

“How much can you pay every month.?”

“Two thousand five hundred.” “ Deal”

My officer is riled and interjects, “ Sir. This is not an angaadiya where we can make such deals with offenders and make adjustments. This is not acceptable sir”

“Jaiswal. You can do as you wish when you sit in my chair. Not now. Go do your work. Where is that letter you were supposed to put up for approval? Is it hatching eggs?” I angrily throw a file into the outbox and a sepoy scurries in to carry it out.

It has been five months and I have received five payments.

Case 2

Party: M/s Excelsior Engineering Amount Involved : Rs 40. 52 crores Offence: Illegal exemption on ATM parts

Offender : Jitender Seth

My officers dutifully visited the premises of the defaulting party. As my preventive officer later recollected

“ Sir. It is a big four storeyed commercial complex in Tardeo, near AC market. There are almost 20 offices there. A big name board outside reads several names sir. Jitender Marketing. Jitender Foundation, Jitender Financial Services, Jitender Real Estate”, he continued to read on as he looked at his notebook.

“As per our records, Jitender Seth is the Director of Excelsior Engineering. He owns the building sir. There are CCTVs everywhere. Clean and beautifully done lobby with artworks and all sir. You have to swipe a card to go inside sir. Full security. Wonderful building and a pretty receptionist also.

“Can you stop drooling over the building and tell me details useful for us.? Did you get the deed of the building? Ownership agreement.? Atleast an electricity bill?”

“They were not very cooperative. Everyone knows Jitender owns the building but no one will admit it. They didn’t even let us inside until you had spoken to the manager and threatened that non-cooperation with a government officer is an offence. They wouldn’t give any documents sir.”

“So basically, you took the departmental car and drove around Girgaum and came back?”

“No sir. We went to Jitender Seth’s apartment on Napean Sea Road. Huge building. Beautifully decorated gardens, three floor parking spaces and even a fountain inside sir.” “ Cant you stop showing me NDTV Lifestyle please?” “Sorry sir. Jitender’s manager came out and met us. He promised to give us all the documents in three days.

Two weeks later. I am on the phone with his manager. “ Mr Bhatt!! This delay in not condonable. I shall issue a summons to Mr Seth.! I am not joking. I don’t care if you have the case pending in the tribunal. You don’t have an operative stay. I can recover the money. I don’t mind selling all the property to recover government dues. I am issuing a summons right now!”

The next day, Mr Bhatt is in front of me with the bank statement of Excelsior Engineering from a bank in Thakurdwar. I utter my first mother-sister abuse of the day at him. “Six Hundred Rupees!! Are you fucking kidding me. Your company has defrauded the exchequer of 40 crores and your bank account has 600 rupees. What sort of an idiot do you think I am?”

“Jitender saab was trapped in this sir. He is innocent. He runs schools and colleges and hospitals and charities.” “ Any proof?” Silence.

“Trapped.? I have read the file. Imports were staggered over 8 months and three airports. Three clearing agents were changed. You tried to illegally clear consignments without Customs punch seal. This isn’t entrapment. This is outright smuggling. I was not taught the law yesterday. I want the deed to the Napean Sea Road house tomorrow. I am anyway issuing a summons.”

The next day I receive a call. “Karlapu saab.” “ don’t call me Karlapu. Call me Kiran Kumar.”

“ I am Jitender Seth. What is your vengeance against me? I am a Gandhian, believer in the principles of the Mahatma” “ Where did Bapu teach us to evade Customs Duty?”

“ That is in the court sir. Why are you in such a hurry? Mistakes happen. We all do them. Cool down.” “ Forty crores isn’t a mistake sir.” “ Do you Mr Rajesh Krishnan, retired Commissioner? He is my advocate in this matter. He would certainly love to meet you once. Bhatt says you are young and hardworking. Krishnan would be impressed. Come over to Cricket Club on Sunday na. We can all talk it out comfortably. He is also from the south. Tamil just like you.”

“That’s it! No one confuses me with a Tamil..” I disconnect the phone and start perusing through the draft summons. I call my officer on the intercom “ What is this? SHRI Jitender Seth? Is he your father in law? He is a fraudster. Remember that. Correct it. Write Mister.”

A week later we receive a letter from his advocate. My officer reads it while I sit, fists folded beneath my chin, as if in deep thought “Sir. You are accused of causing mental trauma to the defendant and we are accused of manhandling his staff. He blames you for the deteriorating health of his client, who after being bit by a mosquito has contracted malaria it seems sir.”

“Malaria in December.? Super!” “So he is not in a condition to honour our summons. The advocate also threatens to complain to Delhi for our high handed action and extra lawful activities. The language looks scary sir. What do we do?”

File it and forget it” . We are still fighting this case

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