Note: The fact that the I in this story is not me is false, is not true.
The day began with a long yawn and a longer stay on the bed. It is amusing how the most creative of ideas come to you at the most unlikeliest of places. I get mine when I am sleeping or when I am on the bed. Oops… sorry. I didn’t introduce myself. I am Surya. I’m 23 and I write. Yes. I am a writer. I write for a living. Bold career choice? Maybe. Working anywhere else didn’t help me or the organizations that I worked for. Do I earn enough to sustain myself? No. But I am happy. Anyways, let’s get back.
I am a lazy writer. All those wonderful ideas of mystery, thrillers, romance… none of them stays in my head. I don’t note them down either and they evaporate… Like answers out of my mind when I have to write an exam. To get rid of this block, I decided to go out and have some fresh air. I put on my shorts, a sleeveless tee and my flip-flops. Off I went, on to the streets bustling with busy people, busier shops, screaming speakers and silent dogs.
The breeze amidst all this hustle was trying to whisper a secret into every being that ever breathed. The silent dogs, seemingly amused with all the activity around. As I walked past my favourite tea kadai, fighting an urge to have tea, I bumped into one of my friends.
“Hey, Ramesh! How are you, man? It’s been so long!” “Suryaa! It has been really long! I’m all well. How’s it going?” “Long story man. Quit my job.” “Again?? What’s wrong this time? You didn’t like the English of your boss? Your colleagues didn’t know Tamil despite being native speakers?” “Hahaha. Stop mocking Ramesh. I am not the same person anymore.” “Jokes apart. What’s it this time?” “Just that urge of being a writer macha. I thought to myself, ‘How is any of what I am doing helping me realize my passion’ Didn’t like the answer. So quit. Also…” “Also what?” “The team leader sucked in English, Tamil and Hindi macha! Matlab, how difficult could it be to make a grammatically right statement in a language that you have been talking in since the day you came to your senses?” “Just when I thought you had really changed! Fuck you dude! How do you plan to sustain yourself? You don’t even stay in Chennai” “I have not the faintest idea. I haven’t even told my parents about it yet.”
As we were walking the talk, we reached another tea kadai. This time, ego made it easy to resist the chai. He bought a cup for himself and we talked about how his life was going on. The bastard was doing pretty fine. Had a nice job. Owned a vehicle. As he went on about how “difficult” it was for him to hold on to the money that he earned, I just felt my empty wallet in my pocket and nodded in complete agreement. If my calendar had a life and heard him rant about his perfectly fine life! Counting the days wouldn’t be a problem for him.
Anyhow, after a while, we both parted ways and I continued to walk. The roads became quieter and I could hear the breeze better. There was a bus stop nearby where I went and sat. The shops nearby had started to close. People were hurriedly walking towards their homes. The street dogs finally found a place for themselves and played with each other (or were they fighting? In either case, there was a lot of barking) on the road. I just sat there. Mind running from the friend I had just met to the parents at home who had no clue that I will be with them soon and this time, without a job. A father, who kept telling me, “Do what feels right.” This does feel right papa. But is it good? Good for the pension that you earn? Good for the house whose needs to be repaired only seems to be growing by the day? Good for your dream of getting me married and settling down? I am not sure. But I don’t like any job papa. Every job I go to only makes me hate myself.
As I sat there and tried to justify my apparently bold yet foolish decision, I lost track of time. Thankfully, the mosquitoes brought me back with the sting and their songs. I got up and saw that I had successfully questioned my actions for the nth time and wasted about 2 hours. I started to slowly retrace my steps to the house. I haven’t told you about the house I live in, have I?
Anybody visiting Chennai and on a decisive tour of the city can not miss Pachaiyappa’s college. It stands tall in all its majesty on Poonamallee High Road. And just like any other great establishment of technological brilliance or even historical importance, there are quite a few streets near this iconic building that would surely go unnoticed. One such street is Arunachala Street. Like stars near the sun, any influential person loses his/her individuality and needs to say the address for a first-timer as “Behind Pachaiyappa’s college”. I stay in one of the mansions there. If you haven’t watched the film Pushpak, watch it. The mansion in which Kamal Haasan’s character lives in is very similar to the one that I stay in. Cramped, noisy and never still even for a minute.
With a shudder, I started to walk back towards my room. The stain of the paan on the steps and the stench of kerosene burning from a nearby kitchen momentarily made my resolution of going back to my parents stronger. I was surprised as I remember keeping my door closed and locking it behind me? Is Ramesh trying to pull a fast one? Anyways, I slowly went inside and turned on the lights.
Everything was just the same as I had left. The books on the bedside table – spineless, earmarked, open and almost in tatters. The clothes soaking in soap. The dishes in the sink since the morning flies making good of what’s available and the smell filling the room. I threw myself on the bed, opened the notebook and started to write, “The boy started on a long walk, all by himself, with his loneliness and despair giving him company. As he blankly stared at each pothole on the road, he got reminded of the string of failures and disappointment he faced in life…” and right there, right then, I started to feel drowsy.
The effect of spending too much time walking and alone I guess. I decided to get back to the story the next day and got up to turn the lights off. Just then I heard water dripping. Being in Chennai, if there is one good quality that you can cultivate, it is a keen ear to the dripping pipes. You would definitely cherish something that is rare right? I went to the kitchen and saw that the tap was closed well. The dishes looked at me yearningly to be washed. I even shrugged off my tiredness away, but then the dripping water pulled me. I went to the bathroom to see if the tap was dripping there. It wasn’t.
I pressed my ears against the thin wall to see if there was any noise from the next apartment but heard nothing. It seemed to be coming from the kitchen again. Just to be doubly sure, I went there and when I turned the lights on the kitchen on I froze…
There it was… part man, part animal, with limbs cropping out of every joint and a face full of faces. The creature made a strange noise which was a combination of chalk scratching on the blackboard and the hinges of a door cracking. I couldn’t help but notice that the tongue if you could call it that, had tentacles and had tusk-like teeth growing out of its mouth almost touching the floor. I opened my mouth to scream but all I could gather was a huge gasp for air.
I bolted towards the door, locked it behind me and started to run down the stairs. As I came to the ground floor all I saw was the whole mansion looking at me like an exhibit in a museum. I remember thinking in my mind, “Wait till the creature comes running at me and I will see how you smile” I stood there, sweating and all shaken up. Waiting for it to come. Hell, I almost hoped that it would come and make these mortals shit their pants. But as I stood there, slowly it started to hit me, “What if all of it was just a figment of my imagination?” I remember walking up the stairs, my ears red-hot in shame and self-disgust. Unable to make any eye contact with anyone, I locked myself back in my room.
I fell on the bed and tried to th… There it was on the roof! Staring at me. A drop of its blood-lusting saliva fell on my face. As I tried to get up it jumped on me and pinned me onto the bed. I screamed my lungs out hoping someone would hear the wail and help but no one came. There was a sharp pain in my chest. One of the tusks had dug into my flesh and was probing further with each breath that I took. I tried my might to push the creature off of me but it only got a stronger hold with each frantic push. Finally, I decided to close my eyes and thought of my father, the house, the job that I quit, my mother, my brother, Ramesh whom I met a few hours ago, the whining neighbour, the attractive college student, the crush and so many more things. The whole life played in front of my eyes like highlights of a T-20 cricket match. I remember I was sweating, I was drowsy and I closed my eyes…
I opened my eyes and found that I had drooled onto the notebook which had made an ugly blotch of the ink on the paper.
P.S.: Thanks for reading the note thrice
P.P.S.: This is a story that I revisited and wrote in one sitting after watching an interview with director Mysskin.