“In this manner we can make it a collective of like-minded individuals,” the HR Executive concluded the brief conversation she had with me along the verandah wherein she suggested me to rope in more Content Writers to the company from among my contact circle in the city. It was morning, to begin with, and the computer virus which was taking its toll for several days in our office seemed to push that day too into total inactivity. Outdoors, thick fog muffled the buildings to the point of even disallowing them some room to shiver. I went to my seat, wrongly entering the third floor first and then going up to the right one, where I settled myself and started writing something hesitantly but freshly provoked.
Everyone seemed to have settled in their seats and the inertia inside the hall resembled the interior of some passenger vehicle just about to take off.
That song was playing even in the morning: “aaj ki raath hona hai kya.” I listened to it for a while trying to recall the image of a nude fiesta that it entailed. The song continued to play several times during the day – in offices, in public and private vehicles, in restaurants and in all waiting rooms – and by the time it’s night no one heeded to it, and so, nothing of that sort ever happened at night.
An hour later I took a look at what I wrote:
“That like-mindedness does not have an origin interests me a lot. Neither does it stem from the Self nor from the Other. It was already there as something intersubjective. For us, who are only familiar with the binary of objectivity/subjectivity, this concept which focuses on intersubjectivity would be a mediating philosophical position in the field of Business Administration and Management.”
It’s really dull. This is certainly not what I wanted to say, I fretted. Blame it on the cold outside that has crept into our minds transforming aesthetic experiences to philosophical problems!
I looked around; waved at the programmer who was actively leading the antivirus struggle. Any chance to get back net connectivity?
“dubhara restart karke dekho,” she said vaguely.
Leg-pulling? I became cautious. How on earth do repeated restarts help to keep the virus at bay? I defended myself for a while but finally did what she said. Perhaps she’s right, I thought, we content writers are over confident in matters of technology -a method to defend ourselves from being taken for a ride by technicians.
The day dragged on. I started feeling myself useless. Everyone else was working silently. Aren’t their systems affected? I made one more attempt to write something more on like-mindedness but soon withdrew from it.
When I went for a smoke in the bathroom, I saw through the window that the fog had backed out a bit. Where did it go? Has it gone up and merged with the clouds? Two stray dogs bounced at a rag picker down the building, barking. A sudden attack!! Dogs barked fiercely, with beastly faces. They stepped sideways and forward when they barked, distancing themselves away from the prey and circling it at safe lengths. The boy in his early teens was not frightened. He turned to them and showered them with some abusive words. The dogs retrieved a bit, slowly. Their loud and discreet barking now toned down to a long growl. Everything happened in the flash of a few seconds. There seemed to exist some mysterious understanding between the two parties which was sometimes unconditionally broken by one party – by the dogs, invariably, because they can go irrational at any time they want – for which they are thoroughly abused. The little crud walked away as if nothing had happened. My eyes hovered around the dogs which were now getting ready for the next drowse, walking around in a circle as if to wipe away even the minutest trace of the event. Has the place of the event become a vacuum after the ambush? Has the air around it become clean and thin allowing a fresh beginning for everything there? At the last puff of my cigarette, the world appeared to me complete and perfectly logical. And along with it, for a moment, I stood face to face with the joyous knowledge which took me to that time when everything in the world redeems; the redemption of all lost sense of beauty, all opportune moments, all insatiable appetite, everything. With my failing senses on that day, I thought, I would enjoy the world to its full. I would have stayed there relishing the taste of tobacco and contemplating long on a fortunate tomorrow had the stink from the toilet not struck me by my head evoking a spontaneous twitch of muscles around my nostrils.
I came back to my seat and over a cup of coffee started transliterating some abusive words of my language into English, asked the person beside me to read them. When he stuttered, both of us laughed; he, out of embarrassment.
During lunch I tried to smile at people. But then one of them asked, “Are you crying?” As soon as he asked this, everyone looked at him and nobody heard what I answered, not even I myself.
But I must admit it, I go to the verge of crying when things make fool of me, when things pester me to make an opinion on their quality. I go mad at this and my wrath sees no limits. One prominent newspaper had concentrated only on pretty faces of mothers who held the demonstration against Nithari killings. One pretty mother with the same lighted candle appeared twice in the same paper. The report said: “While Mallika Sherawat was shaking a shapely leg, luring the New Year in, the cops in Nithari were sniffing the rotten flesh up the back side of Pandher’s house all the way to his personal abattoir.” Why are celebrations so superfluous and grief so deep? I asked myself. And you want to show me and make me believe that things weigh differently in your balance? “I tell you,” I argued with one of my colleagues, “the reporter will make us equally sensuous on both ways.”
“But this is highly cryptic,” the world replies me in the most modest way possible, “you are well aware how things work, and you know how to give a simple account of everything around you. You betray every possible solution by being unhappy; happiness, though appears to be our goal, is instead a prerequisite. But remember, we have people cleverer than you who would always ensure your conformity with our norms, voluntarily or otherwise. Come out of your borough and see the seditious brightness out here. When a person comes up with a workable solution he/she is duly acknowledged, that’s simple logic. That we fail at times to find out the efficacy of solutions is a different question altogether. But that is just a matter of time; how many generations do you think are yet to see the light of the day? Won’t they judge all our doings with clinical precision then? If you have some kind of madness, we have the way to market it. But make sure that you play it well and never give up. It is quite sure that with the passage of time you will also fall in line, though at present you resist everything. After all, who is not afraid of one’s own old age?”
I waited anxiously for something unknown for the rest of the day, looked queerly at familiar faces. In the seat I yawned several times, enjoying the bad breath at the end of each yawn from down the stomach. Closed my eyes and sank into the chair. What joy!! I left the office very late, though. Took a long walk in the evening cold and got drunk heavily.
Early morning I was awakened by a dream, though not a vivid one: I saw a lady colleague, who is a content writer and whom I like, along a thoroughfare in our village. I was riding on a bicycle and going down a road on a slope, while she stood at the other side of the road. Since the downhill road saved me from pedaling I could look long at her while I rode past her. She didn’t seem to have seen me and was busy talking over her mobile phone as if asking the reason why the person she awaits is late to turn up. I was on my way, probably, to pay the electricity bill or was going to the post office which I often did as a boy. I didn’t talk to her, though I was aware that I am a native of the place and she is not. On my way back, pedaling the bicycle uphill, I saw her at the same place, this time at the side along which I was riding. She would see me, I thought, and I was eager to start a conversation. But a few feet to reach her, me still pedaling hard, a car overtook me and stopped beside her. She entered the car and it went forth. At no point of time she was aware of my presence, it seemed. My bicycle virtually stopped at the rear of the car, a few feet away from it. On entering the car she should have turned around in the seat and have definitely looked at me, I concluded, but I could not see anything clearly as the shaded back glass of the car marred the vision of both of us.