Bitch Trilogy, Short Stories

The Bonus

The most annoying tune in the whole world is of my alarm. The most annoying time is 7:00 A.M. The most annoying things are the first few drops of the cold water assaulting my skin when I step into the shower. The very act of dressing up, dragging myself to the bus stop and waiting for that god damned cart while blinking at the idiot sky and homo sapiens walking around, when I should have ideally been asleep under the loving warmth of my blanket, has staggering vexation embedded right into its DNA. Our cart when it finally arrives, takes us all cattle to our farm – wherein we will munch on our fodder on the keypads of our laptops or on the calls on our smartphones and passionately quack over irrelevant topics (about which nobody really knows) or the spicy gossips (about which nobody really confirms) on the tea breaks. And then we will submit ourselves to be milked till our whole ‘work-life-balance’ gets completely annihilated or something and we will settle permanently inside the farm engaged in a perpetual day-dream of someday kicking our manager with our hind legs and leaving the premises forever with a two-legged swag. My cubicle, my sack of hay, my means of living, my catalyst of procrastination is dear to me and I hate it. I hate it when I have to come back here every morning and stare at it as well as at the face of a new disdainful day. I hate it when I have to arrange the sack of papers at the corner of my table which stays useless until the moment I throw them away. Then I hate being part of these immensely popular things called meeting. Meetings; Unofficially defined as nothing but a formal event for all the barking, quacking, squeaking, cackling, neighing, mooing, braying, croaking, cawing and everything else that can be categorized as the antonym of the word “productive”. And today is no different. I am going to graze on this same tasteless grass. Lick the same bitter water from the container decorated with the algae at the bottom. I am going to plough the same way over my forged spreadsheets and try my best to wipe my legs drenched in mine or somebody else’s dirt on someone else’s skin through my e-mails and double bleats. I am going to follow the same routine. I am going to caress the feet of the different customers who might have different faces but they all have the same habit of picking on every bit of our brains. Hell! Look at me whining and constantly bleating! When did I become such a pathetic goat? I almost remember being human once. Though as far as I can recall, everything had always been like this – A monotone; the gray ceiling, the gray walls, the grayer complaints of fellow cattle of how they hate mooing around here and how they would like to leave and explore the greener farms outside but they just don’t. Because let’s face it – no farms are green. Not for the dumb witted animals like us! We exist for the sole reason to get forcibly fed and be butchered later to become a meal. At least, I hope that meal is delicious. But let’s fret not. Let’s adapt ourselves to our fate. And let’s laugh hysterically at a joke we didn’t really get but our manager oinked it with such affection that you just had to show the entire population of teeth in your mouth. And let’s learn to passionately blame the other ducks or the hens or the buffaloes or the cows or if we dare, the ‘favorite’ dogs for anything that turns out wrong and that way we can keep ourselves out of all the troubles all the time. And if you are diplomatic and pretentious enough, you might also grab an undeserved promotion! Vous comprenez?

With this long trail of complaints and gloomy thoughts dangling behind him like a long tail, Amar slowly walks to the bus-stop. When the bus arrives, shining in the ironically cheerful combination of grays, Amar sits on the same seat – fourth from the last, listening to the same playlist that hasn’t been modified at all since the previous year. His eyes, engulfed in a darker circle of brown, droopy from lack/over-abundance of sleep closes immediately with the cradling of the moving bus. He falls asleep with his head leaning on the glass window, mouth half open, earphone wire dancing along with the bus and also complementing a long thread of saliva emanating from his lips. He breaks away from his brief slumber when the bus finally halts at the office. Groggily, he leaves his seat and takes reluctant steps towards the thing that provides him both a comfortable life and an equally uncomfortable state of mind. Before beginning the day’s work, he stops at the smoking zone. After converting two Goldflakes into ashes, he suddenly recalls how he had resolved to quit smoking. As if blaming the cigarette butt for his own lack of will power, Amar thrusts it on the bottom of the ashtray angrily. When he finally inaugurates his day by clicking open his inbox, his eyes start hurting immediately. The day has just begun, and eight more hours need to be spent staring at this screen – How would he accomplish that? His mind wanders back to his delightful morning thoughts –

Vous comprenez? Non! Je ne comprends pas! Why should the undeserved be promoted? And get the highest incentives? Why should the meetings be unproductive? Why can’t the grass be green here? Why can’t the managers be inspiring? Why can’t this job be exciting? Why can’t-

Ping! The vibration of his cellphone diverts Amar’s train of thought to another route. Without even bothering to look at the content, he starts cursing the SMS(s) too – How they practically spam his cellphone and take up so much of space! And what do they convey anyway? That there’s a sale at the mall where he will never go? Or the special offer at the pizza place that he absolutely detests? Or the discounts on the brands that shall remain too expensive for him to afford even after the reduction in their prices?

The message today, however, says something else entirely – something that is going to brighten the rest of his day for a change.

“Your account XXXXX1111 has been credited with …”

He is both surprised and shocked by this message. Not because this message has been sent at an unusual day. It is 30th after all and this SMS was thoroughly expected. But what has left him surprised is the slight change in the order of digits which has led to a figure that bears significantly higher value than his usual monthly salary. A bit excited and at the same time apprehensive, Amar asks his team mate –

“Hey Bhavna! Did you check your salary?”

“Yeah, I received the bonus as well!”

“Wow, what is it for? Any idea?”

“Our project!”

The confirmation on the fact that his salary is not a mistake results in a mild smile on Amar’s face. His annoyance and desire for a break from his monotonous life turns into reluctant appreciation as well as gratitude towards his manager and office. Suddenly the farm transforms into a workplace and the surrounding cattle turn into people-

I guess the most beautiful day is the 30th of the month. The most pleasing message is not of a proposal or confession of love but the bank telling you that your account has been credited with a good amount of money. I wasn’t being completely honest when I was talking about this place earlier. Morning blues, one can say. You know when you work on your project, dedicating your days and nights to it, being showered with all kinds of weird obstacles and yet when you are able to succeed, you can’t help but feel a certain kind of satisfaction seeping right into your heart. And when this hard work is finally recognized, transforms us all cattle, I mean people, from being employees to being proud engineers. Sure, work can ask too much from you sometimes. But isn’t this work the reason why your personal life exists? Yes, we all get carried away in emotions. Sometimes being here isn’t very pleasing. We get furious. We get disappointed. But we can’t always keep looking at the troughs of the waves, can we? My cubicle, my corner of inspiration, my means of living is the center of my existence. Here, I admit it. Sometimes, days aren’t that bad – they are merely a little challenging. Here, I admit it. Sometimes, I even love coming here. Here, I admit it. So, today is different. Today is the day when I am confessing all this –  that it’s not always a monotone. That the grass, right here, can be green. That people here can indeed be people.

Wait. Why am I being this joyous? It’s just a little of extra cash, that’s all!

But isn’t fifteen a decent amount?  We could do a lot of things with it. Go on a short trip maybe. Or buy Arpita a surprise gift. Or maybe a saree for Ma? Or maybe I can buy those speakers I had been wanting to for so long! There are these plethora of options to explore suddenly! It’s good. It’s good.

Amar spots Rohan passing by his cubicle, he excitedly asks him about the bonus hoping that he hasn’t been given any and he would get to witness an amusing expression on his face.

“Hey! Rohan! Did you hear about the bonus?”

“Yeah! I got 25! Cool, no? Didn’t expect this at all!”

With his jaws dropped to the floor, Amar unsuccessfully tries to conceal the shocked expression on his face. The figure 25 echoes so loudly in his head that for a moment he isn’t sure if it is his thought or he is actually speaking out loud.

Rohan got twenty-five?

The person who did nothing, NOTHING AT ALL on the project got twenty-five?

Twenty-five?                    

T-W-E-N-T-Y-F-I-V-E? And what is mine? A fucking charity?

Amar gets up from his cubicle, heads straight towards the smoking zone. “Nothing has changed of course! The undeserved will always be rewarded! And the actual talent, well, the actual talent will always be greeted with a few pennies or not even that! Fucking bullshit these people! Fucking bullshit these animals! Fucking bitch this job!” He angrily mutters as he takes the last puff from his third cigarette and resumes making a mental To-do-list for the day.

***

 Author’s little note: You can find the other two stories of Bitch Trilogy here.
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Bitch Trilogy, Short Stories

The Rickshaw driver

Out there underneath the setting sun, stands a brightly painted yellow and green tri-wheeled vehicle shamelessly exposing the sponge beneath its disheveled and wounded seat. This injury, being too neglected and way down the priority list for a first aid, doesn’t deter the rickshaw from flaunting off the poster of blue-eyed Sonakshi Sinha at its back. Along with this badly battered and yet arrogantly grumpy thing, stands a grumpier man, the driver of this auto-rickshaw who is too crossed and too careless to comment on the crimson sky or be aware of how he has been scratching his groin ceaselessly for the last five minutes. He scoffs at the memory of his miserable day and puts the paan in his mouth hoping that it would distract him from his foul mood. But even the highest of high cannot make him stop thinking about the dreadfulness of the dusty streets or the burning heat of the sun or the suffocation in the traffic jam and the cacophonous horns of the cars or the poisonous smoke or the irritating beggars and the policemen. He thinks of his most frequent customers –  the vendors who stink of fish, the maids who don’t know how to sit silently or the ladies who can spend 5000 bucks on wallets without complaining but will start a war for that extra 10 bucks he asked for. He is pissed at the garbage heap nearby, at the receding effect of his paan, at the stinking wall where he would himself be peeing and at the people around; each and every one of them. His back aches from the constant sitting, his eyes hurt because they have dried due to the ceaseless staring at the road and what more! He was nearly hit by a car today! He still gets goose flesh with just a momentary thought of it. He had never imagined that the annoying screech of a halting car could one day become the most blissful symphony he would ever hear. Had it not been there, he hadn’t even been alive to curse the most atrocious words at it later. But one mustn’t blame the sound. It’s the driver! The bitch! The cunt who doesn’t even know how to drive but she will drive anyway. There’s a reason why they say women are the worst drivers! The stupid creatures are too busy applying lipstick or talking to their boyfriends on their phones to handle the steering wheel. Have some mercy at the people around you, Madam! You can win an award if you could just refrain yourself from handling a car. “Kya Madam! Aapko dikhta nahi kya?” He recalls how he had hollered at her. And in return, she had howled back with equal ferocity. Her voice lacked the usual sophistication these high class ladies seem to possess. It was high pitched, capable of rupturing every eardrum in the radius of twelve feet. She screamed and screamed in her stinging voice without a single trace of guilt or shame in it. This aggravated him further. He was the one who could have got killed! He was the one who should be shouting like a mad man! Not this foolish dumb witted lady! Unable to tolerate her anymore, he drove away immediately.

The head ache and the nausea hits him again. Why did he think of that woman! He needs another dose of tobacco. He searches for it in his trousers but finds nothing but some crumpled papers. The throbbing in his head worsens. Could the day get any better?
He starts driving to the nearest stall to procure his most trusted medicine and that’s when he catches her glimpse. Even before he could think of it, he stops and shouts “Kidhar?”. The girl walks up to him and asks back,  “Athwa?” He suddenly recalls that he had called it a day but then there is no way he can say no to her.
“Baithiye…”
“How much?” She asks.
“Whatever you think is fair.”
“Fifty?”
Usually he would have asked for seventy but he doesn’t argue. Fifty is also fair. He pulls the lever and the engine roars back to life. He makes sure that the rearview mirror is adjusted in such a way that it’s easy to steal glances at her.  She is really pretty. Not just because she is fair or slim but she has an innocent charm that’s very rare to find. He looks at her again. She is looking away at the buildings passing by, lost in her own thoughts. She is not texting or talking on the phone like these youngsters usually do. She is just there as if she is the part of the background. Her presence strangely calms him. He carefully prolongs his glances. He notices the light kajal in her eyes, her black bra strap that’s slightly peeking through her kurti, her eyebrows beautifully shaped, her hands clasped with one another resting on her knees, the faint wrinkles on her lips, the tiny spots on her cheeks…
“You study here?” He asks.
She nods.
The streetlight falls on her face and he is once again reminded of why he had halted at the first place. He forgets about his addiction; about how he had been missing his high. He forgets about the witch who had almost killed him. He just wants to look at this beautiful face and nothing else.
“You have a very good character, I can tell that…” he says trying his hard to come up with an appropriate compliment.
When she doesn’t say anything, he continues, “You don’t speak much. Aapka nature bahut accha hai. Ekdum shant… ”
The girl looks at him and smiles awkwardly.
“No, but really, people like you are rare.”
“Bhaiya, yahi pe utaar dijiye…”
“Lekin–”
“I need to get off here only.”
He stops. The girl hastily gives him the money and walks away.
He stays there for a while staring at her till she disappears in the streets. His hands find a packet of tobacco in his breast pocket. Pleasantly surprised, he hurriedly empties the content in his mouth. The taste disgusts him. “Bitch!” He shouts as he spits on the ground and drives away.

***

 Author’s little note: You can find the other two stories of Bitch Trilogy here.
Bitch Trilogy, Short Stories

Taming of the shrew

Ravi enters into his apartment where the stench of unclean dishes flooding the kitchen basin, sweat from used clothes scattered over the sofa, unsuccessful combination of deodorant sprays, queasy smell of rotting food, humidity and a decomposing relationship, form a thick layer of tainted air. However, being used to this atmosphere, he continues making his way towards his study, the only part left of paradise in his newly discovered hell called home. He sighs at the thought of seeing his wife again. As a desperate attempt to distract himself, he starts humming his favorite song. Unconsciously, he walks into his bedroom out of his dying habit but to his surprise instead of regret, he finds his wife elegantly dressed in a sari he gifted her on their first anniversary. Taking it as a sign that things might change today he compliments her, “Wow! You look beautiful! When was the last time I saw you in this sari?”
Ranjana doesn’t respond. Undeterred and brimming with hope, Ravi continues anyway, “Look, I am sorry. Okay. I know I made a mistake…I know I shouldn’t have done what I did. But you need to forgive me. You need to see how much I love you. You need to know that I miss you. Please, Ranjana, you are killing me. Please come back!” He sits beside her and takes her hand. “We can get out of this together. We can still walk through the distance between us. It’s not that far. We are not that far! Please Ranjana…” He clasps his hands with hers and keeps his head on her shoulder, “I love you so much. I spend all my day daydreaming about how we used to be. How you used to be…” A few tears escape his eyes and he whispers, “I refuse to believe that you don’t love me anymore. I know you do…”
“You should have thought of how much you loved me before you spent all those nights
with her.” she says angrily. Before Ravi could respond, she abruptly gets up and leaves the room. In her mind she is imagining Ravi saying, “I never loved her! I never wanted her! I never thought of leaving you over her!” In her heart, she knows he will never say it and even if he does he won’t mean it.
Tired of hearing the same argument, Ravi goes to his study, hoping to escape into the books and somehow managing to deceive himself from his own miserable life. Groggily, he walks over to the bookshelf and takes out his favorite novel – The Taming of the shrew. The coincidence makes him chuckle.
Meanwhile, Ranjana goes to the kitchen and takes out the broadest butcher knife from the drawer. She wipes it lovingly with her sari and holds it at a distance, gazing at it as if it is the most beautiful and delicate thing in the world. The thought of what she is about to do with it lightens up her face with a sinister smile. She tiptoes to the study. Ravi is sitting on the chair with his back towards her. By the time he realizes that someone is standing behind him, it’s too late. Within a flash, blood spurts out of his slit throat. Ranjana stabs at his heart hissing, “You know you are right. I do love you. I love you too much. But you don’t. You never have! I warned you never to break my heart Ravi. I warned you.” One more at the abdomen! Another one at the chest! Ravi tries to speak but he can’t. He tries to get up and defend himself but he is too weak. He looks at his wife – The sari that he so lovingly (or guiltily?) gifted her is drenched in his own blood. He looks at her beautiful face refusing to believe what just happened. After all the years of marriage, he didn’t have the slightest clue that he was living with a murderer this whole time. Is he her first victim? Of course not, what about Anjali? Was her suicide really a suicide? He wants to shout for help but he can’t he is already dead.
Ranjana goggles at her husband. The hatred in her eyes slowly fades away. “I gave you my heart and you broke it into million pieces. Sorry, I did try to forgive you but I couldn’t.” she says softly, slowly closing his eyelids. She falls asleep in the arms of her dead husband.

***

 Author’s little note: You can find the other two stories of Bitch Trilogy here.