Sheena was a slim girl of fifteen. She was a whiz kid with wiring and sound systems. She knew how to make software programs and she was the trouble shooter for the Chawl Hotel’s laptops and desktops. She had somehow come to the conclusion that I was the richest man in the world. Yes I do have custom built cars. I do wear the ultimate branded clothes and shoes. I have a big collection of watches from all over the world. Still I am no Greek shipping tycoon. She is constantly begging me to allow her to come into my bedroom and have a look.
I know these young Delhi girls. They are dynamite. These teenagers are thrill seekers. They are the biggest gossips and the slightest gesture by a boy or man can be interpreted as an attempt at rape or casual love making depending on the mood of the hour.
‘Why are you afraid of me.’ She said holding my hand and pulling it to near her heart. ‘Can you hear it thumping? It is beating only for you. Let us go into your bedroom and inspect the paintings.’
I smiled and flopped down on the big sofa letting her be pulled along with me. ‘Talk, you can talk but no physical stuff’ I told her.
“Why are you fighting nature? Right now a million people at least are making love somewhere on the globe. In the dark depths of the Amazon jungle; on ships; in Africa even while the lions are roaring near a village; in Australia in the bush; Eskimos in igloos and even stuck up Indians are using Nirodhs at a fast pace. Why can’t you just kiss me? You owe me. I fixed your sound system.’ I grabbed her and picked her up and placed her on a chair away from the sofa.
“Please,” I begged, “we will talk about this when you are eighteen. Right now you are a minor and I do not want to be arrested for assaulting a minor.”
‘You do whatever you feel like I will not lodge a complaint. You can marry me first if you are really that interested.’ Somehow I convinced her to come out of my apartment and go for a walk with me. She slumped along disappointed till we reached the food court in the Mall.
“Badal Kar faqiron ka bhes “Ghalib”
Hum Tamaasha-e-Ahle-Karam Dekhte Hain.”
When I was younger I worked for a newspaper. Over years of reporting I got sick of the regular news beat and somehow convinced my editor to give me the assignment of a roving spy on Delhi buses. I would take a bus let us see from INA to India Gate or even ISBT and just sit down and listen. I listened to the taunts and jibes of the people on the bus. There political comments amongst themselves and their abominal use of the English language. It became a very popular column and many people copied the idea and did it for their newspapers.
Now as the roving custodian of my father’s properties I leave aside one day to roam the NCR on the Metro Rail. This way I keep in tune with the people. Over the years I have observed the gradual acclimatisation of the common people to the metro rail. At first the common man, the poor man was wary of the portals of the Metro regarding it as a foible of the rich. Now I see the democratisation of its use. Everyone uses it from the rich to the very poor beggar.
A certain behaviour inside the metro has become developed amongst the people. A non staring gaze at the fixtures of the insides is a gesture of politeness towards your looks and your behaviour. The amorousness of couples inside the train is increasing. Last night on my way back from a drink with a friend in a five star hotel I sat transfixed as a couple licked, kissed and fondled each other in the corner of our coach in utter ignorance of other people’s presence. I was like seeing a young pair of dogs play with enthusiasm on the roadside as a preliminary to some serious mating. Young men stared unashamedly at the couple while the women and older men stared away. It was uncomfortable while it lasted and everyone heaved a sigh of relief when they got off at AIIMS.
The metro demographics are changing. I watched with amusement and pride the four friends obviously from a software company who were engaged in solving an office problem while they travelled. They sat facing each other and did a brain storming which showed to me why our boys and girls are so brilliant in the world of Information, Telecommunications and Internet Technology.
On the other hand was the young man with a Shah Jehan beard dressed all in black. He was thin as a reed and obviously high on something. I could not determine whether it was on God or a drug. I was sitting down, I must admit in a very expensive Armani suit with patent leather shoes shined to a mirror finish. He took an offence to my rich look and stood in front of me and just stared at me. I was not looking for a fight. I did not look back in to his eyes. He wanted to provoke me into a fight. I am not afraid of a scrap. I am a black belt in Judo and have a solid muscular body which is not an accident of birth but a result of some working out in the gym and The Chawl swimming pool. I am sure I can take care of myself otherwise I would not ride the Metro wearing Armani suits. I breathed in and out gently and long in order to cool my slowly heating brain. Finally four stations later the modern version of a Sufi saint got off my coach and I sat back and relaxed.
Many people are comfortably placed in life but do not know or realise it. I know I am a lucky person. My lifestyle allows me to choose my working hours; it gives me luxury in home, conveyance and bank balance. I have great relatives and perfect friends. I do not like to hurt people. I am happy with the world. Above all I am surrounded by beautiful women. From the corner of my eye I can see my neighbour Mrs. Plakum, Mrs Rita Plakum locking her flat and preparing to leave for work. She looks towards me and waves a good morning, a good noon rather and walks away towards the lift. She is not very tall. She is wearing tight blue jeans and a simple white blouse. She is pretty in a quiet way. She has long hair groomed to a glowing shine. The long hair is a great part of her work life. She has just got a role as a Bahu in a Saas-Bahu television soap opera. I cannot imagine her in a domesticated housewife role. She looks more like the charged and determined executive type. She does not speak much and her marriage is rather on a slippery slope for at night I hear Mr. Plakum shouting and ranting at her. She does not shout or rant back. I hear silence.
Oh, by the way my name is Josh Mantin. Josh meaning Zest. I may be young (I am not yet thirty) but I have a lot of experience in every aspect of life. I have created various irrefutable laws and one is ‘The Government will eventually destroy you if you come into the limelight. Government is against everything. It is run by ambitious civil servants and politicians. They are ambitious and they are greedy. They want everything for themselves. If they cannot have it they want to control it in order to distribute favours to their sycophants. Bureaucrats store ancient laws in their minds like bombs and bring them forth to destroy you if you err on the side of defiance. We have yet to see a philosopher king in the world who will allow others to prosper in his kingdom without rancour.’
I admire men like Rasputin and Machiavelli. I have my own store of knowledge. Enough to bring down any great man in this vast nation. I prefer to keep a, well, not low, but medium profile. I do not like being photographed. One snapshot can make you the target of all the fraudsters in the world. I wear dark glasses and keep changing my hair styles to be a chameleon amongst the hi-fi set. I am not out to prove anything. God and my parents have given me enough to last five lifetimes. I am wary of rich uncles like the one Aladdin encountered. I have riches but I am not locked inside a cave looking for a genie. I am the genie.
We are the victims of our times. We are target practice for the miracle of information technology. Unconsciously we fill up our mental suitcase with bias and hate instead of love. This unnecessary stuff has packed our brain till it is bursting at the seams. Most of us are able to carry on with our lives though burdened with these anxiety causing bits of information but some lash out like the meat cleaver wielding Londoner.
Once religion was the answer but now it is the reason for world disarray. Our mental suitcase bursts forth in anger and greed at the baggage check in of daily life. It is time to de-clutter and regain our innocence. It is time to travel light. It is time to dance like a butterfly instead of stinging like a bee.
My book was lying unread as I sat in my designer cane chair. I watched involuntarily from my high vantage balcony the women’s hour passing gently in the swimming pool. There was nothing much to look at except Tina. Mrs. Kapoor had pulled herself out of the water and was resting on a beach lounging chair. She seemed exhausted. She was a mountain of flesh. I had my doubts about her eventual conquest of her fat genes. She already held a tall glass of a cool drink. More calories to sabotage her efforts.
The pool was regaining its composure and becoming wave-less and tranquil. A bevy of fat ladies was spread around the swimming pool like derelict ships in a dry dock port. Some were being massaged by men some by women. The days of sexual dichotomy had gone. Men could now massage women at least in the Chawl Hotel. Oh there were great shenanigans here. This was a liberal residence. Anything went. Anything goes. The men have mistresses dotted all over the city and the women had lovers discretely placed in socially camouflaged locations. Everyone from the young to the old was linked to a huge network of infidelity.
Tina stood a little distance from the flock and did her yoga with graceful calm. Tina was the apple of the collective eye of the young (and secretly, elder) men of The Chawl. She sent the blood coursing at an exaggerated pace through the bodies of seniors who instantly reached for their blood pressure pills. Tina was now a famous model. She was a delightful eighteen. She could already be seen in Monri Milk; Staroo Fans; Zither Cola and Divana Bread advertisements. Tina was what all the spread-eagled ladies wanted to look like; alas time was against them. Cruel Chronometers.
‘The truth about yourself that you feel is false is true and the true is false’—it was Gurujee with his daily dose of wisdom which he felt I should include in my book. Gurujee has extreme faith in my writing abilities and is depending upon me to market his wisdom. Yes I am a ferocious writer in my spare time. I do not need money. I have my coffers full. I feel I have the destiny to be the time keeper of our Chawl.
Gurujee thankfully lives bang opposite my flat. I am grateful for the distance of half a mile between two opposite sides of the square that forms the Chawl building. Gurujee can be a handful early in the morning. He is rich. Well, everyone is rich here. Gurujee spends his time looking for properties to invest in. He is constantly scouring maps and travelling in taxis to farms to check out land values and prospects. He is always trying to sell a property. People who buy his gems are forever grateful because these pieces of land or buildings suddenly begin to appreciate with delightful speed.
Gurujee is nearing seventy but is bursting with energy. He cannot sit down. He is constantly moving from one spot to another. Sarla his wife is a tranquil soul. She has her own friends; her own television programmes and her books. She loves to visit her daughters and showers gifts upon them and their husbands and children. Gurujee’s house has a stream of ageing but pretty women. Sarla allows Gurujee to give his spiel to her friends and then shunts him to his office in a small room where he scans property websites on his desktop computer.
There were a hundred flats in the building and life was one big jovial party. Everyone was rich and loaded. There was a superb mix of the young and the old. The place was also host to an army of maids, cooks and drivers. Selections for these jobs were done by the Security Master of the Chawl Hotel. The architect of the hotel had indeed made a five star Mumbai style Chawl hotel. The ambience thus too was that of a Chawl. Everyone knew everyone and salutations of good morning and good evening were accepted as the done-thing amongst the residents. Snooty people were looked down upon despite the ample riches of the place.
I sat overlooking the swimming pool devastated by the headline that Simon Cowell does not wear any underwear. Mrs Kapoor laboured across the breadth of the swimming pool gasping through her journey like a beached whale. Mr Kapoor was having an affair with his secretary and Mrs. Kapoor had decided to get back into shape to seek revenge.
Ours was a very esoteric and closed community. We lived in five star flats which overlooked the swimming pool on the inside and the dazzling modern bazaar of the IT Park of our city on the outside. The building had three storeys only and was built in a square shape with an inner courtyard of immense proportions. This inner courtyard held the swimming pool and a vast garden for parties and taking recreational walks.
This had been a hotel but it had to close down because it had opened a year or two too early. If it had been opened during the boom time of the early 21st century it would have prospered. Instead it collapsed financially and the owners sold the superb five star suites as flats to the rich people of Delhi. All of us were lucky inheritors of this good fortune. I lived in these flats while my parents lived in their posh haveli in New Delhi. My job was to obey my father and look after the numerous properties he had bought around the National Capital Region. I was a denizen of night clubs, five star hotels and celebrity party venues.