Thursday, October 13

The Noise within

Another one of my on.
Thoughts of Ma depressed Rajesh. There was so much he wanted to do for her, so much he wanted her to have, be part of, share with him. Here he was in Bombay, at the centre of the busiest city, part of a self absorbed urbane crowd that constituted the country’s largest working population. He was negotiating his life at a call centre job that forced him to wear a cheerful tone each time he spoke into the phone ‘You have dialed “talkfree” services, this is Rajesh, May I help you?” A 24x7 job that made him stuck at the bottom rung of the corporate hierarchy, making him one of the 1000 odd people who were disposed to wear a cheerful tone and help anyone who cared to call at talkfree.

Maa was still there in the old house at Allah bad. At her typist job. Clack Clack clack clack ……she used to type late into the night to keep a job so that he and his younger brother could go to the best public school in town. He had not yet grown over the noise of Maa’s typewriter. Back in college, his friends complained of the railway station being too close, the noise of train interrupting their young dreams….Rajesh knew what they meant. The typewriter’s indifferent Clack clack stayed with him through out his MBA days. The clack clack was recently getting replaced by the ring of the phone. Clack clack giving way to the beep peee peee. The telephone rang in his mind long after he left office. And was followed by the script. ‘Hi this is Rajesh from Talkfree services. Can I take a minute of your time? (a pause) I represent one of our client organizations XYZ which is providing free credit card for you and one more person….phew.”Sir we would be pleased to deliver the card to you at no extra cost…” and it went on like that.

He had targets to meet. He had to sell so many cards … “How was he ever to achieve these numbers by calling nameless faceless people?” If he had it his way he would not have sounded so cool about it or so distant. This mattered. More than anything. And he would look it. He would have barked into the phone.
“Listen, I am Rajesh Sinha from Allahabad, working in talkfree trying to meet some targets so that they promote me, your buying a card would help me meet my unattainable and impractical numbers and I shall get there fast. And before you hang up on me, you self conceited son of a bitch… … I have a mother in Allahabad who sits and types letters at a lawyer’s firm for peanuts. She does the clack clack wordlessly waiting for her son… to come and retrieve her from her assembly line existence. She has been waiting like that for the past 15 years… for something to happen….and you… you privileged guy with the car and the wife…you owe it to me to buy my card and more.

He would have done it if this were a Hindi cinema. And pulled crowds. But that was another time, another space.

‘How is the day looking, Rajesh’? gushed Maya. She meant, “How far off are we from our monthly targets, you ass? He wondered how Maya could go on with life with a name like that. But Maya was Maya… An illusion. Every bit an illusion .Every moment a mirage. The heavy hair, the dark eyes, the telling looks, a nymph like figure and a husky voice that was part measured part insouciant. With her prowess and her ability to move things on the phone Maya was geared for better things at talkfree. She was a process leader currently all set to become a manager. So when Maya spoke, it paid to listen. Rajesh hated her…. or hated all that she stood for….or all that she had and he didn’t …and all that mattered in the world of grabbing attention of an indifferent guy in a split second. Maya gave a monologue for the next 15 minutes. “Remember Rajesh, the number of cold calls you make will be the keey “, she could make key sound like a very big deal. “And get a commitment from the guy to call up when he is free, that’s the second keey.” He tried hard to concentrate as this Colaba bred kid who didn’t know what a murky law firm in Allahabad looked like kept opening the esoteric lock to telecalling.

This was his assembly line existence. Not too different from Ma’s. A job that made him leave the 750 sq.ft matchbox that he shared with a struggling actor from Allahabad and a coworker from talkfree .A quick walk to the station and taking the up the 8 00 clock local from Mira Road to Dadar. The noise of train engulfing the clack clack of his life. The salty human sweat mingled with cheap talcum powder around him in the second class compartment. Hands pushing him ahead. Hands holding him back. Crowd to crowd. Man to man. Odor to Odor. Once he reached Dadar he and his room mate would stand in a queue behind 100 people like themselves for a shared taxi to Prabhadevi to the office.

And after a non-descript day of calling people only to be hung up and being filled by the sight and sound of Maya, having a bland dabba lunch and insipid coffee, they would take the same route back home.

A 24x7 job priced at Rs1.5 lac per annum. A major portion of this went into paying for the matchbox existence at Mira Road, the remaining to hold oneself in a self absorbed city where everything came at a price, the rest was sent to the waiting widow at Allahabad.

Somewhere Rajesh, MBA from Allahabad University, knew life was slipping away, that his life would be a struggle between the noise of clack clack and the sound of beep beep, the latter engulfing the former. Dreams of a house in Bombay… dreams of bringing Maa here, of seeing her relieved of the burden of widowhood and responsibility would remain wistful thoughts. What was worse that he didn’t see a way out of this cobweb.

The other guys at home seemed so distant. Prakash, the struggling actor obviously had little worries. Son of the Chief justice of Allahabad high court; life had donned as a 70mm screen and he was enjoying it. The coworker Vimal too had only himself to bother about; nobody carried the burden of past, the clack clack of a typewriter like he did. Prakash and Vimal insisted that he loosen up, tried taking him to the restaurants, the cinemas. Sometimes they took him to a local joint for drinks as well. Prakash used to joke about girls with him.

On a rare occasion Rajesh had dated a colleague .Seema.She read the books he had read. Seen the movies he had seen. Smart and grounded, she was someone you could talk to. Rajesh had a pleasant evening with her but didn’t know how to take it forward. Seema too had appeared distant for some time. Maybe it was because once Maya heard about it; she would ensure Seema had a hard time. He was hoping to ask seema out again.

It was a Friday evening; people were leaving office a little earlier than usual. And then he heard the sound of claps coming from canteen. Some crap Birthday celebration, he thought until Maya crooned from the canteen.” Guys come and share the cake, Seema’s engagement. Rajesh felt a sharp pain within. A pang, similar to the pain he felt when he saw Maa going to the law firm. A pang, close to what he felt when he didn’t get through IIT. But this pang was illogical. Made no sense. He had barely known Seema. Yet the pain gnawed.

He held himself and came out of the office. Vimal was standing outside the gate smoking at the local tapri. He signaled Rajesh.

Whats up? Have you seen a ghost?”

No… he whimpered. “Then?

“Nothing, leave me alone”

“Aah, let me guess… Maya screwed you?”


Then? Nothing, and then he blurted softly, Seema got engaged.

So, did you have a thing for her? I mean I thought it was just a cup of innocent coffee
Yes… no… yeah.

C’ Mon, Rajesh what do you expect, we all knew she is a practical chick and she is getting married, you were not seeing her, listen you didn’t even know her, now what the hell are you upset about?

Yeah…true… he didn’t know Seema, he didn’t love Seema, there was nothing…yet there was a sense of loss.

Vimal insisted Seema was no loss and in retrospect he was right, you can’t lose what you don’t have. And you can’t have what you can’t afford. However there was enough reason to go and drown oneself in music or better alcohol.

And in no time Rajesh was dragged to a nearby pub Bliss. Bliss was one of Vimal’s favorite. Rajesh never visited pubs because he thought they were for rich blokes like Vimal and Prakash and not people like him. Anyways music did little to drown the clack clack that haunted him.

The pub had everything.. Enough music, enough smoke and enough booze to drown, float, soak, and forget the odors of the day, the noise of drudgery. Bliss lived up to its reputation.

There were hoards of pubbers that night. Small middle aged men who were probably school buddies together. They were laughing out loud and laughing lots. At their own dreams, at life, at who they had become, and who they had failed to become.

Another corner had a group of giggling girls, some call centre crowd, drowning the script of the day in the smoke of the night.

In the smoke his eyes caught Maya’s, she was sitting with the an ex- colleague and drinking into the night, she blew a kiss at him. This woman believed in 24x7.

And then suddenly he saw her. Exquisite, like poetry. Flowed like a dream. One of the most beautiful woman he had set his eyes on ever since he became part of this madness. She sat on the other side of the table opposite a suave looking guy. But that was a minor detail.

As the night kept floating around him Rajesh altered between two worlds, too noises one the clack clack within and the other a more pleasant one, a mellifluous voice that belonged to this woman.

Why was she walking over to him? Oh my god, this woman is actually here. She whispers something into Vimal’s ears. Vimal gets up and goes away. What was wrong with that bastard? How could he leave him and go away?

And who is this woman? Strange. Leaving the guy like that and walking here?

In another moment they were talking. Her name was Nisha. She worked for an airline. She lived in Colaba, she was a thorough bombaite, daughter of a hotelier. She loved this pub and the songs that played here. This was the first time Rajesh had met someone so beautiful, someone so free and someone so untouched. She smiled easily and laughed wildly.

After a while she complained of the smoke over bearing her, he suggested they walked outside; he liked women who were delicate and needed to be taken care of.

They left Bliss and walked outside together. She wanted fresh air and so they huddled into a cab and headed to Worli sea face. As the FM played old Hindi songs conversations became easy.

They sat together at Worli sea face as the calm sea purred in the vicinity. He told her things. Things about a job that sucked, of a boss that sucked more, he told her of a town, of the river, of the home, of the law firm, of the mother who didn’t complain, yet waited. Of weight of expectations, the burden of obligation, of failing them and she heard. Nisha was a great listener. Comes with the job he guessed. They kissed at the break of dawn. He hugged her tight. Strangely, neither the noise of typewriter haunted him, nor was he plagued by the beep beep. There was the sea purring in the distance, smug at the lovers, the birds chirping and everything else drowned out.

And then he heard a loud noise….”bastard get up, what the fuck is wrong with you? You drunk pig.”

Vimal was holding Rajesh by the collar; they were on the steps of bliss.

“We spent the night here. Mr. Romeo as you drank the whole night, kept blabbering about buying a house and getting your mother here.” And who the fuck is Nisha now?I thought we were celebrating Seema.”

Rajesh looked up bewildered. He looked at the watch, it was 4: 30 a.m. He got up to his feet and together the two dragged towards the railway station. To take a train to Mira Road. To be able to take a train back to Dadar. to his assembly line world. To the sound of clack clack giving way to beep beep.


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Mandrake said...

you rock girl!! that's a brilliant piece i read in a while, just added ur link to my blog!! would keep visting.. keep writing!!!

Ajit Chouhan said...

Still reading Suchika .....G8 stuff ....Keep going....Well let me tell u a thing,I asked amitabh if he has ever visited your blog...and he had a real BHAI type answer....
Uska funda bahut high hai...Samajhne mein time lagta hai,sales ke naukri ke bad dimag,mein kuch bachta nahi hai yaar...
I really got the punch i thought u'll like but hey dont blast him off for this i appreciate him that atleast he was true....

shuchika said...

Hi rajat,

thanks for reading my blog, i went to urs too, u heart is into biking, some of the pictures there evoked memories tucked away somewhere. visit my blog and do read.

shuchika said...

hi ajit,

i have grown above the need of amitabh reading what i write. it took me a whole childhood to do that.

Like my protagonist he is leading his assembly line existence and I mine.

but I think he made a sincere effort to read my blog last sunday. The child in me wished he didnt doze off.

I didnt check though.

Raps said...

nice piece!! Only thing is clack clack became a little jaded after a while due to overusage i suppose.

keep the good work going!!