Skip to main content

Think for yourself

It was a gesture for formality’s sake. Every one of them knew he wouldn’t... couldn’t refuse. And felt a twinge in their hearts… pity, empathy, frustration. Not one of them, though they envied him at random moments, really wanted his job or his life. It therefore came as no shock when he accepted the invitation to the party and the only consolation was that he’d never be accused of doing so, cheerfully. Not that it was going to absolve him later of course. That was out of the question. But at least history would decree that he was consistent.

Or so he hoped.

At the party itself, he found himself with his usual group. They seemed unusually tense, but he put that down to the rather hostile atmosphere that palpably floated around them. He wondered why the whispers & sniggers seemed so loud, but fought the feeling of panic by passing it off as mild paranoia. He’d never really liked coming to his relatives’ place, but couldn’t say so because etiquette had been drummed into him practically since he was in the womb, resulting in him being regarded as an excruciatingly polite man in later life. He hoped his cousin wouldn’t drink too much and create a scene. Somehow though, he knew it was inevitable that ‘something’ would take place… it always did. He thought back to the various slanging matches, accusations, counter-accusations, threats and tears that had marked previous family gatherings. God! He was tired of it all. He often wished his father had never inherited all the property and money. It had effectively alienated his uncle, who, being rather stubborn to begin with, had now also become rather bitter and stomped around as if he couldn’t see a damn thing… even issues that were staring him in the face. These feelings, his uncle had passed on to his kids which ensured that his cousin loathed him. A feeling he reciprocated, even though he wouldn't admit it to his most personal confidante.

He heard his name being called and felt his heart drop into his stomach. The voice belonged to the one person he loathed above all others, a man who was his uncle by marriage. Words like ‘snake’, ‘oily bastard’ and other less charitable ones always flashed through his mind when he was forced to interact with this loathsome specimen. Taking a deep breath, he turned around and his eyes widened in shock before he could help himself. Not only was the old sod worse for drink, he was arm-in-arm with his cousin, who was similarly tipsy.

He sighed as they made their way over and steeled himself for the verbal barrage that was sure to follow. And he wasn’t disappointed either. The conversation, or what passed for it, began politely enough; after all, expensive educations have to express themselves somewhere. But he could feel silence sweeping across the room to be accompanied by a sense of foreboding as they began to harangue him over his work, finances and social life. His cousin, especially, seemed to have come prepared with a list of innocuous-sounding but effectively cutting remarks. He didn’t allow his temper to rise, however… kept telling himself that they were drunk and it would blow over soon enough. And then, it happened.

His uncle said something about the party being rather boring and his cousin, almost as if on cue, suggested they have some fun and games. This of course involved high-stakes gambling, which all & sundry knew was his only weakness. Or maybe, it was a compulsion. Being aware of this, he politely excused himself, all the while aware of the dull thumping of his heart. As he turned to leave, his cousin asked him in a voice that attempted to sound casual but was shaking for some reason, “How about you… you are playing, right?”

He froze… and so did everyone else in the room. And the feeling of foreboding that had been present all evening suddenly made it difficult for him to breathe. He felt his fingers trembling and couldn’t say whether they did so because of excitement or fear. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his younger brother frantically shake his head but did not acknowledge his presence.

His cousin’s eyes were narrow slits as he asked him again… “So, yes or no?”

Even time seemed to stop and watch the spectacle... and then, his shoulders sagged & he thought then that the day could just end badly, for himself and everyone and everything he cared about. Maybe it would not be so bad...

He hoped they would understand… and forgive him… he was just doing his duty. It had to be done, yes?

Refusal was out of the question, after all. Wasn't it?

He had to be consistent, no matter what the outcome. History would validate his actions. Wouldn't it?

His cousin asked him a third time, knowing all the while what the answer would be…

“Yudi...?”

Song for the moment: Roadhouse Blues - The Doors

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Night Boat

I usually don't write honest pieces. They're true to facts but I tend to lather my emotions and thoughts with a heavy dose of attempted humour or misdirection. This post deserves some raw emotional honesty, though.

Yesterday, 29th August, a Tuesday (or should I say, another Tuesday) was about me making choices. It was raining quite heavily when I left for office, sheeted down the windows of the train throughout the 1-hour journey to Churchgate and kept going with renewed intensity by the time I made it to the entrance, looking verily like something that had drowned in a gutter and lain there a while before being discovered by a cat and dragged in. I made the choice to go to work as I suspected my boss would be there and not because I wanted to go.

I was right about my boss but that cardiac fizz of being right flattened out rather rapidly once I realised, around 11:30 am, that no one else from my team of 20 had bothered to make a similar effort. And, some of these guys live 5 …

Drink up and be somebody

Dear Reader,

History will boldly testify that your favourite blogger is usually slow on the uptake, a state of affairs that's blooming with each passing year like a reverse-Revital. "Why this self-harshness, G", you may ask? Well...

I've been doing the Bom-Pune-Bom trips for 9 years and it's taken about that long to accept that MSRTC Shivneri, still the best bus service of them all, simply cannot (or, realistically, will not) cope with 3-day weekends. Since my job profile does not allow me to plan my travel in advance on said Fridays, I land up at Dadar, view the queue of potential passengers snaking a long way from the ticket window and mentally prepare to arrive home at the hour of morning reserved for sheepish teenagers and dacoits. The Expressway doesn't help anyone's cause thanks to truck drivers spreading themselves generously across 3 lanes and clogging the Lonavala pass to a point where the traffic jam is about 3 km long. A stretch that would tak…

Country Comforts

Part 1

With timing that was far more impeccable than their usual service, the MSRTC went on strike 2 days before Diwali over a pay dispute. I've traveled on their buses for close to 9 years and know full well just how popular they can be just before a major holiday. The chaotic crowd at Dadar is so dense, one would only need to introduce a few Naga sadhus into the mix and hey presto! we've got ourselves a brand new Kumbh Mela. Albeit one where getting out of Bombay ASAP is the only kind of salvation devotees seek. 

News and newspapers being what they are at present, I was unaware of the jolly bus crisis until Wednesday morning when a well-wisher asked how I proposed to go home for the holidays, flourishing the paper in my face with the reluctant panache of a small-town magician. Realising the gravity of the situation, I looked up train schedules and was stunned to find General category seats available on an outstation train departing later that afternoon. As far as I could see, …