Sunday, April 27, 2008

Saboraud's lonely dish

This happened to happen sometime during internship (and SSC's) early days. The setting was Hotel Pamm in Siliguri, Hillcart road.

Just before you cross over into it from Malaysia, the Singapore government has lined up dustbins outside the toll booths. They are dustbins second. Firstly, they serve as the dumping ground for any gum you might be chewing (doing the same chewing across the border is illegal). Siliguri is much the same. A garbage dump en route to Eastern India’s prima dona, Darjeeling. It is a dirty, cramped, brunt uninspiring city, the kind whose ugliness gives rise to a contempt that manages to overpower the pity its step-daughterly treatment generates. And NJP was its groin. But it wasn’t the city that kept Sabouraud on the verge of tears every moment he was awake. It was the fact that he was having to do the one thing that he both hated and was bad at, and would have to go on doing for the next seven years. A lump as hard as a fist made its way up his throat, and punched a tear out his right eye. He wiped it away, sitting alone at lunch and weeping had ‘loser’ written all over it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Iggy Goes Pop

It seemed just another miserable start to just another day destined to be remain just another number on the calendar. Iggy was woken up as always by an incessant, spirit crushing beeping. Only this wasn’t his alarm clock. The sound came from a machine measuring his pulse. Iggy had woken up in a hospital. Just hours ago, he had tanked up on thirty-eight antidepressant pills washed down with two bottles of cough syrup, and had then slashed his both his wrists just to be sure. Beneath the bandages on his arms lay 28 stitches. To save his life, they had had to pump his stomach, electrocute him in the chest four times, and inject him with enough adrenaline to fill his skull.

Removing the bandages and touching the jagged crests of his stitches made him feel neither guilty nor grateful. Instead, for the first time in months, he caught a whiff of an emotion that had become over time so alien, it was initially difficult for him to comprehend what he was overcome with – he felt hopeful. He wanted to believe that the shitstorm was now over.

The man in the bed next to his had had a bastard of a heart-attack, and lay in deep slumber, with very bleak chances of ever waking up. His relatives milled about outside in the hall, and they’d left the usual hospital visit jetsam –plastic flowers, tacky cards, tackier metallic balloons – on the table next to his bed. Iggy picked up a woman’s purse that lay between a bunch of yellow plastic roses and a Mickey Mouse balloon, and fished out a pen and a notepad.
He began writing a suicide note.

Goodbye (from the world’s worst engineering student) or My Reluctantly RocknRoll Suicide

I used to smile. I used to like being alive. I used to be Jumping Jack Flash.
Then my soul was sold for a life I could never want.

As I begin to write this, I want you to know that I’m dead. All that embodied who I was, aspirations that no-one else would give a home or a hope, dreams only I could keep from drowning, ideas only I could sire, and the one person only I could understand, have been murdered. Butchered by the humiliation that comes with realizing how much cowardice I’d now have to inject in every part of every day, just to get by.

No more drugs disguised as medicines to get over the only medicines that ever stopped the pain. No more pain. No more shocks to the head to wash my thoughts clean of themselves. No more believing my introspection is twisted, and that being spit on by my own reflection is part of a package which will somehow be for my own good.

Don’t tell me I’m judging the past harshly. For why does every choice I didn’t make seem like on that I should have, and ever choice I did seem like the one mistake so wholly responsible for these tears drowning my soul?
I suppose a lot of it has to do with none of these choices being mine.

He tried hard to think of some way to continue and give the note a tangiable middle and a depressing enough end, but wondered if even since he didn’t care about choices made anymore, would anyone else. Leaving the letter half done, he yanked out the plastic tube in his arm, stopped the blood with his thumb, and climbed out the window.

Clambering down the drainpipe, he thought about what he was leaving behind – things he once held dear, a home, his family, some friends, all of which eventually meant less as time went by. Wishing HeartAttack well, he took one last look into the hospital room, and went on his way. Where, to what, how, he neither knew, nor felt awkward leaving unanswered for the time being.


(Meanwhile in a time some months afore)

Iggy walked into the store selling used tires and was immediately taken aback by the pristine hideousness of its insides. It looked as though the ugliest shop in the world had been burnt down, and then rebuilt using the remains, and the choicest morsels of trash from the rather sizable pile outside. As Pintoo began brokering a deal for the new tube, Iggy went outside to let Bagdogra humour him for a while. Outlandishly fetching Nepali girls walked by in track suits, carved out of tanned cheddar cheese with soul-nibbling smiles. Their being there, giggles and all, reminded Iggy of the conversation he had tried with so many of them, and the final and complete futility of trying. You say tomato. I say potato. It’s always so easy on TV, and ironically, even this dump had cable.

The token jeep ferrying youth workers of a political party screamed by. The boys wanted justice for the displaced poor. They were probably going to get it by holding the whole city hostage tomorrow and christening their day in the sun a strike. Iggy desperately wanted to talk to some of them. Preferably while stoned. He once tried. Dotting the city were several ‘sports clubs’, massive buildings opened under the aegis of one political mob or the other. Colossal things, so big you could play football on the first floor, which, this being Bengal, Iggy expected to find them doing as he walked into the New Tigers Club. Instead it turned out that the only two sports indulged in here were carom and a card game called rummy. The club turned out to be a very bourgeois Bertie Wooster kind of joint, plenty of smoking and the odd glass of whiskey being sipped at, only it was a shade too ramshackle and sadly un-woody.

By now Pintoo’d sealed the tube transaction. He’d done well, for save the cost of the tube, all they’d have to fish out as installation charges was five rupees. Watching him inspect the inflated tire by kicking it, Iggy noticed that Pintoo wasn’t looking too well. His dad was worried about him. Apparently he’d been hitting the bottle a bit more that was deemed good for him, and had started showing up late for work, and at times not at all. And then he was loosing weight, and this was Bengal. He wanted not to thing about such things for a moment. In the shade of a condom hoarding, they paid the money and left.