IT’S IN THE AIR
I think the world is a beautiful place where dreams come true, where people are jovial and helpful. But now most of them have turned into heartless beings, but i can assure one thing, I will never ever be one of them.
Today I decided that i will lay it out there. I hurried down the stairs, got down almost trickling. I strode with my teensy chucks., towards the park, in the colony. It was crowded like the usual, I could see aunties and uncles, wearing colourful t shirts, with their kids, swinging them like them like the cream on the McSwirl, who could better understand the pain than me. Till now i was in my stride but now i was freezed, like the early men in the ice age. Did i really have to go? It cant be that necessary, after all adults tell us only the boring and disciplined stuff. I was really fine in my own space where i could practice autonomy. I was awakened by a jerk, as two boys wearing funny hoodies, with senseless slogans written on them brushed past me. My first reaction was to be agitated, but i could do nothing but gaze at these two boys, they were like me and Arpit in Delhi, we were the best of pals. We were family friends ever since i was born, my mother knew Ms. Ruchi since her college days back in the 80s, and fortunately had maintained that retro tie till now, creating a new friendship- which was of me and Arpit. I still remember that i urged mumma to call him, whenever it used to rain. And Arpit always used to choose the movie we were to watch on the 12 inch tv, and had crispy pakoras and stolen pints of tea. Which was really a delight to have, that is the only reason i feel happy about the fact that i left him back in Delhi. Because everything else about him was perfect, he was the perfect friend, and we never ever fought till date. But i was told that i had to move on, and forget the past. I was mainly told that make new friends, as friends are just ‘timepass’. I never really agreed with that fact, not even now. Basically i had no other friends, else, Arpit. And currently had no other friends, and did not tend to make any more, I turned my back and started a slow and dreary walk back towards my house. “ Oye Blue Chucks” somebody shouted with a squeaky and irritating voice. I did not want to turn my back again but was compelled to, because it would not look polite, So I turned over to see a girl who seemed two to three years older to me, wearing a black t-shirt and having a bucket like face. I replied “ are you talking to me?” “ So who else dumbo, pass that ball near that car” said the girl with the bucket head. I again did not want to come out as impolite, so I passed the ball. And turned back promptly and striding towards my house quickly, but yet again i heard the same squeaky voice “ you new to this neighbourhood?” I was frustrated till this time, and replied “ Yeah, but i just thought of some work to complete, i’ll see you around the neighbourhood” I heard nothing in response.
“ So made any new friends?” asked mom, “no mom” “ I have nothing to say to you” said mom. “Neither do i” i acted like a big boy and banged the door behind me.
The next day at the same time, the uncanny event happened again “ Go out and make some friends” said mom “ Its so crowded there, i can't even feel the air, socialising is a far fetched thought” I replied. “ You don't need to, Its very cold, Go out and make some friends” Mom said. Being the dutiful son I was. I stooped and walked towards the door out, but was stopped by dad. It was Sunday so he was home too,“ Mridang, have you seen a girl with a bruised leg?” said dad in his pretentious heavy voice before i could say anything “ Arrey, Rajeev he hasn't even talked to a human out there, he cant answer that question, he's to scared to.” This hurt my minuscule ego and i said “ now you wait and watch mumma, you said a little too much.” “ Atleas..” Dad was beginning to say something but i was long gone. I rushed down the stairs again, and almost trickled on some. Some other girls who were also going down the stairs looked at me and shared a tiny laugh, this was too much for a single day. Mom making constant fun of me and indirectly saying I'm incompetent, some random downtown girls laughing at me. Today i had to prove how much of a man i am, along the way i met some uncles and aunties who were in our house for the housewarming party, last night, i figured i had to wish them every single time i met them. “Namaste uncle” “Namaste beta” replied the triple xl uncle, i thought that he has bloated even more, after last night. Suddenly, a kid smaller than me jumped infant of me, out of nowhere “ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and did a weird pose with his hands and legs and pretended to be a ninja. This really creeped me out, I never thought that Haryana would be so weird, well i was warned by Arpit. But this was nothing like Arpit told, it was much more agitating and started to get on my nerves. I disregarded him and showed off a dry smile and moved on, towards the same park, today the sunshine was even more brighter and the crowd even more bigger. I spotted the two guys who brushed past me yesterday, playing and mostly swearing with other children. I could not understand the game, i again became a mere observer and leaned towards a car and watched them hustle with three to four marbles. I remembered what i set out to do, i had to prove my mother wrong. I reluctantly set foot in the park and squeezed through hundreds of kids and uncles and finally approached the kids i spotted while panting after all that squeezing., “ my name is Mridang…. what are you all upto?” “ Kanche” replied a kid among the group who looked four to five years older than me. He was wearing a blue striped jacket which was loosely fitted along with a red shirt and white pant which was covered with dust, because of all the commotion and sand. He made a look which really angered me, the ‘whats it to you look’. Kanche, it rang a bell in my small mind, i had heard my father say that he used to play ‘Kanche' with his friends on every Sunday afternoon and then grandma would become really angry because he tended to forget about the time track when he used to play. She used to grab him by the ear and drag him in-front of all his friends back to the house. I replied “thats great!, can you teach me?’ “ I don't recognise you, are you new in this neighbourhood?” said one of the boys who had an awful lot of hair on his face as well as his arms. He looked really gross, but later i would realise that he was just three years bigger than me. I replied “ actually yes, we just moved in day before yesterday.” ‘For?’ said the same guy with fluffy hair almost falling off. “ My father just got his district here in Haryana” i replied “ you mean your father is an IAS officer?” said the same guy. “ Umm.. yeah” i replied. All the other guys in the group stopped playing and looked at me in awe, “ actually Kanche is played with marbles, one marble is set on the preliminary position and all the players playing have to aim for that marble, whoever hits that marble first wins.” said the guy whom i saw yesterday, with the funny hoodie.” what did you say your name was?’ said the one with the blue jacket. “Mridang, what are the names of you all?” i replied, just to seem interested and complete the the goal which i set out to. “I’m Birju” said the one with the blue jacket, “I’m Shravan” till now he had some dust entangled in his hair. “ this is.. is Bindra and I'm Riyansh” i could hear soft laughs in the group, i hoped it was not because of me, maybe it was because of the little stutter Riyansh spoke with, Bindra and Riyansh were the only ones who seemed of my age and they were the ones . That was all, i had spent roughly 15 minutes out here in the sun, satisfied my ego and was about to go. But was stopped by Bindra “ Mridang, you’re new to Haryana and Panchkula is not so big we can show you around sometime” said Shravan, I replied “ yeah sure, but in Delhi i was not allowed to go anywhere without the permission of my mother…’’ I heard the whole group laugh but not Shravan, “ So i’ll have to ask” i continued. “ That is not a problem, but for today we’ll just show you the secret field which we play in.” said Shravan. “Shravan bhaiya, that will not be necessary, i really have to ask” i replied, “ I’m sure Mridang, aunty will not say a thing, there is no problem. Guys lets go show him Panchkula’s most secluded field.” Every body got up and patted their pants and tracks off the dust. Birju bhaiya whispered something in Shravan bhaiya’s ear, to which Shravan bhaiya said “ thats all right, go on that is more important than this” and they laughed a quite laugh, to be fair i was a little scared, after all it was a new city, new people and too much was happening in a single day. “ Bye, Mridang i’ll see you tomorrow. I have some work to do today, you have fun.” said Birju bhaiya. “ Bye bhaiya, but i really don't want to go, i’ll have to ask mom.” i said. But ultimately i had to go, by a bicycle ride of atleast fifteen minutes we reached the field, through craggy roads and narrow streets. I saw this glorious place, filled with just lush green grass and the perfect amount sunlight falling tenderly, there was not a single living organism in this massive place, else the four of us. The whole place was like a water colour paintings i make, in my paintbook, with the impeccable mix of the colour green and yellow, this was truly one of the best sights i had seen in my life. “ you got lost or what, Mridang?” said Shravan bhaiya, to be fair i was really taken aback and replied “ yes, sort of”. Till this point i realised that, Riyansh and Bindra don't talk much. I saw three pipes which were large in size, kept closely in the middle of the field, “we should start walking towards those pipes, that is our sitting point” said Shravan bhaiya. Riyansh suddenly tugged me on the back and said “isn't this amazing, this whole place?, I'm sure the red fort isn't even close to this” i replied, “ we cant really compare, the two, the red fort has historic significance, whereas…” we were interrupted by Shravan bhaiya’s loud shout “ enough chit-chatting you to, come towards the pipes!” he was already halfway across, along with Bindra, who was slow jogging all the way. We started walking towards them as we felt the sun breeze caress our face timidly, and the green leaves shadowing our face. All four of us jump-saddled on the pipes, while the three of the unanimously started talking about some incident happened earlier, while i glared at the scene and looked around, i suddenly heard a bell, and i didn't realise when the time went through and the sky changed its hues, with the span of time, i eased myself and laid my back towards the pipe and watched “ ting! ting! ting!, i sensed this sound was coming from a faraway building. “What does that building consist of?” everybody laughed together in unison, “I knew you had something in you, after all ‘haryanvi air’ is having its go at you.- that’s the girls school” said Shravan bhaiya. “Oh, so boys and girls go to different schools out here?” I said in shock, “yeah… they do, that is said ain’t it?” everybody cracked again after Riyansh said it in dismay. That was the one of the rare times when Riyansh had spoken, I couldn't really understand them. They were just so different, and suddenly, “ Oye! everybody is getting out of the school, rush if you want to sightsee!” shouted a postmaster from the other side of the road who was riding a cycle then sped off, vigorously paddling. “sightsee wha..” i was interrupted by Bindra “the GIRLS” he summersaulted in joy and smirked towards me and sped along with the others. Shravan bhaiya was still beside me, and said “do you want me to drop you back, near the park? or do you want to see the girls? and smiled from cheek to cheek.” I said “ its getting late bhaiya, mom and dad must be worried, i should get going.” “ Its your wish bhai, after all you asked about the school?” said Shravan bhaiya and gave me a naughty smile. Then said “ nevermind, you’ll change in sometime, lets go drop you back.” He was right i did change through the passage of time, I reached the staircase leading back to my house, i got down turned back and waved towards Shravan Bhaiya and went back into my house. I pressed the bell, and was applauded by my dad “ Ohooo, our son has comeback, who said he could not make friends? He’s my son, he can win the world, if he sets out to.” Said dad with an encouraging vibe, “ You are lauding him? do you even know what is the time?” said mom and dragged me by the shirt i was wearing and indicated to quickly wash my hands and have my food. “ Seriously, Sneha you are a strange woman, first you told him to make friends, and now when supposedly he's doing a good job at it, you are concerned about the ti..” by that time i got into the washroom and could not help but laugh, and look at the mirror.
From the very next day, things changed in my life. I had new friends, who would come exactly at 4’o clock and convince my mother to let me go. And would come back at 9’o clock night, always with a huge smile on my face, and this was after my father had reached home. I had to listen to the rants of my mother every single night, after some time, the rants about the importance of studies, family, time management and all sorts of things. But to be fair i was really enjoying my company, the field now became our ‘adda’ where we would sit, contemplate life and talk about various things. Whenever the girls’ school bell rang we rushed towards the gate, forgetting about every single thing which was happening in our life while running. In this process i also developed a major liking towards girls. In a blink of an eye three years went by. I had graduated to the senior wing, and was being given a party by the group at a local restaurant in the locality. Through these years my love for butter chicken had went through the roof, it was the only thing i cherished in terms of food and for beverages lassi was my favourite. So while i was sucking on a bone’s marrow, “ Sorry, Mridang i have to crash, enjoy your party, you deserve this.” said Bindra. “ Hold on, wait a second where are you going and what for” i said. “ Wait, why does it sound like my crackhead girlfriend is talking.” Said Bindra, “ Hey, mind your language Bindra, it’s me you're talking to. I just wanted to ask what is the reason of this rush.” I said. “ I have some work” replied Bindra and sidelined me. “what work is so important that you can leave your best friend’s graduation party?” I said in agitation. “I think this the right time” said Birju bhaiya, “after all he's thirteen now” “No, don’t….” Bindra tried to interrupt Birju bhaiya but he went on precariously “ we do the business of distributing bhukki in the village area, we were under the dilemma of telling you or not, but this thing had to come out today in my opinion. We were also skeptical about how you would take this.” I did not know what to say or think at his point of time, bhukki was a tablet which was always in the dainik patr which was the daily paper. I had briefly read the articles over time to understand to what it was, according to the papers it was a drug tablet abundantly used in our district, the sources did not know where it came from, but what they did know was it is extremely harmful and is increasing in numbers. And today i realise that the only friends i had are in this business. “ What is the need of this? doesn't uncle provide enough money for you to spend, Birju bhaiya?” i said in shock and in contempt. “ What do you think Mridang, how common is a farm business is in Haryana? My father is a commoner, rather a dying commoner living the winter phase of his life. His land was reluctantly reduced to 1/4th of the original land, i came to your sleazy dad for help…” “ Aye! you cant bring my dad into..” “Shut the hell up, Mridang ! you don't know what we are going through you're just a rich bastard’s son, you can’t understand the pain we are going through and what struggles we have to face daily. You just sit in your bed, under the peaceful shade of the air conditioner while we bust our butts in the daily grind of life.” At last, Birju bhaiya ended his rant and i was spellbound and my legs became sore. “ What could my dad do about your dad’s land. He’s just a civil servant, he's not like the other corrupt officers residing in Haryana, his hands are constricted by the orders of the government.” i said in a mumbling tone. “ Are you done with your drama, am i allowed to go?” asked Birju bhaiya. I could say nothing, with that he just sped off. In about 30 minutes we silently finished with the food, with all the people gazing at us for making such a big scene. Then i dragged myself back to home, while carrying the baggage of thought. My mom and dad greeted me with utmost affection for graduating middle school, now the thought of me coming back late, and not coming back straight from school did not bother them, they were at terms with it. I had my dinner with the same thought and incident in my mind, i couldn’t get that thought out of my head. Maybe Birju bhaiya is helpless after all he has to take care of his livelihood, and he has no other options, i thought. “Whatever it is, i want in. I’ll help.” I declared in our adda the very next day, everybody was shook. “ Please leave it be, you cant handle it i went out of line yesterday. I should have not let that out. You belong from a prestigious family you have no need to do all of this.” Said Birju bhaiya. “ Our friendship will not go in vain bhaiya, i will try my level best to ensure and show gratitude any way possible. My father’s hands are tied bhaiya, not mine.” Bindra sighed and shook his head softly. “Then what else we can say? if you want in, we will give you in, let him have his spin Birju, lets see what he can actually do.” Said Shravan bhaiya, while keeping Birju bhaiya, at ease. Okay then, today is 1st October, and tomorrow is Gandhi Jayanti. The stash of new supplies must be out, we have distributorship in the south of Panchkula, we have great consumer base, you, Bindra and Riyansh can go to the address in this chit, you’ll find a truck, this is near the CM’s house, rather it is in, the CM’s house you’ll find 1kg of stash there, get it back here by evening and it will distributed in the district by Birju and me” said Shravan bhaiya. “ you mean to say the CM himself has the stash and distributes to you guys?” i said in a total state of shock. “well, yes. Ramesh ji is directly connected with this business. No further questions, you guys should get going, its a long way from Panchkula. This is your first time Mridang, stay safe, Bindra and Riyansh will teach you how the work is done in some time.” We took a bag, and got going. I was still in shock, i could still not comprehend the fact that the chief minister of Haryana himself was involved in all of this. I could not hold it back and asked Riyansh. “ Was Birju bhaiya serious? is the chief minister really involved in all of this?” “ YES, but can you please stop talking, we can still not understand why you dragged yourself into all of this, this was really not necessary. And i request you to whisper the driver can hear us.” he said all of this in sheer irritation. I could not stop asking questions, i asked the next one to Bindra, who was enjoying the air coming from the sides of the tempo. “ But what benefit does the chief minister gets for giving and distributing the stash?”. “Votes, he bribes people by giving out bhukki to the voters. This is done in the starting of every month, he ensures that a number of people get lured by this, and get monthly incentives, for remembering whom to vote for.” replied Bindra expressionlessly. The tempo ride finished as we came to a halt infront of the highly crowded bus station. “Why are we getting do….” “shut up Mridang” interrupted Riyansh abruptly and rudely. He paid the tempo driver and we got out in a hurry. “Don’t speak unnecessarily Aarav, we got down here because if we got down straight in the CM’s house, the driver would get suspicious.” said Bindra. We then found three weirdly dressed men waiting for us, they looked as if they had not eaten for months, they looked frail. All three of them had bicycles and took us to the coveted house, and the gates opened instantly, and we were escorted to the godown, the house on the outside was a great delight. It was a three storey mansion, maybe the stories were really true. Maybe they did eat up all the money. We were strangely asked no questions, and were handed a kilogram of these white tablets, they called bhukki. And were told to go, the first customers of the tablets were the three men with cycles themselves, so Bindra handed out the tablets which were two grams per packet cautiously. They greeted us and left us at the same bus station, from there we again caught a tempo, and made our way back. The ride was going fine until we were stopped by a huge traffic jam, in Haryana there were no traffic jams usually, but today was different. Riyansh asked the tempo driver in a scaredy tone “do you know for what this traffic jam has occurred?” “Oh, the traffic jam, yes, yes i know, tomorrow is Gandhi Jayanti, that is why the Haryana police is conducting a check of impersonnel for potential terrorists.” Riyansh backed off and seemed very tense, Bindra was also acting very shocked. Finally the silence was broken, “we are doomed, we have to get out of here.” whispered Bindra, Riyansh nodded strongly. “ i’ll be taking the tablets and getting out of here, you and Riyansh stay on the tempo and get back to Panchkula, i’ll make my way back there.” I got comforted by this and sat back at ease, thinking that at least i would not get caught because of this. But we were in a tense atmosphere, we managed to get though the checking and finally got to the field and found Birju bhaiya crying his heart out we rushed towards him, and shook him and asked him what has happened “Bindra is dead.” I was dumbstruck the ground on my feet swept away.
It took an awful lot of time, to recover from this life deafening loss. In this process my lust and the visits to the girls’ school played a major role. In a passage of time, i had developed a sort of liking towards a girl of twelfth standard, her hair carried the darkness of the darkest night and her skin was as pink as cherry blossom. She too belonged to a good family much like mine. I had tried to initiate a conversation with her, innumerable times but all the efforts were in vain, after all she was three big years bigger than me. I fantasised about her all night, cooked up weird dreams, which would come out as really gross. This one day, the whole group somehow got to know about the affection i have for this girl, they confronted me and asked me straight out and i replied “ YES, i do like her a lot. But i have had no luck with her, I'm not as swift with girls as Birju bhaiya, i cant get her to talk to me.” i said in an embarrassing tone, the whole group cracked. “ No one is as or ever will be as great as the naughty Bindra, but i sure do try. And about that girl you say, that will be sorted.” after hearing Bindra’s name the whole atmosphere again mellowed down. Days passed by, and i heard the bell, i walked towards the door at my easy pace and found Riyansh, he grabbed me by the collar and said “ Let’s go” “i’m going mom!” i shouted and banged the door closed. “ what is it, where are you taking me?, I was doing my homework, at least say something.” i said in agitation. “ That girl you were talking about, that is arranged” replied Riyansh, and then we sat in an auto, “ bhaiya, motel 320, please.” “ What do you mean by arranged?, I’m not even wearing decent clothes!” “That is not of concern, you’ll see”. Till now it was seven in the evening, it was dark, but not as dark which would anger mom. But i was still in thought, why a motel, “Why a motel? I have never been to a motel before” I stacked up various questions before Riyansh while we got up the storeys through the elevator. We stopped at room number 320, and rang the bell. Birju bhaiya opened the door, which creaked while opening, he was unusually sweaty. He gave me a strong greeting, and invited me inside, where i saw Raveena tied to a bed topless, screaming although taped, and trying to move helplessly and the whole group huddled around her. “What the hell is this ?” “ i didn't ask for any of this, this is almost like committing a crime!” i thought all of these questions, but didn't ask even one of those. “We all were blown with the death of Bindra, we thought this would be apt to refresh our mood and even fulfil your desires.” Said Birju bhaiya“Well, she really is beautiful” said Shravan bhaiya. “well that she is” i said. At that point, i was myself shocked that i was saying all those things. “So what do we have to do?” i asked inquisitively and smirked, “ All of us have had our go. Mridang, you can do whatever you want to do to her., and actually she enjoyed all of us.” Raveena was constantly moving and making noises helplessly. She was trembling and shrieking. “Here’s some protection” Shravan threw a brown packet towards me. “ Have fun, we will be out in the lobby, you have two hours to yourself. Don't be too harsh on her.” They giggled and left. Frankly, i did not know a thing about this situation, i did not know what to do. But i did every single thing that was on my mind, completed all the fantasies i dreamt about, and did not even have a speck of guilt. She trembled and shrieked helplessly. But that didn't bother me, i enjoyed while she was getting tortured by my doings. During the process she was constantly crying and mumbling. I felt my body was not in my control, i did all of the grossest things i could imagine. The whole process ended, i went out to the lobby and told the whole group, they congratulated me. “ What will happen to Raveena?” “we will take care of her, don't worry. Go back home.” I had one last look of her when i was leaving, she was not moving, it looked like her soul was extracted and she just lay there.
I went back home, through an auto ride, got thrashed by my mother for coming late. Dad side eyed me, i went into the bathroom, washed my face. Looked in the mirror, and glared at my face and thought.
“the world is a beautiful place where dreams come true, where people are jovial and helpful. But now most of them have turned into heartless beings, and i too am one.”
IT’S IN THE AIR