Saturday, 11 February 2012

Who Wants An Ugly Smile?

The transport strike was unexpected. It was a long walk for my tired feet, drooping shoulders and bulging beer belly. My eyes, strained against the rays of the sun, and I looked down at my shadow to escape it. I was not alone. The whole town was walking with me. Some were walking at a pace slightly faster than me. Others were eons faster. Our destination was the same though. The paan shop to buy bottles of mineral water. 

I stopped, to buy a smoke. “How long is it going to stay this way?” I asked a passerby. “It always happens when the fuel prices rise, bhaiya.” replied the paan wala, who was always naked upto his waist, with his chest hair looking menacingly close to the ingredients he used. I imagined his chest hair falling onto a pan he was wrapping up, like a kite falling from the sky. Disgusted by this sick thought, I resumed walking. I was running late anyway.


“Hello” I answered my phone.
“Do you have plans of visiting the Victoria Memorial again?” remarked Ashok.
“You think my father called this strike? Chutia!!”
“I had already told you that it could’ve been risky.”
“It’s my town Ashok! I had to pay my sister a visit!!”
“I understand. Now hurry up!! You know you‘re running late!!”
“I know trust me you will see me in the platform no matter what happens.” I hung up the phone.

Since I was born and brought up in this metropolitan, I was quite familiar with the bumpy roads and the narrow lanes. This helps me reach destinations quicker. Right now, my destination was Howrah station. I took a lane which always used to be busy with boisterous urchins playing cricket. It was pretty surprising to find the street empty at this hour. I wondered why it was so. The kids must have been sleeping, or must have changed their schedule. The broken windowpanes of Mr.Mukherjee’s crib answered my query. The cricketers had finally been banned .

“HONK!!”, came the blaring, interrupting my stream of thoughts. I could sense a car behind me, it’s tires scraping the gravel of the lane. Another sick thought came into my head. What if the car was aiming for me? I jumped to my left, narrowly avoiding a clutter of dog feces. The car halted so close to me that I could barely move. There was no difference between me and the dog’s poop. I was stuck and helpless. I grimaced, as the pungent odour of the shit touched my nostrils. The smell of the dog poop had now disappeared, and was transformed into a fragrant jasmine scent, which suffocated me as much as the dog shit did. “ Carry him quickly” said one to the other. I blacked out.

I woke up to the sound of a familiar song. I couldn’t place it. My head was too fuzzy. Ah it was a Green Day's. I always imagined God to be an old heavily bearded man, so this puzzled me. I opened my eyes to a clean furnished room with a single bed on my left, an old fashioned wardrobe on my right and paintings on the wall in front of me. I guessed this room belonged to an aged man who was a nature lover, which I concluded by the Himalayan paintings on the wall. The only wall I couldn’t see was the one behind me. My hands were numb, so were my head, my legs, my lips and every tooth of mine. I realized I couldn’t move. How could I?? I was tied with ropes to a pure sandalwood chair, exactly the way the Bollywood movies show us. I was SHANGHIED..!!

I tried pinching myself, but I wasn’t dreaming. I was actually kidnapped. I found no reason why. Neither were my parents rich enough to pay a ransom, nor did I have any enmity with the local don. Horrors crept into my mind. I feared I would be chopped into pieces and thrown in some nearby pond. I also day dreamed of gunning down the criminals like a gallant knight, but then reality hit in and I was tied to a sandalwood chair again.


I heard footsteps getting louder and louder. It was them. I saw the doorknob moving. In a few seconds they would be in the room. I saw visions of my dead body. The only thing I could think of was to lay my head down low and play dead. I had seen this in a movie before.

“Hey Chandu, we’ve been successful yet again”, I heard a young voice say.
“It’s not over yet, Sam” stuttered his friend.
“He should’ve woken up by now!!” “You overdosed him?”
“I used the same as always. This asshole must be a pussy”
“What’s the total?” Sam enquired.
“It’s forty five”

I was listening to the voices with profound interest. I tried judging them by their voices, trying to find a weakness I could use to my advantage. I feared they splash a bucket of water anytime, so this was the moment where I had to exert my smartness by listening discreetly to their game plan. I had already guessed I was their forty fifth successful target.

“Look at his clothes!! He doesn’t look like he’s from a wealthy family!!”
“What are you thinking about?” asked Chandu curiously.
“I’m thinking of calling his dear ones”
“Ransom?” Chandu sounded surprised to me.


I woke up again. This time it wasn’t Green Day that woke me up but a blow to my face, below my left ear. My juvenile sensitive nature let tear trickle down my cheeks. I somehow shook myself and covered my cowardice with the mask of bravery I was accustomed to wearing.

Finally, I opened my eyes to view the room. My kidnappers gawked at me intensely. Both of them were teenagers, not more than seventeen. They were ugly. The funny and special thing about them was that both of them had a tooth missing, which imposed itself when both of them were laughing at jokes about my state. Sometimes I felt like they didn’t care about how horrid, monstrous and ugly they looked because of their missing tooth. I funnily felt they were proud of it.

“Oye Chandu look at him, what is the fucking difference between him and us now?”
“I think he’s still wealthier than us, Sam” Chandu replied sarcastically.

Every statement uttered by them scared me. My eyes were on the telephone which was kept on the shelf in front of me. I wondered when it was going to be used to call my parents. I didn’t hear any incoming calls. Was the phone dead? I hoped not.

“What’s next?? Kill him or sell him?” Sam asked furiously.
“Don’t scare him much Sam, he doesn’t know you’re joking”.

I was in a state of terror at the moment and the level of panic had reached its highest level. I looked straight into Sam’s eyes and he knew I begged for mercy at any price.

“What are you looking at dickhead?”
“I’m sorry”.
“Sorry? For what”
“Please leave me” I pleaded.
“Let’s come to the point now!!”
I didn’t answer him. There was nothing more to be said.
“What can you do for us?”
“Take everything. My money, my phone or whatever you want but please don’t kill me” I cried.
“Then what is the difference between us and the others!!” He yelled at me.

Silence again. I was elated for a second that I might not get murdered but baffled at the same time.
“If you don’t want to kill me do you want to marry me?” said my head but not my mouth. Humor was the only thing that kept me from going insane at this point.

Sam turning to Chandu asked him, “Hey, what else do you want from him?”
“Just tell this pussy to order my favorite ‘Chicken Tikka Makhani from Pizza Hut and get him out of here!”
“Yummy….!! Nice choice Chandu!! Zesty Chicken was not upto the mark the other evening”
Now Chandu turning to me “So here’s the deal!! Treat us a pizza and we set you free!”
“What?” “Are you serious?”

I got a huge blow on face for the second time.

“I’m asking you again nicely for the final time. Treat us a pizza and we set you free. Deal?”
“Okay”. I could’ve treated them anywhere at this moment.
Chandu rushed towards the phone like a hungry mongrel. I wish I could’ve called him that up to his face, but fear is a great teacher of humility.

Forty minutes passed away. My wallet was taken from me just a couple of minutes before the doorbell. The delivery boy was late and technically the pizza should have been free but the shameless farts paid him an extra tip. The warm oozing of the pizza toppings brought saliva from all our tongues. I was the unlucky one who was just watching them hog, but I had no regrets because that very pizza just might have saved my life. It was not an ordinary pizza. I called it a life saving hero and named it ‘Pizzaman’, whom like a good Samaritan was sacrificing its life for me.

“Hey Sam, it’s not fair!! Allow him to join us!!”
“That would be okay. The pizza belongs to him technically”
Chandu let the ropes go loose and offered me a slice “Don’t say ‘NO’” he said, his gesture more threatening than polite. I accepted it gracefully because the cut slice looked delicious and, I wanted to avoid a third punch.

My hands were still numb, so were my head, my legs, my lips and every tooth of mine. Even the taste of the pizza sucked. I felt I was a native from a far distant country I would like to call ‘Numbland’


“We are done!! Can we drop you somewhere” asked Sam politely for the first time.
“I’m good. I’ll make it myself” I answered to the point, carefully avoiding giving them personal information about myself unwittingly.
“You know Sam I really like this kid. He never argued and retaliated like the others. I wish I could pay him back.” Chandu exclaimed with joy.
“Return the pizza money!! Gandus!!” I replied, (again only in my head).
“You got five minutes” Sam was polite again.
I picked up my dropped wallet, carried my knapsack and took off like a jet plane without looking back.


The place was unknown to me. I hired a taxi and took off for Howrah station. I moved my wrist to the right a bit to check out how much time I still had. I was kidnapped, kept for hours, punched twice for just a pizza. It seemed like a funny fairy tale with me as the hero by default. My friends would laugh when they heard about this true story, making me, the joke of the decade.

Ashok was waiting just outside the compartment looking eagerly for me. I jumped among the crowd just to let him know I had finally reached. I think he would’ve cried if I had missed my train.

“Where had you been gandu?” Ashok yelled at the top of his voice.
“You won’t believe what happened!!”
“Whatever, Chutia. Can’t you call and inform me that you will be late.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’ll tell you everything” I said giving him a sarcastic smile
It triggered a quizzical look on Ashok’s face. “What the hell happened to you?” he cried out, “You have one of your teeth missing...”

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