Chapter 2: Antaral
After working for next five months in Software Solutions, Akshay resigned from the company. He decided to leave Shehar for Bada Shehar. He boarded the train from Shehar railway station. The train was divided into carriages and each carriage has equal number of compartments with eight beds in each. The beds were stacked vertically in three tiers on either side of the compartment, of which again six beds were stacked vertically and two were along the aisle, one above the other. During the day, the middle beds had to be folded down flat against the compartment walls to allow the passengers to sit. Another two tiers of beds were placed outside the compartment, along the aisle. Fans on the compartment ceiling were providing some cooling, and the windows have bars to keep intruders away as they were usually kept open. The privacy was not known in the sleeper class. The respect for privacy was new to this part of the world, which lately had started gaining momentum because of gradual socio-economic changes.
He got the window seat and was excited at the idea of being able to see the outside view. His excitement was metaphorically, similar to a child who had just got a new gift. Three people were sitting
in front of him, two beside him on the same seat and two on the seats which were along the aisle. The persons sitting on the aisle seat were friends. Earlier one of them was in a different compartment.
But they requested the person who was sitting there, to shift to the compartment that one of them had a seat in. He agreed to their request. They helped him carrying his luggage. They seemed quite happy. Two were sitting opposite to Akshay, got their seats confirmed just two hours back. (It’s difficult to get a seat reserved for Bada Shehar, if you didn’t plan in advance.) There was a lot of noise at the platform and inside the train, as the relatives of the passengers who had come to see them off, were either holding on to the window or were inside the train. Train started moving. It’s time to jump. Older ones were given preference. Before the train could gain speed everyone was off. As the train gained momentum, cool breeze started flowing. It was like icing on the cake. Calm breeze coming through the window freed the soul. The moment was euphoric. He felt as if he had risen above the struggles of life to a place where the mind was devoid of any insecurity. Distance between the two worlds was just at the twist of the neck. On the right was freedom and on the left was chaos. He thought, “Is the distance between peace and restlessness this much small? If it is so, then why can’t we cover it?” With these thoughts in mind he looked inside the compartment. There was a lot of commotion inside. The two friends were playing chess. Persons sitting opposite were talking to each other. Passengers sitting beside
Akshay were listening to the music. He was lost in his thoughts until an argument started between the friends. The argument started when one checkmated the other, after which he wanted to take back his move. After a little argument, he was allowed to do that. Game carried on for another half an hour and the same thing happened once again but this time with the other friend. He wanted to take back his move but was not allowed. He offered the argument that while in similar situation, he allowed him to reverse his move. But he did not relent and argued that he had committed the mistake unknowingly. It was a different matter altogether that he had done it knowingly; so the argument didn’t hold true. The argument got converted into a quarrel, as none of them were ready to budge from their positions. But the chess board budged and the pieces fell from their positions. For the rest of the journey, they didn’t talk to each other. Akshay wondered why they carried the luggage of a stranger just for this moment.
Akshay started talking to the person opposite to him. His name was Guud. During the conversation he came to know that he was a diploma holder who works in an automobile company. They started talking about the functioning of the various components that are combined to run an automobile. They kept talking for hours, had dinner and went for sleep. Before going to bed Guud looked into Akshay’s eyes and smiled mischievously. Unable to decipher the reason he smiled back.
As windows were open, it was cold at night. Akshay took a blanket and went for sleep. He woke up suddenly up at night. He got scared with the feeling that the train was going off the track. He observed that the body of the train was moving very much laterally. Normally during the night when a train catches speed it starts moving laterally a little too much and that scared Akshay. He slept well except that scare. Chaiwalas started coming early in the morning. Whoever liked to have tea early in the morning woke up. Akshay woke up early; Guud a little late.
Everybody got out of their bed and sat on the lowest tier seat. Everybody in the compartment had their breakfast and got busy. Guud and Akshay resumed their conversation. During the conversation Guud put his leg on the seat on which Akshay was sitting. It was usual practice by people going for a long journey in train. But he started moving his ankle towards the thigh of Akshay. It took no time for Akshay to understand the intentions. He warned him to control the movement of his leg in a fit of rage. He got so scared that he retracted. They didn’t talk after that for the rest of the journey. Akshay wanted the journey to be over as soon as possible.
Akshay reached the railway station of Bada Shehar in the evening. He called Gappori and asked for the address. He took an auto-rickshaw for Gappori’s flat and reached there in an hour. The entrance of the flat opened into the hall. The hall had two openings, one for the main entrance and the other into a small aisle which was connected with bedroom, kitchen, toilet and bathroom. There was a dearth of space in the arrangement. Gappori was his classmate during school days. They were still in touch with each other. Akshay informed him about the visit but didn’t disclose the reason. He told him that he would tell the purpose on arrival. As he entered the flat both hugged each other. They had met after a long time. Gappori was a bachelor. Gappori made a cup of tea for him. Gappori didn’t like tea.
“So what is the purpose of the visit?” inquired Gappori.
“I want to explore the life, to know its meaning and purpose.”
“Come on man, what the crap you are talking about?”
“I knew, you won’t understand.”
“It’s not like that. I want to make you aware of the realities of life. Life is not so simple.”
“I know this.”
“Then, why here? Go to the mountains. Why here? It doesn’t mean that I have any objection about your being here.”
“This much I know about you. If it had not been the case, I wouldn’t have come here. I want to create some space for peace within myself in the chaos around.”
“It’s much more difficult than what you think. If you have gone to a peaceful place then your search would have made some sense.”
“I gave a thought to the idea of going to a peaceful place but then I decided to face it head on. I want to leave my mark in this world. I want to understand the rules or the ways to lead a peaceful life in this chaos.”
“Ok, Ok. Then carry on with your search. You can stay as long as you want.”
“I know that. That’s why I am here.”
“You are my sweetest friend.”
“From right now.”
From then on they started sailing on same boat with different objectives. Gappori as usual continued with his old routine. Akshay needed to choose the new one. He was in no hurry. He had money to live comfortably for two to three months. For next few days he kept roaming around the city aimlessly.
This time Akshay wanted to be proactive rather than reactive. He wanted to make hay before sunshine this time. He wanted part time but regular source of income so that he can continue his quest. Of all the options he contemplated, quenching the thirst of knowledge- if there is any- within the young minds to be the best way to sustain oneself. It would give him more spare time than any other job would. He was unknown in the city. How to let people know his needs? Time for some more contemplation. He left the topic for discussion with Gappori. “Let’s put some stress on the muscles to relax the mind,” he thought. Within no time he was ready to march on.
During evening tea, he discussed his short term objectives with Gappori. He advised Akshay to circulate the pamphlets with his objective and local mobile number. “The best way to do is to put your pamphlets in the newspaper” he said authoritatively as if he was the chief marketing officer of a multinational company. This time he was spot on with his suggestion. He started getting phone calls on the day he distributed the pamphlets with the services offered by the paperboy.
“Hello, can I speak to Akshay?”
“Sir, we want a tutor for my daughter Gumsum. She is in 2nd class. We want somebody to teach her all the subjects. We will give you Rs. 1500 per month.”
“Ok, when can I come to meet you?”
“We want a demo class tomorrow at 5p.m. We will decide after that.”
“Ok, I will reach at your place on time.”
Next day Akshay reached Gumsum’s house on time. Her mother opened the door. Her father was sitting on the sofa. They asked Akshay about his qualifications. They told him about her problems. Her mother told Akshay that she takes time to understand the concepts. She was weak in mathematics. She wanted him to put more efforts to improve her concepts in mathematics. Somebody had told Gumsum’s mother about the correlation between music and mathematics; if you work on one, the other will improve. She
sounded so desperate to get her mathematics improved that she had appointed a music teacher to teach her music. Akshay gave the demo class. They were satisfied with Akshay’s way of teaching. After the class got over they offered him tea and snacks. He told them not to do this again. Akshay left the place after the tea.
Akshay reached the flat after the demo class. Gappori was there. He had come back from the office. Akshay told him about his day.
“How much fee are you charging?”
“Rs.1500 per month.”
“That’s less. You could have charged per hour.”
“How much should I charge?”
“You can charge Rs. 100 to Rs. 150 per hour based on the class you are teaching.”
“From next time I will take care of this. You tell how your day was?”
“Like any other day. In the office things are pretty much the same. They don’t change every day. It is monotonous in nature. You tell about yourself. Do you have a girlfriend? ”
“What do you mean why? It doesn’t happen for me. That’s it. You must be having a girlfriend.”
“Yes, girlfriends instead” replied Gappori with an air of confidence writ large on his face.
“Tell me the number.”
“It’s little complicated.”
“Go on. I like the things in a complicated way.”
“Actually I am serious with one girl, others come and go.”
“How many are they?”
“You don’t look like a playboy.”
“But I am,” he replied immediately with a smile that reflects the specious nature of the statement.
“How do you do this?”
“It happens. You should have an eye for it. Let me narrate you an incident. I was with my colleague in the restaurant. Sometimes you carry on with the discussion outside office so that new and creative idea can come up during the discussion outside the office milieu. I went to a restaurant with my colleague. We were having dinner. There was a girl sitting alone in the restaurant. I saw her and the way she saw me and bull’s eye I knew, immediately. ”
“Tell me what happened after that?”
“I recognized the invitation that she was sending across.”
“How do you recognize the eyes with an invitation?”
“It comes with experience.”
“Ok, go on. What happened thereafter?”
“Once I realized that she was interested, half the job was done. Next thing was to jump into action mode. Simultaneously, I was talking with my colleague. We were discussing various strategies that company should follow in order to march ahead. He had no idea what was going through my mind. I don’t let my left hand know what my right hand is doing. That’s how I work- subtly and intelligently. During the discussion, the girl left the restaurant. I followed her making an excuse to my colleague that I would come back after making a call. I kept following her till she reached her flat. I rang the bell immediately after she closed the door. She got surprised but smiled. I wasn’t surprised at her smile as I knew about it beforehand. I went inside and came out after some time. After coming out I rushed back to the restaurant. My colleague asked me for the delay. I replied back by making a somber face that there were some serious issues at home which I didn’t want to discuss then?”
“What was the name of the girl?”
“I don’t know.”
“I didn’t have the time. My colleague was waiting for me. Moreover, I didn’t feel the need.”
“You could have carried that forward.”
“Who has the time to carry forward? Moreover, I am not famished. Tomorrow we will meet one of my girlfriends. She is damn beautiful.”
The conversation got interrupted with the ringing of the bell. Gappori opened the door. Kamwali entered the flat. She came to prepare the dinner. She was an all rounder who can cook as well as look after all the processes to keep the house in shape. She has a figure that an aspiring model vies for while preparing for swimsuit competition in a beauty pageant. But she lacked that grace and communication skills. Her name can be used as an adjective to the antithesis of being punctual. It was her first encounter with Akshay. He was unknown about her existence. Gappori asked her to prepare the dinner. She might not be punctual but her swift movements and the pace with which she completed the job spoke of her experience in the field. Within an hour she finished all the work. Akshay and Gappori had their dinner, watched the television and slept.
Next day they got ready for the planned rendezvous at a café house in the nearby mall. Both of them reached there in time. Akshay kept looking at every good looking girl passing by. Two cups of regular cappuccino were left with froth at the bottom of the circumference of the cup but still no sign of hers. Akshay wasn’t excited about the meeting but he couldn’t say no to the proposal. Caffeine has started showing its effects by changing the pH of the Akshay’s stomach. Waiting and continuous decrease in the pH value made Akshay to move his vocal chords to express his frustration.
“When will she come?”
“She said she will reach there on time.”
“I don’t know what happened to her ” replied the composed Gappori who was unperturbed with the waiting.
“Then ask her.”
He pulled the mobile from his pocket. Dialed the number, stood up and went out of the café house. He returned after ten minutes.
“She won’t be able to come.”
“As she was about to leave, her uncle, aunt and cousins came to her home. It became difficult for her to leave.”
“Why didn’t she inform then?”
“You have never been in relation; that’s why you don’t know how girls react. Akshay, it’s difficult to break the barrier your image creates around you, especially the good one. In her family and relatives, she is considered as the epitome of moral integrity as well as very well behaved girl with an IQ of 125. With such a burden and the visiting relatives, you can think of her situation. Nobody in her family knows about the relationship.”
“But I still feel she could have messaged. Let’s forget it and tell how she overcame that barrier to fall for you?”
“It was a Sisyphean task but your brother is not Sisyphus, he is Gappori. Forget it. Let’s have something to get over this.”
“One last question before that. If that girl is personification of so many virtues, then why do you wander?”
“The problem with you is that you ask too many questions. I will answer this one and then we will not discuss about this topic anymore.”
“That’s why I am here. Ok, as you wish.”
“When you switch off the gas knob water doesn’t cool down suddenly. It takes time.”
“So how much is the temperature now?”
“75 degree Celsius. Shall we go to a Pizza Palace?”
“Why not? I am a big pizza fan.”
From the Café House they went directly to Pizza Palace. The doorman opened the door and greeted them with a smile. The restaurant was designed ergonomically and beautifully. There were smiles all around the place. There was calmness in the environment despite being crowded. They ordered garlic bread with cheese, medium pizza and cold drinks. The preparation was good. In a bid to finish the food completely they overstretched their capacity. Gluttony has become the way of life. It gives a sense of enjoyment to the people involved in the act.
But crossed the limit
To get the value for money,
Then take honey
To manage the value for money.
Is it worth doing?
But is being done
That is being laid
And that’s progress.
“Good bye, sir” said the door man with a smile on his face.
Being over satiated, they left Pizza Palace in good mood but with heavy stomach. To ease down the pressure of the bloated stomach – the result of voracious eating – they decided to meander through the stretch. Wide footpaths on both sides of the road supported their decision to promenade. Gappori in his confident demeanour started boasting about his reputation in the office and with the opposite gender, which bored Akshay rather than inspiring him with awe. As the conversation was going Akshay saw a beggar sitting on the footpath. He was sitting on his feet, knees folded with a gap between the hips and the footpath. In between the legs he was holding a polybag with one hand and with other hand he was eating a mixture of dal and rice. It seemed as if somebody has given him a leftover and he wanted to finish it as soon as possible to avoid sharing. It grieved him so much that he wasn’t able to look at him for too long. Few minutes ago he was involved in the act of gluttony; now he was seeing the hunger. Gap had always made his mind restive in spite of the fact that he couldn’t do anything about it. He was surprised with the similar reactions to two contradictory situations. Mind is in pain for hunger of finding purpose as well as for hunger of food for other being. He, just somehow, was able to survive for himself but became restive whenever he saw somebody struggling to make both ends meet. He didn’t feel much for dying soul as much as he felt for souls in desperate need.
Next day Akshay got two more calls from the parents of the students. They too asked for the demo class. He charged Rs. 100 per hour from one of the students and Rs. 200 per hour from the other, who was in higher standard. He had to go to these places alternatively. He was enjoying the new role chosen by him. Gumsum was taking time in understanding the concepts. With her poker face you couldn’t understand by looking at her whether she had got the concept or not. Akshay was teaching multiplication and division to her. His tutelage to her vis-à-vis mathematics was, “When one is given, and we have to find many then we multiply and if it’s many to one then we divide.” He kept trying for three days; all in vain. Fourth day he asked:“If one geometry box can contain five pencils then how many pencils can four geometry boxes contain?” “Five” she answered.
Akshay was completely flummoxed with the learning curve. He thought her brain to be a poker faced one; not reacting to the outside knowledge or reacting too slow to consider it reacting. She never said no to the questions asked about her understanding of the concepts. He took it as a challenge. He thought that if he could make her understand the concept then he would think he had achieved something in his new role. He started giving extra time to her. He was wondering if it would take a year to make a difference. Nevertheless, he was decided to go ahead with the challenge. While coming back after tutoring Gumsum, he got a call from Gappori.
“Where are you?”
“On the way.”
“Come after two hours.”
“My girl friend has come. We can spend some time if you come late.”
“Not an issue. You enjoy and just give me a call whenever you are free.”
“You are my sweetest friend.”
Gappori called Akshay within two hours. Akshay reached home.Dinner was ready; house was clean.
“When did she come?”
“When I was with my girlfriend.”
“What is the name of your girl friend? I forgot to ask that day.”
“How do you come in contact with Anjani?”
“In a seminar organized by our company. She was impressed by my organizational skills. Jokes apart she said I have a charisma that attracted her. I don’t know how much of that is true. I have heard it many times from people around me.”
“Are you serious with her?”
“Yes, I am. But not sure about our future.”
“My parents won’t allow me to marry her.”
“They want a girl in our community.”
“Kamwali knows about her.”
“Yes, in Bada Shehar it’s a common thing.”
“I was just asking.”
Akshay’s psychological as well as physiological healths were showing improvement. His dependence on medicines was decreasing. From being a regular he became occasional user- sos only. New signs of life started germinating in the seed which went into hibernation due to the adverse climatic conditions. He was waking up early for physical work out and was tutoring. He kept on following this routine. He kept on getting calls from Gappori beseeching him to come late. Neither he wanted to disturb him nor to take away happy moments from his colourful life. Gumsum was not showing any signs of improvement. Akshay still persevered to bring a change and stopped teaching other subjects and focused only on Mathematics, as instructed by Gumsum’s mother. After two months Akshay received a call from Gumsum’s mother. She asked him to come early next day. She seemed a little concerned about something which Akshay decided not to preconceive the unknown. It indulges mind into useless discussion with itself. Akshay reached there in time. Results were declared. Gumsum had performed badly in mathematics. Her mother was very upset with her performance. She was castigating Gumsum as if she had committed a crime. As Akshay entered the house she showed him, her progress report card
in paroxysm of anger.
“Have you seen your report card?” Gumsum’s mother asked her daughter. “What is the point in paying a tutor if you perform like this? Sir is very angry with your performance. He is saying he doesn’t teach dumb students. If you don’t understand something ask sir; that’s why he is here. Ask him over and again but I want result. Respond, don’t look at me like a fool.”
She was scolding her as if a sales manager is asking his executives why they haven’t met the target in a growing economy. There is no space for the childhood to prosper in this age of self imposed cut throat competition among children. Intelligent and talented children are status symbols for the ambitious parents. Children have become objects to show off for parents; either to hide their failures in life or to carry their legacy of being successful.
Tears began to trickle down her cheeks. Still her poker face showed no response. It seemed that tears were just reaction mechanism of the body to stop the pulling of bridle so that the bit attached won’t pain. Within no time she was into her own self. I think lord Krishna in Bhagwatgeeta talks about achieving this stage of mind. Back to the 21st century again.
“Will you study now?”
“Will you show good results?”
Now the focus of dragon emitting fire from her mouth shifted from poker face Gumsum to meek tutor.
“Sir you have to put some efforts to produce results. I know you are working hard but the results are not up to the expectations. Give some extra time to her to cope up” the dragon roared.
“Should I tell you something?” spoke the meek tutor after gathering some courage.
“I give her more time than I do to any other student. I am very much concerned about her progress. Give her some time and space to find herself.”
“I do understand that you are working hard and I don’t question your sincerity but I want result otherwise it would be of no use.”
“Ok, let me try.”
The incident prompted Akshay to question his decision to challenge himself for taking up the task. He rebelled against himself for a cause. He felt like a leader fighting for people without their support. He wanted to tell her that laying too much stress on her would worsen the situation. Moreover, her mother wanted her to show drastic improvement in spite of knowing her limitations. Akshay considered it as some kind of child labour where the parents were unknown to the fact what they were doing to the child. He was hurt with the pathetic attitude of Gumsum’s mother. He thought that it would be difficult to do justice to his job with the dearth of support. He felt it would be impossible for him to bear the attitude of her mother. It would be difficult for him to work sincerely and still get questioned about his sincerity. He knew that it would take time for Gumsum to get in tune with the mathematical concepts. The results might not be good next time too. He was in state of quandary over the matter. After reasoning the pros and cons involved, he decided to quit.
Next day he went to Gumsum’s house to tell them about his
“I have decided to quit teaching Gumsum.”
“I was teaching her sincerely but results have shown otherwise. I feel if things are not working for you; you should take a break. Moreover, I won’t be able to bear the castigation next time.”
She paid the remaining tuition fees. Akshay took the fee, said good bye to everybody and left the house. He kicked the bike and rode back. Today, he was relaxed. He thought it to be a good decision. If it doesn’t work for you, ‘moving forward’ is the best option. The useless challenges that create trouble in life should be avoided. He was thinking that why people get stuck even after they broke up. If they can move forward towards positivity in life; life can become simple. Getting stuck up reflects the wrong attitude to lead life. He was happy that he made the right choice. It was Gumsum’s parents who need to decide what was good for her daughter, not me. As he parked the bike, mobile started ringing. It was Gappori.
“Come after two hours.”
“You seemed to be in good mood.”
“Yes, I am relaxed. I will tell you later.”
Gappori’s flat was in the main market. His flat was on the first floor of the apartment. Akshay went into the Café Home in the market. The Café Home was opposite to the apartment. From the Café Home one can watch every resident entering or exiting the apartment. Akshay thought let’s see who that girl was. He ordered one regular cappuccino and one grilled sandwich. He was reading the newspaper. You could spend as much time as you want in that Café Home. So it was the ideal waiting place. Akshay used to come here regularly so the staff knew him very well. Akshay kept waiting for an hour. After an hour and a half Kamwali came out of the apartment. Mobile started ringing. It was Gappori.
“You can come.”
“Has she gone?”
“Yes. That’s why I am calling you.”
Akshay understood who that girl was. He smiled and went inside the flat. Gappori opened the door.
“Akshay, I get very vigorous. I don’t know whether it’s right or not. That’s the way I am.”
“First tell me who that girl is.”
“I told you her name-Anjani.”
“Does she look like Kamwali?”
“No why are you asking me that?”
“I thought Kamwali was Anjani.”
There was a lull for a moment and then Gappori bounced back.
“How can you think –me and Kamwali?”
“She is a girl. She looks good too. Only because she does household work doesn’t mean one should not get attracted to her.”
“You have a valid point. But not in this case.”
Akshay didn’t want to embarrass him by telling about his observation from Café Home. He thought if he didn’t want to share it; it’s perfectly fine. He was quite sure of the affair. He knew that Gappori was a good human being. Boasting was his problem. Both had dinner. Gappori slept. Akshay kept looking at the ceiling fan. He woke up early in the morning and went to the beach which was only few kilometers away from the flat. Today he just wanted to have a walk. No physical work out today.