She was like a princess sitting inside the shop-window and Joy was gazing at her wistfully. He wished to be the prince who’d rescue her from the transparent cell. But ah! If only he had enough money. For now, he only caressed her with his sighs and kissed her with his eyes and walked home dreaming and hoping. He usually did this after college.
Amateur but passionate, Joy always carried two things with him- his old and ordinary compact digital camera and his dream of Nikon DSLR*.
His family was tiny. He lived with his now politician father. His father, Dibyendu Pal, originally had a tea-stall. People loved his tea as much as his talks. He could talk on politics like an expert. A veteran opposition leader once chanced to sip on his tea and was impressed how an ordinary tea maker talked eloquently on politics and how it pulled people. That was five years back.
Today Dibyendu da is the most popular leader of the region and he is also contesting in the upcoming and tensed Assembly Elections against a powerful legislator of the ruling party. However, in his shining political ambition, business and Joy felt neglected.
That day, Joy was in his backyard garden prowling for some prey to feed his passion. Though he called it a garden, it was only a wilderness. A rhamsackle storeroom stood forlorn in one corner. There was a forsaken rail track at a distance behind the wall lying asleep for ages beneath the undergrowth. Beyond the slumbering iron path was a wood, dark and dangerous.
Suddenly, Joy heard some voices from behind the wall.
“You scoundrel, got you today! You thought you’d run away with my money, huh!”
“No, no Kallu bhai, I wasn’t running. I don’t have money now. Please give me more time.”
“Rascal, playing games! You provoked Ladua against me. How dare you! You smelly hog!”
“Kallu bhai, we cannot trust this mf*. Give him his due.” Mota spat.
Crime was common in Joy’s neighbourhood. Unemployment and poverty ruled the roost. Such quarrels were commonplace. But today, Joy was too close to it to ignore the excitement it kindled in his young mind. He was listening keenly.
“Please Kallu bhai, give me one more chance. I beg you.”
“You are becoming dangerous to us bastard.”
By then, Joy had sneaked into the dark storeroom for a better view of the wrangle. The window had a hole, thanks to termites. It allowed him to spy safely.
“Mota, let’s do it.” Kallu’s tone grew devilish.
Joy’s heart began to pound.
Mota nodded meaningfully and pulled out the knife, and in a blink, the pleader was silenced, forever.
Joy never expected to see this. He shuddered and briskly removed himself and his camera away from the window. He then furtively ran to his room and shut the bad world outside.
Panting and perspiring, he gulped some water and slumped facedown on the bed. When calm returned, he viewed the scary video lying down. He watched it again. This time, he sat up. His visage changed. He phoned his friend.
“H…Hello! Jeet? Come quick to my house… No no, skip the tuition…. Please, Jeet, it’s really very urgent….Oh, great! Come, I’m waiting.”
Joy waited restlessly. In ten minutes, there was a knock. Joy pulled Jeet inside and latched the door.
“What happened Joy? You look tensed? Anything wrong?”
Joy gently pushed Jeet onto the bed and sat beside him.
“Have you ever watched a murder?” began Joy.
“Eh! Murder! Oh yes, in films, many times! I like watching murders,” smirked Jeet.
“Silly, I mean in real life,” huffed Joy.
“What!” Aghast, Jeet rose but was promptly pulled down back.
“I…I don’t get you,” Jeet got a little jittery.
“Listen, I am talking of real murder.”
“Real murder! Where, whose, why?” Jeet exclaimed.
“Shh! Oh, Jeet, stop being police.”
Then Joy told Jeet everything and showed him the video. It was only a 22-second video but was too real for Jeet to doubt Joy’s story.
“What will you do now?” asked a horrified Jeet.
“What should I do now?” Joy asked for an advice.
“I think, you must tell your father about this.”
“Baba will thrash and throw me out.”
“But this is serious, Joy. The police must be informed.”
“Huh! Tell police and get entangled.”
“Then delete it, forget it.”
“Duh! I’m no fool to delete this golden chance!” jibed Joy.
“Golden chance! What do you mean?” Jeet got curious.
Joy stood and gulped more water. After a brief pause he said, “I’ll sell it to media.”
Jeet sprang up. “What! Sell it! Why?”
“For money!” Joy smiled dreamily.
“Jeet, you know, how much I crave for that Nikon DSLR-”
Another knock interrupted Joy.
“Must be Pintu da!” Joy mumbled and scurried to the door.
“Come, come Pintu da. Please sit here.” Joy made him sit on the bed looking at his DSLR.
Pintu was a local reporter. He held Dibyendu da in high esteem and looked upon Joy as his younger brother.
Jeet was flummoxed* to see him.
“So he has already talked to media!” he thought offering his forced smile to Pintu who smiled back.
“So Joy, what is it you wanted to show me?”
“Dada, I… wanted to show you…uh…a video,” faltered Joy.
“A video? Anything special?”
“Yes dada, very special, very rare.”
“Really! Let’s see.”
Joy sat next to Pintu da and was about to press the power button of his camera when the latter’s phone rang, ‘Lakshya ko, har haal me pana hain…’* He gestured to Joy to wait.
Joy and Jeet waited anxiously.
“What! murder, where!” Reporter Pintu jumped up.
“Are you sure?… Oh my God! I’ll be right there.”
Joy and Jeet both looked at each other in fright.
“Has the murder been found out!” they asked each other with their eyes.
Pintu turned to Joy and said,
“Joy, I’m sorry. Your father is no more. He has been murdered.”
1. Nikon: a Japanese MNC that makes cameras
2. DSLR camera: a kind of high-end camera used mainly by professionals. (Full form-Digital single-lens reflex camera)
3. da/dada: elder brother
4. bhai: brother
5. mf: abbreviation for taboo word mother f*
6. Baba: father
7. flummoxed: completely confused
8. Lakshya ko, har haal me pana hain…: a bollywood song; translated, it means ‘Ambition must be fulfilled at any cost’
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The above story is an entry into the writing event(Feb. 02nd – 20th) hosted by ArtoonsInn: #PullTheRug #UniK-3
Event rules and guidelines: https://artoonsinn.com/pull-the-rug-unik-3-writing-event/
Check out Birendra’s space here: https://artoonsinn.com/author/birendrakagrawal/
Photo by Arpad Kiss