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Friday, March 16, 2012

Love and Life in a Changing City

                                                                  SYNOPSIS of 
                                                       Love and Life in a Changing City

In the backdrop of youths committing suicide due to unemployment and school students also committing suicide due to academic pressure, Bruce Gomez a teacher and Rachnee his A-Level student fall in love. From the very start they are aware of a common thread of connection which runs in their individual dreams and also in the successive dreams which follow. This curiosity draws them to further investigate into their dreams only to come up with a shocking revelation.

Love and Life in a Changing City
Bob D’Costa

Let us focus this story from a different angle.
From a different angle because the two main characters of this story, though such characters have fallen in love quietly – secretly – are hard to find. By this I mean how many of you have heard of two such people – a teacher and a student – meeting, falling in love and… and having their stories revealed? Their story which is of a different kind?
Well, we’ll see what their story has to unfold.
You readers may call us the narrators of this story. And you may name us God of Love. And Goddess of Love.
But, mind you, we are not Eros and Venus. They are already outdated names, and so are they outdated characters. And they are for the cushy-cushy lovers and heart burners.
We are Brief. And Panty.
God and Goddess of Love.
Both the man and the woman – we – are of different ages. The man has non-hollow cheeks, a medium-sized nose and soft grey-coloured eyes. His hair is smooth and close cropped, with a few streaks carelessly falling over his forehead. Besides, he wears a macho look and sports a light-bronze complexion. 
The woman is younger, straight-haired, slightly thin, has a small pretty nose, smooth and straight cheeks, and a pair of black eyes. All in all, she has a sweet and innocent face, and is covered all over with a honeyed skin. 
Between us the woman, Panty, has her ears adorned with two-inch dangling ear-rings which are spray-painted into a gun-metal colour and has the emblem of a scorpion. She wears a gun-metal choker with the emblem of a scorpion too, and this choker is loosely clamped to her throat. Brief, the man between us, wears a silver stud on his left lobe. Panty is five feet four, and Brief five feet eight inches in height. We can easily be paired off as modern-day sleuths. The male’s chest has a tattoo of a brief and the female’s right breast a tattoo of a panty.
We have entered many a heart, conjured images in their minds, and lived up to the ideals of many, slipped out of many lives; and patched up many.
We, Brief and Panty connect each other through the system of Mind Location. Sometimes we are separately busy but the power of our video camera is always switched on. The camera can be with either of us. When I, Brief, need to talk or discuss a certain matter with Panty, I think of her and immediately the video camera gives a beep. And as soon as this happens, Panty pictures me in her mind and we begin to talk in our mind. The same is the case with Panty. We do not use audible words. 
This is the way we are. And you will move with the story as we focus it through the lens of our video camera. Sometimes Panty and at other times Brief focuses the camera. This camera is Video Camera A. Video Camera B focuses on the flashbacks.
One more thing before we begin the story. There are certain things which are important in the story, and they are:
1.      A pair of jeans.
2.      Raindrops falling in the palm.
3.      A couple of suicides.
4.      The Ancient City.
5.      A woman in an orange coloured sari with green borders, and with long straight hair.
6.      A child with three quarter pants.
7.      The Gariahat Flyover.

Suicide and Dreams
It is a quiet afternoon and we are relaxing at The Maidan Café Coffee Day outlet near the Race Course, dressed in a brief and a panty. Our camera focuses on the horses. They have just finished their rounds of practice, the jockeys on their backs breeze-light as ever. After the last horse vanishes into the stable, the breeze itself stirs up a bit more followed by a patch of light grey cloud covering the sun.
We are in the midst of a simple game of cards – Matching Symbols and Colours. Anyway, by our fourth round the sky outside darkens further and the two cards held in our hands – the dark-eyed Queen from the land of Spades and the King from the Kingdom of Clubs – suffer a slight malarial shiver on the coffee table – an indication that the subject of our waiting is not far. We stop in the middle of our game and ready our V C A – Video Camera A. 
As most of you wield a cell-phone, we wield a video-camera. Now we sweep it towards the glass door. And the lens captures our subject, Bruce Gomez, walking across the Maidan, languidly approaching forward.
Very soon he is at the door step. The café is otherwise devoid as focused by the camera’s LCD screen. Even the man at the counter knows that customers do not make their appearance at this time of the afternoon, except the familiar Bruce; so the Counter Man, as everybody lovingly addresses him, easily slips into his afternoon siesta.
Our touch-pad contains a file for every person we desire to deal with. Bruce, we feel, is the most controversial in our list. He spends nearly sixty minutes sitting in this cafe with a book. Exactly at the thirty-fifth minute the friendly waiter brings his favourite cappuccino coffee. The beverage gets over by the fifty-fifth minute. And shortly after that, Bruce steps out.  
As other days, today also Bruce pushes the glass door, walks up and sits on the cane couch facing the road and facing us, the invisible beings, invisible to everyone, even to Bruce till he takes his seat. A young man of thirty-five, Bruce is five feet eight inches in height, swarthy-complexioned, high-cheek boned, with a sharp nose and semi-thick lips and a slow un-swashbuckler walk. Only after he has sat do his eyes fall on the card-playing pair occupying the couch opposite him.  
We look up at Bruce from our smoky covering, outstretching our smooth and skinny hands announcing to him.
Panty: You are a teacher of English of Kingston School.
Brief: You left freelancing for the papers. 
Bruce’s eyes widen, his mouth opens and freezes. His open book slowly falls on the table…
Panty: You scribble on Random Thoughts.
Brief: You are on your own.
Panty: You will fall in love…
Brief: …with your student.
 Who are you, and from where…, Bruce asks, but before he can complete his queries we gradually join together, melting into oneness before finally thinning into the air. Whenever we turn into a patch of cloud, we are invisible to Bruce. Now we hang like a cloud-patch on the ceiling, with our camera focused on Bruce.
A daze hits Bruce. How can a pair of cloudy beings appear in this modern age, and that too sit opposite him and rattle about his past and predict something inane about him?
His face becomes sudorific. The canned air from the air-conditioner falls short in cooling him.
His head is a mad swirl of bats spitting out high-frequency soundless sounds.
Very soon he gives up the vision and the voices as nonsense, drinks his coffee and steps out. But far above his head, something follows him, joined together, bodily, mentally. In an embrace.
Like two creepers.
Brief and Panty.
God and Goddess of Love. They watch Bruce through the lens, before they go to sit on the low railing of the Gariahat Flyover.
Bruce waits at a small crossing. The road is not very broad but a long line of vehicles, especially private cars and a few passenger buses begin to slowly crawl up, but most of the time they remain standstill. Bruce finds this quite unnatural. He looks ahead and his eyes fall on a knot of people gathered around and looking at something on the road. Curiosity probes him and he cuts through the traffic, reaching the pavement and heading towards the crowd. A youth in his early twenties lies on the edge of the pavement, his head smashed. Bruce’s mind immediately races to the newspapers where youths purposely coming in front of speeding vehicles have become a common feature and a talked-about topic of the city. Some of them even carried razors in their hands; and as soon as the vehicle rushed a few yards close to these waiting youths, they would blindly rush down the road; and in the split second when the vehicle would run over them, they would slash their throats with the razor; they did not want to survive the accidents. And invariably a suicide note would be fished out from their pockets. Every note would carry the same theme. This is a suicide; no one is responsible for my death except unemployment.
This young man, Bruce finds, is dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a T-shirt. He is on a slimmer side and his head is filled with semi-long hair but red patches of blood are quite visible against the shiny black hair. His body is twisted around the chest where, possibly the vehicle had also hit him. People are telling the policeman that it was not that the driver hit the youth, but he had rushed into it. The policeman nods and continues reading from the small bit of paper in his hand. People are craning their necks to read the contents. Bruce edges towards the policeman and reads. I am going down the roadside/to lay my head on its chest/and when I see a vehicle-a-coming/I’m going to pass the test. Yes, no one is to be blamed for my action. There is no job in the state.
Bruce feels giddy. What with a pair of invisible beings predicting about his love life a while ago and now here he witnesses the death of a young man. There have also been quite a few suicides among school children. A certain community has been obsessed with their children’s academic performance and has been eccentrically demanding better marks even by decimal points. On the report-card issuing day a mother (as she had told Bruce later) riddled her child with a hail of angry remarks inside the school campus and in front of her friends and their mothers for getting 90% in Mathematics when she had the ability of acquiring a higher grade in the subject. The Class VIII girl remained quiet but the result of the stinging remarks took the better of her. On reaching home, she went to her room and closed the door as usual. When her mother called her soon after, she said she was studying which the mother confirmed by actually seeing her child at the study desk. When she was later called for lunch there was no answer from inside the room. The anxious mother pushed the door but it was shut. She banged, and then called the neighboours. The security came and broke the door open for everybody to only find the girl hanging from the fan with the help of her churni, the cloth loosely placed around the chest and which goes with a salwar and kameez. Her face looked ghastly; her eyes stuck out of their sockets as if her lungs were desperate for air. The wooden stool lay on its side on the bed. Though no suicide note was found in the room, it was obvious this act was the result of academic pressure from the parents. This acted as a precedent to several other suicides by school children, yet parents seemed not to have learnt their lesson.
Since then the suicides took a different turn, sucking in the post-college students as this young fellow on the road who lay looking quite smart. One leading daily had published an article on The Jobless State. It spoke of the shut industries and staffs attending offices mostly according to their own routine. Another article mentioned about a factory in the western part of the city overlooking the river being shut down but its employees meeting every day around 11 am. There stood several large metal drums inside the factory and placed on top of them were carrom boards and playing cards. The staffs played rounds of the games. They then stopped for a recess when they had tea and snacks. After that they resumed their games before taking a longer break for lunch. After lunch they took their afternoon siesta and got up for tea. Soon after, they indulged in some light-hearted conversation before closing their beloved factory at 5 pm. At the end of the month they received their salary.
But offices do exist in the state and a few industries still run; nevertheless most of them have become defunct with strikes and union. A few shopping malls have come up and an amusement park still rings with the laughter of children. But the state witnesses the influx of people from the neighbouring states making their entry into the metropolis and eking out a living.
Bruce walks down and sees the people walking about. Then, coming across a roadside tea shop, he stops for a cup of tea. As he sips the hot beverage, he studies the people. There is no sign of concern on the faces of some of them, which means – he muses – these people have no young men or women in their house or among their relatives. There are a few who have some frustration etched quite visibly in their eyes. It is clear that this frustration stinks from the city walls. And it is also clear that Bruce will have a troubled night.

The story of jeans with a connection
Bruce reaches home, puts a slice of cold ham in two slices of bread and munches his dinner. Very soon he switches his light off.
And then it happens. It appears once again to Bruce – in the same sequence – beginning with a cupboard, a pair of jeans and ending with fungi. All this takes place in a small room, and in a moment which stretches. 
First of all his eyes fall on the entire cupboard. It is brown colour, with a maroon tinge appearing in straight lines which are not regular, but irregular to a slight degree. The cupboard is six feet high, but since it stands on extra wooden legs, it has reached seven feet. Next, the cupboard’s right door opens, followed by its left door, and inside in the bottom-most shelf, where you can keep trousers, especially butter-jeans, black, and military green in colour and the various shades of white, the edges of his new pair of navy blue jeans peeps out.
Bruce had saved money by curtailing entertainments such as movies and eating at restaurants. He had even boarded up and down buses from as far as Jadavpur to his house – four buses – to save forty rupees to add it to the remaining money in the envelope. And when the collected amount had come to seven hundred and fifty rupees, he had gone to Madge Lane, off Globe cinema’s Lindsay Street crossing.
He had browsed through the few pairs of jeans kept on hangers hanging from the ceiling of the small roadside stall. Such stalls – or little shops – of four feet in breadth and seven feet high stand scattered around this area. This is a market area, and many foreigners while away their time browsing and purchasing Indian art-ware, and dresses, scarves with Batik prints – the tie-and-dye method of printing on either cotton or silk cloth material.
He had bargained and ultimately the shop-owner let him purchase the pair of jeans for twenty rupees less. He was so fascinated with the jeans that when he went to Blue Sky Café to celebrate his happiness, he opened the brown paper packet several times, and had lovingly looked at the trouser, running his fingers on the blue fabric. There was a small metal clasp fixed behind at the waist to allow the trouser to be adjusted according to the size of your waist. Looking at this also he allowed his finger to run over it.
He would hardly wear this pair of jeans, to save it from wash, because wash meant it would wear and tear faster.
And now here he is being haunted by the same pair. He gets up in the midst of his dream, walks to the cupboard, opens the right door followed by the left, takes out the navy blue jeans; but he cannot remove his eyes, because to his horror damp and fungi have accumulated around the thighs of the jeans, the fungi light green in colour with whitish green in some places. But now holes appear around the thighs. 
The dream torments him, and he gets up in his dream and another similar cupboard opens with similar clothes and the new pair of navy blue jeans. He performs a similar action – taking out the jeans but not being able to remove his eyes, because he is horrified to see damp and fungi accumulated around the thighs of the jeans, the fungi light green in colour.  Then his eyes fall on the holes around the thighs.
This dream inside a similar dream is repeated four times but at the fourth time something is added to it. A face appears, but it is hazy, and try as much, Bruce cannot clearly make out the forehead, the eyes, the nose, the chin, but he can see a set of teeth which sparkle.
The dream scourges him till he wakes up sweating profusely. He sits on the edge of the bed looking out into the blankness of the fading dream. He reaches for the glass on the table, and cools his throat with the water…
Kona Expressway with a connection
While this dream appears to Bruce, a young lady sees a slight drizzle, and then feels a slight breeze touching her face. The breeze is so soft that it tickles the point of her nose, and she allows the breeze to continue playing its game on her nose. This tickle makes her smile, makes her lips stretch, showing her beautiful white teeth which sparkle. The pampering of the breeze on her nose tip makes her shut her eyes, as we unmindfully do when our brain sends us signals to close our eyes for maximum feeling.
With eyes still closed, she stretches her right hand out of the window, allowing the light shower of raindrops fall on her palm. She would want them to remain as raindrops so that she can draw her hand back towards her, hold the raindrops as drops; give them as much love, and care and concern as you would give to a newborn baby so as not to wake him up from his deep sleep. She would want to transfer these drops of silver on the surface of the silver plate her grandmother had given her, and then cover the plate with a round transparent fibre glass lid, so that whenever she wants to think of him, she will only have to turn her face to the small shelf next to her study table, and placing the flat of her palm on her chin, gaze at the droplets, and the whole world will open in her mind.
But now as she brings her rain-wet hand inside and sees the drops of rain spread all over her palm, a highway opens up in her palm-top. She is on the Second Hoogly Bridge, and to her left and to her right her eyes fall on the strong metal cable wires that have held on the huge metal structure, the criss-cross of lines, lines intersecting with each other. The vehicle she is in passes by these cable wires at a zooming speed, and it zooms past so fast that the earlier regular counts tumble over each other, forcing the counts to lie in a heap. But she can easily see the stores, where one has Provisions painted with red on a white board, while another has Your Shop painted in green and placed above the shutter. Lined up one after the other, are one-litre jars of cold drinks, on the red display shelf, and the packet of potato chips of various colours, and the few shops which sell lubricants, and other items related to the car. Her eyes also do not miss the La Donna Bar & Restaurant, the name set up in steel in the form of a wave. She also sees the houses that follow, some two-storey, while others three-storey.
The vehicle then enters the Kona Expressway, and she can see the second concrete path to the left and then the second house to the right, the house whose outer walls are painted with soft green colour and the windows, the door and the parapet with white border. As soon as she passes by this house it metamorphoses into a huge billboard where she can see a face, the face with shut eyes, and stretched lips which has made the beautiful teeth show. Below the face there is an outstretched arm, and the arm has an open palm on which raindrops are lightly falling. Perhaps the tip of her nose is being tickled with soft breeze.
Whenever she thinks that perhaps the tip of her nose is being tickled with soft breeze, she comes out of this vision, and her body begins to shiver, and she starts to perspire badly.  

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