What’s in a Name
‘This takes me there?’
I turned around to find a lanky, six foot tall man, with almost dark black eyes- searching for peace — trying to hold onto his breathe. The thrill of a chase, the joy at having made it without a lot of haste, evident on his face, that now was laminated with a smile that was borrowed from a man he once used to be. His eyes were telling a story, only they needed an audience, and an honest one, too. The monotony of my judgmental thoughts came to a halt when the conductor of the bus we were travelling by, started explaining the route the bus will take.
’40 more minutes?’ He threw his hands up, agape, his eyes still giving him away. There was innocence in them; some part of it, I can tell, he knew was about to end. After a fatuous argument with the lady conductor, he walked across and occupied the seat next to mine.
‘Ahem. Women! Phew,’ his smile was now trying to be itself, as he said, looking at me.
‘The world needs them,’ I said plainly.
‘Sure it does, now the most than it ever did, but some harridans like her can get real callow.’
‘Misogynist, are we, monsieur?’
‘Anand, Monsieur Anand. And, no, not a misogynist,’ He tried not smiling this time.
‘I’m sorry, Anand?’
‘My name, that is. And yours would be, young lad?’
‘Uh, it’s fine. I don’t like the name I go by. You can call me the acquaintance from the bus.’ We both smiled.
‘I have met a lot of people, never have I had the pleasure of meeting a man who hated his own name.’ He seemed lost in thought.
I saw that coming. Now, there is a reason why I never liked my quasi-mythological name: If you add my surname to my name, you’re looking at 3 words, accounting to exactly 21 characters in length.
‘I never said I hated it, it’s….it’s just too long, and certainly not cool.’
He seemed very unfazed about the reply, it was like he no more gave a fuck about my name and why I ‘did not like’ it. He stared out of the window of this bus, which, now heading towards the free highways kept pacing up. His eyes were still dark, still undefeated. They reminded you one of those Nazi war machines that were invincible, indestructible. I looked away from him; he was still staring at nothing, his gaze fixed at something that didn’t exist for me. I brought my phone out to check the time and it was then when he spoke,
‘And what would that be?’ He looked at me like a hopeful doctor looks at his about-to-die patient, before cutting open his chest.
‘Your name, what would that be?’ He asked, almost instantly.
‘Yogeshwar,’ I replied hesitatingly, showing him my displeasure at it.
‘Lord of the Generation? I bet that’s what it means, no?’ I’m not sure if he even made an attempt to hide his joy.
‘Yes…..,’ I almost driveled. Actually, I did. I just driveled.
‘It’s okay to be named Yogeshwar, Yogeshwar.’
‘The same way it’s okay to die when your name is ‘Amar’?’
I looked out of the window, only to hide the fury of rage burning inside me.
‘Where are you headed?’ This was deliberate and diligent; nonetheless we were no more talking about my name and what it meant, and why I hated it.
‘Church Street, Avenue 24, I’ll alight there.’
‘You live there?’
‘Uh, sort of,’ I never liked to tell people about it.
‘Shite rich, duh,’ he acted like I were the heir to the throne of Winterfell.
‘What? No. That’s my Dad and most certainly not me.’
‘A conflict, I guess?’ He was quick in asking.
‘He never has had time for conflicts, never has time for anything that isn’t money.’
I made sure I came across as a man who hated his Dad’s affluence, and not his Dad.
‘I can understand.’ He sucked at feigning sympathy.
‘Fuck if you understand,’ I wanted to stay, but did otherwise.
‘Which block of Avenue 24 do you reside in?’ His eyes were now drilling mine.
‘Uh, I never said I live there. Did I?’
‘But,’ I cut him mid-sentence to put his thinking to rest.
‘My old man owns a flat, one that he leased to a loser 4 years ago. The contract expired 3 months ago and that imbecile nincompoop is still enjoying the luxury of his abode, without paying for it. And when people don’t pay, my father goes haywire.’ I tried being as polite as I could have been.
‘Isn’t that against the law, like, the law that governs their contract?’ He seemed woebegone.
‘Yes, Sir, it is. Can’t help, can we? Some people just love breaking the rules.’
‘What is your father doing about it?’ He asked with a hint of suspicion in his eyes (Yes, I was still looking at them).
The bus came to a sudden halt. The halt was so sudden that it threw me off my seat. Anand helped me back to my seat, and as I wiped up the dirt off my hand, trying to sound mellifluous at gibbering expletives, I pointed to a car that had also come to a halt, leaving its inhabitants in dismay.
‘What about it?’ He asked with an expression deprived face, looking at the white Skoda.
‘That sedan belongs to my father. It was supposed to drive me to Avenue 24. If you take a closer look, not a scrutinising one, you’ll find all of its inhabitants look like Gorillas out of ‘Dawn of the Apes’. (They, actually, were no match to the beautiful Caesar)
‘Not All, no?’ He smiled.
‘Oh no, not the lawyer and the driver, but the other 3, they definitely do. So, my dad has appointed me this job of driving away this guy who has, now for 3 long months, refused to leave his house, without paying for the same. He felt I needed a Lawyer, which I do, and a few ‘Bodyguards’ whom I fucking despise, and will shoot in the balls at the first opportunity.’
‘You’re going to scare him away?’ he seemed to have survived a macro Cardiac Arrest.
The benediction was mistaken for silence. I’m sure he thought of me as a belligerent, yet wise man, but not very generous.
‘Not sure.’ I honestly didn’t bother about my father and whatever issue he had with his flat.
We were 10 minutes’ drive away from Avenue 24, when Anand asked,
‘Why are you travelling via Bus, when you could have taken the car?’
‘I believe sharing a vehicle with literate liars, cognoscenti sycophants, and illiterate, dandy arseholes can cure personality disorders, and I like what I am.’
He smiled a bit, just that bit and not more.
‘Where are you headed towards, anyway?’ I asked, wanting to carry the conversation forward.
‘Uh, my stop’s almost here,’ he said pointing to the now fast approaching bus stop.
‘Was a pleasure meeting, Yogeshwar.’ He said as he rose up to leave.
‘Same here, mate. Try not forgetting my name, and not me,’ I smirked.
‘Oh, I won’t, and I’m quite sure, you’ll always remember me,’ he said as he rushed to alight.
5 minutes hence I got down at Avenue 24 and even before I could adjust my vision to the light, one of the rapscallions I had to lead, spoke up,
‘How more wait, Saar?’
‘Ask him to go fuck a tree!’ I said, looking at the lawyer who was equally elegiac. He waved his hand at the rouge, asking him to calm the fuck down.
‘You have my entire obeisance for spending 15 hours of your day with these cheapskates, parsimonious retards, Mannan Uncle.’
‘I do it for money too.’ He tried passing it off, but I knew it was a glib.
In any case, he needed money, my dad wanted it.
I lead this bunch of pathetic slaves into the 54 storied Avenue 24 that tried hard not to get vertigo.
‘Flat no. 346, Eighth floor,’ I directed them to their destination.
One extremely corpulent, swarthy bastard clenched his fist as he started walking towards the pointed direction.
‘You want to come along?’ Mannan Uncle asked.
‘I don’t, but do you want me to?’ I asked, trying to be fervent.
‘I’ve always revered prudent men,’ he said before he walked back to get some files he had left behind in the car.
‘Listen up, workers, the elevator isn’t functioning. Take the stairs and make it quick, we’re right behind you.’ I was condescending.
Mannan Uncle wasn’t out of earshot; he came back a minute later and even before he reached me, he asked from far, ‘You’ve been here recently?’
‘Of course not, their corpulent arses needed some work.’ I couldn’t help but smirk.
‘Shall we, take the elevator then?’ he asked, now smiling.
We made it to Flat № 346 only to find it locked. Mannan Uncle knocked at the neighbor’s door. A moment later, an octogenarian appeared, nodded warmly at Mannan Uncle. They both whispered for a while and a few minutes later uncle returned to me.
‘He was here 10 minutes ago. Left with 3 bags, left in haste.’ He looked disappointed.
‘Bad timing, I guess.’
‘Okay, Sahu Sir. In case Anand returns give me a call,’ he said, bowing low.
‘Who returns?’ I asked. The familiarity of the name had to be coincidental.
‘Anand, the man who lives here; used to live here, rather,’ Mannan uncle clarified.
‘Perhaps you can trace him down, you have his ID.’ the old man butted in.
Mannan Uncle pulled out his bag, and after a moment’s struggle, produced a passport size photograph.
‘Here, that’s all that’s left of him. We lost his IDs a year ago,’ Mannan uncle felt sorry, and ashamed, maybe not both.
I struggled to look, after having failed to catch a glimpse, I barged towards Mannan uncle, stomped, rather, took the photo from his hand, and as I kept staring at those dark black eyes, which were on the verge of losing their innocence, I sank lower into myself.
‘Let’s leave, uncle. He isn’t coming back ever again. He was privy to our schedule.’ I was not at all gutted.
‘Somebody tipped him off?’ He was quick to react.
‘Perhaps an insider purveyed this to him,’ I said, as I turned around to leave.
As we drove back, the driver pointed to a lane opposite to the bus stop, telling us how, post-repair, it’ll become more navigable for vehicles, and will only take a whole of 2 minutes to reach the ‘A’ block of Avenue 24 if we were to take that lane.
As the chauffeur looked back, hoping for a reward for his erudite, I nodded back at him, as if saying, ‘I know.’