Half.Something at the Third Call-Centre of my Two Indian Girls
With Apologies to Chetan Bhagat
There are three types of literate people in India — those who read at a subsistence level, those who read to have something to talk about with their upper-class-society friends, and the illiterate.
I was writing a book for the fourth kind, a market that no one had ever bothered to look up, or even realized had ever existed — those who read because they can’t watch TV right at that moment. This is for the India that no one notices because they are that India themselves. The India that is patronised by everyone, including me, the idol they look up to for achieving the middle-class dreams their parents told them to care for. I am writing a book for the person that rides a bus to the cafe coffee day for a date. I am writing for the man who thinks reservation belongs in trains not colleges. I am speaking for the girl who believes all film actors are all probably on drugs, just look at them. I am writing the literary version of Shatabdi music, easier to read and about as deep as the average college canteen menu.
I waited for inspiration to strike me as I waited in an empty train waiting at Kanpur Junction. It was late midnight. I looked out of the filthy plate glass windows out at the filthy platform. India truly is a dirty, filthy place, I thought to myself pondering over such intricities of life like authors usually do with so much muck all over the place and no one bothering to clean it up, and even the people look so dirty and grimy and covered in filth, almost as if everything is covered in a layer of — oh, I said to myself. I took off my glasses and wiped them clean.
Suddenly, a hand caressed my shoulder. I turned around squealing, blinking in the faltering, filthy-no-more light.
“This coach has been disengaged sir, what are you still doing here?” said the man from the cleaning staff.
“Awaiting inspiration. What are you doing here?” said me.
“Well, I saw you here, alone, in this empty coach… sometimes men come here to… you know… you can’t do that sort of stuff isn’t really allowed…” said the cleaning guy, implying me to be a gay, and perhaps propositioning me as well at the same time.
I exited the coach in a hurry. If inspiration can strike when you’re all alone pondering then it can just as well strike in a well-lit public place with lots of people around. I found a nice quiet bench (well in view of a nearby policeman) to continue my search for inspiration.
I stared at the mind-numbing fluorescent lighting, hoping for inspiration to strike before sleep, trying to remember what train I was supposed to be on in the first place, when suddenly! Another hand caressed me lustily on the shoulder, “Please, I’ll scream!” said I.
“I just wanted to ask if the place next to you was taken!” said the hot woman who the hand had belonged to (it was more of a tap than a lusty caress, now that I think about it.)
“Oh, yes of course,” I said, to her, “I mean no, no it’s not taken. Please have a seat,” I fumbled awkwardly, “Make yourself at home, the place next to me has not been taken at all. Completely free, available, unattached. In fact I’ll hold it for you in case you need to go grab a snack or use the toilet or something,” I fumbled on.
“Um.” she said, picking up her bags and moving away.
“No, please, I’m fine, I mean, it’s fine, please,” I said, motioning her to sit, taking her bags from her and placing them on the bench next to me, clutching them tightly to make it clear that I am a decent sort of guy, and not someone she should be worried about sitting with on a strange railway platform in the middle of the night.
Seeing her bags in my hand, she sat down. We made minor chitchat — what her name is, where I went to school, where I went to study engineering, where I went to coaching for engineering, where I currently study MBA, what package I will be getting when I graduate, how I write because I have too much free time, and probably will have too much free time even after I get a job, what her name is again… she was a very interested person.
But then the conversation got really interesting. Something about that night — the cool night breeze, the many whistles and sounds coming from unseen places in the night, the buzz of the tubelights, the grease in the air — something about that night got us talking about the weather. And politics. And then what films I had seen recently, and whom among Aishwarya and Kareena I thought was hotter, and why how it was a shame Saif divorced Chameli…
I didn’t even realize but I had gotten a samosa while talking. She was still there waiting, my muse, eagerly asking me, “Will you please let go of my bag?”
She looked at me, scowling in a very sexy way (everything she did was very sexy. Its hard not to be sexy when you had boobs as nice as hers. I know because I was admiring them while I was talking to her.) “You said you’re a writer, right? Why don’t you write all this shit down instead of talking?” she said, inspiringly.
“Because we’re having a conversation!” I replied.
“It’s not a conversation when only one person is talking, man.”
“Yes there is, its a ‘half-conversation’” I said quite inventively.
“Bhai, I just said, that is not a thing- Look, I’m just waiting for my train OK.”
“But I need inspiration!” I implored.
“AAH! All right, if I tell you a story, and then you leave me the fuck alone, OK?” she mouthed sexily.
“Can I make it into my next novel?” I asked earnestly.
“Whatever, just shut up now, God…” and then she proceeded to tell me the most mind-blowing, reality-questioning, stare-off-into-the-distance-thinking-deep-thoughts story I had ever heard (actually it was a pretty normal idea, but the delivery!)
I don’t actually remember much of it because about the time she started her dupatta shifted and I could see a little of her bra strap peeking out of her suit on her shoulder and I sort of spaced out for a few minutes, but I remember being completely blown away by it. So blown away I didn’t even realize that she had got up and left. I saw that she hadn’t eaten the samosa I had gotten for her earlier.
She had left it for me.
I bit into it and found that it was just the perfect balance of crispiness, potato-tenderness and hotness, much like the girl earlier, except for the potato and crispy part.
I ate it and pondered her story (by that I mean her general upper chest area) and ate the samosa she had left for me and thought about the mysterious way she appeared and disappeared from my life and sat down and talked to me, which no one had done since that time I had the ‘accident’ at the film hall, and a strange, creepy feeling crept up on me… and made me feel strange. Such a perfect being, with so much compassion and kindness and ninja skills, must surely be God.
And this is a good enough premise to write a book on.
Or about. I’m not sure what the correct usage is here exactly.
(An older version of this was published in 2010)