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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

You killed Alex (A short story)

"You killed him. You killed Alex. O my Alex! You killed him."

Randhir drove into his parking lot at around 9:30 pm. The Georgia sun had retired half an hour ago. The night was beginning to make its routine stop over the surfaces in Atlanta and dim out objects in the eyes of people. Purvi set next to Randhir, and was involved in a heated discussion about feminism with him. The definition of duties of Purvi as a wife became a debate on what should be expected of a modern Indian working woman in a household. A trifle personal matter exploded into a textbook conflict. Questions of women empowerment and centuries of inequality formed crux of Purvi's argument. Randhir was irritated with the whole issue, brought in without much context. He was a bad cook and he was irresponsible when it came to financial matters. He considered the latter to be a bigger problem, and was ready to accept his failings there. But all his bickering was about his not cutting the onions right.

He had tried. The size did not match Purvi's precise requirements. He was similarly incapable of making round chappattis. This, she said, was representative of how useless the mankind was, how deficient their aesthetic sense was. When he mumbled that half a mm smaller onion doesn't cook any better, and circular roti tastes no better than a rectangular one, she cited it to say it showed how unwilling men were to change, to adjustment and to the idea that the women should get their due. Purvi was now expounding theories of how men would become unnecessary in the age of test-tube babies. This was her way of doing her bit for women empowerment: harassing her husband about issues that she hardly cared about. She was a housewife herself, and did not want a regular job, "for the sake of our kids" she would say, and add that they would have kids only after eight years of marriage. Randhir never pointed these things out, and was usually happy with his wife's cooking, cleaning and ability to dress up for every evening, every encounter. "Her tongue is a small price to pay for all the goodies", he consoled himself. For now, her words were rolling in an accelerated pace, while the car was lulling into a patient park.

"You killed him. You killed Alex. Oh my Alex! You killed him."

Randhir was driving a Ford Mustang. The car was only few months old. Purvi was 2003 model, he used to say to her, while the car was 2007 model. The older the model, more it costs to maintain it, he would think, and check himself before reaching the conclusion that the old model should be discarded. Their marriage was in the fourth year of blissful confrontation. Purvi loved conflict, the sound of it. She would say it releases the poisons with. She had tried arguing with Randhir about why Indian villagers must never wear jeans, and preserve ethnicity. Randhir advised her to try wearing sarees. She complained that sarees were unsuitable for city bred woman, especially if they lived in the US. When he smiled, she complained, "You always divert from the real issue". For her villagers were responsible for the culture and traditions of Indians, and by moving across Atlantic, she was obligated to wear American brands. "To fit in," she would say.

Once she tried advocating the imposition of communist dictatorship in India; Randhir reminded her how much she hated her patriarch grandfather. She emoted, "You are plain inconsistent and inconsiderate. When the national issues were at stake, personal experiences and beliefs were to be kept aside. But you always want to insult or attack my family to win in an argument." In moments like these, he never understood what his fault was. He just frowned, pursed his lips, and closed his eyes and waited for her radio transmission to end on its own. She thought this was cute and loved him for it. Of late, all her arguments were about women empowerment. The election of female President in India had supplied her with a range of arguments that she could have never thought of herself. She was testing these on Randhir. Randhir was thankful for the Mustang, that drove like a charm, and kept his spirits up. The fruitless debate was reaching its crescendo, when Randhir drove into the parking lot.

"You killed him. You killed Alex. Oh my Alex! You killed him."

Randhir parked. Purvi was pouring the grand finale of her rhetoric.

"You killed him. You killed Alex. Oh my Alex! You killed him."

The words came later. First came a woman, in white T-shirt, running towards the car. She appeared from nowhere, till the trees behind her came into sight. She ran out from this shady grove next to the apartment, and emerged out of dark like scary strangers manage to do in horror movies. Two large dogs, one black and another white one, followed her.

"You killed him. You killed Alex. Oh my Alex! You killed him." The words made sense much later. First came this woman, white as her T-shirt, and she immediately bent down and started checking under the tires of Randhir's car.

Randhir was too shocked and his hand remained half-suspended in the act of turning key of the car into silence of night. "You killed him. You killed Alex. Oh my Alex! You killed him." The words, when they finally spoke to him, came in a plaintive, almost tearful voice of the white woman. Purvi had stepped out from the car, and when both the dogs tried to measure her height with their front paws, Randhir asked her to return to the car, and sit still. "You killed him. You killed Alex. Oh my Alex! You killed him." The woman went on. "Help me guys. O my God. Oh my God."

Randhir asked Purvi if she had seen anyone. "I was too busy attacking my poor hubby, sorry Randheer, my baby, I can't even let you drive in peace," said Purvi, "I will keep my mouth shut from now on."

"That would be nice. But damn it. I didn't see anyone." Insurance costs, court cases and maybe extradition to India loomed in his unexpressed thoughts. The real import of these would hit him later. Right now, his head was blank, and his eyes followed every movement of the white woman.

"You killed him. You killed Alex. Oh my Alex! You killed him. My puppy, my baby, oh my God, where are you Alex. Talk to mummy, Alex."

"Puppy," Randhir repeated, in irritation. "She said Puppy! All this is about a dog, damn it. But I saw no dog." He was happy for an instant, and then he remembered it wasn't India. Here dogs had rights. Plus he needed to clean his Mustang of stains, and a dent would be disastrous.

"I am sorry, it is all my fault, " said Purvi. Meanwhile the white woman had gone around the car three or four times, calling for Alex, bending down, checking under tires, getting up, howling and crying and then bending down. Her other two dogs saw how agitated she was and ran around her.

Suddenly Randhir saw his neighbor Philosopher. Purvi had named him Philosopher because he had a ponytail and he wore thick glasses. Randhir cringed at the thought of this guy being a Philosopher. He had not mentioned to Purvi that this Philosopher spent his time to make a living out of online poker. Randhir thought of this Philosopher as a failure, a lost cause and ignored him. But today Philosopher came out of the dark like a flashlight that rescues a man from a deer-trap dug in a forest. "Are you looking for this little monster?" He shouted, his teeth appeared when the smoke of his cigarette dissolved away. Alex, a puppy no bigger than a rabbit, came wagging its tail was rolling at his feet. The puppy and the woman hurried into each others arms. Then the white woman picked him up, and hugged him like a baby. all this while, she was crying with a nervous joy, "O my baby. Mummy got so scared baby."

Randhir mustered the courage to get out of the car now. Purvi got down as well.

"I am sorry," said the white woman raising her tear drenched face to look at them. She was crouching on the ground, her three "sons" with her, and Alex got more kisses in few minutes than Randhir managed in an entire week.

Randhir just opened his eyes, wide, raised his eyebrows, shook his head sideways and walked on.

"Bitch," Purvi said, as she caught up with him. "She needs a man in her life."

"God save the mankind," thought Randhir, and he put his arm around Purvi's waist. She snuggled close to him and started walking in his rhythm, her head on his shoulder. "What a day!" he sighed. She nodded and smiled.

9 comments:

Proma said...

The image of the woman running out of the grove is cool. Like a while ghost comign out of black shadows and bargign into your car's window. I'll add that sequence in my future movie :)

fun read - cool plot. a bit over the top with the husband-wife fights. but hilarious at the same time.

Vivek.Sharma said...

"The image of the woman running out of the grove is cool."

Believe it or not, this bit actually happened on the weekend. It seems funny now, but that was pretty scary. I felt like beating the woman later.

Maybe I should thank her now: for inspiring a little story;) Of course, fiction is always half-fact, and storyline had to involve something extra to make it worth telling.

All my friends who got married recently form inspiration for Randhir and Purvi, though none would acknowledge that;)

Vivek.Sharma said...

Deepak Maini:

I just finished reading the story. Somehow, I didn't like the vibe of the story. Despite good description and awesome language, the story failed to tick my thinking and smiling muscles. This is perhaps a new style as it is in contrast with your earlier stories. The plot begs for a little more attention to detail. Anyhow, I am impressed as always with your ability to write such nice stories.

Vivek:

Montage is a difficult art form. Superposing two different tracks into one, going back and forth in time with ease, are difficult to master.

This was an exercise in taking a five minute event and framing it in a contextual storyline.

Thanks for the comment; practicing the art of fiction.

Vivek.Sharma said...

from blogliterati.com

Hebrew Princess Comment By : Hebrew Princess
Posted On : Aug 08 07, 06:03 PM

Hey Vivek!

That was an interesting story! Purvi's character is very shallow - I dont know if you have done that knowingly. The dog and the white woman screaming brings the comic relief to a moment of crisis where the husband deals with his demanding, superficial wife because she fulfils all her superficial duties with panache.

They're both selfish - arent they?

Vivek.Sharma said...

more from blogliterati.com

Comment By : Vivek
Posted On : Aug 09 07, 08:58 AM
Thanks Richa and Supriya,

Purvi is a stereotype, and yet a caricature of the stereotype. When I encounter a character like Purvi in real life, I see that some of it is her naivette. She has not seen world enough.She has an idea, but neither she thinks through the practical matters associated with it, nor has she researched it enough to know how quixotic it is.

At heart, Purvi is clean, and so all Randhir will need to do is to bear her idealized notions and enjoy her honest affection. There are too many feminists in the modern age, who are feminists just because they want to appear vogue. Purvi is torn into two world, and hence is charming to me:)

Richa Comment By : Richa
Posted On : Aug 09 07, 02:00 AM

Vivek !

Let me compliment you on the humor element you bring in your stories .I just love them ..

Besides ,I dread to think of the poor guy who has such a nagging wife .I mean she could have just let him be .Is that born out of some sort of dissatisfaction in marriage and all .

Scary though .I would not want to go that intolerable ever

Atrakasya said...

Something, somewhere is not gelling well.
The bitchiness of the woman was quite well-portrayed and focussed upon - it gave one the feeling that there would at least be a punchline at the end which ties up things.
Philosopher's character description seems redundant - either that, or his character left something undone - he did not fulfill his promise.
Like I said, something is out of sync somewhere.

Vivek.Sharma said...

From Blogliterati.com

Vivek Comment By : Vivek
Posted On : Aug 10 07, 08:33 AM
Well Supriya, I guess if the situation demands, characters like Purvi are able to adapt to the situation (with the mandatory melodrama).

Richa, most gals who are like Purvi (and if they are men, they too) will never imagine that it is they who are described here. So they cannot change. Fortunately, in the modern age, most couples spend only few waking hours together, and if you can bear some nagging with grace, the married life is not all that bad.

(I must add however that I am a bachelor, and those are my idealized views I guess:)!!)

Richa Comment By : Richa
Posted On : Aug 10 07, 02:23 AM

Hey Vivek !

Just one thing ...Lucky would be the girl who would nag the way Purvi did and still ahd an understand person like your around !

Don't you think such a stand is better said than done .I eman you really have not experienced it 24x7 right ???




Hebrew Princess Comment By : Hebrew Princess
Posted On : Aug 10 07, 01:31 AM

Vivek -

To each his own - but I see something innately wrong with the likes of Purvi. In a moment of utter chaos and crisis - what will she do - she is habituated to being accomodated - what if one day noone accomodates her - then what?

Vivek.Sharma said...

Atrakasya,

Deepak, Amit and you have raised the same red flag. I deflated the lines about misplaced and self-contradictory feminism to a mere comment "She needs a man in her life". Maybe the contrast, the overlapping of two situations requires more work.

As an afterthought, I agree that I did not need Philosopher as a character to show any elements of the story. Maybe that was a needless diversion.

Thanks much dost. I am trying to pick a theme and fashion a story based on it. The pursuit is flourishing, and I hope to turn into decent storyteller over time. I will continue the experiments, and hope to hear feedback everytime.

Geetali said...

hmm.. baat kuch jami nahi poet dude. i thought it was a very ordinary read.