An Offbeat Story
“A very humorous and entertaining reality fiction Indian novel”
Bestseller on Snapdeal
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“This is a work of fiction. Some readers may not believe the assertion, but that does not matter to me. As far as I am concerned this story is imagined. The locations, events and context in the narrative maybe real as they are derived from facts of life, like making love to a woman. But, the characters and events are fictitious with snapshots and vignettes from multiple daily experiences that can be illusory, ecstatic or completely fucked up.
Any resemblance to anybody that I know or do not know is incidental, though there will be some who may think it is them I have written about. They can take pleasure or pain from such deductions, but I intend to hurt nobody.
If somebody tries to sue me, including family and friends, I will choose to ignore unless the police are at my doorstep with court summons. The lethargic and inefficient constabulary in India is very efficient in delivering non bailable warrants. It allows them to exercise power, be rude and make money.
I don’t believe in bribing cops, judiciary or any other authority. If pushed, I may even try and call the hyperactive TV people, maybe some chaps from an equally driven anti-corruption front, to showcase the high-handedness of state power.
I don’t like to be disturbed at home. I may not be busy. I could be just passing time, maybe watching Sunny Leone online or Yuvraj Singh’s six sixes on YouTube. This is despite the overdose of the un-gentlemanly game due to IPL and T-20. West Delhi bred youth icon Virat Kohli has taken Hindi sledging to new levels. Still, I don’t like my personal space to be intruded.
I don’t wield any kind of power or importance that people may need to pay me to get their work done. So, I have developed my own version of being an honest citizen – I don’t pay any under the table money or across the car window bribe to the traffic constable. I pay the fine or none at all.
I personify middle-class morality that perhaps existed briefly post-independence inspired by ideals of Gandhi and Nehru. There has been some resurgence of truth in the recent past, with several sections of Indian youth taking to the streets to protest against corruption and crime against women. This is good.
A bit of the stubborn aspects of my character are derived from my father, a government officer, who never accepted any money on the side, though he could have easily. Sometimes, I feel he did wrong.
It could have made life of his children comfortable, like some of my father’s friends (read batch mates) kids who live off rents from mansions built in prime localities in Vasant Vihar, Panchsheel or similar high profile addresses.
Still, I find it difficult to circumvent the inherent imprint of uprightness courtesy my father. My driving license has expired. I intend to stand in line at the secretariat for renewal rather than hire a tout, many of whom advertise their services online.
When my daughter was born the municipal clerk offered to leave her date of birth blank on the birth certificate for a few extra bucks. I could pass her off as younger or older as I wished, depending on the need. This is common occurrence, the clerk told me. I refused the offer. The irritated babu made me wait for a few hours before handing the document.
Sometimes I do break the law, like jumping a red light, in a hurry. I do say sorry when, say, a traffic cop threatens to fine a-hefty Rs 5000 for speaking on the cell phone while driving. I still don’t offer a bribe. Though I have no qualms about apologizing, this usually does not work with lower inducement seeking babus in our country. My driving license has thus been confiscated a few times I was not carrying enough money to pay the actual fine.
I went to court, the ambience of which was a mix of a crowded railway station, government hospital and teeming unclean Indian market like Sarojini Nagar or Lajpat Nagar. Despite the cacophony, the judge was lenient and even smiled.
“You are not the sort who can be a nuisance to society,” she said and ordered the DL back. I try not to cross some dividing lines though. I will not kill except in self-defence. That’s how big game animals, tigers and lions are, unless they are hungry or pushed to a corner.
I sometimes perceive myself no less than a big cat. I am a fan of Animal Planet, Nat Geo and Discovery. I loved Steve Irwin. I feared he would be gobbled by a crocodile, but it turned out differently. It was unexpected. It was like an Army jawan surviving a war, but dying in a bus accident, though public transport in India can be more dangerous than battle gunfire, given India’s high road fatality rates.
There are two aspects of my life that I would advise others not to follow — don’t be in multiple relationships, same sex or opposite. I am bringing in the gay aspect to be politically correct and maybe encash on a growing English reading market comprising guys who love other guys. Apologies for the sales pitch up front.
My second bit is — don’t live with in-laws, wife’s parents to be specific or the other way round (husband’s mother and father), post-marriage if you can get by without it. This complicates life.
It is best to be intimate with those one can naturally be close to – like kids when they are small, girlfriends, parents, pets, cars, bikes, cell phones, I-Pods, the potty seat where I spend a bit of my time reading newspapers, fiction and checking mails on my cell phone. Nature has not created a man or a woman and his or her in-laws to be proximate, just as homosexual sex does not seem to be a natural performance. So, why get into the wrong side of the way God created us.
My parents advised me against shifting to my in-laws house but, like all obedient children, I did not listen to them, while pretending I valued their judgment.
As my life turned complicated I enjoyed the unadulterated time with my daughter Alaynah. There is purity in a father-daughter relationship that no wisecrack can pollute. I noted down some of our interactions, in a blog.
Most people who read entries of my short online diary describe them as cute as father-daughter interactions are bound to be. I will get to them later towards the end of this story. This part usually appeals to women and maybe sensitive men, though this is a misnomer, unless we are talking about guys who happen to discover the woman inside them. This is happening quite often nowadays.
There are many other aspects about me that I would ask the reader not to emulate, but the above two stand out in particular for their absolute nuisance value.
At 40 today, I have experienced and survived both, but it should not be the preferred course in anybody’s life, unless one is looking to learn and live the difficult way. I am one of the silly hard path varieties. Until I fall on my face and bloody my nose, I never get it right.
There will be many frustrations and challenges in life. Why add to misery? It is best to enjoy the little occurrences of daily existence by keeping it simple, as cricket commentators love to say – like spending time with your kids in the park, a Bollywood movie, coffee over conversation at CCD, playing cricket or making love to the same woman. I know the last bit sounds a little off track, but try getting under the sheet of your woman, and not someone else’s, a bit more than you would like to. The tensions disappear, the warmth flows, the defunct prostate gland re-ignites and juices that you believed have dried up forever begin to stir.
When I was young, my elder brother Sid presumed girls dominated my mind, which was not totally correct as I thought about other matters too.
These included maintaining my scooter, keeping my body in good shape, sports, trying out street food, some reading and movies. Some time was devoted to porn in magazines, then video cassettes and finally the Internet, though I was much older by the time the last medium, the best and most efficient, happened.
In school I was never the chap outstanding in studies that are the teachers’ favourites. There were occasional flashes of brilliance that surprised some competitive classmates and tutors who discounted me as topper material.
But, there were dips that worried my parents no end too. They debated endlessly about engaging expensive private classes. “We will have to spend a lot of money on you because you cannot study on your own,” my mother told me.
“I will not fail. I will not top. I will do well enough without tuitions,” I told her. I loved my parents too much to waste their money.
I knew if I worked upon a subject, I generally did well. If I did not put my mind to it, the results would show. Still, luck usually did not favour me.
Last minute slogging is no substitute to regular disciplined work that builds lateral knowledge that I usually lacked. Invariably, exam questions would appear from just the portions I did not study or forgot to revise.”
About the Book: India is in transition. The changes are not economic only. There are social, cultural transformations, attitudes and reactions to which vary. In the story, the protagonist drifts into journalism missing out on usual routes of Indian nirvana, IIT, IIM or IAS. He moves from adolescence to adulthood setting up an independent consultancy somewhere along the way. It is not easy to create a steady niche professionally and personally among myriad influences and sometimes fixated ideas of father, mother, brother, girlfriends, wife, married lover and more. The contradictions need to be managed, errors ironed out. Some experiences are expected, others not so calculated. There are mistakes. The journey of life is not easy. There are secrets that cannot be told, expectations not met, events that cannot be controlled. Retaining a bit of spice and humour becomes essential. A pair of dimples that women find irresistible is a relief but only fleetingly. There is happiness in speculative gains due to rising real estate prices. Some things fall in place, others do not.
About the Author:Siddharth Srivastava is an independent journalist based in Gurgaon, National Capital Region. He has worked for The Times of India. Over the last decade his writings have appeared in reputed publications across the world. His other assignments include India-related consulting projects from clients based in America, Europe and Southeast Asia. This is his first work of fiction.Siddharth has studied in St. Edmunds (Shillong) and Delhi Public School (RK Puram). He has a BA (Honours) degree in economics from Hindu College, Delhi University and a post-graduate in the same subject from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). He represented Delhi state at the national level in water sports.