The gravels on the ground felt prickly on his bare palms and feet. His breathing felt heavy and the sweat on his forehead felt cold. He looked up at the figure blocking the light emanating from behind, outlining the silhouette. The dark figure leaned closer, gradually increasing visibility. A pair of familiar eyes stared back at him from the darkness. A familiar face emerged. Who was he? Some faces were too familiar to be remembered. The darkness saturated to reveal a face, once too familiar, now almost forgotten. His own.
The doppelganger took a knife out of his robe and held it before him to see the blade, gold. In a flash it was inside his chest.
The man woke up with a start. These recurrent dreams had been leaving him with little scope for peaceful sleep. A familiar pungent smell of sweat greeted him. A familiar sight of over tightly packed metro compartment materialized before his
eyes, still adjusting to the light. The cold air blowing out of the slits over his balding head seemed significantly inadequate to stifle the humidity arising out of the overwhelming mediocrity of the middle class citizens of the City of Joy.
His wrinkling hand touched the breast pocket to feel the Rolex ticking. Real Rolexes don’t tick. The dark, short, shabby, anthropoid outside Grand Hotel tried his best to pass it off as an original, stolen from the docks with strenuous salesmanship. But his sagacity prevailed and the price was reduced from 5000 rupees to 600. The ban of 500 and 1000 rupee notes the previous night had created a nationwide unquenchable demand for notes of 100. Fortunately, his nine to five job did not let him have much of those. For this short, chaotic period, he was a rich man.
The urge to see it once more was becoming unbearable. He took it out and gently removed the pallid wrappings, revealing the words: Rolex, Yatch-Master, and the colour, gold.
Somewhere the speakers announced the arrival of a station but he was too
engrossed to hear which one. His fascination for luxury watches was inherited from his father who made sure he knew the brands better than the alphabets. He remembered sitting on his lap while his old man outlined the marks of originality in newspaper ads. The curve of the Ohm of Omega, the shape of the hole in the crown of Rolex. Maybe he would have been someone capable of affording a real
Rolex if his father’s promiscuity hadn’t forced his mother to move out and restart. He could have studied as much as he wanted to, instead of setting about to find a menial job at an early age to keep the soles of his shoes intact. The disgust that rose with his father’s memory left his throat sore. Then, the mediocrity of the middle class had become a part of him, it had entered his flesh and bone.
The burly man beside him was having trouble pushing through the crowd with his luggage intact, consisting of two gigantuous bags. He offered to hold one of those till he steadied himself. But once the train stopped, the current of moving bodies carried the nebulous mass like some miniscule floating object. He dashed through, towards some vague, ill-defined feeling. The dark burly man was gone. He looked at the object in his hand. Another urge seized him, one that of curiosity, soon to be replaced by dread that arises out of the darkest recesses of the soul. The inclination to peek inside had become more of a necessity than curiosity. He looked, half expecting to find a time bomb but what he did find caused less surprise and more of a feeling of fulfillment of some destiny, something that had already happened in some distant dimension, in some remote corner of the universe.
500 and 1000 notes stacked together in bundles. Uncountable. Unthinkable. The palpitation of his heart was skyrocketing with every passing second. He could hear the nerve on the left of his forehead throb against the inside of his skin. He slumped down on a metal chair. His soul had been split into two distinct halves by one swift papercut. One, greedy; another, pathetically honest. One wanting to dump the bag in a garbage can and run away, another calculating the number of times he would have to stand in line outside banks in order to convert the entire
amount into white money. But NO! it was too much money. Too little time.
Almost unconsciously his legs had carried him outside the station, while he carried his flambeau stealthily past the spiraling rows of people outside the ATM.
Out of all the things he could do, he did the commonest thing a middle class man does to make him feel good about himself while taking out garbage. He decided to give the extra cash to a beggar. Picking up an opaque polythene bag from the street, he filled it to the brim with discarded wealth, and dropped it on the lap of the homeless man sleeping on the pavement, with his head on the railing.
The old homeless man woke up with a start from his reveries, a recurrent dream. Without looking up at his benefactor , he glanced at the bundle on his lap.
“Stale food”, he thought.
He untied the packet and gasped, “Gold!”.
He looked up to see a silhouette being outlined by the streetlight. A face came closer to reveal a familiar set of eyes staring back at him, his own.
A familiar set of lips whispered, “Father”.