Thursday, August 19, 2010

Better Luck Next Kid

Better Luck Next Kid

“Look at the bright side – it’s just a 5 minute walk from your house to the Court. It takes 1 hour for me to get here and more than hundred rupees, not that that will get you anything these days.”

I am now quite used to his style of delivery with the frequent changes of pitch or volume to emphasize each and every part of a sentence. I met him here at my lawyer’s office two and a half years back and I guess you could call us well-acquainted. I call him Sasi and when he is not around, my lawyer refers to him as Pickaxe Sasi. In the local papers, he is a ‘quotation killer’.

I once asked him for a rough quote. When he told me the price for a human head, I remarked,

“Isn’t that cheap?”

“Demand and supply,” he replied.

Another time, I asked him if he is not scared to die.

“Today or tomorrow, who cares?”

And after some thought, he added rather reluctantly,

“I am not that careless. Be with the right people, kill the wrong people. Leave the rest to the system. It works.”

I have been visiting this office quite regularly for the last three years. It is a nondescript and small office packed with files, 2 tables and 5 chairs. It is on the first floor of a commercial building situated right next to a drainage canal and the unbearable stink stays on my skin for days after each visit. My lawyer is rather good but he has no qualms about keeping his clients waiting for long hours in his office while he attends to some other case.

In the first six months of those three years, I was distraught, depressed and defeated. I survived that phase but my wife didn’t. I had to survive for the sake of the other kids. As Sasi says,

Life can be shitty, close your nose and keep your head high. What the heck, you have got only one.”

I tried quoting to him what I remembered of Confucius,

“You will live a 1000 lives and this could be the only one you will remember.”

I cannot print his reply, even without the emphasized parts.

My son’s case has been going on for three years. Initially, I could only think of what he and his group had done. The papers did not allow me to forget the crime and the victims, the kids especially. I could hardly recognize the photo the papers printed, he looked like a killer. And, my honest gaffe was often repeated,

“…he did something evil.”

In the first two years, my lawyer expressed hope and told me that my son might get away with a few years or utmost a life sentence. We played all the trump cards that we had – manslaughter, accidental victims, background of the intended victims, right religion, right caste, right class, right background and upbringing, even remorse and the possibility for quick rehabilitation. But unfortunately, nearly everyone in my son’s group had the same credentials. A few months back, my lawyer confided that I should get ready for the worst.

Today, he will be sentenced and my son had requested me not to be there in court. That is why I am here, with Sasi, waiting in the lawyer’s office.

My other kids have turned out ok. My other son is influenced by Lady Gaga and Bono. With my daughter, I have to argue about low-slung jeans, piercing and tattoos. We still have meals together and there is enough money for the occasional visit to the fake KFC for tubs of chicken broast.

This son had bad luck. He turned out to be like me.

I was younger than him when I started off with Flower Power and sang on the streets with my group of friends, ‘give peace a chance’. Disillusionment followed fast and we tried to be rebels or fashionable anarchists. We wanted to target nuclear power stations but there weren’t any in the immediate neighbourhood. We tried to stay away from the unavoidable political affiliations. We had our gurus and the godfathers but they were smart enough to prompt only from outside the stage.

During a period of unrest in the country, a powerful students’ group in Delhi taunted our manhood by sending a pack of bangles to our union. We would have showed our machismo with country bombs, knives and cycle chains but the jeep in which we traveled broke down somewhere on the outskirts of Rohtak. We spent the night finishing off two bottles of Old Monk and when the jeep got repaired the next day, none of us were in the mood to go to Delhi.

A year later, we made it to a two-paragraph column on page 5 on a Saturday mid-day paper. We were even given a name, Urban Naxals. Since the paper was sympathetic to our ideals of bridging the huge class-divide, the paper also referred to us, in the second paragraph, as Robin Hoods. I left that group when I found my uncle’s name in a list of victims. I knew that my uncle was bankrupt and that he borrowed heavily from my father and others to keep up his lavish lifestyle. That group lasted for a few seasons and for some reason, without any victims.

I was brought out of my reverie when Sasi tapped on my shoulder. My lawyer was climbing the stairs to the office. I stood up and waited at the door.

My lawyer looked at me and shook his head.

“Your son and another got death. The judge concluded that they are the leaders. The country needs an example, it seems.”

I was ready for that, I think.

Sasi placed his hand on my shoulder and said,

“Better luck next kid.”

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