- May 25, 2020.
You switch channels on the T.V. But all the channels run commercials simultaneously. So you check your WhatsApp messages. Aslam Fattu keeps forwarding alleged leaks from his agent at the police station. If you were to believe him, there had been a dozen attempts to trap you in the past year alone.
You know better. That is why you stay put in this farmhouse away from the city. Your city.Where all the action is. Because in this lockdown, you would not be able to fly to any of your getaways. Neither Dubai nor Turkey. Uncle Sam had turned hostile to you long before this silly scare of a tiny virus gripped the world.
They don’t call you Sayyed Chappu for no reason. The most dreaded of dons in Mumbai. You had sliced away the fingers of the right-hand man of the grandsire of the Mumbai underworld, Bilaal, at the tender age of thirteen. He had dared to point fingers at you.
But these are different times. So you listen to Ilias Cable, your tech advisor. He has asked you to binge-watch on Netflix for the time being. What was the password, again?
“Sayeeda!” You call out to your wife of thirty years.
Bang! You hear vessels colliding against the sink in the kitchen. You raise your voice to be heard over the din.
Some more banging. Defeated, you decide to rise from the sofa and make the arduous journey to the kitchen.
“How do you manage to soil five bowls and seven spoons to eat your ice cream?” Sayeeda hollers without looking up at you.
“What is the password?”
“There is no help around here! This is not your den in Byculla, with a dozen mongrels to wait upon you.” Sayeeda keeps her eyes glued to the sink, which is now empty of vessels.
“Iliyas Cable said you had the password. He said it is different from the ATM password.” You persist.
She walks away, without replying.
You grab a whiskey from your diminishing stash under the dining table.
“Who spilled ice cream on the sofa?” You hear a shrill outburst. Silly woman. There are only two of you in the house.
You settle on the sofa, slightly away from your usual spot, while she scrubs the stains out. The commercials have ended. You smile to yourself. You don’t need the password for the time being.
“Why don’t you flush properly? I am sick of scraping your leftovers from the commode!” Indignant woman! Who speaks of her man that way?
You fondly remember Reshma. How lovingly she cleaned after you. She was a good one. A tad expensive though. Damn the lockdown! They let this virus roam around town scot free, but your girls can’t leave their hovels! Why can’t they spray sanitisers like they spray pesticides in the fields, back in the village?
“Why can’t we go back to our chawl?To our maid? At least listen to my point of view”
Point of view. That is your cue. A lecture would follow. Your mind, suddenly, cannot comprehend what she is speaking. It is like in the movies, in slow motion. Painfully slow.
After a while, she leaves, all masked up, with a full grocery bag in hand.
“ Blah…gibberish..viewpoint….blah!” She says as she exits the door.
You blithering idiot! You don’t know a password from a postal address, and you want to rule Mumbai!
All you did was slice off a pinky finger of a buffoon, while he was stoned! His only disability was being unable to gesture when he wanted to go to the loo. But emotional fools all of them, they honoured you with a title, Sayyed Chappu!
And the pompous pig that you are, you renamed me after you on the day of our nikah! Believing I would be your shadow through life.
I was amazed that you managed to build a gang for yourself at all, with little apart from brute force. But being a ganglord is different from merely leading hooligans. It needs tact. A long-term plan. And the desire to explore unknown territory.
That is how I built my kingdom. Diversifying from your vasooli and kidnapping business to drug trafficking. From bribing constables to funding campaigns of political parties. From the gully of Byculla to Dubai. The world knows, that I raised the bar. I ran scores of shady businesses in your shadow. But for your imbecile self. You still think you are the kingpin! Bah! If only your mother had raised you well!
I have had a tough life. Your innumerable mistresses. Sons that went wayward and drowned themselves in the opium they sold. A hovering death threat from the chauvinist drug mafia who, like you, believe a woman is unfit to rule the big bad world.
I have survived. Taking everything in my stride, often without complaining. Because complaining is the luxury of mistresses that wives can ill afford.
But these neverending dishes in the sink! The filth you spread in the washroom! No way. I’ve tried reasoning with you. Urging you to listen to my viewpoint. But you are a tone-deaf piece of scum, incapable of listening to reason. So suit yourself. Drown yourself in liquor and ignorance.
I am sure you never wondered why I left with a loaded grocery bag. Had you offered to help me with buying groceries, you would have benefitted.
I climb up the stairs to the terrace of the adjacent deserted bungalow. The sun beats mercilessly. I squint as I pull out the rifle from my grocery bag. I have done my homework. I have a clear view of the drawing room from my vantage point. I aim at you through the window. Just before I pull the trigger, I smile to myself.
I had left a warning before leaving. For the first time, I had asked you to see it from my point of view. If only you had cared to listen.
Chappu: Knife in Hindi
Nikah: Wedding ceremony in Islam
Chawl: a group of one or two-room dwelling units along a corridor, sharing sanitary facilities.
Gully: narrow lane
Uncle Sam: Slang for the government of the United States
Vasooli: Slang for recovering a payment, used by the Mumbai gangsters to denote the ransom amount they demand from their targets by threatening them.