Redemption – Act 2

So I bear my skin

And I count my sins

And I close my eyes

And I take it in

And I’m bleeding out.

Beep. Beep. He turned the alarm off, and looked at the other side of the bed. She was still sleeping. Good. He wore his slippers, walked to the toilet, and started brushing his teeth. 32 year old Rahul Sharma may have succeeded in not just becoming the country’s youngest Chief Minister yet, but he had also achieved that feat in Maharashtra, a state known for being hostile towards non Marathis. But his unconventional way of doing things, reliance on pure unadulterated logic, strong public speaking, and a propensity for taking risks had successfully struck a chord with the sensible portions of the public, who chose to give him and the Rashtriya Jan Pragati Sangh a shot at governance.

In spite of all this, he was still as humble as the most common of people. He tried to save every single penny of the taxpayers’, (this being a fact that was constantly highlighted by his supporters and the media), had a bare minimum number of bodyguards, and roamed around the city, sometimes late in the middle of the nights, and other times in the broadest of daylight, without a worry. He was of the opinion that he had done nothing which was detrimental to his people, and that even if he had to one day get shot for his state, and for his country, he’d gladly take the bullet.

But for the past few months, he had been gradually losing the confidence of the people. While his father, Dayanand Sharma rose to become the party’s leader and his mother, Sushma Bhosle Sharma had been promoted to governorship of Andhra Pradesh, he had been unable to fulfil a couple of his key campaign promises. Which was why, he had begun feeling a sense of underachievement. He had to change that. And he had absolutely no idea that it’d happen that very morning.

***

7th of November, 2010

Mumbai

Kamlesh Hiranandani was at one time, one of the most promising young lawyers in the city, having being trained by none other than Ram Jethmalani, and winning his first high profile case, something about a Hyderabad based IT-Company’s CEO swindling billions of rupees worth of shareholders’ money. This had, for obvious reasons increased his demand in the market. And made him the default choice for people needing good representation and having really deep pockets, something which he wouldn’t know until he’d be hired by the “financial services company”, who were accused of defrauding their clients and diverting their pension funds worth over a hundred and fifty crore rupees. What he initially thought was a case of wrongful prosecution turned out to genuinely be a Ponzi scheme, and unfortunately, attorney client privilege forced him to fight, and his need to not dent his career forced him to win it.

He’d won the case, and earned crores of rupees for his services, but, unfortunately, lost his soul. Therefore, he retired from the legal profession promptly, made use of his CA qualification, and became an associate at Maheshwari and Associates.

That evening, when he was just about to leave for home, he had a call from one of his firm’s clients, Buy Smart Retailers Limited, requesting an appointment, first thing the next morning.

***

18th November, 2010

Colaba

Mumbai

The sun was slowly completing its daily ritual of going down in the sea for a nap. On the shore, was a man, middle aged, dressed in a suit, watching it, while, to the surprise of the onlookers, enjoying a sukhi bhel from a piece of paper, which had a poster of My Name Is Khan on it. Incidentally, over the past couple of weeks, the suit clad man, Ghulam Ali Khan, had decided that he was done being Gandhi Bhai, as the realization of his inescapable death sunk in. He’d started visiting the sea often, which was one of the main things keeping him composed. And now that he had decided to retire from his work, he understood that he’d have to ensure that this did not cause the underworld to go into a stage of total chaos. Because, this was an empire business, and when an emperor as strong as him stepped down, and an empire as big as his was up for grabs, it would cause a war of kinds within their world. Which would put a halt to their business. Bad. Additionally, it’d cause a lot of deaths. Worse. Using this reasoning, he held a meeting later that night, where he’d summoned every single person of importance of the underworld, and told his confidantes that he’d divide all of his business tonight.  He was still the emperor, with a lot of influence. He’d try and give back to the people, while he still could.

At around 9 that evening, he entered the hall he’d booked for the night. As expected, everyone that was asked to be present could be found sitting around the tables that were arranged. In any other situation, a minute would have been all that was required for an all-out war to start. However, they were Gandhi Bhai’s guests that night. They had to be nice, specifically tolerant and non-violent and not, well, not nice to one another. After exchanging a few pleasantries with everyone, he came to the centre of the room. He clinked his glass once, signalling everyone to settle down. The wheels had been set in motion over the past couple of weeks. Now was the moment of execution.

“I hope that everyone is having a good time so far. I understand that my calling all of you here tonight on such a short notice could have caused all of inconvenience, and I appreciate the fact that all of you turned up. A few weeks ago, I was diagnosed with cancer, and it is highly improbable that I stay around for long. Taking a pause, to let this sink in. Therefore, I am stepping down, to concentrate on my health. Understandably, something needs to be done about this empire that has been built over the past several years. This is the reason for all of us coming together tonight.”

WHAM! The door of this room is forcibly opened, and a hundred SWAT cops get in the room, having taken care of the security present outside. You had to give it to them, for they managed to neutralize over 200 members of the private security without making a single sound or letting anyone on the inside know what happened. Ghulam, who has a bullet proof vest under his suit, jumps under the nearest table. Bullets are fired all around. People are critically injured. A few of the mafia even lose their lives. Blood is splattered on the walls. A few people try to make a rush for the door, causing so much of chaos that a couple of people get trampled to death. But the SWAT team gets everything under control in a couple of minutes. Everyone present, that is, the people who are still alive, is handcuffed, and subsequently arrested. Anyone who had even the slightest chance of making it out alive is given emergency medical attention, for every single piece of evidence would go a long way. In the end, two cops emerge out of this compound, bringing with them the biggest criminal Mumbai had seen since Dawood.

***

8th November 2010

Mumbai

9 am.

It is the 10th floor of a half developed, under construction building in some part of the city. Hiranandani, on his call with the client, could have never fathomed what he’d learn in the next hour or so. For, he saw the CM of the state, sitting at a table, surrounded by 10 people who had their faces covered, probably kept there against his own will, while his own client, seemingly oblivious to Kamlesh’s arrival, stared into the distance.

“I see you are right on time, Mr Hiranandani. I don’t think that I need to need to introduce you to the third party of the meeting, do I?”

“I think you have the wrong Hiranandani. I’m no developer. Now if I can be excused, I would really like to leave.”

“Oh no, Kamlesh, I have the right man.”, turning to his people, “you can leave now”. Once there are only the three of them left in the, well, for lack of a better word, room, he continues, “Neither of you know me. Therefore, I understand if you would want to leave. I may have caused you a slight inconvenience, and I won’t forcibly keep you here. But give me the next five minutes, and I promise you that I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse.

Sharma was amused at the audacity of this person. This man had, not only managed to find out the exact location the state’s CM earlier the day, but he’d successfully kept any suspicion away from the whole abduction. He was an adrenaline-fuelled person, and it was quite a while ago that he’d really got a kick out of something. “You have the next 10 minutes. If I don’t find something good, I will make sure that you face consequences.”

Gandhi,” Sure. Use that gun you’ve got hidden in your right shoe if you need to. I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Apart from the criminal and the chief minister, there was also a third person present. The past couple of minutes had been particularly tense for him. This stranger was enigmatic, and gave Hiranandani a weird feeling about this whole thing. He had felt that way only once before; that day when the judge had pronounced his clients not guilty. He did not want that feeling once again. He opened his mouth to tell this man, who had booked an appointment under the guise of Ghulam Ali Khan, that he’d prefer to leave, when “Mr Khan” said, “I bet you miss your days as a lawyer. I am giving you a chance to have a clean slate. For your career. For your conscience.” That last sentence hit Kamlesh right in the feels. How on earth did this man know so much? And after all this time, why did someone want to help him? And why him? He needed answers. Reluctantly, he takes a seat.

Ghulam tells them of his involvement in the counterfeit business of the country’s currency, and how he was happily earning a lion’s share of the 10,000 crore rupee market, and how it was all going good. Until that fateful day, when, on seeing those medical reports, he decided to end it once and for all, and try and live the remaining of his life in peace. However, that could never undo the damage that he’d caused to his own conscience in the process of getting filthy rich. Therefore he had an idea. Which he shared with them.

Sharma,” so let me get this straight, you are willing to kill every single fish in the pond?”

Ghulam,” I think that the correct word is shark in the ocean, but yes, that is the motive.”

Kamlesh,” and why am I here?”

Ghulam, “I am going to need Mr Sharma to pull some strings, and appoint you as public prosecutor in my trial. I will request for a plea bargain. You will then offer me a deal, and I will accept it.”

“What is the deal exactly, that you are offering us to offer you?”

“Mr Sharma, I am beginning to understand the reason you were chosen for. Here is the gist of what I want”, saying so, he passed a couple of files towards them. ”And if you are interested in more details, I’ve got bigger files waiting in my bag.”

Sharma, after a few minutes, “Irrespective of the idea being good or not, why do you want us?”

Ghulam, turning to the former lawyer,” you lost your soul fighting that one nasty case. I am giving you a chance to have a fresh start professionally. It should also clean your conscience of, if not all of, then at least a little bit of guilt from that case. A man with your talents working as an accountant is a shame. And I know you have been itching to have one chance to correct your wrong.”

“And you sir, you need to prove to your father, that you are better than that man from Bhopal being groomed for the party’s leadership. You don’t think that he’d take you seriously enough today, and I am giving you a fair shot at earning his respect, as well as confidence. Plus, I know how much you want to move to 7 Race Course Road”, hearing this, Rahul gives a slight change in his expression, but quickly goes back to normal as Ghulam adds,” it is Mumbai. I know everything around here.”

The adrenaline that was flowing in Rahul’s veins that day was unmatched. The only thing that came even remotely close to it was that time he’d gone skydiving, and held off pulling the chute out until the last moment. Still, for the kick of it, he added, “what if we did all this, and gave you nothing that you’ve asked for?

Ghulam chuckled that moment. He was anticipating this. He had heard and been informed of a lot of things about Sharma, but seeing him in all his glory was something else. “Come on, Mr Sharma. I’m Gandhi Bhai. You seriously think that I’ve got no backup?”

You’ll never know what went well
Then again it just depends on
How long of time is left for you

Redemption

Father, tell me,

Do we get what we deserve?

Oh we get what we deserve.

45 year old Ghulam Ali Khan, known professionally as “Gandhi Bhai” was more than what met the eye. Sure, he may have looked like just another middle aged man, what with the receding hairline, pot sized belly, and glasses so out of time that they may as well have been bought in the 80s; but on a closer look one would definitely realize that he wasn’t someone whose bad books they’d want to be in. For, he was a man, who had made an entire career, and with it, crores of rupees manufacturing and circulating counterfeit currency. Gifted with an amazing talent, in chemistry, manufacturing, and in numbers, he swiftly made himself quite the empire.

You see, the brilliance of his business lied in the sheer simplicity of his idea. He was one of the first people to get into the counterfeit business, as a teenager, and he immediately recognized that the key to long term dominance in the market was not to go big, but to go small. While other people were into the printing of high denomination currency, he printed 20s & 50s only, and circulated it through not just his “people on the street”, but also through the legitimate supermarket chain that he’d acquired late in the 90s, as a way to both circulate cash, as well as to launder his earnings

Slowly, over the years, he saw competition come up, get greedy, print 1000s, get caught and get sentenced doing so, while he steadily became the biggest name to be truly underground, truly underworld, undetected. And while there were people who were jealous of his success, (there’s a strange thing about being at the top of the mountain, people want to get up there, and push you off), there was not a single person that Mumbai was scared of, who did not respect, and more importantly be afraid of him; such was the weight carried by the name “Gandhi Bhai”

However, this empire would one day, come on the verge of crumpling down. Ironically, that day was the Diwali of 2010.

4/11/2010

Gandhi Bhai was sitting on his chair, in his adda, with his blood brother, and oldest associate Ganesh Rao at his side when Prakash Thakur, one of his distributors, or as he liked to call them, partners was brought in by two of his henchmen, Bablu and Poplu, (whose parents clearly did not know the kind of lives their kids would lead in the future), and dropped him at his feet.

Bablu,”Gandhi Bhai, Thakur had 35 lakh worth of currency notes on him, when there was a raid at his place. Every single note was seized, and the police are all over this.”

Gandhi,” I know what happens in this town, when and where it happens and who does this happen to. It’s my goddamned job to know that, and you don’t have to tell me everything”

Bablu,” sorry Gandhi Bhai”, turning towards Thakur, “now who is going to pay for that loss?”

Gandhi, cutting him short, irritably,” One more unnecessary word, and you’ll be done for,”

Thakur,” Gandhi Bhai, I am very sorry for that incident. I promise that this will never happen again. Body trembling, voice shaking. And the-the-the money… I will repay it as soon as I can. Hopefully in the next few months. Please give me a chance”

He didn’t hear all of that; all he saw was that there was a man, now grumbling and begging and requesting to  be spared, except that he had the mute button on this channel pressed. What he heard instead was very heavy breathing. He realized it to be his own. He felt his heartbeat, very fast, as if somehow his adrenaline glands secreted a large amount of that hormone into his blood stream at that very moment, as a response to something. But to what? And why? He got up, and with a very uncharacteristic limp, moved a couple of steps towards Thakur. Suddenly, he started losing his vision, making him feel that the world was collapsing all around him. He was wrong. The world was not falling. In fact, he was.

The next thing that he remembered was opening his eyes a couple days later on a bed in the Tata Memorial Hospital. He opened his eyes to find Ganesh sitting on a stool, who sees his brother open his eyes.

“We are in a hospital, aren’t we?” Ganesh nods. ”Who knows we’re here?”

“No one who shouldn’t. And the business is unaffected”

We see a Sardar in a white coat talking to someone of his kind outside the door. They have a rather animated discussion, which pauses for a second when the doctor, Dr Ahluwalia, sees Gandhi try to get up. “Mr Khan, please lie down. Do not get up.” His words are duly ignored as the patient does not pay any heed to this. Dr Ahluwalia enters the room,

“Mr Khan, you have a metastatic, stage 4 colon cancer. We are looking into ways to treat you.  There are some very good treatments available in the industry today, and with a good combination of surgery, chemo, and radio, we could buy you a few good years.”

For the first time since Ghulam Ali Khan adopted the moniker of Gandhi Bhai did something hit him hard, not unlike a billion KO punches right to the face. Naturally, he resisted this information After all, he was the baddest, smartest, and fiercest criminal in the whole country; a man who had shrewdly managed to get out of everything that life threw at him. He knew for a fact that there was no way that he was going to let anyone, even Death get the better of him.

“Mortals die! I won’t.”

“I’m really sorry sir, but in a condition such as yours, the chances of survival are slim. 12%. And not to mention, it could cost a bomb”

Ghulam, wobbly, gets up from his position, enraged, “Look at me! Do you think that I care a goddamned bit about money? Do you?” moves towards the doctor, seemingly to attack him, but is stopped by Ganesh’s firm hand on his shoulder, and reassuring him that everything is alright “He’s just a doctor, doing his job. We’ll go to another one, and take another opinion.”

They get out of the hospital, with Ghulam still in the patient clothes, and enter their car, with Ghulam in the passenger’s seat.

“Take me to Marine Drive.”

Once they reach Marine, after getting Ghulam new clothes,(he couldn’t go anywhere in those God-awful hospital clothes, could he?) in a drive where neither spoke a word, Ghulam asks Ganesh to stay in the vehicle, while he sat facing the sea. He saw waves starting in the sea, slowly building themselves up, moving forward. Eating away and destroying everything in their path, then coming and hitting the shore, making their impact, strangely mirroring his own story. But then they’d go back away, and slowly fade into oblivion. Would that be the end to his story? Earning and doing and conquering and destroying as much as he did, and then all of a sudden, dying? And that too not in a thrilling shootout, but cancer giving him a slow and painful death?  No, he would not let that be the way that he could let it end. All his life, he won. He couldn’t not win this time.

Determined, Ghulam Ali Khan, gets up, and decides that he will not go down. At least, not without making the biggest bang of all time. He takes his phone out, and walking towards Ganesh, makes a call.

“It’s Ghulam Ali Khan. We need to talk.”

ACT 1 ENDS

 

Positive Reaction?

Okay so ye do maheeno pehle ki baat hai, but I kinda think that it is relevant at this point of time.

So it was December, and hum logon ne college mein ek proscenium perform kiya tha. At the end of the event, a girl comes up to me and says that she liked my act. Apparently she was there to support one of her classmates, who was a part of another performance. Uss din na, meri shakal ka haal kuchh aisa tha; white paint all over my face and hair, with a Glasgow smile. Now I’m not particularly Brad Pitt even on my best of days, so forget my chances while being in an awfully creepy look. And that was why jab thodi tareef mili, and ek cute ladki saamne se aake baat karne lagi, to bhai aapka paagal ho gaya tha. So I got her name, and searched for her on Facebook. Let me tell you something, we seriously need to ban generic names. It takes quite a while to find the correct person! Anyway, koshish karne walo ki haar nai hoti hai, and I sent her a request. She accepted in an hour. Mera dil garden garden.

Do teen din baat hui bhai ki usse, number wagerah exchange bhi hue, and kya bolu yaar, dil aa gaya ispe. For once koi saamne se message kar rahi thi!

Later that week, I ran into her while I was getting out of college. We spoke for some more time. Main apne trademark ghatiya jokes crack kar raha hoon, and this girl somehow finds me funny! I seriously cannot explain in words kya feeling aa rahi thi. Jaate jaate mereko wo bol chali, Harsh bhaiyya, mereko aapki HR ki textbook chahiye!

Saare sapne choor choor. Yahan main kuchh soch raha hoon, and wahan wo kuchh aur hi! Saala zindagi ki kahaani hi ban gayi hai ye. And that wasn’t even the worst part of it, okay? Ye HR kameena meri fir se le gaya. He screws me up during my exams, he screws my projects up, and idhar bhi! Matlab bhai tera bigaada kya hai maine? Mere akele se hi aisi dushmani kyon hai?

And usse bhi zyada, aap har kisi ko aise hi bhaiyya thodi na bana sakti ho yaar! Aapke ghar pe bhai baap nai hai kya? Did they not teach you ki paraaye ladke ko bhai banane se paap chadhta hai? Kabhi sochi hai uss abla nar pe kya beetti hogi aapke iss atyachar se? Nahi na! Duniya bhar ka har ek ladka Salman hai kya, jisko bhai bulana chahiye? I’m pretty sure that at this point of time, wo aadmi bhi bol raha hoga ki nai banna hai yaar mujhe sabka bhai! Ash bhai bana gayi, Katrina bhi. Bhot ho gaya. Kasam se.

That was one of those days which reinforced what one of friends has always been saying . Pyaar mohabbat sab dhokha hai! Padhle bhai, mauka hai.

 

 

 

Two thousand and seventeen

This coming year, I’m not gonna do the following things.

  • I’m not gonna join a gym in January, saying that I have to get fit, because lets face it, mere mortals simply don’t continue that for more than a few weeks!
  • I’m not even trying to read/study more than I did last year. Reading requires patience. And it can get boring.
  • I’m not gonna start eating “healthier food.” Salads are ghaaspoos. You only live once. Biryani khao. Kebab khao. Shawarma khao. Khush raho!
  • No making attempts to learn a new language. Char aati hain already. Unhi mein apna guzara ho jaayega!
  • I won’t even consider getting up early, especially when it is cold outside. I’m sleeping in. Or watching friends again. But no getting out of bed.
  • No making plans to go anywhere outside Hyderabad and Bangalore, especially those made for Goa. Plans bante hi cancel hone k liye hain.

In short, I’m not gonna have some outrageously, ridiculously impossible resolution, which, as new year resolutions go, are followed only for a week, or at the most, two. Instead, focus on the simple things in life; small, but possible.

Lets try and spontaneously do the possible every morning,(whenever that starts, just saying), and who knows, we’ll suddenly be doing the impossible stuff, hai ki nahi?

After all, agar Donald Trump jaisa banda president ban sakta hai, then there is literally nothing that a Sindhi lounda cannot do.

Cheers!

Happy 2017!

Day 1

Hello everyone.

First of all, thank you for clicking on this link. This is where I’m gonna try and share with you the most myriad of things that sometimes come to my mind.

So yeah, buckle up, and try and enjoy the ride, as much as you can.

Any feedback or criticism that anyone has to offer, will be most welcome. I’ll try and incorporate them as much as I can.