Partha PD

THE WEEKEND

Arijit unbolted the door and stepped onto the balcony of his tiny apartment. Tired with his colorless life, he struck a Bollywood-gangster-style-smoking pose: sitting on the rickety chair on the tinier balcony, legs wide apart, eyeballs hungry, head tilted, his left hand ruffling his hair in slow motion while his right hand fluctuates between pressing his lips with the filter of the cigarette and tossing aside the ashes sticking out from the multiplication between the white of the cigarette and the red of the static flame. A sudden nostalgia put in mind how his Father used to design circles in air with the smoke of a cigarette. He tried. The circles weren't geometrical enough to give his imaginary son a reason to stare in awe at him, his perfectionist mind cribbed. He tried once again and gave up. He was getting into it: the state of frustration out of a severely trivial failure. Little did he realize that he would get hooked to the cinematic details of posing. Real life aches, more than the imagination of a sore reel-life.

Arijit felt a pungent smell; it was his underwear hanging from the rope. He went in and switched on the balcony light to find out which one it was. He realized that he hadn't really cleansed his briefs properly for a longish time except for the routine wash they go through while showering with him. The stains of known motions and thrusts were clear in the irregular impressions. Arijit was visibly sadder. Trivialities he couldn't ignore. But this one he thought was a more justifiable reason to feel unsettled. He attentively scrutinized the color of the smoke and tried to find out the extent to which the shade of the smoke was lighter than the dusty light from the boring bulb. After few moments of feckless brainwork, he became mindful of the thoughts he was experiencing. He tossed the wet butt of the cigarette into the dustbin and started scheming ways to spend his three-day-long weekend. His flatmate was on an official trip. The TV channels weren't working to further add to his melancholy. He, then, logged into the Internet and indulged in his obsessive moments of checking Facebook updates posted by his unknown friends. He was in high spirits after reading status messages and reviews that spoke highly about Kaminey, the latest Bollywood movie he contemplated watching the day next.

Go Charlie Go!... Fatak!...

The following day, he woke up early in the morning and got busy trying to decide what to do till the movie show slated at 3 PM. He started hunting the Internet to locate massage parlors in Gurgaon. A Google search generated curated phone numbers and Arijit started dialing the ones with the most tempting eye candies. Most of the numbers were either defunct or asked him explicitly if he wanted sex. Even though Arijit knew he wouldn't mind the extra dose of pleasure, he was conscious of his consciousness. And a few moments later when he exhausted his list of numbers, he was engrossed in figuring out whether he ran out of his character. The phone rang. It seemed as if he woke up from a deep sleep. The thoughts were alcoholic. Addictive? Seductive, maybe. The digital watch on his mobile phone registered a span of just 12 minutes till the last time he was aware of time. How can time be so long in such a short time? How can thoughts be so addictive?

Arijit picked up the call to hear from one of the parlors' owner who proposed a 50% concession for a 60-minute 'relaxation' massage. He finalized an appointment at 12:15 PM. He completed his morning ablutions and had two soft-boiled eggs for breakfast. Arijit thought this would give him the extra energy that his routine bowl of chocos-milk couldn't. He then got unknowingly absorbed in deciding on the right combination from his perfectly inch-by-inch lined clothes. He settled on a combination of a pair of Tommy Hilfiger trousers and a D&G T-shirt. He was careful so that the label of his Calvin Klein shorts was visible. A pair of Nike shoes with socks from the same brand and he was ready to test and taste the delights of skin on skin.

He hired a rickshaw to reach the parlor. The rickshaw puller, as he understood, had immigrated from Bangladesh but Arijit, in his vanity, talked to him in Hindi. While he was on his way, the rickshaw puller got a call. Arijit was irritated with the unexpected hiatus and with the likely delay, but he decided to behave well and hence kept silent. The rickshaw puller's daughter was demanding a pair of jeans to which his response was that only if he could manage a few more trips, he should be able to buy one. There was an ocean of raw affection in his voice. Even though Arijit understood every fragment of the conversation, he kept silent. In no time he remembered his parents, who never went to any shopping mall even though they were wealthy enough. They didn't know of any brand beyond Nirma, Xerox, Vimal, Surf, Colgate, Ponds, Raymond, ..., and Mafatlal Trousers. All their lives, they bought clothes from the local para (colony) shops. He remembered how he used to hold his mother's hand tightly while demanding the most fashionable jeeens on display at Sri Radha Bastralaya at Dumdum in Kolkata. The images turned blurry. Tears started marking their territory through his cosmetic cheeks till they collapsed in between his legs, the jerk of the rickshaw paving a rapid path for the tears. He asked the rickshaw puller to drop him back. When he reached the entrance to his apartment, he asked his name."Bikash," he said mostly through his nose. Arijit gave him two virgin 500-rupee notes. Bikash was puzzled but Arijit didn't let him respond and went back to his room and changed to something less obvious. This time he tucked his T-shirt into his trousers to avoid the anticipated attention. He found that he didn't have a single unbranded piece of cloth. He looked into the mirror and tried to smile. He smiled plastic smiles, happy smiles, and "Yo, Baby!" smiles, preparing himself for the movie and the expressions he would wear in the mall.