UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
DEEPAK KAPUR

Alienation

It was another hectic day for Raghav. In fact such frenzy had become an inevitable
reality for him. Sharp at 8 in the office, grilling session with the customers till
1 o’clock, laborious paper work and index maintenance after 2 o’clock and no exit
from the office complex till 8 in the evening.

This monotony was now the walk of life for him. But this job was my cherished
dream, thought Raghav often. A dream, for which he had forsaken his land, his
home and his parents for good.

He was a JEO in a private telephone exchange, a job that at length had lost its
entire craze for him. He was a short statured, stout young man of 35.His athletic
shoulders, bulging chest and bead-like eyes gave him the semblance of a weight
lifter. His cropped hair and small ears added weight to this semblance. He seemed
a misfit.

He was gazing at the newly bought, hi-fi, state-of-the-art, music system, which
was placed on the mahogany table-the latest from the premiere furniture house in
the city. The angularity, the sleekness, and the ambience of the system failed to
cast a spell on him, rather all this saddened him.

“I was perfectly okay without this,” he cogitated. It was not that he was a pessi-
mistic person or the system was a sheer waste of money. It was his psyche, his
subconscious that was revolting against the parade of luxury. After all, all this
came at a very high price.

His thoughts started vacillating over the question of his existence and found a
niche in the warm memories of his adolescent life. His parental house with its
turrets, heavy wooden doors, and arched windows swam in front of his lubricated
eyes.

Everything associated with that house danced in animation. Those family meals,
those frequent how-to-do discussions with his father, which often led to
altercation. Those excursions to the nearby sacred grove-a remnant of the
erstwhile rainforest, all…all beckoned him to kick the dreariness of the humdrum
life he was living and embrace the salubriousness of the peaceful life of his
small town. But was this all so easy.

The bird that came out of the small hut atop the clock signaled in its
synchronized electronic voice that it was 10, the time for dinner. This voice
jarred his ears. The bird popping back and forth seemed to mock at him. It
seemed to him a testimony to his thralldom of mammon. "It will never fly,” he
sighed.

Dinner was the only time when he got the opportunity to get familiar with his only
daughter, Mohini. “It is indeed a cruel irony of life that I am like a stranger to
her who is the staff of my existence.” he rued, viewing her from the tail of his
eye while taking a chapatti from the hot case. He shied away from her gaze.

And Mohini too looked at her father as if coming to terms with the fact that this
otherwise secretive personality was an important part of her life-her father. Her
nascent sensibility could not account for Raghav’s long absence from the house.

Her schoolmates bubbled with energy, flanked by their parents, in the PT meets of
the primary wing of the missionary school. And she, led by her mother’s lone
finger felt incomplete, her empty hand yearning for support from her father.

Her mother Paakiza, a fashionista, a typical example of a modern woman, face
always dumped with tons of makeup, eyes covered with the costliest Ray-Ban
glasses, attitude an epitome of affectation, enjoyed immensely the sumptuous feast
called life. For her, luxury was the sine qua non of life.

She was engaged in eating the sumptuous dinner, devouring everything voluptuously.
She took a break from her ritual and asked her husband in a voice that smelt of
pride and assertion.

“Darling, tomorrow I am going to order the coffee table that we saw two days ago,
the one with gilt lettering on it.”

And Raghav could not banish this thought from his mind.

“Why can’t the coffee mug be placed on any other table in the house? Only Lord
knows.”









© 2007 Underground Voices