“They don’t know that they are doing it, but they do it, they curse their progeny for life”, said 1008, “the educated middle class people are designed to work at desks, not to soil their hands. They have a single track mind that can only think about a specific kind of employment. They can’t start a paan shop or push a cart and sell vegetables. They can’t enter the mainstream of criminal activities as they have never socialized with the lowly ruffian types in their life. They aren’t worldly wise. Won’t survive in the competitive world of shady dealings even if they decided to enter it.” He was sharp but never had interest in studies. His elder brothers are both graduates. They wanted him to travel the same path but this one was different.
He was becoming influential in the neighbourhood: slowly, gradually and incrementally. He was developing his network of friends and powerful acquaintances and we all believed that it was only a matter of time before he entered the world of crime. We had even started calling him Kallu Mama both in his absence and occasionally in his presence. The new name was borrowed from a character of his favourite movie: Ram Gopal Verma’s Satya. The movie had grand success on the box office and had won critical acclaim too. Like many other movies of the genre, it showed how the powerless and poor protagonist entered the world of crime (his entry was provoked and justified, like that of the hero of other such movies), and how he became powerful and rich before dying at the end. Of course, the director was not glorifying criminals or crime, as he made clear in his various interviews, but the audience looked at it differently. So did 1008. He found the socially negative characters appealing in many ways, and their reality similar to his in many ways too. I had not seen the movie while it was still fresh, I saw it later. My point of view was in no way different than our friend 1008’s. Satya was the hero and the audience sympathised with him, or, he was the hero because the audience sympathised with him.
Who does not want to be a hero? The day dreamers do so for a long part of their day in the world of stories they create in their mind. Those devoted to reality try to create the kind of world in which they hold a special position out there. 1008 was in his teens and was naturally feeling indestructible and invincible. That’s why he had set his mind upon becoming a king. I was in my twenties already, and did not feel as he did. So, I was trying to stop his march of ideas that indicated towards the kind of action he was planning to take. Why was I trying to stop him? I was well trained as a member of my class and was already on my way to joining the workforce that was born middle class, and lived and died middle class too. It was but natural that I tried to protect and perpetuate my way of life. So, with not so much concern for 1008 as for removing the threat to my own identity, I was trying to convince him that he should stay normal. He, on the other hand, was trying to convert me to his line of thoughts. He was looking at the world, and the pattern of the world’s little games was becoming clearer to him (I was not ready for it yet). He had a plan; I hadn’t. As a well wisher, it was his duty, he thought, to show me what I was incapable of seeing. He was altruistic in his attempt at winning me over to the amoral-realistic side.
That was then. Today, 1008 is in the commercial capital of India, making money the middle class way. He directs T V serials & c. When I heard for the first time that Kallu Maama had gone to Mumbai, my first reaction was: “So, he reached the place of his dreams, the place where all the characters of Satya and Company belong. Now, he must have entered the underworld, must have got recommendations through his Banaras network.” They told me later that he was actually working the common and normal middle class way, quite in the ambit of conventional morality. The last time we met he had gained weight considerably; conspicuously in the mid-riff section. Assimilation is the one rule of the social structure that weeds out aberrations. He must have learned it some time in his twenties, and must have decided to play it safe and confirm himself in normalcy. He’s the same man, or is he?
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