The killer was about to strike the unsuspecting victim, the gleaming dagger raised in his right hairy hand, cold eyes fixed and remorseless…
“Go, check the water-level in the storage tank. Fast.”
The killer was about to strike…
“You must get up, when residents of the housing society come out of the lift or go to the lift.”
“People always complain. Say you sit in the chair, buried in a fat Hindi thriller. Never get up. Never look up. Just that. Reading. Sitting in the chair only.”
“Saab, it is a good habit.”
“You are not paid to read on duty here.”
“I always remain in the lobby of the building. As there is nothing much to do, I read a novel.”
“Do not argue, moron. I am the secretary. I can fire you immediately.”
“But, Saab, I just explained. I read in the afternoons. It is better than sleeping in the chair, during hot humid afternoons of Mumbai.”
“I said do not argue. If you do that again, you are out. You guys! Very rude and lazy.”
The young watchman said nothing. The thin secretary glowered and then left.
“They pay only six thousands for a twelve-hour duty. Even that amount is not paid on time,” said the older watchman.
“They think they own us. Call us rude. Say all guards are rogues,” said the younger one.
“Do not worry. Things will change. Do your duty.”
“Do not think too much. We are poor folks. We have to be tolerant of these rich rascals. They have money. Power. We have none.”
“OK. I always do that. But it hurts.”
“But it does not mean they should insult us. Hurt us. We have no money. But we are human beings, like them only. We too have respect. Our Izzat.”
“Young man, be patient and calm. You have not seen the brutal side of the world yet. Treat yourself as lucky. You have got a job. A uniform of a private security guard. An I-D. In Mumbai, an I-D is gold. At least, you earn money. Other migrants are not that lucky.”
“Yes, I know.”
“I felt hurt.”
“You hurt easily. Change. This is a jungle. Predators roam here…freely.”
The young security guard said nothing.
“Even I feel restless. They scold me, too. Once a drunk resident slapped me very hard. They openly abuse and curse those who watch their property.”
“The other day, a woman shouted at me. They make me run for errands. Some of the men fight on any excuse. Humiliating!”
“Yes. I went through all this. This is my fifth year. Guarding these rich bastards.”
“Where were you earlier?”
“A worker in a textile mill. It closed down 20 years ago. Did odd jobs. Got a family.”
“I know. You have to survive somehow.”
“I am school drop-out. Cannot do the office job. This one is easy.”
“There were others. Many drifted away.”
“Yes. Crime is the other side of the story of a megacity.”
“It is easy.”
“Temptingly simple and fast. Good money in it. Sense of power, also.”
“The crime bosses recruit the discontented ones from the mushrooming slums. Life stinks there for these half-animals. They are all a disillusioned, bitter lot. Desperate to do anything for money. Life is a big hell.”
“Yes. No power. No water. A 10×10 feet room of sheets and ropes. You go out to relieve. Long queues outside the three public toilets. Three toilets for more than a hundred people. Hell!”
“Crime offers easy money.”
“And a lot of women and drinks and good food.”
“Yes. And lot of cash.”
They grew quiet.
“One of my close friends became a hired killer.”
“Who?” asked the younger guard, the reader of the thrillers.
“Lal Chand. LC we called him.”
“How did it happen?”
“He was small and thin. A weakling. One day he got beaten by a person in his chawl. That goon always taunted his younger sister. LC objected. The local goon beat him black and blue.”
“Next morning, LC killed him before the neighbours.”
“Was that so easy?”
The older one was quiet for long.
“In fact, LC had called one of his cousins, a sharp shooter for a dreaded gang. He hovered in the background. The goon was surprised to see a quiet LC and grew more aggressive. LC took out his revolver and with a shaky hand and goaded by the accompanying professional killer, his cousin, shot him three times. The surprised goon went down in a heap.”
“He became a local hero! That puny man! Once a timid who could not swat a mosquito, swiftly turned into a fearless hero.”
“The police were relieved at this elimination. LC did their dirty job. No witnesses. Nothing. But LC became the new goon. He terrorized. Drunk a lot. Went to bars and splurged money on bar-girls there.”
The older guard looked hard at the younger one in his twenties. “The end was not that cheerful.”
“The cops killed him in a staged encounter.”
“He was a threat to a powerful older don operating from Africa. That don paid the cops who killed him in broad daylight. Before hundreds of people. Killed him in cold blood.”
Before the younger guard could say something, a harsh voice called out: “Watchman.”
The younger one ran towards the A-Wing of his housing society.
That same night, a drunken resident abused him and hit him in the belly, for not standing up from his plastic chair. “Who has torn my bike’s cover seat? You blind? Bastard, can’t you keep an eye on the strangers coming into our society? You useless shit! Getting paid for not doing your job. Stinking idler. Bastard.”
The older one rushed out and pacified the drunk in his early 20s. The young guard cried in pain, doubled up on the cold marble floor of the well-lit lobby of the high-rise. The man shouted and stamped his feet and then left, cursing.
Same night, in his troubled dream, Raj Kumar Kurmi, 22, from a remote village, turned into a gleeful killer, going on a spree of killing and shouting hoarsely at the dead in a thin and piping voice.
The action took place in slow motion:
First: stabbing the landlord of the tiny village in the bloated belly five times. Long dagger, in the moonlight, dripping with fresh blood. He shouting: “This one for insulting my elder sister and raping my wife of thirty days.” Then, in a fast motion: Stabbing the money-lender for cheating him out of his one-acre land, at the edge of the village nestling in the region of the brooding Himalayas, near the border with Nepal; followed by the killing of a local politician who spread caste-hatred among the folks there, and then, fleeing from a stunned village, arriving in Mumbai and then, enraged and foaming at mouth, killing the rich of the high-rise and the young drunk resident, laughing manically, in the moon-lit night, while fresh blood dripped from his long curved dagger, a wolf, surprisingly, howling in a far-of forest, on that cold night; then, he, becoming that wolf in the jungle…