It all started with smoke …

I found this story that I had written in 2010 or maybe even earlier.Part of the story is a true incident involving the Chap, your’s truly and another friend. Read on..

  Prabodh was shrouded in a veneer of nebulous, diaphanous smoke-nicotine loaded smoke that could kill. That didn’t bother Alice.She stared mesmerized as it rose above his head in sinewy threads.It was billowing like some footloose teen angel towards the agency’s Michelangelo-inspired art on the ceiling.She decided to watch the smoke rather than get back to the game of solitaire that she was struggling with.Neither did she feel like getting back to work and writing some corny line to help sell New and Improved Ajantha Detergent Bar to  some poor, unsuspecting souls. The vodka,which she had slugged last night was coursing through her veins threatened to slosh out of her bloodstream into the stale airconditioned air, and finally onto the wooden floor in a piteous puddle.
“Alice..I’m bugged,”Prabodh’s voice boomed from behind the smoke.
“Go bother some intern, PG.I am busy,”She retorted, her eyes still glued to the slow,dirty dance of the smoke tendrils.
“I can blow nice, fat smoke rings for you,”He offered tentatively.
Her eyes glazed a little at the mention of smoke rings.She remembered how as a child her uncle blew smoke rings for her when she was upset or sad. She also remembered that the rings always made her deliriously happy.
 “Ok…but just 5 minutes,”She agreed gingerly.
Prabodh smiled slyly and proceeded to inhale some smoke for Alice’s rings. A few seconds later, the smoke re-emerged through his mouth in the form of a perfect “O”.
“Bravo!”She cheered and logged on to her Gtalk for her part of the bargain- Prabodh’s 5 minutes of practical-jokery.
Now, it was Prabodh’s eye’s turn to glaze.The sight of “Available” status messages on the messenger got him in a dizzy spell.
“Which one?” He demanded impatiently.
“Roark.” She replied flatly.
“Tell me more.”
“Known him from school.Works for an actuary.”
“Umm…”He nodded absently as he nudged Alice out of her chair.
Alice says: I overdosed on valium. Let me die!
“Jesus, PG.I know where this is headed.Be nice to him.He’s a very sensitive guy.” Alice whined.
“Relax.Go play Solitaire.”Pat came the reply.
Roark says: Alice??Are you okay?.
Roark says: ALICE????
Alice Says: No dude.This is his collegue, Prabodh.
Roark says: Oh.. What’s wrong?
Alice Says: My girlfriend.She’s dumped me.
Roark says: Don’t kill yourself for a woman, man.
Alice says: Why should I live?. I caught her with my best friend.My best friend and my girlfriend.. Ha ! That’s life for you, my friend. She told me I wasn’t man enough for her.
 Roark says: How many pills?.
Alice says: 20
Roark says: OMG! Don’t die on me, man.Where are you?
Alice says: Too Late. Just remember this, bro.Life really does go on forever and ever. Reincarnation is a fact. Those are not my words. Neale Donald Walsh’s wisdom,man.
Roark says: Get to a hospital.I can’t reach Alice.Do you work with her?.
Alice says: You can have my copies of Conversation with God after I am gone,man!You’ve been so nice to me. Remember this,you’ll find answers to all your questions right in those tomes.Life-changing book..
Roark says : Can I call you,please?..
Alice says : You believe in after-life?
Roark says : No,I believe in one life .I believe in not letting go of the one life I have. 
Alice says: Don’t get all moralistic on me,dude.
Roark says: Let me help you… Forget about the girl.
Alice says : I can’t forget Alice.She is lying here in a pool of blood and gore with my best friend. Murdered by my own hands. Remember conversations with God after I am gone,okay?.
Roark says : Shucks!
Roark says: Prabodh ….
Roark says : Hello?You there ?
Prabodh caught Alice in the copy writer’s room all alone, brooding and masticating on some dark thought.Her fingers were absently re-curling the tendrils of her wavy hair.Suddenly,she looked up as if she had known all along that she was being watched. Their eyes met.She flinched visibly and turned her face away from him. She hadn’t been speaking to him after the Roark-fiasco.
“Alice…. Don’t do this, sweetheart.”
“He’s not speaking to me, you know.He called me up after you logged off.He was a very good friend.”
“I’m sorry.Just got carried away. I’ll make it up to you, somehow.How about a few smoke rings?”
Alice glared at him.She didn’t want to succumb to temptation again.
“No! It was my mistake to let you chat with him, you psycho! Leave me alone,” She cried shrilly and walked out.
Several heads snapped up from their presentations in response to Alice’s high-pitched verbal assault.People gawked at Prabodh openly with barely concealed disgust. Prabodh shuddered at the collective animosity targetted at him.
“Taxi…Taxi…” Srikanth hollered as he managed to evade getting sandwiched between a scooter and a Swift car.
He single-mindedly pursued an empty-looking black and yellow taxi.The rain was falling in rhythmic pitter-patter all around him.
 Look where you’re going!” the guy driving the Swift hollered.
Srikanth shrugged and showed the guy his middle finger.Fucking Mumbai traffic.
The taxi he had flagged slowed down.It wasn’t empty, though.
“Hey..Want to share a ride?. It’s raining and there aren’t too many taxis around at this hour,” A voice called out.
“Thanks, man.I’ll get off at Marine lines.What a beast of a day!” Srikanth exclaimed as he scampered into the cramped taxi,tugging at his raincoat.
The interior of the taxi was bathed in a psychedelic,kitschy glow.Rani pink spotlights showcased a Ganpati statue swathed in jasmine flowers. A stale, meaty smell assaulted his nostrils and Srikanth gagged.
“I’m going upto Andheri.No sweat.”The kind taxi-benefactor said.
 He was sporting a french beard, a checked-gingham shirt, Levi jeans and bright smile.A copy of Conversations with God (Part III) was tucked under his arm.
“My favourite book. Actually, all three parts are great.But this is my favourite,“The man offered when he caught Srikanth looking intently at the book.
“My favourite too,”Srikanth nodded.
 “By the way,I am Prabodh.”
The crazy traffic and  the crazier rain derailed Srikanth’s thought process for a few seconds.The stale smell and Altaf Raja’s nasal voice crooning “Tum To Tehre Pardesi” didn’t help matters much either.
“Sorry.I was in another world. Srikanth.”
“New to Mumbai?The city can be a sadistic bitch at times. But, there’s no other place in the entire world that rocks as much as this one!”Prabodh enthused.
Srikanth nodded absently.
“I wish I could share your enthusiasm.I’m from Hyderabad.It’s been an intimidating first day here.”
“Hyderabad…. A friend of mine is from there as well. Maybe you know her.Alice D souza?” 
“Alice..Ummm..Not really.Hyderabad’s a big city too,” Srikanth quipped.
“Ha ha.I didn’t mean it that way.”
A stifling, pregnant silence ensued.
“Do you wonder about the futility of life?”Srikanth asked.
“Yes,a lot.Why are you asking me this?.”
“Would you believe me if I told you that I am a bookie and that this very minute there are atleast 10 people who want my bones broken.”
 Prabodh stared icily at his co-passenger.He found himself shivering, despite the hot, humid air circulating in the taxi.
Arey..did I scare you?It’s not that bad actually.Let me just show you something,” Srikanth said.
He slipped his left hand from inside his raincoat pocket and held it up for Prabodh’s supervision. 4 fingers stood eerily, accentuating the absence of the pinkie.
“The little one got removed when I didn’t have enough money to finance  my coke habit.They have my pinkie stored in their warehouse,embalmed like a mummy.When I pay them back,they’ll let me have it back.”
“Oh Fuck!.” Prabodh exclaimed.
He realised that his teeth were clattering in an alarming fashion.Beads of sweat had appeared unannounced on his forehead which he mopped up with his monogrammed,silk handkerchief.He noticed that Srikanth was staring at him intently.
“Save me!You seem like a nice guy.Can you lend me some money?”Srikanth implored.
Prabodh looked on in mute horror.He wondered why he had let this crazy guy get in at all in the first place.He slowly pulled out his wallet.
Srikanth’s pupils enlarged rapidly.
“Here..I have just 1000 bucks now .You can have it.”
Srikanth smiled. It reminded Prabodh of crazy gangster movies. Prabodh glanced lovingly at his pinkie and caught Srikanth looking at him in a strange way.
The taxi had stopped at a red signal and Prabodh’s eyes were drawn to the taxi’s door.Suddenly, he wanted to be away from strange Hyderabadi men who abused coke, owed a tonne of money to gangsters and loved Conversations with God.
A sense of urgency gripped Prabodh.
NOW.He told himself.
Disregarding the rain, motorists and the no-money situation, Prabodh jumped out of the taxi onto the road. The signal turned green and the taxi rolled away. Cars swerved trying to avoid hitting him.Srikanth peeped out from the taxi window, his face creased into a scowl.
 “Crazy fucker!” Prabodh screamed as the taxi speeded , receeding from his line of vision.
The manila envelope read “To Prabodh.”
The note simply said “We are together again.And it is very good. Love Srikanth.”
 Comprehension dawned.The last lines of Conversations with God (part III). Pellets of fear bombarded Prabodh’s damp skin.His eyes darkened and he hurried into the boss’s cabin to ask his boss if he could take    the rest of the day off.
Alice was hunched over her computer in the corner of the copy-writer’s room.A crowd had gathered around her.Wild unspoken cheers echoed through the corridors. Jubliant faces looked on as she logged into her Gtalk.
A window popped up.She typed.
Alice says: We got to him, Roark! He’s peeing in his pants now.
Roark says: Let’s roast the bastard some more tomorrow.
The crowd cheered some more in anticipation.

5 thoughts on “It all started with smoke …

  1. Smita .. part of it is .. obviously , nobody one was part of mafia or had a missing pinkie .. but the gtalk bit and the prankster and the guy on whom the prank was played met later on and recognized each other thru the copy of book the prankster was carrying. The mafia angle was just a bollywoodish twist 🙂


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