Recent Posts

22 March 2011

Mystery Shopper

Her brisk stride, uneven steps and a casual disoriented demeanor caught my attention. The common traits of an aimless weekend shopper, but I was persuaded not to mistake her as one. From the very moment of her entry, she fills the store with her uncontestable presence so hard to ignore. From my cashier’s desk, I notice the other sales guys acknowledging her charisma, swooping towards her from different directions, like moths attracted to a burning candle. I see them disguising their lecherous gawks under their friendly yet intrusive “Can I help you?” smiles. “I can help myself” she says with her eyes and walks off in the other direction.

I can’t dismiss the magic of her charm myself. I’d be fooling myself if I were; In fact any man could fall easily for a girl with her beauty. As I catch a glimpse of her amid the aisles, I surmise that the most striking aspect of her charm is her face. A chocolate tan complexion, flawless skin texture over the high cheekbones flanked over around a pair of mysterious kohl darkened eyes. Her shoulder bears an expensive leather bag, a bag almost as big as her lean torso. A self pampering reward for losing another inch off her waist, possibly. She walks gracefully across rails of elegant clothing, refusing to blend in within the sea of shoppers. I wish to compliment her how beautiful she looks when she smiles. Only, she’s isn’t smiling.

In my fuzzy reverie I picture her with me, sipping coffee as we sit in the foreground of a setting sun. The cool breeze entices her dense black tresses to flirt with her flawless face. My eyes set into her eyes where I notice two tiny ambers extinguishing under the far horizon, until the sky takes the color of her kohl darkened eyes. Her eyes reach for me, conveying an indefinable expression, so aptly inexplicable for that moment, until almost instantly her mouth parts to give way to words unsaid. I see her lips move; only there isn’t any sound, just a mute motion of lips… no sound. In a desperate attempt to reveal the voice behind that beautiful face I find myself moving nearer to her delusive image, attempting hard to hear the sound deficient words coming from her lips.

“EXCUSE ME” she yelled rather loudly when I heard her eventually, only now she wasn’t the protagonista of my private daydream, but standing right in front of the cash counter. “EXCUSE ME, COULD YOU GIVE ME MY DAMN BILL IF YOU’RE THROUGH WITH YOUR CONTEMPLATION?”

I look into her eyes, wipe the sweat off my forehead and swipe her card. She grabs the bag hurriedly, exits the glass door and drives off to a far off heaven (That’s where they come from). I lift the haze off my unrestraint mind

MORAL OF THE STORY : The author seems to have lost all his Morals!

31 January 2011

Twenty Five

The inspiration behind this short note is a musing which has occupied a fair amount of shelf-space in my clutter congested mind, no big idea this, just a gentle breeze of thought in the middle of a frenzied phase in life - A phase wherein days are busier than the doors of stores on mega-sales. A phase wherein the only memory of the day just passed is a fuzzy flash of events and activities of no clear implication.

Ever since I was juvenile I expected 25 to be an eventful age, and therefore anticipated reaching this milestone with an eccentric eagerness. Twenty five, I felt was the phase when one would expect himself to be established in life, treading on a clear path with the rest of life all figured and charted out. I must admit my fallacy – now that I’ve reached this milestone – It turns out that 25 is nothing but a pampered, over-acclaimed digit owing to its fancy appellations like “Silver Jubilee” “Quarter of a Century” and the likes.

Perhaps twenty five is simply an age, and not a milestone because its when you realize that henceforth life is pretty much the same – and all your fantasized perceptions of life were just an illusion – It’s time to get practical and pack your fantasies back into the closet. It’s certainly no surprise then that 25 just seem to be passing leaving no distinct memory or mark.

Twenty five, when the reminiscences of the college days are still afresh – where one could afford the luxury of being our individualistic self and not behave like factory line manufactured corporate drones. Twenty five, when extra large tubs of popcorn and fantasies on reel become the weapons to combat the mundanity of real life. Perhaps this is how I’ll remember my twenty five.

08 February 2010

The Talking Mirror

It was just another routine night shift (or so I thought). Once the shutters were downed past ten, I emptied the cash registers and went up to the back office. The thick wads of cash, vouchers and credit slips need to be carefully counted, fed into the system and then a handful of complex reports are prepared which are obviously out of comprehension for salesmen like me. I have Sharma, the security man, for company, who like me also loves the night closing shift, for his own personal reasons. Here he is happily sharing his “RS” and masala peanuts with me – Sharma the generous.

An hour later, Sharma is asleep in the office chair, holding his old rifle like a child holds on to a furry animal in sleep. I too, under a tipsy impulse, put the system on auto-pilot and head for the changing room settees; it’s time to catch a wink. Little did I know what would happen next.

“Hey you….(pause)…. yes you! Got a minute?” comes an unfamiliar voice from the adjacent changing room. I raise my spinning head in alarm, and find the courage to see for myself who this intruder is, “Perhaps I should wake up Sharma!” I think to myself.

“Listen you salesman, tell your manager I don’t wanna work for your store anymore” yells the furious voice as I open the cubicle, bewilderingly to find no one inside the dark room.

“It’s me, the mirror, you idiot. I’m tired of them expecting me to make them look more attractive - these shoppers! They stare into me with desperate eyes begging me to make them look sexier, thinner, taller and what not.. As if I can perform some miracle.. I can reflect, not transform. Even your manager approaches me in his eager stance, blaming me for the dropping store sales figures”

I try to hold back from commenting, but the alcohol in my blood puts up a resistance to my resolute.

“Stop cribbing, will you! There are pros and cons to every job in this world. Put yourself in my shoes, travelling for hours on the Delhi Metro, in its crowded compartments, having oily scalps rubbed on your face every evening, and just praying that the guy standing next to you hasn’t had a heavy meal. Try to look at the bright side. You’re one lucky bastard I tell you. Here in the air-conditioned room all day, and all those gorgeous ladies coming in to change… You! You get to see them!” I revert overpoweringly.

The irate voice recesses for a moment, and responds with a heavy sigh “Oh, for god sake! Fine.. once in a while it’s fun, and quite honestly it does keep me motivated, but there is a limit to how much obscenity one can take. Recently I’ve had some rather wild couples high on hormones, locking themselves in, and engaging in acts forbidden in the sanctity of this humble premise… I’m sure you’re aware of such unprofitable punters, and those too, who come to click themselves in different attires with a mobile phone without making a single purchase”

“So keep moaning you moron, or just bend yourself to the ways of the world, there are some things you can’t change, not even if you wanted to! Goodnight!” I bang shut the door on the mirror’s face, having had enough of his complaining, and leave for the office. He’s deprived me of my sleep and drained the happy rush of alcohol from my brain.

On a busy weekend afternoon, sometime in the next week, the mirror was found shattered beyond use. A customer bore the cost of the mirror, which he broke Accidently.

27 December 2009

Coffee with the Clocks

Thursday morning and I’m out in the city sitting at a “designer” coffee shop situated at the busiest metro rail station in New Delhi. I’ve decided to spend my weekly off with an old friend, and we’re headed to Chandni Chowk for an eating spree. Realizing that I’m unusually early for the appointment today, I end up caffienating on a couch by the café window. I’m taken over by a malicious sense of satisfaction seeing so many people rush off to work as I snuggly sprawl back on the black leather sofa, perhaps an eternity of working weekends have caused a revival of my childlike vengeful nature.

While I lounge enjoying my steamy hot Americano, I notice an equally steaming billboard on the platform outside promoting ORAL pleasures of different sort (in coffee flavor of course). The ad shows an Indian couple on a bed, half draped in silken sheets affirming the company’s yet to be scientifically proven hypothesis that “coffee tastes better in bed”. Surprisingly the ad doesn’t seem to be producing any head turning effect; in fact people aren’t even giving it a glance. As the next metro empties at this busy junction, a swarm of office goers walk past the giant billboard completely overlooking it –almost as if to say “Thank you but we’re Indians. We don’t prefer condoms, and coffee?.. are you kidding!” Incidentally India is a country of 1.2 billion people, largely tea drinkers.

Bang opposite is another titillating billboard for a global inner wear brand, showing four grown up men, disrobed to nothing but a pair of boxers, sitting on a locker room bench, doing suggestive gesticulations with balls. Footballs of course. Obviously there is nothing serious about all this cos they’re “Just Jockeying”.

I start to think if we as Indians have become a lot more permissive to bold advertising. Back in the early days rubber marketers would sell the rubber by showing a picture of a couple holding hands on a beach against the backdrop of a setting sun, anything a bit more suggestive could easily have offended the Indian sensibilities. We’re in a different era now, and sex is no longer a taboo for us, be in on the silver screen or the ad world.

A glance back at my watch to reaffirms my notion of passed time. Time inevitably brings in changes to the ways of the society, and one can spend countless moments wondering how things will change in the future. My stimulated mind leaves me convinced that coffee tastes just as good anywhere. The friend arrives and we leave on a modernistic train to reach our destination – Chandni Chowk-the Old city.

21 November 2009

Whiff of Seduction

Since afternoon I’ve caught myself a few times gazing at Gayetri, the petite salesgirl at the perfume counter. I think I’m really attracted to those juicy pouts of her, right below her chiseled nose that effortlessly sniffs one fragrance after the other, letting her describe each aroma with colourful adjectives. When she keeps her long curly hair open, like she has them today, she looks like the charming empress of her own magical fantasy world of nasal pleasures. Hope that stout son doesn’t ask her to tie them up today. I’ve caught her a couple of times staring at me too…maybe she knows I’m interested..maybe she’s interested too!

Gayetri possesses a special talent in gift wrapping, and often comes handy in the store. Her nimble fingers can magically transform any boring perfume box into a painstakingly picked enticing gift of a lover. I don’t think any of the other girls could match the finesse she has in wrapping up those boxes… I don’t think I could match it! I wanted to tell her so much.. so badly… that if she was good at wrapping up gifts… I had a hidden talent too… I am good at unwrapping things.

P.S: When eyes meet and sparks fly, imaginations can go for a wild run. (I’m still trying to tame mine)

08 November 2009

Line of Control

It’s the festive weekend before Diwali. The store is jam packed with punters doing their last minute shopping before the festivities begin. By 4 pm my stomach starts growling with hunger, it’s a strange irony: we work for food, yet at times work comes in the way of food. Once the rush subsides, I grab my sandwich and sneak upstairs to the back room for a quick bite.

As I begin to make the most of my express lunch I find Raghu sitting comfortably in one corner delightfully savoring his 5 course home cooked meal. In his early forties, Raghu is the old soldier of his territory, the shoe section. He’s known to have worked as a door to door salesman selling encyclopedias and dictionaries but funnily enough it didn’t help to polish off his own English terminologies. With his grey hair and outdated views he’s a purple cow of sorts within the store’s squad of young sales assistants.

“Buddy, that snack won’t help you survive the evening surge, here, have some rice” shouts Raghu from the corner.
Being a social recluse, I’m a bit hesitant to unwarranted tête-à-tête, but on this occasion I find myself giving in to the aroma of hot rice and curry.

“I could eat all of this you know” I say cheerfully putting another spoonful of rice in my mouth. I see Raghu watching me sympathetically, his face showing a contentment one would get from feeding a starved street child.

“You live alone in the city, don’t you? I remember when I was your age, I was a solitary soul myself, surviving on cold sandwiches. Life’s much better now though. You look old enough to get hitched, why don’t you settle down?” His expected advice is no shock to me; I’m a bit immune to unwanted matrimonial advisory now. Here in India, if you’re hungry, lonely and over 24 – it’s time to get a wife.

“It’s only a matter of finding the right girl sir; you wouldn’t know an eligible single girl willing to marry a salesman, would you?” comes my cynical reply.

“Here, show your hand, let’s see what your lines have to say about your future.” In his keen enthusiasm, he draws my right hand towards his range of vision, forgetting that it is still a greasy memento of the delicious meal I just finished. I look into the glasses which cover his eyes, eagerly waiting for my future to be revealed by a shoe salesman cum palmist.

“Oh, you’ve got a really long life line kid, but too bad your fate line is fatally broken at places” he tells, adjusting his glasses. I’m sure that isn’t something to be excited about. Life is going to screw me, and to top it, it’s going to screw me up longer. “Don’t be disheartened kid, life may try to play up a few pranks on you, but eventually you’ll be a stronger man , look at me, I had my share of conflicts and struggle too. On the positive side I see a love blossoming for you in the very near future.” He says as he gets up to leave.

Love? What’s that supposed to mean? Is he talking about love making...the kind of love that blossoms and withers on my bed every other fortnight? Or that indescribable, deep euphoric feeling that poets write about? Whatever the case may be but surely Raghu aint no Nostradamus, and after all even this great French astrologer is best known for his failed prophecies. My father once told me that “The future lies in your hands and not in the lines etched on the palm of the hands.” I like to believe in the idea of fate... but only when I’ve failed to achieve something which I really wanted.

I get down to the shop floor and get back to work but the thought of Raghu’s prophecy keeps tossing around in my mind; for the first time I am eager to find out what the future holds for me. I wonder if I’ll still be eating cold sandwiches next Diwali and whether I’ll still be selling clothes.

16 September 2009

Some days I’m alone... Some days I’m lonely

The rain god wants to play generous this monsoon it seems. It’s been pouring incessantly since the last 2 days. Bollywood has long romanticized such weather in its clichéd rain and dance sequences but I find this weather rather depressing, and it makes me feel miserable. By lunch time I realize that another slow afternoon at the store beckons, time refuses to pass, I contemplate if it’s me who’s feeling sluggish or the needles in my watch have gone lazy. I climb up the stairs, shove open the store door, and turn up the kettle. The store is a dingy stuffy corner room, smelling heavily of decomposing cardboard cartons, the air is almost suffocating on a humid day like today. Stacks of cardboard boxes lie against the two walls of the room, some unpacked and some still packed with fresh merchandise for this season. Despite its shabby appearance the store offers a refuge from the loud music that reverberates on the shop-floor.
I rest myself on a carton next to the table and light up a smoke allowing the nicotine rush to relax my over worked brain cells. A nihilistic thought dwells in my mind as I find myself struggling to answer the question emerging within my head. “Why do I feel alone despite being amongst so many people?” I think as I pour coffee in my mug. Maybe I know the answer - It’s because I’m invisible, no not physically, but the real me remains ever hidden. I’m nothing but an animated part of the store’s furniture. Nothing but a number on the company’s records. Nothing but a salesman