The Locked Room

I slowly woke up and looked at the clock. It was 8.30 in the morning and I felt too bad about not being able to sleep for another couple of hours. I was trying to make it a routine to sleep till 11.00 am at least and start a day, as if compromising with a world full of orders, pressures, deadlines, shopping, travelling, quarreling, waiting, working, shouting, crying, bumping, dying etc. etc. I, as a lover of peaceful and eco friendly life, proposed myself a routine which will never allow any of the rats to bite my ears. As a first step I quit my job and settled in my bedroom with lots of dreams and ambitions about a world without time tables, charts, graphs, bills, sirens, taxes etc. etc. But, my darling better half couldn’t understand my point and every morning she shouted about her deadlines and boss. It takes time, I thought, it takes time to realize that how flamboyant is the idea that I discovered. She talked only about money, she worried only about expenses, she shouted only about me finding another job etc. etc.

Finding another job for me! There is something to be explained, here. A few weeks back, I was like any other guy, living in my apartment. Every morning I woke up with a cloudy head and body in need of more rest. I spent less time in the toilet, so to allow more time for her to get ready. I ignored breakfast to catch the bus that goes straight to my work place. I salute every dickhead I meet in the office to show that I am still passionate about work. I even kissed big asses in the office twice a day, to safeguard my position. I spent a share of my salary for beer parties for my team leader. I was even ready to share a bed with the wife of my boss, so that he should hear only good things about me, at home too. One day my boss called me to his cabin. I took printouts of all updated reports (what else he expects from me?) and went to him. He was abnormally relaxed and smiling.

‘Sit down J…’ Boss said. I rested a small part of my ass on the chair.

‘J, howz things going?’

‘Well, extremely well Sir…’

‘Don’t bluff J… tell me what’s going on…’

‘Everything goes fine Sir. See, I bought the latest reports… I updated everything till this morning and you can see how well things are going…’

‘Ah J, I didn’t call you for reports…’

(A moment of confusion heavily marched through my head. Seldom have I felt confusion at work as I never get a chance to think about anything else. I just gather all reports and make a detailed and brief note for the Boss. I had never imagined that he would expect anything else from me.)

‘What else Sir?’ I was so innocent that I was unable to think of anything else going on in the office.

‘I want you to be more responsible J. I know that you work hard and you are one of the best clerks here… but why don’t you bring new ideas to improve our work environment and make this place a lot more happier to work?’

This time I got it. So, he assumes that this place is a heaven and he wants bring some angels into it to make it more heavenly.

‘How much sweet you can add to honey Sir?’ I said with an expression that only a well-trained monkey can show.

‘Don’t *#^&* me J…’ He stared at me and pointed the tip of his pen against my nose. ‘Tell me if you have anything in your mind. Open up if you have any problems here. Be frank and show some manliness or be loyal to yourself…’

I cried aloud. I begged for mercy. I promised him to find some innovative ideas to make this heaven a Disneyland. He seemed satisfied with what I said and released me. The next week I got a call again and he asked me for ideas. I said I needed a day off to think peacefully and dig up state-of-the-art ideas for him. He approved and I went home. Margi was at her friends that day celebrating international girl Childs day. I bought a few bottles of beer, and cigarettes and locked myself in our bedroom. Chilled beer gave me the feeling of an astronaut. I flew over the mountains and oceans and went high into the skies. I saw planets and asteroids wandering everywhere. I saw dreams of pissing on a satellite. All of a sudden I got a revelation! The next day I gave my resignation letter and said that it was the only way that I could think of to make life heavenly.

Obviously Margi got angry. She is the kind of a girl who likes to shout at everything. She shouts if she is happy. She shouts if she is sad. She shouts if she couldn’t find her favorite chocolate. She shouts if she leaves her office late. She shouts if the network is down. She shouts if her favorite dish burns. She shouts if the Mars mission fails. She shouts if India loses the world cup cricket match. She shouts if she couldn’t find a reason to shout.

During our first year after marriage, I thought that she would give up shouting when the fruitful family life energizes her. But, she was still shouting after a year. Then I thought she would stop shouting if I am more nicer to her. But, she started to shout even more than before. Even after the second anniversary of our marriage I couldn’t figure out her metabolism towards shouting. Now I am used to it and I have developed a habit of ignoring and nodding at the same time. She shouts; I pretend to be listening; my head automatically starts to nod. It’s easy to practice. Sometimes I even nod when the dogs in the street barks. Luckily, she never noticed the new habit I was developing.

But, this time it was different. For her I was not only unemployed, but penniless too. I agreed with that finding anyway. It is true that I gave up a source of income which was an important element of our life. I told her that I am preparing for a better job that needs more knowledge in that domain. I told her that I am going to join a training center to develop new skills. She appeared to be satisfied with my explanation, but for how long!

I heard her say bye, the front door was shut and the sound of her sandals breaking the steps. Another day of wisdom! I said to myself. The hot summer light flooded into the bedroom. I shut the windows to preserve the air of a peaceful day. My neighbors were hurrying towards their busy hours. I could hear the bombarding sound of their bikes, their pet dogs, wishing good luck to their owners, children with heavy backpacks threw kisses to their parents, school bus, milk van, autorikshaws, vegetable vendors, fruit sellers, and a jeep with loud speakers from the municipality announcing something to the people. Why don’t they invite a Roman king and ask him to give a lecture? I thought for a moment. That very thought signaled me that my day had begun.

The beautiful, enchanting, heavenly solitude filled me with dreams. I made sure that Margi had left. I saw my breakfast on the table. These days she doesn’t keep the list of shopping on the table as I should not be disturbed with my preparations. She was lovely.

I searched for cigarettes I hid inside the tools box. Margi hates cigarettes and alcohol. I used to smoke at home in our early married life. At first she used to show disturbances but never talked about it. I stopped smoking inside home and kept my cigarettes, box of matches, ash tray etc. in the balcony. It was a good move actually. I could watch the street and smoke enjoying, with each and every deed of life moving around. But, after a month she started shouting about the smell I carried after smoking. I kept a packet of chewing gum and mouth freshener in the balcony along with other smoke tools. After smoking, I waited for ten minutes to get rid of the smell of tobacco. One evening, when I was watching a movie on TV, she came to me with a notice. It was some kind of information distributed everywhere from the health department. I read it and found it ridiculous. It was about an awareness program for a tobacco free world to be conducted in different parts of the city. I returned it to her and smiled. She didn’t smile in return and ordered me to read the other side too. I saw graphic pictures of tobacco products with danger signs along with description of diseases that could occur by using those products.

That was the beginning. She started to smell me every time I returned from outside. She checked my pockets and bag very often. She closed the glass window to the balcony so that I would not smoke there. She threw suspicious comments on me whenever I planned to go out. She also concluded that I go out only for smoking. I meet my friends only for smoking. I go to grocery shop only for smoking. I go to the temple only for smoking. I go to the hospital only for smoking. I applied for a job in the military service only for smoking…

I made plans to wipe down all signs that happen to be evidences of my smoking, so that she wouldn’t detect them. I stopped going out when she was at home. I took her with me for shopping. I asked her to accompany me to the saloon where I used to get my hair cut. I requested her presence everywhere I went. Finally I managed to make her believe that I quit smoking, the brilliant Django that I was. I planned my smoking in a way that no one ever could catch me; my neighbors, friends, colleagues, vegetable merchant, children of the neighborhood, priest in the temple, doctors in the hospital, clerks in the municipality office and each and everyone who knew me.

But, after I started my beautiful and thoughtful days in my bedroom, I found it difficult to hide smoking. Margi informed everyone that I quit my job which made others look at me through binoculars. They suspected me every time I went out. They were prejudiced that I’ve nothing else to do with the outer world, other than smoking or boozing.

I changed my escape plans. I told Margi that I am practicing Jin-Jho-kwang, a meditation technique from China, which will help me gain self confidence and courage. She was happy to hear that. So, I went to the park every evening, bought a packet of cigarettes, opened it and arranged them inline to the elastic band of my underwear, spent an hour here and there, convinced everyone that I was meditating, returned home, hid the cigarettes inside the tools box which she never opens. Every morning I waited for her to leave and enjoyed my day with its fullness till the afternoon. I kept open all windows in the afternoon so that the smell of smoke did not linger. By evening home was clean, I was clean and she was happy.

One morning, I took the tool box from the top shelf and found that there was only one cigarette left. A shock passed through my spinal cord. I couldn’t figure out what happened. I remembered buying a packet of cigarette from a shop two kilometers away from my home and keeping it inside the tool box. But, as I was trying to remember things more closely I got confused. I couldn’t remember whether it was yesterday or day before yesterday that I went to the shop. By then, nature called and I took that ‘only’ cigarette I had and rushed to toilet.

Ever since I started smoking, the most thrilling experience for me was to smoke inside the toilet. The small, silent, cool and wet room made me feel like a Zen Guru. Clouds of smoke created the perfect ambience for a divine atmosphere. I lighted the cigarette and waited for it to work. After two or three rounds it showed. I sat there like a monk.

Suddenly, I heard a noise from outside.  I was not in a situation to go and check what it was. I ignored it and continued with my business between my fingers. Then I heard a familiar voice calling me from somewhere. I almost let out a profound cry. It was her voice. What the hell!

When I finished, I slowly opened the door believing that everything was a de ja vu. I walked out and heard no sound from within. I took a deep breath and walked to the kitchen. There, I saw – Margi.

‘You, asshole….’ She cried out. My whole body was shocked and shivering. There are moments in everyone’s life that makes one speechless. It was something like that for me. She shouted, shouted, shouted and left. She slammed the door heavily on me. By that time I had reached a dreamlike world full of angels and prayers.

It took an hour for me to come back to life. So, Margi caught me smoking again. She left in the morning and came back for something. She was too busy at work for some time and she went out immediately afterwards. I was sure that she had planned it for the evening to catch hold of my neck. I’ve no way to escape. My last day on earth was announced.

I wanted something that could give some life to my nerves as my neurons remained frozen. I should get some energy for the battle in the evening. I should find a shield to block all poisonous arrows that she would shoot at me. It was a certified fact that I was a bad fighter against her. My shouts were not big enough to flatten hers down.  What I needed was some steroid to awaken my presence of mind. Presence of mind was the crucial thing I miss when she shouts. It took a few minutes for me to respond to her shouts. The day was not an ordinary day. She would come back with all her weapons to defeat me.

I decided to go for alcohol. It is the only thing that could awaken the arrogant, powerful and supercilious in me, and also a great opportunity to bring things back to normal. Why should I be scary about her shouting? Why should I allow her to decide my affairs? How come I keep silent all these years and live like a puppet? Am I not a human being with all the rights to enjoy life? How can someone, whoever it may be, decide things for me and put me in isolation?

Questions about my existence surrounded my mind and body. I remembered the time when I read Being and Nothingness by Sartre and was under an existential dilemma for many long days. When I was a college student, I was active in theater activities. Once we decided to perform a play named Caligula in the campus. It was a time when police was chasing down Maoists all around the country. Anyone carrying books was accused of being problem makers. Marxist think-tanks were closely monitored and arrested for speaking against the state. Political activities were considered as venomous by our parents. I participated in the street drama and we all got arrested for performing against the ruling party.

A police officer with big a pot belly interrogated us. Our leader was a poet with a French beard and a bag full of books. The officer asked him about the play. He said it was written by Albert Camus, a great writer and philosopher. The officer slapped him on his face and asked where was Albert Camus hiding!

I got dressed and got ready for a drink.

Any moron shall become a philosopher when he/she finds that the door is locked from outside and there was no way to go out. I knew that she did it intentionally. She didn’t want me to prepare for the evening. She wanted to block all possibilities of my resisting her brawl. She planned it and wanted me to mentally and physically frail by evening. Yes, my dear girl, you are too brilliant and a fine warrior. You expect me to die without shooting a word. You think that law and order is made for you and I am a big rat that runs about in the darkness.

I returned to the bedroom. I should plan something effective to face her yells. The whole world seemed to be acting against me because I ditched my mobile phone the day I left my job. I didn’t want to be distracted by anyone. A complete isolation from the outer world was my intention and it really worked till now. I thought, trying to figure out something, searched all over the bedroom for something that could help me survive.

It was afternoon when I rose from my bed and there was nothing impressive about it. The spiritual entity in me had abandoned me long ago and I was trying to awaken the devil within. But, our home was such a poor affair that could only help me sleep on for a long time.

So, I decided to write. Write everything I wanted to tell her. Write everything that she should know about the way life was moving for us. Everything that would make her understand that I am a living, breathing human being.

By evening, I wrote everything down in a 100 page notebook and I found that it was a good piece of art. It was my dream to become a renowned writer and respected by everyone. I hope that she would change her attitude against me after reading the manuscript and allow me to find a career in writing. I could not be blind against the bitter truths of life. How can I put all the pains of life on her shoulders? Wasn’t that locked door was a holy reason for the birth of a writer?

The Locked Room The Locked Room Reviewed by Jayesh/ജയേഷ് on July 25, 2017 Rating: 5

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