I Am Jack’s Raging Bile Duct*

I am a sadhu-a man of God and religion- or I look like one. I was one, perhaps. My memory doesn’t seem to stretch that far. I’ve probably crossed over to the ‘homeless’ category now, for people like you. Correction: for people. My permanent residence is the footpath outside a temple so my assumption might not be very wrong. Mind you, I don’t beg. What’s the point of begging from those who spend every Tuesday or Friday or some such day of their life inside these very gates, doing some despondent begging of their own? It’s not like I need the money anyway. There are three pan sellers in this tiny lane alone and I can’t remember the last time I had to pay any one of them for a cigarette. I needed money last month when the high priest of the temple complained that my leg was diseased and I shouldn’t be allowed to sit outside lest I should ward off their devout customers. I’m a pacifist and I didn’t want any trouble so I did what I could. I put my leg in one of those white casts that people with broken limbs use. I had to steal money from the temple to get it done of course. I’m back outside it now, puffing away- lost in dreams of tasting an actual Marlboro before I die- I would leave but; I wouldn’t. This is home.

I am a drummer. My drum-set is an old careworn tabla that my father’s employer threw away when his son had moved on to a new fancy. You’ve probably seen me outside the ground where the Winters Market sets up shop every January. The boy with eyes that can’t see.Blind.Youd call me that but I don’t really care much for your words so. After all, I do have eyes. They just don’t work. Like a fused lightbulb that just went pop one evening and remained like that until your father got tired of your nagging and called the electrician who showed up a month later. I didnt go pop one evening. I was the faulty balloon in your party pack- manufacturing defect you can call me. My father was the one who started bringing me here, along with my tabla. He left soon after. I didn’t realise he wasn’t coming back until I accidentally overheard my neighbours talking one day when I was setting out with my tabla. “That’s what you do when you have a blind kid and a deadbeat wife who can’t start your engines no more, if you know what I mean- you run.” My mother has been paralysed and bed-ridden since I was born. In case you were wondering.

I am my children. I know you think I am my madness. Sometimes I do too. But then my youngest peers at me with desperate eyes shining in his muddy face and whimpers, “I’m hungry” looking guiltier than my eldest did when she slapped the kid screaming ‘crazy’ at me from his shiny bicycle and I know I couldn’t feel the things I do for them if I was mad. How is it that in the world we live in, it is acceptable for you to pass me off as crazy because you don’t-cant-ever relate to my desperation; but it is more than okay for my five-year old sustaining himself on half a banana for days to feel guilty even at the thought of hunger?

I am anger. I’m two more bursts of rain and two greenlights away from embarking on my own Zodiacesque killing spree. Sweeping away at what your footsteps and tyres bring back to me- my whole life is a vicious cycle. Plus my au naturel umbrella does nothing in this soppy, sodden all-year-hell of a state. Every day I’m told the name of some bigshot who is ‘almost here’ and who will absolutely not tolerate filthy roads. Potholes, yes. Sycophantic officials, sure. But God forbid a broken down mess of a road has some leaves lying around. Every year the knowledge of the existence of this job that I have held for the last forty years, slides further down the memory of my employers. Soon, I believe, it will be completely erased and when I ask for my salary I’ll be told I’ve only paid ten per cent of my Swachch Bharat dues or something like that.

I am my father’s son. Sounds redundant doesn’t it? When you’ve been searching for him for decades, you start saying these things to yourself- hope and faith are fickle friends. They’d desert you not even halfway through Ezekiel’s Enterprise. To keep my spirit going, I had likened myself to Guru Nayak. However, he had sought out seeking vengeance in An Astrologer’s Day** while I desired reconciliation- we were both hoping to find closure in whichever form possible I suppose. I remember these little details because I was the first person in my family to learn English and the pride I felt at this fact was very quickly followed by the fear of proving myself unworthy of it. My apprehensions and insecurities turned insignificant upon finally finding my father. In what I thought would be the most important moment of my life, my father looked right through me when I presented myself before him. Some people say he’s mad, some say he’s blind while others conclude he’s constantly drunk. I’ve taken to sitting on the steps of a building under construction about ten yards away from the temple on whose goodwill he has apparently survived. I stay here long enough, I might just become my father’s son.

Sometimes I start believing the things I imagine about the people I see, peering out from the window of my car.

*The title of this piece is a dialogue taken from David Fincher’s brilliant film Fight Club. In the original book by Chuck Palahnuik, the bile duct in question belonged to a Joe, not Jack. I was prompted to impulsively write something when I rewatched the movie somedays ago.

**An Astrologer’s Day is a short story by R.K. Narayan wherein you find the character Guru Nayak.