His entire life flashed before him as Jack drove his car on the national highway. His fetish for making the fast buck had landed him in jeopardy, many a time before. But nothing like the one he was trying to wriggle out of right now. He thought about Mona and wondered what would happen to her without him. He had promises to keep with her and his family as well. He had to flee the city he loved so much and knew so well. He knew all the rules and had tweaked them at will to make the extra money. He also knew that the business he was in was powerful and could manipulate the system, its law and machinery of the state. He felt like a hunted man as he glanced occasionally at the rear-view mirror, totally unaware of life’s next destination.
I was born two mornings after the new year of 1967 at five minutes to ten and the interns at KMC gathered around to celebrate the birth of a bonny baby boy who turned out to be the nephew of the Professor of English Literature at the local college. My father was a middle class railway employee and my mother was an uneducated homemaker. My father was a strict disciplinarian. We were forced to a ritual of chores which included reading, writing and praying.
Meanwhile, reading became the only solace, pleasure, pastime for someone whose entire family lived on rationing. It was the year 1991 after a month of Rajiv Gandhi’s death and I was 24. We were a gang of traders, unemployed and laid off youth assembling daily outside a rundown printing press in the industrial area of Goregaon. Tea flowed, clouds of cigarettes burning with aspiration. If we were lucky, morsels of lunch and a couple of beers to cap a perfect evening.
I was flipping the pages of the Afternoon Dispatch & Courier one afternoon and was surprised to find a piece I had written to Behram Contractor aka Busybee. My article had grabbed the centre page and I was very pleased. A friend read carefully and said, “You are a writer.” He introduced himself as a copywriter. That was when I knew that there was a big world outside who paid you to write. He advised me to graduate and then post grad in media from a college in town. I smiled and could not reply. I continued my surrogate writing which included junior copywriters from ad agencies. During the same time I learnt that I was good in long copy too and decided to write a novel. And I realized that for the first time that I was writing in spite of being happy and busy with other projects.
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