Arun stopped reading newspapers when he was 17. When he is asked why he did not read them, he says, that they are not interesting and he finds it not worth wasting his early morning hours. Politics and sports don't interest me - he says. He is the kind of guy who prefers playing a game of cricket or tennis, rather than read the news about them. It was the participation that made it fun for him. The glit and glam cant seduce me -he says with a laugh.
Nothing odd, one might be inclined to think. Lots of people don't read newspapers, what is the big deal, one might think. Lots of people don't read the dailies, because they just don't find it enticing. But with Arun, the laugh and the 'this doesn't interest me' replies are just a facade to mask the singular aversion that he has towards the dailies. It is never a concern for him till someone notices that it is more than a disinterest.
Arun was an average looking guy. He was 5' 10", lean, with a thin frame, dark colored with thick,unkempt hair. His left eye winks at odd frequencies. It does so because of an accident he had when he was in the high school cricket team. He was the team wicket keeper.An unorthodox spin from his best buddy's ball did that. He had 8 stitches to get the skin above the zygomatic bone in place. The doctors said that some nerve had suffered slight damage. He was hospitalized for a week or so.
He hates it when someone while talking to him, looks at his eye when it involuntarily winks. But he likes when people twitch uncomfortably at the unexpected wink that comes their way for the first time. He does intentionally wink at the girls that he ogles at and who, though familiar with his winks and the reasons behind it, get a queasy feeling of uneasiness, when he does his fake wink, or to be precise, his actual voluntary wink. But he is always undoubtedly granted the benefit of doubt.
He works as a medical representative. He does not mind much about his work. For him every day work was not of much concern. Each day of work was like walking a insignificant mile in a desert that spans an eternity. He is 27 now. In his leisure time he likes to follow people around. He likes chemistry. He also like to watch movies in foreign languages. Its always fun to watch people speak with a rhyme in a unheard tongue. It has a pleasing mystery to it he feels.
Are there many people like Arun? People read the news papers for no specific reasons. They would say, to know more about what is happening around. They might say, one has to know the current affairs to sustain in this harsh world. Or plainly just to keep themselves engaged, for a paltry yet significant hour or half, like a pleasant detour .People who shy away from news dailies are also pretty common. But I wonder if one more of Arun's kind existed, the ones who don't read the newspapers because of the obituaries section.
It started as a silly thing. He was always curious of the obituaries section. 'May he rest in peace' it said. 'His fond memories will always be cherished'- by the wife and sons of Mr. Balakumaran, his next door neighbor, who died in a road accident, hit by a rushing ambulance, while trying crossing the relatively high traffic S.K.road, the one besides the new construction site, where they were constructing the 16 storey-ed office complex. The office complex had become a landmark of sorts. They never had such huge buildings in their place.
Death-it confused him. It confused him, about the life and the way that he had been seeing it till now. Was he scared about death? yeah, a bit. But more than that, he was scared when he thought about his past, how he had been floundering in the corridor of life. Or the so-called one. If there was one thing, that the obituaries section made him realise, it was that, he was as unique as a molecule of sucrose in a box of sweets, as unique as a blade of grass in a savannah, he could die anytime, he could be killed anytime, an earthquake, a flash flood, a freak road accident, a malignant tumor in the brain, stabbed by a desperate mugger or in the worst, a slip in the toilet. He could vividly imagine himself dying in different ways in different places.
It was not the expectation that he was supposed to be unique and bestowed with the will of God, to achieve innumerable things, that scared him but the fact that there is an ugly, devouring marsh of quicksands beneath the picturesque beauty of life as portrayed by folks around. He wanted to scream at them at them "why did you lie to me?". "I dont want a happy fables, but a true one" -he shouted. "We prefer happy ones" -they shouted back in return. Doesn't it hurt to think, that you who had plans to change the world for good, are not given your due respect, and you are considered as valuable as a speck of dust in space, your death doesnt matter to God who had actually bid you with those tasks to change the world? He felt miserable.
Then it all passed away. Non chalance took over him. He was enthusiatic and indifferent. His actions were more determined by coin toss, rather than thoughts. He did many things, that he wouldn't normally do. Thats when he started shadowing people. He was curious to know about the things that people ran around for. He was good at shadowing people. Till now, no one that he has followed, knew that they were being followed.Just once did he get a black eye, from a muscular guy. He stopped following such guys from then on. He must have had it in him, to follow people. He had always wanted to do that, but hadn't done that before, probably due to the moral obligations that he had. More probable were the legal ones, he thought with a smile.
He started the voluntary wink only after that. He got slapped by a girl once. But when he explained to her about his damaged nerve, she gave him a suspicious and inquisitive look, followed by a sorry smile. She was beautiful. She was short, around 5'3" and cute with beautiful black curly hair, tied into a pony's tail. She had a disarming smile and an animated face. She was on phone the entire time when he was shadowing her. He had followed her all along, from the Hayagreeva Perumal koil bus stop, to her house. She was working in BPO, he later came to know. He told her all about his wink story, the original version, after he had proposed to her. He got slapped again, more than once this time. He enjoyed it this time though.They were more of tender caresses, than slaps.
He still follows people around. But its no longer frequent. He prefers spending his time pampering and spoiling his loved one. He tried teaching her, about the nuances of following people. But she was too scared for that. Isn't it wrong ?-she asked naively. Ah, how he loved her. He still doesn't read the dailies. He tried to stop his impromptu winks. It was her order. It was hard, but he would at any given time, rather try hard to do her bidding, than the ones delegated by the omnipresent and the invisible.