Akshat is a fiction-writer. These three stories are part of a larger collection of short-stories under the same name.
‘Hey, look, look how small his pecker is.’
‘Yeah, it’s really small, how come it’s so small asshole?’
‘Hahahaha look its standing, he is getting erect, holy shit.’
‘Hey, fag, you got a small dick.’
‘Asshole, are you a fag?’
‘He is a fag guys, his fuckin’ dick is standing up.’
‘It is erect motherfucker, it’s not a man, it can’t stand up.’
‘Don’t go on my mother.’
‘I am not going on your mother, I am talking about you fucking her.’
‘I will fuck your mother smartass.’
‘As long as you are fucking your own mother, I don’t care who else you fuck.’
That day, those two 13 year olds fought in the shower to save the honour of a woman in the company of future men. J waited for all the boys to get into a huddle around them before slinking away. He was good at that, one of the two things he was good at, the other being keeping quiet.
‘Hey stop. Stop. Stop where you are. Why are you going upstairs with those two cups?’
‘Who are you taking those cups for? You know you aren’t allowed to do that right. Where’s your room?’
J pointed towards his dormitory at the bottom of the stairs.
‘So, who is it for? You might as well tell me. I won’t do anything to him, don’t worry.’
He told the housemaster. Other boys saw him do it. He was termed a snitch, a ‘sneak’ in the school parlance. The 10th grader in question, his senior and demi god in the school hierarchy, was punished with writing an essay every afternoon for a month at their housemaster’s house. Let’s just say the slap-happy senior was more a man of the hockey stick than of letters.
‘Can you not do anything? We made you play Juniors 3, and you got out on zero all four games. Are you retarded? You didn’t play anything else all year, your grades aren’t good, you don’t do anything else, you can’t even fukcin debate, how useless are you? Fuckin asshole. Okay tell me something dickhead, how can you be so useless?’
‘Answer his question in five seconds or I slap you motherfucker.’
‘I don’t know, I don’t feel like trying very hard, I mean it is all a game right, made up rules, it’s not like the real world, I mean what we do in the school here doesn’t really matter in the real world outside right.’
‘What the fuck does the outside world have to do with it? You fuckin shit. What can you do in the outside world that you can’t do here? You are shit at everything, a waste of space as far as this house is concerned, I don’t even know how you got in or why we had the bad luck of getting you. Even a piece of shit is more useful than you are, your parents should have dumped you in the toilet and taken home a piece of someone’s crap. When I was in ninth grade, I was part of every house team and you are part of none, I don’t even know how that is possible. Tell me something you useless fuck, what will you do outside?’
‘I don’t know, I haven’t decided.’
‘What do you even do all day?’
‘He reads. I will fuck your mother so hard, reading a book is pretty much all she will be able to do.’
‘Can you write motherfucker or are you only good at shit no one needs?’
‘I can’t write, not yet anyway.’
‘What the fuck good are you then?’
In his first three years at the boarding school, he had already been marked with the three worst identity markers that existed in that value system – fag, sneak, useless. Not one redeeming factor about him. He wasn’t even big, he was a small boy who almost anybody could beat up, and a lot of people did. In a school of 500 people, you would be hard pressed to find one boy who respected him. Most of the boys didn’t even know he existed, he barely spoke and he never did anything, he never made an appearance in any of the competitions. He was a shadow, not contributing anything to the activities the school offered like a really insistent resort.
The school believed in forced poverty, the kind of poverty Gandhi epitomized, the kind of poverty that takes actual money to uphold in its pureness. Walls surrounded the school to keep boys from going out on will, they were only allowed to go out 4 times a semester on specific days with permission from their respective housemasters. In tenth grade, it was a rite of passage amongst the boys to jump the walls and go out into the city at night to eat good food, or drink if they were feeling particularly badass.
He didn’t go. He was too scared. Besides, no one ever asked him and he didn’t have the inclination to ask anybody. A few boys who particularly hated him kept note of it, they even dissuaded a few rare empathetic boys from asking him to go with them. They were going to use it against him in 11th grade.
‘We are pleased to announce that J has won the Individual Chess Championship. Please come on stage to collect your trophy and certificate.’
He finally did do something well. No one really cared for chess. But they made him play Seed 1 in the inter-house championships. He lost all four games, he was playing for the highest number of points. The rest of the team did well enough to make them come second overall. He had to win just one game and they would have won the championship. They hated him even more now.
Two of his own classmates cornered him into a room one evening while he was strolling in the hallway.
‘What’s up asshole, how you doin’? You want some food?’
They hated him and he hated them but they shared food frequently, that’s how it was, he didn’t suspect anything irregular. After he entered the room and shut the door behind him, one boy held him down while the other boy humped him. Dry humping, clothes on. Then they chased him while hitting him with a football. He didn’t tell anybody. He was just surprised it hadn’t happened before and it wasn’t more violent.
The juniors made fun of him, even they called him a chhakka, a hermaphrodite. His parents told him to try harder every time he came home. He concentrated on his studies and got out to college, hoping to renew himself there and forget about the 6 years he had spent at that school.
The Problems Of Drug Dealers
For those of you who don’t know what fraternities are, they are America’s answer to college protests. They are organizations which have Greek names – for an absurd reason that no one knows about, except Wikipedia. It’s supposed to be a brotherhood of men, one semester you pledge your brotherliness to the existing brothers by letting them rag you and ask you retarded questions about their history and the next semester you get to rag other people who want to join the brotherhood. They are usually closed, cult like groups which churn out happily adjusted people fit for corporate America, for a digital world because of how they build networks. They say they are not a secret society because everybody knows they exist but they are a society with secrets, retarded secrets that no one cares about but secrets nonetheless. They pride themselves on their short history, about the luminous men that have passed through their dark gates, a mini fuckin America, with all its fundamentalism and modern ritualism. They even have sacred objects, and traditions, it was all stuff that would make a thinking man gag but these places existed precisely to make men stop thinking, they were an initiation into America, it’s not a large step from the greatest fraternity to the greatest country. Once an idiot thinks he belongs to a larger group, any kind of larger group, you can transfer that idiot to any number of other groups, the actual identity of the group doesn’t matter anymore; the idiot individual once addicted to groups just needs more groups, no matter what kind. A person who knows the American Fraternity can never be surprised by the success of someone like Trump. The leaders of these cabalistic places are every bit as dumb and self-assured and overconfident as Trump, every bit as uncaring of the rest of the world, and parochial in their approach to life.
The fraternity I was a part of was called Alpha Delta Phi. Founded in 1832 by a gentleman called Samuel Eels, it prided itself on being a literary fraternity. This was a man who died with the pilgrim’s progress and the bible in his hand, they venerated this man and put him on a pedestal. The people with me were libertines in every possible way, whether it be drugs, alcohol, race relations or sex but they still venerated an intensely religious gesture by an intensely religious white man. These are the kind of contradictions that America presents today, these are the gestures of a libertine Christian fundamentalism.
I lived in the fraternity’s house in Berkeley for two years. It was called aqua delt there on account of being the only fraternity with a swimming pool. I had ‘pledged’ myself to the fraternity because a friend of mine from school had pledged a semester before me and he recommended it to me in the most forceful terms. I am basically shy and it has always been difficult to meet new women, I didn’t talk to anybody in my classes, it had been surprisingly difficult to talk to white people, students I knew were mostly Indian and other kinds of Asian, and I was getting nowhere with those girls; I figured a group of American men to drink with wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
We had a cook called Mike. The most delightful old man I have ever met. To see Mike, you just have to imagine Santa Claus without all the red. The white hair, the large white beard, the happily protruding belly, the forever smiling cheerfulness, they were all there. And he gave us food. I got high with him and talked to him about life and other youthful existential dilemmas and he told me stuff about America. He had seen plenty of it in his life. He had been in fighter jets during the Vietnam War and then he had done any number of odd things in his illustrious life. Presently, he was a cook at a fraternity in UC Berkeley, known to be one of the most left-leaning liberal campuses in America, if not the world. Mike was, and hopefully still is, amazing.
‘We had an Indian here, in 2006 and 7 I think, a Punjabi (pronounced with a heavy American accent) guy, I think he works in some bank in San Francisco now.’ Mike said.
‘Hey Mike, can I have a hamburger with pickle, onions, cheese, lettuce, jalapenos, mayo and mustard.’
‘Yeah sure you can, coming right up.’
‘You know what they are going to do now? What our overlords have thought of next, ha?’
‘They are going to start injecting babies with little chips, right into their bloodstream, no one has to know a thing. Just so they know who’s ours and who’s not, you never know a situation may arise when immigrants have to be locked up for public safety. That’s how they always get us you know, ‘a situation may arise’, as if we are idiots who need baby proofing, but they don’t know, people are too smart, they say situation may arise so they can push the rod further up our asses but some people, and I am not gonna say who, they make it happen, they make the situation arise and then it goes on and on. So, little chips they have thought of, don’t want to sit and sort the Japanese by hand, just do it with a drone. You can just program that thing to shoot people and on it goes till one of them sitting in some comfortable office decides to stop it. Like a god damn video game, that’s how they are conducting war you know, and they have had these games out in the market, what do you call it your call of duty and stuff, learning how to shoot and drop bombs from a distance, they know which kids play the best, just hire them and give them a screen. So what if its real Afghans or Iraqis on the other side, boom boom, we don’t get hurt and we destroy them just as good.’
‘Yeah that sounds about right.’
‘And I will tell you something else, they won’t rest with the chip, no, because once you embark on this path, there is no stopping and we started off long ago, chips are just an addition. They have got us by our nuts, they own everything, you can’t get a peanut without some packet telling you where it came from.’
‘You mean corporations?’
‘They own your balls son.’
‘The state though is helping right, what with Obama…’
‘The government was sold long ago, nothing Obama can do about that. Have you seen the amount of money some of them have, the US government wouldn’t be able to function without them. Some of them now even have private armies, imagine that, they can just go into one of the states and take it over, what’s anyone gonna do. No government’s gonna stop them, they will make the stock market crash and governments crash when that happens. It’s already so bad, they can’t have it become worse. If the economy was to go under, the US would break up into mercenary pockets like that, everybody already has guns, and this is supposedly the strongest State in the world right, imagine the situation in other countries.’
I took my hamburger and went outside to eat it – on a large table in a large room from which large windows provided a view of the pool. We usually sat there, ate and shot the shit, we also drank there, and partied there and had our weekly in house meetings there. It had tables, it had chairs, it sometimes had a keg of beer lying in the corner, we liked the room.
Today it had a keg of beer. Left over from the previous day’s party. Berkeley hosted football matches in its stadium on certain Sundays and on those Sundays almost all frats threw a party for the thousands of people who would be coming into Berkeley to see the game. College Football was quite a big thing apparently, a lot of colleges had huge sums of money devoted to football and their vast alumni networks formed a strong fan following; Berkeley itself had been churning out people in the tens of thousands since 1868. So the alumni came and they came to their beloved frats and we provided them with beer and food and asked them to donate money to us in return. Every place I have been to thus far in my life is always asking for money, that is one of the major activities that they are always invariably engaged in, fundraising.
There were four of us in the room, eating our respective lunches, steak, ham sandwich and another hamburger. We were all eyeing the keg. That was free beer. None of us had any more classes in the day and we decided to play a game called Snappa.
These are the rules of Snappa if you ever have a 6 foot long rectangular table, 4 chairs, a die, 4 cups and any kind of alcohol with you –
Four people divided into two teams. Each person sits to an edge, the ones closer together are in the same team. There is a cup of beer on the table in front of each person. The team to reach 7 points first wins the game but it has to win by a margin of 2 points. I have seen games go into the 30s so don’t discount that rule. The aim of the game is to launch the die, at least 6 feet into the air but without it hitting the roof, such that it lands in the opponent’s cup. There is a point gained for that but that is not the only way to win points. One person from one team launches the die and the other team basically has to catch the die after it hits the table and stop it from hitting the ground. If it hits the ground, then the throwers win a point. The throwing alternates after each throw. A third of the beer has to be drunk for every point lost. A third of a beer also has to be drunk by the shooter’s team if the shooter misses the table entirely on his throw.
These are the basic rules, you can fine tune them and make variations thereof. Like playing it standing or playing it with whisky or drinking an entire beer with every point and miss. I don’t take responsibility for the deaths and fights this game causes.
We played till the keg finished. We were all pretty drunk, I more than the others because I am really bad at holding my alcohol. I had already gone and puked a couple of times. We were full of beer but I was hungry, Mike had made us rice and beef stew. While I took a plate and sat next to the pool to eat, the others left to do their own things.
Though Mike went home every evening around seven, Mike’s ex-wife, Kim, lived in the house with us – as a housekeeper of sorts. We had her stacked in a tiny little cupboard under the stairs. But that wasn’t the worst part about the room. The worst thing was that the room opened into the only toilet on the ground floor, and that toilet was more often than not clogged with vomit, shit and anything else a party of drunk young men and women could muster. I think the arrangement was that she gets to live there for looking after the cleanliness of the house.
She was an alcoholic, a chain smoker and an ardent partyer and she kept us good company. She hated cleaning as much as we did but she was poor and she was homeless, so she could do with a room and free food and booze and other drugs. It goes without saying that a group of young men will utilize a women and pay her for more than just cleaning their house. I, myself, never had the nerve to approach her for anything, though she did give me a few lascivious smiles over the years. She was white and she was old. Both things that made me uncomfortable and shy, unable to speak properly or even control myself physically. I became clumsy and quiet around most white people, not a very charming quality for a man to have, and so it wasn’t just her, I wasn’t having any success with girls at all. The frat had just become an unending phantasmagoria of drugs for me, they were the sensuous pleasure within my means.
We had an in-house drug dealer who gave us discounts. He was a brother and we were are all friends because we lived together and got drunk together and shot shit together. I used to spend hours in his room, getting high, watching TV, playing video games, talking and talking, and tripping on whatever drug we happened to be on. His room was the drug haven, it was where you got them and it was where you came when you needed respite from the world when you were on them.
I had gone to him after the meal to smoke some weed to relax my drunk stomach.
‘Hey man, Akshat, I want to ask you something.’
‘So see here’e the problem and you are gonna laugh, but it’s really a problem. I am making too much money.’
‘Too much money.’
‘Yeah, see the thing is I get all of it in cash, and I can’t go to a bank with it so I have all this cash lying around and I have bought everything I could think of that wouldn’t raise alarms or get the police involved, I don’t know what to buy anymore.’
‘Let me get this, you have too much cash and you don’t know where to spend it.’
‘Yes. I already have a bigass TV, I have a projector, I have these 7 kickass bongs, from the most expensive to a pretty shitty one I keep for sentimental value, with Sean you know, I have an xbox, I have all the games I need, I have clothes, shoes, I eat in expensive restaurants, I am literally ordering in every day, there’s still too much cash.’
‘Holy shit dude. This is a new kind of problem.’
‘Yeah, I know, I can’t have it just lying around, what if it gets stolen or something and I don’t wanna live with so much money around me anyway, it’s dangerous man, with all the people coming here every day, literally anyone can just walk into the house, some of them don’t look legit at all, I have chased a hobo out myself.’
‘I know what you can do, you can take a holiday with your girlfriend.’
‘We went to Mexico in spring break, but I can’t really go out too much, cause that’s suspicious you know and carrying so much cash is a problem. I can’t just take a trip to Europe you know, with so much cash.’
‘Music festivals but you are already going there I guess.’
‘Yeah we go to every music festival we can make it to, can’t go to all of them during classes but there are plenty of them happening around the Bay Area, we have become sort of regulars, people recognize us there, I have made some customers there are well.’
‘I will think of a way, give me a few minutes, this can’t be so difficult.’
In those few minutes, I got distracted and moved onto something else. As far as I can remember his problem remained unsolved till the day we left. Most of my time there is a haze at this point. Speaking in terms of memory, the drugs didn’t do much for me. Thinking about it now, I still can’t think of anything he could have spent his cash on.
This is how they get us, that’s what Mike would have said, slowly and imperceptibly, they make us more accountable, they tabulate us so we can’t escape the cells in the spread sheets.
We were drinking in a cheap bar, you know one of those that hasn’t seen a woman inside it. We were regulars. We knew the crowd. Men running away from their wives. Mostly middle aged, whatever that means, putting down a drink after the drudgery of their work before returning to the drudgery of their home life. We came here because it was cheap and because it was quiet. No music here. The rich bars felt the need to bleed their patrons. We liked our guts. The men talked but not too loudly. Almost no one felt the need to shout. No one was excited. They had their drinks and they chatted freely, without feeling the need to impress somebody. I feel safe when no one’s trying to impress anyone. The good old violent instinct really comes forth in humans when they are trying to mate, then they can do anything. You can be sure that most shitty things happen when someone’s trying to prove a point and that is almost always. If people take a break from proving a point, they might find peace but no one knows what to do with the boredom so they get up and try showing off again, all kinds of ways they have dreamed up to one up their fellows. The two of us were losers, we were subnormals unable to participate in their games so we sat in this bar with men who were taking a break. Outside the bar, we would have to find women to fuck, jobs to do, people to trust us and give us those jobs. Out of there, we had to prove ourselves worthy of being paid and staying out of a madhouse or a prison. Sam didn’t speak much. He kept looking in the mirror from time to time, presumably to check if he was still there. I understood it. Sometimes, I felt like I didn’t exist, I mean how would I even know if I had stopped existing, I sure as hell didn’t know the difference, it’s not like I have ever felt what non-existence is like, all I have ever felt is existence. I think. I can’t be too sure. Maybe I don’t exist. On this particular day, the bartender, a young black guy, not an African but just a guy with black skin who called himself RJ, he kept smiling at me, these big toothed smiles, whitewashed innocence. I motioned to him with my empty glass, pick it up, put it down, and tap it with fingers, twice. He sees it. Good. He is coming to me. Armed with Blenders Pride, those blenders sure had no problems being proud, it tasted like swill but they made no efforts to improve it, the most easily satisfied blenders in the world. He poured the drink, straight from the bottle, he gauged it, a bit more a bit less, no one really cared here, then he poured the water. ‘What’s up man?’ I asked him hoping he would stop smiling. Sam looked at me, saw me looking at RJ. ‘Sir, what about this JNU thing?’ Rj said. ‘What about it?’ I asked. ‘Who do you think is right?’ RJ said. ‘Who the fuck knows, they are all crazy.’ I opined. ‘But one of them must be right,’ the boy continued. ‘Brother, no one is right in this world, they are all just trying to get by,’ I said. Sam moved closer. ‘Don’t listen to this asshole, Kanhaiya Kumar is right, there is no reason he can’t shout Pakistan Zindabad,’ said Sam the newly discovered champion of free speech. ‘What the fuck are you talking about man, he is just a little dick sucking politician trying to whip up some frenzy,’ I said. ‘He very well may be but he can still say Pakistan Zindabad, or don’t you think so you fascist motherfucker,’ Sam was really laying it in, before this I don’t think I had seen him take sides, this was a new development. ‘Is this because of the new broad you been shacking with?’ I asked Sam. ‘This has nothing to do with her, what’s right is right.’ Sam asserted. ‘Hey, fuck you man, I never seen you take sides before this, it’s the broad, don’t be a fool.’ I said. ‘Hey fuck you too, I believe in free speech.’ Sam said. ‘Oh yeah?’ I asked. ‘Yeah, what else we got?’ Sam said. ‘We got free thought, that’s not too bad.’ ‘What you gonna do with thought when you can’t speak asshole?’ ‘Maybe you should think about it.’ That threw him off. He paused. RJ found his chance to speak. ‘If I may…’ Sam’s drink was finished, he asked for another one, up and down and two taps. RJ poured him one before continuing. ‘Sir, if you really believe in free speech…’ ‘Of course I do, what the fuck you saying if for?’ ‘That’s just a way of speaking Sam, calm down,’ I weighed in for the boy. ‘You calm down hitler fucker.’ Sam said to me. ‘What were you saying RJ, finish, he is just angry because the broad reads the papers and rants about the world going to shit and he has to listen to her all day if he wants her to suck his dick one more time, he is just letting off steam.’ I said to RJ. He felt assured and continued, ‘Why don’t you get up and shout Pakistan Zindabad right now, because you care about free speech?’ Sam looked confused, ‘Is this a trick, boy are you playing a god damn trick on me.’ ‘What trick sir, I am just confused is all.’ RJ said with innocence. ‘Go read a book if you are confused, don’t be coming up with crazy ideas.’ Sam said to him. ‘But what’s the problem sir?’ RJ asked. ‘Listen RJ, there is no problem, I told you he doesn’t really believe in it,’ I said. ‘I do but I don’t see the point of doing it.’ Sam said to us. ‘I just want to see what these men do when someone shouts that here, that’s all,’ said RJ. ‘This crowd ain’t gonna react, they don’t give a shit about anything, they are just happy there is a place in the world where they can sit quietly and drink,’ I tried to reason with him. ‘Then why not shout it?’ he quipped back. He was right, I looked at Sam expectantly. ‘What motherfucker, what the fuck you looking at me for?’ Sam said. ‘Well, are you gonna do it or what?’ I asked him. ‘I am not gonna fuckin do it.’ Sam said. ‘Why not?’ I asked him. ‘Fuck you man.’ ‘Well he’s not doing it, you are out of luck RJ, go somewhere else.’ ‘You know what, I will give you a 500 if you do it,’ Sam said to me. I thought about it for a second. Why the heck not. ‘Sure, show me the money.’ He took out a 500 from his wallet. ‘How do you want me to do it RJ?’ ‘Just get up, go to the centre of the bar and shout it.’ I walked to the centre and shouted as loud as I could PAKISTAN ZINDABAD. Everything quieted down for a moment. People looked at me. I stood there. They turned back and started talking again. I walked back to the seat and took the 500. ‘See RJ, what did I tell you?’ ‘And thank you for the money, for the first time in my life, I am richer and nothing has happened in the world.’ I don’t know what got into Sam, maybe he felt ashamed, or maybe he wanted to prove a point to himself about how he actually cared about free speech and wasn’t just saying that because he was excessively attached to a pussy. He got up, went to the centre and shouted PAKISTAN ZINDABAD. Again, the murmur of insects stopped, they all looked at him. He was smiling, happy to be proven a good man, not too courageous but good. He got carried away with all the attention and the desire for entertaining it brings. PAKISTAN ZINDABAD PAKISTAN ZINDABAD PAKISTAN ZINDABAD he started shouting with a grin on his face, he was throwing his hands up in the air, moving this way and that, he had become a monkey. One of the guys from the table next to him got up and punched him square in the face. He staggered backward, his nose started bleeding. He came back at the guy with full swing and the guy just moved aside and punched him hard in the solar plexus. The guy moved quick, he looked like a boxer. He kneed Sam in the jaw and then with the next punch put him to sleep. He even dragged his unconscious body to the corner. Everyone just looked. Then we all turned to our drinks. ‘Look what you have gone and done RJ.’
Image – Soumyajit Pramanick