5 The Thief
I WILL BE DEAD in approximately six minutes. I have consumed a full bottle of Ratkill 30. The powerful poison is making its way through my bloodstream. It takes only three minutes to kill a rat; double that for a human. My body will be paralysed first, then it will slowly start turning blue. My heartbeat will become irregular, then it will stop completely. My twenty-one-year-old life will come to an abrupt end.
This is the time, Mother would say, to remember God. To atone for my sins. But what's the point? Lord Shiva is not going to come down from Mount Kailash to get me out of this jam. He never helps us poor people. He belongs only to the rich. That is why although I live inside the temple, I don't believe in God.
My late friend Lallan would have surmised that I am pretending to commit suicide to impress some chick. But this isn't a drama. And it isn't even suicide. It is murder.
Mr Dinesh Pratap Bhusiya is standing in front of me, pointing a revolver directly at my stomach. An expensive imported piece. He is the one who ordered me to drink the rat poison. Given a choice between dying by bullet and dying by poison, I chose the latter. At least it will be painless, though that watery brown liquid had a terrible taste; it was like swallowing mud.
There is a manic glint in Mr D. P. Bhusiya's eyes as he watches me die. Of all the Bhusiya brothers he is the most dangerous. I saw him the other day, torturing his pet dog, poking him in the eye with a pointed stick. In fact, there is a mad streak in the entire Bhusiya clan. His elder brother Ramesh is a serial adulterer, trying to bonk every girl in the neighbourhood, from the sweeper to the washerwoman, while his fat wife spends her time at the beauty parlour. And his younger brother Suresh is a serial adulterator, selling impure goods to unsuspecting customers. Everything in his general provision store on Andheria Modh is adulterated. He mixes crushed pebbles in pulses, sand in rice, artificial colours in spices, chalk powder in flour. He sells fake milk, fake sugar, fake medicines, fake cola, even fake bottled water. Come to think of it, it is difficult to figure out which brother is the worst. Partly because they all look like carbon copies of each other. At times even I get confused which of the three brothers I am talking to. Their father, Mr Jai Pratap Bhusiya, also looks exactly like his sons, simply an older model. It is almost as if the Bhusiya women have a factory where they have perfected a mould which makes succeeding generations of Bhusiyas look exactly alike. If you were to meet a member of the family in the street you would be able to say immediately, 'There goes a Bhusiya,' just as you would be able to identify a black buffalo in a herd of cows.
If only the Bhusiya women were as ugly as their men I wouldn't be in this situation. The main reason I began working in this house was because of Pinky Bhusiya, the only sister of the three brothers. She has skin like honey and a body like a BMW. All sleek curves outside and smooth upholstery inside. I saw her in the temple complex one day and foolishly laid a thousand-rupee bet with Jaggu, the flower-seller, that I would start an affair with her within sixty days.
Working as a servant was way beneath the dignity of a university graduate like me, but that was the only way to gain entry into the Bhusiya household. Luckily, the Bhusiyas were in need of a servant. As a matter of fact, every rich family in the capital is in need of one. Good servants are as hard to find these days as spares for the Daewoo Matiz. The fact that I lived on the temple compound was enough to convince the Bhusiyas that I was honest and God-fearing, and they employed me on a salary of three thousand a month.
In hindsight, it was the biggest mistake of my life. A high-flying ex-mobile-phone thief, used to dealing in Nokias and Samsungs, was always going to struggle with Pril dishwasher and Rin soap.
And the Bhusiyas didn't help matters either. They had seemed law-abiding, religious types, who came to the temple every Monday and donated large sums to Lord Shiva. It was only after I started working for them that I discovered they were first-rate crooks and cheats. Uncouth, uncivilized and insensitive, they constantly reprimanded me for some act of omission or commission.
I could have tolerated their boorishness, but what I couldn't stand was the bossiness of the Bhusiya women. They acted as if they owned me. Mr R. P. Bhusiya's wife would send me off to get a DVD from the video parlour and Mr S. P. Bhusiya's wife would demand that I get her dry-cleaning at the same time. Worst of all, Pinky Bhusiya remained completely immune to my charms. I had thought a girl like her would be easy to entice. The way she dressed, she seemed neither too hep nor too staid. Neither too worldly-wise and canny, nor totally timid. I enacted several hero-type roles to attract Pinky's attention, from the sensitive aashiq to the dignified servant with a heart of gold. I tried to impress her with my wide knowledge of mobile phones and my deep understanding of national politics, but nothing seemed to work. She treated me just like a servant, angry one day, amiable another, but never seeing me as a man. All she was interested in were her silly girlfriends and her CD player. Even the bathrooms in the house were so constructed that there was no possibility of peeping in. Within a month I realized that it was a waste of time.
I would have quit my job, given Jaggu the thousand rupees and willingly conceded defeat, when a dramatic new development made me stay on. Asha, better known as Mrs Dinesh Pratap Bhusiya, developed the hots for me. One sticky afternoon, as I walked into her bedroom to deliver some toiletries, she caught me by the shirt, closed the door and began kissing me all over. Thus began our affair.