A young man stood on the edge of the
“Sir, love failure?”, a voice called out, causing the young man to jump a bit, but not enough to die. There was an elderly, kindly looking old man smiling at him.
“Why don’t you step down? If the police sees you like this, they will first fine you and then never allow you to die. Then you will just be in a lose-lose situation”, the old man said and started guffawing at his own "joke".
The young man was drunk with love yes, but not drunk, so he saw the sense in the old man’s advise and he stepped down.
“Your true love has left you eh? Sorry let me qualify that. Your one, true love has left you huh?”, the old man asked. The young man nodded listlessly.
“Well dying or not dying is your choice and I am not anyone to preach. But I am reminded of a story. Why don’t you postpone your decision until then?”
The young man again nodded listlessly. He reasoned that listening to the old man, any old man, would itself take him closer to death and if anything just help him in his cause.
The old man began:
Owner Manickam grimaced, looking at the four people sitting in the “special table” at the Mahalakshmi Wines (With Bar Attached). It was nearing midnight and the boys had long shooed away the usual hangers-on, the type who clung to the bar like barnacles to a ship, in the hope that some generous benefactor bestows a free “quarter”. Usually the threat of police scared away those types, but the problem with the people remaining that day was that the police would never do anything to them; in fact, they set the rules for the latter.
"Verinaay” (Mad Dog) Vinayagam roared (with what seemed to Manickam) an evil laugh, for the umpteenth time in the evening. He continued regaling his over-eager cohorts on some exploits or the other. If it wasn’t some daredevil act of his right under the police’s nose, it was about the various dalliances with the leading whores of the city. Beads of perspiration glistened on Manickam’s balding head.
Behind Manickam’s perennially ingratiating smile and the over exaggerated shows of servility, lay an extremely sharp mind. In fact, he went to great extents to disguise his ambitious nature and instead don the role of the “jolly good fellow”. He planned some of his by now famous witticisms, to the last second. Unlike a lot of others, he really never wanted to be in this business. He genuinely believed liquor spoilt lives and was himself a staunch teetotaler. But his shrewd mind told him this was a fantastic business to get him rich. It was, when he had got into the business. His shop was the preferred shop for treats, any big occasions and so on. In fact, he ran such a good place that buying stuff from his store itself seemed to bestow legitimacy to the alcohol. He had a good control over his unit and unlike most places kept his place very clean. He was a terror for his helper boys, whom he would whip if he caught them with the liquor. In fact, such was the image of his shop that parents did not mind their boys working there for a quick extra buck. But now with more stores nearby and more goons to grease he saw his pie shrinking. It was getting a thankless business. However, Manickam had a shrewd nose for real estate and had invested early, with much of his land worth more than twenty times what he bought it at. In fact, he expected the IT corridor to increase the value even more and was planning to sell once it reached twenty five times the value.
That particular day began badly for him. One of the newer thugs demanded a piece of land owned by Manickam at much less than what it could be sold for. However, the said thug was well connected and Manickam had no choice and he had as usual, meekly acquiesced. The jolly eyes wore a melancholic look throughout the day. Then Mad Dog came. Just studying his body language, Manickam knew there was going to be trouble.
Vinayagam had always been a never-do-good. It was therefore not surprising when he took to the murkier side of the law. His ferocity was legendary, the reputation being mostly engineered, with shreds of truth here and there. Vinayagam had always been admiring and respectful of Manickam as a wise man and sough counsel. For the past few days, Manickam saw a change in Vinayagam’s body language. He no longer asked anything, just ordered for it. Many amateurs had fallen for this way at the peak of their success. Mad Dog was gaining a reputation as a fantastic shooter. But what Manickam always feared was that this man, Mad Dog, had a definitely evil streak. Nothing in the world could constrain an atheist, incapable of feeling love.
When he was feeling down, Manickam liked to take a walk to look at what he had created. And he had indeed created something. It was his way of re-assuring himself that despite the odds he had built this shop and he would continue to beat the odds. The shop and the bar were in a house given to him by the Big Man, the guardian of the area. Big Man had ruled the roost for the past thirty years and it was generally understood his able son would succeed him when the old man got tired. The house had been a four room house with a small garden by the side. The walls had been demolished save for one room that served as the store. The “Bar Attached” was simply the leftover area with an asbestos covering.
Manickam now went to the four who were quite drunk by now. One guy was slumped over his chair just laughing continuously as if he were afraid that if he stopped laughing Mad Dog would do something to him.
“What Mad Dog, no work and all tomorrow eh?”, Manickam said with a mock laugh.
“Yes old man, we are young, rich and have no permanent whores to keep pestering us all the time. I tell you, if I were you, I would never have got married…”, Vinayagam slurred.
“It is said that even the stray buffaloes want to settle sometime. Did you know the story of the buffalo that went and put it in the wrong hole and…”
“Eh old man, that is why they have vayagra nowadays. How will you understand or afford all this? How will I explain it to someone of your generation. Hmm... see, imagine an old moped. Old mopeds don't start quickly. They have a starting problem. Then what do we do? We kick start it with greater force. Vayagra will kick start yours like that. Here take some money and buy yourself some”, saying this, he threw some money and the cohorts fell of the chair laughing. One of them repeatedly slapped the ground in mirth before puking and collapsing on that.
Manickam was really trying to hold his anger now. However, he simply retorted, “Unlike some people, we do not have the luxury of setting our times. I have to be awake by 6 tomorrow. Why don’t you guys go home? I will send some stuff with you.”
“Free?”, Mad Dog smirked.
“Yes, free. If it is not for the rising sun, who else will I give?”, he said sarcastically.
Manickam heaved a sigh of relief as Mad Dog stumbled up, threw seven crisp thousand rupee notes and told the others to get up. Just then, he heard the sound of a car, a Sumo he reckoned and his heart started beating crazily. Could it be the Big Man himself?
It was the Big Man accompanied only by his Secretary. (And this not being a Bond film or porn film, the "secretary" was a burly mottai boss/bald "Bhim boy" type of character) The Big Man stepped out in an agitated manner.
“Mad Dog, what have you been upto today?”, he asked with ice in his voice. A knot gripped Manickam’s stomach and he felt a buzz in his head. There was going to be blood today!
“Eh? Son of a hair counter... who is that? Just because someone comes up and asks me what I have been upto, I need not answer. The whole city shakes to the name of Mad Dog…”
“Bastard, son of a whore, Mad Dog it seems. Castrated dickless dog. What did I tell you to do?”
“Oh it is you. Sorry Big Man, sometimes even God's bulb switches off. Then we need spotlight. Manickam show some light so that we can see our God in his Vishwaroopam”, Mad Dog said flippantly.
“Shut up you ungrateful turd...” Manickam rushed forward as if to slap him.
“You do not get into this, it is between us”, Big Man ventured forth. He looked at Mad Dog squarely in the eye and said, “I told you to go to Villiwakkam”
“I went there…” Mad Dog stammered
“I told you to arrange a matter…”
“I arranged it for that party…”
“Then you were supposed to meet me in the camp…”
“I was heading in that direction…”
“Yes, motherfucker, you were heading in the direction, then why didn’t you reach me at 7 in the evening. Did you lose your microscopic dick on the way?”
“You were in Velachery. What the fuck were you doing there? Counting the hair on your nether parts…”
Still, no answer.
The Big Man took out a gun and thrust it into his mouth. The fear of God flashed in Mad Dog’s eyes. He flushed. It was as if all the alcohol drained out of his mouth in an instance.
“Why did you go to that house? What the fuck made you think you can get away with that?”
“Sir, sir you are too big for all this. Let your smaller men take care of him. Just beat him up to show your power, guns are excessive. The bastard just needs to be put in place”, Manickam pleaded.
The Big Man ignored him and looked Mad Dog straight in the eye. Mad Dog motioned as if he wanted to speak. He had actually got over the shock of the gun now and his mind was racing.
“Manickam get out of the place! Now!” roared the Big Man
Manickam scurried out, sobbing.
“Now… Mad Dog I have been watching you. You think I don’t know that you have been sending out signals to my rivals. But in our line of that is all common, and in fact, it is a status symbol for me. I myself was going to reward you in due course. But how dare you try to lay your hands on…”
Suddenly, Mad Dog heard the sound of steel. One of his cohorts had hit Big Man on the head and Big Man fell down. Big Man’s secretary shot Mad Dog’s cohort and he died immediately. Mad Dog had by then reached for his revolver tucked under his lungi and shot Big Man’s secretary who too died immediately, blood spouting a red parabola from his heart.
A satanic look crept into Mad Dog’s eyes. He took aim at Big Man’s foot and shot. The big toe of the Big Man sundered and popped out and hit Mad Dog in his eyes. After the first shot had been fired, the whole neighbourhood woke up. Everyone peered out frightened from the window. Maniackam knew it was from his wine shop. He ran back hoping that he could counsel peace one last time…
At the moment Manickam entered the gate, he realized in a split second what happened and he screamed “Vinayagam…” at that very instant the sundered toe hit Mad Dog’s eyes. In an impulse of self defense Mad Dog, who was blinded in one eye and writhing in pain kept shooting in all directions and in the process two bullets pierced Manickam’s throat. For a few seconds Manickam’s body lurched in mid air as if unsure in which direction to fall, then it fell, face forward on the ground. At least he died on the very land that had kept him alive so long.
One of Mad Dog’s random bullets hit Big Man just as the latter was lurching for his gun. They both fired at each other simultaneously, both sundering each other’s arms below the elbow in the hand they held the gun. Suddenly, flashes of light invaded the compound. Cars of men stepped out and even the most hardened amongst them almost fainted at the gory. Amidst all the shock a female shriek rented the air. Despite the men restraining her Velachery Vimala, the bewitching and most captivating whore of city came running forward. The term “whore” would be most unsuitable for her. Descendant of a royal courtesan, a beauty uncommon to those of her condition shone on her face. She had always been the prize of the biggest don and Mad Dog had misbehaved to her in the afternoon that day.
Big Man had come to teach a lesson.
Vimala composed herself. She told the men she just wanted to kill that rascal, that bastard, that despicably low, mean, evil piece of excretion, thrown on earth that had killed the bravest man she knew and one whom she had truly loved. Big Man was a hero in many ways and few knew it as best as Vimala. She lifted the gun. Pointed the gun at Mad Dog and in a swift move, turned the gun and killed herself.
The men looked stunned. The son decided that this matter had to end. The man who did all this had to suffer. But before he could do anything, Mad Dog reached for his knife, staggered up and said, “Look, you mangy dogs, before you advance let me make it known that I want to die not because of cowardice that you,
The Old man stopped and paused.
“What is the moral?”, he asked.
The young man remained silent.
“You guys know jackshit about true love. Your sacrifice is absolutely useless if the other person is not going to respond with that intensity. Tell me, has your significant other ever shown such passion. Life is too precious for even a girl. There are many fish in the sea…”
“But this is not just any fish. I saw her in a restaurant first. Her name was Latha…”