The phone started beeping at 7am. Kamal rolled over, touched a button, and turned the annoying sound off. Ten minutes later, it went off again. This time, his hand was ready, poised to hit the snooze button again. Another ten minutes later, the same thing happened.
When Kamal finally did get up, he looked at his phone with groggy eyes and realized he was late. Yet again. Bhenchod snooze. He was left with less than half an hour to catch the 8:20 train. A quick brush, a half-hearted poop and an unsatisfactory shower later, Kamal was rushing to the railway station. Ordinarily, he would walk the 10 minutes to the station; that day, he ran.
The roads around Kamal’s building were filthy, filthier than they were in the rest of the city. Why the fuck do I live here? Because you can’t afford a better place. For the umpteenth time in as many days, Kamal wished he would allow himself to go back to his cosy family home a few suburbs away. He had left his father’s home in a fit of ego; he didn’t want to be a part of the family business. Kamal wanted to do something that was much cooler; he wanted to live by himself. He wanted to live the dream that every Bollywood movie had shown him. But the dream had turned into a nightmare very soon.
He had a lowly office job in a large corporation; of course, it wasn’t befitting him. But he held onto the job, because he didn’t believe he could get anything better, and he didn’t want to lose what he already had. His pay wasn’t anything substantial, his boss was an asshole, his colleagues were conniving bitches. He knew a bunch of people he called friends, but he hated how most of his time and money was spent on living up to their expectations. Nonetheless, Kamal found solace by telling himself that he wasn’t alone, he wasn’t the only one living a shitty life. All bosses were assholes, weren’t they? The competition to survive made people bitchy, didn’t it? Nobody ever earned enough, did they? Kamal hated his life, but he wouldn’t go back. Going back to his family would mean he had conceded defeat; his ego wouldn’t allow him to do that.
Lost in the thoughts that had emerged from the filthy roads, he missed his train. He lost 15 precious minutes while waiting for the next one, and ended up late to work. Yet again.
“Kamal, see me in my office,” Murthy, his senior, said, even before he had put his bag down on his desk.
Inside his cabin, Murthy looked pissed. “You’re late, Kamal. Again.”
“I know, sir. I’m sorry. I missed the train…and then there was no auto…”
“How many times will you use the same excuse, Kamal? It’s lame, and I’m bored with it.”
“I’m not lying, si…”
“I can’t stand anyone who’s not punctual, you know that. I’m never late, what makes you think you can come in at any time you want?”
“No, sir. It’s just that I missed the 8:20 train today and then the…”
“Wake up early, Kamal. Try to take the train before that train, run to the station…I don’t care…”
“You did? You did what?
“Ran to the station…today, I mean.”
“Are you talking back to me? Are you trying to be funny? Everything’s a joke, isn’t it?”
“No, sir, I didn’t mean it that way…I wasn’t trying to be funny, I wa…”
“Don’t even try to be funny, because you’re not.”
Murthy was sitting back in his swivel chair, looking at Kamal, who was standing in front of his boss’ desk, staring at nothing in particular below him.
“I don’t want you to be late ever again, you understand that, Kamal?”
“Okay. Now what happened to the project you were assigned yesterday?”
“I’ve started work on it, sir. I think I’ll be able to complete it by tomorrow aftern…”
“Nobody here cares about what you think, Kamal. You’re paid to do the work that is given to you, not to think.”
Kamal could feel Murthy’s eyes burning a hole into him. He didn’t have anything to say, he remained quiet.
“I want the project on my desk before you leave today, no matter how long it takes,” said Murthy, dismissing him.
Kamal worked as fast as he could, but he was stuck in the office till almost 11pm. His plan to catch a movie with friends had gone awry, he had to walk most of the way home because the bastard rickshaw-drivers demanded an additional amount to ferry passengers at night.
Disappointed, dejected and depressed, Kamal finally reached home. He knew he should go to sleep, so as to not wake up late again the next day. But he was sick of everything, and wanted to spend some time surfing the web. He turned on his laptop, struggled with the data card to connect to the internet, and logged into Twitter.
This was one place that made him feel good. He had an anonymous identity on Twitter, where all his jokes about celebrities and other famous personalities had earned him over 1,000 followers. Here, Kamal was cool. Here, people liked him. Here, he could get away with anything. Here, four to five people asked about his whereabouts if he hadn’t tweeted for a few hours.
A look at his timeline told Kamal that people were making fun of something Chetan Bhagat had said. He didn’t know what it was that Bhagat had said, but since everyone was ridiculing him, it had to be stupid. Kamal had no idea why everyone joked about Chetan Bhagat, but he felt obliged to do the same. It was the coolest thing to do on Twitter. All the people he followed were dissing him, and he didn’t want to be left out of the party. Heck, my followers expect me to joke about him as well. I’ve my cool image to uphold, after all.
Composing a joke about Chetan Bhagat was easy for Kamal, it was almost a template. It was a grammatically incorrect joke, revolving around the word ‘loser’. Kamal pressed enter to send the tweet out, and waited. Within a couple of minutes, his tweet had been retweeted by four people. Within the next five minutes, his joke was mentioned with comments like ‘ROFLMAO’ and ‘ROFLcopter’ and ‘Lol’ and ‘lulz’ and ‘Hahaha’ and even ‘Gahahahaha’ and ‘Mwahahaha’. Kamal’s inbox was suddenly active as well. Wow! Five new followers already!
He sat back in his chair, savouring the retweets and new follower notifications. So what if my boss shouted at me today? So what if I had to spend the entire day in an office I hate? So what if I didn’t have enough money to take an auto? I got new followers by calling an author a loser on Twitter. At least, I’m still cool!