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The Killing Machine


Ashwini Ahuja

Piercing hot sun- in its extreme fury. Time: 1.35 pm. I remember what papa had instructed me.
“Sudhir, understand na, understand na” Before going to his office, he had clutched my arms.
“I know you’re not careless but you forget things. Don’t forget this. Forget?” And he strongly advised me rush to his office carrying my elder brother’s case file.

“Don’t come straight to me, understand na. First- you meet advocate Mehta, submit him file- then report to me his version”
“Ok papa, ok papa- ok papa” I assured him with the absolute force of my heart but I understood I might be late as I had to date Shakshi- my girlfriend. She had promised me to have a meeting with me in Rose garden.
Court finished at five but after lunch hardly any of the lawyers stayed in their offices. How could I see advocate Mehta and not Shakshi? Or see Shakshi and not advocate Mehta. Both were important and unavoidable. My dilemma. Papa could ever sense my commitment with Shakshi?

Moreover, our old model scooter- ha, ha, ha, it too was not in the porch because papa would have brought it with him to office. My sister Manisha did ever borrow me her bicycle. No, no, no. It is only mine. And court campus was five six kilometers far away. How could I do two things with a short span of time? Lunch with Shakshi and an appointment with advocate Mehta.
Why papa had commanded me to rush his office today? Why? Why? And I was unable to reveal on him my rendezvous with Shakshi. I complained to mummy after his departure why papa did not buy me a motorbike and begged her to phone papa that I was not coming to him today.

“No, no, no. Naughty boy- naughty boy- naughty boy” He admonished me over phone and instructed mummy something I did not know exactly what it was. Mummy smiled and put some coins onto my palms.
“Why, why, why?” I cried in resentment.

“Hire rickshaw, son” I noticed these were six seven coins of five rupees denominations. I nodded but mummy was aware that I might not hire rickshaw as I hated to hire rickshaw. Was it not demeaning for one man to pull another only for some coins. Just coins. Shame, shame, shame. Is it not shameful for all of us? Are rickshaw pullers not human beings? God’s creatures?
Why my heart would bleed for rickshaw pullers, Shakshi often interrogated me? Why I loved rickshaw pullers and welcomed their battle for basic dignity and existence forgetting my own needs? I was not reluctant to pay them without mounting on their rickshaw cycles.

“Foolish, foolish, foolish” Girls in my college every so often disregarded me for this act of mine.
Scorching waves of heat. Road is blistering. Devoid of snarling traffic. When I walk off my home, I meet only two three limousines running on the road. I wait for a local bus. Wait- wait- wait. Sweat in flood begins streaming down my body. I look back again and again. Taxies cross past me and I see in my hand six-seven coins. Might he carry me with these coins? To court campus? No, no, no. Then a rickshaw puller crawls past me mopping his forehead with small towel in his hand.
“Saheb, chalega?” He stops his vehicle.

“No, no, no” I gaze at the coins.
“No, no, no”
“Saheb, sirf das rupiya” He hopes into my eyes.
“You go...go, yaar” I speak with indignation. Rickshaw puller laughs.
“Saheb, itni garmi mein bachat karna theek nahi” He challenges me.
“Stop, stop, stop” I fume at him. He sees the shrivel on my body and again laughs.
“Come, come, saheb” I stare at him but the hands of my wrist watch stare at me. Why are you being late? Why are you being late? My mind forces me to reach the destination at the earliest. Reach, reach, reach. I reluctantly mount on rickshaw. The old rickshaw puller moves his withered face towards me tilting his buttock on the seat and utters.
“Thank you, thank you, saheb” And he jumps his legs on peddles. I relax for moments as I had fulfilled the promise I made to mummy that I might hire rickshaw. Crossing the road, I think I should drive his rickshaw and pull him as he pulls me. Is it not demeaning one man continues pulling other and other continues enjoying latter’s pain? Shame, shame, shame. As I express my desire to pull his rickshaw, he laughs.

“No, no, no, saheb, it’s not your job” And then he stops his rickshaw at the motion of his one more customer. A young lady of mid twenty three four stares at me and says rickshaw puller.
“Baba, I don’t mind sit with another boarder” Old rickshaw puller nods hoping his eyes into me. I do not hate his extra earning.
“No problem, no problem, no problem”

“Baba, move fast” She commands as she mounts on it. Rickshaw puller, obeying her command, struggles to paddle down ferociously. The more he moves fast, the more his legs slip. For some time, she mocks at the way of his paddling then shrieks.
“What’re you doing baba? Again and again, you fall down your legs and slow your rickshaw. I don’t want miss the show. My friends are waiting for there”

“Are you going to watch movie” I ask casually. She stares at me with reluctant eyes then speaks.
“Yeah” And continues- “The Killing Machine, Jagat Cinema” I feel comfortable and dare to glance at her pleasantly. She is a fine face and tanned complexion. I make her comparison with Shakshi. Although Shakshi is not as pretty beautiful as she, but she is humble and kind. The rickshaw lady is much egoistic, Shakshi is not. After a short silence, our conversation again begins. She tells me she is from Ludhiana and earning her post graduate degree in theatre department. I glance at her lips doing up with lustrous lipstick. Shakshi hardly apply lispstick on her lips as she thinks- married ladies should do it.
“No problem, no problem” She says when my thighs glue to her thighs accidentally.

“Thank you” I say thinking Shakshi dislikes my (even inadvertent) touch on her thighs. Shakshi thinks my this act- an act of lust of a pervert. Rickshaw puller enjoyfully listens to our conversation and looks back at us.
“Baba, I hate you- I hate you- I hate you” She gets furious.
“I don’t want to miss the movie, friends are waiting...waiting, baba” And she encapsulates wild fury into her fist to hurl over him.

“Move fast, move fast” And cries in the tone of challenge. I dislike his tyrannical behaviour towards the old man. Should educated and sophisticated girls behave like this? Shakshi never behaved anyone like this. Apprehensively, the man on rickshaw jumps on paddles and accelerates its speed.

“Baba, see, see, my watch, it is 3’o clock. My friends must have entered the hall” Listening her stinging voice, he jumps on the paddle again and slips. Die, die, die. He yells with pain. Right leg injures.
“Stop, stop, stop” She commands him to stop the vehicle, he obeys. Rickshaw pulls up with a jerk. Thank God, thank God, thank God- I say. She leaves his rickshaw mercilessly placing some coins onto his palms and walks away.
“Poor rickshaw puller” The curve of her lips shows indignation. Rickshaw puller does not take notice of it falling down onto toes. The tip of his ankle is too injured and knee cap displaced. The girl hires another rickshaw coming from the opposite side and go off ignoring old man’s gash. My blood begins roaring in my veins. Cruel, cruel, cruel. I put on him his chappals and use his towel as a bandage so as to control the flow of his blood. I’m too much late. But could I ever ask him to reach me destination?

Mom had given me only six seven coins of five rupees denominations and I honestly put them into his shirt pocket.
“You go, you go, you go” He smiles with apology.

“Saheb, I come- just after dressing up my wound” He goes paddling his rickshaw cycle. Meanwhile, local bus arrives. I mount on it. I reach court campus. Advocate Mehta has gone to home. Then I see papa in his office scaring he would reproach me. But, on hearing the entire episode, he smiles and praises me.
“My son, I’m proud of you”

Proud, proud, proud. I thrill and look at my watch. It is 4.15 pm. The Killing Machine might have been started. The movie is said to be a chilling thriller but might it be more chilling than the girl to whom I had

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