Rupesh stayed lazily in his bed and reached out for his smart phone. This had become a routine now, back home this infuriated the mother but here no one would bother. He started checking for updates from friends. The laziness maintained its tempo and the thumb which was now very trained by his master’s mind would occasionally pause so that the master could read an update from an old flame or carelessly like the update from a friend having a good time. Buried between these meaningless updates was a suggestion- sometimes he suspected facebook probably knew more about his interests, his fantasies than most of his friends- it suggested him to watch a 5 minute speech clipping of a politician from his state. Without much thought into it, Rupesh clicked on the link and listened to his speech in rapt attention, the leader had a deep baritone, an amazing command on the vernacular and perhaps equally better on his body language. Rupesh batted an occasional eyelid as the leader unleashed a virile speech laden with statistics confirming large scale migration from other states, he then drove his point meticulously how the local youth was losing jobs because someone else who did not grow up here and did not care to learn the language was taking that away. The five minute clipping was punctured with regular seemingly practised rants from the crowd praising the leader and his party. The sleepiness was long gone, Rupesh was seething with anger. He then surfed through a page which some zealous supporter had created and whose loose English translation meant striving for the right of locals. Ripe with indignation Rupesh subscribed to the page. Lying in the bed he recollected his enchantment for the leader which started when he heard him for the first time in person. His captivation made sure he once championed the demand that all students coming from other states to study engineering at his college should learn the local language. The demand fizzled out after the dean advised the group against continuing with such demands for fear of imperilling their chances at job placement. The placement season was still fresh in his mind, how his anticipation of working in Pune or Mumbai was thwart with selection in a company head-quartered in Chennai.
An hour later he realized he had perhaps spent a large time browsing and even though it was a light day it wasn’t an off. So he rushed to get ready, a routine he had perfected by now. Fifteen minutes later he was ready to leave for office as he secretly admired his own efficiency. A man who ten minutes earlier was under shower was now bathing again in his own sweat. Wiping the sweat with a moist handkerchief- some of which had condensed on his spectacle glasses- he saw a local Chennai bus approaching. Since he missed the company bus today, this could drop him to office. The bus was hopelessly crowded but Rupesh struggled his way inside with rather much agility. As he passed through few stations which were difficult for his tongue to pronounce he prepared himself mentally how to exit through the conundrum which separated him from the exit gate. The destination had arrived; the exodus of other passengers made it a rather smooth exit. His effortless gait towards office gate was halted by a heavy hand which patted him on his shoulder. The well built man with dark barnet and a darker moustache said something in Tamil which even though Rupesh did not understand, realised was ripe with authority. The man signalled with the fist brought near his face and thumb sticking out conveying aggression and question. All Rupesh understood was one word “Ticket”! Ticket oh my God!! in this commotion did he just forget to purchase the ticket. He didn’t need to know Tamil to understand that this person was a ticket checker and he was asking for ticket- which Rupesh didn’t purchase. Not able to conjecture any excuse Rupesh squeaked “Sir too much rush in the bus (sic), conductor did not reach” which was perhaps true, otherwise he would have purchased the ticket. The ticket checker was not amused by this explanation and demanded the fine to be paid “Rs 500 is the fine for ticket less travel” All the haggling did no good, Rupesh realized it was a lost battle. He shelled out 500 for a journey which was worth Rs 20. The ticket checker handed him a receipt for his fine along-with an advice, this time in English “when you stay somewhere follow the rule of that land”. Rupesh reached office, he knew he had to vent it out, he needed someone, he saw Santan the laid back dude from Bangalore. He signalled Santan with two fingers and brought them near his lips, Santan nodded. They stepped out to smoke. As he shared smoke, he complained how he was victimised because he was an outsider here. He was firm in his belief that had he was picked because the TC realized he was an immigrant, his not knowing the local language didn’t help and how unjustified this discrimination was.
Santan had an expression which was a combination of indifference and impatience as he was listening to his rumblings dispassionately. Waiting all this while with slightly outstretched fingers for the smoke to be handed over to him, he took a deep drag as Rupesh handed him the cigarette trying to look far positioning his head in a way to see the smoke escape and mix with the air.