Life Book

Bhaskar dialed Janani’s phone number on his mobile.
“Hi Bhaskar”
“Janni sweetheart, Valentine’s Day is coming soon. I will be buying a small gold chain for you,” Bhaskar said.
“Thanks dear, but that wouldn’t be beneficial,” Janani said.
Bhaskar grit his teeth and said, “What do you mean?”
“Listen to this news report in The Hindu newspaper. I will read it out for you. The caption is ‘People must shun gold, says FM.‘ In here it is written, ‘We need to make people shy away from gold and induce them to invest in financial products’.“
“What is it that you want to say?” Bhaskar asked.
“Simple, don’t buy that gold chain. It doesn’t help our economy,” Janani said.
“Will you always fill my ears with your subject and what you read?”
“At least I try to use the knowledge I studied. What about you? What you studied is Mechanical Engineering. What you do is marketing and selling medical equipment,” she taunts albeit in a sweet tone.

Bhaskar pressed on the phone to end the call and raised his hands to his forehead. He bent his head backward, clenched his fist and muttered, “I want her to be just like a normal girl. She can’t even give me a cute, romantic look. But she is always into her subject of economics and keeps talking about it. Oh God, why can’t I have a normal fiancée?”

*****

Janani was sitting in a coffee shop. With one hand she brushed her and kept looking at her mobile phone, which was in her other hand. There was a coffee cup on the table. She looked up as Bhaskar approached the table and sat opposite her.

“You are late, have been waiting here for half an hour,” Janani said.
“I would have reached on time, but I got robbed.”
“What? Are you ok? Did anyone harm you?”
“I am ok. A goonda stopped me, threatened me with a knife, asked for my wallet, and took my money away,” Bhaskar said.
“Did you try to stop him?” Janani asked.
“I did not want to fight with him like a street rowdy. Let’s go to the police station and file a report. We will have to get him punished and see that such incidents don’t happen in our society.”

Janani twitched her lip, slowly shook her head and said, “Do you know why the thief is robbing?” Without waiting for his reply, she took out The Armchair Economist from her bag. She turned the pages, stopped at a particular page and read, “Theft does have social costs. One is the value of the thief’s time and energy, which might otherwise have been employed in some productive capacity. But this cost is probably less than the value of the property stolen.”
Janani paused reading and said, “That makes it clear why he is robbing. Further, it is only 1200 rupees that he took away from you. Our cost-benefit analysis doesn’t support us going to the police. Nor does it change the cost-benefit analysis of the thief.”

“So you are not coming to the police station?”
“No. Not only that, I don’t want you to go to the police station. As per economics theory, it is not worth it.”
Bhaskar hit his forehead with his palm and said, “Where did I find this girl friend? I lost my money and she says the thief stole it because his cost of robbing is less than his benefits. And she doesn’t want me to go to the police saying cost-benefit analysis? My fate, my fate.”

Janani stared at him emotionless and took a sip from the coffee cup. Bhaskar muttered, “Will this engagement stay alive?”

*****

Janani and Bhaskar were walking together when they noticed the ruffian dragging a boy and putting him on his bike.

Bhaskar looked towards Janani and said, “Hey, it’s the same fellow who robbed my money. Now he is kidnapping a child. Come let’s go stop him.” Without waiting for her to say something, he ran towards the bike but the bike sped away. Janani came from behind and stood next to him.

“This is a crime,” he shouted. “Let’s stop him.”
Janani shook her head. “You can stop one anti-social element, but you cannot stop crime. Do you know how crime will be reduced?”
“No”
“By legalizing abortions.”
“Whaaaat?”
“Yes, that’s right,” she said.

Janani took the book Freakonomics from her bag. She turned to page 139 and read, “Legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crimes; legalized abortion, therefore, led to less crime.” Further, from page 141, she read, “Since 1985, states with high abortion rates have experienced a roughly 30 percent drop in crime relative to low-abortion states.”
She concluded, “Do you know now how to reduce crime?”

“Oh God, oh God. In order to reduce crime, we have to legalize abortions!!!” Bhaskar cried tapping his head in exasperation. Starting to walk, he muttered, “Maybe it’s time to break off from her.”

*****

Janani was standing near the corner of a road with an irritated look on her face. Bhaskar came on his bike and stopped in front of Janani. He looked at his watch and said, “I think we will be in time for the function.”

She took a couple of steps to reach the bike and Bhaskar noticed that her face had a serious look. He asked, “Why are you looking so serious? I am the one who’s pissed off with your bookish talks.”

Janani put her hand on his shoulder and said, “You know that kidnapper we saw the other day?”
Bhaskar clenched his wrist and grit his teeth. “Yeah, what about him?”
“While I was coming here, that idiot made some comments.”
“What? What did he say?” he blurted.
“He said, ‘You are like Kaju Barfi.’ ‘The ground you walk on becomes sugar.’ ‘Your hip sway will intoxicate any man.’
Bhaskar shook with anger. “He does eve teasing too! Bastard!!”
She gave a half smile and was about to reach for her bag.
“Are you taking a book again? Stop; just don’t start your frigging socio-economic analysis, I don’t want to listen to it any more. If you want me to marry you, just listen to me. I will go get that fellow and bash him up.” He continued, “Get on the bike and show me where he was.”

They reached the spot; Bhaskar got down from his bike and took out knives from his medical kit. Threatening the rowdy with his knives, he asked him to put his hands up. The ruffian asked calmly, “Do you really think I am a street rowdy?”

Bhaskar said, “What do you mean? You are a rowdy. Don’t try to act smart.” He looked at Janani. “Call the police.”

Ruffian laughed out loud and waved towards a corner on the street. A senior person, looking professionally dressed, came towards them.

*****

Immediately the ruffian told him, “Sir, they believe I am a street rowdy. And they want to take me to the police station.” Both men burst out laughing.

Senior person said, “There is no need to go to the police.”

Bhaskar and Janani both blurted, “We don’t know who you are, but this goonda is a thief, kidnapper, and an eve teaser.”

Senior person said, “I am a short film producer-director, my name is MH.” He asked Bhaskar, “Do you remember after threatening and taking your money, what he did?”

Bhaskar tried to remember. MH said, “He picked up the phone, didn’t he and left there abruptly?” Bhaskar recollected and nodded in agreement.

MH turned towards Janani and said, “Didn’t he tell you – ‘You are like Kaju Barfi,’ ‘The ground you walk on becomes sugar.’ ‘Your hip sway will intoxicate any man?’ “

“Yes”

She is surprised. “How do you know all this?”

MH continued, “Listen fellows, this guy is an aspiring actor. His name is Surya. He wanted to act in short films and approached me for a role. I told him that, instead of an audition you would have a reality test to prove your acting skills. In this test he had to convince people that he is a criminal. He took it as a challenge and performed well. Both incidents of theft and eve teasing have been filmed. See here.” He showed the scenes on his camera.

By this time, both Janani and Bhaskar were totally bewildered.

“No sir, just day before yesterday we saw him kidnapping a child.”

MH looked at Surya. Surya said, “The kid you saw is my nephew. Both my sister and brother-in-law, who live in a village, met with a small accident and are recovering from it. I brought my nephew to Hyderabad and am taking care of his schooling.”

MH continued in a plain voice, “He is a nice person. Unfortunately for you, he selected you to prove his acting skills. Sorry for the inconvenience.” He turned to Surya and said, “Yes, you are selected. Welcome to Ray Mahruwi Productions.”

Surya gave a punch in the air and shook MH’s hand. “Thank you so much, Sir.”

MH took some money from his wallet. “Here is the money Surya stole from you,” he said and gave the notes to Bhaskar.

Bhaskar smiled and gave a nod as he took the money. He clasped the hand of Janani and started walking away with her.

*****

Bhaskar taunted Janani, “You told this guy is robbing because his costs are less than the benefits? No, there were no costs, no benefits, no robbery, he was just acting as a robber.”

He poked her further, “You told, in order to reduce crime, you said something sham about abortion? This guy didn’t even commit the crime. If you talk about economics once more, I don’t know what I am going to do. I will call my parents, break up our engagement and cancel our marriage.”

She said very cutely, “Shall we go for a movie and a candle light dinner?”

For the first time, Bhaskar noticed a romantic streak in Janani’s face, a look that he was yearning to get in her for so long.

He gave a big sigh of relief, smiled and nodded. “We will start our wedding shopping soon.”

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3 comments

  1. I think there is a typo here ‘valet’ should be ‘wallet’. The story was engaging but slipped a bit, otherwise yeah a good way of making things unscientific and realistic.

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