Sunday, 3 May 2020

EXTRA-TERRACE-TRIAL

This episode will have certain references to Episode 18 - Daily Report and Episode 19 - Saturday Night

Anshuman lay in his bed, unwilling to even shift sides. Last night had been one of great fun with his friends. They spent three...or maybe four hours (he couldn't quite remember) drinking, smoking and talking (or bitching) about things...and of course, people.

Their discussions had started around largely civil topics, such as the coronavirus and the Government's policies. But very quickly, they escalated to fellow-residents, colleagues and bosses and women. Anshuman also vaguely remembered sharing his boss Lata's Instagram page with his friends - he couldn't, however, remember whether or not they were impressed with what they saw. By the time they had finished, Anshuman had been too wasted to realise that he had forgotten to lock the terrace - Pedro had to come to his rescue.

But this was a Sunday morning, so he wouldn't have to worry about waking up early. He checked the time on his smartphone - it was only around 11:30 am. He could easily stay in bed for another hour, and wake up just in time for lunch...lunch that would be prepared and delivered by Parekh Aunty downstairs.

Today was his well-earned rest day.

Or so he thought!

His moment of peace was disturbed when his phone rang - it was Ajju.

"Hello?" Anshuman's voice betrayed the sleep in his eyes.

"Where the fuck were you? We've been trying to call you since four hours!" Ajju was clearly agitated.

"We?"

"Me...Pedro...Anky...Raju...remember we met last night?"

"Hey...cut the sarcasm man! You're sounding like my boss now! Tell me what happened!"

"Check your whatsapp messages...right now!"

"Will you..." Ajju hung up before Anshuman could finish his sentence.

Anshuman checked his messages - there was a deluge. Many of them were forwards of the same video message - a video message by the local MLA. He clicked it and listened attentively.

Namaskaar. I am your humble servant Chandulal Bhigona. As of 11 pm on 25th April, there have been twelve new COVID-positive cases in our area, and three patients have died. With this, the total number of active COVID 19 cases in our area has touched 63. We should all be very very concerned.

As you all know, I had promised to introduce stringent measures to enforce strict implementation of the lockdown. Accordingly, since the past two days, we have been conducting aerial surveillance of our area with the help of drones. We found locals - youngsters and elders alike, roaming freely in the Hanuman Nagar and Thakurgaon areas, and that too without masks. They started running indoors as soon as they heard our drones hover above them. 

Our drone also captured images of people gathering together in crowds on building terraces. There were children cycling, youngsters playing card games and adults having elaborate tea parties. This complete disregard of social distancing rules is really irresponsible and shocking, and if this does not stop soon, strict action will be taken.

I must also point out one building in particular. Till about 6 pm in the evening, our drones got visuals of kids running around and cycling on the terrace. About exactly 6 pm, three men came and drove away the kids, before settling down for a drinks party. Exactly an hour later, these three men made way for a group of five who then had a smoke and drink party of their own, with loud music playing in the background. One of them got drunk and began impersonating yours truly.

I this opportunity to warn all of these rule-breakers to mend their ways, or else we have all the evidence required to enforce action against you.

Stay home. Stay safe. Jai Hind.


Idiosyncrasies of a Covidiot

All episodes so far 

Episode 01 - Aaho-Choo Story

Episode 02 Bus-Ted 

Episode 03 Bohemian Clapsody 

Episode 04 - Departmental Chor 

Episode 05 - Exceptionally Coarse 

Episode 06 - Fruits & Nuts 

Episode 07 - Gross Spread


Episode 08 - Helping Hands

Episode 09 - I Want to Break Free

Episode 10 - Jamboree

Episode 11 - Keep Safe Distance

Episode 12 - Let There Be Light

Episode 13 - Musical Masti

Episode 14 - Night Riders

Episode 15 - Order Order

Episode 16 - Papa the Great

Episode 17 - Quarantine

Episode 18 - Daily Report

Episode 19 - Saturday Night

SATURDAY NIGHT

This episode will have certain references to Episode 18 - Daily Report


Anshuman lay down in bed after having his dinner. The day had progressed quite well, except for a few low points here and there.

After having clocked in his eight hours at work at the bank, he was back home by 6 pm, all thanks to the deserted roads. After a quick bath and his evening 'chai-biskoot', he called up his friends from the colony - Rajesh, Ankur, Peter and Ajay (or Raju, Anky, Pedro and Ajju, respectively) for a get-together on the terrace. This used to be something they religiously did at Anshuman's house every other Saturday evening, before the lockdown. Although behind closed doors, Anshuman's get-togethers were notorious for having it all - the cacophony of loud EDM music playing in the background, booze flowing like a river and the smoky haze of a dozen packs of cigarettes. On special occasions there would even be a few joints doing the rounds.

Since tonight was one of those Saturday Nights, Anshuman was in the mood to let his hair down. He had assigned roles for everyone - Raju would be fetching the smokes and ashtray, Anky would get the glasses and a few bottles of soda, Pedro would fetch the beer bottles and Ajju would bring along his portable MP3 player and a bottle of Scotch whiskey from his private bar. Anshuman, as always, would arrange for the venue, an ice box, deep fried papad and paper napkins. Only the resourceful knew how and where to get what they needed - and this was certainly a resourceful gang.

Now that he had already laid down rules for the use of the building terrace, he was fairly certain that it would be cleared out by 7 pm. Yet, just to make sure the coast was absolutely clear, he asked his friends to gather only at 7:30 pm.

Meanwhile, he had to make sure the terrace was clean in all respects - there was to be no clutter, no garbage and absolutely no humans.

So he picked up his phone and called up his Man Friday. The call was received after the very first ring.

"Hello?"

"Jee Saheb! Good Evening!"

"Good evening Madhav. Any updates?"

"No Saheb! All's Well Saheb!"

"Where are you? On the terrace?"

"Uhh...Yes Saheb..." Madhav gulped, "How did you....how did you know Saheb?" He looked around to check if he was being watched.

"Because I had asked you to make sure the terrace was cleared off every evening at 7?"

"Oh yes Saheb...that's exactly what I was doing."

"So it's clear, right?" Anshuman began changing into a fresh T-shirt.

"NO...NO Saheb!" Madhav panicked, "Another ten minutes please? We're still cleaning."

"We?" Anshuman's tone changed, "Who's with you?"

"Uhh....Uhh...cleaners Saheb...I brought a couple of cleaners along."

"Cleaners?" Anshuman was annoyed, "Who asked you to hire cleaners? Whom did you speak with about this?"

"No Saheb...I just thought I'd get some helping hands. Don't worry Saheb, you won't have to pay a dime."

"Hell I will!" Anshuman smirked, "You hired them...you pay if you have to."

"Yes Saheb."

"Ten minutes only, okay? I want the place absolutely clean!"

"Sure thing Saheb!"

Anshuman hung up. He was really looking forward to a great evening. Of course, this was not going to be better than being in bed with someone, but it certainly came a close second. After all, as Anshuman and his friends always swore unconvincingly - "Bros over hoes...always!"

At exactly 7:20 pm, Anshuman reached the door of the terrace, only to find Gardener Madhav and a couple of men rushing out with huge bags. As soon as their eyes met, there was awkward silence.

"Good evening Saheb", Madhav broke the silence, "Home early tonight?"

"Yeah...you have a problem with that?"

"No no Saheb", Madhav laughed, "Why would I have a problem with..."

"Has everything been cleared?" Anshuman cut him off.

"Yes Saheb....come and see for yourself."

"What's in those bags?" Anshuman pointed out to the bags in Madhav's friends' hands.

"Just garbage Saheb."

"Hmm...off you go now...good night!"

"Good night Saheb."

"Keys?"

"Huh?" Madhav was confused.

"Terrace keys!" Anshuman barked, "Are you drunk?"

"Drunk? No Saheb! Me? Drunk?" Madhav started smiling sheepishly as he dropped the keys in Anshuman's hand.

Anshuman pocketed the keys and steeped out onto the terrace. Everything was exactly the way he wanted it - there was no garbage, there were no people and there was a small rectangular wooden coffee table in a corner, with six plastic chairs around it.

To Anshuman's surprise, there were two sealed bottles of soda under the coffee table. Someone must have left them there.

"Madhav! Are you still there?" Anshuman shouted and waited for a response. There was none.

"Perfect!" he declared as he waited for his friends to trickle in one by one.

*Chai-biskoot - A Indian term referring to evening 'chai tea' with biscuits.
*Saheb - A term used by some people in India to refer to people in a position of authority, like the English 'Sir'.
*Papad - A fairly large poppadom 


Idiosyncrasies of a Covidiot

All episodes so far 

Episode 01 - Aaho-Choo Story

Episode 02 Bus-Ted 

Episode 03 Bohemian Clapsody 

Episode 04 - Departmental Chor 

Episode 05 - Exceptionally Coarse 

Episode 06 - Fruits & Nuts 

Episode 07 - Gross Spread

Episode 08 - Helping Hands

Episode 09 - I Want to Break Free

Episode 10 - Jamboree

Episode 11 - Keep Safe Distance

Episode 12 - Let There Be Light

Episode 13 - Musical Masti

Episode 14 - Night Riders

Episode 15 - Order Order

Episode 16 - Papa the Great

Episode 17 - Quarantine

Episode 18 - Daily Report

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

DAILY REPORT

This episode will have certain references to Episode 12 - Let There Be Light


Anshuman usually got ready to leave for work by 8 am. Today wasn't any different. As per his instructions, as soon as he stepped out of the elevator, Gardener Madhav was ready to greet him with all the information he needed - which member did what...who said what...who was sitting in the garden with whom...and sometimes some non-juicy official updates.

"Saheb, have you ever seen our local MLA's Whatsapp video messages?"

"Our MLA sends you Whatsapp videos?" Anshuman looked Madhav up and down in astonishment.

"Arre nahin Saheb...he makes these video messages and forwards them...these are them circulated across multiple Whatsapp groups. Here, watch this one."

Anshuman took Madhav's phone in his hand. He looked Madhav up and down once again, because it was a high-end smartphone.

He dabbed the play button.

Namaskaar. I am your humble servant Chandulal Bhigona. As of 9 pm on 20th April, there have been four new COVID-positive cases in our area, and one patient has died. With that, the total number of active COVID 19 cases in our area has touched 38. This is very sad news indeed.

In the coming days, we will be taking some stringent measures to stop the rise in the number of cases. I request all of you to maintain social distancing. Please do not spread rumours, strict action will be taken against rumour-mongers.

Stay home. Stay safe. Jai Hind.

Madhav could see that Anshuman was super-impressed, "So, what do you think Sahab?"

"This is good. Can you forward it to me?"

"Certainly Saheb. Not just this, I will also forward you some interesting messages about how Coronavirus can be cured."

"Hmm."

"Have a good day Saheb", Madhav bowed down as Anshuman went on his way.

Later that evening, Gardener Madhav received a Whatsapp message on his phone. He was surprised to see that it was a video message from Anshuman. Before it could get downloaded, he ran towards Security Guard Gopinath.

"Hey Gopi...Saheb has sent me a video message...look!"

"I got it too...have you watched it yet?

"Nope...let's do it together."

They played the video. The backdrop suggested that Anshuman had probably recorded it while sitting in his office cubicle.

Namaskaar. I am the Secretary of Bright Minds Co-operative Housing Society. I hope all of you are safe in your respective homes.

Mr. M.V. Raghav, I would like to thank you for your letter dated 6th April 2020. As you know, I always welcome feedback. However, I would also like to point out that you need to keep your windows shut whenever you have a fight with your wife. The noise emanating from your house is disturbing the peace in the neighborhood.

I would like to advise other residents, especially the Senguptas, the Shindes and the Chaturvedis not to indulge in slanderous and sarcastic loose talk about the Managing Committee and the Respected Secretary.

Finally, I know that all of you members might be frustrated after being forced to spend all your time indoors. I am pleased to announce that from tomorrow morning onwards, members can use the building terrace for activities such as walking, jogging, cycling, kite flying, card games, carrom and even for other small games. You can even use it for small tea parties. However, you are requested to vacate the terrace by 7pm for the sake of my privacy...erm...for security reasons.
Jai Hind.


Idiosyncrasies of a Covidiot

All episodes so far 

Episode 01 - Aaho-Choo Story

Episode 02 Bus-Ted 

Episode 03 Bohemian Clapsody 

Episode 04 - Departmental Chor 

Episode 05 - Exceptionally Coarse 

Episode 06 - Fruits & Nuts 

Episode 07 - Gross Spread

Episode 08 - Helping Hands

Episode 09 - I Want to Break Free

Episode 10 - Jamboree

Episode 11 - Keep Safe Distance

Episode 12 - Let There Be Light

Episode 13 - Musical Masti

Episode 14 - Night Riders

Episode 15 - Order Order

Episode 16 - Papa the Great

Episode 17 - Quarantine

Sunday, 26 April 2020

QUARANTINE



This episode is in continuation of Episode 13 - Musical Masti and Episode 14 - Night Riders


It was about 10 pm on a sultry Saturday night; Anshuman had just finished his dinner. He picked up his phone and visited a few Instagram pages, including Lata's. He spent more than an hour catching glimpses of some scintillating images and ogled at them to his heart's content. He thanked his luck that he was living in the 21st century.

When he was convinced that nothing else was gonna excite him any more, he dialed Kavita's number. She didn't take the call until the fifth ring.

"Hi beautiful", he said in a tone that sounded cringy.

"Hi Anshu...how was your day?"

"You know...the usual...get back home from the bank...spend some time on calls discussing matters regarding the housing society...daily chores..."

"And Instagram...", she chuckled.

"You're wicked, that's what you are", he laughed, "Did you know that 10 people tested positive for COVID 19 in our area today?"

"Ten people? That's insane."

"Yeah...so far there have been about 28 cases in our area."

"Oh God", Kavita made her concern quite apparent, "Please be safe Jaanu."

"You stay safe too sweetheart", Anshuman's tone sounded grave, "Apparently there was some guy who was picked up by the police from outside your building gate a few nights ago."

"Outside my building gate? When was this?"

"The night I wanted to come over to meet you. There was some guy in a car right outside your gate."

"Uh Huh? What about him?"

"Well, the police took him for testing simply based on suspicion. Unfortunately, he turned out positive for..."

Before Anshuman could complete his sentence, he heard Kavita take a deep breath. The very next moment, she disconnected the call.

At the other side of the conversation, Kavita began sweating and felt her head spin.

A dreadful apprehension clouded her thoughts - "Was that Manoj who had tested positive? Does that mean I am infected too?"

A few miles away, Manoj was getting treatment in a hospital ward. There were questions is his mind,,,questions he had no answers for.

He and Kavita had met - more than just met - three or four times over the past two weeks. So, was it she who had infected him?

It seemed life was soon about to change for at least three people in the near future.


Idiosyncrasies of a Covidiot

All episodes so far 

Episode 01 - Aaho-Choo Story

Episode 02 Bus-Ted 

Episode 03 Bohemian Clapsody 

Episode 04 - Departmental Chor 

Episode 05 - Exceptionally Coarse 

Episode 06 - Fruits & Nuts 

Episode 07 - Gross Spread

Episode 08 - Helping Hands

Episode 09 - I Want to Break Free

Episode 10 - Jamboree

Episode 11 - Keep Safe Distance

Episode 12 - Let There Be Light

Episode 13 - Musical Masti

Episode 14 - Night Riders

Episode 15 - Order Order

Episode 16 - Papa the Great

Episode 17 - Quarantine

Saturday, 25 April 2020

PAPA THE GREAT

z

Saturday, 18th April 2020, around 10:30 am


Anshuman looked at the workaholic seated to his left. As always, Gulshan's eyes were glued to his laptop monitor. It was almost as if he was expecting a gargoyle to jump out of the screen and pounce on him if he ever blinked. His fingers danced on the keyboard like an overenthusiastic Varun Dhawan in ABCD.

Anshuman was bemused, "Wasn't today supposed to be a holiday?"

"It's the third Saturday of the month", Gulshan admonished him, "Are you sure you've been a banker for nearly five years?"

"Where's your sense of humour?"

"Where's YOUR sense of duty?"

"Gullu...Ullu", Anshuman chided Gulshan; but he seemed to have switched off from the conversation already.

Just then, Anshuman's mobile phone rang. Neha Kakkar's "Garmi" as a ringtone would have made anyone else go red in the face in embarrassment - but Anshuman was made of a different timber.

The number seemed a tad familiar, "Hello?"

"How're you Nalaayak?" The voice sounded familiar too.

"Govind Kaka?" Anshuman asked in an irritated tone.

"It's your father, Nalaayak! You don't recognize your own father's voice?"

"I was joking Papa", Anshuman bit his tongue, "How are you?"

"Nevermind the formalities...what are these things that have I been hearing about you?"

"About me? Please don't believe her! She's lying!"

"Who's lying? What are you talking about Nalaayak?"

"No nothing, Papa! I was talking to my colleague", Anshuman bit his tongue again.

"No nothing, Papa! I was talking to my colleague", Anshuman bit his tongue again. "What did you hear about me Papa?"

"One of the elders of your neighbourhood told me you set off some fireworks inside your house on 5th April...Is this true?"

"But it was supposed to be a light show Papa."

"I get that...but why didn't you share this idea with me earlier?"


Idiosyncrasies of a Covidiot

All episodes so far 

Episode 01 - Aaho-Choo Story

Episode 02 Bus-Ted 

Episode 03 Bohemian Clapsody 

Episode 04 - Departmental Chor 

Episode 05 - Exceptionally Coarse 

Episode 06 - Fruits & Nuts 

Episode 07 - Gross Spread

Episode 08 - Helping Hands

Episode 09 - I Want to Break Free

Episode 10 - Jamboree

Episode 11 - Keep Safe Distance

Episode 12 - Let There Be Light

Episode 13 - Musical Masti

Episode 14 - Night Riders

Episode 15 - Order Order

Episode 16 - Papa the Great

Episode 17 - Quarantine

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

ORDER ORDER


It was 10:30 am on a Saturday morning. Thankfully, this was the second Saturday of the month, which meant it was officially a holiday for bank employees. But since Anshuman also owned a pharmacy - it was being operated by his cousin Dinesh - he sometimes spent a few hours of his weekends helping his cousin. It wasn't just about being a helpful relative - a good businessman always kept a close watch on his investments. Yes, Dinesh did have a share in the profits, but this was Anshuman's business at the end of the day.

Business had been pretty okay since the lockdown. After all, healthcare, essentials and education will never go out of business, and Anshuman's pharmacy dealt with two of these - the pharmacy doubled up as a provision store for a few FMCG items like milk, bread, food grains, etc. as well to cater to the middle class neighborhood. Truth be told, business was pretty good, even at these times - after all, it was pretty easy to make a profit in times of crisis.

"Aye Chotu...do we have enough bread?" he asked one of the helpers. He didn't know the teen's real name. In fact, he didn't know he other helper's name either - he simply called him Lambu.

"Yes Sahab, we have 20 packets."

"Milk?"

"10 litres."

"Sugar?"

The phone rang. It was a landline device with the punch-able number pads. Before Dinesh could warn him not to take the call, Anshuman picked it up on the very first ring.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Dinesh?"

"Nahi...Anshuman here."

"Oh Anshuman...how are you? Philomena from Dominic Villa."

"Oh hello Aunty" Anshuman responded, brushing off Dinesh's attempts to catch his attention, "How can I help you today?"

"Sonna...I need two packets of bread and 2 litres of milk."

"Yes Aunty, we have enough stock. You can come over and pick them up."

"Sonna...can you please get them delivered to my house?"

Dinesh slapped his forehead, but Anshuman didn't flinch.

"Aunty, we have only two helpers here...if you want items to be delivered, there will be a delivery charge."

"How much?"

"Forty Rupees."

There was silence for a few seconds, "Okay Sonna."

"And Aunty, the items can be delivered only till your building gate...we will give it to your security guard."

There was silence again, "Okay."

"And Aunty, you understand we're trying to be as safe as possible, so can you transfer the amount electronically...by Google Pay maybe?"

"Of course, of course! How much do I need to pay? I'll do it right away."

"Ninety for the milk, sixty for the bread, and forty delivery charges. One hundred and ninety."

Philomena took less than a minute, "Done."

"Thank you Aunty. You can expect your items to reach you in the next 10 minutes...or maybe earlier."

Anshuman dropped the receiver. He looked towards the helper, "Chotu, pack two litres of milk and two bread packets."

After the teen did as he was bid, Anshuman picked up the parcel and stepped outside the pharmacy. There he saw a young urchin, not more than 10 years of age, loitering in the area.

"Hey young man", he called out to the boy, "wanna earn ten rupees?"


Idiosyncrasies of a Covidiot

All episodes so far 

Episode 01 - Aaho-Choo Story

Episode 02 Bus-Ted 

Episode 03 Bohemian Clapsody 

Episode 04 - Departmental Chor 

Episode 05 - Exceptionally Coarse 

Episode 06 - Fruits & Nuts 

Episode 07 - Gross Spread

Episode 08 - Helping Hands

Episode 09 - I Want to Break Free

Episode 10 - Jamboree

Episode 11 - Keep Safe Distance

Episode 12 - Let There Be Light

Episode 13 - Musical Masti

Episode 14 - Night Riders

Episode 15 - Order Order

Episode 16 - Papa the Great

Monday, 20 April 2020

NIGHT RIDERS


This episode is in continuation of Episode 13 - Musical Masti 

Manoj fiddled with his phone; anyone could make out that he was a bag of nerves at this point in time. And to think that only a little over an hour ago, he could possibly have had the night of his life!

He dialed Kavita's number for the umpteenth time; but she rejected his call yet again.

"Pick up dammit!" He dialed her again. She rejected the call once more.

He then sent her a DM. "I'm at the hospital. Please call me ASAP."

Thankfully, his phone rang in less than a minute.

"You're at the hospital?" Kavita sounded frantic.

"Yes, sweets."

"I was so upset...I actually thought you'd stood me up", she complained, "I waited for almost an hour! What's the time now? Three?"

"Not my fault sweets."

"What's wrong?" she finally remembered she had to be more considerate, "Are you okay? What are you doing at the hospital?"

"I'm waiting to be tested", he buried his eyes in his hand.

"Tested? For what?"

"For the coronavirus..."

"What the fuck Manoj? You could've landed me in trouble too..."

"Lemme finish Kavi! I think someone set me up!"

"Someone set you up? What do you mean?"

"Well...I was in my car...and there was no one to stop me throughout the 6 km journey. But as soon as I entered your lane, there was a car waiting."

"A car?"

"Yeah...just a few metres outside your gate. It was on its way out of the lane."

"And?"

"Well, when the guy driving the car saw my car approaching, he honked a couple of times. As soon as I stopped my car next to his, he rolled down the window and asked me the way to the nearest police station. After I gave him directions, he thanked me. But just before he rolled the window all the way back up, he blew some weird kinda powder into my face and sped away."

"Oh my God. What powder was it?" Kavita was genuinely worried now.

"I have no freaking clue. But it left me sneezing for a good 10 minutes. I thought I was gonna die sneezing!"

"Oh God, then what happened?"

"Then a police patrol van appeared out of nowhere and the cops asked me what I was doing outside during the lockdown. My constant sneezing got them suspicious, and here I am now at the hospital, waiting to get tested."

"Are they gonna quarantine you?"

"My gut feeling says they will! I should've worn a mask...that would have saved me all the..."

Kavita hung up without waiting for him to finish.

A few miles away, Anshuman kept his grandmother's snuff bottle back in the cabinet drawer and finally jumped into bed for a good night's sleep.


Idiosyncrasies of a Covidiot

All episodes so far 

Episode 01 - Aaho-Choo Story

Episode 02 Bus-Ted 

Episode 03 Bohemian Clapsody 

Episode 04 - Departmental Chor 

Episode 05 - Exceptionally Coarse 

Episode 06 - Fruits & Nuts 

Episode 07 - Gross Spread

Episode 08 - Helping Hands

Episode 09 - I Want to Break Free

Episode 10 - Jamboree

Episode 11 - Keep Safe Distance

Episode 12 - Let There Be Light

Episode 13 - Musical Masti

Episode 14 - Night Riders

Episode 15 - Order Order