Saturday, October 27, 2012

The other

Mumbai, as all non-Mumbai-ites will agree, is a tough city. Reaching Mumbai for the first time in your mid-thirties and trying to fall in love with the city are impossible to achieve together, somewhat like meeting Ayesha Takia for the first time and managing to make eye-contact with her. It's ridiculously tough.

But there I was. Every day, after a tired day's work, I used to drag my rather obese self back to an apartment in Saki Naka (yes, people do live in Saki Naka); I used to take the elevator; I used to put up a hollow smile if Parkar or Patil or Shinde were entering or leaving their apartments (a natural one, if it was the Patil girl); I used to turn the key in the door I used to turn the lights on; I used to dump my backpack uncermoniously; I used to take a bath; I used to check whether the baai had cooked with curry-pata or without (the only variety in cooking she could ever dream of); then, I used to perch myself behind the laptop.

It was the same thing, over and over. Every day. Until that day. That day.

I did everything as my impeccable schedule till I entered my room on one of those sultry evenings only Mumbai can conjure out of nowhere. As I threw my backpack on the cot and turned towards the bathroom, I looked out of the corner of my eye and noticed something stir in the room.

The light was on. It was another human being. Just like that.

Obese. With glasses. Oddly familiar.

In fact, it was an exact replica of mine. Yet another Abhishek Mukherjee. Wearing exactly the same shirt and trousers that I had on. Even the circles of sweat around the armpits looked the same size. They possibly stunk the same, too.

This was not right. This was clearly not right. This could really not be happening. One of myself was revolting enough for the world - why bother Humanity with two?

"Er, who exactly are you?" I asked in a shocked, almost scandalised voice.

"Abhishek Mukherjee", the impostor lied in the singsong voice and killer accent that the world knows as mine.

"No. You cannot be Abhishek Mukherjee", I insisted.

"Of course I am. Who are you, by the way? And what are you doing in my apartment?" The duplicate demanded, somewhat incredulously.

"Excuse me...?"

"I thought you understood English. Or do you need to be conveyed everything in Marathi these days?" he let out a hideous cackle that I thought I was perfectly incapable of.

I grew impatient, almost to the verge of losing my temper. "Listen, I'm not quite sure what the best way to inform this to you is, but - I am Abhishek Mukherjee. The only one that has ever existed. I mean, I might have, must have had namesakes, but, I mean, I am the only one with exactly the same DNA configuration as mine. Which means that I am unique."

"Look, a loud voice won't help you rob me of my identity. I am, and continue to remain Abhishek Mukherjee. And I have no intention whatsoever to change that identity."

"See, there is a big, glaring error here. Since I cannot remember being cloned, one of us is an impostor, and the remaining one - which is myself - is the real Abhishek Mukherjee."

The other Abhishek Mukherjee sighed. For a moment it seemed he might swear - which would have sealed for good the fact that he is a fake - but he did not. Instead, he said, rather nonchalantly: "there has to be a test."

"A test? What test?"

"To find out which of us is the real one."

I groaned in exasperation: "Why do we need a test?"

"We should not have, had you not been this adamant. You should simply have walked away."

"Are you insane? Listen, buddy, double roles happen in Bollywood movies - and they don't happen even there these days. They are not supposed to happen in real life. This is outrageous."

"Which is why we should take a test of some sort."

"What test are you talking about?"

"That is up to you to decide."

"Well, Fake -"

"Please abstain from calling me Fake. I am the Real One."

"See, everyone who knows me is aware of the fact that the real Abhishek Mukherjee has got a terrific sense of humour. It is so insanely good that most people consider it out of the world, and insist that it should have been sent to Mars instead."

The other Abhishek Mukherjee merely blinked. I thought it was unusual that he did not laugh, even smile, but then, it was really a lame joke. "So?" He asked expressionlessly.

And then it struck me. I almost lost my composure as I shouted in excitement. "Look, I know what test to take."

"Which is...?"

"Listen, as I have just mentioned, I, the real Abhishek Mukherjee, am quite renowned for his sense of humour. People love his style, and drool over his extremely popular blog ... Er, no. I just have a blog, that is all. It is not extremely popular. It has not won an award, has over only a hundred followers, and the total page-view count till date is hovering around merely the 100,000-mark. It also has the most unimaginative name ever. It's nothing robust. But it's an extremely popular blog, and I am destined to become one of the most popular authors ever."

The impostor pretended to yawn. I felt like slapping him, but restrained myself with some effort. "Listen, we need to take the test: we can simply tell each other a joke; whoever comes up with the funnier one is the real Abhishek Mukherjee and the other walks away without a word", I uttered.

To my astonishment, he nodded. Here was a fake entity bringing about his own defeat, and hence, exit.

I marvelled at the singularity of the situation. Not only did I have a doppelganger, he also spoke in a similar voice and accent as mine; now, he is going to undergo a joke contest that will decide who the real Abhishek is.

I, being the real Abhishek Mukherjee, had the first go, and I started off with my favourite 12-inch BIC joke.

I had expected the impostor to smile. He did not get the joke at all. He merely looked back at me with a very vacant, very Fardeen Khanly expressionlessness.

"It's your turn", I said, rather impatiently.

"I do not know jokes. I do not understand humour."

"What do you mean, you do not understand humour?"

"I just do not."

"That proves you cannot be Abhishek Mukherjee."

"Sense of humour is not a necessary criterion."

"That is not what we had decided upon."

"I do not remember what we had decided upon."

"You know something? That is the second proof that you cannot be Abhishek Mukherjee. I am famous for my incredible memory. My memory of cricket statistics and trivia is already a part of folklore, and has gone a long way in increasing my appeal among women."

"Cricket? You mean - the insect of family Gryllidae, that can be further classified into Eneopterinae, Gryllinae, Nemobiinae, Oecanthinae, Phalangopsinae, Podoscirtinae, Pteroplistinae and Trigonidiinae?"

My mind raced. I wondered whether there will be a courtroom of sorts where both of us will be tried. I, with my profound knowledge of the sport and my hugely reputed inadequate knowledge of biology, was sure to win the argument. Finding the correct lawyer would be the only issue, I thought.

I smiled and responded. "Have you not heard of cricket? The noblest of sports? The only sport whose books are safely classified as literature?"

"Lite - what? Is that anything that can be productised?"

This was serious stuff. Not knowing cricket could easily have meant you were Chinese or simply a low-IQ entity or both. But not knowing literature was completely on a different planet.

On a different planet? Hang on...

"Are you an Earthling?"

"Of course I am. I am, as I have mentioned before, Abhishek Mukherjee."

"See, you cannot be Abhishek Mukherjee. I am Abhishek Mukherjee, with an extraordinary sense of humour, a colossal memory and an insatiable thirst for cricket and literature. You, on the other hand, possess none of these qualities. Also, since you resemble me to an extent this uncanny, and I really cannot recall myself being cloned, you must be from another planet."

"You and your non-proactive mind tire me. Do I look anything non-human?"

"No. But how do I know that you cannot design yourself to make yourself look non-human?"

"You can take me to a clinic and get a full body check-up done. Actually, we can get that done, for both of us. Our DNA configuration will also prove who the real Abhishek Mukherjee is."

I groaned. More biology, I thought. I was also sure that since he has been able to replicate everything, his DNA configuration would be the exact same match.

"Listen, this isn't happening, right? You simply cannot exist."

"No, this is happening on the contrary. I am Abhishek Mukherjee. And somehow it turns out that you are him, as well."

"No. You possess merely a physical resemblance to Abhishek Mukherjee. I possess them as well as other traits."

"Well, we can come to a truce. We can merge."

"We can do that?" As always, I got to believe that the most hassle-free option was the best solution possible.

"Yes. However, the combined self will have to contain my traits."

"YOUR traits? Why? I am the real one..."

"Because I represent the more important aspects of life. As you have already heard, I am an expert at using words like productisation, proactive and robust. Provided the correct opportunities, I can use superior terms value-add, turnkey solution and the most superlative of them all - paradigm shift."

"You really think these corporate jargon are aspects in life that are more important than cricket, literature or humour?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about. Corporate jargon will help you take giant strides in life. Whatever gibberish you are talking of will not. Hence, my traits are dominant and yours, recessive. If we merge, the resultant Abhishek Mukherjee will be exactly like me; he will have my mindset, speak my words, and hence become more acceptable to the world."

"I do not agree to this. If that is the case, I do not agree to the merge."

"You do not have an option. As you must have noticed, I am the more powerful of the two. I have been able to replicate you. Not only that, I have been able to produce a superior version of you. I am going to overpower and conquer you, and trust me, this paradigm shift will make you an improved self. You won't regret it."

Fear crept in. My mind became numb to this horrific future of my existence. The impostor - who was probably not an impostor, and I had no idea what kind of creature he was - was actually smiling. The confidence in the smile seemed to drain my soul of all hope. My heart was filled with terror as I imagined myself converted into someone so gormless. It spread its arms wide and approached me. Cold sweat trickled down my spine. My feet grew numb as he advanced towards me, the imminent danger increasing with every step he took.

I thought of my daughter once. Then I thought no more. The only Abhishek Mukherjee that was going to exist was not the one I had so carefully nurtured over three and a half decades. He was not the one destined to follow a path to unusual brilliance.

He was going to change. For the worse. What was worse, it was going to happen in Mumbai.

And then, I heard a loud popping sound behind me, not very dissimilar to uncorking a champagne. Someone was behind me. A confident hand moved me aside and strode forward.

The other Abhishek Mukherjee changed. In a couple of seconds it was completely covered in bloodstained bandages. It was a mummy.

Its sightless face was turned to the other person in the room and it began to walk toward her very slowly, dragging its feet, its stiff arms rising...

She stretched out her right hand - the one that had a thin piece of wood in it - and cried "Riddikulus!" It was the pretty-faced Patil girl from next door.

A bandage gave way at the mummy's feet; it got stuck and its face hit the ground; its head rolled off on the ground.

She laughed. Even I broke into a smile as the tension and horror seemed to desert me. And then, we both laughed out loud. Very loud.

The boggart got blasted into what seemed to be an infinite number of pieces, and all was left was minuscule tendrils of smoke that soon mingled with the Mumbai smog.

The Patil girl mumbled something about Muggles; then, with a loud crack, she was gone.

26 comments:

  1. Durdanto! Majhe ektu haalu lagchhilo but then I was in my element again :D

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    1. As other magic-lovers would be! :P

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  2. "somewhat like meeting Ayesha Takia for the first time and making eye-contact" ROTFL :D :D :D

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  3. Great plot. Awesome storyline. Brilliant narration. Loved the end. The end was well quite a "paradigm shift" :D

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  4. "Durdanto! Majhe ektu haalu lagchhilo but then I was in my element again :D"

    Jhinka ke quote korlam... darun!!
    Boggart niye second lekha!! ekdom unexpected shesh!! Bhishon cool!! Wish, I could write like this!!

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  5. Beautiful,intriguing,well woven. Alter ego?
    Telltale. Wonderfully written.

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  6. ABSOLUTELY superb. You go beyond merely channelling Douglas Adams here. (You know, the Genghis Khan story.)

    What a superb, gripping read. Just the kick I needed before I went to sleep. 'Night!

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    1. Ah, the Genghis Khan story. Haven't read that in a while. But thank you for the HUGE compliment.

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  7. you had me reading on with bated breath till the very end ! A brilliant storyline and a brilliant narration !

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  8. I should have added (obviously) that you were absolutely awesome in channelling JKR as well:

    "... I used to take the elevator; I used to put up a hollow smile if Parkar or Patil or Shinde were entering or leaving their apartments (a natural one, if it was the Patil girl); I used to..."

    The hint dropped in ever-so-casually at the start. Sheer brilliance :).

    And of course, the other fact: your greatest fear is that you'll lose all appreciation for cricket, trivia, Bollywood, and humour - and become another corporate honcho... Good to know!

    All in all, 'twas superbly done. Now I think I'll go read one of the Harry Potters again :).

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    1. Whoa, the second HUGE comparison. This is as big as it gets! :O

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  9. Loved it! And as for the conversation - spot on :)

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  10. I loved it. You know why!
    :)

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  11. Terrific, layered representation something that may have actually happened! Really glad you chose to stay the Abhishek Mukherjee we know.

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  12. Fantastic narration.
    And yes, it was better than my version *evny*...

    http://lafemmenirvana.blogspot.in/2012/10/i-me-and-dumber-myself.html

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  13. Awesome! I can never foresee your harry potter segues.

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  14. Was actually getting frightened by the 'impostor' until "Riddikulus!"...
    Simply brilliant
    Was reading U r blog after a long long time & stumbled upon this gem

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  15. Since this is quasi-autobiographical,who is this Patil girl,who made your stay easier in mumbai?
    Interestingly,muggles before JK was a euphemism for marijuana.So if one takes out the JK reference,it would simply suggest you took drugs to cope up with your loneliness in mumbai(Hyuk,hyuk)
    One wonders if sniffer dogs would've found the true Abhishek Mukherjee :D
    All in all,a great post.outstanding.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. Sigh, if there was really a Patil girl waiting for in Mumbai.

      I had no idea that Muggles used to be an euphemism for marijuana. Seriously. Thanks for bringing that to my knowledge.

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