This is the third episode in The Anger Bar series, check out the previous episodes before moving on -
Lower Parel, Mumbai
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
Dheeraj closed the book after reading the quote by Mark Twain. He was under house arrest. Dhairya had made sure that he didn’t leave the house and go back to work at The People. It had been a week since Dheeraj was rescued by her from the clutches of Inspector Waghmare and there he was now, alone on the 23rd floor of a sky rise in Southern Bombay, sitting in the balcony against a setting sun, puffing up his cigarettes and reading one of the many books given by Dhairya on anger management. With every story and quote, Dheeraj felt a pang of guilt for his actions. This wasn’t the first time he had being manically angry. He had been reprimanded in school for punching and breaking the nose of a classmate, he had been suspended in junior college for kicking the teacher’s desk till it had a huge dent after a heated argument, at Harvard he was so angry when his girlfriend left him that he destroyed his entire room and sat in the pile of broken things the entire day. But what happened last week was the epitome of both his anger and embarrassment, he had never been to jail, and being from a decent family, going to jail was the worst thing that could ever happen to a person in society. Dheeraj kept the book on the shelf and lit up another cigarette as he entered the balcony. He tried to blow away the embarrassment in the cigarette smoke but all he could think of was his sixty minutes in jail, the cold, damp and rotting walls, the ash-colored platform on which Khaled chacha was sitting, and the clay water pot which proved as a metaphor for his life. The words of Khaled chacha still echoed his ears.
“Anger is like the element fire. Fire can destroy the earth by burning its resources or can be used to mold the earth into something useful, like this clay pot…”
The phone beeped and vibrated on the table next to him. It was a message from Pankaj.
Costa Coffee. Phoenix Mall. 7 PM. Be there.
Dheeraj was puzzled. He had not been able to understand why Pankaj had let him go in the first place when he had a very good chance for revenge. He tried to remember the events that happened that day to get any clues from Pankaj’s behavior, but it was all a blur for him. And this message now, why did he want to meet him? Dhairya had sent the mail on his behalf that he wouldn’t be coming to work till next week, then why was he summoned? He had to wait an hour to find the answers to his questions.
Phoenix Mall, Lower Parel, Mumbai
Pankaj reached the cafe fifteen minutes before the time he had mentioned in the message. He took a seat outdoors. The setting sun was swelled up, just like the last dying seconds of a flame; it was bright orange and piercing Pankaj’s eyes. He put on his sunglasses and waited for Dheeraj.
Dheeraj entered the mall and started walking towards the cafe. His mind was racing with several doubts. He was determined to find out why there was a sudden change in Pankaj’s behavior towards him. He hated him since the day he was interviewed by the board of Directors; there was a certain air of arrogance and wickedness in him that he was never able to figure out despite his mind-blowing observational skills.
“I have to read him carefully today, I am sure there is some ulterior motive of his”, he said to himself.
He saw Pankaj sitting outside, the glowing sun beating down on his face, he had his sunglasses on. He went up to him and pulled out the chair and sat down slowly.
“That son of a bitch sure does know how to safeguard himself”, he thought.
“Hi Pankaj, why have you called me here, I am sure my lawyer has mailed the board of Directors that I won’t be joining till next week”, Dheeraj stated rather rudely.
“Hey… Calm down, buddy. I am fully aware of the mail your lawyer sent us. But this was kind of urgent and I couldn’t think of anyone else who could pull it off.”
Dheeraj was puzzled, “What are you talking about?”
“As you know that The People has the Annual Innovation Convention for all the HR firms of the world, well this time it is going to be held here in Mumbai, now I have taken care of all the arrangements but there is one thing which I rather forgot. The Innovative Idea of the Year contest. Almost all the top firms take part in this competition and the panel for this competition is the CEOs of all the firms.”
“And you want me to organize it?”
“No. No. Let me complete. You don’t have to organize this event, as I told you I have taken care of all the arrangements. I want you to lead our idea for the contest.” Pankaj smiled.
Dheeraj was shocked and he stammered, “Lead… Lead the idea for the contest? Umm, I think I might be able to pull it off.” Dheeraj’s mind started racing, one week back this man was after his life and his happiness, and today there is a proposal to lead the company in the biggest event of the industry. There has to be a catch.
“What is the catch here sir?” Dheeraj regained his composure and asked in a firm voice.
“You are an intelligent man Dheeraj… There is a small catch. You have one week to get an idea for this contest.”
Dheeraj was taken aback, one week to get an idea for which other firms have prepared for a year. “And what if I fail to get one?”
“Dheeraj my boy, you underestimate yourself very quickly. I am sure you will find one hell of an idea. I have seen your work, some of your ideas are legendary and you will definitely find us a winning entry to the contest.”
“Dheeraj… You just have to get the idea. Once you get the idea, I will pick up the best of the people from the R&D Wing and make sure that your idea can be presented in the contest on time. The Convention and the contest begin on the same day and that is two weeks from today. All you have to do is get me something that blows my mind away.”
Dheeraj was stunned, even though Pankaj’s eyes were covered in shades, his body language was genuine. And one good idea in seven days, he could surely pull that off, maybe.
Pankaj was swiftly on his feet, he removed his sunglasses, bend down to whisper into Dheeraj’s ear. “Don’t worry. I have forgiven you for the car. Get me an idea and I will forget it too.” With that, Pankaj walked away. Dheeraj was worse than he thought he would be. Not only were his questions unanswered. There was a new challenge waiting for him in a week’s time.
Dheeraj rang the doorbell twice and was pacing up and down on the corridor when the door opened.
“Hi, Dheeraj! What a pleasant surprise?”
Dheeraj was pleasantly surprised himself to see Rohan open the door at Dhairya’s place.
“Hey, Rohan! Nice to see you too buddy. It’s been a long time”
“Yeah, dude. Come in. Come in.”
Dheeraj entered the flat and saw Dhairya coming out of the room.
“Hi Dheeraj, any trouble?”
“Sort of…”, Dheeraj replied coyly.
“You two have a seat, I’ll get you guys your drinks”, Dhairya said and disappeared into another room.
Dhairya and Ankit lived in a three-room kitchen apartment in Worli. It wasn’t a high rise or a tower but still had fourteen floors to it. The building was in a residential area with many societies around. Dhairya’s flat-faced the Worli Sea Face. The cool breeze hit Dheeraj and Rohan as they stepped out onto the balcony to light up their cigarettes.
“So… I heard you have been in trouble lately. Jail and all.” Rohan started.
“Dhairya told you?” Dheeraj asked
“Yeah… You know me; I get out of control when I am angry. Luckily Dhairya was there to save me.”
“Yeah, like she has been saving my brother all this while.”
“You tell me, mister, why are you here? Busy man you have become.” Dheeraj asked him teasingly
“Well… Well… Busy is in the word business. Well, not technically but you do get the point.”
“Yes. Yes. Mr. Busy-ness man.” Dheeraj pulled his leg.
“I came here to see Ankit. I have recently brought some property near Lower Parel, a few meters from Phoenix Mall. I am planning to get into the food and wine business and was thinking of opening a club or a bar there, and I need someone trustworthy to help me get started. I still have faith in Ankit, I know he can pull something off, and hence I came here to extend this offer to him but he is in Delhi for two weeks. I came half an hour back and was just about to leave when you rang the bell.”
“I’m glad you didn’t leave. It’s been years man. This food and wine business is promising. You’ll do well.”
“Yes. But I need a strong partner; I have a huge place area wise. The bar, restaurant, and kitchen will all fit on the ground floor. Apart from that, I have an equal area in the basement too and there is a separate parking area. I was thinking of using the basement area as well for something. Hey! Why don’t you join me? You could help me survey the market and help me build my team.”
“Me? What? No! I have a serious offer on my hand right now which brought me here. I wanted to discuss it with Dhairya.”
Dhairya came in with a bottle of Scotch and poured it into 3 glasses.
“It’s been years since we have had a drink together”, Dhairya said as she picked up her glass.
“To friendship!” Rohan announced.
“To friendship!” Dheeraj and Dhairya said in the chorus and had a sip.
Rohan was Ankit’s younger brother. The family business had six major businesses, but with Ankit handling everything haphazardly, four out of the six businesses were almost bankrupt and Rohan had to step in on his father’s orders to save them. He was young back then, at 22, he had a shrewd mind for business and he was finally able to save all four of them. It had been three years since and Rohan was now handling all the businesses much to the irk of Ankit. Despite the bitterness from Ankit’s side, Rohan always loved his brother and sister in law. He met Dheeraj through Dhairya and bonded well with him too.
“What’s the matter Dheeraj?” Dhairya asked
Dheeraj described his meeting with Pankaj and the offer to put all this behind him and to get back at working at The People. Dhairya looked worried but Rohan said confidently,
“I think you should take his offer. I know you can pull off a great idea and worst-case scenario, you don’t win the competition and they fire you. You can always come and work with me!”
“Thanks, buddy, for the support!” Dheeraj smiled. “You tell me Dhairya. Should I take this offer?”
“I don’t doubt your ability Dheeraj, I just doubt Pankaj’s motives.”
“He said he will forget the whole scene if I do this for him.”
“Go ahead then! All the best!”
Dheeraj was driving back to his place, he was stuck in a traffic jam that was barely moving. With the red brake lights of the BMW flashing in front of his face, he fell into another trance. His mind took him to the dirty rotten walls of Powai jail where he was sitting next to Khaled chacha. Very loud horns from behind woke him up from his trance. The road ahead had cleared and cars were zipping past him. Dheeraj put the car in gear and took the first U-turn and set out for Powai.
Powai Police Station
Inspector Waghmare was having tea at a small joint next to the station when he saw Dheeraj driving into the lane. His eyes lit up with excitement, he paid the tea vendor and didn’t even bother to collect the change and walked off towards the station. He met Dheeraj at the entrance,
“Have you come here to surrender Mr. Purohit?” Waghmare joked and looked at his constables who let out a forced laugh.
“No sir. I have come here to see Khaled chacha” Dheeraj said in a matter-of-fact tone and walked in.
Waghmare followed him in a hurry. “You can’t meet him at this time” he shouted
Dheeraj walked in and found the cell where Khaled chacha was sitting. Khaled chacha saw him and gave him a smile. Dheeraj smiled back. Waghmare caught up with him,
“Who do you think you are? The visiting hours are over. You can’t meet him unless you plan to bail him out tomorrow.”
“I plan to do that exactly”, Dheeraj said with a smile
Waghmare was stunned. “You can have five minutes with him. And I need the paperwork tomorrow or I am coming after you!”
“You will have your paperwork by noon tomorrow!”
Inspector Waghmare left dejected. Somehow Dheeraj still eluded him.
Khaled chacha had walked up to the bars of the prison. “I can’t thank you enough son.”
“No chacha. I should be the one thanking you. Those words you told me that day still ring in my ears. I just want to know the whole story of why you got here?”
Khaled chacha took a deep breath.
“I killed my son… It was an accident. I was fighting with my wife and I left the house in a rage. I drove out at full speed and my son was playing at the curb… I didn’t overrun him, I took him to the hospital, but there had been severe blood loss and he died a few hours later. My wife divorced me and charged me with murder against my own son. There was enough proof to put me away for life. My good work at the stone quarries helped me to reduce the sentence from a lifetime to twenty-five years. I was released last year but I have no place to go, I was picked up at Powai for stealing food, and ever since I have been here.”
Dheeraj stood rooted. The story was shocking. This man’s anger killed his own son.
“Anger is a great evil, my son. It took everything from me. My wife, my son, my family, and my friends. I learned to control it with much pain.”
“I worked at the stone quarries my son, whenever I got angry on myself or on anyone I used to let all of it out on the rocks. The more anger I had, the more rocks were broken into finer stones, the more pain it caused me and I realized that anger is a form of energy which when channeled properly can be useful. The superintendents thought that I was working hard and my jail term was decreased. “
Dheeraj was struck by lightning. The idea just flashed into his mind.
“Thank you so much Khaled chacha!!!”
“Thank you for what my son?”
“You have saved my life and my job!!” he hugged Khaled chacha through the bars, “I will come tomorrow and bail you out and you will stay with me as you have nowhere to go, and maybe I can get you a decent job too, I have to go now chacha, I need to save my job!”
To be continued…
This story has more parts so stay tuned for Episode 4 next Sunday!
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See you next week with the next episode. 👋
- Darshan Pania