Kabirdas Agarwal had no life. He was just alive. He led an existence of absolute detachment – reminiscent of his namesake saint. The only difference was that Kabir the saint was detached from the world in his pursuit of devotional bliss, and our hero was detached just because he had no other choice. He had no friends, except of course, the tons of empty beer bottles whose contents he had guzzled down with not an inconsequential gusto. That was, till he met Tony.
Kabirdas was above the average as a student, but by no means intelligent. He always managed to cross the bar, but never with enough points to ensure him a place in the hall of fame. To give credit where it is due, he never bothered to try for an admission into any of the top notch Institutes, because by the time he had acquired his college degree in Commerce, he had had just about enough of studies. He really didn’t believe in investing any more time and money into forwarding the cause of igniting the inner fire, so he took up a job – Searching for a job! Finally, his efforts did bear fruit and he got a job. That’s where he met Tony Lawrence. And Tony became the only bright part in Kabir’s drab life.
Kabir and Tony used to spend their daytime together – they used to work nights. Weekends were reserved for getting sloshed together and for myriad activities of a mildly heinous nature – watching constantly lowering necklines and rising hemlines against the multicolored background of disco lights, smoke an occasional joint in any of the dirty back alleys of the city with a litter of cats for company, and at times just sleep the night out in an unkempt and fern overgrown park near Kabir’s room. In the office, they hardly got time to interact with each other; most of the time was spent in solving problems for a customer base that was, to say the least, three continents and two oceans away. Kabir was uncomfortable to begin with, but Tony was absolutely at ease. After all, he was an American by virtue of birth. It was just that he had lived all his life in the sub-continent and had picked up the ‘desi’ way of life. That was not just by chance but also by choice. And that’s what impressed the patriot in Kabir – his friend liked to remain an Indian, in spite of an option of migrating to the United States.
Tony was slowly becoming the single most powerful influence in Kabir’s life. He taught Kabir to love his work, in spite of the issue of connecting to a foreign populace. He also helped Kabir to get over his initial phobia of effectively talking to a person of a different race in his language, on the phone. He was a constant companion to Kabir – a shadow figure, a guardian angel! Tony was an Employer’s Delight. He was totally committed to the cause of helping out a customer and to ensure that he gives his very best to the company he worked for – to the extent of being brutal with his schedule and day planning. Kabir, on the other hand, was a very happy go lucky individual who shared his friend’s exalted views on work ethics and discipline; but always succeeded in procrastinating the actual implementation of those ideals.
It started one night at work, when all the phone banks were extremely busy. Tony was on a call with an exceptionally grouchy customer when Kabir rushed in, and released the call. Tony was shocked at the absolute lack of professionalism that Kabir displayed, and was about to chide him, when he saw the expression on Kabir’s face. Kabir had tears flowing freely, without any seeming semblance of guilt or shame. It was the face of a man who had lost his most precious possession. Then he spoke out, “Tony, my mother….”, and collapsed.
The doctor washed his hands in the bowl filled with Potassium Permanganate solution, and turned to Wajid Qureshi – Kabir’s manager.
“Mr. Qureshi, Kabir has had an attack of severe hypertension caused by extreme lack of sleep and dietary imbalance. I guess the shock caused by his mother’s death has triggered out a psychological disturbance, which might have been dormant for years. A volcano waiting to erupt. By the way, who is this Tony Lawrence? Kabir was calling out to him, when he was in a hallucinatory trance. I guess he might be able to help.”
Wajid Qureshi stared hard at the doctor, “Doctor, Tony Lawrence is Kabir’s alias name at the call center that he works for….”