In a Honda Brio, waiting in the early rush hour traffic at the beginning of the
Road in Gurgaon, was a family of three. The young
girl at the back seat was trying to talk to her parents about her plans for the
school day over the loud radio playing Kis Mod Se Jaate Hain from Aandhi. The
wife in turn was combing her now dried hair, giving it the shape it was going
to take for the day, all the while admonishing the husband passive-aggressively
about something that was surely “non-negotiable” for her, The husband
resolutely stared ahead.
Diagonally to the left of the Brio was a BMW X3. In it sat a single 26 year old man in the back seat. His driver was an old man in a safari uniform that went out with Dhirubhai Ambani. The 26 year old man was looking at the wife in the Brio intently. She looked beautiful to him. Sure, curly haired, fair, buxom could be his type that day. In the silence of his car, he heard neither the incessant rambling of the little girl at the back of the car, nor the loud radio in front. All he saw was her making her hair, to the rhythm of the right indicator of his own car.
He was brought back from his reverie when the driver started honking loudly at the tractor in front of him, uttering choicest abuses like “Bhosdiwale” and such from the safety of his shut window. The tractor took its own sweet time to get on with it, acting as if it still owned this city.
He finally started watching a film on his ipad to kill time. The credits scene of The Social Network had the protagonist walking through the hallowed corridors of the Harvard campus to the minimalistic yet portentous score of Nine Inch Nails. He had studiously avoided watching this film for two years now and he thought enough time had passed for it to not sting. But conversations about a film often miss out the best scenes. Because these are scenes so purely cinematic that they are not pliable for spoken or written word.
The music, the damp streets, the arrogant lights and elegant brick buildings, set to the haunting score, reminded him again of what he had missed out. 4 years ago, within the space of 5 hours he had received two mails in his gmail account at his dorm room in Georgia Tech. One was the call letter to Harvard and the other was a hasty mail from his father asking him to call asap.
His father had come to Gurgaon way back in the early eighties, when the city was still a village. Sanjay Gandhi was dead and with it the scam called Maruti Udyog got its shot at becoming something more than an abomination. His father was one of the early settlers who brought that JV with Suzuki to life in the dreary environs of Gurgaon. Soon, farmers became millionaires and ministers became billionaires and a stuttering apology of a city was cobbled together on nothing but cement and steel. His father went through the death of his mother and he was sent away to Mumbai at his aunt’s. There he battered his mind into submission towards his textbooks.
His father married again in a few years and by then he was at Georgia Tech. He was emailed pictures of his father’s second wedding. In it were pictures of this delicate teenage girl, who the father had captioned as “your new sister”. In the moment between seeing the picture and reading the caption, the truth peeped out and hid away behind decency. For the next 3 years, the delicate teenage girl blossomed through a slew of pictures of family trips and parties.
Then that autumn morning, the call was made and the father explained in muffled sobs that his new sister had been raped. The new mother being weak of heart had died of shock and the new sister was in critical state. The father wanted him to come back. Between feeling surprised at not feeling surprised at the turn of events – well, she was pretty and she was in Gurgaon and, you know, shit happens – and finding it quite funny that another of his father’s wives was dead, he thought it would be interesting to go down and see things first hand.
By the time he landed at T3, the new sister was dead and the father was appropriately hysterical. It began with innocuous initial paperwork but soon snowballed into him being the project manager on the rape case. Then with two months to go for his year to begin at Harvard, the court proceedings began. Then something happened. For a brilliant mind, fighting a tricky case against an accused who was a local strong man, presented a delicious little challenge. Navigating through a labyrinth of criminal law and strategy with his smart lawyer, he got hooked onto the case. How was it different to what he was good at? You spend enough hours poring over case law through nights, and applying the finest works of John Nash and Robert Hare, you are bound to get better at this thing.
He started loving the insane hours spent on every nuance of the case. He enjoyed the thrill of the court procedure. But above all, he loved to act.
He got transformed in front of the cameras. He would say all the right things, calibrated with just the right tinge of emotion to have the media eating out of his hands. He vexed eloquent about the innocence of his sister, which he personally was sure didn't exist. There would be bouts of uncontrollable rage befitting a loving brother and then there would be moments of reverence for due process befitting a model citizen. All the time, the father looked on from the sidelines, not particularly interested in much after two dead wives; other than the contents of his mini-bar. He even acted when he was alone – simultaneously being the tragic figure whose Harvard dream had been stolen, as well as the hero who was doing something righteous.
While he was watching the film now in his car, on his left he saw the hills looming where his sister’s was the first rape reported. Over time, the hills had become notorious for crime and even the most hardened builder respected their invincibility.
His star witness was one of the residents in the hills who claimed to have seen it all. The next day was the final day of the hearing and his star witness was slated to give his testimony. He was headed to his lawyer’s office to meet his star witness and go over the testimony one last time. His star witness was a scrawny man with a disproportionately booming voice. The star witness’ oily hair would always be perfectly parted on the right side and he wore his moustache proudly. The start witness’ clothes always looked dusty but if you would have dusted them, you would know it was Gurgaon’s haze and not his clothes.
He didn't need to go for the practice testimony but listening to the witness’s description of the act gave him a special kind of pleasure. Not the sexual kind of pleasure that some men get out of rape porn. It was something higher – it was the pleasure of knowing the convicted man wouldn't go unpunished for the fun he had.
While the practice testimony went well that day, something dramatic happened at the court the next day. The star witness wasn't “sure” anymore if the accused was the person he had seen that night. The case wasn't over yet. It would go on for god knows how much longer now. In the meantime, he signed a book deal, a television series to find an ideal bride for himself and a few cheques worth a few crore rupees in the name of his star witness.
It the oldest rule in the book. Its fun playing chess with a strong opponent; but what do you do when you are your strongest opponent?
You play the game from both sides.