Monday morning. The alarm has started wailing in it’s almost cynical tone as per the daily routine. It is time for Riaz to drag himself out of bed and face another listless and robotic day at work. The tea is as usual cold and the bread leftover from 2 days ago. Living in a locality bearing the brunt of both the electric and gas load shedding means the water never really reaches a point of warmth let alone the boiling point. And baked bread is too expensive a luxury so this must do.
Reaching work the young supervisor starts barking orders at all the company drivers. He must be at least a third of Riaz’s age. Riaz turned 78 last month. Not that it mattered. His birthday… or anybody’s birthdays. Except for the sab jee’s. They could afford to celebrate it by cutting a cake and distributing it amongst their colleagues. And luckily enough a slice for Riaz because he was the one who was usually assigned the task of going and buying it. 78, and heavy set. A voice box almost towards its end thanks to the 30-40 cigarettes a day. And not a good brand like Gold Leaf like he used to have in the old days. Too expensive now. A brand for the lesser sab ji’s perhaps. He must do with the cheap 20 rupee packets which are probably imported here as rejected quality from the rest of the world.
“Kya karein aur sab jee, iss may kamas kam kuch tou sukoon milta hay. Iss say dil ko dard pohanchay tou kiya hua … uss kay liye tou roz hee line lagi hoti hay.”
He remembers saying this to one of the younger sab ji’s from out of town once.
Riaz had seen better days. When the sun didn’t feel as hot. Load shedding wasn’t really an everyday word. Where even if someone younger then you was your boss or supervisor the respect was guaranteed. When the daily expenses were well within his reach. Well enough to afford him a good weekend at Capri or halwa puri nastha on sundays. Sometimes both – depending on the mood .. not the money. But those days were gone. They were past.
He had seen life outside of Pakistan. India. Emirates. To Saudia – the holy land. He had even met the great Amitaab Bachan whose movies had been a prime source of entertainment those many years (almost ions) ago.
“Mera dost thaa wahan bombay may. Uss nay baat cheet karkay 15 minute kee meeting set karwai thee Bachan sb say. Chai phee thee unn kay saath”
The moment for instant fame in the mohalla. For those who didn’t believe him, Riaz proudly showed his autographed post card. A wry smile forming on his face as he remembers this.
Oh how he wished for the old days to return. The respect. The better life. The pride of being a company driver in a large multi national and be the talk of the mohala / basti. Instead… he was brought back to reality by the young disrespectful supervisor who was continuing to bark orders into Riaz’s face.
“Hello! Riaz – company tujhay agar hamdardi may retirement age say bhee agay chala rahi hay iska yay matlab nahi kay may tujhay araam say baith kar totay urranay dunga. Yahan araam karnay nahi ata.. kaam kar!”
Listless.. he trudged himself towards the company car. He starts the engine thinking of the day’s assigned duty. And also thinking maybe death will come rescue him soon. But that’s what he thinks everyday. So maybe it has to be invited instead? There is a loud thunderous sound, everyone rushes towards it. Riaz’s car has smashed into the wall, in the process running over the supervisor’s table and chair and what seem to be his legs underneath the car.