The clouds gathered menacingly, warning the languid strollers in Cubbon Park of the onset of the storm that was to change their lives.
Rajugopal stood amongst the bushes, clad in dark green clothes, hoping to camouflage himself as well as possible. The failing light aided his congruity with his surroundings. Directly in his eyeline stood two men, one of them hooded, the remaining area of his face hidden away beneath a beard and sunglasses. Next to him stood a mammoth, and a woolly mammoth at that. Bald at the top, the rest of him was covered in dense foliage. His beard, far more impressive than the hooded man’s, swayed impressively in the wind. He, too, wore sunglasses, though it was not sunny.
This strange behaviour only served to deepen Rajugopal’s suspicions. From the very first day, he had regrote allowing these two boys to live as tenants in his apartment. The hooded one was well spoken and knew the local language, and so had won his wife over. But the mammoth, he worried Rajugopal no end. He came from a strange, unknown part of the world. Rumors of extreme good looks and behaviour notwithstanding, Rajugopal was wary of foreigners. They were unpredictable.
He crept closer, careful to remain out of their eyeline. Their sunglasses prevented him from being able to discern the direction of their gaze and that discomfited him.
“Dude, there’s so much roughage around here,” said Hood.
“I don’t think that’s what that word means,” said Mammoth.
“No, no, it does mean that,” said Hood.
“You’re lying,” said Mammoth, “I think you’re a fib-re.” (24)
“You think I’m a fibre?” asked Hood, confused.
“A fibber! A liar. It was a pun, goddammit,” Mammoth exclaimed in disgust.
“You can’t get mad at me. You’re my caretaker,” Hood said.
The wind began to pick up, and the first smattering of raindrops began to descend. Rajugopal had had enough. This espionage was getting him nowhere. An espionaught if there ever was one. (25) He had to get closer to them, get them talking about what they were really upto. But they knew his face, he needed a disguise. Glancing back at them, he surmised that they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and so he scuttled away from the bushes, back to his van in the parking lot.
First, he changed his clothes, donning an inconspicuous pair of jeans and a grey sports jacket over his green t-shirt. Next, he switched his sneakers for a pair of running shoes, in case something should go wrong. Watching himself closely in the rear view mirror, he attached a fake nose and, with a final flourish, donned a toupee to cover his bald head. He looked at himself from all angles in the rear view mirror and was satisfied that he had disguised himself exceptionally well. He had never looked so different. He was almost tempted to say that it was now a rare view mirror. (26)
By the time he got back, the wind had really picked up and was approaching gale force. Worried that the rain would wash away (27) any possibility he had of speaking to the two tykes, Rajugopal hurried towards their imposing figures.
“Ahoy there, goodfellas,” said Rajugopal.
“Did he just say ‘ahoy’”, asked Hood.
“I think he said ‘Hi’, he must be Bengali,” clarified Mammoth, helpfully.
“My name is Bhishnu Beliappa Bhaath, you can call me Bisi Bele Bath (27),” Rajugopal said, “I wonder if I could trouble you guys with a few questions?”
“Sure,” said Mammoth, “state your bisi-ness.”(28)
“You see,” began Rajugopal, “I’m new to Bangalore, and need to get a place to stay. Do you guys have any idea about good areas to live in?”
“Oh, we live in Indiranagar, it’s a nice place. Very chilled out, no sunlight,” said Hood.
“And no kids,” said Mammoth.
“And how is the owner?” asked Rajugopal, pointedly.
“Owner, ah. He is okay, but we can’t seem to come to an… agreement (29),” said Mammoth.
Rajugopal raged on the inside. Here, he had had sleepless nights, wondering what these boys were upto and the legal trouble he would have been in, had anyone found out they lived in his house without a rental agreement, and these boys were sitting there cracking jokes about it. However, in the interest of his objective, he maintained a cool exterior.
“Hoodie-baba(30), you live without rental agreement?” he asked, in feigned surprise. “Isn’t that illegal? How come you haven’t gotten one yet?”
“Ah, too much work,” said Hood, dismissively.
Suddenly, something within Rajugopal snapped. He had been brought up in a household with militarian discipline, and instilled with the values of toil and labour. Living those values, he had raised himself to the position of a landlord, and now here were two upstarts spitting in the face of all that was noble and respectful.
Slowly sliding his hand into his jacket, he wrapped his fingers around the grip of his pistol. Barring his wife, he considered his pistol to be the most beautiful entity on earth. At times, disturbingly, he was even aroused by it. It was a real Sex Pistol. (31)
The wind howled, mirroring the wrath that churned Rajugopal’s blood.
“Too much work. Too much work, it seems,” he repeated, over and over, under his breath.
Glaring at the two tenants, he pulled the gun out and, remembering that Mammoth was the caretaker, pointed the gun at him, first.
“What the fuck, man?” asked Mammoth, covering his beard with his hands, protectively.
“You boys deserve to die,” said Rajugopal, nostrils flaring. “And you will never know who it is that killed you or why. And the setting, the setting could not have been more perfect. The wind will cover the sound of the bullets, no one will hear you scream. You will die alone. And all this for a mere… disagreement. (31)”
Time stood still. Hood was stricken with fear, his hands trembling as he rolled a cigarette. Mammoth stared down the barrel at the piece of lead that was about to end his life. The wind gnashed its teeth, the rain poured down in lashes. All of the universe seemed coterminous with violence.
And then, Fate intervened. A gust of wind, slightly stronger than its predecessors, swept down towards the threesome and washed over them with particular severity. Mammoth was unaffected, due to his mammothian size. Hood was protected by his hood. But Rajugopal, who stood facing the wind, got the brunt of it and lost his balance. The rain had melted the glue that held his fake nose in place. The wind, finding a nook to exert pressure into, did so, and off came Rajugopal’s artifice. Mammoth gasped in surprise. That face looked familiar.
“Oh, no, where did my nose go?” bemoaned Rajugopal.
“God nose. (32)” replied Hood.
The next gust swept down and lifted Rajugopal’s toupee clean off his head. Hood and Mammoth stood aghast, confronted by their landowner. Rajugopal stood facing them, knowing his gig was up. Staring at them, his mind drew a blank. He collapsed to his knees, whispering to himself.
“Oh, no, my toupee… Ah.” (33)