Sunday, February 17, 2008

Gangs ... - A short story.

Downloadable Link (.doc format)

Gangs of Misguided Youth

The room was dimly lit and a strain of strange music wafted in from one corner. The music indicated that they were not gone for too long. The room was in a big mess. There were clothes, magazines and other knick knacks strewn all over the place. A cricket bat with peeling stickers, along with an old Hawaiian guitar stood at the corner of the facing and right walls, at the end of the room. The walls were littered with posters of film actresses, and those of weapons, a rifle, some Russian pistols and a red grenade.

Inspector Ghorke yanked off some pajamas from a thick wooden chair, to find some colorful CDs with no covers and underneath the bed were a couple of masks. At the end of the room was a PC, an old beige monitor now turned off, the CPU cabinet seemed sparklingly new though - a recent upgrade. The music was coming out of the speakers. A DVD cover lay open beside the monitor – ‘Russian CatCrow Tunes’ read the cover design.

“These rascals, what do they do here, looks like some filthy terrorist hideout”, said Ghorke in a loud, raspy voice turning to look at a lady half his height, her head bowed down, standing with her right hand on the chair’s backrest, she had no left hand. She was Anik’s mother.

“Babu, they are harmless, they just listen to music, sing and chat here”.

“Eh? I know what they do, these vermin”, bellowed Ghorke, now looking behind the grimy dust laden curtains and within the general stuff lying on the table, he pulled at the locker but it held on, it was locked.

“Mainkar, break this lock, I want to see what’s inside”.

Mainkar and a constable came over to break the lock and inside they found some vials and a syringe. There were some transparent packets too held fast by rubber-bands with white powdery material inside. There was also a Colt revolver. In the next locker were a few golden trinkets and wads of ten and hundred rupee notes.

“Where do they get all the money, thieves, pocket maarte hain, saale”, Ghorke grunted, pressing on one of the packets with his fingers.

As they continued looking around, loud giggling and laughter was heard outside. And then the door opened; the Inspector had on purpose kept the door shut. The not-so-tall, frail, fair Anik with a prominent goatee, another plump boy and a buxom girl burst in, Anik had his arms around both and was humming a Kishore Kumar number. As soon as he saw the police, he froze. And within a jiffy the police constables leapt and handcuffed them. It was late in the night and the burlesque Inspector Ghorke was already hungry; and it seemed his hunger for solving crime had been satiated for the day.

The same Anglo-Indian lady had been earlier eve-teased by Anik and his friends was what the police suspected; she had registered a complaint against the boys, but was not able to describe the boys – apparently they wore masks, like the ones recovered from the house. She was found in a strange position within an auto; the autowallah had been assaulted too, hit on the head with something blunt and heavy, perhaps a bat. He was found unconscious. But the lady seemed to have died, and the strangest thing was her eyes and mouth was wide open as if she were shouting when she all of a sudden passed out. There were no assault marks on her – just a prick of a syringe, which would be discovered later. The police had found the auto, abandoned at one corner of Havlock Street, the unconscious autowallah slumped on the floor of the auto and the lady sitting on the backseat in that compromising position.

The police was sure that the criminals were Anik and his group. Anik ‘s gang was notorious in their area for all sorts of petty crimes and infamous for their bawdy music that they used to play at the erstwhile Marx Square Park in the evenings in front of the couples, and howling, baying crowds. Anik the lead singer and his girlfriend Modhu would kiss on the elevated platform while they both sang. Some would give them money for their performance if they wished. And there were only two guitars and a ramshackle set of drums which his pack of friends would beat out loud. After that they would go to the nearby Punjabi eat out, buy beer and go to Anik’s or his friends’ place and listen to loud music and create a racket.

It was not for money he would often say to his mother. His mother tried pleading with the Inspector but to no avail, they took Anik and his friends away, saying she should have taken care of this earlier, not allowing her son to have come to the state he had. She now lay in her bed weeping for her son; Anik was not like this earlier but had turned out to be just like his late father, lately. He too had been an active member of the Naxalite movement back in the 70s and had gone away fleeing the police and had never come back again. She used to help him make explosives back then, when she had lost one of her hands. She vividly remembered the day the incident happened and winced in the pain of those memories flooding in and now this pain of her son having gone awry.

As per the police, the circumstances had been not that clear, but all the clues pointed to Anik’s gang, yet the motive was not clear. Was it a revenge killing? This question did trouble Inspector Ghorke – but he was sure he could extract the truth from those hippie thugs, troublemakers turned murderers. But two full days of custody could not get anything out of them and the boys and the lone girl kept repeating that they knew nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing. That’s when Ghorke was convinced it had not been these crazy kids, it was someone else. But then who? And why?

Anne Williams was a tall, fair, well endowed woman; and she had been found dead under mysterious circumstances as the newspapers loved to put it. Was she involved in some group or network, involved in heinous crimes or was she a pawn in some larger game plan. The next few nights Inspector Mohanchand Ghorke could hardly get any sleep, and stayed awake, turning in his bed as his wife snored away. Questions replaying in his mind included whether there was some link to the ISI terrorist network planning for bigger strikes in the heart of the city? Then why did she have to complain to the police? Was it under instructions from the head of that group in order to mislead the police?

Anik and his two friends were released after a week in detention and had come back home when the Inspector’s worst fears came true. The city saw two gruesome bomb blasts one at the busy Lakhim Chowk and another at the equally crowded, upscale New Bazaar area. At least fifty or more people died in the same attacks that sent the police into an overdrive. Initial investigations indicated a terrorist hand even though no organization had taken responsibility for the blasts.

It was during one of the regular raids that something caught Ghorke’s eye and as soon as he had seen it he was convinced that everything fell into place. Anik gang’s gatherings were being used to transfer explosives in the most ingenious manner possible. Anik or any of his friends were not directly involved. It had to be seen to be believed, and Ghorke knew how to trap the actual minds behind the network. He started developing an elaborate plan as the terrorists would lie low after the recent blasts. So it would be a bit more difficult for them - also links and informers indicated that what he had thought of was indeed true.

The idea went something like this: a handful of terrorists would gather at the evening gatherings where Anik and his friends sang violent sometimes revolutionary and anti-establishment songs and would pass on information and material, as the police would not bother to be there and never watch out such places. This was a breeding ground for the delinquent, misguided youth who could be brainwashed easily. Not only the poor or those from minority communities, but also those with some form of resentment towards government policies would gather in the evenings and get carried away in the emotional, sentiment-laden crooning of Anik and Co.

They cleverly distributed and hid the material and kept the explosive stuff stacked up in and around that park in the old dilapidated buildings; along the way collecting more volunteers among the youth. Inspector Ghorke had never suspected this and his plan now was to plant policemen in plain clothes among the youth to get at these terrorist recruitment drives. But where was Anne Williams fitting in here? Had she actually got a hint of their activities?

The facts unfolded soon and in a series of arrests by the police - who had indeed put into action Ghorke’s plan, the entire scheme became clear. Anne Williams had a boyfriend who had been involved in these activities and she actually stumbled upon the terrorist hideout and their modus operandi and thus got eliminated. She had been injected with an empty air filled syringe and those who had killed her had dressed up in the same mask attire of the Anik gang. More clues led to the local masterminds and they were arrested, but the last link was yet to be established and the hidden as yet undiscovered operations of the network were still being fuelled from some foreign organization.

Anik and his friends were not involved. Anik was allowed to carry on with his song sessions at the park and when last heard had a hit song which is quite popular among youth even today:

“It ain’t for the money,

It’s for a drop of your honey;

I killed all right,

But it was a greater fight

‘t was for my men’s rights”.

“Bloody fools”, Inspector Ghorke would spit in their direction whenever he saw them and Anik would wink at him when walking past him along with his girl and loudly exclaim: “Potbelly, what have you got inside?” to the great chagrin of the Inspector who would then bark at his constables “Get them”; after which a mock chase would ensue and later the constables would let go.

Anik and his pals now sat on in the same garage room and his friend Ronit strummed on the guitar the tunes of the song, “It ain’t for the money, it’s for a drop of your honey”.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Latest Raves!

Here are a few raves about stuff I liked in the past few days.

I was reading a book ‘Mavericks at Work’ by William Taylor and Polly LaBarre, a brilliant book on strategy and the way a company can make itself stand out. One area of emphasis is the values that the company stands for, and advocacy as strategy. Another area is utilizing external innovation for creating products eg: P&G’s Connect + Develop where they have a system in place to make use of innovators such as individuals or other organizations. Examples in the book range from strategies of ING Direct, Southwest Airlines, a low-cost airlines service in the US, Cirque de Soliel – a performing circus company. Another area of focus is disruptive innovation, daring to do things that other competitors would not dare to, and aligning the employees with the overall strategy of the company. Creating areas of products/services that never existed, competition is absent – touching upon Blue Ocean strategy - Google. Filled with contemporary ideas and samples of companies that have succeeded, it is one very interesting book – a must read in my view!

‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell that I read a few days back is another brilliant insight into social aspects of marketing.

The song ‘Headlines’ by the more mellow Spice Girls is an amazingly good song, with its melodious, soothing music and equally good lyrics. Makes for a nice song that you wouldn’t expect from this cacophonous group; what with their background of noisy, high energy songs earlier. The group is indeed a talented bunch of singers!

The Kannada NRI music director Mano Murthy is making waves with his soul-ful, mellifluous music; and rightfully so. His compositions for the movie ‘Mungaru Male’ are indeed very good, also 'Amrutadhaare' title track. But one of his songs that I loved the most is ‘Ade Bhoomi, Ade Bhanu’ from the Vishnu Vardhan/Jayapradha starrer ‘Ee Bandhana’. Sung by Sonu Nigam and Shreya Ghoshal (a new trend in Kannada movies, most songs are sung by singers from Bollywood) it is a glorious mix of Indian and western forms. Music is indeed global and knows no boundaries.

Among other songs that I liked are ‘Kholo kholo’ a brilliant composition by Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy for the Hindi movie ‘Taare Zameen Par’ with amazing guitar work. ‘Allah Duhai’ from the movie 'Race' is also a powerfully stirring song with its equally good guitar works.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Where to?

Big city, morning light;
No time anywhere in sight.
Everyone's hurrying, to where?
Kids, cars, men and women,
Whether at eight or ten;
Some destination, somewhere.

Late evening, lights on;
And bright, noisy honks.
The same flight, to where?
Life’s all a hurried flight;
Of climbing steps, greater, higher right?
Everyone wants to reach there!

But where to?
Slow down, please will you.
Before it’s a bit too late.
Feel the wind in that swaying tree.
Where there’s calm and free,
Wouldn’t you like to be there?

Not a great piece of poetry, nevertheless expresses what I felt traveling to work one day and felt I need to capture the same.