Sons of underbelly

Set after the devastating Mumbai-floods, SOU takes you through the story of a young boy- Binu who's to struggle to live from the first day of his life.

How Chirag became Charlie

Without doubt, running is synonymous to my grief. But on the day my cyber-café was shut-down; I ran faster than usual.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those middle class boys who take up a course in computers and end up as engineers. Neither am I, one of those spoilt kids of wealthy fathers who run a business such as this just for the sake of it and do a side business of frolicking with their girlfriends. I’m just a 12th pass man who has a little knowledge of computers.

But this is not the time to preach, it’s time to run. So I keep on running. Only this time, the chasers are different. Every time it’s either the people who have lent me money or the call girls’ with whom I sleep and then try to escape. But this time, these are police constables.

It had all evolved from a frantic run. I used to sell fake lottery tickets to the idiots of the slums. The printing used to cost me around 1rupee per ticket thus my initial capital was around 1000 rupees including the set up cost. You may wonder that why a 12th-pass like me would do such a thing? Bottom line is straight and simple.

My father a peon himself, died 6 years back. My sister had to be wedded to a groom and his demands, so the entire savings went into her marriage and here I was… penniless.

But then I started this business. For the first month I earned 4000 rupees and in-fact earned even more in the second month. I fetched handsome amount in the next two months and suddenly felt that there were eyes on me.
And then one day a customer came to buy lottery ticket and looked at it thoroughly. He slapped me hard on my face (due to which I fell on ground) and said, “Selling fake lottery tickets, huh?” Two constables approached to pick me up as I was lying on floor. I heard the customer say, “Take him” and realized that surely he wasn’t a customer.

I do have a god-gift of running extremely hard, when I’m in danger. It’s just as if your ass is on fire and you run to find water to cool it down. The thing is that I can do whatever is needed for survival. So I ran. My run took me to the shady and slippery lanes of Asha Nagar and in my endeavor for survival I ran into Dominick. He held me by his arms and looked over my shoulders just to find police running behind me. So he took me with him and saved me from the police. I thought I had reached the safest part of these slums, when I entered into the chawl where he lived. It was a dingy place. It had no terrace instead it was covered with roof. It was a two storey chawl and was the only place, which could see the skyscraper thoroughly behind that 15 feet tall wall.

There in the chawl, I saw people doing all sorts of things. There was a tailor in the chawl, who seemed to be very busy. There were other boys busy assembling buckles. There were people talking on phone with children to get them their admissions done in some college which I don’t remember by name. There were people sitting around a round table, playing cards.

So here I was in a place which had a lot of opportunities and I surprisingly got one of them.

Dominick heard my story politely and proposed me the idea of running a cyber-café. I asked him that how am I supposed to get a place and a few computers. He said that he would take care of it.

The next day I found myself standing in a 200 sq.ft shop with five computers ready to go online. Dominick again plainly asked for 40% benefit as well as the monthly rent of that place.

If I had wanted to say no that day; I would have. But I plunged in. Business took time to pick up speed and 60% benefit would always cease to 10% as I had to pay the monthly rent as well as the maintenance of the place. But suddenly from July 2005, the business picked up speed. I observed that the people coming to use internet were all of the same age group- 15 to 20. So I hailed the inventors of ‘social networking sites’. The 10% benefit increased and touched 25% mark and remained steady for seven months. On an average 15 customers would visit on week-days and that touched 30 or sometimes even 40 on week-ends. So I used to earn 3000 rupees per month and that was ok. I wasn’t satisfied thoroughly. Still I felt a little ease in my life and it became a smooth walk.

But the factor called discontentment makes one greedy.

I usually closed my café late at night around 11pm and so I did three days back too. It was raining heavily. Outside, the street lamps had dimmed and the road was all too much wet. I closed the shutter of my shop and stood there for a while letting showers to go by. I saw a man who had worn a black raincoat running in my direction. He stood beside me and asked me if I ran the cyber-cafe. I said yes. He said that he had wanted to use internet for a while. I said that the shop was closed and would only be open on the next day. And he showed me a 1000rupees’ note.

And I ran. No, I did not run out of the shelter and on the wet road. But I ran today.

For the last three days, the customer who paid me 1000rupees hacked various bank accounts and stole crores of rupees. The investigation had begun in morning at 10pm around my shop’s area and the officers had valid date and time confirming that all transaction had begun after 11pm. Apparently the hacker had hacked even my account and had transferred entire money worth rupees 20 crores into my account so it was obvious that I would be framed into a crime that I didn’t commit. But there was a twist in the tale.

The hacker had then transferred the money within a few hours on the previous night into his account. But police still believed that I had the money just because of two reasons. First that the money was withdrawn today morning itself and the bank manager identified that person to be me just by my name and signature and not by my face. But Secondly, I used to earn 3000 rupees in 30 days and as I earned the same amount in 3 days I thought to sleep the entire day and relax. And ironically the CBI officers thought that I was the hacker who had run away with money, when they saw shutters down.

So they entered the shady lanes of Asha Nagar searching for me and I’m running again to survive. I will now be famous by my name- Charlie. Though my real name is Chirag Amre, but Chirag transformed into Charlie after the cyber-café’s first day. Cyber-café was named thoughtfully ‘Charlie’s café’ to add that little x-factor and kids even used to fondly call me Uncle Charlie.

Now they will have a real misconception about me. But, why am I speaking so much while I’m running. So I run.

So Charlie ran, ran through the narrow lanes, ran over the open gutters, ran through the lanes filled with smell of Alcohol and fish, ran till he lost them, ran till he lost into a world where people were walking like zombies to reach somewhere, where people had no time for him, where noise came from all direction and made him completely lost. And he kept on running…

The End

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