I cannot wear the mask of decency ever. The world will continue to remind me of the gutter from where I rose. Never mind that. You will not become another Moosa Bhai. I will not let you do that. You are going to become the master and the brain behind a business empire. A completely legit one. Do you understand me, Bhaskaran? Moosa looked like he was talking from somewhere deep beyond his being. His whole countenance was lit up, he was looking deep into Bhaskaran's eyes, poring into the young man's mind, touching a part of that young absorbing soul and creating all at once a moment of sheer beauty and absolute magic for the young boy. Once more it seemed to Bhaskaran that the Angel of God had touched him, sending goose pimples running down the length of his body, his eyes brimming with tears of gratitude, hope and a lack of words to thank this man whom so many feared as 'The Enemy'.
Jyothi Menon, or Jyo as she is popularly called, is an engineer who turned to Human Relations because of her passion for people. She has been in HR for 15 years. She has held various leadership roles in Talent Management & Development, Employee Relations & Retention, Performance Management, Rewards & Recognition, Compliance, Compensation & Benefits. She is currently Senior Vice President and Head, HR Shared Services, at SCOPE International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Standard Chartered Bank and is based out of Chennai. Jyo has three published books to her credit. They are The Power of Human Relations, published by Pearson, Brand Wise and Me! A Winner both published by Tata Westland. She has also been the recipient of several awards in HR. She is married to Bobby Menon, executive coach, international trainer and transformation specialist. Bobby too works in the realm of HR and they have an eight-year-old daughter Pooja, a budding artist herself. You can see more of Jyo at her website www.jyothimenon.in.
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Kallai, Kozhikode, The West Coast of India
Beypore, Kozhikode, A Long Time Ago
Churchgate Station, Bombay
Chennai, East Coast of India 1999
Parappuram Tharavaad, Thekkemukkil, Kozhikode
Parappuram Tharavaad, Kozhikode 1962
Diwali Day, Bombay 1972
Mumbai Dharawi to Beyond
Lessons from the Peer
The Beach Hotel, Kozhikode 1975
Moosa in Kozhikode 1975
The Deal Sealed
Mahim, The Growing Years
The Final Metamorphosis
Kozhikode, A Few Years Later
A Marriage Proposal
The Road to Madras
Back to Bombay
Pankajam Bala Govind
Towards A Life Beyond Engines
The Road to the Sahara Desert
Bala Govind in Madras
Kufra, An Oasis in the Sahara
Bombay, The Dawn of a New Era
Moosa Meets Bhaskaran
Benghazi, Libya 1985
Vartaa A Malayalam Newspaper
Abubacker The Family Grows
Moosa and Raashid
Iced Cream Blooms
Moosa and Aditi
Till Death Do Us Part
Moosa Weds Aditi
The New Face of Madras
The King in Exile
Gilmax Technologies Reaches New Heights
The Angel of God
A New Home
Moosa was born and brought up in the slums of Dharawi, long regarded as Asia's largest slum.
From a very young age, he had been initiated into the world of crime. His father was not at all inclined to send him and his siblings to school. Moosa's was just a typical case of an idle mind becoming the devil's workshop. He had graduated from being a pickpocket to local gangster to a hired assassin. Each promotion came after being convicted of the previous crime. With each promotion came the beatings, first in the local police stations where semi-literate policemen, who had frustrations of their own, would beat the daylights of convicts using bamboo lathis. Then inside the jails, either by senior convicts or by the jail authorities.
To get over the beatings quickly, Moosa learnt to taunt the policemen. His usual taunt was to tell those policemen who were assigned to beat him that day that they did what they did because they had small dicks. This enraged them and more than using the lathis, they used their boots on his ribs and his stomach. He would not utter a word; he knew that like every nightmare, this too would end. And with each beating, he promised revenge. Someday, someplace, somewhere. There will be my day, he would tell himself.
To top everything else was his father. A drunk who lived off his children's and wife's meagre earnings, he never was drunk enough to stop his ravings. Morals. He never forgot to drill it into ears that had become fed up of listening to them. About halfbaked morals Moosa sometimes wondered whether his father's diatribe about his morals would continue if he knew, his mother resorted to prostitution sometimes to feed the family.
And when the frustration of being a poor loser, a lousy father and an empty man crept up within him, the children bore the brunt of his anger. Especially Moosa! It was as if Moosa was born to endure the most of his father's anger at society, at himself and at the ignominy of being unemployed. Compounded with this, he would take it out on his son for getting into trouble with the law and other boys in the area. Sometimes the mother was at home to take a few slaps and a few kicks. But she spent most of her time working, or at least that was what she said she was doing when she was away from home. And the beatings were not the rap on the knuckle kind. They were demonic. Beatings with belts, beaten sometimes by the buckles, sometimes with just plain fists pounded into his face, until the welcome darkness of unconsciousness took over. Or it would be burnings, with pieces of wood from the Chulha. On his thighs, his buttocks. Or sometimes with the glowing butt of a cigarette on his wrists.
Ironically, the beatings would not really be a consequence of anything that he had done. It was meted out with no rhyme or reason. It just happened. The end result of frustrations that his father suffered due to his own expectations from the world and which never materialised. Unable to hit back at the world and those that promised his father pipe dreams of various kinds and deals, his father drank to quell the disappointments, and when he came home, picked on the easiest at the moment of time to vent his deepest frustrations. Sometimes his mother took it, but for the most part, it was Moosa.
In desperation, Moosa took the trouble of going to the Mahim church every Wednesday to light candles at the Church there. Kill him or kill me, was his constant unanswered prayer. Mahim church was renowned for miracles and Moosa needed one badly. Or he would go to the Dargah in the sea â€“ Haji Ali. There too, he had heard, miracles happened to fervent devotees.
And as each day passed into memory, as each day took on the same monotony of the one before, Moosa knew that it would indeed be a miracle if his prayers were answered. Sometimes, he felt, even the Gods had more pressing matters to attend than answering his prayers. Although, the peer at the Haji Ali Dargah did not think so.
He'd look up and wonder, on nights when he'd lie on the parapet wall of the Mahim Bridge, gazing at the night sky if anyone was up there at all? Wasn't this whole thing about God being up there and Man being down here, just a whole lot of muck? He wondered if indeed God were this just, noble and smiling down on humanity. If He was just, why there was a colony called Dharawi almost as if it was created to belie the very existence of a God, defeated Moosa's thinking logic.
He hated Dharawi, its stench, and its absolute, all binding, all pervading poverty. He learnt to identify the overpowering stench and called it the Stench of Poverty. You could smell it a mile away. Poverty had a certain signature about it. You could look at a poor person and instantly recognise his impoverished stature. The body language was notable. The defeated gait, the broken spirit, the eyes that shed not an ounce of hope. And the people, especially the old and the aged, the infirm they just sat around, waiting for Death to come a calling. You could see it in their eyes. They knew that they would not see a day beyond this ghetto. They were doomed. They were born cursed beyond redemption. And he'd sworn; he hated to accept such a verdict. He would not accept defeat, not even if God told him that he, too, like the million others who lived in Dharawi, was doomed to be born poor and die poor. He would leave Dharawi and he would win. He just did not know how he would achieve that.
One day, coming home early, he heard screams from the direction of their hut. People were crowding around but no one dared to enter inside. Pushing people out of his way, he ran in. Instantly his eyes adjusted to the gloom inside.
There were just two rooms. One doubled as a room for the four children and the other as a room for his parents and it was also the kitchen. The toilet, common to the rest of the entire slum, was outside by the railway tracks. The bathroom was just around the corner. No roof here, just a few thatched leaves tied onto a mild bamboo framework as an excuse for walls.
There on the floor of the hut was his sister, screaming and naked. Atop her was his father, struggling to get out of his pants. The reek of the cheap liquor, mingled with his father's sweat hung in the room. He reached forward and pulled his father off, but the old man was not light. Using both hands, he tried to pull his father off, and just then the older man managed to get his trouser unbuttoned.
Looking desperately around, Moosa saw an old umbrella hanging from one of the bamboo struts on the thatched roof. Reaching out, he grabbed it and using both hands he brought it down with great force on his fathers back, the thwack causing great pain.
The old man yelped in pain and rolled off his daughter. The pain almost brought him out of his stupor and lying on his back, for the first time, he saw his son standing over him.
Moosa ripped the cloth off the umbrella and placed his foot on his father's chest. The old man was cringing in fear and holding his son's feet. Desperate with fear written in his eyes, begging for something that he held dear despite all else his miserable life. Holding high the umbrella like some spear, he brought the pointed end down and hard - right between his father's rib cage. It went in like knife into butter and probably punctured the old man's heart. For the blood spewed onto his chest and face as if had just exploded.
Stamping on the old man's chest, he pulled it out and once more he brought it down this time right next to the previous wound. As Moosa pulled it out, another spurt rushed up at him.
The old man screamed one short high-pitched scream, as if it was an excuse for all that he did and did not do for his family. It ended on a small pitiful note. Then, a small bubble rose from his nostril and as it grew larger and larger, exploded.
Taking off his blood spattered shirt, he threw it at his sister, who sat in a corner, cowering in fear. But she was not screaming or crying. She just took the scene in.
Walking out to the street, bare-chested and covered with blood, Moosa said, Any of you want to call the police, you can do so. Taking a bucket of water, stored there for their baths and toilet, he poured it over himself.
The crowd melted, as if this was something that happened in their midst's everyday. They did not like the police and never cooperated with them. That word was anathema to them. Just then a few of his close friends came through. He quietly nodded indicating for them to look inside.
They came running out just as quickly, a thousand questions on their faces.
Without bothering to explain, he said, Get someone's taxi. We cannot leave the body here. We have to get rid of it and quickly.
Moosa slept that night a good sound sleep, knowing deep in his heart that part of the nightmare of growing up, the beatings and the terror of his childhood would never come back. A monster that he had willed to be killed was dead, for ever. It would never visit him again.
They never found out where his father had disappeared. No one asked him and he never spoke to anyone about his father. His mother grieved for her widowhood. Like many women martyrs in India, she would take hell and more from her husband but would never talk about divorce. Within two days of her husband's death, she was back to her normal self and for the first time in his life, Moosa heard his mother humming a Hindi film tune while she cooked.
Three days later, he got his first supari. A supari is the gangland term for an organised murder. While a name is mentioned and a price quoted, the acceptance and the money is handed over to the killer or his mentor along with some supari (scented and flavoured betel nut). The kill would then be made within the stipulated time. A man could be taken down in such a fashion for almost next to nothing. The going rate for a supari was about 750 rupees. Once a supari was accepted, there was no question about its finality.