John Doe

It wasn’t just the murder, he decided. Everything else seemed to have conspired to ruin his day. Even the cat. “Shoooh!” he cried, but the cat ignored him and continued to stare at the bloodied mess on the floor, then looked at him and purred as if to ask, “Well, What now?”

“You have any ideas?” he hissed at the cat. The feline didn’t seem to have any good ideas either, so it turned away, and thoughtfully walked to a corner taking its place next to a shattered vase.

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he thought. “Not on my off day, I get only one day in a week for god’s sake.” The cat nodded in agreement and made that stupid noise that cat’s make when they have nothing better to do, which irritated him more.

He cursed the cat again and it just stretched its neck, yawned and went right back to ignoring him. A decidedly wisely look came upon its furry face as if it was chewing on the messy problem slumped on the floor.

Now the thing with a mess is it can be cleaned up, provided you wanted to. He remembered reading something to that effect somewhere back in the days when he read to relax instead of smoking up.

Meanwhile, the blood-soaked problem on the floor was silently crying out for his attention, and increasingly he was finding it difficult to ignore it anymore.

Even the cat was restless. It got up to take a closer look at the crisis at hand and slowly lowered itself next to it, whiskers quivering with what seemed to be anticipation.

The bright noon sun peeping through the curtains, finally shook him out of his reverie. He really needed to do something about the mess. So off he went looking for a beer in the fridge.

The long swig on an empty stomach jolted him, and cleared his mind, sort of. But he was still holding the beer bottle and had to finish that first. Besides, he needed to think some more. He blinked several times in the hope of seeing the mess on the floor disappear on its own leaving behind just the empty beer bottles, newspapers and cigarette butts lying about as usual.

“He could have just let me win, stupid bugger,” the man muttered angrily to no one in particular, but the cat nodded all the same.

He felt sad though. They were friends for a long time and he was a constant companion where ever he went. Even in office. In fact, he was his only friend. And now even he is dead. People around him just die, he often wondered if that was strange.

At the back of his mind he always knew that his friend was better than him in everything and secretly hated him for it. “He always got the girl even when I spoke to her first. Even in office, on rare occasions when the boss liked my work he took the credit. And when something went wrong the boss never believed that he fiddled with it and introduced the errors. Good riddance. I don’t even want to talk about the other times when he made me look stupid.”

The man felt dumb whining about his friend’s meanness to the cat who seemed to be giving a sympathetic hearing, occasionally twitching his whiskers in agreement.

He was looking at the cat indulgently when a thought popped into his head, could it be this cat, which is not even his cat that is behind all this? And he shot a menacing look at the animal. This time the feline didn’t ignore the threat and moved swiftly just as the empty beer bottle crashed at the place it was perched till a moment ago. The cat was giving him a wary look now, ready to leap again, just in case.

“Damn! More mess. I should just burn this place down,” he thought. “Yeah!” The idea appealed to him and his eyes lit up.

——–

The man woke up to a stench of burnt flesh, feeling very thirsty. He tried to look around and felt stabs of pain all over his body as he tried to move. “Where am I?” he thought as his eyes took in the sight of what looked like a hospital ward.

The attending nurse came rushing seeing the John Doe move for the first time in two days. “Can’t you hear? Give me some water,” he cried at the top of his voice. But the nurse seemed not to hear and kept leaning closer.

It was then that horror struck. Through the corner of his eyes he saw his friend standing, petting a cat and sporting a mysterious smile. “He should be dead,” the man cried out in horror, “why’s he here, and that cat, that cat…” A weary calm descended on him as the room grew darker. He closed his eyes and wondered if he was dying.

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Bollywood’s Gentleman Villain takes his final bow

It was the stylish way in which he was spotted putting a pan in his mouth and chewing it with relish that got him his first role as a villain in his debut 1940 film Yamla Jat. From that moment onwards Pran Krishan Sikand aka Pran never looked back.

This anecdote comes from film journalist Bunny Reuben’s biography of the legendary actor with a quirky title — ‘…and Pran’. An apt title for the life story of a man who, despite never playing the hero in hero-centric Bollywood films, ruled the roost, to use a cliche, so much so that the film credits actually read …and Pran. 

Rest in peace.