Transitions and Translations – 3: More People

The Big Man followed the Scrawny Dude to the accommodation that had been found for him. On the way, he had the opportunity to assess the city he had just entered that morning and the people he now found himself among. It wasn’t his first time here, however, and from what he could see little had changed. Which was disappointing. He had never liked this city, save for its most recent star attraction – the metro. Everyone seemed to be implicitly competing with everyone else. Everywhere he went, he saw people dressed stylishly. But the style did not seem natural or seamless, but rather a conscious effort on the part of the denizens to subtly indicate their status. This contrasted with what he saw on their much-loved metro – barring the young college crowd, everyone else’s eyes seemed to him to be dead in some way. There was a grind to their lives and the seeming autopilot running of the metro only seemed to accentuate it. Perhaps that is why they so desired to put such an effort into their appearance – to compensate for the deadening of everything else in their lives, like some weird designer drug used to enliven what was otherwise..not quite alive enough…

He was awoken from these thoughts by their arrival at the destination. A short walk from the office. Good. He looked up. Another ordinary building. He didn’t care. The flat itself was what mattered. Presently he was in it. And it was good. Quite good. Too good. Then again, he reminded himself, the Flower Girl and Gandhi Man were staying in a much better place. Of course, that had been provided by their organization. Still, it was an indication. He had never been to this part of town before. Perhaps it would be reasonable…

No such luck. In fact, far from it.

The rent quoted was more than double what he had been promised would be found for him. One call to the office and he was back there. But the day was almost over. There was one other place, they told him. And he had no choice but to accept it, whether he liked it or not. There simply wouldn’t be time to search for another. Nor did they know of any other. Fine.

It turned out to be a PG. Wonderful. He hated PG’s. He’d be sharing the bedroom and there was one bathroom for all of them. It could’ve used a cleaning (and he would’ve gladly done it himself), but he knew that would be pointless. Within an hour, it would be back to its former state. The guys staying there wore chappal all the time for a reason. The rent wasn’t lower either. It was exactly in line with what he’d been promised. He sighed. It would have to do.

A few days later, he was out to meet the Flower Girl and Gandhi Man. Back on that dratted metro. It had changed in one respect – it had gotten even more crowded. If the damn thing hadn’t had air conditioning, it would’ve been as hateful as the trains in Mumbai. As it is, it was a crush. And there was almost no advantage to getting on at the first station either. This city had so many people that the train was filled within seconds of the doors opening at station 1. Some people, he’d heard, actually liked the childish scramble that ensued in those moments. Well, he wasn’t one of them.

In truth, he liked the metro. It was a marvelous piece of work, and he had always been an admirer of good engineering. It was the people that ruined it. But then, it was the people that ruined everything in this city for him.

Fortunately, neither of his two companions came from here. Although their respective personalities were usually contrasting, one thing they both had in common was an aversion for planning. As such, the three of them ended up roaming around their meeting point all evening. As a girl was present, they naturally also ended up going shopping. Flower Girl had once claimed she was excellent at bargaining. The first time he’d seen her try her hand at it here, she’d basically been mobbed. However, the stalls here had no more than 2 people in them. She happily wandered off. When he and Gandhi Man found her again, she had negotiated a discount of around 50% from one of the stalls!

They both stared at her, dumbstruck. From what they could tell, her sole negotiating technique was to inquire about the product (and store owner), listen patiently, bat her eyelids and claim poverty. Neither of them expected that to ever work for them…

A couple of weeks later, the Big Man found himself working on a film alongside Bengali Girl. She had joined the Organization a few days after him and they’d been working together ever since. Neither of them had ever made a film before, though. They selected their two adult actors from among the people working at the Centre – Martinet Madam (although she looked like one, she was actually very sweet) and Smiling Eyes Guy. None of the people at the Office seemed appropriate. For the two child roles, they invited the kids of the Centers’ workers and had a fun little audition with them, eventually selecting two – Loud Kid and Quiet Boy. The rest of the kids would do supporting roles.

Both the Big Man and Bengali Girl had written a script, of which only his had been approved. Right now, however, Bengali Girl was clearly in charge as they were shooting. For training the actors, they had the services of Crazy Multitasking College Dude, who had some dramatics experience (on top of everything else he did…). In the case of Martinet Madam, however, no amount of training was enough and they ended up doing literally scores of retakes for scenes involving no more than 2-4 lines. This was compounded by them having to work around everyone’s schedules. Eventually, though, the filming was done.

Then the editing ensued. Neither of them had done this much before either, but they learned. Bengali Girl, for her part, was also a perfectionist, which just made everything slower. There were also a few tense moments when they feared the software they had downloaded (the Organization wasn’t much of a media center) and which housed the finished product wouldn’t allow them to actually convert it into a film, since it was a trial version. Luckily, that didn’t transpire. The end result was that it took a week just to properly put together an 8 minute film.

And, on his last day of work, it was rejected! The Organization basically told them to more than halve its length.

Bengali Girl went into panic mode. The film was on Big Mans’ system and the software didn’t allow them to change the file addresses (so it would look for the clips elsewhere when loading). He was leaving the next day (a Sunday) along with it. They ended up meeting at an over-expensive café on Sunday morning and hurriedly cutting through the whole thing until they had just about halved its length. It would have to do. They paid for the overpriced snacks and left – the Big Man, in particular, in a bit of a hurry. He had another engagement and had yet to pack. No sleepy Sunday for him.

A few weeks later, the film had yet to be approved and everyone (including the Big Man, as he was now in a new city) seemed to have moved on. Well, so much for that…

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