Bilal Handoo


Out from the bustling bazaar of old town Baramulla, he walks as if in seclusion. He often walks that way—apparently, he mimics zombies! Perhaps that’s why: they call him, a misfit. But he doesn’t bother himself with their labels. They say plenty of things. A lot of them talk now. They talk about his rueful nature. But the young man who wears frustrated facial expressions—is no, hostile. But something doesn’t seem right today.

The deal, the business deal, has probably failed. Maybe, they have shrugged him off, by saying: “Look, man. We are not interested in whatever you have to offer.” Rejections seem routine now. And under such circumstances, his mind invokes Agha Shahid’s verses:

Please note, Dear Sir, my terrible plight

as I collect rejection slips

from your esteemed journal

But he is no wordsmith, no scribe and has nothing to do with letters. He is just a marketing executive—the post, which made him feel like Bruce Almighty at first go! They train him hard. They tell him, “Sky is no destiny. Explore the beyond.” But yes, it is another part of the story—that his head often finds itself among stars whenever his deal hit the roadblock. But their motivation ragas always keep him on his toes. In the process, he has lost touch with his sleep.

And he often makes those strategies—inside washroom, at breakfast table, during travel and in the dead of the night. They tell him: “Government sector sucks! It is meant for mediocre men, and not for the person like you. Look, they have stopped pensions. They offer peanuts. So carve out niche for yourself in the private sector, which offers unlimited benefits.”

But then, they don’t inform him: what to do when rejection after rejection will follow? They don’t tell him: how to control your emotions when some illiterate client will make mockery out of him and his job? Perhaps, they will never enlighten him: how to maintain his morale up when his clients will ditch him at last moment. Everything seems selective. They only glorify success to a level—where it appears, mere an obsession.

And yes, they do preach: “Look, don’t lose your heart—if they say: ‘NO.’ Just remember, it means ‘Next Opportunity’!”

They seem to have answers, reasons and explanations for almost everything. And hence, none of his unsuccessful deal will ever auger well with them! “Rise above your failures, man,” they tell him when going gets tough.

But today he again faces hiccup in the old town. His client turns him down, much to his dismay. Now he is returning back to Srinagar.

A Sumo vehicle is about to leave from the stand. He sits on the back seat and slams the door. And thus, journey to Srinagar begins.

He loves travel—but today, the same appears dull and awkward. The failed deal is still playing in his mind. He sighs—and catches a glance of a toddler, sitting in mother’s lap in opposite seat. The baby smiles at him. He smiles back. And then, turns his gaze to his right side.

In middle seat of the vehicle, two young boys are busy discussing their activities at college. He is finding some relevance in their conversation. His face beams a thoughtful smile now. Perhaps, some bygone memories are rushing back. Looks of remorse have vanished. And, a sad tinge in his eyes is now replaced by a strange glimmer.

He reclines on his seat. And put on headphones—to isolate himself, from the crowd. Srinagar is still 50 kms away. He switches on the radio where a short story set in a melancholic tune is being aired. He closes his eye and finds himself escaping from his present state of mind.

“They were all-weather friends, who would relish those stolen mangoes from Nathu Lal’s orchard under the Banyan tree. They were happy-go-lucky fellows—quite unmindful of the world. But then, time like season change and leaves behind a stack of memories,” and thus, the radio anchor pauses the story by announcing a commercial break.

The story invigorates some fond memories. He slips into his past and recalls the time spent with his best friend, Shabir Bhat. Till 2008, they were together having fun in life. It was their last year at Kashmir University’s Business School. They were management chaps, who would give everyone chase for their money. But life wasn’t as demanding inside the campus as it proved outside.

Soon after finishing the degree, Shabir got a call letter from a reputed management company of India. But no such letter was ever dropped at the address of his friend. Life started getting very challenging. It was nothing akin to those discussions held under Chinar trees during University days. Reality had dawned—and appeared, quite hostile.

In 2008 fall itself, Shabir went outside Kashmir to start a new period of his life. Back home, his friend had no such option. His ailing parents need him the most. So he stayed put, but only grew remorseful as clock ticked.

His degree that describes him—meritorious student, had/has no takers. The private sector was/is still in infancy stage in valley. He tried his luck—but met with rejection after rejection—until one day: an advertisement in newspaper caught his attention. “A private reputed insurance company needs marketing executive,” it read. But insurance sector wasn’t something he had ever craved for. It took him three days to prepare his mind for the job.

His management background earned him the job quite easily. But somehow he wasn’t motivated for it, until they started imparting those lectures on motivation. Their training had its effect on him—as he wanted to take market by storm. But one month after, he grew disillusioned.

Markets don’t always behave the way he was taught in those management classes. And yes, no motivation is supreme enough to click the client always. He finally made up his mind to give up the job.

And then, he wrote those civil service exams; and tried his luck in banking, teaching and accountancy jobs. But, competition and number of aspirants applying for those jobs, outdone him. And, finally he landed again in private sector—where his tryst with rejections continues.

At Bemina, his senses throw him back into his present state of mind. With sleepy eyes, he finds those two college boys (sitting in the middle seat) still busy—talking about life, and college. Till he reaches his final stop at Batamaloo, he keeps striking resemblance between his bygone friendship and two boys inside the vehicle. And yes, he does find thread in both cases.

The vehicle finally halts. He hands over rent to the driver—and soon, he was again walking in seclusion among the crowd!


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