People call him Switch. Most of them probably don’t
know what his real name is. At least none of those whom I asked knew it for
sure. But everyone knew that he was a murderer. He had killed his own brother.
I know Switch from the time I came to live in Kerala
six years ago. He worked for my brother. Most of the time he reeked of cheap brandy
or palm toddy. One of his usual haunts is the toddy shop that is half a
kilometre from the school where I teach. The bifurcation of the road towards my
school is a 90 degree turn just near the toddy bar. My car invariably slows
down at the turn and Switch would be there sometimes waiting to hitch a ride. I
never refused him though I knew he was a murderer whose case was in the court. He
would speak something silly and the stench of toddy would nauseate the air in
the car. Otherwise he was just another innocuous villager.
A few weeks back he came to me, “Sir, give me hundred
rupees.” “Aren’t you working today?” I asked hinting that he should get the
money from his employer. “No work today,” he answered. I offered him work. “Cut
the overgrown weeds and creepers from my backyard and I’ll pay you,” I said. He
said he would do the job the next day and requested for an advance payment of Rs100.
I gave him the money though I didn’t trust him. And he did let me down. He didn’t
turn up the next day or any day until a week later. Without even asking me he
started clearing up the place of all unwanted plants and creepers. He did a
thorough job too. Very fast too. He told me that my brother, his regular
employer, had asked him to do the job.
“Why didn’t you do it when I asked?” I wanted to know.
His answer was interesting. “Your brother is not gentle like you. He orders me
and I cannot but obey.”
The court pronounced Switch’s verdict a few days back.
Life imprisonment with a fine of Rs 50,000 to be paid to the widow of his
brother whom he had killed. Switch had no money to pay and hence the life term
would lengthen by another year or so.
“Just for a TV channel,” my friend said when the
verdict came. Switch killed his brother because the brother had changed the
channel that Switch was watching with much interest on the TV.
Switch was a man of instant gratification. He was a
drug addict and an alcoholic. He earned money and spent it on liquor and drugs.
Whenever he wanted a glass or two of toddy, he would stop his work and move to
the toddy bar. Instant gratification.
Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure
or fulfilment without delay or deferment. You want something and you want it right
now. There is nothing wrong with wanting things, experiences, or products. But
it is important to balance our desires with a realistic sense of timing and
patience. Switch had no such sense. He lived in his own world where the rules
of the civilised society didn’t have any place. All that mattered to him were
his own pleasures.
But he was not a murderer at heart. Apart from the
self-centredness that goes with addictiveness, he was not wicked. The murder he
committed was an act of momentary passion. Did he regret it later? I wonder. I
could never bring myself to ask him that. Or did he think it was right to do
away with people who stood in the way of his pleasures?
It was Voltaire who said, “It is forbidden to kill;
therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to
the sound of trumpets.” There is no justification of Switch’s crime. But when
he was taken away by the police I was left thinking for a moment about mass
murderers who earned eminent places in human history.
PS. This is powered by #BlogchatterA2Z.
Last post in
this series: Lessons
tomorrow: Naïve Realism