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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.

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Last post in this series: Lessons from Lokayata

Coming up tomorrow: Naïve Realism


  1. This was interesting moving from Switch to instant gratification and to mass murderers in history.
    Instant gratification is going to be another pandemic for the generation that is growing up, as parents fulfill their demand as soon as o e is made. Will they have patience in the real world that will not offer them the same? Hoping they all won't lose it like Switch
    Deepika Sharma

    1. This is something that worries me too about the present generation, their relentless pursuit of instant gratification.

  2. AH yes. Imagine there was even a flim made of a serial murder Raman Raghav who was pronounced insane and whose victims were homeless people on MUmbai's streets. How can you describe his behaviour? And what about the poor hapless victimes?
    And instant gratification is the bane of our society. We want everything NOW from instant coffee to polaroid photos.

    1. My intention here was only to look at one particular character. All murders are evil, even religious ones.

  3. Interesting thought... Mass murderers can get away but not individual murders..

    1. Mass murderers not only get away but also go on to secure places in history!

  4. Instant gratification is the current generation's obsession.Starting from maggie to selfies, this generation wants it all now. Society , today is twisted beyond our understanding.

    1. They're very insensitive too. Altogether a rather dangerous concoction.


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