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Boyhood is tough, and letting go of that boy as an adult even tougher. Anyone who’s been roughed up at school would know it.

In these moments of vulnerability, when the spirit of Adya camping in that little corner of Shanky’s mind woke up and became its disruptive self, Shanky found himself stalking his former friend on Facebook. Did Shanky have a particular reason for this? Would looking up Adya on social media quell his anxieties? Of course not. It was downright ridiculous to think it would. But who has ever functioned with a right frame of mind when they’re as vulnerable – as defeated – as Shanky was?

And each time Shanky did, it only strengthened the envy he had never been able to let go of. Seeing Adya’s pictures – his vacations, his parties, his friends – sent a stab of what Shanky could only describe as animosity through him. Adya was successful in all respects, and Shanky was stuck in a grind he didn’t want to be in.

He still wrote. The literary glory was still years away, but regular features of his stories in publications – some reputable, some not so – kept his spirits up.

At this point, it bears a mention that Shanky was not struggling in life. He had a stable job, one that paid him more than decently, if not handsomely. He was in a relationship with a woman named Aamya, and, even though they hadn’t decided on a date yet, they were serious about tying the knot. He took vacations; certainly not as many as Adya, something Shanky admittedly kept a close eye on (courtesy Facebook), but enough that he didn’t feel like he was missing out. Despite his moderately fulfilled life, were there things he yearned for? Things he dearly wanted, dearly desired? Things that kept him up at night, that made him want to hustle? Of course. After all, we are all driven by greed, aren’t we?

The point where things took a wild turn – the point of no return, if you like a sparkle of drama – happened on an ordinary Tuesday. The fact that it was Tuesday has no bearing on what happened, but Shanky always thought of Tuesdays as the worst day of the week; a phenomenon the roots of which went back to his mother, who had perhaps read it in some astrological book and not only adopted it in her belief system but also drilled it into her kids’ minds. The Chill Dad, Shanky’s father, was impervious to his wife’s superstitious beliefs, nor did he intervene in the kind of education she gave the kids.

Somehow, over the years, Shanky’s mind accepted the arguably made-up phenomenon of Tuesdays being unfortunate.

Anyhow, the fact that it happened on a Tuesday is nothing more than an interesting detail. You can choose to ignore it.

On this Tuesday, Shanky drew from the dark well for the first time. The well that Stephen King referred to in Fairy Tale, the well that’s there in everyone, the well that never goes dry; and, if I may add, where “the water is poisonous.” Shanky had known about this well forever; had even peeked down into the depths at the tantalising drop. If he could have seen his reflection in that surface, which he understandably couldn’t with the water being so deep, he would have noticed someone else looking back at him. This someone was Shanky all right, all of his facial features accounted for; his thick eyebrows, marks left behind pimples that went away years ago, frown lines that had etched so deep on his forehead.

And, yet, it was not him. For this other being looked… sinister. An envelope of darkness, not visible or conspicuous but perceptible, surrounded him. The kind you wouldn’t want to get near, the kind you would want to keep as farther away as possible.

The kind which greets us when we are at our most vulnerable.

But never had he dared to drop the bucket and draw the poisonous water from that dark well. Perhaps a part of him knew that, if he did, there would no turning back. Once he drew the water out and took a sip of it – because he would take a sip of it, and that fact was as undeniable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west – the other being would consume him.

Till that dreaded Tuesday.

As spectators following this chronicle, we can wonder if things would have turned out any differently had the day in question been anything but a Tuesday.

Perhaps that’s how superstitions are born.

Shanky was scrolling through his Facebook when he noticed Adya’s update.

The Adya in his mind jolted awake, moving closer to the foreground of his conscious mind. Meanwhile, Shanky, or the part of him in his mind, was crouched over the ledge of the well; a bucket in his hand.


On his mobile phone screen, Shanky saw that Adya had shared a picture. In it was a group of people, some who wore big fat smiles on their faces, others who were cheering zestfully. “WE MADE IT!” the title read at the top, and, below it, the text said: ““The Life That Was” nominated for The National Awards!” Underneath it, under a heading which said, “Contributors,” was a line of six names.

Shasya Setya, one of their common friends from middle school, led the group of these names. Shanky recognised his unsmiling face, which looked more arrogant than sombre, in the center of the picture. Third from the top of these names was Adya’s.

So, Adya had made a movie; or at least helped make a movie.

Meanwhile, Shanky brought the bucket up. He couldn’t see the surface of the water, much less the figment of the face – which was him, and at the same time, not so – staring up at him. A current of animosity ran through him. Of course, to a spectator witnessing his life (as we are now), it was nothing but pure jealousy. It wasn’t enough that he had to endure a beating, and its consequent humiliation, but also that he, Adya, had not received even an ounce of punishment for it. Why did Shanky have to suffer through days of loneliness in his new class while the amicable Adya was making new friends? Why did Shanky have to struggle with his grades while the academically better Adya aced virtually every exam? Why did Shanky have to experience not bouts but waves of existential crisis, while Adya seemed to be sailing through life carefreely?

And even though Shanky had gotten used to Adya living in his head, and that flicker of envy still remained from school, watching that post took his animosity (or jealousy, depends from whose perspective you’re listening to this episode) to an entirely different level.

The thing is that Shanky was what we would call creative among the two. The one who came with inventive ideas for pranks, which Adya merely followed like a dedicated soldier; the one who prepared the entire script for an extracurricular play Adya had volunteered to write, something Adya could never have; the one who set up the entire astronomy day at school, right from creating the celestial models to the little presentation they would give to the audience, while Adya couldn’t keep up and was always a step behind.

Basically, the one who, at least in his own mind, was meant for a life much better than Adya’s. Of course, Shanky was smart enough to never say it out aloud.

We can say with some certainty that Shanky was more arrogant among the two, had always been. And with the arrogance, there came a sense of pride. A belief – arguably false, but definitive and unshakeable – that he was, in every respect, better.

And Adya… well, Adya, at best, was a trained monkey. A good trained monkey, a dedicated and hard working one, but a trained monkey nevertheless. One who never had an original idea in his mind, one who was an excellent worker bee; following instructions to the T. If he was instructed to go jump off a building, he would without giving it a second thought.

How did it matter that Adya scored better grades? That he got selected to represent the school cricket and football teams, and Shanky didn’t? That more people attended his birthday parties than Shanky’s? That he excelled not just in academics but literally every aspect of their adolescent lives?

Shanky was always better than Adya.

And when you’re better, and more importantly know it, everything else is a mere triviality. 

In Shanky’s mind, that was how the scales were meant to balance out. He was always going to prosper creatively, and Adya… well, doing a job he was told to do.

So, imagine Shanky’s resentment when he saw Adya had… made a movie.

It was frustrating, it was outrageous.

It was, nevertheless, jealousy. But when you compounded it with a sense of indignation he had been feeling since years, it was bound to transform into maddening thoughts that reminded him of his mother’s saying from when she was alive.

But there came a time when these thoughts grew into something much more; something colossal.

A kind of a force.

A force… that broke the ceiling, shot up like a firework – intense, blinding, uncontainable – and split into three colourful, lively branches. Like offshoots.

The offshoots that would, in the time to come, become more and bigger than themselves.

Previous episode: Offshoots (Part 1)

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