Ashes, 1925 by Edvard Munch
The feeling of uneasiness still hadn’t left us from our last meeting with the undertaker. Her insistence on not informing her husband about the video or documentary really irked us. We felt we needed more clarity and if there was something she did not want us to probe or shoot, if so she should tell us about it explicitly, leaving no room for ambiguity.
We scheduled another meeting with her. When we arrived we were surprised to be greeted by her husband. Compared to the undertaker his frame was small, looked younger and sported a thin moustache. And we don’t know if he was some Jeetendra Kapoor fan or not, because from head to toe he was dressed in white. White shirt, white loose pants, white shoes! But then it seemed as if he hadn’t washed his clothes in aeons. His white clothes had taken on a cream, dirty colour which white takes on when not washed regularly. There was an unkempt, unruly and unclean aura to him. And I will confess now, atleast I disliked him immediately. Not only because of what later took place, but his appearance in general did not send out positive vibes to me.
The husband led us to the living room where the undertaker was sitting with her friend. We were served some coke and chips. But it was not the undertaker talking, she was sitting a bit reserved in a corner, the husband took charge and started talking to us. He mentioned how the undertaker had told him about us and the video (we were quite confused by then, all of us looked at each other and decided to remain quiet and listen to him). For about an hour then he starts telling us in minute details their financial problems, the problems with the tenant and how he was trying to find a legal way of getting rid of the tenant. By that time the man who was always hovering around had silently entered the room as well. Amidst all this the husband then asks us on our opinion about the tenant. Asking us for ‘legal’ advise, if we knew any lawyers and if need be also become witnesses! Now from our last instance where the young girl had pounced on us regarding her story of Jesus, this man had literally cornered us in their house, quite aggressively urging us to give them advise and also get involved in helping them get some legal redressal on the tenant issue. Like the girl, he was also quite forceful and it was difficult to simply say we need to leave. But via few exchanges we all understood that this was not going the way we had hoped for, and that the husband was indirectly indicating that in order for us to shoot the undertaker, there had to be certain conditions which we had to comply with. And those conditions were helping them out in both financial and legal ways. This was way more than we had bargained for. From our background research on documentary making we knew it helped to get to know the person well before shooting, but we all knew at that instant that we do not want to know anymore about the undertaker.
Just when we were looking at each other helplessly, thinking how to wriggle out of this, the tenant from above barges inside and starts shouting. She had black curly hair and a wild look to her. She accused all of us of conspiring against her and that she will complain to the police. She accused the undertaker of stealing her special spices, and she knew they were her spices because she could smell them up till her house!! She said that the CCTV she had installed outside showed how the undertaker had been stealing petrol from her car! Just when we thought things couldn’t get more bizarre, she starts hitting the man, and before we knew things had gotten violent and people were hitting each other! And we knew we HAD TO LEAVE THAT PLACE.
We almost ran out of her house. We were frightened. And we realised we were directly under the CCTV which the tenant had installed, so we got further away from it. Things had happened so quickly, that we had a hard time thinking straight, so much so that my editor in crime friend said she could not run unless she relieved herself somewhere. All of us were aghast! :O we told her woman right now we need to get as far as possible from the undertaker’s house, we were still on her street and going back for you to pee is just NOT POSSIBLE. But you know when your bladder is full and running can be the most torturous task possible? We conceded, but going back to the undertaker’s house was obviously not an option. Then moi, yes moi, had this brilliant idea, ‘hey there is a police station nearby, I am sure they have a bathroom’.
So then we rushed towards the police station, eager to put as much distance as possible between us and the undertaker’s house. Never in my wildest fantasies had I imagined eagerly going to a police station to pee! We rushed inside and asked the policemen where the bathroom was. They pointed towards the backside and we went there. In our hurry and fearful state we did not realise that our friend had entered the men’s bathroom. But too late, she was already inside and a man came out looking completely astonished. He said it is the men’s bathroom! I responded, ‘chalta hai, bahut zor se lagi thi’ (it is alright, the pressure was too high!). Like wow, I am laughing as I write this!! After our friend came out we headed to the entrance of the police station when we saw the husband standing there!! He looked at us and was like oh oh ‘so you have come to complain, great, tell them what happened’ and with that he left the police station. We looked at each other aghast, and quickly went to the backside and exited from there. We then hurtled amidst the chaotic mess that the Karol Bagh market is. Trying in our hurry not to crash against the multitude of people and vehicles. We eventually made it till the metro station. Once there we stood to have a proper breadth. Wordlessly we blocked the number of the undertaker. Wordlessly, we knew what was going on in each other’s mind. Too much had happened for us to comprehend or fathom its consequences.
Then wordlessly we boarded the metro to our respective destinations and later texted each other to inform that we had arrived at our homes safely.