Oh! How I hate waiting!! And it is not as if Karan doesn't know but punctuality is just not his cup of tea. The sales tactics he uses with his clients have seeped into his nature. I knew when he said he will reach plaza in 5 minutes, what it meant. I already came half an hour late. Still I am standing here for last one hour with my third mug of coffee in hand and the chill in the air is not helping either. Sometimes I wonder what I spend more time with – this coffee kiosk or him.
It is Saturday and plaza is overflowing with people, street vendors, hawkers… It is a sea of unknown faces. Such crowd makes me think as if I don’t belong to this city. So many people and not a single soul knows me. I exist or I don’t, just doesn't matter. Standing alone, biding time makes me feel too philosophical and gloomy. I can sense my irritation increasing with every passing second. I am about to push the Karan’s number on mobile…when a voice makes me spin on my heels.
A lanky young boy well into his teens, branded casuals, facial hair barely sprouting, spiked hair, a heavy duty watch looking burlier than the wrist wearing it, I certainly don’t know him. He is carrying a big canvas wrapped under his left arm. “Can you please help me?” “Ya, Tell me.” I looked at him quizzically.
“Can you please hold this canvas for a while; I have to look for few CDs.”
“Why not!” I hold the canvas; it is a pleasant deviation from just looking aimlessly at crowd. The boy goes down on his knees, of course not to propose me but to look for the wares the lady on the footpath has to offer. On a sheet, all kinds of CDs are spread; movies, games, music. The guy seems to belong to a well to do family, why is he buying pirated CDs? But not really his fault, any new gaming CD costs Rs. 1000 upwards. No wonder he is looking for their pirated versions that are easily available for 50 bucks or so. Ditto for the movie CDs. A Pirated movie CD costs around, again, 50 bucks and comes with 4-5 movies recorded in it. Though the quality is very poor and invariably one or two movies fail to oblige but it still seems to be a good bargain. For him having his hands laid on every new game which dazzles the fancy shelves of up-market store and watched every movie that has been released might be quite a thing to boast of among his friend. Obviously, studies interspersed with tests, assignments and projects every now and then and parents, to add to it, do not allow kids to watch every movie released in theatres So this seems to be a cool arrangement. But as already irritated I am (Karan has still not showed up) I can’t contain myself. I tell him in very matter of fact way, trying every bit to contain my disdain, “Look kiddo, buying pirated CDs is not only bad, it is also illegal.” He gives me a puzzled look.
Who are you to poke your nose? No, he doesn't say it but I can read his eyes “Bad, what is bad in that? It saves me a lot of pocket money. And illegal! If it is illegal, then why it is being sold openly? See those policemen, they are not stopping me. What could be illegal in that?”
I feel as if I just got a tight slap on my face. In our country you can’t mess with this word – ‘legal’. I am literally scratching my mind hard to give a legitimate explanation and then…I see the canvas I hold.
“You seem to be a budding artist, aren't you?” It is very important to heat iron before striking it. “Suppose tomorrow you want to eke out a living out of this passion and plan to sell you artwork. You put up an exhibition. Your audience is absolutely floored by your talent. People unanimously declare you the best thing to have happened to art world recently. You are absolutely buoyed by the response but your excitement soon fizzles out when you realize that people are praising but not buying your paintings. The exhibition slowly comes to an end, but just two-three paintings get around to wraps . You step out of the gallery and with a heavy heart take stroll in the market. Something attracts your attention. You are totally flummoxed to see cheap copies of your paintings, nicely framed, being sold at road side stalls. How would you feel?
The kiddo looks crest fallen, his voice barely audible, “Who will buy my painting then?”
“Exactly! Who will buy your paintings for thousands bucks, though original, when look alike fakes are available for 40 or 50 bucks that too with a frame? Same goes for any creative art. A producer spends millions on making a movie. When an original version is sold over the counter, he gets his due out of it. But the fake ones being sold at footpath, never make their way back to his pocket! How will that chap survive? How will he make his next movie for all of us to watch? Same goes for a game developer or an author or a painter.” My voice is gaining fervour after seeing his expressions.
The logic seems to bore into his mind. He speaks nothing but leaves the CDs, takes canvas and walks back. I triumphantly look around and my eyes meet the lady’s gaze, who is now giving me a dirty look. I busy myself on my phone and to avoid his gaze, start walking towards the parking lot. Anyway it is no use waiting any more, Karan is probably struck up with a client.
Two months Later
I am back to the plaza, this time with friends for shopping. Chill is waning and it is sales time! This one is my favourite season. We are looking at all-jazzed-up windows of showrooms and busy reading sales banners. A slightly familiar voice rings in my ears,” Hey ma’am, remember me!” I turn to look at that boy.
“Ya! the guy with the canvas?”
“Yes, ma’am. I am with my friends today. See, they are there.” His raised fingers guides me to a giggling bunch of boys and girls standing at a distance.
“I want to thank you. You opened my eyes. Now I don’t buy pirated copies. Though it leaves me fewer options with my pocket money, but at least I am paying the guys behind them their due. You know, I have even made a page on FB against piracy, it got so many ‘likes’ on the very first day. It is kind of cool!” He said.
Oh! Forgive me for the smugness I feel. I know the piracy has not stopped; people are still buying pirated CDs from that lady and other vendors around. I can see that. But even if one person is convinced and has vowed not to buy pirated CDs and books, it does make a difference. Doesn't it!
And hey! Crowd is not that bad.