If you’re a lawyer, or you’re involved in the law somehow, please forgive me for making you cringe.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Part 1: prologue.
I prepare for the stream to begin. My friend adjusted the camera for me, so it could film me and the immediate area around me. I am sitting at a railway station, various people also sitting around me, waiting for their train to arrive. The only difference between them and me is that they were sitting on the seats specially fixed for the waiting public, while I am sitting on the floor of the platform.
I feel the strings of my violin, which is resting on my lap. One steel bowl rested on the floor in front of me. My friend left for his shop at the platform, where he could observe me and keep an eye on me. The camera is carefully hidden, so the people around me don’t see anything beyond a beggar with unfocused eyes, clearly the sign of his blindness.
Unlike most of the beggars, I am well built, and haven’t gone through the starving and effects of irregular meals. The stream begins, and I start playing violin, starting with popular Bollywood songs. After half an hour of playing, my friend comes and checks the comments discreetly. He gives me a packet of chips, and using this excuse, whispers in my ear. “They want you to introduce yourself, or sing.”
He then leaves for his shop once more. Obliging the requests, I started to sing, along with playing my violin. Let me tell you. Multitasking like this is a bitch. But I managed it. Many people left coins in the steel bowl in front of me, but I didn’t notice them.
While I was busy singing, a man came, and slapped me hard. “While we’re doing honest work, cripples like him take advantage of our generosity.” He said in disgust. Still, he dropped some coins in the bowl, and left. I heard some policeman yelling at him from some distance, which kind of surprised me.
I didn’t think they would have any compassion for the likes of me. Of course, it also helps that I’m here with the permission of the authorities. Still, I did not react in any way, and I continued the stream, playing violin Solley after my throat got tired.
In the night, most people left the station. Those who got their trains late, as this is distressingly common in India, still waited on the seats, or made some sleeping arrangements. While it is true that in the world outside, it’ll raise a lot of eyebrows. But when people unfolded their blankets and sheets, and just decided to rest right there on the platform, this didn’t even rate a reaction here. After closing his shop, since he does not work the night, my friend came to pick me up. After ending the stream, we leave quickly. Most people didn’t pay any attention to us, as I sealed the violin in the bag slung over my shoulders, while my friend carried the rest of the equipment, and kept guiding me with one arm to his car.
A lot of people might balk at someone like him owning a car. But I’ve known him for so long, I know he’s smart with his money. It is no surprise to me that he actually has a car, and sometimes even leaves on tour for someone, when they book his services as a driver. A lot of such people don’t have a car of their own, or need a driver to drive them at the long distance. I sit right next to him, after putting everything in the back, and we leave for the home in the night.
After we reach the home of my friend, where I’m currently living temporarily, he tells me the reaction of the stream. Aside from the usual trolls, people were largely surprised.
“So,” he finishes his explanation. “Basically, they want to know about this mysterious guy.”
“Hmm. Maybe we should use this mysterious factor?” I suggest.
“Great idea.” The business man inside my friend approves. “Milk it for all it’s worth, and then do a huge reveal.”
Part 2: How it all come to this.
You might be wondering, who am I, and what happened to me that I am doing this, begging on a railway station, and streaming it online. In fact, considering I’m streaming it online, you might even wonder, why am I begging at all?
My name is Dhanish. I was born blind. Meaning, I have eyeballs, but they don’t work. There is no treatment for correcting my vision. I have zero percent vision, meaning I am totally, completely, blind. From my birth to my life up to now, I have only learned the concept of light, but have not experienced it ever.
Now, leaving aside my difficulties in getting an education, and a job, I did manage to get both. However, around two years ago, I did not know that the job would become a nightmare for me, and then I would end up losing everything, including the said job.
After I graduated from college, I managed to secure a position in the Mandal Dhari Corporation. I considered myself insanely lucky, as a guy barely in his twenties, recently graduated, and yet having a job in a big corporation was a big thing for me.
I worked as a software developer for that corporation. The “Corporation” bit was recent, as they actually brought it into public. Before it was known as Mandal Dhari Services. They used to provide all sorts of services, from cloud-related stuff, to online web portals used by government and private companies alike. I was the junior guy, working on the team which handled the things on the server side. I was fortunate that I knew enough Linux for the job, since servers are often running Linux.
However, it wasn’t easy. I needed to get used to Linux, and I installed it on my computer back in my college days. Then, I found out that the screen reader functionality on the graphical interface part was pretty poor compared to windows. This was where I realized why most blind people stay with windows.
But I picked up the command-line side quickly. Most of my college mates start to sweat at the sight of that black console window. But me? I ran it as if it was my personal domain, with my fast fingers on the keyboard.
So, I didn’t have any problem with Linux, even though the other team members usually used graphical interfaces. But soon, I started to observe certain things, which actually raised my hackles.
First, the time crunches. Okay, okay, those are nothing new. You hear about those in the video game companies all the time.
But let me tell you, unless you’ve gone through them, you’ve got no right to tell others that they’re complaining, or that they’re ungrateful. It is very easy to say all of these things from a comfortable life.
Second, I observed abuse. Let me correct that. I felt the abuse. The managers would come down on us, and make us sit on the floor, telling us that we’re not fit to sit on chairs in their presence. I naturally refused to cooperate with this behavior. I might be a fresher, just out of the college. But this does not mean they get to humiliate me. I’m not applying to a professional wrestling school where they beat the crap out of you and humiliate you. At least they’ve got a reason behind it.
But these people don’t have any reason for it.
Third, I saw how they basically started to take over the private life of their employees. Meaning, if you think you’re safe from the insanity at your home, you’ll quickly learn that you’re dead wrong about it.
I never brought my personal computer to the office, so they could configure it to spy on me. I always used their systems for work. But one day, Dhansingh, the manager in charge of the team of which I was the part of, got into an argument with me regarding installing something on my phone.
“Listen boy,” he said the day I had this argument with him. “All employees are complying with this policy. You might be blind, but you’re not any special. So, hand over your phone, now.”
His choice of words, and his tone clued me in that he was barely holding on to his temper. Which is nothing new. The sound of yelling and cursing often came from his office.
“You’re lying.” I replied. “I know Krishna and others point blank refused to comply with your policy.” He took a sharp breath, and someone enters the office.
“Ah boss,” the atmosphere changed immediately. “We were just talking to Dhanish, asking whether he had any trouble or not.”
“I believe everything is fine young man?” said Bhanu Pratap, who was actually above Dhansingh.
“Everything is fine sir.” I replied. I didn’t want to disclose everything to him, since I didn’t know what kind of man he was, since we rarely had any contact with upper management.
“Good. Good. I hear Krishna is looking for you.” he said.
“With your permission sir?” I turned my face towards Bhanu, making sure that he knows that I’m talking to him.
“Of course.” I left immediately. During my work, I’ve gotten familiar enough with this part of the building that I can easily go from place to place.
The fact that unlike school, children aren’t running here also helps. I found Krishna in the server room. “What did that bull want?” he asked me bluntly.
“The same thing. Installing some application on my phone.” I replied.
“You already forgot the name.” said Krishna. “But what did you say?”
“I refused.” I spoke. “I was worried for a moment, since he might get physically violent. But the boss came there.”
“Hmm. I wonder.” Said Krishna. “Anyway, you need to do this immediately.” He then started to tell me my tasks for the day.
After that day, I didn’t have much contact with Dhansingh. But little did I know that things were about to get worse.
Part 3: layoffs, and education scams.
Two weeks after I had that argument with Dhansingh, I heard that Krishna and most of my team were fired. Then, I heard that the company is starting a bootcamp for programming, targeting children. They told me to prepare their curriculum. A job which I hated, but I did it grudgingly.
I was looking for a new job, and I didn’t share anything regarding that with anyone at the office. To sell the curriculum, they hired a bunch of college boys, and cursed the hell out of them when they failed to fulfill their unreasonable targets.
First, bootcamp was insanely expensive. There was no way that any Indian family with sane parents would ever buy that. Their marketing was full of fake claims. It didn’t take me and Dhansingh to butt heads again.
“I fucking told you to prepare a graphical page!” he yelled at me, some spittle landing on my hands. “You worthless cripple, you can’t even do that much?”
“I can’t see. I can’t do anything graphical. What is so hard to understand about it?” I said, controlling my tone.
“You bastard! I’ll bust your ass open if you talk to me like that, you hear me?” he continued to curse. “You’re nothing more than a burden on society. We gave you a job, and this is how you repay us?” the door opens, and the tirade gets interrupted.
“Enough. Dhanish, leave.” Said Bhanu. I did as he said. Before the door closed, I heard him saying. “This isn’t the way to handle it.”
Dejected, I go to my home. I told what happened to my family. They didn’t care anything about it. They just told me to, and I quote, “Buckle up, and suck it up.”
Of course, these weren’t my immediate family. I lost my parents a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been living with my relatives. My parents did take care of the financial responsibilities of educating me. But these relatives and I don’t get along. As a result, I’m shifting away to a different one room apartment.
In fact, the shifting is just the next day, since it’s a weekend. As I waited for everything to get ready in my apartment, Krishna called me.
“Dhanish, how’re you doing?” he asked.
“Not better.” I admitted. “What about you? Found a new gig?”
“No. and this is exactly about it. you know why we were let go?” he asked.
“No. It was never revealed to me at all.”
“The thing is, we found that the corporation is collecting lots of data, and funneling it up to outside of India. All sorts of details are included, like the contact info, the bank account info, you get the idea.”
“That’s horrifying.” I spoke. “But how did you find that out?” Info like that is not collected in your usual collection of user info. Furthermore, that info is anonymized before doing anything with it.
“Because everything has to go through our backend, remember?” he told me about the technical details, which I’ve skipped here. “Anyway, it’ll be for the best if you leave.”
“I can’t.” I spoke. “There’s a contract. They can’t fire me before it is up, or they’ll have to pay a lot of money. And the same applies to me. You know that already.” Although, if I did find a better gig, I would happily pay that money.
“Hmm. Tough situation.” After exchanging a few more words, I disconnected the call.
Part 4: Firing.
Just one week after I shifted to my new apartment, and got used to living by myself, I had another argument. This time, it was the marketing head Sonia. She was newly appointed as the marketing head, so she probably felt that she needed to exercise her powers. Unfortunately, she picked me as her target.
As she went on and on about the modules which I prepared for their dubious bootcamp, she slapped me. “Are you listening to me?” she said, gritting her teeth.
I carefully controlled my reaction to this sudden violence. Ever since my childhood days, I’ve often reacted badly to violence. I even delivered a DDT to a bully back in my high school days. But I knew that response wouldn’t work here in my favor.
“I am listening.” I said calmly. “Though I don’t understand, why are you coming to me with this? What you do in the marketing is not my concern.”
“I thought you might say that.” she said smugly. My back immediately tensed. “You’re fired. Here are your walking papers.” She through some pages at me. “Now get out.”
“Who gave you the authority to fire me?” I asked, gathering the papers.
“The man who’ll kick you out like a stray dog.” Said Dhansingh, entering into the office. “If you won’t leave in five minutes, I’ll make the security team throw you out.”
I said nothing. What could I do in that situation? But thankfully, some employees assisted me enough that they dropped me onto the streets, where the cab I booked online was waiting for me.
Once I got home, I called my friend Imraan. “Hello?” he said after receiving my call.
“Imraan.” I spoke. “How’re you doing?”
“What’s wrong?” he immediately shifted from a cold professional lawyer to an old friend from college. I guess my tone gave my distress away.
I told him everything. He immediately came to my home, and reviewed the contract. “Well,” he puts it down. “The way I see it, it is an unlawful firing.”
I sighed. “What can we do in this situation?”
“Sue them, of course.” He spoke. “But given what you’ve told me, you should be ready for some nasty moves from them.”
Part 5: the lawsuit and counter lawsuit.
Now, the proceeding of the court only made sense enough to me as an Alien speaking Japanese. Meaning, I just went up there, sat in my chair, spoke when spoken to, and followed my friend’s instructions. By the time we were done, we both were very confident about our case.
Until, we learn that the Mandal Corporation is countersuing me, sighting bad behavior, embezzled money, allegations of assault, and anything which they could think of.
In short, Imraan’s prediction came true.
“Listen, this is out of my league.” He said to me. “You seriously need some bastard of a lawyer on your side, who is willing to win this case.”
“You mean someone as nasty as them?” I asked.
“Yes.” He said flatly. “You should talk to Ramcharan Milani. He is the only one who can help you. Be warned though, his fee is a lot, and he does not do charity cases.”
I did contact Ramcharan Milani, as my friend suggested. I did not know how would I raise the fees for him. But at least, I did manage to convince him to fight the case on my behalf.
When I was coming out of his office, I found Dhansingh and Sonia right outside. Ramcharan came with me to escort me as a curtesy. “So, you think you can just do whatever you want? You’ve got no money to fight this case. Drop it already.” Said Sonia.
“Why should I do that? You put allegations against me. Fired me unlawfully. You are the one who assaulted me. What will I get out of this?” I asked.
“You deserve nothing.” Said Dhansingh. “You’re just a crippled dog—”
“Enough.” Said Milani. “This is my office. You will not threaten my client in front of me.” They protested, but he through them out.
“Listen kid, it would be for the best if you live somewhere else, preferably with someone whom you can trust.” He said to me. He was quite old, but he still had enough force of personality that he didn’t get intimidated by a bunch of corporate bullies.
Part 6: here we are now.
I did follow Milani’s advice, and started to live with my friend Ankoor. He knows me since my high school days, and knows that I’m a pretty low maintenance kind of guy. Aside from the room, I don’t need anything luxurious to live somewhere.
Which is as well, since a bunch of goons showed up at my apartment, and started to break stuff. During that, Dhansingh called me. “You hear that noise?” he said to me, while I heard my house being demolished in the background. “This is your fate if you go against us. You really are ungrateful, you know that?” he said in a chiding tone.
“If it weren’t for us, you would have been begging at a railway station, collecting coins on a bowl.” He cut the call.
Honestly, that remark didn’t hurt me at all. My relatives have been taunting me like that for years. But this threat sparked an idea in me.
“Ankoor, you have a shop on the main station, right?” I asked my friend. The city I live in has many stations, but there is a main station where all the intercity trains must go.
“Yeah?” he said, putting his spoon down. I felt bad for a moment for springing this on him during dinner time.
“What do you say to help me with an online stream?” I asked.
“What kind of stream are we talking about here?” he asked in return.
I described the idea to him. “But where would we get a violin?” he asked.
“I have one. It should be fine.” I spoke.
“Yeah, but will your aunt give it to you? She hasn’t lifted a finger to help you since the death of your parents.” He spoke.
“Well, nothing wrong in asking her. Besides, that violin was bought for me by my father. She has no right to keep it from me.”
When I called my aunt, I was expecting a huge argument from her. But luckily, she sent the violin to me without a fuss. I did not tell her why did I needed the instrument.
And thus, a blind violinist begging on the railway station as a streamer was born, who occasionally sings upon the viewer’s request.
Part 7: the cat is out of the box.
It has been a week since I started my stream, and playing music on the main railway station of my city. At first, only a few people watched my stream, but now thousands of people have started to tune in. I know that the mysterious factor would come to an end, but I want to see how high I can take the count before I reveal everything. So far, I have said nothing. No words of greeting, no words of conclusion at the end, just fulfilling the requests of the fans when they ask for something in the chat, monitored by Ankoor.
However, the way to reveal my identity was soon taken out of my hand, as one YouTuber approached me on the live stream. “And here’s the man, who has been getting viral recently in the streaming world.” He did not stick a mic on my face like a reporter, thankfully.
He sits down near me. “So, would you like to tell us anything about yourself?” he asked me.
In response, I shook my head. “You’re quite well dressed, and play the violin with an expert hand. And yet, you’re begging at this station. Is there a reason for it?” he asked.
I give a nod as a response. “Are you trying to make a point?”
This is a tough question to ask. In a sense, I am trying to make a point for Dhansingh, and other people like him. That you can’t get away by abusing others. But in other sense, it is a cry for support from public. So, I did nothing.
“The question is very difficult to answer I see.” He understands. “Very well, I would like to invite you on my podcast. Call me if you agree.” He hands me a paper. Ankoor later told me that it is his phone number, and a name.
We researched about Jaikrishna Sharma, the name which was in the paper which the YouTuber gave to me. My guess was that he was some small time YouTuber, here to investigate me in some hopes of gaining some views.
Out of those guesses, the only one that is true is that he is a YouTuber. We learn that he actually doesn’t need any views, given how he is very popular in podcasting in India, with millions of people listening to him daily. People like him because he invited not only politicians or big businessmen, but professors, school teachers, people running NGOs, scientists, and all sorts of people from different walks of life.
And now, he has invited me very publicly.
Before accepting his invitation, I talked to Milani. I wanted to know what I’m allowed, or not allowed to say, what kind of details I can reveal, etc. etc.
“Now, before you leave kid, know this. It is hard to toe the line in a conversation. You will end up revealing something which you shouldn’t. but I do think this is the risk worth taking. Public support after all, can be very important sometimes.” He said to me.
Ankoor called Mr. Sharma. “Hello? Am I talking to Mr. Sharma?”
“Yes. And you are?” asked the voice on the phone.
“My name is Ankoor. I’m the friend of the gentleman you met on the station.” Said Ankoor. “He has agreed to appear on your podcast.”
“Indeed? Then why isn’t he talking himself?” asked Sharma, which is actually a reasonable thing to ask in my opinion.
“Because I was waiting for you to ask this question.” I said, after I took the phone from Ankoor.
“Ah, good. It is good to hear your normal voice. Come to this Saturday. And don’t forget to build up your appearance through stream. Now, how you do that, I leave that up to you.”
“See you at this Saturday.” I disconnected the call.
The last stream, which I did before I appeared on the podcast, I actually spoke. After finishing the song which I was playing on my violin, I put the instrument on my lap. “Next week, I’m going to appear on a podcast with Mr. Jaikrishna Sharma, a very popular podcaster as you all know. There, you will get answers to a lot of questions which you no doubt have regarding me.” and I ended the stream.
I thought that a few thousand people who actually watch my stream regularly would be the one who received that message. But apparently, people actually spread this all over internet. Soon enough, speculation went wild regarding what kind of things will be revealed in the upcoming interview. I was most surprised that it did not reach the people of Mandal Corp. It would have been interesting to see how they react.
But as the day of the interview came, I put them out of my mind.
Part 8: The interview.
For the interview, I arrived in Jaikrishna’s studio. It’s all a new experience for me. I never thought that I would be interviewed, or appear on a podcast one day. If only the events proceeding this were happier to remember, I wouldn’t have such a tarnish on my memory.
“Today, we have a special person as my guest.” Said Sharma. “For weeks, a guy has been streaming from the train station, with a bowl in front of him like a beggar. He does not speak a word, aside from singing when a song is requested. The rest of the time, he plays the violin. No words of greetings, no words at the conclusion at the end of the stream. This person has lit the internet on fire, even foreigners took notice of him, and requested English songs from him. And now, we will learn who they are, and why they have been doing all of this.”
“The camera is on you.” Thanks Sharma, for informing me. “Let’s start with a simple question. Who are you?”
“I am Dhanish. A guy who likes music, and specially violin.” I said in answer.
“But the love of the music is no reason for doing what you’ve been doing for the past few weeks.” Said Sharma.
“Indeed. But I won’t give all the info too early, what would be the point of this podcast then?” I replied.
“Indeed.” Sharma chuckled. “Then tell us, what did you used to do before you began to stream?”
“I worked as a software developer for a company. I was lucky enough to be recruited right out of college.” I spoke.
“That is interesting. No software developer would do that. after all, the profession carries a certain level of prestige in our country, with expectations of good money to boot. Did something happened?” asked Sharma.
“Indeed. But let me ask you a question before I answer this one. Why did you approach me? I saw some of your podcasts. You invite all sorts of distinguished people here. Then why did you invite me?” I asked.
“That is simple to answer. I began this podcast, because I saw that a lot of people in this day and society, do not have any voice. And it is not helped by the fact that their voices are being actively suppressed.” Said Sharma.
“That is a great purpose.” I said in response.
But Sharma is fired up. That simple compliment is not enough to stop the oncoming deluge. “Not only that, no one invites professors, scientists, experts like them to their news channels. I had enough of the screaming heads at my TV. So, I found refuge on the internet, where the public showed their support. That is why I was able to invite anyone from a lowly truck driver to a minister, to film producers and directors, the aforementioned professors and scientists, and unique people like you.” he finished finally.
After a few moments of silence, I replied. “I understand why you approached me. So let me answer your question.” But before I could begin on my sob story, Sharma stopped me.
“No. let’s talk about your childhood first. Tell us, were you born blind? Or you lost your eyes later?”
“I was born blind.” I answered.
“Did you encounter trouble in your education?”
“Well, yes. To start with, I had a lot of trouble adapting to my circumstances. Many people told me that I should not pursue the computer science route, due to the difficulties which I encountered. But I was stubborn, and I passed school and college in my choice of subject.” I spoke.
“But the biggest challenge for me was not the limitations of vision, or the technology. It was the attitude of the people. Teachers didn’t want to do anything with me, no matter how much effort I took from my own end. The administrators took the decisions on my behalf, not even talking to me. I had to fight literally tooth and nail each time to convince them otherwise.”
“Wait, why would they take decisions without consulting you? It is your future.” Asked Sharma.
“So, what happened was that during my high school days, the principal put me on a humanities route. Without even telling me, while I prepared hard for the computer science subject the whole year. When I told him that it was the subject on which I would like to pass the school, he told me that people like me don’t have the necessary ability to pass hard subjects like these, and we argued regarding this for hours. After that, he just got fed up, and told me to “Do whatever you want!” and washed off his hands from me.”
“Sounds difficult. Staying on your point for so long, and arguing about it. Do you have anymore such incidents for us?” asked Sharma.
“Yes. There is another. In my college year, at the time of the final year’s exam, I heard that they actually put me on the Hindi language route, while I prepared in English. In fact, I’ve been studying in English. In my opinion, in the IT field, you do need English anyway, since the bulk of the stuff comes in this language. Again, I had to argue a lot with the dean. Thankfully, he didn’t require as much convincing as the principal, and everything was smoothed out, and I passed with distinction.” I spoke. “While there were more incidents like these, these two are the ones which I remember clearly. Others are just lost in a haze of a one-giant argument I’ve been having with the world ever since I learned to walk.”
“And you do not plan to give in?” asked Sharma.
“Never. I’ve come too far in my life to lay down and just give up.” I replied.
“Did you receive any help or assistance from government facilities?” asked Sharma next.
“Not at all. Due to my family background being a middle-class, financially well-doing family, I didn’t qualify for most of the welfare programs. The one time I actually thought that I would have help from the government, that turned out to be a false hope.” I answered.
“What was it about?” asked Sharma.
“You know that banking wasn’t so open to everyone as it is now in our country.” Sharma hums in agreement. “While school kids have bank accounts these days, when I was a kid, there was no such facility. When I graduated college, and applied for an account, many banks which were state-owned refused me, telling me that a disabled person can’t have an account, or it is only opened jointly.”
“That is shocking. The government runs ads on the TV and internet all the time, showing how bank accounts are open to everyone. How could they deny you?”
“The thing is, most people working on such institutes, they have an ugly attitude towards people. I wasn’t asking for some charity. I was just asking for a personal bank account. But the people at the bank argued with me, giving me a runaround. After I had enough of it, I complained to the main branch.”
“Did that solve your problem?” he asked next.
“No. Then I went to my friends who were doing vlogging and stuff during college, and some of them still do. (Hello, by the way!) When I told them about this in a casual conversation, they got so furious, that they trended this entire issue on Twitter. After seeing that, they finally called and quickly opened my account.” I said, chuckling at the memory. “But consider this. Not every person is lucky to have such friends. Just how many people’s rights do they strangle every day?”
“A great question which they must all answer for, no doubt about it.” said Sharma. “So, you joined a company after graduation. How was your experience?”
“Well, it started out great.” I said, and Sharma started to laugh.
“That implies things didn’t work out, if I’m being honest with you.” he said.
“You’re correct. The interview portion and everything, it just went well. To be honest, during the interview, especially in the software development world, you need two things. First, you need to be able to talk about your craft, the things you’ve done, the things you know, all that. Then, you need to back that up with either answering programming exercises, which are universally hated,” both of us chuckled. “Or take a project home and complete that in the allotted time.”
“Did you face any discrimination from fellow workers?” he asked.
“Not from the people who worked with me.” I spoke.
“Hmm. So, you lost that job?” he asked next.
“I did.” I replied.
“And why did you lose it?”
“Well, it all began with the arguments. You see, when I joined, I mostly worked on the code at the server, and there was an entire team which worked on it, and I was a member of it. Later, they fired them all, because we all refused to install the spyware on our phones and other devices, so the company could keep an eye on us.”
“Aren’t there any laws to protect workers from that?” asked Sharma.
“Laws are only strong, if people know about them or believe in them.” I said cynically. “Anyway, what happened was that they later put me on designing curriculums for the programming bootcamps which they were designing to market to children. Management had a problem with me, because I didn’t do any graphics designing or all that pompous stuff, just so you can show that off to others, while in reality, there is nothing behind it. So, I had a nasty argument with the management, where they insulted me, calling me a worthless cripple and all that.”
“Sounds like a charming place to work. But still, that doesn’t explain why you were let go.”
“I had a contract with them, which was offered by the university itself. It stated that you can’t fire any of our students without compensating them, or the students can’t leave without compensating the company. I did not leave; I was fired by management because I didn’t bend to their will. I didn’t sit on the floor when they were present in the office, and I resisted when they tried to install spyware on my devices. That was the only reason.” I explain.
“And how did it all lead to your interesting style of streaming?” asked Sharma.
“The company sent some goons after me when I dragged them to court because of this contractual dispute. I was at my friend’s home when that happened. So, they broke down everything, damaged and threw out my stuff, and the guy who did all that powerplay called me and told me that I would amount to nothing more than a beggar on a railway station. So, I decided that I’ll show them that I wouldn’t be bullied so easily. People have been threatening me with the possibility of begging on the station for years. It is nothing new to me. but this time, I decided to adapt this threat for my own ends.”
“Well, Dhanish, it was fun talking to you. please come by once more.” Said Sharma concluding the interview.
“I had fun, and I’ll come again if you want me here again.”
Part 9: Fallout.
After this interview, my daily viewers of the stream doubled. Not only that, but the people interacted with me on the station more.
Articles were written on some small news sites. YouTubers started to talk about it, especially the activists. Later, I hear that someone leaked about the data collection and spying the Corporation was doing on its customers. We never found out who leaked this info. But it just caused even more problems for the Mandal Corp.
Meanwhile, Milani’s predictions came true. They gave me some grief, but I managed to walk the line between outright breaking confidentiality, and giving just enough info to the public that aside from a few admonishments from the judges, I didn’t suffer anything more serious.
However, Ankoor invited more of his friends to his house, since we all feared that the goons would be sent after us. Even during the streaming, there are people around me keeping watch. There was a man who tried to beat me up. But aside from few slaps, he couldn’t do anything else, and got arrested quickly.
The only thing which saddened me is that no news channel covered this. I know, it was a foolish hope. Those bastards are busy battling each other. They don’t have time for the public. (The public made them like this. How to fix this situation, is the kind of topic which can start a whole book. I won’t be writing it, since I’m no expert about it.)
But still, I expected something.
Part 10: Financial support.
Paying the fees of Ramcharan, and keeping up with my living expenses, (as few they might be,) is taking a toll on my savings. As a result, I decided to do some freelance work.
Although it proved to be stressful as hell, as I ended up finding many clients who basically treated me like a hired dog who should jump when they ordered to jump. It was the only means of income I had, since most companies refused to hire me because of this court case going on.
Thankfully, Krishna and other developers with whom I’m still in contact, did watch out for me, and told me if a deal was bad or not, when I asked for their opinion. Aside from that, I set up a go-fund me page, and requested to my viewers to donate.
I won’t lie. It cost me a lot of pride to do that. It is true that my situation is dreadful. But I created my stream to spread the word about the issue me and other people like me are facing, (or might face in the future), not to ask for donations.
Still, it surprised me just how many people actually donated to help me out. As the case went on, it guzzled up all that money. During this time, Dharam Mandal, the CEO actually confronted me outside of the court where I was sitting, waiting for Ramcharan. The lawyer instructed me strictly to not talk to anyone without him being present, since I will have no way of knowing who is speaking to me, and the opponent may take advantage of this.
“So, finally found you.” he said, taking the chair next to me. “Quite a bind you’ve gotten yourself into. You really shouldn’t have done that, you know? Now you’re just wasting both of our time.” I said nothing in reply.
“You’re nothing.” I detected a lot of venom in his voice. “It wouldn’t take me much to actually keep you bound to this case. No company will touch your resume, let alone hire you. You should have run like a crippled dog when you had the chance.” I did not react in the slightest.
“As for the case of spying and selling the customer’s private info, everyone does that. I’ll get out of that too, just throw money at the problem.” He said, and I still didn’t react.
“You there. What are you doing?” he said to someone. I heard some footsteps getting away fast, while Dharam slowly gets up and walks in the same direction as the footsteps.
Milani came back right at that moment. “Did he say something to you?” he asked me, I assume he saw Dharam walking away.
“Mostly taunting me and giving me ultimatums.” I answered.
“He’s behaving like a badly written movie villain.” He said in reply. “Did you say anything?”
“Not a word.” I zipped my finger on my lips.
“Smart boy.” He said, as we walked away from the court. “You’re a pleasant client to deal with. Not like those idiots who can’t shut their mouths, makes hard to defend them.”
I smiled. At least someone approves of me.
Later, I started to give piano and violin lessons online, which also brought me some income. It wasn’t much, but it was something. To promote my lessons, I filmed a lot of videos, which got uploaded to YouTube, where I played some music on an instrument. That to provided me with some income, but I didn’t rely on it like my music classes, or the freelance, since YouTube is a flighty thing. It might work for you now, but at the very next day, it might not. I’ve seen a lot of YouTubers get stressed while dealing with that, and I already have enough stress in my life.
I have stopped streaming from the railway station, and now I stream from my friend’s house, since my apartment is still damaged, and I don’t have enough money to fix it. I mainly did that because all the work I’m doing now, doesn’t leave me with enough time to just sit there for six or eight hours. One thing I’ll say though.
It was therapeutic. Strange, I know. But it is true.
Part 11: Winning the case.
The case dragged on for three years. During this time, I did what I could to get money, and after a while, I actually learned to manage my YouTube channel by myself. I don’t need anyone’s help in shooting videos, as I used to earlier, as long as I’m not vlogging.
I started my own podcast, which seems to be running fine, and which I plan to continue to run as long as possible. The Mandal Corp has been fighting three cases during this time. One is mine, the other is the data selling and spying, the and other is the malpractices and false marketing and malicious targeting of the parents for their bootcamp.
The judge has declared that the decision will be announced today, and I’m discussing the possibilities with Milani at our corner.
“They have to be awfully corrupt to give a decision against us kid.” Milani is saying to me.
“What should we do if they appeal this decision?” I asked.
Bonking my head, he answers. “Kid, you might be smart when it comes to a lot of things. But you’re totally hopeless when it comes to the law. This is the highest court. Ain’t nothing they can do from here.” He declared confidently.
One reason why the case dragged on for so long is that if ever I got the decision in my favor, Mandal Corp just would go at the hire level of the court, and the dance would start all over again.
A few hours later, it is lunch time. I am eating with Milani, and discussing the decision. “I’m amazed that they can actually put out decisions thousands of pages long.”
“Hah! That is nothing. You should see when… you know what? Never mind. The important thing is, what’re your demands going to be? You should tell me those right now.”
“Demands?” I never thought about it. To be honest, the case has been going on for so long that I never thought that it’d come to an end like this, let alone in my favor. “Should I be humble in victory?”
Ramcharan slammed his hand on the table, making the plates rattle. “Absolutely not! They made you dance around for three years, humiliated you, destroyed your opportunities, and you want to be humble? Go for the jugular kid, don’t give them an inch. Even if you think a demand is unreasonable, and is likely to be rejected, you should still put it out.” he said, while I absorbed his words.
“Hmm. First, I think they should pay all of my legal expenses.” I described the first demand.
“Pretty standard. Anything else?” said Milani, noting down my demands, which I deduced from the sound of a pen scratching the paper.
“They have to pay the outstanding amount for firing me before the contract was up.” This too got noted. “They should pay me some compensation for destroying my opportunities, since companies won’t hire me anymore. they have to pay the damages to my apartment when they sent the goons to my apartment and broke everything.”
“I can’t help but notice how financial your demands are. I never took you for a mercenary kid.”
“The thing is, I need money. They love their money. So, it all works out. they get to part with something which they love, and I get what I need.” I replied.
“Anything else?” he asked me.
“No. that’s about it.”
I thought that the Mandal Corp would protest, but it seems that the bad publicity which they were getting from the other two cases, which are a complete public relations disaster for them, are the more important matters, compared to the small-fry like me. So, they agreed to my demands. After some haggling on Ramcharan’s part, we finally agreed on an amount, and the case is finally over.
Part 12: Conclusion.
After everything, when I look back, I realize that Dharam was right. I ruined myself fighting his corporation. Even after years the case has been over, no company wants to hire me. even some freelance clients actually throw a fit when they have to work with me. Good thing is that not all of them are like that.
Having said that, I’m really glad that some good things happened to me as well, for example, becoming really popular on the internet. I’ve learned that the popularity has the power of its own.
I live in my own house now, after I sold the apartment where I was attacked. When I won the case, my aunt called me after years, talking about how she took care of me and all, radiating false love. Naturally, I bluntly called her out on that, and we act like, as far as we’re concerned, we don’t exist for each other at all.
My friend Ankoor closed his shop on the station, and opened his online business, where I helped in creating and laying out the infrastructure for his business. After a year later, Ramcharan Milani retired from the lawyering.
What does surprise me though, is that despite winning a case against a multimillion corporation, no news channel ever covered this. But I realize that they’re just busy waging battles against each other, constantly trying to fire up their viewers against something or someone. They don’t have time for the guys like me.
And thus, a bitter chapter of my life came to a close. I hope no one has to go through what I’ve gone through.
“Really? A university making students sign contracts? Where do you get such an unrealistic idea?”
The thing is, I know that it is unrealistic. But you do need reasons. granted it doesn’t make sense when viewed through the lens of real life.
“A blind character? Really?”
Well, write what you know applies here.
“Your story sucks! Stop writing.”
I can agree on the former. But not latter.
The names of the characters in this story are Indian names. Surprisingly for once, I didn’t have much trouble with coming up with names.
The name Dhanish is special. Back when I was going through treatment for my cancer in Mumbai in my childhood, the staff of the hospital couldn’t pronounce my name. so whenever my turn came, they would call “Dhanish, please come inside.” Or something to that effect. My mom tells me how they once thought that Dhanish must be someone else, but people actually told my parents that they mean me, not some other child.
Despite how badly it might be written, you have given this story a chance, and read it until the end. Please leave a comment, that is the only thing I request of you.
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