Meeting the Devil

I had always wondered every time I sang along with Alanis Morisette “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus…trying to make his way home…” What if that were true? Somehow my mind had refused to understand the full import of the words. If God or angels walked among men then there was nothing preventing the Devil or demons from mingling. I had proof when I looked at the man standing in front of me (read about how we met here). Though we were separated by a heavily barred prison door, I still felt as if I was the one caged and waiting for the hungry tiger to pounce on me.

With every second that ticked away on the clock, I could feel the heaviness settle down on my chest. I wondered whether it was the setting or the guard’s gossip that had built up the man to be more evil than humanly possible. Maybe my mind had fleshed him up to be the monster that I viewed him as. No one could be that bad; not even him (though his resume did seem impressive…if the Mafia were hiring.) I had to find out the truth; I had to know more.

So then here I was after over a fortnight of convincing and arm-twisting all the right people to get to be where I was – sitting across the heavily shackled psychopath that got the guards shivering in their pants. I had requested for a bright table lamp to dissipate the gloominess a bit. Secretly, I hoped that things would look better in the light – I still couldn’t shake away the menace I had felt on our first visit. But I knew that if only I could get proper answers out of him, I might actually be able to put together something that the academia would forever appreciate.

“Hi, I am Naina Gaikwad and I’m studying Criminal Psychology at…”

He interrupted my very well thought-out formal introduction with a guffaw. “Hasn’t anyone told you never to give out correct information about yourself to a criminal mind? After all, it’s not like these walls can hold my spirit, you know…”, he said very matter-of-factly.

I am amazed at his audacity and my own naivete. There is a kernel of truth in what he’s saying and  while I realize that it’s foolish of me, I can’t stop a shiver of fear from travelling up my spine. I feel a little agitated by his unblinking stare. Maybe that’s the reason why I can hear the cool detachment in my voice, trying to make him feel like he’s a nobody and that I don’t scare easily.

“Ok, let me start again then. Since you already know my name, let that be the only mistake I make during our interaction. I am here to understand the way your mind works. It has always fascinated me that though we have similar genetic composition, the wiring of the brain sets us apart so radically. While I squirm at the thought of flesh and blood, you enjoy the pain you can cause. I want to know more about you. I want to get inside your head and see all the twisted convolutions that have resulted in you being…well,  you. However, let me also tell you right at the beginning that there is nothing that you would get out of this…except maybe your name being known by half the world of scholars. Everyone has been against my attempting this anyways, so don’t have to soften the blow for me. I am prepared for your disinterest.”

“People are going to believe what they want to believe. Judge the way they want to judge, the same as me. It hardly makes a difference to me what you glean out of these interactions. I have been sentenced to be hanged till dead; talking to you can’t be worse than that…Or can it?”, he smirks and looks at me with interest.

I could feel him goading me into reacting but I couldn’t afford to lose my cool. At least not right now. I let out the breath I was holding, relieved that I had taken the first step towards creating history for mankind. My mind quickly cataloged everything that I already knew about him – Tall, incredibly strong man in his late 50s; very fit for someone his age; though born in the higher sects, he wasn’t prone to religious views; self-educated; connected with crimes that showed deliberate plotting rather than impulsive heat-of-the-moment acts; feared by the lawmakers and breakers equally…the list was longer but I couldn’t waste my allotted time in recapping. It was time to get more details.

“Now isn’t that something for me to know and you to find out? Let’s get started already. I know it might sound silly at this point, but were you always like this?” Though not the most ideal question to start with, I couldn’t help myself from asking him the one topmost on my mind.

“They say that I was born in a very auspicious hour. The sun, moon and planet conjunctions were very favorable. I was fated to have a life of fame. There were people chanting sacred mantras to ensure that nothing could stop me from fulfilling my karma. Well, they did their bit…and I have been doing mine without fail ever since. After all, I am a big believer in what you sow is what you reap. No matter how blessed I was, I had to do my own sowing right?”

He smiles in a knowing way that I find disturbing to my peace of mind. I myself am a big believer in God. An Almighty Supreme Power that’s planned something really good for all of us. I also believe that God helps those who help themselves. But somehow he had taken every value that I held dear and twisted it to sound depraved.

I know that there is something fundamentally wrong about what he is saying. I just ca’n’t let it slide – “Surely it can’t be God’s hand at play here. I don’t think even he could have created something as evil as you. If everything was so perfect then something must have gone wrong somewhere. Maybe your mother dropped you as a baby. Or your father beat you up and damaged you. Or..or…I don’t know but there must have been something that changed the path of your destiny and sent it rolling down the wrong lane.”

Again that Cheshire cat smile on his face that creeps me out – “Oh, how you wish it were that simple. Just add two and two to get four. But life’s not like that. Things are not as they seem on the surface. And then again, God works in mysterious ways right? At least that’s what I heard my father quote to every desperate family who came seeking blessings and miracle for their dying loved ones. No one knows why He does what He does. But everyone agrees that everything happens only as He wills it. Then why do you think that it was the Devil cooing at my bedside when I was born? Just like a poet can’t control the inspirations of his muse, I can’t control the urges of mine. Why does that make him an artist and me a criminal? Not satisfied with the answer? Ok, here’s something that you might understand better. We were all born with the power to kill; to extinguish that which does not please; to destroy that which brings pain. Most people hesitate to take the required actions to eliminate their source of displeasure, and thus are doomed to live with the pain. But the ones who aren’t afraid to do something are the ones who are really free. Free enough to control life itself.”

Having said his piece, he sits back smug as a cat who swallowed the canary. He raps on the table between us twice and a guard pops his head in. Casually dismissing me from his royal presence, he walks out of the room, back to the life that had chosen him. Still reeling from the things he had said, I wonder how can that be true? How can he believe in his sacrilegious views as passionately as I believe in my holy ones? Oh God, the ride has just begun and I am already getting a headache!

I pick up the recorder and my bag and head out to a world where other such psychopaths roam at large. As I walk past the prison cells and the hooting, I quicken my step and turn a deaf ear to the words being shouted out at me. I had heard worse waiting at the bus stop.

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