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Peace of Shit

December 13, 2022
- Aastha Khaitan, Apoorva Jain, Astha Jain, Khushi Tomar, Shivanshi Arora, Nikita Sarangal, Ayan Shree

He was going about his humdrum existence, sipping his morning tea in the noon because oh-it-was-the-dreaded-Monday! He wasn’t one to give up on work because working diligently might get him a few seconds of attention from his supervisor. “It has to be someone, doesn’t it?” he nonchalantly thought. Little did he know that the chosen ‘someone’ for the day would soon be him. Cutting to the chase, it had become routine for him to spend his breaks alone on his beloved 7-inch screen. Some might identify this as every wallflower’s tactic, but we’re not one to judge(?). The chitter-chatter of students who thronged the Department would sometimes make him long for someone to have fun with, but he had learnt to quickly bury that longing in the deepest crannies of his heart.

Instagram reels got him through his break, but today the application was glitching (I mean, who’s surprised anyways :P). That led him to the dark dungeons of Reddit. Now you would expect one to have a life- however dark- at least on Reddit. Well, no. He didn’t. Still scrolling aimlessly through it, he came across something that bemused him. It was a subreddit dedicated to IITR, r/IITR. As he read through the greentext posted on it that was receiving an astonishingly huge amount of views, the contents of the text blanched his face out. It took on a dull pallor. “How… How can this be out here? I don’t understand. There has to be something very shady going on out here.”

Being the renowned fusspot he was, he couldn’t stop thinking about that greentext. It kept bugging him all day. He was so distressed that he left work halfway through the afternoon and rushed to the door of the only one who MIGHT just listen to his woeful tirade. This inconsolable soul needed the enthused ears of the famous WONA Reporter, ME!

Disclaimer: The above reporter will be referred to as ‘Mr. Pete Ophelia’ (SNL Fans- where you at?) here onwards for security reasons. Any similarities it may bear to a common English word and the reporter himself are purely coincidental.

There I was in my humble dwelling, with my left leg in continuous motion shaking up and down mindlessly when Pete trespassed my territory. His trembling voice reached me “There you are. Listen! I want you to hear this. There’s something…” as he was cut in the middle because I fell off my seat while bending over too much to get a view. Not that I was not expecting him there, but you know you need to pretend that you’re too busy to gather gossip about your colleagues. Getting myself back up on my seat, after a few split seconds, I said,”Oh! I know you; you’re the maternal cousin of my childhood neighbor, right?? Long time buddy; how’s your aunt doing?” Why did I say that? I don’t know.

“Hey! I’m your friend. Am I? But Yo man, we are colleagues. I sit at the table across. You recognise my small button nose, right? How can you forget you complimented me for it once, saying I look like a pug. Pugs are cute. Guess I’ll keep one someday. Or NO! I’ll rather keep a Tibetan Mastiff? Tibetan Mastiffs are cool, No?” said Pete, getting carried away as he explained himself to me.

“Oh, how strange I was just watching this reel and see here’s a Tibetan mastiff. Anyway, how can I help you?” I said.

“Okay, so there’s something…”

“Would you like to have some tea? Perfect weather for some minted green tea!” I interrupted him again. Gosh, Am I too anti-social? I was just trying to cover up for the weird stuff I said before. But I think I kind of annoyed Pete because then he began shooting words at a speed that could not be further interrupted, hence starting the narration of the root incident of it all.

One fine night, after having his customary 2:07AM soup maggi from VK, Pete was returning back to his humble dwelling. Why precisely 2:07 AM? Well, as attention-hungry as he was, going to a canteen after its closing time and forcing them to make a maggi, made him feel wanted or cared for. Anyway, he chose the road less taken and it made all the difference. As he scaled the slopes, he felt his stomach growling, it was nature’s call and he had to oblige. Gliding his fingers on the screen in a rhythmic monotony, eyes fixated, he enters this very antwacky Department (the one which paved the dreadful slope for… experimental purposes?) only to end up in this ill-lit yet serene washroom. Quite enough to provide him the privacy he needed (or maybe not).

With no sense of direction or choice, he haphazardly thrashed, opened one of the gates, and entered. There came a significant change of ambiance; this place wasn’t shady anymore. It was well lit and awaiting the ever-so-busy reporter. The change was none of a business for the reporter who sat comfortably in this 2.2 square meters of space made to accommodate a single person at a time or at least until then. Mr. Pete Ophelia, who had delved deeper into his incessant chain of thoughts, was busy doing both of his businesses with his feet stacked along the bottom of the wooden doors.

There wasn’t a single (living) soul present to interrupt his perpetual sadhana. A few minutes had passed in a jiffy, and shadows all across had spread their claws in the next split-second, covering Mr. Ophelia mystically. Unaffected by whatever came his way, the reporter was still very busy scrolling.

Like an average Instagram addict, it wasn’t surprising how he was oblivious to those vague shadows finally taking shape. Of course, it was none other than our beloved uncanny washroom ghost of Sir Proby Thomas Cautley. Sir Cautley, being the conceited man or rather now the ghost he was, refused to believe how this man failed to acknowledge his presence. How could he be so preoccupied with his mindless scrolling! Enraged, he decided to deploy his go-to strategy to make his presence felt. The strategy, approved by the GOAT(Ghost Of All Times), Sir Thomason, was devised by the thousand years old ghastly minds and was the inheritance of Sir Cautley’s forefathers.

Scratching his head (he wasn’t Nearly Headless Nick, you guys. Of Course he had a head!), he remembered the first step. Within a moment, the lights began flickering; this massaged his ego. Alas! His haughtiness was quite short-lived. To his surprise, Mr. Pete simply adjusted his phone’s brightness levels and continued his endless scrolling through reels.

STEP 1: failed.

But the strategy was not so puny. Of course, it had other steps. Using all his might, the ghost made the doors of other stalls swing, and a series of loud bangs followed. “This reporter and his stupid device have a counter to each of my strategies”, sighed the slightly infuriated Sir Cautley as he observed the notification of “CAUTION! Volume increased above recommended level” on the mobile. Of course, who doesn’t know the cure for high background noises while watching reels these days?

Sir Cautley, for the first time in his long life and afterlife (clearly), felt the plight of his Canterville counterpart and even sympathized with him.

Dejected in his strategy, he finally decided to properly disturb our reporter and struck up a conversation with him.

“Ho! pay attention to me, you stupid peon”, hollered the ghost. The reporter, unequipped to block out this interruption, was obviously startled and looked up from his mobile and took out the headphones from his ears.

“Hello, mister? Who are you calling a peon? And there isn’t even a queue outside. What are you doing here? A guy can’t even shit in peace these days!” exclaimed the irritated reporter. He had every right to; after all, he had lost the cute cat reel because the page refreshed itself.

“As if that was what you were doing,” came the ghost’s dismissive reply.

Pulling up his pants, the reporter asked, “Who are you? How did you come in? What do you want?”. Well, bombarding questions was more of a habit for him.

“Me? I am the sole reasoneth behind the existence of an engine’ring marvel liketh the Ganga canal. A significant contribut’ry behind this oldest engine’ring instituteth yond”

“Can you please cut to the chase?”

“These Millennials has’t nay patience. I am the sup’rintendent gen’ral of canals, Sir Proby Thomas Cautley.”

“Wait, Cautley? Don’t they have a Bhawan named after you or something? As far as I can remember, it’s very old. How come you are here? Wait, are you a…”

“Aye, I am an apparition” the ghost bobbed his head in solemn agreement (C’mon guys, please accept that ghosts do have heads).

“Before this nincompoop starts firing questions again, I should get my answers,” thought the ghost. He continued, “Did you not notice the change in the intensity of lights? Does the cognitive part of your brain not register changes in the surroundings? You remind me of an old derby stallion; his name was “Pete the Noob”. Although, unlike you, his focus helped people make money. Now that I think, you too help people in Sir Thomason’s Building earn. Hmmmmm”

“Ayee, that is derogatory. I won’t be insulted by a 200-year-old boomer. I did notice the lights. It happens all the time. I’m used to them now. Wow, so you guys can actually do this playing with electricity stuff? That is so cool, dude! I thought there were IR sensors or something to control these”

“Well, although I didn’t, I can; I mean, I have done better stuff in life, so this isn’t really something I like to boast about. Like you guys just keep playing with these mobile phones all day, and the people sitting in front of their laptop screens secretly cursing their lives, dare to call themselves engineers. True engineers used to exist in our times; we loved our work. Do you know I personally spent 6 months walking and riding through the area where you now see the Ganga Canal taking each measurement myself?”

“Wait, I think I increased the sound of my mobile too; how did you play with the sound?” Mr. Ophelia couldn’t stop himself from interrupting.

“You talk about sound? That was just banging doors. Engineers used to work with sound back in our days. Have you ever said anything under the vault-like structure at the entrance of this antiquated Department? Well, I doubt you have; you people have your noses buried in these useless pieces of shit all day. I have seen half-hearted civil students trying to keep the legacy of us, their revered ancestors, alive by working on a very flimsy model of a canal inside this very Department. This place is my only respite from the suffocating rat race of coding these students keep running in all day.”

“Yeah! Yeah! I completely agree. I don’t know what the hype is. But, yeah, I have heard about the fat packages they get. I wonder what they do with that kind of money.” Before he could go ahead lamenting his life, the lights dimmed, and this time, the reporter did notice.

“Hey! What is the point you are trying to prove now? I get it; you have this superpower.”

“If only this generation listened to people or at least ghosts. I said I could do this, but I didn’t. Lil Casper did. I promise I would leave you in suspense if you so much as think about interrupting me again”, threatened the now exasperated ghost, simultaneously using his powers to turn on the lights.

“In his spree to improve work efficiency, the H.O.D. of this oh-so-old Department prohibited the unnecessary use of mobiles for everyone on the department premises. He wanted someone he could trust, someone who would understand his motives and diligently work for him. That’s how Lil Casper was born. Because robots are infinitely more fidel, right? Back in our day, humans used to be too. Casper was created for one purpose- to monitor the activities of the individuals using the loo and to prevent the unduly conversion of a loo break into a deep dive into the dark walls of social media. Using technology to fight technology, my mate definitely is a Civil Engineer. He wanted to improve the work efficiency of his Department- a noble cause at heart. The ways to prevent it were, well, flagrant. The lights would suddenly be turned off when the bot noticed no movement in the pot, just like they did now.”

“An AI bot? I don’t believe our Department can afford such an expensive measure to improve efficiency. Tell me, where does it operate from?” questioned Pete, confident in his knowledge about the nooks and crannies of this Department.

Understanding the meaning behind the confident smirk on the reporter’s face, the ghost just asked him one question, “Have you ever tried to follow those models of the canal that seem to lead nowhere?” Before the reporter could inquire further, a loud bang sounded somewhere in the background. As the reporter recovered from the shock, no trace of the ghost could be found. After all, Sir Cautley was a man of his word, and he had well arrived at the conclusion that the reporter wasn’t courageous, just ignorant, not to mention a very annoying individual who deserved to be left in suspense.

Just then, a peon entered the room. I was called to the chief’s office. But the conversation with Pete still flooded my thoughts. Obviously, there is no such thing as clear apparitions? All this is sheer hallucination! But then that incident! Ohh, stop; all these talks make no sense at all! Leave! But still, what if it…?” While these conflicting considerations went through my mind, I decided to break through the fog by actually talking to Pete. Putting my uneasiness aside, I proceeded to look for Pete; but couldn’t track him down anywhere. WHAT!!?? Indeed, that was true, and needless to say, no words could depict the alarmed condition of the valiant me.

I looked for Mr. Ophelia in every corner of this vast and historic building, except the washroom, obviously. It wasn’t like I was afraid or something; HUH. I prefer not to go there because the washbasins’ color doesn’t appeal to me.

Upon an hour-long search, everyone claimed there was no person they knew of that name in the department. I was still looking for Mr. Pete in every nook but couldn’t find him. Helpless as I was, I went back to my cabin. I turned on the AC and rested on the chair; I was exhausted from searching for him. As the cool breeze went through my hair, my mind calmed down a bit, and suddenly an idea struck me.

I got up and grabbed my phone hastily and started looking for Pete in the old WONA group, but there was no trace of him. Maybe he was never added to the group. Following another idea, I opened the employees’ list and jumped to the alphabet P. My eyes popped out; there was no person named “Pete Ophelia”

An excerpt from the pages of a diary found under mysterious circumstances in WONA Office.