Angutha Baba

As he knotted his sunset yellow silk tie into a neat upturned triangle, he muttered to himself, "Perfect!"

Perfect was how he liked things. From his crisp Italian cotton shirt and shining shoes to his clockwork schedule, everything was simply spot on. His card read, "Saurav Kumar, Senior Analyst, Synthetic Equities, Affaires Internationales Bank".

He dabbed the final bit of Chanel No 5 on his wrists. It felt good, he felt good. Right at that moment, he was a man completely in love with himself.
There were of course people who were incapable of understanding such finesse. A prime example was the low life that was lying on a bed in the adjoining room with his ass pointing at the ceiling.

Bagchi, he was called.
Saurav had no idea why anyone would pay Bagchi for anything. For starters, he never saw him awake; all he ever saw was Bagchi's ass pointing at the ceiling. He was almost always late on his bills and Saurav was prepared to swear that Bagchi had never touched the washing machine. Everything about him reeked of Old Monk Rum, which apparently was the only thing that Bagchi ever drank. No wonder why the ceiling was pretty much what Bagchi's ass ever got to see.

Not that Saurav wanted to see him awake anyway. On a rare morning that Bagchi had a bit of trouble with his digestion, he caught Saurav in middle of his 'dabbing Chanel No 5 on his wrists' ritual.

"Why do you do that?", Bagchi shot a question as he sank into the living room couch, toothbrush in hand and mouth brimming with foam.
"Do what?” Saurav made little attempt to hide his irritation.
 "This", Bagchi replied nonchalantly, rubbing his wrists in imitation. A few tiny drops of white Colgate foam raced out landing dangerously close to Saurav.

Saurav paused in exasperation. Part of him just wanted to slap all the foam out of Bagchi. The rest of him wanted to see him lay bricks for the rest of his life.
"I haven't got time for that now, gotta rush", Saurav said as he walked out.

"Whatever works for you”, Bagchi called out as Saurav could feel the brimming foam spraying all over the living room.


Just as he slipped his right foot into his shoe, pain shot through his big toe.

A chill ran down his spine.

He slowly brought his foot out and removed his sock, his nerves taut in anticipation. And there it was, an inch long nail sticking out of his big toe. 
Just like yesterday. He poked at it with a finger and discovered a small amount of pain.

Yesterday it was his left big toe where the inch long nail had appeared. He never missed trimming his nails every alternate night, so an inch nail one morning was shocking. He had dismissed it as an unimportant aberration.
But today, he was nothing short of alarmed, considering that he had double checked all 20 fingers last night.

Walking past Bagchi's room to get his nail trimmer, he could almost visualize Bagchi snigger, "Not so perfect now, eh?"

As the cab drove him to his office, Saurav considered his options.
Well, it was an abnormal nail each morning. No big deal, he told himself. Maybe it was some rare medical condition. It had to be.
The thought calmed him down. After a couple of deep breaths, a solution presented itself. He had to see a doctor about it, end of story.

Relaxed, he whipped out his smartphone.
"So, who do you see about a nail", he muttered to himself. 
He googled 'nails'. Along with a multitude of images of dotted nail art, he found a wiki page that said 'Nail (anatomy)' right at the top. It was an interesting page with details of parts of a nail, some geeky facts like 'nails contain 7-12% water' and a usual host of information.

Eventually he found what he needed in the 'Health and care' section which said 'Nail disease can be very subtle and should be evaluated by a dermatologist...'. His disease wasn't exactly subtle but he decided that it had to be a dermatologist after all.

After the initial flurry of morning activity, armed with a cup of steaming bad coffee, Saurav Kumar settled down to decide on a dermatologist for himself.
He went to Justdial to look for dermatologists near M G Road. Right at the top was Dr. Shetty's Medical and blah blah blah, which looked suspiciously like a sponsored ad. A quick google search confirmed his suspicion. Dr. Shetty had a 1.7 rating on google plus.
Next up was 'Kaya Skin Clinic' at Prestige Meridian building. 2.8 stars, familiar name. Could have been better but what the hell. He copied the number and the address.

He was lucky. Right after lunch, he managed to sneak out for a couple of hours for a discreet visit to Kaya Skin Clinic.


The Prestige Meridian building was barely five hundred meters from his office. He decided to walk.
Saurav enjoyed walking, but on a busy stretch of road with ever honking traffic and 'pee-ed on' sidewalks, it wasn't much fun. At least Bangalore was cloudy this time of the year and it was kind of cool.

As he walked along the 'pee-ed on' sidewalks, he evaluated the gravity of this niggle in his otherwise perfect life. The cool breeze brightened him up. "It's a toenail", he told himself. "And I am going to fix this right away".

Reaching the Meridian building, he scanned around, looking for the skin clinic. He was not sure what he was looking for. Despite his affinity for perfection, he wasn't exactly the pedicure manicure type.
A security guard gave him quizzical looks. He walked up to him.
"Kaya Skin Clinic", he said out aloud. He suddenly felt uncomfortable, as if he was asking for a gay bar.

"Skin Clinic?"
"Right. Kaya Skin Clinic". 

"Where is this Skin Clinic", the guy proceeded to ask his apparent superior, who made a lazy gesture towards the right of the building.
Taking his cue, Saurav proceeded. All of the sunset yellow silk tie, crisp black shirt and 'not so shining anymore' shoes, thanks to the walking he had been doing on the pee-ed on sidewalks.

He found the entrance all right. A glass door with the picture of a woman with glowing skin that said "Kaya Skin Clinic".
Once inside, he paused for a second to look around. Water bubbled out of a small fountain in a corner. Much of the walls had been converted into shelves which were sparsely arranged with what looked like lotion bottles in numerous shapes and sizes. Rest of the walls had photographs of seemingly topless women who had either crossed their arms over their chests or did not have their chest in the shot. Despite the lack of clothes, the photographs looked weirdly demure. All the women, Saurav wondered, had expressions that seemed weirdly connected somehow.

Two north eastern girls in pink flowery Chinese tops completed the rest of the tiny reception area. He was apparently the only person whose skin needed care at the moment.
"Hello sir, may I help you?" The prettier of the two asked him.

"Hi, I am Saurav", he said, wondering why he felt the need to say that.
The girl arched her eyebrows in an quizzical expression of such absolute doll like cuteness that only oriental features can render.

"I need to see a doctor, I have some issues with a toe nail."
The girl handed him a medical form. The form was the usual medical template requiring him to fill out his name, contact details, diseases, allergies and such stuff. Saurav wondered why such information was not standardized, digitized and shared at the flick of a computer mouse. A neat idea for a startup, he told himself.

"Please have a seat sir", she said as he handed her the filled out form, pointing to the lone couch beside what seemed like a magazine stand full of Harper's Bazaars.

Some fifteen minutes later, during which she entered the data on his form into a computer at a painfully slow speed, she announced, "Sir, the doctor will see you now".
Saurav looked up from the Femina he was glancing at. Somehow, he felt a tad nervous. He proceeded to the door marked 'Dr. Suman Awasthi'.


Thankfully for him, the doctor's chambers did not have the same 'beauty parlour' look as rest of the establishment. In the center of the room sat Dr. Awasthi, a slightly plump dark woman with a pockmarked face. Though Saurav felt sure that Dr. Awasthi must have had her face dug out before she had managed her 'skin' medical degree, he somehow could not rid himself of the feeling that she was not the best ambassador for a beauty skin clinic.

"How can I help you?", she smiled, gesturing at the chair in the room.
Saurav sank into the chair. "I have a problem with my toe...umm...toenail."
"Show it to me please", she demanded.

He removed his right shoe and sock. Dr. Awasthi made him move to the recliner and outstretch his leg so that they could together look at his toe.

"Does it hurt", she asked poking his toe with her index finger.
"A little", he truthfully replied.
"Your toe seems all right", she said after five minutes of careful examination. "Slight pain can happen due to a variety of reasons, including strain. I will suggest you take a painkiller and rest your toe." She proceeded to write a prescription.

Saurav realized that it had passed along all too fast. It was time to tell her his real problem. Unless he wanted to go home with a prescription of mild painkillers, that is.
"Well doc, the pain is not the issue."
"Oh! what is it then?"

Saurav went into powerpoint presentation mode. "You see that toenail right there? That wasn't there last night."
"Where was it?", she smiled, probably considering it as some attempt at humor.
Saurav was exasperated. "That inch long nail grew back overnight. It grew one fucking inch in one fucking night! That, dear doctor, is my problem. It is not the pain, it is not any strain, it is just that my toe nails grow one inch in one night. And there is no telling where it is going to happen. One day it is the left toe and the next day it is the right."
In his defence, he was stressed out.

Dr. Awasthi turned white as a sheet.
Exactly seven minutes and twenty-eight seconds later, Saurav Kumar, in a crisp black shirt, sunset yellow tie, in a single 'not so shining' shoe was seen shouting outside the door of Kaya Skin Clinic.
"You can't cure a toe nail and you claim to look after people's skins! Bloody quacks, cheating innocent people of their hard earned money. Watch your fucking ratings drop all over the internet, I am telling you. Saala, you mess with me! What is this, a joke? I come here with a real problem and you treat it like a joke? Who are you? Goddamn Clowns?"

The lady with the glowing skin on the door kept smiling at him.
The stunned security guys had slowly started to regain their senses. Even with his maddening anger, he could sense that he had probably gone too far. That infuriated him even more.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around to look into a smiling Mr. Swarnabh Sahay.


Mr. Sahay led Saurav by the shoulder. The security guy came up.

"Kya ho raha hai yahaan pe?"
(What's been happening here?)

Mr. Sahay took over. "Arey jaane do Sir. Garmi mein frustration ho gaya tha bhai ko".
(Let it go Sir. Bro got frustrated in the heat.)

Saurav wondered where the heat was. But that was Sahay's USP. He could get you out of tricky situations. And he could get you into even trickier situations.

Sahay had the hungriest eyes. Saurav had sometimes wondered why Sahay had the exact same hungry look while looking at say, a delicious pomfret, a hot girl or a tin can. The "hungry look" never left him. What did leave him sometimes was his smile. When he smiled, it was hard to tell if he was already crying or if he would start crying in a minute.

Right now, it was Sahay saving his ass. Saurav wondered if it was closure. Or if Sahay would now lead him into some bigger shit.

Back in Sahay's car, Saurav braced himself for some Q&A.
Sahay made the move, "What the fuck where you up to back there?"

An asymmetric monster toe nail was his spookiest ailment ever. Swarnabh Sahay was the weirdest man that he knew. Just fifty hours back, a nuclear holocaust was more probable.
But right at that moment, Saurav told him everything. Every tiny detail that had led him, Saurav Kumar, an otherwise perfectly rational and pragmatic person, to shouting at the door of a certain Kaya Skin Clinic, in a crowded shopping mall.

Sahay listened with interested hungry eyes. He asked a few questions of clarification and muttered a few words of much appreciated sympathy.
At the end of the tell-all, Sahay slowly asked, "So, what now?"

"I have no idea", Saurav replied. "After what just happened, it's not like I can go to a doctor anymore. I don't think I have a clue, Mr. Sahay".

As they stopped in the office parking lot, Sahay drew a card out of his wallet. Without a word, he slowly extended it to Saurav.
Saurav looked at the card.

Ritu Singh,
Bhakt Relationship Executive,

Bhaskarananda Ashram,
Jayanagar, Bangalore.


"Get up!", Mrs. Bagchi screamed.
Bagchi missed Saurav. He hardly ever talked to him, and that was precisely the point. Life was peacefully good.
A few months back, Saurav had suddenly moved out of their apartment. Given their minimal interaction, he had no idea where or why Saurav had left. All he knew was that Saurav had been having some issues with his toenails.
When his mother found out that he had a spare room in his apartment, she decided to pay him a visit.

"In a minute Ma, please!", Bagchi screamed back. He knew it was a battle he had already lost.

Mrs. Bagchi wanted to visit an ashram that morning. It was his duty to drive her there, stay until she decided it was time to leave and then drive her back. The ashram days were the darkest in his otherwise contended life.

An hour later, in about as much time as it normally took Bagchi to brush his teeth, he was seated in his car, having taken a bath and eaten a plate full of breakfast. Mrs. Bagchi was fasting, it being an auspicious day and all. As he started his car, he was ordered to put the Gayatri Mantra on repeat.

The ashram was somewhere on the Nandi Durga Road. A snaky, pot hole ridden stretch that as a friend had remarked, clogged up even when the sky turned cloudy, let alone rained.
At the ashram, they were greeted by a rather short and stocky lady who introduced herself as Mrs. Ritagni Aggarwal. She was dressed in white and led them into a prayer hall which was sparsely done in white. Devotees sat cross legged on the floor in front of a two feet high stage on which several godmen were on display, all resplendent in white.

Out of habit, Bagchi scanned the devotee section for pretty females to gawk at. On certain lucky days, there were pretty women on stage that Bagchi could unapologetically ogle, pretending to listen to the discourse in rapt attention.

There was still hope for today, as the lead godman was yet to arrive. Swami Bhaskarananda, he was called. The chance, however slim, remained that he would arrive on scene with a pretty sidekick in tow.

They still had half an hour before lead Swami arrived. Bagchi wanted to scream why he had to wake up so early. Mrs. Bagchi however, was already swaying to the devotional music, her facing glowing with peace.

Five minutes later, Bagchi was already nodding off. Mrs. Bagchi cast an occasional look of acute disapproval.

Right on time, the music went louder, the devotees clapped and Swami Bhaskarananda entered the hall. Just as everyone settled down, Swamiji took to the microphone.

"Aur sab log theek hain?", he asked in a sing song, cheerful and effeminate voice.

The devotees replied over enthusiastically, "Ji swamiji".
The noise woke Bagchi up. He looked around, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
He froze.

Right next to Swami Bhaskarananda, resplendent in flowing hair and white attire, was Saurav Kumar, the guy who shared his apartment just a few months back!


Bagchi stood stunned for a long time.
There was no way he could map this flowing hair babaji to the Chanel No. 5 rubbing Investment Banker that he knew.
And yet, there he was. There was no sign of the excitable, ill-tempered guy from the angelic smile that he wore.

Finally after the rice-dal-boiled veggies that they called lunch, Bagchi managed to catch up with Saurav.
"What in the name of the lord are you doing here?"
Luckily, there was none of the discomfort that Saurav usually had around Bagchi. If at all, he seemed far more confident.

"You want to know about it all?", he asked.
After Bagchi had conveyed his eagerness, he took a deep breath and started.

"Well, as you probably already know, it started with my toenails growing abnormally overnight. I am sure you understand the dilemma I went through before I finally made the decision to come here. And the turmoil I had to go through before I could actually open up about it to Sanjay."

"Who's Sanjay", Bagchi asked.
"Ohh, my mistake. You know him as Swami Bhaskarananda. That son of a bitch went to school with me, you see. Sanjay Gulati, he was called then. The lousiest ass you will ever find. Not unlike you, I must say. But smart, damn smart. It was he who managed to convince me of a spiritual career", he paused for a breath.

"What about your high flying investment banking career", Bagchi asked.
"They are more similar than you think", Saurav smiled.
"How come?"

"Well, what do I sell people as an investment banker? Dreams of money. Do I always deliver on those dreams? Not really. If the markets are good, people make good money and I take the credit. If the markets are bad, they lose and I blame it on the markets.
You see, that's exactly what I do in this profession. I sell people dreams of peace and happiness. If they become peaceful or happy, I take the credit. If they don't, I blame it on their stars and sell them some stones. Profit, either way. Add to that, no legal hassles.", he grinned.

"You realize what an explosive exposure you are setting up right here?", Bagchi winked.
Saurav laughed.
"That's exactly what I told Gulati the first time he told me all this. And you know what he told me?
He told me to go ahead and help him. You see, any exposure could only help me by bringing my followers closer".

"What?", Bagchi challenged.
"It's human nature you see. What if you made a really big bad investment? Now if you are really cool about it and tell everyone that you made an ass of yourself, you are just not insecure enough to be in our devotee list anyway.

So what happens if you are in our devotee list? You will use the last fiber in your being to defend your investment. If your spiritual guru is suddenly proven be a creepy pedophile, you realize how stupid that makes you look, don't you? So our devotees rally in unison and tell the world how everyone is out to malign their saintly swami. Gulati, I am telling ya, is obscenely smart."

"But how do you manage to start? Now do not tell me that you have a spiritual venture capital firm."
"Nah, not yet. But cool idea man!
As for your question, that works like the stock market as well. Why do people invest in startups? Because they get better ROI if the stock does well. This is exactly the case. You invest in a new swami, and you get access to the stage. After a while, you get to give mini discourses before the main act and when you are ready, you might even be bootstrapped into a spinoff. The guys you saw on the stage today, are all early investors."

Bagchi giggled in amazement at how complete it sounded.
"But what about your toe?", he asked.

"Ohh that! Well Gulati told me how he would kill for something like that. You see, godmen all over the country, right at this moment, are trying to find ways to conjure miracles. And here I have, inbuilt right into me, an abnormal nail. You realize what this means, don't you? All we really need to do now, is to tell our devotees that this nail is my way of soaking up the injustice in the world or some shit like that, it just works! Gulati is working on it.
That's exactly why I got access to the inner circle anyway. Otherwise, I just do not have the experience you see. But for this nail, I had little hope in a spiritual career.", Saurav smiled.

"Gotta go man, it's spiritual time", Saurav prepared to take leave.

"But where do you go from here?", Bagchi asked.
"Ahh! I have a big launch coming in six months.
Anguthananda is what I shall be called.........", he trailed off.

P.S. Inspired by real characters. Probably why the caricatures took precedence over the story at some point.