About The Graveyard Shift
Set between twilight on a humid day and until
a couple of hours past midnight in Mumbai,
The Graveyard Shift, a racy and gripping
novella, offers a peek into the fast paced and uncompromising
world of the big city through a series of encounters among fixers,
prima donnas, strugglers, misfits, outsiders and dreamers,
and vividly captures the moments where their fates intertwine
and lives are changed forever. From the bestselling author of
Another Chance, Scammed and Love, life & all that jazz…, this
is a captivating, bittersweet story of
ambition, temptation, love and loss..
About the Author
Ahmed Faiyaz grew up in Bangalore and now lives in Dubai. He’s a book and film addict, and apart from reading books and watching cinema of all genres, he is a passionate writer. He is bestselling author of Love, life & all that jazz…, Another Chance and Scammed, and the editor of Urban Shots – Crossroads and Down the Road. www.ahmedfaiyaz.in
"Ahmed creates a maze of characters, giving each a distinct
and interesting identity...
he succeeds in bringing
them to life in the
readers mind, with a racy and engaging plot." -
Shagufta Kalim, Senior Sub-editor, Asian Age/ Deccan Chronicle
"The Graveyard Shift holds a mirror to the new urban India --
an uncomplicated story about complicated times." -
Bishwanath Ghosh, bestselling author of Chai Chai
Aaliya + Bunty
Aaliya entered the busy café and looked around consciously. She felt ill at ease among the swish set that usually hung out there, sipping their skinny cappuccinos and cups of flavored green tea. A cup of coffee at Espresso Sunsets cost more than her daily wage as an RJ on the radio station. She noticed the Bunty, waving at her from the other side of the room. Smiling apprehensively, she walked towards his table, still not sure whether meeting Bunty was the right decision, considering what the girls had told her, and Rupesh’s views about him. She now also felt sorry that she had directed her frustrations and desperation at Rupesh, though she did feel annoyed with his short-tempered nature and his fits of rage direct at anyone who even smiled in her direction.
Dressed in relaxed chinos, a casual blazer and designer shirt, Bunty looked the part of a leading talent manager. He welcomed her with a warm smile and a peck on the cheek.
She took a seat opposite Bunty, trying to be as cordial as she could manage. She had dressed carefully in a white shirt, and a pair of old jeans, aiming to look demure, so as not to put any funny ideas in Bunty’s head.
‘I felt it’s better to meet in an informal setting,’ he beamed, putting her at ease. She also observed him noticing her attire.
‘Sure,’ she said with a reserved smile and a nod, before ordering a coffee for herself.
‘You really have the ability to go far, Aaliya,’ he said underplaying his charm and flattering her. Launching into his sales pitch, he talked about the stars he had represented and the assignments he had managed to get them. A couple of models, who he had discovered a few years ago, were now acting in promising films thanks to the steady stream of assignments that he had arranged for them.
‘It’s a step-by-step process,’ he explained, ‘We’ll take you through the hoops and make you a name to reckon with. God knows, you have it in you.’ He exuded confidence and Aaliya blushed as she muttered a ‘Thank you.’ She could not help but notice his expensive watch. A man of refined taste, she thought.
‘How do we begin?’ she asked, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.
‘The first step is to get a nice portfolio done…’
‘I’ve got one, I sent you a link…’
‘No-no, something classy, seductive and tasteful, not the Lokhandwala two-bit model portfolio you’ve got. There are thousands like that. Let’s shoot something … say tomorrow. It has to have shock value.’
‘Well… if you think so, sure,’ she said, perking up as she sipped her cappuccino.
‘We can head down to my beach house in Alibaug, shoot in the morning, spend a little time together in the afternoon,’ he suggested with a wry smile, and she understood.
‘Er… We could get back by evening, as it’s my 10th wedding anniversary. You should come. The media will be there, an opportunity to meet famous people.’
‘Yes… of course,’ she said, and the color rushed to her face as he sized her up and smiled with satisfaction. The deal had been struck.
‘We should run along then,’ he said, rising from his seat and giving her a tight hug and kiss on her cheek.
‘How do we arrange to meet? I work tonight, I’m on the show till 1 am.’
‘Oh yes, you are. Maybe we’ll go down after your show. We can sleep in, and shoot in the afternoon,’ he said casually.
‘Yeah,’ she said after a brief hesitation.
‘Good, I’ll pick you up from the radio station. I know where it is.’
‘What about my wardrobe?’
‘I don’t think you’ll need anything. Just bring some… Er nice innerwear, you know what I mean,’ he said with a smile, ‘We’ll have breakfast together, see the sunrise, it’s beautiful,’ he whispered in her ear, and rubbed her shoulders.
‘Ok,’ she whimpered.
‘And oh, I’ll shoot the portfolio myself, I started off in this business as a photographer, and also you’ll be more comfortable.’ She felt his warm breath on her neck. ‘Can I drop you off somewhere?’
‘No, I need to go shopping. I’ll see you later,’ she said, smiling weakly as she felt his breath as he kissed her other cheek. She sat back for a moment trying to comprehend what had just happened. She caught the eye of a young man who was staring in her direction. He smiled nervously and turned away.
‘Quite a beauty, huh?’ she overheard him murmur to his friend, before she picked up her handbag and left the café.
Suman, perched across the table in a high chair, reluctantly took the call as her new iPhone buzzed to a familiar tune. ‘Not now, baba. I’ll talk to you in a while. Yes, later.’ She smiled dreamily and bit her lower lip before consciously turning to see the cherubic Rajiv, scratching his head and looking confused. She ruffled his hair with affection and looked at his algebra equations calculations in his exercise book. Suman continued sitting with him and going over his equations and their solutions. Thanks to the soothing presence of his mother, Rajiv finally managed to crack one equation and then another. Soon he was called downstairs for dinner.
His father, Bunty, was already at the table, having just returned from his meeting. Suman entered the room and sat opposite him without saying a word.
‘How was your shopping? All set for the anniversary bash?’ he asked in a distant but friendly tone as Suman sat down.
‘Not too bad, I hope the caterers do a good job. I got Sheila Mathur to send me those bottles of wine and gin that they’d imported. Music is also sorted out,’ she said, sounding tired.
‘Good, the media should be there in full attendance,’ he smiled and turned to Rajiv who had begun to eat. ‘Eat your vegetables,’ Suman said sternly, pointing at his plate with her fork.
‘So how are you buddy? What did you do today?’ Bunty asked. Rajiv and he were more like friends; he didn’t remember if he had ever scolded the child. The little time they spent together was often fun, with the kid looking up to him as his hero.
‘I went to school,’ Rajiv said sounding bored.
‘What did you do after that?’
‘I played Road Rage, before Mehek Miss came home to teach me.’
‘You didn’t go for tennis today?’
‘He has a big test tomorrow, Bunty. He’s been finding it a bit difficult…’
‘Oh yes, I spoke to his teacher,’ his voice wavered as Bruno tumbled down the stairs and made his way under the large antique dining table, settling himself next to Rajiv’s feet. ‘Don’t worry, you’ll do okay buddy. Tomorrow you can celebrate, there’s a big party at home, na? You should call your friends too.’
‘I invited a couple of his friends and their families,’ Suman interrupted.
‘You take care of everything,’ Bunty said with a smile, as they continued eating. ‘Once the queen of Bollywood and now…’
‘The best Mom!’ Rajiv threw his arms up cheerfully.
‘Okay baba, you please finish your dinner and go back to your books. No video games tonight, your maska won’t work,’ she smiled. She turned to Bunty. ‘What’s up?’
‘I have to finish and rush. There’s a meeting in my study with a business associate.’ Suman nodded while Rajiv gave Bruno a bone from his plate with some meat on it.
‘Chalo, go up and look through those sums once more before you get to bed,’ Suman said before she called for the maid to clear the table.
After Rajiv and Bruno went up, she rushed up herself, and got into her bath. She had promised to be there by midnight, and it was already half past ten.
Sudhir stood up to leave after logging out of his various online accounts. It had been a long day, replying to all the hate messages the superstar Iqbal Khan got for his recent dud, Superhero. He had been employed on a retainer of Rs. 10,000 per month to respond to fan mail, and post positive PR messages on a host of news, gossip and entertainment websites dedicated to the once popular star. He operated from a number of fake accounts on Facebook and other websites, where he posted glowing praises for the superstar and tried to deflect this current spate of abusive and hateful messages by highlighting the star’s continued ability to entertain the masses. In return, he got stand-in roles in Iqbal Khan’s films, the last one being that of a man in the street asking the superhero for the time on his special watch.
Sudhir wanted to go beyond these bit roles, and beyond the stupid Rooster Call show on radio, where most early risers called to speak to the more popular RJ Aaliya, who had earlier hosted the show, to request their songs. He had suffered through a number of auditions for supporting roles in B and C grade films and television series, often not getting paid or watching haplessly as the project got shelved. He had also been variously propositioned a number of times by powerful people in exchange for acting offers. He had declined them all.
He had faith in his ability and remained committed to Mehek, his childhood sweetheart. Mehek had followed him to Mumbai from Ranchi to make their dreams of a life together come true. Two years after she had made the move, and undergone a lot of struggles and sacrificed a great deal, good things were yet to happen; Sudhir still waited for that elusive call.
The owner of the Internet parlor stopped him. ‘So, busy day, huh? Writing good things about your friend?’ Zameer displayed his paan-stained teeth, and adjusted his skull cap.
‘Yes Zameer bhai, these days people are less reverential than in the past. They don’t have respect…’
‘Arrey, what kind of a film was that, yaar? Bloody bakwas! Total nonsense,’ Zameer barked, leaning with his bulky frame, and shadowing the slightly built Sudhir completely.
‘But Iqbal Khan was good, na? See his films are entertainers…’ Sudhir said, sounding unconvincing to even himself.
‘Arrey come on, that film was a bloody insult to even my intelligence!’ Zameer laughed. He was fond of Sudhir, who patronized his internet parlor for a couple of hours every day.
‘Khudahafiz bhai, Mehek must be back home by now.’
‘Arrey, what happened to your big audition today? You were preparing for it, na?’
‘Aced it, bhai. They were really impressed. But let’s see.’
‘Wah mere hero! All the best!’ Zameer slapped his back in encouragement and waved him off.
Sudhir walked back thinking about the audition, and smiled to himself. He had really done well. The director had walked with him to the door, and said that it was the best that he had seen. He was optimistic on landing the part in the courtroom crime drama, where he would play a young, up and coming lawyer, taking on the might of a corporate sleazebag backed by political interests and the underworld. If there was a role for an underdog, this was it… and it has to come to me, he thought excitedly.