The Story of Jackie Jamshed

Ishtiaque Hossain





The first time I met Jackie Jamshed, we were in the smoking-balcony of my agency office. He had this intense look about him. The look of a man who is absolutely sure of his place in the world. Radiating a sense of entitlement, which was less of an acquired skill and more of an inseparable part of his being. I was about to say something perfunctory like, “Hi or Good morning” but he interrupted me before the sounds could escape my lips.

“Ishtiaque, you’re a good kid; I like you.” He said, with a dead serious look on his face that brooked no argument. “Thanks,” I replied, not without apprehension. He took a long indecorous drag from his cigarette, loud enough for you to hear the sharp in-take of his breath. He sucked on his fag-stick as if he wanted to suck the world itself into his lungs. His epic drag was followed by an equally sagacious blowing of smoke. By then the tension within the balcony had grown so taut that you could cut it with a knife.

“You know what will come out if I slit my wrists right here and now?”
“Blood?” I asked nervously.
“Wrong… Koe-pee. I have advertising running in my veins, Ishtiaque.”

It took me a while to decode what he was implying. I started pondering the relation between a seasonal winter vegetable (cauliflower aka Koe-pee) and his religious allegiance to advertising. I dared not look him in the face without thinking of a profound comment on his theatrical proclamation. Then suddenly it hit me. By Koe-pee, he had meant “Copy”: promotional text written for a brand or a product by failed writers and degenerate poets; who now call themselves “Copywriters” and “Creative Supervisors”.

Against my better judgment, I exploded with mirthful laughter. I laughed so hard, I surprised even myself with the magnitude and duration of it. It was a deep guttural laugh, without self-restraint. As my laughter subsided, I found myself deflating under the pitying gaze of Jackie Jamshed. But a friendship was formed, between a clinically depressed writer who fancied himself a prodigy and a quixotic dreamer with hopes of taking over the world.

***

I woke up with a thousand sledgehammers bouncing off of my head. CLANG CLANG BANG!! The floor above my apartment was under-construction and the homeowners were considerate enough to start the smashing after bread-earning members of the apartment complex had left for work. Unfortunately for me, my working hours were a little dubious. It was 12:30 in the afternoon and I stumbled into my bathroom feeling like death. My reflection on the bathroom mirror confirmed I looked as bad as I felt. I realized I still had bits of dry vomit clinging to my face and my own reflection scowled at me in disgust. Memories of last night’s shenanigans hit me like a twelve-ton truck.

It was near 2:30 am in the morning. Me, Jackie and a cinematographer who calls himself “Tiger” something, had just gotten out of our CEO’s fortieth birthday party. Mister Tiger-something had no business being there in the first place, but he had paid for the birthday cake and the cheap bottle of liquor we showed up at the party with. The DMP patrol car stopped us shortly after we had squeezed into a CNG. One of the habildars illuminated our faces with a lethal looking torch-light. Those old-school heavy ones, which ran on batteries as thick as a street urchin’s wrist. You could kill a man with one of those if you wanted to. No wonder the habilder was wielding it like a weapon. His face contorted in disgust as he came close enough for a good whiff. “Saar, they all stink of alcohol”. Before their boss could ask the typical questions, (Where are you headed? Where do you work? What are you doing drunk out on the streets at 2:30am in the morning?)Jackie Jamshed bellowed, “We work for the company owned by Jalal Mohammad. The Jalal Mohammad, the minister. We just came from his house. It was his birthday party.” The sergeant listened with a stoic expression then perhaps realized we would be more trouble than we’re worth. “Let them go,” he said grudgingly. I couldn’t help but yell, “JJ you crazy Sylheti!! HAHAHA! What the dick was that? AHAHAHAHAHAHA.” Mister Tiger-something, was regrettably too drunk to have registered the incident.

Normally, one drunken encounter with the authorities would be enough for a good tale. But Jackie Jamshed was no normal man, and in me he had found the reckless companion who fanned his impulses with no regard for consequences.

And thus, we ended up in front of a Navy check-post around half an hour later. This was a man uniformed in military garbs. A man who was all about the rules, and ironically also above the law (to some extent). A formidable foe. But still, no match for the foolhardy brand of courage which is unique to our friend Jackie Jamshed. “I’m Comodore Jackie Jamshed,” he yelled ferociously. Drunk as I was, I still analyzed the situation cautiously enough to realize this particular bit of our daredevil escapade was too rich for my blood. I feigned sleep, so I could later have plausible deniability in case we were court-marshaled for impersonating a high ranking military official. Jackie Jamshed, of course, had no such reservations. “I’m Comodore Jackie Jamshed, and my car broke down. I was forced to get in this blasted CNG.” The Navy officer seemed unsure of himself. Jackie sensed his trepidation like a blood-hound within biting distance of his prey. “Do I have to get out of the CNG?” This time it was more than a mere statement. It was a threat. The Navy officer was visibly terrified. I could almost hear him thinking, “Do we have a Commodore called Jackie Jamshed? I remember the name being something else. Maybe he was recently replaced? Besides, who would be foolish enough to impersonate a Navy official?” I watched conclusion dawn on his face. He brought his heel slamming to the ground and raised his hand for a very sharp salute. The gates opened, and our CNG strode on like a gleeful little ladybug. I felt my butt-cheeks unclench from sheer relief and laughed all the way to mister Tiger-something’s house. Jackie Jamshed had landed. And the ripples resulting from his descent threatened to disrupt – no, to overthrow the natural order of things. I went to sleep content, laying my head on the cold hard floor of Mr. Tiger-something’s apartment.

All characters and events depicted in this story are fictional. Any resemblance with anyone living or dead is purely coincidental.

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