As the official Pushpak Airlines plane on special duty taxied to a stop, the royal Super Couple and their Sidekick breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a long, tedious flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka, and even though the plane was the best in the airline’s stable, it was still in a fairly ramshackle condition. ‘And this after Bharata has pumped billions of rupees trying to resurrect this so called King Of Maharaja-like Times’, Lord Rama had lamented to himself onboard just a few hours ago. He had been observing Sita make futile attempts to get the entertainment system to work, finally giving up when her headphones broke into two. Thankfully, Lakshmana had slept through most the flight but not after he had blown his top at the flight crew at the bad alcohol selection in the bar menu. “What do you mean you don’t serve Single Malt? Don’t you know who I am?” had been hurled at the shitless flight attendant. ‘I must do something about his anger management issues once we settle in’, the concerned elder brother thought, observing Lakshmana’s perpetually furrowed forehead. ’14 years without sex. That’s gotta be rough.’
“And about time, too!” said Sita as the seat belt sign switched off. “I need a fucking shower so bad I am even willing to walk through fire to get one! Get a move on, guys! Chop, chop!”
‘That makes two. In need of extensive psychiatric therapy’, Lord Rama thought. The newly potty-mouthed lady had been behaving unhinged since her rescue. “Are you telling me that you were busy gallivanting with these godforsaken monkeys while I was roughing it out under this fucking tree?” she had yelled when Lord Rama and his anthropoidal rescue team finally showed up at Ashoka Vatika, the kidnapper’s lair. “Why couldn’t you frigging go to Bharata and get some real help right away? You know, like real soldiers with real weapons?”
‘Hmm, good point…I wonder why I never thought of that’, Lord Rama pondered in reminiscence. ‘Anyway, I think she went batty at the sight of talking monkeys’, he consoled himself. Also, sadly, one picks up unholy words so easily. The foul vocabulary of Ravana’s goons, all those Bhandaranaikes, Vikramsinghes and Jayasuryas seemed to have made permanent residence in Sita’s once virginal lingo.
The airport was mostly cast in darkness as the trio walked towards the arrival hall. Just a few essential lights flickered.
“Terrorism threat?” Lakshmana asked with concern.
“No Sir, pan-Ayodhya power grid collapse,” said the airport official sheepishly. “Second time just this week alone. The whole nation is at a standstill.”
‘Uh oh!’ Lord Rama mumbled.
The resident members of the first family of the nation emerged from the VVIP lounge to greet the erstwhile Exiles. The paparazzi shutterbugs had been kept at bay by their Z+ security category, enabling the three mothers, their four sons, and their wives to shed unabashed happy tears amid incessant hugging and kissing. Emotional PDA among royalty is difficult to accomplish even on a normal day, given the clanging of heavy gold jewellery, the scrunching of expensive Chinese silks, and giant crowns and tiaras that constantly slip down to the eyes, here, one was talking of 14 years of pent up melancholia that needed to be sorted. Expectedly, no mascara was left intact.
“Hello, Chhoti Mummy”, said the eldest son.
“Hello, Beta. Very good to see you again.”
Of course, this polite embrace was fooling no one, but much water had flown down the Sarayu these past 14 years.
Once royal poise had been reclaimed, the party settled in their transportation and started to make their way back to the Presidential Palace. Bharata, Sita and Lord Rama were in one car.
“So, my dear Brother, what’s up with everything looking so beat?” enquired Lord Rama. “The airline looked like shit, there is no electricity in the city, and,” he coughed, “even the air feels smoggy,” just as the car flung itself into yet another massive pothole. It had not been an opportune time for Sita to be putting on lipstick after 14 long years.
“Mother of …!”
The brothers ignored her.
“Sorry, Brother, things are indeed quite bad. We have been floundering. The national morale is down, infrastructure is in pieces, there are massive scams each day. General malaise. No direction, no decision making. And all that the bloody media is concerned with is getting the real scoop on what happened between Sita Bhabhi and Ravana when they were together!”
“No way! These fucking mother … Wait till I get my hands on them, these mother fuckers!” blasted the angry lady. Of course, no one would have taken her seriously if one could see her right now – with a giant lipstick gash from her upper lip all along her right cheek.
“Calm down, Bhabhi. We will sort it out. Once we do your makeover, we will have you do press interviews, Koffee with Karan etc. The Times of Ayodhya newspaper is in our pocket. We will make sure you are popular again.”
‘Wow’, thought the husband. ‘Not quite TV-ready just yet, are we.’
“So what has kept you from running the nation? From taking decisions?” he resumed with his brother.
“But what was I to do? I am no king. I have just been minding the store! Keeping my head down. Staying quiet. Totally mum, actually. Just waiting for directions.”
“Directions? From whom? You are the bloody King!”
“In name only, dear Brother. I am just a remote control, remember?”
“Hein? Then who is, pray, controlling this remote control, my dear man? Your mummy? ”
“No, no, don’t you remember? It’s your Slippers! They are running the nation! I took them 14 years ago when I saw you in the forest. I have just let the Royal Slippers show us the path these past 14 years.”
‘Shit on toast’, thought Lord Rama. ‘Is everyone absolutely cuckoo in this family?’
“But now that you are back, dear Brother, please take your country back. This really isn’t my scene. I am done with politics. I am going to take some time off now. I think I’ll start a blog. Or write a novel – a mythological thriller, actually! Maybe even a teenage love story!”
Lord Rama wasn’t listening any more. ‘It will take a lot to get this place back to shape. I will have to hire a completely new cabinet. Put resources around infrastructure and human resource development. Provide jobs. Stamp out corruption. In fact, suck out all the negativity. Give a positive spin to everything. Look confident. For starters, hire a new Public Relations Expert. Yes, that’s what I will do first. Make everything sound good and cheerful – like, help is on its way. Like, it will be all right soon!’
‘Which also means that my personal life is screwed. No rest. No holiday. No distractions. No Sita, no moms, no brothers, no family. Certainly no kids. Just work, work, work. There is no other way to turn this ship around.’
He sighed silently.
“I don’t feel so good,” said Sita suddenly. “Like, I am nauseous all of a sudden. Maybe I am coming down with the flu? And my stomach hurts, too.”
The brothers ignored her. Lord Rama was still lost in thought, gazing out the car window.
“What are all these folks up to? Why are they lighting diyas all around their houses?”
“Must be because of the power grid failure. These poor sods have got to plough on, I guess. What choice do they have? God knows when the electricity is going to be back. Last time it took 36 hours!”
Lord Rama pondered in silence. ‘I think I may already have an assignment for the PR team.’
“I say this is a celebration. The countryfolks are simply delighted to have me back in Ayodhya after 14 years and they are lighting diyas to welcome me back. Yes, let’s stick to that thought. This is a celebration – a, what shall we call it, a Festival of Lights!”
“Can we do that? Make people believe something that isn’t there?” said the younger brother questioningly.
“Of course we can. Let’s think of a catchy name! Perhaps something that has Diya or Deep in it.”
The younger brother nodded in agreement. ‘It is so good to finally have Bade Bhaiya back’, he thought.