Category Archives: Why we love fiction

The Mistake – A Short Story

Image taken from Google

Image taken from Google

The viscous hold of terror had started to ease a bit. The flush was back on his face, turning it handsome again. He knew he had made the right decision in calling his father. Dad was going to come and fix everything. Like he always did.

He looked at the bed, and at her again, focusing on the ridge between her bare breasts, three inches from each nipple. He began counting, his eyes unblinking. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, night, ten.” Ten seconds and no movement! ‘Holy fuck, she’s dead!’ his brain surmised, quite alarmed. ‘But she had been breathing just a minute ago!‘ He looked up at her face. It had started to look bluish-grey on the left side. That entire side was swollen, like a party balloon waiting for a cigarette butt. The other side of the face was fine. He hadn’t hit her there. He noticed how the blood coming out of her cut upper lip was trickling towards her left ear.

Why isn’t the bitch breathing?

He dared not touch her.

He noticed the glisten near her vagina. Was that his cum? He was suddenly embarrassed. He couldn’t let Dad see that! ‘I should cover her.‘ He reached out to the side of the bed where her clothes lay. His hand caught her ripped panties first. He was disgusted by them. So old and stained! They were unlike Anamika’s lacy ones. Hers smelled so good. He tossed the stinky rag back to the ground. He picked up one of the large items of clothing. It was that pyjama-type thingy that women wore – what do they call it? Pyjama only, he guessed. He flung it over her body, covering it from tits to knees. He kicked the rest of the clothes under the bed. Out of sight.

He pulled out his iPhone again. Where the hell was Dad, he wondered. It had been ten minutes already!

The door-bell rang. ‘About time, too!’ he mumbled, and dropped the phone into his back pocket. He noticed that his fly was still undone. He pulled up the zipper and made himself respectable again.

Dad looked livid, just like he had that time when he had reversed their brand new Honda Accord into the lamp-post just outside the house. The old man had yelled at him like a crazy moron, his eyes bulging and froth coming out of his mouth. It had made him giggle. ‘It’s just a fucking car, yaar!’ he had wanted to say.

Nothing of the sort today. Today, Dad was serious-type livid. The kind that usually made him go all quiet and think-y.

Dad kept staring at the battered face. ‘He is trying to see if she is still breathing.

“Is she dead?” he asked and got a glare in return.

Dad left his room. He followed. Both entered the dining room, where Dad took a chair and started fiddling with his old BlackBerry. He was scrolling through his contact list.

“Dad?”

Dad looked up and asked ‘What is it?’ with his eyebrows.

“Can we not tell Mom?”

Like a panther, Dad leapt out of his chair and smacked him hard on his cheek. ‘THADAAAK!’ it sounded. Like the Batman comics. It was funny. But very, very painful. Within seconds, the left side of his face was starting to swell. Like a party balloon waiting for…a pin.

He figured there was no way Mom couldn’t be told. After all, she knew the girl’s mother. He guessed she would be doing whatever ‘talking’ needed to be done with that family.

He looked crestfallen. This was so embarrassing. Why hadn’t he just pestered Anamika a bit more, he wondered. She would have agreed to do it in the car eventually.

Fuck it!

He pulled out a chair and sat down. Dad had still not found the number he was looking for.

These oldies, I tell ya!’ he thought. He smiled.

Dad looked up and caught his eye. Caught the smile, too.

“What the hell is wrong with you? You are bloody fifteen, you bastard!”

THERE it is!’ he groaned internally. ‘The fucker has started with his lecture!

Dad’s eyeballs were starting to pop now. Pretty soon, there would be drool, too. He was going to try to not laugh at the poor sucker this time. He tried to shut out the old man’s voice.

“And that, too, with the maid, of all people? Let alone morals, no bloody standards either!”

He wondered if it was ok to pull out his iPhone now.

 

 

 

Aam Aadmi Ki Maa

Karan Arjun ki Aunty

Vijay aur Jai ki Maa. Karan Arjun ki Maasi.

Arnab’s Vigilante Justice System, popularly known as The Newshour at 9, has spared no one when it comes to doling out reprimands – Politicians dimpled and bearded, Bureaucrats, Jurists, Journalists, Czars of the Sporting World, Social Scientists, Activists, and some Overweight Unknowns with Curly Mops and Loud Voices who duet in complete symphony with Arnab’s own tunes. Lately, however, Arnab was realizing that this constant aiming at the Stars in order to shoot them down, had started to distance him from the very Aam Aadmi (and Aam Naari) he was aiming to protect. After all, no one remembered the last time they had seen a Mango Fellow on his program. So, off went Arnab’s producers, looking hither and tither for the Perfect Common (Wo)Man to be paraded on Newhour, to obtain some answers straight from the featured equus’ snout. Sadly, all they found were Men in Mufflers and inverted paper boats being passed off as Aam Aadmi Caps.

“No more Muffler Men on my program!” yelled Arnab. “Go find me someone who actually looks like a real Aam Aadmi!”

Then, one of his producers suggested they look at Bollywood. After all, Art mimics Life in India, Dhoom and Joker notwithstanding. In fact, who could be more Aam than The Quintessential Hindi Film Mother?

And who better than SuperMa Nirupa Roy herself for the interview?

 

Arnab Goswami : We debated amongst ourselves who to talk to when it came to getting Aam Aadmi’s opinions.

Nirupa Roy : Thank you for having me on the show, Arnab. I am uniquely qualified to answer your questions on behalf of the Aam Aadmi. After all, the Aam Aadmi is the Mother of All P… (pauses)

AG : What were you going to say, Maaji? Problems?

NR : (cautiouslyErrm…no, Possibilities. I was going to say Possibilities. The Aam Aadmi is the Mother of All Possibilities. And I am…well, Aam Aadmi’s Maaji.

AG : How many children do you have, Maaji?

NR : (pontificating immediately) My children have grown up to become Model, Upright Citizens of Society. In fact, most have grown up to become successful Police Inspectors…

AG : Maaji, I have just started by asking you a very simple question, and you are avoiding it already.

NR : (presses on unheedingly) …and not just any silly, old, Police Inspectors, mind you…

AG : (persisting) Maaji

NR : (and on) …I am saying, very successful Police Inspectors…

AG : Maaji

NR : …the kind who are allotted no less than Type-VIII quarters by the government…

AG : (slowly losing patience) Maaji

NR : …with a spiral staircase to the upstairs bedrooms, and a giant piano in the drawing room…

AG : Maaji, you are avoiding my…

NR : …and a Puja Room made just for me…

AG : (shaking his head, patience ready to snap any minute) MaajiMaajiMaaji…!

NR : Oh, and they get their own official vehicles too. They all have Willy’s open-roof Jeeps.

AG : (angrily) Maaji, my simple question to you, which you have avoided for the past ten minutes, is this – how many children do you have?

NR : (as if suddenly snapping back to attention) I have several, Arnab. The exact count no one knows because I have lost a few over the years.

AG : (immediately chastised) Oh, lost? That is awful, I am so sorry, Maaji! Were they very young when they passed away?

NR : (mortified) Good Heavens, no, they are not dead, Arnab!

AG : Then?

NR : Arnab, you see, I have never failed to visit the Kumbh Melas and other Vishal Bhagwati Jagarans that millions of people in the Hindi belt attend on a regular basis. You know, the kind where stampedes are as common as trains running late in India.

AG : So?

NR : (surprised) What, so? Isn’t it a given that a mother would lose a few of her children at such large gatherings? After all, what else are Kumbh Melas famous for other than misplaced kids? And Naga Sadhus?

AG : Let me tell you, Maaji, that what you are saying is not normal. People don’t just ‘lose a few of their children’ while they are laundering their sins in the Ganges!

NR : (unapologetic) Frankly, I blame the arrangements made by the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh for my losses. No matter who has been in charge of managing the Kumbh Mela, for example, I have lost kids there. Under the Congress, the BJP, BSP, SP, you name it.

AG : (angrily) You are looking for a scapegoat for your own follies, Maaji. Why can people never accept their own fault!

NR : (taking offence) That’s not true, Arnab. Sometimes I have lost children because of other reasons, too.

AG : Like what? Maaji, please don’t give cryptic answers now. Remember, the nation wants straight answers.

NR : Arnab, there were times when I was physically incapacitated to mind my brood. Like, that one time when I fell and hit my head on a stone and had amnesia.

AG : (concerned) Oh dear!

NR : Yes, it took me many years to regain my memory. I didn’t even have any partial memory left. At least Aamir Khan recalled some of his every few minutes in Ghajini. No such luck in my case. I recovered mine only when I hit the same stone at the same spot again years later. I mean, had I known…

AG : I see.

NR : And, that other time, I fell and hit my head on a stone and became blind.

AG : (exasperated) What’s with all this frequent ‘hit my head on a stone’ business, Madam? This points to some other kind of malaise within you. Why can’t you walk straight? Why should you lose your balance so often? And to such catastrophic results! Have you gone for a full medical check-up?

NR : (helplessly) How can I? I am just a poor widow. Look at my simple white cotton saree! You think I can afford health care in this country? These hospitals are so expensive! In fact, the last time I had to go to one, I needed a blood transfusion but had no money to pay for it.

AG : Then?

NR : It was the kindness of the doctor there who caught hold of three young men named Akbar, Amar and Anthony and made them donate their blood for free, thus saving my life. The kind doctor just hooked all four of us to the same intravenous line and sucked out all the blood from them that I needed. I wish all our medical facilities worked this way!

AG : Holy Maaji of God! You do realize that was unsafe medical practice, don’t you? In fact, the doctor should probably be in jail for such gross medical incompetence!

NR : (surprised) Unsafe? Why? The boys looked healthy and seemed to be from decent families – one was a cop even. The Muslim fellow looked like a tailor, and the third was a Padre, I think.

AG : (a 1:3 mix of concerned and angry) But, Maaji, it is illegal to donate blood without testing! HIV, Hepatitis A, B-12, C, D, E, K, do you really have no worries? What if you had fallen sick? Or worse, died? Who would have taken care of your children?

NR : Oh, my children, yes, though sometimes, I feel that I am losing control over them anyway.

AG : Why do you say that, Maaji?

NR : What else should one make if it? You know, one of my sons just ran away from home after I scolded him?

AG : Young boys do have a rebellious streak…

NR : This one, I think his name was Vijay or Jai, went and got a tattoo without seeking my permission. I was so livid!

AG : (offering helpfully) Maybe the tattoo parlor had a discount scheme? There is just too much competition these days.

NR : No, he got into a tiff with his dad who wouldn’t take him to the T-20 game between Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians.

AG : So?

NR : So, he went to the tattoo parlor and asked the fellow to engrave “Mera Baap Bore Hai” on his arm.

AG : That sounds like a harmless little thing, Maaji.

NR : Arnab, but that was not even the half of it! The foolish tattoo fellow made a spelling mistake and tattooed “Mera Baap Chor Hai” instead.

AG : (nods his head) Ok, I do see why that might be a problem, yes.

NR : Doesn’t it? That’s why I yelled at the boy. And he ran away. Not only that, my husband left me and disappeared, too.

AG : (with a furrowed forehead) I am confused. Is your husband missing? Or dead? What about this white, cotton saree you are wearing? You can’t don the National Costume of Widowhood on just a whim, you know!

NR : (points to the saree, there is even a hole in it at the pallooOh, this? This is just to claim benefits from the government under the Rajiv Gandhi Muft ke Kapde Yojna. Frankly, I am positive that my husband is alive. See? I have full faith in my Mangalsutra (points to suhaag in a necklace). Meri woh zaroor aayenge (tears instantly)

AG : Maaji

NR : (wipes tears away) And I keep Karwa Chauth fasts also, but without telling anyone (triumphantly).

AG : (glaring angrily) Maaji, I am appalled, APPALLED at such devious trickery. YOU are the Mother of Aam Aadmi. At a time when India’s growth rate has hit catastrophic lows, Foreign Institutional Investments have dried up, job growth is an 2.2% and The Times of India print edition is surviving only because it replaced news with ads, it is people like you who are bleeding our nation dry. I say, despite such successful Police Inspector sons, you are pretending to live in penury? Why, Mrs. Roy? The nation wants to know!

NR : But I am like this only, Arnab! My sons seem think I have very high morals. In fact, just the other day, my rich son in “Import-Export” business (goes winky-wink at Arnab), got into an argument with one of my Police Inspector sons whom I live with, you know, the one who got me my own Puja Room?  The boy kept throwing his blazing success at my poorer son’s face – “I have DLF bungalows, Audi cars, servants, Husain’s artwork, Apple products, bank balance with HSBC! What do you have?” – he screamed!

AG : Well said! We all know there is more money to be made in the private sector!

NR : I know! But do you know what my Police boy said?

AG : What?

NR : He replied – “But I have Mother by my side”.

AG : (unimpressed) What shit does that mean?

NR : (excited) That’s exactly what I thought, too! I mean, what shit? So I took my Krishna and Radha idols from my Puja Room and moved into my rich son’s bungalow.

AG : Hey, wait, wasn’t your “Import-Export” son the one who died after a car accident at the Jai Santoshi Maa Mandir? The Police had arrested you for yelling at the temple idols and throwing your slippers at them like a demented person. India-TV did some exclusive breaking news coverage of that.

NR : (shakes her head) Much of what the media says is exaggerated. They will concoct anything for TRPs! It was just a simple protest, nothing more! But, yes, I was on psychotic meds, so…Thankfully, my son did leave me his estate in his well before he died.

AG : Ok, Maaji, now that we have established how strangely the Common Man of India lives these days, I wanted to know – What are your thoughts on the party that represents you?

NR : (happily) I am very glad that the Aam Aadmi Party is doing so well. I say, more power to the Common Man! They will finally bring down the Zamindaari system with the Jan Lokpal Bill! I have seen enough troubles with these Thakurs.

AG : (in a quiet, but seething voice) Maaji, this is national television so I will refrain from using harsher language than this, but you are a fool. Why the bloody hell are you talking about Thakurs? In 2014?

NR : But Arnab…

AG : In the era of computers and CNG low-floor buses, you are talking about something from the 1950s?

NR : But Arnab…

AG : It is because of people like you that progress in this country is difficult…

NR : Arnab…

AG : (relentlessly)…because you keep bringing up demons of the past! Have you not heard of all these government schemes that can save you from the Thakurs?

NR : Arnab…I…

AG : (mouth : frothing) MNREGA? Or Jawahar Jai-Jawan-Jai-Kisan Yogna? Or Indira Daridra, Dukhiya, Lachaar and still Jeevit Yojna, popularly known as DDLJ?

NR : Listen, Arnab…

AG : What do you have to say to explain yourself, Maaji?

NR : If you would only let me…

AG : (angrily) Speak? The nation wants straight answers, Maaji! For much too long, the people of the country have been taken for a ride by the likes of you.

NR : (offended) The likes of me? But I AM Aam Aadmi…or at least Aam Dharampatni and Maa.

AG : Then behave like one, Maaji!

NR : I wish I had access to all these schemes after my husband supposedly died! But the Thakur stole my farm plot in Gurgaon. And then my buffaloes also ran away. The police wouldn’t help me because I am not a VIP like some UP Minister. I had no place to go! I was on the street!

AG : But your own sons are Police Inspectors!

NR : But they are busy fighting Smugglers after Chidambaram changed gold import policies! They have no time for me now.

AG : Smugglers? You mean they work for Indian Customs Service?

NR : What’s that?

AG : (shaking his head) I am very concerned about your sanity, Maaji. I think the Aam Aadmi of the country has a serious mental condition. Ok, let’s change track. I’d like to know more about your family.

NR : (enthusiastically) Most of my sons are married and settled now.

AG : Oh, that’s good. So, there is at least something that is not completely demented in your life then.

NR : My Bahus are indeed very nice. They are reed slim, astonishingly fair and movie-star beautiful. They touch my feet every day and cook me kheer despite my diabetes.

AG : That’s nice, Mrs. Roy. In this day and age, it is hard to expect well-educated youngsters to still be so rooted to our old conservative customs.

NR : Err

AG : Did you choose working wives for your sons? Since most of them are Police Inspectors?

NR : (sheepishly) I didn’t choose the girls. The boys chose their own.

AG : (impressed) Very progressive! Have they continued working their old jobs after marriage?

NR : (horrifiedOh, heaven forbid, no! That would be disastrous!

AG : Why?

NR : Well, all my Police Inspector sons married Tawaifs and Cabaret Dancers, you see.

AG : (suddenly much contrite) Maaji. Can I say something?

NR : Yes, Arnab, it is your show.

AG : I think this will be my last Aam Aadmi interview.

NR : (surprised) Oh, why so, Arnab? Abhi toh picture baki hai, mere dost!

AG : (shakes his head) I am afraid to stay on until the end of this film.

 

 

Valentine’s Day, Or As Some Call It – Thursday

valentines_day_comment_graphic_13With feral disregard to Valentine’s Day propriety that prohibited them from being seen in public, five comprehensively single people, including moi, decided to meet up for dinner. And not just dinner at any place, we boldly decided to hit Ego’s, the Italian restaurant in South Delhi that is immensely popular among those of a romantic persuasion out to enjoy good food and great music with their match chosen by The One Himself. It was perhaps a symbolic choice for us considering that we had enough of it of our own (I mean Ego or Pride or Shamelessness, call it what you may) to not want to hide under our beds on a day when Non-Singles so heartlessly paraded their Facebook status.

One look at the abject appearance of our fivesome and the nimble-footed usher hurriedly chose for us a table situated in the remotest boondocks of the restaurant. Clearly, where we thought fashionably torn jeans, hawaii chappals, black t-shirt with haldi stains, customized unkempt hair, a two-day stubble etc. etc. were all motifs of cool hipsterishness, our man saw them no more than signs of date-less reality. Yes, we were confined to the ‘table on the far side’ – the one by the popcorn machine, and so close to the kitchen that one could smell the artificial pink color being used to make the cake frosting inside. When my friend Sanjiv twirled his finger at the host of untaken tables strewn all over more desirable real estate, his quizzical gesture was shot down with a firm ‘They are all reserved, Sir’. No doubt reserved for happier faces that would oh so seamlessly blend in amidst red ribbons and roses pockmarking every nook and cranny of the place today.

Chris de Burg’s “Lady In Red” spat out of the Bose sound system. Typical, I thought.

“It’s not so bad,” I said half-heartedly, as we were all seated at our outpost.

“Well, at least it’s a good view of the whole place,” Asha consoled herself.

“And no one can see us. I need some JD,” muttered Ravi.

Drinks were ordered at warp speed and were served just as promptly. Vodka, mojito, whisky and such like.

A young couple entered the restaurant and was quickly accorded prime seating. They seemed to have barely cracked puberty.

“How can Chintu and Munni even afford a place like this with their pocket money?” asked Goldie as she pointed at the newcomers with her eyes and used her hands instead to pick up the vodka glass.

“Maybe he saved all year to give his girlfriend a special VD present,” I offered intelligently.

“Must you call it VD?” said Goldie, making a face.

All of us sniggered at the VD joke, hardly justifying our chronological ages.

“But seriously, how? I bet you, Munni put her Barbie to bed before coming here,” Goldie pestered with her pertinent financial cross-examination.

“Parents are only too happy to see their kids go out and have a good time. Maybe this treat was a reward for them passing their Social Studies exam,” said Sanjiv trying to read the menu card by holding it three feet from his face. “Hey, why have they reduced the font size on this bloody thing? And why are the lights so dim?”

Arrey, give it to Ravi, let him order. You just make sure that you check-in all of us on Facebook!” I said, thus ending Sanjiv’s unsuccessful tryst to hold the menu right side up sans reading glasses. (Ravi, incidentally, is 28 dog-years younger than all of us)

“Should I order ribs?” Ravi suggested. The three vegetarians at the table looked at him glumly.

“Don’t tell me they are going to serve them drinks! They are what, twelve? Fourteen, tops!” wailed Goldie observing from her vantage point.

“Let them be happy. Chocolates, roses and tea are the new combination on Valentine’s Day,” Asha said authoritatively. “And by tea, I mean the one from Long Island that comes in a tall glass!”

“Amen, Sister!” said Goldie, and the ladies sipped copiously from their glasses.

Food was ultimately sorted. It was decided to “just order lots of appetizers”, which is infinitesimally easy to manage, though it also ensures that only microscopic portions of the “awesome” stuff eventually end up getting passed around.

A young couple walked in with their small kid. The kid was five, perhaps ten – we were unlettered in matters of kid’s ages. Or kids, generally speaking.

“Who brings kids to their romantic dinner? Fools!” said I categorically.

“My friend just moved to Bangalore. He is having trouble getting his kid admitted to school,” Ravi said.

“Terrible,” said Sanjiv munching his jacket potato with oodles of butter, cheese and chives.

“Why? I think it is great!” said Asha as she looked at Sanjiv suspiciously. Ravi looked up from his buffalo wings quizzically.

“Oh, I meant the whole school thing – terrible. The potatoes – YUM!”

“My colleague at work has invited me to his daughter’s happy budday this Saturday”, I said. “What should I take as a gift?”

That set off a cackle of laughter at the table. Despite choked food pipes, loud coughing and misty eyes, the other four still managed to mock at my predicament.

“Do get us all return gifts. UNCLE!” managed Sanjiv through more hysterical laughter.

“Bastards!” I said.

The food and drink ravage-fest continued. Presently, the unfriendly usher came by our table again. He enquired pointlessly if we were enjoying our evening, to which we nodded politely.

“I have a request,” he added, this time a trifle sheepishly.

“What is it?” asked Ravi.

“We start our Valentine’s Day Special in an hour. This will become a couples-only restaurant after that. Couples Only. No single people. Not even in groups.”

“Yes, yes, we know,” said Sanjiv gruffly.

“I just thought I should remind you all. Thanks for understanding,” the usher added as he flashed a creepy smile and begged our leave.

“Asshole,” I said once we were safely out of his hearing range. Everyone concurred.

“I am not coming out on Valentine’s Day. Ever again,” said Goldie, as she gulped the last of her vodka.

Asha looked at her and smiled.

“Let it be, dear. One last round? Happy Hour doesn’t end until 6.30. We can still be out of here by 7 before the crowds come in.”

 

To be clear, I shall remain tightlipped on which parts of this story are true and which not! But, do know that all the characters in this story are absolutely real – these are my close friends, who also happen to be happily single. Also typical are their reactions!

And please don’t get angry at the management of Ego’s! It’s an awesome restaurant in New Friends Colony in Delhi…fun, lively, good food – you should definitely visit!

 

Aam Aadmi Ki Maaji

 

Maaji, The Nation Wants To Know!

Maaji, The Nation Wants To Know!

Arnab Goswami. He is the TV ‘Cocktail’ that the nation guzzles every night at 9 pm to alleviate its existential headaches. Ok, so perhaps this spirited-bong was never meant to really address the underlying reasons for our despondency, but at least a temporary buzz of mellow it does bring. When we see Arnab lash at shiny people, much like how a headmaster smacks a truant student’s ass with a wooden ruler, it gives us hope that we might not be that close to the end of days just yet. That someone still exists who can beat some sense into nonsense. That the nation can still hope to recover from its triple heartbreaks of antipathy, mediocrity and decadence. That simply through the brute cyclonic power emanating from Arnab’s tonsils, we might somehow get torn off the messes of today and tossed into a better tomorrow.

If it is our national pastime to create real problems for ourselves, it is Arnab’s mission to chase after imaginary fixes for them. And, like Superman itching to tight-suit his way into every issue, Arnab wants  to fix everything and everyone, too. And he has a bunch of New-Killer Weapons he has perfected that help him do that, having target-practiced with them night-after-night over multiple chat windows, sometimes as many as ten of them open, barely fitting on a measly 32-inch screen. His arsenal, deployed along with his Booming B-52 Bomber Voice includes – The Hand Wave, The Flared Nostrils, The ‘Are-You-Serious?’ Glare Through Coke-bottle Lenses, The Reynold’s Pen Poke, The Repeat-Guest-Name Ad-Nauseam, The Look-away Dismissively Look, among others. The most recent addition to the kitty has been The Purring Prized-Cat Voice – the one in which he talks softly to his prey yet still making it pee its pants. Arnab perfected it while watching the Discovery Channel show about a tigress who licked her cubs and then gobbled them up. And then he deployed it on a poor chap whose last name does not rhyme with Pappu.

Arnab’s Vigilante Justice System, popularly known as The Newshour at 9, has spared no one when it comes to doling out reprimands – Politicians Young, Old and Very Old, Bureaucrats, Jurists, Journalists, Czars of the Sporting World, Social Scientists, Activists, and some Overweight Unknowns with Curly Mops and Loud Voices who duet in complete harmony with Arnab’s own tunes.

Lately, though, this constant aiming at the Stars in order to shoot them down, had started to exact a high price from Arnab, for it slowly began to distance him from the very Aam Aadmi (and Aam Naari) he aimed to protect. After all, when was the last time anyone saw a Mango Fellow on his program? So, off went Arnab’s team, looking hither and tither for the Perfect Common (Wo)Man to be paraded on Newhour, to obtain some answers straight from the featured equus’ snout. Sadly, what sounded like a simple search, seemed to always lead to people in mufflers, the common I-Card of The Common Man.

“No more Muffler Men on my program!” yelled Arnab. “Go find me a Real Aam Aadmi!”

Then, one of his producers suggested they look at Bollywood. After all, the Film Industry is replete with people tall and short, dimpled and bearded, dynastic legacies, old mores, slander and innuendos, questionable morality, an old order that Khan’t seem to give way to the younger lot, etc etc etc. In many ways, Art mimicking Life in India. Once the fertile farm called Bollywood had been zeroed into, it was easy-peasy to find The Representative Face of the Common (Wo)Man in the Film Industry, and haul her ass to his studio. Yes, who could be more Aam than The Quintessential Hindi Film Mother?

And who better than SuperMa Nirupa Roy herself for the interview?

 

Arnab Goswami : We debated amongst ourselves who to talk to when it came to getting Aam Aadmi’s opinions.

Nirupa Roy : Thank you for having me on the show, Arnab. I am uniquely qualified to answer your questions on behalf of the Aam Aadmi. After all, the Aam Aadmi is the Mother of All P… (pauses)

AG : What were you going to say, Mrs. Roy? Problems?

NR : (cautiously) Errm…no, Possibilities. I was going to say Possibilities. The Aam Aadmi is the Mother of All Possibilities. And I am…well, Aam Aadmi’s Maaji.

AG : How many children do you have, Maaji, I mean, Madam?

NR : (pontificating) My children have grown up to become Model, Upright Citizens of Society. In fact, most have grown up to become successful Police Inspectors…

AG : Madam, I have just started by asking you a very simple question, and you are avoiding it already.

NR : (presses on unheedingly) …and not just any silly, old, Police Inspectors, mind you…

AG : (persisting) Madam…

NR : (and on) …I am saying, very successful Police Inspectors…

AG : Mrs. Roy…

NR : …the kind who are allotted no less than Type-VIII quarters by the government…

AG : (slowly losing patience) Mrs. Roy…

NR : …with a spiral staircase to the upstairs bedrooms, and a giant piano in the drawing room…

AG : Mrs. Roy, you are avoiding my…

NR : …and a Puja Room made just for me…

AG : (shaking his head, patience ready to snap any minute) Mrs. Roy…Mrs. Roy…Mrs. Roy…

NR : Oh, and they get their own official vehicles too. They all have Willy’s open-roof Jeeps.

AG : (angrily) Mrs. Roy, my simple question to you, which you have avoided for the past ten minutes, is this – how many children do you have?

NR : (as if suddenly snapping back to attention) I have several, Arnab. The exact count no one knows because I have lost a few over the years.

AG : (immediately chastised) Oh, lost? That is awful, I am so sorry, Mrs. Roy! Were they very young when they passed away?

NR : (mortified) Good Heavens, no, they are not dead, Arnab!

AG : Then?

NR : Arnab, you see, I have never failed to visit the Kumbh Melas and other Vishal Bhagwati Jagarans that millions of people in the Hindi belt attend on a regular basis. You know, the kind where stampedes are as common as trains running late in India.

AG : So?

NR : (surprised) What, so? Isn’t it a given that a mother would lose a few of her children at such large gatherings? After all, what are Kumbh Melas famous for? Other than the Naga Sadhus, that is?

AG : Let me tell you, Mrs. Roy, that what you are saying is not normal. People don’t just ‘lose a few of their children’ while they are laundering their sins in the Ganges!

NR : (unapologetic) Frankly, I blame the arrangements made by the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh for my losses. No matter who has been in charge of managing the Kumbh Mela, for example, I have lost kids there. Under the Congress, the BJP, BSP, SP, you name it.

AG : (angrily) You are looking for a scapegoat for your own follies, Mrs. Roy. Why can people never accept their own fault!

NR : (taking offence) That’s not true, Arnab. Sometimes I have lost children because of other reasons, too.

AG : Like what? Maaji, I mean, Madam, please don’t give cryptic answers now. Remember, the nation wants straight answers.

NR : Arnab, there were times when I was physically incapacitated to mind my brood. Like, that one time when I fell on a stone and had amnesia.

AG : (concerned) Oh dear!

NR : Yes, it took me many years to regain my memory. I didn’t even have any partial memory left. At least Aamir Khan recalled some of his every few minutes in Ghajini. No such luck in my case. I recovered mine only when I hit the same stone at the same spot again years later. I mean, had I known…

AG : I see.

NR : And, that other time, I fell on a stone and became blind.

AG : (exasperated) What’s with all this frequent ‘fell on a stone’ business, Madam? This points to some other kind of malaise within you. Why can’t you walk straight? Why should you lose your balance so often? And to such catastrophic results! Have you gone for a full medical check-up?

NR : (helplessly) How can I? I am just a poor widow. Look at my simple white cotton saree! You think I can afford health care in this country? These hospitals are so expensive! In fact, the last time I had to go to one, I needed a blood transfusion but had no money to pay for it.

AG : Then?

NR : It was the kindness of the doctor there who caught hold of three young men named Akbar, Amar and Anthony and made them donate their blood for free, thus saving my life. The kind doctor just hooked all four of us to the same intravenous line and sucked out all the blood from them that I needed. I wish all our medical facilities worked this way!

AG : Holy Maaji! You do realize that was unsafe medical practice, don’t you? In fact, the doctor should probably be in jail for such gross medical incompetence!

NR : (surprised) Unsafe? Why? The boys looked healthy and seemed to be from decent families – one was a cop even. The Muslim fellow looked like a tailor, and the third was a Padre, I think.

AG : (a 1:3 mix of concerned and angry) But, Madam, it is illegal to donate blood without testing! HIV, Hepatitis A, B-12, C, D, E, K, do you really have no worries? What if you had fallen sick? Or worse, died? Who would have taken care of your children?

NR : Oh, my children, yes, though sometimes, I feel that I am losing control over them anyway.

AG : Why do you say that, Mrs. Roy?

NR : What else should one make if it? You know, one of my sons just ran away from home after I scolded him?

AG : Young boys do have a rebellious streak…

NR : This one, I think his name was Vijay or Jai, went and got a tattoo without seeking my permission. I was so livid!

AG : (offering helpfully) Maybe the tattoo parlor had a discount scheme?

NR : No, he got into a tiff with his dad who wouldn’t take him to the T-20 game between Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians.

AG : So?

NR : So, he went to the tattoo parlor and asked the fellow to engrave “Mera Baap Bore Hai” on his arm.

AG : That sounds like a harmless little thing, Mrs. Roy.

NR : Arnab, but that was not even the half of it! The foolish tattoo fellow made a spelling mistake and tattooed “Mera Baap Chor Hai” instead.

AG : (nods his head) Ok, I do see why that might be a problem, yes.

NR : Doesn’t it? That’s why I yelled at the boy. And he ran away. Not only that, my husband left me and disappeared, too.

AG : (with a furrowed forehead) I am confused. Is your husband missing? Or dead? What about this white, cotton saree you are wearing? You can’t don the National Costume of Widowhood on just a suspicion, you know!

NR : (points to the saree, there is even a hole in it at the palloo) Oh, this? This is just to claim benefits from the government under the Rajiv Gandhi Muft ke Kapde Yojna. Frankly, I am positive that my husband is alive. See? I have full faith in my Mangalsutra. Meri woh zaroor aayenge (tears instantly)

AG : Mrs. Roy…

NR : (wipes tears away) And I keep Karwa Chauth fasts also, but without telling anyone (triumphantly).

AG : (glaring angrily) Mrs. Roy, I am appalled, APPALLED at such devious trickery. YOU are the Mother of Aam Aadmi. At a time when India’s growth rate has hit catastrophic lows, Foreign Institutional Investments have dried up, job growth is an 2.2% and The Times of India print edition is surviving only because it replaced news with ads, it is people like you who are bleeding our nation dry. I say, despite such successful Police Inspector sons, you are pretending to live in penury? Why, Mrs. Roy? The nation wants to know!

NR : But I am like this only, Arnab! My sons seem think I have very high morals. In fact, just the other day, my rich son in “Import-Export” business (goes winky-wink at Arnab), got into an argument with one of my Police Inspector sons whom I live with, you know, the one who got me my own Puja Room?  The boy kept throwing his blazing success at my poorer son’s face – “I have DLF bungalows, Audi cars, servants, Husain’s artwork, Apple products, bank balance with HSBC! What do you have?” – he screamed!

AG : Well said! We all know there is more money to be made in the private sector!

NR : I know! But do you know what my Police boy said?

AG : What?

NR : He replied – “But I have Mother by my side”.

AG : (unimpressed) What shit does that mean?

NR : (excited) That’s exactly what I thought, too! I mean, what shit? So I took my Krishna and Radha idols from my Puja Room and moved into my rich son’s bungalow.

AG : Hey, wait, wasn’t your “Import-Export” son the one who died after a car accident at the Mata ka Mandir? The Police had arrested you for yelling at the temple idols and throwing your slippers at them like a demented person. India-TV did some exclusive breaking news coverage of that.

NR : (shakes her head) Much of what the media says is exaggerated. They will concoct anything for TRPs! It was just a simple protest, nothing more! But, yes, I was on psychotic meds, so…Thankfully, my son did leave me his estate in his well before he died.

AG : Ok, Mrs. Roy, now that we have established how strangely the Common Man of India lives these days, I wanted to know – What are your thoughts on the party that represents you?

NR : (happily) I am very glad that the Aam Aadmi Party is doing so well. I say, more power to the Common Man! They will finally bring down the Zamindaari system with the Jan Lokpal Bill! I have seen enough troubles with these Thakurs.

AG : (in a quiet, but seething voice) Madam, this is national television so I will refrain from using harsher language than this, but you are a fool. Why the bloody hell are you talking about Thakurs? In 2014?

NR : But Arnab…

AG : In the era of computers and CNG low-floor buses, you are talking about something from the 1950s?

NR : But Arnab…

AG : It is because of people like you that progress in this country is difficult…

NR : Arnab…

AG : (relentlessly)…because you keep bringing up demons of the past! Have you not heard of all these government schemes that can save you from the Thakurs?

NR : Arnab…I…

AG : (mouth : frothing) MNREGA? Or Jawahar Jai-Jawan-Jai-Kisan Yogna? Or Indira Daridra, Dukhiya, Lachaar yet Jeevit Yojna, popularly known as DDLJ?

NR : Listen, Arnab…

AG : What do you have to say to explain yourself, Mrs. Roy?

NR : If you would only let me…

AG : (angrily) Speak? The nation wants straight answers, Mrs. Roy! For much too long, the people of the country have been taken for a ride by the likes of you.

NR : (offended) The likes of me? But I AM Aam Aadmi…or at least Aam Dharampatni and Maa.

AG : Then behave like one, Mrs. Roy!

NR : I wish I had access to all these schemes after my husband supposedly died! But the Thakur stole my farm plot in Gurgaon. And then my buffaloes also ran away. The police wouldn’t help me because I am not a VIP. I had no place to go! I was on the street!

AG : But your own sons are Police Inspectors!

NR : But they are busy fighting Smugglers after Chidambaram changed gold import policies! They have no time for me now.

AG : Smugglers? You mean they work for Indian Customs Service?

NR : What’s that?

AG : (shaking his head) I am very concerned about your sanity, Madam. I think the Aam Aadmi of the country has a serious mental condition. Ok, let’s change track. I’d like to know more about your family.

NR : (enthusiastically) Most of my sons are married and settled now.

AG : Oh, that’s good. So, there is at least something that is not completely demented in your life then.

NR : My Bahus are indeed very nice. They are reed slim, astonishingly fair and movie-star beautiful. They touch my feet every day and call me Maaji.

AG : That’s nice, Mrs. Roy. In this day and age, it is hard to expect well-educated youngsters to still be so rooted to our old conservative customs.

NR : Err

AG : Did you choose working wives for your sons? Since most of them are Police Inspectors?

NR : (sheepishly) I didn’t choose the girls. The boys chose their own.

AG : (impressed) Very progressive! Have they continued working their old jobs after marriage?

NR : (horrified) Oh, heaven forbid, no! That would be disastrous!

AG : Why?

NR : Well, all my Police Inspector sons married Tawaifs and Cabaret Dancers, you see.

AG : (suddenly much contrite) Mrs. Roy. Can I say something?

NR : Yes, Arnab, it is your show.

AG : I think this will be my last Aam Aadmi interview.

NR : (surprised) Oh, why so, Arnab? Abhi toh picture baki hai, mere dost!

AG : (shakes his head) I am afraid to stay on until the end of this film.

 

 

The First Diwali – The Untold Backstory Of What Transpired When Lord Rama Returned Home

 

Glad to have you back!

 

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.”

“Cocksucking assholes.”

‘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.