Monday, July 31, 2017

THE INVISIBLE HAND: SHORT STORY


That was a weird day- the  13th of May 2016 to be precise. It was as if a Singularity in Time had struck Bhamori, the famous colony of Indore, the Madhya Pradesh town where roads are plastered with the lemon-yellow mouth-watering  Poha, and pavements cast in saffron, juicy Jalebis. Or was it that some wayward eddies in Time had selectively lifted these cozy bastis and dropped them plonk in the middle of the Bermuda triangle! Or that some invisible hand had trained a prismatic refracting medium on the junction of two days, that is the place where one day handshakes with the next…

Our Bhamori reporter understands that 8 out of 10 employees of the 2 Public Sector banks in and around Bhamori did not report for duty. Not that as a consequence the Managers coaxed the absenting employees out of their beds or sent out the rest to drag the erring 8 to answer the call of duty, for these PSB are known to be determined to preserve employee morale. Needless to state, the famous 8 certainly had their living quarters in the vicinity, for the managements are alive and sympathetic on the point of commuting woes.

But the domino effect had extended beyond Bhamori. On the liberally oiled jagged cuddupa stairs of the ancient Malviya Nagar Shani Mandir, there was a moderate crowd, women bedecked in finery, jostling for a foot-hold, gingerly holding on to bowls and cans and little pails of oil with which they should propitiate the mighty Saturn God. A CCTV camera, hanging above in the malwa skies  like a bat or its Carrollean equivalent, the tea-tray, recorded faithfully the perplexed expressions on the faces of onlookers and passers-by wondering why so many people thronged the Shani Mandir on a Friday. On their part, the bhaktas too were elated to find so much elbow-room on what they believed was a Saturday or Sanicchar! Witness how one man’s dynamic Sanicchar can be the colourless Shukkar of another!
  
The epidemic of delinquency had travelled beyond Malviya Nagar.  School children of Vijay Nagar 452010 who were supposed to be enduring their classes were found loitering on the jalebi lined pavements, or sitting before their TV sets or negotiating their playstation consoles- yessir, Indori kids are ever abreast of the latest in technology! Mothers were the first to notice something amiss. Although a Saturday by common consent, they could feel shades of deceit- hadn’t Saturday arrived suddenly like an unwanted guest? Pest if you prefer?
    
The tremors had wandered beyond Vijaynagaram ha, ha. The Mechanic Nagar kalali , that is, the place where the humble like you and me assemble to do what you and me would avoid except possibly on Holi- imbibing in the morning- went viral as the sun rose- a tribute to that special day called Saturday. Being a progressive place, in Indore we observe a five day week, that is observe holidays on 5 days of the week, he, he…joking! Nevertheless, the kalali was teeming with customers, and waiters, who normally sleep on the premises were upbeat, for they are on Saturdays mainly, at the receiving end of tips from the gentle folk who invariably become large-hearted after a couple of pegs.

Another place of interest for us that quaint and curious day happened to be the nearby Bajrang Nagar mosque where in the absence of any other mosque for miles quite a crowd assembles for the Friday Dhuhur Namaz. The faithful are constrained owing to lack of space, to spill out of the precincts, congregating on the pavements. One could see volunteers spreading out neat Namaz chatais in preparation for the arrival of the faithful. Passers by coming south-wards from Bhamori and Malviya Nagar and Vijay Nagar were perplexed to observe this frenetic activity on a Saturday. You will recall that Bhamori and adjuncts formed the heart of the fragment of earth where the singularity in Time had apparently struck this morning, refracting like a prism, a Friday to a Saturday or vice-versa. Some cultural event perhaps, the passers-by mused, since it was not the jumma

At around 11, when the May Sun was huffing and puffing her way to the zenith, Badlu Ram and his caboodle of 12, four sons, five daughters and three brothers-in-law, two losers, one gainer,  limped back to their homestead in Bhamori. Assembling over tea, they evaluated the spoils: three litres approx of oil against the customary average of 5 litres; 308 rupee coins excluding the 22 counterfeit ones, 15 five rupee coins including the counterfeit ones, three kg of wheat flour, sundry eatables. As you rightly guessed, paterfamilias Badlu Ram was a Shani Maharaj, the peripatetic intermediary between the bhaktas and the malevolent God Shani or  Sanichhar (not necessarily a Brahmin for this is a market-led profession). For those who came late, Badlu’s tribe provides a sort of door-step service to the Saturn God, who by all accounts, prefers oil and base-metal by way of offering.  The coins are reverentially cast into a small pitcher of oil carried like a carrot on a stick by our friends, and coins being coins, tend to follow gravity. To return to counting the currency, the haul was not even half of what should have been found resting at the bottom of the 3 litres of oil even if you make allowance for 5 fivers which had found way into Badlu’s gainer brother-in-law’s trouser pockets, in anticipation of a glass of nectar served at sun-down by the kalali described above. A hot debate between members of Badlu’s team ensued. Four apostles out of the customary 12 confessed to a bit of delinquency. There was no notebandi or Demonetisation to blame. The will of Shani Maharaj  …Badlu thought as the pin-up of Sunny Leone on the calendar held his gaze seductively. Eeeek! April 2016 said the folio- damn this girl, they had  forgotten to turn the charmed page over- it was May now maaan! Reaching for the newspaper he struggled to locate the date for a while, then focussed on the date-line. Friday she said.

And that was the singularity that had struck Bhamori that day. As the cock heralds the morn, Saturday is the preserve of Shani Maharaj in our cow-belt. Their’s is not to question why.

Later on of course the affected realised what a blunder-mishtake they had committed. However none else than those had actually propitiated the Saturn God through the offices of Badlu Ram and Co. could discover as to who the culprit in the whole episode was, so ethereal and elusive was he!


Remember someone who wrote “Nobody ever sees a postman”. I’d add Shani Maharaj to Chesterton’s List.

SHANI MAHARAAJ!

2 comments:

B.Jawahar Reddy said...

Sir, thanks for trying short story. it is soooo good, enjoyed. you must write more sir..regards

vidushi said...

Wow! Classy and Classic!