Asha climbed down from the mountain after a long arduous trek to catch the first glimpse of her city, her eyes widened and her nose twitched when she saw the entire city covered in what appeared to be a glistening orange mist. The rest of the way down she peered into the mist and watched it as it swirled around in unique patterns. How long has she been gone for? She counted the days on her fingers, she wasn’t gone for more than a week. What had changed in a week? She hurried down faster towards her home.
As she neared the first street of the city, she saw that the mist was made up of a formation of small flying quadcopter drones. All of them were painted orange with images of tigers, Shiva or Shivaji Maharaj drawn on them. Each one of them had a small orange flag flying on top of it that read ‘ABVA’ on it. Asha walked on in silence and mouthed a “what the…” as she stared from one drone to another as they moved about lazily. She knew the state would have elections while she was gone and she had expected some changes, but this was beyond anything she had imagined.
As she neared her home one of the drones seemed to drop out of the sky and approached Asha. “Jai Sri Ram, Asha…” it said in a booming deep voice that reminded her of a crime news presenter on television. Not sure of what to do, Asha gulped hard and walked faster towards her house. The drone flew ahead of her and stopped in the middle of her path, “Jai Sri Ram, Asha…” it repeated. Maybe it was just her but the drone sounded a little irritated this time. Asha wondered if she could just duck beneath the drone and make a run for it. Just then two other drones dropped out of the sky and joined the first one, “ Jai Sri Ram, Asha…” the sounded tad more polite than the first one. When she did not reply two more drones joined them and they greeted her again, louder and sterner this time. Surrounded by a circle of drones that were effectively blocking her path, Asha felt her throat go dry and her skin bristle. A survival instinct kicked in, she raised her hands at the drones and in a sheepish voice said, “Jai Sri Ram!” Unsure of her own utterance. She opened an eye and looked at the drone, they seemed to be convinced of her reply. The drones uttered a “Jai Sri Ram” in unison like a communal sigh and flew up to take up their posts. Asha ran on home.
When she reached her colony she felt her stomach tighten as she saw several of the drones roaming around and patrolling every house. She saw Mr.Sharma watering his garden, communist scholar, and staunch atheist, he was surrounded by a swarm of the drones. As she passed by he noticed her, dropped the hose from his hands joined them and in a loud clear voice said, Jai Sri Ram”. This was such a strange greeting coming from Mr.Sharma that Asha was stunned and she failed to notice his swarm of drones look at her for a reply. Mr.Sharma made a desperate gesture with his hands and Asha squeaked a greeting at him and ran home.
She opened the door to her home and barged in, “I am home…” she shouted happily. Her husband and son emerged from within the house and hushed her. Asha gasped as she saw two drones hovering over their heads. Both of them gave her a wide smile, joined their hands and said, “Jai Sri Ram!”
Asha lost it, “What the hell is going on…” she shouted at the drones.
The drones seemed to bristle, “ Asamskari” they announced louder than her.
“Calm down, wife Asha…” her husband approached her but maintained an arm’s distance from her
“What are those, husband Ajay…” she could barely keep the frustration from her voice.
“They are the Akhil Bharatiya Vichar Arakshak” Ajay smiled at her.
“So they are thought police?” Asha sounded exasperated.
The drones bristled and flew around agitated. Another drone flew in from the window and joined the other two. Asha assumed this one was for her.
“They don’t particularly like that word.Mom…Amma..” her son said, “ I am very happy to have you back home Amma.” He smiled at her and bowed. This was such a comical reaction from him that Asha laughed out loud. He glared at her for a second before smiling at her again.
“I have missed you guys, I need a hug…” Asha sounded tired as she walked towards them and hugged them.
“Ashleel” the drones shouted at the top of their voices “Asamskari” they had small sirens on them that began to blare until Asha moved away from them to a safe distance. The drones seemed to quiet down.
“They have a lot of sanskari rules…You will figure them out soon…” Ajay said.
Asha was frustrated, “I have missed you…I want a hug and a kiss.” She said to Ajay.
The siren on her drone began to beep again, it flew close to her eyes, it actually looked angry. It flew close to her forehead, a small tazer extended out of it and tazed her on her forehead. “ Asamskari woman. Shame” it shouted at her. “Oww…” Asha screamed and was about to hit at the drone but it flew out of range.
“They don’t seem to like any direct expressions of emotions. They seem particularly reactive to verbs, especially thought verbs. Avoid them, they hate thought verbs.”
Asha shook her head and placed her hands on her hips.
“ You will learn to work around them…” Ajay said as he rubbed his own forehead tenderly.
“ You were gone for a long time, I spent a lot of time in your memories. Wherever I turned I could see you, in a healthy sanskari way of course. I pined for you like Lord Ram had pined for Lady Sita in the forest. Verily even If I could have searched the seven worlds I would never have found a better wife for myself. Truly I am blessed to have you in my life, Devi.” Ajay sounded earnest the spitting image of the ideal dharmic husband.
Asha rolled her eyes, “ Are you trying to say you love me and missed me?” The drones bristled again and the sirens blared.
“ No verbs! No thought verbs and no action verbs” Ajay shouted. As the drones continued to bristle Ajay began to sing “ Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram…” He sang it for a few minutes and their son joined in too…The drones seemed to be placated.
“Mom..Um…Amma, I bow to you.” He did a bow and continued, “ I must have done a lot of punyam in my past lives to have gotten you as my mother in this life. When you left and the drones umm the sanskari drones arrived I was very afraid. But seeing you now, here, I am reassured that things will be fine now. You look like a goddess who had arrived to lead us to deliverance, Amma.” Asha thought back to all the times she had wished her son to be a dutiful and disciplined child and cursed herself for it.
“Son are you trying to say you are glad to see me and you Wanted me back…” Asha shouted out the action verbs on purpose and stared at the drones.
“Ashleel woman.” The drone shouted and flew at her and tazed her.
“That does it” Asha shouted, “ This ends now…” Asha bristled and walked into the kitchen angrily.
Ajay and her son looked at each other hopefully.
Asha emerged from the kitchen with a broom in her hand, looking like a Devi out for vengeance.
She faced the drones squarely and shouted, “ Fuck you and fuck your sanskari!”
The drones bristled and buzzed and flew at her. Asha swung her broom and brought down two drones.
“ Fuck your Sanskar” Asha shouted as more drones flew in through the window and she raised her broom at them. And that was how Asha started her rebellion with a broom and a few bad words.
[Image credit: https://www.brownpaperbag.in/assets/Uploads/drone.jpg?]