The Polls

 

The polls

A warm morning sun shone into the courtyard of the school. The tree that stood in the centre of the courtyard came to life with the cries of birds. Shiva sat in the shade of the tree, hard at work on a thick rope that he was tying into an elaborate knot. He had been up and working for a long while already. He had set up a stage that now stood beside the tree. He had brought out chairs from the classrooms in the school and placed them in neat rows in front of the stage. As the school peon, it was his duty to set up the booth on election day and the stage on the counting day. It was also his duty to prepare for the results. He inspected the knot that he had tied, he pulled on the rope to make sure it held in the correct manner. He tied the loose end of the rope to the tree and hid the other end in a nook behind the trunk of the tree. No one liked to think of the rope before the results were announced. He inspected the stage one last time and went outside the courtyard to smoke a bidi before the counting began.

As the sun climbed in the sky, the courtyard was slowly filled with the buzz of the villagers gathered there. They greeted each other and sat in small groups among the school chairs exchanging news and gossip. The women sat to the right though there was no rule that they had to. Their whispers were loud but quickly suppressed like a bee caught in a bell jar. The men gathered to the left of the stage, they greeted each other loudly at first. But their conversations grew quieter, like a bullfrog that had grown tired of its own mating call. The children ran around the playground that they were so familiar with. They found it funny that they had to visit the school on a holiday and the empty classrooms rang with their shouts and laughter. By the time the appointed hour arrived the whole village had gathered in the school courtyard. Read more

What I protect, protects me

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Shastriji raised the metal vessel filled with water to the sun as he muttered his shlokas. He closed his eyes and let the water drip onto the Tulasi plant. He joined his hands in salutation to the sun. He gazed at the city that was waking up to the warmth of the sun, at the hundreds of saffron pennants that flew on all the rooftops, at the many gopurams that loomed over the entire city keeping it in line with their omniscient gaze. Temple bells began to toll through the city, the sacred scriptures could be heard being chanted everywhere. Shastriji smiled, they had saved the city and the country. He was glad he had played his part in it, “If I protect Dharma, Dharma will protect me” Shastriji said.

“They are here. They are here…” his wife said in a panicked tone as she joined him on the rooftop.

“Who is here, woman?” Shastriji turned away from the sun, whatever peace he had had was now over.

“The priests, the priests of the Inquisition…” the wife said. Read more

Holier than thou

animals-cattle-cows-162801“Would you ever hurt your own mother?” Mr.Om glared at the audience, “Would you let anyone else hurt your mother?” Impassioned spittle flew into the microphone. “No” Mr. Om answered himself, “then why is it okay to let our gaumatas get hurt? Why is it ok to allow them to be killed just to feed Ome adharmic rakshas somewhere?” Mr.Om shook with feeling.

“Are we not here today because of our gaumatas? I know I am. I have enough calcium in my bones today because of all the milk I drank over a lifetime, from countless cows. I have enough strength in my muscles,” Mr.Om flexed a hefty bicep, “because of all the ghee I have eaten thanks to the generous gaumatas. Monsoons are here, the weather is changing, I can see a lot of you are sick with the flu, and yet here I am perfectly healthy, talking at the height of my voice. How is this possible? This is possible only because of the gomutra I drink every morning.” Read more

Show and Tell

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It was ‘Show and Tell’ day for class three students. A constant murmur of excited restlessness ran through the class. “Shhhh, calm down everyone.” Mrs. Nair the class teacher shushed the students for the hundredth time.

It was Selva’s turn next. He heaved as he lifted his volcano model and carried it to the teacher’s desk. Mrs. Nair sighed, seeing yet another volcano model. Selva smiled at her nervously and she nodded for him to proceed.

Selva turned to the class and smiled. He pointed to his crudely made flour volcano that had hastily been painted in shades of black and brown. “ Volcano,” he told his classmates, poking the still wet flour. He opened a small packet of bicarbonate powder and poured it into the mouth of the volcano. There was a moment in which the class held its breath. Then with a lazy bubbling, the volcano bubbled and gurgled, dripping colored foam down the wet sides. Selva smiled in relief and simply said, “Volcano”. There was some enthusiastic applause. The bicarbonate was too old Mrs. Nair thought, it didn’t bubble enough. Having seen hundreds of model volcanos, she was an expert in the matter.

“Um…Good job Selva.” Mrs. Nair said noting a ‘C’ against his name.

“ Ok, next is Nancy.”

“It’s Nancheli, mam” Nancheli said as she stood up in excitement. She pulled the large briefcase from under her seat and carried it carefully to the teacher’s desk. She beamed at Mrs. Nair and her classmates.

“Today for show and tell I have got a few family heirlooms to show you.” She said proudly, pushing back her ponytails.

She opened the suitcase and pulled out a small earthen pot.

She held it up for her classmates to see. Her eyes gleamed as she waited for her classmates to recognize it.

“So, you just got a pot?” One of her classmates said.

“No, it’s a spittoon,” Nancheli said.

“Um…what?” Another of the classmates asked.

Mrs. Nair raised an eyebrow.

“It’s a spitoon. My great-grandfather had to wear it around his neck all the time.” Nancheli smiled.

“Did he eat a lot of paan? My grandmother used to too and she would spit all around the house and my mother would get mad. This spittoon would have been a good idea for her.” Another of her classmates said.

“It wasn’t because he ate paan, you Dumbo, it was because he was untouchable. See he would wear it like this.” Nancheli wore the pot around her neck. It was too large for her small head and it made her bend forward. She tried to spit into it and only partly succeeded. Read more

Where’s the honour in that?

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“Would you like some tea?” Nusrat idly stirred the pot on the stove.

“Tea?” Zabin adjusted her hijab, “I couldn’t drink anything right now.” She stared at Nusrat, “you do realize what they are discussing in your living room right now, right? Or have you completely lost it already?”

Nusrat looked up from the pot, “ I know what they are discussing…” she continued stirring it.

“You already know what they will decide. We all do. I don’t even know what the point of this meeting is.” Zabin shivered despite the warm day.

“The decision is already made. They are just hashing out the details…the where and how of it…” Nusrat gave the pot a violent stir and some of the milk spilled out if it.

“Khuda…how has it come to this? What will they do?” Read more

Notice me Trump Senpai

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Assad sprawled upon his large four poster bed covered in red satin bedsheets. He drew his silk bathrobe closer to cover his bare shoulders as he blushed a little. When the phone on the other end of the line began to ring he blushed harder and crossed his legs in their white polka-dotted briefs. He twirled the silk string of his bathrobe in nervous anticipation. After a long time, the operator told him that his call will not be received at the moment and they would get back to him at the earliest. Assad sighed and hung up the phone. Then threw it at the bomb proof window of his palace. It thudded dully against the window and plopped down to the thick carpet.

Assad flopped into a nest of his goose feather pillows and switched on Skype in his ultra large smart TV. He dialed Kim’s number. He knew not to disturb Kim at this time…But he was feeling too dejected and Kim always knew how to cheer him up. Kim answered the call and the camera took moment to focus on his large round face. Kim’s face was covered in a thick green paste and he had cucumber slices on his eyes. He seemed to be soaking in a large tub of bubbly water. He pulled a cucumber slice off of one eye and chomped on it.

“Ah, my friend, the butcher of the east, come to give me my weekly dose of venison…” he laughed until his jowls quivered like those of an obese pig.

“ Kim, my buddy, I was just feeling a little IL! Thought I would check in with the sickest man I know!” Assad laughed until his bony shoulders flapped like those of a freshly skinned chicken. Read more

Asha and the thought police (Akhil Bharatiya Vichar Arakshak)

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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.

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