Category Archives: Humour – Satire – English

Tongue in cheek observations on Life

A Toothy Tale

In most issues in life, it is ultimately the heart of the matter that counts. Especially so, if the matter pertains to the heart itself. Or at least, to the affinity between a pair of human hearts. This elementary piece of wisdom has little relevance in practice of course. The essence of a human relationship is often so thoroughly obscured by a quagmire of trivialities, that even the involved parties remain ignorant of the bonds that hold them together. 

Nirmalya Roy lived in Kolkata. He was a rather handsome person and a dentist by profession, whom worldly success had eluded all his life.  The fault did not lie in his stars, but in himself. His family had sent him to the University of Pennsylvania, which housed in its campus one of the top dental schools that the US could boast of at the time. He finished his education with flying colours, returning back to India with a DDS degree that few of his contemporaries failed to envy. Yet, as we observed, he was anything but a success in his professional life. His major shortcoming consisted of garrulity which, though apparently innocent, was in fact a deadly addiction. He spent excessively long periods of time with patients. And more than half the time so spent was wasted in idle conversation, frequently causing the ones in the waiting room to leave in anger and disgust. His unprofessional conduct cost him his career, but he was himself least affected by this, given that he never betrayed even a spark of an ambition to rise in life.   

His wife Seymonti, however, had an approach to life that ran in an exactly opposite direction. She was an adorably pretty housewife with a head full of social aspirations, built entirely around her husband; and she was ever impatient to see him dart across her universe like an inter-galactic missile. But her launching mission failed with stubborn regularity. Nirmalya Roy held firmly on to terra firma. 

Persons as diametrically opposed as the Roys are not expected to be model examples of peaceful coexistence. And indeed, they were not. Their lives were marked by recurrent confrontations, war of words that usually degenerated into blood curdling cries, sometimes beyond human comprehension. Disagreement became a way of life with them, a habit as it were, irrespective of the subject they happened to wrangle over. As a result, their disputes varied from the profound to the ridiculous, bordering now and then on the farcical. 

The following tale should elucidate the point. 

One morning, Seymonti Roy woke up with a toothache. There was a visible inflammation  on her right cheek that threatened to destroy the symmetry of the immaculate face that she possessed. The pain having gotten the better of her, she finally decided to have herself examined by her husband. He undertook a thorough examination of the tooth in his chamber, which adjoined their residence, and declared that it had to go. She was visibly shaken by the prospect of a tooth being pulled out. And since they needed only the slightest of pretexts to start up an argument, she responded to his suggestion with cynical disdain. 

“There’s nothing wrong with the tooth,” she observed, “you’re merely after my blood.” 

Normal human beings might dismiss such a remark as a joke, even if unfair. But theirs was not a run of the mill household. Consequently, Nirmalya Roy let out his characteristic howl. 

“Yes, I am after your blood,” yelled he. “Gallons of it rest assured!” 

What followed was bedlam, with Dr. Roy, brandishing a hypodermic syringe in one hand and a pair of forceps in the other, performing around his petrified life’s partner the dance of a cannibal chief preparing to feast on the white man’s flesh. To the casual observer, neither person exhibited at this point of time the slightest trace of the good looks that nature had profusely showered over them. And this even if the bulge on the lady’s cheek were to be ignored. 

He gave up anticlimactically however, and the effect was counterproductive. It transformed his wife’s attitude from one of mild hesitation to an obstinate refusal to part with the tooth of contention. She would rather bear the pain, she declared, than follow his advice. Strangely enough, the pain too subsided somewhat. Or, so at least she claimed. 

A few days later, they went visiting a dentist friend, whom Dr. Roy knew from his student days. They met in the surgeon’s chamber around closing time, planning to move on from there to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Predictably, the vague boundary between a social and a professional get-together faded away, the conversation veering on to such all absorbing subjects as decaying teeth and purulent gums and finally, much to Mrs. Roy’s resentment, to her ailment. 

The friend was up on his feet immediately, probing brutishly into her mouth. She had to yield to the examination, reluctantly no doubt, being caught in a foreign territory. The dentist gasped with disbelief at what he saw and started screaming at Dr. Roy for his gross negligence. The latter too, refusing to be browbeaten, roared back in indignation. And in the emerging commotion, before one knew what was really happening, the tooth had abruptly ended its caries ridden existence, hanging helplessly in the claws of a gleaming pair of forceps, held securely by the beaming surgeon. 

The dinner engagement was cancelled of course. And, as the friend saw the Roys off in a taxi, he addressed Mrs. Roy with an understanding smile. 

“To tell you the truth Mrs. Roy, my wife too doesn’t have much faith in my professional skills. She normally visits other dentists! I was in total sympathy with both of you when your husband called me up with a script for the play we acted today!” 

Mrs. Roy hissed with rage at this piece of intelligence from between her clenched teeth, which held on to the blob of surgical cotton in her mouth. Her husband on his part gloated with satisfaction over his one-upmanship, and made no secret of his merriment all the way back home. What added to his morbid glee was the fact that the lady was in no condition to open her mouth and retort vocally. 

This author has no information on the course of action Mrs. Roy resorted to once she regained control over her vocal chords. She could well have discovered a way of taking her husband to task for causing her embarrassment, but if she did so, she must have been aware at the same time that it was his careful planning after all that had brought her relief from physical pain. It could not have been easy for her to resolve the conflict. 

As for Dr. Roy, his character too was mysterious to say the least. Realizing that his wife’s ego would stand in the way of having him administer the treatment, he did not hesitate to sacrifice his own and employ an intricately woven subterfuge to alleviate her pain! Now, if he cared so much for her, why on earth didn’t he pay more attention to his practice and offer her a decent life style? 

Since we are unlikely though to discover what constituted the heart of the matter, it is best that we allow the curtain to descend on our story without further investigation.

Eulogy to a Frank-fart-er

Statue of Agastya

Dear Son:

Have you ever come across a frank-FART-er? I always thought that the being was extinct. Indeed, if it did exist today, it would surely have qualified as the eighth wonder of our planet, don’t you think? Wait though my son, wait. It seems now that you and I, as well as other specimens of humanity whose footsteps have been guiding us, were utterly wrong in our convictions. Frank-FART-ers exist in profusion, or so at least the menus of a delicatessen or two are advertising in Kolkata. In large letters, capitalized that is. At the very entrance of the shops. You can’t miss them.

Come to think of it though, most of us might have been exposed to a somewhat lesser variety of the species, frank-FART-ers minus the boldness of it carried by the first five letters. They exist and perform with gay abandon in night trains as well as crowded buses, as evidenced by the diverse range of noises one’s ears are exposed to every now and then. And one can’t help wondering. Is there a technology that can decode these audio signals, or at least unravel the mysterious emotions they represent? Pride? Anger? Mockery? Pathos? Humility? Mind boggling you know, a bit like the inscrutable smile on Mona Lisa’s face.

Almost none of these musicians, mind you, have ever been accused of frankness. They remain as invisible to the naked eye as the mellifluous sound waves they produce. Yes, oh yes my child. I know you are as alert as a leopard in search of its prey. So you couldn’t have missed my hesitation at the very beginning of this paragraph. “Almost” said I. And if you scroll back upwards, you will notice further that I suggested that the animal was extinct. This means, doesn’t it, that there was a period in the history of mankind when it may well have existed. Dinosaur style.

But don’t you start googling in search of the creature. Neither historians nor archaeologists will offer you help in your quest. When your thirst for knowledge overpowers you, there is only one reference you should consult — the Mahabharata. That’s the ultimate source of history that historians always ignore. Fortunately, I am not a student of history, so I never fail to pay my due respects to this magnificent compendium.

And that is precisely the direction in which I ran the day I saw the advertisement at the delicatessen and burnt all the midnight oil at my disposal till I met with success. I am dying now to share with you my findings. The story of a magnificent frank-FART-er picked directly out of the pages of Krishnadwaipayan Vyas’ personal diary.

The f-f in question was the venerable Agastya, of whom I daresay you must have heard. I reckon he was one of the most powerful amongst the Hindu saints who found their place in the epic tale. His abilities manifested in the form of a great many miraculous events, but none as great as the one concerning the demon Illwal and his young brother Bataapi.

Whether this conjecture is correct or not, I can’t say. Vyas confirms though that Illwal made a somewhat questionable use of his faculty. And to go straight to the point, it appears that Illwal had once approached a Brahman with a strange request. He asked this B chap to grant him a boon that his son be as mighty as the King of Gods, viz. Lord Indra himself, armed with thunder, fury and the rest of the paraphernalia. The Brahman unfortunately refused. To tell the truth, the poor chap really had no other choice. First, he didn’t know Indra personally and could not therefore make someone he didn’t know resemble yet another guy he didn’t know either. Secondly, even if he tried to cater to Illwal’s whim, it is doubtful that Indra himself would be too happy to oblige. I mean, there was always this stray chance that the Lord would be transformed in the process to Illwal’s pampered child and be forced to remain in that state till the rest of eternity. That such possibilities are real enough will be revealed to you as you read through this tale.

So, the B refused and this Ill chap in turn was livid with anger. He decided to depopulate the earth of Brahmans. Towards this end, he began to invite all the Brahmans he could locate to his residence and serve them a variety of delicacies. Amongst them was a curry, made apparently out of goat meat. In reality though, he was using his magic to transform Bataapi into a goat. And it was this Bataapi cum goat that he was slaughtering to be cooked into a curry for the consumption of the unsuspecting invitees. No harm in this, since Bat boy could not die even when decimated, thanks to Ill boy’s sorcery.

Apparently, the preparation made out of Bataapi’s meat was real tasty and the Brahman’s lapped it up with relish. However, immediately after the feast was over, Illwal would call out for his brother in a heart rending baritone and as soon as he did so, the hapless Brahman’s stomach would explode and a smiling Batapi walk out unharmed from the mess.

There is a question that bothers me though at this point of the story. To the best of my understanding, few Brahmans outside Bengal are meat eaters. If so, do we conclude that Illwal was only after Bengali Brahmans? Unfair man, God’s so unfair to the Bongs. Or, does it suggest that Brahmans living in other parts of the country, being more intelligent, got wind of Illwal’s machinations and promptly converted to vegetarianism? Whichever, it’s worth researching whether the forefathers of today’s vegetarian Brahmans were vegetarians during V’deva’s times.

Serendipitously enough, it was around this time that Agastya was seen in the vicinity. It was easy enough for him to secure an invitation card for Illwal’s party and Illwal merrily went through the ritual. Agastya too ate up the meat to his fill. And then, just when he was about to lie down for a well-deserved siesta, Illwal strung up the Bataapi tune on his harp. In response, much to Illwal’s dismay, Bataapi failed to reappear. And what emerged instead was a hurricane of sorts directly from Agastya’s posterior, accompanied by great thunder and lightning.

Make no mistake. Agastya admitted with all the frankness at his possession that it was he who had broken wind, thereby earning for himself the well deserved title of an f-f. Illwal was almost blown away by the force of the turbulence, but managed to hold his ground with the last bit of strength left in him. And as he stared open mouthed at Agastya, the latter smiled a beatific smile and came out with his immortal statement in chaste Sanskrit — “Bataapih jeerna bhava!” Which, translated into simple English runs — ” Bataapi dear, be thou digested!” In other words, following the rules of Physics, Agastya demonstrated the truth of what scientists describe as the Law of Conservation of Energy. He had converted a breathing Bataapi into as unattractive a form of energy as a blighted f**t!! And Prevented Illwal from transforming his kid brother back to the energy mass he started out from. You see now why Lord Indra would have refused to undergo the requested change? If Bataapi could not be restored back to his original self, what guarantee did Indra himself have?

Having proceeded this far, there must clearly be a question or two that are bothering you. First, what is it that they are selling in Kolkata? Fossilized pieces of Agastyas may be? Not unlikely in fact, if the Vyas story was solely concerned with Brahmans in this region of India. I am dead sure that Brahmans from other parts of the country would want to wash their hands off any involvement with Illwal, unless there was a vegetarian version of Illwal’s magic. I have to carry out further research before I can throw more light on the matter.

But there is a second question that might trouble you too. Was it pure serendipity that made Agastya appear to perform his miracle? The answer is, as you might suspect, a clear no. Agastya too had his designs. And I being at my garrulous worst today, let me end up with a summary of that incident too.

Agastya had not arrived at Illwal’s door with philanthropic propensities at all. As a matter of fact, it was quite the other way around. It was Illwal’s philanthropy that he demanded. If Vyasdeva is to be trusted, then during one of his lonesome morning walks through the omnipresent forests of yore, the young Agastya received the shock of his life to discover, not one, but the entire dynasty of his forefathers, apes included I suppose, hanging upside down inside a freshly dug hole, located inches away from this lofty tree under which he had sat down to rest. And mind you, this was no circus show they were performing for their progeny’s entertainment. For, without exception, each one had a glum expression written clearly on his face. To tell you frankly, a sight as scary as this would have prompted me to run for my life. But the great Agastya was made of sterner stuff. He approached the hole in question and paid obeisance to each member of the mourning generations and requested them in all humility to explain what had caused them to suspend themselves in mournful gloom in such a supremely demanding athletic posture.

On being questioned, the ancestors could no longer control their emotions and shed an ocean of tears, thereby wiping out all traces of the hole they had occupied. Nevertheless, they managed to keep the conversation going. It’s best that we keep in abeyance questions regarding the technicalities surrounding this event, or else you will not get to hear the rest of the tale. Miracles those days were available a dime a dozen.

The progenitors, it appears, whimpered lugubriously much to the discomfort of the progeny that he was doing them much wrong by refusing to procreate and soon there would be no one left to solace them with the satisfying thought that they had done their bit in keeping God’s creativity alive and kicking. Agastya accepted his lapses without argument and set out on his way to fill up the lacuna.

Unfortunately though, there was a fly in the ointment. Agastya, despite his renunciation of worldly pleasures, suffered from a Pygmalion like weakness. No woman short of Miss Universe in person would satisfy him. He imagined therefore a wife who would be composed of the most scintillating features collected from all creatures ever created and prayed fervently for her arrival to cleanse him of the crime of non-procreation. Luckily for him, it was precisely around this time that the King of Vidarva was engaged in severe ascetic rituals in the hope of fathering the most flawless child on earth. Agastya’s wishes fitted the King’s as perfectly as pieces in a jigsaw puzzle and soon enough Lopamudra, Agastya’s wife to be, was born. There must have been quite an age difference between the groom and the bride, but Agastya bided his time keeping her under close observation, till Lopa was a nubile young woman. She had, needless to say, all the virtues Agastya had wished for and the marriage was arranged between the two, though Vyas tells us the King was not too happy to give away the apple of his eye to a middle aged forest roaming hermit with no more than a dubious career ahead of him. In other words, it was not exactly clear from Agastya’s looks if he would ascend to the status of a Hindu Pope.

But Lopamudra didn’t object, afraid perhaps of the consequences of her refusal, and followed her husband to his abode, which needless to say, was a bit of a demotion from her palatial habitat. Worse, Agastya insisted that she shed her princess’ attire and preserve her modesty in tattered clothes or deer skin at best. In my opinion, the chap was dying to see his wife in a bikini and used the tall excuse that a sage’s wife needed to live a life of sacrifice. Can’t be helped. Men dominated the world on the one hand and on the other, Agastya was known to possess superhuman abilities. One wouldn’t dare disobey his commands. So, Lopamudra accepted his dictates with little objection and went about bikini clad performing her household chores, cooking, sweeping the courtyard, washing dishes, massaging Agastya’s tired forest roaming limbs and, last but not least, keeping her bikini sets in order. And, as expected, seeing her regularly in this state, Agastya went all horny and remembered conveniently that he had promised to keep the clan flourishing.

Now, Lopamudra, whom we have so far perceived as an epitome of female acquiescence, was in reality a feminist at heart. She was, without a doubt, waiting for a chance to deal a brutal blow to her husband’s divine affectations. Her deer skinned bikini she claimed now was too holy a garment for her to wear to start the proceedings that Agastya was dying to start. In other words, she refused to be un-bikini-ed. She was a princess and if Agastya had to undress her, he would have to fetch her a princess’ garments as well as a matching bed to perform the ritual. Nothing less was acceptable to her. Agastya therefore had only two choices left before him. Either apply force, which was tantamount to raping, or meet her demands. The first alternative wouldn’t work of course, since this would not please his ancestors. So, Agastya, much to his regret agreed to meet Lopamudra’s demands.

He left her in her bikinis, which needless to say was not a particularly safe thing to do, and went in search of wealth from king to king, Srutava, Vradhnashwa, Trasadasyu and so on. (I don’t know how to pronounce these names, so you needn’t worry too much either.) But, to his massive disappointment, each of these kings told him that they were following IMF norms and practising strict fiscal discipline. Their incomes exactly equalled there expenditure and they didn’t have even an extra paisa to spare to buy Lopamudra her bridal bed and costly saree. They were obviously not telling the truth, being somewhat stingy it would seem. One wonders why Agastya didn’t approach his father in law too, but Vyas was once again silent on this issue. I have a feeling that that poor king had left for his heavenly abode soon after he heard about the clothing Agastya forced upon his poor daughter.

Srutava et al, however, were not totally unhelpful. They suggested that Agastya approach Illwal, who, by all accounts, was the richest chap around. I mean, he was the only king who had the means to buy a cot for you know what. I think deep down in their hearts, these balanced budget kings wanted to put Illwal in his place and were hoping to use Agastya for that ultimate purpose. So, as I said, the fact that Agastya landed up in Illwal’s palace was no coincidence. And what I did not inform you earlier, Illwal was so scared after Agastya’s stormy performance that he gave him all the stuff he needed to keep humanity growing.

What beats my imagination though is why Monsignor Agastya had to perform the diverse set of miracles to fetch a princely bed for Lopamudra. If he could digest Bataapi and convert him into thin air, he should surely have possessed the ability to manufacture a miserable bed out of the same thin air. But then, that’s the way Vyas wanted his characters to behave.

Does this story have moral though? I am afraid that it does and it applies to you my son. If you ever come across an apparition bearing the slightest resemblance to your father, hanging upside down, batman-style, in a poorly lit cave in your neighbourhood, you are well advised not to treat it as an optical illusion. Oh yes, I am fully aware that you live in the US. That unlike the renowned profs of Indian mythology, who were congenitally inclined to loiter about aimlessly in wooded hills and dales in search of convenient locations for launching Hubble telescopes in search of truant Gods and Goddesses, you teach in centrally heated, brightly lit classrooms to gum chewing, jeans clad kids with their legs stretched atop the nearest table or chair. Nonetheless, you are well advised to keep your eyes open, especially for cavernous confines, where a forefather or two, living or dead, might be lurking, in the aforementioned gymnastic state. Never neglect these hoary old acrobats, for they are doubtlessly trying to communicate with you, somewhat in the manner of Hamlet’s father’s spirit, when things were rotting in the state of Denmark.

Tons of love.

Baba

Metamorphosis a la Vyasdeva

My dear Srinivasan:

I waste a lot of time in idle thinking as you know. Especially about things that never happened. Yet, they could have happened all the same. The subject in question today refers to a somewhat mind boggling tale, picked up from the Anushasana Parva in the Mahabharata. It was Grandpa Vishma apparently who related the story to Yudhishthira.

There was a pious King called Vangasvana. He was childless and performed the Agnishtuta Yajna to please God Agni and the latter, having been amply appeased, granted not one, not two, not even three, but a hundred sons (mind you, no daughters) to the Rajarshi.

Now, it so happened that the Yajna in question was directed towards satisfying Lord Agni alone. And this fact pissed off no less a God than Indra himself. He was mad as hell. (See how mean and envious these Gods were? Always counting curses! So, to take it out on poor Vangasvana, he created a magic spell and made the chap lose his way. He was tired as hell and landed near a lake. He made his thirsty horse drink the water and took a plunge into the lake to cool himself off.

Wonder of wonders, he emerged from the lake changed into a female!! A result of Indra’s trick of course. According to the Mahabharata, her (his?) shame knew no bound, as would obviously be the case for any woman who finds herself in a state of total undress in the middle of nowhere in full view of no less a witness than a horse! Nonetheless, she returned back to the Palace. (Now don’t you get ideas. She found clothes to wear before she undertook her journey to the Palace. Women’s clothes I mean. Where did she find the stated clothes? I don’t know. Why can’t you stop asking silly questions man? They make me lose my concentration.) No one recognized him there of course, given that it was her they saw and not him, but they believed the story. Especially so since the once upon a time “he” announced that he was abdicating the throne, which the now transformed “she” had no bloody right to abdicate. But then, there were no lawyers around to point out the legal complications. She asked all his one hundred sons to rule in tandem. (I wonder how simple the latter act would be though. The UPA Government at Delhi has fewer than ten parties to share the throne amongst themselves and look what they are doing to one another with each passing day!!)

The sexually transformed Vangasvana disappeared thereafter inside the depth of a forest where a willing hermit was waiting in horny anticipation. They started to live together. (Nowadays, the forests are inhabited by the Maoists alone and I don’t know what could have happened if she turned into a Maoist. She could cause a worry or two for politicians in Delhi and West Bengal.

The hermit and VT (Vangasvana Transformed) began to live together. But living together usually involves a corollary. Sleeping together. The corollary it seems worked with a vengeance, for soon enough the voluptuous VT conceived. And, as was V’s wont, VT too produced exactly one hundred sons. (Sons again, no daughters. What an MCP world! Makes me sick.)

Well VT goes back now to her first litter of a hundred sons (Confusion again, her or his litter?) and tells them that the empire needs to be shared between all the two hundred kids!! (The lawyers are yelling and screaming now, I am sure.) More fragmentation. Which would probably have meant that each son ruled there onwards over a square inch of land. (But then this is India. Population over a billion. They were a mere two hundred, yet the signal was clear.) I think the children were somewhat dim-witted and failed to see the absurdity of the situation.

Trouble started needless to say. Not on account of the sons, for, as I said, they were not particularly well-endowed with grey cells. Actually, the same old Indra threw up a tantrum, lamenting to himself that in trying to get V into trouble, he had ended up making him happier. Quite clearly, the sons were living in peace and harmony, despite the number of kings in the kingdom exceeding the number of subjects.

Indra the vicious, now posed as a Brahmin (I know not why a Brahmin was called for by the way) and approached the sons. He poisoned the minds of the first hundred with the following piece of undeniable logic: “You are the sons of the erstwhile King. The newcomers are the fruits of a hermit’s loins. How can they lay claim to the throne?” (Or thrones may be. I am highly confused now, as you can guess.) How mean indeed. Especially so since I in the shape of a B (I mean I as in Indra, not as in “me” by the way) refrained from pointing out that half of them had sprung out of V’s sperms and the second out of VT’s ova!! Unless of course, he was himself an MC and thought sperms, like Brahmins, had a higher position in the social ladder than ova! (Idea, idea! What is a Brahmin? A Brahmin is just an MCS, a male chauvinist sperm!!)

No sooner was this said than the first batch took up arms against the second and destroyed one another. I mean all of them ceased to exist. The news reached VT, who wept an ocean of tears. I (not “me” recall) to save himself from being drowned, decided instead to soften his heart. Or, may be, drenched in saline water, his heart turned mushy.

Whatever the cause may have been, he rushed back to VT and told her (him? — so confusing man!) the reason underlying the miseries she was undergoing. VT immediately prostrated herself (?) at I’s feet asking for forgiveness. (He was clearly in trouble. If she went on crying, he would need to board Noah’s ark!) Her crime of course was that he had ignored the jealous God without meaning to. I, it appears, was not hard to please. No wonder. He was on the point of being drowned. He grinned happily, splitting his face neatly into two halves, equal to one another in all respects (as Euclid might have observed).

And now of course, he had to offer a boon or two. “I will grant you a wish?” he said, or the two halves of his face said, inspiring more fear I suspect (I = “me” this time) than relief in the heart of the damsel in distress. At the cost of repetition, it was the damsel who was in distress (not to speak of I too of course, not me this time), but not the king on horseback who had lost his way. There was a caveat though. “I will bring your sons back to life, but not all of them. Which ones do you wish to come alive, the sperm-wallas or the ovum-wallas?”

And you know what she replied? She said she wanted the ovum-wallas. I was puzzled as well as curious. “But why so,” he asked.

VT replied, “Dear Lord, women know how to love more than men. So, the love I showered on my ova generated sons was greater than the love I was able to spare the sperm chaps, especially when I was busy producing the sperms that fathered them.”

It seems Indra was delighted by the answer. (What was so delightful about it, I don’t know. This I chap seems to me to be pretty close to being mindless. But, may be, in the old days people enjoyed laughing a lot more than we do. As civilization progresses, frowns are overtaking smiles at an ever increasing rate. Curse counting is one of the most popular of pastimes in modern societies. Even Durbasa had probably giggled every now and then. I mean, I suspect so. I as in “me” this time by the way. I know this, because I cry most of the time, unless someone begins to tickle me. And then I can’t stop laughing. Lack of balance surely.) Coming back to the story, I brought all the two hundred alive. (I mean not I as in I, but as in … Come on chap. Why do you make me repeat? What a bore you are! Will you please let me finish the story before I forget it?) In instilling life into all the two hundred, the God I was offering a discount no doubt to ensure that people visited his temple more often. (We don’t know, by the way, if the sons immediately started killing each other again.)

Fret not my friend, I am almost near the end of my story. I (the other I of course) now asked VT, “Pray, tell me what your heart craves for. Your former sperm generating self or the current ovum filled existence?”

VT replied without the slightest hesitation that she wished to continue as VT and had no desire at all to be re-transformed into V.

Once again, I, full of inquisitiveness (too nosey don’t you think), wished her to explain her choice.

The answer was: “As far as conjugal satisfaction goes, it’s the woman who enjoys the act more than the man. So, I (i.e. VT) want to continue to be a woman.”

“Tathastu,” said the God incredulously and vanished. (Whether he transformed himself to a woman to test things out, no one has found out so far.)

That’s the end of the story.

But I have a question for Vyas though. And surely you don’t know the answer to this question. I wouldn’t have known even the question had I not been an economist. You see, economists make a lot of fuss over whether satisfaction is comparable. I mean, if you and I were to eat a mango each and declare that we both liked our mangoes, who on earth can decide which one amongst us

liked it more? Did you like your mango twice as much as I? Utility is not cardinal these theorists argue. You can’t compare two persons’ utilities. So, how seriously should VT’s preference for “sleeping” in the shape of a female rather than a male be taken?

On the other hand, come to think of it, may be she did have a point. After all it was the same person (?) who had enjoyed both ways of love making. And while Indra had changed her sex, he may have kept the part of the mind that registers sexual enjoyment unaltered!.

Garrulously yours,

I = ME

I, Ghost

Amongst the many deep, dark questions I have been assailed by through the years, there is none that disturbed me more than the one concerning supernatural creatures. Yes, you have guessed it correctly. I am indeed referring to ghosts. And the question in question is: Do they really exist? I have to admit that I am still searching for an answer, which means, amongst other things, that I often find myself in uncomfortable situations. Such as wondering whether the person sitting next to me in a theatre, say, is a … you know what I mean, don’t you?

Being fair minded though, I allow my neighbour the same right that I exercise. So, when the person glares back at me with misgivings in response to my repeated furtive glances, I respond with profound humility. In fact, I am even tempted to embark upon a conversation with such people on the subject of our mutual mistrusts, simply to assure him or her that I am as much uncertain of my own true identity as I am of others’. To be precise, I am willing to admit without any hesitation whatsoever, that I could well be a ghost posing as a living being, which, needless to say, leaves enough room for the reverse possibility too. The former option, however, sounds more convincing, since ghosts are known to be particularly well-endowed with abilities to transform their shapes whenever they will, except of course for the fact that I am not exactly sure if I myself am one such spirit engaged in the bizarre gimmick.

The only reason I desist from engaging people in such profound discussions is that I am almost certain that it would precipitate undesirable consequences. Understandably enough, ghost or no, I hate being the centre of attraction, be it in praise or revulsion. Normally, Lady Luck has favoured me with all the bounty at her disposal. Even if people doubted what I really was, just as I kept doubting all the time what they were, they remained poker faced, holding their cards pretty close to their chests.

Meanwhile, the river of my life, or after life for all I know, flowed placidly. No storm, not even a ripple, till of course the fateful day when Yamini arrived.

Yamini was a stenographer. Do you know what a stenographer is? She is someone who takes dictations from dictators who are too arthritic to write or type with their own fingers and occupy enormous chambers allotted to them in recognition of their disability. Medical records confirmed that the uric acid in my blood stream had reached alarming levels and facilitated thereby my entry into the aforementioned chamber, the enormous one, in case you have lost track. I moved into my newly decorated office, consisting of an outsized desk, five empty filing cabinets, six bookshelves full of dust but empty of books, I being as uninterested in them as the three geckos who shared the room with me. There was a room-heater of course to keep me warm when I dozed off on winter afternoons. Soon, like all high officials occupying enormous c’s with attached wc’s, I fell in love with my well-appointed facilities. And Yamini, whom I hope you haven’t forgotten on account of my garrulity induced distraction, was asked to submit to my dictates along with those of others elevated to my rank.

Since the nature of my work was not clearly defined, they adorned me with a designation, somewhat in the spirit of a Minister without portfolio, a recognition granted to prevent party MP’s from bickering. In my case, they worked out a rather pompous title. I forget though what exactly it was, because it was long and convoluted, apart from containing difficult words. As far as I can reconstruct from my rapidly decaying memory, the position I held sounded somewhat as follows: “Crisis Coordinator for Devastating Predicaments in the Absence of Emergencies of any Variety At All”. Long, as I said. Even the acronym CCDPAEVAA is a strain on one’s memory. I will refer to it therefore simply as cc. If nothing else, it rhymes well with the ec and wc that went with it.

I spent most of my time in my ec staring out of the window at a tree, watching multi-coloured butterflies flutter in and out. And when that bored me to death, I started dreaming, but sometimes screaming too, as I gave out orders to less big officials when the less big officials were themselves dreaming. And the lesser ones in turn did the same to even lesser ones. This is the way the office worked, right down to the least big of officials, i.e. the doorkeeper. Everyone kept himself or herself busy either dreaming or screaming. But the poor stenographers, whom no one recognized as either big or small, remained in a state of limbo so to speak, running from office to office, scribbling down whatever got dictated, or sometimes just sitting in front of the bosses when they fell asleep.

I soon realised that one of my unwritten duties was to keep Yamini, the little stenographer, running in and out of my ec. The thin, emaciated girl with large timid eyes would rush in pencil and pad in her fragile hands, ready to take a dictation. But, I would normally forget what I wanted to dictate! Which was embarrassing for me, being a cc and all you know. I would start out with something like, “OK Yamini, take a dictation.” “Yes sir,” she would whisper reverentially, her fingers ready to fly across her notebook. And we would be in that situation for the next several minutes without one more word being spoken. With the discomfiture mounting by the seconds, I would try to salvage little bits of my dignity by starting to rock in my chair, pretending to be deeply immersed in thought. And she watched me rock, sitting rock still herself, pencil poised, in stunned silence.

After a while, I would suddenly blurt out, “Dear Mr. Jhunjhunwala, How much longer do you think you will take to realise that the half-bricks you supplied us are turning out to be utterly useless to keep monkeys away from our premises. Please be advised that our aim being atrocious, the bricks we throw usually land in neighbouring buildings, destroying glass panes and sometimes hitting people instead of the monkeys. They have now gone to court against us and we have to prove that you never supplied us any bricks at all. Don’t send us bricks any more please. Besides, do try and appreciate that all my colleagues are descended from monkeys anyway. I, being their cc, am not allowed to throw bricks at them either.”

Having proceeded this far, I would start feeling rather important and satisfied that the job was on its way towards completion. I would pause and look forward to further inspiration to complete my letter. Usually, this led to more chair rocking and Yamini would start waiting patiently once more, her eyes riveted on her notebook. Emphasis on notebook, mind you.

On one occasion however, I rocked somewhat more violently than usual, thereby disturbing the centre of gravity of the total mass comprised of the chair and its occupant. As a result, the steel chair suddenly gave way and before I knew what was happening, I found myself sitting on the floor right next to the seat of the chair, which lay detached from its legs! The incident occurred in a split second. There was associated sound and fury of course, but by the time Yamini raised her eyes from her notebook to check out the source of the noise, I had already succumbed to gravitational pull. Needless to say, she was totally taken aback. For, she discovered that the cc, who was sitting on the other side of the desk only a while ago, had simply ceased to exist! Remember now that the desk was monumental and I was sitting on the floor, completely hidden from her sight.

Well I wasn’t exactly silent either. I was simultaneously cursing Godrej or whoever it was that had designed the chairs and uttering my ooh’s and aah’s as I nursed my posterior, which was the hardest hit area of my remains. These noises, on top of my complete disappearance, did not make a favourable impact on Yamini. Like me, she too must have entertained doubts about the real identity of the people she came across in her everyday travails. It would seem that she did not quite associate the moans with my vocal chords and there being no living animal visible in the room, except for the three geckos, not to lose track of details, she concluded that the supernatural had invaded. Whereupon she backed up her discovery by loud, piercing shrieks. There was nothing but alarm in her voice as she sat petrified in her chair, pouring out her agony in clear D-sharp scale, with an intensity that would amaze even Parveen Sultana. The day had been cloudy and it was somewhat late in the afternoon. The dusk had arrived early therefore, adding the necessary finishing touches to the atmosphere.

Soon enough, the entire office had assembled in my ec. Fortunately, they discovered me, but hesitated for a while to help me rise to my feet, being taken in by Yamini’s yelling. By this time, I too had regained enough of my composure to make out the only word Yamini appeared to have left in her vocabulary. And that word was “Ghooooooooooooost”, loud and clear. She repeated it in a variety of notes of course, with a twist here and a turn there, but the solitary word remained unchanged. Good singing it was, but a bit monotonous, lyric wise I mean. The assembly debated for a while on who needed more help at that moment of time. It was Yamini who won their sympathy, because by this time she had actually fainted and definitely needed to be carried out of the room in a make shift stretcher. They called in a doctor too as I was given to understand later on, who advised her a month’s rest to recover from her shock.

I found out in the meantime that quite apart from my posterior having sustained injuries, there was a little lump in the middle of my head, arising no doubt from a collision with the wall behind my chair. So, as I caressed my bottom with my left hand and my head with the right, an intrepid colleague actually helped his cc limp into his private wc and apply a towel soaked in cold water to the lump on his head.
When faced with tricky situations, ghosts normally dissolve into empty space. From the looks I received for weeks thereafter, I was sanguine that I had failed to live up to the reputation I had acquired following the Yamini incident. The lump on my head remained stubbornly in place for a few more days and the pain in my bottom too persisted, the way it does for most people beyond their prime.

But it was Yamini who did manage to disappear. She failed to join office after her leave expired. Some say she sought transfer to a branch the office had in Coimbatore. Upon inquiries though, I discovered that the branch had long gone out of existence. Yamini, it would appear, had branded me a ghost only to melt away herself. Like “a cake of ice on a hot July day”.

And that, dear friends, completes the circle, bringing us back to the vacuous inquiry we embarked upon. Who’s who indeed in this wide, wide world?

To Puff or Not to Puff, That is the Question

Romantically inclined though I am, there are a thing or two I would never share with anyone in the universe. Leave alone with women. I don’t mean our respective beds of course. But there are boundaries I will not cross. For example, I absolutely refuse to brush my teeth with a pretty woman’s used tooth brush.

Nor would I offer mine to aid her. Now, don’t get me wrong dear. I am no stingy old Shylock. I recall, not without a touch of belated regret I admit, that I gifted an expensive collection of Rembrandt reproductions to an American girl I was dating in my youth. It was so expensive that the girl’s mother began to worry. They were Jewish and she even suggested that I convert to Judaism. I beat a hasty retreat of course and reliable sources in Israel inform me that a great grandmother had left it as a gift for the generations that followed, with a Wodehouse like cryptic inscription on the front page — ‘it might have been’.

Such were the thoughts that assailed my mind as I sat in a TV studio the other evening, waiting to be questioned on my perception of the direction towards which our much advertised economy was headed.

Now, now, don’t get me wrong. Chances are less than one in a trillion that you’ll get to watch me on TV. But once in a blue moon, they do ask me to show up and pontificate on matters of social relevance. Especially so, when the rest of the local economists are too busy helping the economy caught in a quicksand. Some of these TV guys remember me as a relatively unemployed economist and drag me to their studios to seat me in front of two objects, a camera and a monitor. The camera watches me and beams its perceptions into the monitor. In other words, the camera and I watch myself simultaneously, and believe me chaps, for someone who’s used to hip wriggling Aishwariya Rai-s on TV, watching himself in action, or even inaction, can cause acute pain. Hard realization dawns on you, as it did on the dwarf in the ‘Birthday of the Infanta’, when he saw himself through the princess’ eyes. According to Oscar Wilde, it broke his heart!

The TV chaps are aware of this tragedy I am sure and they try to treat me with as much kindness as they can afford. So, they initiate the proceedings with toiletry, engaging a young girl to apply a magic ointment on my skin, thereby producing an illusion that would deceive the smartest of sleuths from Scotland Yard. Or, hopefully so. As a preamble, she dusts my face with a miniature broomstick and then follows up with other artefacts connected to the art of making up a face. The treatment varies from station to station, but they all end up with a veneer of coloured powder applied with supreme care to every part of my countenance, including, as you might suspect, the top of my head, bereft as it is of vegetation except of the most scraggy kind.

Innocuous enough, you might tend to observe. Behind this facade of innocence though, lurks unsuspected shocks, as I discovered on the aforementioned occasion. It was a shock indeed, for I had no premonition at all of what awaited me as I whistled a light hearted tune standing alone in the elevator on my peaceful way up to the studio floor. As soon as I emerged though, I found to my disappointment that the nimble fingers of the make-up artist were already occupied with the face of an eminent politician, called upon to share the floor with me.

Like mine, his head too did not have too much to boast for itself. But unlike my pate, as I noticed with a feeling bordering on awe and marvel, a profusion of sweat beads shone on his, like the diamonds and rubies that are believed to have glittered on the walls of Sheesh-Mahal, as Anarkali faced a wrathful Emperor Akbar. He had collected these, no doubt, immediately prior to his arrival in the studio while delivering a thunderous speech in some public podium or the other. The girl of course was unaware of the resemblance and used a powder-puff to wipe off the sweat from the guy’s head prior to applying the powder itself. She wiped it dry, thoroughly so mind you, and then leaving this gentleman amply satisfied, she approached me, to my horror and dismay, with intentions that did not appear to me to be too alluring. The same brush, the same mirror, the same comb, the same everything. And, in particular, the same powder-puff, all in battle ready condition, to create illusions in the public mind that I was not who I always thought I was.

I watched her warily as she removed my glasses to apply the broom, or the brush, depending on the way you look at it. And once the intermediate steps were over, she produced the sweat soaked puff, which I was apprehending she would, to wipe my face with infinite tenderness. My first impulse was to run for my life, but the girl’s hypnotic charm held me paralysed, given my admitted weakness towards fair sex. I sat there as immobile therefore as ‘The Thinker’ of Rodin fame, deeply ruminating over the physiology of sweat glands.

And I have continued in that condition till this day, asking myself repeatedly where wisdom dictates the drawing of the line. Frankly, I am caught on the horns of a dilemma. Would I have felt disturbed if the puff had explored a fascinating Waheeda physiognomy, instead of the one it slithered over, prior to its landing on mine? I mean, you know what I mean don’t you, would Waheeda’s sweat-soaked powder-puff count the same way in my list of untouchables as her used tooth-brush? Frankly, I am not too sure.

But I am certain that I don’t want to take chances anymore. If they ever drag me over to a studio, I think I will carry my own powder-puff. My only fear though is that the girl in charge may not take too kindly to a man who carries a powder-puff in his pocket. Of course, given that I have lived through more summers than I can remember, she may not really care.

And you know what? I just received a phone call from one of those stations for an interview tonight. Oh s***! I don’t even know where they sell this puff stuff!

A Rambler in the Loo

Takamatsu
Japan
Somewhere in time

Dear Son:

Ever since I reported to you my fateful experience in a Japanese restroom, I have tried my level best to stay clear of any discussion pertaining to that subject. But, as you get older, your resolves start wavering. And then, before you know it, you are back to your infatuation, driving people nuts in the process!

So, here I am, ready to pour out profanities once more. My only defence is that it was you who inspired me this time, by lamenting over the condition of public loos in India. You touched a sensitive chord in me, my son, and there is no way you can stop the tirade anymore, short of committing patricide.

Ah! What a pleasure it is to pontificate on the subject! And what better place to expound on it, except the loo itself? Rather curious this, you know, the Japanese john. The seats are dotted with little light sources, flickering in green, red and orange! And push button switches stare at you tantalizingly when you are at the job. Yet, the explanations written underneath the switches being in Japanese, you feel wary before succumbing to the weakness of pushing one or the other. Hopefully, you might think, the arrangements reflect Japan’s progress in the technology of defecation. But, I must remind you of the immortal scene from Chaplin’s Modern Times, where they had discovered a feeding machine to cut down on workers’ lunch breaks in factories. You cannot help worrying you know. Is this a contraption to make you stop loitering in lavatories? If so, who knows what the push of an innocuous button might lead to? A kick in the bare bottom perhaps? Worse still, suppose it were to activate a centripetal force designed to drag out the contents of your sluggish bowels and, that due to some malfunctioning or the other, it pulled you in instead, lock, stock and barrel! Spending the rest of your life in Japanese sewers is not an appealing prospect, you have got to admit. Pretty close to Dante’s trip through Hell. Even a vague familiarity with the classic would have a sobering influence on ordinary mortals, and prompt them to hold their hands stiffly behind their heads while seated on the suspicious machines.

Well, that at least was the way I was using the toilets till recently. Behind the closed door, I would start out by making apologetic gestures to the bowl itself, resembling Chaplin again in his efforts to appease the boxing rival in City Lights. I dare not sit down before I thought it was adequately propitiated. And even after I succeeded in executing the act of sitting, I remained in terrified agony till I was done. All my mirth gone! No impromptu bathroom singing stirring up my vocal strings! If you were to peep in, my posture might conjure up visions of a bank hold up.

Ever since the Garden of Eden days, however, the strongest of individuals have been seduced. A weakling such as I can hardly be an exception. So, one fateful day in late autumn, I fell! I yielded to the allurement of the all too inviting switches. And discovered the truth in Mephistopheles’ advice to Dr. Faust. Give in to your worst weaknesses, boy, and there follows rich enjoyment. Such indeed was my experience. For, lo and behold! A stream of warm water spouted forth from some region inside the bowl (that I was not acrobatic enough to locate, given the position in which I sat, and imagine the rest of humanity sits when it comes to rendezvous’ with toilet bowls), and began to … ahem! But imagine my surprise as well as glee!

Once you give way to greed, there’s no end to it, as Gautama Buddha would have us believe. So, I pushed yet another switch and almost screamed in delight. The tip of the spout had begun to move around! Gone were my stiffness and fear. Hands no longer behind the head.Bottom no longer petrified. It gyrated instead, in response to the music of the gushing H2O. Or, shall we say the Blue Danube?

Waltzing about the toilet seat reminds me of the great Tailangaswamy waltzing in the Ganges. He was a hermit who, instead of choosing the woods as his hideout, had decided to live in the rivers. Ganges mainly. Was an expert swimmer by all accounts, but had this habit of popping out of the water where least expected and scaring the bathers out of their wits. Partly because he never wore any clothes and insisted on delivering sermons in that state! It appears moreover, and do please forgive me if this spoils your lunch, that he could suck in the river water through his posterior and wash his intestines! In sterile scientific terminology, he had converted involuntary into voluntary muscles. Not a product of the market economy mind you. Pure yoga and that alone!

Amazing, isn’t it? A naked Indian sadhu, performing a trick that makes Japanese technology blush. Or, for that matter, the entire West. One feels proud of the Indian heritage. Unless of course, you stop to consider the other side of the coin. Swamy was polluting river water regularly as a by-product of his yoga stunts. Worse, he inspired all Indians in his vicinity, whether they possessed yogic skills or not, to pollute rivers with impunity, by merrily washing their asses in them. Which they had been doing in any case since the beginning of creation, or at least the birth of the Ganges.

Poor Ganges, enduring it all through the ages! Come to think of it, the blame lies squarely with Vishnu and Narada. In case you haven’t heard, the latter was a Tansen of sorts among the Hindu Gods. His renowned singing simply melted his listeners. Sometimes literally, as was the case with Vishnu, or at least one of his toes. It melted we are told, while its owner was too absorbed in Narada’s singing to notice, and metamorphosing into a gigantic mass of water, went on wandering hither and thither, like a lonely meteorite lost in outer space. Till, completely by chance, it entered the earth’s atmosphere and rushed downwards at ever increasing speed, presumably under the accelerating influence of gravity. No one was around to save you and me and Vishnu was himself too groggy to undo Newtonian laws, despite the fact that a miracle was in order. Sensing which, a team of weeping Gods ran to Mahadeva and pleaded with him to find a way out of the disaster. He was moved at the sight of the lamenting G’s, who, as far as I can make out, had too few miracles in their repertoires, to be able to solve the harder problems of universe on their own. Suggests a distributional inequality in divine society. Some Gods possessing better miracle kits than others. A bit unfair, you’ve got to admit.

M’deva of course was not stingy. Didn’t mind turning on a charm or two for a common cause. So, he came out of his lair and stood under the canopy of the blue sky like a veritable Atlas, waiting to keep back the irresponsible Vishnu’s liquefied toe from crushing down on earth. M’s head, with all his matted hair, was far bigger no doubt than the monstrous proportions of the molten toe. The miniature representations of M that you see in Indian homes are but caricatures of the real one. He has to reduce his size on occasions, to fit the imaginations of nubile Bengali girls, who, since time immemorial, have been taught to pray for husbands as qualified as a dwarfed Shiva. (Apparently, your mother too went through a lot of such rituals in her youth. The result, alas, was me!!) He was so big indeed that when he came out of his den, there was no place left for anyone else. Imagine how big his den was then. This now is a problem again. I seem to be caught between Scylla and Carbides. To save humanity from imminent destruction, M had to assume his full size, but this itself left no place for human beings either. My knowledge of mythology is too limited. So, I don’t know how the Hindus solved the puzzle. The scientifically minded might appeal to Einstein’s theory of an expanding universe. But the rest had better take recourse in nineteenth century romantic poetry, and agree to exercise a wilful suspension of disbelief. In other words, don’t be a bloody bore. Simply assume away the problem and proceed. Which I will.

Just when the holy T was about to submerge creation, M imposed a blockade. The water mass got completely trapped in his hair and could not find its way out. Everyone concerned heaved a sigh of relief and peace returned toearth. (I seem to recall that they plagiarized the idea of a large mass of water in one of Steve Reeves’ Superman films.)

Unfortunately, the poor kid was not allowed to remain concealed for too long. One King Bhagirath found out about her abode and began to grumble that civilization was on the verge of destruction, this time due to a shortage of water. No water to be found anywhere, except for that huge mass of untapped resource, tucked away in M’s hairy crest. By now, M had gone blue under the colossal weight on his head anyway. He must have been only too relieved therefore to unburden himself. Thus, the Ganges you and I know was eased out of Shiva’s head by Bhagirath and carefully guided through the drought-ridden plains of North India. Being a little pompous himself, the chap even called a part of the river Bhagirathi.

It didn’t take T’swamy and his tribe too long to discover the diverse purposes for which they could use the river. Given the choice, I am sure that Ganges would have preferred to freeze back to her pristine state, as Vishnu’s missing toe. But that was not possible, since V didn’t miss his T, as far as I can tell. Nor was M gullible enough to offer his head a second time for her to roost in. Instead, she had to find solace in the fact that she was decreed as unpollutable. The holiest of holies! Do what you like, you can’t defile her. Tonsure your head, take a dip in the river and voila! Your soul is purified forever, even if your body emerges with a dead frog clinging to your chest.

If the stench disturbs you in your quest for purity, it must be an aberration of your mind. As was the case when you visited a public utility in the not too distant past. Wondering, are you, what this last bit means? I guess I have to draw your attention to the scriptures. Appearance, they say, must by all means be distinguished from the essence. The material world around us is merely an illusion, be it the infinite variety of Gangetic scum or the gruesome sight of public conveniences. I actually read about it in a collection of pamphlets called the Upanishads. I am not sure of course if this is what they really said, because it’s one of the most difficult exercises I have ever subjected my poor brain to. Left me devastated for many weeks, till I found out that there were popular versions of the book also, for simpletons like me. The one I located was called the Bhagvad-Geeta. Don’t believe a word though of what they say about this book. It is no more user friendly than its predecessors. Far from making life easier to pursue, it asked me to perform a task that was horrendously difficult: to remain equally undisturbed in happiness and sorrow! I mean, whether it was an Income Tax Officer who summoned me, or Madhuri Dixit. That was the limit I thought. And recall that the Upanishads added on to this an inane corollary: the dissimilarity we perceive between your loo and mine is purely imaginary. Because, nothing actually exists. May be even you and I don’t. Descartes notwithstanding. Cogito without sum!Hey man! The very notion makes me miss a heartbeat, assuming of course that there is a heart for its miserable beat to be missed.

Perhaps M should have kept his philanthropic propensities at bay and let V’s toe carry out the destruction. That would preclude the existence, amongst lesser beings, of polluters of public johns, and amongst greater ones, of polluters of public minds. Those who scare innocent onlookers by spinning ontological paradoxes. Of course, in that event, the Brahmanda itself would have gone up in smoke. And along with it, the anda-s that fertilized into you and me. But then, what’s the point of creating a guy, merely to make him fret day and night that he may not have been created after all?

See what’s happened? Only a minute ago, I was enjoying my solitude, harmlessly pushing buttons here and there. Watching the multicoloured lights blink. Singing paeans to the potty. Not a care in the world. And now someone’s come out with the loony idea that I may not even be! Oh yes! M should definitely have left Vishnu’s toe alone.

And indeed, this is not the only instance of Monsieur Shiva’s indiscretions. On another occasion, he struck terror in the hearts of many by pampering a wicked, wicked chap called Illwal. Had it not been for the self sacrificing Agastya, I wonder where some of us would be hiding today. Possibly deep inside Veerappan’s jungles. In the interest of mankind, Ag’y boy even committed a supremely impolite act in public. But that story, with its sound and fury, must wait for later.

Tons of love.

Dad

Divine Routes to Sexual Harrassmet

I felt hopelessly lonely as soon as I opened my eyes this morning and noticed the first rays of sunshine illuminating me at my bovine best. They had lit me up I felt with the sole purpose of helping the world ignore me with unadulterated indifference. I moaned as usual and was close to humming a doleful melody set to Raga Bhimpalasi, when I suddenly recalled that there were creatures in this world that could well have given me tough competition.

I wiped the tears off immediately and treated myself to a cup of the finest Darjeeling. I always do such things when excitement takes hold of my senses. I mean wipe tears and drink tea. (That reminds me of this phony chap assuming a holy guise in Dostoyevsky’s “Devils” who used to do something similar. When excited, he would drink samovars full of tea and snatch away at the same time the tea cups from folks he didn’t like. There are lots of people I dislike of course, but they were not around today for me to snatch tea cups away from. Come to think of it, this could also have made me feel more lonely than usual.)

Coming back to this creature who could well have been my competitor, it appears that he was known as IL. And let me assure you that I felt as lonely as IL and absolutely no one else but IL. Unfortunately though, I don’t even know how to pronounce this name. It could be ILL or Eel for all I know. I can’t be sure. In the first case, the guy would have ended up in a hospital and in the second he must have been far too slippery to be held in harness anywhere in this universe, leave alone a hospital.

As I said, we were never introduced and for whatever my guesses are worth, he was known either as इल or இல் depending on which side of the Vindhyas you were born in the first place. Now you have to decide how you wish to address him. Whatever you do, I have to tell you first what I have found out about his antecedents. He was the son of a King called Kardamaprajapati (What a horrifying name!) and originated in a geographical territory called Vahlik. Don’t ask me where that is, I never told you that I was a David Livingstone. In fact, I could be far closer to a David Deadstone than a Living one.

In any case, IL was a Prince according to the Padma Purana and on a fateful day he had felt lonelier than the loneliest of beings (not excluding Wordsworth, who according his own admission, had once wandered as lonely as a mass of vaporized H2O of all things). This led him (I mean IL, not W) to launch a hunting expedition. Mrigaya, as they used to call such ventures in the past. It puzzles me you know. Why should you wish to kill things if living company was what you desired?

Well, there are more things in heaven and earth guys/gals than are in your philosophy.

To proceed with this lonely chap’s curious adventure, he landed in an area where the Lord Kartikeya was born. It was a dense jungle it seems. Why on earth, I wouldn’t know. I mean Devi Durga surely deserved a well-equipped maternity home. On the other hand, if you want to view the situation somewhat optimistically, with the miracle master Shiva in charge, it is improbable that Durga suffered more labour pains than Angelina Jolie (say) in a maternity home reserved for the ultra rich (in Nice, France I am told).

Once again, not to confuse you unnecessarily, it is about the lonely IL that we are talking, not Kartikeya. Indeed the latter has absolutely no role to play in this bizarre tale. Shiva himself was around though when IL arrived. Not only was he around, he was actually entertaining Parvati by playing a game with her. What the nature of the game was, I couldn’t find out, but there’s one thing about which I am more than sure. All the authorities agree that to please Parvati, Shiva had assumed a female form. Not only so, he ensured that the entire forest had turned female! The animals, the trees, the flowers, the rivers, … literally all living and non-living objects. How terrifying indeed! Female stones holding kitty parties over cookies, coke and social gossip! Now don’t ask me why Parvati wished her husband to assume a female form. I don’t know the answer to this difficult question, but Shiva, undoubtedly, was capable of satisfying her desire.

And when all this was going on, the unwary LIL arrived. I know that these acronyms I have a habit of inflicting on people are most irritating. So let me explain, even if you are not asking for an explanation, that the first of the L’s in LIL stands for “lonely”. This post is all about loneliness.

Recall now that Shiva had ordained everything in the neighbourhood to turn female. (Laloo and Mulayam would be furious to hear about this.) Consequently, LIL too metamorphosed into an LW, (“W = woman” should you be wondering) for no fault of his.

He appears not to have been too happy to have undergone the transformation and rushed to Shiva and pleaded for mercy. But Shiva was mighty displeased to have been discovered in a Kanjivaram saree (wearing a gold necklace, complete with nose and earrings, though the story doesn’t tell us who was wearing the Mangalsutra – the Lord or the Lady?). I think the cause of his irritation lay in the fact that he preferred to parade in a semi-naked state in the company of anti-socials like Nandi and Vringi in grass smoking joints located near cremation grounds.

Well this saree clad Shiva ranted and raved for a while, but was finally pacified. Yet, mercilessly enough, and even after much imploring, he agreed to grant any boon that IL (or LW, in case you’ve forgotten) prayed for, except the one he really wished to be granted. No, he couldn’t change back to a man! Shiva you see was feeling unusually mean at this point of time.

Alas! LIL sat in an LC shedding gallons of tears till he was visited by a brain wave. (LC = lonely corner, should you be interested. LC mind you, not WC. Oh no! WC does not stand for a Water Closet. Don’t be so unromantic friend. It’s Wordsworth’s Cloud that I was talking about.) Yes, the brain wave of course. He remembered that Madam Durga too could possibly grant a boon or two. May be not as powerful as Shiva’s, but a semi-powerful b is better than no b at all, right?

No sooner did this idea strike him than he swam ashore from the OoT where he lay submerged (Ha, ha! I am not going to explain to you what Oot is. Sweat it out friend. It’s explained further down somewhere!). He rushed to P Devi and fell at her feet pleading that she save him from perishing in womanhood for the rest of his life. Look, don’t object to the word “perishing”. It was an expression that IL employed, remember? Not I. I am no woman hater, even when woman hated.

Now Durga, being a member of the fair sex, had a heart not incapable of compassion. So, she agreed to fulfil a part of IL’s wishes. “My husband has granted you half a boon, I will grant you the other half. Tell me what it is that you wish for.”

I never understood exactly what the 1/2 b was. I thought S had offered LIL an fb (fb = full boon, not feedback silly). No? Well may be the caveat the boon contained, I mean the “Man – no, no” part, made the b less than f. But why 1/2 and not some other fraction, such as 13/17? Why not an irrational number for that matter? Deep philosophical question I guess. Sorry friend, I can’t satisfy your curiosity. Ask the scholars.

IL took little time to figure out the 1/2 b he wanted most. “Merciful Goddess, grant me then my manhood every other month.”

“Tathastu!” said the G-Lady.

And thus began IL’s yet another lonesome journey through life. He had to be careful and keep an anxious watch over the calendar. As events transpired, you see, in IL’s womanly state she turned into a rather desirable object in the eyes of Budha, the son of no less a God than Chandra himself. And Budha wouldn’t let go of her till she conceived and gave birth to a son called Pururava. (This Pururava chap too was quite clown as we found out during our <a href=”http://cms.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&amp;sd=Articles&amp;ArticleID=9622″>pursuit of love</a>.) As a man he fathered three other sons, one known as Shashavindu. No family planning yaar.

You realize of course, don’t you, that the chap (or “chapey”, pronounce the “ch” as in champagne and you’ll know what I mean) was literally shivering in fear. What happens if she turns into a man just when the child is about to be born? Or, for that matter, the same could happen when she was engaged in the act of you know what, right? The partner, being a man, would not be too happy to discover that he had gone to sleep with a woman in his arms and ended up embracing a hairy beast when he woke up next morning!

IL was obviously much too adamant and absolutely insisted on turning back into a man. Had he taken the Vangasvana attitude, life could have been easier for him. (Just wait a while, I will begin rambling about Vangasvana soon enough.) Fortunately though, his story too has a happy ending. The mighty sages, Vashishth and Chyavan, came to aid apparently and prevailed upon Shiva to do the needful.

But now that I have brought in Vangasvana, it would be unfair to leave you scratching your heads. So, at the risk of making this story too long, let me tell you what I found out. It is picked up from the Anushasana Parva in the Mahabharata. It was Grandpa Vishma apparently who related the story to Yudhishthira. (I can’t prove this of course, but sometimes you can save time and energy by exercising a wilful suspension of disbelief.)

Vangasvana it seems was a pious King. He was childless and performed the Agnishtuta Yajna to please God Agni and the latter, having been amply appeased, granted not one, not two, not even three, but a hundred sons (mind you, no daughters) to the Rajarshi.

Now, it so happened that the Yajna in question was directed towards satisfying Lord Agni alone. And this fact pissed off no less a God than Indra himself. He was mad as hell. See how mean and envious the Gods were? Always counting curses! To take it out on poor Vangasvana, he created a magic spell and made the chap lose his way. He was tired as hell and landed near a lake. He made his thirsty horse drink the water and took a plunge into the lake to cool himself off.

Wonder of wonders, he emerged from the lake changed into a female!! A result of Indra‘s trick of course. According to the Mahabharata, her (his?) shame knew no bound, as would obviously be the case for any woman who finds herself in a state of total undress in the middle of nowhere in full view of no less a witness than a horse! Nonetheless, she returned back to the Palace. (Now don’t you get ideas. She found clothes to wear before she undertook her journey to the Palace. Women’s clothes I mean. Where did she find the stated clothes? I don’t know. Why can’t you stop asking silly questions man? They make me lose my concentration.) No one recognized him there of course, given that it was her they saw and not him, but they believed the story. Especially so since “he” (i.e. the once upon a time “he”) abdicated the throne, which the transformed “she” probably had no right to. But then, there were no lawyers around to point out the legal complications. She asked all his one hundred sons to rule in tandem. (I wonder how simple the latter act would be though. The UPA Government at Delhi has fewer than ten parties to share the throne amongst themselves and look what they are doing to one another with each passing day!!)

The sexually transformed Vangasvana disappeared thereafter inside the depth of a forest where a willing hermit was waiting in horny anticipation. They started to live together. (Nowadays, the forests are inhabited by the Maoists alone and I don’t know what could have happened if she turned into a Maoist. She could cause a worry or two for Chidambaram at the Centre and Bhattacharya closer to my home. Incidentally, do you think Mr. Bhattacharya‘s nemesis is descended from VT (Vangasvana Transformed)?)

The hermit and VT began to live together. But living together usually involves a corollary. Sleeping together. The corollary it seems worked with a vengeance, for soon enough the voluptuous VT conceived. And, as was V‘s wont, VT too produced exactly one hundred sons. (Sons again, no daughters. What an MCP world! Makes me sick.)

Well VT goes back now to her first litter of a hundred sons (Confusion again, her or his litter?) and tells them that the empire needs to be shared between all the two hundred kids!! (The lawyers are yelling and screaming now, I am sure.) More fragmentation. Which would probably have meant that each son ruled there onwards over a square inch of land. (But then this is India. Population over a billion. And they were a mere two hundred, though the signal was clear.) I think the children were somewhat dim-witted and failed to see the absurdity of the situation.

Trouble started needless to say. Not on account of the sons, for, as I said, they were not particularly well-endowed with grey cells. Actually, the same old Indra threw up a tantrum, lamenting to himself that in trying to get V into trouble, he had ended up making him happier. Quite clearly, the sons were living in peace and harmony, despite the number of kings in the kingdom exceeding the number of subjects.

Indra the vicious, now posed as a Brahmin (I know not why a Brahmin was called for by the way) and approached the sons. He poisoned the minds of the first hundred with the following piece of undeniable logic: “You are the sons of the erstwhile King. The newcomers are the fruits of a hermit’s loins. How can they have any claim on the throne?” (Or thrones may be. I am highly confused now, as you can guess.) How nasty indeed. Especially so since Indra in the shape of a B refrained from pointing out that half of them had sprung out of V’s sperms and the second out of VT’s ova!! Unless of course, he was himself an MC and thought sperms, like Brahmins, had a higher position in the social ladder than ova! (Idea, idea! What is a Brahmin? A Brahmin is just an MCS, a male chauvinist sperm!!)

No sooner was this said than the first batch took up arms against the second and destroyed one another. I mean all of them ceased to exist.

The news reached VT, who wept an ocean of tears (yes, yes, OoT, you got it right). Indra to save himself from being drowned, decided instead to soften his heart. Or, may be, drenched in saline water, his heart turned mushy.

Whatever the cause may have been, he rushed back to VT and told her (him? — so confusing man!) the reason underlying the miseries she was undergoing. VT immediately prostrated herself (?) at Indra‘s feet asking for forgiveness. (He was clearly in trouble. If she went on crying, he would need to board Noah’s ark!) Her crime of course was that in her male incarnation she had ignored the jealous God without meaning to. Indra, it seems, was not hard to please. No wonder. He was on the point of being drowned. He grinned happily, splitting his face neatly into two halves, equal to one another in all respects (as Euclid might have observed).

And now of course, he had to offer a boon or two. “I will grant you a wish?” he said, or the two halves of his face said, inspiring more fear one suspects than relief in the heart of the damsel in distress. At the cost of repetition, it was the damsel who was in distress (not to speak of Indra too of course), not the king on horseback who had lost his way. There was a condition though. “I will bring your sons back to life, but not all of them. Which ones do you wish to live, the sperm-wallas or the ovum-wallas?”

And you know what she replied? She said she wanted the ovum-wallas. Indra was puzzled as well as curious. “But why so,” he asked. VT replied, “Dear Lord, women know how to love more than men. So, the love I showered on my ova generated sons was greater than the love I was able to spare the sperm chaps, especially when I was busy producing the sperms that fathered them.”

It seems Indra was delighted by the answer. (What was so delightful about it, I don’t know. This chap seems to me to be pretty close to being mindless. But, may be, in the old days people enjoyed laughing a lot more than we do. As civilization progresses, frowns are overtaking smiles at an ever increasing rate. Curse counting is one of the most popular of pastimes in modern societies. Even Durbasa had probably giggled every now and then. I mean, I suspect so. I know this, because I cry most of the time, unless someone begins to tickle me. And then I can’t stop laughing. Lack of balance I guess.) Coming back to the story, Indra brought all the two hundred alive. In instilling life into all the two hundred, the God was offering a discount no doubt to ensure that people visited his temple more often. (We don’t know, by the way, if the sons immediately started killing each other again.)

Fret not my friend, I am almost near the end of my story. Indra now asked VT, “Pray, tell me what your heart craves for. Your former sperm generating self or the current ovum filled existence?”

VT replied without the slightest hesitation that she wished to continue as VT and had no desire at all to be re-transformed into V. Once again, Indra, full of inquisitiveness (too nosey don’t you think), wished her to explain her choice.

The answer was: “As far as conjugal satisfaction goes, it’s the woman who enjoys the act more than the man. So, I want to continue to be a woman.”

“Tathastu,” said the God incredulously, falling back on the most widely used word in divine vocabulary, and vanished. (Whether he changed his sex to test things out, no one has found out so far.)

That’s the end of the story. But I have a question for Vyas though. And surely no one knows the answer to it. I wouldn’t have known even the question had I not been an economist. You see, economists make a lot of fuss over whether satisfactions are comparable. I mean, if you and I were to eat a mango each and declare that we both liked our mangoes, who on earth can decide which one amongst us liked it more? Did you like your mango twice as much as I? Utility is not cardinal these theorists argue. You can’t compare two persons’ utilities. So, how seriously should VT’s preference for “sleeping” in the shape of a female rather than a male be taken?

On the other hand, come to think of it, may be she did have a point. After all it was the same person who had enjoyed both ways of love making. And while Indra had changed her sex, he may have kept the part of the mind that registers sexual enjoyment unaltered!

In Pursuit of Love

I have to admit that I do not feel too confident about this thing I just discovered, but now that the Right to Information Act is supposed to be in place, I can’t hold it back from you anymore. Those amongst you who haven’t already heard about this could even send me to jail for suppressing information. And I hate jails, because I suspect that the toilets there bear an alarming resemblance to the ones the TV guys claim they found at the CWG venue.

Actually, it was Max Mueller who turned out to be ultimately responsible for the unenviable position I find myself in. You see, he claimed that the Sun is no other than Pururava and the end of the night is Urvashi. This piece of information got me hopelessly worried, since I didn’t understand the venerable old man. What do I do? Keep it to myself or share it with the rest of the world? If I didn’t then Right to Information would be after me, if I did people could simply put me inside a straitjacket and send me over to a loony home, or, worse, to the CWG itself.

Consequently, I stayed up all night burning midnight oil to find out what Max buddy was pontificating about. Well, it seems you see, that a guy called Moon had eloped with a woman called Star (Tara) who was already married to yet another guy called Jupiter. Doesn’t look like Jupiter was particularly upset about the loss of his wife and let Moony carry on his Starry affair, which resulted in a child called Mercury. Mercury in turn married a woman called Ila and, this is where Max Muller comes in, because Ila gave birth to a son called Pururava.

So far so good though, because all the people involved appeared to be living in peace and harmony, including Jupiter himself, who could well have acquired several other wives after losing his beloved Tara. (If this was the same Jupiter they often refer to in Greek mythology, then he was quite a womanizer.)

Trouble started soon however, since before one knew what was happening, a female called Urvashi pierced out of Narayana’s thigh [uru (=the thigh) + vash (=to dominate) + a (= active voice) + ee (= feminine gender)]. I am not exactly sure where Narayana comes in here. I mean it could have been anyone’s thigh as far as grammar goes. I don’t have the information, so the courts won’t entertain you on this ground. Let me proceed therefore to reveal the rest of the events.

Well, anyone who is born the Urvashi way is likely to cause a good deal of problems. It appears that the King Pururava was once invited to Lord Indra’s dance hall where Urvasahi was performing. “How come this Indra chap never invites me to these shows?” I asked myself feeling peeved you know. Pat came the answer. King P was a mighty handsome chap, so handsome indeed that Urvashi felt she was probably falling head over heels in love with him at first sight. Not only so, she even missed a step or two in her dance programme. And this made Indra far too mad to keep under control his cupboard full of curses. “I banish thee to Earth,” yelled he at Urvashi, somewhat in the same spirit in which Hamlet had hit Ophelia with his “Get thee to a nunnery” speech.

Urvashi landed safely on earth, but a nunnery was the last place in her list of tourist spots. She went instead to the first one, viz. P’s residence and demanded that he marry her. Recall though that she had only pondered over the possibility of falling in love with him. Even she didn’t know if she was truly in love. The clever girl therefore demanded that he hug her no more than three times a day. (P could have hugged her only once a day and refused to un-hug you know. I am almost sure that she set a ceiling on the duration of each hug. Hmm… clever female.) The second condition she imposed was that he would not sleep with her unless she wanted him to. This was a bit of a torture, you’ve got to admit. And third, she absolutely refused to let him shed his clothes in her presence. The second and the third of her stipulations put together could make you wonder, but I won’t proceed further in that direction. However, I do think her love was somewhat suspect.

Yes, P agreed of course and lived with his wife for many years and they didn’t procreate, which is no surprise, given the contract. In the meantime, the Gandharvas in Heaven were getting impatient. They wanted Urvashi back where she belonged and ended up hatching a deep dark plan. It started with two lambs of all things, which they came over and tied to Urvashi’s bed. Just imagine, she allowed two lambs in her bed, but not her husband. Poor h! The lambs were her darlings, not so the h. P shrugged patiently as far as I could make out. The G’s, however, were less than patient. They managed to steal one of the pair of lambs in the middle of the night. Terrible! Buying a gift only to snatch it away! Urvashi was a light sleeper I guess and she found out about her loss in no time at all and pleaded with her husband that he retrieve her lost property. But P, though not sharing U’s bed, was not wearing any clothes on that night either. In his hurry, he forgot all about this and chased the thieves in the same state in which Archimedes was supposed to have run Eureka-ing.

Ha! the G’s were waiting for just this. They asked the clouds, which I guess were under Lord Indra’s control, to loudly thunder and send down a piece of lightening to reveal to the whole world, not just to Urvashi I mean, that P was not only running amok, but he was doing so in a state of stark “unfrock”.

The trick worked alas and Urvashi’s ticket for the return journey to Heaven was ready. P’s pleadings went in vain, which suggests, doesn’t it, that U was not really in love? Besides Lord Indra must have been in league with the G’s, or else, who issued U the visa to enter Heaven?

Anyway, P travelled far and wide till one day he discovered Urvashi in company with a few other Apsaras disguised as swans and floating on a lake. A man in love being a man in love, Pururava had no difficulty in spotting the right swan during this identification parade. Once again, having attained considerable expertise as a pleader by now, P began to plead. But Urvashi was hard to convince. (She had lost track of her dance steps, but not really her heart, to repeat my suspicion.) Finally, after being treated to the choicest garnishings of coaxing and cajoling, sprinkled in profusion over plates full of pleadings, she agreed to see him once every year and kept her promise for seven consecutive years, each year giving birth to a son. And believe me or not, the Pururava Municipality even has a record of their names: Ayu, Amavasu, Vishwayu, Srutayu, Drirhayu, Valayu and Shatayu. All ending in u’s notice. The naming could have been inspired by the fact that the whole affair began with a U too.

Ultimately though, the Gandharvas permitted them full husband wife status after performing a whole lot of other tests all of which P passed with flying colours. It seems they lived that way till the rest of eternity. So, unless eternity is over, you’ll find them blissfully in each other’s arms and don’t ask me how many children they have produced in the meantime, leave alone their names. That information they have doggedly refused to reveal.

I would have been happy to have left them alone you know but for this Max Mueller guy. He claimed Pururava represents the Sun and Urvashi the early Dawn. With the rising of the sun, a poorly lit dawn gets absorbed completely by the sunrays. Urvashi is the last vestige of darkness and Pururava is the arrival light! The love tale of Pururava and Urvashi symbolizes the victory of light over darkness. If Max Mueller is to be believed, then it is Love alone that makes Life survive.

Well folks, I have not concealed any information from you at all. If any questions still remain, you have to find the answers for yourself.

Ye Olde Herbivores!

 My wife is a diehard fish eater. Most Bengali women are, in fact, created that way. I enjoy my fish too, but not the same way that she does. For her, a fish-less day bears a precarious resemblance to the hapless day Yudhishthira encountered hell. And believe me, she enjoys her fish to the last fish-bone she crushes, chews and extracts the juice out of!

I love my food, non-vegetables included, but I’m not an expert in the food technology. It’s she who loves buying the raw materials for the delicious victuals she prepares. And I cannot help admiring the ecstasy in her eyes when she dances back home with what she calls a live fish, even when it looks a dead as a doormat!  

“It was still jumping,” she informed me with unadulterated excitement this morning, meaning thereby that it was gasping and struggling for life when its flesh was being weighed prior to being slaughtered. Believe me friends, such live fish are the tastiest of them all.  

I know of course that I shall enjoy the fish curry she will prepare. Yet, I need to admit that she made me worry, the same way I worry to distraction every other time she succeeds in laying her hands on “live” fish. On all such occasions, I temporarily put on a vegetarian-hat and ask the question that people have asked ever since human beings were created.

“Do I have the right to destroy a thing that I can’t create, especially one that has never done me any harm?” Quite obviously, I know the answer only too clearly, as clearly indeed as I have known it the innumerably many times the question blocked my way. I can’t possibly evade the grim reality of the answer. The result is that I begin to bother  myself with other inane questions. Such as, “Does God exist? If he does, then will I not be answerable to him on the day they push me inside the crematorium?” Assuming of course that God will keep me company inside the burning chamber.

And the contradiction in my daily existence continues. Like any other animal eater, I do enjoy sinking my teeth into well-cooked flesh. And there is no end to the variety of meat that I have partaken of. I am no cannibal of course, but I have rarely shirked from eating exotic delicacies offered to me across the world. Fish, yes, any kind indeed, from large to small, cooked as well as raw fish Japanese style. Meat too, though I have got to admit that I’ve never eaten a cat or a dog and I did shudder when I learnt about a delicacy from the Far East prepared with cats’ eyes. I understand that a row of eyes, exotically garnished, stare at you from the middle of the finest bone China when they serve you the meal.

Nor, for that matter, have I ever tried to taste a tiger, alive or dead. And this thought, I mean chewing over (Ha, ha, what a silly pun!) tigers, lions, hyenas and the all the rest of the dreaded carnivores (leaving aside predatory human-eatarians needless to say), brings me pretty close to the heart of this gastro-philosophical discourse. I find myself trapped in fact in the Socratic Method of Elenchus, or dialectics if you will.  

“Isn’t the tiger engaged in the same sin that I commit everyday?” ask I, doffing the veggie-hat.

“No, it isn’t,” answer I to myself, this time donning the vh.

“Why not pray?” say I, vh-less.

“I hope you mean pray and not prey. Or else, I’ll call you a dirty scoundrel next time,” I reply vh back in place. 

“That’s what happens to veggies. They forget polite language. Ok, I will call you a rotten veggie instead. Well, tell me rv, why isn’t the tiger sinning?” I reiterate, baring my pate.

“Simple answer, ds! God didn’t endow the tiger with a mind that can ask ethical or moral questions. He didn’t deprive you of one, even though you happen to be a ds. Use that mind and ask. You can survive on vegetables alone. In fact, quite apart from moral questions, I doubt that tigers can digest grass. They are physiologically different.” I the vh gives I the non-vh a ds, this last ds being an acronym for dirty smile. Sorry, I am running out of acronyms.

“Idiot! Do you know that my wife can’t survive on vegetables alone? Like the tigress, she is physiologically different. And now, don’t you make snide remarks about my wife. It will arouse the cannibal in me,” I growled, imitating as well as I could a hungry leopard who has spotted a lonesome goat. “And remember, cannibals prefer vegetarians to non-veggies.”

“Look, don’t bring wives into this discussion. Women are beautiful creatures. That compensates for everything else.” Vh was clearly on the defensive.  

“Good,” say I to I, somewhat placated. “Don’t say anything against non-veggies. It will implicate my pretty wife.” I grinned, my teeth in full view of myself, a reminder of possible cannibal propensities.

Veggie fell silent at this juncture, partly scared, but more importantly attracted by a little news item. In fact, the non-veggie I actually pointed it out to him. He was literate I found as he read it with the speed of lightening. Here is the unedited clipping.

“The Daily Telegraph, London, Dec. 5. Garden vegetables such as tomatoes and potatoes have been found to be deadly killers on a par with Venus fly traps, according to research.

Botanists have discovered for the first time that the plants are carnivorous predators who kill insects in order to ‘self-fertilise’ themselves.

New research shows that they capture and kill small insects with sticky hairs on their stems and then absorb nutrients through their roots when the animals decay and fall to the ground.

It is thought that the technique was developed in the wild in order to supplement the nutrients in poor quality soil — but even domestic varieties grown in your vegetable patch retain the ability.

The killer plants have been identified as among a host of species that are thought to have been overlooked by botanists and explorers searching the world’s remotest regions for carnivorous species.

The number of carnivorous plants is thought to have been underestimated by up to 50 per cent and many of them have until now been regarded as among the most benign of plants.”

“Ye Olde Herbibore,” guffawed Ye Olde Carnivore, “What sayst thou to this bit of intelligence? Are you ethically justified in eating a potato?”

There was no reply. I looked around. Not a sign of the vh. He had melted into thin air. Total silence reigned, if you agreed to ignore the light snore my pw was producing as she blissfully dreamed her way into the hilsa filled Haldia world.

Peace at last. Like Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux, I think I am finally at peace with God. I don’t think I have any conflict with humanity either, but then this may be a contentious issue. It all depends, as the wise might say, on your point of view.