The Bold King, The Wise Minister And The Evil Citizens – Short fiction


The Bold King, The Wise Minister And The Evil Citizens.

imsai-arasan

The king was bored, truly bored. He had, ever since he had clawed his bloody way over to the throne subduing all internal opposition and dissent had true peace for once as he had also subdued almost all the neighboring countries under his rule. Just sheer gossip that he was amassing an army to invade often forced the neighboring countries to surrender immediately and offer up tribute to stave off the invasion. For they knew all about him and his barbarian ways and knew they could expect no pity from this man who had risen up from the dregs of society by his sheer bloodthirsty ways to become a warlord who ruled over all the lands with fear as his main weapon, lands which had once despised his kind but forced to now kowtow to him. And like all uneducated barbarians who rose to be kings by the power of their bloodthirsty swords this king too depended on the advice of a learned minister to take care of the day to day ruling of the empire the details of which bored him immensely. As long as the palace coffers were full and as long as there were enemies who could be beheaded, hung or burned alive the king did not bother to think about anything else. The minister, the kings right hand man as it were, was like all educated men forced to serve barbarian’s to survive, secretly hated and despised the king for his bloodthirsty attitude and was merely waiting for the chance which one day, the minister often assured himself, the barbarians idiocy would offer him on a platter, a chance to destroy and replace the king on the throne where the educated minister was sure he could perform better. And his chance came that day.

The king as we said was bored, and being bored wanted to be amused. He called his minister and asked “tell me minister is the country happy? Are the people happy?” to which the crafty minister replied “of course your kingship, the country is happy and the people, they are very happy”. The king frowned for of course this was not the answer he had expected to hear so he asked the minister “but why?”. The minister hesitated a moment to ponder whether this was a trick question before answering “well, because the nation is at peace, we have no enemies. The people are all prosperous and rich and that makes them happy”. The king thought this over and asked in a puzzled tone “the people are rich? The people of this country?” and the minister began to fear the tone of the king in the conversation and hurriedly said “yes your kingship, we have conquered all the surrounding lands and there is peace and prosperity everywhere. At last all our people are free to work hard, make money and grow rich”. The king went on to ask “but what about taxes? Don’t they pay taxes? How can they be rich then?” the minister now understanding the way the kings mind was working went on to say “of course your kingship the people are paying all the taxes we have thought up. But what to do, these people, these peasants, are hardworking, sincere and very industrious. The more we tax them and take away their money the more these people work day and night to save money”. But the king was still not satisfied “but how can they be rich? That means that we are not taxing enough if they have money enough to be rich even after paying taxes”.

The crafty minister smiled at this and said “but your kingship, you forget one thing, these cunning peasants never tell us how much they earn in truth for us to tax properly. It’s all about parallel economy and black money with those beggars. They never tell the truth of their incomes and earnings to our sincere soldiers who go for tax collections daily. If a potter sells ten pots a day he pays tax on nine pots only and saves the money he makes on the last pot for the day he falls ill and cannot make a single pot. Similarly that old woman who sells idlis for a living says she had sold fifty idlis a day when in fact she sells sixty, hoping to save that money for a rainy day when she cannot stand in the rains and sell any idlis because the customers avoid coming out in the rains. These people are all cheats your kingship, they are selfish and avaricious and they lie boldly to the hard working tax collectors about how much they have saved for calamities like rainy days or sickness or any family emergencies. Almost all these peasants and farmers have stacks of coins-one annas and two annas- tied up in old bed sheets under their beds. That’s how rich they are.”

The king was incensed on hearing this “they are rich, are they? How dare they be rich? How can they be rich in a country where I rule? Don’t they know that I despise money? I never had any money yet I became king through my talents. I want to punish them – punish them all severely minister. Shall we hang them all in the market place for hoarding black money?” The minister at last had the chance he had been waiting years for, the chance to get rid of this barbarian king once and for all. In a slow whisper he went on to say “I have a better idea my king. These people with their one anna and two anna coins think they are rich. Even if you hang them they will die happy thinking that they die rich. The only way to properly punish them is to make them poor. Make them beggars again. Show them that even hard work and industry is not enough to make someone rich in our country. Show them that if they are born poor they can only die poor and never better themselves. Make them despair of ever improving their lives” The king was pleased with this advice as it was what he believed in wholeheartedly “How? How? Tell me minister, how to make the whole country poor, so I can be the only rich man in this country?” The minister with a significant look at the king said “my lord, people think they are rich because they have money in their hands- so break their confidence on money itself. Just declare that all money today onwards is worthless and you can beggar the whole country in minutes. Then you and only you will be a rich man my king, while everyone else will be left holding worthless pieces of metals, those beggars.”

And the king who did not have the benefit of a proper education and never learned the concept of thinking things through which is the benefit of a proper education, by a single decree declared all money worthless and beggared his nation and people at one stroke. And the aftermath of this act was filled with tragedy and pathos and many deaths which is a tale to be told on another day.

KALI KALAM- When Kali Plays Havoc -A Short Play.


KALI KALAM- When Kali Plays Havoc -A Short Play.

kali-kalam

Act 1- At A Betrothal Function

Act 1- Scene 1

Mr.Ramanujam’s house- 7Pm in the evening. There are lots of guests seated about and loud conversations going on between them.

Mr.Kumar : I say Mr. Ramanujam this engagement function you have arranged today was even grander than what we expected. All we were looking for was a simple ceremony for a small group of relatives.

Mr.Ramanujam: Oh don’t say like that Kumar sir, or should I call you sambandhi sir now that the engagement is over? Anyway we are all pleased to have such an alliance like yours for our daughter and we just coudnt help not informing all our relatives of our good fortune. Otherwise they might not even talk to us in the future.

(Loud chorus of voices saying; yes, yes, that’s true, we wouldn’t have, this is the right thing)

Mr.Kumar: Well let me not be the reason for such a rift among close relatives. We are simple people Mr.Ramanujam and we believe that simple ceremonies are better when it comes to important things like the future of our children together rather than being ostentatious and inviting envy. That’s the only reason why I asked you to arrange a small betrothal ceremony at your house rather than hold it in some fancy hotel in a gaudy way.

Mr.Ramanujam: I appreciate that sentiment wholeheartedly sambandhi sir. You have proved yourself a genuine person by even refusing any dowry or any other expectations. The least we could do from the girls’ side is to celebrate this marriage in a way it will never be forgotten by our families. Our children definitely deserve that for agreeing to an arranged marriage in this day and age when everywhere we look young people are doing all sorts of low hand things in the name relationships- love, living together and all that sort of trash. I don’t know where this world is going to end up if such things persist in the name of modernity- kali kalam, kali kalam.

Mr.Kumar: Very true sambandhi. Very true. That is why the city was almost drowned in the floods last year. Even Lord Varuna couldn’t bear the things these modern day girls are doing in the name of feminism, women’s rights etc. I wonder how the parents of these girls are able to face their neighbors. In our days the entire locality would have boycotted the family if a girl had behaved like they do now. But let’s leave that aside. We are fortunate to have found such a girl like yours and such a family like yours in this day and age- a pure unspoilt, fully traditional girl who listens to her parents and marries their choice. We are truly blessed to have such a girl come to us as a daughter-in-law. We should visit Tirumala soon and offer our worship to Lord Venkateswara for bringing our two families together like this- as soon as we print the first invitation to lay at the lords’ lotus feet. What say you sambandhi?

Mr.Ramanujam: Very good sambandhi, very good, all credit to the Good Lord Of The Seven Hills who helped bring our two families closer. But one small request from our side.

Mr.Kumar (still in a jolly mood): Of course sambandhi. Do you even need to ask like this? What is it?

Mr.Ramanujam: It’s just that ….ummmph…now that the engagement is over…my daughter feels that woudnt it be better to have the wedding after a few months gap? Just to let the young people get to know each other better? Rather than rushing into it?

(The first sounds of jarring disquiet appear on the faces of both happy parties)

Mr.Kumar: but, but how long can we postpone the wedding after the engagement? Won’t people talk? It doesn’t seem proper for traditional families like us to keep pushing off the wedding date. Besides what need is there for the two to get to know each other at this late stage? Didn’t they already talk when we came to see the girl last week?

Mr.Ramanujam: But that was only for a few minutes, my daughter feels. She wants to get to know your sons likes and dislikes better to enable her to be a better wife to your son from day one. That’s the only reason she wants a little time between the betrothal and the wedding.

Mr.Kumar:  : Oh we are a traditional family but we are not such a strict family like that. Your daughter need not worry about something like that. Let her take her own time to adjust to our family –we won’t mind. Besides she has got the rest of her life to learn about our sons likes and dislikes hasn’t she? Why should we postpone the wedding for such a trivial reason?.

Mr.Ramanujam: I am truly truly sorry to say this Sambandhi. But my daughter insists that we hold the wedding after at least six months. That would help her get prepared for the wedding in the proper frame of mind and to know your son better.

Mr.Kumar: hmmmph…I say Mr.Ramanujam, it would have been better to have told us this condition of your daughters before the engagement ceremony got over. Now we are left with no choice but to fall in with you.

Mr.Ramanujam: But nothing’s changed sambandhi, nothing changes, just that we need some more time to conduct the wedding in a grand manner. We are still very happy to have an alliance with such a traditional family like yours and such a wel respected one too.

Mr.Kumar: I don’t know Mr. Ramanujam we somehow feel this is the wrong decision on your part. We should guide our children when they make mistakes and not encourage them. Look at my son here- he will tie the mangalasutra whenever wherever I direct him to. Girls should not be allowed their whims and fancies and to dictate terms like this when it comes to auspicious events like weddings. But what to do at this late stage. We are helpless. Come – all of you (to his assembled friends and relatives) it’s time to leave, we have intruded on their hospitality too much.

(And as the grooms family leaves in a huff- the varied crowd behind – especially the two old grandmothers on either side murmur softly: bad decision, bad decision, nothing good is going to come out of this, postponing the wedding to a girls whims, we never got to know each other before we married aren’t we still living together?….(the noise fades slowly in the background.)

Act 2 –Later That Night.

ACT 2- Scene 1 – at Mr. Kumars house.

Mr.Kumars Son – The Bridegroom Ashwin Kumar- I think this is a blessing in disguise appa. This gives us time to study the girl too. In fact we can wait and see whether she really resigns her job as she promised to do when we went to see her. I really don’t think an Ad Agency is a decent place for a decent lady to work. But as her father said it was just a hobby for time pass she was working I let it go. Let me use this time to get to know her well and we can take a final call later.

ACT 2- Scene 2 – at Mr. Ramanujans house

Mr.Ramanujans Daughter –The Bride Arundathi Ramanujam : Thank god that you stood by your word daddy. I was afraid you might give in easily. Now that we have postponed the marriage let me talk to that boy and then see if he really is like what he said he was during the girl seeing ceremony. Lets keep the marriage as late as we can- that gives me more time to decide once and for all whether he will fit me or not.

(Again we hear the voices in the background – The Respective Grandmothers murmuring: dont know where this is going to end up but we suspect something bad. Dear God please put some sense into these people and make them fix the marriage immediately.)

Act 3 – Six Months Later.

ACT 3 – Scene 1 – At Mr. Kumars House.

Mr.Kumar – I cant believe it. Never thought they would do this. To ask us to postpone the marriage at this late stage when everything is ready, all our relatives invited and all the invitations mailed. It would be better to stop it once and for all then to keep postponing it to satisfy their whims and fancies.

Mr.Kumars Son – The Bridegroom Ashwin Kumar: i told you so dad, right from the beginning. I always knew that the excuse that girl used – to want to get to know me- was a complete pretext to do something like this. I suspect she planned this right from the beginning. Thats why she asked for time. Now that she has got what she planned for, she wants to keep us permanently on hold till she finsihes her project in the USA and comes back next year. Or if something goes wrong there she can hurry back here and pretend nothing ever happened. Do they take us for fools? To keep waiting eternally for that girl? As if there are no ther girls around?

Mr.Kumar : Yes, yes, they must think we are fools to wait around for another year for that girl to come back from her project. Let me talk to Mr.Ramanujam one last time and we will decide once and for all.

Mr.Kumars Son – The Bridegroom Ashwin Kumar:  Yes dad, talk to him and tell me what you decide. As if there are no other girls around willing to marry me. You tell me dad and i will get a dozen girls willing to marry me tomorrow. In fact there is one girl who works on my team, who is of our own caste but different gothra, everything. Mum has already seen her and likes her. You just tell me what those people say and we will decide once and  for all.

ACT 3 – Scene 2 – at Mr. Ramanujans house

Mr.Ramanujam: But what will our people say at our calling off the wedding at this late stage? Why coudnt you have told us earlier?

Mr.Ramanujans Daughter –The Bride Arundathi Ramanujam:  But i did tell you daddy and you woudnt hear me. You are always listening to that old foggy- grandmother who keeps predicting dire things if i dont marry immediately. I told you this was my ambition- to go on atleast one project abroad. When every dog and donkey in my company can go on an offsite project why cant i?  Let me finish the project and come back and marry someone. In fact i can even find good people from our caste their itself. So many of our people are working there and they will all be broad-minded too. In fact even in my team which is going with me there are so many saadhu paiyans who wont cross a line i draw instead of arguing with me like the maapillai you fixed for me. Good riddance to him and his family. Let him marry a village girl who stays home and cooks for him.

Mr.Ramanujam:  I cant take it that lightly. I am worried about what people will talk about us? You would have gone to America but we have to answer everyone from the apartment watchman to the vegetable seller as to why the wedding was stopped at this late stage.

 Mr.Ramanujans daughter –the bride Arundathi Ramanujam:  Oh Daddy, you can always lay the blame on that boy. Tell everyone that we found out his character was bad and he had connections with his female co-workers. That way we can keep the moral high ground and no one will blame us. They will beleive anything of boys nowadays.

(Again we hear the voices in the background – the respective grandmothers murmuring: this is what we warned against when we told to hold the wedding immediately after the engagement. Listen to us- listen to our voice of experience- we knew something like this will happen when two people are not definitely committed to each other but are left free to explore other options. Unless there is a sense of finality which the thali around the throat brings and people have that sense that their life is finished once and for all with the wedding- they will always think about other people. But once married they would have adjusted to anything, anyhow and probably lived and celebrated their Shastibhoorthi- the 60th wedding together. All kali kalam, kali kalam- who listens to old and wise people nowadays? Its all youngsters choices and family tragedies – and full regards to Kali.)

– The End-

 

 

The Games Gods Play – Short Fiction.


 

The Games Gods Play.

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Ravi sat there in the exam hall scratching his head. The chemistry paper was as tough as he had feared. He had intentionally omitted to study certain chapters hoping that as the same questions had come in the previous years paper they would not be repeated again. Examiners tended to do things like that. They too went through the last years paper diligently like the students did and avoided repeating the same questions again and again. Or that’s what Ravi had gambled on. But unfortunately  this time Ravi’s gamble had only worked halfway. Sure none of the questions looked to be repeat offenders. But that was all that could be said in their favor. They were a bunch of no-shit garbage scraped from the bottom of the barrel. No decent person would spend three hours sitting in a crowded hall to answer these kinds of questions and still keep their self dignity intact. But. The pathetic state of the educational system forced students to crib and answer such drivel. He glanced up heavenwards to curse at an unthinking unfeeling God who had allowed such a question paper to come to him- now he wouldn’t even have to fulfil his promise of breaking those ten coconuts he had promised to break at the temple if he got an easy question paper. Ok God, he threatened heaven , you had your chance and you fluffed it- no more coconuts for you or temple visits or anything else special from me- you are persona non grata from now on- our relationship is definitely over even if you don’t agree. He was that angry with God for abandoning him like this to the whims and fancies of sadistic chemistry examiners.

Ok, he told himself, enough of staring at the question paper and questioning the paper setters multiple parentage. Its time to fill in at least a few pages of that so far blank answer book and hope to hell it at least reaches the hand of a compassionate paper corrector who wouldn’t mind being liberal with his valuations.  So Ravi put his head down and started scribbling stuff with his chicken scrawl hoping to fool the evaluator that the scribble was the correct answer just written in hieroglyphs. As time passed he got absorbed more and more into his creative writing assignment until a faint hiss woke him up from his total absorption in his work. He looked up to see who had disturbed his concentration to find the candidate sitting in front of him- their class swot Ramu trying to hoarsely whisper out of the corner of his mouth “Machan the invigilator has gone out of the hall da…tell me what you know”. Ravi was flabbergasted for a minute “he wants me to tell him? Hows that for a role reversal? Uh..okk…” He rapidly went over the possibilities for utilizing the invigilators absence from the exam hall and concluded that given it was the last twenty minutes or so on the clock he just had time to complete three or four short answers at the maximum. The essays could go to hell- if he could get at least half the marks on the short notes he might scrape through.  “Yeah i will help you” he whispered back to Ramu “if you will tell me the answers to these short questions first” and bargain concluded he started scribbling away as Ramu dictated the answers.

As Ravi finally numbered his papers, pinned them and waited for the invigilator to come around the hall to collect the answer papers at the end of the exam, he felt a strange guilt. He felt he had unnecessarily abused god and reneged on their bargain of ten coconuts without waiting for the end. Hadn’t he been a tad too harsh with god? Afterall, poor God had finally done his best by sending away the examiner from the hall for a good part of half an hour and allowed ravi to write enough short answers to pass or at least scrape through the exam which was all he wanted. What if god become angry at him for not following through with their deal? What if his answer paper got lost in transit and never even reached the evaluation center? Or something else equally bad happened? Its better not to risk Gods wrath felt Ravi and hastily tried to restore their earlier bargain. “God” he prayed again “those ten coconuts deal still stands, just somehow make me pass this paper and i will never forget you. Please forget all my harsh words earlier and show me a sign, just one sign that all is now well between us and you will make sure that I will pass. Show me the way god and give me a sign, just give me one, gimme, gimme, gimme”.

And as Ravi handed over his answer booklet and went outside the examination center, someone thrust a piece of paper hurriedly into his hand and went away. Ravi glanced at it and read “100% tutorial college, for those who fail this time, a pass guaranteed next time, God’s Promise” the last words in bold letters. He could almost hear god laughing at him from above. Even gods have their little jokes, don’t they?

Smell The Coffee – Short Fiction


Smell The Coffee – A Short Story

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One of the best ways to wake up on a cold winter morning, other than with morning-after sex which is the very best way to wake up, is to wake up to a nice hot cuppa filter coffee, the aroma of which filling the nostrils up in a “hello, morning’s come” kinda wake up alarm and the heat cupped in the palm as a gentle reminder to sip and not to gulp to get the best of the bittersweet taste in the tongue taste buds. Especially when you are accustomed to the same way of waking up every morning for years and years, the bed coffee becomes a rite of passage and an institution, with time, which you are loathe to let go of, despite any other change in your life circumstances.

So when we recently shifted houses to a new apartment I insisted on continuing the same morning routing which I had been following for the past 60 years or more. This was a bit tough on my wife for she has recently developed arthritis of both legs and finds it difficult to wake up early on mornings. So even though one of my daughter-in-law’s volunteered to make my early morning cuppa I still prefer my wife to fetch it for me to my bedside, for if I am anything I am a creature of habit and its difficult after so many years of living together to wake up to the face of someone else other than the familiar spouse.

Of course there had been a bit of kerfuffle recently, when we shifted house here for some malicious rumours had been spread by competing real estate brokers, business rivals I suppose, of the real estate agent who had sold me this house, that this place was vacant without possession for so long a  time because it was haunted by the ghost of a previous occupant’s wife and said ghost being very particular in chasing away other occupants by either frightening them or killing them off if they refused to be frightened away into vacating the place.

I disbelieved it entirely from the very first i heard of it, but the people in the  house were slightly disturbed by the rumour and kept muttering about how cheaply we had got the place having something to do with the fact of the rumour. But as I kept reminding them as as retired pensioner this was very best I could afford and ghost or no ghost we would have to put up with this- at least until I die, when my heirs could sell this off and move away to wherever they wanted. This house or my death- I had put my foot down and hoped that would be the end of all discussion.

So this morning, a cold muggy morning I woke up to my usual smell of my usual brand of filter coffee and accepted the cup -steaming hot and sipped it slowly still with eyes closed and looking forward to my usual retired life – a day filled with relaxation and small talk with my wife interspersed by meals at regular intervals unlike the hectic work life I had been a part of all these years. As I finished my coffee and still without opening my eyes, placed it on the side table, leaving it for my wife to come back to collect the empty cup later, I remembered something which caused a mild discomfort in my chest.

I remembered that my wife and kids and grandkids had left the previous day for a vacation to our native place and though I grumbled at the expense I had secretly looked forward with pleasure at a few days of absolute solitude and living alone in my new life. That’s when the crushing pain in my chest started when I started wondering about whose hand had anded over my usual cup of coffee when I had closed and bolted all the doors safely last night before retiring to bed alone in the house. As I am lying here on the bed clutching my chest and breathing hard, sweat poring off my face, I wish I had strength enough to get up and go check in the kitchen if there really was an empty cup of coffee in the kitchen sink waiting to be washed or if I had imagined everything.

But the taste, the taste of a fresh strong cuppa of the best coffee, it still lingered on my tongue. I still maintain that there is nothing to beat waking up to a nice hot cuppa filter coffee, unless to die for it.

Make Believe It Or Not…..A Short Story


Make Believe It Or Not…..A Short Story

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Call 1: Hello, hello, please please dont cut my call, just listen to me please. I am sorry for cutting your call last night so abruptly. I am, i really am sorry,  please dont be mad at me. Listen to me please,  it was a long day at work and i was so sleepy and you were repeating yourself  and i just coudnt keep my eyes open anymore and i was snoring over the phone and not snorting at you. I am free now and fresh and will listen all day long if you want me to. No wait where you are , no need to come anywhere for me.  No wait, it isnt a bother at all, i will come over there directly to meet you in five minutes. Five minutes, thats all to explain myself. Please. I am leaving now. See you in a few.

Call 2 : Machan, i need your help da. Yes i am desperate that’s why my voice is like that. I just went over to see my girlfriend and she isnt there da. Even her house isnt there da. Do you think something happened to her? What do you mean i dont have a girlfriend? You have seen us together havent you? Dont you remember? What do you mean i am dreaming? What? I am dreaming you? Dreaming this entire conversation? Everything’s a dream? And i have to wake up now to face reality?