“Get up. It’s seven in the morning.”, the missus.
” Let me sleep some more.”, me. These days I seem to need more and more sleep progressively.
” No way. Get up. Go to the market and mall and get vegetables and provisions, if you want you food on time.”
I get up, finish my ablutions quickly, dress my self have a quick look of the headlines in the metro section of the news paper and get ready to set off. “Get me two long towels.” I say,
” To cover my face, and head.”
“Why, have you again perpetrated some mischief or misdemeanor?.”
” I am too old for that. No, a report in the paper says, a jilted lover is on the prowl, throwing acid on people’s faces.” “You are not a girl to be so afraid of.”
The report says, it’s a girl who is doing the mischief, on innocent men. for some tiff she had with her lover.”
” Serves them right, the wretched MCPs, for a change. I have read of umpteen instances where the shoe was on the other foot. ”
“But the lady doesn’t seem to differentiate between MCPs, wretched or otherwise, and innocent people, like me.”,I wail.
The missus sneers and hands me two towels, which I fashion into an improvised hizab. “You look like a hoodlum, or rather a terrorist or maoist.”
” I am flattered.”, I blush, not visibly, but I have another worry. If I try to enter an ATM in this garb, the sentry there holding the big gun, may detain me and call the police. But I have to take the chance, but not once but twice, the maximum amount that one can draw per ATM, may not cover the money needed to buy both vegetables and provisions.
Fortunately, my odyssey goes of without a hitch,and I am already channel-surfing on the TV. An item catches my attention. Casually dressed young men and skimpily dressed girls masking their their faces with cloth as though guarding themselves from Union -Carbide’s leaking gas, are running helter-skelter, as if fleeing away from a tsunami. They are followed by club-wielding, policemen. I park myself for a while on the news channel to know what was happening.
Apparently they were having a party in a pub, ( it is not clear it was licensed or not), beyond the permitted hours. The reporter seemed happy to inform that the dress code for the pub was a single-piece short dress for the girls and casuals for the men, and that young men and girls were mainly the children of big-wigs, and from other well-to-do decent families.Some others were software engineers with hefty paychecks, Some others were girls, a few from this state but mainly from all across Mahaan Bharat,out in the city seeking to coaxe a quick buck from the deep pockets of the pleasure-seeking young and some not so young men. The reporter says, that barring the last category which may face some trouble from the police, the others can hope to be bailed out, literally and legally unscathed, by their got-rich-quick-parents and guardians. ,They had to come up the hard, rather easy,way from out of the morass, let their
poor children, born with a silver spoon each in their months, at least have some fun while they were still young,The police ought not to be moral-police. They must content themselves to be, well, immoral-police, seems to be the contention of the parents. “There is some one at the gate.”, the missus says.
It’s the watchman. ” You could’ve rung the bell.”, I say.
“No power.”, is the reply.
No power is costlier than no power, said the eminent nuclear scientist Homi Jehangir Bhabha, somewhat unclearly, regarding the necessity of nuclear power. But it was much before Brockdorf, or global warming or carbon credits and carbon sequestering etc. We better rephrase it as, ” No green power is costlier than no green power.” “Sir !?”, the watchman.
I wake up from my yoga-sleep, and ask,”What’s the matter?”
“Sir, there is an emergency meeting of the colony elders.”
” Why? We met only this very morning at the Racha Banda, after the morning walk just an hour or so ago.”
Racha Banda is a circular platform around the big old tree at a corner in the colony, where we discuss grave issues like the Mayan Calendar, the God-particle, the global economic crisis and things likethat. Sometimes, when we wash some public dirty linen in private there we call it the Chaki Revu., that flat sloped rock, beside a lake on which washer-folk wash the clothes. I dismiss him, go inside, dress myself and go to the meeting. “Ashok has a complaint. let us hear him.” Murthy initiates the proceedings
Ashok is a colony-dweller. Middle-aged, he works as manager( house-keeping ), in one of the big companies in Madhapur. He stays in a nice house at the edge of the colony.
” Sir, do you want us to stay in the colony or not? We are unable to bear the stench.”
” Why,? Your neighborhood used to be idyllic.” I say. But it was a few years since I went that way.
“Squatters from the neighboring unauthorized layout are committing nuisance near our house.”
Apparently, the owner of the vast plot, built quite a few shacks on the lot and leased them out to working people , but did not care to build rest rooms for the families.”
“We should demand that he build rest rooms for them. If he fails, we should demand that the Municipality build community rest rooms for them.” There is derisive laughter all around, ” Easier said ….” , some one says.
“Let us try. If we can not then we have to consider building them ourselves for them.” Ashok alone okays this and offers to pay a contribution for the venture.
Some others slightly far from Ashok’s house are doubtful, whether the property owner will consent to our building toilets on his precious property, no not definitely, in his backyard. Others residing, far off from Ashok, reject the proposal outright, why should they shell out money for this minor inconvenience to just one member. I propose that we make a field visit, to explore the possibilities.
We go there.It is almost nine in the morning, but there are still some men, women and children squatting in a row along the canal like birds sitting ( no ‘h’ besides the s, please note.) on an electric line along a lake. The canal itself has changed beyond recognition. what with effluents from a pharmaceutical company making a branded liver extract flowing in and upstream colonies releasing untreated sewage into it.
The squatters, I find from the distance, have covered their faces, ( I am sure the spelling is not wrong), to protect their modesty.
We quickly move away from there. We disperse after deciding to debate the issue further in the evening, but after framing the issues to be thrashed out broadly. By the time I return power has stooped to return too.
The bell rings.
I look out to see who it was. There is some one wearing a hood carrying what looked like a a gun encased in a long box. I look closely. The hood and the ‘gun-case’ were new, but, no, the tasteful and decent salwar-kameez, definitely belongs to the maid.
I make bold, go out and open the gate for her and demand the reason for her auslandish costume.
She says, ” My brother’s boss presented his old violin to my brother. He, in turn asked me to learn to play it. I thought you wouldn’t mind teaching me a bar or two of music.”
“Not in the least.” I agree, and ask, ” But why this mask. Changed your religion once again, eh?” The maid laughs,” Enough on my hands comprehending one change already.”.
She adds, “if and when I think of changing it any more, it will be in favor of the compassionate one The Buddha. But uncle, the veil is the in thing currently,among us girls, these days. But I am shy, you see. I have been resisting it all the while. But no more. I have lost enough of my face among my peers if I still, don’t conform.”
She continues,” Uncle, I find that I can save a lot of money that I have been spending on Fair-and-Lovely, this way.”
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