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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Politician And A Pugilist!

The spectre of being powerless scares him stiff. He has been winning the elections in that little state of the Indian republic last four consecutive times and has been a minister on different occasions enjoying immense bouts of power. Thanks to his power he has made millions of bucks and properties across the state. He has created pockets of influence at every level of government and administration. And, he thinks fondly, the luxuries and comforts associated with power and position are just too lucrative. How could he even think of foregoing all that?

Not possible at all, but this election was different. The opposition brought in the issue of corruption and campaigned vigorously asking people to end the long period of misrule. The fools, he growls to himself, they fell for it…as if the new rulers would usher in an era of historic honesty! Why, anybody who becomes a people’s representative must first ensure his/her life-long safety and security—resorting to all means of doing it, he muses furiously. He is a seasoned politician, so he knows. Of course, this time he sensed the clamour for change and prepared accordingly.

Everything possible under the sun was done. He arranged huge quantities of money to be distributed to the voters—fools, he insists—of his constituency. However, he was unlucky on one occasion; his truckload of money was seized by the police. Somehow he managed to cover it up, although not before a lot of negative publicity. Then he tried his best to play on the religious sentiments of the people. What do the experts call it…polarisation…huh? Yes, he thought he polarised very effectively; but something odd happened in the last days of campaign neutralising all his gains. Somehow the fools saw through the fa├žade…and stood united! And then the fools voted in unprecedented numbers on the polling day…for what…well, for change, they said. Those were ominous portents for the ruling party and he started fearing a state of powerlessness. And since then, he has been traumatised by an image…the image of a pugilist. He is not sure why, his conscience never being a good guide.

Reports are coming in after the second round of counting. He is trailing by several thousands. This may change after two more rounds, he assures himself with lot of optimism. He is sitting at his official residence with family and few of his followers. He decided against going to the party office. If it’s bound to be humiliation…let it not be in public, he reasons.

He tries on focus on that disturbing image—a pugilist alright, but the face is not clear. He cheated on others and resorted to unfair means at every stage of his life—right from his school days. His father was an influential party worker and a help in all his dealings. Maybe by inheritance he was always the leader type and controlled student and school matters often amounting to intimidation or even fisticuffs. At college he always managed to rig the elections in his favour and siphon off a major part of the union money to his pockets. He copied profusely and freely in all the examinations he appeared for. There were so many mates in school and college days he eventually lost track of. Now one face is trying hard to intrude his vision repeatedly. Is this the real identity of the pugilist?

There was a simple village boy in his junior college days. The simpleton devoted a lot of time to bodybuilding. ‘Yes’, he remembers now, ‘the boy deserved a place in the college team, but had to be a fee for the favour. Despite my repeated warnings he failed to oblige, so I rid him out of the team’. Memory is flowing now. ‘Then, there was that eve teasing incident in the campus… Oh my God, the hard, cruel punch he landed on my face! …How could I ever forget that?’ He got the boy out of the hostel through his influence. After a few years he heard that the boy struggled very hard, went to a different college and finally found a place in the district boxing team. That was the last he knew of the pugilist.

The spectre is becoming real now. There is a collective heavy sigh of total despondency from his followers. Reports are coming in after the fourth round of counting. He is trailing his nearest rival by about a hundred thousand votes. His fate is sealed; there can be no comeback now. Suddenly he finds himself in the boxing ring. The pugilist is charging at him, lifts him up in the air, the strong arms circle him around victoriously and throws him out of the ring… 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Feline Favour!

The city is expanding since decades with population and concrete congestion increasing all the time, but it still goes to sleep early, relatively speaking. City going to sleep early means you don’t get the facilities at night—like shops and markets, public buses and more importantly the omnipresent cycle rickshaws. We did not mean it to be, but we got late that evening at a relative’s place. To add to our woes, the eldest boy of the house had to go out on an errand, obviously taking the car with him. Any possibility of getting a lift was thus ruled out. My tension was genuine because my septuagenarian mother was with me and to make her walk nearly a mile was never a bright idea.

We took the small lane leading up to the main road and started walking hoping to get some transport on the way. Auto-rickshaws, even a rare sight at daytime, were not passing by at all. A few cycle rickshaws going towards the main road had passengers and the ones coming in towards us from the main road were empty. We started hailing them, but to no avail. They were all returning home after a hard day’s work and a steaming hot dinner was the only thing in their mind. We could hardly blame them.

The lane is long and winding, and even after hitting the main road we will have to walk another half a mile. The weather was also cloudy and a drizzle could start any time. We were getting desperate.

Halfway up the lane we sighted another empty cycle rickshaw coming towards us. Hoping against hope we called out to him quite at a distance. He continued to paddle hardly bothering even to respond. We almost gave up trying to come to terms with our situation.

And then providence intervened! A cat suddenly darted out of somewhere and ran across the lane. The cat crossed the lane—both ours and his! I was very quick to take advantage.

“Hey brother!” I called out to the rickshaw puller who suddenly pulled up midstream. “Now you’ll have to retrace your steps and take us home!”
The rickshawallah looked around uncertainly. Opposite we waited expectantly. After a few suspenseful moments he blurted out, “You’ll have to give me double fare or I take few steps backward and go home.”
“That’s not fair. The cat crossed your path and you should not continue same way as if nothing has happened.” I shamefully tried to pump up his superstition.

After a little more exchange of words we settled for a reasonable fare to both parties. He turned his rickshaw around towards the main road and we set off merrily thanking our cat luck.

Now then, a cat crossing our way in fact benefited all of us. We got a transport home and the rickshawallah got a last-minute client and a few extra bucks. The feline entity caused us luck rather than causing what is superstitiously believed. Cheers!

(First Published on Ezinearticles.)
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