Banner by Rituparna Chatterjee, a woman with the potential to make it big. It's not that she can't: she just won't.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The bus

Long, long ago there was a kingdom. And like it happens in all kingdoms, there was a king. Hence the name.

There was also a queen. There were also some very wise ministers, clad in brightly coloured turbans. There were also some valiant generals wielding arrogant moustaches and whiskers. There was a competent army and a perpetually overflowing treasury. The river never dried out. The farms always yielded the ripest of crops. The horses were vigorous, the elephants grotesque, the cattle fertile.

In short, the kingdom was preposterously prosperous and the men were outrageously happy. They always laughed, drank ale and made merry.

Not too far from the palace (but not too close either) lived a man. He was so blatantly ordinary-looking that you'd struggle to remember his face even if you saw it a thousand times. He always wore one of those checkered shirts that one refers to as bush-shirts; and ordinary trousers. His shoes were not always polished, his hair was salt-and-pepper, he wore horn-rimmed glasses and he had an clean yet unorganised look to his face.

He was about fifty.

He had a family.

He had a wife who always wore nice clothes, talked to people and laughed loudly and danced at parties. She was very proud of her life: comfortable, stylish and social.

He had a son who came out with flying colours in his MBA and managed to acquire a substantial salary. He was very proud of his life: smart, suave and sleek.

He also had an attractive daughter who was a good student, sang well and was engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors of the land. She was very proud of her life too: full of dreams of all sorts.

He also had a job.

It was a job that paid well. It was not something that he enjoyed doing a lot, but it indeed came with a lot of perks. Every morning he went to his job in bush-shirts and trousers and earned his money in a bored, ordinary sort of way. In fact, he was so ordinary that he often turned up for work in a safari suit!

He also had his friends. Three of them.

They met for dinner every weekend. They played bridge, discussed politics, drank whisky and ate tandoori chicken, then a light dinner. Their families often went on holiday packages and had their photographs taken in front of glamorous tourist spots using the latest SLR cameras.

All was well.

***

Then suddenly, one day, the ordinary man saw an ordinary, dilapidated bus. It was a bus so old that even the route number and the destination were not legible, and it seemed that it could fall off any moment.

The ordinary man did a strange thing. He took out his cellphone from his pocket, gently placed it on the pavement and took the bus. And never came back.

Just like that.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ra.One conquers Hey.One

Fact 1: Brahma had empowered Raavan with the boon that no God would be able to kill him.
Fact 2: Shiv, being incredibly fond of Raavan, was not one who would attack him promptly.
Fact 3: Vishnu was aware of Fact 1, and he was obsessed with keeping his 100% record intact. Hence he had abstained from attacking Raavan himself (till he was born as Ram).

Somehow or the other, Raavan got to know of Facts 2 and 3. And promptly decided to attack Heaven.

***

Attacking Heaven wasn't like attacking Iraq. It was a serious uphill task (no pun intended): the opposition was full of immortals, divine intervention was bound to occur, every act would be an Act of God, and so on.

The Gods were formidable warriors, too. All of them. They were, after all, largely godlike as far as valour was concerned (hence the name, God), and taking on a horde of them wasn't quite easy.

Such a huge battle meant that you needed your best men beside you. Raavan had to time the contest well: Kumbhakarna was pulled in humongous chariots to ensure that his waking up timed with the battle with the precision of a batting powerplay. He also took a massive army with him - stronger than he had taken on any of the wars he had waged.

Vibhishan was left behind. His performances outside Lanka were non-existent anyway. Somewhat like Thilan Samaraweera's.

***

Indra, alarmed by Facts 1 and 2 mentioned above, rushed to Vishnu for help. Vishnu then stated Fact 3, which meant that the Gods would be on their own.

As Raavan rose and rose past Kailash into the doorsteps of heaven, the Gods got ready to defend themselves. They did not have a wall (or The Wall) to defend themselves, so they had to rely on their military and magical skills. Vishnu (possibly) went back to his usual leisurely slumber somewhere with a nice view of the war.

***

They opened with Shani. Shani had a peculiar mode of attack: he was endowed with the power of bringing misfortune to whoever he targetted. He approached Raavan, and all his heads dropped off.

Exactly why Shani took this course of action was not clear: he should have remembered Fact 1 and taken on Meghnad or Kumbhakarna. The heads (on whom I'd spent a lot of sweat here) reappeared, and Shani, a one-time use wildcard entry and completely devoid of military skills, had no option but to flee.

***

Yama entered the battlefield now (why did they attack one by one, like goons assisting Bollywood villains of the 1970s, instead of doing it together?). Once again he attacked Raavan, but unlike Shani he had successfully remembered Fact 1. So he brought with him sixty four diseases, and Raavan was in instant lookout for a paramedic.

Raavan countered this by invoking Brahmagni (the fire of Brahma) inside his body. This must have been an all-in-one antibiotic, and worked wonders, eliminating all diseases at once.

Yama fled. Perhaps he could have used Fardeen Khan.

***

Pavan, possibly encouraged by the fact that his name rhymed with Raavan, entered the fray. The surroundings changed - typhoons thundered, tsunamis raged, hurricanes imploded. However, Pavan managed to do it in a selective manner: he somehow targetted only Raavan's army. It was like a multiple monstrous vacuum cleaners at work - wreaking havoc amidst the opposition.

It was an extremely impressive blow-job (there is a hyphen!) and had almost sealed it for the Gods. It was only that Kumbhakarna decided to wake up at that point of time. And stand still in the way of everything. And appear calm. And walk slowly towards Pavan, his mouth spread wide, with only one apparent intention.

Pavan wasn't left with an option.

***

Varun had a go as well: he tried to drown everyone, and this time even Kumbhakarna was in trouble. Raavan used his agnivaan (fire-arrow), and Varun's efforts turned out to be a serious washout.

***

Raavan and Kumbhakarna led the attack, and started massacring Gods. This wasn't the usual mass murder, since they were immortals, but everyone they took on was severely injured. It was then that Indra fell back upon Chandi.

Chandi, armed with vicious weapons and aided by 64 (what is it with the number?) yoginis, entered the battlefield. The yoginis were a formidable team, empowered by both military and magical abilities, ran amok, causing the rakshases to panic.

Raavan played the perfect diplomat. He reminded Chandi or Fact 2: if the husband had decided against it, should the wife not do the same?

Chandi obliged.

***

His trump-card gone, Indra himself entered the battlefield (what the fish was he doing till now?). Atop the mighty Airavat and empowered with Vajra, Indra had to show The Heaven what he was made of.

The rakshases weren't immortals, and hence Indra ran through them. No mean warrior himself, The King of Gods (who also doubled as The God of Rain, not to be confused with Varun, the God of Water) tilted the balance in the Gods' favour for the first time during the war.

And then he flung his Vajra at Kumbhakarna.

And Kumbhakarna swallowed it.

And started swallowing Gods at random.

And the Gods panicked.

Indra tried his heart out, but nothing seemed to bother Kumbhakarna. He just went on smashing Gods to pulp. All seemed to be over, when, when...

... Surya did the trick. He rose. Goodness knows where.

And Kumbhakarna fell asleep.

***

The Gods attacked again, with redoubled vigour. Led by Indra, they launched a furious assault on the hapless rakshases. Indra invoked the praswapan - the weapon of sleep. Fact 1 wasn't violated.

Raavan fell on the ground (of heaven, remember); he was tied in chains to Airavat's feet, and was dragged across the divine battlefield. With both their leaders down, it was a certain rakshas defeat. The Gods rejoiced and followed Indra and the captive Raavan back home.

***

And then, from the skies of Heaven (WTF?) came down random arrows, resembling lethal snakes. Chariotloads of Gods fell to their venomous strikes. And then one struck Indra. The King of Heaven fell: Raavan was released.

His naagpash had succeeded. Meghnad came out from behind the clouds of Heaven. He calmly walked up to Indra, tied him to his chariot wheels and dragged him back to Lanka.

Heaven was evacuated; the Gods ran for their lives or whatever; Raavan plundered whatever he could before leaving. He could easily have opted to rule Heaven, but for whatever reason he decided to avoid that responsibility.

***

It took Brahma to reach Lanka and release a chained Indra. Meghnad was granted invincibility every time he was able to complete the Nikumbhila yajna, and got to be called Indrajit (the one who defeated Indra), thereby also establishing himself as the greatest warrior of Lanka.

It's not a coincidence that among the entire rakshas clan, Indrajit (or even Meghnad) is the common name given to newborns even today.

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