Here’s an interesting fantasy fiction about the world of the spirits, by Tapan, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
I don’t know how much you are aware of the rules and regulations in the realm of the ether. Well, not really rules, these are more of codes, like the codes of honour. You know, like before Hammurabi or someone like that, when written rules didn’t exist, a word given was acknowledged by life? Like that!
Now, the science-minded among you will say, ether has been disproved. The nerds with more years lost in solving equations will say, “Arre, waves of the electromagnetic origin do not require medium to travel, ether-wither sab outdated concept hai!”
Chalo, you may say that and feel learned – conceited with reasons, burdened with proof. If you witness, however, this slo-mo assimilation of ethereal Sheoprasad Dubey into the body of Srikanth Naidu, as I am witnessing now, you might be swayed to change your absolute facts of science with relative ease.
In this windy and rainy evening of June, only about fifty minutes back, Sheoprasad had obtained the permission from the International Council of Spiritual Matters (ICSM) to use a medium to travel to the United States of America. He had applied about four months back and had to attend multiple rounds of telekinetic reviews with the Council. It had been the tensest four months in his 172 years of existence. Well, he does not quite remember about 147 out of those. He told me that he was hibernating during that period.
Now, some of you may be sneering at this, saying, arre, since when did the spirits begin to need permission to travel? Even if they exist (at this point, quite a few of you actually scoffed, I saw), what prevents these ethereal beings to just drift from the point A to the point B through the ‘thin air’? What is this medium business?
If you were a little bit conscious of the pollution of the atmosphere, just a little bit, you would know the reason. I mean, seriously? You folks never realised how difficult it is for a spirit these days to adapt and cope with the ever widening spectrum of signals your phones need?
First, the killing frequencies and then, just when you’d think they have grown cosy with the pitch, the data bursts! Just the last month, I think about 20th, 528 attendees to a conclave for the spiritual beings were charred to oblivion when the mobile service provider at Kammanahalli boosted its signals four times over.
Are you thinking how do I know all these things and showing your teeth in an indecent laughter of disbelief? That is because you don’t really know who I am.
My name is Chhipli. I live behind the wall mounted, big television in the drawing room of Srikanth. That place is warm, well concealed and helps me to regulate my body temperature. Srikanth is cool if I roam around and feed on the insects near the lights. One of his girlfriends, however, had found me one morning behind her top she had hung on the hook before getting into the bed with Srikanth. She had let out such a shriek that I peed on her dress and neighbours had to rush in!
Since then, I don’t come out when there are humans around. I had moved into this flat about three months back when the family below Srikanth’s apartment migrated. I feel comforted to realise that there are humans around. Generations of domesticity, what can I do? Sad that you fellows don’t think of as pets!
Sheoprasad and I jelled well, both being on the same side of the human misunderstanding. “Guardian angels, that’s what ICSM wants us to be to the humans, and what happens here? If we ever make presence felt, these buggers lose their mind!”
The day before yesterday, he had just tried to shift a stool to help the girl, a different one from the one who had shrieked. She came late night with Srikanth and was unable to walk straight. The girl slurred, “Shriii, that seat shifted on its own; you live in a haunted house or what, dude?”
Sheoprasad sulked at such lack of trust. I tried to lift his spirits with the tales of my own tails, you know, when they are shed and won’t stop wiggling for some time? Many find it funny, but the ghost remained unimpressed. He didn’t come out of the left drawer of the TV console till the next evening! He still had foolish human pride, bechara!
I don’t know whether he brags or not, but it seems he was a leader of sorts during the Sepoy mutiny at Buxar.“Attharah sou sattavan,” he tells the year in Hindi, always. Uttering that year in his mother tongue gives him a kind of high that pronouncing ‘1857’ can’t offer. “Bahut maare the! Didn’t spare anyone white, Saala!” His lips twitch with disgust, voice shows no repentance.
After their troop was defeated and he was hung alive from a pole to die, 160 years had passed. Now, those ICSM fellows had made it mandatory for the spirit leaving a body to wait for a certain number of years before it can roam freely. There is a complicated mathematical model to fix such years for each of them. Illiterate Sheoprasad could never get the formula, just knew that the order was to lie low, hibernate, for 160 years. That got over last March.
When his slumber broke, he found his body in a mass grave, South of Arrah in Bihar. It was an abandoned graveyard almost turned to a jungle, where the development of the humans hadn’t reached even in one and a half century. He was disgusted to find that he, son of a Brahmin, was buried with the bodies of every caste and religion. The ecstasy of his newfound freedom didn’t allow him to sulk for long. His aerial form oozed out of the soil.
That’s when he got his first shock. Any direction in the air he wished to navigate, he was getting pushed back. Being a soldier who did march past with his head held high, he found it strange that the humans of today were all walking with their heads down, looking into their palms, smiling on their own, sometimes talking to themselves.
To every new entrant, two-month induction was given. Sheo learned, after a few updating workshops with the ICSM, that those tiny, shiny boxes were mobile phones, and he was getting bombarded by signals from those. In fact, the telepathic training from their global headquarters, um… they didn’t have headquarters. They had all the information in a permanent cloud up the stratosphere. He stayed among the haystacks in a cow shed beside adhaba on the highway during the induction.
If Sheo had not got carried away with the fad of the mutiny and were not executed, he would have accompanied his white soldier friends across the oceans. He had decided then to leave his kid-wife in the village and fight battles in different lands. The rewards, the veterans used to tell him, were rich. Food, wine, wealth, and the beautiful girls to be captured in the land of the Nile, the land of the Niger, the Mediterranean! The stories were too lustful to resist.
Towards the end of the session, an old passion of Sheoprasad revived. “Where are the most beautiful girls in this world found these days?” He asked his mentor after a week of hesitation.
“USA”, pat came the reply from his mentor, who was a farmland tiller in the late 1930-s in Dallas, Texas, “that is where all the beautiful girls finally land up.”
“How many oceans are to be crossed for that?” Sheoprasad was always meticulous about details.
“Oh, that will take years!” Sheo was dejected. He was yet to solve the problem of getting a physical form to satisfy his unfulfilled libido. He thought that could take a backseat till the issue of travelling was sorted out.
“No, some eighteen hours.” Judging from his smile of disbelief, the mentor reinforced, “Bodied people fly to such far off places. It’s easy.”
“Fly? They have grown wings or what?” Dubey-ji was famous in his cantonment for his loud, back-slapping laughter. He did that again. Luckily, only his mentor could hear him. The mentor would have greatly disliked if a spooky laughter had frightened the truck drivers having lunch there.
“First, you need to go to a place where the chances of a human going to the USA are the highest. Then, you would need to find a medium for an embodiment.” After extensive research, including a mental and physical matching between the host and the ghost, ICSM had assigned Srikanth for him.
Sheoprasad had to travel to Bangalore for that. The aerial route was way too risky due to the mobile signal overload. The mentor found him a truck, full of Lichi, travelling from Muzaffarpur to Bangalore and Chennai. Sheo streamed his form in between the haystacks used to soften the impact of the road humps on the delicate fruits and reached Bangalore.
He came to this apartment a few days after I had moved in. We lizards have spent a long time on this earth to sense ethereal beings. We have shared the pleasures and the pains that the marginalised members of a human-dominated society usually do.
Today, since the news arrived through The Internetwork in the realm of the ether, Sheoprasad has been floating in the air. To prepare, he had appeared previously in several test programs to simulate the assimilation of his aerial form into a physical shape. He had tried on that centre table, a milk packet, a newspaper vendor, and even on me! He also did reasonably well in the viva voce with the immigration committee of the ICSM. Today, he had to cross his last frontier once Srikanth returns home.
Srikanth came home after the wall clock struck twelve. Barely able to stand straight, he slumped on a sofa by another man and two very young girls wearing gaudy makeup and little else. Sheo was impatient in his wait. The moment he saw Shrikanth entering the house, Sheo, slowly but steadily, assimilated his barely cohesive molecules into Shrikanth.
Now, Shrikanth is one true blue pacifist. If inebriated beyond stability, he would sit on a sofa and listen to the Ghazals of a singer with deep vocals. That was usual. Today was not usual.
Srikanth was furious and blabbering, “Saala Trump! Cancelling visa? My father sold farmland, my mother lived two years in Hyderabad with me in a single room, and I saved every bloody paisa in all these five years, for this?” He made an indecent gesture circling his pelvis region with his rounded palm and projecting his thumb.
What followed till early morning was mayhem. The dawn saw a shattered glass top of a centre table, two red wine bottles in pieces near the balcony, a bandaged right hand of Srikanth and the sleeping bodies of his companions. That won’t stop Shrikant though.
Like spasms, his sadness will surface again and again and the curse, “Saala gora log, these red-faced monkeys on two legs think we are inferior? Can we be controlled? Madarchod, khunte se taang taang kar marenge, will not spare a single soul.”
History, with a penchant for repeating itself, had to wait for a couple of more years for Sheo to keep prodding Shrikanth not to give up, get a new job, re-educate himself on artificial intelligence and travel to the USA.
Into Srikanth’s flat, his friend Keshav had moved in. About a month after his moving in, I heard him tell someone over the phone, “Tragic! I cannot even begin to think of Shri as a killer! I mean, spraying bullets on a white crowd during a baseball match? I am afraid of the backlash there.”
Photos from the internet.
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