The ups and downs of ‘public’ life
Yesterday as I returned from my workplace I was surprised to see Momma kandur @ Momma lavasa repairing his baker’s shop.
Momma lavasa had always wanted to hit big time and like everybody else he took the shortest cut to achieve his aspirations.
He entered the political arena and after hanging around some low rung party leaders he managed to get a foothold in the political party that was holding the reins of power till recently. It was an instant transformation, metamorphosis might define it better! One day he was dishing out hot breads and the very next day Momma lavasa became Momma saeb (saeb being the local honorific), the hottest guy in our locality. He became the middle man whom you approached if you needed to get something done which required political connections which is as good as saying if you wanted to get anything done. He could be seen moving around in a chartered auto-rickshaw which as per the rumour going around was his official vehicle from the party. Momma lavasa’s…er…I mean Momma saeb’s ‘auto’ had reportedly been accompanying the cavalcades of a couple of ministers as well. Momma was certainly going places. In fact his own cavalcade seemed to be building up as pretty soon a blue load carrier auto-rickshaw with a retinue of his underlings could be seen following his ‘auto’ everywhere.
Last year, while this rumour was going around that a bye-election was going to be held for one of the seats that had fallen vacant, Momma saeb inaugurated a new Kerosene depot in our mohalla. He climbed on a Kerosene drum and made a short speech on the occasion. Some mischievous elements who must have been in the pay of the opposition party shot a video of this event on their mobile phones and sent it to the Election Commission. That the Election Commission did nothing about this ‘violation’ of code of conduct only added to Momma’s prestige as it clearly showed how much influence he wielded.
Seeing this same Momma saeb @ Momma lavasa sprucing up the shop that had remained shut all these years stopped me in my tracks. “I thought you had given up this business for good.” I said to him.
Momma blushed and said, “So did I! But it was not to be.”
“Why what happened?”
“Well you know what happened! Soon after the government fell, and what with a not-so- bright future staring the party in the face it started cutting losses. My mentor also ditched me,” he said morosely.
“But you had got to be quite influential and all that,” I said.
“That is all over,” Momma said with a sigh, “I visited this sarkari afsar yesterday. He made me wait for an hour outside his office. When I was finally allowed to enter I showed him my party card but he did not even touch it and instead told me contemptuously ‘Validity khatam ho gayi!’ (It is no longer ‘valid’!). When I insisted that the card was very much valid he said that he was talking of the party!”
“But even if your political mentor has ditched you could have approached some other leader in your party,” I said.
“I did! I talked to this high ranking leader of our party. He asked me whether I was ready to serve the qoum (nation) without expecting any monetary benefits. I agreed wholeheartedly because I know that this selfless service of qoum is just a figure of speech in politics. He took me to his residence and handed me over to his wife who took me to the kitchen to help out with the dishes. You see the servants of the house have already defected to the opposition party. So there I was scouring dishes and pots till late in the night and all I got for it was a plateful of cold rice. I was consoled by the sight of what looked like a piece of meat in the gravy that accompanied it. However when I took it out, to my dismay I found that it was just a bone that had been scrapped clean. Seeing the look of disappointment on my face the leader’s wife said in an apologetic tone, ‘You know what a bad phase the party is going through. This was the last piece remaining and then we had this unexpected guest… I put it in your gravy just for izzat and besides it still has some marrow inside it’!”
“Why don’t you join the opposition?” I asked him.
“I tried to but the lines out there are very long as our party workers have gone into panic mode. One has to survive somehow so I thought I might as well restart my own trade. My only worry is whether I will get my customers back.”
“Don’t worry,” I said thumping his back, “just get your tandoor going and your customers will come back. Only…”
“Only what?” he asked apprehensively.
“Only be sure that you don’t stamp your chochworoos (pretzel like local bread) with your party symbol!” I said with a laugh.
“Tauba!” he said and for good measure rubbed his nose in the soot.
(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at firstname.lastname@example.org)