The Time Machine

A month back my friend Ibrahim called upon me. He looked worried and after some small talk he revealed the cause of his worry. “It is our classmate Showkat, you know the one who was always dabbling in scientific experiments?” he said.

“Yes I remember the funny chap,” I said, “Don’t tell me he has reinvented the atom bomb or something like that!”

“He seems to be in trouble. In fact he has disappeared!” he said.

“Come on! I know he is always conducting silly experiments but nobody takes him seriously. Maybe he is just lying low after some silly disaster. Like that time in school when he demonstrated the egg-hatching machine he had ‘invented’ and blasted a whole tray of eggs showering the whole class including the science teacher with a gooey mess!” I said laughing at the memory.

“No he was really on to something serious this time,” Ibrahim said seriously, not even smiling at the recalled incident.

“Something serious? Like what?” I asked.

Ibrahim looked around and then lowering his voice to a whisper said, “He has made a…er…Time Machine…”

“A Time Machine! Come now you can’t be serious!” I said with a laugh.

“No! No! It is real! You see he even took me in it and we visited the Past not once but several times! I even visited our school days and now I even know who put that ‘love letter’ in Rosy’s bag!” he said, his anxious face breaking into a smile as he gazed steadily at me.

I blushed. He was talking of an incident that occurred twenty years back.

“You opened her bag during lunch time, took out her moral science book and put the letter in that didn’t you?” he said cocking his eyebrow and smiling at my discomfiture.

Well this was quite surprising. Nobody knew about this. I mean yes it was I who had put that letter in Rosy’s book (God was it the Moral Science book! I must have been too flustered to notice!).

I had been making sheep’s eyes at Rosy for quite some time so I thought she would know it is me even if I did not put my name on the letter. Of course the omission was a concession to prudence as well because one never knows how things will turn out in such matters. It had been a wise decision too because you see it was Rosy’s father who discovered the mushy missive.

There he was in our classroom the next morning along with the Principal both of them scowling darkly and looking like the Furies, the Principal angrily waving the incriminating document and asking for ‘the- blackguard-who-has-written-it’ to come forward.

Now honestly wasn’t that expecting a bit too much! I mean who would make such a quixotic move! The class responded with a stony silence and as for me it was the longest breath-holding spell I ever had.

In the aftermath to this incident Rosy’s father thought it expedient to remove her to an all-girls school and a few other girls’ fathers too followed suit. This did not go down well with quite a few deprived admirers and emotions ran pretty high against the anonymous letter writer. Deciding that discretion was indeed the better part of valour I always kept my first and only attempt at writing romantic literature a closely guarded secret. And now here was Ibrahim giving me an eye-witness report of the same!

“Er…what do you think has happened to Showkat?” I asked forgetting my skepticism in an instant.

“I think he has been kidnapped! I only hope they don’t harm him.”

“Kidnapped? By whom?”

“You see Showkat offered to take along some politicians known to him on a couple of trips by the Time Machine. During their trips into the Past these politicians desired to visit their own rallies and lectures.”

“So what happened then?”

“Initially these politicians were very excited but then they heard their own statements which were radically different at different occasions so much so that they contradicted their own statements most of the times. I knew things were not quite right when they started exchanging ominous looks and began whispering to each other. I noticed the way they looked at Showkat and I had this feeling that he had landed himself in troubled waters. I am sure there is politics involved behind Showkat’s disappearance!”

A whole week passed before I saw Ibrahim again. I hailed him and enquired whether he had heard anything about Showkat.

“Yes he’s fine,” Ibrahim said cheerfully and then added in a whisper, “I was right! It is the politicians who had got him kidnapped!”

“So what did they do with him?”

“Nothing! Haven’t you heard? He has joined politics!”

“Now how did this happen!”

“You see after he was kidnapped Showkat told me that there was a lot of debate between these political honchos about what to do with him. In fact some even hinted that it would be better to get him ‘neutralized’ but the majority decided against that. Then one of the politicians suggested that they should ask him to join politics.”

“Did Showkat agree?”

“Not initially but then his politician friend convinced him to take a trip into the Future in his Time Machine. Showkat discovered that he was Minister of Science & Technology on that future date and impressed with his own power and prosperity he immediately joined politics on his return from the trip!”

“What happened to the…er…Time Machine?” I asked timidly.

“The politicians, now his cronies, convinced him that Time Travel was bad business for politics as it negated all the advantages of that saving grace of politicians – the short lived nature of the public memory! Showkat himself a politician now, saw the dangers and embarrassments inherent to time travel and promptly destroyed the Time Machine!”

“Good riddance too!” I said with undisguised vehemence. (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 snp_ajazbaba@yahoo.com)