|The Golden Sedan
By SANCHIT GUPTA
He was a man in his fifties. They say, never ask a woman her age, but a man? I wonder! Do we have the decree of morality to do so? I didn’t know the answer, but I didn’t bother my curiosity either. Maybe I was too ashamed of, or I’d rather say didn’t want to. None of my business you know, a man from the street after all! I could still guesstimate; nothing wrong in that is it? From his visage and gait I could tell, true, definitely somewhere in the fifties. Or was I being na´ve, ingenuous to the vicissitudes of nature? White hair those which adorn his unkempt nostrils or balding temples, undulating cheeks with spots of black and white bedside to the crumbling skin that encircled the eyes. The eyes, I could not escape. Like a tempest that had ravaged the earth once and now stood still; or an inferno cascaded with time into a willful equanimity, those eyes stood fixated on me. Searching, scorching, as if scanning my soul. And if I now sway my eyes away from his gaze, an emaciated body, like paddy fields parched off a failed monsoon, obtruding ribs out of the skin I thought had burnt itself out in the barbarous sun. A small piece of chequered cloth sufficient to cover the essentials, and a pair of tattered slippers preventing ulcers off his soles which I felt had been discerned by those exploring eyes within the three piece I adorned off my soul. And another cheque of black and white, like my shirt, sixteen hundred and ninety nine I must say and a very fine one, on his torso this time, metastasized throughout.
He sat there every day, smoking beedi; near a supermarket I would visit to fill a basket for home- fruits, juices, milk, chocolates, pastries and buns. And he, with his blacks and whites would sit just outside the entrance beside the pavement, obstructing my way as I walk out. The bags would be heavy and hence rightly so, I didn’t appreciate the store’s callousness in realizing customer satisfaction, for how could I walk to my car parked a few feet away without him exhaling the rings of black air that would (I presumed they would) enter my nostrils and ruin the lungs I had so well manicured by drinking those juices and milk I had just bought? During the day when the sun came out, he would walk off the sidewalks meandering gaily besides the traffic, for it was a busy area I know, a traffic signal with cars and buses and bikes (one of those being an Accent, seven and a half lakh I must say and a very fine one), and I from within the fine one would look out of the windshield while waiting for the reds to be greens and watch him stroll, day after day. And one of those days I especially remember, when he came across my car meandering gaily as he used to, for now I feared a tap on the glass and a mucky hand protruding in, palm open heaven facing that, with the face concocted such so as to dissimulate his salubrious state. For now I know it was my turn to wear that mask of pretense, for how could I afford looking at him and then facing that heaven facing hand, when the reds would soon turn greens and I had to conk forward while the one behind me did the same. Luckily so, the tap hadn’t come that day while he ambled along, smoking beedi as usual, along the sidewalks.
“These are the ones we need to upgrade,” I said to her, my wife that is, “the country is getting richer you see, and even this year’s budget is all about the glorified poor, while they corner us and squeeze the last penny out of this blood. The blood sucking parasites this government I tell you, for it showers our hard earned money on these slothful dorks with free wheat and rice and what not.”
“The poor dear!” said the pitiful wife, and what affection she has in her voice, “the hapless ones born in indignation! Where do they go to if not the ones blessed by the Lord? Poverty is a vicious cycle dear, look at him in an impoverished state, no food to eat or garbs to wear.”
“Impoverished, haa! That’s a fašade my love, to wheedle money out of pockets, yours and mine; by beggary during the day and when the sun goes off, robbery during the night. It was Mr. Taneja’s yesterday, and who knows, tomorrow could be yours! These are the ones I say who don’t get noticed, for their lacerated pieces of costume and the adjunct make-up. Have you ever seen him do anything worthwhile, go to work maybe? Just loitering around all day, puffing off that beedi! He is the one who needs to upgrade.”
Upgrade, I meant, to the filter cigarettes I sold. And before you make an opinion, I had told my wife, a better product dear, that’s all what I say, am thinking of his welfare only. The tax on beedi is so less, and the consumption so high. When people like him desert this ignoble paper wrapped poor quality pernicious peace of shit, to the scientifically made roll-ons I talk of, not only I mean well for his state of health but also the coffers of our angelic government that shall, my dear, have more to spend on him, even though I believe that’s a travesty of justice. I agree my love that you disagree with what I say I believe in, but beliefs are irrelevant in front of facts, aren’t they? A better way of life dear, that’s all what I say!
It was the summer I remember, the thirtieth since my advent on earth. The sun more barbaric than usual, the loo most cruel. The air conditioned cabin my multinational ensconced me in prevented the cauldron from piercing beneath my three piece. While the Accent I would now walk into? Well you know how fine that is, so I needn’t mention again. After a hard day at work selling roll-ons that were supposed to exhale purer rings of black air (the R&D couldn’t be doubted), I was on my way back to home. Fruits, juices, milk, chocolates, pastries and bun; and this time ice-cream too for my love, for I must say it’s really barbaric this sun. And there he is still, the chequered flag of black and white, whose chicanery cannot get past me, still polluting my well manicured lungs with that ignoble piece of sordid shit. And now I try to remember, aghast I am walking towards my car, as the pictures are getting hazy. There it is, parked in all glory, golden color, wooden dashboard, it was my wife’s choice after all, pure luxury sedan, as lovely as she is, and what a powerhouse as well, 1.5 liter- 90 bhp, 0-60 in 5 secs, an engineering marvel truly ! I must be quick for she would be waiting; the home lit up with those candles I had brought, diffusing their palliating aroma with her mellifluous voice to placate my tired senses. And the ice-cream, yes, before it melts, I must reach home.
Reds and greens, blues and yellow. They are all moving around. Dancing a hue my senses witness, which one is it, a salsa, a jazz or a hip-hop. I am sorry I can’t discern for I was never good in it. But they continue to dance, and now some black comes in, and white as well, indigos, oranges and violets, they are all joining in, the rainbow is it? And there is music, which band is playing (I was good in it, I must say, and so I must know). Beetles, my favorite, Hey Jude! Aaah, you made the world tap! And there is my wife, she is sitting in a corner, talking to a man robed in whites, diamonds down her cheeks, sweet dimples though not as undulated as I had once mentioned before, talking, but listening more, she is nodding her head, her hand on her mouth. I think the ice-cream might have been too cold, for her teeth go numb when it is. And now I am flying, through alleys and streets crowded with people, some standing, some flying, just as I do now. Reds and greens, blues and yellow. Beetles playing Hey Jude! And then, I am again trying hard to remember, the show has stopped it seems, for the rainbow begins to fade and the Beetles go home…
I know this beatific sensation; I have known it for six years now, the touch of my wife’s hand.
“‘O Thank God!” she is crying, diamonds down her dimpled cheeks, “the merciful God! I thought I had lost you. O my dear, my love, I am so glad!” and she is crying, so profusely I had never seen her cry before, “You had bled so much, AB+, from where would I have got? A miracle my love!” she is kissing my hand, crying, her eyes haven’t slept they tell me.
“And I wouldn’t have even known, you were lying on the street I was told, bleeding, unconscious!! A car hit you, some Accent they said, golden. Police case people were saying, for the driver had fled without even looking back. Those inhuman scoundrels! And those store people? They wouldn’t even touch you my love; and you were bleeding!!” diamonds and more diamonds, “On the street... That man, you remember, you remember right? He brought you here, on his back, running all the whole while. And what luck, what destiny God had devised, an AB+ my dear, out of all people, would you believe it?”
“Can I see him please doctor, the old man?” I can remember very clearly now, I was asking the man in white robes.
“I had told your wife last night, Sir. He was in a dilapidated state when he came here, freckled, nearly anemic. Two liters of blood Sir, I told him it would be dangerous. Your wife requested, I told him it’s your choice, there was no other option Sir. I…I am really sorry Sir, he passed away this morning.”