A short story based on a laugh - a real life incident on Christmas Eve in Nepal.
|Bacchus does not discriminate. Booze and boozers are universal. Much of Nepal’s population is made up of boozers: frequent and infrequent, social and compulsive. In some tribes, little suckling babies are given an auspicious sip or two as part of their rice-eating ceremony - when they are fed their first solid food. Many drinkers in Nepal have one common trait: when hot booze begins to rule over cold reason, they develop aggressive I-am-a-Gorkhali-and-I-don’t-take-no-crap machismo. Gorkha is just a small district, but over time all Nepalese have by extension become Gorkhalis (or Gorkhas or Gurkhas in common usage outside Nepal).|
It was about one in the morning of Christmas Day in Kathmandu in the Hindu Kingdom of Nepal, many years ago. Sushil, Anil and Pradip were at the Casino. There are many casinos nowadays, but back then there was just this one Casino. All foreigners were welcome, all Nepalese were banned. The logic presumably was that only foreigners had the right to get fleeced.
The Casino employed a flock of security guys to prevent Nepalese from infiltrating and to throw out any who did manage to do so. Sushil, Anil and Pradip had somehow snuck in with a gang of holidaying Indian friends, camouflaged further by a large Christmas crowd. They escaped detection for several hours, sitting at the bar. They had taken care to speak only in Hindi or English and avoid Nepali. Then they got into an argument with a covey of Phillipino girls who hit the bar. The girls dared them to a bottoms-up contest, and suddenly things became very boisterous indeed. A couple of bouncers kept warning them in Hindi to cool it; when one bouncer became particularly insistent, Sushil snarled at him in Nepali, “What’s the matter, you incestuous sinner, can’t you speak Nepali with a fellow Gorkhali, or has your constant scamming of foreigners made you uppity?”
It took about five seconds for the stunned bouncers to recover. They jumped on their prey like a cougar after a seven day fast.
The evicted trio painfully picked themselves up from the dirt outside. For ten minutes, Anil and Pradip let Sushil have an excruciating piece of their undoubtedly foggy minds. They then decided to go crash out at Pradip’s home.
The biting cold did little to clear the fumes dirty dancing in their heads. They stumbled over to Pradip’s aged, temperamental Russian Minsk motorcycle and argued for half an hour over who would drive.
Pradip won with the clinching argument: “I drive because I own the bike.”
Anil was worried. “Can you handle the bike with the three of us on it?” he asked.
“You are a Gorkhali, aren’t you?” asked Pradip. “So what are you afraid of?”
Anil couldn’t think of a fitting comeback. The dilapidated bike roared to life after each of them had expended several kicks on it. Anil and Sushil clambered on behind Pradip.
They had careened a couple of miles on empty roads when their luck ran out. They had zigzagged to an intersection with a raised platform for traffic police bang in the center. The platform, empty at the moment, was about a foot high. Ahead of them, a patrol of about six cops in single file was trudging along at the side of the road.
Pradip completed a zig, straightened out at the side of the road and started a zag. The zag carried them straight to the platform. They hit it with a resounding clang, drawing the attention of the cops, who were privileged to watch wide-eyed as the bike with three guys hanging on crunched onto its side and spun in a shower of sparks straight across the road at them. The bike knocked four of them down in a welter of bike handle and spinning wheels, human limbs, mangled metal screeches and livid curses in Nepali.
Later, the three of them had a confused memory of the next couple of hours. Pradip remembers being kicked by one of the two cops left standing while he was down on the ground hugging the motorcycle, and reaching across and biting the cop on the shin. The cop gave Pradip a juicy smack across the mouth with his nightstick, which resulted in two missing teeth, just as the ambulances wailed up.
They remember being hoisted off the road and being taken to Kathmandu’s police
hospital, where numerous abrasions, Pradip’s bleeding mouth and Anil’s broken right middle finger were roughly attended to by police medical personnel who at the same time treated them to some extremely enriched vocabulary. Gentler care was given to the cops, whose most serious injuries consisted of one badly swollen ankle, missing teeth from two different mouths, one fractured forearm, abrasions and contusions.
The rapidly sobering trio was then hauled off to a smelly prison cell empty of anything at all except for a single electric bulb of low wattage behind a wire mesh on the ceiling. Their demand that they be allowed to make telephone calls elicited a venomous volley of swear words. They demanded beds and were given one stinking straw mat. They demanded water and were given a jug of water that looked slightly murky in the dim light. The water was so cold that it burned their throats.
They shivered through a very miserable night. They smoked one cigarette after another till, as Anil put it later, “My mouth felt like a nonagenarian vulture’s crotch and my head felt like a large vise was trying to pull the crotch apart.” The straw mat appeared to be full of lice, bed bugs and other vermin, but they had to sit on it scratching the bites as the bare floor was just too cold.
At dawn, after what seemed a few centuries, they were jerked out of a restless trance by the sound of their cell door opening. A cop in a karate gi with a black belt sauntered in. He was short and stocky, with the broad typically Mongolian face of a man from the mountains. The cruel lines of his face were accentuated by glittering slanted eyes and a ferocious scowl. Deep lines at the edges of his eyes and on the two sides of his mouth actually made him look even more sinister.
“Stand up,” he snarled at them. They struggled to their feet. Bruce Lee kicked out, and his lashing foot sang by a hair’s breadth from Pradip’s jaw. Bruce Lee pivoted, and the other foot whistled excruciatingly close to Sushil’s nose. Bruce Lee then stepped forward and punched a rapid one-two that grazed Anil’s jacket over his heart.
He then turned around and bent himself double. He looked back at them from between his knees, with his head upside down.
“I am a police karate instructor,” said Bruce Lee. “I hear you guys celebrated Kissmiss last night. Well, Merry Kissmiss. I hear you hit some cops. We got a long list of charges against you. Riding three on a bike, no helmets, drunken driving, recklessly endangering human life, assaulting cops, resisting arrest. We are going to put you away for half a dozen centuries.”
He straightened out and turned back to them. He eyed them balefully for a while before he resumed speaking. “Who’s you father, if he is known to you, and what does he do?” he asked Anil.
Anil replied, “My father is the Managing Director of Nepal Electricity Authority.”
Bruce Lee grunted as he raised his right leg, knee straight. When it was at his chest level he caught hold of his leg in both hands and slowly hoisted it till his sole was almost facing the ceiling.
“He has made his stash in dirty money, eh?” asked the cop. He brought his right leg back to earth and launched his left leg. He turned to Pradip and asked, “And what about your father? Do you know him?”
“He retired last year as the Director General, Customs Department,” replied Pradip.
Bruce Lee grounded his left leg. “Wow,” said the cop, “talk about dirty money. Your father must be swimming in it. And you?” he continued, addressing Sushil.
“My father is just a simple farmer,” said Sushil.
Bruce Lee grinned. “He’s the only schmuck out of the three, eh? Unless, of course, he is rearing marijuana,” he crooned before he went through a drill of earsplitting screams that tasered through their hungover heads, flailing fists and heels as he sparred with an imagined opponent before abruptly walking out. The door clanged shut behind him. The key screeched in the lock and grated like a rusty file on their nerves.
“Why don’t you get your father to ask their fat cat fathers for some of their loot?” he
asked Sushil as a parting shot.
They sat in stunned, groggy silence for another hour before Anil got to his feet. “I am a Gorkhali,” he said, “and I am not afraid of any cops.”
He went over to the cell door and started shaking it. “We want to see your senior officer here,” he yelled at the cop on guard duty outside their cell block.
The guard sniggered. “You are not seeing anyone, so cool it,” he smirked.
“Come on, we must see your senior officer, it is urgent,” pressed Anil.
The cop got off his stool and sauntered to their cell door. “You got any cigarettes?” he asked.
They had two half-empty packets between the three of them. They kept three cigarettes and give the rest to the cop.
“You got any money?” asked the cop.
They gave him 200 Rupees out of the total of 300 Rupees that the three of them had.
The guard disappeared for a while, then came to their cell and unlocked the door.
“Come on,” he said.
They followed him down a corridor with cells on both sides, turned right into another
corridor with closed doors on both sides, and were led to the last door on the left.
There was an inspector sitting at a table with no chairs in front of it. Wooden benches lined the walls in front of the inspector and on one side. Two drunks were experiencing oblivion, sprawled out on the benches. Their escort led them to the table, saluted stiffly and retreated.
“We want to make some phone calls,” said Anil. The cop stared at them for a long time and then pointed at the phone on his table.
Anil phoned home. His father was out looking for him and his mother, torn between
relief at hearing his voice and panic that he was in clink, was useless. He surrendered the phone to Pradip.
Pradip’s father picked up the phone and listened in phlegmatic silence to Pradip’s
stumbling explanation of his circumstances.
“So what do you want me to do?” asked Pradip’s dad calmly.
“Please use your connections and get us released,” whined Pradip.
“Is there any officer with you there?” demanded Pradip’s dad. “Let me talk to him.”
Pradip handed the phone to the inspector, who said hello with a grim face. He then
listened for about two minutes, his face lighting up with a broad grin. He said yes sir, thank you sir, bye sir, and put down the phone.
He looked at the three of them for a long moment, his grin getting broader. Then he
addressed Pradip. “Your father is a powerful person, so I must listen to what he says.”
They perked up. “I suppose we can go now,” said Pradip, sounding almost chirpy.
The cop nodded. “Right back to your cell. Your father told me to keep you three drunks here as long as I can. He feels you can stay out of trouble here.
“Merry Kissmiss. Happy New Year, too. You will probably still be here then. Be my guests.”