I don’t know why Mr. Vagra always bestows upon me this type of task…may be like everyone he is well aware of my weakness at saying “no” to anyone. At midnight of 14th August, my phone vibrated on my bed table five times until I was forced to look at the name on the screen. There was no need to knuckle out my sleep at the back of my palm and walk through the long corridor of yawning mouth to get rid of the sleepy feelings. I was just petrified under a splash of a full tub of ice water on a cold wintry night with the brimming name on the screen, Mr. Vagra. I knew it was not him, but his secretary Mohon Dutta. Secretaries need not be addressed as Mr. Dutta as they are the bellow status of their master.
And what will the masters, the famous politicians do if they are not kept demarcated from their subordinates? It’s not only a matter of branded dress, and extra weight upon the plum face but an extra emphasis- a petty, little ‘Mr’ … enough to gas his windbag. ‘Dr’ is distant light-year, far cravings for today’s zillion number of politicians whose qualification requires nothing but a stentorian voice, hedonistic aim, hectoring attitude, and bellicose party support. One or two extraordinary standards and designations sometimes claim their educational aristocracy but most of the time that proves fake and falsified. And even if they profess they often have to face court cases in charge of plagiarism. So they do not try hard. And what is the need for degrees in today’s political scenario in our poor country where everything is sold at low prices? It is the 21st century; even a cowboy has the equivocal voice of a demagogue.
So why did he recall me at this odd hour? Coating my tensed and irritated voice with ‘Amul Butter’ I spoke out ‘ Hello’ with the most amiable tone I could muster and waited for Mohon Dutta’s sniffing voice. But God, it was not the dog but the hunter itself! I sprang on my bed in singeing shock and gulped the dry salvia before I could say a word, sprinkling sugar on my already buttered voice,” Namaste Ji, what good luck, why you take the toil to call me? Where is Mohon Dutta?” But I could not finish my pageantry of unctuous questionnaires, as he cut short it with his sleepy, gruffly, wine-toned voice, ” Susantji I need you to go to the Fulmati slum this early morning to arrange everything before my arrival. I have to hoist the flag in other areas and then finally I will arrive there so keep everything in order; I do not have much time. tomorrow is 15th August, you know well”.
I did not say anything, as there was no need for it so he proceeded on smoothly, “keep my speech ready and arrange a photographer, and inform the media, and some of your friends. Mohon Dutta is busy arranging my other twelve flag-hosting programs in the city and I only offer you this one. Everything must be perfect and pristine. Everyone should know the day and me. My speech will be good and for clapping. Understand?”
“Yes sir, yes sir” (my brains are full).” I just remembered the kids jiggling, “ba ba black sheep black sheep have you any wool?”
He cut the phone and I did not waste my time thinking how the night will be good after all that. I switched on the bed lamp. At this hour it would not be prudent to flash out and spotlight my apartment in the dark-cloaked city, snoozing before the dawn of Independence Day. It would be a great celebration all over the country and obviously at numerous places as the clubs are mushrooming all over the localities. In these days of celebrations, you will find the standing pole with the tricolored flag looking foolishly and shyly at its passersby and a group of two or three club members projecting their tobacco-stained teeth and red eyes towards the school or college girls cladding red-white sarees. They leered at them slurring vulgar at the morning air. And I had to prepare a speech for this comic serial.
“Oh! The sky cracks upon this fool’s paradise and wraps me under its cloak but not along with Mr.Vagra,” I wished preparing myself with paper and pen and a hazy brain. It needed not any brain at all as all were the same pattern, one line for the day, two lines for the significance of the day and the other fifty lines for Mr.Vagra and the party. It’s all in the same format.
My worries were all about the slum people whom I had to polish and drill all the superfluous words and manners just for an hour and on this short notice. And that’s why I had to rise early, as early as I could arrange everything perfectly for the day’s show.
Setting my alarm I went to sleep.
The congested slum area is already flooding with curious faces brightened with the thought of something spicy in daily monotony and the kids are scuttling through the area like squirrels. They are talking in high pitch adding now and then the slang they learn from their elders and then giggling over their own audaciousness or competency. Mr. Vagra had not arrived yet though his secretary Mohon Dutta calls thrice with measured tension and anxiety. He has high blood pressure and three daughters yet to be married. I assure him, “Everything is ready.” The cameraman is standing with an aloof distant look at the sky and sometimes at the clamoring faces. Some of my friends are arranging Marie Biscuits and cheap candies in a box. The poll is hired and I buy a flag from the street. On this day people sell flags early in the morning. This is a good business day for them. Everything is ready. I drill every available brain with the stuff they need to remember with the arrival of the minister and the following exhibition. They are very cooperative and enthusiastic except for the kids. I approach them with my vain dignity to keep them quiet and lure them with some of the candies. It works well. They gather around me with dust and dirt all over them and a pungent smell that not only wafts from them but also the locality.
I call them near me and ask “Do you know which day is it?”
“15th August”, they proclaim in chorus.
“What happened on that day?”
They scratch their heads until someone finds some lice stuck in her brittle nails and then laugh at me as if to signify “nothing so important.”
Then a tall girl with white patches on her face and a husky voice said, “We get freedom.”
“What do you know about freedom?” I ask as if to puzzle her a bit with my weird query whose answer is not even clear to me. But she knows the answer.
“It means merry biscuits and candies.”
Hey, I am Munmun, the phoenix fabulist who wants to tell you stories. I love to read stories and I love to weave stories. I feel life is an amalgamation of multiple stories, colourful threads, and threads of pain, pleasure, hope, and hopelessness. We just need to pick those hues and arrange them, knitting them with our own emotions and perception. So let’s celebrate the stories of life.