Shilavati was bored. She had everything she wanted. A huge LED screen with more than 200 TV channels and a resounding Dolby sound system filled the vacuum of her days with light and sound. There were manservants and maidservants waiting for her orders to fill the emptiness in her ego with a glass of fruit juice or a ride to the shopping mall. Yet she felt bored. Her two children were at school and husband was in the office of the MNC which paid him more money than they really needed. The family used to go for an outing almost every weekend. Yet she felt bored. She switched the channels on the TV.
The English news channel was discussing whether death penalty fitted in with contemporary civilisation. Within months of becoming the President, Mr Pranab Mukherjee had sent two persons to the gallows and dismissed the mercy petitions of the killers of Rajiv Gandhi.
Why is there so much brouhaha about executing some criminals? Shilavati wondered. Aren’t we a species of creatures that kill other members of the species for flimsy reasons? Like for upholding the wishes of some amorphous god who allegedly spoke with a mouth that he never possessed to a man who heard the divine utterance differently at different times!
Will Pranab da be an inhuman President merely because he sent a few heartless criminals to the gallows? What about the Chief Minister of a state who presided upon the assaults, rapes, expropriation and murders of hundreds of people and yet is poised to become the Prime Minister of the country? Is he more humane than Pranab da? Who decides the humaneness of each individual?
We are a funny lot, mused Shilavati. We are never contented with what we have. The reality elsewhere is always better. Our own reality is never satisfying. Kaikeyi is not content with the opulence in the palace. Even Rama’s filial devotion, let alone Dasaratha’s marital commitments, cannot make her contented. It is not enough to crown Bharatha the king, but Rama has to be exiled too. Discontent becomes malice and malice froths in Kaikeyi’s heart just like the beer being poured into the mug.
Shilavati sipped the beer. The beer frothed in her mind. The froth charged her laptop. Faces came and went on the social network. One face froze the froth in the beer: like whisky being added into the frothing beer.
Narottam was a friend she had acquired among the many faceless faces in the social network. An entrepreneur, Narottam was usually on the move. He had breakfast in London and lunch in Paris. At least that’s what she was given to understand. Shilavati envied Narottam’s fortune. She visualised him ensconced on a burnished throne in a Venetian barge.
“Life is like an exotic fruit, the juice will dry up if you don’t relish it in time,” Narottam had written in one of his many wise SMSes. As his messages became juicier they decided to exchange them more discreetly than at social networks. The mobile phone became the privileged bearer of the juice that overflowed from their laden hearts.
“I’m getting so bored here day after day,” complained Shilavati when many juicy messages had already been exchanged. “Take me with you to the exotic lands.”
“Okay,” agreed Narottam. “I’ll take my darling to paradise. There we will together create a new world. The gods will envy our love and the apsaras will fill our goblets with heavenly wine. Our hearts will be intoxicated with the love that Vishwamitra and Menaka forged...”
“Bring all your jewellery.” Narottam’s supernatural fantasies ended rather too prosaically. “There’s some hiatus in the business. America has announced pulling out its troops from Afghanistan.”
Shilavati did not understand what Afghanistan had got to do with it all. But she was educated enough to know about the butterfly effect. If a butterfly flapped its wings in Beijing’s corridors, there may be a cyclone in Washington DC.
All her gold jewellery and the diamond love bands gifted by her husband packed in a bag, Shilavati walked gracefully with the gait of a swan into the foyer of the penthouse where Narottam had promised to provide her the paradise.
“Where’s Narottam?” she asked the group of young men who walked into the foyer one by one as if materialised from the thin air by a wizard’s magic wand.
“We are all Narottams,” they laughed. And they carried her along a corridor where there was no wing-flapping butterfly.
The sun had not risen when she woke up, her head weighed down under the effect of some drug, on the side of a deserted street somewhere in the outskirts of the city... feeling bruised all over, scratches and bites digging in her skin... unable to take a step forward.