The Covid-19 lockdown in the country had reached the fifth day and the day was drawing sluggishly to an Eliotean twilight that was spread out like a patient etherised upon a surgery desk. Days were horrors now. Eat and sleep, and watch the TV during the intervals. There was nothing else to do. He couldn’t even sleep now. He realised that he was no incarnation of Kumbhakarna or Rip Van Winkle. He was Martin, English teacher at a CBSE school.
John and Tom were also feeling equally restless in their own homes which were not far from Martin’s. They used to have weekend flings together over a bottle of McDowell brandy. John had given up his lucrative job as the branch manager of a Dubai firm and taken to tapping rubber in his village. Tom’s furniture shop in the city was closed due to what he called the ‘Coronation of China’.
“Hey, there’s a bottle of JD available,” Tom said on phone.
“What’s JD?” Martin wondered.
“Jack Daniel’s, man. Top class whiskey. Aren’t you a teacher? Shouldn’t you do it in class once in a while?”
Eliot’s patient stirred. The totally deserted street outside grew dark.
“We’ll have to pool in the money,” Tom added. “That ex-military guy is ready to give.”
“Is John interested?”
“Yeah. What’s more, he wants to know whether God has a penis. That was the topic of his contemplation during the Coronation of China.”
Martin laughed. Then he whistled.
The party was always held at John’s place since he lived all alone. He was a bachelor because he believed that other people, particularly women, are viruses. He was in love with a girl while they were at school. They were all classmates: Tom, John and Martin, and that girl who became John’s proto-virus. She didn’t ever know that John was in love with her. So she married somebody else and John remained a bachelor.
“John is returning to the fold like the lost sheep being redeemed or the prodigal son repenting,” Tom said after the first shot of JD.
“Why? Has he found God’s penis?” Martin asked.
“Is God a man?” John asked.
“You’d prefer a god with a vagina?” Tom asked.
Tom was a devout Catholic. He was the only devout Catholic in the group. Martin attended the church for his children’s sake. “In case they want to marry in the church.” John never attended the church. He was the potential Buddha of the group.
“A god with a vagina.” John laughed. “Just imagine the Bible then. God with a vagina creates Eve in Her image. Let us make womankind in our image, God said, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. Then you two wouldn’t be sitting here with me gulping down Jack Daniel’s, your wives would be. And you’d be home cooking dinner for the family.” John’s laughter rang among his rubber trees and the branches swayed in the darkness.
“Like Antony Flew, John will rediscover the real God one day,” Tom prophesied. He pretended not to be serious. He was always like that. He made everything sound like a joke but he was dead serious about everything.
“What’s that flu in the time of corona?” Martin asked.
“Is that the atheist-turned-believer guy?” John asked.
“The rubber tapper is more knowledgeable than the CBSE teacher,” Tom mocked.
“To John the Enlightened.” Martin raised a toast.
“What I learnt is that one Malayali guy named Roy Abraham Varghese abducted the philosopher’s brain in the latter’s old age,” John said. Sometimes John’s diction became philosophical. It meant he was serious.
“His last book, There is a God, was co-written by Roy Abraham Varghese, that’s true. But when critics hinted at Flew’s senility, the philosopher issued a statement that the book contained his own views, not Varghese’s.” Tom explained.
“And the statement was written by Varghese,” said Martin.
“Of course,” said John, “Flew was unable to write anything at that age of 84.”
“You mean he turned the tables of his religion at the age of 84?” Martin asked. He was serious.
“Yup,” John said.
“Then that Varghese chap must be the brain behind it. Roman Catholic, Syrian Catholic, Syro-Malabari brain.” Martin said conclusively.
“Hey, something’s not right with that migrant road show at Paippadu, looks like,” Tom drew the others’ attention to the TV that had remained on all along though no one was watching it.
“We know who are behind this agitation,” the district collector was saying, “we’ll get them soon enough.”
“Another Malayali brain,” said Tom looking at Martin, “not Roman Catholic, Syrian Catholic, Syro-Malabari type must be behind it.”
“The same, it’s the same brain,” Martin said. “It’s another abduction of history, this time the highwayman took the place of the theologian, that’s all.”
“Imagine it was a highwaywoman,” John said taking another swig of Jack Daniel's.