Ishwar Allah Tero Naam
‘That’s very absurd,’ Subramanian Sir said. He had just listened to the plot of a novel that Arvind Kumar was planning to write.
Subramanian was Arvind’s teacher at Sawan Public School. The school was devoured a few years ago when one godman whose ashram lay next to the school desired to extend his territory like the kings of the olden days who had no imagination to make better use of their leisure than attack weak neighbouring countries. When the school died, Subramanian stopped teaching and chose to be in a protracted depression. Arvind, being a beloved pupil of olden days, visited the old teacher whenever the idea for a new story or poem struck him. Whenever Arvind visited his beloved teacher, the old man would be sitting in an armchair with closed eyes, legs hoisted on the low table in front, and listening to Gandhi’s favourite hymn, Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram. The lines he particularly liked were ‘Ishwar Allah tero naam, sabko sanmati de bhagwan.’
‘If I say yes to this conclusion that you’re giving to the novel, Lord Rama will walk straight out of your novel and hit me with his … what, Adidas shoes?”
Arvind Kumar’s protagonist Rama belonged to contemporary India. He would soon be occupying his throne in the palatial temple being constructed by the ruling party for him in Ayodhya, on the bank of his beloved Sarayu.
‘Nike, Sir,’ Arvind said. ‘Just Do It!’
‘Ah, yes, just do it. That’s why he slaps the beautician who casts an aspersion on Sita, right? Or did he ask the mob to lynch him?’
‘Lynching is for religious enemies, Sir. A slap is enough for those who doubt your wife’s chastity.’
‘Hmm.’ Subramaniam Sir seemed to appreciate the Bharatiya male chauvinism that underlay his writer-disciple’s thinking. ‘I have to go out with some work related to my provident fund. Why don’t you join me? Maybe, you can help me deal with those impossible sarkari babus.’
‘Impossible is nothing, Sir,’ Arvind said ignoring the fact that it was Adidas slogan. ‘We can discuss Lord Rama’s Nike shoes on the way.’
There seemed to be some problem on the way. It was at the entrance of Nigambodh Ghat. A group of people had gathered. Someone was shouting at a woman who wore a tattered sari. The crowd was watching with the usual onlookers’ curiosity and perverse interest.
‘That’s a priest of the ghat,’ Arvind said. ‘An uncle of mine. Shall we stop to see what happened?’
They parked the car under a tree on a sideroad. The Yamuna flowed indifferently carrying the ashes of the dead in her black waters.
‘Get lost, you low caste woman,’ Arvind Kumar’s uncle was abusing the woman who was demanding justice.
The woman’s daughter, a nine-year-old girl was killed in the cremation ground. By the time she got the information and reached there, the priest and his helpers had buried the body in a corner of the cremation ground.
‘If you complain, the police will disinter the body for post-mortem,’ the priest explained menacingly to the grieving mother. ‘The doctors will remove all her internal organs and sell them. Her soul will never find peace. Leave it and go home.’
When the woman refused to obey the priest’s order and instead accused him of raping and killing the child, the priest turned abusive and threatening. The crowd that gathered soon watched the exchange between the priest and the woman as if it was a scene in a drama, some amusement and more indifference.
‘Your uncle was wearing Adidas shoes,’ Subramanian Sir said as they went back to their car.
In another graveyard in Delhi, at that very time, a trans woman named Anjum emerged from Arundhati Roy’s novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and built Jannat Guest House in a graveyard.
Woman arrested for disturbing the peace of cremation ground, Radio City read news headlines in Subramanian Sir’s car.
‘You should go ahead with your novel,’ Sir said to his writer-disciple. ‘Let Ram wear Nike shoes and carry an AK-47 machine gun.’
He switched off the news. The car’s music came back. ‘Ishwar Allah tero naam…’ it sang mechanically.
PS. This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.