Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Are You Married?

By Rajesh Kumar Sharma

It was a tight, neat cabin. Files were piled up like trophies against a wall. An air-conditioner peeped out of the twisted mouth of a window. Across the table sat the gatekeeper, the all-potent PA, chattering with some malevolent soul on his elegant white-gray telephone. “I am like a mongrel’s carcass, torn to shreds by those vile crows,” he said with the touching vanity of a poet who has just discovered himself. The tall man looming over him with a file and a smile frowned at the comparison, unable to determine whether the first simile was more honourable or the second. “VIP after VIP has been tearing into my flesh, but I tell them I can’t get them an appointment with the Sahib. At least not yet.” I was amazed at the range of images his uneven head could harbour – from disintegrating dogs and scavenging crows to exhausted courtesans! Keats’s negative capability, or the ancient seers’ aham brahmasmi? Had I yielded to a fit of that idiotic sentiment which sometimes fuels our acts of choice, I would have cast off my academic robe and donned the glorious gatekeeper’s costume. If he can empathize so readily with such a variety of creatures, there must be something in his calling. I read poetry, but he lives it!

Six of us sat across that overworked table of his, which defined his universe. What a noble and humble way to live your life.

And then a seventh person pushed open the short, creaky door, and dragged herself in. She was a youngish woman, with a file in her hand. “I have come directly to you, hoping you will help me see the Sahib.”

He looked through her file and ran his tongue tentatively over the lips in several directions. “But I see no cause of action that should compel a meeting with the Sahib. You may leave your file on my table. I will put it up.” But she was not going to be shooed away so conveniently. “I have been facing harassment for a year and a half. They have made my life hell. I can’t take it any more.”

The PA raised his eyes to look into hers. His lips quivering, he paused with the pause of hills, before turning on the humble tap of his ancient wisdom. “Are you married?” he asked. “Yes, I am.” “Then you should be tolerant. Marriage teaches women tolerance.”

My colleague, sitting behind me, exploded, “What a stupid thing to say! By God, what an idiot!” But the “idiot” ducked the explosion, pretending not to have heard the angry woman’s compliment at all.


paramjit ramana said...

great. it could make a very good story. carry on.

M L Raina said...

reminds me of the gatekeeper sitting outside the court-room in Dickens's Tale of Two Cities,flies buzzing all over him for all he cared and the momentous trial droning on inside! Of course he didnt slaver like your guardian of the Hades.He simply went to sleep.

Surbhi Goel said...

I must partake of the water in Patiala. All the people
i know of from the town and especially connected to panjabi University, Patiala
( specifically the English Department) have some thing special.

While I lauded and find myself amazed by Archana's Poems, the story
below gave me gooseflesh. We should import some of the water here.

very well put and very engaging story.

vishal said...

very nicely told and so true to all pervasive workculture and the thought process in our times.... you have the eye and the skill.

Anonymous said...

gud 2 c u at ur creative best, once again. keep writng...

Anonymous said...

gud 2 c u at ur creative bst, 1ce again - deepi

Aman said...

you hv put a nice idea through your narrator's colleague...i thnk undoubtly u r a champion of women ...and here she is ur mouth piece....