My boss really liked me – ‘liked’ as in an extremely past tense.
No! I did not ogle his wife; and no! I did not escape with the company’s millions. Instead I managed to earn his eternal displeasure when I failed to share his unhealthy obsession for the spiritual. It all happened when I forcibly accompanied him to a spiritual gathering of sorts. It was a compulsion on my part and an intimate gesture of mentorship, on his.
#english #story #fiction #comic #sattire #sarcasm #spiritualism #Pakistan #mullah #extremism #weird #cult #pseudo
The atmosphere at the gathering was pure chaos. It was an amateur sufi-rock concert gone bad. But wait….am I really allowed to call a spiritual gathering chaotic? It definitely sounds like pure blasphemy. Yes there certainly was a wild bunch of self hypnotized bearded men, all clad in white. Yes they were all oscillating their heads like crazy pendulums of old grandfather clocks.
Yes it surely was chaos. But it was all happening in the local religious institution of a small community, somewhere in Pakistan. And calling it chaos was akin to a desire for self-annihilation. The chaos first startled me and then bored and depressed me; and yet the instinct of survival was strong.
There was a small stage and there was a throne accommodating an ample-assed chief mullah. Someone was singing a catchy hymn on the loudspeaker; which to my sinful ears, sounded like a currently popular Indian tune. But then I shook my head in disbelief and disregarded my suspicion as a wild flight of fantasy.
A young and practically hairless boy stood at either side of the enthroned chief. They were both…I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears…gyrating their middles and beat boxing to the tune. Jerky exclamations of ‘Haq Hoo!….Haq Hoo!’ were emerging from their throats, which quickly transformed into a bit faster paced ‘Haq Haq Hoo!…Haq Haq Hoo!’. The chief was passing appreciative glances at each boy in turn while the crowd was in a frenzy.
But wait! The enthroned one was not the VIP of the gathering. Instead it was another man altogether, a bit younger and equipped with a bit more extended tummy. Acting like the second coming of Christ, he was moving through the throng, smiling benevolently at everyone. His adjutants, meanwhile, were bestowing the innocent victims with sprinkles of a suspicious looking liquid, from an even more dubious looking urn. On a brighter side, the new entrant did look a bit like Gandalf in the all-flowing white robes. Though unfortunately, there was neither any staff nor any magic.
Seeing him approaching me fast, my curiosity first turned into anxiety and then downright panic. What if it was some kind of sedative and I woke up without the wallet in my pocket? What if I found myself brainwashed and part of some pseudo-religious cult?
‘I am not falling for this deal!’ I decided then and there and hastily looked around for an escape route.
By the time I located an exit and was trying to inch closer to freedom, the celebrity already had me centered in the holy crosshair. Seeing his adjutants raising the urn, I flailed my hands like a mad man. I wanted to banish all of them to the ninth circle of hell. Instead, my absurd attempts resulted into an eyeful of pungently fragrant ittar (perfume).
‘Hey! No…I am allergic to ittar. It reminds me of the Qari Sahab from my childhood.’
But, oblivious to my protest, Gandalf mumbled ‘Hallelujah!’ under his breath and was already moving away victoriously.
Some more time passed and I decided to attempt another escape. But this time, the grip on my wrist was hard cold steel. I looked up. My Boss was looking at me, hellfire burning in the inky depths of his kohl-lined eyes.
‘No!’ The order was silent but absolute.
I had no other option but to sit down on the marble-tiled floor besides him.
Gandalf had climbed the stage and had replaced the Chief on the throne. After settling down and adjusting the cord of his starched pajamas, he started scrutinizing the throng. I imagined him being the ‘Laughing Buddha’ and an uncontrollable smile stole across the corner of my lips.
To my horror, my smile was instantly detected by Gandalf. He smiled back like a wolf eyeing helpless sheep.
‘Aagay aayiye!’ (come forward and be devoured!) My heart skipped a beat.
Mister? You talking to me? Are you really talking to me? I tried to look around, trying to ensnare some other victim in my vicinity.
‘Aap!’ (You fool!) He snarled.
‘Jee!’ (Okay! I am dead!) I felt like an eight year old, caught probing his nose.
I hesitantly climbed the stage and approached Gandalf….Gandalf the White of course.
‘You like the atmosphere?’ He examined me head to toe and smiled with a superior twist of his lips.
‘Yeah man! This place is real cool!’ (This place is weird!) I waved my hands at the throng and the high-ceilinged hall.
The twisted corners of his smiling lips assumed the beginning of a scowl and I hurriedly corrected myself.
‘Yeah! I mean the atmosphere is very much spiritually satisfying’. (No I don’t not have the slightest of all ideas, what the hell are you asking me.)
The scowl faded back into the smile and I breathed a sigh of relief; while silently cursing my boss.
‘Tou phir aap ko zikar jaree hua?’ (Have you been enrolled?) Gandalf was at it again.
‘Hain jee? Kiya jaree hua?’ (What are you talking about old man?) I scratched my head in confusion at the riddle, but then chose the safer way out.
‘Nahin jee! Nahin jaari hua.’ (Nopes! I am still an alien) I offered humbly.
‘Koi baat nahin. Abhi jaree kartey hain!’ (No issues. Let me peak into your dark soul and I will address the anomaly) He nodded his beard in understanding and asked a stool to be brought forward for me.
Oh God! Please don‘t let him make me confess my sins. I prayed hard while sitting down in front of Gandalf.
Viewing my humble submission as the license to kill, he extended his right hand and his index finger started probing my ribcage. Then he poked me in between the third and the fourth ribs on the left side of my chest.
‘Hey!’ I tried to move back.
‘Aram sey bethain!’ (I will tear you into small pieces if you dare to make a single try to move). The once kind-looking Gandalf instantaneously transformed into the Dark Lord Sauron and I froze all movement.
The poking finger started vibrating like a bipolar tuning fork and Gandalf increased the pressure with each passing moment. The drilling attempt continued for another twenty seconds or so and left a purplish scar on my chest for a long time.
‘Kuch hua?’ (Come on boy! Just admit that you have been recruited.) He asked almost pleadingly.
You just managed to dislocate my rib cage with a single finger and yet you have the audacity to ask. My blood started boiling in anger.
‘Naheen jee! Kuch naheen hua!’ (Nopes! I am still me!) I hurriedly checked my inner self and managed to utter the unthinkable.
‘Kuch tou hua hoga? Koi ehsaas?’ (You are lying. I have converted you!) He sounded real perturbed as his key followers were in the ear shot; and my soul started dancing in joy.
‘Naheen jee! Kuch naheen hua. Bas dard hua hai’. (Nopes! I am sure I am perfectly intact). But my defiant answer seemed to give him some satisfaction.
‘Pain is the beginning.’ He sounded like an evangelist with a real bad hangover.
Pain is the beginning? Beginning of what exactly…more pain? I was grinding my teeth so hard I could taste the powdery enamel.
‘Pehley dard hota hai. Phir shifa milti hai!’ (First comes the pain and then comes salvation). He read the question in my eyes.
I felt like sitting in the exalted presence of the resurrected Buddha. But his retinue broke into a chorus of ‘Wah! Wah! Subhannallah!’ (Hallelujah!).
‘Kuch samjhay?’ (Have you understood my irrelevant philosophical overture?) The challenge underlying his tone sounded like a potent threat.
‘Jee samajh gaya. Achee tarah smajh gaya!’ (Yes I understand that I am facing a clear and present danger and I am not a fool!) I humbly submitted.
My bruise was hurting badly and I trembled at the prospect of irritating Sauron – hundred kilograms of muscles and solidified fat. Plus, the gradually growing pressure of my boss’s elbow, was about to bestow me with another purple stigmata.
‘Yeh parhe likhey log jaldbaz hotey hain. Sabar naheen kartey!’ (Some educated people are so hard to fool). He added for the collective benefit of the audience; and thankfully I was allowed to get down from the stage.
It must have been an hour or so, but to me it appeared to be as if eons had passed. But finally, the multitude stood up. Thanks God. It was probably the blessed time to leave. But wait….the ritual was not yet over.
Apparently Gandalf desired to dispense with a few farewell hugs, reserved only for his favourites. I shifted a few feet back smiling at my good luck. But sadly, lady luck was standing on the farther side of a deep dark abyss, cruelly smiling upon my fate.
It suddenly dawned upon me that being the new member of the club, I was…..yeah you probably guessed right……one of the blessed ones.
No! Me and my poor battered rib cage, screamed in unison. But Gandalf’s adjutants eagerly pushed me into the multitude.
Suffocating on mouthfuls of ittar-laden air, I tried to look over the shoulders of the ones standing in front.
Hey! What’s happening? And then I was shocked out of the living daylights.
The first candidate, on embracing him, was thrown back over a distance of about six feet. It was like instead of Gandalf, he had accidentally hugged a live high-tension wire. Adding to the misery of the senseless victim, the adjutants homed onto him and showered the same evil smelling ittar on his face.
Now that is purely a most rare and once in a lifetime occurrence, I consoled my badly shaking nerves. But the treatment was repeated for everyone; and suddenly it was my turn to embrace the Dark Lord.
I looked at him and his waiting arms with fear ruling my heart. He looked like an axe-wielding goblin and I was a complete nervous wreck, with a pant-wetting possibility in the making.
I resisted with all my might but the crazy throng pushed me into his waiting arms. I smelt his intoxicatingly sweet perfume and held onto his robes for dear life. The struggle continued almost endlessly until he pushed me back with full force. But I was not recruited yet. I refused to let go of his robes. Finally, with a ripping noise, I managed to detach while clutching his torn robes in my desperate fists.
Hell suddenly broke loose and the din of the crowd thundered like the very apocalypse. Unable to breathe anymore, I felt safe in switching off the worldly lights, at least temporarily.
So what happened afterwards and how did I manage to escape in one piece from the premises? Legend has it that the Dark Lord publicly declared me as the most blessed one and allowed my boss to evacuate my senseless persona. However, legend also whispers that my boss promised the Dark Lord never to bring me back.