Short story from Pathik Mitra


Pathik Mitra

Neera opened her eyes slowly. The buzz in her head had ceased. There was a strange sense of peace and tranquillity around her that she had never sensed before. The sense of pain and the deafening sound of blasts, and ambulance sirens all were surprisingly stopped. She blinked her eyes twice and looked around the empty room. A warm white light seemed to gently pacify her nerves. A piece of soothing music was comforting her tensed mind. She could not guess the source of this soothing light or music though. The room was empty other than a table and two chairs placed at the centre. What is this place? Where has Neera landed? Is she kidnapped? As she got back on her feet and started walking toward the table she started remembering her day.

She was on an assignment to cover the riots at Marufganj village in Uttar Pradesh. Two days back communal riots broke out at Marufganj as a Muslim girl was stripped of her burkha in the village school. Soon communal tensions soared high and by the evening there were 5 deaths and an imposed curfew. People were in a panic, antisocial elements ruled the roads, shops were burning and supreme hara-kiri reigned. Working for her independent news portal Neera visited ground zero. In the course of her investigations, she discovered too many dirty secrets of the local political leaders and how they had meticulously planned for the riots. But then they also found out about Neera and her findings. She was chased by a gang of thugs before she took refuge in a deserted building. The last thing she could remember was one of the thugs hurling a hand grenade at her. There was a deafening noise. But after that it was calm. Supreme calm. Trying to arrange the random chain of thoughts in her mind, Neera pulled her hair behind her head and tied it with the band.

Then a sudden realization dawned upon her. There was no escape. Her leg was injured and she could barely move when the grenade was hurled at her. So where was she? Is she dead?

Before Neera could further streamline her thoughts, she saw a lady approaching her. She was dressed in a very formal black suit and knee-length skirt. She wore black high heels and dark lipstick. The top two buttons of her shirt were open. She had a silver metallic briefcase in her hands. Just like her she had done her hair and also wore black frame glasses. With beaming confidence, she trotted towards her in her high heels. Neera could not help but admire her dressing sense and demeanour.

“Welcome, Neera! Welcome to Judgement stop” announced the lady formally.
Neera seemed to be least bothered by her presence. Being her usual self she casually asked, “So I am dead?”

“Yes Madam! Technically yes. But it will be confirmed after you get the tickets for your next destination?” She replied pertinently.

“That means I am neither dead nor alive? Kind of in-between?” Neera enquired again.

“You are in transit. Just like if you have done the check-in but not boarded the flight yet” The lady explained patiently with a smile.

“Ok Ok. Let it be. But who are you? God?” Neera asked.

“I wish I could be someday. But for now, I just keep accounts for Him. I am Chitra Gupta.” She replied.

“What you Chitragupta? But I read he was a guy, but you seem to be a woman” Neera looked confused.

“He is Chitragupta. I am Chitra Gupta. There is a space character. You see it's all about perception.” Replied Chitra.

“Wait wait. What did you say you're being a man or a woman depends on my perception? This seems to be pretty confusing. Care to explain?” Neera was excited now.

Chitra had her modest plastic smile pasted on her small lips.

“You are a true feminist Neera. You presume the world would have been a lot better if women were in charge. So how can a man be in charge of your accounts? Perceptions and notions are very powerful you see, at least over here.” 

“Ok fine. So you are just the accountant! Where is the Big boss? Where is God? I have a few questions for him?” Neera replied curtly.

“Generally it’s the other way round madam. But I presume your case is unique. God had warned me earlier. Plus you are a journalist, that too an honest, unbiased one. You represent a very rare endangered species on earth. My data says you are more endangered than the Emu or the platypus in the present day. Probably that’s why God is taking so long.” 

Soon there was a squeak in the door and they could see a silhouette stealthily walk toward them.

Chitra cleared her throat and pulled the chair. As the silhouette materialised into a human shape, Neera could not help but laugh. The man who had approached them was barely 4 feet at least 1.5feet shorter than her and had a bald head with surprisingly just two streaks of hair standing tall on his head. He wore a yellow Bermuda with red socks and pink oversize jogging shoes. He had nothing but just a floral printed violet tie on top which was resting on his paunch. He had a disgusting Hitleresque butterfly moustache hanging on his lips just below his flat nose. Even Neera felt bad for his catastrophic fashion sense.

“Welcome, Neera! Sorry to keep you waiting. I hope Chitra madam has already briefed you.” Spoke the man in a heavy voice.

“Don’t tell me you are God?” Neera asked trying her best not to laugh.

“I am afraid that’s what most people call me. But please don’t laugh at me. The way I look is nothing but a perception. Your perception.” 

“I am sorry I am an atheist. I don’t have any perception of God. I always thought it was a convenient hoax” replied Neera defiantly.

“That’s precisely the point. The cumulative summation of your ideas of me, your curses, and allegations overall culminate into this poor fashion sense of mine. This is how you perceive God. I am sorry I never thought you were so mean.” God was almost weeping.

“Wait wait so you don’t look like how they show in our serials?” 

“I know you underestimate me and my capability. But trust me I don’t have such wretched fashion sense that I will put tonnes of old fashioned gold jewellery on my bare body for nothing. Again it's their perception. A perception that I quite hate.” God replied.

“I am sorry. But still, the confusion exists. If your clothes or lack of them is proportional to my faith then you should have been naked. Not that I want it though”

At this Chitra giggled which earned her a stern gaze from God. Then He forced a smile and said, “That's not funny madam. We have some decorum and minimalist dressing guidelines here. It’s not a nudist colony you see.”

This jib kind of aroused the feminist in Neera. She had not subscribed to the idea of God from an early age and God himself was in front of her, she was in no mood to spare him. 

“You are sure this is no nudist colony? Then what about the concept of 72 virgins waiting for a pure soul, the concept of dancing Menkas & Apsaras, and the concept of seducing sorceress. The very concept of heaven objectifies and belittles women. If the idea is to reward a pure soul with virgins then it should be gender-neutral at least. You are a torchbearer of patriarchy.” Neera was excited.

“You just called God Male Chauvinist” Chitra blurted.

God opened his specs and adjusted them. He looked sad. He took up the glass of water from the table and took two sips.

“You are a feminist madam. I get it & I don’t have any objections to that. But the grave accusations that you thrust on me are unjust and unfair. Have you seen any of the so-called virgins or dancers around here? Chitra my respectable assistant is dressed modestly and I offer her my utmost respect despite her ridiculing gestures. So can you kindly reconsider your allegations against me?” God seemed to be hurt.

“It’s true I can’t see any around. But you only told me whatever I see is my perception. So how do I become sure that it's real?” 

“Precisely madam. There is no reality here. Reality is all down there. Here it’s all your perception. So if lust is what all your men perceive, then their heaven indeed needs virgins, fairies and nymphs. You can’t blame me for that. I am in no capacity responsible for that.” God replied.

“Even if I buy your argument that all ideas of heaven, swarg, Jannat, religion as a whole is man-made and all reality is on earth, still that does not help your case much,” Neera argued.

“You just said man-made and not woman made?” God asked.

“Ahh, that’s just a general figure of speech. Come on” Neera looked irritated.

“But I did not generalize it. You did. You people generalized everything. What a woman should not wear, how she should talk, what part of the body she should cover, when she should fast, which temple or mosque she should not enter, whom she should not marry! I have no role in it. All this generalisation is done by Mankind rather than humankind.” For the first time, God looked satisfied to have pushed Neera on the back foot. He looked up at Chitra expecting a smile in His support. But sadly Chitra did not oblige.

“So just like our elected government, you take no blame for the bloodshed going around in your name. You put all the blame on the poor public. You can’t just sit and watch the mad circus. Then you are not fit for the role of God.” Neera said sharply.

“Did she just question the competency of God?” Chitra could not resist. Again God exchanged a fiery glance.

“Do you believe that you all are just puppets in hands of God? All is pre-destined”.

“Surely not I take my own decisions. My life, my rules. When I am not sure what my life will be like in the next hour why will You be in charge? I want to be free. Free will, free spirit” 

“I too want the same. That’s why I have given you all the control. Then when you mess up on your own you blame me. Yet to assist you I have given you the power of thinking, sense of good, empathy, joy, happiness, poetry, music and whatnot. Yet ignoring all that you resolve to bloodshed. You blame me for that?” God was almost in tears.

For the first time, Neera felt bad for God. She was a bit too harsh on the poor fellow. He must be under a tremendous workload. It is not bad to break down at times. Even men do cry and women can console them.

“Just a moment, so you say the raging lust leading to rapes and brutality among men is also developed by them? But if lust is a basic instinct then indeed you are responsible.” Neera was not giving up.

God blinked twice & replied slowly, “Now again this is my problem. When I created man and Woman I never gave them any guidelines for not eating any apple. I wanted my creation to self-create and take civilization forward. The conjugal instincts were given to all creatures for the same reason. But for humans, I decided to spice it up a bit. Rather than being a mundane repetitive process, I added lust and love to it. I wanted the process to be an experience to be enjoyed. It's just like a pizza bread with tasty toppings. But how would I know that the humans will eat the toppings out of turn without caring for the base.”

Neera was impressed by the Pizza analogy. But she was here to combat fire with a fire extinguisher.

“But in your great process, women to suffer menstrual cramps, women to go through unbearable labour, while men will just enjoy the pizza? And you say you are not partial?”

“Did you just call God...” Chitra could not complete this time.

God snarled at her, “Yes she called me Partial. We all can hear that without you repeating it.”

Chitra bit her lip in apology and put her head down.

“See Neera I had entrusted the superior species with the greater responsibility. Naturally, women deserve to have it. The Period thing is just a part of the process. Period. Just as ATV vehicles are designed with superior suspension mechanisms I designed the woman bodies meticulously so that they can sustain the pain. Women are way stronger than men you see” replied God.

“I caught your bluff sir! Women are stronger than men. Are you in your senses or on marijuana?” Neera retorted relentlessly.

Chitra was ready to repeat if Neera called God an addict. But realising the gravity of the situation she ate her words.

“Neera I did not expect this from you. Do you think physical strength is the greatest power? I am afraid in that case Dinosaurs, gorillas, crocodiles, and elephants would have ruled the earth. Strength is in the mind and Women are designed with greater mental strength. I can bet on my creation. It’s your empathy that makes you powerful” God replied with diction.

God is Smart. Not as dumb as she thought. Neera was searching for her next question.

“So if you put all blame for violence and worldly disturbances on humans, what about natural catastrophes like Tsunamis, earthquakes and cyclones? You like it shaken, not stirred?”

“I am no James Bond, Neera. But first, you tell me what happened to your scooter last week?” 

“The air pressure was not accurate in the back wheel and the brakes were not serviced. It skidded.” 

“So can you blame the makers for the same?” God paused.

Neera realized she was stumped.

God had just delivered his glory lines with panache.

“You humans ticker and disturb the wonderful nature designed by me with pollution, global warming, hazardous chemicals and your overall Greed. In place of doing the regular maintenance of nature, you relentlessly exploit my system. Now you blame me?”

Neera could not reply. Chitra clapped in appreciation. God was happy. Finally, he made sense.

“Just a small clarification if you don’t mind?” Neera asked sheepishly.

“Again? Shoot” God thought he had nailed it but still some action was left.

“Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Jains all perceive you differently and shade blood for the sake of their difference in perceptions. Yet you don’t clarify them? Does the devil play his cards?” Neera asked.

God pulled out a box from under the table & put on a pair of black aviators & a pair of cheap lighting horns on his head. “Talking of the Devil, the Devil is here”. He grinned. Then he looked seriously into Neera’s eyes and replied.

“I told you I am not their controller just their creator. The diversity in thoughts is what makes them so beautiful and colourful. Just imagine Cakes for Christmas, Laddoos for Ganapathy, Biryani for Eid- it's all their creativity. If there was no diversity or difference in perception world would have been a boring place. I know they are stupid. They treat me often as a traffic constable whom they bribe every time they break the signal. But I ignore them. They can love and that’s the secret ingredient that helps them to fight the hardest of challenges.” 

“Huh, love is too overrated for me” Neera shrugged off.

God smiled and exchanged a glance with Chitra.

“Ok, I guess your questions are done with. I so wish your prime time TV news anchors borrow a page from your guide to fearless journalism. Time to get back to work. So Chitra Madam what do we have for Neera?” 

“She has an impeccable spotless sheet, Sir. It's confirmed Heaven” Chitra replied with excitement.

“Then Heaven it is” declared God.

Neera was silent. Her head was bent down and all of a sudden the excitement to have defeated the God in an argument seemed to die down. All the euphoria in her seemed to mould into a lump that had settled in her throat. Her nose felt heavy & her weather forecast was cloudy skies and rains. Before she could realize the first teardrop left her eyelids and landed on the ground.

“I miss mama, papa and that idiot too! I don’t want Heaven. I want to go home” Neera spoke trying her best to hold back her tears.

“And you say love is overrated my child,” God spoke softly.

There was awkward silence & God broke it.

“Chitra send her back! Convert the grenade hurled at her into a rotten egg. Delete the timeline.” God announced.

“But that is not as per protocol” Chitra reverted.

“Then understand that she has just forced God to break the rules” God smiled.

Neera was very happy after a long. But even at this moment, she was a lady after all.
“Thanks, Sir! But cant you change the rotten egg. It stinks & is bad for hair and skin” requested Neera.

God and Chitra just kept staring at each other.

Meantime the poor thug who had hurled the hand grenade could hardly believe his luck as the rotten egg crashed beside the journalist & police sirens approached them. 

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