“Man will only be better when you show him what he is”- Anton Chekhov.
Driver Kumar and bodyguard Karim were waiting in the parking lot for their Master
Mr.Kristopher who was in one of the most important political meetings of his career in the local party office. Kumar and a handful of the other people, including Mr.Kristopher’s family, who spent an extensive amount of time around the soon to be MLC knew the whole past week that this was going to be a very fruitful year for all of them, as all their extra bonuses depended on Mr.Kristopher climbing the ladder of the political system and this for particular reasons was going to be a big step-up. The higher he went the more were the chances of his employees of thriving.
“Do you think he’ll like it?” Kumar asked Karim while passing him a puff of the cigarette.”Well, you are about to know that in right about 5 minutes” answered Karim while hastily puffing in the smoke and extinguishing it as he saw their master walk out of the party office along with a few other people who had come out to see him off.Both the employees knew how to behave in front of outsiders. Karim with the alert attitude of a body guard walked to
his master and escorted him towards the car, while Kumar had already pulled it up to the front porch. The other political colleagues bid Mr.Kristopher goodbye as he entered his car and Kumar drove the three men away. Mr.Kristopher was on the phone the whole ride back home. When he got down and started walking towards his royal home, Kumar interrupted from behind with a plastic cover in his hand.
“Sir… ” Mr.Kristopher turned back and looked at Kumar,who paused, and Karim who was standing a few inches behind him, both having the expression of nervousness and excite in their faces.
“Yes?” said Mr.Kristopher with a smile and curiosity on his face.
“SIR! We both just wanted to tell you today that we are very grateful and humbly touched by the way you have taken care, blessed and protected not only us both but also our families back in the village for such a long time and we would…”
“For a time of more than ten years” Karim prompted in between.
“Yes, for more than ten years, we, your humble servants, on this so auspicious day for us would like you to accept this small token of respect from us, though it is not in the smallest of manner worthy of you, we hope that you would like this shawl which was brought down here specially for you. It is made of the purest and rarest silk in Banaras and its beauty will be greatly multiplied if you would do us the kindness of putting it on your shoulders.”
“With your fatherly blessings upon us poor people…” added Karim wiping the sweat from his temple which had suddenly appeared. He was very obviously trying to speak and was probably wondering why he din’t have a good speech prepared like his colleague did.
“And” he wound up, “may Allah bless upon you and your family great fortune and may your legacy set an example of humility, kindness and righteousness.”
Mr.Kristopher wiped the small droplet of tear which had appeared behind his spectacles with the handkerchief he always carried in his hand.
“My boys!” he said in a sentimental voice. “I did not expect… nor suppose that you would give me such honour in your innocent hearts. Today the lord has not just given me the promotion in politics that I wanted but has also awarded me with the love and loyalty of the two boys I trust the most in this world. And trust me boys…trust me.. that no one is as wishful as me of your well-being and progress. I shall not forget this day until my death. You both are the two hands without whom I would be useless. ”
Mr.Kristopher,the soon to be MLC, hugged and kissed the foreheads of both his servants, who had not expected this act of love and turned pale with joy. Then the boss made a gesture which meant that he could not speak anymore due to an overflow of humility. After he had recovered, which was in a few seconds, he faintly in a lovely voice said Kumar to go pick up his son from school and Karim to start making a few calls for the party which was going to be thrown this weekend. As the boys dispersed Mr.Kristopher entered his house eagerly waiting for the local MLA to show up for an important meeting.
After Kumar had brought his master’s son home, Karim told him that the local MLA was already here and that Mr.Kristopher had told him to tell Kumar that he had to go to the MLA’s residence and ask the PA for the package addressed to Mr.Kristopher and bring it straight back home as soon as possible.
It took over an hour and a half for Kumar to do the job and get back home,as soon as possible, and night had fallen by then. Once in the parking area of the house, Kumar rang a call straight to the office room of Mr.Kristopher. He could hear the MLA’s loud manly voice for a few moments and suddenly stop as soon as Mr.Kristopher spoke. Like a baby stopping its cry as soon as it is surprised.
“Sir, the package has been brought, do you want me to bring it to you in the office?”The master thought for a moment “No, put it on the table in my bedroom, I will go through it later.” said Mr.Kristopher as he put the receiver of the phone down. As Kumar moved his hand down his ear and was right about to disconnect the call when he faintly heard a voice coming out of his mobile. He slapped the phone back into his ear and before he knew it, curiosity had won him over. The MLA’s heavy voice was bursting into his cell phone. He realized that Mr.Kristopher had by accident not put the phone’s receiver in a proper position and the call was still on. What Kumar heard, startled him. He learned in those 15 minutes that Mr.Kristopher had done a huge scam in the selling of bricks from other districts and the property evaluation of the buildings to which the bricks were supplied had his name as a co-owner on them along with the MLA. He learned that this thing wouldn’t go down so well with the income tax people. He learned that the MLA and the soon to be MLC were planning out strategies to avoid this problem which had come their way and the most humongous fact which Kumar learned was that the package in his hands was, by all of God’s odds, the tax evaluation papers. Kumar cut the call after listening to this accidental conversation and instantly made another call. To Karim.
“Where are you? Meet me at the pond with a few beers after the shift.”
The MLA had left after the three hour long meeting concluded, Mr. Kristopher went into his bedroom, picked up the package and took it to the dining table. Simultaneously going through the papers and chewing his food like a cow, Mr.Kristopher felt a disgusting smell run through his nostrils. He looked beside and noticed his son hurrying out of the hall into the lawn, Mr.Kristopher also noticed that his 12 year old son was holding in his hand the shawl which was presented to him a few hours back.
“What is that disgusting smell beta? And what are you doing with that shawl?”
“Oh, I am really sorry for the smell papa, Tommy took a dump in my room and I had nothing to wipe it out with at that moment and I found this in your bedroom, so I cleaned it up.”
Mr.Kristopher paused for a second and gave his entire attention to analyze what his son had just said to him.
“How many times have I told you not to allow that stupid old dog into the house? I swear, if it comes into the house again I will throw the dammed thing out of this house. Tie it in the lawn! And why the hell are you cleaning its dump? Do you want to get infected? Go tell the maid to throw it out! Run now and take a bath”
The 12 year old lowered his head and walked out of the room as fast as he could while his father got back to the papers and the chewing. The fact of the shawl going completely unnoticed to either of them.
Kumar gulped down a big sip of his beer while sitting on the bonnet of his master’s car and narrowed his eyes to the bitterness of the brew.”You have heard the saying ‘Time and tide wait for none’ haven’t you?” said Kumar to Karim who was still shooting a baffled expression at the man. In the next seconds Karim got lost into deep thoughts, looking into the reflection of the twilight in the water of the pond, analyzing all the things he had just been told and also flinging a pinch of tobacco into his mouth which he had just crushed in his palm.”Well, this is our time and our tide my friend! I say let’s seize it. It’s time we squeeze some of the dough we deserve from the son of a bitch”
After a few seconds Karim swam back into the present reality. “If what you are saying is true..” Karim took a sip of his beer and made an expression of a philosopher thinking about life deeply, “We are sitting on a goldmine hear. but damn it! we will never be able to dig it, for without the proper proof and leverage we are nothing more than two deadbeats who accidentally got to know a truth that no one will believe.”
“That exactly is where you can never match my intellectual cunningness Karim” said Kumar and took out a set of folded papers from his back pocket and handed the copied papers of the tax evaluation documents to Karim.
Looking at them Karim’s face lit up with an expression which resembled the actual yellow reflection of gold falling on him.
“This is our ticket to Jannat” said Karim and continued “but we need need protection, we are way too rookie to gamble with a man like the bloody Kristopher. Let me make a call to that cop, what was his name.. ” The booze had condensed Karim’s memory. “err…. he is an SP… our local SP….SP Singh…Singh..Singh…. Kanwar Singh! Yes, that’s his name! Kanwar Singh. I know him well, he can help us blackmail the fool and give us protection. We’ll cut him a share.”
“Are you sure he can be trusted?” inquired Kumar.
“My man, in this world who can be? But damn it, we need him and I am sure that a corrupt cop always needs money, no matter how well off he is.” after a shooting a sarcastic smile to try to prove that he was more smarter than Kumar, Karim continued “I will give SP Singh a call tomorrow and take these papers to him, mean while you think on the pick up place.”
They both finished their beers while discussing the plan and drove back to their quarters and called it a night.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing master. I still am not able to believe that we have had a snake in our home all these years. I still cannot believe that we couldn’t see his real face for more than ten years. I still cannot think of the reason of how he could’ve thought of such a thing. To bite the God who gave you your life? It’s an unforgivable sin ” said a Karim desperately trying to add heavy adjectives into his statements. Karim put the copied papers in front of Mr.Kristopher who was silent all the time listening to him. Mr.Kristopher got up, paying no attention to the papers placed on the teapoy in front of him, and leaned towards Karim, who leaned a bit back in nervousness staring at his master. His master took the tobacco packet out of his shirt’s pocket. Served it into his left palm and started refining it by crushing it with his right thumb.
Circling the teapoy Mr.Kristopher said “Well, how about that, I always thought that Kumar was the smarter one than you, and yet he did the dumbest thing by telling you his plan.” He flinged a little tobacco into his mouth, poured a little more into his palm and continued the process. After a short smirk he continued “The poor guy could’ve easily had me if he could keep his mouth shut and the plan to himself. Well, you did the right thing though Karim… ” he paused to look straight into the eyes of his servant and could see Karim gulping fear down his throat. “by coming to me. You have proved your loyalty, this time for real.”
Looking at Mr.Kristopher smile at him, Karim got the courage to push up a few words out of his mouth. “What do we do about the snake master?” After thinking for a few moments Mr.Kristopher said “Well Karim, you need to listen very carefully to what I am about to say, for it is your reply that will decide what happens to both our futures.” Mr.Kristopher yet again looked straight into the eyes of Karim, this time with absolute cold pale expressions, still crushing the tobacco with his right thumb he continued “in this world, if you desire to crush an
insect you only do it with your own thumb” showing Karim his right thumb which had tobacco glued all over it due to the sweat in his palm, he extended his speech while placing the tobacco into Karim’s hand. “are you ready to be that thumb? My thumb which can crush an insect for me?” Karim nodded his head in bewilderment. “Then go crush that insect for me… Son”
“It was a grave mistake on my part Karim. As a brother to me and my sister, as a son to my mother I beg you… I beg you brother to let me go. Please show mercy on this wretched being. I promise you I will never show my hideous face to you or master in my life. All I ask you is to let me live.” said Kumar while kissing the mud soaked sandals of Karim at the railway tracks.Karim held Kumar by his hair and pulled his head to face him, shot a wicked smirk at the guy who was now weeping horribly and added his favourite prefix ” ‘I still can’t believe’ you think you are more intellectually cunning than me, I have only one last advise for you, don’t beg, die with the little dignity you have left.”
Karim ordered his two sidekicks to hold Kumar,who was kneeling, by both his hands. Karim could hardly make out what Kumar,who was shivering like a goat before its slaughter, was murmuring to him as he held his hair by one hand, took out a peculiar pink knife out of his back pocket and slowly started chopping Kumar’s scalp off his head.The screams Kumar produced caused a sharp pain in the ears of the other three men.”You don’t deserve to keep the head on which Mr.Kristopher place his hands and kissed, you thought the climb of the ladder would be that simple, din’t you? ” Karim had finished chopping a big slice of scalp and hair off of Kumar’s head, he toyed with it in front of the almost unconscious victim, threw it aside, and stabbed Kumar in the stomach and chest for six times straight, until he was sure the snake was dead. Blood flowed on the rocks like a pipe leaking water.
Even though he killed the snake like a pro, with absolutely no sign of hesitation or fear, reality was slightly kicking into Karim. He knew he had a high chance of getting caught even with Mr.Kristopher’s hand on his shoulder. The next day Karim went to the local party office to consult with Mr.Kristopher. Standing at the gate of the premises he watched his master come out of the main building. They both exchanged glances, surrounded by his colleagues Mr.Kristopher with his eyes signaled Karim to wait at the next junction of the road, he obeyed.
As Mr.Kristopher’s car approached Karim saw one of his sidekicks driving the car. Kumar’s face flashed in his mind. The window rolled down as the car stopped. Mr.Kristopher who was speaking on the phone paused and looked out to talk to Karim.” You dint face any problems, did you?” inquired his master. ” None while doing it master, but I must say I am afraid now.” ” There is nothing to worry about son, I have protected you since you were a child, Haven’t I?” Mr.Kristopher continued after a small nod of approval from Karim
” I will take care of it. Now give me the weapon you used, it needs to disappear forever.” said Mr.Kristopher while spreading the handkerchief in his palm. As Karim placed the pink knife in the handkerchief, his master folded it and continued ” Remember you have to lay low for a while now, stay in your home, don’t come to work nor talk to anybody until I say so. Understood?” Karim obediently nodded. Mr.Kristopher held his phone to his ear again.” Ah.. Yes Kanwar sir, as I was saying…” was all Karim could hear until the window rolled up and the car cruised past him.
A few nights later Karim was as usually having cheap whiskey and watching television at his home until he heard a knock on his door.
” Hello Singh saab, how good to see you. Please come in.” said Karim as he pulled a plastic chair for the cop in his small one room house.
” Would you like a peg of whiskey sir? ” said Karim, he continued after the cop refused with a gesture of his hand.
” So sir, have you given enough thought to what I told you? It is a full proof plan. I have safely hidden the tax evaluation papers. I will black mail Kristopher, we will split the money 50-50 straight. All I ask from you is discretion and legal protection in case something goes wrong. Now I dare you to tell me that this isn’t a good deal. Mr.Kristopher right now is sleeping with not a worry in the world, the son of a bitch won’t know what hit him” said Karim and laughed hysterically.
The cop was looking down and smiling the whole time Karim was pitching him the idea. After the pitch the Superintendent of Police looked at Karim with a big smirk on his face and said , ” You see Karim, if you desire to crush an insect, you should only use your thumb” Karim knew where he had heard this before, still a little confused ” I dint quite understand you sir?” The SP replied ” And you never will Karim, you never will. You were never his thumb, you were just an insect he used to crush another. It’s your turn now. And you are right, Kristopher right now is sleeping with out a smallest worry in the world” SP Singh took out a plastic evidence bag from behind which was tucked in his waist between his shirt and trousers and placed it in front of Karim. Looking at the pink knife in the bag, Karim could clearly see how dark his future was going to be.
The chameleon breeds within the man, not in his religion.
“Man will only be better when you show him what he is.”- Anton Chekhov
Inspired from the short story by Anton Chekhov.