Sunday, 21 July 2013


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

After a swift gulp of the fiery liquid, Samuel looked out of the window.
“Inebriation is a way of life for some. More so, when the love and adulation of millions serve that heady cocktail. What else would you expect?”
Samuel, or Sam, as I call him, was again slipping under his favourite philosophical skin, ready to take on the banalities and fruitlessness of life around.
With half a smile dangling on his lips, he carried on.
“Damn those lucky bastards! And damn those idiots around him. Sticking their tongue out, for a drop of the saviour’s piss. Gurujiiiii….” The last word, with its perfect tonal inflections, pictured all the hate, sarcasm and disgust he could have mustered.
“Hey hey hey!” I had to take control here. This is, after all, too familiar for me. By the time the fourth shot of whatever-is-there-in-that-bottle will go down Samuel’s throat, the ship of his senses would have set sail for the horizon. But till then, he would need a sober hand or two to keep his tongue-lashing in control.
“Hey Sam! Why don’t you take a nap? The upper berth is free. Come on. Here. Let me hold that glass.”
“O no no no no no!” Samuel was nodding away with utter conviction. “You think I’m smashed? Hah! I’m not. They are.”
He was waving away at the thousands who have gathered at the train station to take a glimpse of his holiness Sadanand Maharaj. The man who has been the biggest spectacle in the political landscape of these parts. From a rather unknown corner of the gangetic plains, he has risen the political ladder in slow but assured steps – from a village godman, to a fringe right wing party leader, to the champion of the religious cause of so many. My friend Samuel, needless to say, has very little respect for the religiously inclined. A staunch non-believer, he swore by anything that trashes faith and embraces alcohol. It’s the latter which usually causes most of his headaches, but the former is beginning to become mine today.  After all, we are travelling by the same train as Sadanand-ji, and there is no dearth of his fanatic followers among our fellow travellers.
Sam let out a raspy laugh as the train jerked into motion. The throngs of followers outside were beginning to run alongside the train. Guru-ji must be standing at the door of one of the AC compartments behind us, showering blessings on all and sundry.
“Sons of bitches. Hah!”
“Sam, hey! Planning to get lynched, or what?” I got my voice down to whisper now. “See that man? I will bet a tenner that he won’t hesitate to slit your throat if he heard what you said.”
I pointed at a man sitting at the corner of the opposite berth. The reddish tinge in his eyes gave away more than the smell of country liquor coming from his mouth. He was probably as harmless as an earthworm dipped in vinegar, but I was hoping Sam wouldn’t notice that.
“Him? Another of sadhu-ji’s toe-lickers? Ha ha ha!”
Sam did notice, and his more than loud laugh was noticed all around as well. I shrunk a little into my corner seat.
“Sam. Sam. Shhhhh. Saaaammm!” The desperation in my voice was clearly audible, even if my whisper was not.
It took a minute before the rumblings of his laughter died down. By now, I was giving up hope of salvaging the situation.
I decided to shut up. What will be, will be.
A few minutes and a few hiccups later, Sam seemed to be falling asleep - his head hanging down, and his eyes barely open. Finally! I got up to make room so he could lie down.
“Let him be, son.”
I haven’t even noticed when the elderly lady on the opposite top berth has woken up. She was observing us with an amused face.
“Let him be”, she repeated.
Sam, by now, was getting into a stupor. Maybe, the lady is right. I will simply wait till he dozes off.
“He really hates Sadanand-ji, doesn’t he?” She asked the most redundant question for the occasion.
 I simply smiled back. I don’t want to say it, after all.
“I bet he has a distaste for all these religious stuff going on here.”
Damn right. I nodded.
“Do you like him?” She is striking up a conversation now.
“Sadanand-ji, of course!”
I wondered what would be the right response that would kill the discussion.
“It’s okay to say you don’t, you know”. She has read the slight hesitation in me.
I repeated my sheepish smile, and looked at Sam. He eyes are closed now.
“Erm. Actually….” I did not finish my sentence.
“I saw you board at Allahabad. Do you live there?”
“No.” She was asking too many questions. Questions I did not want to answer.
“On business, then?” I nodded. Some business it was, for sure.
“Hell of a time to be in the city, isn’t it? With Sadanand-ji performing the grand yagna and all.”
I planted the same old smile. Hellish it was, no doubt.
“So.” She paused before asking what I’m sure she meant to ask all this time. “Why don’t you stop your friend from drinking?”
Sigh. “I try”
“So was that some medicine? Or drugs?”
“I saw you. When you friend went to the door for a smoke, you added something to his drink. What was it?”
She saw!
“Well yes, sort of medicine only”. This was embarrassing. I fidgeted with the pack of cigarettes in my hand. And I blushed.
I looked at Sam’s face once more - to be sure he is asleep.
“I can tell you, but he must not know.”
She waited while I took a deep breath.

“Sam... He is dying…It was his last hope… his… it was… Sadanand-ji’s vibhuti... the ashes from his yagna.”