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Ice Cooled Mangos

Ice Cooled Mangos

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Published by Durlabh Singh
He flung the box towards him, the box was shattered with ice scattered all over. The mangoes followed and began to roll across the pavement till they were near the open drain and jumped into it one by one , performing hara kari.

Shamu’s world collapsed. Every body was against him – the crowd, his brother and even the mangoes. There was nobody with him.

Despondently he looked at the sky, brilliant stars beckoned.

‘ We are with you!’ they said.
He flung the box towards him, the box was shattered with ice scattered all over. The mangoes followed and began to roll across the pavement till they were near the open drain and jumped into it one by one , performing hara kari.

Shamu’s world collapsed. Every body was against him – the crowd, his brother and even the mangoes. There was nobody with him.

Despondently he looked at the sky, brilliant stars beckoned.

‘ We are with you!’ they said.

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Published by: Durlabh Singh on Mar 06, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/16/2009

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ICE COOL MANGOES.
Shamu lived with his mother and brother on the outskirt of the town. His brother had a big family and was working for a trader, dealing in grocery. He was employed as amunshi or the accountant, which was a skilled job, and you had to learn a special script of 
lande to
do the accounts in, a sort of strange short hand for quicker entries. The account book had long white yellowish sheets which were folded over, thus to reduce the lengthfor easy upkeep. These were tied over with a string and all the books were stored neatlyin chronological order by the
banya
, the shopkeeper.The brother had only one aim in life, of making money at all cost and would sacrificeanything for its sake. He was a hardworking man and was paid enough to keep the wolf away from the door. He was not satisfied fully with his job and used to flutter on
 satta
during evenings or in his lunch break 
. Satta
was like a stock 
 
exchange where you boughtand sold certain amount of stocks and if the price went up, you gained money and theother way around ended in loss and heartbreak. The funny thing was that no actual sale of things took place and it was done all in abstractions. It was simply based on the listedcommodity market, on which you had to base your betting.Suppose you bought hundred units of grain at certain price prevalent on the day you bought and agreed to sell it a week hence, if the price of grain went up you ran a profit.There were authorized dealers dealing in this sort of satta
 
 betting. The place was a noisyone and you could hear its din nearly half a mile away. The punters were frantic withstrange hand symbols and gestures while indulging in their favourite business deals.Mankind can get hooked easily in these betting lures.He spent his evenings and spare time perusing papers and magazines, studyingcommodity markets and soon acquired certain knowledge of commodity markets. On thewhole he made profit on his deals and was very satisfied with his life.Shamu was not interested in this side of life. He did not like this ‘thinking game’ whereyou had to analyze everything. You took decisions using only your rationality and in thelong run you were bound to deal in abstractions as authorized by your rational brain. Hedid not like this ‘game of abstractions’. He carried this mode into his schooling also. Hehated learning multiplication tables and other mathematical stuff. It was simply neither here nor there. He wanted to be spontaneous tasting all the juices of life and not makinghis mind up.‘ Thinking’ was the curse of the majority and he had to avoid it at all costs.Worse than this was having ‘aims in his life’ which was simply unbearable to him, as you become a slave to your ambitions and are dragged by these masters through your life.Life was for living and not for having an aim.Carrying out theses notions, it was no wonder that he did not do well at the school and
 
had to drop out when reaching his grade eight and it was such a relief, being snatchedaway from the jaws of the devil.His brother took charge and had him working as his assistance in the shop, but it was all amistake to him, as he abhorred accountancy as much as he abhorred the multiplicationtables. It was simply beyond one’s ability to ‘think’ all the time. He carried on for another two years, doing other menial jobs in the shop. He used to make tea in the winter for the staff and the customers when prompted to do so. In summer he had to go acrossthe street fetching glasses of iced water and
 sherbets,
which he enjoyed. Walking and buying multicoloured sherbets to him was spontaneity in itself and no ‘thinking’ work was involved.He was back in his usual mood of being ‘spontaneous’ and so gave up his work in theshop. Soon he saw a poster asking for porters in the local railway station, to which heapplied and to his great delight was accepted, on a part time basis; learning the job of thecoolie or the railway porter.The railway station was a swell place, a universe in itself. It seemed that that everybodywas on the move and indulged in traveling the length and breadth of India. Old womenwith clicking sandals walking, which measured all the lengths of platforms. This waseither to straighten their legs or just watching other people for amusement. They have brought their little trunks and bedding and were making themselves comfortable acrossthe waiting rooms. Some of them had friends and distant relations spread all over Indiaand were busy in traveling to their places, one by one and spending a month or so witheach, to give them comfort and benefit of their wisdom and of course having nice mealsand good company to enjoy in exchange. If you have ten or twelve relations, you couldspend your entire year visiting or even entire life (or what is left of it)..They had truly learnt the art of traveling, taking in the all difficulties and complicationsof railway timetables. Their strength consisted in taking it easy all the time and keeping asmile on their face, however tedious the journey may be. They were past annoyances of any kind and overcame hurtful remarks by other people about their old age; by justignoring themThese old ladies were keen on tasting all the foods provided by vendors, hawkers andother food sellers on the platform. They were having
 puri-aloos
,
 samosas
,
aloo-chanas
and all that, washing it down with
lassi
or tea. The people have arranged themselves intogroups as to pass the time, they were telling each other stories about their wickeddaughter in laws and son in laws, who always starved them but their grand children werelovely. After all their sons and daughters in their eyes were still only kids and what wouldyou expect from them? The men were smoking
beeris
, chewing pans and occasionallydrinking earthen pots full scented tea.It was such a romantic place, big hunks of engines were strolling down the iron trackshooting, frightening children and dogs; dragging the carriages along like the mums withkids in the morning school runs. And just look at those mind-expanding names of 
 
different trains,
 Punjab Mail 
,
 Howrah Express
,
 Deccan Queen
. Here was a world toShammu’s liking and it was all spontaneous and free.Only things he did not like were the carrying of heavy luggage on his head. Theexperienced coolies carried a pyramid of trunks on their head, balanced it like anaccomplished athlete and still occupied their hands with small bags. They lookedsplendid in their red uniforms with shiny brass number plates. When he was on duty, helooked for passengers with the least amount of baggage, as he did not want to strain hishead or neck.The other thing he hated was the attitude of passengers with middle or upper middle classtendencies. They thought themselves above coolies and ordinary people and shouted over him in a shrill, insulting voice. Such as ‘Oi! Coolie’ ‘ take this or that and carry itcarefully’ and at the end of the job always wanted to cut down even on his fixed fees.They were the miserable sorts who had not the capacity of generosity of heart, by givinghim like a little baksheesh sometime.After the end of his duty, while going home, he began to pass through the big bazaar tolook at the shops, people and specially sellers of hot peanuts, jasmined garlands,astrologers and their green parakeets. Once he saw an illuminated sign called ‘ParadiseHouse’ across the street and out of curiosity went into it. He liked the green bulbs andelectric lights illuminating the whole place into a haze of green. People were sitting onthe tables and chairs drinking, laughing and enjoying themselves. Soon he realized that itwas sharab
khana
or a drinking place. To observe the people closely, he sat on a chair andthe waiter came running for his order. He did not know anything about drinks but somehow ordered half a glass of 
desi sharab
and when he took the first sip it was like a fireand nearly choked him. He thought people were looking at him out of curiosity. Hesteadied himself and slowly began to take more sips. Soon the burning sensation ceasedand a sort of heightened calm issued forth. He liked it.He thought he had found a heaven in the drinking house and began to frequent it moreoften. His life was on the right track with gifts of railway station and the drinking housethrown in. Sometime he had too much to drink and when he went home, he was greatlyrebuked by his mother and other family members. One day when during his drinkingsession at the
 Paradise
, he was visited by a hawker selling sweet mangoes and when hetasted it, oh God it was like something he had never tasted. Its thick sour sweet juice hada profound effect on his palette, which went straight to his stomach and gullet perfumingit, like the
ras malai
. He resolved to buy some ripe sweet mangoes himself on thefollowing day, together with an icebox to cool them.On the following day after finishing his work he brought a kilo of best mangoes in themarkets, an icebox and a slab of ice from the shop; wrapped it around in a woolengarment to carry it home. He washed the mangoes, mashed the ice and put the mangoesinto the icebox packing it with the mashed ice. He reckoned that it would take about twohours for the mangoes to be ready. In the meantime he would walk around the bazaar toget into the right mood swing.

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