With new pledges and old harangues, unionists have restarted election campaigning for the upcoming polls in the valley. Relying heavily on undisguised commoners—like protagonist Amma in this Short Story—they tend to promise moon for securing their elected term, but end up delivering a disappointment.
Caught up with his daily chores, the only vehicle available to take adventurous Amma Kaak to the election rally in a remote part of Kashmir was a tipper truck. Besides him, the lorry had two horned young bulls, a cow, seven sheep, a dozen roosters tethered to each other’s legs through a nylon rope, and a few goats on its platform.
In the corner where Amma was crammed, the cow took particular fancy to his curly, oiled hair through its tongue. The simpleton tried all he could to avoid getting an unwanted massage — a fresh splatter of wet dung on the white kurta he had specially donned for the day would’ve made matters worse.
Occasionally, goats and the sheep tried to say something into his ears which, given his already precarious situation he was in, he tried not to decode. When the truck was about to come to a grinding halt, the cow regurgitated fresh foul-smelling grass on his head, probably a thanksgiving message for letting it fiddle with his hair.
The truck stopped at the makeshift abattoir at Baikalpora village, where just nearby a banquet was getting prepared for the attendees of the rally.
After getting all living beings off the platform, everyone suggested that Amma too is to be slaughtered for the banquet. Two short, one-eyed men standing at a distance reasoned timely that since Amma was able to walk straight and was neither bleating nor mooing so he ought to be taken as a human being.
“But shall we allow him to attend the rally?” a hulking hillbilly shouted.
“Only if he takes a jump in the village pond and cleans himself,” said one of the two one-eyed men.
Then they threw him into the pond. It had the coldest water Amma had ever taken a bath in.
On that late autumn afternoon, Amma was squatted in the first row on the dusty ground with beads of water dripping down his face, when the announcer on the stage starting having fits of excitement.
“Here he comes… here he comes… the one for who we waited for three hours. Here comes the game changer. Here comes the man who will transform us from paupers to princes. All hail the man who is a harbinger of money and prosperity. All hail him…”
Then in the loudest voice, he asked the crowd to repeat exactly as he said it, “Kill the fiscal deficit!”
“Kill the fiscal deposit,” the crowd thundered back, mispronouncing the last word.
The announcer shortened it to, “Kill the fiscal!”
“Kill the fiscal,” the crowd thundered back.
After seeing Amma, the prospective election candidate Money Mokdam motioned him on to the stage and said, giggling, “If I wake up in the morning and see the mirror, I don’t think I would see a man any different from this man.”
Amma for the first time mustered the courage to look the candidate eye to eye. “Six feet height, sonorous voice, drowsy eyes, the bifocals, the shaggy beard reaching up to the eyes, dense gray hair, bushy eyebrows, the granary of a pot belly, moody countenance. You’re the other me,” Amma whispered to himself.
Emboldened, Amma tried to shake hands but was shooed away by the security sleuths to his place in the first row.
“Where does money and prosperity come from?” the candidate continued. “It does not come from Delhi or any other centre. We’re the things for whom we’re looking elsewhere. Like knowledge, money too is scattered among people. It’s here and there. We shouldn’t go to Delhi with a begging bowl when our own sack is full.”
“If we look carefully,” the candidate almost signaled towards Amma, “money and prosperity is here and here only.”
Amma in a state of euphoria lifted the hem of his wet Kurta to check if there was a surprise in there.
“It’s all about the ideas, freshly incubated ideas. Let’s start from the very basic cottage industry. Give me 100 eggs from 100 different places, all of 100 different colour hues. Let’s send them to hatchery which is about to get completed in our village. Let’s say that from a hundred eggs, hundred roosters and hens of different hues will be born—grayish, brownish, bluish, whitish, greenish and saffronish. You see unity in diversity will just be impregnated with quadruplets. From 100 chicks we get another 100 eggs till the time we’ve as many roosters and hens as there’re stars in the skies. It would amplify the sales. Will bring money and prosperity. Who needs to grow in life? Who needs prosperity?” Money Mokdam thundered.
“I need money. I need prosperity,” Amma yelled in a spell of uncontrollable excitement.
“Can you promise me 100 eggs of 100 different hues?” the Money Mokdam asked of Amma.
“Yes, I will. But do you absolutely guarantee prosperity?” Amma asked with curiosity.
At that time, the announcer hops on to the dais—“You buffoon! Do you doubt the words of a man who eats financial inclusion for breakfast, grapples with inflation, dines with Foreign Direct Investment and farts out supply on demand?”
“No, I don’t doubt. I’m a doer. I’ll get the eggs,” saying this, Amma left the rally in the same truck.
Next few days, he was no longer working his masonry shift on the scaffoldings but was seen hideously roaming the lanes of his Muhalla—overturning coops for eggs, crawling into fowl houses and breaking in the attics for the eggs of pigeons.
His adventure had a pervert streak to it. Seeing a hen about to lay eggs, he would cup his hands below it, begging it to drop the egg. The hens retaliated with bouts of claw-jabbing.
But such was the relentless pursuit of Amma to get hundred eggs of different hues that he got the sobriquet Amma Shaal—Amma, the Jackal.
The women in the lanes hastened to escort hens to their coops and even changed their stray tin canister into early warning system alerts. He even got a few beatings from one owner after was seeing forcibly pull out one egg from a hen where only a part of it was visible from the hen’s bottom.
He even tried his luck with geese, but to no avail. And when a flock of geese chased him, he almost drowned in a reedy pond. Sometimes he would fell from attics of people trying to fetch eggs of pigeons.
On the day he was to display his eggs at Baikalpora hatchery, there was surprisingly no rush.
“Am I the first one to get the eggs? I’m pretty sure no one else outdid me. Every egg is different from the other. See for yourself,” Amma told the egg inspector.
To Amma’s surprise, the very next day of the rally, about a thousand people had come with hundred eggs each in their baskets. The hatchery did not have enough space. The Money Mokdam had changed the criterion.
“What’s the new criterion? Why was it changed without informing me?” Amma let out a cry of wailing.
“The Money Mokdam wants to shun commonplace trickeries, the everyday efforts, the commonplace things. He wanted them to do something that only a few in the world could actually do,” the inspector said.
“And what the hell is that rare thing he wants people to do? Milking a tigress or courting a female bear, huh!” Amma shouted angrily.
“No, no. You’ve to get only eggs—but this time, you’ve to get either eagles’ or kites’ eggs, a full hundred of them,” the inspector said with a wink.
“Are you serious?” Amma retorted.
“Yes, I am. Look above you. Almost the entire village is climbing up poplars and maple trees,” the inspector said merrily.
Amma raised his head skywards and looked around him. The whole village was up on trees trying to get the kites’ eggs. They were enthusiastically shouting, “Kill the fiscal!” Someone shouted from atop a poplar tree, “I’m halfway through already, half century!”
Amma’s heart skipped a beat. He rushed to his birth burgh. And next day, in a predawn adventure, he climbed the tallest poplar tree in his Muhalla that had a dense kites’ nest at its apex.
As he was about to reach the nest at the stroke of dawn and had almost ended shouting, “Kill the fiscal”, a pair of kites swooped down from the skies and started jabbing their claws at him. He lost his grip on the poplar due to the relentless pecking and jabbing. He fell head-first down the tree, and got caught in the downward plumper branches.
He bled profusely and was sure some of his bones were not in proper shape. The kites kept pecking at him. People called emergency services and an hour later a crane arrived to take Amma down. The kites had their way with him and kept pecking and jabbing at his thighs and buttocks clawing out the fatty portion of his muscles.
When the crane reached out to him, it’s said he was still whispering, “Kill the fiscal” in a semi-conscious state.
Later on, when he recuperated in the tertiary care hospital of the city, he told his wife, “What can an undisguised commoner like me do, to gain power or even to bag a splinter of it? What heroic feats can possibly a man on the street do?”
Then, one day, five years later, when Amma suddenly heard on radio about the unceremonious political sky fall of Money Mokdam, he touched his old wound on the thigh and sang to his chum, in a merry mood, “Kill the fiscal, kill the fiscal, kill the fiscal…”
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