Short Story

Tiffin Bomb

Ajay Oza

Translation: Harish Mahuvakar

 

If you see… From the appearance you know the person, and after watching Mushtaq, seventy seven year your experienced eyes Jamnadas, you always believe, this man one day would show his true colour of terrorism. If he doesn’t, it may be a wonder. And yet because your son insisted, you have to keep him for bringing you tiffin.

If you see…  Mushtaq.  Mushtaq is a man of mighty stature, rough language, motley clothes, shabby beard, and moustache as if somebody unwillingly pasted it. On his almost shattered bicycle when he comes to hand over tiffin in his usual jolly mood with Hindi filmy tunes on his lips, your face reveals deep displeasure.

And there’s Mansukh. If you see him…  He brings tiffins regularly to the next street. He seems to be a likeable. The reason is this…. He has a scooter and never turns late. His language decent one, touches to any gentleman like you. And if you see… The most important thing is this…  He doesn’t look like a terrorist from any angle.

….And this one…Mushtaq… who looks like an I.S.I. agent… You Jamnadas, hesitantly pick your tiffin up from Mushtaq and have it with a fear! You are the last one in the route and then he stretches at ease on a wooden board of your shop. You dislike his presence. You separate tiffin-boxes after careful examination, and then to check the food you offer few bites to any stray dog, and close your eyes and pray, and then slowly you start eating.  And Mushtaq who watches you constantly laughs away the matter.

Before a year in a paralysis attack half of your left body had almost been numb. And that’s why Jamnadas your tailor shop  since then had become your residence. The sewing machine had been pushed in a corner. Your son Suresh has got Mushtaq for the tiffin service. You could eat twice from the same tiffin.  The paralysed body had been regaining sensitivity slowly but it was out of your reach to carry on your tailoring. And so this mid-market shop was your residence now.

Since a year last you couldn’t visit your son Suresh because of this illness. Suresh too couldn’t come and see you as well. It’s enough for you that he has arranged the tiffin. In the beginning you had asked him to send someone rather than Mushtaq. But Suresh had informed, ‘He is my trustworthy fellow. If you wish another one I don’t mind but you will have to pay for it.’ You postponed the idea as you are unable to earn more.

If you see… Once you had so much work that hardly you had free time. You also had taken special care that Suresh learn the art. The work you got you handed Suresh so that he earn his living. As Suresh did well big offers from Mumbai poured in but Suresh refused them. You knew every precise detail that is required in the art of tailoring.

But Jamnadas as time went on your shop ‘Squera Tailor’ lost its glow.  Now it was the time of changes in every field. And so the new shops possessed latest furniture, marvellous flooring, and air conditioned reception.  The new tailors Prevera, Seven Arts, Caliber, Rivex, and Capri gave you a ‘Robot Punch’. Suresh too lost his work.

The attitudes of people changed. If you see… The work that only needs somewhat skill, a bit hard work, fine eyes, cuff-buttons, layer for garments, scissors, canvass, couple of needles, and a thread of eight rupee eighty paisa, and no more big expense; is now advertised for two thousand rupees.  The result of all this is that Jamnadas you get only repairing work. No doubt you too have accepted it.  It is also related to the mistakes made by the teenage tailors who work in the air conditioned shops. This also you did with a great heart. But your illness killed this art as well. Now everything gone and remained the bright past only. When you remember all those brilliant by gone days there’s only Mushtaq the tiffin carrier and he too would smile and won’t pay attention.

Often in a playful mood he asked you, ‘O Old one, can you tell me why they all have English names for their shops? Why this city has no shop named after Bapa Sitaram?’

If you see…There’s the point. But what else you add when you know nothing more. So you responded plainly, ‘There was a large shop ‘Squera Tailor’ in Mumbai during the days of the British Raj. This shop had a very big name and fame. My Grandfather and Father worked there and made some money and then they shifted here. That’s why I followed to that name. About others I don’t know. But I find some truth in your talk. If Suresh returns to this shop then it will have a new name Bapa Sitaram Tailor. It’s pakka!’

Mushtaq would burst into laughter on your response. ‘In such a rotten shop your Suresh will never set his foot. Yea …if you want to sell the shop tell me…No,no why should I purchase your shop?’ Then he would look outside the shop and say, ‘The Old’s half dead. Won’t carry on so long. After his death the shop and all’s mine. And in his laughter Jamnadas your heal and healthy right side and the paralysed left side both shook terribly.

You always felt that this terrorist will certainly kill you. Often he has such mysterious talks. ‘I am an extremist. Has relations beyond the Sea. If anybody comes on to my way it’s certain  I’ll be a suicide bomber to him. I think you know what’s it. A live grenade, what else?’

If you see… In Mushtaq’s absence the rumour mongers came to you and warned often: there are many in this city for the tiffin. None else and you preferred this one O Oldman! – This one is Pure Pakistani. – It’s heard that behind the recent bomb blasts in Mumbai there’s someone like such a tiiffin carrier. Most of the explosives were hidden in such tiffins. – The tiffin is the most successful and the easiest weapon of such terrorists. The people of Mumbai are scared now on seeing a tiffin. Who knows in which tiffin lies baggage of the death!

Mansukh who brought tiffins in the New Street often told to Jamnadas, ‘O Oldman, don’t have a blind trust in Mushtaq. I don’t want any fight with him and earn. But you carefully find out ways to push him out this street. Otherwise there won’t be even a chance to regret.’

If someone’s wrong you can tell him in his face. But Jamnadas if you see… The people are absolutely right. It’s not that you haven’t tried to remove him. You know you did everything. Mansukh was not ready to challange him directly so once you told it to Mushtaq, he was offended seriously. He said, ‘I won’t allow any body in my area. Would blow him off.  This is my border, mine only. If anyone dares to cross this border then…’ He stressed ‘border’ as if it was an international border. That’s why Mansukh also told jamnadas, ‘O Oldman if you say I would cross the Wagha Boreder but I have no heart to cop this Mushtaq.’

There’s no alternative left to you but manage him. This you rightly saw Jamnadas. Isn’t it Jamnadas? But if you see… If none listens to you be assured He listens to you.  On the basis of this belief it happened. It happened so suddenly. An unexpected one. When Mushtaq as usual in his jolly mood with Hindi filmy tunes on his lips was coming, Dhanji’s truck rolled over him. He was crushed. You were terribly shocked as it happened before your eyes. Along with Mushtaq body the tifin to was crushed completely.

But if you see… In a few moments Jamnadas your face lit up with great ease. You understood it well that it was a shocking accident, but it was also a remedy of many problems. All the time he took meal with a strange fear. He always doubted lest there be a bomb in the tiffin box.  His talks supported the fear.  His talks like that of a terrorist. He looked like that of a terrorist. Dhanji’s truck stood as the Wheel of Death but in reality it stood for the Good Wheel like that of Sudarshan because it killed one who was a traitor to the country.

And that’s why like others you were very cold to the primary police inquiry that followed the accident.  If the problem goes without leaving a scratch on you why should anyone think of how it goes?

On that day without tiffin you felt your stomach is full as if you had enough. On the very next day Jamnadas you called for Mansukh. ‘O Mansukh, now you cross as many borders as you wish to. No body’s to stop you. And yes, my dear, here’s the address of my son Suresh. From tomorrow you bring my tiffin.’

Mansukh was excited as well. ‘If the terrorist has no mark of his existence, why should we worry of any sort of border?  From tomorrow it’s my responsibility to feed you.’

Jamnadas if you see… Jamnadsas do you feel any sort of guilt at the bottom of your heart? Why it’s there some unknown fear sitting on your face? Why are you so much scared? What’s it that shakes your numb side of your body? Are you still scared of Mushtaq?  You think that he won’t so easily give up. Do you remember he often put it, ‘You tell this and that about me and refer me a terrorist but remember me well. I will die but I will also blow you off.’

If you see… Now it seems that you are under Dhanji’s truck the Death Carrier… For a while you a thought suppose he’s right and turns to be a suicide bomber? Then what Jamnadas about you?  ‘He would die but also kill me. A live grenade. The bastard. A real terrorist.’

And it really happened …

On the following day Mansukh hurriedly rushed up to you without tiffin. And Jamnadas the bomb Mushtaq had hidden exploded. ‘O Oldman, I had been to the place you gave me. There’s no one bearing the name. There’s no Suresh or any one like that. The neighbours informed that since last a year he has been shifted to Mumbai along with his family.  And yes … Face the hunger now.’


 

Harish Mahuvakar ‘Ame’, 3/A, 1929, Near Nandalay Hvaeli, Sardarnagar, Bhavnagar 364002, Gujarat, India. +91 9426 22 35 22, Email: harishmahuvakar@gmail.com

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