“I’VE GOT IT!”
Jayant’s piercing yell as he raced from his bedroom to the living room startled the following, in no particular order: his meditating grandmother, the pet cat who jumped the highest she ever had that week, one sleeping grandfather and Vijaya who was working on a crossword. All of them frowned at him for disturbing the peace that had settled on the Rangarajan household, a peace that inevitably followed a heavy lunch made on Sunday afternoons.
Grandma glared at him and mumbled about having lost her count on the japamala beads. The cat went back to looking annoyed and superior, much like an aggrieved Queen of Hearts and his grandfather slumped back into the curve of the armchair, his mouth opening slightly to emit his signature snore that resembled a run-down tractor. Vijaya was the only one who put down her crossword and flung a cushion at her brother’s head, saying, “You HAVE to stop doing that!”
Ducking neatly to avoid the projectile aimed at him, he sat on the couch next to her and whispered, “I finally got the idea for that piece I need to submit next week to the magazine.” Knowing her brother’s flippant outlook on life and his inability to stick with any idea for longer than seven minutes, Vijaya merely raised an eyebrow and picked up her newspaper.
Jayant knew that look and hastened to say, “No, really. I got it. I shall write a funny story involving a Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian.” In alarm, Vijaya put the paper away and stared at her brother.
“Are you nuts?! You cannot do that. Not in this country anyway. Say one thing bad about one group and you will invite the extremists home with their pitchforks. I like my head where it is, thank you. Or did you just miss the Charlie Hebdo incident completely?”
“Oh”, Jayant looked crestfallen. “Well, I will write a sketch about eating meat in a predominantly vegetarian community.”
“Yes, do that. In the meanwhile, apply for a visa to a country without extradition. With the ‘beef ban’ creating an uproar, this is going to be more fodder for the radicals, pun intended.”
“Ok, then how about poking fun at actors and actresses? Surely that will go well. I mean, those people face that every other day, anyway.”
“Wow, you really do live under a rock, don’t you? Let me point you to Google and the terms ‘AIB Roast’. After that, if you still want to poke fun, you go right ahead. Rest assured Appa and Amma will feign ignorance of your existence at that time and probably for decades after that.”
Jayant had a note of desperation in his voice. “Well, I have to write about something! What about cricket and match-fixing?”
“The fans will cry foul and the CBI will be sniffing at your heels, assuming you are directly responsible for any match-fixing allegation against the Indian team.”
Vijaya realised this was getting far more interesting than her crossword and decided she would helpfully shoot down every suggestion of Jayant’s.
“Babies and their habits?”
“Done to death.”
“Power of English in communication?”
“Politics then?” Jayant was at the end of his rope now.
“Too terrifying,” replied Vijaya with a twinkle in her eye.
“Damn it all to Hell!” Jayant’s frustration was not lost on the two elderly members in the room, who looked at him with disapproval. One went back to sleep in 20 seconds while the other intensified the tone of her chant, ‘Hare Ram, Hare Ram’, probably with the desperate hope of warding off the evil nature of the swear words spoken by her grandson.
“So what should I do, Vijaya?”
“Well, dear brother. Simple. Write a tongue-in-cheek piece about the banning of everything under the sun; to wit, all the topics you raised.”
“But, but, you just said that none of those would be a good fit!”
Vijaya smirked and replied, “With one topic, you’ll offend a handful of people.
With all the topics, by the time people figure out whom you’ve offended more, the article will be forgotten in a fresh controversy to hit the headlines such as why there are more kids writing with their right hand than their left or how that new campaign poster was insensitive to chickens and roosters. It really doesn’t matter, when you think about it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, nobody is going to read it anyway.” With that parting shot, Vijaya grinned and sprinted out of the room while a cushion followed the arc thrown by her sibling at her back.
Japamala- Rosary beads
~ © Shailaja Vishwanath, 2015