Mrs. Braganza, ever the efficient, no-nonsense woman, came to the point. “The Happyman’s Cooperative Housing Society, Blocks A, and B will celebrate 75 years of our country’s Independence this year. Our secretary, Mr. Happymon Esthapan Chacko, has commanded us to organize a program, befitting this occasion.

 

I entered my building late last evening. It had been a long day of post-Covid toil at the office. My employer had been extracting every little ounce of juice from me as an appreciation for my surviving the pandemic. No sooner had I walked in, than I was accosted by a beaming Mrs. Braganza. She is my neighbour and is a “serial organizer of society samosa dos”. I ran inside my house. I knew something was up.

Lo and behold, the next morning at 8 am sharp, the doorbell rang. I was making eggs, Oats Dosa with special moringa/amla chutney, and detox vegetable juice for breakfast. I knew the risks as I opened the door. “Good morning” came a loud cacophonic chorus and the troops barged in. Left to right, they were – Mrs. Braganza; Sarla Bhen, a ‘serial borrower of assorted food items”; the balding Mr. Cyrus Puranafurniturewala, known for writing earnest letters to the Honorable Prime Minister; Mr. Fasel Atke Khan, a strapping young man, widely rumoured to have had multiple “Love Jihad” situations in the society, along with Ms. Pooja Butt, allegedly his current dalliance.

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“Baba, you are doing the Keto diet!” exclaimed Cyrus, gulping down a full glass of the detox vegetable juice. “It does not work. Complete failure. You will spoil your kaleja and tummy”, now pouncing on the eggs.

Mrs. Braganza, ever the efficient, no-nonsense woman, came to the point. “The Happyman’s Cooperative Housing Society, Blocks A, and B will celebrate 75 years of our country’s Independence this year. Our secretary, Mr. Happymon Esthapan Chacko, has commanded us to organize a program, befitting this occasion.

We want to discuss a few ideas”. With a flourish, she explained the first one, “We propose to do skits. This is the plot of the first one – The secretary of an unnamed society has been running the society for many years and is now fed up with all the flak he gets from members, despite doing a good job.

He would like to fix the main culprits once and for all. He will get our auditor to frame Mr. X, who is a committee member and the most vocal dissident, with wrongdoing. And then blackmails him to never question him again. He believes this will serve as an example to all the others who criticize him. The moral of this story is that – We must remain loyal to our Leader. Follow him unflinchingly. This is the path to becoming a great society. In our 75th year of Independence, we need this strong message. Cyrus has offered to play the secretary”. This was followed by applause.

Sarla Ben, who had been helping herself to the moringa – amla chutney, proposed another one, “The plot of my skit is simple. An unnamed society is having its next election. The present secretary’s nominees are expected to lose to the team of the challenger. But hey presto, despite the results, it is the incumbent, who remains in charge and the challenger’s team walks over to the other side. How does the incumbent secretary do it? Does he buy them off? Who is his secret sponsor? What is his motive? The suspense is revealed at the end.

This skit teaches a great lesson – Where there is a Will, there is a Way, or where there is demand, there will be Supply. Cyrus has offered to play the part of the secretary”. Bigger applause followed.

Cyrus had been pacing up and down the room. He was in the thick of the action in both the skits so far. He had already polished off my egg omelette and was now eyeing the Oats Dosa. His eyes fired up as he explained his skit, “We will have an elaborate set. It will be of a ship. A movie superstar’s son and his friends are having a party in an unnamed housing society. The Narcotics Control Bureau suddenly makes an appearance and raids the party. Drugs are found. The NCB has been tipped off by a conscientious member of society, played by me. The movie star’s son is played by our Mr. Fasel Atke Khan.

His friend is played by our Pooja. At the end of the story, the character played by Mr. Fasel Atke Khan is found innocent but apologizes for being who he is, and I get an award for being a good citizen”. As I saw the last morsel of my Oats Dosa vanishing into his mouth, he pronounced the moral of this story, “Love Jihad will not be tolerated”.

Mr. Fasel Atke Khan had been patiently listening to these narratives. “Are we not doing skits on our achievements of the last 75 years? Or on the contributions of our great leaders past?” There was a stunned silence. The doorbell rang again. It was Shinde, our postman. He had brought a package and a letter. The package revealed a neatly wrapped Indian tri-colour flag made of polyester. The letter was from our local corporator, Shri Madhavrao Vinayakram Bhagwat. It read “We are now in Amritkaal. This flag will help you celebrate our 75th year of independence. Do remember the noble deeds of our Beloved Esteemed Supreme Leader. With his vision, we are now a Vishwaguru. You must celebrate this success and freedom with joy and gratitude”.

The postman was still standing there. His eyes were misty when he said, “Today is my last day at work. I have been laid off. My sons have no jobs either. Can you help me?”

Views Expressed Are Personal 

Chandru Chawla is a freelance writer and satirist

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