“You know the corporate world is just like campus. The only difference is that we used to play ego games as students and now we play corporate politics. How did you find selling copiers in Calcutta?” Ani asked me while offering me a drag from his joint. “Well, I didn’t sell much copiers and they kept changing my assignment. But yes, I have got used to the city of Calcutta and it sort of has grown on me. The place has its old world charm.” I replied acquainting Ani with my corporate life. “You would have never imagined that we would be sitting on this rock and rolling our stories again.” It was deja vu. “Man, Saroj must be in Dada Jaan’s bad books. He looks like Sulakshana sucked in her plan. Then what happened?”
“Sahib mein aap ko yakeen dila ti hun, humaari taro se koi galti nahi hui, pata nahi sari torur party ko Julaab kyoun ho gaya.” Saroj told Dada Jaan with conviction. “Pata nahi kis ki karamaat hei yeh?” Dada Jaan looked displeased but he had no choice. He got up and started playing with his birds. “Chidiya rani, bitiya rani.” He started feeding the birds. “Shukar hein in chidiyaon key khaaaney mein koi milavat nahi.” He then moved over to tend to his great clock and tried to get the time perfect by winding the dials, “Timing bahut important hota heey Saroj, saab ke samney sara programme chaupat ho gaya.” Dada Jaan was indeed very disappointed with the arrangement that Saroj had done and he fully put the blame for the fiasco on her.
Saroj sat despondently in her room but it was her trusted cook Jhomroo who told her about what Sulakshna had done. “Biwi, Sulakshna ne kiya hei yeh saab. Uski hi majaal thi ji khaaaney mein Jamal Goto milaney ki, Saab usiii chudel ka kiya dhara hei.” Jhomroo said with all his confidence. “Us chudel ne apne pooja paath ka jadduu tona kiya hei, hmein Sahib ke samney Bedzat kiya hei.” Saroj was also convinced who the real mischief maker in the haveli was. She suspected all along that the first wife of Dada Jaan was determined to take her authority away and was thus flexing her muscles. “Chudyel hei wo, Sulakshana, lagti bhi waise hi hei, wo mujhse bahut jilt her, akhir mean jawaan jo hun aaur Sahib ka asli pyaar bhi. Ab is Buddhi Chudyel mein wo baat kanhaan jo mujhmey hei.”
“Aaj kal Ghanshyam Babu ke saath phi bahut chtaar pataar hei iski, sala Dada Jaan ka saara bahikhaata hol diya hoca ab tak Ghanshyam babu ne is chudyel key samney.” Jhoomro explained as he gave more information about Sulakhshna. “Tab tho iiska kuch karna hei padey ka, hamare waha tho esi kuttiya ko goli maar di jati hei.” Saroj said visibly upset at what the b**** had done to her. “Yeh tune theek nahi kiiya Sulhkshana ab tu deekhi gi iska anjaam.”
Dada Jaan settled down to what he did best – drinking English scotch in the afternoon and then sleeping for hours on end. It was as if the activity created by the Goto Sahib tourists had exhausted him and I guess that he wanted to forget the entire fiasco. As it is, the old man was losing his memory as age was catching up with him. He forgot the whole incident and got on with his life which was reading his philosophy books and poetry from Rumi. These days, he also occupied himself by learning Portuguese. After all, it was one of the languages of India. Now, it is widely spoken in Goa too.
The winter had arrived. In winter, the look of the haveli used to change. The curtains were changed and so were the bedsheets, quilts and the pillow covers. Dada Jaan got his favourite red quilt which was covered with a quilt cover made out of Mal Mal. In winter, Dada Jaan used to eat his food in the bed. He hardly got out of his bed let alone his quilt. He did everything in his bed except for taking a dump. He read there, he ate there, he slept there. It was left to Saroj to fetch him dinner and his bottles of scotch. At night after dinner, Dada Jaan used to amuse himself by reading poetry of the most famous Persian poets. Dada Jaan loved poetry especially that of Rumi.
“Begum jaan Rumi ek mahaan farsi kavi the unkaa janam Turkey mein hua thaa, karin barvih sadi mein. Unki do rachnaye Deewane Shams-e-tabrez our Masnavi duniyaa bar mein mahshoor hein.” Dada Jaan explained about the background and history of this great Sufi poet to Saroj who was busy lighting up the fire to keep the room warm for Dada Jaan after he had finished his dinner. “Unki shayari main jo dard tha wo anokha dard kisi bhi aaj ke zamaaney ke shayar mein nahi. Wo apni baat sedhey apne rab se hei kartein thee, jesey unka koi anokha nata tha uparwale se.” He explained the intricacies of Rumi’s poetry to Saroj as he sipped his glass of whiskey. Saroj, on the other hand, listened to him intently all the while pouring hari chutey on Dada Jaan’s Shammi kabab so that he could also enjoy their succulent flavour. Rumi’s shayari had added to the intoxicating evening that the two were now enjoying. “Terey khoobsorat gaal jab dekh patein hei, ho kar khusgawar pattharun pe rah paten hein, ek baar gunghat zara pair se hata do, dang honey ka dewano ko mazza do.” By now, Dada Jaan was looking deep into Saroj’s eyes as he recited the poem of Rumi with all his love to his begum Saroj.
Standing afar on the other side of the haveli was Sulakshana. She had taken a position behind the pillar and was watching this prem alaap of the two from afar. She was seething seeing Saroj getting so intimate and intoxicated with Dada Jaan. All her efforts to bring out a feud between them had gone to waste. Like long lost lovers, they were back at it again. It was just a lovers’ feud, an interlude to their own personal Raas Leela. How did the b**** get back into the old man’s good books even after the fiasco with the firing tourists? The old bastard had really got a bad itch in his pants “Chuul” as he called it and in front of his Chuul, he could see nothing. Saroj, on her part, was excellent in satisfying Dada Jaan’s royal Chuul. Sulakshana had to accept that by now. She was left grinding her teeth. This was going to be a tough battle to win indeed.
“Aur kya likha hei Rumi Sahib ne, yeh farsi bhi kith ni ruhani zuuban hei.” Saroj dropped her dupatta to expose her soft yet heaving bosom. Dada Jaan’s eyes stopped to admire her flesh in the soft lights of the diyas and lamps that had been lit all around the haveli. His Saroj was looking like a new bride who he had to seduce all over again. It was like romancing her all again in a fresh new way by making her listen to the shayari of the best poet in the world. “Nashey main beithein hein rindi jesey mehkadey mein aaj, zahad na Karin ge na namaz padhein ge aaj, kya boluun kya mehfil kya meiin hei aaj, kya sakhi kya me meherbani kya lufth hei aaj.” Dada Jaan was now in full swing. He had polished off three plates of shami kabab and half a bottle of English scotch whiskey. The full moon could be seen from the balcony of the eastern window of the haveli. It was intoxicating the old man even more. The smell of raat ki rani flowers from the nearby gardens further added fuel to the old man’s carnal desires. On top of that, Saroj was so intimate and close to him with all her bosom exposed. This was indeed a very explosive cocktail of Shayari, Shami Kabab, Sharab and Saroj.
The air was also sending the sexual scent of these two all over the haveli and soon from the giggling of Saroj, the entire inhabitants of the haveli got the news that a show was about to unfold in front of their eyes. Soon the servants took their positions outside the window of the old man’s room. Yes indeed, this was party time. ‘Hold on to your seats, folks’ kind of stuff.
“Chalo bhai inka raat ka program shoorro, chalo chupke se nahi tho pata chal jaye ga Saroj begum ko.” Jhoomro took his position at a corner window. With Sulakshna betting the pillar, this was an all-out peep show. I mean, you could have been in Bangkok for all the places.
As Dada Jaan leaned forward to kiss Saroj and tear open her kurta, the unthinkable happened. A burning splinter from the fireplace in the wall flew up and fell on the Makhmal Razai (Quilt) of Dada Jaan. He had Saroj in his arms highly and had just started to undress her when this happened. The fire splinter got some air from the haveli windows that were staring at the full moon. That’s all that it needed to burn even more vigorously till a peculiar burning smell engulfed the two lovers. Instead of the fragrance of rat ki rani, there arose a dusty odour of burning linen.
“Kuch jalney ki boo a rahi hei, uffoo sahib aap ke nashey ne saab karbad kar diya, aap ki razaaee jal rahi hei au aap beithee hei aag tapne.” She looked at Dada Jaan as if to say, you fool, how could you not see that a splinter of fire had fallen on the mahkmal quilt and burnt it making a giant hole in the royal Raazai. Dada Jaan looked at her and then paused and said, “Begum wahh! Wahh! What a great line of poetry you have spoken. You are a natural shayaar, Sari razaai Jal gaye aur aap bethein hei aag tapne.” He was ecstatic as if he had found the holy water of Zam Zam. “Kya peels line her yeh aap ki shaayari ki, par gala jumble kya hoga iskaa, yeh sheer Chatham kese ho ga, is ke agli line tho snochiyein.”
Jhumro and the servants, hearing this from afar, threw their head backwards. I mean, what the hell? Just when the action was about to begin, a bloody fire splinter puts a spanner in the works and ruins everything. It was like each one of them had to go through a cold shower. “Yeh kya chutiyapa hei, sari razaai jal gayi bethein hei aag tapne, arrey sasuri aag tho yanhaan lagi hei humreey badan mein. Sab khel pe pani pheer diya is Aag ne.” Jhumro cursed under his breath. After all, his grand peek show had gone for a six due to this unusual interruption.
“Bas begum humeein mil gaya apni zindagi ka maqsaad, bas humeen is sheer ko pura karna hei.”
Sulakhshan was seeing this pandemonium from afar. She could not hold on any longer and barge into the room without even knocking. “Hum bata deen Sarkar, sheer ka akhri jumlaa, sari razaai jal gayi bethein hei aag tapne aisa bhi koi chutiya dekha hei aap ne.” She ended the line with elaan and with all her voice. Then she just cracked up laughing at her own joke. Dada Jaan and Saroj were gob smacked and jolted by this rude arrival of Sulkhshana but it was too late. She was in the room and she had put a spanner in the works again. But the witch could not stop laughing. Dada Jaan, on the other hand, stood bemused as he realised he was the chutiya in the sheer. He tried to take the joke but looked like an utter fool. Jhumro and the other servants peeking through the window saw this scene and burst out laughing. They knew that they would be found out so they ran towards the kitchen. It was chaos all over the haveli and that too, at the dead of night. Man, it was a funny chaotic end to what could have been an utterly romantic evening for the two but the tales of the haveli were a bit twisted and this was one such tale.
“Hey, Ani, it’s early in the morning. You have a presentation in the office today, don’t you? Bugger, we will get late. As usual, you slipped into your storytelling mode and we lost track of time.” I jolted and, as I realised, we were still sitting on our rock.
“Your Dada Jaan, what a poet, man. He would beat a Lucknow ka nawab any day hands down.” Ani agreed with a nod. We had moved into our corporate lives but the bond of stories I and Ani shared had continued. It was as if nothing had changed yet nothing was the same.
All characters and events depicted in this story are entirely fictitious. Any similarity to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.