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Raja Midas And His World Of Strange Objects!

Short Story by Dr Sunil Sharma


The objects!

Everywhere: Neatly displayed.
Visual statements designed to impress the viewer for sheer money power.
Arranged neatly---like stacked-up items in a museum.
While entering, he could not but notice the world of Raja Midas, as he was fond of calling himself.

Like any successful man, self-made, he was obsessed with his struggles and triumphs against system---and loved narrating those before a bored audience, mostly his staff.
Different matter they mocked him at his back.
He wore gold on body like a suit. 
Gold! My first love! He would declare and exhibit the rings and chains---and gold teeth!
A visitor would find the house full of goods everywhere, as does the present one, noting and filing every item in his brain:
Two brand-new gleaming cars in the porch. A Mercedes and a Tata-Sumo. Two motor-bikes parked near the shuttered-up huge garage and two big and ferocious dogs. Doberman. Near the garage doors. A two-storied red-bricked house in a sprawl of 2,000 acres of land. Slim, tall, elegant with sliding glass doors-Belgium glass and floor-touching white curtains. A mandatory Gurkha, peaked cap, khaki, starched uniform. A kurkhi, a polished baton, smart, inscrutable immobile like a grim statue. The Cerebus of the huge property. 

It is called Real Paradise.

The drawing-room, immense, all-white, with wall-to-wall Iranian carpets, with big sofa sets. A 73-cm. TV on a rosewood cabinet. Half-room empty, half-room filled with two identical sofa sets with a glass centre-table. The western corner filled with a circular thick mattress covered with white sheet and small pillows. Near the entrance, a tall statue of a lady with a pitcher, a seminude with polished shining breasts, carved in wood. A small passage leading to another room, smaller than the drawing-room, with a big dining table with ten bucket chairs. The drawing-room generating a sense of empty space that hits in modulating waves. 
Sterile, antiseptic, sparkling and silent.
A male servant brings tea on a silver tray, pours the tea, places assortment of biscuits, gain on a silver plate, roasted and slated groundnuts in a silver bowl, and dematerializes. The light-brown brew is in fine cut-glass tumblers, hot and sugary. The drawing room is semi-dark. On the wall opposite, is a landscape in oil. The immaculate white walls, the white sheets can disorient. The whiteness of a private hospital. Two newspapers, still bound in rubber bands and fashion glossies on the table. In English. A November breeze escapes inside. A bit of cold winter morning rolls in. 
A huge piano in the middle of the large room.
A collection of horror films is stacked in the cabinet. The Dead Vampires, Blood Suckers. 
The list goes on.

The lawn is trim, manicured. Roses are blooming. The pale morning light is spread out. Neighbouring bungalows, standing apart, silent, glowing in the yellow gold of the light. Trees, poles, birds occasional-shivering in the wind. Big cars standing in the porches of the bungalows. A wide tarred road, empty, running down. Somewhere, in the background, far-off blast carried on the wind. Two gardeners working the flower beds.  A uniformed chauffeur rubbing and polishing the car with great care and tenderness. The maid sweeping the floor of the long porch, then wiping it carefully. The Dobermans eyeing the activity and the woman, on her fours, quizzically.

Mango, Guava, Neem, Ashoka, Palm trees in the back of the 3,000-ace sprawl. Hedges, vegetables growing in patches symmetrically cut. Cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, coriander leaves, tomatoes, chilies, brinjals. Two bent figures working the vegetable patches. A pebbly path unwinding in the sprawl.  A wooden shack at the far end. Two taps, near the shack, a stack of old magazines and papers.  A pile of empty Vat-69 bottles. Playboy magazines in abundance. 
The wind smells good. Feels good on the bare skin. Tingles the face. The chirping of the birds. A welcome sound. 
A church looms large in the background.
Morning, crisp bright, sparkles. The sky is stunning blue and cloudless. The cold wind has become powerful. The Church is a red-bricked structure. It is deserted on Monday morning.  Paved path leads to the cemetery. It is big. In the distance, hills rise up. There are one, two, three--- twenty-three graves. In well-kept majestic isolation, the dead co-habit with the living. 
The Sunday-flowers have not wilted under the cold sky.

The grassy paths between the graves are trim and manicured like the fingers of a tall beauty. An old man is cutting the grass in a far-off corner. He looks up and resumes his morning labour. The dead are sleeping in this beautiful patch of green. Strange tranquility is hovering over the cemetery.  A peace that can be encountered in a cemetery only. The world ceases here. The bright, crisp morning with yellow-gold sunlight lends a poetic touch to this land of eternal sleep.
Persons, once handsome energetic, now lie buried under the earth, oblivious of the tender morning and the wind sweeping down the grassy pathways. Twenty- three graves watching… the rain or the sun, winter or summer, indifferently.

The tea is being served by the same liveried servant, this time in the verandah. Ghost-like. The cutlery is different. Exquisite bone-china. The maid, now, sweeping and mopping the verandah. Another servant ferociously washing the huge gates with brass stars studded in them. Then polishing the brass with a wet cloth.
The dogs being taken for a walk. They walk with imperial hauteur like royal kids. The tall, muscular servant talking to them in whispers. Followed by the cars. Cars take a short route and are parked outside the bungalow. The driver, reverentially, dusting the cars one-by-one in a ritualistic way.
---Saab up?
---No. The man servant says indifferently to the visitor.
---When will he be up?
---Any minute.
---Let him know it is his cousin calling.
---Yeah.

From the balcony, the exclusive neighbourhood is visible. It is unusually quiet. All the gleaming cars are parked outside. The whole street is lined up with them. A few dogs are also taken out for morning walk. The only sound issuing from the iron-gates of the neighbouring bungalows is the swish of the water and his of the mop on the floor. More or less there is coordinated activity of house cleaning in the neighbouring bungalows. The church spire is visible in the background. The cemetery is again part-visible. Big plots of land are still lying vacant. A dusty, partly overgrown ground separates the cemetery from the immediate civilization. Behind the cemetery lie the open mustard fields dominated by the black-brownish hills.

Silence deep, cemetery-like hovers over the whole neighbourhood.
An hour of observing is over.
---Saab up now?
---Nope
---Very unusual?
----Hmm.
---OK, I will wait for some time more.

The magazine was lying on the table. The cane furniture was exquisite. Two cane sofas and four chairs. A cane, glass-topped table. The magazine was an English weekly. The whole issue was on politics and petty squabbling of petty politicians. One colour page on filmy gossips, one on foreign cartoons, one on astrological predictions, and a short story that is fascinating.

the short story continued here