Scoundrella’s Curfew

In India, SUVs are of various types. At the very lowest end are these really small wagon-like cars. Its owners modify it with an extra front grille, halogen lamps, a luggage rack, and most importantly – an empty petrol canister at the rear. After this comes the desi SUVs; hardly packing enough power under the hood to lug its overgrown frame, these usually come decorated with the extra front grille, the luggage rack and the halogen lamps, but the owners still insist in having the empty petrol canister at the rear. And the last of this SUV series is the real deal – the gas guzzling monsters that have, in all its 4-Wheel Drive glory, been the bane of world population and boon to the many Sheikhs of OPEC. Honourable Minister Muniappa of Karnataka drove one of these. And his came with the empty canister at the rear.

‘Minister’ is not Muniappa’s first name. His real name is Murugesh Muniappa. But he feels Minister Muniappa has a better ring to it. The longevity of his position unfortunately cannot be ensured with the name. And that was Minister Muniappa’s biggest worry. He may not even have to wait till the next elections to lose his Ministerial pedestal.

“Ey! Scoundrel! Is the A/C off?” Muniappa asked his driver in as polite a manner as it was possible of him, which was not talking much about his politeness or his manner.

“Sir!” replied the driver. “A/C full on, Sir. Outside there’s much heat. That’s why.”

“I don’t know what is with this climate these days. Every year hotter and hotter and hotter.”

Actually, Muniappa should’ve known. Because Muniappa is the Public Works Minister of Karnataka. And this basically translates to cutting trees in Bangalore. This was also the reason why Muniappa was a bit more hot-headed than usual during the last few months. The achievements of telepathy had catapulted the status of trees from something any one can cut, to someone anyone can cut. And not many people were willing to let someone be cut.

As for Muniappa, he couldn’t care more about his wife’s telepathic relation with her Pomeranian than with the whole telepathy business. Great! Now people can talk without making any sound. What’s the fun in that? And what’s with these trees suddenly becoming all loving and caring and all that. As Muniappa got engrossed in such thoughts, a Sheikh exported another barrel of oil at an exorbitant price.

“Ey! Scoundrel! I need some juice. Stop somewhere!” Muniappa ordered his driver.

The driver nodded his head. It was when the driver was about to take a turn into another lane that Muniappa saw it. The scene made him a darker shade of brown with shock and fury. Under a tree was a guy. And there was no girl with him.

Of course, this scene would’ve been a curious one at least for times before 2022 (when humanity discovered telepathic communication). Then, it was a tree, a guy and a girl that caused much chagrin for the higher morals. But now things have changed. Trees have become better lovers than most humans. And they are unisexual (a term Muniappa until then thought was only associated with beauty parlours he wanted to visit). For a guy, the tree becomes a girl, and for a girl the tree becomes a guy. So now the government’s action was to identify guys and girls in solitude with a tree and put them behind bars or get enough money from them to warrant a let-off. The ministry was quickly piecing together a new law by which trees indulging in such acts will be considered as social outcasts and be chopped down immediately. This, once implemented, would work fabulously for the party’s moral outlook and help Muniappa cut down more trees.

“Ey! Stop stop!” ordered Minister Muniappa. The driver promptly stopped the car even as Muniappa uttered three more ‘stops’. Muniappa quickly got out of the car and holding his dhoti with his right hand, paced towards the scene.

“Ey! Scoundrelaa you are! What are you doing here?” Muniappa asked the bewildered youngster.

The youngster quickly noticed Muniappa’s gas guzzling monster parked behind and his attire (which carefully combined the colours of the Karnataka flag) and wisely deduced that the man in front of him was a minister.

“Sir…” he started. “It’s really hot here, Sir. I thought I would get some shade.”

“Eh! You know the BMTC has built bus stations and parks for that! Why? You can go under the Metro and stand there for shade, nah?”

“The dust…”

“What dust? Everywhere there is dust. Here there is dust. There there is dust. See?”

And Muniappa started kicking up dust by stomping around like a madman.

“Don’t think that I don’t know your kind, eh? Scoundrel!” continued Muniappa. “I know what you were doing under that tree. How long has it been going on for? Is this your only tree? Or are there others?”

“Sir… I don’t understand what you are talking about. I was just resting.”

“Where is the policeman of this location? All scoundrels. This time I am letting you go. But I will make sure that there are policemen in this area. Next time you will be caught. What’s your name?”

Bhaskar,” replied the youngster.

Muniappa took one last look at the face before turning back to his SUV. And as he was doing so, he couldn’t help but notice the Peepal tree behind Bhaskar. It was swaying a bit more than usual for such breeze. Muniappa felt something tug him from inside. He quickly blamed it on bonda and got into his SUV.

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