This is a story about you, told by me. It waivers here and there but this is your story. Here you come now.
You enter the library, radiant as the day you were born. I know that. You look around for the friend you fixed to meet here. She hasn’t arrived yet. It will be an hour or so until she does. I know this. You pick a table and pull up a chair there, fiddling around with your phone. That gets tedious. You start twiddling your thumb and look around. Everyone is nose deep in some book or the other. You feel guilty. You start going through the racks looking for the thinnest book there when you come across ‘Black God’. That seems interesting, sort of. At least it’s short. You start the book.
I remember going home from work one day. The traffic was the usual “If I’d only left just 5 minutes early” variety. Good thing I was on a bike. Anyway, the title of this essay will make sense shortly. On one of the traffic signals that day, I witnessed a scene. The children of the footpath were applying fairness cream all over their body to, maybe, look like the fair and pretty lady on the cover of the tube. It didn’t sink my heart, it didn’t draw a tear. You see this sort of scene on a daily basis here and won’t do you any good if you’re humbled on every other traffic signal. Coming back to the point, I remember I read somewhere that some of our Gods were really dark in color, some totally black. What if The Black God came to our time and witnessed how obsessed with color we are? That will be my weekend essay.
You check the time on your phone. Her last seen is still the same. You send another message. This time an expletive is added. You return to the story reluctantly, although the writer’s lack of material is pretty apparent. You skip ahead a few pages.
It’s been an hour since I’ve been here in this fancy coffee shop. As a kid, I didn’t know you can just waltz into such fancy places. I thought they checked your status or something, matching your skin tone to the fairness scale and set dogs on you if you aren’t of the right shade. I didn’t consider myself dark though. Oh no, that was a sin. I also knew I didn’t fit in the fair category. I was comfortably brown. ‘Wheatish’, if I were in a matrimonial ad. It did irk me though when the ‘Skin Colour’ marked crayon did not match mine when I rubbed it on my arm. But my palms are fair, in my defence, if anyone here asks. So that makes me eligible to sit in this fancy coffee shop where I’ve written a few lines on the open laptop in front of me. They go like this
Scores of years ago, God created the Humans or sometime recently, Humans created Gods. It’s the blasphemous version of the Chicken or the Egg question.
Gods in the Hindu Pantheon are varied with varied powers, abilities, characters. Some were mortal, others not. For example, Krishna is said to have died at the hands of a rogue arrow when a hunter mistook him for a deer and he let himself bleed
“What?”, you interject, with it attracting swiveling heads in your direction. You keep your head down and wait till the silence resumes. You remember the reason why you shrieked. You did not know Gods died. You thought Gods just lived up there, somewhere. Also, you notice that the story-within-a-story trope is getting too heady and confusing. But you try and soldier on.
Indian mythology, though it must be said, can be interpreted in innumerable ways. For the purposes of this story, we focus on the present day, where Krishna is still among us and he’s…
I don’t know where to go from here. Should I write an action set-piece where Krishna takes on the TV producers who have whitewashed his characters into paleness or a courtroom drama where he takes on the fairness companies in a heated litigation or an existential quandary wherein he wonders who decided his color to be blue? I fib around a bit, but decide on a simple premise and continue…
The flute-seller has a piece of peacock feather tucked to his ear. He plays on pieces that were tried and tested methods to woo certain sections of the general public. People do buy flutes from him, but think they’ve been duped for the flutes don’t sound the same when they play it. The flute seller is a thief, they say. He only wished that they had the patience that music asks for, for he hears their anger loud and clear, but he couldn’t interfere.
The cursor blinks here. It continues to do so much to my dismay. I continue to stare at it hoping something would pour out but nothing does. I see a face next to mine on the laptop screen, reading over my shoulder. He looked, I don’t know, bad, somehow. He looked like the kids in the chawl opposite to us who would break our windows or loiter around in our society. They were bad people, my Mum used to say. Their caste was a synonym for uncultured. This guy looked like that. Bad. I turned around, hoping he would go away. He stretched his hands and said, “Hello!”. Even his palms were darker than mine, how did they even allow him in here?
“That’s it?”, You exclaim. You check if the pages are out of order, or if some have fallen off somewhere.
You go back to the story’s last line. It was obvious that the guy was the eponymous Black God. But you wanted to know for certain. You look around for some soul that can help. The librarian is engrossed in his paper work. That’s me there. I’m the librarian. I am shuffling around the day’s ins and outs. You look at me wearily, but your curiosity overcomes your insecurity. You come over and say, “Excuse me, umm, uncle. Do you have another copy of this book?”. I process the question much later, before you repeat it for the angrier third time. “Sorry beta, that book’s out of print. That’s the last copy we have.” I take the book from you and skim around it. You notice the dark of my palms, the peacock feather on my desk. Before you say anything, I interrupt your thought, “By the way, your friend is here.” You turn around to face the door, where your friend appears with an apologetic face. You have a confused one of your own. You will be here tomorrow. You won’t remember why. I know this. I skim around the pages a bit more for now, bemused at the ineptitude of the writer and begin.