The Man Who Wanted To Be King


The Man Who Wanted To Be King

Illustration: Saachi/Arré


amila Begum ran through a school field clutching a plastic bottle half-filled with water. She was desperately pushing through a bone-crushing crowd of hundreds of people ahead of her, knowing that election rallies in Dhubri district’s Chapar, about 200 kilometres west of Guwahati, were never easy. Like several of the other folks gathered there, Jamila had no intention of listening to the political rhetoric being aired over the extremely loud and crackly loudspeakers. All she wanted was “duwa” from a legendary cleric, now a newly minted politician, contesting in Assam’s assembly polls for the first time.

Jostling her way through, Jamila was finally able to see the grey-bearded cleric dressed in a skull cap, loose white kurta pyjama, and a traditional Assamese gamosa on his shoulders. She passed on her bottle to him, her eyes brimming with hope. He blew into the bottle, chanted a few prayers, and transformed the liquid inside to “healing water”. Jamila wasted no time in rushing back home and making her ailing son Rajibul, bedridden for 10 days, drink the water. Within 24 hours, Rajibul, limped up from his cot, confirming his mother’s belief in the God-man.