By Purba Ray May. 17, 2018
How does every mistri, mali, or kabadiwalla in the city automatically become a bhaiya? It’s either that, or abbey oye and abbey hatt. It’s crucial to remember that the term bhaiya comes with a guarantee of indifference and zero trace of compassion.
It’s one of those evenings when you get inspired by the gazillion articles you have read on healthy living. You make the effort of taking your ass, stuck on your bed for over 10 hours, out for a walk. Ten minutes into your walk, your hair smelling like a chain-smoker’s mouth, your lungs full of foul air, your ears pick up some strange moaning sounds. It sounds like a woman. It is panting hard and in between gasps you can hear, “Bhaiya, aur, bhaiya aur, aur!”
Have I walked in on the Lannister twins copulating in my neighbourhood? Have they migrated to India in a quest for nirvana and malana, and are now making out in Sector 31 market, the preferred haunt of Haryanvi gais?
Now you have to find out if it’s really them and start running toward the gasps and panting sounds. But what you see takes your breath away. A lone golgappa wala surrounded by a gaggle of women gobbling golgappas at a speed which will put an F1 driver to shame. And all of them are screeching like banshees in heat: “Bhaiya aur paani, aur saunth, thoda aur aloo dena… aur… aur…”
The giver of aur-gasm to countless women goes by the name of Ram Bilas Paswan. His fiery golgappas have been making up for what life does not give these women – lots of spice. Despite scratching his balls vigorously, Ram B can’t recall the last time someone has called him by his name. It’s either abbey oye, abbey hatt, or bhaiya. But he does remember squeezing himself inside the toilet of Jhumri Tilaiya Express that he had boarded from his hometown. He had become good friends with the chaiwala, who’d drop in occasionally to scoop out water from the shit pot to make tea for the passengers. Over cups of tea, he told Chomu chaiwala that he was on his way to the city that would do what the farmlands in his village had stopped doing – feed his family of 16.
The membership into this elite club run by women is only granted to those who are average, invariable ugly, and with no baap ka bank balance.
Within minutes of setting foot in the city of smog and too much traffic, a woman he had never met in his lifetime walked up to Ram and asked, “Bhaiya, time kitna hua hai?” Before Ram Bilas could break a coconut to celebrate the reunion with this sister his mom had misplaced at the Kumbh Mela, two other women who looked old enough to be his naanis called him bhaiya. By the time he had boarded the bus, he had accumulated five more sisters of different shapes and sizes.
Ram Bilas couldn’t believe his luck. He had managed to come to a city infested with his sisters. Should I call mataji and give her the good news? Or should I go home with my brand new family? His sisters disappeared faster than the MLA’s lofty promises post elections. He did bump into one of his behens giving away free food while he was busy trying to die in a stampede at a gurudwara. She simply tossed her discarded dona at his feet and walked away. He was distraught.
A few weeks later, while selling sewage water tea near Red Fort, Ramu met Bilal, a rickshaw puller and a veteran bhaiya. It was from him that Ram Bilas learnt about the Eww Club. Ramu was a happy man now. Thanks to Bilal, he finally knew he had landed himself the much-coveted membership to the fraternity of the ineligible and unworthy, popularly known as Eww. The membership into this elite club run by women is only granted to those who are average, invariable ugly, and with no baap ka bank balance. It doesn’t discriminate between men who are 16 or 60. Doesn’t care if a man wears his dhoti with or without a chaddi. Whether he shits inside a sulabh shauchalay or outside. But it does notice, if he drives a rickshaw or a Ferrari.
If you are her mistri or kabadiwalla, Eww membership comes with an extra rider of maintaining a distance of 50 feet from her. You are only allowed to make eye contact with her feet, knees, or the left side of her ears.
Since Ram Bilas Paswan was a starving migrant from Bihar, he had landed himself to a lifetime membership to Club Eww. Ramu will be a bhaiya until he dies.
After flipping through the many pages of the rulebook that every Eww member is given, Ram B kicked himself hard on his bony ass for mistaking bhaiya as a real sentiment. “I wish I had known the B-word is just a giant condom to protect women from any inappropriate thoughts that I may or may not get every time I interact with them!”
Since this momentous discovery, Ramu has switched careers multiple times. From making tea, to selling pakoras, to working at a dhaba, he has done it all before finding his true calling – selling golgappas. But not once has he let himself forget that when someone calls him bhaiya, it comes with a guarantee of indifference and zero trace of compassion.
Ram Bilas reciprocates this sentiment of superficial kinship by addressing all women over the age of 25 as aunty.
There was a brief phase when Ramu was struck with a sudden longing for going back to his village. His soul, despite getting regular massages from Billoo maalish wala, had been feeling unbearably dry and empty. But he swatted it off like a pesky fly. This existential crisis is only meant for the bade log who have ample time to be pleasantly bored and are constantly looking for excuses to feel unhappy.
What’s new about a privileged member of Eww wondering why even after living for over a decade in this urban jungle, it still doesn’t feel like home? He should have accepted a long time ago that this city needs him as much as he needs them, yet will never acknowledge his presence.
Not a problem. Ramu is super grateful that this last refuge of the hopeless has given him a livelihood and stripped him of dignity at the same time. Who needs extra baggage anyway! And look where Charan maali landed with all his extra baggage! This is what happens when you decide to cross the main road with four suitcases balanced on your head. You slip on cow dung and break your head. Despite extreme discomfort, Charan managed to count at least 300 cars and buses that vroomed past him without even batting an eyelid before he breathed his last.
Like his life, Charan’s death went unacknowledged. His death was not tragic enough for all his aunties and behens to outrage about or take out candle- light marches for. But then how do you condole the death of a person who we all killed long ago with indifference?
Better luck next time, Charan Bhaiya. Ram Bilas Paswan is praying hard for you. If his prayers get answered, you may end up as some rich aunty’s kutta in your next birth. You will not have just one name bhaiya, but many, when you become someone’s Shona, Beta, Coochie-Poochie.
Nearly funny, almost liberal, rarely serious, Purba likes to keep a safe distance from perfection. Unfortunately she has an opinion on everything, fact or fiction, beginnings or ends, light or heavy, long and short.