Sunday, 26 August 2007


The sun had risen and birds were squawking their larynxes hoarse, flapping around, leaving little whiplashed slipstreams of air in their wake and generally disturbing the peace as far as Reverend Waker was concerned.

"Whatever happened to the sweet-sounding birds of yore?" he wondered aloud. "The ones that chirped and sang such bittersweet harmonies. Such gentle and graceful creatures they were. They seem to have disappeared altogether. The skies are filled with winged monstrosities now, blowhorning things out of their way in fits of flight-rage. Birds nowadays are perennially angry and violent."

Sol, who had been sitting beside the reverend in a solemn reverie, now looked up at the birds in silence. Angus had been painting the horizon quietly and with intense concentration. He now kept his easel aside and uttered knowingly, "It is a bio-evolutionary reaction, sir. We learnt this in our BASTARDISE classes."

"What did you say?" asked the reverend, turning the shade of a particularly ripe nectarine.

"Biological Adaptation, Structural Transition And Responsive Development In Species' Evolution. The name's too long, so we use the acronym. Why? Is there something wrong in shortening nomenclature? Am I being disrespectful in some way?"

"Er... no. No. But somehow, it didn't sound right. No matter... you may continue."

"Well, we were taught that as the wheel of time turns, certain things must change. There are changes occuring everywhere and in everything. The direction of the wind, the magnetic polarisation of the earth, the seasons and even nature itself is constantly changing. Baron Chickenfeed's Theory is that 'all change occurs for the better as, is proved in eventuality', though, there are a large number of people who are completely opposed to this line of thought. They are called the Pessymists (in ancient Caldubine, the word 'pessym' approximately amounts to fault, but it also means finding dearth in something or seeking a situation which creates the need for an excuse). Now, most living creatures need to be physically prepared for nature. In other words, a creature must be able to survive on earth, and survive comfortably. It must be able to cope with all the natural changes that are thrown at it. Thus, every specie is slowly but surely changing, mutating and adapting to nature so that it can survive and reproduce. All creatures through long bio-evolutionary processes discard what is useless and superfluous in their body and develop certain traits that they require."

"So what, pray tell, does the BA...... er... this subject or theory have to do with birds squawking their lungs out?"

"Well, one only has to look at the history of birds to realise that their constant squawking is a BITCh."

"Look here, young man! I realise that I am a fairly level-headed and liberal sort of priest, but even I cannot permit you to use such obscene language in the presence of your brother. He is just a child!"

"But sir, we were taught about BITChes at University."

"What kind of a University teaches its student such things?"

Angus raised his head to the morning sky with pride, pointed his finger heavenwards and striking an imperious pose, declared, "The best."

"Well in my time, no university taught such things and children uttering such words were given a sound thrashing."

Angus looked puzzledly at Sol. Sol smiled and shrugged his shoulders. He picked up a stone and threw it as far as he could, then got up and dusted his trousers off and said, "Perhaps, in your day, no one knew what a BITCh was. Its quite an important concept, sir, too fundamentally important to science, for us to ignore. It is a basic concept in the study of life."

The master seemed to hesitate. "Um... what is a... er... what does that word mean?"

"A BITCh, sir, is a Biologically Inherited Trait or Characteristic." Sol replied.

"Ahem... Oh... I see."

"It is a concept of far-reaching importance in our understanding of life itself," Angus continued. "You see whatever we are today, physically, emotionally, culturally, socially and morally, is the result of a long string of changes that occured due to our adaptation to the world and our constant struggle to survive. It is believed that man once had hair all over his body and even a fifth finger!"

"Yes, I've heard that. Hah! That's a laughable idea."

"Nonetheless, some historians are sure that these things did exist, and that it was what we call BASTARDISE-ation that changed our bodies to what they are now."

"That's tripe! All creatures were created by the Creator. And they were created as they are now."

"But, sir," offered Sol, "supposing there was a creator and he did create everything, isn't there a chance he could have made mistakes? And having realised these mistakes, maybe he wanted to change the things he created... as a sort of... correction or... repair."

"Nonsense!" bellowed the reverend. "The Creator is perfect, and so are his creations! He's never made a mistake in his life and never will!"

"But, sir," argued Angus, "if you'll let me tell you the history of birds, you'll realise that this theory does make a lot of sense."

"Bah! Go on..."

"Birds were singular creatures, often extremely intelligent, yet very often, extremely stupid. Though most could fly, some were flightless. Some were soft, gentle and vulnerable and drank only the juices and nectar which they obtained from flowers, inflicting the least amount of damage possible, whereas some would bite, strike, hunt, maim and kill prey in order to devour them in a most barbarous and ravenous fashion. However, over the years, birds evolved and became slightly civilised. They became thinking creatures, somewhat like man, but not at the same level. They developed a primitive system of morals. They saw that due to the hunter-prey situation, most non-preying birds were dying out, so the weaker birds formed a sort of union and revolted against the stronger ones. The weaker birds decided, that each of them will constantly keep a vigil for the preying birds. If they saw a preying bird they would instantly scream, warning the others of approaching danger. This has led to a number of problems. Apart from the incessant noise that results from this, there's also the fact that most birds don't have very sharp eyes. So one of them may think that there is a preying bird lurking around nearby and scream, thus causing much mass hysteria, when really, it may have been nothing but a distant zeppelin, floating around, minding its own business. Mass paranoia has engulfed the world of birds. There voices have subsequently evolved into shrill screams so that they can be heard even at a distance. There were some birds which had such weak hearts that a sudden loud sound would actually kill them. Those birds have now become extinct, for obvious reasons. So here we have an excellent illustration of BASTARDISE-ation."

"This is all poppycock!" The reverend was livid and fuming with rage. His eyes were bloodshot and were about to burst out, and his fists were clenched so tightly that they were turning purple. "I cannot stand this blasphemy!"

"But, sir," Angus continued, calmly, "It really is quite a beautiful concept. It makes you think about life and humanity in a different perspective. It tells you that we are all equal and that we are all brothers in a way."

"Yes," said Sol, joyfully, "The same BASTARD exists in each and very one of us. We are all products of BASTARDISE-ation, and therefore, we are all one."

"Stop this, I tell you!"

"Why," Angus said, "just the thought of all of us sharing the sames BITChes gives me goose pimples! Every single BITCh we have is something we share with all of humanity. Isn't it wonderful?"

"Stop! I order you to stop!" The reverend clamped his hands over his ears and seemed as though he were in physical agony. But, Angus and Sol were so immersed in the topic that they couldn't even hear him.

"It is spectacular!" screamed Sol. "Just imagine how deep this theory really goes! It defines so many things. Everything we have in our bodies is a BITCh! Everything we have now is a result of BITChes our ancestors had! Our progeny and their progeny and all our successors will have new and improved BITChes! Our BITChes unify us all! Our BITChes are our link to the past and our step into the future! They are our inheritence and define our place in the world! They will be our legacy once we are gone. Everything that we are or will be shall be defined by BITChes. BITChes are our identity! In fact, going strictly by the definition, every non-artificial thing given to us by our ancestors and our parents, is a BITCh! Our parents gave us our very lives! Therefore..."

Both Angus and Sol shouted gleefully in unison, "Life is a BITCh!"

gggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!" the reverend screamed. The scream was so loud that it even startled the birds in the sky, who were generally used to constant loud noises. His scream echoed into the horizon and then there was sudden silence.

"This is unbelievable!" growled the reverend. "They teach children heresy in school! It is the reign of the destroyer! The evil one is upon us and he will destroy everything that is sacred and holy!"

The reverend's head now looked like an unusually large tomato and it was throbbing like a plate of disturbed jello. He tore fistfulls of hair as he shrieked and saliva blubbered out of his mouth. He looked like a raving lunatic.

"I will not have this!" he spluttered. "This has to end! I'm going to burn the University down! I'm going to destroy the books and kill the teachers that put such evil ideas in your head! Oh Lord! Save us! Apocalypse is on us. You boys will never go to that University again! It is the seat of all evil! It teaches you that the Creator made mistakes? That is a lie! That is blasphemy!"

"But, sir," Sol said timidly, "isn't it possible that...?"

"NO! It isn't! The lord, our Creator makes no mistakes! He is the nameless ideal! He can do no wrong! You hear me?"

"In that case, sir" said Angus, calmly (though, a touch annoyed), "How do you explain what you call the devil or the destroyer? He tries to destroy and corrupt everything that the creator has made, by your own admission. Wouldn't you say creating him was a bit of a boo-boo on the creator's part? Or is he just sadistic and wants to destroy everything and make everyone suffer for the simple joy of it?"


Suddenly, there were numerous sparks all over the reverend's body and he, inexplicably, burst into flames. He uttered a horrific scream, and in an instant, he disappeared.

There was a silent pause for a moment and then everything went back to normal. The birds started squawking again, the wind started blowing again, the trees started rustling again. Everything was back as it had been. It was as if nothing had happened.

Only Sol and Angus remained rooted to where they had been standing. They stared at the spot where the reverend had been sitting. There was no trace of him now. Not even a speck of ash.

"What was that?" asked Sol, after a long silence.

"I've heard of this," Angus replied. "Master Wu Li Zentao had told me about this. It is called Spontaneous Combustion. No one has ever been able to explain it."

"Really? Master Wu Li actually axplained it to you?"

"No. He just randomly said 'Spontaneous Combustion' one day and I went to the library and read about it."

"What shall we do now?" asked Sol.

"We shall go back and pretend this never happened." replied Angus.

As they walked away, Sol asked, "But what do you think happened? There has to be some rationale behind this. There has to be. Right?"

"Well," Angus replied, "I think the creator realised he had made a mistake. So he erased it."


B. Jabberjee said...

What ho, my bright and bounding bengali.

I just realized that, in a year or two, I'll be able to further satisfy my need to unnecessarily alliterate by calling you a bright and bounding bengali barrister.

I am pleased.

Sayak said...

No you shan't be able to call me thusly because I will not be a barrister unless I get called to the bar from one of the inns in England or I write an exam for some bar association in India (which would hardly make me a 'barrister in the true sense). By the way, this should interest you... I have managed to accumulate a bunch of brilliant Satyajit Ray movies. Pather Panchali, Aparajito, Jana Aranya, Aranyer Din Ratri, Pratidwandi, Shonar Kella, Kapurush Mahapurush, Teen Kanya and Sheemabaddha. I'm going to post about them as I watch them.

B. Jabberjee said...

Dammit. Never mind.

Re the Ray movies: I've seen Jana Aranya, Aranyer Din Ratri, Sonar Kella, Kapurush, Teen Kanya (Samapti) and Seemabadhha from your list. I look forward to reading what you have to say about them. I'm also slightly curious to know why you got Pather Panchali and Aparajito but not Apur Sansar *is indignant on Soumitra Chatterjee's behalf*.

I don't know when I'll start posting regularly on the Charminar blog. I've at least a dozen unfinished entries/ movie critiques consuming vast quantities of tea inside my hard-drive, as we speak.

And what is this I hear about you coming to this dratted island in March? Why was I not told?

Sayak said...

Ah yes... I seem to have forgotten to mention my probable short trip to the island of the merlion. Well I took part in a quiz and qualified for the semi-finals which will be held (along with the finals) in Singapore. It will in all probability be a 2 day trip from the 5th of March to the 7th of March if everything goes smoothly. We should definitely try to meet once I'm there. Mail me your phone number and other contact details. I think the quiz will be held at the Nanyang Technological University (or something that sounds similar). They told us that they'll have a packed schedule for us, but I hope we'll still be able to meet.

Regarding the Apur Sansar, though I looked everywhere for it, I just could not find the blessed movie... even in Calcutta! You have no idea how pained and distraught I was. I came this close to having the whole Apu trilogy and now I'm left hanging.

B. Jabberjee said...

You'll find it eventually. Heh. I claim to be a hardcore Ray fan and I haven't seen Pather Panchali, yet. (mostly becase I'm a little intimidated by it. If I had my way, I'd choose my first viewing of it to be on a huge cinema screen.) At least you have the complete Calcutta trilogy (I'm missing Pratidwandi, which is annoying because Dhritiman Chaterji is a madman.)

Re the trip, it's TOO SHORT. Argh. But you'll be here, which is the great thing. If you'd have been here over the weekend, we could have watched some of the Ray movies I own - Jalsaghar and Asani Sanket, for example. And I could have shown you around this idiotic country a little. Ah, well. Maybe the island will impress you greatly and you will want to come back, for a longer holiday, who knows. (NTU was my brother's university, by the way.)

I'll mail you my phone number etcetera soonish. Do write me an email as soon as your plans are confirmed.

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