A long time, in a small town called Dllaas, located in the grand state of Take-saans, in the country of Oomerica, there lived a boy. He was not really a boy, but he was not really a man either. You see, this boy had taken it upon himself to travel from his homeland of Baraat to this distant land of Oomerica, so that he may partake of the wisdom and the virtue that he had heard abounded in this remote country. After having traveled across Oomerica, and after having apprenticed under a wise and all-knowing sage, who taught him the mysteries of the Occult of Images, he decided to spend some time exploring the belly of the demon known as Capitalisamo. Now Capitalisamo made the boy work hard for his keep, for as some great author has said, one has to keep running in order to stay in place. But this is not a story of the boy’s adventures in Capitalisamo, but of his exploration of the entity called SamayaTimeKala away from Capitalisamo. This entity — SamayaTimeKala — gave people in the belly of the beast false hope that what they worked for would give them more of SamayaTimeKala, so much so that people forgot to utilize the SamayaTimeKala that they had as they struggled in the beast’s belly.
The boy, who unlike others, had learnt the secret of the Occult, soon realized that SamayaTimeKala was his to enjoy and not to bequeath to the beast, and in his quest to savor every minute of it, he procured for himself a wonderful little companion — a small dragon by the name of AdiKesavan. This tan creature of four legs and two ears was a constant companion to the boy, it partook in his joys and sorrows with the understanding of a calm seer. The only thing AdiKesavan demanded in return for the support that it provided was walks. AdiKesavan loved the outdoors, and the laws of the land did not allow it to freely roam the wild, smelling each of the Flauwers that grew in the courtyards of the rich. And so, every morning, at 6 AM sharp, AdiKesavan woke the boy up by breathing fire on the boy’s nether regions. No no, not the kind of fire that would destroy the boy’s ability to procreate, but the kind that would warm the boy up enough to wake him from the pleasure-filled dreamland of sleep. The boy, once awoken, would place the loop of rope that was mandated by the laws around the body of AdiKesavan, and in a sleepy languid gait would proceed to walk around his place of residence.
Soon, the sun would rise and cover the earth with a warm golden glow, and the boy’s gait would get faster, he would get more alert, and in a matter of minutes, the boy would egg AdiKesavan on, pushing it to the limit, as AdiKesavan’s tongue lolled about during pleasurable pants. It was during these walks that the boy noticed the runners. The runners would come in all colors and sizes. Fat, thin, short, tall, slow, fast, yellow, green, blue, red, white, black, naked. They’d hustle past the boy and his dragon, most of them demonstrating a general diffidence to anything else but their task of putting one leg in front of the other at a rapid pace. Most would have their ears shuttered with white chords that either ended in their pant pockets or on their arms, where ugly monstrosities called Eye-pods resided. Forced by these Eye-pods into constant running, these runners would push their bodies to the limit, much to the bewilderment of the boy. The one redeeming quality of these runners were of course, the women.
The boy enjoyed the sight of the wonderfully lithe woman who wooshed past him, as the faint aroma of perfume lingered on behind them, as if in abeyance until the woman in question came back to claim her rightful scent. He’d stare without embarrassment at the perfectly chiseled bodies of these ethereal beauties, who always wore the bare minimum of clothes around their perfect figures. As he enjoyed the sights and smells that wonderful women runners had to offer, he’d be jerked back into cruel reality. For you see, the women runners were not alone in their quest for physical perfection. As if to complement the perfectness of the woman’s form, the path would be littered by equally lithe and perfect men with chiseled abs that pulsed beneath their sweat-covered shiny torsos, topless and perfect. These well bodied men with thick lustrous hair would bandy about, bottles clutched in their hands, their 6-feet bodies towering over the diminutive stature of the boy. As they passed by, they’d leave a whiff of the masculinity that defined their muscle texture, instantly producing revulsion and awe. The boy would look at these perfect men and then look back down at his own non-existant physique and a wave of sadness would overtake him, ruining his perfect day. He hated these perfect men, he hated them as much as he loved the perfect women.
One day, as he walked AdiKesavan, simultaneously repulsed by the hot men and attracted to the hot women, his foot struck a bottle, its glass surface producing a faint trring. Curious, the boy picked up the bottle and noticing the faint tinge of dirt on the side, rubbed it against his pants. Suddenly, the sky darkened, and the cork popped open of its own accord, and as the boy looked on with amazement, a bluish form materialized itself from the glass bottle.
‘Jo hukum mere aaka’, said the formless blue cloud.
‘What?’, replied the boy, still astounded at the sudden turn of events.
‘Oh, I am sorry. I thought you’d understand Hindi. I said, Your wish master’, replied the form.
‘Who the hell are you?’
‘Have you not seen films or read stories my little master? I am the one that they call the Jinn or the Genie. I am the granter of three wishes, and three wishes only and I live in bottles that precocious boys find. What shall you seek master? Wealth? Power? Women?’
The boy looked at the Genie with a silent gaze and said, ‘So, I have three wishes, and they’ll all come true, no matter how ludicrous?’
‘Yes master’, replied the Genie. ‘Your wish is my command’.
‘Ok. My first wish is that these perfectly chiseled men with amazing abs be replaced by fat, slobbering middle-aged balding men, their guts hanging out of their bellies as if they were pregnant.’
The Genie looked around and said, ‘And the women, master?’
‘Let the woman be.’
The Genie smiled and said, ‘Your wish master’, and disappeared.
The boy looked around and to his amazement, every single Greek-God bodied man had disappeared. In their place, hairy fat men ran, their layers of fat made more fetid by the barrels of sweat pouring out of their corpulent forms. Breasts jiggling, belly fat oscillating, these mammoth beings heaved heavily and left behind a putrid stench of vile garbage as they attempted to burn the fat that had welded itself permanently onto their corporeal forms. The boy looked around and he could still spot the wonderful women. There she was, his favorite, dressed in a red sports-bra and a pair of black shorts, she ran with the gracefulness of a gazelle. The sagging spirits of the boy at once disappeared, to be replaced by a sense of contentment and well being. Carefully, the boy placed the bottle in his pant pocket and walked AdiKesavan back home.
The days passed in quiet lethargy, as days in Capitalisamo generally do. The boy was happy; the morning walks were now not filled with the despair of the apathy he exhibited when it came to chiseling his body to meet that of the sculpted figures of the perfect men who trotted by. As he gorged on cheesecakes and ice-creams, he took pride in the fact that his slowly growing belly was still miles away from the heaving buckets of lard that the giant beings around him exhibited. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man was king. He imagined that the women who jogged by, giving him a second glace were comparing him to the variety of fat that was on offer and had found him appealing. One day, his gazelle seemingly gave him a smile and his heart leaped, even as his body refused to pull in the ever-growing bulge on his torso.
As time went by, the bottle lay forgotten in the back of the closet, with old pairs of socks and discarded underwear. After all, the boy had achieved what he wanted and he did know how to put a ceiling on desires. When summer turned to winter and the joggers started to cover up more of their sweat-glistened skins, the boy started to find it more and more difficult to walk the 2-odd miles that he and his dragon used to do regularly. He first found that the amount of time that he spent on the walk started to slowly increase and as winter approached, he was heaving and puffing by the time they reached home. Soon he started to take a break mid-way in the walk, sitting on the sidewalk, chomping down on the 3rd doughnut of the morning,a giant glass of soda to wash it all down. The number of breaks in the walks slowly increased, as did the number of doughnuts, and soon he found himself skipping some days entirely. It was no fault of his own, he reasoned when AdiKesavan gave him the “puppy-eyes”, it was a cloudy day and AdiKesavan hated the rain; he was just being cautious!
Winter turned to Spring and the walks had gone down from daily to weekly, the length now a paltry half-mile. On the walks, the boy no longer adored the chiseled perfection of the women joggers who were slowly but surely shedding their clothes; instead he dreamt of the steaming mug of coffee and the cinnamon-raisin bagel that he’d devour with garlic-laced cream cheese as soon as he got back from the walk. His gazelle, just as gazelle-y as ever, was a distant memory, like the faint hint of washing powder emanating from clothes at the back of a closet.
Weeks continued in their epicurean tedium until one day, at the belly of the beast where the boy slaved hard for the measly sum of money that his corporate overlords threw at him, things came to a head. It was as the boy was about to sit at the desk before his campooter — the device of the devil — on a chair that something inexplicable happened. The same chair that he had been resting his backside on for the past three years refused to let him sit! It was not that the poor chair, tired of lifting the weight of our ever-ballooning hero, suddenly acquired life and refused to let him sit, it was simply that the chair, built for a person of normal dimensions, could not accomodate someone as massive as the little boy. When the boy’s rear wedged itself tightly between the handles, the boy had a sudden realization — he had gain a few pounds (a euphemism if there ever was one)!
The boy rushed home that evening and rummaged through his closet until he found the glass bottle at the back of his closet. He placed his ample rear on the large couch and rubbed the bottle furiously. The genie appeared instantly, and at first was a little surprised to see the boy. The last time the genie had spotted his master, he was a lanky little boy — not that he was perfect, one could always stand to loose a few pounds, but he was not the blob of fat that sat before him now. A little nonplussed, the genie said, ‘Your wish master!’
The boy looked at the genie and with the faint hint of tears in his eyes said, ‘I am fat! I am fat! Those fat men who I asked for have somehow burrowed into my sub-conscious and made me fat! I need them taken out, get them away from here!’
‘Do you want the perfect men back my little master?’, asked the genie.
‘No. Just get the fat jogging men out and I know I’ll return back to normal. When I see the perfect women, I will yearn for a better body, and I will look like I used to. These fat man….’. (At this juncture, the narrator would like to inform the reader that the boy spewed oaths ans swears that no good man would ever put on paper. While this tale has not been edited or censored, it is this narrator’s choice that the boy’s foul tongue not impinge upon the pure whiteness of this sheet, rendering it black by its execrable foulness. Imagine all the foul words that you learnt as a kid and fill-in-the-blanks.)
The genie, whose pristine ears were not acquainted with the vile words that the boy spewed, quickly granted the wish and rushed into the bottle.
The next day morning, the boy walked out with trepidation; the genie had granted one wish, but there was no guarantee that he’d grant the second as well. However, the genie was true to his word. As the boy huffed and puffed through the wet streets, he saw nary a man. The perfect men were long gone, and now the fat slobbering lards of fat who called themselves men were gone too. The streets were quieter and to the discerning nose, less smellier. The women joggers went by their routine as if nothing had changed and the only odor to kiss the noses of the sharp-smelling was the faint hint of sweat masked by layers of flowery-smelling perfume from BodyWorks. Even the most critical of the smell-ers would not have minded the pleasant womenly odor of sweat, and those clever gentlemen who swung the other way would have happily taken the mild womenly odors over the harsh stench from the fetid lards of fat.
For the first time in a long while the boy noticed the women. He still struggled to walk, but his thoughts were not on returning back but on the beautiful curves that mother nature had gifted the members of the cleverer sex. There she was! His gazelle. Her sinewy claves beautifully juxtaposed against the smooth femininity of her long dexterous arms; her wavy hair billowing in the wind; her shoes a whirl on the canvas of space-time. It was as she jogged passed him that she noticed him, her attention distracted momentarily from the focussed task of jogging. He saw her and gave her a smile and then she did something that broke his heart. She snorted. With a look of contempt at her face, she snorted and increasing her pace ran quickly away from the boy, who, just a minute ago had started to mentally appreciate the womenly forms around him.
The boy stood rooted to the spot where they had passed each other, the very same spot where she had reviled him with the look. No words of communication passed between the two, but the boy knew what that look meant, and what the look was for. For the first time, the boy realized the immense bulk of his body. When the fat men abounded, he was one of them, a faint star amongst the millions that shone. Their stench and bulk masked him. He was one amongst the many, and his gazelle (as well as the other women) hardly gave him a second glance. But in a world void of fat men, he was the outlier, the one who did not fit in. Suddenly, he felt a multitude of eyes stare at him. His head whirled. He was at the center of the universe; one where he was on the ground and the bullies stood around him, fingers pointing, mocking. The world kept spinning and he sat rooted on the floor, unable to bear the criticism while knowing all the while that it was fully justified.
For a whole month after that the boy stayed at home, avoiding the early morning runners, lest the mock him. He walked AdiKesavan at nights, his fat hidden away by the darkness of the night. He slowly improved his diet. The doughnuts were phased out, as were the bagels. Fresh fruits were bought in bulk. He started to use the gym in his complex and the pool at work. He went to sleep on time and got up early enough to rush to the gym and back before the runners crowded the streets. And soon the boy started to return back to his old shape. One day, he finally built up the courage to walk out with AdiKesavan during jogging hours and as the gazelle passed by, looked on with trepidation. She gave him one look, and then went on her way. There was no smile, but there was no snort either. The boy blew out the breath he did not even know he was holding in.
The boy got healthier and healthier and the frequency of walks went back to once a day. They soon increased to twice a day and poor AdiKesavan was the huffer-puffer now. The boy walked, swam, gymmed and ate healthy. He got up early, went to bed early and became a better human being. There was now a sheen on his face that illustrated the pink-ness of his health. The boy looked and felt happy. His days passed by in a pleasant blur, so much so, that soon he did not need to gaze at the pretty little joggers, seeking fulfillment in the voyeuristic pleasures of life. He was fulfilled on his own.
It was as he was cleaning his closet one day that he came across the bottle. He bent down to pick it up, the muscles along his abdomen rippling as he did so. He rubbed it and out came the genie. ‘Your wish my little master!’, cried the genie, relieved to find the boy in the pink of health. The boy smiled back. ‘You know, genie, I was looking for contentment without. First the women, then the perfect men I hated, and then the fat ones I had you bring around to quell my own insecurities. It was always me that was the problem, never these people! Well, I am contended now, and I want things to go back to how they were.’
‘So, the perfect men back on the streets?’, asked the genie.
‘No one is perfect genie. Perfection is just a myth. Everyone is flawed, and it is this flaw that makes us human. It is up to us to either hide behind that flaw or try to overcome it. We shall never succeed in being perfect; the process alone is enough though. But yes, get those physically perfect men back’.
The genie smiled and nodded. A giant ball of blue smoke appeared and in an instant, both the genie and the bottle had disappeared. The perfect men with their chiseled bodies roamed the streets fearlessly, and the boy walked with AdiKesavan, now one of them. The boy, AdiKesavan, the perfect women (especially the gazelle), and the perfect men lived happily ever after.
ps. SS had once asked me to write a story that began with “once upon a time/A long time ago” and ended with “happily ever after”. So here it is. Two years later, but still counts!!