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Rattan Mann

It all started with mom. Frankly speaking, nothing started with mom. Nothing started with grand-mom, even great-grand-mom. It might have started long back. It might not have started yet. But I always say it all started with mom. I know I am lying. I am a born liar.

Normally in three days I speak more lies than another would speak in three years. And when it comes to talking to foreigners in Cannaught Place, fellows, I become a dirty bundle of all sweet lies. And I am mighty proud of that a chap has got to be proud of what he is, can't be proud of what he is not.

I again say it all started with mom! Mom had her educated. Mom sent her to school. Mom sent her to college. And then mom asked her to look for a job so that she does not have to depend on my whims and fancies. Actually it all started there; though I still insist it all started with mom because I am a liar. And to my utter dismay she got a job.

Of course I am referring to Geeta. Anybody can guess that. Of course she is my sister. Anybody can guess that too. But she is not my sister. But I still say she is my sister because I am a liar. Some say she is my step-sister; but I don't believe them because they are also liars.

What started with mom? My mental sickness, of course. Anybody can guess that. See, it could not have started with mom because I was not yet born. But I still insist my mental-sickness started with mom. But, fellows, try to understand the dilemma of a mentally sick liar. If he does not tell lies how will it be known that he is mentally-sick?

Geeta got a job in a school as a typist. I at once let it be known within my circles that a night-club of questionable repute had hired her as a bar-maid. Geeta did nothing to counter these rumours. She is very gentle and docile. If you slap her on her right cheek, she would turn her left towards you. I love making use of such an opportunity. Can't help it! Fellows, try to understand a mentally-sick guy. Our age is after all an Age Of Understanding.

Geeta is the only living creature I have been able to slap without retaliation. I tried to stone a cat but she jumped on my back. I tried to whip a donkey but it kicked me so hard in the stomach that I had to be admitted to a hospital. The day I came out of the hospital I was a bitter and angry man. So I went up to Geeta and as she began to embrace me, I slapped her. Nothing happened. I slapped her again. Still nothing happened. I got so encouraged that from that day on I slap her every day. To make sure nothing would ever go wrong in my newly-found paradise I told her what Christ had said. Then I told her if she would suffer quietly all the blows I showered on her she would reach heaven and enjoy frequent dances with the urchins there. She could even slap them as I slapped her and she won't be punished because there was no such thing as punishment in heaven. I don't know if she understood such deeply philosophical things but she cried. I loved it. I love it when anybody cries in pain.

After a few days I spread the next rumour. I began to tell my friends that instead of being a simple bar-maid she is now doing striptease and having affairs with everybody coming to her night-club. One day I went so far as to say that she is having five hundred affairs every day. I even encouraged my friends to go there themselves.

Fellows, spreading false rumours is to me what water is to a fish. Not that I don't believe in them. The real fun of spreading rumours lies in believing in them. At least in my case the real kick from that kicking around started when I began to believe in those rumours. Because then things became very serious. Now the honour of our family was at stake and so I could not remain silent or passive. I could not see the name of our family being dragged into dirt.

There is a legend in my village that one day, thirty years after a very successful married life, my great-grandmother had the courage to confess to my great-grandfather that all her married life it had been her greatest dream to go out on a walk with her husband. Surprisingly, instead of beating her up for her immorality, my great-grandfather agreed to take his wife for a walk with him. Probably he was too drunk to know what he said or did. Fellows, how can I be sure? I was not there to see.

So my great-grandparents started a very romantic journey into the unknown, great-grandmother clad from head to toe in a purde, trudging fifty yards behind her husband. Well, it was not her fault that she fell down under these circumstances, and her nose was uncovered for a fraction of a second. My great-grandfather rushed to her and cut her exposed nose because he was scandalized that his wife had exposed her private parts in public even though neither the part was so private nor was there anybody around to see. And even if the road had not been so deserted as it actually was that night, it was too dark to see a nose anyway. So the legend goes.

Actually nothing of the sort ever happened. This time I am dead sure even though I was not there to see. I am always sure of things when I want to be sure. My theory is that my great-grandparents were walking happily hand-in-hand in Cannaught Place, she clad in hot-pants and he completely in a state of nature. I am positive that my theory is correct, so I don't think I would ever bother to find any evidence in support of it.

Grand-old-pa looked into the wide happy eyes of grand-old-ma and said, "If you ever look into another man's eyes, I will pull you by your nose and elope with you somewhere that rascal can never find you." And he imparted a deep kiss on her nose.

But fools distort history beyond recognition. They forbid kisses because they cannot see anybody happy. So history says a nose was cut when actually a nose was kissed. Fellows, I say history is a bunch of lies so that liars like me can exploit it to the maximum. Legends are a bunch of lies, I say. But this particular legend, this particular bunch of lies, suited my purpose very well. I am a genius at exploiting lies for my own ends. I began by adding some spice to the story. I went so far as to say that poor grand-old-ma was actually stabbed to death for that breach of tradition instead of escaping with just a loss of nose.

See fellows, history still remains a bunch of lies. I still am very suspicious of it. But the big difference is that now I am in command of history now I am distorting it. But I am doing it for Geeta's sake.

"Look at the traditions of our family. Our great-grandmother was killed just because her nose was exposed. And here you are, dancing naked and running around with every Tom, Dick, and Harry. Have you no shame?" I asked Geeta.

"Where am I dancing and with whom am I running around?" she whispered meekly.

I slapped her two three times. It was a sufficient answer.

Why do I treat Geeta like this? Why can't I leave this poor creature alone? Of course I am mentally-sick, but so are they all, those honourable men. What else can be behind it? I don't know. Of course, I know it. But I won't tell. Of course, I will tell.

Fellows, the thing is that besides being mentally-sick, I am also sexually frustrated. Perhaps I am mentally sick because I am sexually frustrated. Perhaps I am sexually frustrated because I am mentally sick. Perhaps both! But the psychologists whom I visited for help say it is neither. They say I am a normal human being a dynamic personality, Santa Claus to children, helpful to neighbours, and very gentle. They say if I doubt it I just have to go to other people and observe what they are. We all are the same, give psychologists a chance, they told me in the end. So fellows, I am not mentally sick at all. But I still insist that I am mentally sick because I am a liar.

Once I went to a girl and said, "I am sexually frustrated."

She slapped me. "Just imagine everybody trying to dump his sexual frustrations on me," she said. "Can't carry the burden of five hundred million sexual frustrations upon my back!"

"Sorry, I got carried away. At 30 I am still a virgin," I said.

"Better luck next time with the next girl," she said.

That awaited luck with the next girl has not come till today even though years have passed since my first attempt to impress a girl.

It was sometime after this misadventure that the business of stoning a rat, beating a cat, and slapping Geeta every day started. Or was it stoning a cat and beating an ass? I have forgotten. I am so preoccupied with my obsessions that I am not capable of seeing one step back or one step ahead. But this is not at all my fault.

Guys, anthropologists say that when man, the hunter, became man, the farmer, the wisest man could see only seven years ahead. What a score! In my beloved country the wisest leader cannot see seven days ahead. Maybe Geeta can see seven hundred years ahead. But who cares? She is only an ordinary man, not a leader. Sorry, woman.

Let me come back to myself which is what I love the most. As soon as the business of slapping Geeta was in full swing, my mental sickness reached new heights. I began to experience nightmares. One day I dreamt that Geeta slapped me back. You can't imagine what a scare it gave me.

Next morning I bought a copy of the bible for Geeta and told her what Christ had said if somebody slaps you on the right cheek, turn your left to him. I also bought her the complete works of Mahatma Gandhi and began to explain to her the theory of non-violence.

My theory of non-violence is very orthodox. I make it a point of honour to proceed along very classical lines so that I do not displease our great politicians and wise leaders.

I define non-violence as follows: If I slap Geeta it is non-violence. If Geeta slaps me it is violence. As simple as that. Even Miss Dimple would agree. I am a genius at making simplifications. Some day I intend to make my definition even simpler by identifying non-violence with the law of the jungle, namely, the victor is always non-violent and the vanquished is always the personification of violence. But these days I am too preoccupied with my mental sickness, sexual frustrations, nightmares, phobias, sadistic impulses etc etc to waste much time on such theoretical issues. Maybe some great leader of our century would make this simplification before I do. I don't care. Maybe some great leader has done it already. I don't care.

One day Geeta came home rather late and very tired. I slapped her and said, "What were you doing with twelve guys the whole night?"

"With what guys?" she asked through her tears.

I slapped her again. "You know what I am talking about," I said.

"Have you the slightest proof that I was with any guy either tonight or any other night?" she asked.

Proof! It had never occurred to me that a guy of my eminence and stature was ever required to give proof of anything he said or did. I felt the first tremors of non-violence in our peaceful home. I slapped her four or five times and kicked her another four or five times 'til she was fully silenced and non-violence was fully restored in the house. But Geeta's question began to pinch my conscience.

Fellows, you will be surprised to know that even mentally-sick, sexually-frustrated, and politically-disoriented people like me have a conscience. This is the greatest paradox of history. Even more surprising is the way we quench our feelings of guilt. This is history's greatest perversion.

I did not know in which night-club Geeta was working. In fact, I knew she was not working in any night-club. But I did not know in which school she was working. Even if I knew I could not have gone there. So to satisfy my guilty conscience and find solid proof of my accusations, I went to a nearby park in search of concrete evidence about Geeta's countless affairs.

I had already made the following assumptions I told you I am a genius at making unwarranted assumptions. If I saw any woman in the park it would be solid proof that she is Geeta waiting for her lovers. If I saw any man there it would be solid proof that he is one of Geeta's lover waiting for her. And what if I saw a couple? Well, fellows, what do you say to this?

When I entered the park it was completely deserted but still I clearly saw a pair of sea-gulls flying over me. I got tremendously jealous.

I wished they were me and the girl who slapped me. What love, what beauty, what romance in the sky something that you never find upon this wretched earth. But then I remembered my mission the reason I was in the park. So I at once concluded that those birds were Geeta and her lover in a previous incarnation. I got even more jealous. I ran after them with a stone in my hand. I tried to stone them but they were too far away. They were flying over the pond in the park, so unable to reach them I stoned their image in the water.

In the evening when Geeta came home I kicked her a dozen times because I was armed with the moral strength of possessing irrefutable proof of her affairs.

"I caught you red-handed today. At last I caught you red-handed!" I kept on yelling like a man possessed by the devil.

But then something undreamt and unheard of happened. Geeta slapped me. Yes, fellows, Geeta slapped me back . As simple as that. Again Miss Dimple would fully agree. Sometimes I feel it was so simple and easy that she could have done it long back.

"I can't take it any more! I can't tolerate your lies any more. Forgive me but I just can't," she yelled back in fury.

Then she started crying. I too started crying. I was in a state of disbelief and shock.

"Geeta, don't slap me. Please don't slap me. It hurts. What happened to all the lessons in non-violence that I gave you?" I said.

I fell at her feet.

"Please don't slap me again. I am a heart patient. I can die," I said again.

Fellows, like that cat who told the lion all her secrets of survival except one how to climb a tree I have not told you the greatest of my secrets. I am a born coward. Cowardice is the secret of my survival. Again, just imagine a sick, frustrated, disoriented guy like me trying to stand up to anybody. Wouldn't have been alive to tell my wretched story. So cowardice is my main weapon of survival. Try to understand me fellows. I am a very misunderstood genius.

To ensure my survival, I promised Geeta, in the name of God and non-violence, never to touch her again. And it was at this very moment I resolved to kill her liquidate her once and for all so that she could never become a challenge to me.

One day, as Geeta was walking hand in hand with one of her numerous lovers, I stole from behind and stabbed her with a knife. She died instantly. Her lover escaped.

Well, I never said I actually stabbed her but she died instantly. That is for sure. How sure? I won't swear under oath but at least I thought she died instantly. Maybe she died long after this attack. Maybe she isn't dead yet. Maybe she is still lying in a hospital or even at home. But all this is not important at all. What is important is that I began to spread rumours that I stabbed Geeta to preserve the honour of the family and she is dead.

As usual Geeta did nothing to counter these rumours. She told me she enjoyed being a ghost.

I had killed Geeta for a very noble cause to preserve our cultural heritage. I thought I would feel very happy and proud for it. I thought all my ancestors would descend from heaven to congratulate me. And for some time I really did feel happy and proud for it was the first time in life I had accomplished something. But then suddenly something  happened to me which I had never expected even in my wildest dreams. Guilt took possession of my soul like a devil. I became a living bundle of guilt. I could not sleep. If I slept nightmares woke me up immediately.

All the time I kept on saying to myself that I deserved to die because I had taken an innocent life. I do not know how why or from where such ideas came to me but they did nonstop. I became suicidal. I ran away from home without making sure if Geeta was really dead or even if I had stabbed her at all.

I ran to the forest hoping that some wild animal would eat me so that I didn't have to take another life. But there were no wild animals in the forest. Civilized man had killed them all. So after a few days I returned to civilization. I had not eaten for many days because there were no fruit trees in the forest. Civilized man had cut them all. I was starving. I was in delirium. I was about to kill myself. I needed immediate help. But the question was where to get it.

Guys, you would say that I should have run to a psychologist or psychoanalyst. This was my first idea too. But then I remembered my  last brush with the psychoanalysts. They were the guys who were actually responsible for my present state. Instead of curing me, they had made me more sick. To the shrinks over my dead body, I screamed and bit my finger and tore my hair in utter dismay. Anybody could see I really needed help immediately before it was too late.

Then the idea came like a flash of lightening. Going to jail would solve all my problems. I would get food, fellow prisoners would prevent me from committing suicide and some cold-blooded serial-killer would maybe brain-wash me into believing that killing just one girl isn't that bad after all. Then of course all my problems would be solved in one stroke.

So I went to a policeman and told him I killed my own sister. I expected him to arrest me immediately.

He laughed. "Congratulations," he said. "One less mouth to feed. Don't tell me, go and tell the politicians. They will be mighty pleased. The nation has saved tons of wheat and rice. Better than sterilization or castration. Perhaps worse. Who cares!"

Disgusted by the policeman's reactions I went to a judge and confessed. I begged him to arrest me immediately.

"Why are you coming to me? Why don't you report to the police? Are you mentally sound?" he said.

"Not worse than you," I said.

"Then it is a legal murder. The law cannot do anything about it. Only illegal murders are tried here. Go home and ask God for forgiveness. Confess to a priest. Don't waste my time," he said.

"But I want punishment. I deserve punishment!" I cried.

"Why are you so anti-life?" he asked calmly.

"Because I have seen enough of this gutter called life!" I shouted and got more agitated.

"That is why you have not seen life at all."

"I have seen enough of it. It is you who haven't seen anything." I banged on his table. I had lost my temper.

He said nothing.

"Where is punishment? Where is death?" I shouted again.

"Where was life?" he said, and then ordered the peon to throw me out of his office.

Fellows , it was after this that I got so fed up with everybody and everything that instead of seeking help I went for self-help and self-analysis. I returned home and started analyzing myself.

Now I am feeling better. Geeta is feeling better too. But it does not mean that I have stopped beating her or that I have lost my love for spreading lies and rumours. These noble activities are part of my very existence. So if you ever hear a pretty girl screaming in pain or if you hear the most unbelievable lies and rumours, assume that I am behind it all. My name is Rat the Cat Eater.

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