Ranjan Godbole, Minister of Transport, adjusted the Gandhi cap on his head and preened at his reflection, left to right. Pleased with the result, he grinned at his wife who was eyeing him suspiciously.
“Where are you going on a Sunday, strutting like a peacock?”
“I am on an important mission. They have invited me to inaugurate a top-secret project.” Godbole puffed his 56-inch chest.
“Pff, another ribbon cutting, bringing home useless shawls and garlands. If you had a lucrative portfolio, I would have had Banarasi Silks every week. How can they entrust someone as stupid as you with a secret mission?”
He scowled at her, “Always nagging! One day I will show you how big I am!”
“I have seen EVERYTHING, and nothing is big!” She sniggered in reply.
Godbole left in a huff.
After an hour, he barged into the office of the Chief of Operations, Krishna Menon. Ten minutes and no one to check on him. No refreshments either! This was outrageous.
Mr Krishna Menon was enjoying his tea and kept sipping it as the minister burst into the room. With an air of contempt, he gestured to Godbole to take a seat.
“Why have you not come outside to welcome me? I have been waiting! My time is important, you know!”
Menon raised an eyebrow, “You are early.”
Godbole was almost apoplectic. “I came here at 10 am on the dot!”
“But you are a minister. We expected you at 11 at the earliest.”
Godbole spluttered curses as Menon ignored him.
I will teach this man a lesson, Godbole thought to himself. But he had headlines to make, and he needed Menon. The minister forced himself to calm down.
After a long pause, Godbole cleared his throat, “Tell me how are we doing this.”
“We? Let’s go out. The special operation team is waiting.”
The minister watched as Menon marched out without bothering about him.
Menon went up the control room on the portal, Godbole at his heels. His eyes widened seeing the young women present there and thus distracted, didn’t notice Menon taking the dais.
“Esteemed guests, it is a proud moment for all of us. We are about to create history. The passenger pods are ready at the portal. In a few minutes, we will run the first hyperloop test run between Mumbai and Delhi. A journey of 22 hours by road will be completed in a mere 75 minutes.”
Roaring applause erupted, and photographers clicked like crazy.
“The work began a few years ago. It was a top-secret project and our country would be the first to reach the milestone.” Menon then walked towards the control panel.
Godbole was seething. This was to be his moment; he was the transport minister! Suddenly he had an idea. His wife’s scornful face zoomed in his mind, and he sprung up from his seat. Godbole announced loudly, “As the Minister of Transport, I hereby volunteer to undertake the first test journey.”
There was pandemonium as all cameras turned towards him and Menon tried in vain to salvage the situation. He cautioned the minister on the risks. Godbole had tasted the limelight and wanted to milk it all the way. Menon reluctantly agreed.
The team of engineers checked the central control and the connection to the servers in the pod. Ascertaining that nothing was overlooked, Menon along with Godbole and his herd reached the passenger pod.
The sleek passenger pod inside the low-pressure vacuum-sealed compartment slid open. Godbole walked in proudly and blinked at his herd who were hesitant to get in.
“Come in, you fools. I will dismiss you all otherwise!”
Circuit, Godbole’s favourite assistant tripped and fell flat as he hurried to get in. Godbole’s eyes teared up, “You are my true follower, I bless you. Get up.”
The rest of the gang scrambled inside.
Menon with displeasure writ large on his face ordered his staff to do the necessary to get the hyperloop started. The passenger pod was finally flagged off.
The pod zipped away in the tunnel.
The purple sunset streaked the sky, yet the chaos enveloped the battlefield of Tarain. The shrieks of the wounded warriors along with the clanging of swords, rent the air. As the rusty smell of blood assailed his nostrils, Prithviraj Chauhan, the mighty king of the Chahamana dynasty looked above, as if pleading for mercy from the Gods. At every step lay dead bodies and broken weapons.
Chand Bardai, his most trusted friend, and minister snapped commands at the few surviving generals.
“Come on, let us move you to safety,” Chand begged the emperor.
“You want me to run away, leaving my soldiers?”
“We need to save you from the Ghurid swine. Please come.”
Prithviraj and a few of his trusted men fled to the caves in the mountains. The emperor had asked his men to dig a tunnel that could be used as an escape route when needed. A massive iron door guarded the tunnel. The army led by Mohammed of Ghor was almost at their heels, and the Rajput men pulled the door. With a clang, it opened wide.
The special team was frazzled. It had been 69 minutes since the passenger pod had left the Mumbai portal when suddenly the central control emitted beeps and red lights flashed. Something was wrong. The team lost all contact with the pod.
Desperate measures were taken. Connections and wires were checked. Calculations were redone. The engineers yelled terms like ‘escape velocity’, ‘sound barrier’ and ‘wave resonance’. It was a gaping blind spot and massive communication failure.
“Sir, the pod seems to have vanished. The vacuum compartment is empty, no sign of the pod or the minister.”
The press reporters overheard all this, and there was an uproar. Menon, sought a cup of tea muttering, “Where did the clown disappear!”
Meanwhile, all news channels flashed the ‘BREAKING NEWS’.
Phone calls from the top poured in and pressure mounted in the control room as the technicians worked feverishly. They restarted the computers every five minutes, to no avail.
There were snatches of conversation.
“We should have tied lemon and chillies.”
“Sweet curd should have been given to the minister.”
After many deliberations, they realized that something in the vacuum-sealed compartment in which the pod travelled had malfunctioned.
There was a thunderous explosion, and a bright light blinded the emperor and his men. The sound grew louder as a gleaming cylindrical object appeared in the tunnel.
Prithvi’s men cowered in fear. They had no inkling of what it was, with a million stars glowing inside. Prithvi and Chand were ready with their swords drawn.
Inside the pod, Godbole and his men were trying to get the doors to open. Finally, Circuit pressed the emergency button. Godbole put on his biggest smile for the cameras again.
“Am I looking good? I know I am photogenic,” he asked. Circuit nodded.
Godbole stepped out, only to find a bunch of people in period costumes standing there in attack mode.
Circuit clapped in glee, “Sir, we have reached Filmistan. Looks like Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film set!”
“How the hell did we come here? We were supposed to reach Delhi station.”
“Sir, it’s not a station, it is called Portal.”
“You don’t teach me, OK? Who is this? Is it Ranveer Singh?”
Prithviraj Chauhan stared at the men wearing strange clothes.
“Why can’t Sanjay Leela Bhansali come at once?” Godbole demanded.
“What is this Sanjay Leela Bhansali? Is it one person or three?” Chand blurted.
The babble of voices and confusion reached even higher.
Godbole shouted, “Silence! Nobody respects a minister these days.” He tapped the emperor, “Go, fetch the director.”
Prithviraj lifted his sword to strike. The minister shrieked and tried to hide behind Circuit.
“I am Prithviraj Chauhan, the Rajput emperor. Who are you?”
“Oh, a new actor? Who is doing the role of Samyuktha? Is it Padukone?” Circuit loved Bollywood!
“How do you know Samyuktha?” Chauhan was ready to chop his head off.
“I know my history. Why are you interrogating me? This is the minister for transportation. He can end your career even before it begins!”
“This is a battlefield. This is no place for a clown. Who else is there inside?”
Prithviraj and his men entered the cylinder to check if anyone was hiding. Godbole with nose up in the air looked at the surroundings.
The emperor looked in awe at the shiny bright interior of the cylinder and walked in.
“This looks like a tunnel inside a tunnel!” Chand laughed aloud.
Behind him, the Ghurid army screamed and yelled. They had entered the tunnel.
With a gurgling sound, the gleaming cylinder slid shut, and the emperor and his men were trapped inside. They saw the Ghurid army standing outside along with the strange men. The Ghurid soldiers shot arrows, but the shiny, sturdy exterior of the cylinder deflected them.
“Log into the central system of the passenger pod,” Menon ordered.
With tapping sounds of the keypad, the technicians tried to resume contact. But the signals were weak, and there were no satellite images. The Chief Engineer was scared and sweating profusely. A drop of sweat trickled on the central signal system, causing a short circuit. The lights in the room flickered.
“Sir, I have reached the system of the pod. I am trying to retrieve it,” said an enthusiastic pawn.
An earth-shattering noise ensued from the portal. In a few seconds, the passenger pod reappeared as suddenly as it had vanished. Everyone rushed to meet the minister. The doors slid open. Cameras flashed at the emerging figures from the pod.
Prithviraj and his men with swords stepped outside. The press thrust mikes into their faces.
“Where is the minister?”
“What did you do to him?”
“Who are you?”
“I am the greatest Rajput emperor Prithviraj Chauhan.” In a baritone voice, the emperor announced.
Laughter filled the air. “Looks like a film promotion.”
“Who is the director?”
“What IS this director? That funny man also asked the same thing!”
Mr Balram Naidu from the Intelligence Bureau made a dramatic entrance at this juncture. They quickly took charge of the situation and arrested the gang of artists in costumes.
The name given to the hyperloop operation was ‘OPERATION PRITHVI’ and here were the jokers, one of them claiming to be Prithviraj Chauhan.
The con men were put in a bright room with glass doors. The IB agents tried all methods of interrogation, but the men in costume reiterated the same things.
“Listen, we have been at this for some time. I will release you if you tell the truth.” Naidu inhaled snuff and sneezed all over.
“I am Prithviraj Chauhan, the greatest Rajput emperor.”
“OK. I am Amitabh Bachchan, and this is Dhoni! Which terrorist group sent you?”
Prithviraj and Chand sat stony-faced. If served food, they might talk, Naidu thought. A pizza was ordered.
The emperor looked at it disdainfully and ordered Chand to eat the gooey triangle stuff first – just in case, it was poisoned.
As Chand stuffed his mouth, the emperor’s eyes fell on a painting on the far side of the wall.
“Look there, Chand! I am on a horse!”
Naidu roared in frustration, “Take away these clowns. Now he says he is Chhatrapati Shivaji! Get that Menon in here. He must have been part of this conspiracy!”
Mohammed of Ghor and his men along with Godbole and team, watched the cylinder get sucked into the tunnel with high speed. Ghor captured the minister and the men.
“Where is Prithviraj?”
“Hey, keep the swords away, I am a minister. I can get you arrested.”
“Tie these people and put them in the dungeons.” Ghor bellowed.
“Hello, I want an AC jail. I am a minister. There is no change of clothes also.” Godbole was ranting nonstop.
“I told you to carry my black suitcase, always. See, now my baggage is lost in the control room in Mumbai. You are all so irresponsible. Check if you still have your gun?”
“No sir, they stripped us naked and searched. All our guns are gone,” said Circuit.
The minister was soon losing his courage. It was clear this was no film set. Maybe a terrorist camp?
After two days of starvation, Ghor summoned Godbole to the durbar.
“Now, tell me where is Prithviraj?”
Godbole muttered, “This man is asking for Raj. Next, he will ask for Simran.”
The slick politician was able to think on his feet. He changed his stance and flung himself at the feet of Ghor. “Sheikh, Salaam alaikum. I have a house in Dubai. You can take it. Let me go.”
“What are you blabbering? I want Rajput’s head and his kingdom.”
“Sheikh, Rajput is the minister of sports. I oversee transportation. I can tell you his mistress’s address in Juhu. He is always there.”
“What? I want to capture Ajmer, not Juhu. Where is that?”
“Sheikh, you can take Rajasthan and Gujarat also. I will arrange it. I can make calls once I get a signal on my mobile. Jai Maharashtra!”
The minister’s men chorused, “Jai Maharashtra.”
The Ghurid men shouted, “Ghor Zindabad!”
“You speak funny. I like you. Prithviraj is gone for good, I think. I will appoint you as my vassal to rule here.”
“A ruling post! I am happy to serve you, Sheikh.” Godbole bowed his head.
The minister was taken to Prithviraj’s palace to freshen up and rest. The Ghurid ruler planned to leave for Afghan soon. He called his men to bring Samyuktha to take her with him.
The minister was smitten by the first sight of Samyuktha.
“Sheikh, you have many wives. I don’t have a wife here. I have given you Rajasthan and Gujarat. Please leave this girl for me.”
Ghor, in an indulgent mood, agreed.
“My baby doll, I want to sink in your pink lips.” Godbole lunged at Samyuktha.
“I belong to Prithviraj. I will kill myself if you come near!”
“If I wear the emperor’s clothes, I will look ravishing.”
Godbole’s lusty singing to woo his queen filled the palace. Tu cheez badi hai mast mast*.
Mr Menon and his men worked nonstop to set right the glitch.
A reverse operation began. OPERATION GODBOLE. Operation Prithvi ended in bringing back someone who claimed to be the Rajput ruler, so by naming it Godbole they hoped to bring back the minister. The con men were made to board the passenger pod. The pod zipped away in the tunnel.
Prithviraj Chauhan and his men dressed in their armour stepped out of the pod. They saw people flying overhead. An iron clad figure marched forward in small steps. It spoke in a metallic voice.
“Welcome. I am Chitti version 101. Today is Friday, the 6th of September 3020. How may I assist you?”
*tu cheez madi hai mast mast – ‘90s superhit song from the film Mohra.
Team: Left to Write
Prompt: A modern invention from the 21st century gets transported to the 12th century. What happens next? Explore.
This is an entry in ArtoonsInn ArttrA-5 hosted at Writers Room.
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Cover Photo By Felix Mittermeier
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