“Hey! Didn’t you watch the news at the mart? Keep one-metre distance. will you?” 

“What are you? Humon?”

“No. I just don’t want to take any chance. And by the way its human, not humon.”

“Yeah, I know Mr Mom’s magic Dad’s misdeed. They have descended from the Monkeys, right? So I call them Hu-mon. They get this disease, but it’s us who get suffocated here.” Snarled a grumpy Mr Gram.

“Look, Mr Gram, I am very tired of your rantings and nagging. First of all, stop calling me with that name. And will you please move your fat ass? You will break a few crunchy ribs of mine. Oh dear lord! I am stuck here with you. Look at Moong Singh, embracing Miss Maggie all day. She sure is getting his pulse racing. And that potbellied Besan is all slumped in the cozy lap of Mrs Flour.”

“Now who is ranting?”

“Okay. Peace. I just hope this gets over soon. This place was never as jam-packed as this before.”

“Yeah, you are right.”

The days in the poky dark shelf were very frustrating for Mr Gram & Mr Biscuss and other dwellers there. Miss Maggie, along with her three quadruplet sisters and Moong Singh, with his brothers and sisters from another father, crammed in the shelf. They were picked up from the mart in piles. Never before had they lived with their brothers and sisters in a single shelf, except at the departmental store. 

They came to know about the reason for their predicament from the store’s television set. Its screen frequently flashed the words “CORONA” and “LOCKDOWN”. They were about to give castigating glances towards a row in the beverage section. But for nerdy Mr Nutella, who clarified that those beverages are simply its namesake. That was the day when the humans had started hoarding whatever they could lay their hands on. They stocked enough to survive for over a year. In case there is a flood, a world war or a zombie apocalypse. 

Many more expiry dates passed when Mr Gram woke up again. They were not afraid of death or disease, they only suffered from boredom and lack of breathing space. As death was feared for its unknownness. They knew It was human beings who were afraid of death. Expiry dates on these beings were invisible. The need of stockpiling arises from that fear.

“Hey! Are you sleeping?” Said Mr Gram poking Mr Biscuss.

“I told you, don’t poke me. I wouldn’t be left with any ribs intact, by the time they drag me out of this hell. I’ve a premonition, I’ll be thrown to the dogs.”

“Listen. Let’s bet on who is going to get picked up next,” suggested Mr Gram.

“Ok. Mmm.… that one. I can see his expiry date is nearing.” Mr Biscuss said pointing towards a packet lying in the front part of the shelf, “I will put my money on Mr Chickpea….”

“Hey! Do not try to be a smart cookie,” intervened Mr Chickpea, “don’t you dare drag me into your sinister game. Last time you guessed Mrs Sugar will be picked up and look what has happened to her. She was pushed to the darkest corner in the shelf. The ants have made their way up her colon and are now licking her guts.” He then drew a cross in air over his chest, looking at Mrs Sugar mercifully.

“This old man has a sweet tooth,” whispered Mr Gram in Mr Biscuss’s ears. And they both chortled.

The Banter amongst Mr Gram and Mr Biscuss and some other shelf dwellers continued. They placed their bets on different fellow shelfites. Mr Gram claimed to know the binging habits of his humon owner too well. He placed his bet on the Chingo kid. 

At heart, though, everyone wished to be picked up next. To escape from that cramped space. To breathe the fresh air outside. Each one of them was dying to get freedom.

Suddenly, the cupboard door parted slightly. A thin ray of light and hope peeped in. The light gradually widened. A well-manicured human hand made its way through the shelf dwellers. Pushing some of them, shuffling all of them. Some were made to lift their buttocks to see what’s underneath. It was thrilling. The moment of truth had arrived. They waited with bated breath. A prayer escaped everyone’s grain. They pleaded with folded hands in unison:

“Me. Me. Me. Me. Me……”

Meanwhile the humans

“Darling, where is it? Your shelf is so cluttered. I am unable to find it,” said a female voice, intently screening the shelf. “Can you come here? It may sound creepy, but I can hear some mild voices from inside the shelf.”

“It’s all in your mind dear. And It is right in there. May have slid a bit inside. Bring it, fast sweety.”

“I cannot find it.” She said craning her neck. Her hands brushed over Chingo. Then she lifted the pack of chickpea. “By the way, your chickpeas are nearing expiry date. When do you plan to use them?” She giggled.

“Oh come on babe. It is not the time to check my chickpeas. Here I am all set to put my cake in the oven. And by the way, it is not in that shelf I told you. Look in the upper shelf.”

She put back the chickpea packet. “Why do I hear booing sounds?” She said in a whisper. “Never mind.” Then she stretched her body to reach the upper shelf. She grabbed a small pack and waved it playfully. 

“Now, stop playing with it. Come to papa, quickly.” Said the male voice impatiently.

The shelf dwellers

“Oh no! Not again. That jerk gets picked up much too often nowadays.” Sighed the lower shelf dwellers.

The Kama-nights pack gave a smug look to the lower shelf dwellers while getting carried away from the cupboard.


Photo By: Mick Haupt

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