I have been confined to this court room for almost a decade now. Earlier I used to travel a lot along with my master but with the onslaught of internet and technology, he too has started to work from home. That does not mean that I miss going out much; there is always a lot going on in here.
My current home is actually a huge room with intricate patterns engraved on the walls and bright decorative lamps placed at strategic corners. Now do not imagine this room as any one of the led-powered, 200 square feet of cramped spaces, which are popular with the mortals these days. This court room is larger than the largest area that you have ever seen. At one end is a podium on which a wonderfully regal throne made of pure gold and fitted with the softest cushion is placed. Two more chairs made of silver are stationed two steps below this dais and between the chairs is a small fountain called Agrasandhani, gurgling up crystal clear water.
The defendant sits at the left, the jury at the right and my master, Yama on the raised throne at the middle with me parked on the hand-rest. By the way, I am Danda, but you have probably guessed that by now. However, if you have never heard of me before they think of me as the stick from the proverbial carrot and stick. In this court of divine justice Chitra Gupta is the beautiful lady who acts as the jury while the defendant is usually a freshly dead human being.
The multitude of dead mortals is seated in rows behind a glass screen in the same room, awaiting judgment. They silent observe each defendant making their way towards heaven or hell, right after each trial.
A loud gong is sounded to signify the beginning of today’s first trial. Yama immediately picked me up and slammed me down with a huge smile. Sometimes he does it just like that, out of habit. But no, it does not hurt one bit, but it surprises me in a very unpleasant way.
A handsome, young man, dressed in a pinstripe suit came out of the sliding glass door and sat himself down on the defendant’s chair.
Chitra ran her fingers through her long, silky hair as she observed this man and then she knowingly winked at Yama.
“Dear dead human, tell us your name, age and cause of death,” started Chitra.
The young man looked dazed.
“Aren’t you supposed to know everything about me?” he asked.
“Yes, but we still need an official introduction,” explained Yama. “We’ll add it to your list of sins, in case you lie.”
“Ok sir and ma’am,” said the young man. “Name: Shankar, Age: 25, Cause of death: Accident of office bus.”
“Shankar…eh? Isn’t that another name of Maheshwar?” Yama commented.
This made the defendant grin from ear to ear.
“Yes sir, I knew you’d be pleased to see someone named after your dear friend,” he happily said.
And without any warning, Yama slammed me down with a scary thud. He made an angry frown while Chitra got up from her seat and sauntered up to Shankar.
“You think sharing a name with Maheshwar will help you?”
“We just tried a dead human named Shiv,” roared Yama with another slam. “He even claimed to be your friend.”
“Why aren’t any of you named after the mighty Yama?” Chitra wondered aloud.
“Want to know what happened to Shiv?” smirked Yama. “We sent him to hell!”
“Yess!” exclaimed Shankar and threw up his fist in air. “I’ve often told Shiv to go to hell…am so glad that it finally happened.”
Yama cleared his voice and rolled his eyes.
“Chitra, please load this dead human’s data,” he commanded. Then he stood up and threw me in the direction of Chitra and Shankar. As I spun through the air towards them, I saw Shankar duck and Chitra jump up to catch me deftly.
She walked up to the fountain Agrasandhani and dipped me three times from different angles. Two spurts of water leapt out and landed as two water drops on Chitra’s hands who promptly began to analyse them. A court attendant fished me out, dried me and ferried me back to Yama.
“Sir, this dead human has 3 terabytes of data in his sins’ folder,” reported Chitra. “And his virtues’ folder is just 3 megabytes in size.”
She climbed up the stairs to pass the drops to Yama’s outstretched palms and said, “I think it’s safe to send him to hell without wasting any more time.”
“Hey, what technology is that?” Shankar whispered as Chitra got back to him. “How do you store data in water drops?”
“You’d have found out, had you been eligible for heaven,” Chitra stuck out a tongue.
“Goodness gracious me,” Yama said as he lightly blew into the drop of sin and swelled it into a bubble.
And we all saw in fast forward motion what a great sinner this dead human called Shankar was.
“Look at this,” Yama slowed things down.
In the bubble we saw a thin young guy from the back, laughing his heart out and paying wads of notes to bribe an officer.
“You stole the engineering seat from a worthy candidate?” Yama paused and glanced at Shankar.
“That’s not me! Turn the guy around,” he protested.
And sure enough when Yama played it again we all saw that the guy was none other than a younger version of that Shiv fellow.
“Chitra, quickly report this to the maintenance team,” instructed Yama. “Information leakage is not to be taken lightly.”
Chitra scurried to her desk to make some notes and Yama resumed the bubble show.
“You’ve also gotten a girl pregnant,” said Yama, as he chewed his lip with a grave expression.
“I certainly did not!” Shankar stood up and his face was all red.
Yama pointed to the bubble and we all saw Shankar pricking the finest of holes into a small, square packet of blackish grey colour.
“Two years back a friend asked for your help at a moment of carnal urgency,” said Yama. “And you gave him tampered material as a prank. His girlfriend got pregnant as a result and they had to marry. Now they are a squabbling couple with a toddler. You turned a perfectly loving couple against each other. That’s abominable!”
Shankar sat down with a whimper as Chitra spoke up, “Shall we send him to hell then, sir?”
“No wait,” Yama said and blew again.
This time we saw Shankar’s parents scolding his little sister Sara while he was tiptoeing out of the room with a smug look on his face.
“So you manipulated your parents into not giving a smartphone to your sister?” Yama asked.
At this Shankar looked down and flicked away a few tear-drops.
“Hey, dead human, don’t cry,” Chitra placed her hand on his shoulder to comfort him.
“I bought an i-phone last week,” he sobbed. “And now Sara will be the one who’ll get to use it.”
Then he began to howl like a child.
Yama stood up and began to clap his hands loudly.
“After a long time I’m seeing a truly protective brother. Not only has he saved Sara from stupidity earlier; he’s now crying about not being able to help her further. All these years you got stupid yourself and let her flourish…exemplary! Huge virtue dead human, huge virtue!”
Chitra too raised her brows and nodded appreciatively at Shankar who stopped crying and felt totally puzzled.
“Let’s go for a Duckworth-Lewis system, sir,” proposed Chitra.
“Yes, a straight calculation will take too long,” explained Yama to Shankar. “Instead we’ll review your sins and virtues for the last seven days and announce the verdict.”
Yama threw me at Chitra again and she dipped me into the fountain to extract the water drops containing Shankar’s weekly reports. Once done she passed them to Yama as before.
“You’re a very colourful man,” commented Yama as he blew into one drop. “I see that you were splitting your hours between two girlfriends.”
And sure enough we saw glimpses Shankar going on separate dates with two beautiful women.
“For your information, both are in love with you,” Chitra shook her head disapprovingly.
Shankar’s eyes lit up in joy but he said nothing.
The bubble-show kept rolling.
“You have also hacked into your boss’s personal laptop and saved his search history,” Yama was now sitting with an open mouth.
“He gave me an impossible rating last year,” explained Shankar. “I needed something before the appraisal season to set my record straight.”
Chitra looked at the search details and giggled.
“Not all Sins are bad sir,” she said as she showed a muscled man’s clip to Yama. “Can’t we get this J Sins guy up here?”
“Yes certainly,” Yama smiled. “Get that girl too. And fire the apsaras and the gandharvas. Give them 3 months’ severance pay if they create too much noise.”
Chitra made another quick trip to her desk and made two new entries in the projected death table. By the time she was back we were watching a clip of Shankar pouring whiskey into an empty bottle with Cola label on it. And then he got into his car with it. Yama paused and turned toward Shankar.
“Well?” he prompted.
“I had planned to; but did not drink and drive,” Shankar clarified.
Yama resumed the video and we all went in shock to see the rest. Shankar stopped at a petrol pump to refuel his car. He got out with the Cola bottle and in one fateful moment, when he put it down on the ground to take his credit card out, it got exchanged with the Cola bottle of the mechanic.
Shankar left soon but the mechanic went on to finish his whiskey. And right after that he began to fix the braking system of a luxury bus. It turned out to be the same bus that eventually killed Shankar and his colleagues on the next day.
As all eyes zoomed towards Shankar he turned absolutely pale.
“I killed myself,” he managed to mumble with much effort.
“Let’s see for ourselves,” said Yama.
And in the next few slides we saw the luxury bus crash loudly into another huge bus. Within seconds the buses were reduced into a mangled carcass of iron and steel. Every single passenger had died.
“The second bus was carrying 42 corrupt politicians,” informed Yama. “And that’s why I found this clip in the virtues’ drop.”
Shankar rubbed his eyes in disbelief.
“It’s time to feed the data into the calculator,” said Chitra as she placed the two water drops on top of me and threw them into a small fire burning behind Yama’s throne.
For one whole minute we transfixed our eyes on the fire pot as the red and blue flames of sins and virtues danced and competed. And in the end no one won, they simply doused each other out.
“Wow!” Chitra was stunned.
“It’s almost a miracle,” Yama declared. “The verdict is that your sins and virtues are perfectly balanced; and hence you will go back to earth.”
Shankar was too numb to speak but he folded his hands in gratitude. Chitra began to guide him towards a secret exit.
“When you go back, remember to pick one girl and break up with the other one,” reminded Yama. “And in future name your son after me.”
Shankar nodded obediently and kept waking. “I hope I get a daughter,” he told himself.
“I heard that,” said Yama.
Shankar swivelled around fearfully but Yama smiled.
“I don’t mind,” he said. “Just ask your fellow Indians to think more like you.”
That was the last that I saw of Shankar. He was undoubtedly the most remarkable defendant we had in here in a long time. I wish to not see him for at least another 100 years.
Author’s note: I did not interview Shankar Hosagoudar and this story is a work of my imagination. I have much respect for him and this story should not tarnish his image in any way.
This is an entry for #TheTrial, a Claws Club exclusive event for #Legends-4.
Check out event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/artalelegends4/
Check out Tanima’s space here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/author/tanima-das/