It was the first of its kind – a case with a history of minor bickerings which had now catapulted into a war. We were all ears – well some of us at least who had ears. The rest had antennae protruding from the sides of their rather squarish heads. The matter eventually necessitated the intervention of the court which had remained shut for over five hundred centuries. I swear I am not lying. Let me tell you a little bit about the background of the case.
The two parties involved were the two spoiled brats in the family – the third and the fourth chaps closest to their overindulgent Dad, Father Sol. The third chap was the bright spark in the family – the one who had just about everything – he was smart, rich and good looking. The fourth chap was equally smart but not as fortunate to get what the third one had. For the sake of convenience, I shall refer to them as E and M. Psst – I have been warned not to reveal their identity.
Though the two had always been at loggerheads with each other, matters worsened when E began making unwarranted incursions into the territory of M. Initially, M chose to repel the attacks by spraying clouds of carbon dioxide on the invading troops. To no avail. E has always been a stubborn, cheeky mule. Appeals made to Father Sol fell on deaf ears. Father Sol, it seems, was finding it difficult to control his rather wayward third son and apart from an occasional spurt of firing, could do little else.
That is how the matter reached the court. M was not ready to tolerate anymore of E’s activities. He sent off an e-mail to the Lord of the Universe who was on a holiday in one of his galaxies. The Lord returned promptly to settle the matter.
Now that, my dear friends, was the crux of the case.
Opening up a courtroom after so many centuries isn’t an easy task. The place was dusty as hell and I, one of the sweepers who worked for E was entrusted with the task of getting it cleaned. I had never in my life coughed and sneezed as much as I had at that time. It took me a month to get it spick and span. E would drop in with his cronies from time to time to check if I was doing my job.Those were the times when I would eavesdrop and listen to their conversations. Not that I was really interested in the case, but eavesdropping is a pleasurable activity and why deny myself some thrill amidst the muck that I was dealing with. It was pretty evident that he had his strategy ready. His cronies would ensure that he won.
The courtroom was ready and we were all set to witness the case of a lifetime. M and E were seated on either sides of a poor meteor who was just passing by when he was dragged in. “Where do we sit otherwise?” growled E when Father Solar looked at him with raised brows.
The Lord of the Universe arrived and soon all were seated. I noticed E and his crooked friends were smirking . They seemed pretty sure of winning the case.
I wasn’t really needed but I hung around, in the hope of pilfering some of the manna that was being served during the proceedings. No one noticed me – something that wasn’t unusual. No one really gave me much importance. I stood outside, pretending to polish the doorknob of the courtroom. There was much talk going on inside the room. The decibel levels had risen and at one point, when I peeped in, I saw E, standing on top of the table, err, meteor waving his hands and screaming hysterically. The Lord was frowning at him, while Father Sol was hiding behind one of the chairs in shame.
“My Lord,” E was heard ranting, “My empire is too vast and my men too many. My father has sought to burden me with responsibilities that I cannot handle within the space given to me. I have been unfairly entrusted with the responsibility of seven billion creatures. Pray, where do I place them? It is imperative that I carve out a lebensraum. M had better share some space with me.”
M stood up and indignantly pointed a fat finger at E.
“My Lord,” he shouted.”It ain’t my fault that he has no place . I ain’t sharing any darned space of mine with him.”
Did I tell you that M had missed out on an education, thanks to the whims of a foolish father who was smitten by his third son? He spoke like a rustic – but he spoke from his heart.
“My brother E, is the favoured one. He was sent to college while I was left to rot . Look at me – dumped with some red sand – that’s it. I survive somehow, weeping at times – but who cares? And now he comes intruding into my space. Some cheek he has !”
M was furious and looking redder than ever. E had turned a ghastly purple. He lunged forward and grabbed M by the collar.
“How dare you talk to me like that, you scum? With a single press of a button I could have a missile dumped on you which will send you flying.”
“Oh, like hell you will, you worm,” M yelled back and punched E.
“That’s enough,” roared the Lord of the Universe. This is utterly preposterous to say the least. Father Sol, you have done an abominable job in bringing up your children.”
Father Sol was nowhere to be seen. He had slunk into a corner of the Universe in sheer mortification.
The Lord looked annoyed. “This matter has taken an ugly turn and it is sad to see two brothers fight like this. I hereby call upon a jury to help in deciding the case. We shall have on this jury, two members who have a clear understanding of the case. I shall shortly announce the names.”
The Lord of the Universe indicated to his Principal Secretary to follow him into the inner chamber. Both rose and went out. Minutes later, they emerged.
“It has been decided,” the Lord announced, ” that the first member of the jury will be Lady Luna, who lives in the neighbourhood and who probably has a fair view of all that transpires between these two brothers. The second member will be Lady Venus – a gentle and fair soul, known for her impartiality.”
“That ain’t fair,” protested M. “Two women to judge the case? That ain’t fair to us men.”
E nodded vigorously. “A woman will never understand the case the way a man will,” he added.
The two ladies in question glared at the two offenders who were standing belligerently on top of the poor meteor with their arms folded across their chests.
The Lord shook his head and looked at his Principal Secretary in exasperation.
And that, friends, is how a man was brought into the case.
I was perched on the window sill of the courtroom, my face pressed against the glass pane, when I felt a tap on my rear.
I jumped off the sill, more out of fear than anything else. I landed before a pair of winged feet. I looked up. The Lord’s Principal Secretary was looking down at me.
“I..I.. am sorry,” I stammered. “I wasn’t eavesdropping. I was cleaning the window. I saw a speck of dust that I had missed.”
“The Lord has called you to be a witness.”
“Wh..what .. what,” I blurted.” I mean,why? Why me? I know nothing about the case.”
“The Lord thinks you know enough to give a verdict. Follow me.”
I stared after him and then trotted behind him helplessly.
What on earth was I supposed to say or do?
I entered the room in trepidation. Everyone had their eyes fixed on me. M and E were looking at me skeptically and I couldn’t blame them. I was a mere sweeper in E’s territory. The two ladies were glaring at me.
I took my seat beside them, feeling much like a fish out of water. I dared not look up at anyone.
“We shall continue the proceedings” the Lord announced. “M and E, I shall be obliged if you sit down like civilized members of the Universe, instead of prancing around.”
They obeyed and the meteor heaved a sigh of relief.
“I call upon Lady Luna to present her verdict,” the Lord said.
The lady rose daintily and cleared her throat. I raised my head and saw her heading towards the podium in front. This was the first time I was getting a close glimpse of her and I suddenly felt an inexplicable emotion rising within. She looked beautiful – exquisitely so. The grey scar on her cheek accentuated her beauty.
I was mesmerized, breathless – and suddenly in love.
She said something, but I heard nothing. Her voice was mellifluous and I was transported into a world of angels dancing amidst dew – kissed flowers – a world where I was serenading her with all the love songs I knew.
I was shaken out of my reverie by the uproar that followed her verdict.
“The honourable member of the jury, has lent her support to E,” the Lord was saying. “She has stated that E’s people are indeed hard pressed for space. She has seen them scrambling for a place to live in. E’s attempts to move into M’s territory, thus is justified.”
“What the hell?” M yelled from his place.
“Behave,” the Lord admonished him.
“But my Lord,” he continued in a more subdued tone. “I object to Luna’s verdict.”
“The honourable Lady Luna, you mean,” the Lord interrupted.
“Oh ok, the honourable Lady Luna. Lord, you need to understand something. The lady is in love with E. She has been following him around the place ever since she has known him. She is bound to support him. Choosing her as a jury member was ridiculous.”
The Lord flung a boulder at him which hit him in the face. A crater emerged in the place where his nose was. Meanwhile the lady in question was livid and was glaring at him. She was too dignified to throw anything at him, though. As for me, I was dumbstruck and a little hurt. Was she really in love with E ? I turned to look at E. He was sitting smugly in his seat. I would have loved to throw something at him. There was much tittering going on in the room – mainly from amongst M’s cronies.
“That’s enough,” the Lord said sternly. “We shall now have Lady Venus’ verdict.”
Lady Venus was older than Lady Luna and wiser too. She walked up to the podium, adjusted her horn-rimmed spectacles that were placed gingerly on the bridge of her nose and began to speak.
“I have been following this case very closely. There are some interesting points to be noted. M and E are both very privileged, thanks to the abundant love showered upon them by our Father. Overindulgence invariably corrupts. This is very true in this case. E has had too much of everything – to such an extent that he has ceased to value what he has. Throw some currency notes his way and he will devour them greedily. Ask him to keep to advisory limits of consumption and he will guffaw at you. Trust me, I speak from experience. I speak of him, as a concerned sister. He flouts rules and creates some ridiculous ones of his own. I do agree that he has been bequeathed a lot less space than some of us, but I do feel that with the resources he has and with a better strategy, he could manage his space well enough. Self indulgence is his crime and grabbing territory from M is certainly not a solution to his problem.”
There was silence in the courtroom. E was seen scowling at her. This wasn’t the first time that she had spoken about his “crime”. M was beaming. Lady Luna had a rather cold look on her face. E’s cronies were up in arms – literally. The idiots had brought in guns with them, ostensibly to protect their boss.
The Lord sat in thoughtful silence for a while. “Well, what do we have here? A tie?”
He then looked at me. “You, my dear, have the humongous task of breaking this tie. Speak fearlessly.”
I stared stupidly at him. Lady Venus had said a lot of things that made sense even to my small brain. Though I worked for E, I wasn’t exactly unaware of his idiosyncrasies. I was a sweeper and I knew exactly how many hours a day I spent removing the stuff that he and his cronies littered around. But how could I give a verdict against him when my newly discovered Lady Love had spoken in his favour?
This was indeed a difficult moment. I looked around me. E had a menacing look on his face. M, who had never noticed me till I was brought into the court, was watching me nervously. Lady Venus had no expression on her face. However, what did take my breath away was my beloved’s face. To my utmost surprise, she was smiling at me. I went weak in the knees. Was she falling in love with me? I scratched my head.
“Go on,” the Lord urged me. “State what you feel about the matter.”
I think he was feeling a little sorry for me. He knew my plight – I had been literally dragged into the courtroom to speak about a delicate matter involving my boss and his arch enemy.
I coughed – in a bid to buy time, took a swig of the manna that was placed before me, cleared my throat and began to speak.
“My Lord,” I began, pretty unsure about what I was going to say.
“It’s a pleasant day today.”
I could see E groan inwardly.
“Ahem, my Lord, it is a pleasant day today at home. The birds are singing and the flowers are blooming and hearts are beating aloud.”
The Lord’s brows were knitted in a frown as I spoke. E was casting dagger looks in my direction while M was gaping at me with his mouth open. He couldn’t seem to believe that someone could be moronic enough to speak stuff like this at a court hearing.
“What exactly are you trying to say?” the Lord asked me.
“Ahem, what I mean is that my mother phoned me to say that it is a pleasant day back home. It’s a pleasant day on most days – except on certain days when there are storms or earthquakes or landslides.”
Lady Luna had stopped smiling at me and the Lord looked a tad bit impatient.
“I am a sweeper – I clean places. I am a bachelor and I live with my mother. My mother admires each one of you but is especially fond of Lady Luna. She thinks Lady Luna is ethereal and ahem, hopes that the woman I marry will be exactly like Lady Luna.”
I tried to look at her from the corner of my eyes and was delighted to see her blush.
“My Lord, this man is a fool,” E erupted.
“Come to the point,” the Lord said sternly.
“Yes, my Lord,” I said meekly. “The point I wish to make is that the Universe is filled with love and is visible to those who seek it.”
I cast a surreptitious look at the beautiful lady who had stolen my heart .
“There is much beauty around us,” I continued.” We were born as creatures of utmost beauty and yet we fight. Look at us – squabbling with each other over a piece of land? Is it not ridiculous ? E and M are brothers. They could live in harmony, reaching out to each other in times of need. But they choose to fight. Look at their faces. Do they look happy ? Of course they do not. They look miserable.”
My voice had risen dramatically and when I paused for a minute, there was a deafening silence. I dared not look up.
“I would like E and M to be friends forever,” I said in a low voice.
I slowly walked back to my seat and kept looking at my shoes.
A while later, the Lord spoke. His voice was choked. “I think the verdict is clear.”
I looked up at M and E, fearing the worst. Both sat with their heads bent.
“I hereby request M and E to work towards building an amicable bond with each other. I give you a period of six months to work out your differences. Your progress will be monitored by my Home Minister. The court is adjourned.”
We rose. I glanced at the beautiful lady standing beside me. I wondered if we made a handsome couple. She was whispering something to Lady Venus.
“Come here, young man,” the Principal Secretary called out to me. “Join us for a drink.”
I didn’t see her again that day. I had no idea where she was. E was with me all the while and so I had no cause for worry.
It was quite late in the day when I got ready to return home. I was packing my backpack when I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around and felt my heart leap.
She smiled shyly and held forth her hand.
I grasped it clumsily and gave her the stupidest smile ever.
“I hope we meet again,” she said softly. “Do keep in touch.”
Her hand lingered in mine for a second and then she floated away as beautifully as she had come into my life.