Monday, December 19, 2011

Short Story: A Temporary Solution

“Munnaaaa!” Mrs. Chowdary grabs her keys and her limp burlap bag from the kitchen counter, “I’m going to the marketplace. I’ll be back soon.”

Munna enters the veranda, covering his ears. “Aba!” he moans, frowning, “I can hear you mummy, no need to yell.”

Munna turns on the large Sony TV in the veranda and flips over to E TV for the evening news, his daily ritual.

Corruption in India is at an all time high, in every level of society. Just yesterday, Vishal Bhatia, a businessman that works for Kavari Aluminum bribed the higher…

Munna doesn’t blink, “Chi! Why can’t someone do something about all this corruption in our country?”

“Munna, watch TV later. Finish your homework!”Mrs. Chowdary wraps a white handkerchief over half her face and heads downstairs.

She starts the engine of her new cherry-red Honda Aviator and zooms out of the garage. Beads of sweat trickle down her face from the blazing, unforgiving Vijayawada sun. She sneezes under her kerchief; the harsh smell of gasoline and dust from the honking autos, trucks, buses and two-wheelers irritates her sensitive nose. A large pothole at the side of the street almost sends her flying out of her seat and momentarily paralyzes her out of fear. After 10 minutes stuck in traffic, Mrs. Chowdary impatiently whirs out of Jammi Chettu Street. As she exits the corner of the street, she abruptly stops, tightly grasping her handle bars. She spots a police car in her rear-view mirror.

Two men dressed in identical khaki-colored uniforms swagger over to Mrs. Chowdary.

“Ni peru enti?” one of the men sputters in his hoarse voice; he impatiently taps his foot.

Why do they need my name? The police didn’t ask me last time.
Mrs. Chowdary sternly answers, “Rama Chowdary.” she asserts, readily opening her wallet from her bag.

The man with the thick black mustache folds his arms and glares, “license yedi?”

I knew it. They know I don’t have a license. One of them must be who caught me from last time!


The men smirk at each other, satisfied. One mumbles something to the other.

“You’re not supposed to be driving without a license. Don’t you know that?”

Mrs. Chowdary grumbles under her breath.

This is the second time they’ve caught me. They’ll definitely ask for more this time.

Mrs. Chowdary reaches into her wallet and pulls out 2 hundred rupee bills. She hands each of the men one bill each.

The man raises his eyebrows, intently examining the bill. He clears his throat, “inka.”

The other officer nods in agreement.

More!? That’s twice what I paid last time! It’ll be almost cheaper to just get my license now.

Mrs. Chowdary sighs and reaches for her wallet again. She hands each of them a 10 rupee bill.

“10 more rupees.” The man stuffs the hundred rupees into his pocket, “because this happened in our break time.”

Mrs. Chowdary hesitantly unzips her wallet again, visibly annoyed. She slaps two more bills into the man’s hand and darts away to her scooter.

Mrs. Chowdary parks her scooter under a large, lush neem tree by the corner. She strides over to the crowded, colorful market place buzzing with vendors and customers bargaining over fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. She thoroughly inspects the sapodillas and ripe custard apples, her favorite. Her burlap bag is already half full with jackfruits, guavas and pomegranates.

The nearby vegetable vendor next to the fruit cart simultaneously calls out to attract customers as the crowd passes back and forth; “Fresh okra, tomatoes, and ripe brinjal, good for making pickles.”

The frail vegetable vendor frantically fans himself with a newspaper in the overwhelming heat. His bony face looks gaunt and exhausted; his ribcage visibly juts out. His height and weight resembles an adolescent boy. Only his face and streaks of grey hair give up his age. His lively, energetic voice turns a few heads and brings a couple of customers over. The customers begin their inspection for the finest vegetables. Mrs. Chowdary hobbles over, her shoulder aching from the weight of her bag. She is impressed at the array of vegetables; maroon beets, long snake gourds, fragrant bitter gourds, okra, and cauliflowers the size of volleyballs catch her eye. She waits for the newly formed crowd to finish their haggling and transactions.

The vegetable vendor helps a customer with selection, and collects money from several others instantaneously; he is happiest when he is busy. Just as the crowd subsides, a he feels a tap on his shoulder. He turns to the side to find a man in a khaki-colored hat and uniform. The vendor braces himself for the inevitable. Mrs. Chowdary watches intently, “Greedy bastard.” she murmurs to herself.

“Permit yedi?”

The vendor lowers his eyes- “Ledu, sir.”

A menacing smile enters his lips, “Sare, 100 rupees evu.”

The vendor swallows his throat, “Sir, a man from the municipal corporation came yesterday to collect 200 rupees. That too, he came last week to collect 100 rupees before that. I don’t even make that much sometimes.”

The officer clenches his wooden lathi fiercely, a police weapon. The officer’s face is expressionless and his eyes look dead, staring blankly at the vendor.

The officer swings the thick wooden stick through the air and attacks the vendor, leaving him screaming in agony. The crowd silently watching in fear turn their heads in shame and guilt, knowing they don’t want to be involved. Others lower their eyes in sympathy. Some women gasp and cover their mouths and a child wails. Mrs. Chowdary covers her mouth in utter shock. She heard about similar incidents occurring frequently but to witness such brutality and corruption from a police officer, someone whose duty is to protect people, it made her blood boil.

“50 rupees more for being disobedient!” the police officer growls, grabbing the vendor’s collar.

A teenage boy in the middle of the crowd grabs a stone from the ground, his hand shaking. He wields it at the back of the officer’s head and dashes out of the crowd within seconds. The crowd instantly scrambles, making it impossible for the officer to see who attacked him. The officer tightly grips his bleeding head, a purple vein bulging out of his enormous forehead from his fury. The money in his hand is dirtied with a blood stain.

Mrs. Chowdary roars in laughter as she shares the incident with Munna.

“I know the boy was wrong to throw a rock, but I felt as if justice has been served.”

Munna clenches his fists in excitement, “That police man deserved what he got! Though, it may not necessarily be right, it’s better than doing nothing, right?”

Mrs. Chowdary nods thoughtfully, “Okay, but how will India overcome all this corruption?”

She stares at the sparkling marble floors of the veranda, “The bigger issue still remains, whether the officer got what he deserved or not. Are we capable of standing up against corruption when it’s seeped into every level of our society?”

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