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  • I tortured myself with the Govinda-Salman starrer Partner this Saturday. Govinda is wasted and Salman can’t act even if someone held a gun to his head. Feeling violated, I walked weakly out of the theatre in Andheri. The one who took us there denied it was his idea.

    I considered settling down at a coffee shop or something with my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows but my phone rings and my evening plans are set. I took my leave from one disillusioned group of friends to join another, somewhere in Bandra.

    Clouds were gathering above and the sky rumbled occasionally. I hailed an autorickshaw and got in.

    Traffic signals sometimes cause autowallahs to start mumbling. Sometimes they hum a song; sometimes they eye women in neighbouring vehicles and say (or do) things to themselves. But mostly they just curse the system, like everyone else. I like to listen. So I got talking to my man Amaresh Kumar.

    Amaresh lacks the killer instinct. He drives moderately, stopping to let petrified-looking pedestrians cross the road when he can. He doesn’t consider it important to swear at every other auto that overtakes him. He even ignores the odd one that deliberately blocks his way. He is all about patience and detours.

    Seeing the line-up of popular gods stuck to the inside of his windshield, I asked him who his favourite is. He said he worships all of them. Then he corrected himself and said it is not the gods we worship but what they do. Gods are merely mirrors of us and the only way to learn from them is by emulation.

    He told me a story to illustrate his point about the futility of relying on gods. I am reproducing it from memory.

    A poet (he called him Kaviji) once went to the river goddess Ganga and asked her what she does with all the sins that people wash off in her waters.

    Ganga said she was unaware that she washed or carried any sin at all. As far as she knew, people pay for their deeds, good or bad, themselves. In any case, all her water went to the sea and the poet would probably be better off asking him.

    The poet thus approached the mighty sea and asked the same question. The sea said it was rather hard for him to keep track of everything that found its way to him. But if he had to guess, he would agree with Ganga. People’s deeds come back to them, one way or another. Perhaps the poet should seek his answer from the cloud, to whom the water goes eventually.

    The poet went to the cloud and posed his question. The cloud agreed with what the sea and Ganga had said. He said all the water eventually goes back to where it came from, feeding the creatures of the world, nurturing trees that bear fruits for people to enjoy, wetting them, bringing happiness to some, sickness to others.

    Bottomline, Amaresh said at last, is that it is impossible to escape one’s deeds. Everything comes back. It is all upto us. We can learn from the gods, but they can’t help us if we don’t help ourselves and each other.

    It had been a long time since someone had told me a story. I thanked Amaresh and asked him where he had heard the story. He said he didn’t remember. Adding that it probably didn’t matter… as long as ‘baat mein dum ho’.

    I agreed. I told him I would always remember this story, even if I don’t remember him. He seemed a little resistant to the idea of being forgotten. He is like all of us. Convinced that he matters. Hoping against hope that he may matter, just a little. But it is only the stories that survive in the end.

    We shook hands and said goodbyes, somewhat convinced that we will meet again someday. As I stepped out of the auto at Carter Road, a slight drizzle started.
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