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Authors: Zubin J. Shroff

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The Gandhian Adventures of Raj & Iqbal: A Novel

BOOK: The Gandhian Adventures of Raj & Iqbal: A Novel
11.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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T
HE
G
ANDHIAN
A
DVENTURES OF
R
AJ &
I
QBAL:
A N
OVEL
Z
UBIN
J. S
HROFF

Start Reading

Table of Contents

Zubin J. Shroff's Mailing List

 

A
BOUT THE
B
OOK

 

Meet Raj Kumar Reddy and his best friend and brother in life, Iqbal Ali Mohammad Khan . . .

 

They are Gandhians—followers of Mahatma Gandhi, lovers of peace, and seekers of the truth. They live in that greatest city of Mumbai, and their lives are simple and calm. But things change when they decide to seek the truth about onion prices in India.

 

As their journey gets increasingly surreal, they meet an Indian freedom fighter presumed dead in 1945, learn the secret to wrinkle-free skin, and finally embark on a dangerously silly encounter with a Pakistani extremist group on the high seas off the coast of India.

 

A
BOUT THE
A
UTHOR

 

Z
UBIN
J. S
HROFF
was born in 1975 in India, and he studied the sciences at the Cathedral School in Mumbai, philosophy at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, and the fine arts (of business) at Columbia University in New York City. He lives in Minnesota, USA.

 

Learn more about Zubin, his books, and his very nice mailing list at
zubinjshroff.com
.

 

N
OVELS BY THE
A
UTHOR

 

Weather Report

The Gandhian Adventures of Raj & Iqbal

The Last Free Man

The Land of 9,999 Lakes

The Hoppers Romanov (An American Love Story)

Genesis

Sick

Cry

Cowgirl

Bad Dog

 

ZUBINJSHROFF.COM/NOVELS

 

C
OPYRIGHT
N
OTICE

 

T
HE
G
ANDHIAN
A
DVENTURES OF
R
AJ &
I
QBAL:
A N
OVEL

 

Copyright © 2011 by Zubin J. Shroff

All Rights Reserved

 

If you’d like to reproduce, transmit, sell, or distribute any part of this book, please obtain the written permission of the author first. Note that you may freely quote (verbatim) sections of this book (with clear and complete attribution) for the purposes of articles, reviews, peaceful and nonhateful political manifestos, or doctoral dissertations (we’d like to see that thesis…).

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, locations, events, brands, corporations, and organizations mentioned are either the product of the author's imagination or are being used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real people (alive or other), real places (old or new), real organizations (naughty or nice), or real events (serious or silly) not covered by the previous statements is coincidental and probably a product of your adventurous, tubelight-type mind.

 

Cover Art by August West

Book Design by Jack & Betty Frost

 

Published by Four Circle Press
Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55458-0442

First Edition, 2011

 

ISBN: 978-1-937308-17-9 (alk. paper)

ISBN: 978-1-937308-01-8 (ebook)

 

C
ONTENTS

 

Start Page

About the Book

About the Author

Novels by the Author

Copyright Notice

Chapter One

End Plate

 

 

T
HE
G
ANDHIAN
A
DVENTURES OF
R
AJ &
I
QBAL

1

H
ello hello good morning. RK here. How are you all? Me, I am fine. I am sitting here writing to you all so that everyone can understand what has happened with us. Oh, sorry. Now Iqbal is poking me and saying I am taking up all the attention. But I warned him this would happen when we made the agreement. The agreement that whoever does the typing work, he gets to put his name first. Okay fine, he is poking me again so I will introduce him. I will introduce my brother.

Iqbal is my brother in life. Iqbal Ali Mohammad Khan. But call him Iqbal. And call me RK, short for Raj Kumar. Raj Kumar Reddy.

We are both Gandhians. Peace-lovers. Lovers of peace. We are true Gandhians. At least true in spirit and intention if not yet in body and action. You see, I only say that because when we ultimately finished reading the full autobiography of Bapu, we realized that to be true Gandhians we must also be the Brahmacharis. Means what? Means that we must let go of the sexual desire. Let that energy be diverted into the eternal quest for the truth.

So we told this to our wives. First they laughed at us. But now . . . actually now they still laugh at us. Because after we made this pledge we experienced increase in urges to do the opposite. It is the funny reaction like how if a child has not played with a toy for a long time and you try and take the toy away then immediately the child wants to play only with that toy. Now every day the wives laugh and say they are getting more bedroom action than ever before. It seems this pledge of celibacy has backfired in a not displeasurable way. But never mind. It is part of the challenge, we believe. After all, Bapu himself did not overcome the challenge until almost forty years of age. And we are not yet forty. Still one or two or three more years until that age. So we have time to meet this challenge.

But anyway. That challenge is not the reason we are writing this. Naturally we will update you on our progress to Brahmachari in case others find inspiration. But the true reason for writing down our stories is not such a personal business. It is a public matter. It is a matter of utmost seriousness and importance. It is a matter of the highest truth.

Let us explain how this thing started.

All big things start as small things. Okay okay, maybe not all things. Some things may start big only. But anyway, this is not one of those things that started big. It started small, and then got bigger. Make no mistake, we made no mistake. Our intention only was to start small and then get big. But what seemed small at first was bigger than we thought. Then, as we proceeded, what we thought was big suddenly became massive. Massive, I tell you.

And that is why we must put down everything on paper. And using English, even though Hindi or Urdu would be more poetic to our own minds. Iqbal is nodding. We could write this in Hindi or Urdu, does not matter which. Both are sister languages. Sisters, like we are brothers. But we must write with English because these matters are bigger than us. They are bigger than Mumbai. They are bigger than Maharashtra. They are bigger than India. They are massive. Massive, I tell you.

But of course we must start with the small thing. The small thing that began us on our Gandhian adventures.

Any Gandhian adventure can only have a single item as the goal. Truth is that item. Truth is that goal. The whole point of being a Gandhian is to pursue the truth wherever she may lie. Or he. Whatever gender the truth is. And wherever he or she may be hiding. Actually it is better we think of truth as genderless. So to rephrase in genderless language: As Gandhians we are automatically dedicated to the pursuit of truth wherever it may be hiding or whatever it is.

This seemed like a simple and honorable goal, and so me and Iqbal were happy. But then one day Iqbal joined me for tea and he put on a very worried face. I asked him what is wrong, and he said that how can we say we are pursuing truth if we do nothing but drink tea and go to office for eight hours and drink tea and eat dinner and love our families? And since last year our children are also away from home and now living in college hostels. And so, Iqbal said with his worried face, how can we say we are in pursuit of truth?

So I said the problem is the word pursuit. If we say pursuit, then we must pursue. And if we are not pursuing, then we cannot say we are in pursuit.

And then Iqbal smiled and said yes, that is the problem.

So I said should we change the word? Should we replace the word pursuit with a less active word? Perhaps we say our goal is the acceptance, not pursuit, of truth. That way we can drink tea and go to office and drink tea and eat food and love our wives. And when the truth comes, we will simply accept it.

Iqbal stopped smiling and said no. I did not ask him why because I knew why. Iqbal and me are brothers in life after all. Our thought patterns are one and the same.

So before the tea had even cooled we had made the decision. To pursue the truth wherever it is hiding means only one thing. It means we must go out and look for it. Look for the truth. If the truth is hiding, then it must be found. And as Gandhians it is our sworn duty to find the truth. Indeed, as Gandhians it is our only duty.

And so this small realization, this small thing that came to us even before the tea had cooled, this was the beginning. The beginning of our Gandhian adventures.

2

O
ur first day of pursuing the truth started off quite inauspiciously. It rained even though monsoons were over. Of course, we are Mumbaikars, and therefore we love the rain, but today it was not so much enjoyment. You see, it rained enough to cause little flooding and confusion and bus delays, but it did not rain enough to cause offices to be declared bandh. I mean closed. But no matter. I telephoned the office and said I have bus trouble, and so I’ll not be coming to office today. Then I telephoned my brother Iqbal and said to him he should do the same and then come over to my place for some tea and we will watch the rain from my balcony.

Iqbal sounded very much in hurry mode, and he said he already called office and said there is bus trouble. So I said why is there reason to hurry then? He said there is no hurry. But I know when Iqbal is in hurry mode. He speaks very very fast and his breath becomes very very loud. And today on the telephone I could easily tell he was in hurry mode. So I said to Iqbal that he is my brother in life and I can easily tell he is in hurry mode, so he might as well tell me the problem. Maybe even I can help.

Then Iqbal says no-no, no help needed. It’s a small problem.

So I said what problem?

And he said not to worry, it is a small problem.

So again I asked Iqbal, what is the problem?

And then he tells me that yesterday night his lovely wife asked him to bring onions, and he said no problem, he will do it after watching the TV serial, but then after the serial he felt tired and said to himself quietly that he will wake up early and get onions. And then after going to the bedroom his wife asks him if he brought onions, and Iqbal said yes because he thought he would bring the onions early in the morning, and so no problem. It is as if the onions are already there. But then in the morning not only did Iqbal wake up late, but the rains were coming down and he could not see the vegetablewalla across the street.

So now there were no onions, and Iqbal was in hurry mode.

And this is what I meant when I said earlier that our first day of pursuing the truth started inauspiciously. Our first day of Gandhian pursuit of truth started with three lies total between me and Iqbal. Three lies, and one small problem.

The onion problem.

When I reflected on Iqbal’s onion problem, I immediately became anxious. After all, an onion problem is never a small problem in India. Governments have fallen because of onion problem. Murders have been committed because of onion problem. Suicides have occurred because of onion problem. Families are every day being destroyed due to onion problem. And these are just the facts. The rumors are much, much worse.

They say that the 1947 partition between India and Pakistan was thirty-five percent due to onion problem. The current border disputes with China are minimum eighty percent related to onion problem. After all, China is the number one producer of onion and India is number two. Same with population rankings. We are both competitive nations, and so every comparison must be taken seriously. Onion requires land area for cultivation, and therefore any land dispute is almost definitely related to desire to move ahead in the onion rankings.

So I quickly finished my tea and toast and biscuit and took bath and then informed my wife that I was leaving to help Iqbal move ahead of China in the onion ranking. My wife looked at me and said okay go but telephone me if you’ll not be here for lunch.

So I set off in my rain-sandals and with my black umbrella and went to Iqbal’s building, which is down the lane from me. Very close. Close like we are brothers. Iqbal lives on the third floor and so I took the lift up to the third floor and was surprised to see my brother sitting on the stairs leading to the fourth floor. He looked very sad and told me his wife had pushed him out of the house. I did not ask why, because I knew why.

Onion problem.

So I said no problem. I am here, no? Solution is simple. We are to go find some onions. What is there to feel sad about?

Then Iqbal said that he had gone down to the vegetablewalla and gone behind the shop to see if he was there. It turned out the vegetablewalla was there, but he was going to open late today because he did not have much goods. The vegetable delivery had not come today. So Iqbal had explained his situation and requested to purchase onions before the shop opened. The vegetablewalla shook his head and nodded and smiled and apologized. Then he said onions are restricted today, and therefore the price will be 140 rupees per kilogram.

I was hit by price shock and immediately sat down near Iqbal. Impossible, I said. Our vegetablewalla would not say such a thing. Why, I asked Iqbal, you have had some argument with him or what? He is spiting you in this emergency situation?

Iqbal said no, no problem. In fact, the vegetablewalla was sad to do so but said he had no choice.

No choice means what? I asked Iqbal.

Iqbal said he did not ask because he was so upset. He came back up and sat on the stairs to the fourth floor. And then I came.

So I said we will find out. Let us go talk to the vegetablewalla and find out what is the onion problem.

BOOK: The Gandhian Adventures of Raj & Iqbal: A Novel
11.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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