Mumblings, Story Time

The Folkhero

March 9, 2016

The Folkhero is a funny tale of bizarre incidents and personal tragedy. The story follows our protagonist Keshawan as he manages to redeem himself despite consequences.

Its not always that you get a chance to redeem yourself. These occasions are extremely rare. Maybe just one or two instances in an entire lifetime. These are simple moments when what one has asked for, worked for, aspired for is up for grabs, just like that. The spectators, The rivalry, the obstacle or the tragedy do not matter. The Past doesn’t matter neither does the future. These small doors of opportunities make every impossible dream come true. Every failure is forgotten. Every scar is henceforth perceived as a beauty spot. Yet when missed, one might find himself leading a mundane life, maybe for eternity. What often follows is reminiscing over the past opportunity and subsequent lifelong bitterness. Keshawan realized that this was one such opportunity he could never let go.

Hailing from a long line of Kshatriyas, Keshawan was extremely proud of his heritage. Get-togethers at his old family house always began with the tales of valor. The battle with the Mughals, the skirmishes with the french and the royal bloodline. Old days of glory never ceased to inspire Keshawan and his siblings. Yet the utterance of the Britishers was a taboo subject. No one spoke of the fact that the family had sided with the Britishers until a few post-independence years. Even the memorabilia was never displayed in public. But on the auspicious day of Puthundu, the large family got a chance to witness the old glory days. Keshawan as a child waited for this day with patience. The ritualistic entrance in the locked attic, the pooja by his grandfather and the distinct smell of camphor. The memories were all etched in his mind. His favorite part of the ritual was the opening of the large chest. Even as the other kids rushed towards the old guns and the pocket watches, he would hold a small artifact in his delicate hands. The silver medal had his Great Grandfather’s name on it. None other than the Viceroy of India had presented the medal to his Great grandfather as a token of bravery. Young Keshawan would carefully pin the medal on his shirt pocket and would strut across the mansion. Everyone including his grandfather would salute the young child that day.

As years passed, almost everyone agreed upon a simple fact. Keshawan was a coward. Even as his siblings kept the family name alive, Keshawan proved to be the quintessential black sheep. His family had produced more soldiers and law enforcement officials than anyone else in the entire District. Yet as far as the tales of Cowardice go, no one could beat Keshawan. As a child, he feared the dark, ghosts, ghouls, haunted trees and decapitated frogs that his brothers would place on his bed. As a student, he had acquired a fear of punishments, bullying and failure. As an Adult, Keshawan had managed to keep all his fears intact. But he had also developed a few more exquisite qualities of a coward. He got married to a daughter of a retired colonel. But he soon realized that his wife had married his family name and not him. What ensued were years of violence, both physical and mental, at the hands of an independent strong-willed woman. Family Get-togethers were even more excruciating. When the women folk discussed the daring feats of their husbands, his wife managed to speak only about the expensive jewelry and the excise free luxury items. The men folk would be ruthless and would mock him till their hearts content. If not for his intelligence, Keshawan would have been an utter failure. He was lucky that his IQ and skill sets were a perfect match for the corporate world. He was the VP of an IT firm in Mumbai and earned more than anyone else in his large family. He had made himself believe the reason why he was mocked in his village was his status and progress. It was until this very fateful day that Keshawan had resigned and accepted his cowardice as his sixth sense.

On a dull monsoon Monday morning, the city of Mumbai woke up to a bizarre news buzz. The entire area of Powai, an IT park, was cordoned off.The police was present in huge numbers and they requested an immediate backup. The cameramen and the over-excited journalists could not hide their enthusiasm as they reported the breaking news. A tiger had been spotted wandering into the IT park. Almost the entire workforce of Mumbai’s top corporate companies was stranded on the road. The officials had still not given the go-ahead, yet business as usual was being conducted right from the streets. Amidst the rumors of the tiger being spotted in more places than one, the office building where Keshawan worked was cleared in no time.

“Help me!”. Everyone heard the shriek. A few of them rushed down instead of the direction from where the cries came.

“The tiger is in here….” The girl managed to communicate with a low muffled voice. The fear and the panic in her voice was evident. Any rapid moves to run or take cover and her fate was sealed. The girl was a young receptionist who had darted well before others into the lift as soon as the officials had signaled their clearance. She had to touch up her makeup and to put on the AC’s before the bosses arrived. She could do none.

As a few concerned brave men tried to gauge the situation from behind the door, everyone outside the office room heard the heavy breathing and a loud snarl. The beast was close. Maybe just a few meters from the closed door. A few more men excused themselves.

Soon an update was made. The officials were headed to some other building. Their action was based on substantiated rumors as they hoped to capture their prized imaginary Tiger. It was now upto the handful brave men to save the day.

“We need a distraction,” said a young guy who suddenly seemed to know more about large carnivorous cats than anyone else, “If we divert the tiger’s attention, we can save her.” What was more ridiculous than suggesting walking into the tiger’s lair was the emphasis on the word ‘we’. Each of the remaining brave hearts looked blankly at each other’s faces as they looked out for a volunteer to step up.

” I will go.” said Keshawan.

His feet had wobbled more than a bride’s feet. He had perspired more than a football team. And yet here he was. He had stood in the silent corner. Maybe for his entire lifetime. Meekly observing the cowardice of the brave loud ones for over an hour. The time to act was now or never. He was certain that this was the opportunity for him to shed all cowardice. If only, he thought, the people who mocked him could see his bravado. If only his wife and children could see the gleam in the eyes of the men surrounding him now, as he took the center stage.

Armed with only a plastic mop and an old rug, he entered the room as others waited for his signal. The plan was simple: distract the tiger and save the girl. Many gladiators and warriors had attempted the same feat. But today was different. It was not an arena and the girl had already fainted. What was more interesting was the fact that the tiger was completely uninterested in Keshawan. Somehow the huge majestic beast knew that Keshawan was not worth his attention. For all he cared, the man with the mop could easily save the unconscious girl and claim victory.

But Keshawan could not be ignored, not today. He had mustered all his pent up courage just to walk into the room. He couldn’t leave without a fight. To him, the peaceful cat epitomized the bullies and fiends that had troubled him all his life. And now when he was ready to fight back, the tiger laid in the cool sunlight that came through the tinted french windows. If this was victory, he wanted no part of it.

He stood facing his fears in a closed room with no one else watching, except for three CCTV cameras. He pounced and swirled as he performed a shamanic war dance. But there was no response. Next, he removed his shoes and threw them at the tiger compelling his worthy adversary to accept his challenge. The tiger simply looked away. Agitated at being disrespected, Keshawan held the plastic mop with the precision of a samurai and charged in the direction of his enemy. Even before he could let out a war cry, the tiger was on his feet. With immense strength for which they are known, the tiger made a swift movement. The battle was over.

You see, its not always that you get a chance to completely embarrass yourself, almost to the point of no return. These occasions are extremely rare. Maybe just one or two instances in an entire lifetime. Keshawan had managed to save the day but only because the forest officials had arrived on time with the tranquilizers and no casualties were reported. The incident had changed his life. The youtube videos from the CCTV grabs had more than a million views in a single day. The mockery had quadrupled. His family was too embarrassed to be seen with him in public. And he had partially lost the use of his left leg.

Yet for the generations of youtubers to come, the unlikely folkhero was remembered as the man who took on a ferocious Tiger.

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