Jogodish and the Jombie
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)
(NOTE: There are NO guns and NO gore in this story. Fans of stereotyped George Romero genre material, look elsewhere.)
Jogodish Babu was returning from Mitro Moshai’s adda
the evening the Zombie Apocalypse struck Bunglistan.
Jogodish Babu’s full and complete name was Jogodish Chondro
Bondopadhyay, and if his friends from his schooldays had once called him Jogai,
nobody cared to remember it now. Jogodish Babu was sensitive about that. If
they didn’t call him Jogodish Shaheb, the least they could do was call him
Jogodish Babu. As he said, many times, "I am an ofisaar now. Ebhryone should
treat me weeth respect." And – at least to his face – everyone did, except his
wife. But then Jogodish Babu’s wife had never respected him anyway. And she addressed
him, of course, by no name at all.
She wasn’t a wife fit to live with anyone, Jogodish Babu had often thought. For
one thing, she outweighed him by a good twenty kilos and had a voice like a
broken cement mixer on steroids. For another, she had opinions on everything
and wasn’t shy to express them, at the top of her considerable lung-power, at
all hours of the day and night. For a third, she resented everything about him,
starting with his salary and going on to the fact that he never went with her to
her mother’s for a holiday during the Durga Puja. Jogodish Babu could never
explain that he needed a holiday from her, and the two weeks she was
gone to Callcutter represented the only free time of his life. He was terrified
that the old woman would die and then his wife wouldn’t go away at all.
It wouldn’t matter so much, Jogodish Babu had often thought,
if she’d at least let him alone to live his life the way he saw fit. No, she
had to run not just her life but his, and if they’d had a child she’d have run
the kid’s life as well. She even ran the neighbours’ lives, and though they
laughed at her behind her back, when she gave "advice" that sounded like
orders, they nodded weakly and did as they were told.
Still and all, Jogodish Babu had had a good evening till
that moment when the Zombocalypse struck. The work at the office had gone as
usual, which is to say that he had blown the dust off a couple of folders and
poked around their contents before putting them back on the shelf and calling
for tea. He’d come home by five in the afternoon, changed, and gone to the
market down the street. There he’d bought a nice three-quarter kilogram hilsa, redolent
of the fishmonger’s slab, come back home and handed it over to his wife. She
had yelled at him because he hadn’t had the fishmonger scale and chop up the fish,
but not too much, because she adored hilsa and would eat almost all of it
So Jogodish Babu had some more tea, and, picking up his long
umbrella in case it rained, gone along to Mitro Moshai’s house for the adda.
His wife screeched at him for going out again, but this was the one point on
which he never budged. If it wasn’t for the adda, he’d go barking crazy.
Mitro Moshai lived in the next lane from Jogodish Babu, and
was the only one around who still held adda sessions, during which he
kept mourning the passing of the entire adda tradition. "Eet eej thees
telebheeshon," he would say waggling his shiny bald head. "Eet eej ruining awar
kalchaar. That eej why we habh nobody like Kobigooroo Robi Thakur nowadayj."
Actually, Jogodish Babu rather liked television, when
he could get to watch any in between his wife’s staple diet of Bunglee soaps
and reality shows where pudgy contestants in brightly coloured saris threw
rings at bottles while vacuous faced studio audiences dutifully clapped. But he
would never, ever, dare to say any such thing to Mitro Moshai.
One day, Haru the Boor had had the colossal effrontery to
mention television in favourable terms at the adda, and compounded the
crime by saying he’d watched a Bunglee pop group which had set one of Tagore’s
songs – "Robindro Shongeet" – to a catchy modern tune. Mitro Moshai had gone
ballistic. But Haru was a boor, so he didn’t back down, and there was a moment when
it seemed the two of them would come to blows.
It hadn’t stopped far short of physical violence though. "Old
fool," Haru the Boor had muttered, deliberately pitching his voice just loud
enough to be heard.
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