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Archive for October, 2018

No man is an island said the poet. He is surrounded by ocean of human experience and what it brings for Robinson Crusoe may be no better than a man Friday. But it shall do well to make things easier around. It is just as well. My strength is to think but unless another holds forth his working hands all my thoughts would only remain in my head. So any superior mind would need common sense of working hands.
Control of fire taught groups of our ape—ancestors to come together where social meals as time went on became more than merely eating. The story telling skills of our ancestors exercised man’s wonder and imagination. If the earliest sounds of their own voice and everyday sounds of their world primed them for embellishing their stories we need not wonder such stories acquired some vibrancy almost amounting to a sacred chant. Poetry and incantation all would be impulses in the way man appealed to others recreating their everyday world. Myths would emerge from such social gatherings. Art would cast spell and in the cave paintings animals are painted as though man imagined their spirits would deliver their daily meat. In short art, poetry of man, embroidered man’s place in the scheme of things. Progress has knocked man from the pride of place. Debunking of natural man squarely rooted to the every day world was bound to happen. In the early times legends of Hercules or Jason in search of the Golden Fleece made the man with common sense as not worth the straw. Now we have superheroes that conquer Alien worlds by their extra-ordinary powers. The age of man with Uncommon Sense evolved just as man learned to live by the sweat of his brow.

Not all man have a gift of the gab or for improvisation. Story tellers of old who sang or played reed pipe or pipe made of bones became more accepted as a cut above those who would rather hear and be entertained. If such stories became about gods or come attached with some lessons in prudence and virtue it meant the storyteller had acquired unfair advantage over others by this skill alone. These bards of old had uncommon sense to the common sense of hunter-gatherer. Their hour of exercising their hold was limited to particular hours around the campfire. Man with common sense had to be away up with the dawn for their daily chores. But nightly the coziness of their gatherings took away the harshness of their existence. By stealth the man with uncommon sense was becoming a very important factor in keeping the group together. It required man with common sense to supply the other from not having to work as they.

Aristophanes’ satire on Socratic method drives the plot of the Clouds (423 BC). Plato appears to have considered the play a contributing factor in Socrates’ trial and execution in 399 BCE. There is some grain of truth in the allegation. He had the motive to lampoon Socrates. The Clouds can best be understood in relation to Plato’s works, as evidence of an historic rivalry between poetic and philosophical modes of thought. Aristophanes resented that philosophic school usurped the status the poets enjoyed earlier. It was the issue of Old versus New, or battle of the ideas. The scientific speculations of Ionian thinkers such as Thales in the sixth century were becoming commonplace knowledge in Aristophanes’ time and this had led, for instance, to a growing belief that civilized society was not a gift from the gods but rather had developed gradually from primitive man’s animal-like existence. It also knocked out his role as a poet since the new schools of philosophers were freeing their contemporaries not to take anything for granted. If this were to be followed logically his very status, poetic gift of god, was on shaky grounds. The play heaped all scorn on Socrates, with his plebian background and ugly face to boot, and it was a below-the- belt body blow. Aristophanes is a classic example of man with uncommon sense. Uncommon sense fights the impossible with all means at his disposal. He may use raillery or other tricks in order to make man with common sense believe he was right.

Old versus New is an idea that appeals to our rational mind. Every generation can identify with the problem. Aristophanes the comic playwright of ancient used his genius to put the new ways of presenting the ways of the world as ridiculous. Instead of joining the majority his battle was to fight with rib-tickling drollery the truth change was coming.
How crucial is an idea? Suppose you are in coma and have no clue what makes you are and not another, your bodily functions shall go on despite the knowledge and feel hunger and fall asleep as every other man. Ability to form ideas is by courtesy of your brain whereas life stands aloof from such abstractions. Man with common sense who must make a living or take his life to some place since he is responsible for him and his family. He may leave in search of work since the basic idea of living has taught him where he is stuck holds no prospects. Man with common sense has learned to hitch a wagon to a horse and not a hobbyhorse.
Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) like Aristophanes had an uncommon sense. His concept of going back to nature was an idea that many found as relevant.
Voltaire and Rousseau saw the society from two altogether standpoints. What made them oppose was on the basis of the opposing ideas. Voltaire the skeptic did not think the march of progress was reversible where the romantic notion of Rousseau was going to the basics.
Rousseau in his own life did differently: he had lived with Therese le Vasseur with whom he had five children. . He put each child to adoption that he tried to justify in his Confessions (1764 – 1778) thus:’ I thought I was behaving like a citizen … and have often blessed Heaven for having preserved them from their father’s lot.’ He considered the State would be able to educate his children and make a better job of it.
Rousseau had an uncommon sense to come up with an excuse for his strange conduct. Only that no man with common sense could have thought up.

Man Is A Funny Animal

Man is a funny animal. Common sense tells him to mind his step. But his uncommon sense tells him to listen to his inner voice instead.
2.
Common sense tells him to keep his secrets close to the chest but he blabbers it all to some shrink who happens more often than not, a total stranger. He calls it uncommon sense.
3.
Sure his common sense is so common that cannot keep to the beaten tracks well tested. The old adage ‘a bird in hand is worth two in the bush’ will not do for him. He plays at stocks what he cannot afford hoping there is a greater fool out there to save his goose from cooking. He calls that his uncommon sense.
4.
Science gives man How and religion tells Why his universe works in a manner of speaking but his common sense cannot get the point.
What does his uncommon sense say? Perhaps both may work in my case, according to my special needs.
5.
Uncommon sense without some plain common sense makes a fool; I remember a cleric in Saudi Arabia dunning woman drivers as impossible since the women,- he had it from his prophet I suppose, had only quarter brains. It is how man has tried to maintain his primacy which is as unwarranted as it is unfounded. Without crediting man and woman equal roles and their strengths and weaknesses similarly weighed as equal by their union, what do you think the world shall come to? If the child would want to spend his life away gaming or finding the holy grail like gene editing to create a superman, it owes to quite something else. Each is awash with seas of trends, fads and truths of his existence. How anyone shall make use of it is impossible to tell.
Benny

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Mr Ya Ya Khan on the Brixton Road did not take kindly to the road that faced him every morning. In his work clothes he was called Mr. Leigh C. Bones in the neighborhood. Each day it cut deep to walk through the row of houses and the people that had something to sell or beef about. He ran the gauntlet but his call of duty was wilting under some severe strain. He tried as housing estate agent but prices of the houses seemed to go up more he trudged the streets to drum up custom for his boss. One morning it was all agog and even his boss was in his finery and the one room office had an air of expectancy. Seeing the stare Mr. Khan realized his boss was expecting him to deliver. “Housing prices go up, Mr. Bones,” said his boss Mr. Basu a Bengali and he was on his charm offensive alright. After five minute palaver he added, ” You sell one you shall be swimming like goldfishes on the desk.” Mr. Khan saw the fishes indeed were goggle eyed and kept swimming in circles but it simply killed his morning. “Arre Basu-Ji these fishes are not swimming for any joy but it made connection.” Before his boss took a double take Mr. Khan said, “I want to swim my life away from this foggy pea-soup England”. Lazybones long in hibernation despite many soul searching days finally came on the line. He was through. The name Leigh. C Bones after all sat oddly with his soul’s bent. It was his road to Golgotha and he had to accept his fate. Mr.Ya Ya Khan went directly home to break the news to his wife.
Throwing tantrums around a kitchen sink is unpleasant. Mrs Khan did throw a left hook to say, she wasted her future happiness for a never do-well. But for a man who was at the end of his tether Mr. Khan showed immense restraint that startled his wife first. She was ready to take back her hurtful words but Mr. Khan with last ounce of energy laughed it away and said, “I realized I was a never-do well the day I landed here. The fog has settled in and only way I can beat an early death is to go on traveling around the world”. He sighed and clutched at his sherwani as though he would die then and there. Mrs. Khan kept silent looking sideways if it were real and showed on his face. His heart was in no danger of breaking. She felt concerned though. Now in command he threw his tantrum and said, “Every day I thought novichok showed better on me.” She was dumbfounded. She screamed for explanation. He said, calmly, “The Russian agents should have come here in Brixton and not Salisbury.” His wife shuddered, “How dreadful,” and pleaded,”Please promise me never talk like this. Death by Putin’s order. Too awful” Mr. Khan was enjoying every minute of her reaction. “Lovey,” he said, “Think of fame. All the news hounds beating a line to our door and your picture as large as brinjal splashed on the front page!” After a stormy morning their conjugal life went smoothly for days.

One Spring morning Lazybones (and the label Mr. Leigh C Bones almost forgotten) thought he would take a trip around the world. He did not have money to pay for his passage. Neither had he any idea which places he wanted to see.
He told his wife, “Lovey, I have a wonderful idea!” He told his plan. His wife asked, “Isn’t this day you promised to do some work around the house?”
“Another time,” Mr. Bones promised her. Spring was in the air and he was dying to get out. “So you shall see the world,”she said angrily.
Before she could say another word he was out already.
“Here take this carpet along with you!” She shouted from the window and she threw the old carpet down. He wanted to be away before his wife could throw something else at him. The carpet was heavy and it didn’t move.
There he stood on that morning alone in the street with a large carpet. It was so silly to go around the world with a carpet, which did not want to go anywhere. Somehow he had to put it away.
Lazybones thought of throwing the carpet into the dust bin. But it was too big for the bin. He tried to roll it smaller which was not a success either. No sooner had he rolled than it sprang back. Angrily he scolded the carpet thus, “I have half a mind to dust you. But you have given me enough trouble already. Can’t you just help me out?”
The large carpet with its its muddy colors just lay there. Across a street which was deserted.
Feeling rather annoyed he stomped on it a couple of times. “I would rather be in Africa than dust you!”
To his utter amazement the carpet stirred and lifted itself up! With him standing in the middle! He had the look of a man who was hit by an asteroid! His shock gave way to fear while it rose steadily. He could see people stirring about at distance. “What if they were to see me?” He cursed himself for making a fool of himself. Luckily it rose far beyond the chimney tops and trees. “South of London where I live is at my feet! I could have a given a kick and make the people notice me!” Luckily for them he was far above. He was at the moment trying his best to fold his legs in a proper manner when he as a child heard his father read the Word. He sat down. Every time birds flew about dangerously close it flicked the air with its tasseled corner to give warning.
High above, the carpet collided against some passing cloud but it righted itself.
‘Is it a magic carpet?’He asked himself after his initial shock had worn off. ‘Or a willful carpet which is out to trip me up when I least expect it?’ Lazybones did not know what to make of it.
Mr. Bones was being borne on a magic carpet. Over the land and sea he sailed on a carpet, which was as old as hills. Ahead of him he could see a desert! “Sahara desert,” he exclaimed. He knew his geography. What he did not know was how to navigate a carpet that had a life of its own. He shouted,”I want to see the world! And not travel alone through a desert unprotected!”.
Even as he said this, a dust storm suddenly stirred up into a large column and disappeared. A speck of dust got in his eye. He could see nothing. But he could feel his carpet losing height surprisingly fast. He fell to the ground with a thud.
Because of the impact what irritated his eye came loose. He could once again see. What a relief it was!
He had landed himself in a courtyard, which was a stable of sorts. Never had he seen a filthier place than the one about him. There were some hundred camels tied to the posts. They had been left unattended for weeks. So much was obvious.
In front of him was an old man who was letting out his anger. “Let me get my hands on that no good lazy boy! I will skin him!” He shouted. Seeing him he controlled himself. He explained,” In my absence I left my camels under the care of my nephew. He has obviously bolted!”
Mr. Leigh C Bones had a shock of his life when the stranger told him to clean up the mess. Angrily he replied, “I am a traveller. Not a stable boy!” But the old man said, “I carried you this far. I am the carpet, Mr. Khan, you tripped over once too often! I am come to life.” Before Mr. Leigh C Bones could digest this he added, “It is only fair to expect you return the favor.”
Leigh C Bones said, “A carpet that cannot keep family secrets is a disgrace!” But he had to return a favor come what may. He said, “I shall clean up this once. You have to get me back somehow” and set to work.
Benny

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Weary of visions the sun must unburden,
So must unwind the mind’s vaunted peregrination;
Drowsy beat of twilight
Gather dust from ups and lows
In heaps call their dead: No footfall be there:

Chanson de nuit, for which I am born
Weariness shall not dull the ear;
Nor the promise of day still its refrain
Chanson de nuit has come for me.

Benny

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In the great city of Isfahan lived Ahmed the cobbler, an honest fellow whose sole wish was to to pass through life quietly; and he might have done so but for his wife who hated to accept the lowliness of his profession. Noor was her name. She was ever forming foolish schemes of riches and grandeur to which her husband would indulgently smile and change her subject.
It happened one evening she came home all in a fluster and she told her husband meeting the wife of the chief astrologer to the king. “What a magnificent dress! And jewellery, oh my eyes were dazzled!” Ahmad smiled and let it pass. Oh no for the next three days and nights she dinned into his head that he was no good. “If you care for me, you will stop this nonsense!” “What nonsense dear?’ “This cobbling! It is so humiliating, O husband of mine.” “But it feeds us and keeps a roof over our heads. It is my livelihood.” Ahmad could not believe his ears.
He hoped she would change the subject. Oh no! She was in no mood to give it as a hopeless case.
She wanted him to take up astrology. “But I am old and too set in my ways to learn a new trade. Astrology will be the death of me!” At the end of a month he almost plucked his beard out in frustration. “The moment he saw the moon he put an ice pack on his head and said, “My head is spinning! The moon phase has entered into the House of Saturn!” He pretended to talk gibberish but she thought he was an astrologer speaking such words as any astrologer would be proud of. “You see, how simple it is? You are an astrologer Only you never realized.” He groaned inwards and beat his head against the wall in frustration. He felt sick. For a week he stayed in bed afraid to look up. The most dreadful event of the day was when his wife having served tea in bed, would point to some charts horoscopes drawn or an almanac almost crumbling which she had collected from the neighbourhood. Whenever she came he would say, “Go away, signs are bad. Inauspicious to say the least.”
At the end of the week a group of his friends descended on him. They had heard what his wife was telling to all and sundry in the neighbourhood. They said, “Your wife is right! Give over cobbling; it is a vile, low trade, and never yields more than ten or twelve dinars a day. You are born astrologer!”
“No I am not!” said Ahmad with his last ounce of energy.
The Imam who was rather fond of him said, “Ahmad you are too modest”. The baker who allowed him credit was sure he should give up tools of his trade. “Never sell your talents short, Ahmad. An Astrologer counts gold every night.” His wife would snort and say, “Tell him, by the Word of the Merciful Prophet, he had done enough counting blisters on his fingers to last a life time.”
Poor Ahmad! No one would believe him. Next day he rose up early and went out. Having sold his little stock, bought an astrolabe, an astronomical almanac, and a table of the twelve signs of the zodiac. Furnished with these he went to the marketplace, crying, “I am an astrologer! I know the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the twelve signs of the zodiac; I can calculate nativities; I can foretell everything that is to happen!”
It so happened that the king’s jeweller was passing by. He was in great distress, having lost the richest ruby belonging to the crown. Every search had been made to recover this inestimable jewel, but to no purpose; and the date of delivering the ruby in its new setting was almost due. He had no way of talking his way out without the ruby. In this hopeless state, while wandering about the town, he reached the crowd around Ahmed and asked what was the matter. “Don’t you know Ahmed the cobbler?” said one of the bystanders, laughing; “he has been inspired, and is become an astrologer.”
Somewhat buoyed up at the news he went directly to Ahmad. The cobbler astrologer was almost trying to make himself scarce but the King’s jeweller held out a purse of 100 pieces of gold in advance and promised the other hundred on delivery of the lost ruby. “But if you do not succeed within six hours, I will use all my influence at court to have you put to death as an impostor.” Without a word he walked off.
Poor Ahmed just quaked. But he could not retreat; nor had he the least idea where to begin. He opened the almanac and blindly thrust his finger on a sheet. He looked where it had pointed. “Home.” He burst out laughing like a mad man. Home was where all his misery began and he inwardly cursed his wife for putting his neck into gallows. He saw a woman in veil running as though avoiding a thunderbolt. He said, “It is a sign. I have a clue to begin with.” He hurried his steps after her. Most was amazement to see her going into the Jewellers’ house.
She was indeed the slave to the wife of the Jeweller’s wife. Breathless with fear she cried, “You are discovered, my dear mistress, you are found out by a vile astrologer. Before six hours are past the whole story will be known, and you will be branded as a thief.”
The jeweller’s wife, hastily throwing on her veil, went in search of the dreaded astrologer. In fact he was heading towards her. On seeing she threw herself at his feet, crying, “Spare my honour and my life, and I will confess everything!” “What can you have to confess to me?” exclaimed Ahmed in amazement.
“Oh, nothing! nothing that you are not already aware of!” She cried and said, “You know too well by your art hat I stole the ruby from the king’s crown. I did so to punish my husband, who uses me most cruelly; But you, the astrologer from whom nothing is hidden. I beg only for mercy, and will return the ruby. From inside her street clothes she handed the ruby and said, “Here take it.”
Later at night at home ,-two hundred pieces of gold pieces made Noor very happy. Instantly she arranged to list all the shakers and movers of the city whose fortunes could be made by consulting a chart prepared by Her Astrologer husband. She was sure to insist that he charged a piece of gold towards the trouble he had to read the horoscope. “ One piece of gold?” Ahmad was stunned. “A family of two can live with ease one whole year. Let us not ask for the moon, of moon of my dreams.” He said. She laughed him to scorn, “It is nothing compared to what you shall demand for satisfaction. Ten percent of the sum involved I shall consider worthwhile.” Ahmad simply sighed. She was becoming impossible.
Next day ten attendants from the palace arrived. Bowing they said the Sultan wanted to consult him straightaway. Sweating and fearing for his neck he accompanied them. The sultan went straight to the point, “Here are two horoscopes. One is mine and the other is that of the king of Samarkhand. Compare the two and tell me the truth. Future of Persia depends entirely on you. You are, as reported to me, the most inspired astrologer. I shall not forget you if you should give me satisfaction.”
Ahmad thought his whole world would come crashing on him if he made a single error. He took the horoscopes of both kings and wanted a quiet hour to study them. Immediately he was guided to a saloon on the palace grounds. Dismissing all he threw himself on the divan and he collapsed. He saw a dream. It was terrible. In his mind’s eye he thought he was kneeling with his head on the chopping block. And horrible, oh horrible the sultan’s executioner was sharpening his axe.
Poor Ahmad. He got up and began walking in circles.
Suddenly he found a way out. He walked back to the palace and sought audience with his royal master. He said after bowing deeply that he was ready with his results. The sultan called him privately to another room and asked what was his opinion. He said, “If I tell the truth my royal master will die of black-death; That certainly would bring the King of Samarkhand to the gates of the city. If I tell a lie, the King of Samarkhand shall certainly die and also your son who is even standing next in line.
The sultan digested this piece of news and asked, “Is there a way to prevent any of these from happening, Most Illustrious Astrologer?” Ahmad watched from corner of his eye and saw the Sultan had accepted his decision as predestined from the Lord of three worlds. “No master”
“So be it” said the sultan. “Is there any favour you wish me to do in return?” He bowed and said, “Please issue a royal decree so I need never practice astrology.”
The sultan was somewhat taken aback but he accepted his decision. He duly presented him with a Deed of Exemption. Since then he never glanced at a horoscope let alone draw one. For once his wife Noor had not a word to say for or against it.
(Selected from the Wow-Wow Tales by Q-BITZ)
Benny

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Chapter-5
A Friend in Need

Master Josh riding a donkey through the mountainous region was dispirited and downcast. He was in a bandit country. However much as he wanted to take his mind off ‘evil of the age’ he could not. It stuck to him like a piece of chewing gum.
“Evil was in being born with a golden spoon in my mouth,” he recalled his tutor Bombassino. ‘Oh he hated me and envied also because I had everything I wanted.” Suddenly he said,”So when he speaks of evil he means something else.” “Evil is in the world outside!” he recalled his nurse Katrina. “Perhaps she was afraid of leading her own life. So she sought refuge in Sans-Souci. So much for her idea of evil.” He would have gone on thinking thus but some shadowy figures loomed menacingly in front of him. He looked about and saw there were none to help him in case of need. Suddenly their shrouds were dropped revealing their weapons. They were armed to the teeth and they were for a bite! Master Josh came across bandits whom he had only heard about in stories. Now they stood in his path squarely,- and deadly too!
One figure yelled and our hero merely shuddered,” this must be evil of this age out to cut my throat!” In response three ruffians jumped over him and pinned him to the ground. “We have hit the jackpot,” one screamed. Master Josh could only feel hands groping for his purse strings. They had found what they looked for. Gold pieces clanked about and cheery whistle of one bandit as if in signal to the other two. “Where they laughing?” he asked in fright,”because of gold?” Even as he was trussed up he murmured their laughter was soft.”… but it cuts deep like a scream!” Master Josh cried,”Alas my life ends here.” Before he fainted he heard that the bandits had only that morning got another victim. “Was he loaded Oh boy!” he heard another voice,”like this spring chicken!”
When he opened his eyes he saw he was entombed in a cave. There lay another victim in shadows. He was also chained up and he sighed deeply as he had no hope of ever getting out alive. There stood by his side a plate of food untouched. Josh glanced at the black bread and the jug of wine and his stomach revolted. Hearing that the prisoner looked up. Even in that dim light it was unmistakable. The victim was none other than ‘Blunder’ Buss the banker! He muttered,”the chieftain is new on the job but his knife cuts just the same!”Suddenly he saw whom he spoke to. His eyes showed some life and he said with feeling ,”I owe thanks to you. Those physicians took good care of me. But it was for nothing I suppose.”He fell again into gloom.
Soon the robber baron came in. Master Josh was slumped at the spot he was left by his captors. He sighed as if the presence of the banker merely added to his woes. He had kept his head bowed thinking of sad thoughts. He wondered how it fared with his father and Nimrud. His nostalgia even as it like a spark flew up, the scraping of boots sent a sudden chill. He had company!
Before the young prisoner could shudder the voice boomed,”Cheer up!” He added breezily,”I don’t go on cutting heads if I can help it.”Master Josh shuddered. It was uncanny he recognized the voice! It belonged to Gabriel who was once his dear friend. “This was turning out into a reunion of sorts!” he pinched himself. It wasn’t a bad dream!
Meanwhile the bandit realized whom he had in his power. “Oh Josh, I didn’t think of ever doing harm to you!” He himself loosened his ropes. “As to the other his head shall fall before the night is out.” Poor banker! he just fainted. Master Josh explained how he had been lately discharged from a looney house. “OK I shall cut his head just the same!”he said with a laugh looking askance at the banker. He almost slumped in fright. “Think of that poor man, Gabriel!”
“His case is sad. But I shall cut just the same!”Gabriel said with a wink, ”with tears in my eyes. I shall also keen like a banshee.”
“I will pay to the last kopek!”the hapless banker blubbered without daring to look up, ”I own a Bank or two!”
If the banker expected some sympathy he was greeted in response with an abrasive guffaw! The robber baron said, ”In that case I shall hire some musicians to entertain the crowd. You shall have the most wonderful send-off!”, The banker didn’t hear him since he had fainted. The chief clapped hands and two of his goons came. He ordered them to release the fellow and treat him well.
Gabriel took Master Josh by the hand and led him to his own chambers. They sat down to eat and after refreshing themselves they talked things over. He narrated the circumstances that led him to his life in crime. He could understand. Sans- Souci affected him also; and he faced evil of the age in his way. Gabby explained he held no grudge against his father. “For me you come above everything else.” He sighed,”For your sake I shall suffer any loss if that be unavoidable.” Master Josh asked a favor and before he explained what he had in mind the robber baron expansively assured that it would be done. Josh had wanted him to release the banker. He in so many words explained the circumstance in which he got to know him. The bandit reeled in shock but he somehow managed,”Josh, you don’t know what a sacrifice I am making by sparing him?”
“ Please for my sake.” An uneasy pause. ”I shall make it your worthwhile.” The bandit chief thought over it and laughed it away. “That is alright. I ought not be so greedy I suppose. I have a long career ahead.” Then he shrugged off,”Or a rope rudely knotted but very effective.”
Master Josh could see he was really desperate. Before he could broach on the topic any further he changed the subject. Gabby explained what news he had of Sans-Souci. He continued,” The same economic disaster has hit Sans-Souci. Your father had incurred large debts in order to modernize Sans-Souci. Now he finds it difficult to make payments. Old age hasn’t dealt kindly with him.” Master Josh couldn’t help but cry a little. Partly for causing him sorrow. He expressed his desire to see him directly. “I am at your service,” his friend Gabby said with feeling.
Later in the day Master Josh could talk things over with the banker who was now in a cheerful frame of mind,”Yet again Master Joshua,”he leant over and kissed the hand,”you have saved my life once again.” He pressed him to let him help in whatever way. He said he would see Sans-Souci himself so he might lend whatever help that would be necessary. So Gabriel had already talked things over with the banker. ‘Who else but a friend would walk an extra mile for you?’ A bandit, a cut-throat nevertheless. He mused wryly he owed his life to people of all hues and persuasions.
Next morning Master Josh and the banker were on the road towards Sans-Souci. He mused,”Evil of the age is not a cut-throat or some parasites. If they could be sent by providence, evil must be something else.

Chapter-5
Evil Of The Age

The banker on the way to Sans-Souci talked freely and treated him as though he was one of the family. He told of his family and of the bank that he had inherited from his father. He asked why he wasn’t married. Master Josh truthfully replied he never had thought of it. “You are young and have a good heart.” The banker averred. He was sure the young man was ready for raising a family. In fact he was sure his daughter would make him happy. Master Josh mulled over the idea and said,”We shall discuss over it when we reach Sans-Souci.”
‘Blunder’ Buss was impressed with the stately mansion that stood still as a swan surrounded by so many jackdaws. “Those hovels are an eye sore.” the banker commented casually. Master Josh winced and said,”Those belong to the tenants.” Master Josh knew Gabriel as a bandit chief was a telling commentary on Sans-Souci. He was also equally involved in keeping such conditions longer. His good deeds didn’t change the situation but thought it was a good time as any to address his responsibility as best as possible.
When they arrived travel weary Nimrud came in haste and called him aside,”How dare you insult us? Your leaving made our father a wreck and made me take the whole yoke myself. Now your coming will upset him and incovenience me…”
“We were riding for days and we would like to rest awhile before we talk further. Once again joining up with the banker who quietly asked who he was he replied,”My elder brother. Never mind. It is my father I want you to meet.”’Blunder’Buss nodded.
Master Josh guided his companion into the wing where he had his own apartments. He called his attendants to look after the needs of his companion. Later the banker came and said how impressed he was. The banker had never seen such luxury.
“Unlimited credit,” he chortled,”the bank can offer.” Josh asked him to talk things over with his father. While they waited for Father Adonai they saw Nimrud leave in a huff.
They also saw his father coming towards him. And they could see he was still sore to complain. His father told him in a firm voice to behave himself. Nimrud came back and waited for his father. He stood a little away from them. He looked away as if was still angry with his younger brother. Both noticed how his father was upset. Master Josh saw he was also much older than he imagined.
2.
You see Father Adonai? He is still forbidding and gargantuan in size. His hairs are all white and as soon as he strides into the room he announces as if to no one in particular,” I have cause for annoyances. Some tenants were supposed to meet me. But they stood me up.”
He looks at his firstborn and his annoyance is still visible. “Nimrud I am sorry you feel so beefed up.” Suddenly he freezes. He apologizes and says,”I didn’t know we had company.” He walks to his younger son and hugs him. “My dear son you made an old man happy!” See how he changes his tone, and speaks warmly to the guest? Also note how elated he is to note his younger son is safe and sound? See pride in his eyes?
Shh He has to be polite to his guest. He tells in so many words he is impressed to have him under his roof. They speak in low tones. Heard what the Lord just said?
He says,”It is for my son to worry about. I have since last week stopped racking my head over trifles.”
“Trifles, father?” Nimrud is incensed. Look how he scowls at his brother and blurts out,” He left you in a lurch when you needed him most.” Nimrud was certain if it weren’t for him Sans-Souci would have been in shambles. “I am not ashamed to tell it to the whole world!” he said with ill-concealed temper. He wants to leave the table but his father shouts him to stop. Before such a thundering voice that Nimrud is shaken.
You understand don’t you, why they sit at their places and eat silently? Yes the family has a problem. See Nimrud doesn’t look up from his plate. Doesn’t that speak volumes?
Father Adonai slowly warms up and chats pleasantly.
He even tells his guest why his son stepped out of his care. He laughs low and says,”It was for him to find out. Evil of the age, it has stopped worrying me.”
Master Josh perks up. See how his youthful face brightens up? “It has stopped worrying me also.”His father looks perplexed. His son says in a measured tone,” Evil is in the way we are connected. Even whom we condemn as bad has in him the means to add something to us. Those whom we look up as good have in them meanness, cruelty and so many other vices. Only time and circumstances will tell.”
See how the old Adonai looks pleased. “That’s my boy!” his eyes seem to tell. The banker looks impressed. See how Nimrud receives it? He dares not look up. He still is furious. That makes it difficult for him to eat. Let us leave him with his problems.
Let us leave a happy family to deal with their problems in their own manner.
The End

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Chapter-3
Sowing Wild Oats

The City had a strange name. Master Joshua vaguely understood what it meant in Armenian. When translated it went thus: ’Anything Goes’ City. It stood by a river and promenades that led along its banks were full of people. What strange dresses they wore! Stranger still was their dialect, peculiar to those who lived long in a city, and who lived especially without any known occupation. Obviously they lived by their wits, Joshua thought.
As he drove through the city in a handsome carriage drawn by four horses he knew he had never set foot in a city as strange as Anything Goes City. While passing through the commercial part of the city the people were out in the open. Like ants in groups and seeking out others and invariably they enquired ‘Morat! Morat!’ “Darn Morat, my ears have been a-tingling with it!” He tapped the driver to enquire. He stopped and gave a sheepish smile to run to a kiosk. The board read thus: “Buying on margin- Ensure your piece of happiness!” The newcomer didn’t fully grasp the meaning but something clicked. It sold something. The driver waved his sheaf of papers in air in exultation; he kissed the bunch as it was his talisman. Having pocketed it he settled himself once again on driver’s seat. Before he took his whip to goad his animals he said, ”Morat master! Buy, Buy! Buy!”

The out-of-towner could catch his excitement. Buying was a way of life. Those who couldn’t pay in full put down an initial payment on stocks as the driver did. At every corner he saw similar kiosks in red and green and similar crowds who jostled one another. Each thought nothing but his or her piece of happiness.
Only when he stopped at the City Hall to register his particulars and receive his permit for residence he realized the full gravity of the situation. The motto which was inscribed under the seal of the City was a superscription, ‘Everybody ought to be rich!” Perhaps City elders thought Latin and Greek gave money grubbing the adequate gravitas it was also repeated in these languages. Thinking it over he smiled for the first time since he took leave of his father.
He was in the right place.
Even as he resumed his drive he could only thank himself he had at last found the right place. A city that gave a piece of happiness. To rich and poor alike.
Sans-Souci stifled him. And now he was among real people he thought.
He was happy.
2.
Hardly he had moved into a villa that was fully furnished with rich tapestries, bric-à- brac, paintings by old masters, he received invitations from the 400 who were the shakers and movers of the city. So naturally he had to throw a party to show them the house he chose to live in. It was sumptuous but compared to his father’s mansion it was merely adequate. He was not for letting his wealth speak for him. All that he required was a human touch. It seemed to have touched the guests without exception that they instantly were on first name basis. “Josh let me know if there is anything I can do.” ”Another put it eloquently, ”we are at your service.” They knew he made the City by the river famous by his presence.
Soon after two or three fellows who claimed themselves to be the leading lights of The Smart Set dropped in to enquire. They were well received. So often thereafter they called on him. Matt, Mike and Jan were well groomed and knew all the right people whose names they were sure to drop every now and then. They had a bagful of jokes to amuse him on any occasion. It was very often. Before Josh could gather his wits about they had settled themselves under his roof. Josh had no idea how to handle them. He had his own life to lead. But to cut them dead with a snub wasn’t his style. So smiled politely at their jokes. He left them to fend for themselves whenever he went out. They didn’t mind.
Matt arranged his entertainments and hired musicians and theatre people. Jan provided exotic items that he averred no man of taste could do without. Mike was the one who carried tales and prompted whom to cultivate in order to get things done. Josh wasn’t sure he was well into entertainment. ‘Doing good to those in need is good enough’, he said. How they laughed at that!
The trio proved themselves in so many ways how useful they were. They ran with alacrity all his errands and did various services short of polishing his shoes.( He had his own valet, cook and major-domo not to mention gardeners and a porter who carried a brace of pistols and sported a fierce moustache that was waxed stiff for effect.) Had someone said his household was beginning to look more like a miniature version of Sans-Souci he would have been surprised. It was not what he intended but the unlimited credit he carried in his person needed an outlet. That was all.
At any given day he had some twenty guests to dine and Matt, Mike and Jan stayed on. The trio also gave company whenever he was alone. On such occasions they took to educate the master of the house to the ways of the world. Josh was certain he was only concerned with the ways of his establishment. “The world can take care of itself,”he had said.
One day the mayor, who had in the meantime become very friendly to him, asked him in strict confidence why he had those good-for-nothings around. He said those three were nothing but parasites. Josh could understand. He had something of a suspicion about them, which he had stifled as soon as it peeked. He thought he was being unfair and callous. Now the worshipful Mayor also observed the same. ‘There must be then something to it,’ he was convinced. Checking into their circumstances he found even the clothes they wore were hired from a shop that catered to the Smart set. As for the financial status it was almost nil. To his dismay he found they were daily one step ahead of the bailiff. As the worshipful mayor had hinted they lived indeed desperately. They avoided creditors all around by hiding in his villa.
“This is a sad business!” Josh felt they were more sinned against than sinning. They were poor and naturally they had latched onto him for succour. His tender heart melted. He called the three and gave each a sizable sum to spend for their own good. “Get a job, or live as simple as you can,” his kindly heart prompted these words. Before sending them off he didn’t forget to admonish,“Do some good so you haven’t lived in vain.’
They were loath to depart but Master Josh was adamant. They finally went off.

Chapter-4
The Bottom Falls Out

Josh viewed Anything Goes City as his own. He was on nodding acquaintances with all. The mayor made much of him, so did the common man. The shoeshine boy who plied his trade around the corner daily waited for him to appear. He could see him as he stepped out of his villa. Every morning dressed to the nines by his own valet, Master Josh stopped by to get his shoes polished. He did it to give custom. It was obvious. “May you prosper with my thaler.” he said always at the end. The boy as smart as they come, living by his wits knew how to make some easy money. It was so common.
Just the same. The denizens were in awe of Master Josh: he was the only one who did not dabble in stocks.
Banks, which nursed the fiscal health of the nation sent their experts to remind Master Josh: invest in common stocks while the prices were low. Or regret.” “It is a bullish market!” they all said. Banker ‘Blunder’ Buss brought sheafs of papers with a lot of statistics to prove his point. He was certain, as some 857 pundits who also shared his opinion, that the stock prices clearly showed the fiscal health of a nation. Master Josh shook his head. The banker couldn’t believe he could be so naïve. “The nation is marching permanently on a plateau of prosperity!” he said a little exasperated at his transigence,”Join up or go bust!” Master Josh still held his ground.
He wasn’t there to make a fast buck but face ‘the evil of the age’ in his own way. It was his article of faith. He would never let Sans- Souci cripple his common touch he had vowed on the day he turned fourteen. He had never departed from it. Before he took any action he asked himself: “Do I really benefit from it? Secondly: ‘does it further quality of life around me? Thirdly: ‘ does my action give disproportionate value to things than to man? If so I ought to revise my actions till a balance is achieved. Lastly: am I, with my actions, justifying my place among mankind?” It was his set of rules and it had given him no little trouble to put it down on paper. On their final leave taking he had shown it to his dear father who read it. (There were tears in his eyes. He wanted to believe it were the tears of joy. Didn’t he bless him and hug him fervently thereafter?) City Anything Goes certainly tempted him. But he couldn’t go against his own beliefs. On looking at their craze for making a killing at stocks he thought he was looking at so many billionaires who existed only on paper. No substance to them, he had intuitively guessed.
Applying his own rules he saw he stood to benefit by making profits but for what? To keep a foolish charade longer? He had listened to those who sponged on him. While they ate off his plates and drank his wine they said things that made him sit up and notice. He saw all too clearly what was to follow. Inflated stock prices! Insubstantial billionaires! With a sinking heart he saw the curl of a tsunami growing so high before it broke.
Master Josh felt the shudder. One day it came. A rumble it was. A few investors dumped their shares. Stock prices swung wildly. “Oh such hiccups are natural,” said the banker who was certain the problem would correct itself. The mayor rallied some merchant princes to keep the prices under control. That helped for the time being.
Hardly four years since he had made the city by the river his home. Prior to the morning he had for days shut himself in his library fearful of the news that he knew would come. He heard it again. Loud and clear.
It was a Tuesday. Six months later to the day since the first hiccup struck its ominous warning. The bottom gave out. Everywhere people cried,”Sell! Sell!” On one day alone so many stocks were dumped and in the process they discovered they lost even shirts on their backs. In short some 50 billion thalers disappeared. With it went the sanity of the city.
Not a kopek he had invested or lost. But just the same. How could he sit there happy when people outside were doing unspeakable things to themselves? It was sheer madness romping the streets! It entered from broad avenues into the warren of homes. First a wave of suicides: it had its effect. People read the news and shuddered over the headlines: shocking yes! I knew so-and so. Tragic yes. What these didn’t spell out were: Families destroyed, children orphaned and so many dreams snuffed out in its swirling gaiety.
He had not lost his wealth. Yet for all that he was chained to a corpse! Against his will. He had bought his villa dirt cheap because it had no takers for long. The city thought investing in real estate was a dead investment. Especially when so much money each day could be made playing stocks. Now with so many houses being put on the market for paying off debts Master Josh thought he lived in the midst of a charnel house! So dismal he felt.
It was how he viewed the Black Tuesday even after a week: Dismal and horrible!
In the days to come the full horror of what happened was brought home clearer. While Master Josh had fasted and let out all his sorrow till he felt clean and strong to face the world life went on outside. Its mad frenzy outside his villa unstoppable it was. He didn’t have to go out. But he heard of terrible stories just the same. Many of his household had their loved ones come to ruin. In their tragedy he felt wounded again and again.
‘Life must go on’, as the wise men have often said made him now take matters into his hand. Two weeks later he got back into his daily routine.
He enquired after many whom he knew from that part of the city. Those tradespeople and craftsmen who always gave him special consideration lived in the vicinity. He never had to attend to the needs of his household so he hardly knew them. ( Hajmal the butcher had always sent his best cuts; so did the grocer. In their service he could sense their kindness, an impression almost palpable. He felt reassured always in their service.) He trudged along the lanes to look them up. But they were gone. So was the tailor who had his shop in another part. Next to the furrier. They all had mysteriously vanished!
One day he went to the place where he had his shoe polished. By force of habit, I guess. The boy was long gone and yet someone had taken his place. Upon closer inspection he shuddered. Instead of the regular, sat there ‘Blunder’ Buss, the banker with a foolish smile. In his baby pink and pudgy hands he held a brush awkwardly. He was now to polish his shoes! Master Josh burst into tears while the banker blinked on as if he had completely lost his marbles. ”Then came the bears,” he went on mumbling.
Josh ran inside and instructed his personal secretary to see that the banker was immediately attended to. He did as was told. He reported that evening to explain how things fared with the hapless banker. He aso made a note of instructions that his master gave and promised to attend them first thing in the morning.
Before he turned in Master Josh reviewed his actions: he knew his altruism didn’t benefit himself but all the other rules were met. If the banker was well again he would cease to be a problem for his family; and a banker, he thus reasoned, could get back into swim of things once more. Perhaps having learnt his lesson he would be more useful to the nation. So he didn’t regret in the least for what he had to spend.
The city was no longer the same. A regular war zone it was. No wrecks or smouldering ruins of buildings stood there but the people looked shell-shocked and the air he breathed had the stench of a serious malaise. He could feel it. It reeked of disappointment and misery.
One morning Josh was getting ready for stepping out. To his consternation there were two strangers coming in. Matt and Jan looked so different. His face showed a touch of irritation. He thought he had seen the last of them for good.
Matt and Jan were dressed in uniforms of civil guards and they greeted with a sombre look and explained they bought their commission with part of the funds he gave them. One was a colonel and the other was a rank immediately below.
“Why civil guards?” he asked as he led them into the house. Having settled themselves they accepted coffee while they took out cigars to smoke. Master Josh motioned his servant to open the window. Sheepishly apologizing they put their cigars away unlit. They talked about this and that till Mike came in. Mike came all flustered and he silently passed a few slips of notes to the other two. They looked at each other and the host knew there was something serious afoot.
In the end Jan took up the thread, ”Why civil guards? I ought to go back in time a little.” He spoke of racial tensions that had plagued the city for a long time. It went merely underground while people made money. With the last economic crisis, he explained the ugly tensions were out with a vengeance. With thousand tongues of drawn swords. Looking steadily at Master Josh said,”The people want to blame some one for the Depression. They have found whom to blame. You, my friend and benefactor, you are in deep trouble.”
“Preposterous! I am completely innocent.”
“Certainly!” they all said with their hands on their hearts,”but still you are an outsider and a foreigner.” Josh stood up and faced them,” Now are you going to tell me that I also belong to the wrong race?”
They nodded. They spoke of the benefits they got from their contacts. “Being a colonel in the Civil Guards I can help you to some extent. But from the reports our Interior Minister expects the worst. A blood bath is in the cards.” Jan asked Master Josh to look at the reports he held in his hands.” I had to use all my persuasive skills to get hold of them. The second is a list of names on the hit list: your name stands somewhere in the first five I believe.” Master Josh studied the list and the notes written by the Interior Minister himself. If he was sure of a blood bath it had to be true. His face went white.
They urged him to save himself. He knew he merely stayed home soul searching while the racial hatred was having a free run. He had thereby overlooked his own interests! Master Josh knew they were serious and they did put their neck out to do him a good turn. But ‘to pack up and go’ was a bit over the top.
His villa with all its appurtenances stood for something. It showed to all who lived in. A villa where every name in the List of 400 vied each other to get in. His style and immense wealth were proverbial. The movers and shakers of the city sought him out before the City Council took any important decision. They had flattered him and they showerd presents and sent invitations to honor them with his presence. So young! Yet noteworthy he had become in a matter of six years. He was inexperienced he thought yet they sought him out for advice.
After the threesome had left he turned to the 400 for advice. He sent his personal secretary to each and the door was, everytime, shut in his face.
It didn’t take much for him to understand why. Before the fury of Xenophobia finally burst and could come in his direction he fled. Matt, Jan and Mike were there to arrange his escape. Seeing him out of harm’s way Mike said, ”Providence took a hand to save you. We were only Its instrument.” Master Josh nodded.
(Posted earlier: A Parable Retold of Oct.17,3008)
Benny

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The Needle, chalky cliff of Normandy: Brexit in geological time: Dover must have broken off this point, I suppose-b
Size: 50×40 watercolor

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