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Motu Lal Comes to Calcutta
by Debashish Majumdar

Motu Lal arrived at Howrah station in Calcutta. He wore a cream kurta, black coat and a dhoti. He had a big belly. He called up a porter and handed over his steel trunk and bedding. He then waddled after the porter. He used his big tummy to great advantage. He pushed aside anyone and anything that came along his way. There was a sea of passengers in front of him. The tall and lanky porter looked at Motu Lal through the corner of his eye. Motu Lal was searching for the chaiwallah whom he had hoodwinked by not paying him three rupees. Motu Lal stuck his hand in his coat pocket, opened his mouth as wide as an elephant and stuffed a paan. The porter now took off at top speed.

Motu Lal howled after the porter. He bumped his tummy hard into a suitcase. He spun like a mad fly and slipped on a banana peel. He landed heavily upon the platform.

“My trunk! My bedding!” he yelled. The last he had got a glimpse of the porter, the lad was scurrying away empty-handed. Where was his luggage? He rubbed his eyes.

Was he dreaming?

Two young men helped Motu find his feet.

The railway clock struck two in the morning. The porter had disappeared in the bustle with Motu’s belongings. What a start for poor Motu in Calcutta!

Motu reached for his purse in which he had stacked away five hundred rupees. He licked his lips and counted the money. Then he slipped the wallet into the coat pocket.

“ Hai Ram!” he cried out to himself in Hindi, “ I saved three rupees by cheating the chaiwallah …and I have been robbed of my belongings.”

Motu found a jeep and its trailer just outside the railway station. He sadly climbed onto the trailer and slumped off to sleep. When he woke up in the morning, it was broad daylight.

Motu sat up and rubbed his eyes. There was a lot of noise all around. He searched for the railway building but in its place there stood a small paints company:

“Laha Paints Company.”

Motu scrambled out of the jeep trailer and bumped into a tall gentleman.

“Looking for a job?” the man asked him.

“Yes.” Motu winked at the man, fished out a hundred rupee note and offered it to the man.

“Your bakshish for offering me a job.”

The man turned red as a leech.

“ You are lucky I am not going to beat you up,” he screeched like a parrot, “ We need a person who can paint an apartment. I will offer you one hundred rupees a day!”

“Oh thank you, sir,” said Motu softly when he realized that this man was the owner of the paints company. “ You are Mr. Laha himself?”

Motu was offered three chapattis along with a generous helping of potato curry by a man standing next to the owner of the paints company.

“ No money is required…one meal is free!” declared the generous Mr. Laha.

Motu was ushered into the jeep and was whisked away somewhere in the heart of Calcutta city. They stopped in front of an apartment. The driver pulled out a can of fresh paint and slung it around Motu’s neck. Then he stretched out a ladder and leaned it across the outer wall.

“Take this brush and climb up!” he ordered Motu.

Motu had never climbed up a ladder before. Slowly he mastered the art of climbing a ladder. As soon as he had reached the top, he dipped the brush into the can of paint.

The ladder swung away from the wall with Motu’s weight and luckily for our man it struck a lamp-post. Motu looked down upon the street below and his feet started wobbling. He trembled and as he turned to grab the lamp-post the ladder swung back to the wall. Motu grabbed the ladder with both his hands in fright. He dropped the brush onto the street which fell right on top of the driver. The driver shot out his cell phone, called up Mr. Laha and Motu promptly lost his first job in Calcutta. Now Motu let the ladder go and to his great surprise he was sucked into the apartment through the window!

Motu had closed his eyes. He now opened them and in front of him stood a huge burly man with a great black moustache. He resembled a walrus.

The man guffawed: “ Wow! Don’t worry …I am the owner of the Great Calcutta Circus.

You will join my circus from this evening…”

The man whose name was Laltu Mukherjee left the room. In the big hall, upon the carpet were five or six rabbits. They were all busy chewing up carrots and radish. Motu snatched away and munched about a dozen pieces of vegetable.

Laltu returned and offered Motu : “ You want the tiger’s meal or the rabbit’s meal?”

“ I am a vegetarian…,” said Motu, “ In my village I used to drink ten glasses of milk daily…and full of butter floating upon it.”

“ Fine,” replied the circus owner, “ Your meal will cost you your monthly salary.”

* * *

In the Great Calcutta Circus, Motu was hoisted onto a trapeze by a mechanical device.

“ When we say …grab!” the circus instructor told Motu, “ You grab the swinging ladder.”

Motu nodded his head in agreement. If he could perform a star act, he was promised ten glasses of milk …cream floating on it ! As soon as they hurled Motu towards the swinging ladder Motu missed his grip and his dhoti was entangled to the hook of the ladder. Motu stretched out his hands like an aeroplane. He whirled and whirled while adults and kids cheered and cheered from below. Then his dhoti went r…r…r…r..i…p..!

And down came Motu in his coat and underwear with a loud scream! Of course, they held a net to catch Motu’s fall. Motu landed upon the net, bounced up and down like a balloon. Motu had fainted out of fright!

He was a superstar! Laltu Mukherjee was overjoyed with Motu’s success.

He himself entered the ring to congratulate Motu and whispered into his ears:

“ Alo gobbi , dal fry …and ten glasses of milk !”

Motu opened one eye and winked at the circus owner in delight.

However, Motu was really scared to take part in the trapeze once again.

“ I will appoint you a baby-sitter of my seven children,” Laltu spoke encouragingly.

“ How much wages?” Motu asked firmly.

“ You will be paid three hundred rupees per kid,” said Laltu.

“ Fine…,” said Motu Lal, “ Atleast my life will be out of danger.”

So that was the end of Motu’s circus life. Back to Laltu’s apartment.

* * *

Motu found himself in a bedroom with four children aged ten, seven, four and two. To add to his misery the other three were a monkey, a tiger cub and a tomcat. As soon as Motu was pushed into the room by Laltu’s wife Parvati, she shut the door. Motu picked up the four year old kid. The child tore up a shampoo pouch, pouring the contents over Motu’s head. Motu spanked the naughty boy. The tiger cub growled and the tomcat purred like a motor engine. The two year old baby was sucking a milk bottle. Motu grabbed the bottle and greedily drank the milk.The monkey screeched its head off. The ten year old girl sneaked to her mother Parvati and Motu lost his job.

“ I promise to be honest in my job in the future,” he told himself, “ I must not be attracted to food.”

Funnily enough, Motu made friends with a pair of twin lads. They had opened a fast food joint. They were making delicious kababs in their stall. They interviewed Motu and were happy to learn that he was a veggie.

Motu stared at the boys with his round red eyes. He was sure he had seen atleast one of them somewhere.

“ For every five non-veg rolls you sell, you will get a paneer roll free to eat,” one of the boys offered Motu a deal. The boys left the stall to their new salesman and disappeared as they said that they had other business to look after.

Motu tasted a paneer roll. It was mouth-watering. There was a garage adjacent to the stall. The brothers had left behind the keys of the garage by mistake. As soon as the brothers had left, Motu opened the garage.And guess what did he find inside? He found an array of suitcases, steel trunks and beddings. And what luck! It did not take him too long to discover a steel trunk and a bedding marked with black ink: Sri Motu Lal in Hindi.

“ Aha!” Motu twirled his whiskers, “ Now I recognize my porters at the railway station.

One of them got away with my luggage while the other one accompanied empty-handed.”

Though it was two days in Calcutta, Motu opened his trunk with his keys and was surprised to find that his clothes were intact. He stopped a cab. He flung his bedding and steel trunk and called out to the taxi driver: “ Howrah railway station.”

He had had enough of Calcutta life! Time for him to return to his native village in Allahabad.

He decided to travel ticketless. After all, he was an Indian first and foremost.

“ No traveling ticketless is a crime,” he told himself. So he bought a ticket for Allahabad.

Then he boarded the train. He kept his luggage upon the seat and squatted upon it.

He was now wearing a brand new starched white dhoti, the black coat, cream shirt and a muffler around his neck. He reached for his coat pocket. He counted three hundred rupees in his wallet. He smiled. He was going back home.

Then he saw the chaiwallah. The same chaiwallah whom he had cheated three rupees a fortnight ago. He decided to cheat Calcutta for one last time! He followed the chaiwallah.
Then he bought a mud pot of tea for three rupees.

“ I will pay you as soon as I come out of the toilet,” he said.

He hopped into a compartment, followed the corridors and disappeared into his section of the train.

“ Well Calcutta, I had my revenge upon you,” he whispered tiredly, “ Hai Ram, forgive me.”
He noticed a bhelpuri man. As soon as he reached for his wallet to buy some bhelpuris he discovered his wallet was gone!

Motu Lal’s wail was drowned by the loud whistle of the train as it departed Calcutta! 

18-Feb-2007
 
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