Trouble in Paradise

I was walking past the room called Pakistan on the 13th floor of World Tower, when through the open door I heard the sound of protracted sobbing. Instinctively I stepped into the room to see Democracy sitting in a dark corner, her hands clutching a kerchief to her face and sobbing uncontrollably. It was a distressing sight. Especially as I quite liked Democracy.

She was a frail young woman, but gutsy and great company. Not quite beautiful, but unquestionably appealing. Once I had even concluded that perhaps there was no one single feature of her that you could call outstanding. Yet each had a certain attraction, and all together as a package, so to speak, her features gave Democracy an air of irresistible charm. The eyes were soft and trusting. Her Grecian nose and her fair skin were testament of her ancestry from people of the land of Alexander the Great, who over time had migrated to all corners of the world. And her mouth, not quite generous, but pouting, was as if it would break into joyous song for anyone who respected and befriended her.

“Hey what’s wrong?” I asked gingerly.
She looked up at me through teary eyes and replied, in an accented tone which clearly indicated that she had spent her formative years in the West. ”Everything is wrong. They are all after my life,” she said.
“Who is?” I asked.
She went on as if she had not heard my question. ”And all I want to do is to help people. Tell me Bob Bhai, is it so wrong to try and do good?”
“Who is after your life?” I repeated my question.
She hesitated for a moment and then said, “Well, Azadi to start with. God knows what’s got into her. She bad mouths me everywhere. Says I have become a slave to Jati.”

I too had heard Azadi speaking thus. I didn’t know Jati personally, but of course I knew of him. A pudgy, unsmiling middle-aged businessman of enviable wealth, he had taken Democracy on his staff about a year ago. People said that every now and then he would ask Democracy to do something not quite right, but she resisted every time. Sometimes I wondered what the two had in common at all except a fair skin.

“I think Azadi is just jealous of you,” I volunteered. “You know what a confused and impetuous woman she is. You shouldn’t react to her vehemence. Let her blow off steam every now and then and just carry on with your life.”
“That’s exactly what I want to do, but she just won’t let me,” Democracy wailed. “And now she is getting all these people to actually march against me.”
She looked at me to see if I was listening to her, and reassured that I had her full attention, she continued: “Then there is this upstart guy, Inqilab who has recently come down from the Canada Room up there on the VIP floors, and insists I should leave Jati and let him become my mentor. Can you imagine that?”

I could imagine it alright. I knew that Inqilab was quite a learned fellow and was mentor to a lot of fervent people looking for a savior to solve all their problems. But of late he had become rather pompous and unreasonably demanding. I knew he could sure be a pain for anyone if he wished, and poor Democracy was after all so dainty and so vulnerable.

I reached out a hand and stroked her head. She had a problem alright. Or rather two!

“I think Jati should be shielding you much more than he is,” I told her somberly.

It seemed to me that Jati was just too busy in his own castle-in-the-air to really care about Democracy. He took her for granted all the time. I had even heard that he had visited the house Democracy had so devotedly built for him, and named Parliament, only about six times in the past one year. He preferred spending most of his time in his own house on the hill, playing with the cabinet in his kitchen for amusement; something which I had always thought rather odd.

As if she had read my thoughts, Democracy said, “Do you know that he prefers toying with his kitchen cabinet rather than spending time with poor Democracy?”

After a pause, she added disdainfully, “As if the kitchen cabinet has any life in it. It’s all made of wood, isn’t it? And not even real wood. It’s cheap chipboard made from waste. But Jati loves it. Because it doesn’t answer back like I do, I suppose. Opens and shuts at Jati’s will and command. Stores any nonsense Jati shoves in it, without question.”

By now I was feeling really sorry for Democracy. She really didn’t deserve all this. And to think she, an intelligent and caring creature had been reduced to competing with a brainless kitchen cabinet for Jati’s attention!

I tried to cheer her up and said in as jovial a tone as I could muster.”But surely you have friends too.”

“What friends?” she retorted. “Every time I try to make friends, Boots gets angry.”

I groaned. Boots was the proverbial bully in the class. Of big frame and a suspicious mind, Boots always lurked in the background, threatening everyone. He was a control freak who forever wanted everyone to live their lives as he thought right. Quite unfair really, but no one was ready to take him on one on one. Not Jati, nor Azadi, nor Inqilab. Nor anyone else. Though in recent times Boot’s own ex-sidekick, Militant, had been picking fights with him and their confrontations had become more and more physically violent. But at the end of the day Boots was a stronger and bigger opponent and Militant was getting quite a beating, as I understood.

The good news was that Boots had by now accepted, perhaps even grudgingly, that supporting Democracy in her good work and helping her against her adversaries will in turn help him vanquish Militant once and for all. Even then, Boots would never let Democracy forget who the boss was.

“Did you know Boots gets very annoyed if I try to make friends with India, that girl next door?” asked Democracy.

Yes, I knew that too. Boots had never liked India. He thought she was a devious and scheming woman. As for myself, I thought India was incredible in so many ways. But I too believed she had an evil streak in her that made you deal with her cautiously, even if courteously.

I suddenly remembered that I had actually been on my way to hear a talk by Professor Patience on the topic of Trouble in Paradise and I was late already. I hated that I had to leave Democracy then and not be able to help her in any real way in her time of trial, but I told myself that ultimately she will find a host of supporters; she was just too much of a good thing for people not to love her.

“I got to go,” I said quietly. “But don’t you fret. You are stronger than all of them put together. They are fighting a losing battle. Their promises are naught and in the end victory will be yours. I can feel it. You just got to keep your chin up and try and stay two steps ahead of all of them. And you know what? These few individuals, powerful as they are, may be troubling you now, but all the millions of people out there who are the everyday citizens of this land believe in you. And there will come a point when they will all stand up together and say enough is enough. We want Democracy to blossom and intoxicate us with her sweet, blissful presence.”

As I left I was relieved to see that my words had put the life back in her. She dried her eyes and stood up. And by the determined look in her eyes and the upwards thrust of her pert chin, I could feel that Democracy was ready to battle on and achieve what was written in her destiny.

6 Responses to Trouble in Paradise

  1. Naheed says:

    Brilliant read! I hope and wish the day comes soon.

  2. Hunaid says:

    When Democracy says “All I want to do is help people, she is making a very large assumption” that she thinks she can. I believe there is a fallacy here that at this juncture, that the millions “believe in” Democracy. I am not sure if Democracy is good for all people in all places. People have to see the beauty in Democracy for her to stand up on her own and I dont see that.

    • Zohare Ali Shariff says:

      Thank you for your comments. If you read the write up again, you will note that answers to your questions are already there. For instance when you say Democracy thinks she can help people and this is a large assumption, the write up describes her as ‘not quite beautiful, but unquestionably appealing.’ The implication is clear – democracy is good (appealing) but it does not have all the answers (not quite beautiful)

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    • Zohare Ali Shariff says:

      Thank you. Afraid I don’t know how to get listed on Yahoo News. But will ask my techy colleagues and share any guidance they provide

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