The smell of half-bloomed tulips, green pastures and the sun-soaked grass welcome you to the grandeur of nature—the hearth-throbbing beauty of an ancient city. The undesired dusts that used to cover the vacant resting benches don’t find their accomplice anymore. They are clean. The old structures, tainted with the burden of the past, no more hang over the vision of the future.
The future glows just like the lighting show—the colourful fountains, laser lights, and many more. On your way to this heavenly serenity of ‘Magic Bullet Paradise’—a renowned nursery in the heart of the city—you will never feel exhausted. The early days of dense, congested roads filled with scumbags, who illegally entered from foreign countries to occupy the streets, ambushing the civilisational ethos, are past now.
You can find colourful dry leaves covering your way to the nursery. The dryness doesn’t always symbolise the past. It is a new dryness that exists just to show you the contrasting appeal of the fresh—the ‘new’. Once, some foreign invaders constructed a humongous space for demon worshipping. Cockroaches with white stings—visually emulating the aliens from a Hitchcockian imagination—used to fill it in numbers. They are successfully replaced with beautiful incense sticks.
As the smell of American heritage, a type of hybrid rose, leads you to the heart of the nursery, you can see the happy faces of children playing with sticks and swords. Sporting grey shorts and caps, they resemble a military force. No, they are not. They are learning how to serve the ancient nation.
In one corner, just beside the walking track where people take their dogs for a walk, a quiz competition is going on—‘Kaun Banega Deshpremi?’ Sitting on the small stool, mimicking an anchor’s hot seat, the quizzer asks: “Who was the king of the ancient nation during the late 16th century?” One, two, three, four, five, six ... Oh! Six of them know! They will go for a lottery to select who is going to respond first.
Earlier, the lottery used to be a matter of luck. It has now changed. There is no more random sample selection. There is a divine power working tirelessly to select you. Someone’s phone rings—‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave; Welcome to the Hotel California.’ The lottery is about to happen. Who will be selected at the cost of whom? A splash of water spilling out of the glass full of flower petals that determines the fate of the ‘chosen ones’ drenches the last one in the row. Squatting nearby wearing a red jersey, he is caught off guard. Did he raise his hand? Or was it just a random choice? He has to respond. “We have our first respondent with us,”—the quizzer quips.
What is the right answer? Is there anything right at all? The rite of passage to ceremonially celebrate ‘right’ is a matter of the past. They used to call it fact-checking. The facts are what we read in books. And the books? Definitely, the ones written by our ancient glory. They are no longer filled with uncouth ideals. These are pragmatic future-oriented letters written not in black ink on pale sheets. These are halos of the past showing the light to the future.
During the latest international conference titled ‘A-20—a group of ‘Ancient Countries’, the ancient city celebrated its true glory. As you step out of the international airport, you can find the emblematic lion looking at you. It is not angry. It has the calm of a saint. The walls painted with graphic novella displaying ancient mythology take you to a world lost in the midst of the modernist cacophony.
But the essence of modern is still everywhere. The overbridges crisscrossing the city, the huge shopping malls with the banners of ‘50% discount’, the beautiful bungalows with their patios filled with children playing badminton—not to mention the magnificent public toilets—representing the cleanliness of souls—not marred by the dirt of slums and open defecation, bring in a new symbiosis—of the glory of the past mollycoddling with the projected future.
The man in the red jersey is yet to find out the correct answer. Time is passing fast. With the dimming sunlight, comes out the beautiful Moon where the flag of the ancient country is higher than before. A few hundred meters away from the Magic Bullet Paradise, you can find the replica of a Moon-traveller. You look up. Embrace the glory. There is no heap of waste that restricts your view. No gory smell of animal skin. Vegetation is everywhere. Flowers. Incense sticks. Fruits. Colours.
“Who was the king of the ancient country during the late 16th century?”, the anchor screams. He must know the answer. He read it in the school books. Though it was kept out of the syllabus when the last plague had hit the world, he read it. The glow of the Moon brightening his wrinkled skin has an answer. But that is poisonous—injected through his veins long back. The ‘Sound and Light Show’ is about to start. The dancing fountains can help him to brush up on his memory. Happy faces are gathering to take a walk through the historical glory.
Yes, he got the answer. It is ...
A siren rings. Gather for the feast. Toast to the Paradise. Time is up. Again, there will be a lottery tomorrow to find the ‘Chosen one’.
(This appeared in the print as 'A Blooming Paradise')
[DISCLAIMER: The following stories in this issue are a work of fiction inspired by the state of news media today and are meant for reaction purposes only.]