Zen Questa VI

The journey would have to be made by undertaking an extreme precaution. Their behavior must not raise any suspicion in the passer-byes. The sun was slowly moving down towards the western horizon giving the people some respite from the biting heat that had made the metal road seem like a hot river full of distant mirages. They tried to evade walking on the road directly and followed the trail along the trees on the roadside. The parrot was ensconced within the cloth wrapped around his cage. From a distance it looked like some kind of a sack. The parrot had no idea where his new acquaintances were taking him. He was sitting in partial darkness of his carriage with holes pricked at the bottom for the air to circulate. A dead parrot was of no use and certainly nothing to boast about in the town. The boys had a plan to execute. They wanted to run the show of their own at the circus and maybe earn some ruppahs as the show went along. The were meticulous enough to bring some water with them. One of the boys had a nice medium sized water skin that he carried across his shoulders. They knew they had to keep it full for an eight mile journey.

When they were quite a bit from the village they spotted a man sitting under a tree with a pitcher by his side and what looked like some assortment of snacks. They were feeling a bit thirsty now and they wanted to save some water for those miles they intended to walk further. They walked idly towards the roadside where the man was sitting and asked for the price. He said “Water in a pitcher is one ruppah a glass…it is sweetened with honey and jaggery with a dash of mint and I can give you some roasted chickpeas and peanuts for two ruppah, good enough for three kids to have a fill.” The boys did not show much interest. They knew the art of bargaining. Then one of them said “Say…how about we pay four ruppah for the three glasses of water and then you give us some roasted nuts and we are good to go?” The man insisted “No..No…its not fair. You rascals are out to ruin my business. How can I do that? Its just not right. Five ruppah is what I charge for everything; or maybe you can have just water and forget about the roasted nuts”. Xandu looked at him with a curious stare and said “Well, its no use wasting our time with him. We have the water skin. we do not need to spend our time haggling over the price. Let’s go to the town and we can enjoy many other things there.” Having said this he looked at the other boys and they were also aiding him in this scam in silent agreement. When they were about to leave the man shouted “Come here you little chums…why? I give you whatever you want. Give me the money and I give you what you want. Come now.” The boys stopped to drink the sweet and cool water from the pitcher and filled their tummies with the snacks.

They were wary enough to keep the sack aside in the shade. It was loosely bound on the top and the metal wires poked out of it a little patch on the side. The man suddenly asked “What are you carrying in the sack? Is it something you intend to sell in the town or…” He had not finished his question when Xandu yelled “What is it to you? Why are you poking your nose into somebody’s affair? Did we ask you anything about your business?” The man was startled. He murmured under his breath “Kids these days!…they do not show any respect. They are becoming so scornful…” The boys also felt uneasy and then one of them said “Oh! its just that we are scared of thieves and bandits and we do not want to raise interest of unwanted elements. We are just carrying a rabbit that we caught on the farm.” The man had seen the distinct red beak cutting through the faded patch on the side. He kept silent and didn’t say a word. He knew that the boys were lying. The boys also started to get a bit edgy and wanted to hit the road as soon as possible. “Don’t I know your father?” he said pointing at the boy in yellow tunic. Xandu glowered at him with all his spite gathered around his eyebrows. “What are you talking about?” The others tried to dodge the question and digressed to other topic. The man was clever and he peaked from one side to confirm that there was a parrot in the cage.  

Boys again followed the road and kept walking with their eyes peeled for anything odd happening around them. They reached the town near the twilight in a sound condition with their prized possession securely delivered with them. There were many people that had gathered around the town square and laborers and young apprentices toiled and moiled  in the marketplace to put up a huge tent that housed the circus. The parrot was now breathing the free air of the town and they held it around like it was the part of the event. After a lot of piddling away and staring idly at the things in the market they found that it was time to enter the show. They entered a dark room where a magician was conjuring up tricks to confound the curious audience. As the show went by, they could have sworn that a man on the stage floated like a ghost and disappeared in the the shadow only to reappear  in the audience. They were in awe of this performance. They visited the lion show where the lion master made the huge cats perform the hoop jumping with just his whiplash. The jokers cracked up the boys and they almost cried while laughing their toes off. After a while they stood in the corner and opened the parrot’s cage which shambled off quickly from the captivity and made the onlookers laugh. The boys took it as a chance to start their own little show for the night. They encouraged people to speak to the bird and the bird began to speak sentences and sometimes would give nasty abuses to the people who dared to touch him. Soon the money started dropping in their sack and they could feel the things were going smoothly. 

Suddenly, Xandu saw a man scurrying away behind a tent with a woman. He did not understand and without thinking also went in that direction leaving his friends behind. That woman was a strumpet and what would Xandu know? He was just twelve and was yet to see the world of passion and to feel the lure of seduction. He stood by the side to see what was going on and he was surprised to see that the man was groping the woman with a feverish haste. It seemed as if he was searching for something but could not make up his mind where to look and hence touched all over. The woman also began to make strange motions as if she wanted to move forward and then changed her mind and moved other way instead. It was very confusing and comical at the same time. What were they doing? Soon, the other boys found out that Xandu was missing and began to look for him and soon enough found him standing in corner looking furtively at something through a gaping hole. They gathered around him and grabbed him from behind.

 

Xandu was dumbfounded, however, he soon realized the reality and cued his buddies to remain silent and stepped aside for them to look on. The boys began to giggle as soon as they saw the performance of the couple. One of them asked “What is going on? Why is that man breastfeeding? Isn’t he too old for that sort of a thing?” Xandu felt it hard to suppress his laughter and replied with a grimace “How would I know? Just shut up and keep looking…it is sooo…funny!” The couple was huffing and puffing and jumping up and down. They were apparently still clothed and hence the boys could not comprehend what was the thing with them until the man groaned with a funny expression and jerked his hips for a few seconds and collapsed on the woman. The boys could not control any longer and burst into a guffaw. Then man was startled and got up to inspect the origin of the sound. He came out of the tent just in time to catch the glimpse of them whisking off into the darkness and scuttling behind tree trunks. He had no desire to go further and search for them and so he turned back and vanished in the tent. After a while the boys came out and realized that the parrot was left behind. They ran towards the tent and to their dismay the parrot was gone!

Continued…

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