Yesterday, I sneaked into Colaba Causeway in a gesture of solidarity with Colabakars trapped because of the Presidential visit. My first encounter was with an ordinary, humble, fifty-something, housewife.
Me: Ma’am, it must be the worst Diwali you’ve ever had...
She: Why? (gesticulating to workers) Be careful with that new 104’ TV! Place it in my bedroom. (to me) This is the greatest Diwali!
Me: But I thought it would be terrible for you! Being locked indoors for three days because of a pitiably paranoid security force…
She: Thank god for them! (to the workers) Arre! Careful with that Husain!Me: What do you mean?
She: Just day before yesterday, I was standing in my balcony when I saw a group of American commandos crying in pain. They were rolling and twisting in agony on the road. I asked them what the problem was. They explained that due to Obama’s visit, all public facilities had been closed down, including the toilets.
She: Arre, they hadn’t gone to the bathroom for 36 hours and were in agony!! I got an idea. I said you can use my bathroom for $100 a head. Then what! I made $25,000 in two days! (to workers) The Persian carpet in the bedroom!
I then met a shopkeeper and community leader. He was weeping outside his shut shop, brought to his knees because of misery and penury.
Me: Sir, I know what a blow this is. He kept weeping.
Me: A state visit during Diwali! I… His shoulders heaved, his body bent low, racked by sobs.
Me: Your livelihood’s been…
Shopkeeper (whispering): Shut up!
Me: I’m sorry?
Shopkeeper: Shut up, you fool!
Me: I’m… I’m just trying to…
Shopkeeper: Stupid! Idiot! Look around you! Do you think anybody is crying? We are laughing, you fool! Laughing! Do you know why?
Sure enough. Under their bent heads, all the shopkeepers were actually cracking up with joy.
Shopkeeper: Because there is no Obama! He never came!
Now he raised his head and I could see him laughing his heart out. Tears of happiness streamed down his face.
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