Story: Kiki Is No More: by Shail Agrawal

There are lots of Indians who have migrated to foreign lands in search of a pot of gold, but no body has found anything shinier than Kiki. No, we won’t talk about the pot’s size, only about the shine . Shine is everything in present world, so apparent, so enchanting to one and all.
It is not easy to settle and maintain an old life style with all your engrained bad native habits and still gain respect in a foreign culture, but Kiki did it.
With a big belly and equally matching mouth and ill manners, he ate as much as he wanted and talked as much as he liked. So his socio-economic profile matched and increased with his wealth, so did his own increasing physical dimensions. And he enjoyed all the complements, those which declared him a saint and those few also, which proclaimed him a sinner.

For many rain and cold comes in the way in this country, hampers the growth, and gives arthritis, but Kiki was different. He could sing in the snow and bhangra in the rain. Mrs Sahni knew him very well. Some clever clog he was and very lucky too, to achieve it all.

He was from the same village of Punjab as Mrs Sahni and they had many common relatives too, even went to the same old school under the same old tree in their village-field, where they used to fight more on the chalk than learn to read and write. Things are different now. Village boasts a proper school- building and few qualified teacher too, thanks to the generosity of Kiki and few others like him.

It was raining cats and dogs and Mrs. Sahni was very upset. She was worried about her makeup, her expensive silk saree…about everything indeed. There was no other choice, after all Kiki is… (sorry, was) a very rich man and most people will be there in most expensive attires and biggest and most expensive jewels too. It is a privilege to attend his funeral.
Mrs Sahni looked out and shook her head in desperation; ‘what a poor mortal like her can do now, but get out of this car in rain only and join the band-wagon in the pouring rain!
Outside his house in his front lawn, there was a newly erected colourful marquee, waiting for visitors. She carefully stepped out of her car and joined the crowd.

To her surprise, the marquee was nearly empty. No body seemed to bother about the rain except her. Most were standing out there in the rain, chatting and laughing happily, making the odd sad remarks in between, whenever and whatever they remembered or occasion demanded. There was an odd girl weeping hysterically in a corner, no body was paying any attention to her. She observed that most were wearing synthetic clothes, which get dry minutes after they get wet. Soaked in her saree, she also noticed with a gasp that even Kiki’s wife and daughter were also wearing those cheap black M.S. suits but to her comfort their sun glasses were matching with her own, definitely Armani; straight in line with such scenes from a Hollywood or Bollywood movies.

She sheepishly looked around again. The place was throbbing with wealthy hub, yet there was something not quite right about the whole scene. She should have been forgiven, if it reminded her of the village fair. People were gathered around and enjoying trays full of cakes and drinks…tea and coffee etc. Sure, people needed to eat, and a gathering is a gathering, but to her, the occasion demanded a bit more serenity at least in her Indian culture and religion. This celebratory mood was not that appropriate.

That is what she was thinking, when she was asked by the lady standing next to her,’ Did you turn up empty handed to such a rich and famous person’s funeral …., without flowers, sweets or a bottle of wine atleast? After all this is a celebration of his life … one who enjoyed parties and drank so much! ‘
Mrs Sahni shrugged her shoulders hopelessly.

“Celebration of life?” expression didn’t register. Given the circumstances, she somehow came round to it.
Buzz is, that he was all right till last night, laughing and drinking with his friends as usual, giving them a piece of his own mind as usual; till he collapsed…yes collapsed , that is also laughing and he never recovered.

Condolences Card and notes were very carefully decorated all over the place. And so were all the flowers which friends brought. Success is an individual’s own interpretation and Kiki was very famous indeed; and it always bothered Mrs. Sahni. Well.. that is what the entire village and village community thought and talked about, till that mysterious day. when they found out that all his connections were very much the fabrication of his imagination only. Mrs. Sahni noticed there were no press around, not even a single representative from it, no body from the local free news paper even showed their face in his funeral party .

Well. some might argue that he was very famous because he was very rich…or very rich because he was very famous? Oh , deff it. Mrs Sahni was really totally confused now.

Well, not really , Mrs Sahni said to herself- ‘ But his rise to fame and popularity was very sharp and spectacular indeed! He definitely had the art of splashing money and influencing people by its blitz. Sure, he won many awards…was honoured by many failing or upcoming organizations, which were definitely and desperately short of funds. He won awards even in the fields where his interest was only superficial or his intentions were only to show few muscles; in the field of art, literature and even in the field of sport and politics too! ‘

‘ Come on! How can be somebody be so successful and more surprisingly so ‘ talented ‘ ? ‘, she asked to herself again.

‘ Easy my dear, Mrs. Watson. Talent is not a gift or an art, it is a business ! ‘
A feeble voice inside replied to her .

‘ Business? Sure, but her business empire is bigger than that of Kiki’s? ‘ She asked herself again.

‘ Well!’, that same persistent voice answered back again. ‘ You do not have the social knacks of it like Kiki, I mean verbal gab or your purse strings are not loose enough like him!’

‘ So what?’ Mrs Sahni was not going to give in, she retorted back.
‘ …….’

But Voices in her head were not easy to suppress.

‘ He played only when his mood allowed, he wrote few lines, when he wanted to impress; mostly copied and pasted from here and there and corrected by others and when the desire to see himself in print got stronger, he got them binded as a book and had a big launch party also of his book where even the tea boys were from media itself. Surely, you guessed it right he got lot of media attention. and he spread the news like fire by word of mouth, for which there was no shortage in his or his wife’s mouth. He got invitation for each and every important function in his town and always made sure that he paid it back with a big pay back. There, he made sure that he stood close to all the V.I.P’s. especially whenever cameras were flashing or the news was splashed on the television and made sure that he slips in at least the name of his book somehow in the conversation. The result was obvious, soon he gained the reputation as a writer extra-ordinaire, without even a single person reading his book. You may ask how he achieved such fame. Simple my dear Watson, he was very accommodative with good food and sweet talks for the right and influential people and carefully selected his friends from the rich famous only. His house was big and his hospitality great and to top up the list he owned a desi sweet shop. Guests used to receive generous gifts of amusing gossips at the end of each satisfying meal. ‘

Soon she sorted out his entangled thoughts and reached a new conclusion.

‘ With his ever increasing and acquired skills of the gab and by being at the right place at the right time, people started to notice him and he became the essential furniture of all the social gatherings in his town. The rich and famous could not avoid him and everybody started to notice him standing next to prominent people only, and those not so famous but aspiring to be famous started to envy him and think that he was very gifted indeed; all this made him very happy and proud of himself . Well at least that is what he thought, till suddenly one day…. news raged like a wild fire all over the village square – ‘Kiki is no more!’’

But why she is thinking so much about Kiki, he is not her rival anymore! Mrs Sahni took a sigh of relief. ‘Thank God for that.’ Then she felt a bit guilty for such a cheap thought and what others will think about her, if they find out what she had been thinking all this time, standing alone in a secluded corner. She hurriedly marched forward to mingle in the crowd.

Everybody was rushing to his house to find out what happened really! How is it possible? –Was it a heart attack…was he poisoned by some jealous admirer..? Every body was restless and curious in that sleepy picturesque village . Even if the news was true how everybody came to know about it; was a mystery indeed!

Was it a plot or a ploy again by him only to be in headlines? May be, it was just one of those numerous pranks, he loved to play ! But to spread the rumour of one’s own death…Only Kiki could have thought of such a macarb humour. but the truth was stranger than any body’s wildest dream; he died laughing in self admiration in front of his own bathroom, to be precise in front of a full size mirror; where his wife found him lying unconscious or dead she was never so sure, till they took him away.

One thing was sure that he wanted to laugh at the entire community because he thought how simpleton people are! How easy it was to put cotton wool all over their eyes and lead them to a rose garden …

Kiki used to say that -all human beings are born fools and how true it was in the context to his death if not his life. She could not help but draw this conclusion, Things would have been all right if he wouldn’t have slipped from his own self glorified path and asked his friends to garland him with real money. He has buttered their palms heavily in that public meeting, so he can be elected as the member of the parliament, which was his next target, if not then at least be recognized for being so popular in the community and get a M.B.E. or O.B.E…some recognition by the Queen…at least a photograph with a smiling queen.

But the only difference was, that this time his tactic backfired and snatched everything from him, even his life.

Kiki used to say that he was a V.I.P. in true sense; economically, socially and professionally…very important person indeed! or a very idiot person…Mrs Sahni wanted to chuckle, but circumstances didn’t permit it, so she pulled out even a longer and sadder face.

She knew people looked up to him for all sorts of advice…at least that is what he would have liked to think about himself. His shop ‘ Kiki da Deshi Dhaba’ was the haunt of all the recent gossips, here in UK.. Whenever any customer used to walk into the shop he used to receive one fresh gossip wrapped with the order, totally free of charge. Evening or morning, in fact from nine in the morning till late at night, Kiki’s shop was the busiest den of unemployed youngsters and retired ‘ manchalas’ from the all walks of life. In fact number of people he knew, swelled so much that his mansion’s hall couldn’t contain all the visitors who gathered there for mourning that morning…

All sorts of rumours were flying around. One said that he hob-nobbed with the rich and famous all the time. Not only he had tea with the Queen , that the Indian Prime Minister invited him to supper because he was from the same village of Punjab and they even attended the same school. Kiki enjoyed the gossip more because only he knew that he never went to any school and the guy, who was obviously his pal, was not the Prime Minister of India, but only shared the same name . School was as far from his life as the word ‘education’. Only Kiki’s wife knew the truth but she kept mum.

On that fateful morning he was intending to be busy as usual, in his useless important rounds of morning visits, visiting the famous and rich; helping them walk their dogs or make a cup of coffee or even attending or arranging numerous parties for their wives. After all this if any time would have been left, he would have drowned his empty hours with a glass of whiskey with all those important and rich in his vicinity . He didn’t use to like to attend his shop anymore. Anyway, his shop was doing better without him ; because he had now called all his relatives from the Punjab, and employed them in his Dhaba . Even Mrs Sahni admired his managerial skills.

That morning, things were very hectic indeed. All his relatives were there and giving their own invaluable suggestions. Should it be a hymn or the funkiest and latest tune played at the procession; views were as different, as the people gathered around. After all Kiki was no ordinary person and he can not depart from this world like any other Tom, Dick or Harry. That person in the netaji attire was ringing the police that a famous man has died so he wants some extra traffic control for the morning around his road because the traffic is expected to be very busy around his road. And his wife was busy arranging the flowers outside the drive, with the strictest instructions to the Caretaker, not to take any flowers to the cremetorium or old people’s home. She would prefer to arrange them in her drive , along with all the cards. So every body could see and read them, while coming and going .

The moment arrived, and they took him like any other corpse. Cars easily passed through the zigzag of cones; no police man was around and no policeman was required. People poured their hearts out. Even the neighbour who was fed up with his rowdy late night parties, wrote a lovely poem about his various experiences as a neighbour of Kiki and even showed a few Bhangra’ steps which he managed to learn by watching his innumerable garden parties .

Lots of people who used to gossip at his shop came on the dias and told how much they will miss him and how good he was in spreading rumours and manufacturing lies on the spot about anybody and anything; a necessary skill to survive in today’s modern competitive and boring world. How his company was the biggest fun of all the times.

Now it was his only daughter Neema’s turn. She put the biggest wreath imaginable on the coffin and started her homage- Father Dear father,… then she burst out in tears and stepped down, saying , ‘ No, I can not go on like this any more.’

Every body was touched by her grief. Standing in a corner, crying bitterly, she was very-very upset indeed.

When comforted by Mrs. Sahni , she retorted back –

‘ Don’t you understand, He played games with us all his life. He was nothing but a self obsessed pig. He had no time for us. God knows, how he used to annoy me with his semi- jocular attitude and aspirations. Even to die he chose a day, which was very inconvenient for all of us. Imagine, he had to die when I was going out on my first date with my boyfriend and Mommy had her monthly appointment with the beautician! You see, he never had any consideration for anybody else but himself. Could he have not chosen a better day for all this! How can I forgive him for doing this to me? Should he not have waited one day more, just for our sake…His family’s sake!’

Mrs . Sahni was speechless …She wanted to comfort his daughter, befriend her, after all, she herself wasn’t the biggest fan of Kiki. But before even she could heave a sigh or utter a word to her, something unbelievable and unthinkable happened, she heard Kiki laughing loud from his mahogany based, silk wrapped coffin ; Good heavens! She sighed.
She doesn’t know about the others in the room, but she surely did see it! It is still hard to believe for her that Kiki is really no more!
Shail Agrawal

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