Wednesday, January 5, 2011

King Vikram Goes on Vacation


It was morning. The sun was shining and it seemed very unlikely that it was going to rain. There were no ghouls in sight. And yet, King Vikram had plenty of demons raising havoc inside him. His salary hadn't been paid yet. He wanted to take leave and go on vacation, but the Vetal told him that this would mean LoP. His bills hadn't been reimbursed either. Should he quit? For how long would he do this pointless job of carrying a corpse back and forth? Did anyone care? Why was he wasting his life thus? Maybe he ought to become a freelancer and carry some other corpses for a change.

King Vikram found himself bang in the middle of an existential crisis. He went to meet the Vetal. But before he could open his mouth, the Vetal said: "O King! I'm so glad you are here. I was just beginning to get lonely in my cubicle. Let me now tell you a most boring moral story that runs for 15 pages. Listen!" King Vikram wanted to protest, but the shiny HR plate on the Vetal's polished table stopped him. He could see his face reflected on it. King Vikram was a sucker for symbolism. He knew that his fate depended on the Vetal. He'd to listen to the Vetal's most boring moral story that ran for 15 pages.

The Vetal spoke: "In a kingdom far away, there lived a bunch of people who had very strange beliefs. They believed that working for a living was tantamount to killing one's soul. They believed that a person ought to do only what interested him or her. Fishing one day, kite flying the next.

They would each bring food that they were able to bring according to their own ability. For instance, Subramaniam would bring the vadam and Mustafa would bring the biryani. Omanakutty would bring stew that she called ishtoo. Then, everyone would eat lunch according to their need. After this, they would have a long siesta. Since they believed Marriage was evil (the other evil item on the list was America), anybody could sleep with anybody and nobody ever 'owned' the other person. The concept of family was pooh-poohed. Everybody was liberated. You could take vacations whenever you wanted to."

King Vikram wanted to interject at this timely moment and bring up the question of his own vacation. But the Vetal ignored him superbly and went on: "There was so much contentment in this kingdom that God was jealous. Moreover, these people did not even believe in him to start with. So God called in a consultant. His name was Satan and he charged God a whopping fee. Now God was assured that something good would come out of this.

Satan went to the kingdom and announced that he was going to give everyone presents for being so awesome. The people asked him, 'Will each of us get the same thing with no differences at all?' Satan nodded. His red eyes smiled. The people were happy. They were going to get the same presents. It didn't matter if they were lousy as long as they were the same. When they opened their presents, they found themselves staring at a strange machine. 'What are these?' asked the people. 'Computers,' said Satan. 'I'll see you later!'

Then, he swiftly made a getaway.

The people began using the computers. They were fascinated. They could now read about fishing and kite flying and watch videos of the same instead of just doing them. They could play fishing and kite flying games too. They were fascinated.

After a week, Satan came once again. 'Are you happy with your presents?' he asked. 'Yes!' screamed the people. 'Good!' grinned Satan. 'Because I have better news. I'm going to pay you now for sitting before the computers!'

'Will we get the same amount no matter for how long we sit before the computer?' asked a smartass (the trade union type, scoffed the Vetal). 'Of course!' beamed Satan. 'But what will we do with the money?' screeched a heavily bearded man. 'Karl, you simply have no idea!' smiled Satan. Then, he twirled his fingers and out of thin air, there appeared a mall. The people gasped. There was a shop that sold fish and a shop where you could fly kites on a screen using a joystick.

So, the people sat before the computers and got paid. They explored the mall and were fascinated. Soon, they began ordering things from the mall while sitting before their computers. That way, they could multi-task (the Vetal smiled here. It was his favourite word).

The next week, Satan came down again and said, 'I'm so happy to see all of you so immersed in your computers. All of you are looking fat and beautiful!' The people smiled like children. 'Now,' said Satan smoothly, 'How would you like it if I paid you a bonus? Apart from your regular pay for parking your ass in front of the computer, I'll pay you extra if you sit for an extra number of hours. Say, if you sit there after 5 PM.' The people loved it. Except Karl. He grumbled inside his beard but nobody heard him.

Soon, everyone was trying to see who could sit before their computers for the longest. The bigger their bonuses grew, the more the mall glowed. The next week, Satan came down and announced, 'From now on, I'm going to pay you according to your work. Everybody is going to get a different pay!' Satan was a little nervous but he needn't have been. Because the people loved it. 'Finally!' they yelled. They were tired of being equal.

Satan whispered in each person's ear how much they were going to get. 'And remember,' he said, 'you are getting the highest, so don't tell the others or they'll get jealous.' And so, the people of the kingdom sat before their computers. In a few months, the kingdom had a hundred malls and one gym where the people of the kingdom went occasionally when they wanted to fit into their pants for a special occasion. Like a buffet lunch hosted by their office.

Though they had everything, whenever, wherever, they wanted it, the people of the kingdom were sometimes sad. In long evenings, when the sun never seemed to set, a yellow malaise sat in their hearts and they dreamed of going fishing.

They prayed to God for peace. And God was happy."

The Vetal paused in his narration: "O King, tell me now. Why weren't the people of the kingdom happy? They had everything, whenever, wherever, they wanted it. And yet, they couldn't be happy. Why so?"

King Vikram said, "The answer is simple, O Vetal. Jobs make people miserable. They prevent people from taking vacations. They kill your soul. They make you feel cheap and unappreciated."

The Vetal said, "What sort of communist bullshit is this? O King, you are fired."

Lightning struck King Vikram's heart. He was now free to go on vacation. But he wouldn't get LoP. Because he had no job.

King Vikram was devastated.


BindAss said...

Obviously you have the experience to write about Job(s)...

Saya said...


Anonymous said...

Gambhiram! Adipoli!!

CMCK said...

communist bullshit!! LOL!!
amazing post GB!

Minka said...

Lovely ! Boo Hoo - I want to stop having to drag my carcass to office everyday as well.

Bharathi said...

someone said, "there are only two disasters in this world. one is not getting what you want and the other is getting that"

I could recollect this when I am reading this post.

Nice one. as usual.


Raj said...

Loved the screenplay and choice of characters. A short movie someday, maybe?

artnavy said...


Vibha said...

Excellent plot and and wonderfully presented.

Uncle Srini said...

"Though they had everything, whenever, wherever, they wanted it, the people of the kingdom were sometimes sad. In long evenings, when the sun never seemed to set, a yellow malaise sat in their hearts and they dreamed of going fishing. " - what a line is that!? And that's the sort of lesson or two in prose I was speaking of when referring to you in my pre-New Year post.

I have always struggled to feel the necessary sort of impact when I write short stuff; or perhaps it is my delusion and I should try something and see what readers have to say.

Oops... sorry for the me-bragging :D Really loved the piece, the symbolism and the way you have captured civilisational angst in the context of modern profession. Kudos GB, for this and many more to come! :)

The final line was typical GB stuff :D

Uncle Srini said...

And oh yes the strict editor amma has the habit of churning out writes which makes one feel good from time to time - in addition to the ones which brim with wit and/or sarcasm unsurpassed :D

CW said...

Brilliant piece of writing! Karl indeed!

vishesh said...

communist bullshit :P

Love this. is this a random story or is there a reason for this?

GB said...

@BindAss- Sure do, bro :D

@Saya, Anon, CMCK- Thanks!

@Minka- Don't we all! Where's the Revolution, I say!

@Bharathi- I actually do know what I want exactly and I think I'll be very happy when I get it. It involves me having a lot of money and owning a publishing house with fat cats asleep in the courtyard.

@Raj- Why not? You produce it, ok?

@Art, Vibha- Thanks much!

@Ungil Srini- I've struggled with writing long pieces of prose for many years...I think blogging helped me overcome that. I've not written poetry in ages though I was really comfortable with it when I started out. Not that I was Keats or something :D

@CW- Thangoo!

@Vishesh- I've been writing Vikram Vetal stories at work and it was pissing me off :D

chandrima said...

wonderful! and your dream of owing a publishing house is great one!

Raj said...

Done. A deal in favor to fulfill my prior request on GB service :P

Ramya said...

This was brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Hey! looks like I know this Karl for quite sometime, also the not so humane HR person.
" The country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future" said the former 'ages ago'. And we see cubicles whenever, where ever.He was sure that capital is independent and has individuality in a bourgeois society, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality.No wonder HR man prefers virtual holidays.And the class difference is obvious when the king and the Vetal speak.Why should the king be devastated?He has nothing to lose but his corpses.
As for fishing, kite flying etc, why even a simple but important small job like cupboard cleaning
can restore the soul.
Happy Pongal vacation!

nmagesh said...

I can see parallels from vivek comedy, Wall-E, communist manifesto, the bible and of course vikram vetal - that is possibly the most unlikeliest sentence ever - and that is meant as a compliment!

The Visitor said...

Written well with the trade-mark GB flavour.

I actually do know what I want exactly and I think I'll be very happy when I get it. It involves me having a lot of money and owning a publishing house with fat cats asleep in the courtyard.

I doubt it (that anyone knows what they want); it is the mirage of life.

Mama - Mia said...

sigh! story of our lives, eh?

but where would i read this awesome blog if not for the computer! i know, not the point. but still!

LOVED this one too.


BabaJain said...

Such a simple yet eloquent post. Loved it!

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