Bridge to Global Literature

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Jesus – Lopa Ghosh

Sep 3, 2021 | Fiction | 1 comment

Late evening at the Plough. A Nürnberg stove warmed with the last rays of sun keeps the tavern toasty. Drink of the day, a rhodendron and mandragora punch is passed around. Sitas, Jagritis and Dharinis have assembled after a full day at the La Recolte, their pockets still full of wheat ears and husks of the much coveted Equal Rice. Dressed in the finest dew and dust spuns, they are debating the redundancy of organizations bearing French names. It is evident that they are all regulars here.

In walks a stranger, imperious, reed thin, hair like the ocean . Heads turn. She seems to have travelled by foot. Her clothes are the rarest last edition silk. Dearly expensive in another world, considered undemocratic and of poor taste in this one.

She gets herself a drink. Quickly finishes it and gets another, slams down her mug setting off motes of dust. There is a break in the chatter. Quite a few recognize her now, though she has lost a lot of weight and the characteristic rosy shine is quite gone. Nevertheless, it is she, for sure. The eyes and the fingers, eroded from all the soothing, unmistakably messiah quality. A general hum spreads. That stops when she speaks out again.

I am out of work, your beloved Jesus is out of work. Not a single assignment these days. Dull, dull, bloody dull. What is this world? Full of peace and contentment. Do you realize what an equalizer we have created? Now there will be no more songs, no art, no love. It’s all on the table. Equitably distributed as it were.

She downs another glass of rhodendron and mandragora. Asks for an extra zest of peyote. After that outburst she doesn’t seem to be in a mood to say more. How embarrassing when the savior needs saving, her days of fame and glory over. During the decade long eclipse, after the Fourth Time War, she led everyone by the finger through the darkest passage of the universe. In Babylon, she rebuilt a temple of vision and hope which grew taller and taller. Its spires shone with the light of reflected love, dispelling shadows far and wide. Under those towers, which attracted star fires from other galaxies, wounds were healed. People wishing to be blinded, so tired they were of the dark, found never ending equatorial noon. And then the earth calmed down, its belly soothed after a million years. The sun came out of its own dust.

No one remembers huh? she rambles again. Those early dark days when all of you came screaming to me. The earth centred itself around my towers, the Babylon I recreated for all you infidels.

It was the light we came for. Not you.

Who is that now? Jesus demands.

A Sita, a very dazzling Sita with hair as endless as the tundra, a million twilights glowing, speaks up.

So who created that intergalactic light? Jesus wants to know. If not me that is…

The Cruxians surely?

The very Cruxians whose craft failed to take off because, hold your breath, it failed to power up. That obsolete group who believed in the old ways of science.

Whatever their methods, doesn’t matter. It is a fact that they found a way to harness star power and that saved this planet.

Under my guidance. Because I gave them courage. I was their experimental frog, mind you. The first particles of intergalactic power were beamed on my body. Everyone called it radiation. I poof poofed those petty murmurings and named it Comray. The comely Comray you people composed slogans and songs for on the radio. Those rays gave me an itch and a permanent shine. Ended up looking like a disco ball. Honestly!

But you benefitted from the shine.

What do you have against me Sita?

I was devoted to you once. Passionately in love with you like so many of us. Had a poster of you on my wall. And then you became God. You wrote a goddamn book of scriptures.

It’s not the same as your run of the mill Bible or Quran, don’t you get it? It’s a new world. We needed rules, some sort of a compass.

Same as Moses thought back in the day. A promised land. The wrath of a figurehead to keep the cattle in a row.

Look Ms. Sita, evidently you don’t read. If you did you would know that I simply wrote a constitution for the new world that was to be governed by your lot. Would you rather have a post-God world collapsing into lawlessness?

We don’t need law. We don’t need police. We are a universal conscience. The good always balancing the not so good.

A longish silence ensues. Jesus toys with her glass. That was the beginning of the end. The book of scriptures – an ambitious project during which she confined herself on the plinth floor of the Babylon Tower. Meticulously she laid down rights, entitlements, definitions, and revised etymologies. Her favorite was the section on profit which seemed to be the epicenter of everything else – greed, love, responsibility. With profit gone, in a non-market setting, how do you keep hope and drama alive? She spent days writing furiously. And yet at the end of it, the five-thousand-page long book, made it amply clear to her, that she was merely a symbol. Which apparently was still a necessity. Although it ought not to be, she thought, if power had truly ended. When she came out of her writing hibernation, the world had shifted already. Crowds outside the Babylon Tower had thinned. News filtered in that the sun was coming out. The world stabilized and she was forgotten.

What’s your name?

I am a Sita.

Yeah that I can see.

Well if you are abreast with latest developments you would know that Sitas have decided to forego names.

Even first names?

Yup dude. Even that. We are all Sita.

But I thought Sita was what described your job at the Space Research.

Uh uh. That’s why I say, you have no people connect. Head in the clouds too much. Sitas are the ultimate convertors. We are specialists from all walks of life. Our job is to calibrate everything back to its pure form – with the Sita index as our guide.

You stole my job. In the ideal world you ought to have been my apostles.

This is the new ideal – we have no copyrights or institutions Ms. Jesus. And btw, you changed your name. I liked the old name, more followable it was, when you were Isa.

Isa is more gender neutral.

Huh now look who is talking? Gender is abolished. Where is the question of neutrality?

Now it was getting nasty, so the other Sitas and Dharinis intervened. After all she was our Jesus. Be kind. Perhaps we should ask for a dole for her or put her on a board of something or the other.

People drift back to their own islands of friendly conversations. In walks Medusa. Causes some stares even today. Her special eye is now powered with inter galactic photons from the distant stars. No longer used to stare back at men, who have lost the gaze for good, it now functions as a photosynthetic booster for crops. Jesus and she are old friends. They greet each other.

Come Isa, join our party.

I am not wanted.

Come now, don’t sulk.

The party picks up pace. Regular customers who want a bit of quiet, leave. Others join. Its open for all. An end of harvest party. Happening everywhere – starting from the new Babylon to the fields of Tibet.

Three Harlots have joined the party, taking time off their busy schedule. They arrive on wind powered sails, reinforced with inter galactic photons for speed. Make quite a splash. Harlots live in the clouds. Must dream unfettered about the future, about solutions.

One of them raise a toast – Cheers to a full granary! To a rested and bounteous earth! To complete happiness. To a decade without currency!

Hear hear they say clicking their cups.

The music is delicious. An imagined frequency. Beyond the auditory capabilities of the much-evolved human ear. But it is playing – there is music. Real instruments are a luxury. A symbol. Too much metal is wasted in producing them. So, at the party there is lunar music – a symphony of tidal waves and moon shadows. Medusa is really committed to what has been achieved. She moves on to the dance floor and sways.

Jesus stands in a corner scowling. From the shadows, agitprop Sita approaches her again.

Not dancing Jessie?

By unicow! You gave me a fright!

Sorry. But I was curious. What do you think of the music?

I am Jesus so I can say it without seeming to be irreverent – and this is exactly why you need me – this music is shit. There is no music. It’s all naked air.

For a while the agitprop Sita is silent. Then she murmurs: I agree.

You do? But I thought you hate me, Jesus who was Isa says almost petulantly.

Ah that’s another matter. As I get to know you more, I find myself wondering at the golden flecks in your eyes. And I find it so archaic and charming that you have kept your breasts.

Of course, I have. My best feature. I fed my child from these breasts. They give me joy when I open them to the breeze.

You know how they told us at the beginning, breasts are appendages. They slow you down. They prevent perfection. Breasts are cumbersome. Mass mastectomies took place. I felt at that time…I won’t deny….

That you were punishing yourselves, that a mastectomy is an amputation. It leaves scars, reduces arm function, messes with your balance, Jesus finishes her thoughts.

They stand in silence for a while.

How does it feel? Sita wants to know.

Jesus observes the agit girl who doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave. Impressive torso! Bright red lips, smelling of pomegranate.

What feels what?

This – being Jesus, but someone else is chief guest and no one noticing. Famous once, now depressed. Can’t work the crowd. Why are you here? If truth be told…

I thought we don’t do truth anymore – your world that doesn’t need me did away with truth.

Well whatever… Agit girl on backfoot.

My truth? One amongst many truths? I was depressed as hell for sure. Suicidal. Wanted to chuck myself down from the tower. All this contentment, this peace, this slowness is making me miserable. There is no real art anymore, no anguish, no longing. I was gene engineered you see, in the pre-world where there was chaos. I have a daughter somewhere with her Exquisite Mother. She is so happy she doesn’t need me. And then I got a message that my road shows are now cancelled. So, I set out. What the hell!

Medusa joins them.

Nice to see you making friends Isa.

A fight erupts on the dance floor – between a Sita and a Harlot. Biggest scandal in a decade if it gets out. But it won’t. And the fight will dissipate as there is nothing to hold a grudge for.

Don’t worry, Medusa says knowingly. Sita over there used to be a much sought-after Harlot. But had to resign, abdicate, first time in our history. Apparently when an epidemic broke out in the Year of the Lotus – the carefully preserved permafrost dissolved releasing germs of the past – she was put on emergency duty as the primary guardian. Had to slip into the problem-solving dream. But failed. Tried doping, which as you know is illegal. Cost a few lives. I guess she regrets that once in a while. Maybe they are arguing over methods.

Well, she seems happy now. As a Sita. At least she has a job, fiddling with real life situations.

Once again the music, the dance. After a while they disperse. Most of them will have to rise at dawn, field workers and Sitas alike. Only Harlots are not bound to time. Everyone said cheerio and either set out on foot – lovely night, purple moon, a thousand species of flowers in bloom spreading a scent that causes delirious happiness – or took a wind sail. Only Jesus remained. And with her Sita, the agitprop one.

Don’t know why I keep calling you that, Jesus thinks aloud. Agitprop Sita.

They kiss in the moonlight. Under the robes, silk and dust spun, their bodies erupt. A warm trickle of love juice, the throbbing.

I must go find a reason to be, Jesus says, breaking away.

Come, Sita holds out her hand. With me.

They run. An Azadi from the pre world is parked secretly in the woods.

These things? Are they allowed?

Only some left. We use it.

We who?

Why, the Agitprop surely! Sita smiles.

They fly like an unmoored kite. Weightless. With the speed of thought. And land far away in a circular field. Where millions are gathered, keening, screaming, drumming. An oasis of light shimmering with all sorts of contraband items – paper, and electric lights and everything we have fought to leave behind.

It is a piece of land that seems to be caught in some sort of time cusp. Women, politicians, men who haven’t lost the gaze, students, office goers from a time when offices existed and money, little notes and coins to buy hot tea and posters and pamphlets. There was so much paper, a storm of paper.

And the pain of centuries. All in one place. The wails. People without countries. The lost flock.

And there is Magdalene, Mary, Ruth, Rabia, Walladah, Maryam, Zainab, Israa. Sorrow flows like the Ganges. Some wrongs can never be made right. Some wrongs are a memorial.

Welcome to Shaheen Bagh[1] Jesus.

Isa born again Jesus is dancing.

Music, actual music, oh Sita! And real tears. I could work here, have a go again at being Isa.

See, I saved you after all. This is my little secret. The garden of protest. Come let’s have tea. When was the last time you bought yourself a cup of tea Isa?

[1] Shaheen Bagh is a neighborhood in New Delhi where thousands of Muslim women sat in protest. As a resistance movement against the divisive and intolerant Citizenship Act swept across India, these women endured bitter cold, bullets, and threats. They spoke to the world through music, theatre and loud cheers of democracy and secularism.

Lopa Ghosh is an author and social change campaigner. Her first book, a short story collection titled ‘Revolt of the Fish Eaters,’ was published by HarperCollins India in 2012. It is set in a corporate dystopia with an unusual cast of characters – ghosts, communists, Siberian oil men.Her work has appeared in an anthology of erotic fiction, ‘Alchemy: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories’ (Westland Books) and in ‘The Best Asian Speculative Fiction’, (Kitaab).
In her other life, Lopa is a communication and development practitioner.
Lopa has post graduate degrees from London School of Economics and Jadavpur University.

1 Comment

  1. Urmila Daagupta

    Loved the read. Quick and easy. But poignant and so very thought provoking. Thank you for a lovely time.


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