The Fartanic Curses by Mahesh Ramchandani

Once upon a time in the land of Golimba, on the banks of the lazy, meandering Qarahar river, there lived a writer by the name of Roger Roshid. Or was it Raja Rush? Or even Rajab Rafiq? No one knew for sure for he responded to all names. He was a big, tall man, bigger than a tractor, taller than the tallest refrigerator, and a fine writer. Raja could do magical things with words: light things, heavy things, funny things, bright, shining things and more. In the winter, he made people feel warm with his stories, and in the summer the people who came to hear his stories went home with their hands in their pockets feeling cool all over. Small, short people felt big after hearing his tales, the meek felt strong, the strong humble—such was the power of his tales. They loved his small, kind eyes and the way he laughed. It is said that lifeless batteries, clocks and small gadgets that had stopped functioning came to life when he laughed, television sets became brighter and transistors clearer.

'He has so many things inside of him,' the people said about Roger, 'and that is why he is so tall and big.' He told them about faraway cities where the people could fly, the machines could talk, he told them about birds that could perform complex mathematical equations, roads that moved instead of the vehicles on them, and many other magic things that they could not imagine in their wildest fancy. This made them happy, because all was not well in the city of Golimba and the people needed some diversion from the many things that made them sad. The rulers were corrupt and mean, the people had become meek and now many had started to become cruel and uncaring. Even the land had started to become dry and the lazy Qarahar flowed with much sluggishness and reluctance, for her body had become slow and heavy with the pollutants from the many mostly useless things the merchants made in collusion with the rulers.


The other thing that gave them solace, besides the stories of Raja, was the big, dark image of the Lord Fooga-Fooga on Mount Rindig in the heart of Golimba. The people prayed to Lord Fooga-Fooga and begged for succour and mercy. The image of Lord Fooga-Fooga was darker than the night, his eyes were the red of a traffic signal, his anger worse than the roar of twenty trucks and it was said that all those who spoke ill about him would be destroyed by thunder and lightning that crackled out of his navel and arse. Many such stories were built around Lord Fooga-Fooga by the priests who ran the temple to keep the Golimbans in check and to get them to put their money into the temple box. Roshid knew and so did the Golimbans that the priests of the Fooga-Fooga temple blew up all the money in the box on gambling, drinking and pornographic films even as they exhorted the people to refrain from doing the same.


When the priests and rulers are mean, corrupt and two-faced, it is but a matter of time before the people become mean, corrupt and two-faced, and it is but a matter of time before disease and germs, floods and earthquakes come to destroy them forever. It was to throw some light on this evil that was sweeping through the land that Roger decided to write a story which he would call 'The Fartanic Curses'. He hoped people would read it because he feared more and more people were turning to television instead of reading, which in itself was not bad except for the stories and advertisements made by the businessmen and the rulers who wanted the people to buy the mostly useless things they were making.


'The Fartanic Curses' was a scathing satire in which Raja Rush took the pants off the priests who ran the Fooga-Fooga temple.


This is how Roshid's story of Fooga-Fooga went: 'Fooga-Fooga was no God but an insurance salesman with a foul digestion problem. Due to this problem he fouled up the air wherever he went, as a result of which he could not sell many insurance policies. Now, Fooga-Fooga had to survive as we all must, and so he told the people that he was blessed and he could create lightning from his navel and his arse. The people, bored of their humdrum lives and their drudgery, always eager to see a new trick, invited him to a demonstration. On that particular day Fooga-Fooga's stomach was violently upset and as he let it rip, the reaction following the laws of nature, in that every action must have an equal and opposite reaction, caused him to go whooshing out of the fifth floor balcony and onto the road below. Furniture was destroyed, expensive crockery ruined and the smell lasted for months on end.


"Fooga-Fooga can fly," his PR person told the audience, "and if we don't obey and respect him, the smell from his noble being will linger here for years and destroy all the fruits and vegetables in a radius of 20 kilometres, and birds that will fly this way will drop dead. Animals will go mad, people will start speaking in languages no one understands, and machinery will rust overnight."


'Word got around that Fooga-Fooga could leap off the top of tall 50-storey buildings—indeed, he could fly—without a scratch on his body, the lightning from his navel and arse could destroy entire cities like a nuclear bomb and, as a reminder of this, the pleasant rose-flavoured aroma from his noble and almighty person would suffuse the premise from which he had gone flying for years together.


'Although the smell faded away in seven days, the people who came there actually claimed that they could smell roses for years after that eventful day. There's nothing some good advertising and a clever fucking PRO can't pull off. To this day, Fooga-Fooga is feared and respected although all he was, was an insurance salesman, an ordinary man just like us, god bless his soul, with a few powers, and if we chose, we could all be powerful for all of us are made in the image of God.'


This was basically the story Raja wrote.


When the priests and other loyal followers of Lord Fooga-Fooga read 'The Fartanic Curses', they freaked out. 'We have no other choice but to terminate this man, this story-teller who has tarnished and tainted the name of our Mighty and Noble and Benevolent and Kind Holiness Lord Fooga-Fooga of the multitudinous aromas,' the head priest of the temple announced, as he continued to scratch and play with his vitals inside his dhoti, which is what pleased him most after he had just finished watching a double-X soft porn movie, in this case a film called 'Orny Onita'


The word was out. Roger was a marked man; there was a reward of many rupees on his head, and the people who were ignorant, cruel, confused and also very broke took to the streets with guns and knives in their hands. To inaugurate their frenzy, they burnt a few buses and taxis as was the custom in those days regarding the inauguration of a frenzy. They also burnt copies of his books. Of course, Raja had his supporters as well as well-wishers in the media who protected him from the wrath that was pursuing him. They put the story on the front pages of their papers and in the prime time stories on their television, and garnered much public sympathy for him.


Perhaps this was not wholly a good thing, for if a man wishes to change the world, then he must be willing to die. Because the common folk love the dead because dead people are easy to deify and lionise. Raja was not willing to die. He loved life and he loved many things: good food, fast cars, the occasional glass of wine, the rare cigarette, rock and roll music.


Fate, however, had other plans, for a time of renewal and regeneration was at hand and a life would have to be sacrificed. One evening, after spending many years in hiding, as he attended a rock concert, a fierce looking man sent out a fast bullet from a dark gun and it went through Roger's chest.


Roger or Raja or Rajab or whatever his name was went away without much pain and was buried without much fanfare, because of the fear that there would be riots and the like. Roger wouldn't have liked that, for he was a man of peace. There was much breast-beating and wailing and crying, the world expressed its shock and the murder drove a lot of otherwise indifferent and fringe-fanatic people to do some serious soul-searching. It seemed like reason and goodness had reared their heads again, and even the men who were incensed by the book Roshid had written were repentant. For a man will say one thing in a state of anger and make many vows and promises, but it is quite another thing to act upon it and bear its consequences.


In the following years, several books were written about Roger and several publishers came out with collections of his stories, because Roger was a much-liked man and had many friends. Besides, the publishing industry had a good thing on its hands and decided to milk it for all it was worth. The legend of Raja Roshid, or even Roger Rush, grew and grew, people in different lands heard tales of his story-telling abilities. Roger, the exaggerated word got around, was a magician and besides telling the most fantastic stories also had the capacity to communicate with birds and animals, and could turn water and even piss into petrol. Oh, he could walk on water, said others who claimed their grand-uncles and others to be good friends of Raja Rush. Roger started to stand for all that he had opposed and despised when he was alive. His birthday and death anniversary were celebrated in several big cities as his voice now came to be the voice of the man who died for the underdog; a man, no ordinary man this, they said, who could walk on water and talk to birds and had given up his life for the sake of ordinary people such as clerks, accountants, blue-collar workers, industrial labourers, textile workers and the like. They sent cards to each other on Roger Day and sales of cards were high.


It took many years and before you knew it Roshid-ism was almost like a religion. People swore by it, lived by it, quoted Roshid-isms at parties and social gatherings and there was even a meditation technique called Transcendental Roshidification that could help you get in touch with your higher self.


The book that became really big was 'Roger's experiences on Mount Ringit'. It was an interpretation of 'The Fartanic Curses', which was not a book of fiction but was actually an account of Raja's miraculous experiences and learnings through personal meetings, encounters and seances with an angel who had told him the whole truth about the Lord Fooga-Fooga of the Multitudinous Aromas. Of course, all this was bullshit. 'Fartanic Curses' was pure fiction. The book was the handiwork of one Kirpal Batata, a television repair and service engineer who had fallen on hard times and decided to get into the book-publishing business.


Batata had no talent whatsoever and could not even emit volumes of gas as Fooga-Fooga could, so he hit upon another plan. He decided to resurrect himself by cashing in on the Roshid phenomenon. For he knew one thing and he knew it well, that words are like snakes and over a period of time they shed their skins and become like new and different things, much unlike and far removed from what they were. And if a man can play with them, he can make them into tools for a play of shadows and light. Roger Rush became big and so did Kirpal Batata. His coffers were soon overflowing and he was now the proud owner of a fleet of many long, shining cars. To keep the industry alive, actually, to keep the religion alive, he made up stuff about Roger Roshid and put them out into the market—Letters from Roger to his mother, The hidden letters, The diaries of Raja, The spiritual splendour and glory of the Illumined Roger, The adventures of Raja, The Further adventures of Roger, The Roger Meditation Technique in five minutes and so on and so forth. Sales were brisk; people like to believe impossible things about dead people.


All this infuriated the young writer, Felusha, whose late great grand-uncle, Aunragh Frunshum, a Golimbian himself at one time, and the only true friend of Raja Roshid, had in his possession the only one book Roger had written in his lifetime. He wished to expose Batata for the hoax he was. Batata was now a big businessman and had interests and stakes in every major enterprise in the world. He was also well-connected with politicians and leading gangsters who ran the country from other countries. People feared and respected Batata, and although he had no special powers it was said that Batata could have sex with ten women, and some said it was twenty-five, one after the other. He could also wipe out like a bug if he wished, it was said, anybody in any corner of the earth. Perhaps these were rumours, but Batata was indeed powerful.


"The Real Roger Rush" is what Felusha's book was called and it was an account of a man who loved a good story and a good glass of wine. Felusha wrote about the industry that had sprung up around him after his death and the vested interests that stood to gain from it. It told the whole real story. The people were raging mad at the denigration of a man, no, not just a man, a special being, an illumined master, whom the Roshidians held in great awe and esteem. He, Felusha, a nobody, a mere scribe, has turned our Mighty and Benevolent and Kind and Illumined Raja Roshid of the Ability to Converse with Birds into an ordinary mortal. Shame on him, they cried, his time has come. Death to Felusha, they shouted and took to the streets, and as was the age-old custom that had been handed down by their forefathers they burnt a few buses, some taxicabs and copies of 'The Real Roger Rush'. Felusha didn't want to die, for he too loved life and the truth as all good men do. But it was a time of renewal and regeneration and fate had other plans for Felusha. Someone would have to be sacrificed.


One day, while Felusha was playing pool with his friends in a suburban parlour, a hot, angry bullet left the smoking mouth of a dark gun to seek him out...




Mahesh Ramchandani is a freelance writer for television, based in Mumbai, and has been associated with stand-up and sketch comedy shows such as Movers and Shakers and The Great Indian Comedy Show. He has also worked as features writer for several newspapers including The Sunday Times and Business Standard. His collection of humour writing is available in the form of a book Bheja Fry For The Soul.