She said, Sir-ji, my name is Surpanakha. And I need a new er … card. A sort of Aadhar.
He said, but here it says, Surpa-.
Sir-ji, that was after my nose was chopped off … A bit of my name, and a bit of my nose was chopped off … Shall I show you my nose … It is the most discussed nose on this planet …
No, no, no. Please wear your ghunghat. Behave yourself. Stand in that queue …
Sir-ji, I stand behind this bonded labourer who works in a coal mine?
And in front of this manual scavenger?
He said, Be quiet.
Sir-ji, I need a new er … card. A sort of Aadhar … Please do hurry.
Sir-ji, are you mocking me because I look like a Rakshasi and a demon-ness? I may be unpleasant and my face resembles the moon with craters and meteors, and my belly is as swollen, and as bloated as your ego … See this, it is my hair, made of Zircon … The oldest surviving metal on this planet … harder than glass and steel … If you sell my hair, you can become a millionaire. O, Sir-ji why do you have a frown?
Silence, woman. We have zero decibel rules here.
Sir-ji. Don’t under-estimate me, just because I am a geriatric and have toothless teeth … I have dentures made of sedimentary rocks …
Woman, I will throw you out. Remember no rations for you without UID.
Oho, just because I am a widow, you treat me thus. Once, I was a pretty young thing. I chose to marry the person of my choice. If you look really carefully, I had pretty eyelashes and pretty lower lips. That day, I was at the local mela. I saw Vidyutjihva get off a bus. He walked up to me like a panther on puss. He said he was from the Kalkeya Danava clan. About our future he had a plan. He touched my ear lobe, he tapped my nose. In return I sang an Asura song for him with a nasal pose. All because of this nostrilised nose.
No, not you.
Oh. Anyway, we got married. And like most weddings on this land, including Big Brother’s, it was unhappy, kind of melancholic. Of course, I knew all his hanky panky. I looked the other way. Even though it was happening under my nose … Yes, Sir-ji, this same nose.
Will you be quiet? I need to jot down the details of these students in the fifth standard of a government primary school!
They haven’t got their scholarships this year.
Their names are wrongly spelt on their Aadhar cards. Their parents are agricultural labourers.
Sir-ji, my father was an Asura. His nose was longer than mine. Have you heard of him? No? Never?
These are my eleven children.
Eleven children? Yours?
Yes, Sir-ji. They were born after Vidyutjihva was dead. My Big Brother put the Ravana-astra into his left nostril and he bled to death. That’s how I became a widow, Sir-ji. But I love my husband. For the past five thousand five hundred fifty five years, I have been faithful. Look. I have a fresco of his nose on my ankle. I need consoling, oh Sir-ji. Hold my hand. Pat my back. Even though I am a demon-ness and I have never cried.
Lunch break, Sir-ji? What about my Aadhaar and the Aadhaar of my eleven children?
Children? You have no child as per our records.
See these children have been born to me. Like stromatolites. Like single celled cyanobacteria. Like a miracle …
These are not children, these are handmade wooden puppets.
So, what? Sir-ji, you can’t let a simple unscientific detail like that come in the way of issuing their Aadhaar card?
Arrest this woman.
Sir-ji, what about my Aadhaar card?
And throw these Asura puppets into the dustbin.
Sir-ji, you can’t do that!
The moral of this fable, since every legend on this land has to have a moral: That’s how Surpanakha and her eleven children did not get a new er … card. A sort of Aadhaar.
Short story by Ramu Ramanathan. Narrated by Yuki Ellias.