The Prince

Indradeep Banerjee
Published on: February 2013
Statutory Disclaimer: I believe the vegans and the secularists and the pan-Indian nationalists are saints and I have no intention of offending them. If hate and revulsion are the feelings you have for my regionalism, then don't worry this story is not directly about my views. But you need to know my stand to understand my perspective.

One fine winter night when the mercury had fallen lower than revered Lucifer (I do revere him), my friend and I decided to indulge in an unholy ceremony of devouring chicken flesh and burnt bread at a Muslim Joint on the other side of the Ganges named "Badshah" (The King of the world ). Say what you say about Islam but one thing you cannot deny is that they boast of the best cuisine and the best poetry on mother Earth. Food for stomach and for thought what else does one need?
Now this was a very run down place usually thronged by the hard working proletariat (rickshaw pullers, street vendors and laborers). And by the laws of economics was thus very cheap. Daily sustenance of non-veg diet is only possible if it is cost effective.

The order was taken from us by a boy no more than half a score of age, with a face that would have inspired Salman Rushdie to pen another Midnight's Children.

"Sahib, (as if I was Lord Curzon myself) kya loge?" (what will you take?)
"Naam kya hain tera?" (What is your name?)
"Shehezaad. Jaldi de do order sahib bahut bheed hain." (My name is Prince. Hurry up with the order, a lot of people are waiting in the queue)

As we spurted out our usual suspect of items, and he had recused himself inside the kitchen, I could not help but wonder, the prince and the king doing their rightful duty of serving a man with food. How many kings and emperors of the world have performed this immense feat with such dedication?

After we ate to our hearts content, we went outside to wash our hands. I found the Prince in a corner smoking a bidi. He caught my glance smiled and came up to me.

"Bidi kyun pita hain?" (Why do you smoke?) I asked.
"Sardi bahut hain sahib, daru ka paisa kahan? Bidi se hi kaam chalana padhta hain." (The winter is merciless, and I cannot afford Vodka. Bidi is thus the only option) "School jata hain ki nahin?"(Do you go to school?)
"Sab log school chale gaye to aap ka order kaun lega?"
(If everyone went to school who will take your order?)
I thought if Michael joined Lucifer's ranks who will save Lucifer.
"Aage kya karna hain zindagi main?"(What do you want to do in life?) I asked
"Naam jab zindagi hain to zinda rahena hain...itna to sahib aap ko bhi pata hoga" (If it is called life I will do what everyone You should know this sir)
"kitna huya?" (How much is the bill?)
He added in front of me in his head and replied "tin so dus" (310)

I had already added it before in my head and the answer was flawless. But I was a man with ample time so to humor myself asked him "Are you sure? What if you are wrong!"

He smiled again, "Sahib , If you are wrong in your school you will get a zero and then some scolding from your dad and then again sit in the next exam. If I get it wrong my manager will throw me out. I don't have the luxury of mistake"

I finally asked "If you are so witty then why are you staying here where there is no future?"
He replied "When did I ever say I was not ambitious. Come in another two years I would be cooking the Afghani for you, in another ten years I would be managing the cash. Come back Sahib in another twenty years, I promise you Sahib, Inshallah, you will find your Shehezaad running the Badshah."

AS I paid the amount and was walking back I removed my hands from the leather gloves and comforters, protecting me from the devil of the winter till now. The conversation with the prince set something on fire inside of me. The catharsis was so sublime that I started to sweat in the coldest winter of all my life time, a luxurious gift only a prince could have given me.
On a scale of 1-10, how inspiring did you find this article?