The late afternoon air was fragrant and spiced, weighing down on you with its smells and aromas as much as with its humidity. While the pleasing smells of cumin and its many friends wrapped you in a comforting embrace the air itself pounded you and pummelled you, giving you a good old-fashioned violent work-over before it finally got round to stealing you wallet. It was the treacly sort of weather that slowed the city down to a crawl. With the temperature as hot as it was the entire city began to slowly cook and the wiser folk sought refuge.
In the heavy quiet of a backstreet yard two men were facing off against each other, slowly circling a stale bread roll. It is curious that notion, that despite all the manifest complexities of cognitive existence and even despite the vast improbability of life at all, that things are actually so simple. So simple that the patterns which emerge from the winding threads of causality go unnoticed, lost and obfuscated beneath the background noise of the day-to-day. People need to sleep. This is a fact. People need to drink. This is a fact. People need to eat. Attempting to stand between a human and their desire to fulfil these needs does not usually end well. Thus the two men circle. As they do every day, they fight over what little food they can find. Kartar Masri and Haresh Rahimi. The former long in arm and long in leg, the later as stocky and broad as a beggar can reasonably be. Two men who would be brothers, were they not so damnably hungry.
“The roll’s mine Kartar! I stole it”
“Not on your life Haresh. Without me you’d never have even had the chance. You’re too slow-witted and clumsy to pull anything off on your own. The roll is mine!”
Haresh’s big flat teeth ground together and he bunched his fists.
“I have a most fierce hunger and I do mean to eat this roll and now scrawny limbed runt is going to stop me.” He shouted.
“You ate yesterday. My hunger is deep and abiding, it will be sated even if I must shed your blood to do so.” Replied Kartar, flexing his fingers.
The rays of the waning sun slanted through the narrow alleyways and flashed across Haresh’s face, bathing him in a nimbus of flaming oranges, eyes stained red he thumped the bare barrel of his chest and lunged towards his equally hungry opponent, filled with a fury born of desperation. The sudden charge caught Kartar by surprise, together they fell to the coarse, grey dirt of the yard in a tangled maelstrom of limbs. Haresh ponded with his great, balled fists, hitting the dirt as oft as he did Kartar. There was no elegance in what he did, just the straight and blind brute force of anger. The beleaguered Kartar coiled and thrashed like a panicked eel, striking back with sharp, jabbing thrusts and quick rapid kicks. What they lacked in power they made up for in accuracy and the fact they actually connected. But all of these blows were in vain, as Haresh’s continued onslaught slowly wore Kartar down, until Haresh had his foe by the scruff of his shirt, the faded yellow spotted with dirt and stained with green mold. The two locked eyes, Haresh’s filled with anger and Kartar’s with fear. His fearful opponent raised a finger.
“Oh no. Behind you…” Kartar whimpered.
As Haresh’s head turned Kartar turned and twisted free and bounded back to his feet. Both of them went back to circling around the roll, the subject of their feud. As they watched and waited for the moment to strike, as they vied for position there came a shout from out beyond the mouth of one of the alleyways. Slowly the shouts began to resolve into words.
“Andrugtshang! Mahabahu Sulaiman Andrugtshang! Andrugtshang! Is coming!”
A short man wearing a grubby white smock came tumbling down the alley, abprutly stopping in the centre of the yard to lean over and pant, out of breath. Both Haresh and Kartar ceased their malicious dance.
“What is it Jagadhidh?” asked Karatr. Jagadhidh lifted his head and smiled a smile filled with the purest joy.
“Old Man Andrugtshang. He’s coming!” he gasped.
“Truly?” asked Haresh. Jagadhidh nodded in reply.
All vestige of hate and anger dropped away from Haresh’s face and all greed and lust for revenge vanished from Kartar’s eyes. The tree of them scattered to the sides of the yard and perched themselves quietly upon benches and sills. They had barely found their seats when the sound of a ringing bicycle bell danced down the alley, a sound like crystal bells and tumbling water, of tears caught in the rain and breath on the air. It was a good sound and it stirred all their primal hearts for it meant that Old Man Andrugtshang was about to arrive. An ancient looking man clad in purest white and great in beard glided gently into the yard on an equally venerable rickshaw. The Old Man drew his vessel to a stop and flowed from its seat with the elegance of a dancer and the fluidity of water. From the large cargo basket at the back of his rickshaw he retrieved a polished wooden box. Setting it reverentially upon the ground, he eased back its lid and produced a small oil burner, then a kettle, then a cup, then a small pouch. He took his kettle and dipped it into a large butt of water in the yard’s corner, lit the burner and left the kettle to boil. Once a thin stream of smoke had began to rise from the top of the kettle the Old Man sprinkled the coarse leaves of tea from within his pouch into the cup and poured the steaming water over it. Taking a perch upon his bike he set about sipping his tea, revealing in the brew. The three others in the yard watched in wonder, mesmerised by the aura of peace and tranquillity that radiated from the Old Man. For a brief moment all of them forgot their troubles, their existence as monsters slid away into just the monstrousness of their existence and even that melted away into bliss. For while they gazed at the Old Man drinking his tea and how free from trouble his heart was they thought: Surely, in the gaping void, some poor mistake of creation is having a worse night than I.