This was his first week in Dallas. Prem Daha had come on a L1 Visa to US. He was a Bengali of Nepalese origin or the other way round. No one knew his origin with certainty and he too was never keen on divulging it. He liked himself to be known as citizen of the world instead of being associated with any particular place or culture. So much so that his friends and colleagues believed he was one of those rare creatures who could not be divided back to its origins.
In order to keep his expenditure low and create a sizeable saving for investment in real estate back home Prem Daha had brought in his own assortment of food items-lintels, rice and the five necessary spices.He planned to eat rice and lintels on weekdays and prepare some fresh vegetable during the weekends.It was the first saturday and he had to find a local vegetable store.
He walks through the broad streets. The evening wind outside has a rawness in it and so are the people.On the 66th street he sees a vegetable mart-Fresh veg. He walks briskly to the entrance.It has a revolving door. He gently presses the fibre glass with his palm-the action reminiscient of a plaintiff taking oath in the name of God in a court of law.While he is entring the revolving door there passes a man diametrically opposite to him for exit.For a brief moment their eyes make contact. The man smiles at him. He holds a carry bag containing snake gourd.Prem passes to the security section only to be stopped and frisked. Indian-asks the security guard.
The guard smiled and let him proceed. Inside there were rows and sections for different kinds of vegetables.Seemingly all farm fresh, organic and high priced. Even after ten minutes of digging into various rows and almost bringing down the tomato section, he was not able to locate the object of his desire-the snake gourd. Now he had to do what he did not want to do-ask the location from the supermarket staff. He was very aversed to asking directions from the supermarket staff in any supermarket. He felt that made him look less knowledgeable, a person who has not subsumed the details of his environment.Still he mustered the courage and approached the black lady staff standing nearest to him. He was barely able to say Mam when he lost his speech-as if some adhesive had hadrened in his vocal chords. The lady thought he had some speech impediment and brought in speaking kit for the vocally challenged. He nodded in such a way that it was difficult to say either it was a yes or a no. After a few seconds of inertia he pulled out his cell phone and said excuse me for a sec. He hurriedly keyed in his screen unlock code and called up Ank-his childhood friend and currently studying physics in a neaby college.
Hi, how are you? How is you fist weekend in US coming up?
Fine, its fine. I have in Fresh Veg and am in a problem.
No not cash. I wanted to buy snake gourd but couldnt find it. Now i have to ask the staff for direction.
So whats the problem. Last i knew you had A plus in English.
No its not about the language. My folks back in India used to say that we should not utter the word snake in the evening. Otherwise we might encounter it. And you know i dont want to schedule a meeting with those spineless creatures.
Really? And what if somebody had uttered the word snake. Is there a counter utterance. Some kinda antidote.
Yes i think there is. But i cant remember. Can you google it for me?
Offcourse i can. Give me two minutes.
Even after twenty minutes his cell phone did not ring. Prem grew restless. He could sense that security personell were watching him and it could be anytime they called homeland security. He had almost dropped the idea to buy snake gourd and started walking towards the exit, when he heard a familiar voice.It was Ank. He darted inside almost pushing the entrance security person.
I tried to google it. But could not find any references. So i called up my granny in India. She said that people living in the western part of bengal belive in this snaky thing. The antidote is to chant the name of Garuda thrice as he is the arch enemy of the snake.
Dude, that you could have told me over the phone.
Yeah, but you forgot that speaking over the phone also counts as an utterance and you have already utterd the word snake many times. So in order to avoid all this confusion i boarded the bus to speak in person.
Good.So now all we have to do is utter Garuda for all the instances when we mentioned snake.
Yeah. Including this one.
They both cacluated and uttered the word Garuda Garuda requisite number of times.The black lady staff was looking at them all the while like some audience watching a magic trick in amazement.
Both had the look of calmness in their face as we find in a person who has just finished his first crossword puzzle.
So Prem all i need to do now is ask for the snake gourd section and utter Garuda after it.
Man i have been thinking all this while and maybe you dont need to do that.
See the word snake gourd itself is a paradox as it contains both words snake and garuda.Its both-the dote and the antidote. So i think as soon as you utter sanke gourd you are already neutralising the effects of the bad one. I wont utter the word now in order to avoid counting.
Ok. I will do as you say.
They both came back to Prems appartment. Prem cooked dinner which included snake gourd. After drinking beer and watching some episodes of Parks and Recreation they decide to hit the bed.Completely drunk and half asleep they talked about the years bygone and laughed and were contended that they had managed to ward of a potential danger.
He dreams. He sees his grandmother sitting by his side on a moonless night and telling stories about snake bites. He sees the monumental snake statues like the Easter island monuments, extant even after centuries. He finds himself wearing a lab coat and reading a dozen or so X-Ray reports of a person. Each of those reports were of spinal cord section of human body and had the name Ank written on it and distinctly visible was the missing spinal cord.