Long before Mr Radcliffe broke the lead of his pencil for the thirty seventh time while drawing the most innovative and surreally imaginative line graph through the woolly caterpillars marked as Khasi, Garo and Jaintia hills on the sheet of thickened paper that made a vast piece ofland look like a queer mix of olive green, ocean blue, pale white and tea-brown, Nongrum had crossed over to Mayong.
Nongrum wasn’t his real name. It was the name of the village where he was able to see his dream transform into reality, to break the shackles of the brass ring which bound him for time unknown, to become a he from an it, to become a man of flesh and blood from a genie. It would be his liberation from giving into the vicious cycle of desires of rascals like the Sultan of Mangogul — who would never be able to realize the true potential of his gift – the ring.
He was wrong. For, Mayong was a different world. Men were Nandis and Bhringis during the day — ploughing rice fields as the most cost-effective, easily procurable and commonly used replacements of the traditional and orthodox instrument — the Great Indian Bull. During nights, they warmedup the beds of their female employers (who they hallucinated eternally as their partners instead) as Kamdev and were tasked with gratifying their un-ageing venereal expectations. He loved executing his daily-deliverables initially, especially because the toil of the day ensured undiluted carnal pleasures with his partner, the self-acclaimed queen of the village, Manohari after sumptuous suppers and unlimited bowls of Lau Pani. The pale yellow Lau Pani, made from fermented rice didn’t leave hangovers, and gave instant kicks like Raki, his favourite since the time the Sultan of Mangogul had once sent him to Turkey.
One night, however, Manohari revealed that she had always known his sweet, little secret — that he could be confined inside that tiny, round, brass ring he wore on his ring finger and that she could make him feeble enough to divulge all those secrets that the ring had hidden in it.
“There is no secret, but one dear. And you don’t have to pester me for it,” said Nongrum in a disillusioned tone, while she rubbed her thighs against his, after they were done with the first bout of carnal rendezvous and were lying curled up in each other under a quilt.
“And what is that?” muttered Manohari, bringing her lips close Nongrum’s ears.
Nongrum gently came out of the quilt, took the ring out of his ring finger and wore it in the middle finger of his left hand. Then, clenching the other four fingers to form a fist, and with the middle finger pointing at the sky, he rubbed the ring with the thumb of his right hand. All this while, he looked straight into Manohari’s almond eyes. In one unblinking gaze.
“My dearest genie-man, you know what? You can’t get away with any of your trifles here. You are in Mayong — the world’s capital of black magic. She is the undisputed queen of this land. She knows all the tricks that has ever been shown, thought of, dreamt of, performed and applied on anywhere on earth. And if anything new comes up and she is not aware of it, she can go places to know about it. She has always been and will always be. She is as eternal as silence. And so, believe me, I know what you need most — it was your longing to be cared for that made you take human form. And every time you do something for her, or get inside her, you crave for caring, don’t you? It’s a bit expensive, dear, you know? But she knows, you can afford. You are the man. You can tell her how this ring works…”
The voice was raspy and shrill, as if the female speaker had sore throat for a long time. It would have been a long monologue, had Nongrum not taken out the ring of his middle finger. Manohari was quivering all through the monologue, dueto an unfamiliar sensation she was feeling between her crotches. Her mouth was gaped. She was dumbstruck. Because her vulva was doing all the talking.
Manohari realized this wasn’t magic, but miracle. Something fresh, like the month of Bohag. But the miracle only saddened Nongrum more. His only purpose of taking a human shape was defeated. He remembered the last words of the Sultan: everything is transactional.
Nongrum aged naturally as all humans usually do.
“Can this make dicks talk as well?” Manohari asked him when he was on his death bed.
“Perhaps,” he replied, looking out of the window in their mud hut, “I’ve got to find out. Anyway, it will reveal itself to the chosen one someday.”
Manohari had a strong feeling that the ring could make male private parts talk as well, and her genie-man knew how it could be done. If only she could learn it, there would be no end to what she could do. The universe would become her territory!
For the next four months Manohari pestered Nongrum as much as she could, but he wouldn’t let anything out. The only way, she realized, she could get something out of his brains is by getting in there. It was time to conjure mon podha montro. She didn’t know then, in some other parts of the world, scholars and scientists were breaking their headsto understand the truth of it. They fashionably called it mind-reading.
But Nongrumhad died before Manohari succeeded in her conjuring. Well, hegave up his human form for the first time two hours tothe stroke of that midnight when Mr Radcliffe’s creativity came alive for a lot of other human forms and surprisingly some of them even rejoiced at a certain high-pitched proclamation made by a man in an undecipherable tongue. That night,some other people died too…well,theygot killed across the beautiful line graph.
Much to Manohari’s fatigue and dismay, the secrets of Nongrum’s ring died with him.As for the mon podha montro, as it had already been invoked, it could not be stopped in the middle. Manohari couldn’t do much but re-direct it to some other destination. The easiest way was to direct it to the unborn. The impact would be delayed and might even get mellowed down by the time the foetuses made it to the world and grew up to think and communicate. So, with some tweaks in the remaining steps of conjuring she planted seeds of telepathy into fifteen wombs all over the Aryavarta – the subcontinent. These foetuses were destined to be born at the exact same time at the stroke of that midnight.Manohari perhaps didn’t know that decades later, one of those children, with a long, unsightly, constantly running nose would live to tell the story of the impact of her spell to the entire world.
That these were rumours, everybody knew. No, the brass ring was real, but it was perhaps just an ordinary ring. It, however, enjoyed a definite place of honour among the future generations of local sorcerers and the businessmen in Mayong. And so it kept changing hands ever since Manohari disappeared in one of the annual floods that Burha Luit inundated the village with during monsoons. Some people said that she might have lived for three hundred and twenty two years and in the exact same shape and size, like a twenty year old gabhoru, but her magical powers were fading with every passing year. Her greatest test every year was to shield the village from the torrential floods, but then floods kept coming up with smarter tricks every year. Once they came quietly in the middle of the night, when Manohari was fast asleep and took her along.
With the queen gone, people’s faith in their own craft started dwindling.The owners of the ring, tried everything they could to extricate the secret.Lecherous owners — their ears felt titillated in mysterious ways to hear how female genitals sounded when they spoke. The ring, nevertheless, remained just a tiny, circular piece of metal. With the turn of new millennium, people even forgot the names of the original owners of the ring. Thankfully, the management of the Mayong Black Magic and Witchcraft Museum took interest in procuring the ring from one of those owners and put it up for display among other artefacts.
That the ring could disappear from thehighly secured glass box in the museum took everyone by surprise. Especially the security management team.
The curator tried her level best to convince the police and the district administration that the ring had to be found out. For, it was of historical importance.
The District Commissioner dismissed the case saying, “Lady, we live in a country where people don’t think twice before stealing the Nobel Prize. This was just a ring.”
Definitely, he wasn’t proposing. Who would propose with a brass ring? That too on the first unplanned date? He was drunk. Twelve tequila shots after four large pegs of whiskey and four beers were a bit too much to take in. He wasn’t, after all, from any other world.
Surely, Tryst was the kind of place Monsumi always wanted to go since she moved in to Mumbai three weeks ago, but hanging out an entire Friday night with a complete stranger? And why? Because his jawline resembled Hrithik’s and his eyes, Daniel Craig’s? No, not at all. It was perhaps her tryst with destiny. She kept looking at her ring finger of her right hand. The brass ring was a perfect fit to it, although the design looked distantly out-dated for the latest nail-art she had got done a week ago.He turned out to be a good, sensibleguy in the end. Who would give her one of the best psychedelic experiences in the city just for a peck on the cheek? In fact, she wouldn’t mind kissing his lips as well. His lips resembled Tom Cruise’s.
“If you…if you…I mean…if you miss me even for a millionth of a second, just move the ring to the middle finger and touch it with your left thumb. I’ll come over.” he had muttered before she got out of the Uber.
She recalled his words. Millionth of a second — yes, at four in the morning she was missing him. She was missing him to the extent of having him in her bed, upon her, inside her. But would it really work? It was just another ring, wasn’t it? Or maybe he had wired it up with some weird technology that would signal him whenever she touched it with the other hand. Perhaps he was just around. Perhaps he knew she would try it at least once. Or perhaps, he was a trickster, an impulsive womanizer, a pervert, a flirt. Who else, otherwise, would enter a nightclub with a brass ring in his pocket?
The doorbell rang within seconds of doing exactly she was instructed. Her heart skipped a few beats! “Shit! He followed me up to the flat? I didn’t even notice. I mustn’t get drunk so much. Never ever!” she thought to herself, while tip-toeing to the door and peeping through the peephole. It was him.
“What did he say his name was? Oh! He didn’t even tell his name. Or did he? I keep forgetting things – I am perhaps ageing. Anyways, now, there he is, waiting on the other side of the door, ready for a hook-up!”
“You were following me, weren’t you?” she, kind of, charged, opening the door on his face. Her insides were simmering to get him in.
“No,” he replied. The calmness was startling. Just about twenty five minutes ago he wasn’t even able to stand straight.
“Then how come you’re here so quickly? The lift takes also takes at least thirty seconds to reach this floor,” she was intrigued. He was definitely lying.
“It’s the ring, you rubbed it as it should be,” there wasn’t any change in his demeanour. Except for a smile that made her yearn for his lips more than ever before.
“Okay. I…well…umm…I believe you,” it was the least she could tell him to make things comfortable for him. She had to get him inside the room for everything she desired to happen.
“Should I come in then?” she felt he was offering an overdose of courtesy with the question.
She opened the door wide enough to let him in, closed it and walked in behind him.
“Thank you,” he muttered, half-turning towards her and bringing his lips close to hers. His gaze was insanely inebriating.
“Pleasure is all mine, Monsieur,” she tried matching up his courtesy, “So, what else can your ring do?”
“It can…actually…make penises talk,” he said, quite placidly for a change of tone. She could now feel the warmth of his breath on her face. Mysteriously though the strong stench of alcohol wasn’t there anymore in his mouth.
“Wow! And what do they talk about?” she said bringing herself as close to him as she could.
“Miracles. They talk about miracles,” he replied.
“Then let it talk,” she reached out for his penis, while rubbing her lips against his. Strangely, he moved away.
“Lady, you can’t try that on me. And you’ve got to rub the ring, as I told you earlier, not my dick.”
“What?” she couldn’t believe her ears.
Two days later, headlines of a leading national news channel showed the following blurbs in the afternoon news:
- Senior advocate, Mr Chaddha admits to taking a bribe of 1.3 crore rupees for destroying evidences in a high profile rape and murder case.
- Six veteran MLAs reveal their sources of overwhelming wealth: it is clear from their statements that they pilfered large amounts of tax payers’ money to build their personal empires.
- Father of two teenage girls confess installing hidden cameras in the bathroom to make videos of the girls.
- Protests are a booming industry in present day India: confess top leaders of two top notch political parties.
The headlines were showing under the hashtag #dicksdontlie
The anchor gave the background to the headlines as:
“In the eighteenth century, a genie gave a certain Sultan a magic ring which, when rubbed, would force a woman’s private parts to speak, and confess all their indiscretions. In the end, the Sultan’s misuse of the ring led the genie to take it back. Two hundred years later, in Mumbai – just the other day, in fact – the same genie gave the ring to a good woman, and told her that it worked just as well on men.”
The anchor also informed that the woman phoned their studio from an undisclosed public telephone booth and made them listen to all the conversation clips she had recorded. Those conversations, as the caller mentioned, were between her and the penises of a few eminent persons she was able to connect with.The anchor concluded that the name of the woman couldn’t be revealed due to security reasons, and that they would henceforth address her as Miss Dash!
“Keep watching formore of such shocking revelations! Because dicks don’t lie,” the anchor almost recited the line as if it was poetry, before signing off.
Miss Dash — Monsumi didn’t mind her new identity. This wasn’t one of those where people needed to go through a whole set of complicated documentation process. Just like she had to do while changing it from her previous name. Getting a Birth Certificate, Aadhar Card, High School Leaving Certificate, Voter’s ID, Graduation and Post-Graduation Certificates, Passport, PAN Card was no joke. And every two years the authorities would ask for something additional. The NRC thing — she didn’t understand a bit of it. How would she trace her parents back? But then, she was thankful to the good, old, loyal Herambanath, the lawyer who got all these done for her every twenty five years. She liked the name Monsumi. She didn’t know what it meant. But it sounded better than the previous one. Manohari didn’t go well as a Millennial.