“I have three questions for you Diana,” said Gappi in a grave tone. “What Stoppu Baba?” asked Gappi’s bai Diana, in her usual meek manner (belying the fact that she was actually a Daayan, and could, if she wanted, not that she would ever want to, God forbid, eat up Gappi without even wetting her daadh).
Gappi started listing down his deep questions:
- “Where on earth is this place called Nallasopara”
- “What sort of a name is Nallasopara, and what does it mean?”
- “Who the Dickens lives in a place called Nallasopara”
Diana performed some lightning fast calculations with the help of an iPad, the calculator on her phone, an abacus, and her mind (in that order), and replied tentatively within 35 minutes, “But Baba, those are four questions, not three….I think.” If looks could kill, Diana would be in Dadar Station by now, but luckily, they couldn’t, so she was still around to cook Gappi’s breakfast paranthas even after daring to doubt the veracity of a great wizard like Stoppgappi.
And anyways, good maids were hard to come by in Mumbai, so Gappi made do with a withering stare and a scathing putdown, ”Diana, it does not matter if the questions are three or four, I am still a great wizard, and you…a terrible bore! Wah wah, even if I say so myself!” Diana mumbled apologetically, and replied, “I’m afraid I don’t have any answer to your first two (or three, depending on how you count them) questions, but in answer to your final question, my sister Shurpanakha has been living there with her in-laws for more than 20 years now. They know her as Shipra, so please don’t use her real name accidentally.”
Gappi replied, “But what do her in-laws do exactly in Nallasopara?” Diana replied, “Her in-laws are outlaws of course, but respectable ones. And now, they are in trouble, and since she knows I work for a great wizard like you, she has asked me for help, I have asked you for help, and together we have asked this Auto Guy for help, but he is refusing to go to such a far-flung location in the Nasty North of Mumbai.”
Saying this, she turned towards the Auto driver who had been listening in to their deep intellectual discussion for the last ten minutes, fascinated despite himself, and said, “Bhaiyya return aana hai, bass aadha ghanta waiting, uske extra le lena, bahut zaroori kaam hai, hum nahin pahunche to pata nahin kya ho jaayega!” Like Auto drivers across the world, this one too had a heart of gold, or should I say, heart FOR gold, and the lure of extra money never failed to move him, so he said in a tone akin to Lord Shiva granting a boon to a devotee who had stood on a snow-covered peak in the Himalayas on one leg, without partaking a morsel of food, or a drop of water for 20 years….errrrr WHAT THE DEVIL WAS MY POINT? Anyways, the Auto driver replied, “Let’s go…in my Auto!”
The ride to Nallasopara was long….and long. There were lots of interesting sights on the way, as we took the scenic route (Western Express Highway), like an Audi being overtaken by an Auto, a BMW by a BEST Bus, and a train by Superman….OK, the last one didn’t really happen, but Gappi had dozed off due to the combined effect of the distance, the traffic jams every 10 seconds, and the exhaust fumes of the traffic at those jams, and saw it in his dream, so that should count for something, right?
But all things considered, they still made good time and reached Nallasopara in just six hours. As usual, Gappi tried to avoid paying the Auto driver by saying, “I have a Wizarding Pass,” and just as usual, the driver threw the choicest of abuses at Gappi in return, and Gappi had to quickly placate him by paying him through PayTm (the impact of Demonetization was still being felt at the ATM in our forest).
The building where their Google Map had brought them was not so much a building as a fortress. There were AK-47-toting gunmen every 5 metres, so that there would be no confusion to any visitor that this was the home of famous outlaws, and not that of any law-abiding citizen (God forbid! Or as Diana’s sister Shurpanakh, sorry Shipra would say, Ram Ram Ram Ram!) After all, Shipra’s in-laws had a reputation to protect. You were nothing in the Nasty North if you did not have 20 gunmen protecting you, khaandaani dushmani with 20 enemy families, and 20 cases registered against you. This was known as the 20/20/20 principle.
Suddenly there was a loud shriek, and a large shape faintly resembling that of a woman (and I am being generous here) barrelled into Diana and held her in a tight hug. This, of course was Shipra, Diana’s younger sister #4. Both the sisters quickly played the a round of the favourite game of girls in the ‘80s:
“Aanch kaanch poore paanch,
nadi kinaare kaala saanp,
laao laathi maaro saanp,
sheeshe ki botal chaknachoor,
Raja ki beti…
Kamal ka phool.”
With that childhood ritual out of the way, all through which anybody stupid enough to be looking at Gappi’s face instead of that strangely horrific yet fascinating sight, would have noticed a range of emotions passing through it, from initial shock to disgust to horror to…just a sense of profound resignation in the true spirit of all Indians- Honi ko kaun taal sakta hai.”
Diana then deigned to introduce her Lord & Master to her sister, who seemed strangely unimpressed upon seeing his slight frame and tender years. Then she took them inside to meet the rest of her family.
As we entered the house/fortress, we realized that the imposing façade had not done justice to the place. We were in a HUUUUUUGGGGEEEEEEE hall, almost like Raavan’s darbaar in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan, in front of us was a series of steps going up, and on the pedestal where the steps ended was a throne that would put THE THRONE in Game Of Thrones to shame, because it was the legendary Singhasan Battisi, made of 32 teeth, each tooth belonging to a different Indian God.
But Gappi didn’t really notice all this, because he was looking at a sight even more staggering, he was looking at Ravan himself, sitting on that throne, and looking malevolently at him and Diana, both of whom were now quivering in their shoes.
“O Wizard,” boomed Ravan’s voice loudly, “I need your help.”
What kind of help could a teenage wizard provide to the KING of DEMONS? How was Shoorpnakha connected to all this? And would Ravan offer some Sri Lankan delicacies like Sambal and Hoppers to Gappi, or he would invent a new dish worthy of a Michelin-starred restaurant using the bones and meat of Gappi? And where do the Japanese fit into this already complicated scenario? To find out the answers to all these questions, keep your eyes peeled for Part 2 of Nallasopara Dekho Sayonara! Till then, Sayonara!