come off the bridge on to the highway when I saw the car.
I’d normally have taken no notice of that
car. It was just a dark red hatchback, like a million others, like probably
fifty or more I’d already seen today. But I was irritated, and looking for
something to work off my irritation on.
And the car was parked directly in front of
a NO PARKING sign. The sides of the road were bare as far as the eye could see,
except for this one place where there was a NO PARKING sign, so whoever had
parked it had naturally selected this one point.
The police hadn’t done their duty of
teaching the malefactor the error of his or her ways. Not only was I irritated
already, but as a god, it was therefore my right to do so.
Not, of course, that I’m all that much of a
god. I am, as my divine colleagues will attest, strictly minor grade. Once I
might have grown powerful on the back of beliefs and prayers, but the chance
had passed me by. I had never accumulated worshippers and offerings, and so
there was no chance of a heaven made from hopes and dreams to which I could
ascend and rule over. As a consequence, all I could do was roam around the
earth like a restless ghost, doing minor-godly things, and moving on when I got
tired of a place.
It is actually extremely easy to get tired
of a place when you do minor-godly things and don’t get any reward for them. By
reward, of course I don’t mean money or gold. As a god, even of the lowest
grade, I could have arranged to become rich at any time I chose. What I mean is
to develop enough of a fan base to be recognised as a god, instead of a wizard
or a magician. But of course that’s never going to happen, and I realise it
fully by now.
I ought to take a moment to explain that
there are no such animals as wizards or warlocks, witches or genuine magicians.
There are tricksters, and there are minor gods. That is all.
gods? They don’t live here. They’ve got heavens and
things to live in.
I’d spent an increasingly disappointing two
months at a little town up in the hills. I’d gone there because I’d heard that
it was being “developed”, with new roads and bridges and buildings coming up,
and of course where there’s “development” there’s money and corruption, which
in turn means there’s anger and despair. And where there’s anger and despair,
there’s opportunity for a god to make his mark.
Unfortunately I was too late. The place was
filled to the brim already with all kinds of fakirs and astrologers, gurus and
other parasites, and most of all a self-styled maharishi who’d opened an ashram
and was raking in money hand over fist from people who actually gave him
That’s right. They were giving this
transparent fraud worship, while I, a genuine and actual god, had to go
without. I am not making this up.
Still, I hung on. I hung on for two months,
doing my best to make my mark. I’d hung on right until the previous evening, refusing
to give up hope. And then I’d seen her.
She’d been an obviously distressed young
woman, wandering the streets behind the maharishi’s ashram, crying. A crying
young woman wandering the streets at half past nine in the evening, not
surprisingly, had caught my attention. I’d at once decided that the maharishi
had done something to her, and that this was my chance to get rid of him.
So, trying to look as helpful and
non-threatening as possible, I’d gone up to her. “What’s the matter, young
lady?” I’d asked. “Did that dreadful wretch, the maharishi, do something to
But it wasn’t that at all. Someone had
stolen her new iPhone. That was why
she was crying.
Still, it was something that I should be
able to handle. As a god, getting her a new iPhone shouldn’t have been out of
my powers, and of course it wasn’t. The only problem was that it was half past nine in the evening, and
all the stores had closed. It was a small town, as I said. So – since even a
god doesn’t burgle electronic shops – I’d have to wait for the morning.
She didn’t want a new iPhone, though. She’d
wanted her own one back. It had numbers and files and photos and things, she’d
explained between sobs, that she didn’t want to lose. So I’d begun to think of
other ways I could get her phone back to her. I’d exerted my powers.
Therefore, just then, who should wander by
but one of those fakirs I mentioned, and right next to us he’d taken out an
iPhone from his bag and started looking into it.
Of course it was the girl’s phone. When she’d
screamed and thrown herself at him, the fakir had merely glanced at her and
given it to her at once.
“I found it lying on the ground behind one
of the benches in the park,” the rascal had said. “I was using my powers to
look for the owner, and I found you.” And, equally of course, the girl had
That was the moment I’d realised once and
for all that this was no place for me. Not only could I not dispose of that
fraud of a maharishi; even a fakir was too much for me. Leaving the girl
ecstatically pressing her phone to her breast, I’d turned around and walked
away. I’d walked all night, all through the day, and now, in the new evening, I
was still walking.
Therefore, I was irritable, and I was
tired. Even a minor god can get tired. And the car was there, parked in front
of a NO PARKING sign, a sin looking for punishment.
Ten seconds later I was inside, and driving
away. Keys? I did not need any keys. I’m a god, as I said, and I’d be a
godawful god if I couldn’t even do what any car thief does every day.
The engine was rough, coughing as though it
had a respiratory tract infection. Also, the gearshift was as stiff as the
struggle to gain recognition as a deity. For some time I drove without lights
on, because of course I didn’t need lights to see. Then I decided that I needed
the headlights on so that other vehicles didn’t run into me. And then I discovered that the headlights
barely even worked.
I decided that instead of punishing whoever
it was who’d parked the car, I was probably doing them a favour.
Even for a minor god, actions don’t always
bring the results expected, as I can certify.
Early in the morning, I picked up a small
group of hitchhikers. There were three of them, standing by a roadside trucker’s
stop looking for a ride; a middle aged man with a round face and a thin
moustache, a younger man with spectacles, and a woman who might have been his
wife. They looked like people I might want to pick up, so I picked them up.
They wanted to go to another little hill
town, down south along the highway and then a little to the east. “Fine,” I
said. “That’s where I’m going, too.”
The man with the thin moustache was beside
me in the left front seat. He glanced down at my lack of a seatbelt, and opened
his mouth to say something. I exerted my power a little, and he decided that
keeping his mouth shut might be a good idea. And then I trod the accelerator to
the floor to make sure his mouth stayed
shut. No, I didn’t know exactly how fast I was going. The speedometer wasn’t
We drove all morning. I stopped once to
take on petrol. Even a minor god can’t change the way an internal combustion
engine works. Money? There was a little in the glove compartment. Enough to pay
for a full tank and a little left over.
It was nearly noon when the man with the
moustache looked over at me and opened his mouth again. “We just passed the exit
road,” he said.
I’d not even noticed the sign. It was on
the other side of the highway, and there was a barrier down the middle. So it
was some time before I could turn and come back. It was a miserable little road, less than half
the width of one lane of the highway, and uneven and twisting besides.
We’d been driving down it for about half an
hour when we came to a fork in the road. To the left it climbed up a hill, and
to the right it went across a small bridge and along a valley. I glanced at my
passenger. “Which way?”
“Wait.” These people never said “please.”
He leaned over and began talking to the man and woman in the back seat. The
woman said they should go to the right. The two men said they should go to the
left. Naturally, therefore, the male opinion won.
“Women have no sense of direction,” the man
with the moustache told me with a shrug. “We’ll go to the left.”
The leftward road was even narrower, and
steep besides. Even I couldn’t drive fast on it, and as we went higher it
became narrower still. And people were parked by the side of this road to enjoy
We’d just passed a huge green SUV that
blocked a good part of the road when the spectacled man in the back seat, who’d
been whispering with increasing urgency to the woman, leaned over my shoulder.
“We made a mistake,” he said. “It was the
right hand road after all.”
“You’re sure?” I asked.
“I’m sure.” The one in the front seat wasn’t,
of course, and turned round and began yelling. But now he was outvoted, two to
one, even if one was a woman.
“The other road was the right one,” he said
It was a winding thread down on the valley,
and we’d have to turn round and go back down. The road wasn’t just narrow and
steep, it even sloped to the side, and the overall width was less than the
length of the car. In other words, it was impossible to turn, unless one was a
god. I said so.
“We’ll go up until we find a wider place,
and then turn,” I said. I am a god, but after all, only a minor one. “It’ll be
much safer and easier.”
“It’s urgent that we get there,” the woman
said, talking directly to me for the first time. “We can’t afford the delay. Please.”
“All right,” I said. At least she’d said
please. I stopped and turned the wheel, backing the car until the rear fender
kissed the rock. To our right and below us, the green SUV bulged like a swollen
tick. I swung the wheel over and began turning the car round.
I almost made it. In fact, I would have
made it if the moustached moron to my left hadn’t panicked and grabbed at the
wheel when the front end of the car went a little over the edge. He didn’t
manage to make us go over the edge, but my front end touched the swollen green
hide of the SUV. I stopped.
A window rolled down, a round red face
appearing. “Hey, you!” It was a voice that would make even a deaf man wince. “What
do you mean, wrecking my car?”
“Wrecking your car?” I looked. There was a
minor dent in the metal, little more than a wrinkle. “You call that wrecking?”
“You’ll pay for this!” he bellowed. “I’m
calling the police.”
“We need to get down,” the woman whined
I suddenly had enough. Even a minor god has
a breaking point. “Right,” I said, opening the door. “You can have the car. Take
it and go and do what you want.” Climbing out, I slammed the door and began
walking up the road.
“Where the hell are you going?” Red Face
shouted after me. “Wait for the police!”
I didn’t wait for the police. Nor did I
wait for my erstwhile passengers, who, on discovering there were no keys, began
following me up the road, alternately bleating at me and threatening. None of
them was particularly fast, and I soon left them some way behind. They didn’t
give up, though, following and bleating and threatening. And behind them was the red faced man, who had to
climb after me because the car had blocked the rest of the road, and he was only threatening.
I’d wanted followers, yes, but not followers
Maybe I lack the temperament for a proper
It was late afternoon when I came to a
little town right on top of the hill. It was mostly a resort, with a few shops scattered
on both sides of the road. There was a large red-painted hairdresser’s
advertising a competition for hairstyles for tonight. I saw a couple of women
getting their hair fixed inside.
Ice caps were melting. Forests were turning
into deserts. The atmosphere was turning into a brown haze. Cannibal jihadis
were busy hacking off heads. The major powers were getting ready to fight a
nuclear war. I was a minor god without a hope in the world. And here they were
advertising for a hairstyle contest.
A beggar came up to me, holding out a hand
and looking hopeful. I was probably the first new mark he’d seen all day. “Alms,”
he said. “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”
Apparently he was an educated beggar,
though he didn’t look like much, small and stoop-shouldered, bald and
scraggly-necked, wearing an old overcoat despite the summer afternoon sun. He
looked rather like an old vulture. “Is there some way I can get away from those
people down the road there?” I asked him.
He glanced at them and back to me. His
small eyes glittered knowingly. “This way.”
I followed him down a side street. We
turned left, and then right, and then left again. In a couple of minutes even I
had no idea where I was.
“Go down this way,” the beggar said,
pointing to a flight of steps that led down the hill. “They’ll bring you down
to the main road by the river.” He held out his hand again.
“Thanks.” I wondered how to reward him. After
all, I had no money. Then I had it.
He was still fingering his rich, beaded
head of dreadlocks as I set off down the steps. All he had to do was enter the
hairstyle contest, and he’d win for sure. What he’d win, I had no idea, but he’d
Sometimes I have these strokes of genius,
and then I think that being a minor god is good enough for me.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2016