I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven…” I stopped counting and started to walk. I thought to myself that enough is enough and let’s get into the game. Not all would get this opportunity in their life. I will probably become the 2nd person to be able to witness this. I walked outside my new home towards my new car. I’m now a popular film star. I was leaving for a cremation. I looked all stunning and dashing. But inside, I could feel my pulses with my senses. My eyes blinked rarely. My face showed no emotions. “My face”, my mind said to me and we both grinned at each other. As Walt got into the front seat, we left for the burial ground in Kannammapettai.
“Welding Kumaru is in mighty pain sir. He is in mighty pain. But just wait sir. Don’t be impatient”, I growled with pain. It was a request actually. I have just been shot by some policeman. I have never seen this guy before. But his eyes sought revenge. Mine were pleading. It looked as though I was falling at nil speed onto the floor. Or that’s what it is when one is shot, I thought. After the fall, I didn’t hack up. I didn’t want to. I just begged the policeman.
“Listen to me for just 2 minutes. At least consider it as the last wish of a dying man. Even mythology starts with the word ‘once’ sir. Just once listen to me please”, I cried in pain.
The gun now didn’t focus on me.
“Just wait, just wait. I’m not Raja sir. I’m not Raja. Please believe me. Just take my phone and please call Walt and put in on the speaker”, I requested as blood was gushing out of my right arm and thigh. I have been shot twice by a totally out of the scene cop and I am just hoping that he will let me speak to Walt. Walter. My grandfather.
He was the closest to a perfect man whom I have ever seen. He was an Armed Forces Medical Department drop out. He felt that war was raw. He just practiced medicine; and practiced medicine; and practiced medicine. Rather he practiced medicine whenever he was awake. He was like this Eastwood of Gran Torino. That’s how his Walter became Walt. At that moment I didn’t wish for anything else to happen. I was in great anguish. I could feel my ancestry montage on my roofs. I knew that my ancestry had its roots in Maharashtra. At least those who lived 4 centuries before then surely did. They were all great surgeons. Few generations of my family has now lived in Madras. My parents were potters. Honest Tamizh potters. But they left us early. Me and my brother. It was all Walt for us then.
Is this all real or surreal, I said; or I didn’t know if I said or thought. I had reached the state where I didn’t know if my thoughts were alive or dead. My mind had reached the eternal epitome. I still took the strength to continue pleading. Because there was medically much more hope. I know medicine. It’s just experimenting, not an art. I’m just a welder. But one of the greatest welders of all time. I like dancing too. My name is Welding Kumar. Kumar is my family name. It was actually Kumhar centuries ago but became Kumar in the place I lived. All I know is welding and I know all about welding. I never prayed. But my requests have never been rejected by anyone all my life. I hoped that history won’t fail me. It didn’t.
He took out my phone. He started dialing. I wished it was to Walt. Yes it was. The ring went and Walt answered.
“Walt, Walt, Walt…I have been shot Walt. I have been shot Walt by a policeman”, I cried. “Please come to my new home Walt, please Walt he’s going to kill me”, I shouted all I could.
“Kumaru, Kumaru”, his voice echoed.
“Come to this place. This is why I said I will never leave our home. How will I survive in this new place from now on? This is hell the 1st day. Please come here Walt, come soon”, I cried.
“I am Kumaru, I am coming right away”, his always promising voice said. I believed in him. I had always and will always too. But will there be an always, my mind frenzied. My mind froze.
Walt was gloved and ready. I was shivering. Even shocks during welding have not shaken me. But now my mind was like a crazy ball. I was nervous, which I didn’t want to admit.
“Are you ready?” asked Walt in his unusual voice. Rather, it sounded unusual because I was anesthesized.
‘I just nodded”, as his giant arms which held the scissors neared my face.
“This is just going to be the last day. See your face for one last time”, he grinned.
My eyes saw my face alive for the one last time as I dozed off gradually.
I started dreaming. It was actually the replay of the previous night’s murder. Yes. The future me was killed by the present I.
When I woke up, it felt as though the time for a baby’s birth had passed. But no. It was just five hours. I was medically dressed and there was lesser pain. Walt was around. So now I knew that things were fine. The cop still looked stunned. This was one of the greatest times to ask someone ‘Isn’t this the last thing you ever expected would happen in your life?’
“What made you chase Raja sir?” I asked the cop with due respect.
“Everyone in this town knows about how Raja and his father have been doing this kidnapping business for a long time now. Father’s political powers and son’s film stardom. No one would dare stop them Raja, sorry Kumaru”, he said in his funny tone. “Have you ever worked under someone Kumaru?” he asked.
“Welding Kumar only welds sir. But that is past now. Now I’m Raja”.
“I had reported evidences of kidnapping against him and his father a lot of times. But my immediate boss won’t even look at the 1st page of the reports. His boss, his head, chief, the Defense Ministry, this that, everyone is involved. But no one cared. But I did. I am an honest employee of my organization. I wanted to take out this gang. I couldn’t continue saluting. Look at you. You have lived enjoying what you have been doing. That’s why you are happy even after such a sacrifice”.
“Don’t call it sacrifice sir”, Walt groaned in silent old voice. “One can live this way too”, he added.
“Walt is the youngest old man I know. His mind is still so young sir. This is also a way of life” I said.
“You are a rich film star now Raja don’t worry”, the cop interrupted. “Now your life is all yours and your way alone. Lots of gossip, fame, money, power, so on and so forth. But I’m glad this is all with you. I know Walt’s blood will not get impurified. Enjoy life responsibly”, the cop said.
“If you live as a common man and connect with people, it’s unbelievable what a present day common man’s reach can do sir”, I replied. “It was our duty. Do you think I have done all this just for the sake of cini fame? No sir, you are not right. I did it for Walt. It was his vision and we just gave life, literally. But I was glad you didn’t blast bullets at fatal parts. Can’t imagine how Walt would have felt if Kumar was shot”.
“Forget all that. Now it’s time to talk about the future of the dead man who will walk. Now that all this known to you sir, why not help us continue with this. Let’s just execute it as an undercover operation. I have the medical expertise, you have the power. Let Welding Kumaru into the police.”
“How will a film star get into the forces all of a sudden? Are you sure about this Walt?” I asked.
“Of course yes. Brave men need heart more than the uniform. You have the heart, there’s no fault in getting a uniform too. And a minister’s son getting into the forces is not a big deal today Kumaru.”
“Stop calling me Kumaru Walt. I will have to readjust each and every time”.
“You do that if you have to. You are always Kumaru for this old wood”, he smiled.
“But how will we convince the Minister to do all we want Walt” the sir asked as I glared hard at Walt’s face waiting for his cheeky old smile to crack.
“Don’t worry sir, we forgot to tell you. That’s just my elder brother. Let’s name this operation WK after my name” I suggested and laughed.
The inspector broke into dead silence before he had, what seemed to be, the most satisfied laughter of his life.
“Okay we’ll plan about the future of you later late Raja. Now get some rest for the big picture. I will ensure all investigations, if any, in Raja’s death go smoothly. Oh I should have said Welding Kumaru’s death. I should also fit into my new role right away. Anyway. You take care and we will meet in the burial ground tomorrow”, he signed off.
“This is it Walt, this is it. We have almost conquered our target Walt. Raja is dead” I said.
“Now let’s wrap up this scene soon before anyone notices and get back to our places Kumaru” he said.
As we got back home, it was time for me to prepare for the true action. Walt is one of the finest surgeons in India. Many of our Kumhars in yesteryears were equal masters in surgery and pot-making. But he isn’t professionally practicing as one. He loves medicine or rather medicine field loves him even more.
Walt quit the armed forces in his middle 20’s. He got a meager pay assistant job in medicinal field in Madras. He got married and just lived a life that didn’t care for wealth or fame. He somehow came to know about Raja and his father’s underground endeavors and the old man decided to redeem his bravery. “I redeemed my bravery after nearly 50 years, but this time the cause felt noble”, he would often say to me and my brother. He had witnessed his grandfather practicing rhinoplasty and he had a keen observation skill. The keen eyes still gleamed stronger than ever, I would often feel. We decided to kill Raja and his father, and I and my brother would undergo facial plastic surgery getting their faces masked onto us. It seemed like Walt’s fiction to me too until he successfully accomplished it on my brother.
Now with the same faith with which my brother went under Walt’s knife, I get ready for the killer’s move.
As I reached the cremation ground, it was all bursting crackers and people dancing to the death folklore of Tamizh. Every day of most of me and my brother’s life was pre-designed. But this day onwards, I can act as per my will. Just that the executing body will be Raja’s.
I got out of the car. The always attracting death dance music was sending vibes into my body. I wanted to dance. Will it be just, I asked to myself. But Welding Kumar loves dancing. My brother didn’t dance in his cremation ceremony. So Welding Kumar will be the 1st person to dance in his own death ceremony, I convinced myself. I removed my suit, unbuttoned the top 3 buttons of my shirt and got onto the dance floor as Walt replaced 1 of the 4 body-bearers.
I danced my heart out as my new fans accompanied me clicking selfies and photos. No one is going to raise an eyebrow about my presence in Welding Kumar’s funeral. He was after all my fan club’s zone leader. And there’s anyway our new cop friend to take care of things. Who’s permission do I need to seek to dance anyway? It’s after all my own funeral.