The watchman outside my gate was fast asleep. He was old, and wanting to return to his village, “We need to change the watchman!” I said as I glanced wearily from my window at his sleeping form.
“What?” shouted the wife, jumping out of bed and staring at me with fixed, fearful eyes, “What have you done husband? What have you done? Tell me and we’ll think this out together!”
“Done, I’ve been sitting here, ever since the lockdown began!”
“Have you been on drugs?”
“Drugs?” I asked perplexed.
“If you’ve been on drugs, then we’ll have to get a watchman from the city to guard you. If you’ve said something controversial like our colony reminds you of Pakistan or China, then we’ll have to get security from Himachal Pradesh!”
“Himachal Pradesh?” I asked incredulously, “I had no idea they send watchmen to our city!”
“Well Kangana came all the way with them, and they looked quite smart walking on either side of her as she stepped out of the airport! I wouldn’t mind a watchman from there! Or…”
“Or what?” I asked.
“If you’ve had a whiff of drugs while I’ve left home everyday, then the city will surely provide security for you, while you are being called a drug dealer! Did you?”
“Well once in college,” I said lamely, “I thought…”
“You smoked weed?” asked the wife, “Let me ring up the jail, and mention that you do need a fan in the night. They give one only if requested!”
“No, it was not weed!” I said quickly, “I thought it was, but it turned out to be a cigar!”
“All cigars are imported!” I said lamely. “In fact, I still have one or two in my office!”
“Then get security to guard your office quickly!” said the wife, “Or the local municipality will come and break it down, for concealing smuggled goods!”
“I.. I’m getting terrified!” I said, “Does this jail term and demolition depend totally on what kind of watchman is protecting you?” I asked.
“Very much!” said the wife knowingly, “Poor Rhea, protected locally and now cooling her feet in jail, and Kangana with outside security and now, no office! And look what today’s paper says, ‘Even Jaya Bachchan to get security for talking against the film industry!”
“Local or outside security?” I asked.
“Outside, because she spoke against the local!” whispered the wife.
I put on my shoes fixed my mask and walked down to my watchman, still fast asleep. I placed a table fan next to him, and saw him smile in his sleep as he felt the breeze.
“What are you doing?” shouted the wife.
“Making him as comfortable as possible!” I said looking outside fearfully, “I don’t want my office destroyed or a jail term just because of a new watchman from the wrong place..!”
(Published on 21 st September 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 39)