Two Satirical Stories for the Soul
Translated from Hindi by Sonakshi Srivastsava
Original Stories by Harishankar Parsai
May 22nd, 2023
Illustration by Amey Mhatre
Hell in Heaven
Merchant Mehumal was a maestro of adulteration. He would blend fat with ghee, 1 coriander with lead, and gram flour with grounded stones so effortlessly that none could see through his filtered scheme. If poison was sold at a cheaper rate than honey, he would not have hesitated to blend honey with poison as well.
But Merchant Mehumal was God’s unalterable devotee as well. He was profuse in his offering of prayers, and singing praises to the Lord. Therefore, when he died, he was accompanied to Heaven by an angel.
Chitragupta 2 presented the merchant’s records for God to check.
“Merchant Mehumal, you have worshipped me for about three million hours. This is something of a record in itself.”
The merchant replied, “Yes, my Lord. I am your staunch devotee.”
God responded, “Hence, I allocate you a place in Heaven. Go, and experience supreme bliss for eternity.”
Mehumal was accommodated in a beautiful house in Heaven. He was served scrumptious food, the smell of which had incited his hunger. No sooner had he placed a morsel in his mouth he spewed it out with a forceful thoo, thoo. 3 There were neem leaves in his food, bitter like .
To recover his tongue, Mehumal drank some water, and felt his mouth assaulted by worms.
He went to bed on an empty stomach and with a parched throat. As he slept on his cozy mattress, long metal grills poking out from the window began to prick him.
He was up the entire night. Confused, angry, and convinced there had been a mix-up. His God would not treat him so.
The next day, he walked up to an angel-official and demanded, “Take me to the Lord. What kind of Heaven is this? After being a faithful devotee, I expected pure bliss and nothing else!”
The official curtly replied, “The Lord has directed to lace your Heaven with Hell.”
Hindu god who keeps a record of a living person’s good and bad deeds
The town was abuzz with the news that obscene literature was gaining popularity . Newspapers, and the letters to the editors were ripe with the news that such literature was being sold publicly on the roadsides.
To counter this widespread readership, a handful of 10-12 overzealous student religious reformers formed a gang and decided to seize such literature as and when they come across it, and then publicly burn it.
They raided a bookshop and managed to get their hands on about twenty five copies of the profane literature. Their leader said, “It’s late today. Let us report this to the newspaper tomorrow evening and then burn these books at the public square the day after. The media attention will rile up the public. Meet at my place tomorrow evening because I cannot gather all these books to take them home. These are around twenty-twenty five books. My father, and my uncle are at home and if these books catch their attention, all hell will break loose. You all pick a few copies each and take them to your home clandestinely.
Next evening, the gang met but none of them brought the books that were to be burnt. The leader said, “Hand over the books to me. I will hide them in this bag, and take it to the spot where we will burn it tomorrow.”
But no one had brought the books!
One of them said, “No, let us burn them the day after, and not tomorrow. I am yet to finish reading.”
Another one piped in, “I am reading it at the moment. Burn the books after two or three days. In any case we have confiscated the books. So it shouldn’t matter”
On the third day, nobody had brought the books.
One of them said, “Arre yaar, 4 my father got hold of the books. He is reading them now.”
Another one piped in, “I will get them once my uncle is done reading them.”
A third one chimed, “My sister-in-law took them away, and said that she will read and return them within two-three days.”
A fourth one added, “Arre, an aunt from my neighbourhood took them away in my absence. Let her read and return them, then we will burn them in the next two-three days.”
The books and the profanity in them never saw the pit of fire. They are, in fact, now engaged in a wider circulation of systematic readership.
A colloquial way of address in India, usually expresses a certain degree of familiarity
Sonakshi Srivastava is a writing tutor at Ashoka University, Sonepat, India. She is a resident researcher for ForeignObjekt. She is one of the recipients of South Asia Speaks mentorship programme, working on translating the Hindi novel, “Titli” into English under the mentorship of Arunava Sinha. Her works have previously appeared in or are appearing in The Bilingual Window, Hakara, potluck zine, orangepeel mag, and Rhodora among others.