‘Whoa!!!!! Have u ever seen anything like that?’ Remi breaks the silence.
For once Gilly is left speechless.
All around them, they can feel the excitement and curiosity building up, as the murmurs and whispers go up a notch, and Gilly knows that he isn’t the only one who has lost his tongue (or whatever constitutes as a tongue for a cricket). Soon enough Monty leaves, there is a moment of silence, which has been enforced by Bulgari, ever since the ‘Midnight Madness’ escapade-when Monty returned to the ghussal khana after his nightly routine-a case of bad samosas being the culprit- and caught a couple of roaches doing the ‘moonwalk’. The GK population lost a lot of citizens that fateful night to ‘chappal attacks’, those who could not find a place to hide were smashed to pieces, to be eaten by the ‘choonti brigade’ (Ant Army).
Ever since that night, the KKK has imposed a minutes curfew after Monty leaves, so that the same slaughter never happens again. As soon as the minute is over, from all nooks and crannies the residents of Monty’s bathroom come out and gather in the middle a.k.a ‘P-Chowk’ ( please don’t ask what the P stands for, suffice it to say, it is at the bottom of the W.C. Over time many political leaders and revolutionaries have addressed the crowd from there, standing atop the W.C. There have been casualties as well when on rare occasions Monty forgot to drop the toilet seat. But enough of that. Chattering and looking up at the towel stand, bugs and insects of all shape and sizes stand abdomen to abdomen, craning their necks to get a better look at the oddity. There is an awkward silence, as nobody knows how and what to say. Gilly, ever the wily diplomat steps in, he clears his throat, or whatever passes for the throat of a cricket and chirps, ‘hey there fella! Why don’t you come down and sit with us?’
The red and black blob looks down uncertainly, finally resigned to its fate; it flutters down to the floor. Everyone steps back to give room to the newbie, but Gilly just walks up to it and clasps one leg around the petrified outsider and booms in his most perfect impersonation of an authoritative voice, ‘Welcome to ghussal khana!! I’m Gilly; I’m the minister of this wonderful place’
‘Are not!!!’ shouts the spider
‘All right that’s enough you two!!’ Remi the roach steps in, ‘pipe down Gilly, Monty isn’t even asleep as yet!! You want the midnight madness all over again??? Bulgari won’t let you off so easily this time!!’ That seems to work, because Gilly at once whimpers and steps back into the shadows, a couple of his cricket friends pat him on the back encouragingly.
‘Anyway, so where were we?’ Remi turns back to the center of attraction, he rubs his antennas together and pastes his best fake smile ‘so you must be a …ummm’ he rummages in his mind for any name that Mak the makhi might have dropped that he could use right now, just to impress the audience. Mak is the undisputed information minister of the ghussal khana, as he has access to the outside world, which consists mostly of Monty’s bedroom and the kitchen. The residents of the ghussal khana (GK from henceforth) feed makhi well to glean information from him that he picks off of the television (mostly national geographic). There are rumors that he has assets outside GK as well and has married countless times. In fact, if rumors are to be believed he has an illicit relationship with the machar clans as well, which also explain his popularity in the GK elections each time. From his mother’s side he also has relations with the bumble bees so that during the great summer martial law of ’99, he remained largely protected.
‘Hey my names Shakira, I’m a ladybird’, says the stranger shyly in a high pitched voice, there is stunned silence, as nobody knows what that means. Just then everyone’s attention is diverted by a flurry of movement and buzzing as a slightly overweight housefly flanked by two long-legged female mosquito’s crash lands right in the center of the crowd. The housefly is singing The Black Eyed Peas version of ‘Time of my life’ and doing a terrible job of it, the two mosquitoes provide the chorus and bob their heads in unison to the beat. There is an expectant silence, the housefly tries to stand up straight and wobbles slightly, and then it adjusts its paunch and shouts, ‘HELLOOOO GKIANS!!!!!’
A roar goes around the crowd, there are shouts and clapping all around, ‘welcome back Mak!!!’ and ‘Mak saada sher aye, baqi tittar te battair aye’ (Mak is our lion, all the rest are partridges-insignificant), ‘makhi for PM’ ring all around. A beaming Mak takes a lap of honor around the ring of adulating fans, high fives and chest bumps all around, bugs step over roaches, an overexcited grasshopper jumps over the crowd and hugs Mak before plainclothes security drag him away.
The female mosquitoes giggle coquettishly.
Mak stops dead in his tracks upon spotting Shakira, flinging his arms off the two mosquitoes, he drops down on one knee and does his best impression of a wolf whistle, ‘my my we have a lady in the house!!’
Shakira blushes and flutters her wings, ‘hey’ she says.
‘Hmmphhh, you’re such an abdomen hole Mak!!!’, one of the mosquitoes flings off the piece of bread from her long leg and flies off sobbing with her friend.
Mak is nonplussed, ‘Don’t worry about her my dear, so you were telling me where you were from,’
‘Umm I’m from F-9 park’
‘Ahh beautiful place, I have a cousin there, his family hails from the wealthy makhis from the “use me” trash can near the south gate,’
‘Oh yeah I’ve heard of them!!!’ Shakira says excitedly
Mak beams proudly and looks around for approval from the onlookers, ‘excellent!! So that practically makes us…hmm what’s the word?’
‘Cousins!!!’ the female mosquito shouts from the toilet seat and then hides her face in her friend’s shoulder who pats her on the back, ‘there there baby, hush now, want some blood?’, she shakes her head while continuing to sob.
‘Hehehe don’t listen to her sweetheart, she’s just joking’ Mak tries to play it down,’ of course we’re not cousins, although my great-great- great grandfather had a brief spring fling with a hummingbird, but that’s beside the point, we’re acquaintances, so that makes it my duty to welcome you to our state of ghussal khana, come, let me give you a round of the state.’
Gilly steps forward and beckons to Mak, ‘what about the meeting Bulgari is holding tonight? You’re supposed to give him the situation report; I just saw a grasshopper in the crowd, a grasshopper Mak!!!’
Mak refuses to let anything spoil his good mood, ‘keep your thorax on Gill, he must’ve come in through the window, they’re nice people, we could use them in the elections.’
‘Oh come off it Mak, you know they don’t fit in here with us, they’re too conspicuous, there will be dire consequences, you do know how unpredictable the lizards are’, this seems to have a momentary sobering effect on Mak, who cast a nervous look up at the ceiling. A solitary lizard stands motionless near the tube light.