Today’s was a typical summer morning in Tikwadi. It was a calm & pleasant dawn that the midnight breeze & the sun-beaten land had hatched together. And like every typical morning — summer, winter or of the rainy season — Paka sat expressionless at the window seat of his bus. His bus it was, as he was the lone conductor available in the village.
It would not have been the case in reality though, if not for Paka. He was just smart enough to convince those who appointed a conductor that no person there was suitable for the job. He also convinced those who wanted to get appointed as one that no job there was suitable for the person.
“What to do? It is a selfish world out there.” He used to say as he accepted the job — making him evidently look selfless.
And keeping his job as a conductor intact was the only job he ever worked on. As long as he did that well, all he had to do was report to the bus depot every morning, sit at his window seat through the day and get dropped at his home at night.
Paka had also mastered the skill of acting dumb — something he, of course, was not, given the fact that he had managed to keep the whole village away from his job for 5 years now. Every time someone reminded him of the work he has to do as a conductor, he would work hard to screw up hardest. He considered screwing intermittently as the part-time job, holding onto it being the primary one.
“Why don’t you ever count the money collected?” An officer had once asked him. “Tomorrow, you bring it as counted.”
He reported to the officer next day with no money with him.
“Did no one travel on the bus today?”
“They did. But you told me to count. I counted. I put every rupee note I received next to me in a separate pile based on their value — as I was taught counting in school. It seems the notes blow away if not held.”
“But then why didn’t you hold them?”
“Well, I can either hold the money or count it, right? I only have two hands.”
The officer had received ₹700 less in his next salary.
And no one dared to question Paka — he used to yell “Well, find someone else suitable for this job”. Of course, he would then be asked to simply do nothing.
In that sense, he was paid to not work. Lesser he moved from his seat, more he not worked — more he not worked, more he was paid.
Not that everyone in Tikwadi was stupid, though. It was just that every individual was a master at being a fool at their work.
Farmers sucked at farming. Carpenters sucked at carpentry. Potters sucked at pottery. Barbers sucked at barbery. The only people that did not suck at their jobs were operators of the water pumps. They never sucked, anything.
Paka met all these people during the rides on his bus. And he dreaded every interaction he had with these fools out in the village.
Today, Paka saw Gotya coming towards his bus. He sighed. He dreaded meeting Gotya the most. Gotya was a herder. Of course, he sucked at herding his goats. But that was not why Paka dreaded him. Gotya was one of the most foolish ones out there & he made Paka work like no one ever did.
He knew it was going to be a hectic day for him.
Gotya hopped onto the bus. And so did his five goats after him.
“Goats are not allowed on the bus.”
“Where is it written?”
“Here — right above me.”
“You know I can’t read, right? Read it for me.”
“Goats are not allowed on the bus.”
“Don’t tell me. Read for me from where is it written.”
“I just read for you from where it is written.”
“Then why is there a picture of a cigarette on the board & not of a goat?”
“It says goats are allowed if they are smoking.”
“You did not read so when I asked you to read from where it was written.”
“Goats are not allowed on the bus unless they are smoking.”
“What if I am smoking?”
“Smoking is not allowed on the bus.”
“But then how can goats travel while smoking?”
“Well, don’t ask me. I don’t make these rules.”
“Lucky bastards. By the way, where is that written?”
“What? That I do not make the rules?”
“No. Smoking is not allowed on the bus.”
“So, where is that written?”
“Right there — above the next seat.”
“There is a picture of a woman there and not of a cigarette.”
“It says it is ok to smoke sitting next to a woman.”
“Ok. I will sit next to her and smoke. That way I can bring my goats on the bus.”
“Sitting next to a woman is not allowed on the bus.”
“You know what, I am just going to sit next to that woman there, smoke a cigarette & keep my goats near your legs. Stop me if you can. Do some work.”
“No.” Roared the bus.
The journey began.
The story was originally published at Medium featured at the amazing publication Crossing (G)enres.