Ba-Si-Ra

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Act 2: The case of three cans, a rotund Vizier and an era within an age within a universe

Scene 3

The sombre mood in the room was marked by silent observation. Sidharth had immersed himself in the finer points of the case; reading the hastily drafted case file. The keenest minds in the kingdom’s police had worked tirelessly for two days and three nights to uncover all the missing links of this most perturbing case. Despite their efforts, they hadn’t made any headway into finding poor Batindra’s missing handkerchief.

“You understand why we called you here,” the Grand Vizier addressed Sidharth. But his eyes were riveted on the file containing statements taken from the staff at the Viceroy’s palace. Seeing his friend’s terrible sense of societal courtesy, Raafae decided to jump in.

“Please forgive my friend’s terrible manners, Your Excellency. He obviously missed the lesson on social etiquette.”

Sidharth, completely oblivious to the conversation taking place within a metre of him, shouted with excitement – abrupt as ever.

“The chamber maid.”

Stupefied, all eyes stared in his direction.

“Her statement’s missing from this file,” continued Sidharth.

The Grand Vizier stomped on the floor; his cheeks blown with anger. “Such incompetence. How did the police miss the chamber maid?”

Raafae intervened. “It’s alright, Your Excellency. We are here to control the situation. I assure you, we will find the perpetrator.”

The Grand Vizier nodded his head; his eyebrows furrowed and lips as stiff as his starched kurta.

“I’ll leave you gentlemen to it,” said the Grand Vizier. “Once you’re done here, Bansi will accompany you to the Viceroy’s palace.”

“Papa,” a voice came from the edge of the entrance to the mehmaan khana*. Sebastian’s eyes twirled with excitement as he heard the serenading voice.

“Come in, my dear,” said the Grand Vizier. Sebastian’s sight was set firmly on the young woman walking elegantly and with utmost care towards them.

She wore a pink dance dress; its fall just above her ankles. The borders were laced at the bust. An enchanting silk scarf caressed her soft neck as she moved.

“These are the three sleuths you were eager to see,” the Grand Vizier addressed his daughter.

“Buds blossom on spring’s arrival, my lady.”

Sebastian held the young woman’s gloved hand and kneeled to kiss it.

“My daughter – Mahjabeen Cornwallis,” said the Grand Vizier.

“The name matches the effervescence of your grace, my lady,” said Sebastian. His eyes gauged Mahjabeen’s blushing cheeks. He wanted to immerse himself in the comfort of her soft skin that glinted under the sunlight, passing through the gilded bay window.

“The time’s here,” shouted Sidharth; his abruptness unapt and inept as ever.

“Time for what,” replied Raafae.

Sidharth’s eyes widened and a pursed smile appeared across his face.

“It’s time to travel.”

*Drawing Room

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Ba-Si-Ra

Follow three idiotic geniuses on their quest through quirky parallel worlds and lop-sided alternate realities

Twisted Caricature: Ba-Si-Ra

Three main characters journey through the land of the unknown; two willingly, one forced. Meet our heroes who twist and turn the tides of time and reality in search of (no, not truth!) crippling adventure and gut-busting punch lines.

Sidharth: A budding particle physicist, his incredible invention opens a portal to new realities. A reserved and non-engaging person, he is known for a qualified non-existent sense of humour. Part of the brain-drain generation of India, he migrated to England with the noble intention of conquering the scientific world.

Sebastian: A practitioner of vernacular pomposity, he is obsessed with the great Romantic poets of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A hopeless romantic, he has a regular habit of falling in and out of love, fuelled by the Shakespearean desire of being in love with the idea of being in love.

Raafae: An archaeologist in training, Raafae is the string that ties the other two to the outside world. As a child, a visit to the history museum in Lahore, Pakistan, changed his life forever. A history buff, his thirst for learning brought him to Cambridge and in eventual contact with his two eccentric friends.

Act 1: Three Main Characters

The dim lighting in the living room mirrored the vacant chasms of Sebastian’s mind. He was bored. Toying with a set of colourful marble balls he had collected from his last visit to India, he was incongruously mixing his wails of tedium with the knocking sound made by the balls.

“Stop it,” whispered Raafae in a cringing tone. His hand was over his lifeline; the Holy Grail of digital communication – his cherished mobile phone. “Can’t you see I am trying to have a conversation here?”

“You are having sweet talks over the ring machine,” replied Sebastian, “while my heart sinks in the depths of an empty well of sorrow and destitute.”

“Stop your rumblings of an antiquated lover,” cried Raafae. “Your penchant for the dramatics is sickening.”

“What do you know about the soul of an artist – his suffering, his pain?”

“The self-proclaimed artist speaks again.” Raafae arched his eyebrows and let out a sardonic sigh. “I think I’ll have to call you later,” he said to his girlfriend and placed the mobile on the palm wood coffee table lying adjacent to the grey crumpet sofa he was lounging on.

“I didn’t mean to be a drawbridge between lovers,” proclaimed Sebastian.

“I am not her lover,” replied Raafae dismissively. “I am her plaything.” He pictured himself cuffed to his girlfriend’s wrought iron bed-stand blindfolded as she spread her legs across his chest.

“Ah! The digital age’s disdain of love,” sighed Sebastian. “Where’ve gone the days of old; when birds twittered the songs of summer’s arrival in harmony; the days of Shelley, Keats and Byron.”

“These days, birds tweet on a webpage in one hundred and forty characters,” chuckled Raafae.

“Laugh, my cruel friend, while I paint my words on the canvas of life. Undeterred, I shall plod on and conquer all.”

Before Raafae could get a chance to come up with a cheeky reply, the entrance door flashed open. Sidharth stood with his hand firmly placed on the door, his large dark brown eyes almost bulging out of their sockets.

“I have done it,” exclaimed Sidharth, his eyes deranged like a madman’s.

Raafae looked at his friend with comical irreverence. “What have you done now?”

Sidharth fished out a small metallic cube from his trouser pocket and held it in the air between his thumb and index finger. There was a momentary silence. His friends were waiting eagerly for him to speak. With his eyes firmly planted on the cube, he finally spoke.

“This cube has six sides.”

Raafae stared at him with candid stupor. He reclaimed his bearings after a second and rose from the comfort of the soft sofa cushion.

“Thanks for enlightening us ‘O Genius One’.” Raafae bowed with his hand neatly placed against his stomach. “Your esteemed observation will forever be etched in our memories.”

Fully immersed in his own world, Sidharth continued as if he hadn’t heard Raafae at all. “In this cube lies the mystery of the universe. It produces gateways to other worlds – worlds yet to be discovered; to be explored.”

Raafae pursed his lips and shook his head. In the company of his eccentric friends, he was a beacon of normality, bridging the vague with the real. He cleared his throat, mocking his friend’s deluded exposition and said, “Sid. Now you’ve officially lost the plot.”

Sebastian raced to his friend’s aid, excited by the mystery of his words. “You have piqued my curiosity with your fine words. Tell me…tell me all about it.”

“Stop indulging him Bassy,” interrupted Raafae.

“Stop,” said Sebastian with animation. “Is that your word of the day?”

Raafae sneered at Sebastian’s remark and moved in the kitchen’s direction. “I don’t have time for this. I’m going to fetch myself something to eat.”

Sebastian turned his attention back to Sidharth. “Ignore this enemy of the creative. You were saying?”

“I have torn the fabric of reality,” said Sidharth, as abruptly as ever. “Do you want to see it?”

Sebastian rubbed his chin as he gazed at the metallic cube. “I would very much like it my dear Sid.”

“Brace yourselves for a rough ride,” replied Sid.

Raafae popped out of the kitchen, munching on a chicken and bacon sandwich. “Brace ourselves for what?”

“Ba-Si-Ra,” muttered Sid. The cube dropped on the floor from Sidharth’s hand by itself. It kept rolling. All eyes were transfixed on its shaking numbered sides, waiting for the cube to reveal the number. It kept rolling and rolling beyond the normal frequency of turns of a normal dice. And then, without any visible sign of deceleration, it stopped.

Number three.

“Let’s see where it takes us,” exclaimed Sidharth.

A stream of light emanated from the top of the tiny cube. It began to expand, forming an arc in the air on both sides. The space above the cube began to deform, creating ripples visible to the naked eye.

Horrified at the sight of this amorphous space killer, Raafae’s heels seemed to move on their own accord. “What the fuck is this?”

The sandwich dropped from his hand. Instead of hitting the floor, it stopped midway and swirled in the direction of this rising wormhole.

“See you on the other side,” announced Sidharth and his body disintegrated into the portal. Sebastian looked at Raafae’s horrified face and passed a goofy smile at him before disappearing into the wormhole behind Sidharth.

Terrified, Raafae tried to turn from the wormhole’s pull, but its massive weight attracted his human mass in its direction. His shriek remained buried in his dismantled throat, as shreds of his atomic existence descended into the portal.

“Stop,” shouted his consciousness as it saw chunks of its physical abode travel faster than the speed of light.

Ba-Si-Ra

Act 2: The case of three cans, a rotund Vizier and an era within an age within a universe

Scene 2

Three idiotic geniuses stood at the altar of magnificence – the great mehmaan khana* of the Grand Vizier’s palace. The roof was high enough to fall and die from. Exquisitely carved vaulted arches stared down from the top. Male and female statuettes, copulating in the Ananga Ranga position, were sculpted on the arrises where the vaults met.

Raafae was lost in admiration of the skilled craftsmanship that graced his eyes. Sidharth was lost in his own thoughts of…well…what scientists think. And Sebastian; his nose was breathing in the aroma of the red rose he brought in case of a meeting with the Viceroy’s daughter – the devastated Batindra Joseph.

“Attention! Attention!”

Their heads moved in tandem in the direction of the voice. The palace’s messenger boy was standing by the gate-like door, wearing a blue ribbon across his neck. He held a small chrome bell in his hand, jingling it from side to side.

“The great mercurial one; the omniscient light of the kingdom; the bearer of serendipitous tidings; the nation’s barrel-chested pride…”

“Just cut to the chase,” interrupted the Grand Vizier.

“The Grand Vizier of the United Kingdom of Indrastan, Abdul Jalab Montgomery Bahadur Douglas Cornwallis are** blessing your ignoble existence with their** presence.”

Unamused, the Grand Vizier passed a discerning glance at the witless herald. “How many times have I told you Bansi, just Abdul Cornwallis. Do you hear? Abdul Cornwallis.”

“But Your Excellency,” said the herald but a stern stare from the Grand Vizier put him in his place.

Chin upright and brow high, the Grand Vizier strolled in the direction of the three sleuths. Raafae rushed to greet him.

“It’s an honour Your Excellency,” said Raafae as he bowed slightly. The Grand Vizier nodded his head to acknowledge him.

“The majesty of your each footprint sprinkles gold dust in the air.”

A proud smile appeared across the Grand Vizier’s cheeks as he heard his praise. Sebastian bowed with his right knee bending and his left hand neatly placed behind him. The Grand Vizier was surprised to see such etiquette displayed by a foreigner.

“You sound like a citizen of Britannia,” said the Grand Vizier. “But you possess the poise of an Indranian.” Britannians were known for their brutish and often lewd behaviour. Hence, their dignitaries were seldom seen at Indranian balls and banquets.

“Your countrymen should follow your lead,” the Grand Vizier continued.

“Maybe they will,” Sebastian replied. “In another timeline.”

Raafae nudged him to shut his mouth. He simply winked at Raafae and stared at him with a sardonic smile.

“Shall we begin?”

*Drawing room

**In sub-continental culture, elders and persons of high status are often referred to in the plural such as they, them or their out of respect

Ba-Si-Ra

Act 2: The case of three cans, a rotund Vizier and an era within an age within a universe

Scene 1

It’d been four days since the Grand Vizier had taken a stroll around his beloved garden. The shiny silver pommel atop his cane glinted under the morning sun. An earthy smell emanated from the Hardy Begonias and Blue Sages surrounding the garden. The leaves of the Golden Shower trees shimmered under the sunlight, prompting the old man to stop and breathe in the fresh air.

It was a welcome break from a mind-numbing ordeal, courtesy to the daughter of Viceroy Victor Chandrakumar Thakur Baldev Singh Joseph. An entire battalion of the mighty Rangaan Regiment was removed from action at the war front and dispatched to the capital on the orders of the Viceroy.

After hours of deliberation, the Grand Vizier convinced the Viceroy not to declare a state of emergency. The declining fortunes of the United Kingdom of Indrastan could not afford a second bout of recession. But the grave predicament that had befallen the Viceroy’s household could not be ignored either. After all, poor Batindra Joseph had lost her handkerchief.

To avoid uproar in the kingdom, the news was purposely kept from the media and police. Everything had to be done in secret. The honour of the Viceroy’s palace was at stake. The stiff-lip could not be saddled by disgrace.

“Your Excellency.”

The Grand Vizier turned his head to eye his butler, dressed in a starched white kurta and shalwar. He wore a bright red turban, with a matching sash tied across his chest.

“Do you have an urgent message for me, Dharmendra?”

His eye twitched as he stared at his butler. The Grand Vizier did not receive guests at the time of his morning walk unless it was an absolute emergency.

Dharmendra gulped. “Three men have arrived at the palace. They are saying that they received a special summons from you. They had the house seal with them.”

Dharmendra held an envelope with the palace’s blue-coloured seal smudged on it. Three monkey heads stared back at the Grand Vizier as he eyed the envelope. He jumped with excitement and lost control of his walking stick; its bottom end collided with Dharmendra’s manhood.

Maintaining the dignity of a seasoned butler, the poor man stood stiff in painful defiance – face red and lips pursed. The Grand Vizier cleared his throat to maintain a false sense of composure. He straightened the pointed ends of his twirling moustache.

“Show them to the mehmaan khana*,” ordered the Grand Vizier.

Dhramendra bowed his head and headed away from the gravel path, surrounding the garden, in the direction of the palace. The Grand Vizier rubbed the sole of his khaki khusas** on the path, creating a crunchy sound where the soles met the gravel.

“The three sleuths are here,” he mused.

There had been much whisper in the town about the resourcefulness of the three. They had appeared in the great city of Kolkattan a few months back. No one knew anything about them or where they had come from. The mystery of their origins was a hot topic in the higher echelons of the Kolkattan society.

Some said they were former secret agents, who defected from the Oligarchy of Britannia and had settled down in the cosmopolitan city of Kolkattan. Others said that they were children of Atlantia, the lost land of ancient mysticism, and possessed ethereal knowledge, aiding them to solve complex crimes in less than a day. Stories surrounding them ranged from the mad to the deranged.

The Grand Vizier rubbed his rotund belly and moved in the palace’s direction, punching his walking stick into the ground.

“Let’s see if they are as good as they make them out to be.”

*Drawing Room

**Traditional Indian sandals