The Mason

The Mason

A Story by daydreamer

India is a developing country. life here is completely different from that of the developed world. This short story tries to present to you an entirely new world


There was a whole lot of commotion, tumult among the crowd gathered. “Pom, Pom” the great red horned bull, painted red, fuming and smoking dark clouds of smoke, travelling at the speed of several nautical miles arrived on the scene. Believe me! It maintains this speed only at its destination where its pomp and show is on exuberant display.  Its two great eyes bulging out in the front like a Praying Mantis waiting to hunt. Several glassy eyes on its side dazzling under the lights, it came to a screeching halt. No this is not a story of bull fight in Spain or the story of wildlife in National Geographic channel.

This is the scene of our day to day scene of our treasured, highly respected and royal bus service in our small village ‘Shivanagar’ in the district of Bijapur, state: Karnataka. Wait don’t try Google. You won’t find it. It is so well connected that you may not even find it in state government record. It is so well developed that the streets will be bustling with lights sending people to death due to sun stroke only in the summer season. Nights are dark and eerie, haunted by numerous ghosts residing in the tamarind tree and cotton fields stretching for miles. These ghosts rule the roost during the dark hours under the command of The Satan. They can be seen wandering in groups in the night.

You can see their white robes sailing in the winds through small key whole windows in our small dimly lit houses. It is story times for grannies putting their great skills and art of narration on display. Please don’t envy our sophisticated entertainment system. Names like television, computers, Internet, mobiles and tablets can only be heard if you walk miles in the hot sun and desert and reach Bijapur. These grannies are our only source of recreation. They are the store houses of folk tales, medicines and all sorts of knowledge. When each one dies an era dies. Oil lamps are the only source of light during night times. Let us get back to the bull fight arena.

It is our bus stand. What I mentioned was the great red bus arriving into the stand. It is the only place of where dreams of thousands of people are born and die every day. Forget about luxury buses: if we are able to get enough space to place one of our foot into the great red bull we will be extremely grateful to the Almighty. I guess we would all become great dancers of traditional dance. Children started crying; women and men alike started screaming. Young lads started hanging on the windows, struggling to open it reminding us of great Matadors attempting the bull ride. Once they tamed the windows and managed to balance themselves, they threw the towels and Hand kerchief’s on the seats. This was our own patented way of seat reservation.

This is because there is only one government official is posted in the bus stand. If you see his face once in a blue moon, then you are the blessed one. You deserve to be a religious leader or politician. Don’t even ask about our political leaders. They will be seen parading in decorated Maruthi Gypsy open jeeps decorated with flowers and garland s of one thousand rupee notes. These Jeeps could give Ferrari or BMWs a tough competition. Such will be their grandeur. Amidst flowers and garlands, if you happen to observe closely squeezing through excited mobs; you can see sun goggles adoring the eye and a white cap called “Gandhi cap” bestowed on the head with a pot belly covered by flowers; yes, you should thank heavens, you have seen your leader in the parliament. You have to be deaf to those Megaphones screaming loudly “Netajige Jai” meaning hail our leader.

Of course, Supreme Court has now banned this grand procession. So we don’t even have the privilege of seeing our leaders in human forms. We have their self proclaimed assistants coming into every house with the grinning photographs of their leaders. Cajoling and luring voters with a promise of flowing liquor and shower of money, if we elect their leader. Forget about the election agenda. If I go on telling this, it is a material for another novel. Meanwhile let us return to our bus stop. I am searching for our hero Eshwar, the mason. He is supposed to go by this 4 am bus. Where is he? Our great driver, Mulla Saab, The man equal to lord Death himself opened the door and jumped off the bus.

 He needed some fresh air and blood circulation into his legs. He is a tall well built man, dark with white shining teeth and a thick moustache, curled at its end towards the corner of his lips and bloody red eyes. He was indeed scary with a loud husky voice. Only man of his calibre could handle that old bus. An ordinary man might not be able to turn the steering in narrow curving roads of Western Ghats. He might be thrown out of the bus. So smooth were the bus. The seat of the driver was so good that lay man would require a water bed. But Mulla Saab managed it quite well. Pulling the spark plug to start the bus was equivalent to starting a 10 KV generator used in big companies, manually. Even they might still be easier. Our driver Saab was a pure magician. Many children tried their hand to honk the horn when driver was missing. One child even put his full weight on it. It did not budge. But our magician driver honked it as if it was a piece of case.

If any of the passengers tried to meddle with the numerous wires hanging around in the driver’s cabin, they should make sure that they have booked a bed in burns ward. It was our driver Saab’s trade secret. Only he knew the secret access code to it. That is how he managed to stay on in this route for thirty long years of his driving career. Other drivers feared electrocution in the bus cabin. Our bus conductor Shivappa was slim and trim. He had wit to manage his short comings with anatomy. He could slip through the space between the legs of even five year old. God knows if he has tried slipping between thighs of women. He is an entertainer par excellence. He can diffuse any tense situation usually arising, especially because of the seat reservation facility. Together they made a perfect pair of Laurel and Hardy.

Our great red bull had a fancy two horns on the exterior on its face. Mulla claimed that his bus had met with an accident with a raging bull which was on rampage. The bull died on the spot. As a mark of him being the saviour of some village, the villagers had gifted him those horns, after painting it red. So he fixed it on the top of the bus. It was also decorated with few strips of golden and silver decoration paper threads. Not sure, how many actually believed his story? Rumour goes that when he had been to his mistress house in the guise of the dark night he found it in the drought hit village. Whatever the story is, the truth is it matched the profile as a vehicle of the lord of death Yama, himself. Bus was jam packed some men and women were pushed to the front mirror on one side next to the radiator. You could see their distorted faces through the glass on the other side.

Shivappa had managed to issue tickets to many. Bus had a seating capacity of forty eight passengers including driver and conductor. Then the legal standing capacity was ten. But, this bus is used to carrying nearly hundred passengers in every trip. They would occupy every nuke and corner stuffed like old worn out dresses in the showroom. Lucky ones would get to occupy the airline seats. They were so called because they could sit glued to the top of the bus on the top of the bus among the luggage. They were charged few bucks extra. No tickets were issued for extra passengers. They travelled at their own risk. People who had to travel short distances would occupy the ladder for the top of the bus. One big thing that was lacking and would have completed the portrait was absence of Keanu Reeves, Vin Diesel or Sylvester Stallone who could travel under the bus in their movies.  Overall it gave a very funny picture from outside. But, only passengers knew the pain. If the bus was to be inspected, conductor would jump around him and entertaining him with his wits and finally would slip something into his coat. Monkeys by the roadside would close their eyes. May be because dust particles entered their eye or they were ashamed of their antics compared to Shivappa’s. Then the Inspector would shout foul words at the government for their lack of governance on transport issue and conclude that commuter to bus ratio need to be addressed immediately. This is an everyday scene. Every one used to sigh and things moved on as usual.

Mulla Saab started the bus and it started fuming again. Then, Shivappa blew his whistle. Bus was moving its greatest speed of nautical miles. Honestly; even a bullock cart could over take the bus. So did our hero, Eshwar The mason. He had come with a bag carrying trade mark tools. Spade being the most important. He appeared like a local deity with a Spade in his hand. He could bless you with smooth concrete floor if he was pleased. He was quite a popular figure in the town. He got hold of the ladder and jumped into the bus. He said “Ok! Right let’s move on!” Bus roared, the raging bull stated moving, but, only at snail’s pace. Nobody complained as long as it moved. Eshwar was a high school dropout. He was an average student. Hunger and accessibility became a problem for him to pursue further studies. He joined as a daily wage labourer under a contractor. He learnt his job very piously. He quickly climbed up the ladder and became the mason.

Here in the village houses were built mainly using limestone and mud almost similar to clay. The floor was usually swabbed with cow dung in liquid form. Then it was allowed to dry. This got rid of its obnoxious smell. It is proved to be some kind of antiseptic. Cow is worshipped as a holy animal because it provides with milk- the life line of many children and adults even its urine and dung is used. Eshwar with his artistic skill would finish each and every house as big as a pigeon house with such perfection that, the whole village would appear like hosing some art festival. He earned respect of every one. Cement was a luxury affordable to only certain class of people. Zamindars, our honourable leaders, their followers, hoteliers and rare breed called doctors had their house built of cement. Eshwar loved to work with cement. He would mix it with spade in proper proportions of sand and water. The consistency would be picture perfect and also his work. He was Michael Angelo of our village. I wonder if he would even have heard about him. He was a delightful mason to watch at work.

His family was a huge one. He had four brothers and three sisters. He was the youngest. All of them were married. Most of them were working in the fields.  His parents were illiterate. They believed that more the number of children, more hands to help. They did not know the word called family planning. Life was a gift to them and they were happy with their meagre income. They had some property where they used to grow cotton. The yield was dependent on rain god. The building of public works department was deserted. It was battleground for gamblers and in the dark was a romantic place for the ghosts both male and female. Someday ghosts would get angry and next day a dead body would be found. Police station was totally under staffed. They would be found doing duties in our honourable leaders house or in the parties of local Zamindars and high class people. No one complained as long as they had ghosts and local deities to blame for all their miseries.

Eshwar got a miserly income. That would suffice for him and his family as their demands from life were less. His eldest brother-in- law was a contractor in Mangalore. He knew the potential of Eshwar. He would always pester him to accompany him to Mangalore. Eshwar resisted his calling, till; his marriage was fixed two years ago. He was twenty one years of age. His wife Parvathi was eighteen years old according to marriage register. Here you can hardly find anyone who is bothered about Birth, marriage or death certificates. They never enjoyed any privileges from the government and were blissfully unaware of it.  Now Eshwar has one year old daughter. Growing family had put increased demands on Eshwar. Finally he decided to go to Mangalore, Last year. He was dumb stuck when he landed. Tall buildings, huge traffic , lots of people speaking strange  language, Brand new fast moving buses, in Toto a hustling bustling city. It was like moving to Newyork or London. He found plenty of work. He gained confidence of many contactors and engineers. He had a knack of cementing ties with people. The genius within him developed. He bought a mobile for himself and his family members, new clothes, jewellery and toys for his family. He opened a bank account for himself within a year he had savings over a lakh.

He came back to his village during the rainy season. This is the vacation period for all the construction workers. This because Mangalore, the port city, had only two seasons: Rainy season and summer season. It witnessed heavy rainfall during rainy season and hot scorching weather with humidity immediately when rains ended. No doubt this city was a boon for people like Eshwar. On the flip side, in the name of construction deforestation was taking the toll of the city slowly. Eshwar brought new land and he built a house for his own with cement. All his family members except his old parents also moved to the city. Soon their family had also become relatively well off in the village. This was the third time he was going back to Mangalore. His chain of thoughts was broken by the sound of “Ticket! Ticket!” by our conductor.

Eshwar struggled to get money out of his pocket while the bus started swaying in the road. Most of the passengers were off balance. Suddenly a women hurled abuses towards Shivappa for pinching her Bum. The witty conductor replied “sister! I was off balance. So I wanted to hold the seat. I realized it was your a*s only when you screamed” the woman kept muttering to herself. Shivappa winked at Eshwar. The mason knew very well that Shivappa had taken the advantage of situation. He paid five bucks less than the original fare as he was a regular customer and had promised Shivappa to get a job in Mangalore. They both exchanged greetings and started chatting. Shivappa had an art of balancing himself in the bus no matter what the situation was. This time he was leaning on another woman. While chatting Shivappa casually asked “did you read the morning news paper Eshwar?”.” No! Anything special?” asked Eshwar. “Everyone has predicted that the world will end by this year end.” “How can they predict like that?” asked amused Eshwar. “God knows. They are telling that Tsunami has hit southern parts of India and neighbouring countries. Next earthquake will be striking soon. People have committed too many sins you see. So god is punishing us all.” This time his gaze shifted somewhere else. Eshwar wondered whether these words are coming from the mouth of a saint. But, still Shivappa was a colourful character.

After a while, Shivappa blew the whistle. The great bull came to a screeching halt. Eshwar prayed that brake should engage the recycle tyre of the bus properly. Shivappa made an announcement “Dear passengers, there is fifteen minutes time. You can all have lunch and gather back by fifteen minutes. Don’t think this is some wedding party. Come back soon.” All of them got down. Eshwar went to empty his bladder. The he bought a ticket for meals and started enjoying the meal. He was terribly hungry. He looked at the mobile. There was no network coverage in the area. There was no point trying to call home. Driver Saab and Shivappa were treated as special guests of honour. They were being served special meals. These hotel owners have an understanding with bus drivers and conductors about special offers to them. It is like pharmaceutical companies offering special package to the Physicians. No matter how bad is the food passengers are left with no choice?

Shivappa started blowing whistle again the entire crowd rushed towards the bus. It was like sheep rushing behind the shepherd or rats running behind the Bagpiper. The raging bull started moving at the snail’s pace once again. Everyone sitting or standing started dozing off slowly. Eshwar heard a loud “Thud” it was a terrible noise. Within moments bus hurled out of the road in the air and fell upside down into a small swamp nearby. There was huge cry from every one. Those cries became faint as Eshwar realized that he too was in the air, separated from the bus, his instruments, baggage and he crash landed in the bushes. He could see bodies and organs flying everywhere. Some alive, some dead. He felt a shooting pain in his arms. His left arm joint had dislocated and he could not move his left arm. His mobile was safe with him. He looked around. There was total chaos.

Villagers from nearby area came to the scene within minutes. Eshwar forgot his pain and started pulling people stuck in the swamp. He could now see the Titanic, the red bull sinking. He could see petrified faces locked within the bus. One face out of that was Shivappa’s. No trace of Mulla Saab was found. He might have perished. Red bull sunk into the swamp with his face on. Its forty year journey had ended. Finally it was going to rest in peace. But, death doesn’t go empty handed. It takes a whole bunch when it has planned for a mass rampage. Hundreds of smiles, cries, dreams were sinking into the swamp. Right in front of the eyes of Eshwar. He could do nothing about it. He was still wondering what had happened? Then his eyes went on to the other side of the road. He could hear people crying, moaning for help. The voice quietened after a while. It was a minibus.

Eshwar used his presence of mind and called to the nearest police station using emergency number. Police van, Fire brigade arrived to the scene within half an hour. By the time many lives were lost. None of them survived from the minibus. There were few lucky ones like Eshwar, who survived. All of them worked together to help transport people through ambulance. Media scribe arrived on the scene. They started narrating the incident live on the television. They were only bothered about covering the news. They did not even bother to move a single injured person. During their chat with local people Eshwar realized that their bus had collided head on with the speeding minivan and Mulla Saab for the first and last time lost control of his great red bull. Then everybody paid attention to the mangled minibus. Bodies’ were badly bruised and torn apart in the accident. Later due to exhaustion and shock Eshwar lost consciousness.  H e woke up next day in the hospital. His hand was repaired and it was plastered. Police escorted him to identify the body.

When he entered the mortuary a nauseating feeling and chill travelled up his spine. He identified many of his villagers. He had built their dream houses. The Houses were still there waiting for their owners. But, the dreams were lying in front of him mangled and lifeless. He then saw the body of Mulla Saab. The captain did not abandon the ship. He went down like many others. Shivappa was lyin dead with his hands pointing heavenwards. His wit did not save him. Eshwar recalled his latest conversation with him. Death comes when it wants. No predictions can predict accurately what happens with you. Eshwar did not know whether the earth would end by 2012. At the moment he was thankful to the god for keeping him alive. He was then asked to look into the bodies from minibus. He agreed reluctantly. He could not identify most of them. So he wanted to leave. But, policemen for a change were courteous and empathetic and asked him to look at one last body. When they removed the white cloth; Eshwar was stunned. He became silent for a while. His parents face, his sister-in law’s and her children’s face crossed his mind. He could not believe what had happened and what was happening. It was his brother- in- law was lying in front of him.

Different feelings engulfed him. Anger, pity, confusion and sadness engulfed him at a time. There were so many questions to be answered. He then left from there to his room. He called his house and informed them of the tragedy with heavy heart. He was wondering why his brother-in-law was in that minivan. He called up his friends. One of the close associate of his told him that ever since the prediction had come in the news paper that the world is going to end, his brother-in- law was restless and wanted to go back home. Many of them had left yesterday night to their villages by the bus. But, he had gone to collect a payment from a party to whom he had lent some money. So he missed the bus and probably he might have caught the mini bus to reach home swiftly. Eshwar shook his head in disbelief. His illiteracy, superstition and greed had claimed his life. It had destroyed his sister’s world and his world as well. They were scared of death and running away from it. But, death has its way. It had claimed his life on the way by colliding with the same bus his Brother-in-law was travelling. Nothing can beat the destiny.

The mason took his position within Eshwar. He completed all the formalities of his brother- in-law. He returned back to Mangalore. He returned because he believed work his worship. The mason was as strong as the concrete he lays down. He had the skill of burying his bad experiences in the mud; cementing them and plastering them. He had also learnt the art of mixing happiness and tragedy perfectly just the way he mixed his cement. He had learned to move on in his life just the way he moved on from one construction site to the other when the job is done. The mason went on cementing his life. Nobody ever knew what happened to the predictions. Life moves on it is up to us how we cement and plaster our worries , happiness and every moments in the life. The mason knew how to do it well....

The end







© 2011 daydreamer

Author's Note

India is a beautiful country, specially the country side. they have their own belief system,pros and cons. in this short story an attempt has been made to catch a glimpse of that world. Honest reviews that would improve the quality of my writng are welcome

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thank you guys for your wonderful reviews. yes the world turns indeed so we people blend together in common things even though we are from different parts of the world:)

Posted 12 Years Ago

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Firstly, it is so nice to see a story of a decent length on here. One you can truly get your teeth into. And what a wonderful, entertaining story. A terrific read that kept me reading when I should be writing. I loved it

Posted 12 Years Ago

What an entertaining piece! I enjoyed the strength in the message, moving on, balancing.. It's what make the world turn, different cultures, folklore, and always moving on. The world doesn't stop and neither should we.

Posted 12 Years Ago

thanks very much robbie. yup it was covering people with country side so it contains lot of old fashioned values.Thanks:0

Posted 12 Years Ago

You are right about life being completely different...There are alot of old fashioned values in this story... and the mason "learned the art of mixing happiness and tragedy perfectly just the way he mixed his cement." - spoke volumes to me...
Great write!

Posted 12 Years Ago

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5 Reviews
Added on November 5, 2011
Last Updated on November 5, 2011



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