Car Puja

A teaser trailer from an upcoming series of short stories by—who else?—me. Do you get the feeling that I seem to write a lot but nothing seems to be getting out? I do too. I think I should remedy the situation.

It is a well-established tradition among the Indian American community that when many of its members buy a new car, even a used one, they take it to a nearby temple to be ritualized by a priest. It is a form of sanctification that is supposed to herald good luck. I do not have to believe or disbelieve in anything to tell a story about it.  I just have to tell a story in as engaging a manner as I am capable of.

The following are just some excerpts to tease you.

Car Puja—Mayank Chhaya

From behind the glass window of my front office, the young man’s face appeared to have broken out into a severe case of acne. As it turned out, it was the smudgy glass window and not his face.

He kept tapping it even as I slid it open.

“Car puja,” he said as if he was uttering something forbidden.

“Pardon me,” I said, not quite catching the drift of what he was saying.

“I want car puja,” he said with a slight, diffident smile.

“To do it or get it done,” I said in a half-hearted attempt at humor.

He smiled and said, “To get it done,” and pointed at his new Toyota van outside sunk in four inches of snow.

“I just bought it last Saturday,” he said rifling through his wallet. He took out his American Express card and said, “I was told 21 dollars.”

I swiped the card and waited for the approval of the charge. During those brief moments he kept smiling not at me but past me, perhaps well past the shores of America, all the way to India to his village in Andhra Pradesh.

“Perkapally,” he said, “It is in Adilabad district.”

“Perkapally, I take it, is the name of your village,” I said.

“Yes yes yes,” he said; the first “yes” in an apologetic one at having presumed that I would automatically know what he was talking about. The last two yeses were meant to applaud my powers of deduction.

“My fust car,” he said with so much pride and sense of accomplishment that I turned and looked at the van again. An inch more snow had fallen by then but the car had acquired a little more gloss. His pride had brushed off on it.

With the charge having been approved I handed him the merchant copy of the receipt that he was supposed to sign. From what I could gather he signed it J A Perkapally.

“I thought Perkapally was the name of your native village,” I said.

“Yes yes yes, both, my name and my village name, same. Very same,” he said.

He withdrew from the window like someone else was pulling him away. He walked a few steps and suddenly prostrated next to the fountain. His toes stretched so hard that one of them tore through his yellow socks. His forearms were also stretched to their limit and ended in his palms tightly joined in namaskar.

I think he had maxed out all his muscles to reach his optimal length. He stayed prostrated for about a minute and then got up. His buttocks sprang up first up as if in recoil and then did the rest of his body like a tightly tied bowstring suddenly snapping. It was like a weird human version of a Jack in the box.

By the time he went out I could barely see the tires of the Toyota. They were almost completely submerged in snow. The white vehicle seemed as if the snow had taken the shape of a van.


About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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