Resurrection of a Dead Soul by Akshat Jain
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Ever since Nikolai wrote Dead Souls, the world has believed that only people who have already died attempt to become bureaucrats. When someone goes to a bureaucrat to obsequiously supplicate for something that rightfully belongs to them anyway, they assume beforehand that they are going to a dead person and must behave accordingly. An ordinary man further assumes that since all gods are dead and the bureaucrats are also dead, the bureaucrats must be gods; a notion which the bureaucrats do very little to dispel. Bad logic, I know, but the world spins on bad logic.

 

So what happens when a bureaucrat wakes up one day and finds that he is suddenly alive? After a long rest which would put Kumbhkarna to shame, the brain of Akash Saxena abruptly started experiencing new sensations, something which Akash and everyone who knew him had assumed would never happen. For he belonged to a long line of permanent bureaucrats, called Kayasths, the inventors and carriers of ledger keeping in India. His family had managed to stay in the bureaucracy in all the kingdoms that had ruled their city for over 800 years. Not one of them had ever come back to life before.

 

It would be an understatement to say that everyone around Saxena was shocked. Even for Saxena’s genes this was shocking. Imagine your father died six years ago and you buried him and made peace with his absence and started living life accordingly and one day you find him sipping tea in the living room while ordering your mother about like nothing ever happened. Pretty shocking.

 

Thus it was for Saxena’s wife and children. Jyoti Saxena, after coming over the initial shock of finding a dead man occupying her bed, had started occupying the beds of live men behind Saxena’s back. The children that the couple called their own were the result of such couplings but Saxena, being dead, never noticed anything amiss.

 

On the day he came back to life, Saxena noticed for the first time that he had a ten-year-old son who resembled his writer friend more than himself. He also noticed for the first time that while he was preparing to go to his office, his wife was putting on make-up like she was about to go somewhere too, but as far as he could recall his wife didn’t have a job. While his brain was racked with such doubts, he heard the wailing of a girl barely two-years old. He wondered whose girl that was since he could not remember having sex with his wife for over five years. When he saw his wife calling that girl her daughter he was bewildered beyond measure. He thought he had been drugged and put into a home that wasn’t his. For a moment, he thought of aliens and why they would do this to him. Did they want something out of the chief minister, whose chief secretary he had managed to become by then?

 

He looked at his wife with the sort of curiosity which his wife had assumed he was no longer capable of. It put her off a little so she asked him ‘What happened honey? Why are you looking at me like that?’

 

‘Oh no … nothing,’ Saxena stammered, ‘I am just a little ill today, think I will take a leave from office.’

 

Mrs Saxena cursed her husband silently. She had a sexual encounter planned for that day that she had been looking forward to for quite a while. It had taken her some time and considerable effort to bag the man she was going to meet in the Taj and there was no way her husband was going to stop her from consummating one of the most important conquests of her life. The man was a famous writer after all, who knew when again she would get the chance, those folks had a lot of girls (usually much younger than her) running after them to offer them the sweet fruits of their youthful bodies. God knew she wasn’t getting any younger and there wasn’t much juice left in her to attract the more successful mates.

 

‘Oh poor baby,’ Jyoti Saxena cooed, ‘rest a while. I will tell Ramu to prepare soup for you.’

 

‘But where are you going?’ Saxena asked her.

 

She was perturbed by this sudden inquisitiveness in the dead man but she didn’t let this small detail distract her.

 

‘Kitty party, been planned for weeks, I am hosting, can’t not go, I promise I will be back as soon as possible.’ Saying that, she left the newly alive man to figure life out on his own.

 

Like leaving a newly born in a tub of water expecting him to learn how to swim. Not a good idea, as she would soon discover.

 

*

 

It wasn’t just Saxena. Bureaucrats were waking up everywhere and noticing for the first time that their children were probably not theirs at all and that their wives were sleeping with their non-bureaucratic friends. As many of these bureaucrats took to bed assuming they were ill, the world started functioning smoothly for other more alive people. They suddenly found that they didn’t have to deal with dead people to get the smallest things done and that made their tasks a lot easier. They started wondering what the dead people had been hired for in the first place. Were the dead there just to make their lives more difficult?

 

For the politicians and businessman, the matter took a horrifying turn. They suddenly discovered that their supply of black money had stopped. The problem became so acute within half a day that all the world’s leaders gathered in the UN to discuss what to do.

 

‘Ladies and Gentleman,’ the American President addressed the crowd of assembled half-wits, ‘I think our first task is to discover who is sabotaging our democracies by putting life into the dead. All our countries are afflicted by this new epidemic of life, including North Korea and the Muslims. I assume even they aren’t stupid enough to do this to themselves. So there can only be one answer. Aliens. The aliens have always been jealous of the developments we have made in the governance of our societies and have finally done the most dastardly deed imaginable. Don’t get me wrong my friends, if uncontained and not quickly dealt with effectively, the waking of bureaucrats could be worse for the human race than a nuclear holocaust. This, my friends, is a black swan and we must shoot it before it learns how to fly.’

 

The wisest assembly in the universe broke into loud applause at the wise words of the wisest president of the wisest empire the wisest species on the wisest world had ever seen.

 

The Prime Minister of India got up next, ‘We have already started rounding up our bureaucrats to put them through a rigorous examination to judge how bad the problem is. Due to the caste system it was easy, as all our bureaucrats fall within the ambit of ten large families. I suggest that all countries rediscover their caste systems and quickly take action.’

 

Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, China and England, which also had robust caste systems, supported India’s motion to rediscover the caste system across all countries and the motion was passed by a wide majority. Nothing better than good organisation to deal with alien invasions and intrigue.

 

*

 

The police came to Saxena’s door late in the evening only to find it locked. A note was stuck to the door. ‘I now realise you have been cheating on me for more than a decade and none of the children I call my own are actually mine. I am leaving for ever. Don’t try to find me.’ Signed Akash.

 

The police inspector knew he would be in big trouble if he let the local MLA know that Akash had escaped. He had received strict orders to round up all the Saxenas as soon as possible but he had procrastinated as was his usual habit. So the inspector dressed up one of his constables in Akash’s clothes and shot him.

 

When the wife returned, she was told her husband had died while trying to run away from the police and that she would receive due compensation. The news made her quite happy but she feigned sadness for the benefit of the informers and asked to see her husband one last time. When they told her she couldn’t see him because he had been shot in the face, she was relieved.

 

Meanwhile, Saxena was roaming free in society like a ticking hydrogen bomb at the back of a transport truck.

 

He was discovering that as time passed his resurrection was giving him some amazing powers. The first was the ability to have multiple perspectives about the world. The second was the ability to take action without being ordered to do so. The third was the ability to take risks. The fourth was an increasing awareness of danger. By the time he discovered that he could fly, he had already made up his mind to get as far away from home as possible. There was suddenly an increasing urge towards asceticism in him. So he flew to the highest peak in the Himalayas. Reaching there, he realised that outside temperature and air pressure made no difference to him, his body was able to adapt quite quickly and imperceptibly to everything.

 

Sitting on Everest and taking stock of his new found powers, Saxena started feeling like the king of the world. He wondered whether he had become invincible, like his idol Purshottam Ram. But if he was Ram, where were his Sita and Laxman.

On rediscovering his long dormant libido, he flew to the nearest tribal village and raped a few ripe women, just like another one of his idols, Shri Krishna. Thus satisfied, he came back to Everest to think of what he should do next and why he had been chosen by the gods to wield such immense powers. Little did he know of the aliens who were going to use him to subjugate his species and take over his plastic-rich planet.

 

*

 

He didn’t know of the aliens because there weren’t any. The universe had simply happened to do something that was beyond the powers of human comprehension. The universe has a habit of doing these things, judging by the vast number of things beyond the limited scope of humanity’s collective brain power.

 

I write as if the universe is a knowing subject with volitional powers but I only do so because it is beyond the capacity of my brain to write about things without subjectifying them in human terms, those being the only terms I have thus far had the fortune of having.

 

So, as it often happens, the universe had conspired to provide a mediocre man with powers he could neither fully understand nor begin to use. Saxena was feeling the guilt of not matching up to his potential; that guilt which many sons and daughters of rich and powerful people have felt.

 

He thought to himself, ‘what should I do? Is there a way to use my powers for good? How much more money can I make in bribes? Can I finally fulfil my dream of becoming the chief secretary to the Prime Minister?’

 

Thus lost, Saxena sat on the peak of Everest, completely ignorant of the world below him which was going a little haywire.

 

Things were running a trifle too smoothly since the mass disappearance of bureaucrats. People were now really beginning to wonder why they had been there in the first place. No one was able to answer the question posed by the situation: what exactly had the bureaucrats been doing?

 

It didn’t take much time for this line of questioning to turn some radical corners. If the bureaucrats were there to serve the government and they weren’t actually doing anything, could it be that the government itself was doing nothing?

 

Sales of Proudhon started sky-rocketing. Not since his first publication had publishers ever thought anarchism would become such a wide-scale fad. Some of them, who had better print-on-demand facilities, cashed in on this opportunity and nearly cornered the entire publishing market.

 

The heads of government convened another meeting to deal with this unforeseen threat to their existence. For it is a known fact that without a government, there cannot be a head of government.

 

Again, it was the President of the United States who spoke first. ‘Gentleman and ladies, first I want to congratulate everyone on the successful purge of all living bureaucrats. Who knows what a mess they would have created? We are told that some of them had already started to develop the ability to distinguish right from wrong, a horrifying prospect.’

 

‘Anyway, we are gathered here to discuss how to save our asses. We stand exposed. People are beginning to question our raison d’etre and soon they will come for us personally. I don’t need to tell you what the populace did to the kings in France and Russia after their respective revolutions. To save our seats and our heads, we need to come up with the most cunning plan. My great friend, the Chancellor of Germany assures me that she has one.’

 

The German Chancellor got up and took the reins, ‘All of us have to declare war on each other. When their existence is threatened, the people will forget about all this nonsense. We Germans have used this method to deal with a rebelling population for a long time. It is full-proof.’

 

The supreme dictator of North Korea got up with a sinister smile on his face, ‘does this mean we actually have to fight each other?’

 

‘Yes,’ the German Chancellor answered, ‘we actually have to fight. Not total war but carefully managed and orchestrated theatres of war in the right places. You know, just make it look good on television. Our aim is not to kill each other but impress upon our respective constituencies that we can kill each other if they don’t behave.’

 

The President of the Republic of Korea stood up, ‘we don’t trust the North Koreans; or the Chinese for that matter. What if they nuke our cities while we are only burning their villages?’

 

‘No nuclear weapons are to be used in the war. In fact, the more primitive the weapons, the better their effect will be. If you can make people fight with swords and arrows, nothing like it.’

 

The Indian Prime Minister stood up, beamed an obsequious smile at everybody, as was his childhood habit, and said, ‘we in India have no problem in using swords and arrows. We can even use weapons more primitive than that, like spades. Very recently, we took down an enemy structure in our heartland just using ropes and stones and created a monument of excellence to the greatest king that has ever roamed this planet from California to Harappa.’

 

Pauses for applause.

 

Continues on receiving none, ‘All I want from this assembly is for Pakistan to give us an assurance that they will take it easy. Because if they don’t, we will not hold back in obliterating them with all the weapons we recently bought from Japan.’

 

Next, the chief dick of Pakistan got up and said something.

 

Then, someone else and then someone else.

 

After endless bickering, the decision was finally taken that all the countries would simultaneously declare war on each other.

 

*

 

After completing a full survey of his powers and what he could do with them, Saxena had come to the most important decision of his life. He wasn’t going to be satisfied with becoming the chief secretary to the Prime Minister, his only goal in life up to then. He was going to become the supreme ruler of the entire planet. And if they tried to stop him, well they would see his prowess! The simpletons would make him a god. He, for his part,had already started thinking of himself as a god; perhaps Vishnu had descended into his body to rid the world of evil once again.

 

The only problem was, he did not know of any evil in the world. The only really evil people he could think of were the anti-corruption activists but he knew they were too insignificant and too easy to deal with, Vishnu wouldn’t deign to descend from his heights just to deal with those fools. He kept thinking of who the evil men could be. The trade union activists, maybe. Or the atheists. Perhaps the fools who keep harping on about the environment. Or could it be the most infernal of them all, the Maoists?

 

At long last, his true purpose struck him. He had to get rid of all of them. After that, the rest of the population would automatically make him supreme ruler.

 

While he was flying back to civilization to make good his purpose, he thought of one last thing. He didn’t really want to become supreme ruler of the world. For, in that case, there would be no one to give him orders and he would be utterly lost in no time. He settled on a more practical ambition. He would become chief secretary to the supreme ruler of the world. They would call him the modern Chanakya.

 

As it turned out, all the countries had their versions of Saxena, that lone bureaucrat or two who escaped the purge. All of them were hired as chief secretaries to the defence ministers of their respective nations and served important roles in the war that distracted all.

 

I think it was after this war that the saying was coined: A bureaucrat is a bureaucrat is a bureaucrat; whether dead or alive.

 

*


Akshat Jain is a writer currently working in Kabul. His work has been published in The First Line Literary Magazine and various online journals like Cecile's Writers Magazine, Indian Ruminations, Indian Review, Aaina Nagar, Ashwamegh and Bengal Lights.