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Other Names #12: Kaamkar Das


The rain pelted incessantly for six years and five months and twenty-two days over the city of Someplace. There were periods of drizzle when people stepped out but soon, they began to realise that the respite was only a forecast for more rain. At first life came to a standstill and then boredom set in. People stopped going out altogether so establishments had no reason to stay open. The public gardens were flooded and turned into veritable marshlands with crocodiles and snakes which put an end to walking. A thick layer of moss covered the asphalt under the waterlogged streets that made cars and motorbikes skid off their paths and often into death. People received their weekly supplies of grains from a government helicopter that came twice a week to drop sealed packets onto the terraces. Time stretched into infinite seconds over Someplace and its people came to be characterised by their glassy eyes, wet yellowish skin and a perennial dry crust around their mouths.

Kaamkar Das was one of those who worked hardest not to be conquered by the idleness that swept through Someplace like a plague. In order not to become bored, he dedicated himself to the task of repairing the many things that needed fixing in the house. He adjusted hinges, oiled locks, and reattached doorjambs. Every morning, he walked around with a toolkit of all his supplies – inspecting every latch, lock and nail and he was never disappointed for the ravages of the rain were never-ending and it created a vicious cycle of decay and restoration to Kaamkar’s delight. The air was so damp that fish could have come in through the door and swum out the windows, floating through the wet atmosphere in the rooms. Kaamkar routinely heated half a kilo of coal till the air was warm and crisp enough to prevent the build-up of mold. It was necessary to dig canals to get the water out of the house and rid it of the frogs and snails so that they could dry the floors and walk in shoes once more. 
Occupied by the many minute details that called for his attention, Kaamkar Das did not realise that he was getting old beyond his years until one afternoon he found himself contemplating about the state of his personal affairs without regret. Before the rains, Kaamkar Das had been consumed by the idea of marriage. But the rain had spared him from the emergencies of passion and had filled him with a lack of appetite. He amused himself thinking about the things that he could have done in other times but largely the daydreams left him unmoved. Nothing fulfilled Kaamkar as much as the useful business that the pliers and screwdrivers had awakened in him. It might be said that the deluge brought him the opportunity to explore and reflect on work that he deeply enjoyed and true to the saying – he never worked a day in his life during those six years, five months and twenty-two days – he merely amused himself in a rather productive way.

Kaamkar settled into his life with renewed purpose and soon the people of Someplace came to regard his house as the town’s driest, the stateliest, and the homeliest of homes one could have under the circumstances. He earned accolades from the municipality and public officials made a habit of dropping by to discuss his newest home improvements. Kaamkar Das lived his most rewarding years as the rest of the people of Someplace languished under the constant desolation of the deluge. Secretly, he feared the end, the day the sun would come out and set Someplace back in order without his helping hands. It would be the end of his usefulness and once again idleness would set in.

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