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What Happened to Iron Man?
|by Ashutosh Mohan|
March 10, 2014
He is deaf. He is dumb. He has a cellphone. He "irons" clothes. They tell me that he makes a decent living, thanks to a third-world symbiosis between haves and have-nots. The haves outsource mundane tasks out to the have-nots. This frees up time to focus on mundane tasks outsourced out to them by the first-world. I don’t really know why he has a cellphone. Mother tells me that he outsources too: he asks whoever is around him to talk based on instructions communicated using an efficient sign language. Seems like a decent guy. He smiles a happy smile at me when I drive out on my scooter every morning.
March 12, 2014
I learnt the essence of a few things by ‘talking’ with him. Today, I was walking my bike to fix a punctured tyre. He accelerated an imaginary scooter and tilted his head up for question mark-effect, driving home the point that acceleration is the essence of an automobile. The other day, he asked me where my wife—who was not in town—was. He pointed to the empty space near my left shoulder and finished with a question mark. I wasn’t sure why I understood him. I pointed to nowhere diagonally above my head. By the look of understanding in his eyes, I think he correctly took it to mean that she was out of town. I had never realized before that my wife always walks on my left. We who can speak are too verbose, use too many words uselessly, and fail to exploit the rich context in life.
March 13, 2014
Today, I saw someone arguing with him. Of course, our iron man didn’t talk back. But the other party seemed entirely oblivious to that. Hence, I have to maintain that it was indeed an argument, if only to honor the other party’s commitment.
March 15, 2014
After some furtive asking around, an esteemed member of his motley bunch of guardians (apartment watchman, sweeping lady, autorickshaw man and fruit seller) told me the secret. He wants to remain anonymous. I know this is only a diary entry, but he thinks some day, someone might sneak up and read what I’ve written.
It is amazing how the group has swiftly mastered the skill of communicating complicated ideas through an ad hoc and make-it-up-as-you-go sign language. I told mother that that the iron man from a few streets away wants our iron man to scoot; he is competition and bad for his business. She was livid. The other iron man barely comes to collect clothes. We have to beg him endlessly. We have to walk around in crimped up clothes or worse, iron our own clothes using the iron box at home. More over, his wife talks too much.
March 20, 2014
Gang wars continue. Evil Man and his wife are threatening to evacuate Good Man from premises using thug-friends. People in our street who had switched from Evil to Good have gone back to Evil, even though his service has historically been patchy. Who wants to get beaten up by thugs? It doesn’t matter whether one is wearing pressed or crinkled clothes when getting beaten up. They will get crinkled anyway.
March 21, 2014
I am going to intervene. But I am not sure how. I need to go to the bank today. I might think about this later tomorrow.
I don’t want to unfairly meddle in other peoples’ affairs though. It is important to maintain perspective, to be neutral.
March 23, 2014
Some men wearing khaki were talking to Good. They must be the police. Not a good time for me to interfere in this matter. If good has to happen, it will happen somehow. Mere mortals like us shouldn’t consider ourselves too important.
March 24, 2014
Enquiries reveal that corporation hirelings also wear khaki. No badges on their shirts. Of course, not policemen. How silly of me.
March 25, 2014
Mother keeps cursing Evil. She meant to talk to him a week back; ask him to leave Good alone. But she has been busy lately with all kinds of non-outsource-able work. Think she will talk to him soon.
March 30, 2014
Good appears a little sad today. I should do something about the situation soon. But have a bit more bankwork. This weekend, positively.
March 31, 2014
As I drove out on my scooter, I noticed that neither Good nor his ironing table is at the usual spot. Perhaps he has moved to a shadier place at the other end of the street. No time to go and check now, need to get to the bank before they close for the day.
As I turned the corner, I saw Evil drive past me on his scooter with a big pile of clothes tied up in a bed sheet. He smirked at me. What did I ever do to him? No wonder no one likes Evil.
April 1, 2014
What a dithering fool I have been! Evil has triumped over Good because Neutral got busy with Bankwork!
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