The evening Sun shone brightly, spreading its merry warmth all over the grassy countryside. Birds chirped in their own mellifluous tunes heralding the impending end of the day. Somewhere in the distance, a dog howled.
The old gatekeeper of the cemetery scratched his head, a beedi† smoldering between his blackened lips. He absently nodded his assent to a request for his photograph be taken. The journalist was young – a rookie, he surmised. The seasoned pros stayed far away from his hut – they knew he would be behind them, demanding cigarettes and money for booze.
But he was always there, with a friendly smile on his lips and a ‘fuck-off’ in his beady eyes. He knew the secrets of the rich and famous. Dark and disgusting secrets like which actor got a rise by having sex with prostitutes on top of the graves? Which film producer once paid him ten thousand rupees to have fifteen minutes with the corpse of a starlet who had overdosed on sleeping pills? The guy had promised that he wouldn’t touch the corpse and the gatekeeper couldn’t find any evidence to the contrary. Maybe he touched himself, the old rascal thought to himself.
Today was different. They were going to lay Daniel Khanna, the yesteryear megastar, down to rest. The old man was a big fan of DK during his heydays and was naturally sad on his passing. DK was one actor with a clean image in that garbage dump they call Bollywood. There were no rumors about him and everyone claimed that he was the ultimate professional. It sickened the gatekeeper that only a sparse crowd had gathered to bid adieu to this genius of an actor.
A slight drizzle started and the old man chuckled on seeing the reporters scurry like rats for cover. The rookie reporter of earlier gazed longingly and pathetically towards the comfort of the gatekeeper’s hut. The old man sighed and reluctantly grunted his permission, but not before bumming few cigarettes off the intruder.
The drizzle increased to a steady shower and the old man commented that the heavens were crying for a noble soul departed. That piqued the reporter’s interest and fresh bank notes combined with a promise of a bottle of imported scotch loosened the Gatekeeper’s tongue. He spent the next half hour praising DK and what he meant to the common man. The reporter was delighted to snare a story from an ordinary fan’s point of view.
A horn tooted in the distance and the Gatekeeper started getting busy. The hearse was arriving. The rain had slowed down. He pulled his tattered raincoat around his skinny body, grabbed an ancient umbrella and dashed out to open the gate. A sleek limo-hearse glided into the cemetery followed by few expensive looking vehicles. The reporters and the photographers made a mad dash to get in position before the doors of the vehicles opened.
Father Andrews from the St. Michaels Church came in a chauffeured car. Imported, thought the Gatekeeper. He unfurled his umbrella and held it respectfully over the Reverend’s head. The murmur in the crowd increased as prominent personalities of the film world started descending from their vehicles to pay their respects to DK. The old man spotted few directors, couple of leading and quite a few not so leading actors and some film technicians in the crowd. The gathering was much less compared to the one for the aforementioned starlet. Ungrateful wretches, cursed the Gatekeeper.
It made him sick to his stomach looking at the Armani and Sabyasachi wearing, Bvlgari clad, Vertu wielding, Louis Vuitton and Gucci toting pieces of human filth standing with their fake tears and awkwardly somber expressions. DK never bothered with such materialistic pleasures. He was usually clad in a simple white shirt and trouser. He didn’t deserve to be sent to his final resting place surrounded by these losers, thought the old man with no small amount of vitriol.
Father Andrews started reciting the scriptures. The beautiful mahogany casket carrying the withered body of the great man was lowered into the grave. The Gatekeeper peered into the casket for one last look at his hero. There will never be anyone like DK again. He blinked away his tears. The last words were said and the celebrity losers flung handfuls of dirt into the grave and soon the burial was over.
The reporters were upon the celebrities like a rash on a sunny day. Quotes were noted, sound bytes were recorded and pictures were taken with the grave featuring prominently in the background. The old man lingered around the celebrities hoping for few bucks or at the least – some juicy gossip. His wandering attention was diverted by a voice cursing Daniel Khanna. A sudden surge of anger coursed through his veins as he looked towards the source. It was a teenaged actress – the current sensation of Bollywood, who was chatting with a senior actress.
The Gatekeeper surreptitiously moved closer to catch more of the conversation. He listened for few minutes. What he heard shocked him beyond belief. Spitting angrily, he walked away with disgust.
A month later, the old man was finishing up with his work for the day and was about to lock up when a shining red car came screeching to a halt. It was that obnoxious actor with a young inebriated bimbo beside him. Without saying anything, he pressed a wad of notes into the Gatekeeper’s hands. With a nasty gleam in his eyes, the old man directed the actor and his bimbo towards Daniel Khanna’s shiny new grave.
“DK, you perverted pedophile, you deserve nothing more.”