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A Very Elaborate Joke

By Sudipta Das

An engineer used to spend five days a week in the city for his work. At the fifth day, he always went to his village, an overnight trip by bus. This was his routine for the last ten years. Faces were more or less known at the bus stand, in the bus. A walk of ten minutes from the apartment of his to the bus stand at about half an hour before the bus was to set off, a cup of tea with a cigarette, but he never once started an impromptu conversation with anybody, as was his wont.

On a day like this, a stranger came up to him who looks nothing like any passenger and asked, “Why do you have to always sit down when you smoke? Can’t you ever have a smoke standing up?” The engineer gaped at him for a while, not particularly in search of words rather waiting for the stranger to go away. That was not inaccurate, the fact that the engineer always had to sit down whenever he smoked, always looked for a place to sit before buying a cigarette. The stranger had no intention of moving an inch. He had that air of motivational speaker in his tone, though he wasn’t dressed for his tone, a torn pajama with worn off a leather jacket. Everything was in dishevelled state but his skin was unusually glossy, the skin of opulence, of extraordinary nourishment and the engineer noticed that more than anything.

Lately it was a trend to come up to people and ask weird questions to create online content and almost always the presenter had some flashy, eccentric thing to say or wear or both. The engineer thought of that and asked, “Where is your camera? I don’t see it.”To that the stranger said, “They are always recording. You will have to play your part whenever you get a chance”. After a momentary silence he again went, “Here is yours now.””What do I do?” the engineer almost panicked. “Answer my question in a way which shows you care about the world. Be generous and witty at the same time”, the stranger was on his face and the theatricality of everything even left the engineer overwhelmed. The last bus was gone for the day and he didn’t seem to mind about that as he had bigger things to worry about now.

“This is not a question you answer in one word. You need to gather your thought. Come let’s go that bar, I can think well over a beer”, the engineer proposed to the stranger for some reason.”Oh No”, he continued in an almost patronizing tone, “on the contrary, you need to be brief and precise and also on the go. You will come off as insincere if you answer sitting down.” “What was your question again?”, the engineer asked impatiently.

A random man who was passing by overheard his question and stopped himself with an irritation toward the engineer, “come on man, the question was why you always have to sit down when you smoke?” At this point, the engineer was staggered and perplexed. “I can’t take it anymore”, he said, “I have to go get a drink” and he went about his way after briefly scrutinizing the stranger and the random man.

So, after a while, an engineer, a stranger and a random man were sitting at a bar. The bartender went, “Now that you are sitting down, you can have your smoke except you have to go stand outside at the smoking zone”.

By Sudipta Das

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