The darkness was slowly dissipating, and Mr. Honest N Gudman thought he was waking up from sleep as he did every morning. But something was not right. Instead of feeling refreshed after waking up, he was feeling tired. Like he had travelled miles in his sleep. He slowly opened his eyes and saw.....well.....nothing!. He couldn't see anything other than wisps of silvery clouds. He looked around further and noticed a sign board which said "Heaven 1,000,000,000 steps up; Hell 10,000 steps down". Reality began to dawn on Gudman. He was dead. Dead as in earthly, bodily dead. And his spirit had managed to wander away to this turning pike in the universe, where he had to decide where to go.
He weighed his options. 1,000,000,000 steps up sounded like climbing Mt Everest and 10,000 steps down seemed like going down to the basement. But then Gudman was a good man. He couldn't ever imagine any abode for his spirit other a fluffly cloud. So, with grit and determination, he started his journey up. After what seemed like eons even for a spirit, Gudman finally reached a place where he saw the clouds clearing a bit. Almost like an entrance to a grand place. Gudman dragged his sore and weary spirit just up those last few steps, and sure enough, there were the pearly white gates of Heaven! He was rapturous. Tears of joy, gratitude and overwhelming emotion, flowed unrestrained down his spirity cheeks. "O Lord, thank you for taking me into your arms and your fold and making me one with you," he uttered a prayer with joy filling every pore of his being...err...sorry...spirit.
But something was again not right. Pearly Gates, yes, but St. Peter, no? Where was the custodian of the Pearly Gates, who kept a record of all one's earthly deeds, took an interview and then let people...sorry again...spirits inside the pearly gates? He peered further into the mist and saw a pot-bellied, balding middle-aged man, sitting at an enormous desk. He was wearing a striped shirt with a tie which seemed a little askew. To the right of the desk was another smaller desk with a thin nerdy man sitting behind it. He had paan-stained teeth and a huge stack of files on his small desk. He had a computer too on his desk, but Gudman saw that it was not working.
"Excuse me, Sir, but where is St.Peter?" Gudman asked the man who clearly looked like the Boss there, with his nerdy Right- Hand-Man to his right.
"Hmm. I'm him." The Boss replied with authority.
Gudman was aghast. "Then where are your white robes and silver beard?"
"Look here, whoever you are. It seems like you left the earth a long time ago and were lost somewhere in the mists of time. My name is Sin Peter, and I am the new CEO of the 'Pearly Gates Inc'. Now I'm a busy man. Don't waste my time and tell me what you want"
"Sin Peter, Sir, my name is Honest N Gudman. It seems I've left my earthly abode and now I'm here before you to allow me to enter the gates of heaven."
"Gudman?" Sin Peter broke out into loud guffaws, which jiggled his pot belly to the left and right alternately, and rhythmically. "What kind of a name is Gudman?" He looked at his assistant who, on cue from his boss, started laughing too. "And if you are a Gudman, what are you doing here at the gates of heaven? Didn't you see the sign for Hell? It's much easier going there, specially for someone with your name." He laughed some more.
"Sin Peter, Sir, I deserve to be in heaven. Can you please check my name in the arrival manifest? I'm sure Fate must have put it there before allowing my spirit to take off from earth." Gudman asked politely.
"And what makes you so sure about that?", Sin Peter picked at his teeth with a pencil point.
"Sir, I have always been an honest man. I've always worked hard and sincerely. Though I was just an officer in Govt of India, still I have discharged my duties with utmost integrity and without any thought for reward or any motivation. I have been a good husband, a good father and a good son. I have always been God-fearing."
"God fearing? Who fears God any more?" Again he broke out into guffaws in chorus with his assistant.
"This is blasphemy!!!" Gudman was indignant. "Everyone fears God, the all powerful Almighty"
"Hey SickPick! Throw this spirit out. Put him out of my eyesight. He is beginning to irritate me now. Pata nahin kahaan kahaan se chale aate hain!!! (Don't know where such people come from)" Sin Peter bellowed at his assistant.
"But what did I say wrong? God is Almighty. The Creator and Protector of the Universe", Gudman stood his ground.
"Have you seen God? Have you seen him create the Universe? Do you have any proof that GOD even exists?" Sin Peter leaned over his desk and asked Gudman in a hawkish tone.
"No. But surely you would have seen God. After all you are St. Peter. Oh, I'm sorry, Sin Peter"
"Yes, I'm Sin Peter. And that's why I get to decide who goes inside these pearly gates and who gets to see if GOD really exists". Sin Peter said smugly and with the entire weight of his authority.
"Ok. So why don't you go ahead and check if my name is on the manifest?"
"Why are you stuck like a CD? Didn't I tell you to buzz off like a fly spirit?"
"Sin Peter, Sir, I insist I want you to check the manifest. If you don't, I'll file an application under the RTI Act. I know all about the Act because I was the CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) in my office before I ....err...died....and came here".
"Sir ji, let us not take a chance with this spirit. He has been CPIO so it may be difficult to throw him off easily", SickPick whispered to his Boss.
"Hmmm. Ok. Just check in your computer. The latest manifest email would be there."
"But Sir Ji, my computer is not working since two months. It is 10 years-old. There are no funds for repair and as per the contract we signed with Pearly Gates Inc, we can condemn it only after 12 years and buy a new one."
"Then look through your files." Boss commanded.
"Files? That will take forever. Just look at that pile. It is higher than even N Korea's nuke stock pile!" exclaimed Gudman. "I may have to be reborn before you finish going through those files" Gudman almost spat with contempt.
"Sir Ji" SickPick smiled an oily smile. "What about that iPad Mini 2 which the spirit from China brought last week for you? If you let me use it for just 5 minutes, I'll be able to check the manifest".
"Do you even know how to use one? You nit-wit!" Sin Peter wasn't enthused at the thought of his assistant using such sophisticated gadgetry.
"Yes Sir. Actually the Indian industrialist brought me one last month", Sick Pick said in an embarrassed tone. He was almost apologetic for having received the same gadget a month before his Boss.
Sin Peter wasn't amused. Handing over his iPad Mini to SickPick, he muttered "I'll see that industrialist at tonight's role call". He sounded quite menacing and even Gudman, who so far had stood his ground, felt chilled.
SickPick powered up the device and his fingers started dancing on the touch screen. After 10 minutes of search, he said with a triumphant smile, "No, Sir Ji. His name is not there."
Gudman was shocked. He could have been knocked down by the harpist's feathers. "How is that even possible? Can you please check again?" He pleaded with SickPick.
"Well, see for yourself!" SickPick smiled his oily smile again. Gudman went over and checked the manifest database himself. SickPick was right.
Honest N Gudman was not on the manifest to Heaven.
(Cont'd) The Sinner Takes It All - II