“How much is 2+2?” The thin, ordinarily dressed guy inquired while lighting his cheap brand of cigarette with a match.
“What was that?” Jani, an average guy with average looks, height and a very clear, weary expression on his face asked in return, which essentially was to imply how foolish of a question he thought the thin guy had asked.
The thin guy shrugged as he took a very large puff and smoke and words came out of his mouth intermittently, “how much is 2+2?”, and it was followed by a very lengthy exhale, like when a steam engine slows, and then finally settles releasing very large clouds of smoke.
“4 obviously, what kind of a stupid question is that?” Jani spoke as he air-slapped the hovering flies from over the tea cups and began to bring them over to the thin guy who was now sitting on the edge of the stairs right in front of the closed grocery store.
“Wrong! See that’s the problem with you, you think it’s that simple.” The thin guy smiled as he responded.Jani asked “okay what is it that you are trying to say, bestow me with your infinite, esoteric wisdom”, not by speaking but with his expressions, and then he took a sip of tea.
The thin guy rolled the cigarette to almost the tip of his middle finger, flicked off the ash and rolled it back to the base of the middle and the index finger using his thumb. Still smiling he took a puff and without exhaling took a sip of tea. Jani anticipated smoke that never came out.
“What exactly are we talking about here? “2” as a number? As a mere number that is told in children’s Mathematics books? Do you really think two grownups would be talking so punctiliously about a number that is no more significant than, say, it’s immediate neighbor, number 3? ” The thin guy spoke and his eyebrows came close to touching, but then he finished and gave Jani an inquisitive shrug.
“You, I don’t know what you are saying”. Jani expressed his lack of concern.
“What if I told you, the first two before the addition sign were two important landlords and the post sign two are ordinary peasants. Do you think the peasants would impact the outcome of the equation? How many peasants, may I ask, would it take to equal two landlords?”
“I don’t know, depends on how much acres of land do those landlords own”. Jani found himself involved now.
“The spread of their owned land OR the level of ignorance the peasants are born with, or choose to remain with. You see a smart landlord would feed more ignorance in the shape of bread to peasants. That bread essentially is more hunger, hunger that they themselves had sown a year back, spent day and night looking after it, sweated for it, nurtured it, and then when it was ready, cut it, fined it, and then given to their master only to receive the most rotten of it in return.”
“So they feed on hunger?” Jani interrupted.
“A self-cultivated hunger. And the more they hungry themselves over it, the more hunger they get to feed it. And they do this over and over again for ages, for centuries they would do this, children after children, generations after generation. Epochs of hunger!” The thin guy dropped his cigarette in his nearly empty cup. “Pift”. “So in essence, if the “2” in the equation for the peasants would ever be likely to make any significant impact, one would have to add at least a couple of zeros to it.” The thin guy smiled, almost laughed as he added, and got back to his serious face immediately, as if he were ashamed for some reason.
“What if you changed the order? What if the first “2” were for the peasants and the later for the landlords?” Jani asked while resting his palms on the stairs and bending his back a little towards the back, and yawning.
“Entirely plausible. These two peasants, have no doubts my friend, are the agents of hunger. Why else would one sane mind comprehend the existence of such fact or even a hypothesis? Hey you know if you have a big house with a curvy new car parked in your garage and you have guards outside your gates and security cameras integrated throughout the structure, and you have peacocks in your lawn and the weather inside your mansion stays all so pleasant all the time and the kitchens, the massive kitchens with massive stoves cooking massive meals all the time, you know the children, the children inside those mansions, sitting in their pj’s, suffering from allergies caused by their long threaded Persian carpets and excessive centralized air conditioning, if they save 2 + 2 they can buy a four-wheeler dirt bike or a Sony playstation 10 or whatever in a single go. Amazing right? For some it may take months before they could buy a lead pencil, no matter how many 2+2’s they manage to save.”
The thin guy finished his rant as he stood up, Jani paid for the tea and almost bought candies for the change, but didn’t, because he did not find the ones he was looking for. The thin guy was walking towards this street hawker kid who had a dirty old, torn and dusty school bag hanging lose from his shoulder and a huge dish of home-made sweets on top of his head. “How much for one of the white ones?” The thin guy asked.“Two rupees each, bhai ji”. The Street hawker kid replied.The thin guy tapped on his pockets and took out a 2 rupee coin and yelled at Jani, “Hey do you want one of these? Come over, I’m broke”. And he laughed. The next thing he knew, a 2 rupee coin was approaching him traveling through the air as Jani smiled in the background, the same coin that he had saved by not buying a candy. The thin guy caught it with one hand.
“give me two of the white ones kid, here you go “2 + 2“…
“equals 4”, the street hawker kid reckoned with a smile.