The Sultan's Battery by Aravind Adiga

The Man Booker Prize winner Adiga’s Short story appeared in Guardian 

The Sultan’s Battery, which appears on the way towards Salt Market Village, is one of the prime tourist attractions of Kittur.

He walked fast towards the white dome of the Dargah, a fold-up wooden stool under one arm, and in the other a red bag with his album of photographs and seven bottles full of white pills. When he got to the Dargah, he walked along the wall, without paying any attention to the long line of beggars along the wall: the lepers who were sitting on rags, the men with mutilated arms and legs, the men in wheelchairs and the men with bandages covering their eyes, and the one creature, with little brown stubs like a seal’s flippers where he should have had arms, a normal left leg, and a soft brown stump where he should have had a second leg, who lay on his left side, twitching his hip continuously, like an animal getting galvanic shocks, and intoning, with blank, mesmerised eyes: "Al-lah! Al-laaaah! Al-lah! Al-laaah!"

He walked past this sorrowful parade of humanity, and went behind the Dargah.

Now he went between the vendors squatting on the ground in a long line that extended for half a mile. He passed rows of baby shoes, bras, T-shirts bearing the logo "New York Fucking City", fake Ray-Ban sunglasses, fake Nike shoes and fake Adidas shoes, and piles of Urdu and Malayalam magazines. He spotted an opening in between a counterfeit shoe-seller and a counterfeit bra-vendor, and unfolded his stool there, and put a glossy black sheet of paper with gold lettering on the stool.

The golden words read:

RATNAKARA SHETTY, SPECIAL INVITEE, FOURTH PAN-ASIAN CONFERENCE ON SEXOLOGY, HOTEL NEW HILLTOP PALACE, NEW DELHI

APRIL 12-14 1987

The young men who had come to pray at the Dargah, or to eat lamb kebabs in one of the Muslim restaurants, or simply to watch the sea, began making a semicircle around Ratna, watching, as he put down on the stool a mauve photo album, and the seven bottles of white pills. With grave ceremony, he then rearranged the bottles, as if their position had to be exactly right for his work to begin. In truth, he was waiting for more onlookers.

They came. Standing in pairs or alone, the crowd of young men had now taken on the look of a human Stonehenge; some with their hands folded on a friend’s shoulder; some standing alone; and a few crouched by the ground, like fallen boulders.

All at once, Ratna began to talk. Young men came quicker, and the crowd became so thick that it was two-or three-persons deep at each point; and those at the back had to stand on their toes to get a partial glimpse of the sexologist.

He opened the album, and let the young men see the photos in plastic folders inside. The onlookers gasped.

To read more click here …The Sultan’s Battery by Aravind Adiga | Books | The Guardian

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