The Sherwani Superhero
Towards the end, Mirza Saheb stopped thinking in terms of just and unjust, right or wrong…to him, the ends justified the means.
He had started his little jewellery business two decades ago from a small shop named after Goddess Lakshmi on a quiet street off the main market road.
At first, the shop got little traffic, minimal footfalls and walk-ins.
Two years into the business, not much had changed. Most days, he would sit in the shop, watching videos on his phone under the counter, looking up occasionally to give directions back to the main market to a lost soul.
Things were getting a desperate at home. This year too, they would again have to send their kids to his in-laws for Eid. Let their grandparents spoil the children. They were good kids, deserved nothing less.
A chance conversation between his and Ramoji’s wives would change the course of his life.
Ramoji had started from the bottom, just like Mirza Saheb. He still used the shop next to Mirza Saheb’s as a godown. But now, Ramoji had the biggest shop in the market, a landmark people used to navigate the maze like streets snaking off the main road.
Ramoji had a nose for opportunity and Mirza’s desperate situation was like the blood in the water to a shark.
At first came the small loans and presents. Then requests for help fencing smuggled gold. Suddenly, Mirza’s shop started getting real customers, footfall. The cash counter now opened with a satisfying ka-ching of loose coins.
They hosted his in-laws the next year, lavishing them with brocade. silk, and gold.
That felt good. His father-in-law even sought his advice on some business matter. His children now knew which sherwani pocket they could rifle to find petty cash.
He couldn’t stop. He would ride Ramoji’s coattails to the top, he thought.
The end came just as quickly as the rise.
The police were watching. They had people on the inside who replaced the smuggled gold bars with specially marked ones. They sent plainclothes officers to Mirza’s shop looking to buy bullion. And just like that, Mirza was caught.
All the specially marked gold was found in his shop. Ramoji, the snake, had thrown him under the bus.
Mirza was put in prison. His kids thought of him as a criminal. His wife abandoned him.
In the silence of his prison cell, Mirza was finally able to listen to the voice of his conscience. He understood that he alone was to be blamed for the situation he found himself in.
He resolved to make things right once he got out.
He started writing down in detail what he knew about the smuggling enterprise. When he got out of prison, he dug more to fill out the missing details.
Years had passed. His estranged kids were now adults.
His dossier landed on the desk of an incorruptible police officer who used it to break up the smuggling ring and bring the criminial network, including Ramoji to justice.
Mirza’s redemption and heroism was recognized with a award ceremony in the capital…in attendance were his wife, now grey and wrinkled as himself, and his kids toting kids of their own craning their necks to see the grandfather they had only seen in photographs.
They saw a superhero, frail and alone, who got his super power not from the bite of a radioactive spider but from the pricking of his conscience.