The Missionary

The Americans spotted the flying saucer as it approached the atmosphere. The President was notified and shunted off to a bunker. Missiles were aimed when it looked like the saucer was about to descend on Washington. But it swerved away going in a great arc to the other end of the globe. All around the world highly confidential hotlines were buzzing. Coded messages were sent to military bases. Red alerts were declared and embassies notified.

Activity reached fever pitch till the saucer finally completed its arc and landed in the village of Bijaiyapur in India. Then as with everything that had ever happened in the interior of the country, everybody lost interest.

Everybody except for the District Collector of Bijaiyapur who was due for transfer in two months and was worried that this would spoil his record. Ten stick wielding police constables were sent to surround the spaceship while the Collector put on his best shirt which was too warm for the weather and appeared on the scene with what he considered proper dignity.

The Collector emerged from his official car, looked around for camera carrying journalists and was disappointed to find none. He proceeded to inspect the precautions taken. He could not find any fault. This made him angry. It meant he had to shout at the police superintendent in charge only on general principles and the fact that one of the constables had a button missing on his uniform.

Then everyone went silent as a door opened on the spaceship and an odd helical ramp descended to the ground.

A serpentine form emerged from the spaceship, looked around at the encircling police constables and was glad to see them. It searched around and approached the fattest constable with a globular paunch.

“Good morning sir.” squeaked the constable and gave the alien a trembling salute.

“Praise be to your symmetry!” squeaked the alien. A pseudopod emerged from its side and adjusted a knob hanging from what appeared to be its neck. It repeated in a much louder, and lower toned gravelly voice, “praise be to your symmetry!”

Feeling that events were passing him by, the collector strode up with a confident march. Reaching the constable, he gave a significant cough.

The constable turned to face him, turned back, struggled to figure out who scared him the most and finally chose to duck behind the Collector.

The Collector looked the alien squarely in what he assumed was its eye. He prepared to berate it for coming in unannounced into his district and demand its reasons. But another thought made him pause. Instead, he joined his hands and bowed with his best smile.

The alien looked visibly alarmed at the gesture. The Collector was afraid he had offended the creature and what it would mean for his career if this meeting went badly. The Police Superintendent thrust something in his hands. It was a garland of flowers.

The Collector moved forward and garlanded the creature. The alien seemed pleased. The Collector relaxed a little. He spoke. “We are honored that you chose to come here.”

The alien spoke in the same deep voice. “It is a pleasure to come to come to so rich a culture. I praise your aesthetic sensibility.”

“Aesthetic sensibility?” asked the Collector. Nobody had ever accused him of that. Least of all his wife.

“Of all the places your species has inhabited on this world, none so embody the principle of the circle as yours.”

“The principle of the circle?” asked a confused Collector.

“I am so glad to finally see a place which is completely devoid of the heresy of the line. That abomination against all nature. Why nothing in all space and time is linear so why lines should be imposed upon it? I am glad that you have not bent to this tyranny. I adore the circuitous path I see before me to your dwellings. This is the only land where I have seen roads so bent. Their twisting geometry is music for my eyes.”

This worried the Collector. He had scored a 0 in geometry. His subject in the Civil Services exam had been Geography. But he did understand roads. “Well, yes there was a proposal for that road, but then there was this old temple in the way so to avoid trouble … ”

“Just so, just so. Spirituality also abhors the line. That is how it should be” said the alien. “But this is not enough, you have taken the principle to heart and elevated it into a way of life. Your bureaucracy runs in circles, your language is indirect and circular why even your physique tends towards it.” The creature pointed to the Collector’s visibly bulging waistline.

The self-conscious Collector huffed, pulled in his stomach and pushed out his chest.

“Ah such modesty!” declared the creature. “Well, this is the perfect place for me to begin. I intend to preach to your people. They must give up their infatuation with the erroneous way of the line and convert into the fold of the majestic circle.”

The Collector was unsure of this new development. Conversion was not popular with the current government. He had to think fast and deflect this idea. His Civil Service training came to his rescue. “I agree completely. But there are many technical issues. Let us have a round table discussion on it.”

The alien liked this idea. Wisely avoiding the temptation to move the discussion to his air-conditioned but box shaped office, the Collector ordered circular parasols be set up. They sat on circular stools around a circular table sipping tea from cylindrical glasses. Then as talks began, the Collector pulled off his masterstroke.

He uncovered a plate full of spherical ladoo sweets. The alien looked in wonder, entranced at this sight. “What are these heavenly objects?” It asked.

The Collector smiled. “These sir are ladoos. They are a delicacy. Please try one.”

An orifice appeared in the creature’s face as he hesitatingly inserted the sweet. Its eyes bulged. “Material and heavenly delight in something so small. What a wonderful invention.”

Completing his coup, the Collector told it. “That is not all, after eating many of these people also start acquiring its rounded shape.”

The alien raised its head to the skies and declared. “Praise be to the divine ladoo! I see my calling now. I will devote my life to this craft and convert your world through its mystery!”

And that was the story of how one brave quick thinking Indian Civil Servant can change the fate of the world. Finally, if you are ever in the vicinity of Bijayapur (on your way to somewhere else no doubt), I recommend you try a bite at Parloki Baba Jalebi and Ladoo Wala’s shop. The ladoos I am told, are out of this world.


A plate of ladoos


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