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The bath-tub was anointed with lavender oil and rose petals. Deva Bapu rose from the tub. 3 female attendants knelt to spread a fluffy white towel at his feet. Deva spun the saffron robes around his considerable girth. One attendant stood on tiptoe to daub horizontal gashes of vermillion and ash across his broad forehead. Her nipples, demure in white silk, grazed against bare nipples. She blushed and swayed in ecstasy. Another attendant wound rosary beads around his hairy wrist.

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Deva Bapu heard the shuffle of impatient thighs scraping the floor directly above his head. He knew the assembly was packed with devotees. He flicked a glance at the mirror. Miracle Bapu stared back at him. His eyes were bloodshot and flat as a snake.He didn’t doubt his divinity. He couldn’t afford to. He was THE messenger.

God’s envoy. People’s salvation.

He stepped upon the wooden platform and signaled his pupils. They tugged and spun the rope. Deva rose upon the platform before his devotees, as if from the plumbs of Hell. There was pandemonium as the devotees clamoured for a smile, a look, a word.

The clamour died a sudden death. The flap of the tent was flung up and a posse surged in. A pair of manacles snapped shut upon Deva’s wrists. The handcuffs crushed the rosary beads.  Deva did not budge. He exuded tranquil grace and serene patience. He smiled beatifically and asked for his lawyer. His trusted devotee-cum-lawyer had saved him thrice before. His lawyer knew how to leap through every legal loophole.

As the police spoke, Deva’s smile faltered. Said the police, “Today we found your lawyer swinging from the ceiling. His suicide note clearly points an accusing finger at you.”

Deva always believed his devotees couldn’t survive without him. Now he knew he couldn’t survive without them either.

 

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