The bare earth was scattered with strewn litter, which dug into the comfort of the ancient soil.
A cacophony of foreign voices, a resonance of engines and estranged chaos invaded the shattered window of my new home.
In front, the mighty tree was the observer of the running decades, it grew green and strong despite the stifled fecund provided by its abused soil.
The sound of roaring Ford engines; the aroma of a Indian man eating Chinese takeaway.
Ajit wander through the crowded streets of Deli, a walking shadow as he passes sign after sign of colourful adverts.
A grey cloud shifts in the sky above, and a streak of sunlight pieces from the heavy heavens to casts its light on grimy coca cola can. Ajit smiles. Reaching down, he picks it up and place it in his plastic bag, filled with chiming aluminum cans.
Ajit take out the hammer jabbed into his bindle, from which erupted clang of metal against metal. A oxidised pipe connects to a portable gas tank, a blue flame, a sour smell and rising noxious fumes choke out from the melting can.
He descended into the alleyway, with the cubes of gleaming aluminium in his sack. The familiar owner spits in at my feed in disdain and measures the metal fruit of his labour.
Forty four rupees.
What Ajit did not know was that there were powerful forces at play.
He was breathing in the fumes of ammonia, because there was a global shortage aluminum cans.
Goldman Sachs had previously purchased a world’s supply of raw aluminium, keeping it safe from the commodities markets, and men in Armani suits looked helplessly at the red and green lines on Wall Street windows.
A multi-billion dollar industries of can produces tightens their belts. he commodity prices soar. Shareholders rejoice and celebrate and consumers purchase. Supply slacks, and Coca-Cola has no choice but to purchase recycled aluminum to lower its costs.
They went to Ramadani Holdings and asked for their supply. Ramadani went to their subsidiary recycling companies and asked for their supply. The recycling companies went to men like Ajit’s local smelting managers, and asked for supplies. And so, it was for Ajit to product four litres of raw, melted aluminum a day.
Ajit bathes in the red glow of burning furnace.
His rough hands grip onto the howling rage of the gas pipe, and watch with slited eyes the inevitable arrival of more fumes into his inhales. Ajit looks out towards the maze of impenetrable dark alleys and corrugated shacks overshadowing him, and for a while he felt confused. He felt a foreign sense of need, followed by a burrowing anger, a long lost emotion which had been long blown off by the arrival of adulthood. He felt it bizarre that he wanted something. He looks out towards the direction of the Arabian Sea, its natural existence barely remembered by Ajit, as if wishing an ocean breeze would somehow blow the foul air west.
It reminded him of the inspirational tales of the god Hanuman, who had conquered obstructions, and lifted volcano’s to save his brother Lakshmana.
Amongst the red refuse of coca-cola cans, Aijist spotted one with a golden glean. He felt a distinct connection to Vishnu, in his discovery of the single jewel in the infinite universe when he dreamt upon the cosmic ocean. With black-scarred hands Aijit opened the smooth silver of the can.
A barcode. A number. Confused words in broken letters.
What could it be? He contemplated the possibilities. A higher power maybe, but it was definitely something special.
A few hundred years back, it was the pungent smell of sewage and gunfire that occupied his home. Now it was overshadowed by the burning stench of aluminum cans.
Not much of a home.
Not much of a shack.
A few cardboard and plastic sheets was shared under a covered area with a few hundred other workers.
He scrounged through his belongings. Sewn into his vest, was a secret pocket. Two hundred rupees, a crumpling fortune which felt like a flutter of birds would twerk away. He looked at the number on the golden interior of the can. It gleamed like the relic of a holy object.
The red of the can spoke to him.
Ajit dials the digits, a flutter of memory of his dissipated past education. On the other end of the receiver, a man answers in English.
Depair. He cannot speak English. He felt like small buoy, just being pushed off its mortal coil, to be swallowed by the sea.
However, he detects an accent, subtle but sure across the other end of the world.
“Do you speak Hindi?” He Asks
The man hesitates. “ I do.”
He discovers that he has won a cash prize. The closing date was a week away. He was lucky.
“A hundred US dollars” the voice replies.
“Can we please have your details.”
The can gleamed. The way of Karma.
Ajit was of course, correct. For the Karma of Commerce was inevitable.
The Golden Can had began its life in Southern India, created from raw, pure aluminium. It walked on the gloss red carpet endorsed by the Coca-cola brand and flew thousands of miles in the air to the other end of the globe, the United States. There, it was embedded with a winning barcode, a product of a promotion seeking to increase the sales in the Asian- Pacific region. Beholden with the precious liquid of life, it was sold by Quantas air lines on the San Francisco flight to Deli. There, it was placed in the airport trash. It found itself transported by trucks to the slums of Delhi, the economic belly of Indian manufacturing. Strangely, the powers that may be did not wish to separate the trash from the recycle, so it was collected unassumingly by a bare footed boy who did not look at it twice, and finally found itself into Ajit’s hands.
The golden interior of the winning coca cola can emitted a glow that mirrored the subtle beauty of old Gurus and Sadhu.
Ajit felt it was unmistakably the way of pure karma and rebirth, that had blessed him with new found life.
One hundred US dollars.
Ajit had never seen such a denomination. It was unlike anything he had ever seen. It was the diamond sultra in his very hands.
What to do with it? Ajit asked himself what he wanted.
Blurred images in his mind projected many vague illusions.
Food? Shelter? Clothing?
What he wanted was more of these notes.
He knew what he had to do.
Ajit brought a moped, one pedal cycle that barely started it’s coughing engine.
He brought more glossy cans of the precious liquid that foreigners loved so dearly.
He travelled with it, with a styrofoam box filled with ice to where the foreigners came and consumed this liquid in great amounts.
It was the grandest tomb in all of India, The Taj Mahal.
They emerged from their spiritual experience sweaty and thirsty.
The foreigners gesticulate to him arrogantly. They looked at Ajit with piteous eyes, at his ragged clothes, his animal appearance.
He managed to sell all ten cans. He now had thirty USD in his hands. He felt like Gurgu was ringing bells in his ears.
He brought and sold two dozen cans the next day. More so the day after.
A few years later he had his own shack, a rented home from the powers that may be. He sat sweltering in his plywood shack, looking out and fanning himself in luxury.
He arched down picking up the bristled edges of the removal crate, stashed with the neatly arranged coco-cola bottles. He grinned at the soon arrival of cash, the grimy texture of notes of all nations.
He watched the foreigners arrive in their palatial vehicles. He gave a fleeting thought of the idea of riding in a BMW race car, driving off into the distance with some slim sunglasses, maybe a blonde by his side.
A bell rings on his iPhone.
It was time for the daily prayer to the statue, he rose and gathered the food offering, a series of traditional baked cakes decorated with sweets. He picked up the box of newly brought incense from China, and the Coca Cola bottle which he placed as a liquid offering.
On the same altar, he had placed a coca cola can.
It took centre place, ahead of Ganesha, ahead of Vishu the many handed.
The golden can gleamed.
“Oh thank you, mighty can of fortune.”