As Aam Aadmi or Ordinary Man’s left ear grew, he noticed another curious change: he could hear voices from the past, both immediate and distant. It was not loud but very clear.
“Be nice to our neighbours, particularly Superintendent Sahib, he is my boss,” he heard his father saying to him.
“Never look at what other people are eating. Be happy with your dry bread and lentils,” this was his mother.
“Stretch your hands,” said his teacher while lifting his cane to hit him.
Aam Aadmi also was forced to relive the embarrassment he felt all those years ago when he was punished before his classmates.
“Insubordination is a big crime, bigger than murder,” this was his immediate boss at the office. “A murderer takes only one life but an insubordinate clerk ruins the entire office.”
These voices were worse than the pain he had felt when his left ear started to hurt. So he went back to the neighbourhood doctor and told him what was happening.
“No problem. Hearing voices is a common Aam Aadmi disease,” said the physician. “This is the first stage and it can be cured. Chanting-slogans is the second stage. Making speeches is the third. Then comes a time when the patient thinks he can act independently. That is the final stage and it is incurable.”
This scared Aam Aadmi and he implored the doctor to cure him fast.
“No problem, take this medicine,” the doctor said, giving him a bottle of eight colourful capsules. “Take four capsules a day for two days and your left ear will be as good as new.”
His left ear shrank a little with every capsule he took and it was back to normal when he finished the eighth. The pain was gone too.
So Aam Aadmi slept comfortably on the third night, thinking he was no longer ill.
He was wrong.
On the fourth day, he had pain in his right ear. He took the pain killers the doctor gave him when his left ear had started hurting.
The pain subsided. Then his right ear started growing too. And it grew faster than the left ear. In two days, it was as big as an elephant’s. The voices too came back, louder than before.
“Aam Aadmis of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your votes,” someone was now repeating into his right ear the speech of a popular politician he had heard years ago.
“If you do not follow me, you will surely go to hell. If you follow me, you will be martyred soon and go straight to paradise,” this was a religious leader.
“Follow me or not, but give me your money. I will use it to improve your life,” this was a social reformer.
Since such people always use loudspeakers, their voices were so loud that Aam Aadmi went crazy and started banging his head against the wall.
This time, his wife took him to the doctor.
As always, they first met the doctor’s assistant and paid the consultation fee. The doctor cleared his throat, asked him if it hurt, looked into his right ear, tapped it near the lobe and gave him a prescription. “Show it to my assistant,” he said.
For his right ear, the assistant gave him a liquid. The right ear also started to shrink and was back to its normal size in the morning. Aam Aadmi was so happy that he fed four beggars, although each looked better fed than him.
They slept peacefully for three nights.
On the fourth, his nose started to grow. Soon it was as big as an elephant’s trunk. And it itched, uncontrollably. The itch only went away when he hit himself with the trunk. But it was a temporary relief.
The itch came back with a vengeance in half an hour or so and with it, the beating resumed.
So Aam Aadmi had no option but to go back to the physician, hiding his nose with a big towel.
The doctor put a pipe into the nose, looked inside and said: “No problem, this too can be cured.”
This time he gave both capsules and liquids and asked Aam Aadmi to stop taking the medicines only after the nose was completely cured.
This took more than a week but the nose returned to its normal size.
Now, Aam Aadmi borrowed some money from his friends and fed 15 people at a local shrine and prayed hard for the nose to stay normal.
It did, for a month. But then something worse happened. Aam Aadmi started growing a tail. In a few hours, the tail was as big as that of a healthy, normal dog. But there was no pain or itching.
Aam Aadmi did not go to the doctor. The doctor came to him, just a few hours after the tail grew.
“Do you have a tail?” the physician asked.
Aam Aadmi, who had planned to hide this peculiar ailment from the doctor because he feared that taking more medicines could lead him to something worse, was shocked.
“How do you know?” he asked.
“Easy, all my patients grow tails. There are no exceptions,” the doctor said.
“Then you must know the cure as well. So cure me but please make sure it does not lead to yet another problem,” Aam Aadmi said.
The doctor sighed and said: “There is no cure.”
“There is no cure?” Aam Aadmi was horrified.
“Yes, no cure but don’t worry there are thousands of Tail Aadmis around you because I am not the only doctor doing this,” the physician said.
“O my God, what shall I do if there is no cure? How can I go out?” Aam Aadmi asked.
“That’s why I am here. I will take you to a tailoring shop and they will make a tail cover for you, a perfect cover. Nobody will ever see your tail,” the doctor said.
The shop had a small front office where Aam Aadmi had to register first. The receptionist made a picture ID for Aam Aadmi and asked him to show it to a security guard at the other end of the room.
The guard checked the ID and unlocked a door. The door opened to a huge hall where hundreds of tailors were busy stitching tail covers of all sizes, shapes and colours.
“See, there are thousands like you,” the doctor said. Aam Aadmi felt a little better and joined a long queue of Tail Aadmis.
After a long wait, an old man came to him, adjusted his glasses, saw the doctor and said: “This is your 155th patient this year. Well done. Keep up the pace. Soon all Aam Aadmis in this city will grow tails.”
He then took Aam Aadmi to the fitting room. The doctor accompanied. Once they were inside, he closed the door and asked Aam Aadmi to move his tail: up and down, left and right, round and round.
“Good, very nice, well done,” he kept muttering as Aam Aadmi obeyed the instructions.
“Excellent job. All your patients are very obedient,” he said to the doctor.
Then he took a ready-made tail cover from a drawer and gave it to Aam Aadmi.
“This is a temporary cover. Before we give you a proper cover, we have to teach you a few tricks like how to bark properly, fetch the ball and wag your tail. So. come next week and remember, you are Tail Aadmi #155/C,” he said. “C is the doctor’s initial. You should neither forget this number nor your doctor; or you will be exposed.”
Aam Aadmi wagged his tail in affirmation and waited as the doctor received yet another star on his performance register.
As the two men walked away from him, Aam Aadmi noticed that they too had tails.