The cult members had all gathered in black hoods, like they did in the past years, before the dark castle, underneath the huge balcony high above their head. They were humming the cultic hymn. They had brought cakes – big, small, large, round, square, rectangular. They had brought knives too to cut the cakes. They were waiting for the clock to strike 12 midnight.
The humming turned into chanting – louder and louder. They shook their heads from side to side – like one possessed.
But then something unusual happened – something heart-breaking-something preposterous! The master of the ceremony came slowly to the balcony with a lighted torch. He, in a grave voice, told the people below that this year there would be no cake cutting! The cult Chief will cut no cakes this year! The Chief will not bless the cakes! They would not be able to taste the sacrificial cake!
“I am telling this with a heavy heart. Good and loyal people, please go home and take rest. You have come a long way to show your love for your Chief. But this year it is a bit different. Things are not the same anymore as you understand. We are in disarray ourselves. We don’t trust one another. So, no cake cutting…no singing…no dancing…no hollering. Dear people of the cult, our enemies are saying that we are sustaining with the help of formalin. It is so insulting, don’t you think? The gopalies are everywhere. Our Chief cannot stand the sight of gopalies. But they are increasing in number throughout the country like magic. God knows when gopalies will invade our cult too! Loyal cult members…don’t cry. Have faith in us. Good night.”
There was pin drop silence below. People looked at each other. They knew they cannot ask any questions because asking questions was forbidden within the cult. They would be stopped with the words, “Chup Beyadob.” The only birthday they waited for throughout the year! Not happening! They did not celebrate any birthday at home of their own children, because the birthday of their cult Chief was enough for them to remember and rejoice.
Heart-broken they turned and trudged along the path they came, with heads buried in their chest. They were grief-stricken, devastated! Someone whispered, “I smell something fishy! This can’t be happening…no… never.” Another voice came along, “There is a conspiracy going on. May be the master of the ceremony and his cronies have taken money from our enemy and somehow convinced the Chief.” The third voice said, “I wonder if the Chief is in good health and safe! I don’t trust those henchmen. May be they are up to something. Chief never cancelled the birthday ceremony in the past no matter what our enemies said or the media wrote. Chief always enjoyed cutting the large cakes and then posing for the photographers.”
Inside the stone castle it was a picture of anguish and woe. The Chief was in a foul mood. Nearly 100 newspapers were lying on the floor torn into pieces. Each paper reported about the cancelation of the birthday bash. Some of them were even audacious enough to be sarcastic about it! All newspapers extensively carried the news of the assassination of the great leader of the country. All the television channels were showing programmes on the same topic. By Jove! Why can’t they stop! The cult Chief was furious and paced up and down knowing not what to do.
The master of the ceremony and other cronies stood in silence outside the room. No one dared take the phone call coming from London. They talked in low voice on their own mobile sets with the media people who called every minute to know if there was any change of plans – will there be a last minute cake cutting with some close aides and so on? The cronies said they did not know anything clearly. There was no clear instruction from the Chief. The senior cronies knew nothing either. They wanted to go home as it was past midnight.
As the first light of the rising sun struck the rampart of the castle, the master of the ceremony and other cronies
left the castle quietly one after another never daring to look back.