As the word got around, people came to the museum especially to see him. He was a one-man show. There to entertain.
At first, he merely hung about the installations in a ballroom-like space. Moving from one set to another. Acting like a hunter spearing a wolf, or sharpening a tool made of stone, or scratching two rocks to ignite a stack of twigs. But after a few days of this, he soon tired of the routine. The forced stillness was contrary to the freedom he felt in his bones. The urge to move about, interact. To experience everything anew. And not just linger in a corner and wither away into the evening when everybody went home, the museum was sealed closed, and he returned to the streets. To the life of a nobody.
He was more than done with this life.
He started acting out scenes. Movement not for the sake of it, but backed by a narrative. However rudimentary.
He was no longer just hunting now, it was a battle for survival. The wild beast vs. the caveman.
He got Kukreja from the store-room to put on a wild boar suit that he found there. It stank of mildew and beer and much worse. He reckoned boars roamed the earth at that time, else why would the museum stock it. And if not, well, they could chalk it up all to artistic liberty. All in the purview of the cultural elite.
He choreographed a fight scene that ran the length and breadth of the room, moving from his cave to the jungle and the brook. A scene that even claimed onlookers as a victim/participant and that left Kukreja bruised and battered and demanding additional remuneration.
If he was plucking wild berries, or roasting a boar, or polishing his spear, he was never just doing that. He was either humming to himself what could only be a made-up old world tune, throaty and deep, or talking to the air, as if his beloved was off stage, whether inside the cave, or high up in the trees, or deep inside the pool, always listening to his tall hunting tales or routine squibs with a neighbor with an equally patient ear and studied silence.
His quips about the daily life of a caveman — shared in a gruff voice, with a generous sprinkling of grunts — made slouchy people with long faces, bored looks, and sad eyes, drifting through the museum on their lunch breaks, laugh. His antics had them enthralled, their eyes sparkling, finally alive with curiosity and surprise. He was no more just a part of the set, still like the cave or a weapon on display, but rather a fully realized character who had a life within these walls.
The number of visitors grew. And Moonish found himself performing to a steady drone of groups instead of whispers.
Soon he took on even more expansive roles. Adapting classics, like Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, retelling scenes from them as they would have been told by a caveman. He had done some acting in his school days and drew on those experiences now.
Mr. Ghosh*, realizing what a hit he had on his hands, contracted Moonish and hired a couple more actors. He said he wanted to make a live show of this. At first, they would test out the new characters, scripts in the museum itself, and if it went as well as he envisioned, they could even hit the road, take it to other museums in other cities. Either way, Moonish now had a steady job.
With the spoils of his wage and meager savings, he found himself a place to live. A small hut by the railway tracks. With a little lily pond at the back. He asked his friends from behind the salon to come over, even share the space with him, till they could get their life back on track as well, but they shrugged, shook him happily, toasted to his success with some fizz-less cola someone had tossed out precisely because it had no fizz, and that was that. While they returned to the old ways of being, he began his new life as a company man.
*Mr. Baweja from Part 1 changed to Mr. Ghosh … turns out I’d already used that name in an earlier story 🙂
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