“I suppose the silver lining of all this is that we now know that the horcruxes are here,” said the Interpreter of Malad. There had been a brief moment of chilled quiet after the announcement about the horcruxes (which Dabbu had done his best to fill by distributing tea with a vengeance). Dumbledore had conjured a few chairs for the four who had burst in, who were now catching their breath, but the Interpreter of Malad’s comment made all hell break loose. Sirius quickly lost track of who said what. All she knew was that just the thought of horcruxes in their midst had sent the Order into a panicked frenzy.
“You think a horcrux is a silver lining?”
“I have seen three more horcruxes than you have!”
“My father could eat four horcruxes for breakfast!”
“Who’s your daddy?”
“Jai Shivaji aani Jai Maharashtra!”
“Have you any idea how expensive silver is these days that you want a silver lining?”
But not everyone was engaged in this shouting match. Sirius noticed Dumbledore and the four who had brought the news of the horcruxes were deep in discussion and were practically ignoring the cacophony. As far as Sirius could tell, the conversation wasn’t making Dumbledore happy.
Sirius caught hold of Dabbu and made the pillow-case wearing tea vendor sit next to her. “So who are those four?” she asked Dabbu.
A wide smile stretched across Dabbu’s face. He dropped the plate on which he’d been carrying tea – no one heard the crash because they were too busy yelling at each other – and began to squeak delightedly. “Sirius Black is talking to Dabbu!” he said, clapping his hands. “Oh what a day! What an amazing, amazing day! I hope I have time to write my diary tonight! Sirius Black!”
“It sounds to me like a better thing to put in your diary would be that the horcruxes were discovered, but it’s your diary.” Sirius cocked her head towards the four. “Are they part of the Mumbai chapter of the Order of the Phoenix too?”
“Oh no, they’re not wizards.” Dabbu said, shaking his head vehemently. Sirius felt faintly dizzy just watching Dabbu’s head whiz from left to right. “They are part of Dumbledore’s muggle spy network,” Dabbu told her. “That man with the fat moustache and the woman on Dumbledore’s left work in the BMC. The man with the thin moustache is a traffic constable and the woman who looks like an egg is a freelance traffic constable. She is actually in the egg delivery business.”
Dabbu was about to tell Sirius more, but just then, Dumbledore stepped away from his spy network and hollered, “Silence!” Everyone immediately shut up, mid-yell in some cases. “The Interpreter of Malad is right,” Dumbledore said gruffly.
Sirius noted that the Enchantress of Flora Fountain looked particularly miffed and looked daggers at the Interpreter of Malad. Sirius made this observation to Dabbu who replied, “Of course. How can Flora Fountain ever approve of Malad? It’s just not possible.”
Meanwhile, Dumbledore continued. “We have been trying to locate the horcruxes for a long time now. They are, as you all know, the source of Wol D’Mart’s power and I do not need to tell you of what he has proved himself capable. The epidemic of mallratism that he threatens to unleash upon this city is a danger that many of you know intimately. You have seen it creep in and then destroy neighbourhoods before your very eyes. The Order has been a victim of it, having been forced out of Phoenix Mills and being left without any recourse but to meet here under Mahalaxmi Bridge.”
Dumbledore paused and paced before continuing. “However, so long as the Order of the Phoenix Mills exists, Wol D’Mart cannot be allowed to go unchallenged,” he said. “We cannot stand back and let him turn this city into a pit of glossy boredom, soulless consumerism and characterless architecture. So what remains is to find someone who can take on the unenviable task of destroying the horcruxes.” Dumbledore looked around the room. No one spoke. “Destroying the horcruxes is a hazardous challenge,” he said. “Not only because by undertaking this task, we run the risk of being noticed by Wol D’Mart, who presently thinks that the Order has been forced to disband because of Phoenix Mills is his. The fact that we couldn’t prevent what happened to Mulund will have convinced him of our non-existence.”
“The Mulund Cuckoos were a lovely lot,” Dabbu whispered in Sirius’s ear. “A little out there, but not weird. Then He Who Shall Not Be Named came along and that was the end.”
“Can we just call him Wol D’Mart?” said Sirius.
Dabbu looked petrified. “Dabbu cannot use The Evil One’s name. It is too scary!”
“Not using his name is confusing.”
“It isn’t confusing if you pay attention. There’s only one person who isn’t being named. Maybe you need some tea? It helps people focus.”
“You were saying about the Mulund Cuckoos?”
“Yes, indeed. The Mulund Cuckoos. They were once normal people who belonged to a pleasant neighbourhood. Now they spike their hair with gel, wear tight t-shirts, drop vowels in their text messages and say things like “yo”. He Who Shall Not Be Named has taken over the area, filling it with ugly, shiny buildings and of course his malls.” Dabbu sighed.
“It sounds like Andheri,” said Sirius.
“That’s exactly what he wants – to turn the entire city into one big Andheri. Left to He Who Shall Not Be Named, all the people in the city will look like they belong in the waiting room for casting auditions at Yash Raj Studios.”
Sirius had a vision of everyone carrying their person wind machines — a key feature in most of Yash Raj Studios’ blockbusters — and wondered whether she could be cast as the overweight but nerdy friend that is a constant in most of these films. Both Dabbu and Sirius shivered in unison, and turned their attention back to Dumbledore.
“I had hoped that Professor Lupin would take on the task of destroying the horcruxes,” continued Dumbledore. “Unfortunately, he is to deliver a lecture on strays and sterilisation for the Welfare of Stray Dogs in Mumbai. We cannot expect him to not honour this commitment, particularly as it is to WSD. Which means I must turn to you who are gathered here.” Dumbledore stopped and when he spoke again, Sirius was sure his voice sounded deeper and more ominous. “In Wol D’Mart’s world, there is nothing for us. All you can do is buy plastic and watch Bollywood. Ask yourselves, is this the city you want as your own? Is this what you want to be? And if not, which one of you will challenge Wol D’Mart?”
There was silence.
In hindsight, if Dumbledore hadn’t mentioned the word “Bollywood”, Sirius would probably have kept her mouth shut, but the fact was that he did mention it. Listening to Dumbledore, Sirius imagined a world made up of dancercise and food courts. She saw herself escaping the Andheri multiplex only to land up at a traffic jam caused by a construction site for a flyover that will never be made or in a monorail that goes nowhere, all the while accompanied by a soundtrack of Bollywood item numbers. It was so petrifying that she heard herself say, “I’ll do it.”
All eyes turned to Sirius. Dumbledore’s were twinkling in a way that didn’t comfort Sirius. Sirius had a weird feeling that any moment now, Dumbledore would say, “Mogambo khush hua!“, which was weird. Instead, Dumbledore said, “So be it then. Sirius Black, you will take up the challenge to destroy the horcruxes of Wol D’Mart.”
An explosion of applause broke out. All the members of the Order of the Phoenix Mills rushed to hug and praise Sirius. Dabbu did a happy dance and all his tea kettles started emitting happy puffs of steam. Out of nowhere, balloons appeared. The Interpreter of Malad, the Old Lady of Boribunder and the Enchantress of Flora Fountain started doing what looked vaguely like a lavni.
It was when everyone started doing the lungi dance that Sirius decided it was time to ask the most important question. “Guys,” she said. “This is all great, but could someone tell me what exactly it is that I’m meant to be doing?”
Everyone shut up immediately and stared at Sirius. One balloon deflated with a miserable squeal. The Magnificent Amboli put her arm around Sirius and said, “Didn’t you hear what the Diviner of Dhobitalao said?”
Sirius looked at Dumbledore who didn’t say anything but kept looking unblinkingly at Sirius. His eyes just twinkled in that same disturbing way.
“Sirius,” said the Magnificent Amboli. “You have to go deep into the Chembur of Secrets.”