"Chitragupta," Yama called his accountant, looking at the karmic ledger of earthlings. It weighed heavy on his hands. Not getting a response, he raised his voice and called out more authoritatively, "Gupta!"
A smug looking Chitragupta entered Yama's official chambers. "Did you call me, Yamadeva?"
Yama peered at him from under his eyelashes. "You took your own time..."
"He, he, he," Chitragupta responded with a sheepish laugh. "I was exchanging notes with the income tax department official... I don't mean currency note... you know... I mean..." he blabbered. Seeing Yama's stern look, he immediately got on with his explanation. "He is yet to be allocated his next life... and drops in often to request a good life... He has promised..." Chitragupta gulped, realising he had said more than was needed.
Yama took in Chitragupta's growing belly and sloppy appearance. "Several pages seem incomplete, Gupta... You seem to be slackening..." Yama looked up and locked his gaze with his accountant. Chitragupta met it without flinching, though his smile became fawning - another new. "Nothing of that sort, Deva... All in good time... Errr... There are some...formalities to be completed. Have asked the waiting souls for some details... Once it's in..."
Yama frowned. "You mean you are not able to keep track? Since when did we need to get "inputs" (here he put air quotes around the word) to fill in the details?" Chitragupta hung his head silently. Yama sighed and continued, "Sometime ago, you said the population was increasing too fast and death rates correspondingly high. You asked for a system upgrade and we did as you wished. I thought the system was going to take care of everything!"
Chitragupta scratched his head. "Errr... I forgot password... And it is not compatible with our old systems... So..."
Yama shut the ledger sharply, expressing his displeasure. "Come on, I have never seen you like this! For the last few years, your attitude has been undergoing tremendous change! It is affecting our work and reputation."
"I am so sorry, sir, if I have not given pleasure. But you know how it is, long working hours with no corresponding increase in compensation... And also, the world is changing... So must we," he slipped that in quite unconsciously.
"Indeed? How must we change?" asked Yama coldly, disturbed by this transformed demigod in front of him.
Chitragupta sat down in front of the god and whispered in a conspiratorial, "We keep track of people's actions and reward or punish accordingly. But people try to escape the consequences of their actions by appeasing one god or the other. And the gods reduce or eliminate the consequences, undermining you, My Lord..." he observed Yama as the latter became thoughtful. "Nobody cares for their actions anymore. There are so many loopholes that they escape their karma. Your importance is waning. They fear you only in their death... But nobody fears when they are alive!"
Yama frowned, quite confused. Chitragupta ignored him and continued, "But where can we catch them?" Yama looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "When they come here, for their accounts to be cleared and when we decide what life they will have next." Yama looked shocked. Chitragupta nodded sagely. "The income tax official worked for the Indian government. All these years, he has been clearing files and knows how to keep the poor souls who come to him in his grip. He has given me useful tips on how to go about it..." He pointed at the ledger. "Keeping that open... That's the first step."
"How does that help?"
"We can fill it up the way we want... In return for favours," Chitragupta winked.
Yama was taken aback. "What favours do you need? You have no needs!" he said dourly.
"That's the mistake we make, Yama...ji. We must create needs and we must have them fulfilled. I will get the list..." He was out and back in no time, holding a long list. "I am making that official help me with it and that's why I am holding him back... Errr, when he is being reborn, he wants to become a minister. That will be helpful to us in furthering our cause... Do you think we can comply...?"
"You...!" Yama bounded up from his seat and made for Chitragupta, who fled the room. "I have work to do!" the accountant shouted back."
Yama shook his head and wondered if it was better to leave the corrupt souls in the lower world instead of having them influence his world too! He saw Chitragupta's list on the floor. He picked it up and glanced through. His mouth watered. Shaking himself, he crumpled it and threw it into the dustbin. In his wrath, a plane full of people crashed into the sea, a bus was set ablaze, a train went off the tracks...