Dharma read the reply again. It had just three words in it. ‘No funds available’. It was the response to his request to recruit temporary staff for the department. That was the thirteenth time his request was denied. He wanted to bang his head on his desk but decided against it, there were other important things to do. Besides, banging his head usually left him with a throbbing headache and it was too early in the day to have one. Dharma was in the business of death and right now he was overwhelmed by the amount of work on his desk.A long time ago, much longer than humans can meaningfully imagine, Dharma was just a little boy fascinated by the mysterious workings of life, death and women. He figured out the third in high school but the first two remained beyond his grasp, that was until he met the dark lord Sheeva. Sheeva took the curious kid as his apprentice and thought him everything he knew about life including how to end one and Dharma made a career out of this, not a great one though. He began work as a junior at the department of death. His keenness and expertise at taking lives saw him rise swiftly through the ranks and he was soon appointed as a special agent of death and was given the project of handling the life and death of a new species beginning their time on earth, the humans. Back then, there werent many humans around, the hours were easy and Dharma spent a lot of his time researching and employing new methods to ending life – floods, drought, famine, plague, malaria, cholera, war – nothing too hard for a young dynamic demigod looking to prove himself.
But things were very different now. Ending life had become terribly difficult, especially in the last hundred years. Strange men in white coats and beeping machines had seen to it. Not to forget the tiny pills of all shades, shapes and sizes that shooed away death as if it were a cat trying to sneak into the kitchen. There were just too many of them humans now, much more than Dharma could handle without getting apocalyptic. He could write to his higher ups asking permission to engage one, but then apocalypses were bloody expensive and the department had just about cash to buy half a pizza, without the sause, and the cheese, and the bread.
On top of everything else Chitragupta was getting too old for the job. There was a time when Chittu would put in endless hours balancing karma, meticulously taking into account every single deed of every single man. These days though all he did was sleep on the job, drool over the ledgers, smudging all the numbers. A man could, as many did, get away with murdering a hundred thousand people and still make it to heaven, all he had to do was time those to Chittus slumbering moments.There was a knock on his door. It was Chittu, he came in and handed him a list of names for the day. It was long, as expected. Dharma sighed, gulped down his coffee and decided to get on with the job. He went down to the parking lot and let out a low call. Ramu, his bufallo ambled out of the shed. He walked up to him, patted him gently on his nose and spoke a few kind words to him. He then leapt on to his back, wore his sunglasses and rode the beast into the horizon. Death, as they say, goes on.