Mistimed Etiquette

Jalapakshi was the epitome of etiquette, courtesy, and good manners.

She was affable, considerate, cordial, courteous, gracious, and polite.

Her father Mayurbhanja and her mother Suprasakshi ensured that every inch of her life and every inch of their household was smeared with a lovely veneer of perfect etiquette and manners.

This proud varnish of manners ran so deep in the family that it is said that when Jalapakshi landed on this earth from her mother’s womb the first thing she said was “Thank You Mom”. This first sentence of hers embellished the parturition.

Jalapakshi’s father Mayurbhanja had imbibed these values from his parents and by a masterstroke of luck, his wife Suprasakshi seemed to have come from the same lineage.

Thank You, please, Do come again, Por Favor, and Gracias, were very common words spoken in the Jalapakshi household and the activity of the residents of the household also echoed these manners.

The household walked the talk so to say.

Anyone who met Jalapakshi in the morning would be greeted by her pleasant and heart-warming Good Morning. The same was carried through to Good Afternoon, Good evening, and Good Night. She delivered these in a typical honey-laced sweet voice with a twinkle in her beautiful eyes and in a body language that was very soul-warming and soothing.

Anyone coming to meet her would always be bid adieu with a very warm “Please do come again”, “see you soon”, “it was wonderful having you” and so on.

It was said that more thank yous were exchanged in their house than in the entire town. The family dog also had picked up the atmosphere of the family and generally was called the most behaved dog in the locality.

The demeanor of the household was thus the talk of the town. “If you want to learn manners go to Jalapakshi’s house”, everyone would say.

Jalapakshi had cleared her graduation and had landed herself a good job in public relations. However, she had about a month of free time till her joining so she was looking to do some sort of work during this period.

In the meantime, a privately run crematorium had come up in the vicinity and they were looking for volunteers who would help the bereaved family during their rituals at the crematorium. It was felt that such volunteers were very necessary as bereaved friends, family members, and acquaintances of the departed soul who came to the crematorium for the last rites needed a helping hand to go through the process.

Jalapakshi thus joined there along with quite a few other young boys and girls. she was very excited about the job. Her parents were very happy too as they thought Jalapakshi would be doing a very noble job by helping the bereaved members who came to the crematorium.

This noble job would be her stepping-stone to heaven they would say.

On the first day, they were all given training and inducted into their respective roles.

Jalapkshi’s role was interesting:

  1. She would have to receive the members of the deceased family at the crematorium.
  2. She would guide them to the proper place where they could lay down the body.
  3. She would help organize the rituals.
  4. She would provide support in garnering the ritual essentials like incense sticks, flowers, and holy water (mainly ganga jal ).
  5. Supply drinking water if required.
  6. Take the members through the entire process.
  7. Organize the final cremation.
  8. Explain the rest of the process to the members.
  9. And eventually, see them off at the exit of the crematorium.

Having understood her role, she went back home. She was to join the next day. Internally she was happy as she would be helping people during a very sad situation in their lives.

She went back to work the next day with a prayer in her heart and a blissful feeling within her.

She parked herself at the entrance gate of the Crematorium at 10.00 AM.

At around 12 Noon she could sight an approaching convoy. Two cars at the front followed by a hearse and a few motorbikes. The cars stopped at the entrance and Jalapakshi ran towards the first car.

She guided the convoy to the parking lot and indicated the hearse to drive in. The bikes and the cars were parked outside.

There were around a group of 12 people. A youngish man, maybe in his late 40s, was wearing a dhoti and a wrap-around. Four other gentlemen went to the hearse to unload the dead body and Jalapakshi observed that the deceased was a male around 75 years old. The youngish man appeared to be the son.

Jalapakshi guided them to an upraised platform where the body could be placed.

One lady was sobbing continuously and looked to be the widow and two youngish ladies were holding her, probably daughters. Jalapkshi greeted them and offered them bottles of drinking water.

She immediately started a conversation with the two gentlemen who seemed to be in charge of the situation and started planning the arrangements with them. They had brought the priest with them and Jalapakshi was quick enough to organize the other basic requirements of incense sticks, white cloth, and a bamboo structure on which the body would be eventually laid after the rituals.

While the rituals were going on Jalapakshi tried to comfort the bereaved members by standing beside them, trying to console them, holding their hands, or just listening to them.

When the rituals were over Jalapakshi got the funeral pyre organized and eventually, the body was put to fire with the son performing the main rituals as per his faith. As the body gradually went to ashes Jalapkshi kept a keen watch on the bereaved members encircling the funeral pyre and kept consoling those who were either crying or were looking blankly as if in shock.

The flames slowly died down, the ashes were collected and Jalapakshi deftly took the members through the final process inter-alia also explaining to them the process of collecting the death certificate.

The cremation being over the members were gearing up to return. One of the gentlemen came up to Jalapakshi and thanked her profusely while the others looked at her with thankfulness and appreciation.

She bowed to them and then decided to walk them to the exit gate.

At the gate, they all paused to say goodbye to her, and Jalapakshi in her best demeanor perfected over years looked at them, bowed, and said “Please do come again”.

The sentence seemed to have set off an atomic bomb as the entire group looked at her with a sudden strange look. The son seemed to be stepping forward and looked visibly angry.

Jalapakshi stood still and bewildered and then suddenly turned around and ran inside the crematorium as she saw another hearse approaching.

When she reached home, she narrated the incident of the day to her parents only to suddenly realize that crematorium was not the place where you tell people “Please come again”.

The etiquette was fine, but it was mistimed.

What a bark

The slightly late morning walkers at the Nerul Jewel of Navi Mumbai Park were witness to a bizarre sight.

On a wooden bench along the pond was spotted a middle-aged man holding a mobile phone in his hand, intermittently bringing it close to his mouth and barking at it like a dog. He was holding the mobile phone placed on his palm in his right hand with the phone speaker pointing towards his mouth. He would bark at it like a dog, look at the phone then place the phone on the bench, shaking his head in despair with a visible frown, and start all over again.

He was trying to bark in various ways with different modulation of tone as if trying to mimic the bark of every breed of dog in the world. Initially, nobody took much notice as most of the regular morning walkers were more concerned about their weight and health and the irregular ones were more concerned about the bulge of their tummy and tended to huff and puff rather than notice anything usual or unusual.

The morning was rolling by.

However, word got around the park. A lazy morning walker who was walking slower than a snail had a little extra time which he devoted to observing this man. Unable to decipher the cause and because of the man’s behavior he informed a few more morning walkers and as the morning walkers circled the park while walking and crossed each other in their third-round or the second round they usually whispered, “have you noticed the man barking”?

 Like a wave traveling through the air, almost every morning walker now knew about the barking man.

Few who had to rush to office decided not to bother, as their call of duty got better of their curiosity, left the park. Most of the balance who were left around as if answering to the call of a pied piper gathered around the man barking on his mobile. Curiosity had now taken over the initial nonchalance.

It was around 10.00 AM and the heat of the sun was not exactly at its pleasant best but irrespective of the heat of the sun and the medley of people gathered around him the man kept barking away at his mobile while the onlookers looked at him with bewilderment.

The man was so focused that he hardly noticed the crowd gathering around him.

The Veterinarian among the crowd started identifying the different types of barks. Once he said that this bark was that of a Pomeranian, once he said it was that of a bulldog, once he said it was that of a pug, and so on. The actor in the crowd said that this person was surely a voice-over artist, and he was practicing various types of barks and recording them in his mobile recorder.

Mr. Sharma and Mr. Kelkar two senior citizens approached the man to stop him and quiz him on what he was up to. They tiptoed together in geriatric style and stood in front of the man. Suddenly the man stopped barking, kept the mobile on the bench, raised his head, looked up at them, and put a finger on his lips indicating the two senor citizens not to make a sound. He then picked up the mobile again, punched patterns and codes into it, raised it to his mouth, and started barking into it again this time a very strong loud bark.

The bark was so loud and so sudden that the two senior citizens were caught unawares and almost jumped up with the suddenness of the bark and quickly retraced their steps back to the onlookers group as fast as their old legs could carry.

Once back to the group they said that the man was perhaps new to the park, and they had not seen him before.

Some advised calling the police, some advised calling a doctor thinking that the man had perhaps lost his mind, and some said that he be best left alone. Suddenly Yogesh the young lad of 25 and a known footballer approached the man and in a stern voice shouted “Hello, can you stop this? What do you think you are doing”? The man looked up at Yogesh and replied, “Look dear can I be left alone? Is this not a public place? Am I not allowed to sit here?” “But,” said Yogesh “you are behaving strangely”? “That should not be your problem”, replied the man.

The group of onlookers neither wanted a fight nor an unpleasant scene and thus requested Yogesh to leave the man alone.

In the meantime, few people had recorded the act of the man in their mobiles and shared it through various social media. The video had gone viral and was creating quite a wave.

Suddenly another man was seen running in this direction as if approaching the barking man. While he was running at him he was calling out, “Devender, Devender, Devender”. As the running man approached the barking man and the barking man could hear him, he looked up. It was now clear that the name of the barking man was Devender. Devender looked up at the running man, stopped barking, and ran towards him and they hugged each other. The onlookers then saw Devender explaining something to his friend as they both sat on the bench with hands on their heads and a look of desperation on their faces.

The group slowly approached them and then Jignesh (as that was the name of the running man) looked at the group and explained.

Devender had downloaded a new app on his mobile which provided nice four-layer security. One level was a pattern, the second level was a numerical code, the third level was fingerprint and the fourth level was voice identification. Devender had come to the park and had decided to sit on the bench beside the pool to enable the security features. He had completed the first three and was about to complete the voice identification.

Now the voice identification was real-time as you had to press the recorder on the app, record the voice note and do that all in 10 secs to enable it.

However, as soon as Devender had pressed the recorder and was about to record his voice a dog that had walked close behind the bench unnoticed had started barking. In the process of shooing away the dog the 10 secs had elapsed, and the mobile had locked itself with the fourth level of security having identified the bark of the dog as the voice note.

As the video had gone viral and also reached Jignesh he had rushed to the scene.

After having realized this Devender was left with no option but to try and bark into the app recorder hoping to mimic the dog bark and thereby unlock his phone. He had also walked round and round the park to identify various dogs to try to get them to bark into his mobile.

The onlookers now had a sympathetic look on their faces as they now realized the gravity of the situation and started consulting with each other. Led by the senior citizens in the group they decided to help.

A plan was chalked out.

They would spread themselves across the park and round up as many dogs as possible and bring them to this area of the park where Devender was sitting.  A food delivery boy came to help to state that he was carrying two chicken delivery orders and he could distribute chunks of chicken amongst them to lure the dogs to this area of the park.

The vegetarians amongst the sympathizers detested this idea stating that they would not touch the chicken chunks but would still manage to round up dogs. The entire group broke up into ones and twos with the idea of reconvening at this point of the park in the next twenty minutes.

After about twenty minutes with great difficulty and with a lot of huffing and puffing around 12 dogs were rounded up and lured to this area of the park. The chunks of chicken had helped. The vegetarians had faced a greater challenge as it was easier to round up dogs with chicken than without it.

Anyway, around 12 dogs of different shapes, sizes, and colors were there now.

It was quite a scene. Twelve dogs sitting, squatting, and standing in and around the bench. The action was now slated to start. A dog lover who also identified himself as some sort of a dog trainer took over. He collected the balance chunks of chicken and walked to the center of the pack.  He explained the process he would adapt to make the dogs bark and Devender would be given a cue by the trainer at the right moment to start the app.

The trainer raised his hands in the air, looked at all the dogs one by one, opened both his palms to reveal the chicken chunks, winked at Devender as a signal to start the recorder which Devender did, jumped in the air, cried out a long yeeeeeelllllpppppp and scattered the chicken chunks in and around him.

The dogs rushed towards the chicken, each of them barking in their style but the crowd was looking at Devender. The countdown to ten seconds had begun. But for the barking of the dogs, you could have heard the pin drop.

Suddenly Devender jumped up in the air with joy and all rushed to him. Devender was almost dancing now as the phone had got unlocked.

Everybody was shaking hands and patting Devender. Mission accomplished.

After about a week Devender wrote a letter to the app company complaining that while twelve dogs were barking in unison the phone had unlocked and this was a flaw in the app. He demanded compensation. The app is supposed to recognize one voice note and not a disorganized chorus.

After about another week Devender got a letter from the MD of the  App Company thanking him for narrating the incident and inter-alia telling him that this incident went a long way to prove the great success and efficiency of their app as the app even amidst the bark of twelve different dogs could recognize that one bark through which the voice identification was set.

They called it the best advertisement for their app and requested permission from Devender to post this as an ad on various social media.

As per last information, Devender had been avoiding all types of dogs in his locality and on inquiry would only mutter “Every dog has its day”.

Promenade Milk Medley

The darkness of the night was losing its battle with dawn which was streaking in.

As darkness kept losing and receding dawn flew in with all its golden hue and beauty. Few residents of Tricity Promenade had woken up and a few more were about to wake up. Largely the morning walkers, the meditators, and the yoga types.

Daylight Breaking Through The Dawn

 Gadekar Kaka had climbed up the stairs from the 14th floor for his morning walk on the terrace.

Soon daylight started overpowering the dawn and the Sun God appeared from the East. It was light now and most Promenedians were now awake except the late sleepers like Sarfaraz and Soumya.

Almost the first ritual of the day of every Promenedian was to open the front door of their apartment and pick up the milk packet placed outside the door by the milkman.

But today was a different day as each Promenedian in different strata of time from late dawn to morning opened their door but could not find the milk packet. Individually they thought that their milkman was late, but inquisitive Promenedians got their hands dirty to probe deeper.

Nihal, Sachin, Anand through discrete sources found out that the power was gone, and the lift was not working so most of the milkmen had placed the packets of milk in the lobby. The news spread and through the Watsapp group each Promenedian now knew that their milk packet was at the lobby.

Milk Packets

It was now time for each to walk down, collect the packet of milk, and walk back up. In every household, this decision gave way to serious debate, discussion, and argument. The point was whoever (husband, wife, or children) went down to collect the milk would have to walk up all the way some to the 13th floor, some to the 9th floor, and so on. The task was not easy.

A comedy thus unfurled.

Nihal wanted Anu to go down to collect the milk, but Anu said if she does that, she would wait for the power to come back so that she could come up by the lift. Now, this meant Nihal would get late for his tea, so he decided to walk down himself.

Hethal requested her husband Samant to do the honors and Samant happily agreed to do the needful.

Gadekar Kaka had finished his walk and climbed down to his 14th-floor apartment only to realize that tea was not ready and waiting for him that day.

Residents’ 10th floor and above like Prantik, Rajesh, Soumya, Gadekar Kaka, Sachin Chavan, Ninad all got into a conference call and felt that one of them should go down to the lobby and the others would place themselves on the 4th, 8th, 10th, 12th, and 14th-floor landing so that the milk could be passed like a relay instead of one person walking all the way up.

However, there was a flaw in this. The milk packets could move up this way but the person in need of tea or coffee still would have to walk up to his apartment.

In the meantime, quite a crowd had gathered at the lobby. Anand, Samant, Sachin Nair, Shraddha, Hedait Bhai, Shazia, Nihal, Ninad, and many more. Subhash the day supervisor had laid out the milk packets neatly on the reception table for everyone to come and pick them up.

Sachin Nair picked up two packets one his own and the other for Bhavna and Abhishek thinking since they were on the same floor there was no harm being the good Samaritan. He walked up to his house opened the packet and put the milk on the boil and Watsapped Bhavna to come and collect their packet. Bhavna requested her husband Abhishek who knocked on Sachin’s door and Sachin handed him a packet of milk.

When Abhishek brought this home Bhavna realized that they take double-toned milk but this was different, so Abhishek went back to Sachin to exchange but Sachin had already put his milk on the boil. It was thus decided that Bhavna should also boil this packet of milk and then they could exchange boiled milk. Someone termed it a heated exchange.

Others quickly quipped that there was enough of it ( heated exchange ) in the society even without the boiled milk.

Soumya the Bong who has been spending a lot of time doing mandwali between arguing and fighting residents suggested that they both freeze their milk into ice cream or kulfi and then exchange so that there was no heated exchange.

However, this could lead to a cold war said Shraddha, so the idea was dropped.

In the meantime, Samant had picked up his milk packet at the lobby but was not finding the energy to climb back up immediately. However, he wanted to have his morning tea. Sarfaraz and Ninad came up with a brilliant idea. They took Samant’s packet to the tea vendor outside and told him to make tea for all the people in the lobby. So, while Anand was coming back from his morning walk he saw a festive group of Promenedians enjoying their tea in the lobby.

Local Tea Vendor

He joined them and informed Aarti to send down some cookies and Subhash the day supervisor was dispatched to collect them.

In the meantime, many had come to the lobby, picked up their milk packet, and had started walking up. All those coming down were met with a steady stream of persons walking up with milk packets in hand.

Bhavna decided to join the fun and so did Sagar but while climbing down the stairs to the lobby they met Bhaskaran Sir midway sitting on the stairs with a look of despair. It was then they realized that out of the three packets that Bhaskaran Sir was carrying up one had fallen from his hand and burst, and the milk had spilled out.

Bhaskaran Sir was literally crying over spilt milk.

In the meantime, the scene at the lobby had got a bit serious because Nihal from his phone had sent out a mail to the Managing Committee that the situation was managed badly by the existing committee. Being the Ex-secretary, he had some knowledge in the matter.

He further wrote that this could have been solved by quickly hiring a cow and a buffalo and placing them in the lobby so that people could milk them as per their requirements. Vijay Babar also suggested that this could have been booked online through sites like cowudder.com and crazybuffallo.com.

On seeing this mail an emergency meeting of the existing committee was called and the matter was discussed and a plan of action was put in place as under:

The Milky Strategy
  1. The committee would identify all milch cows and buffalos within a 5 Kms radius of the society to take care of such a situation. Shraddha and Rucha were given the task of this identification which was to be completed in 15 days.
  2. Another group was formed to punch (meaning promenade) with election ink on all these identified cows and buffalos so as to block them for Promenade. Sachin Nair and Anand were given this task.
  3. Anand and Sarfaraz were told to do two types of research:
    1. On the two websites suggested by Vijay.
    2. On the quality, age, etc of the cows and buffalos so identified. For this purpose, they decided to use the help of a Vet who could also medically examine the animals.
  4. Hediat Bhai and Ranjit decided to contact all the dairies in the vicinity to see if they could create a backup through them. They also decided to call all the milk delivery boys of the society and put them through some physical tests like running and jumping so as to only have milk delivery boys who were fit and could run up till the 14th floor to deliver milk even if the lift was not working. It was felt that Abhishek’s, Paramita’s, and Bhavna’s help would be sought to test their fitness levels.
  5. Samant suggested that all these movements and actions should be documented, and every cow, buffalo, and dairy be photographed for records. He suggested that he would devise a foolproof format for the same.
  6. Shazia was given the task to research if the Society could build up a stock of good quality milk powder for such situations.
  7. In order to make the process transparent and democratic, the following was also decided:
    1. The task force was to be headed by a mature and knowledgeable member of the society. For this purpose, Karaya’s name was suggested.
    2. Ninad was appointed as the technical consultant.
    3. Vijay was roped in for his political connections and for exploring the availability of milk vans in such situations.
  8. It was also decided to write to Tamanna at the builder’s end with CC to Lekhi to seek their suggestions in the matter as they could have faced similar situations in their other projects.

As the emergency meeting was dispersed with clear action points Shraddha suggested that she would make a worksheet to monitor the progress and Anand would help her create a bar chart of the progress of the project.

Subhash the day supervisor got so confused that he quietly picked up two packets of milk and vanished inside the metre room. There he pierced the milk packets and drank from them. There was no power and it was dark inside. However, when he emerged there was milk smeared along his lips and Hedait Bhai The Secretary and Samant The Treasurer took him aside for some serious interrogation.

In the meantime Sagar who always had innovative ideas returned to the society with two well bred horses. He said that the horses could be loaded with milk and the horses were fit enough to climb up the stairs and the milk could thus be delivered to every floor. But then, the issue was the horses did not have the capability to identify the apartments and someone would have had to climb the stairs with them. Realising the problem Sagar mounted one of the horses and galloped away.

In the meantime, power had resumed, and the lifts had started working. Everyone suddenly realised that in the process of collecting milk from the lobby most had picked up the wrong packet. So skimmed was replaced by double toned, full cream was replaced by Toned, Low fat got replaced with Desi, Cow was replaced with Buffalo.

In a nutshell, everyone had milk but different milk.

Nihal also suggested that as Ex-Secretary he could accompany the present Chairman Prantik to Singapore to explore technology to counter this as he was aware that some development in the matter had been done.

Eventually Vikas Kadam suggested that a milk tank could be installed inside the society. Flow of milk from this tank could be driven by a solar pump. The Society is thinking of sending Vikas to Germany to get a full understanding of this technology.

Warning Note and Disclaimer: The characters are real and the story is partly fictional with lot of writers liberty being utilised to create a story. This is meant for pure fun and is not meant to hurt anybody. If anyone feels bad and offended please inform and the name of the person can be dropped and a new character can be brought in his /her place.

Ditched-Literally

Camileri Rodrigues loved his Sunday mutton curry. The flowing gravy, the succulent pieces of mutton, the oily brownish color, the transparent layer of floating oil, the dash of potato smeared in the gravy and popping out like the tip of an iceberg, the sprinkling of coriander leaves, and the magic of Rosie’s culinary hands.

Succulent Mutton Curry

Aha. The gourmet and glutton in him both surfaced.

That was another Sunday. Rosie Rodrigues his better half knew this ritual like the precision swing of the pendulum of the clock and never failed Camileri on his Sunday mutton curry.

The mutton was generally ordered on Friday, hand-delivered by Javed the Vendor from good old times, marinated on Saturday night, and cooked on Sunday Morning over a low flame with patience, love, and perseverance allowing the spices to juice and soak into the mutton and vice versa.

On Sundays the Rodrigues household was a virtual exhaust pipe of aromas emanating from their kitchen, permeating out into the atmosphere with the breeze carrying it to the apartments upstairs and downstairs and sideways. The entire complex was now predictably accustomed to this aroma, and many could precisely prophesize on the state and stage of cooking and the completeness of the muton curry by the change of flavors and aroma that floated around during the process.

However, this is not about mutton which was routine for Camileri but what followed was not routine.

The mutton was ready and so was the plain rice and after a nice bath the Rodrigues couple sat down for lunch.

 Just plain rice and the mutton curry with touches of fresh lemon drops.

Such a meal normally opened the doors for slumber to creep in and cast its spell on the Rodrigues. Ten minutes after lunch both the Rodrigues were fast asleep and into their afternoon siesta. The room was cast dark by pulling all the curtains while the two human beings allowed themselves into slumberland with the taste and aroma of mutton lingering with them.

Sleep Sleep Sleep

When Camileri woke up it was drizzling a bit and there was cloud cover. Rosie was already up and out on the balcony enjoying the weather and letting the gentle breeze and the spray of the drizzle caress her and Camileri soon joined here there.

Looking out into the fancy and levitating mood of nature he felt romantic, he put his arms around Rosie, their eyes met and they knew instantly what they wanted. A lovely motorbike ride in the rain and breeze.

No words were spoken as they both dressed up, picked up their helmets, and ran to their bike.

They were soon driving away. Camileri akin to the romantic hero and Rosie at the pillion like the evergreen lover. Love was in the air; adventure was afloat, and the weather was helping the cause.

Camilleri broke into a song as he pushed up the speed and sped into the service road. Rosie joined in the signing as the bike sped away through the service road.

When the adrenalin rush was at its peak, the signing was sublime and the souls of the two were afloat a disturbance occurred. A stray dog suddenly ran across the road as if going for a 100-meter dash. The sprint was sudden and on reflex, Camilerri had to swerve. The road was slippery because of the rain and the slush on the tarmac the bike skidded and in the blinking of an eye, Camileri landed in a ditch by the side of the road.

He was concussed for some time but regained his composure and crawled out of the ditch. As he did so he saw a car stopping and a beautiful lady alighting from the car. Despite the situation, he was in his manly senses and moved his gaze to this beautiful woman who seemed to be approaching him.

“Are you okay”. She said as she held out a dainty, manicured, and beautiful hand to help Camileri. Camileri grabbed it. “ I am okay”, he said as the lady helped him pull himself up. He was now facing a beautiful woman. Lovely doe eyes, flowing silken hairs, long neck, lips breaking out into the most ethereal smile, nice slim figure, soft hands, smart makeup, and lovely saree to wrap in the beauty. Oops, his leg hurt and his head was reeling but the beauty was in front of him to behold.

Helping Hand

She flung her hair back and said: “get into my car. I will take you to my apartment which is just a few blocks away. You can clean up and then I will try and medically examine you to see how injured you are”.

“That is nice of you,” answered Camileri, “but I don’t think my wife will like me doing that,” he said with a disappointed-looking face.

“Oh come on, I am a nurse,” her insistence was captivating,” We need to check for bruises and scrapes and treat them properly”. She continued.

Well, she was ravishingly beautiful, had a sweet, captivating voice and Camilleri could not say no to her but repeated weakly and meekly “I am sure my wife will not like this”.

Camilleri hopped into the car. The inside of the car was plush and the air inside the car carried the lovely smell of the lady’s perfume. Lavender thought Camilleri his leg was hurting while his head was clearing up.

They arrived at her place soon. Camilleri took to the washroom to wash up a bit after which the lady examined her. Her touch across his back, legs sent waves of excitement down the being of Camilleri.

She confirmed that Camilleri had no major injuries and offered him a drink. Camilleri agreed. The whiskey was smooth, it was single malt and Camilleri was not sure, as they moved from one to two and from two to three pegs, whether his feeling of intoxication and drifting down fairly land was because of the whiskey or the beauty in front of her. As she prepared the next peg, she shifted a notch on the sofa and was now closer to Camilleri.

Camilleri was also feeling guilty thinking of his wife Rosie and finally again told her “I feel a lot better now, but I know my wife is going to be really upset so I would better go now”

“Don’t be silly said the beautiful lady”, as she placed her palm on the hands of Camileri. “Stay for a while. She would not know a thing about this. She must be at home, right?”. She continued.

“Well, not really. She must be still in the ditch”. Said Camilleri as he got up and rushed to the door.

Till date we do not know whether he survived to live another day with Rosie.

( Based on a Whatstapp Joke forward )

Ronojoy Never Took A Risk

Ronojoy never took a risk while drinking.

He loved Friday evenings as they were earmarked by him for the bottle and the glass.

 He would reach home full of energy thinking of the coming weekend and a nice evening with his drinks glass. Gulping his drink quietly without anyone noticing gave him a high because he never took a risk while drinking at home.

Ronojoy returned home from the office to find his wife cooking. He could hear the clanking of utensils emanating from the kitchen. That gave him comfort.

Ronojoy quietly entered the house, shouted out a “Hello I am home” to his wife, and stealthily entered his study.

He opened the black wooden bookshelf and pulled out a bottle of single malt.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose seemed to be looking at him from the portrait of his hanging from the wall but nobody had an inkling that Ronojoy was about to drink because he never took risks while drinking at home.

He quietly walked to the kitchen, again said hello to his wife who was busy cooking, opened the cabinet on the wall behind, and pulled out a whisky glass. Nobody saw him do so because Ronojoy never took a risk while drinking at home.

Cheers Cheers Cheers

Ronjoy went to his study, poured out the single malt into his glass, a double peg, and washed it down—Bottoms Up.

Ronojoy walked back to the kitchen, washed the glass in the sink, again said hello to his wife, kept the glass back in the kitchen cabinet, walked back to his study, opened the black wooden bookshelf, and placed the bottle back.

There was a gleam in his eyes. The single malt had been like an elixir.

He looked up and felt Netaji was smiling at him from the portrait.

Ronojoy then again smartly walked into the kitchen, his wife was peeling potatoes. No one had any inkling that he had smartly downed a peg because Ronjoy never took any risks while drinking at home.

He called out to his wife and asked “Listen has Subir been able to fix up his daughter’s marriage? The other day he was speaking to me about it?”.

“No,” said his wife, “they are unable to find a match yet, poor girl”. “Yes”, said Ronojoy , “Subir was sounding worried”.

Ronojoy then tip-toed back to the study, he opened the black wooden almirah, this time there was a little sound. He stood still, paused, and looked around. Everything seemed fine. However, he did not make any sound while pulling out the single malt bottle. Ronojoy walked back into the kitchen, opened the kitchen cabinet, pulled out the whisky glass. He walked back to his study, quickly and again stealthily poured a double peg, walked back to the kitchen, washed the bottle, and put it in the kitchen cabinet. He then carried the glass back, walked into the study, opened the black wooden almirah, and placed the glass back in the bookshelf.

Nobody had yet got any inkling that he was drinking because Ronojoy never took any risks while drinking at home.

Ronojoy then again walked back to the kitchen and stood near his wife. “Subir’s daughter is quite young still so Subir should not get unnecessarily worried”, he said. “Come on”, said his wife, “have you forgotten that she is 35 and unfortunately looks older”.

Wife had no inkling in the kitchen as he did not take any risk

“Oh, “said Ronojoy, He seemed to have forgotten Subir’s daughter’s age.

Anyway, he stealthily moved towards the study, opened the black wooden bookshelf, pulled out a potato. Well, he was a bit perplexed, how had the bookshelf shifted its position. He walked back to the kitchen, pulled out the glass from the kitchen cabinet, came running back to the study poured the potato in the glass, and quickly gulped down a double peg.

He looked up to see Netaji laughing loudly.

He put Netaji in the glass, washed the portrait, and placed it back in the kitchen cabinet. He cast a glance at his wife. She was placing the sink on the gas burner to prepare dinner.

However, nobody had yet an inkling that he was drinking because Ronojoy never took risks while drinking at home.

He looked at his wife and said, “listen you said Subir is old but you also said he is 35”. “I am not able to understand can you explain”.

“God”, said his wife, “did you have too much work at the office”?” why don’t you go outside, sit in the living room and watch TV and let me cook freely”.

Ronojoy walked out of the kitchen with a potato in hand, he pulled out the single malt from the potato and poured it over the basin, gulped a double peg, walked back to the kitchen, washed the potato, walked back to the study, opened the black wooden bookshelf and kept the potato inside. He looked up to see his wife laughing from the portrait. He walked back into the kitchen to find Netaji cooking.

“What are you cooking?’ he asked Netaji. “Freedom” replied Netaji.

Nobody had still got an inkling that he was drinking because Ronojoy never took any risk while drinking at home.

His wife said, “So Subir is trying to get married”. Ronojoy went to the kitchen sink, splashed water over his face and climbed up the kitchen platform, and squat there. However, till now Subir had not realized that he was drinking because Netaji never took risks. Subir was still cooking and Ronojoy was peeping out of the photo frame.

Ronojoy then walked back to the study. The bookshelf was not there, there was glass lying on the table, he looked up to find that the portrait was missing. He tiptoed out. Nobody had found out he was drinking because Ronojoy never took a risk while drinking at home.

Ronojoy picked up the bottle of cough syrup, poured it into the flower vase, gulped it down, and shouted cheers.

Well while drinking at home Ronojoy never took…… Took what? He was unable to remember.

Ah yes while drinking at home he never took a potato. Hic! Hic!

Hic Hic Hurray.

He needed to have another two pegs but the bottle was not in the kitchen, the glass was not in the bookshelf and wife was not in the cabinet. He opened the kitchen sink tap and whiskey was flowing out of it. He cupped his hands and drank straight from the tap-Neat. Hic Hic

He did not take any risk and rode the bottle

It could have been worse

Let me first introduce the main characters of the story. There are few fringe characters too but they can be taken in as they come by because they hover alongside the margins of the main story.

Main Character and the Protagonist: 

Enter Dhurduri Narayan Goswami, AGE: 50, Occupation: Government Servant.

Dhurdhuri is the quintessential socialite of the pada ( A Bengali word for Muhallah / A residential locality ). He keeps in touch with everyone, is available in all community meetings, is an avid organizer and participant in various activities of the Pada like Durga Puja Celebrations , Ganpati Puja Celebrations , Cultural Events, etc. His claim to fame, as it were, has been his never-say-die attitude because for any bad and agonising situation, he normally calms everyone by saying “It could have been worse”.

Anti-Hero:

I am not sure if Tarun can be called the anti-hero but let us stay with this epithet for him for the sake of the story.

Tarun popularly known as Tony is the flamboyant, young, and dashing boy of the pada. He is omnipresent, participates in various activities, and is quite popular among the residents. He leads the youth brigade and organizes various events like football tournaments, cricket tournaments, carrom, and card competitions. He is also seen as the livewire of the pada.

 In his heart of hearts, he does not like Dhurdhuri much and makes fun of his famous line “It could have been worse”. If every situation is good because it could have been worse, it would mean everybody would be happy and Tony was not always happy.

Crap, he thought.

Dhurdhhuri goes to the fish market every alternate day. Sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the evening depending upon his information on the day’s catch.

He loves buying fish.

Fishy Fishy

Once when his pet fish monger Manna gave him fish which was not fresh and wanted to return the money he had taken for the fish to Dhurdhuri he was, much to his surprise, greeted by:” It could have been worse Manna”. “I could have got food poisoning because of that rotten fish you gave me but I did not, so it is okay.”

When Tony came to know about this he was not elated. He thought it was foolish on the part of Dhurdhuri kaka (Uncle) not to take the money back. Professionally Manna was at fault, and he ought to have returned the money no matter what.

There are several such instances of “It could have been worse” by Dhurdhuri.

Once when the electric power went off for 6 hours following a breakdown he thought “it could have been worse”, when the pada was once submerged in floods he thought, it could have been worse and that the residents were lucky that no houses got damaged and that there were no fatalities.

When burglars broke into Mazumdar’s house and took away his watch and wallet he thought it could have been worse because they could have taken the refrigerator, the microwave, the television as well.

In such situations the sufferer, for eg Mazumdar on this occasion, never enjoyed the “it could have been worse” statement because it is generally the patient who feels the pain even though it could have been worse.

However, in general, since Dhurdhuri was consistent with his “it could have been worse” he passed off as a positive person in the eyes of most except Tony.

When the price of onions rose to Rs 90 per Kg and Dhurdhuri said “It could have been worse had it gone to Rs 100 per Kg something snapped within Tony.

Could have been worse Onions

Since then Tony has been waiting for an opportunity to effectively negate the “it could have been worse” theory of Dhurdhuri in public.

Lo and behold the opportunity soon presented itself to Tony.

On Monday evening when Dhurdhuri was returning home with a bagful of fish from the market he saw a gathering and commotion around the crossroad of the pada. Almost everyone from the pada was there. He could spot Tony, Tukai, Balai Babu, Captain Dutta, Mrs. Ganguly, and many more. He approached the crowd with stealthy cautious steps and tapped Tony on the back beckoning him aside.

“What is the matter Tony”, asked Dhurdhuri.

“Serious matter Kaka”, replied Tony with gloom written all over his countenance, “Sen Babu had come home early from office today and had spotted his wife and Bapi Dutta of house no 19 in a compromising position. In a fit of rage, he had pulled out his service revolver and shot dead his wife and Bapi Dutta and eventually committed suicide by shooting himself.” The Police were on the way and few journalists had already reached the scene.

Shoot At Sight

Dhurdhuri looked at Tony shell shocked and discordant, his eyebrows went up, the frown was visible on his forehead, he looked up at the sky and then at Tony and said, “it could have been worse, much worse” and before Tony could react he was walking away at a very brisk pace putting distance between him and the crowd.

Anyway, police formalities, forensics, post-mortem, etc took their course with the residents helping and cooperating. In the end, the bodies or whatever remained of them were released by the Police for cremation.

On the morning of the Cremation Tony along with his few friends knocked into the house of Dhurdhuri. Dhurdhuri opened the door, welcomed them in, and made them sit in the out room mainly meant for such local pada meetings.

Dhurdhuri observed that the young men seemed agitated and once seated Tony suddenly asked “How come you said it could have been worse when Sen Babu shot dead his wife, Bapi Kaka, and himself?”. “What can be worse than this.” “All of them died on the spot and you say it could have been worse.”

Dhurdhri got up, opened the door looked at Tony and his friends, and said “it could have been worse because the incident did not happen on Friday but happened on Monday next”. Tony and his friend’s eyes were fixated on Dhurdhuri. “Had it happened on Friday evening I would have been dead in place of Bapi”.

There was pin-drop silence in the room. Tony lifted himself from his chair and so did his friends and one by one, in single file they left.

The funeral procession started a couple of hours later. It was a One Km walk from the locality and it was decided that everyone would walk down to the crematorium. Dhurdhuri reached slightly late, and the procession had just left. He caught up with them and was walking along in the last row of moving people.

He kept walking drowned in his thoughts and emotions when there was a sudden pat on the back. He wheeled around to see Tony behind him.

“Kaka Romila, Probir’s wife is expecting,” said Tony.

“That’s good news”, said Dhurdhuri.

“Well, it could have been worse,” said Tony.

Dhudhuri looked at Tony with dazed eyes unable to comprehend what Tony was trying to say.

“Dhudhuri Kaka”, continued Tony, “Probir thinks the baby is his.”

Before Dhurdhuri could come out of his stupor Tony had disappeared. Dhurdhuri turned around to see that the funeral procession had advanced a long way.

He made an about turn and started walking back home.

“What happened” enquired his wife. “It could have been worse said Dhurdhuri” and walked into his room and locked himself in.

Digitally Yours

Gourhari Babu had been a banker.

He was a typical Bengali bhadralok ( Gentleman ) who loved his rice, fish curry, rosogolla, and the occasional beer with fish fry.

He had given up on whiskey and other hard drinks long ago. The beer however continued to be his occasional accompaniment.

When he had crossed the age of 55 he had realized that beer suited his age and his guts. The other hard drinks like whiskey and rum had started behaving strangely with him as his years advanced. While Whiskey gave him acidity the rum gave him a headache.

He thus had denounced them and befriended the chilled beer.

He was looking forward to his retirement when he could finally hang his boots and come out of the drudgery and monotony of office. He had certain mental plans around his retirement and most of them revolved around leading a relaxed life at his terms. No meetings, no making notes, no deadlines, no nothing but the 24 hours of the day to himself to do as he pleased.

Wake up slightly late, go for a morning walk, make friends with few morning walkers of his age, come back to settle down to some nice Darjeeling tea and the daily newspaper, followed by morning chores and a small nap.

The lovely breakfast would follow the nap. Luchi ( White flour puffed Indian bread )Radhaballavi (A Bengal delicacy – stuffed puffed bread ),the Bengali triangular paratha ( a type of Indian bread ) the conventional bread and omelet, some nalen gurer Sandesh ( Sweetmeat made with Date jaggery ). Heavenly.

Do some gardening and pursue other small hobbies like working on the crossword to finally go for a nice bath followed by a warm meal preferably rice and fish curry with different types of typical Bengali fries every day. French fries, bitter gourd fries, crispy fried lady finger, the loveable begun bhaja ( A Bengali brinjal fry dish ) the jhuri aloo bhaja ( thin and crispy French fries )with a dash of curry leaves, chilly and groundnut. Ending with Papad and tomato chutney. Mishti doi ( sweet curd ) once in a while.

Then the quintessential afternoon nap with a novel to read before the slumber, the evening tea with some small savory eats like samosa ( Indian stuffed deep-fried patties ), aloo tikki chat ( A snack made with Potato Patty )the evergreen jhal moori ( Famous Bengali puffed rice small eat laced with chiily, peanuts, coriander leaves, spices and stirred with a dash of mustard oil ).

 Late Evening would be for the TV serials, movies followed by a nice dinner with chicken curries of various kinds. Rezalla being his favorite.

Basically Gourhari Babu had his retirement plans cut out. Time to himself and life to himself was the central theme.

However, just as he retired, was given a short farewell, reached home, and decided to settle down to his retired life a thought suddenly struck him like a thunderbolt.

He suddenly realized that he had to accomplish the one important mission of getting his daughter married to a decent groom and send her away to a nice household.

So the next day morning he folded the newspaper, placed the teacup on the center table, and beckoned his wife. “Look Nandini” he said, “before the second wave of the pandemic sweeps me away to the beyond world we should get our daughter married”.

Nandini suddenly flared up as if some dying embers inside her had been suddenly stoked and replied in an acerbic tone “Have I not been telling you this all the while for the last two years”. “At least you can start by putting an advertisement in the matrimony section of the newspaper” she continued.

Like a man possessed and enlightened Gourhari Babu pulled out his pen and notebook and got to work. After a few scribblings and strikeouts, he finally came up with what he thought was the perfect draft of a matrimonial ad for his daughter. He called his wife Nandini and placed the notebook in front of her, a victory smile hanging on his lips.

The ad read like this:

Required for COVA-1 beautiful and educated 24 only daughter a vaccinated groom. Reply with Photo, IT Returns and vaccination certificate on WhatsApp number 96********. Preference for double dose applicants.

Nandini looked confused. “Look old man, “she said, “ your memory seems to be failing you”. “Our daughter is Sova and not Cova” and why do you need to mention only daughter.”

Gourhari babu laughed and said “Hello, that is not Sova it is COVA-1 meaning that she has taken the first dose of Covaxin. This is a piece of important information and should be mentioned. Writing it fully without abridging it would have cost another 600 Rupees. Well, as you can see the ad is quite crisp and accurate.”

“The mention of the only daughter adds some weight to the ad and conveys a lot.”

After the publication of the ad, the trio of daughter-mother-father would keep waiting eagerly for responses. Within a short period, a shortlist of five applicants was prepared. These were mainly those who had taken both their doses of the vaccine. Those who had not mentioned the status of their vaccination history were outrightly rejected.

The boy whom Sova had liked the most was eventually rejected after a lot of debate because he had taken just one dose. Though he was registered for the second dose Gourhari Babu was reluctant to take any risk. What if he did not get his second dose before the marriage?

Well, the process proceeded well and through the usual rituals of meetings, discussions, more discussions, and more meetings a match was found and a final decision regarding him was arrived at, and the day of the marriage was decided.

Now was the time for invitations. 

Gourhari babu and Nandini had a lot of relatives on each side, and they were quite well known in the locality too so as per Pandemic Regulations it was getting too difficult to restrict the invitee list to 50. Even the essential and must invitee list was going to hundred plus.

Finally, Gourhari Babu resorted to the Man Friday of the locality Raju. Raju was summoned.

 Raju was the most popular odd jobs man in the area and there was nothing he could not manage. This skill made him a very wanted man in trying circumstances.

“Look Raju, Sova is our only daughter and even after a lot of deletions my invite list comes to a minimum of 500 people. Suggest something Raju Bhai,” Gourhari pleaded.

Raju was cool “Look Dada leave your problem to me, what am I here for, I have schemes and plans for all such situations.’ “These schemes are flexible and can be chosen as per your budget and requirements.”

“If the invitees are in and around Kolkata I can organize home delivery for them. During the delivery, if they give wedding gifts our teams shall collect those too and deliver them to you for free. If you also give me the catering, I will get the wedding card printed free along with it.” Raju had started explaining his services in detail already.

“Look Raju, we can do a digital card on WhatsApp. In any case that would not cost,” reverted Gourhari babu. “Raju Bhai making that free is not a big deal that you are giving me.”

“Dada,”said Raju “After all it is about your only daughter. The digital card has to be designed. Also, since you have at least 500 invitees I will prepare around 50 Printed cards and 200 digital cards, I shall customize them too. Every digital card shall have either a Zoom or YouTube link wherein the invitees can log in and watch the marriage ceremony. In the process, the invitees shall also have the option of selecting the food of their choice from the menu available within the link itself. The orders shall digitally get recorded with us and parcels shall be prepared accordingly. The menu card shall be programmed and shall be in sync too. For example, if you have invited someone singly without family, he/she will only be able to place one order and so on.”

“The number of members invited per card shall be captured and hardcoded and nobody will be able to place unnecessary extra orders. However, the process shall also allow a bit of flexibility to factor in few extra people in the family which you might not have envisaged. In that case, the invitee shall have an option to escalate, and an approval link shall come to us which we shall approve upon discussion with you.”

“Generally, as per our experience this does not come into play because we also tend to factor people who might not attend, could be traveling, could be sick, and so on. The invitees shall have the option to select between Veg, Non-Veg, and Jain food. However, the cost per plate will depend upon the flexibility you advise us to build into the digital menu card and order processing”.

“For example, in marriage we do not have a limit to the food one can consume but you need to factor this into the program when we move online so that people do not order too much extra food. For example, you could limit the Fish Fry Selection to a maximum of five per person. Our rates will thus depend on these options that you select.”

Nandini was listening with astonishment writ large on her face. The was all Greek to her. She had a question though “Raju there could be few elderly people who would not be able to order online like this. What do you do for them?”

“No Tension Madam,” said Raju. “If you can list them out we can even have the option of order on phone or on Whatsapp where they could choose to order through an IVR assisted system or directly go to our Customer Executive who shall take the order and explain the menu. Also, for people in the locality, I can get the marriage function broadcasted live on the local cable network. The elderly need to only switch on their local network channel at the given time.”

“We shall be recording the entire function and can share links later and one can always playback and view the entire ceremony.”

Gourhari Babu was impressed but had a question at this point “ How can we create the option for gifts?” he asked.

“Not to worry”. said, Raju. “The link shall also have an option for ordering gifts. The gifts link shall take the invited to popular sites like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, and the like. You can decide the sites and let us know and we shall create the link. Dada, we have also thought of many things. Suppose you do not need certain gifts like Microwave, Mixer, etc because you might already have them we can disable these gifts and people would not be able to select these. Also, to ensure that various people do not order the same gift we can lock the system accordingly as well.”

“For example, we can limit the gift link to say three wall clocks. So as soon as three wall clocks get ordered no one else can further order a wall clock. We can set these locks and limits after a discussion with you. You can thus avoid unwanted gifts or duplication of gifts. We can also create various payment options of by Card, Net Banking, G Pay and all of that.”

Gourhari babu and Nandini were impressed.

“Let us go ahead Raju,” they said.

“Just make sure that the program allows selection of menu only after a gift is selected and ordered”. “After all Sova is our only daughter”. Gourhari was now thinking of the positives of the technology. He continued, “Make sure you have online IT support for those who are facing difficulty in ordering the gift. Also, make sure that a gift once ordered cannot be canceled. We should also have a minimum threshold for the gift order, after all, we cannot have people ordering just a small bouquet and then going on to order a full course menu, You may not extend such IT support for the food order. There I am sure people shall be able to figure out themselves”.

Friends, You are all invited to the marriage. A link shall follow soon.

Please do attend.

P.S :

 “Raju Raju this is me Gourhari this side on the Phone. I have a special request. I have made a list of 30 People for whom you shall have to specially program”.

“What is to be done,” said Raju.

“Well, these thirty would first have to go to the gift order just as we discussed for everyone. But these thirty should not be able to access the food menu after they place confirmed order for a gift. The system should throw up some error or the other”.

“Settling old scores”, said Raju

 “No these are the ones who did not invite me to their son’s or daughters’ weddings so let us digitally teach them a lesson”.

Slide Down the Rainbow- Anjan

You could either love him or hate him, but you could neither ignore him nor forget him.

That was Anjan Bandopadhyay. Welcome to his world and beyond now.

More often than not you ended up loving him.

The first time you met him you could easily discern lurking mischief in his eyes and a smile that continued to be his hallmark throughout his life.

If there was ever a born prankster who strode upon this earth right from his birth here was one. In playing pranks, pulling fast ones and in leg-pulling, he would beat anyone hands down.

His effervescence and vivacity were always palpable and you could feel a whiff of fresh air whenever he was with you. There was never a dull moment with him as if God had forgotten to put the feeling of dullness and sadness into him.

I always mentally considered him at least 9 months elder to us. I say this because while in our mother’s womb we floated around getting nourished and supported, Anjan’s mind was already at work. I am sure that he used these 9 odd months to conjure up tricks and store them up his sleeves so that he could start pulling people’s legs right from the day he landed on earth.

I am sure even in the womb he would have tricked his mother several times through false labor pains, the odd kick here and there inside and he would have surely arrived either earlier or later than the world would have expected him to.

 I first met him at college (10 + 2 ) and he immediately grew upon me. He was the fun element of the entire gang and even though we were at different hostels his pranks and mischiefs were part of folklore in an otherwise strictly disciplinarian college where you could hear the pin drop at the slightest deviation of discipline.

Keep Smiling Bondhu

He would have got expelled many times over but always managed to dodge the inevitable by his sheer presence of mind and uncanny intelligence.

One of his friends and a hostel mate of Anjan recalls an incident where they were caught outside the prayer hall during prayer hours. Please note that morning and evening prayer attendance was mandatory, and dereliction was considered a serious offense and normally led to expulsion. The Maharaj (warden) who caught them got them summoned in front of the principal who was a strict disciplinarian and never tolerated the slightest deviation.

The Principal looked at Anjan and said, “I understand you do not attend the prayer sessions”.

“How do you say that Maharaj,” asked back Anjan. “Why your warden has seen you” replied the principal in his cold emotionless voice like the executioner preparing for the guillotine.

Anjan now turned sideways to face the warden and asked him “Maharaj you attend your prayers daily, you reach the prayer hall in time and you sit in deep mediation at the prayer hall till the end. How can you know that I do not attend prayer sessions”?

The warden was now in a fix. Stating that he had seen Anjan regularly not attending prayers would mean that he did not attend the prayer sessions himself. He looked stumped, looked left and looked right, and then said to the principal “Maharaj I have heard that these two do no attend prayers”. The principal realizing that the allegation would neither stand the test of eye witness nor evidence dismissed them with a warning.

On quizzing Anjan as to how he had conjured up this airtight story he had said “The only way we could have got out of it was to move the issue to the warden”.

Anjan went on to be a Gold Medallist from Calcutta University and found his calling in journalism and straddled the world of print media, digital media, and broadcast journalism with ease and carved a niche and name for himself. Some of his shows on TV have been very popular. He was very popular amongst his peers and was known to stand up for his subordinates.

They all recall his wit, sarcasm, loud infectious laugh, and his leg-pulling abilities. He could spring up a joke and conjure up laughter even in the tensest of moments.

His loss is unfathomable. It is impossible to imagine this jovial character bundled up under ventilator support and fighting for his breath and life. The man who gave life and resonance to many even during the gloomiest times had to keep fighting death. I am sure he would have tried to pull up some pranks on the Yamraj waiting for him and I am sure Yamraj would almost have fallen for it but alas………….

Even as I write this and think of him now I have a smile on my face and a peal of laughter trying to burst out of me because that is the way we have all known Anjan.

He would have landed in heaven already now and soon after the initial acclimatization would start pulling legs of all the Gods and Goddesses and Apsaras. Initially, they will enjoy it but with time they would not know where to hide from his mischief and pranks. Whenever they see Anjan they would try and hide behind each other afraid of being pulled up in public.

I am sure they will soon call for a meeting among themselves and decide to send Anjan back to earth. They would call it Amader Rai (Our Verdict) and Anjan like Mary Poppins would catch the first rainbow to slide down to earth.

On his way, he would laugh at the sky the clouds, and the birds.

Let it be known we will all be waiting for him today, tomorrow, always…

He would call for his Saline ( Those who know about it need no explanation, those who do not know about it perhaps need not know ) at his Dr friends’ clinic.

 Twilight and evening bell,

      And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

      When I embark.

   For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place

      The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

      When I have crost the bar.

( BY ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON )

Om Shanti Om Shanti Om Shanti

Coronation

I am in Business Development. That is the term used nowadays. It just a fancy name for a salesman. Bhai kharid lo chalo powerpoint dekh lo (Brother buy please, have a look at the PPT)

Therefore, I keep hunting for prospects, Murgas (Scapegoats )

In quest of a prospect which was looking very positive, I was to travel to Coimbatore along with my two colleagues. As per regulations, we all had to take the RT PCR as a negative COVID report was required to travel to the state of Tamilnadu.

We gave our swabs on Thursday 24th of March 2021 in the office itself. The phlebotomist poked inside the nose and the mouth with jolly indifference captured and locked the alleged viruses in a small tube and left with the promise of delivering the report by the next day that is the 25th of March 2021.

Our bags were packed, and we were ready to go and since I had to leave from the office itself, I had brought my suitcase in the car to the office after the customary goodbyes, travel safe and come back soon rituals of the family.

The next day I was in an important meeting in the office when one of my colleagues who was to travel with me barged into me and beckoned me to come out of the meeting and follow him. On the way, I was having uncanny thoughts about his gender predilections as he led me to a quiet deserted corner of the office.  His expression looked grave and just as I was thinking it was about some business that we might have lost it turned out to be worse. The diagnostic center had called my colleague to inform that I had tested Positive for the ill-famed COVID.

Hello COVID

 He delivered the news to me, jumped two steps back, and before I could digest it had disappeared from sight.

I was left alone at this quiet corner and as soon as my senses returned, I scampered to my desk, shut down my laptop, and rushed out. I pressed the lift button and scampered in as the lift door opened. Once inside and before the door could shut I could see Mehul waving at me to hold the lift as he came running to the elevator intending to descend too. I shouted back “No, No” ,” Positive Positive” and before the elevator door could close I watched him stop dead on his tracks, turn around and run back into the confines of the office.

I got into my car with myriad thoughts crisscrossing my mind. I had to tell the Driver because my house was about an hour away and I thought the driver should know. I thus sounded him off and to my surprise instead of pulling up at the nearest kerb, opening the door, and running away he stayed put and stepped on the accelerator totally dismissing my condition away.

In the meantime, the news had spread like wildfire in the office, and I started getting calls from various quarters all enquiring about my health and wellbeing. Let it be known that I had no symptoms but the report was positive and that was what mattered

There was a plethora of advice from different quarters and the various pieces of advice created a strange cocktail. From isolating myself to smelling camphor to bathing with iodine and Dettol to burning neem leaves to inhaling steam to taking Vitamin C and Zinc to exercise.

I called my wife to inform her. She first shrieked in panic and then retorted back with a brilliant idea stating that I should straight go to a hospital or a hotel and quarantine myself more so as my mother aged 77 was staying with us. I suddenly realized that the gravity of the disease was such that I was unwelcome at home though I had no symptoms. I hated John Denver for “Country Roads Take Me Home”, well obviously he had sung it in the Non-COVID Era.

Suddenly the driver turned around to ask if I was asymptomatic? I was astounded. Covid had taught quite a bit of medical terminology to everybody. He also asked me if I would have to quarantine myself. I told him that I had no symptoms and perhaps my Viral Load was less. He told me that all this was a hoax and I could better check my load through a weighing machine. An increase in weight would indicate virus inside me. I was laughing away at his smart dehati ( rural ) logic.

However, he stood his ground advised me not to worry, and offered me to isolate myself in his one-room accommodation while he could stay with his friend and take care of me on daily basis.

On the way when my thoughts settled a bit, I called home and told them to prepare the attached bedroom for my isolation all the while trying to sniff and smell various parts of the car on the way to see if there was any loss of smell.

I also decided to rush to the Apollo Hospital near my house to try to do a quick Rapid Antigen Test. Once there I quickly went for a RAT, returned home, and locked myself into the room which was readied for me. I was now in solitary confinement.

The RAT Test report was collected by my driver who called me and immediately started shouting “Sir Negative Sir Negative” as if he had won the Noble Prize.

His happiness was palpable, and I consulted Drs and friends only to realize that the RT PCR was a much more authentic test and for all practical purposes I would be considered positive. That was settled thus, and I braced myself for isolation.

Once inside I felt a sense of relief. I was in a world of my own with my door locked. I had carried essentials inside. An electric heater to allow me to boil water for steaming, betadine liquid, carton of drinking water. A small tool was laid outside my door for the delivery of food and my utensils were segregated.

I thus settled down with my Corona and my Corona combat gear while the rest of the family managed in the other bedroom and the living room.

The first few days were fun. Food would be served to me outside and I would quietly open the door with some warning allowing others to step back a distance, eat quietly, wash the utensils in the bathroom washbasin and keep them outside again. I realized that the food being served to me was slightly special and thought that my condition in the minds of my family warranted special attention to me.

I tele-consulted a doctor who charged me a bomb and issued a long prescription with more of advice and less of medicines.  I was told to monitor my temperature and my oxygen saturation every four hours and maintain a chart. I was also told to take vapor at least four times a day.

I would thus pass my days with a set routine. Wake up, boil water on the electric heater, add betadine and inhale vapor, wash my own clothes, clean my utensils, record oxygen levels and temperature every four hours and report to the doctor who generally reverted with a thumbs up and a bill which I had to honor.

My limited knowledge on the subject had told me that the 5th day to the 10th was dangerous. So, as the fifth day approached, I started getting nervous and fidgety. I tried to google my various symptoms only to conclude that I probably had every medical condition except pregnancy.

Inactivity inside the room led to sleeplessness and many times I would wake up in the middle of the night, stare at the ceiling, and finding myself unable to sleep would go about testing myself for symptoms. I was aware that COVID was characterized by loss of taste and smell so many times in the middle of the night I would wake up and go around the bedroom and the attached bathroom smelling things like shampoo, soap, phenyl, colin, harpic, and whatnot.

I was living like a dog with my nose to the ground and smelling away all day.

Smell Trail

By the 10th day, I would have given any dog a run for the money in the aspect of smell.

Finding that my smell had not deserted me I would try and check my taste.

However, in an isolated room barred from going outside in the middle of the night what would you try to eat to check your taste. I would thus try and nibble on bars of soap only to spit them out, The taste was intact too without an iota of doubt. I also, after some time started liking the smell of Phenyle and the taste of soap.

After few days I started missing my family members. The pranks and laughter of my daughters the activity of the house, the sight of my wife cooking in the kitchen, the fights, and arguments.

 It was all silence with the world happening outside my room.

Many a time I would sit on the balcony watching the activities in and around Karawe Gaon or soak in the sun setting across the creek and watch the birds fly past.

I particularly made friends with a pigeon who would come daily morning and perch itself on the outdoor unit of my AC and we would talk for hours in some pigeony language. The pigeon taught me perseverance and in my later days of confinement would even refuse to fly away despite me trying to shoo it away.

She was like the dedicated hospital nurse swooping down to check on me every day.

I would also get frequent calls from the NMMC enquiring about my health only to be surprised to know that I had no symptoms at all.However their calls never stopped as if they were expecting to see some symptoms develop on me which would probably justify their calls.

Various members of the society enquired about me and these conversations kept my day going.

Finally, on the 9th day I called for another RTPCR and on the day upon testing negative I emerged from my room and walked into the cheers and smiles of my family members.

I realized how it was without them and I thanked God to have emerged in good health, unlike many others who had not been so lucky.

I silently prayed for those who could not make it out of the ordeal.

My Quarantine was over.

Happy Birthday -Oops

 Man is a social animal. I am not saying this. It has been said by Aristotle the legendary Greek Philosopher.

Well, that is Greek to me literally and so it must be to you.

He did not mention Women, but I am sure he meant to include Women too. What about LGBQTs. They are social too. Animals are also social.

In the Garden of Eden grew the Forbidden Fruit and God commanded that this not be eaten. However, In the biblical narrative, Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and are exiled from Eden.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

The circle of birth-life-death and the procreation evidences the social existence of humanity.

Gatherings Social /Religious / Otherwise, Weddings/Nikah, Concerts, Sporting Events, Birthday Parties, Addas at street corners and pan walas. Pubs, Cinema Halls, Rites, and Rituals and even Janazas / Funerals indicate how social a human being is. Stick together in life till death do us part and then gather around the mortal body for the last time.

English poet John Donne, writing in the 17th century, famously wrote that “no man is an island,” comparing people to countries, and arguing for the interconnectedness of all people.

That is enough. Let us lose the philosophy for the time being and cut to the story.

The new normal for social? What is it? “Social Media”. Oh Yes.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, Viber, Hangout, Messenger, Snapchat, Linkedin. Tumbler, You Tube, Bumble, Tiktok, Pintrest, Zoom, Skype, Google Meets, Reddit and Whatsapp. Phew and there are many more. Millions and Zillions of people connected through all this. Is that Social enough?

This incident is about Whatsapp.

A great feature of Whatsapp is creation of groups for group chats. While some groups are very common like say “1988 Engineering Batch”, “Table Tennis Group”, “Housing Society Group”, “College Project Groups”, “ Family Groups”  and some bizarre groups like “ Frusto Group” of frustrated employees, “ lunch Munch Group “ of office employees having lunch together, ” Despo Group “, ” Tharki Group” , ” Assholes” , fun groups like “Awesome Marathis” of a group of Marathi friends, “ Cricket Lovers Group “, “Kitty Party Group” “ PNPC  Group ( Par Ninda Par Charcha )etc etc etc. The list can be endless.

Then there are certain formal office groups. Many a times often created by HR including all employees or a certain level of employees and so on and so forth.

In a Company called Promenade Corporation Limited a Multinational Company there was such a group called Team Promenade.

The group included around 495 and counting employees. This was largely a formal group created by the HR but to some extent was used a bit socially too as people posted jokes, trivia, anecdotes, interesting videos etc apart from HR Communications posted by HR. Not everyone in this group knew everyone but still most participated even with the unknowns in some form or other.

The post popular being wishing Happy Birthdays. Someone would know someone’s birthday in the group and post “ Happy Birthday” and as if like an electric current passing through various conductors everyone in the group would suddenly be jolted awake to wish happy birthday to this person whose birthday it was supposed to be as per the post. The Birthday Person would then keep posting things like “Thank You”, “ So Sweet of You”, “ Thanks for remembering “ and so on.

On a typical birthday the birthday messages and thank you  messages back from the recipient of the wishes would go on for the entire day depending on who tired out first. While each wished a birthday the poor wish recipient would generally wish a thank you  to each and everyone. I am sure by the end of the day the fellahs thumb would be sore enough for cutting a cake necessitating the requirement of a proxy.

It was a bright Sunday morning and Jamlu had just woken up. The first thing he usually did was look at his phone and check for Whatsapp Messages. As he unlocked his phone and went to his Whatsapp a message suddenly popped up in the office group:

“Happy Birthday Sachin”, This message came from Huzefa.

Jamlu also quickly typed, “ Many Happy Returns of the day Sachin” , checked other messages and went about his morning chores. It was 7.00 AM.

He returned to his Whatsapp again at around 9.30 AM. A lot of messages had come in the office group with members of the group wishing happy birthday to Sachin in varying hues, colours and language.

“ Takle, Janamdin Mubarak “

“Cake and Thumbs Up emojis and images.”

“Where is the party tonight” said another.

“How old are you now birthday boy” Someone was curious.

A gif of a glass and drinks bottle where the bottle would jump up and pour the heady concoction into the glass followed with CHEERS in bold.

Certain images of Bouquets, Flowers, Cadbury, Burgers, French Fries.

“Where is the cake, Sachin“said one more.

“How many candles” said another.

There were certain audio messages too saying Happy Birthday, Birthday Wishes, Mubarak and even a Happy Birthday Song.

One employee even got romantic and posted a you tube link to the song “Bachelor Boy “by Cliff Richards. To which some one wrote. “Hey, he is not a bachelor”.

This was followed by another link to another song “Bade Acche lagte hain ……”

Then someone wrote something in Tamil and most immediately replied saying “Please Translate”.

Taking a cue the Bengalis Posted something in Bengali and the Marathis Posted something in Marathi and the Kannadigas , Tulus, Biharis, Oriyas, Kashmiris, Assamese all followed suit. This made Sachin’s Birthday very multi-cultural and multilingual. Some understood and some did not but everybody knew that whatever be the language it was related to the birthday.

After some time perhaps the birthday was forgotten as messages and counter messages became more important and everyone joined the fun thus unfolding. So people in the group were now chatting with each other triggered by the birthday message of the morning.

Jamlu was thoroughly enjoying this.

However, he suddenly realized that in spite of so many wishes Sachin had not replied at all. There was not a single message from Sachin, not a single Thank you. Now, this was surprising.

“Hey Sachin, where are you”, typed Jamlu, “blowing the candles already”?

Everyone else in the group woke up immediately and messages enquiring of Sachin kept popping up.

“Sachin buddy speak up”, “ Abe Sachin kuch to bol”, “ lagta hai sala abhi tak so raha hai jaga usko”, “ Sir have we got the date wrong”? ““Are there more Sachins in the group?”. “ Kal raat ko jyada chada li shayd”.

“Sachin, Knock Knock”. Someone tried knocking hard.

“Aree don’t worry we won’t drop in mate”

The messages were now getting directed to Sachin but still there was no response.

It was around 2.30 PM now.

Suddenly a message from Girija stunned everyone to absolute silence.

“Friends, Sachin is not in this group at all “. Wrote Girija.

There was absolute silence, and nobody wrote for about a couple of hours.

Finally Pranav wrote “Bhai Log likhne se pehle dekh toh liya karo ki banda group mein hain bhi ya nahi bus uth ke Happy Birthday likh diya. Kal ko agar Mere Padosi ke bhen ke husband ke bhai ke bacche ke sasur ka janamdin ho to kya is group mein likhoge”

Ha Ha Ha.

From then Jamlu never wishes anybody Happy Birthday in Whatsapp Groups. He is many a times labelled Un-social for this, but he prefers to be so instead of wishing someone who is not even there to take the wishes.

But after all Man is a Social Animal.

Sorry Women and LGBTQs too.