Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A taste of his own medicine

Mannan was totally besotted with the extraordinary instrument called the telephone that had arrived, bright and black, in neighbour Achari Mama’s household. Instead of posting letters and replying to replies, one could just pick up the phone and talk to the desired person! “Whatte invention!” If only he could speak to some girl on the telephone and impress her.

Speaking of girls, Geetharani had also got a new phone in her house. He had spied her giving her phone number to all and sundry. How Geetharani flaunted her newfound “telephone-ness”. For no reason she swirled her hand in circles in the air, as if she was dialling someone. When someone asked her if the next period was going to be Geography, she replied, “Sorry, wrong number.” She even wrote in the “My ambition is to…” essay that she dreamed of becoming a telephone operator. Her telephone obsession had percolated to that extent.

If only Mannan had a telephone he would also flick the phone off its receiver stylishly like Rajinikanth and speak into it in English like Kamal Haasan.

“Phone calls are expensive and cost 50p per call,” dissuaded grandmother Sitamma.

“But I want to know what it feels like to talk through a machine. Please-please-please,” begged Mannan to no avail.

“You can call Police, Fire and Ambulance for free,” suggested Jana kindly.

“But I wish to call Geetharani,” persisted Mannan.

“To say ‘I love you’ to her?” asked Jana mischievously.

“Thoo! I want to say something like ‘Your hair is on fire, want me to call the fire engine?’ Or ‘Please take a bath, you stink through the telephone’…,” Mannan smirked.

“Hahahahhahahhahahaha!” laughed Jana.

“Idea! I can receive a call, can’t I? That won’t cost anything, no?” exclaimed Mannan.

Brother and sister immediately put their heads together and wrote an anonymous note to Geetharani with their left hand (one sentence each to cover up the crime). The note read, “I have a famous job for your sweet telephone voice. Call 321342 at 3 pm.” Mannan left the note inside her lunch bag and waited with Jana by the neighbour’s phone at 3 pm (that was Achari Mama’s sleeping time).

Sure enough the telephone rang.

“Hello?” Mannan answered in a gruff voice.

“Please take a bath, you stink through the telephone,” said the voice from the other side. “Eh?” Mannan started.

“Your hair is on fire, shall I call the fire engine?” the voice continued and Mannan nearly collapsed. “It is Geetharani, but she is using all MY dialogues,” blubbered Mannan.

“I only told her,” confessed Jana.

“But why?” screamed Mannan putting down

the phone.

“WHY? You know why? We both cleverly wrote the note to her with our left hand. Do you know we also signed it? Geetharani threatened to complain to the Principal if I didn’t spill our plan,” Jana cried when the phone rang again.

Mannan answered again, first with a frown, then with a smile, then laughter.

Conversation ended.

“It was Geetharani. She wants to be my friend. She liked our prank,” smiled Mannan who had after all impressed a girl via the telephone.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Between Dusters and Rubbers

“I urgently have to take revenge on Chandru,” Lal wept to Jana.

“Which Chandru?” Jana asked indifferently though she knew pretty well that it was the Chandru who owned the stationery shop at the gooseberry street corner. His garish billboard “Chandru arts ‘n’ inks” written in five gaudy colors not only made his shop the most popular landmark around the area but his manner of introducing himself to the customers — “Hello, I am the Chandru in ‘Chandru arts ‘n’ inks store’ — (especially) in English made him the most enviable personality in the neighbourhood. Everyone admired his ingenuity in naming an ordinary pen-pencil-paper-paint shop an “arts and inks” store.

So Lal wanted revenge on Chandru who was world famous in gooseberry street! Hmm!

“But what did he do?” interrupted Jana when Lal began to explain who Chandru was.

“He squealed on me to our Math teacher,” cried Lal.

“Are you or are you not a Math teacher rubber?” demanded Jana.

“Of course I am not. Shameless occupation,” spat Lal.

At school there were two kinds of students — dusters and rubbers. Dusters were students whom the Math teacher literally reduced to dust with his caning because they were too upright and honest to be apple shiners. Rubbers were students who rubbed and rubbed the Math teacher with oily smiles and unabashed flattery till he shone with a good mood.

“That man will put a tick even if the rubbers wrote 3x1=5” observed Jana.

“I went to buy two pencils from Chandru’s store. He said if I bought three pencils, he would give me a rubber free. I replied that rubbers were for weak students and not for 10 out of 10 candidates like me,” narrated Lal.

“Maha lie,” thought Jana.

“Additionally I asked him to make this free-rubber offer to our Maths teacher who was constantly in need of rubbers and also explained the duster-rubber concept to him. He laughed with me but later squealed to Math teacher when he came there for some red ink. That man peeled the skin off my palm with his cane,” sobbed Lal displaying his hands. Indeed they were red and bleeding like a peeled beetroot.

“He was angrier because I had described myself as a 10 out of 10 student”.

“Understandable,” thought Jana but added, “For all the business we give him, Chandru dares to squeal on one of us eh? Hmm, do we have a ladder and black paint?” Jana asked thinking quickly.

“I have very little black paint. Just enough to write three letters in capitals or so,” said Lal wiping his tears.

“Perfect! I think I can arrange a ladder. Meet me after midnight by the gooseberry tree. We have a lesson to teach,” said Jana slyly.

The next morning the entire neighbourhood, almost 100-200 people were assembled in front of Chandru’s shop and there was uproarious laughter. Even vehicles and passersby paused by the shop to laugh aloud — for added to Chandru’s bright beautiful billboard in bold black were three additional letters f, s and t which now made the store’s name read “Chandru Farts ‘n’ STinks”.