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”.