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Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Song of Life

Hauling his bag and gasping for breath, he rushed into the restaurant. Luckily, the wall clock read 10.50 am and he relaxed as he took his time setting up his synthesizer and tuning the mike to get just the right note for a day of mellow music. He’d been told that several group bookings had been made for today by patrons celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries. He was ready with his stock of golden romantic songs and a few swinging new numbers that were always a hit with the restaurant’s usual crowd.

As he settled down to begin the live performance, he rifled through the pockets of his coat for his phone to switch it off. Once or twice he’d forgotten to do it and those were precisely the occasions when some pesky telecaller had rung to offer him a club membership he couldn’t afford. Now, as his fingers searched frantically, he couldn’t locate the phone in his coat or in his bag. A quick mental retracing of his actions before leaving home made him realize he’d forgotten it on the bed at home. That was good in a way – at least he didn’t have to bother about it ringing midway through his performance. Besides, there were hardly any calls he received ever since he’d fallen on hard times.

As the restaurant started getting filled, he began crooning soft numbers, keeping to his list of chosen songs. As each of the birthday groups came in, he sang the “Happy Birthday” song in the person’s name and then went on to sing some specific song they wanted. Some of the celebrators left the choice to him and he put his heart and soul into singing what he thought best suited their age or situation.

As he sang, watching the people talking and eating, he wondered about them. That couple who looked admiringly into each other’s eyes…would they make a loving life together? That man who sat with his teenage son, neither talking much, both seemingly lost in their own thoughts – were they here because the woman of the house was away and there was no one to cook at home? That lady and her daughter celebrating the kid’s birthday were here with other adults but the father seemed to be missing…what could have kept a dad away on such an important occasion? Did that married couple celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary seem to be a bit subdued or was that just the way some people were?

Whatever, surveying these people celebrating with their loved ones, he prayed they stay happy and laughing that way forever.

He reached home after a complimentary dinner at the restaurant. It had been a long and tiring day but he felt strangely satisfied.

Fishing out his phone from under the blanket, he checked to see if there were any calls he had missed. No, there had been no calls today. Nothing, except for an email from TimesJobs. Although he always automatically deleted those messages, today he clicked to read. It read,

On your birthday,
We wish you a great career ahead
Hey Sujay,
On your special day, we wish you lots of happiness and prosperity all round the year. On this special occasion, you surely would want to know how your stars are placed for the coming year and what actions you should take to make the best out of the available opportunities? To know more…………….

Friday, 16 September 2016

Price and Value

They enter the shop warily, as if intimidated by the glow of the gold and diamonds shining from the showcases. Quite obviously, they are not the jewelry-buying types. The shop owner asks what they want and one of them takes the lead in requesting to be shown a small idol of Ganesha made of Panchaloha. The owner directs his assistant to bring out a few samples which are displayed to the group. 

Each of the three men pick up one or the other idol, look at it this way and that and swing it in their hand to feel its weight. One of the men is middle-aged and his appearance and mannerisms make him appear a little slow on the uptake. The other two are elderly men – perhaps his dad and uncle – and seem to be indulgent of their younger companion. The shop owner and assistant watch them alertly, careful to keep track of who is handling which idol and to make sure no piece disappears.

After about 15 minutes of looking at around 8 different idols, enquiring about their price time and again, and exchanging lengthy opinions over each of those, the men still haven’t made up their mind. The shop owner is getting impatient although there are no other customers in the shop except the one writing this piece.

Then, the middle-aged man asks for the price of two pieces he has narrowed down on. With a condescending look on his face, the shop owner again quotes the price of one as Rs. 1000/- and the other as Rs. 1400/- One of the elderly men asks the younger guy if he has enough to pay for the idol and offers to help out if there is a shortage. The younger man says he will manage and go to the ATM nearby if necessary.

The shop owner watches these discussions impatiently. Then, in a tone that the well-heeled reserve for those hard up, he suggests they purchase the less expensive one because it’s almost the same size as the other, with the only difference being in the weight.

Almost as if that statement helped him decide, the younger man, in a firm voice, says he has decided to go with the one costing Rs. 1400/- As the shop owner is packing it up, he asks if they will be using it for the pooja on Ganesh Chathurthi. The guy looks straight at him and says, “Yes, it is our custom that first, we will do pooja for it and then, give it in daan (donation) to someone.”

Panchloha Ganesha idol cost: Rs. 1400/-

The look on the shop owner’s face: Priceless