Wednesday 26 August 2015

The Importance of being Well-dressed

It had never mattered much to Sankalp until just then, that his shoes were not made of leather. Or that the little metal buckle on the side made them look even cheaper than they were. Nor had he ever really noticed how his jeans made his thighs look chubby, or that his shirt was too dark for his dark skin and made him look like a boy from the chawls of Dombivali.

But the Company Guest House of DCTMR Bank was at Lonavla, not Dombivali, and Karishma was not just any girl. In those verdant hills, with rain beating down around them, it didn’t matter that she was from Greater Kailash in New Delhi and he from a suburb so far from Mumbai that it was pretty much out of sight. Stranger things had happened in the rain. Didn’t every bloody Bollywood Movie he’d ever seen reinforce the axiom that when the setting was romantic enough and the rain poured heavily enough, sparks flew, provided the hero was appropriately and impressively dressed?

With an awkward sigh, he turned to his room-mate, Karan, the other occupant of Room 206.

“Karan, d’you have a spare pair of shoes?” he asked.

“Who on earth brings a spare pair of shoes to a two-day company offsite?” the room-mate responded with some warmth. Clearly, young Karan was not interested in being in Khandala at that moment.

“A nice shirt, perhaps? White? Or any other pastel colour?”

“Sankalp, I am half your size,” said Karan, with a look of such irritation that a less determined man than he would have stopped there.

“What about pants? You got a pair of looser pants?”

“On no planet in the Universe do I have pants looser than yours,” said Karan plaintively. “And now if you don’t have anything but impossible demands to make, just get out.”

Sankalp walked to the adjoining room, number 205. But Leister and Murugan both shoo’ed him off before he could start his questionnaire.

The same story repeated itself in the next two rooms. Then there was 202, occupied by Lata and Megha who obviously could not be expected to be in possession of shoes, pastel–coloured shirts or long pants.

The room at the end of the corridor was occupied by the General Manager. For a moment he thought about knocking on the door as well but then thought better of it.

Over the next half an hour he knocked on a dozen more doors, each time getting responses that varied from friendly commiseration to callous dismissals. In a fit of desperation he even checked with Aditi in Room 110, who always dressed in western clothes, pants included, at work and was at least as large as Sankalp himself.

His summary eviction from her room made him rather apprehensive of what she might do when they were back in the office. He only hoped she wouldn’t say anything to his boss, Girishankar Sisodia, who had, along with his boss, the redoubtable Ardeshir Behram Cowasjee, stayed away from this offsite by citing pressing work back in Bombay.

At last the only rooms that remained to be supplicated for the Outfit that he was sure would win over Karishma’s heart were her own and the one he had already dismissed out-of-hand - of the aforementioned General Manager. Karishma had worn a white shirt on a pleated skirt that day, but even a man as colourful as Sankalp Sodey baulked at the thought of wearing a skirt. He could try to pass it off as Scottish kilt before the others, but Karishma wouldn’t be taken in by that, of course. Besides, he reasoned, you couldn’t really impress a girl wearing her own clothes, especially when they were several sizes smaller than yours.

But he began to think again about the other one. Had he been too hasty in thinking that the GM’s door was – in more ways than one – closed?

With hesitant steps Sankalp contemplated the man who was eight levels above him in hierarchy but quite similar in figure. Surely, he thought, the GM must be carrying a complete set of spare clothes. If only the man could be induced to part with the spare outfit, Sankalp could knock on Karishma’s door and sweep her off her feet. He could already imagine how it would go. Sankalp, resplendent in the GM’s sparkling light-blue or light-pink or starched-white shirt, immaculately ironed black or brown pants and shiny black pumps, would knock on the door to Karishma’s room. She would open the door, drink in his magnificent visage and coyly ask him whether he wanted anything from her.

From there one thing would lead to another and at some point of time, she would send her room-mate Namita out on some errand, leaving him, Sankalp Shripad Sodey, alone in the room with Karishma Singh, surely the most beautiful woman in the history of the organization. Well, that’s if one ignored the immensely self-assured secretary, Roxanne Colabewala, whose distaste for Sankalp was, however, well-known and acknowledged, even by himself.

His mind did not even dare to go further. What would happen once Karishma and he were alone…words were inadequate (or at least, Sankalp’s vocabulary was), and his feeling could only manifest as a grin across his face. With a determined step he headed back along the corridor to the GM’s room. Just as he was getting there, the door to his own room opened and Karan stepped out.

“’Ere, what were you on about for my clothes?”

A brave man embarking on a daring mission does not hesitate to tell his peers about it. Did the Knights of King Arthur’s Round Table shy from letting the world know they quested after the Holy Grail? Sankalp thought not. He would be no different.

“I need a proper outfit. I mean to go talk to Karishma,” he declared.

Karan looked at this watch.

“At this time of night? Are you insane? She won’t stand for it”

“Oh I don’t want her to be standing,” said Sankalp with a wink so roguish that Karan was too astonished to respond.

Leaving his fellow-data-processing grunt behind, Sankalp advanced on the GM’s door with grim determination. He remembered the outfit worn by the GM earlier that day when he had been speaking to them about the ‘way forward’ for the Team to ‘arrest de-growth’, ‘use the tailwinds’ and ‘maximise synergies’ to achieve its ‘Annual Operating Plan’ targets - a cuff-linked white shirt, steel-grey trousers and thick-soled brown leather shoes that made impressive clop-clop noises when the great man walked.

If the man’s spare wardrobe was even half as impressive as that, Sankalp just knew he would be irresistible.

He knocked on the GM’s door.

It was a few moments before the door opened. The GM looked at him, clear-eyed and awake, but his thinning hair were ruffled and he wore nothing but a towel.

“What do you want?” he asked Sankalp, irritation writ clear on his face.

“I w-w-was wondering if you have a spare set of clothes, sir,” the Data processing officer stammered.

Looking behind his lord-and-master’s shoulder, at the end of the room’s short corridor, Sankalp saw a glimpse of a long white leg, clearly belonging to a girl who must have been sitting on the bed and wearing very little from the waist down.

“I – what? You lost your mind, man?” the GM said irritably.

“I’m…that is to say, I soiled my clothes and we have a presentation tomorrow and…,” Sankalp blubbered. He saw a smart pleated skirt draped on the dressing table in the corridor. He had seen it earlier that day, hanging so fetchingly from the waist of the very girl for whom...suffice to say, he knew whose it was.

“I will see you in Office on Monday, Sodey,” said the General Manager, his voice dripping with cold anger.

“Yes, sir,” said Sankalp, gloomily.

“And wear proper corporate attire. Not this gaudy shabbiness.”

“Yes, sir. Corporate attire, sir. Of course, sir.”

He stifled a sob as he dragged his feet back to Room 206.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Cats, Real Estate and the Importance of being employed.

“Percy! Where is that good-for-nothing, lazy, gormless, useless son of mine?”

“I’m right here, mother. And I’m your only son.”

“And I have lived to regret it, God knows. Where were you?”

“Sitting in the window. Anyway, what’s the matter?”

“Take a look at this.”


“On the laptop, see that mail.”

“Looks like your pension slip. Your Bank must have e-mailed it to you.”

“They never e-mailed me a pension slip before.”

“Which…makes this a good start?”

“Ok, what’s the figure there?”

“That’s the gross amount – here on the right side we have the net amount that gets credited to your account. At least I hope it does.”

“Not bad, is it.”

“Yes, mother, as you’ve said roughly a hundred and fifty times since you retired, you have a very generous pension.”

“I make more than you do, don’t I?”

“Not when I was working, of course! I’ll have you know I was a highly-paid…”

“Didn’t Shobha Kamath’s son-in-law make much more than you?”

“I don’t know how much Shobha Kamath’s son-in-law makes, mother.”

“No, but he bought a house in Pune and then one in Thane.”

“Shobha Kamath’s daughter earns well too, mother. I suppose between them they can raise a lot of money in home loans.”

“But you have to earn well to get a home loan.”

“And I could have got a home loan too, mother, but seriously - only a mug would invest in real estate in the current scenario.”

“You keep saying that, but Kersi Dabhodiwala’s son sold their flat in Vikhroli for over a crore!”

“Good for him. Not so good for whoever bought it. He’ll be lucky if he makes a rental that’s half a fourth of his EMI.”

“Ok, ok. You and your ideas. Ok, what is that figure there?”

“Annual pension.”

“How do they know my annual pension in August?”

“They take the monthly amount and multiply it by twelve.”

“But it will increase this year, no? And then arrears and…”

“A software prints this, mother. It applies a mathematical formula.”

“But that looks so less!”

“It’s a lakh, not a thousand.”

“Oh yes, that’s right! Not bad, is it?”

“Yes, mother, as we have now established beyond reasonable doubt, you have a very generous pension.”

“Why don’t we put some of our savings together and buy a flat in a distant suburb?”

“And what do you define as a ‘distant suburb’? Santa Cruz?”

“No, no, I meant like Mira Road or something.”

“Mother, we could never live in Mira Road.”

“Not to live, I meant as an investment.”

“Were you not listening to anything of what I was just saying?”

“Yes, yes. Ok, ok. No real estate.”

“Anything else you needed?”

“No, no, it’s fine. It’s not like I can expect you to want to just sit and talk to your poor old mother for a while.”

“Didn’t we just establish that you have a generous pension?”

“Arey that is fine, but I’m still poor in spiritual matters because my son won’t even spend a few minutes talking with me. Such days I am seeing at my age…”

“What age? You were crowing just last week about how you walked to Wadala Market and then walked back with five kilos of fish in your hands. You’re sprightlier than girls my age.”

“How do you know that? You weren’t here!”

“I have you in my Facebook friend-list, mother. If you put up these gloating updates on social media, they will be noticed.”

“Ok, ok fine. Mister Percy is all smart and stuff. Never thought I’d see the day! Such talk-backing you do now. You were such a sweet obedient child!”

“Not really, you called me some pretty nasty things even then, so I must’ve been rather a pain to you.”

“Meh, that’s true.”

“Fine. Let me know when lunch is ready.”

“All you do is eat and sleep!”

“I’m writing, mother.”

“Yes, yes, fine. But what are your plans exactly? Will you be looking for a job or will you be trying to do some bizness-vizness?”

“I got published too, you know.”

Acha, in that magazine thing you were posting about on Facebook?”


“See, I see you on Facebook too. Why didn’t you show it to me? Give me a printout.”

“Why would I show it to you? Anyway, if you really want to read it, the download link is in my post…it’s quite a good story, a lot of people have been saying really nice things about it – strangers, at that, complete strangers have been praising my writing, you know! Let me tell you what one of them said…”

“Yeah yeah, that’s all fine, but when are you going to start looking for a job? Are you going to look for a Bank job only, or…?”

“Mother, I left a Bank job because I had begun to hate myself more than I hated the job. I think I’d rather not jump into anything right now…”

“How long will you explore options? What do I tell people? Pernaz Vakil was asking just yesterday, what is your Percy doing? And so was Sylloo Udwadia. What answers will I give them? As it is they look down upon me because I am not pure-Parsee like them.”

“Tell them I’m a writer.”

“Ugh no, they’d laugh me out of the rummy club!”

“Mother, what does it matter…I’ll manage. I’m not asking you for money, am I?”

“I don’t know WHAT I am going to do with you.”

“Would you rather I moved out?”

“Where will you go? You won’t buy a house, so where will you go?”

“I don’t know, probably Bogota.”

“Bogota? What are you talking about? What were you involved in in US? Did you – what was that girl’s name? Anjali?”

“Angela, mother.”

“Yes yes, same thing. Is she a Colombian drug dealer’s moll? Were you a drug dealer?”

“Does anyone actually use the word ‘moll’ any more?”

“Answer the question, bloody idiot.”

“No, she wasn’t a moll, to the best of my knowledge.”

“Because if she is, I forbid you from talking to her!”

“She is not, and you can’t forbid me from talking to her. This isn’t the nineteenth century and I’m not a minor.”

Arey, then start behaving like a grown-up. Get a job!”

“I’m going for a walk instead.”

“It’s raining outside.”

“Good, maybe I’ll catch pneumonia.”

“No you won’t, if I know you at all. But you should buy half-a-kilo of onions, a packet of kasuri methi and two hundred grams of green chillies. Make yourself useful!”

“Yes, mother.”

“And feed the cats.”

“I am NOT going to feed the cats. Get Dilbur to do it!”

“Dilbur has a job. She’s gone to her lawyer’s office.”

“Fine, I’ll feed the cats too.”

“Well, go! Don’t sit here and waste my time. I have to Skype with Kernaaz in Boston.”

“Good bye, Mother.”

“Aren’t you gone yet, you useless, good-for-nothing…”