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All That Glitters
|by Gautam Sengupta|
She was not irresistibly beautiful. Slightly overweight for her height and age, she might be just cleared as impressive or even, say, charming by a liberal dose of grace. She was in her wrong side of twenties or might be early thirties. Not dark by any standard, she was not either gleaming white. Her shampooed hair combed back in apparent carelessness was now partially disarranged at this almost end of a winter day but had added an extra dimension to her countenance which was undoubtedly attractive by any standard of ordinary judgment.
Dressed in her north Indian attire which was very common and popular now as the in-thing for almost all young girls in the age group of fifteen to thirty-five or even more, her tired eyes could not suppress the inherent soft features of a Bengali face though she was speaking in chaste English and was seemingly anxious not to easily give away her racial identity.
She must have seen the name of Chandi in rather unduly large letters on the nameplate lying walled up outside his chamber. She was talking to him in a gesture of extra reverence which Chandi was not enjoying any way after this so many weary years of public service. Rummaging through the dusty files and pretending to settle up high priority issues on matters of public interest right from 10-00 AM, at 17-20 hours he was now tired and exhausted to his marrows.
In a state of ' all passions spent and perfect calm of mind', Chandi was now patiently waiting to see the long arm of the wall clock travel a little further and go past the midway in its continuous circular motion announcing lapse of the most precious 7&1/2 hours of his just another day of servitude.
She had a large carry bag in her hand which she did not wait long to open unlike the others who come daily in rows with the utterly common pretensions of studying management courses and being assigned to personally contact highly placed persons like Chandi as an exercise in hands-on training in Sales Management, having a final bearing on their overall evaluation at the end of the Course.
Chandi, however, never bothered to verify from any of his known sources, which was hardly difficult, if they were really Management students as they claimed, since it little concerned him. They came in groups and would ask for permission to make presentations of 'highly exclusive' items not available in the market being just introduced in the country, only to be had from them and not any one else.
They would always be quite candid to declare themselves in emphatic terms and never failing enthusiasm that they were not ordinary push sellers (which exactly what they were) and it mattered little whether 'Sir' bought a piece of their merchandise which they were simply presenting as students as a mock exercise in sales promotion methodology, gratis, on behalf of the Company now they were representing, with no profit or compensation for themselves. If, however, 'Sir' would be interested to buy a pair of the items which were astoundingly low in price as he was getting two at the cost of a single piece, it might be just a fine idea never to be lamented later as it would be the opportunity of the millennium.
And, wasn't a pair of static duster (made of the cheapest of the cheap synthetic threads) costing only Rs.299=00, a real bargain! Or a pair of fiber body stools (made of ordinary synthetic materials, extremely low in height having an extra- narrow sitting plate and just fit for a toddler only) for the same price, highly lucrative as a deal?
And how one could differ, particularly when you were caught up head over heals in a mire of not less than fifty to sixty Files in front of you in the middle of the day, with the prospect of still some equal number to hit you in an infallible succession in the next couple of hours to come? Moreover, when they were almost equal or slightly above the age of your son or daughter at home and you as an ordinary man of the common docility with the inherent inclination to succumb to pressure, were not above the lure of something new.
So, occasionally they would depart victorious with gleaming eyes relieving themselves partially of the weight on their back and resultantly adding up to the scarcity of space in the loft of your Apartment, an ingenuous addition of your far sighted Developer who could surely foresee the origin and growth of their breed much ahead, like the great poet, seer and sage, Valmiki, who had the divine knowledge, as the mythology goes, of the advent of Lord Rama before he was born.
This girl, more exactly the lady in her prime time, was not to be mixed up with this lot. She had a different demeanor, tender, suave and gracefully self- conscious. She did not pretend to pose as a Management student and confessed that her object of visit was simple business and nothing but business, selling wares on behalf of her Company where she was employed as an Assistant Manager.
And the item she was to sell was nothing but the same pair of fiber body stools, extremely low in height and narrow spaced which Chandi had seen quite often earlier!
Chandi was not impressed either this time by the utility value of the sample offered once again now by another push seller.
But refusing her was not that simple as it was always previously, Chandi felt. No, she was not insistent by any measure beyond the accepted limits of decency and was just making a presentation of the item she was assigned by her Company to push. She was perfectly maintaining a commendable air of self-dignity which, Chandi felt, was her strong point and the distinguishing mark, standing her alone among the crowd of her tribe.
Chandi yielded and his purse thinned by Rs.300=00 which, though not a fortune exactly, was not insubstantial either at the end of the month, the next refill still eluding at a tormenting distance of about seven days.
So, Chandi got back home that day with his brief case in the right hand and a self-sealing polymer bag containing the pair of stools in his left, pretending to wear the glare of a winning smile on his face.
In the seclusion of the back seat of his chauffeur driven official car, the window glasses pulled up fully to cut off the interrupting sounds from the outside, he had engaged himself entirely during the period of his journey back home in the process of a rigorous self training and tough to tougher bouts of rehearsals about how to walk past with an emphatic win during the first encounter at home with his wife and his 18 year old daughter. His wife, Mithu, was a very soft spoken but an extremely intelligent lady not very easy to be fed with any rubbish and his daughter, Koyel, was a perfect match for her mother too.
So he was not really sure how convincing his ready- to- win kind of smile was showing on his face.
The electronic call- bell with a ding-dong rang as usual, followed by a recorded lady voice imploring, ' God bless you. Please open the door' and Runai, his younger daughter opened the door.
Runai looked unusually grim,- tension, worries and compassion written large on her face. She was an ever-jolly child, always glowing with a smile all over her person and never grim under any stress of situation.
Chandi smelt something 'rotten in Denmark'.
What was more unusual, - it was always his wife who would be at the door everyday to welcome him back at home as a never failing routine, had she been present at the moment.
Tension started propelling up inside him, his winning kind of over rehearsed smile all gone and he enquired from his daughter why her mother was not around. He had a thin booster of self -assurance left within. Had it been a that kind of emergency, they would surely call up him on his cell-phone!
Then! Was it Subrata, his orderly, who had rung up his home already and had informed that 'Sir', as gullible as always, had once again bought some trash at an unusually exorbitant price surrendering to the pressure of a young beauty? It was not quite unlikely.
Gullible he really was and his Orderly, a young smart chap of imposing personality, had the indelible impression that his boss had a very fragile kind of a frame of mind, particularly when facing the push sellers.
Subrata was quite free and close to his family and his impression about Chandi would be absolutely shared by his wife and daughter.
Chandi almost shuddered and felt a shiver running down his spine. The war ahead was as tough as Sylvester Stallone's in the movie 'The Specialist'. And he was no Sylvester Stallone by any definition!
But what Chandi learnt was not of a development of any lesser concern either. A lady in her late twenties or early thirties with an imposing kind of self-dignity, slightly overweight, not exactly beautiful but quite attractive, not very fair complexioned but not even dark either, visited her mother, Runai said, after Chandi had left for office. She introduced herself as the Assistant Manager of her Company and sold a couple of fiber body stools to her mother at Rs.300=00. The stools were extremely narrow spaced and very low in height which features Runai had tried to make his mother aware of, but grossly failed.
The lady quite impressed her mother and got her convinced that unlike what Runai felt, only a child as yet, the stools would be very useful for the 'Madam' at the bathroom particularly for bathing purpose, not to speak of its other versatile utility.
And her mother was perfectly convinced that to lose the item at the lure of not parting with a paltry sum of Rs.300=00 only, would be the loss of a life- time.
What had followed was not very encouraging though.
Her mother had rushed to the bathroom for an early bath and not long after, alerted by her yelling in pain, Runai had to call up the boy from the Flat opposite, break open the door of the bathroom and had to rescue her mother literally in her arms to her bed where she was presently confined to.
The doctor was summoned and she was advised complete bed rest at least for seven days. Fortunately, the doctor had confirmed that there was no incidence of bone fracture or ligament injury.
Before Chandi rushed to enquire about the health of his wife, he peeped into the bathroom and found one of the fiber body stools, exactly as one which he had brought home with the same picture on the seat plate and same logo of the same Company, lying on the floor with broken legs.
Chandi, very silently and surreptitiously placed the pair he had bought behind the toilet seat, as much beyond any one's view as could be possible.
While proceeding to his wife's room he meekly enquired about the fate of the other one from his daughter and learnt that it had been promptly destroyed at the order of her mother after the incident and was now resting in their litter bin with its broken legs, patiently waiting to be disposed next morning when the sweeper would come.
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