THE GIFT ( PART 2)

Chellamuthu

 Chellamuthu was extremely hassled! Mr. Ravi Kumar, IAS had taken charge as Assistant Commissioner and from the moment he had done so, had started giving his PA a lot of things to do. But the worst part of doing things for his new boss were the dead lines. This man seemed to want something done the moment he said it!! So different from his former boss he sighed..

Mr. Ramajayam had not believed in doing things in a hurry. Infact the longer something took the better it seemed to him. The delay caused  resulted in people coming to visit him, bringing gifts ,all of which he shared liberally with others in the office.

Chellamuthu pulled out his chair and sat in front of the computer. As he switched it on, he looked at Vijaya sitting behind the glass partition in the dispatch section. She was  wearing a thin yellow saree . Chellamuthu craned his neck to see if he could get a glimpse of anything through her pallu.. No chance!!! She had pleated it and pinned it firmly to her shoulder.

But he seemed to be in luck where Aruna, the Commissioner’s PA  was concerned. She was busy doing some filing. As she bent down to retrieve some papers he got an eyeful of what he was looking for!!! “Ahh! “ he thought lasciviously wondering if he should go up to her and pretend to help her with picking up the papers. But he was a not sure what would be her reaction. After all, she reported to his boss’s boss!

Aruna in the meanwhile had got a hint of what was going on in Chellamuthu’s  mind. She looked up from  her filing and glared at him! This man was just too much! Spent all his time leering at the women in the office. She had a good mind to report him one of these days to the sexual harassment committee .  But then ,as Arulmozhi the head clerk said “What will we complain about? That he leers at us? Nobody will believe it” Well anyway, Mr. Ravi Kumar was bound to keep him busy. So there would be less of the leching and leering.

As if in answer to what was going on in Aruna’s mind, the intercom on Chellamuthu’s desk buzzed. “Yes saar. Yes saar”  he said and scuttled inside with his pad and pen in hand as Aruna heaved a sigh of relief!

Inside, he found his boss in a very bad mood.

“Chellamuthu. Where are the 1950 gazette notification documents on urban land ceiling revision” he asked him in irritation.

“Saar.. that is very old date. It will not be in the files in the section” he muttered.

“I know. It is history as far as you people are concerned. But history is not divorced from the present. I need to understand some of the critical changes that happened during that time. So, if it is not in the section then where is it? Is there a library or something where it is archived?” he asked

Chellamuthu was getting confused. As far as he knew there was nothing like that in the department.  He looked around the room nervously until his eyes rested on that book case behind the Assistant Commissioner’s desk.

“Saar. I think it may in that book shelf there. Please give me some time and I will have it ready” he said.

“Okay. Do that. I need to have it by the afternoon tomorrow” he said as he started getting his things ready to leave for his meeting at the Secretariat.

Chellamuthu was left eyeing the book case uneasily.. Now, he had to come up with some blessed gazette document from the 1950s!! He opened the door and called out to Raja the Office assistant.

Raja walked in whistling a tune and did a small dance step as  Chellamuthu instructed him on taking out the documents. An aspiring  Prabhu Deva, he was not interested in doing any of this dusting work. He waited until Chellamuthu finished talking and then sauntered out. Chellamuthu was exasperated.

He wanted to yell at this arrogant fellow. But he knew he could not, He was trapped in this situation because Raja knew his little secret! He knew about the treasures that he kept locked in his lower drawer….!  Treasures that  he did not want anyone to know that he possessed – pictures of women with impossible mammary glands!   He cursed his wife and his nosy extended family that made it necessary for him to keep these things here and be subjected to black mail by creatures like Raja…!

He sighed as he squatted  near the book case and started taking out the thick volumes coated with even thicker volumes of dust! “Oh god this dust..” he thought as he was hit by a bout of sneezing. “Achhoo! Achhoo! “ he went on for about five minutes, in the process upsetting more of the contents from the shelf.

As the bout subsided he started wiping his nose with a handkerchief and gathering the scattered books and papers. Suddenly, his eyes fell upon a paper back. What was this? Looked like a book of some sorts.

A man who had spent over fifty years of his life reading books and magazines covered with newspapers, he was not one to be deceived by the cover of any book even if all that it had was the picture of a tie on it.  He started flipping through the pages….   Suddenly his eyes rested on a few words. He stopped, reading on fascinated..! The squatting was  making him uncomfortable. He  sat down more comfortably and continued reading it goggle eyed..  His eyes opened wider and beads of perspiration started forming above  his lips..! Oh my God! This was exactly his kind of a book. Who would have thought it was lying hidden here in a bookshelf? He started reading with fascination stopping only once in a while to regret his schooling in vernacular which made it difficult for him to read English quickly.

His fantasies were rudely disturbed by the sound of the Assistant Commisisoner’s voice outside the room. Oh God, why was his boss back he thought as he hurriedly shoved the book right at the back of the book shelf before arranging the volumes quickly outside it.

Ravi Kumar

Ravi Kumar walked in looking at his PA with irritation, The meeting had been cancelled and now he had come back to spend the rest of the afternoon in a dust ridden office. He glared at Chellamuthu who was trying to get up from his sitting position ”What are doing sitting down like that over there”  “Saar… I was looking for that gazette” he said before scuttling out of the room.

Ravi Kumar stared at Chellamuthu’s back in distaste. This man was a slippery character that much he was sure of! God knows how many such slithery characters were around in this department! One could never be too sure he thought as he sat down on his chair and turned around on it.

His eyes fell on the dusty book shelf .  “The furniture here is as dirty as the morals of the employees he thought with disgust!” Corruption! How he hated it. He wished he could clean it all up but obviously, it was not going to be easy.

He  stared at the half open door to the book case. It all looked very fishy. Why  had that Chellamuthu run out like an injured fox on seeing him?

He walked up to the book shelf and pushed open the door.

No sooner had the door opened that a few of the volumes of books kept on the outside started tumbling out. Ravi quickly jumped aside to avoid being hit by them.

He looked at the volumes of books and files at his feet. And among all of them lay what looked like a paper back novel.

“What is THIS”? he asked  himself as he picked up. He whistled as he read the title. A very well read and well informed man, he did not need to be told what this book was all about.

“But how did it get here? “ he thought to himself puzzled.. Whatever it was he could not leave it lying around here. He opened his satchel and pushed it absentmindedly into the back compartment.

He had to find a way to clean up all this filth in this department. Another point added to his one point agenda of ensuring a clean government.

He pressed the buzzer and when Raja arrived asked him to tell the driver to get the car ready. He wanted to go home. He had enough of the Urban land ceiling and land revenue department for the day!

Chellamuthu

 The moment he was sure that his boss had left the building Chellamuthu rushed in to his room and made a beeline for the bookshelf. He had a good one hour to catch up on his reading before the day came to an end! But unfortunately for him, the book seemed to have disappeared. He pulled out all the books and volumes but no.. it was no where to be found!

Mr Chellamuthu was now seriously worried! What had happened to this piece of literature? He sincerely hoped that Raja had not laid his hands on it planning to black mail him later once again…! His hands started sweating in anxiety.

(to be continued)

 

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THE GIFT- Part 1

Arulappa

Arulappa was feeling sad. A clerk in the Urban land ceiling and land tax section of the revenue department of the Government of Tamil Nadu, he was a small built man with  thin graying hair. But appearances were deceptive as  he had the reputation of being very “ resourceful”. He was known to be able to shuffle any land record any which way to suit any requirement. Ofcourse, his services did not come free. But then, what was free these days anyway?

Coming back to the  reason for his sadness – Mr Ramajayam, the Assistant commissioner was getting transferred. Arulappa was extremely attached to Mr. Ramajayam as it was under his leadership that he had managed to amass a considerable amount of wealth. Besides that flat in Kodambakkam , the funds had also stretched sufficiently to buy the much needed medical college seat for his  younger daughter.  He sighed with regret as he heard about who Mr. Ramajayam’s replacement was going to be- it was just his bad luck that it had to be a Mr. Ravi Kumar- a direct recruit IAS upstart ! He shuddered as he recalled the gossip about this chap being a stickler for rules .. The golden age of the urban land ceiling department was obviously over.. He was feeling very emotional as he thought about the farewell party that was being planned for Mr. Ramajayam. He had prepared a speech and had also practiced it. All that remained now was to get his boss an appropriate gift!

He was wondering what he should get him.  Mr. Ramajayam lived in a plush flat in  T. Nagar – a gift from a grateful builder. His house was filled with all kinds of knickknacks – many of them quite expensive, again symbols of gratitude for taxes being overlooked! Arulappa was sure that whatever he gave, he could not never match in value what his boss had already received from others – building contractors, property developers etc.  He racked his brains about the gift. If it was not expensive then it had to be something classy, original or innovative. He decided to discuss the matter with his older daughter Selvi. He was sure she would give him some valuable tips on this.

Selvi

Selvi was nearly thirty years old. An enormously fat girl, she had the appearance of a buffalo from Haryana. A graduate from the “ Punitha Matha”  engineering college in some far off suburb, she was biding her time until her father was able to “procure” a bridegroom for her. Her degree  in the meanwhile , hung in their living room mounted on a gilt edged frame.

Arulappa had managed to get a private land developer to employ her as a civil engineer despite the company’s obvious doubts about her abilities. But then land ceiling and land tax laws were too strict these days and this was after all a small price to pay . After weighing the pros and cons they decided to hire her. In order to  save themselves from any serious damage they decided to keep her away from the actual construction activity.

However Selvi’s  interest in staying employed in a  job was about as much as a  Haryana buffalo wanting to compete in the Olympics. She found the effort too much-having to get up in the morning, get ready , go to an office, shuffle through papers and then get back. The one hour lunch break (which she extended to two hours) was small compensation. She ran through about five such jobs before deciding to call it quits. Working outside the house, she came to the conclusion was definitely not for her!

So she spent the entire day eating, watching television serials and reading a lot of pulp fiction- books which she borrowed from a library on their street. Sometimes she also ordered books from Flipkart.

However the eyes of the father did not see any buffalo in her – they saw a very different picture –  that of an “ intellectual” and “sensitive” girl  who could not survive in the corporate world. He paid for all the Flipkart deliveries fondly and also financed her trips to book shops across town as also her member ship fee in the various lending libraries in their locality.

“Appa you should give him a book” she pronounced in her fake American accent when he broached the subject of a gift. Arulappa was not sure. He had never seen his boss even look at a book! But Selvi was insistent.

“ Just think about it Appa. It will reflect you in very good light when others come around giving suitcases and brief cases. “  she said drawling pompously.

Arulappa thought about this carefully. Yes, to be considered  a literary person was something that was certainly flattering. But he was not sure what sort of book to give Mr. Ramajayam. Besides, he had no intentions of spending anything  on paper unless it could yield monetary returns.

“ Aww Appa leave it to me” said Selvi moving towards the garish looking book case in their living room.

“Here!  You can give this” she said triumphantly producing a near new looking book.

Arulappa looked at the title curiously –“ Fifty shades of grey” . It was written by someone called E.L. James.

The book seemed  to be in good enough condition. The cover had a picture of a tie on it. Probably some management book.

“ Umm not bad” he murmured as Selvi clapped gleefully!

Selvi was relieved . She had finally got rid of that book! Reading it had made her feel rather guilty and induced all kinds of thoughts in her mind. Its presence in the bookshelf was a dirty secret that she hoped her younger sister Malar would not discover. This was a  god send opportunity to get it out of the house. She sighed with relief as she got together the gift wrapping paper and the satin ribbon.

Arulappa was pleased as punch with that parcel wrapped in silver   colored paper and tied with a pink ribbon- it certainly looked classy! This daughter of his was a girl with many virtues.. pity he was finding it so difficult to get someone suitable for her to wed.

Ramajayam

Mr. Ramajayam burped loudly! The food at his farewell party had been really good and as usual he had indulged himself beyond what his body could handle. Certainly a fitting send off  to  someone who had ensured that all in his department had thrived and survived. He had no regrets about his transfer to the Warehousing Corporation. He was content with what he had been able to make during his five years in the Urban land ceiling department. It would last him for a life time now…

He looked at Chellamuthu his former PA as he attempted to load all the gifts into a carton. There were number of sandalwood statuettes, a few silk shawls, a couple of brief cases, an ivory Krishna, a bronze nataraja and some other artifacts.

Ramajayam was sure that he would either have to sell them all off or brave his wife’s wrath again for filling their house with “gifts” ..

Chellamuthu was doing the balancing act as he tried to open the door with one hand while holding the carton with the other! He just about managed to leave the room without any major incident involving those gifts, dropping on the way only a small package wrapped in silver colored paper.

Ramajayam groaned as he bent down and picked it up- it was from Arulappa. He wondered what it was as he unwrapped it .

It was a book titled “Fifty Shades of Grey” ! He looked at it with irritation! Whatever possessed this man to give him a book.. and anyway what was this nonsense of a book all about? Probably on interior decoration! Idiot ! What did Arulappa think he was up to? The man was getting senile!

Whatever, he was not interested! He opened the bookshelf and among all those heavy volumes of books on history of land revenue and urban land ceiling in the State of Tamilnadu he found a small space into which he shoved this paper back.

There ! That was easy. An extremely pragmatic man, he had no literary or intellectual inclinations. He slid shut the door to the book case sighing with relief as he collected the last of his belongings and left the department

( to be continued)