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)

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. KP
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 08:44:30

    You have brought Fifty shades of Grey again!!.The story has gone interestingly till now whetting my desire to know how you will take it further.The novel will take its toll I fear.Gripping narration as always

    Reply

  2. Bikramjit Singh Mann
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 17:12:14

    I am not as encouraging as KP sir above, because I dont have no patience and this says to be continued … good stories shud start and finish not leave us hanging ..

    🙂 so u get the hint jaldi jaldi

    Bikram’s

    Reply

  3. Jack
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 20:39:12

    Meera,

    Interesting twist awaited. Please do not delay it or I will be sleepless.

    Take care

    Reply

  4. renu
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 11:10:11

    very interesting story..waiting for the next part..

    Reply

  5. ddeepa
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 07:42:11

    LOL. Fifty shades of grey seems to have found its mark! In bloggers’ stories where they can be mercilessly trashed 🙂 I second Bikram in saying jaldi jaldi! Waiting for the next part Meera! Nice going!

    Reply

  6. Meera
    Oct 19, 2012 @ 21:47:32

    Thanks folks… Deepa, Bikram unfortunately it is difficult to complete this story at one go- this gift has a long way to go. So you can see what happens in part 2 🙂

    Reply

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