The Guessing Game – II
Today is one such morning. The household is in the routine tizzy, when the phone rings shrilly.
“H-a-i-ll-o-o” drawls a voice.
“Yes, please who’s on the line?”
Instead of the answer, I hear the conversation a lady is holding with someone standing near her, “See, he is pretending he doesn’t recognise my voice. How strange, naa!”
“Hello, who do you want please?”
“Very strange of you to be asking this question! Arre, Titu who else? Give the phone to him.”
“Sorry, there’s no Titu here.”
Suddenly, the voice assumes an imperious tone and commands, “I say get me Titu. Quickly. What’s he doing?”
“What Titu? There’s no Titu here, I told you.”
She again says something to her companion in her room, which is not fully audible.
“He, he, he … are you joking with me? You can’t stand between Titu and his grandmother. Hurry up now. Give him the phone.”
“What number have you dialled please?” Words tumble out of me in anxious hurry and I am getting on the edge of my nerves.
“Kamaal hai, oye Bitte. What has happened to you today? You can’t recognise my voice. What has gone wrong with you?” She has become positively abrasive.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what Bitte you are talking about.”
“Oye Bitte, every morning I say H-a-i-l-o-o to Mini or you and then talk to Titu. But for me, he will never go to school. It’s I who cajole him to go to school, with promises of ice cream and visits to the Water Park where he would have a lot of fun and a burger at Macdonald’s.”
“Please what… …”
“Don’t interrupt me. Both of you are careless. I know you never give him enough to eat. Poor boy! He’s already turned skin and bones. Have you put some Ferrero Rocher chocolates I brought from London in his school bag? You know, he feels hungry while coming back in the school van….”
“But why don’t you tell me what number have you dialled?” I say with mounting exasperation in my voice.
She refuses to listen to whatever I say and carries on unfazed, “Day before yesterday, Titu complained against both of you. You didn’t give him Hershey’s Kisses, (a branded chocolate) which I had left with you last time I visited you. You know he is terribly fond of me.”
“Are you crazy, for God’s sake?” I burst out. “We’re in a mad rush. Please, please stop it now.”
“O.K., O.K., I’ll see you. I’ll come over. You’ve insulted me, your mother-in-law. I’ll talk to Niki. She’ll teach you a lesson. I committed a blunder. I shouldn’t have given you my permission to marry my daughter. Have you forgotten, you used to come over every other day with gifts for me and buttered me so that I would agree to your proposal? Actually, your family is no match to ours – how much did your father earn as Porophaiser? You didn’t deserve Niki, such a nice girl. Yes, I’m saying it to your face,” she goes on blabbering.
“To hell with you…” I bark into the phone. I thanked heavens, she disconnected without hurling any more threats at me.
Now the household is in full and proper frenzy. Tunnu’s school van has arrived at the Society gate and the driver is honking his top away. The Pomeranian has chosen to bark non-stop at a bird that had come and perched on the parapet, surveying the balcony for breakfast. Nikita has still not found the one missing shoe of Tunnu’s and now both of us are on the ‘Mission Shoe,’ and are bumping into each other running from one room to the other. And to cap it all the milk Nikita had put on the gas stove for boiling, hisses angrily and spills all over the kitchen, creating a huge mess.
“Shall I take the receiver off the hook? As it is we are running late.”
“Umm, no… don’t. My Chief Manager might ring up.”
“He can do it on the mobile.”
“You forget, we switch on our mobiles only when we leave home?”
At such a time, the phone begins to trill again and sends my pulse racing.
(The Author, Subhash Chandra is a former Associate Professor of English, University of Delhi)