The Perfect Governess

Mrs. & Mr. Hardcastle were perplexed and frustrated in equal measures. It was already dark outside, and they could not carry on this process for too long. They HAD to arrive upon a decision, and soon.

When they had advertised for the post of a Governess for their five year old son Timothy, they had no idea what the search would entail. This was the third full day that they had been taking interviews, but had yet to find what they were looking for- a Governess straight out of Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music, one who would be gentle yet firm, and look after the kid like her own. “Please send the last one in, maybe she will break the jinx,” Mr. Hardcastle told his Secretary Ms. Lambeth, his voice clearly betraying his own lack of belief in that statement.

And it was then that she entered. “Mrs. Wheaton at your service Ma’am, Sir,” the 35-year old lady who had just entered introduced herself. She was dressed in a white top and long black skirt, with a scarf covering her head smartly. They looked at her and their faces lit up. She was grace and poise personified, just like the one they were looking for.

With renewed hope in their hearts, they started the interview. Mrs. Wheaton had an answer for their every question, and even for those that they had not thought to ask. Plus she had come with excellent references, from People Like Us, as Mrs. Hardcastle told her husband later that night. Everything was more than satisfactory, so they now asked her their final question.

“Our son Timothy, ” said Mrs. Hardcastle hesitatingly, “is a bit headstrong and stubborn. If he sets his mind on something, he does not listen to even us. But we are strictly against corporal punishment of any kind, as he is our only child. How will you ensure that he listens to you?”

Mrs. Wheaton smiled gently and asked, “How old is young Timothy exactly?” “Five years,” replied the parents in unison. “Aah, so the same age as my Andy,” remarked Mrs.Wheaton, “Do not worry Mrs. & Mr. Hardcastle, I have raised my Andy to this age without touching him even once, except to feed him or pet him of course. And he’s grown to become so mild-mannered and gentle. Your Timothy will learn to do things that are good for him, and I promise you that I will not touch him or punish him in any manner.”

Mrs. & Mr. Hardcastle looked at each other and beamed, they had finally found THE ONE.

The next morning, Mrs. Wheaton arrived with a smart leather bag slung on one shoulder, looking more like a Page-3 socialite than a mere Governess. Seeing her like this further reaffirmed the Hardcastle’s belief that their decision had been correct. They explained the workings of the house to her, and then left for work, leaving Timothy in her seemingly capable hands.

But while the parents had accepted the Governess wholeheartedly, the ward, Timothy, had something else on his mind. His tantrums started right from the time he woke up, and continued till he took a bath and sat down for breakfast. Mrs. Wheaton kept putting up with everything in her usual calm and composed manner, and not for a moment did she allow his to fluster her unflappable demeanour.

Timothy was ready for school now, looking very cute in his white school uniform, sitting on the dining table like a little gentleman. However, his expression and actions were anything but gentlemanly. Mrs. Wheaton kept bringing him things to eat, and he kept pushing them away. Finally, she brought a tall glass of milk, kept it in front of him, and said, “Drink.”

“I won’t,” cried out Timothy.

“Drink,” Mrs. Wheaton repeated, as if she hadn’t heard Timothy’s refusal, “or Andy will come and drink it and you will have to go hungry.”

Timothy scoffed at her and said, “Ha! You really think I’m afraid of you or your five-year-old boy?”

Mrs. Wheaton kept looking at him for a few seconds, and then, looking towards the kitchen, shouted, “ANDY, there’s a glass of milk for you on the table. Come and have it.”

A whole minute passed, but there was no sign of anyone. Timothy started laughing then, and extended his hand to push the glass of milk away, when he suddenly felt something tickle his right leg. He looked down…..and froze with terror.

For slithering up his leg was a large King Cobra.

As Andy watched in stupefied horror, the snake continued moving up, reaching his stomach, and then his extended arm which was in the process of pushing away the glass of milk, before finally landing with a soft thump on the dining table.

“Good boy Andy,” said Mrs. Wheaton, “Now drink the entire glass, how will you become big and strong otherwise?” And in front of Timothy’s wide-as-a-50-inch-TV eyes, Andy calmly proceeded to drink the glass of milk, slurping loudly till the last drop had been polished off. Then, without much further ado, he took the same route for going back as the one he had used to come, and calmly lay down in Mrs. Wheaton’s smart leather bag for a post-breakfast siesta.

Just then, the doorbell rang. Mrs. Wheaton opened the door to find that Timothy’s mother had returned to surprise her, and see for herself if the new Governess was taking good care of her son. She entered the dining room, and stood transfixed, staring at the dining table in utter fascination.

For little Timothy was sitting on the dining table, wordlessly sipping on a glass of milk. And what’s more, this seemed to be his second glass, as an empty glass of milk was kept in front of him already.

And on her way back to work, Mrs. Hardcastle called up Mr. Hardcastle and said excitedly, “I checked on the Governess at home just now, she is definitely THE ONE. I’m sure our Timothy will soon become as obedient and sincere as her Andy.”

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Doe, the female deer

Long long ago, in an enchanted forest in Satpuda, was born a cute & cuddly deer. Her parents were ecstatic, for she was a dear little thing. But while her parents were loving, caring, brave, good-looking, swift etc. etc., no one could accuse them of being imaginative, for they named their baby daughter Doe, which I am sure you all know, means….a female deer. Imagine being called Man or Woman throughout your life, dear readers, and you’ll understand poor Doe’s plight to some extent.

But as we all know, problems always come in pairs. Not only did Doe have the most generic name in the world, she was also cursed with a strange OCD. Whenever someone called out her name, she HAD to start singing the legendary Sound of Music song which started with her name. You know the song, right? No? Then please stop reading immediately, go to Google/YouTube, and listen to Doe, a deer, a female deer. Then do come back and continue reading please, leaving a story midway brings seven years of bad luck. Actually, it doesn’t, but I have too few readers as it is, don’t want to reduce that tiny number even further.

So as I was saying, Doe suffered from this OCD right from childhood, but those around her suffered even more. For Doe was cute as a button, but she couldn’t sing to save her life. Actually, her singing did end up saving her life, but let us not jump the gun here. We’ll get there soon, I promise.

Doe’s mother called her to come home for lunch, Doe burst into her theme song. Her teacher called out her name while taking attendance, she blasted out her theme song. And her friends shouted her name from outside her home to come and play, Doe shouted out her theme song right back at them. Slowly but quite steadily, everyone around Doe knew that to use her name was to invite disaster, so they stopped calling her by name altogether.

But this had a very strange impact on Doe. For you see, names do not just give you your identity, they have great powers, and every time someone calls out your name, they add to that power a little bit. But now, since nobody was calling out her name, Doe became increasingly listless, and it seemed that she was withering away day by day, and there was nothing anyone was able to do about it, for they are not smart and all-knowing like me, and so didn’t know these strange-sounding but entirely true claims that I just made up…I mean made.

Anyways, let’s cut to the chase, and talk about the chase. For one evening, as Doe was lying down despondently next to a great oak tree, which, by the way is a deciduous tree, which gives a nice alliterative ring to the sentence- Doe…despondent…deciduous- see? Sorry sorry, I digress again. Where was I? Yes, lying down despondently. Not me, silly, Doe.

Suddenly, Doe heard the cries of her mother. She sat up hurriedly, (that is to say, taking almost a minute, for she was listless and despondent, remember) and saw a shocking sight (In Hindi, we call it a ‘dil dehla dene waala nazaara’, loosely translated as: A sight that makes one’s heart tremble with terror). Her mother came rushing into the grove, and then tripped and fell. She tried to get up, but one of her legs had fractured due to the fall, so she couldn’t get up. She turned around whimpering, and it was then that Doe saw the raw terror in her mother’s eyes.

Doe too turned around and when she saw what her mother was seeing, she too was petrified out of her wits. It was a hunter who had been chasing her mother, and now, because of her fall, he had finally caught up with her. And Doe was too little to take on the hunter by herself. Her eyes welled up with tears at her own helplessness, and she banged her head against the tree in frustration, which caused her to cry out in pain and look up….and she suddenly knew what she could do to save her mother’s life.

But timing was critical for this plan to succeed, and so was placement. No no no no, I am not talking about a cricket shot, we are still with Doe, her mother and the hunter, don’t worry.

Doe inched up soundlessly towards her mother’s line of vision. Thankfully, neither the hunter, nor her mother had seen her yet. The hunter was moving slowly towards her mother. He was just ten meters away now. Doe didn’t move a muscle.

Seven meters. Doe was stiff as a statue.

And as soon as the hunter was exactly five meters away from her mother, Doe made her move. In a flash, she went and stood directly in front of her mother, who saw her and cried out in horror, “DOE!”

And Doe started off:

Do, a deer, a female deer,

Re, a drop of golden sun

Mi, a name I call myself, 

Far, a long long way to run

So, a needle pulling thread,

La, a note to follow So,

Ti, a drink with jam and bread, 

that will bring us back to Do…Do….Do….

And as Doe recited, or should I say, brayed out her theme song, two things happened in quick succession:

  1. The hunter dropped his rifle and closed his ears to try and shut out the excruciating pain that was the standard outcome of Doe’s singing, and
  2. Ajgar Jurraat, the python who was happily asleep on a branch of the oak tree under which all this was happening, woke up in terror upon hearing the song, and losing his balance, fell right on top of the hunter.

The hunter forgot all about deer, or rifles, upon seeing Ajgar Jurraat, and ran helter-skelter away from the forest, swearing never to look at

  1. A rifle
  2. A forest
  3. A python
  4. A deer

again.

Doe now went up to her mother, and helped her get up. Her mother looked at her in contrition, and said, “I am sorry I had stopped using your name. It will never happen again….Doe.”

And right on cue, little Doe let go of her hobbling mother, who promptly fell and broke a second leg as a result, and started singing her theme song:

Do, a deer, a female deer…

 

 

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Pick of the Week- The Postman Always Rings Twice

Narrator’s Note: Two stories were in tough competition for being my favorites this week: The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Namqueen- The Empress of Snacks. It was a tough fight but The Postman…won by a slight margin because it is more ‘me’. You can find Namqueen here: https://jagahdilmein.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/namqueen-the-empress-of-snacks/. If you haven’t read it already, do give it a shot, I really liked writing it. But for now, on to the story of Jimmy the dog and his unique relationship with the Postman….

When Little Jimmy was, well, littl-er, his mother had taught him The Code of the Dogs. It went like this:

The postman always rings twice

Run after him, like a cat after mice

And ever since he had heard The Code, Jimmy had imbued it into his heart and soul. It was his life’s mantra now, and he lived it on a daily basis, except Sundays of course, which was a weekly off for postmen.

Since ever he could remember, their village postman had been an old, silver-haired, portly bloke called Harry. Just like Jimmy and his mom, Harry was Old School, and so, he knew The Code, and would die before disrespecting it.

So, every Monday to Saturday, at 4pm sharp, the doorbell of the Smith’s would ring, and then ring once again. And as soon as it rang the second time, Jimmy would dash out of the door, stand in the front yard, and start barking madly at the postman standing across the iron gate which was bolted from the inside. Jimmy would somehow jump over the gate, and then chase Harry as per the directions of The Code. In short, a good time was had by one and all.

Till yesterday, that is.

Yesterday, the bell had rung once, and then twice as usual. Jimmy ran out and started barking at the postman as usual. But what was not usual was that the postman this time was not Harry, but a strapping young lad called Simon. And Simon, belonging to the ‘new generation’, did not even know The Code, let alone respect it.

So when Jimmy ran out barking towards the iron gate, Simon nonchalantly picked up a stone from the street, and with unerring accuracy, threw it at Jimmy with considerable force. Shocked out of his wits, Jimmy turned quickly to escape being hit, but he was just not fast enough, and the stone hit him on his considerable behind, eliciting a sharp yelp from him, and a bout of uncontrollable laughter from Simon.

Jimmy was outraged beyond belief. The Code was his life, and now, this newbie had shattered his entire belief system, his life so to say, with a single well-aimed throw of a hefty stone. How could the Gods let this happen? What had he done to deserve this? No, he could not let that traitor get away with such utter perfidy (Narrator’s Note: With due credit to PV Narasimha Rao for the term). Simon deserved to be punished, and he, Jimmy, would be the one to bring down God’s wrath on him.

So Jimmy planned, and plotted, and kept simmering for a very long time, till he finally knew how he would extract his revenge upon Simon. And it was only then that he slept.

It was 4pm the next day now, and Jimmy was waiting behind a bush, right by the iron gate in the front yard. Right on time, the bell rang once, and then twice. That’s it, thought Jimmy to himself, it’s showtime! And running towards the iron gate, he picked up speed, and then launched himself high into the air, straight at the postman’s face….only to realize, that it was not the postman at the gate, but Colonel Baxter, with his regal bearing, his thick, upturned moustache, and, the most relevant in this case, his thick walking stick.

The Colonel had not been the terror of Germans in the Second World War for nothing. He saw the small dog jump towards him with great speed, but to his trained eyes that had helped him evade countless bullets in the war, the dog was moving almost in slow motion.

And so, the Colonel had all the time in the world to step aside gracefully, like a ballet dancer, so that Jimmy fell in an ungainly heap on the street. And as the Colonel, and his thick walking stick, fell upon Jimmy’s derriere (still tender from yesterday’s misadventure) with a vengeance, Jimmy remembered, a little too late, that today was a Sunday.

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Rebel Without A Cause

Ever since I can remember, I had wanted to stand out, to swim against the tide, to rebel against things that my peers were content doing meekly. Today, I had finally got that opportunity, and I would not let it go without a fight.

All my friends were sitting quietly, only I had the temerity to stand up, and keep standing. Professor Masterton looked at me with barely disguised malice in his eyes, and said, “Sit down.”

But I knew I had the right to stand up, so I kept standing. Masterton too maintained his position, but the same could not be said of his composure. He raised his voice, and said tremulously, “SIT DOWN!”

But I stood firm.

Masterton was furious by now. He came dangerously close to me, and this time, without saying anything, but with a murderous look in his eyes, PHYSICALLY pushed me down. But as soon as he moved away, I again stood up. I don’t know what had come over me, it is not as if I had something to say, or prove, I just wanted to stand out by doing something different.

His face red with fury, Masterton again tried to physically push me down, this time slapping me hard on the head. But my zeal and passion were so strong, that I didn’t feel a thing, and I snapped right back up.

Professor Masterton gave me a look that would have been stronger, and more potent, than an unforgivable curse if he was a wizard. But he was not, he was just an ordinary man. And as he looked at me closely, I could see the acceptance of defeat seep in slowly into his eyes. And then, without saying a word, he turned around and stormed out.

A few minutes later, Professor Masterton entered the Cafe and looked around for Jill, his girlfriend. She was sitting in a corner, sipping listlessly at an almost empty cup of coffee. Masterton sheepishly sat in front of her. Jill looked him up and down, and then complained in a huff, “You’re late AGAIN. What’s your excuse today?”

Masterton replied apologetically, “It’s this damned strand of hair, it kept standing up again and again despite all my efforts to push it down.”

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Cops & Robbers

It had been a long, intense chase through the dark, silent streets of the city, but Inspector Williams had finally caught up with Omar. Cornered, with no place left to run, Omar climbed up the ramparts of the city wall.

“There’s nothing but the deep, blue sea there Omar, you’ll never be able to swim your way back to land in this weather,” said Inspector Williams in a deep, composed voice. “I’ll take my chances,” replied Omar, a quiver in his voice betraying his trepidation.

“Just hand the bag over to me, and I promise I will let you go,” said Inspector Williams, trying to calm the highly-strung Omar while stretching one hand in his direction. But Omar backed up even further towards the edge, and replied, “Not at any cost.”

Inspector Williams tried a different tactic now, “I will let you keep half the money, just hand over the bag.”

A look of deep fear came on Omar’s face, and then, his face went blank, as if he had finally made up his mind. He said, “I would rather die!”

And saying that, Omar jumped into the sea along with his bag.

Inspector Williams dashed to the spot where Omar had been standing just a moment ago, and saw Omar swimming powerfully towards land. The waves tried their best to stop him, but Omar fought wildly, like a man possessed, and within minutes, he had reached the isolated beach and then disappeared into the darkness, his precious bag still clutched close to his heaving chest.

Inspector Williams saw Omar’s escape from the walls with disbelief, and then finally, turned back towards town with a deep sigh. “Such a wasted effort,” he spoke aloud to himself, “Why couldn’t he just surrender the bag to me? I will now have to find someone else to rob!”

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Barney Decides to Carpe Diem

It was the first day of college for Barney the bear

And he was all excited about what to wear

He just knew that one look at him, and girls in the college would swoon and sway

For Barney had decide to carpe diem, to just go ahead and seize the day

 

He would not depend only on his natural good looks this time

His rotund tummy, long, silky hair, and voice as smooth as good Vodka with lime

The occasion demanded something in front of which his competitors would look like dirt

So he dug deep into his wardrobe, and lovingly took out his new white trousers, and fluorescent orange shirt

 

He took a long, leisurely bath, shampooing every strand of hair

And then he picked up his comb, and brushed them with utmost care

It was time to dress now, to enhance his beauty even more

And finally, after half a bottle of Hugo Boss, he strutted out of the door

 

“Aren’t you having breakf….” his mother stopped mid-sentence as she saw him

And frozen with shock, continued pouring milk in a glass already filled to the brim

And as Barney came up to her to hug her and give her a kiss

She exclaimed, “You’re seriously planning to go to college like this?”

 

Barney was indignant, and replied, “What is wrong with these clothes, pray may I ask?

Trying to explain fashion to your generation, is really a tall task!”

“But…but…but…” stuttered his mother, “They’re fluorescent…”

He stopped her right then and there, and said, “Did I ask you for your consent?”

 

And then, in a huff, he walked out of his home, not even eating his food

But then he decided, he would not let her lack of fashion sense spoil his mood

So he reached the bus stop, and took a bus going towards his destination

And was pleased to see that people throughout were looking at him with wonder and admiration

 

Yes, I have arrived, he thought to himself as he walked towards the college gate, full of vigour & vim

And saw that as he walked past his fellow students, heads turned automatically to stare at him

With this level of popularity, he started dreaming, I could become College President

A glorious achievement that, for a First Year student, was entirely without precedent

 

And it was then that he heard the first jarring note of laughter

It started as a twitter, but reached a crescendo soon after

Barney turned around to try and get some clarity

And it was then that he realized that HE was the target of their hilarity

 

His face went red, and he could not contain himself anymore

So he raised his arms in exasperation and shouted, “You ignoramuses, haven’t you seen a fluorescent orange shirt before?”

And it was then that a bespectacled bear walked up to him quietly, trying very hard not to stare

And said, “I hate to break this to you, old boy, but underneath your white pants, is clearly visible….a fluorescent orange underwear!”

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The Postman Always Rings Twice

When Little Jimmy was, well, littl-er, his mother had taught him The Code of the Dogs. It went like this:

The postman always rings twice

Run after him, like a cat after mice

And ever since he had heard The Code, Jimmy had imbued it into his heart and soul. It was his life’s mantra now, and he lived it on a daily basis, except Sundays of course, which was a weekly off for postmen.

Since ever he could remember, their village postman had been an old, silver-haired, portly bloke called Harry. Just like Jimmy and his mom, Harry was Old School, and so, he knew The Code, and would die before disrespecting it.

So, every Monday to Saturday, at 4pm sharp, the doorbell of the Smith’s would ring, and then ring once again. And as soon as it rang the second time, Jimmy would dash out of the door, stand in the front yard, and start barking madly at the postman standing across the iron gate which was bolted from the inside. Jimmy would somehow jump over the gate, and then chase Harry as per the directions of The Code. In short, a good time was had by one and all.

Till yesterday, that is.

Yesterday, the bell had rung once, and then twice as usual. Jimmy ran out and started barking at the postman as usual. But what was not usual was that the postman this time was not Harry, but a strapping young lad called Simon. And Simon, belonging to the ‘new generation’, did not even know The Code, let alone respect it.

So when Jimmy ran out barking towards the iron gate, Simon nonchalantly picked up a stone from the street, and with unerring accuracy, threw it at Jimmy with considerable force. Shocked out of his wits, Jimmy turned quickly to escape being hit, but he was just not fast enough, and the stone hit him on his considerable behind, eliciting a sharp yelp from him, and a bout of uncontrollable laughter from Simon.

Jimmy was outraged beyond belief. The Code was his life, and now, this newbie had shattered his entire belief system, his life so to say, with a single well-aimed throw of a hefty stone. How could the Gods let this happen? What had he done to deserve this? No, he could not let that traitor get away with such utter perfidy (Narrator’s Note: With due credit to PV Narasimha Rao for the term). Simon deserved to be punished, and he, Jimmy, would be the one to bring down God’s wrath on him.

So Jimmy planned, and plotted, and kept simmering for a very long time, till he finally knew how he would extract his revenge upon Simon. And it was only then that he slept.

It was 4pm the next day now, and Jimmy was waiting behind a bush, right by the iron gate in the front yard. Right on time, the bell rang once, and then twice. That’s it, thought Jimmy to himself, it’s showtime! And running towards the iron gate, he picked up speed, and then launched himself high into the air, straight at the postman’s face….only to realize, that it was not the postman at the gate, but Colonel Baxter, with his regal bearing, his thick, upturned moustache, and, the most relevant in this case, his thick walking stick.

The Colonel had not been the terror of Germans in the Second World War for nothing. He saw the small dog jump towards him with great speed, but to his trained eyes that had helped him evade countless bullets in the war, the dog was moving almost in slow motion.

And so, the Colonel had all the time in the world to step aside gracefully, like a ballet dancer, so that Jimmy fell in an ungainly heap on the street. And as the Colonel, and his thick walking stick, fell upon Jimmy’s derriere (still tender from yesterday’s misadventure) with a vengeance, Jimmy remembered, a little too late, that today was a Sunday.

 

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Namqueen- The Empress of Snacks

During the nine months that Hetal had spent in her mother’s womb, her mother never had the craving for anything khatta (tangy) or meetha (sweet). Not because she was inordinately health conscious and only eating gluten-free, non-fat, non-carb, non-protein, non-food foods during her pregnancy, but because she already had what she loved the most in the world- Farsaan (Light Indian snacks, also called Namkeen in other parts of the country) from Chhedha Stores, bags and bags of them, in multiple varieties, flavours, colours, and pack sizes. With Chhedha Stores to feed her, she never felt the need for the services of any nutritionist, or even her mother to guide her. Chhedha Stores was her guiding light when it came to snacks, and she trusted it blindly.

Growing up, Hetal always blamed her mother for this.

Hetal was just 10 months old when a strange thing happened, something that shaped the course of her life in a most extraordinary way.

She was seated in her mother’s lap, and her mother was trying to feed her what is traditionally the first solid food that children have after mother’s milk- a bowl of Cerelac. But Hetal stubbornly refused to open her mouth. Something about the white sludgy mixture in the bland bowl made it so unappetizing that Hetal felt that it was better to die hungry than eat that mess. Her mother kept trying to feed her forcibly, and Hetal kept moving her head away, and trying to slap away the spoon with her little hands. And it was in the middle of this tussle that Hetal saw it.

Just before she sat to feed Hetal, her Mom had been eating some Farsaan. Hetal had started crying for food suddenly, and so, her Mom had to leave the katori (mini-bowl) on the side-table, and feed (or as we just saw, attempt while failing miserably to feed) Hetal. It was this katori that caught Hetal’s attention, and she froze on the spot.

She had never seen anything so beautiful in her life. Grains of various colours- yellow, orange, pink, black, brown- all mixed together, with cornflakes, peanuts and raisins, it was, to Hetal, a vision from heaven. She was smitten.

And before her mother realized it, Hetal’s tiny right hand had stretched towards the side-table, grabbed a handful of Farsaan, and popped it in her mouth. And then the flavours hit her- it was salty, but tangy….No no no no, it was sweet, but sour….Oh No, how could she be so stupid- it was bitter, but salty….The complexity of the flavours brought tears of joy to her eyes, and she knew that she would never eat anything else again. Along with that realization, a strange peaceful look came upon her face, and Hetal slept.

And from that day on, Hetal’s life revolved around Farsaan.

Farsaan for breakfast, Farsaan for lunch, and Farsaan for dinner. And for those moments between meals when she felt slight pangs of hunger…yup, you guessed it right, even more Farsaan.

Her parents tried their level best to wean her away from an all-Farsaan diet, for they obviously realized that it is not healthy to not have milk, cheese, butter, vegetables or meats at all, but the minute they stopped her supply of Farsaan, Hetal stopped eating. Caught between Farsaan and a hard place, they finally gave in to her tantrums, and allowed her to stick to this unique diet.

Hetal grew up. Completed her school, then graduation, and finally completed her MBA from an A-List institute. But throughout her growing up years, Farsaan from her friendly neighborhood Chhedha Stores was always there to keep her company. Even when she was away from her home in Mumbai for two years during her Post-Graduation studies in Ahmedabad, sacks filled with a variety of Farsaan used to be delivered to her hostel on a weekly basis by courier.

At first, people who saw her eat so much Farsaan used to make fun of her, but slowly, they understood that she didn’t care, she HAD to eat Farsaan, or she would die.

Hetal completed her MBA, and got a much sought after job at Amazon. Life was good now, life was great.

And then, tragedy struck.

It was a weekend, and Hetal suddenly realized that she would run out of Farsaan in the coming week. Rather than wait for it to get over, she decided to go to Chhedha Stores and replenish her stock herself. Looking forward to a couple of hours of happy shopping in her food paradise, she quickly changed, grabbed her wallet, and almost ran to the store.

But as she neared the store, she realized that something was off today. The usual weekend crowds of people were missing from the area outside the shop. Filled with trepidation, she rushed towards the store, and it was then that she saw the most horrifying spectacle of her life- The shutters of Chhedha Stores were down, and a big notice could be seen pasted on them, which said- CLOSED PERMANENTLY.

The sign suddenly blurred, and Hetal realized that there were tears in her eyes. She tried to stop the flow, she was a well-educated, grown-up woman for God’s sake, but they just would not stop. The store was her childhood, it was her home, it was her playground, it was her friend, it was her school, her college, her B-School, the store was her identity. And it was then that Hetal decided that she would not allow her store to shut down, not without a fight.

The notice on the shutter had a number written on it, to be used if someone wanted to buy the shop. Hetal immediately called the number from her i-phone, and fixed up a meeting with the owner.

The very next day, Hetal was sitting at the owner, Nilesh Chhedha’s home, sipping a cup of syrupy sweet tea, and munching greedily on copious amounts of fresh Farsaan. Nilesh told her, “Sales have been going down over the years, especially with people becoming more health-conscious today. Everyone wants just branded diet Farsaan, no one is interested in our traditional snacks items anymore. So I have no other option except to close down the business and sell off the shop.”

With a look of determination in her eyes, Hetal said, “What if I can help you turn things around?” Nilesh looked at her lovingly and said, “I have seen you grow up in my shop Hetal, I know how much you love it, but I’m old now, and can’t afford to take chances anymore. I’ve got a very good offer for the shop, so I am going to sell it.”

Hetal thought for a while, and suddenly, her eyes lit up. She looked at Nilesh and said, “OK Uncle, you sell off the shop, but then, can you give me just three months to revive your business? You won’t have to do a thing. You will anyways need to give three months notice to your factory workers, just let me take care of the sales during this period. What do you stand to lose?”

Nilesh had no option but to bow down in front of her determination. “Okay,” said Nilesh, “but I have just one condition.”

The very next morning, Hetal resigned from Amazon, and became the CEO of Chhedha Stores. The only thing was, she did not have a store.

But Hetal had not been a star performer at Amazon for nothing. She knew that physical stores did not matter anymore, what people were looking for was convenience and reliability. She also knew that their home-grown small brand would never be able to compete with large multinationals on the ‘Diet Food’ promise, so she decided to play to their own strength- the sheer goodness of the taste of their Farsaan.

One month of preparation, and Hetal was ready to roll out their plan.

One fine day, the city of Mumbai woke up to a full-page advertisement with Hetal on it, chomping down greedily on a range of Farsaan, her face filled with pure, unadulterated joy. The headline of the ad read- YOU’RE GOING TO DIE EVEN WHEN YOU DIET! And below the headline was the USP of Chheda Farsaan- Bagfuls of Sinful Taste, Delivered Free, within 30 minutes, anywhere in Mumbai. Download the App now, before you die of hunger!

Two months had passed since that day. Chhedha Farsaan had become an overnight sensation in this period, first in Mumbai, and then across the rest of the country. It was the fastest 100-Crore brand in the world, and the media couldn’t have their fill of Hetal.

A huge stage had been set up outside the original factory of Farsaan that Nilesh Cheddha had opened. Hetal was being felicitated as the Businesswoman of the Year. After a glittering ceremony, media personnel were being taken on a tour of the factory. Hetal accompanied them till the gates, and then stood on one side, inviting the media to go ahead.

“Why are you not coming with us ma’am,” asked one enterprising journalist from BBC. Hetal tried to prevaricate, but he just wouldn’t take no for an answer. So Hetal finally gave in and said, “This is strictly off the record, and I’ll deny everything and sue you if you ever repeat this conversation. The fact is, that I’m not allowed to go in.”

“What?” cried out the journalist, “But you are the one who has taken this business to these heights.” “Well,” replied Hetal, “This was the condition that Nilesh Chhedha had put before me before handing over the reins of the business to me. He made me swear to him that I would stop eating Farsaan, as it is not good for health. I have not had even a bite of it since that day!”

 

 

 

 

 

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Pick of the Week

Narrator’s Note: Starting this week, I will be posting my favorite story from the week gone by for the weekend reading pleasure (Being presumptuous here, Ha Ha) of those of you who do not get the time to read during weekdays, since they have work to do and offices to attend, which I don’t 🙂

I’ll obviously have to start with my ode to Gau Mata and her loving family. It was originally spread over two days, but only for you guys, I have combined them here to have the entire story at one place. Yaaayyyy. So please read, and thank me later 🙂

Presenting: I Like To Moo It Moo It.

It had started off as any routine trek.

We had started our climb before daybreak in order to catch the sunrise from top of the hill. Our host at the farm where we were staying had told us that the sunrise there was so majestic that it would blow us off our feet. But our climb had another objective also, which we could not reveal to our host without revealing my dark secret.

The previous night, just as we were about to call it a day (which does not seem right, since it was night, but as Professor Parimal Tripathi rightly pointed out on more than one occasion, English is a very funny language, so who are we to argue?) we heard a gentle knock on the window. I was surprised, even a little scared, for we were literally in the middle of nowhere, with our host and his family being the only humans (apart from us of course) for a ten-mile radius. And why on earth would our host knock on the window instead of the door? So we did what anyone in a similar position would have done- we closed our eyes and pretended to be asleep.

But the knocking persisted, and it was growing louder and more incessant with every passing second. Finally, I could take it no more, jerked open the window, and said, “Who’s there?” But I almost fainted when I saw that there was nobody there, just a cow grazing peacefully in the pasture outside our room. I immediately shut the window with a bang, and hid under my quilt.

But within a few seconds, there it was again. KNOCK KNOCK…KNOCK KNOCK…KNOCK KNOCK…KNOCK…”WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT?” I shouted, opening the window again. And this time I saw who had been knocking. It was the cow, raising her front right hoof to do the deed, which I had interrupted mid-knock.

She looked at me with fluttering eyes, and said, “Sorry to disturb you, but I really needed some help.”

“No problem,” I said instinctively, “Happy to help, and for real, not like those Vodafone bots.”

And it was then that it hit me, twice. No no no no, the cow didn’t hit me silly, the realization did, that:

a) The cow could speak, and

b) I could understand her.

My wife too was shocked out of her wits. She was just looking first at the cow, and then at me, then at the cow again, then at me again…and so on. “Relax you guys,” said the cow. That got my goat. “How dare you, ma’am” I cried out, “call us gais. This is typical projection, a gai calling the kettle black….I mean a gai calling a human gai.”

She banged her head against our cabin’s wall in frustration, and shouted, “SHUT UP!” As the wooden walls of the cabin stopped rattling, and our bed along with them, we both shut up. She then continued, “Let me explain clearly to you Dodos. I said ‘guys’ in English, as in ‘people’ or ‘folks’ and not ‘gais’ in Hindi, as in cows.”

“Hmmmmmm…” I said, nodding my head.

“Ohhhhhhh…” sai my wife, nodding her head.

“Moooooooo…” said the cow.

And then she said, “I don’t know why I had to be stuck with you two idiots of all the people, but since you are the only ones to be able to understand me (strange are the ways of God), I will have to share my troubles with you only, and hope that you turn out to be smarter than you look.”

My wife and I looked at each other, and were just going to protest, when the cow came to her point. “My husband and daughter are stuck on the top of the hill that you have come here to climb. They went up this evening to look at the sunset, but upon reaching there, my husband realized that he has a problem with heights. So now, he’s just stuck there, refusing to look down, which he will have to do if he wishes to come down.”

“I fully sympathize with you,” I told her in my best sympathy-laden voice, “but how do you expect us to help you?”

“Well,” she said as if explaining 2+2=4 to a five-year old simpleton, “you have to get them back of course.”

“How do you expect us to do that?” I cried out, “we can’t quite carry them down, can we? And we are no Bull Whisperers by any stretch of imagination. What if he refuses to move his butt, pardon my French?”

The cow’s face started getting red at that point, and kept getting redder and redder till it was redder than the ripest of tomatoes, and then, she shouted, “NO IFFFFF….NO BUTTTTT….ONLY JATT!”

And jatt…I mean just like that, we had promised her that we would get her husband and daughter back in the morrow, or die trying.

All these memories were fresh as snow in my mind as we started our climb in the morning, maybe because all that had occurred just the night before. It was not a difficult climb, but all I could think of was, how are we going to get back with a fully-grown bull and his daughter.

So as I was saying, it was a simple enough climb, as climbs go, on a fairly gentle gradient. Maybe that was the reason the bull (along with his daughter of course, no offence intended) had not realized how high the hill really was, and grazing merrily, had reached the top without breaking a sweat.

He compensated for that by oozing bucket-fulls of sweat since the evening, which now, akin to Newton’s apple, was taking the fastest path towards flatland, in the form of multiple streams of pale yellow streams. It was then that my wife could take it any more, and asked me, “Since when have you known that you could talk to animals? And when were you planning to tell me? If I had known about your power, I could have used it to get Mrs. Sharma’s dog to go pee on Mrs. Varma’s white clothes hanging outside her home. Bhala uski kameez meri kameez se safed kaise?” (How can her shirt be whiter than mine- Old Jungle Saying).

I indignantly replied, “I swear I came to know about it just last night during my conversation with the cow. Do you think I could even dream of hiding such a huge secret from you? You know I tell you everything darling.”

“That’s a load of bull shit,” she said.

“Of course not sweetheart,” I said, going on the defensive, “I did not tell you about Mark’s bachelor party and the stripper because I just forgot about it. I couldn’t possibly forget about such a big power, could I?”

“No,” she replied, mincing her words menacingly, “I meant that’s a load of bull shit, literally, in the middle of the track, and now, you have stepped right into it, both literally and figuratively. So what was this about the bachelor party and the stripper?”

I realized that I had just walked into a trap (along with a load of bull shit of course) and was now feeling like a lamb being led to the slaughter when suddenly, I heard a jingling of bells, and we both looked up to see a herd of sheep coming our way.

Thanking the Good Lord for this minor miracle, I stopped the head sheep and asked, “Baa Baa Black Sheep, have you seen the bull?” The sheep replied, “Yes Sir, Yes Sir, I saw him by the pull (Bridge in Hindi).” She then continued, “If you walk faster, you will catch him and his daughter, before they are taken by the little boy who lives down the lane.”

And so we ran towards the top of the hill, and suddenly, the stupid gradient of the hill did not seem that gentle, in fact, it was almost vertical now, or at least that is what our burning lungs and throbbing leg muscles would have us believe. And then, we saw them, a bull and his daughter, standing by the bridge, looking quizzically at us.

We approached them with measured steps, and I told the bull, “Sir, your wife sent us to fetch you since she was worried about you.” “That’s good,” replied the bull, “for even I am worried about me.”

“So let’s go,” I said, happy that he was already primed up for the walk downhill, “What are we waiting for?” The bull replied, “There’s only one small problem….I don’t want to go back.”

“WHATTTT?” I cried out, “But why?”

He replied, “Well, it’s so peaceful and quiet over here. Plenty of grass to graze, amazing sunrise and sunset, and most importantly, no silly cow to nag me the entire day. So, I decided that I will make myself a nice shed here, and spend the rest of my days raising my daughter alone.”

“But you HAVE to come down with me,” I howled, “Or your wife will kill me.”

The bull replied laconically, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

And it was then that in my desperation, I committed the biggest mistake of my life. I climbed on top of him, and shouted, “I WILL NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER. NOW LET’S GO!”

It was the worst thing that I could have done. The bull’s face reddened, and right there, that mild-mannered, docile creature transformed into a raging bull. He raised his two front legs high into the air, becoming almost as vertical as that last stretch of the hill in the process, and SHOOK with righteous anger.

I fell so hard that I broke the gold crown of my third molar, the one which I had got put after misreading the name of the James Bond movie as The Man with the Golden Gum. And Newton’s (and his apple’s) friend took over from there, and I rolled down the steep hill, slowly at first, and then, accelerating sharply, and contrary to the experience of stones, I was gathering a lot of moss on my way down, in addition to copious amounts of bull shit of course.

But in doing this, the bull too committed the biggest mistake of HIS life, for my wife, seeing me being attacked, transformed into Jhansi Ki Rani (legendary Indian warrior queen), and while the bull was still precariously balanced on his two rear legs, she PUSHED him with all her might, so he too started rolling down right behind me.

However, in doing so, my wife too committed the biggest mistake of HER life, for she entirely ignored the bull’s seemingly harmless daughter, not looking at her as a potential threat at all. An oversight which the young rascal then used to PUSH my wife down the hill, so that she too started rolling downhill behind me and the bull.

It was then that the young calf saw the three of us rolling down the hill, and thought, “This seems like a lot of fun.” And with a loud shout of “GERONIMO…..” she jumped behind us, and started rolling merrily down the hill.

And it was thus that our host, the farmer, out grazing the cow at the base of the hill, was greeted with a strange but wondrous sight, which he would not be able to unsee till the time he was alive.

I hit flat ground first, followed by the bull on top of me, followed by my wife on top of him, followed by a cackling calf on top of her. And as we lay entangled there, the farmer walked up to me and asked, “So, how was the sunrise?”

And a few hours latter, when all of us, had been untangled, the farmer asked me to tell him exactly what happened. To this day, he blames my broken golden crown, and hence, bloodied mouth for what happened next, but I think he did it just for kicks.

He wrote down our adventures of this morning in the form of a short poem, and sent it to the local newspaper for publication. And it was just our luck that even in those pre-internet days, the poem went viral like crazy, and we became famous, or rather infamous. The only problem was, the farmer had misheard (or so he claims) a key phrase in my narrative. I kept on sending corrigendums to publications around the world, but it was too late by then.

And so I thought I will use this forum to set the record straight and tell the correct version of the poem, and I trust you good people to share it as widely as possible to make my story mine again. The poem should have been:

Jack and Jill went up the hill

To fetch a bail (Bull in Hindi) and his daughter

Jack fell down and broke his crown

And Jill came tumbling after.

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Wait Until Dark

“Ssshhhh… Mom, I think I heard something,” whispered my young son in alarm. It was pitch dark in the living room, where we stood, and try as we might, we couldn’t really see anyone… or anything.
“Don’t be afraid,” I said, trying to calm him down while being on tenterhooks myself, “whoever it is can’t hurt you, I promise.”
But though I said that, I knew that we could be in big trouble, for I too could hear a faint scuffling sound as footsteps approached us. I had never found myself in such a situation before, I’d always had someone to watch over us. But now, with HIM gone, it was just me and my son. I found myself instinctively moving forward to stand in front of my son. I WOULD protect him at any cost.
The footsteps were much closer now.
A few seconds passed, and then…  I jumped as my son suddenly whispered in my ear, “What if he is one of THOSE?”
“I said I won’t let any harm come to you,” I said through gritted teeth, “Now shut up and stay behind me.”
And it was then that we saw him. He was huge, and well-built…. And he was carrying a gun.
We were close to panicking now, and praying desperately now for a miracle to save us. But maybe the Gods too were asleep, for the man started touching the side of a wall, and finally found the light switch….which he switched on with a jerk.
And then, he raised his gun towards me, and started coming forward.
I raised both my arms sideways, and tried to protect my son even if it meant sacrificing myself, but he just kept on coming, slowly, inexorably, almost as if we didn’t exist for him. And then….
…. He passed right through me, and then through my son, opened the refrigerator, and shouted, “Martha, there’s no one here. You must have heard something from the street outside.”
And as I hugged my son in relief, I silently offered a prayer of thanks to our Gods for making us ghosts invisible and undetectable to humans.
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