Story 5. Chance Meeting And Memories.

I had posted this story three years ago almost to the day. I hope that reposting this will get my newer readers to enjoy the story too. I am posting this again so that it can tie up with the coincidence of the other phone call from Ahmedabad mentioned in the last paragraph. That phone call was from the friend who took me for Xrays and to the Orthopedist. That story eventually got published as Story 3. The Room Boy two weeks ago. To bring this story up to date, I never met that gentleman again. He never came to meet my colourful father. My colourful father who appears in the story in the present tense, is now no more. The comments in the original post are worth a dekho too.

“I had gone to our local supermarket to get some vegetables and fruit on Tuesday. As I was entering the main door, a portly gentleman was exiting and I waited for him to, as he was carrying many bags in both hands. He duly nodded and said a mumbled thanks to me and went on his way.

As I finished my shopping and was leaving, I found the same gentleman waiting outside the door and nodded to him. He asked me if I was Mr. Rajgopaul from Delhi. I replied that I was indeed Rajgopaul but currently residing in Pune. He then asked me if I remembered meeting him at Delhi. I tried to place his face but just could not. I had been stationed in Delhi between 1980 and 1983. My recollection of that period is overwhelmingly one of the constant pain that I lived with till 1985, when I had my first hip replacement.

Now for the story.

I was waiting for a flight out of Delhi and had just come out of the gents’ room when I heard someone calling for Ramesh. I just kept going to find a seat when someone joyfully calling me Ramesh and asking if I was deaf slapped me on my back. I turned around
to find this joyous face hoping to have a chat with his friend whose expression quickly turned to disappointment on seeing me instead of Ramesh. He apologised profusely for the mistaken identity. He said that I resembled his friend from college days Ramesh quite a bit. Not being one to miss an opportunity, I quipped that my father is quite a colourful personality. He looked puzzled for a moment, but got the joke and guffawed quite loudly. He accompanied me to the sitting lounge and sat next to me and told me how much he enjoyed the joke.

I took out the morning’s newspaper to do the day’s crossword puzzle, when he excused himself and asked me if he could say something personal. I confirmed that he could and he very hesitatingly pointed out that I was wearing my singlet, which was peeping out of my open neck shirt, wrong side out. I informed him that I did that deliberately to keep the seam side out to reduce the friction. He just said “Oh, I see.” and turned away. After a few moments, he got up, requested me to keep an eye on his brief case while he visited the gents’ room and disappeared. He reappeared after a few minutes with a huge big grin on his face with the top button of his shirt open and told me that he too had gone and done the same thing with his singlet, and thanked me for the tip.

He then introduced himself. I don’t remember if we exchanged visiting cards, but the chances are that we did or at least I would have given mine to him. He recognized me after all these years from my walking stick, limp and my beard and was happy to confirm that I was the same fellow who taught him that trick. He said that he still wears his singlet the wrong side out. I said that I don’t anymore, as I had changed over to ribbed singlets instead of the old style interlock knits. He asked me to show what the difference was. I unfastened the top button of my kurtha and showed him. He told me that once again he has learned something new from me and he too would change over and took down the name of the brand that I wear. He also recollected the story of my father being colourful and how many times he had told this to his friends. I told him that my colourful father is still colourful and living with me and we parted with a promise from him to visit me again soon and to pay his respects to my colourful father.

Just imagine something like this happening after almost thirty years! Not only that, on my return home, I got a phone call from someone in Mumbai which led to another story from the eighties, but this time based at Ahmedabad, about which, I shall write another post soon.

Do things like this happen to you?”

Head Of The Household.

I was in my lungi and singlet with a hand towel thrown over my shoulder. For those of my readers who do not know what that would like like, here is a picture of a model, which is not me, with exactly the kind of clothes that I was wearing.

It was a humid morning and I was perspiring from all the work of the morning. I was cooking lunch when the door bell rang.

It was the enumerator for the latest Census exercise of India.

He took one look at me and asked “Saheb ghar mein hain kya?” translated, “is the head of the household at home?” Not one to miss the opportunity, I asked him in Hindi, yes he is and who should I say is calling on him? When he said that he was the census enumerator and produced his identity card, I invited him inside, made him sit at the dining table, switched on the fan and asked him if he would like to have some water or cool drink. He gratefully asked for a glass of water but added that I should call the Sahib quickly as he had to visit a number of households for the census.

I gave him the glass of water and went upstairs, had a quick wash, put on a kurta and my glasses and came down and sat down at the dining table next to him and said let us start. At that point of time, this is how I looked but with a pair of very professorial looking glasses on too.

He knocked over the chair on which he was sitting, in his hurry to stand up and apologize for mistaking me for the domestic servant! I laughed, made him laugh too and made him comfortable again.

Having concluded the census interview, he started to apologize again and I stopped him and told him the story of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar and his clothes. “Ishwar Chandra stuck to the traditional Indian attire of his home-spun cotton Dhoti-Kurta, woven by his mother. He was once denied entry into a club by the gatekeeper as he was not dressed according to the dress code of the club. He then went back home, changed into a suit and was promptly given admission by the same gatekeeper who refused to recognize him before. At the dinner in the club, he kept on talking to his clothes and prodded them to have food. The host and the other guests at the party were bewildered and then he explained the incident with the gatekeeper. He elaborated that respect is increasingly being accorded to sartorial affairs, rather than cerebral affairs.”

The much enlightened man told me that he had never heard of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, thanked me profusely for the story and for not taking offense at his gaffe and went on his way.