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Monday, November 28, 2011

Unfinished Business

Sundaram sat in the backseat and looked outside his car window. The city had changed so much in the last twenty years. He had come to India on business for the first time in many years. He had a nostalgic feeling looking at some of the landmarks that still stood the test of time among the more modern coffee shops, retail stores and fast food joints.

The two elephant statues by the side of the stairs at Annanagar club reminded him of the day when his school bus had a minor accident with a truck right in front of it. You generally don't forget the moment when you learn your first swear word. The Tower park was another regular place where he spent countless hours with friends.

The car was now past the Annanagar Roundtana. Sundaram noticed the store and asked the driver to stop the car.
* * *
“Anbu, the farewell is just a week away. We need to get gifts for our school teachers,” said Sundaram.


“Yeah, I know. We are going to a movie this weekend. Are you coming?” asked Anbu.


“Which movie and who else is coming?”


“Ram, Kumar, Ashok and I are planning to see Kishen Kanhaiya!”

Sundaram thought about it for a second. He had seen the Shilpa Shirodkar's stills in Filmfare and wanted to go. Although the practical problem of convincing his mother to get money for the tickets remained, he said yes.

* * *

The gang walked out of the Melody theatre after watching Anil Kapoor's double-act in the movie. They got into a bus. Along the way they were cracking jokes about movie clichés and voluptuous Bollywood women among other things. They got down at the Gemini stop.


“Lets go to Landmark. Maybe we can get the cards there?”


“What is our budget?”


“Part of the money is going into decorations and other event arrangements. I think we have 200 rupees give or take for buying the Thank You cards.”


“Thank You cards are a good idea, but can we gift something useful? Like a pen or something...”


“That is a good suggestion.”

They spent the next one hour at Landmark looking for Thank You cards and didn't find anything that met their budgetary constraints. The pens were even more expensive and they finally walked out without buying anything from the store. The store assistants probably heaved a sigh of relief upon their departure as they were getting antsy about these punks ruffling through the display copies of Filmfare, Debonair, India Today and other magazines.

The job was now delegated to Ram and Sundaram as the friends split up on their way home.


* * *


It was a small stationery shop. There was a person at the counter and another man at the cash register. Books, pens, ink, cellophane tape, scissors, glue and other items adorned the shelves. Sundaram and Ram walked in.

“We are looking for pens...” said Ram.

The assistant at the counter showed regular fountain pens. Ram looked at Sundaram who was shaking his head in disagreement.

“Can we get something better? We need twenty five of them!” said Sundaram.

The man sitting at the cash register walked towards them.

“Why don't you get #210, #302 and the Parkers?” He directed the assistant.

He must be the owner of the store thought Sundaram.

The assistant climbed up on a stool and returned back with half a dozen boxes with different kinds of pens.

“These are seventeen rupees a piece. These are twenty...” The shopkeeper explained about the writing instruments.

Ram looked at Sundaram. They both did the math mentally. There was no way to fit any of that in their budget.

He looked at the shopkeeper with the corner of his eye without making eye contact to ensure that he wasn't looking at them. He then lifted the box of cheap fountain pens to check the price as he was too embarassed to ask. Luckily, another customer walked into the store and the assistant walked away to help them. The owner was still with them. Ram pushed the boxes away from him and looked up at the shopkeeper. That is when he noticed. The shopkeeper was blind.

Ram pulled Sundaram aside and whispered into his ear.

“The man is blind!”

Sundaram was shocked. He looked at the man. His eyes were transfixed on an imaginary point behind them. He was blind indeed.

“I don't think we can buy any of these pens. They are all outside our budget! Let us end this embarrassment right now and get out!” said Ram.

“Okay. Let me handle the exit strategy...” said Sundaram and turned to the shopkeeper.

“We need something nicer! None of this stuff impresses us. Do you have anything better?”

The man paused for a second. “No, this is all we have. I am sorry.”

“Alright, thanks. We don't need them!”

Sundaram and Ram walked out.

“God! That was embarrassing...”
* * *

The place looked very different. But Sundaram knew that he was at the right place. He got out of his car and walked in. The store looked much brighter and spacious now.

“Can I help you sir?” asked the shopkeeper.

“Yes. I would like to get twenty five pens please. The best ones you've got!” said Sundaram.

2 comments:

Trin Carl said...

Great blog I like thE blog and the short fiction aspects

Alma said...

Great. I mostly write horror stories but love to read different genres. Nice story and I look forward to reading more.

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