And so the Diwali, Dhanteras, Bhaubheej week is over. And my ‘Dhan’ has somewhat lessened. Have you noticed how the vacuous smiles and vociferous ‘Happy Diwali saab’ from watchmen, liftmen, security guards and assorted government personnel starts long before Diwali? In fact it kicks in gently and persuasively just post Navratri. By the time the first phooljadi hits the street, the request for ‘bakshish’ from these gents is deafening.
Not a problem, except for the remainder of the year neither help nor humour from them is forthcoming. First off the blocks, ringing my doorbell, are six telephone guys, none of whom I’ve ever seen before.
They chant in chorus, “MTNL se saab, Diwali bakshish.” “Mera phone ek saal se bandh hai,” I let fly, hoping for an embarrassed retreat. Instead they explain helpfully -- “Saab baarish ki vajeh se, poora area mein sab line down hai, paani cable box mein gaya hai.”
The monsoon finished four months ago, I argue. “Saab kaam chalu hai, do-chaar mahina aur lagega. Agle saal phone chalega, hamara guarantee, saab,” they reassure me soothingly. (Explain to me this Bombayism -- you call your electrician. He says -- “Saab main do-chaar ghanta mein aaonga.” Which is it, dude, two hours or four?)
The doorbell rings again, it is now four postmen, sporting such subservient smiles, the Joker seems like a tragic hero in comparison. Through the fake warmth they seem to subtly suggest, “We are your messenger pigeons bringing you gifts from distant destinations. Surely that is worth something, miniscule for you but substantial for us.”
And you want to say, I don’t need you guys anymore -- everything I need is either emailed or couriered these days. But the grins don’t fade, reminding you that eight months from now, there will be that one truly valuable document, that can neither be mailed nor DHL-ed, and that day you will think of us, the Khaki Clad Clan. So pay up, nahin toh bahuth pachtaoge.
Next come the BEST gents, followed by the courier blokes (their smiles a tad subtler than the postal service, relative private sector sophistication, I suppose), the Tata Sky cable chaps, local MLAs, NGOs. You’ve contributed to every charity and con operation and just when you think the daylight robbery is over, the doorbell rings again.
Three guys straight out of Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs, only older. “Saab, Telegram service” “Kya, telegram service? Telegram service ek saal se bandh hai..!!!,” I holler. “Haan sir, telegram service bandh hai, par Diwali chaloo hai, na? Happy Diwali, saab.” I feel like a burnt out sparkler.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.