Two minutes to ten and I was still 10 mins away from my office on the fourth floor of Commerce house, in probably the most crowded world of offices- Fort, Bombay. I was in my second year of graduation when I got this offer from a friend of mine, who was taking a break from work. It suited me well as college began early in the morning; I would have to miss the last lecture which was no big deal, considering we spent most of our time in the common room reading Mills & boons anyway. It would fetch me some pocket money too....not a bad idea!
Problem was I was going to get late today and the old 'Granpa' would bite my head off. I was literally flying past the footpath liberally littered by my mallu brethren selling their wares; they could spot a fellow sistereen from far, 'chechi not so fast, give us a glance too' . I hated them more for calling me chechi than their silly comments. They must be atleast a decade older, but thats the way they addressed everyone.
I was panting as I ran up the four floors, not bothering to join the long queue for the lift. It was a relief to see that Granpa wasnt in yet. I plonked myself on the small rickety sofa outside- long worn out from years of use. Our office was a four room ensemble, tiny with no ventilation. There were about 10 offices on our side of the floor, all of them almost identical.
Ten minutes later our hero walks in, swinging a 50 yr old mutliple layered tiffinbox covered with a 100 year old cloth cover. The peon, Kannan walks in at same time, following Granpa, carefully mimicking the old mans limp. It was difficult to keep a straight expression.
The office was populated by all of five people- granpa, two peons, my colleague and friend Jaishree and me. Me and Jaishree(chechi) we were put up in this cubicle with no windows, one table fan fit on the wall and shelves around us filled with bill books.
Our Granpa would recline on a revolving chair - sometimes going round and round, sometimes his leg on the table- mind wandering, talking to himself. Sometimes we would catch him clipping his nose hair with an antique scissor, other times he would be dozing. All his waking hours he would plant one of his eye on us through the small opening in the partition between his cabin an our cubicle. Every hour or so he would bellow 'girls, stop your andagundu (thats how northies refer malayalam to) and keep working'. We would chuckle and go back to what we were doing.
Earlier on when he would shout out to me," Sumitra ( I have no clue who this sumitra is but I guessed it was me), come here!! I would leave all that I was doing and run, and he'd order 'fan ON karo'. Slowly I learnt not to be too eager- that made him change his tactics too, Sumi betta, please come here....Jaishree and me never got tired of laughing. In between there would be altercations between the peon and the boss. Everytime, the bellows of the Boss gradually tapering to a squeak.
One hot afternoon, our noses deep inside our bill books, suddenly we hear this huge thud making us jump out of our skin. As we looked through the partition we could see the chair swivelling all alone- like in those scary movies- and no Granpa. Then slowly from the ground arose a hand followed by a loud bellow 'Sumeee, come pick me up'!! Our granpa had dozed off on his chair and slid down. I swear I did not laugh that day (hahahhaha) but I did have big trouble shutting Jaishrees mouth.
Come Four o clock Pukhan and Sukhan would walk in. They were the stalwart sons of our granpa. Pukhraj and Sukhraj, Tall, handsome, sauve , educated gentlemen. Pukhan was the soft-spoken one. He was allergic to hay and as one of our four rooms was used to store the meters we produced at the factory, the meters being covered in hay, Pukhan would be scratching himself to agony all the time. It was indeed a comical sight.
Once they marched in, our old stalwart would be relegated to the other tiny room. There he would sit like a toothless tiger behind bars . A totally new man from the morning guy. Everytime I passed his cabin he would smile at me, like I was his most dear child. Jaishree and me ,we spent most of our time laughing into the bill books. I guess it was this granpa and his antics that kept me coming back to the office day after day for a year. After that I bid adieu to catch up with my final year studies.
The memories linger on.....