The Narrator

  

                                                                        

                                                                                    Eleven

                                                                             MANPASAND

 

 

    Tara is sitting in her chair in the boardroom.  There's a neat pile of the papers of the short-listed applicants on her table.  She presses a buzzer.

    Vilas and Osman enter.  They sit facing her.

Tara:  "Your fist job will be to personally investigate all these short-listed candidates.  Everything must be done discreetly, of course."

    Vilas and Osman nod.

    Tara, continuing:  "When you do your sleuthing, you must try to discover the hidden weaknesses of these suitors. You be aware throughout of what I am looking for and ask yourselves if the person being investigated fits the bill.  Let me tell you a little more about the kind of person I have in mind for a husband."  As she warms up to her description of an ideal mate, she appears to get carried away.  "He should be rich, but not a businessman or industrialist--they always try to take over my

business.  Let's just say, he should be a man of independent means.  Of course, he must be good looking, sophisticated, well-mannered, charming, considerate, preferably unencumbered. He should have the capacity to love me, if not sooner then later--and, if necessary, he ought to be prepared to live in my house and do as I say.  And yet he must be intelligent and independent."

    Vilas and Osman, more and more overwhelmed by Tara's catalogue, nod dubiously.

    A few days later, on the streets of Bombay, Vilas and Osman, the detective duo ride the latter's old scooter on their assignment.  It's also time for another song.  This is sung as a duet, with Vilas and Osman alternating.  You see lots of footage of Bombay.  There's also a comic routine between the two friends. Sort of like Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge from Sholay.  This one goes somewhat like this:

    "Two madcaps are going to find

    An ideal groom for a hard to please bride.  O la, la.

 

    She's pretty, she's wealthy, she's beautiful,

    But she's also an odd one, I'll tell you that.   O la, la.

 

    Rich, handsome, intelligent, but obedient,

    What an impossible combination to want.  O la, la.

 

    Independent, strong, yet docile and domestic,

    God help you, poor groom, whoever you might be.  O la, la.

 

    It's so hard to please a woman, now I know it;

    Give me, any day, a man for a friend.  O la, la.

 

    The two men cut capers and sing in turns, caricaturing Tara's demands.  They disappear into the traffic of the city.

    In the meanwhile, Tara has been at home the whole day,  relaxing, pottering around, fixing up the house, garden, etc.  In total contrast to her executive demeanour.  She's enjoying her solitude and break from a crushing schedule. The clock in the dining room shows eight thirty p.m.  Tara hums to herself and brings a dish to the table.  She announces with obvious pride: "Daddy, yeh maine apne hathon se banaya hai aap ke liye.  I have made this myself, especially for you."

    Finding his daughter in a good mood and, for once, with so much time on her hands, the doting father launches on his favourite topic.

Vijay Pratap:  "What a delightful surprise, my dear, to see you home so early.  Perhaps you have at last realized that money and business are not everything in life.  You must find time to relax and to look after youself.  In fact, I'll never be at peace until you get married.

Tara:  "Oh, daddy, how can you be so..." Vijay Pratap, brushing aside her interruption:  "Anyhow, let me tell you that I've decided to go away to our farm in Dahanu for about a month.  I need a break from this daily tension; besides the farm needs some looking after." Tara, is a bit surprised at this unexpected announcement.  What sort stress could her Dad have when he spent his whole day playing golf, drinking, smoking, reading, and watching his favourite movies on the TV.  She is also delighted that while she's looking for a husband, he'll be out of town.  How convenient!  That way, she'll be able to surprise him.  Quickly concealing her feelings, she says: "Yes, Dad.  You do need a break so badly.  I'm fully behind you on this."

Vijay Pratap, continuing pompously:  "Good.  I am glad you think so.  Now what was I saying?  Yes, I am unable to cope with these daily tensions....  And I repeat that the main reason for my worrying is your refusal to get married.  Until you are married, I will never be at peace...." Tara:  "Let me assure you daddy that in a month's time when you're back, you will have no occasion for any complaints whatsoever.  Just give me one month!"

    It's the father turn to look surprised.  "You mean you're going to do something about my longheld desire to have something tiny, soft, pink and practically helpless, doing su su on my dressing gown...?" Tara:  "Oh, daddy, how can you...?"

    It's morning in the Bajrang Bali chawl.  The whole tenement is a hive of activity, with residents trying to get ready to go to work.

    Osman walks up to Vilas's place, humming.  Vilas's mother, Seetabai, notices him:  "Oh! so it's you.  So good-looking, but utterly good-for-nothing!"  She's obviously fond of Osman.  "Both of you are useless," she says, now including her own son in her customary tirade.  "Why don't you find some decent jobs and

settle down like everyone else?  Always up to some mischief...." 

    Osman disregards the old lady's complaining mutter and dives to touch her feet:  "Long live, Son," she says, a look of tenderness coming into her eyes involuntarily.  Then she says crossly again, "Go, go.  Do something useful."

    Vilas, freshly bathed, dressed in his only suit, emerges from inside.  Vilas's mother expresses her surprise at his dress. Osman and he joke about their mission:  "Aai, we're going for an interview--not to give one, but to interview someone, ha, ha." Mother:  "Up to some no good again? If you get hurt, remember I'll break your bones."

    She doesn't seem to understand what Vilas and Osman find funny about her last comment. Vilas:  "Don't worry, Aai. It's nothing dangerous this time, but we hope it will be a lot of fun." Mother:  "I am tired of these stunts of yours.  Why don't you settle down, bring a bahu home?  Only then I'll be at peace.  She can then worry about you and your ways..."

    Vilas winks at Osman:  "Aai, we are going to do just that. Fix up a partner..."

    His mother perks up momentarily, looking at Vilas expectantly.

    "...but for someone else."  They laugh and exit.

    The mother looks confused, as usual.

 

    While riding to meet the first candidate, Osman shouts out Mr. Harish Kumar's profile to Vilas with many antics.  He is the youngest Managing Director director of a public sector undertaking.  He heads the goverernment's other airline, "Airdoot."  We see his photograph in the folder that Osman has. The man has the face of a prize fighter; cold, hooded eyes, strong jaw, cleft chin, and a heavy, sallow complexion.  There is something both hard and supercilious about the man, blister thin

mustaches and all. Osman:  "Bap re bap, ye to bilkul dictator lagta hai."  He looks like a real dictator.  They arrive at the Airdoot corporate office at Nariman Point.

 

    A little later, inside the large office room.  Plush layout with rows of cabins at one end and Harish Kumar's room at the other.  Outside is seated the M.D.'s chaprasi.

    Vilas and Osman walk towards the secretary's desk. There's a tense atmosphere in the office as if something is abnormal. Secretary:  "Yes?"

Vilas:  "I want to see Harish." Secretary:  "Mr. Kumar, the M.D., is not in.  Will you please take a seat."

    Both sit down, start looking around.  After a while they begin to fidget about.  The whole place seems to be suffocatingly efficient.  Vilas deliberately speaks loudly: "I wonder what this Harish is upto these days."

Silence.  People look at them with hostility.

Vilas continues:  "I am a very old friend of his.  I know him very well, but haven't seen him for years." More hostile stares.

    Chaprasi brings them tea.  He's an old, stubborn type.  Vilas:  "Tell me, Chachaji, how is your boss?"

    No reply.  Old chaprasi leaves the tea and goes back to his seat.  After they finish, he comes back for the cups.  Osman  softens him by giving him a cigarette.

Vilas:  "I know the chap since ages, but I don't know if he is the same as before or changed."

Chaprasi:  "Humph!  I have seen them come and go, but no one has been as strict, unpopular, or stingy as this man.  What do I care?  I retire next year.   No one can spoil anything for me now."

    Vilas alters his tone:  "Yes the fellow was an awful bully even as a child.  Look how he beat me because I didn't give him my watch.  Shows a mark on his forehead."

    Everyone looks up.  A few people come and surround Vilas and Osman. They all begin to complain about long hours, poor pay, and hard work.

    Osman: "Why don't you do something about it?  Like organize a revolt against him or start a signature campaign, etc."  They begin to talk among themselves.  Suddenly, the intercom rings. The secretary announces, "The M.D. is coming up in two minutes."

    Everyone disperses to their places.  Vilas and Osman make a quick exit saying:  "Don't tell him we came.  We'd hate to see the horrible chap again."

    The lift comes up.  Vilas and Osman get in as a well-dressed man, with a chaprasi holding his brief case, comes out.  Osman, quite exuberantly:  "Hello!"

Harish Kumar looks puzzled.

    The lift closes and Vilas completes Osman's sentence:  "And goodbye."

 

 

 
  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape