3.24.2006

How Kanjoos became Makkichoos


Once upon a time there was a bald headed flaky skinned thin guy called Kanjoos (Miser in Hindi). He was a miser of such miserable proportions that he would eat one piece of chapatti (Indian bread) over four days. How he would do that was very simple. On day 1 he would dip the bread for ten minutes in water (which was free courtesy the government) and then drink the water convincing himself that all the essential nutrients have been transferred from the bread piece to the water. He would use the same piece of bread and do the same process for the next two days. On the fourth day he would eat the piece of bread with relish and a sense of contentment much to the relief of his tortured digestive system.

One fine day Kanjoos went to a tea stall.

Now this tea shop had lore of its own. The shop itself was in the ground floor of a decrepit building bang in the middle of the commercial hub of the city. One wouldn’t notice it unless one was previously aware of its presence. While the exterior walls had pan (betel leaves) stains the interior walls held decades’ old grime. The proprietor Mr. Lal was not the kind of person who believed in the adage Cleanliness is next to Godliness. He was a short portly man who could use his protruding belly to hold anything from a book to a tea cup for him. He was shabby in his attire and always had a sleazy smile for his customers and a big knotted frown for the one other person who was a constant fixture in the shop the tea-maker-cum-waiter Shamsher.

Because of the low influx of customers the owner and server duo had come up with a novel scheme to reap profits out of the poor souls who did venture in. They had captured a fly, named it Leela and imprisoned it in a matchbox. Now using a fly as an accomplice in one’s monkey business is not easy. They had trained Leela for a number of months during the length of the day when there were no customers in the shop, which was a lot of time to make a champ out of the fly. Leela had been patiently taught to do one trick. As soon as released from the match box she would fly straight for any tea glass in sight. She just had to stick her body to the glass very close to the hot liquid. She would be rescued in a couple of minutes by Shamsher and would be rewarded with a few minutes of gluttony inside a dustbin.

Kanjoos strolled into the tea stall after having spent a nice miserly hour shopping in the markets. He was greeted by Mr.Lal with the same sleazy smile from behind the cash counter and belly. He returned the smile albeit a little hesitatingly for he was not used to any special treatment from any business men for the measly amount of money he would spend. He occupied the table in one corner of the shop not that it would make any difference. He could have had any seat for the whole shop was void of customers apart from himself anyway. But why Kanjoos chose that particular table was for a special reason. It was next to a window and just outside the window a person was sitting and reading a magazine. Now Kanjoos purported to do the same i.e. read that person’s magazine through the window of the tea shop. As he sat down Shamsher bounded to his side to get his order. Kanjoos ordered for half a glass of tea and settled down to read the magazine. He did not notice Shamsher return in five minutes with his tea. He sipped on his tea very slowly. Shamsher returned a couple of minutes later to ask him if the tea was tasty. Kanjoos failed to observe a matchbox in Shamsher’s hand which was opened in one fine movement. Leela was out in seconds and was hovering near Kanjoos’ table. She then dived into the glass of tea and stuck fast. Kanjoos was fast into the magazine story. Mr. Lal looked at Shamsher without a frown (which for him was the boss’ smiling face). Shamsher immediately hurried over to Kanjoos and informed him about the fly. He also put on a look of disgust to add a convincing touch. He politely clucked at the misfortune that had occurred in the tea glass and offered to him another. Of course the attitude subtly displayed that Kanjoos would have to pay for the second one also. But Kanjoos look unperturbed. He just glanced at Shamsher with a look of frustration and at the fly. He completely ignored Shamsher’s plea and turned towards the magazine. Shamsher not being able to handle the situation took a few paces back and glanced at his boss. The boss looked angry and the frown was back. He nodded strongly towards Kanjoos. Shamsher went back for a second attempt. This time Kanjoos even consented to say something to the effect of how much could a fly steal of his tea. Dully Shamsher looked back at his boss and shrugged. The boss was thunderous. His face had a huge black cloud which could burst open any minute. By the time Shamsher went back to Kanjoos’ table Kanjoos was very irritated with him. Not only had the guy outside the window gone ahead and turned the page but also Kanjoos, who had not been able to read the last column on the previous page, could not follow the story continued on the next.

As Shamsher opened his mouth in an attempt to implore once again, Kanjoos lifted the fly off the glass put it into his mouth sucked all the tea on it and threw it on the table. Lifted his glass drank up the rest of the tea, paid and left.

He left behind Mr.Lal looking at him with his mouth open and Shamsher bent over Leela wondering if she was alive.

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