Monday, January 18, 2010

The Surprise Gift

'Yippie the old witch is dead' cooed Manisha the minute she opened the door to Jai.
Jai eyed her with a dumb-founded expression on his face.
Anyone would....given such a hectic day at office then being suddenly presented with the news of someone's death by his ecstatic wife.

'I'm talking about Mrs Gupta.' Manisha rolled her eyes.

'Oh HER.....' Jai slumped on the nearby couch looking immensely relieved.
For one agonizing moment he had thought his better half was talking about her mother-in-law.

'No more early morning bhakti sangeet or 60's hindi music or shrill shouting....ahhh' Manisha exclaimed while literally ballet-dancing her way to the kitchen.
'I can finally enjoy a life of peace and calm.....'
'Well what happened?' he asked fighting hard to keep a straight face.
'Apparently she had a stroke or something ....last night.They found her in the morning...'
'....As if that matters..I am just happy to know she is gone.Whew...' Manisha hummed to herself.

To any outsider Manisha's apparent euphoria over someone's death might have come as a shocker.But Jai was quite familiar with their eccentric(and now deceased) neighbor's obnoxiousness.So he didn't quite blame his wife.
They had shifted into this house 3 years back with the hope of getting away from all the noise and pollution in the heart of the city.
Manisha was a nature lover through and through,being a lass of the mountains.So it was difficult for her to adjust to her new life in the middle of a city bustling with activity.
But finally Jai had saved up enough money to be able to afford a decent-sized two-storied apartment in the greater part of the city.True his workplace was quite a distance away but he could make do with this little inconvenience.

'Anything to see her smile' he had thought at the moment.

But alas destiny had other plans!
Mrs Gupta was a 70 year-old widow who lived by herself in what could be called 'almost a mansion'.She was thin and shrivelled up like most old people are but her voice had surprising volume and strength.And she never hesitated to put it to use-be it for shouting at the paper-boy for being 10 minutes late or her domestic help if she spotted so much as a smudge on one of the dinner plates.
There probably wasn't a single soul in the neighborhood with whom she hadn't argued about something.
Vegetable vendors,the grocer,the night-guard-everyone had been at the receiving end of her wrath.
To put it in a word-she was notorious.
In the beginning when Manisha had been blissfully ignorant she had once made the mistake of ringing Mrs Gupta's doorbell with a bowlful of freshly made gajar ka halwa and a smile on her lips.

'I don't accept food from non-vegetarians.' she had said flatly and closed the door on Manisha's face.

The WAR began shortly after that.And Manisha was a fighter.
Unfortunately so was Mrs Gupta.
Initially Jai had thought that Manisha would calm down and let it go after a few days but he was proven wrong.
Their daily verbal battles went from bad to worse.

It began with-
Manisha:You are a horrible specimen of humanity.That is NO WAY to speak to anyone.
Mrs Gupta:Oh so now I'm supposed to learn manners from someone who is half my age?
Manisha:I'm younger than that.

or something along the lines of-

Manisha(poking her head out of the living room window):ARGH will you care to lower the volume?I DON'T WANNA LISTEN TO YOUR DAMNED BHAKTI SANGEET this early in the morning.....
Mrs Gupta(feigning ignorance):What did you say?I can't hear you....
Manisha(looking murderous):How do you listen to your stereo if you are so goddamn DEAF?

......and so on.

Sometimes Jai had the nagging suspicion that Mrs Gupta was thoroughly enjoying herself.

'I'm making Butter Chicken for dinner....are you okay with that?' Manisha shouted from the kitchen interrupting Jai's long chain of thoughts.

'Yeah....sure' he answered back.

There was no doubt about it.Manisha was in a viciously good mood.
Over the next week Manisha would often spot people coming to and from the Gupta doubt to pay their respects to the dead.She wondered whether Mrs Gupta's children were among them.
It was rumored that most of them were settled abroad and cared little about their paranoid mother.

'Oh well..whatever' she thought every time.
She was getting quite used to the lack of verbal death matches in her life however sometimes she ended up missing the old lady...or maybe the excitement that she brought into her otherwise dull life.
But she welcomed the peace and quiet nonetheless.
Life was back to being uneventful again...that is,it remained uneventful till the Sunday two weeks after Mrs Gupta's death.
Now Sundays meant that both Jai and Manisha slept in till atleast 8:30 in the morning...
So both of them were taken by surprise when their doorbell rang a little before 9 on this particular day.
Manisha gaped at the person who stood outside their door and seemed to be dressed in what seemed like formal attire-
'Ah sorry to disturb you this early in the morning.....but is this the Banerjee residence?' he asked with a smile.
'Yea it is......' Manisha said still unable to fathom his identity.
'Ah good...and I assume you are Manisha Banerjee?...' he said with the same unchanging expression.
'Yes that's correct.' she replied warily.
'Well nice to meet you....I'm Rakshit Chatterjee..the deceased Naina Gupta's attorney.'
Manisha tried to suppress a gasp. 'Could she have sued her right before her death or something???'
'Please come inside...'she somehow managed.
'Ah no that's okay...I've urgent business to attend to and this won't take long.'
He paused for a while and continued.
'I'll make this short...Mrs Gupta had submitted a hand-written testament to me about 6 months ago with clear instructions that it was supposed to be her will and I was to be the executioner....although I was well aware of it's contents all this time I was instructed to reveal them only after her death.....' he paused a little and smiled at the confused expression on Manisha's face.

'Well well Mrs Banerjee...seems like you were her favorite neighbor...Mrs Gupta has left the ownership of her house to you.'

Manisha was rendered incapable of speech.
'Um I think there has been a mistake....there's just no way...' she said recovering after a good many seconds.
'...She has clearly mentioned your name along with your home address and other details....there's no mistake Mrs Banerjee... it IS you' he cut across.
By this time even Jai,who had been eavesdropping on their conversation all this time,wore the same shocked expression as Manisha's.
'Well that's all..there will be a meeting a few days later where I will officially disclose the contents of the will to all parties will no doubt be informed of the date,time and venue..'

'So then....I must take my leave now..thank you for your time' he smiled again.
He was almost at their gate when he seemed to remember something and returned where Manisha stood frozen like an ice-sculpture at the open door.
'Well one last thing...Mrs Gupta asked me to deliver a message to you...'
'W..what is it?' Manisha somehow managed despite the tears that were threatening to break her composure.
'Tell her it's a thank you gift-that's what she said.' Mr Chatterjee smiled one last time.

Side notes for Non-Indian readers:
bhakti sangeet is a form of devotional music
gajar ka halwa is a popular North-Indian sweet dish made of carrots,sweetened milk and ghee
Authors note:This piece of fiction is purely conceived from my imagination.The incidents described may or may not happen given a real life situation.I had written this solely with the intention of driving home the fact that appearances are often deceptive.It's not fair to form an opinion without having sufficient information.More often than not we end up misjudging old people-like our grandfathers/grandmothers,in-laws or parents.No doubt they keep their set of outdated beliefs,prejudices and superstitions intact-but that's not reason enough to hate them or ignore their existence.That's outright cruel.

Sig 2


Nightwing said...

umm...let's see....dialogues are pretty flat....character development a bit unrealistic....then the predictable twist...overall...not that good.....the message is kinda old... :D :D

just kidding...of course it's beautiful...and i am not just saying that coz i dont want to hurt your's really beautiful..made me cry... :P

Samadrita said...

@Anish:Baka..I appreciate an honest opinion any day.
You're hard to please aren't ya?
In a desperate bid to resurrect this dead place I ended up writing this.
ARGH I need better ideas. >_<
I promise I will surprise you next time. :D

shinnichi kudo said...

ur article was really very was beautiful. r u planning to become a writer in future.
hey can u write an article on 'sibling

Shruti said...

oye sammy, it was really touching! I liked your narration a lot! But I felt, it could have been still better.. Btw, even if the neighbor was a nuisance, her demise ll make us feel na? Atleast for the fact Nobody will shout at maid/paper boy/grocer, especially at her! How come she is happy O_O

But I enjoyed reading a story in your blog after a longgg time :)

P.S : I have started stalking too :D, Write often girl.. Btw, No offense meant with the comment! Don't take it to ur heart!

atindriyo said...

Yippie! The Old Witch is Dead !

Well written, my friend...

Just one little thing: transfer of immovable property like a house, even in cases of inheritance, can NOT be legally made just by submitting a handwritten note to the attorney...Things like attestation by a minimum of two witnesses and power of attorney and registration is needed :)

but other than that, this was indeed very touching....heart-warming, so to say....

Keep Writing !

pawan said...

The humane edge was missing. Two women fight, that's natural but the fact that Manisha felt no remorse about the old lady's death is a bit cliche. But on the brighter side a few dialogue's are good and the hilarious one
"Mrs Gupta:Oh so now I'm supposed to learn manners from someone who is half my age?
Manisha:I'm younger than that."

Ill give it a 6/10. The emotion was not right somewhere. Otherwise a goos read.

Samadrita said...

@shinnichi kudo:Hey welcome to my blog.I'm glad you liked the story...although come to think of it my heart wasn't really in it when I wrote this:(
'sibling rivalry' huh?Let's see maybe some time in the future... :)
Come back again.
And yes I wanna be a writer!

Samadrita said...

@Shruti:Lol why do ya sound so wary?This place is always open for criticism you know :)
Manisha was being selfish for a while...that's why she sounded so happy to learn that the old lady was gone.You never know how people might act...maybe some people are too blatantly cruel.
Although you do have a valid point. :D
Yes I will be writing regularly from now on.

Samadrita said...

@atindriyo:Whoa whoa whoa..I didn't consider all the intricate details while mentioning the will :P
And let's take this for granted that the attorney skips the part regarding witnesses and registration while informing Manisha about Mrs Gupta's will.
Thanks for the welcome! :)
I hope Delhi's good for you!

Samadrita said...

@pawan:Right-o.You've just about summed up my own views on this story.
Stay tuned to this place and I will surprise you with a better once next time.
Keep reading! :)

Daone said...

This one was a pretty decent piece. It was going smoothly, with the dialogues having an earthy humor. But the end was extremely predictable. Besides there has to be SOME reason for someone to confer her whole property to a neighbor. A nice little incident showing at least some kind of bonding should've done that.
What's nice is the improved writing style. With a better plot, you can fare really well.

Karthik said...

Feels good to read a story on your blog after a long time. :-)
A simple story narrated beautifully.
It was a pleasant read.
Hope to read more. :-)

Meenakshi said...

story line is a bit cliche.. But narration style is cool.. twist was exected, but the post on a whole made me lol. the small convos of arguments between Mrs. Gupta and Manisha and the initial opening conversation was awesome...

waiting for more n more.. :)

Samadrita said...

@Daone:True.But she didn't give up on her entire property...just the house.Who knows how much property she actually owns?
But yes I fully agree with the things you pointed out. :(
I'll come up with something better next time. :)

Samadrita said...

@Karthik:I'm glad you chose to refrain from pointing out any flaws. :P
Good to know you liked the way of narration.

Samadrita said...

@Meenakshi:Hey nice to see you again on my blog.
I'm happy to know I was able to provide you with a few lol moments. :D

Karthik said...

Arey?! There weren't any flaws yar. Story was so-so, and you know that. But when I'm writing a story myself or reading somebody else's story, I give more importance to the narration. You know, HOW the story has been told, not WHAT kind of story it is. And your narration is always impeccable. I'm telling this without a tinge of flattery.

Selenium said...


The ending got me. Good psychological impact :)

Samadrita said...

@Karthik:Thank ya! *bows gracefully*
I will come up with a better plot next time.

@Selenium:I'm glad!

sawan said...

Samadrita, that was so emotional!! good one.

Samadrita said...

@sawan:Good to know that.Thanks :)

somsubhra said...

I agree with some of the other comments here. The character development and the relationship between the two women wasn't "detailed" enough to justify the end result. I guess it is to be assumed that Manisha was like a breath of fresh air to the old lady's monotonous life..but that is not explicitly or implicitly stated (through words and/or actions/behaviors)anywhere. Other than this,it's a fine short fiction. I would rate it 6.5/10.

Looking forward to more good stuff from you,now that you're back in action.

Samadrita said...

@somsubhra: You commented!Thankee.....made my day truly! :)
Yep I'll try to come up with something better next time!

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