How are you? Two days ago I thought, ok long time since I read The Day of the Jackal . Maybe I will read it again once more. Why not? So I went to bookshelf in bedroom to find the copy. It has been in my family since at least 1975. Suddenly I heard sound of phone ringing. I looked in pants pocket. No. Shirt pocket. No. Living room teapoy. No. Dining table. No. Bathroom. No. Balcony. No.
Phone is ringing, ringing. ‘Njan Oru Sindhu Kaavadi Chindhu’ song from superhit 1985 Tamil film Sindhu Bhairavi . I thought, stupid phone. It rings means world should stop spinning or what. It’s ok. I will call back later. As if I am managing director of Murugappa Group and some emergency is there.
Then it stopped ringing. Just as I was finishing first chapter, it started ringing again. My god, why Graham Bell invented telephone instead of something useful like rosemilk-flavoured mysur pak.
Suddenly, Mrs. Mathrubootham came into living room like pneumonia enters lungs. She said, “Old man how many times I have told you just because rosemilk is there, don’t switch off your brain. Your phone was inside fridge. If I hear that song one more time, I will put it in pressure cooker for four whistles minimum.”
Madam/ Sir, why so much jealousy of Suhasini? Am I jealous of Madhavan? No. Why? Because I can act.
Anyway, I looked at my phone and it was unknown number. Suspicious.
I picked up the phone. “Hello Mathrubootham, this is Kale. Your old friend from Ongole branch.”
Madam/ Sir, too much flashback came suddenly. I could not control emotions. “Oh my god, Mr. Kale, it has been decades and decades. What a pleasant surprise.”
Many years ago, when I was working in Ongole branch, Mr. Kale came on temporary transfer from one branch near Pune. I am thinking it was Pimpri branch. Did we have branch in Pimpri in those days? Maybe Chinchwad?
Anyway, Mr. Kale was very nice man. Only one problem, sometimes little bit oversmart. I will tell you most famous story. One day, we got call from regional office saying, new customer service initiative. We must put feedback box near branch main door. Before each customer leaves the branch, we must give feedback form and ask customer to definitely fill.
Madam/ Sir, as you will know, asking customers for feedback is like asking mosquito to do blood test. Danger danger danger.
In the beginning, nobody put any feedback. Then manager got nervous and said, 100% if you don’t put feedback form you are not allowed to leave branch, security guard will block. So we got many forms, but 85% form said same thing: “Security guard is blocking me, what nonsense.”
Then one day, full and full feedback forms started coming. This is best branch in India. Excellent employees. Superb service. My favourite bank. Mr. Avinash Kale is giving nonstop customer delight.
Head office became very happy. Then disaster. Peon found out Mr. Kale himself was putting feedback forms in during lunch break. Immediately, there was emergency meeting. “This is very bad,” I said, “Mr. Avinash Kale, viparidhabuddhi , why you are doing like this?” I said it in jest but it became world famous in Bank. Since then, everyone called him ‘Viparidhabuddhi’.
On the phone he said, “Mathrubootham, I am in Chennai right now. Just came from Singapore, flight for Delhi is leaving at night. I am calling from airport booth. Shall we have one coffee?”
Immediately, I went to airport and we met after decades and decades. And then even better thing happened. Zero battery in my phone because of nonstop ringing. And zero roaming on Viparidhabuddhi’s phone. So what option is there? Nonstop talking and talking only.
What a wonderful experience, madam/ sir. These days and all who is doing face-to-face conversation? All out of fashion. We had lunch also and then I came back home and said, Kamalam, come let me tell you about Mr. Kale.
She said, “Old man, where is the coconut?” I said, “I don’t know, maybe on tree?” She said, “Old man, I sent you WhatsApp message to buy coconut when you come.”
I gave her my phone. “Kamalam,” I said, “you give it four whistles.”
Yours in nostalgia satisfaction, J. Mathrubootham