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The candyman and handyman

open page gomathy mohan

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Dark as coal his complexion was. He was also the fairest and the sweetest in the office

Many years back, one Mr. Grace Light (literal translation of his name; no, will not reveal the language) joined our office on deputation. An office assistant, he proved an asset, with his resourceful trouble-shooting abilities and work etiquette. From managing our reports, retrieving misplaced files, creating databases to arranging office parties. Bespectacled, with a pleasant smile, courteous, brisk and enthusiastic.

Mid-morning and late afternoons would see this gentleman come around, bend low (he was exceptionally tall and lanky), place a candy on our tables courteously, smile and walk away. This happened every day.

A few days later, some colleagues started refusing it politely, citing sugar levels. Others were wary of his habit, even questioning his intentions, with the candy still melting in their mouth. It was more out of their attitude to his complexion, it appeared. That’s what I gathered when I heard whispers behind his back, too friendly and bending over backwards to please one and all, tempting one and all with his candy. His good equation with the bosses set about the green-eyed monster wagging its tail. Bewildered and helpless, at what lengths gossip grows when people’s heart shrinks.

I continued having my share of candies, twice a day.

A month later, Mr. Grace Light walked up to me during lunch-time, and seeing a book in my hand, started a long discussion that ranged from Dickens to Archer, Austen to Angelou. He emerged as a creative person with interests ranging from photography to reading to sports to cooking! He never missed an opportunity to crack a joke at his own expense.

His pride

One incident he narrated still remains in memory. It so happened that while on protocol duty he had to receive a higher official coming from another State at the Parliament gates. Mobile phones were not common yet, and only a handful had handsets. His boss asked him, “But how will Mr. X recognise you? He’s never seen you before!” Mr. Grace’s prompt reply brought a slight smile to the grim boss’s face. Upper lip in one corner, curled up by a millimetre. His fair complexion, mirrored even a hairline emotion. “Very simple, sir! Just tell Mr. X he won’t find a darker fellow than me in the whole of Delhi.” Dark as coal, that was how he prided himself in.

The brightly coloured candies kept coming, popping up on the table, on top of the file, at the most unexpected moment.

Calming device

It would momentarily lighten us up as we sat hunting for that one fugitive rupee, not letting us tally the crores. At times it would be in the midst of compiling a report... figures, periods anywhere from two to ten years, the umpteenth number of time to be passed on to the Minister for Zero Hour. All the while hurried calls incessantly from the panicky voice sitting on the other end... no, perhaps standing and lunging at the phone, or better still, not to lose out on that one nano-second, the phone wire coiled around his neck like Lord Siva’s Vasuki and bellowing from the Secretariat. All a last-minute exercise! At such times, the candy really helped keep our nerves.

He lightened us up, including with regard to the dark and dingy record-room in the basement. He persuaded the higher-ups, got it cleaned and managed to convert it into a recreation club.

Two years later, Mr. Grace Light bid us adieu. Before leaving, at our last tete-a-tete, he said reflectively, “Come'n, who doesn’t love candy, at any age? Such a sweet respite! Amidst the mundane official work, we tend to forget our smiles, furrowed brows and rigid, resembling the prosaic files in our hands. To elicit that forgotten smile, add a sweet touch and foster bonhomie... a little candy never hurts!”

It’s been nearly a decade since we went our ways. Picture of candies, on a Christmas ad in the magazine, brought a smile absently, as our Candyman’s face flashed by. He was the fairest and ‘sweetest’ of us all.

gmscorpio10@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 6:29:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-candyman-and-handyman/article22335020.ece

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